Death Metal Underground

On Elective Culture and Hessians

by Joe
June 5, 2009 –
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You may have noticed in previous posts on this blog the phrase “elective culture” and its application to the definition of hessianism. Basically, our assertion is that hessianism is a culture in which you’re not born into. “Elective” implies here the power of choice, as all of us in some moment in our lives (early teenage years in most cases) chose to become die hard metalheads as we became enraptured by the power metal gives.

But what is the necessity for “elective cultures”? Did we have these in the past, or are these an exclusive phenomenon of our times? To answer these questions, we need to look at the bigger perspective.

Western peoples have for many decades been experiencing a lost of meaning. Being on the lead in expanding the universal ideals of free market, multiculturalism and relentless economic growth first sponsored by the USA, we have been for quite some time forgetting the value of the original cultures which once defined us.

The generations born after the 60s decade (that’s most of us) met with an unusual circumstance not known in previous eras: the lack of a general foundation in which to comprehend life and base one’s purpose in it. This role was previously given by one’s own culture. As the generations pass it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a meaning to life besides consumerism, hedonism and blind obedience to the system.

It’s not unusual, if one understands human nature, that at the lack of something fundamental one looks for a replacement to compensate. In the plethora of different groupings which characterize our modern pluralistic societies (meaning, not defined by a single culture, but by many sharing the same space), the replacement can only come in what is called an “elective culture”. Among them we have examples in certain neo-paganist sects, sports culture incarnated in dedication and fanaticism for a particular club, and hessianism, or metal culture.

Culture simply means any way of life, any way of being, any form of art. So ‘elective cultures’ like metal are just as much cultures as anything else. However, the question of legitimacy you raise seems to imply the question of whether elective cultures like metal are seen as legitimate in pluralistic societies. While the old ‘high-low culture’ distinction still remains in some parts of society, it is much weaker than it used to be. These days, most people who hate metal would still probably concede that it forms a unique cultural space.

- International Day of Slayer asks the Experts: is this a good idea?

I shall go further: by sponsoring a world-view based on nature’s law and extreme realism, hessianism not only becomes a viable alternative to modernism, but its opposite. Metal lyrics and themes have quite an obsession with the past, and from the past it draws its values: heroism, warrior spirit, channeled aggression towards a noble end, etc. These are antagonistic to the modern view of life of comfort and materialism.

Now, in some of you may arise the question: are hessians born or made? Are the values of hessianism so different from the norm that you need to have certain innate psychological qualities, like an unusual lust for power? “I was born to play/listen to metal” is an assertion we hear many times from hessians. How “elective” is metal culture really? If the application of the EC label is more ambiguous than we believe, then, can hessian culture become at some point non-elective? We’ll try to touch the subject on another post.

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