Beer and Pavement


Posted in Activism, Intersections by SM on October 21, 2011

So, I was having trouble coming up with something to write. It seems that I’ve been wrapped up in all the #OccupyWallStreet drama. To satisfy this occupation of my attention, I could go to our own Occupy COMO demonstration, but I figured I’d blog about it instead. (It takes all kinds to make a social movement successful.)

What does a blog about some guys hobbies have to say about the Occupy series of protests? Plenty. So, I’ll keep it brief.

You see, craft breweries and indie labels are occupying their industries in much the same way those protesters in NYC are doing. They’ve held a spot in their respective industries that their corporate overlords don’t like. It makes corporations nervous to see the little guys one-up them. Craft breweries and indie labels represent a portion of their market they can’t have. They represent defiance. Corporations don’t handle defiance very well.

The reason these breweries and labels can take on corporate behemoths is because what they do comes from people. Despite what some might suggest, corporations are not people. What they do is for profit, to crush the competition, and to dominate their sector. And it’s okay not to see corporations as people. They don’t see us that way. We’re just numbers, demographics, and consumers. Craft brewing is about the people. Most breweries started with a guy or gal brewing some beer in a garage. Similarly, indie labels started with people wanting to get their music out into the world. Both have goals of making the world better, more enjoyable through their craft. Sure, a profit that allows them some financial security and the ability to take care of their people is part of it, but profit doesn’t come before quality for these entities.

Craft breweries are taking back the beer market, a market that used to belong to the people and not faceless corporations. There used to be breweries in every city. Then, Prohibition happened. Some breweries closed; others diversified. Eventually, a few larger breweries bought up all the local breweries. Eventually, beer went corporate. Then, certain developments happened. Jimmy Carter helped make it legal for folks to brew at home. A few folks traveled through Europe, discovering that beer could vary in flavor, appearance, and style. In the midst of all this, Fritz Maytag was making some things happen with the old Steam Beer Brewing Company. Three decades later, craft beer is slowly taking back beer for the people.

Indie rock has had a similar timeline and method. Punk rock showed kids they could make something people wanted to hear. Networks and labels popped up throughout the 80’s, making it possible for these self-taught, self-promoted, and self-recorded artists to make a go at a career. This movement gave independent artists scaffolding for gaining the solid foothold in the industry, again, returning a share of the market to the people.

Like the Occupy movement, craft beer and indie rock have taken a long and arduous path in taking on large corporations. The occupiers in New York and elsewhere are just getting started. Their fight is a noble one, but they are not alone. People all over this country are taking back some control from corporations. Whether that be in the form of establishing their own place in a corporate-dominated market or just a fight for an economic and political system that actually works for the people, we are all occupying space that corporations can’t have back.

Now, I recognize that this is just a post about beer and music. The actual occupiers are doing important work. And there’s no better talking head on the internet than Jay Smooth to put things into perspective…

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