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“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Engels and song culture: you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows .

The recent incomprehension event - the puzzlement of some commenters that the Nobel prize could go to a songwriter, and the equally flatheaded defense of Dylan as a poet - made me want to dig up old posts I wrote about song culture. A culture that has been significantly underrated or ignored in the cultural history of modernism. In particular, there is this bit from Engels that I liked... but here's the post I wrote in 2008.

From the perspective of the nineteenth century worker, there is something mocking, something a little satanic about freedom, as it was presented in the establishment discourse. Freedom, of course, comes with contracts – but what contracts! On the one side, the employer was in the position of seemingly having no limit to the things he could require of the laborer. On the other side, the laborer was blamed for not adhering to every tittle and jot of the employer’s dictate. From the perspective of the intellectual, society was making a Faustian pact with technology and industry. From the perspective of the worker, it wasn’t Faustian at all, but reeked of sulfur in the old, old way: the devil required infinite pain in this life, on penalty of losing life altogether without him. In the Position of the Working Class, Engels indicts the order of life required of the laborer in the factory by giving examples of the rules he or she had to follow, under threat of fine or dismissal: 

“What a time the worker has of it, too, inside the factory! Here the employer is absolute law-giver; he makes regulations at will, changes and adds to his codex at pleasure, and even, if he inserts the craziest stuff, the courts say to the working-man:
"You were your own master, no one forced you to agree to such a contract if you did not wish to; but now, when you have freely entered into it, you must be bound by it."
And so the working-man only gets into the bargain the mockery of the Justice of the Peace who is a bourgeois himself, and of the law which is made by the bourgeoisie. Such decisions have been given often enough. In October, 1844, the operatives of Kennedy’s mill, in Manchester, struck. Kennedy prosecuted them on the strength of a regulation placarded in the mill, that at no time more than two operatives in one room may quit work at once. And the court decided in his favour, giving the working-men the explanation cited above. And such rules as these usually are! For instance: 1. The doors are closed ten minutes after work begins, and thereafter no one is admitted until the breakfast hour; whoever is absent during this time forfeits 3d. per loom. 2. Every power-loom weaver detected absenting himself at another time, while the machinery is in motion, forfeits for each hour and each loom, 3d. Every person who leaves the room during working- hours, without obtaining permission from the overlooker, forfeits 3d. 5. Weavers who fail to supply themselves with scissors forfeit, per day, 1d. 4. All broken shuttles, brushes, oil-cans, wheels, window-panes, etc., must be paid for by the weaver. 5. No weaver to stop work without giving a week’s notice. The manufacturer may dismiss any employee without notice for bad work or improper behaviour. 6. Every operative detected speaking to another, singing or whistling, will be fined 6d.; for leaving his place during working-hours, 6d.”

The notion that the owner has complete freedom to put anything in a contract he feels like putting in – that in fact, this is the alpha and omega of freedom, the unmediated power relationship between owner and worker - is still a powerful one in the U.S. Some states, notably Texas, have a fire at will clause that allows abusive leeway to the owners which is close to that allowed to the owners of serfs. As Engels notes about the lives of the working class – “these laborers are condemned, from their ninth year until their death, to live under the mental and corporal rod, they are more utterly slaves than Blacks in America, because they are more closely supervised – and then it is demanded, that they live like human beings, think like human beings, and feel like human beings!” 

I am fascinated, myself, by the prohibition on singing – which I want to get back to, as I am interested in tracing a history of alienation in the evanescent fabric of song culture. One should point out that the Manchester factories represented, at the time, a classical liberal ideal – elsewhere, for instance in the U.S., custom weighed on the extent to which you could limit freedom on the laborer’s side by contract. Jack Beatty’s excellent but, for some reason, little noticed book on the Gilded Age last year, Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900, is all about the triumph of the libertarian freedom of the owner, at the expense of the worker. 

