Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BEARD

The shaven face is corporate. Don't be fooled. But the corporate world has many faces. It might be that of your boss at work. But equally it might be the face of a handsome young footballer staring at you from a billboard as you travel into town. Or somebody on a television ad who looks cooler than you, who has beautiful women kissing his bare-baby cheeks (rewarding him for his conformity). Those images aren't real. That's MOVIE, as Charles Bukowski says. Those guys are getting paid millions by big companies to represent that life to you. However much they wrap it up in rock and roll imagery, or imagery which at least seems to have nothing to do with rich old farts in big houses who wouldn't piss on a pauper like you if you were on fire, it's still the fake world of control, suppression, homogeneity. Industry has wanted to stamp out your right to be a free-thinking person with an individual identity and separate hopes and dreams since way before the days of Henry Ford.
Since I grew the new beard I've had nothing but condemnation. And worse than that, a kind of sympathetic horror, as if the appearance of a healthy grey bush on my chin were indicative of some inner decline--of moral backsliding, or depression. And I am more than capable of falling into the grasp of both, but NOT THIS TIME HONEY (that's another Buk line, isn't it?)
Why is it that a shaven face is considered to be a sign of moral well-being? Because I would suggest--it's Puritanism--we have the natural element, the individual element, in us, suppressed. A clean-shaven man is not going to be a howling monkey driven by wild sexual urges. A clean-shaven man is going to do his duty and be humble and small in the sight of God--or in a post-Christian, super-capitalist age, his boss at work. As the slave comes to identify with his captors, the majority of people labouring in this repressive system, with media brainwashing and poor education to fight against as they struggle to know their own minds, have bought the bullshit message that shaving represents moral health and now they show Beardies like me what amounts to a genuine concern (albeit mixed with a certain pious repulsion), when the hair starts to appear on previously smooth chins.
Why is that a shaven face is considered to be more aesthetically pleasing than a hairy one? Perhaps our aesthetic sense has a moral component. Perhaps beauty is equated with moral well-being in the half-formed and under-educated: how can something be beautiful, in other words, if it is at the same time a sign of moral decay? It can be, of course, but maybe not in the minds or eyes of these particular beholders.
I don't know. It's a complex subject requiring intellectual analysis I don't have the capacity or the time for. Personally I've never understood an aesthetic that celebrates homogeneity. When you shave you look like everybody else. And though a lot of the young, hip bands coming out of the U.K. are hairier than they have been for many a decade, almost everybody else in this country, young or old, could have been made using a human cookie cutter. Take your courage in your hands and go into a town centre on a Friday or Saturday night: if you're slightly drunk you may think you're hallucinating a crowd of unruly laboratory clones--all short greasy hair, clean faces, untucked shirts and expensive pants. But a beard is like a singing voice; it's an individual signature that won't ever be reproduced, no matter how many countries you visit, however many people you check.
Does it, then, offer too much of a challenge to the person who has never had an individual thought in his life?
Does it send an unconscious message to the heads of industry that their empires won't last forever?

3 comments:

Glenn said...

I am one of only 2 or 3 men in the small press who doesn't have a beard. Therefore, I reckon that qualifies us as being The True Rebels. Ha! ;)

But seriously, I hate hair growing on my face. Burroughs wrote that he felt 'deteriorated' when he couldn't shave. That's how I feel, too.

Bruce Hodder said...

There are a lot of beardy guys in the small press, come to think of it:
me
Ralph Murre
splake
Henry Denander
Bill Blackolive--
probably a hundred others I can't think of right now.
Conforming again. Ugh.
I like the quote from Burroughs. When I wear a beard I feel like my face is hiding inside a warm hedge. It's nice!

Glenn said...

It's quicker to name the small press poets who DON'T have a beard --

Glenn Cooper
Michael Estabrook
Luis B.

I think that's about it! Oh and some of the women don't have beards, either. ;)