10 January 2007

We've Lost

I found this image on Flcikr.com, not sure who is responsible or who took it but I like it because it is only a matter of time before Nike attempt to sponsor Graff Writers in an effort to further infiltrate urban culture.

In this post-globalized world, it might seem pointless to continue this debate but I still hang on to a little concept called 'ethical consumerism.' I was first introduced to it during the mid-90s campaigns against Nestle (due to their baby formula marketing in the 'third world'). Anyway, since I wrote my essay, Nike Vs Minor Threat: Is Cultural Imperialism a Major Threat? Nike have further soldified their presence in skateboard culture. As I feared, skateboarders simply no longer give a shit because you cannot escape the fact that Nike are making damn good shoes for skateboarding and have a respectable team of cutting edge pros. I recently came across this response to my essay on the Paying In Pain skate zine forum and took a little time to respond. (While I am no fan of outsourcing labour to foreign countries and the potentially unmonitored labor conditions associated with this practice, that is a complicated issue worthy of much more time and space, so this response was limited to the cultural implications of consumer choice.

"Werd" wrote:
wow, this guy has a lot of time on his hands. This type of shit is going to happen, and i dont think there is anything we can do about it. Its america, i mean, do you remember coffee before starbucks?? There is a lot of corporate mind- fucking backing its move to bangledesh, but those bangledeshians are gonna have some pretty fuckin good coffee. My first pair of Nike skate shoes were good, really good to skate in i loved them. My second pair sucked buffalo anus. I just spent 15 minutes reading this article, and i will probably go by another pair if they are good. I dont follow any molds, or reason with any stereotypes, itll never stop, just fucking skate, dont skate then bitch, then skate some more. Im sorry if im offending anyone, but when i first picked up a board it was cause i wanted to skate. Not because i was content with skateboardings current enviorment, culture, image, rules, standards, limits, or DIY punk ethic. Go ride, all this poopoo doesnt matter. DIY- does that mean do it yourself?; or do it yourself, when its cool with others, and you wont be steppping on toes, or walking on eggshells, and testing the water first? Shit. I hate these "standards for skateboarding," I used to think it was one of the only sports,activities, arts- whatever you want to call it, without politics.-WRONG.

My response:

First of all thanks to Joey for posting my essay. I didn't know it was on here until the other day. So I will now take some time to briefly respond to 'Werd.' First of all, you say I must have a lot of time. Well I wish I had more but instead of zoning on the internet or fucking around on myspace sometimes I choose to write and make zines. Maybe you consider that a waste of time, I don't know.
Second, you mention 'there is nothing we can do about it.' Well, there is a lot you can do. You can refuse to consume shit you don't like. You can buy 'Paying in Pain' instead of Transworld Skateboarding, you can get coffee from a local roaster ran by your neighbour rather than Starbucks. If you want one big homogenized global culture, carry on as normal. If you are happy to find a Starkbucks in Moscow or Dubai, continue drinking their coffee. If you prefer to see new things and expereince unique local cultures, support people who are trying to do that in your neighbourhood. PIP is a perfect example...
Third, I'd like to address the accusation that I am trying to 'set standards' for skateboarding. Well, that is one of the reasons I wrote that essay. I don't think skateboarding should have standards. I think when you travel from country to country or town to town, scenes should be unique. Nike goes against this. Giant corporations are trying to set global standards for youth culture. Its boring, uninspiring. Skate what you want, however you want.
Finally, I have friends who wear Nikes, and living in Portland, know people who work for them. I'm not down on them. It is stupid to alienate people. It is a personal thing. All I'd like to suggest is people consider the connection between their personal politics and their choices as consumers, and who and what forces dictate skateboard culture. Essentially Nike have won for now but its never too late to reclaim what is OURS. I like skateboarding because it is/was a unique culture created by the participants without giving a fuck about societal standards.

That's all.

Let's skate.

Finally here are some thoughts, from Dave Carnie, an insightful and beautifully demented skateboard 'journalist.' This was taken from Small Time Skate Zine:

"i’m not a fan of nike or any other huge mega corporation, but nike has, after a few tries, succeeded in making good skate shoes. i’ve never worn them, but people say they’re great. and i’m friends with the team they’ve put together up there and they’re all good guys, you know? i’m not anti nike skate shoes, but i won’t wear them. it’s just not worth fighting it anymore. they’re actually helping skateboarding, they’re giving back this time, they’re SB division acts like a skate company, and this new generation of skaters loves nike, so why waste time hating on them. it’s kind of like hating on mcdonalds. yeah, it’s bad for you, they suck, blah blah blah, but do you know how fucking big that company is? what the fuck are you going to do? you’re not going to stop people from eating there. fast food nation may have persuaded a handful of people to stop eating there, supersize me probably persuaded an even smaller handful of people to not eat there, but really what the fuck is that going to do to mcdonald’s overall profits? nothing, and thus they’re not going to change. and i’m not going to waste my time crying about it. i just don’t eat there…very often…about once every couple months i get the urge for a sausage and egg mcmuffin.
and that’s the thing, in this day in age it’s increasingly more difficult “to do the right thing.” really i’d have to grow my own food and brew my own beer and ferment my own wine if i wanted to avoid giving my money to those big bad mega corporations. even if you support your local mom and pop restaurants, or stores or whatever, they’re still being supplied by someone bigger. like the burger probably comes from some fucking con agra subsidiary anyway. ketchup? jesus.
uh i’m wandering. there’s a certain someone in skateboarding who is super anti nike. like i said, i don’t like nike either, but i don’t really have any reason to go berserker on them. and this certain someone is going berserker. and he doesn’t even make shoes. and he’s also accepted a lot of money from another huge corporation, vans, in the past. and i believe his boards are made in china? so, it’s a little hypocritical. i mean if it’s skateboarding you love, you shouldn’t go into the skateboard business. but if you’re in the skateboard business you gotta realize, “it’s just business” sometimes. and it just gets crazy when you learn that he’s kicking people off his team because they happen to also ride for nike. he fired his graphic artist because nike was giving him work and paying him more than he was getting “at home.” it’s just sad because nike is hooking these dudes up. if so and so was paying them the same amount and taking care of these dudes the way nike is, he might have a point, but as it is he looks like a dude sawing his own dick off. which is a very peculiar image. instead of just turning the other way, and enjoying the residual benefits of having a bunch of his riders getting really good nike coverage and good nike money and going on nike trips, he’s having a temper tantrum and looking quite foolish in the eyes of the people i tend to hang around with. it’s sad because i’m friends with him and i empathize with the emotional side of the argument (“it’s our scene!), but i really want to say, “grow up.”
this is a huge subject and it’s one that bothers me a lot because you can’t avoid it and you can’t fight it. i don’t begrudge anyone for trying. i did. but it gets you nowhere. so i say do what you want, wear and ride what you like. i’m not going to tell anybody what to do. i live by example. and one example i like to set is that i don’t beat small asian children because they don’t make my shoes fast enough. i pay someone else to do that for me."

Read my original essay here or be my best friend and buy a copy of the zine. (Details in the sidebar)