Beatty’s chapter of the Homestead strike is well worth reading for those who want to understand how slowly the attitude took hold that one’s place of work was not at all one’s own – that ownership was strictly limited by the contract one freely signed, thus conveniently carving out a domain of serfdom in the free society. This serfdom has now, of course, been so assimilated that we naturally segregate our work space from other spaces, and in fact obey the rules that now organize any public space – so much for the existential dimension of freedom. The contract still has this marvelous, magical property, operating to emancipate the contractor and enslave the contractee. There’s an interview with Beatty at the Atlantic site about the book. Beatty points to a turning point after the Civil War in which the Republican party converged with the business elite and turned its back on the ideal of ‘free labor’, in essence betraying its very reason for being:

“Even when Lincoln was advocating free labor, it was a nostalgic idea. As early as 1866, 60 percent of people worked for other people. Now, it’s 90-something percent. Then, of course, they worked in small units; it wasn’t the full-blown factory. But sure, Lincoln’s vision was at variance with the imperatives of the economy and with the necessities of the industrializing elites who came to power after the war. And then there was the railroad—and that changed everything….

Still, the free-labor ideal survives in farming as propaganda. Preserving the tiny number of "family farms" is a justification put forward by the farm lobby. The Homestead Act was put forth by the Republicans as a supposed cure for the class structure congealed by industrialism. The idea was that the eastern factory laborer would leave the factory behind for free land in the west. But that’s not the way it worked out. Why? Because the land was not free—$1,500 was the minimum needed to set up a farm as early as the 1840s. And that was three years pay for the skilled factory worker of 1900! Small farms weren't economically viable. So it wasn’t the factory laborer who went to the farm, but the factory itself. Women’s labor, child labor, seasonal labor—all the aspects of wage labor that the farm was supposed to cure became a part of farm life. That was a bitter social turn. There was no escape from industrial capitalism.”

Legends have grown up around the Homestead strike. John Commons, in 1918, wrote: 

“In the Homestead strike, the labor movement faced for the first time a really modern manufacturing corporation with its practically boundless resources of war. The Amalgamated Association of Iran and Steel Workers in 1891 … was the strongest trade union in the entire history of the American labour movement.”

In 1892, the Carnegie Corporation, under the management of a well known opponent of Unions, H.C. Frick, decided to take on the Amalgamated Association by proposing a lowering of the wage for skilled labor in the steel mills and a new date for renewing contracts, January 1. The latter would make any future refusal of contract fall in the winter, when it would be harder to strike. The Union refused the terms – Frick sent a contingent of 300 Pinkerton men guarding a number of strikebreakers on barges down the Monongahela River. In response, the union barricaded the factory. Somebody fired a shot. A pitched battled ensued, in which the Pinkertons raked the crowd with rifle fire. Seven men died, but then the crowd returned fire until the Pinkertons had to go below deck. Certain of the guards lost heart, and the Pinkertons finally surrendered and were marched through a crowd that mauled them, and then sent back to Pittsburgh. Using the violence as an excuse and, of course, recognizing unlimited freedom of property only on the side of Carnegie, the state government sent in the militia, and to the Carnegie company sent in more Pinkertons. The strikebreakers gained access to the mills, and though the strike lasted until October, the power of the Union was broken. 

This is what Carnegie’s latest biographer, David Nasaw, said, in 2006, in an interview with a Pittsburgh paper:

Q: Now that the mills are gone, do you think Carnegie has a lasting local influence other than the libraries and museums?

A: I did not get into a cab or have a conversation at a hotel when I didn't get a response -- a lively response -- after telling people why I was in town. Everybody had a story about Carnegie, and very few stories put him in a good light. He moved to New York in the 1870s and died in 1919. But his presence still seems to haunt the city.
Is that because of the famous 1892 Homestead Strike? Carnegie blamed that on his business partner, H.C. Frick.

Well, reading the local papers on microfilm, I discovered that while the rest of the world might have been surprised by Homestead, Pittsburghers weren't. This wasn't the first time he'd brought in the Pinkertons -- he'd done the same damn thing at [Braddock's] Edgar Thomson works. Homestead followed a script he'd already written.
Still, Carnegie had written articles about respecting the working man. And previously, he'd been way out in front negotiating with unions. So workers weren't just angry when he brought in the Pinkertons: They felt betrayed.”

Beatty’s account of the strike draws upon the sociological study of the Pittsburgh area financed by the Russell Sage foundation in 1912. One of the sociologists, Margaret Frances Byington (about whom there is an astonishing paucity of information) wrote the book about Homestead. I’m going to quote from her in the next post.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

That paper based ideology. On the thesis: Songs aren't poems or music.

It is interesting to me that so many writers who hate Dylan winning are talking about paper. The whole dispute about songs and poetry comes down, really, to the material substrate. But the idea that a song lyric written down doesn't work as poetry surely works two ways. I've heard a fair number of writers read their works, and rarely - in my experience, never - do the words work coming out of their mouths. Joyce who wanted in some ways to be a singer is great partly because the words work outside the paper. A song isn't a poem. The difference of the substrate is a real difference. You can sing certain poems, but in the singing, they become songs. That is only confusing if you ... well, if you have never read Grammatology, I'm tempted to say. Or if you have an idea that literature is defined by its material substrate. Now of course those writers who are so ardent about the paper test will protest that no, reading is somehow deeper, by which is meant that the paper substrate interfaces with the non-material mind substrate. Humanism is, when all is said and done, white magic. Myself, I think that this is bad metaphysics and a misunderstanding of the possibilities of literature. The art song has been around a long time: Brecht learned if from Karl Valentin in Munich cabarets. In France, it was Berenger under Louis Philippe - who Baudelaire hated - who mixed politics and song. Baudelaire, incidentally, is a key figure here, both pro and contra the fetish of paper.

 I sorta like the way Dylan's voice paved the way for the do it yourself era of voice. Again, though, this is nothing new - the popular song in 1830s France, or the voices in the Threepenny opera, were that same kinda raucous. Ca ira I guess is the mother of the raw song. I think that the distinction of song as a type of thing that is not poetry and not music is probably rooted in the raw voiced song. I wonder what Robert Burns sounded like? He was a great supporter of chopping the heads off kings. Was there a connection between the Jacobin sympathies (that his victorian fans bowdlerized) and the rawness of the sound he must have heard - since French revolutionary songs definitely penetrated the British isles? This interests me professionally, as a writer. I read the chapters of my novel to Antonia, or she reads them to me, because I am really interested in the sound, the sounds. I'm after sounds that I have heard in the street, in bars and restaurants and offices. Many of them I can write down, but I can't do myself. They won't come out of my mouth. This is the undervalued part of writing prose. The idea that you can simply read your stuff seems to point to this neglect rather than otherwise. Really you would have to bring a troupe with you. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Congrats Bob! Dylan's Dunciad

I am going to succumb to my temptation to make a lit crit point. Although I don't think Bob Dylan was reading Alexander Pope during what I consider to be his richest period - 1964-1968 - he was producing what I think of as an American dunciad. Instead of Fleet street, the mockery was aimed at the circle that was located between Andy Warhol's The Factory and Greenwich village. Alexander Pope was a master at catching a certain English conversational tone - something nosepent, with its fraudulent assumption of cultural supremecy - and collaging it into the most classical of English meters. He even makes it an object of one of his great lines, from Essay on Criticism: “A needless Alexandrine ends the song, / That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.” Dylan of course exists in a different environment, one that mixed the inheritors of the romantics - with their creed that all arts ideally merge in music - with the reality of pop and advertising, where all language becomes a caption to sell a product. When in Like a rolling stone the princess on the steeple says, finally, to the "mystery tramp" - do you want to make a deal. These songs are, on the surface, close to Warhol's product pieces - Brillo pads or Campbell soup - but they are supercharged with affect, instead of being cool and .affectless. It is just hard to make out what the affect is about - unlike Pope, Dylan doesn't have any vision of a classical order. He does, or at least Greil says he does, have a vision of a weird order - the order he finds all over the American songbook. The weird order transmutes all deals into moments of dread, I suppose you could say, since what is dealt comes down to who you are. The art of the deal eats the dealer. Or, as Hugh Kenner puts it in the counterfeiters, writing about Pope's rewriting the Dunciad as if a dunce had written it: "“’The Mighty Mother, and her Son who brings
The Smithfield Muses to the ear of Kings
I sing’
The bard stumbles into his kettledrums and falls headlong. A hideous cacaphony (brings – Kings – sings); a failure to assess the compatability of end-stopped lines with a system based on caesura; an insufficient breath, which terminates the opening period in mid-gesture: these Pope has imitated with the care a Lichtenstein bestows on comic book panels, or a Warhol on soup labels.”

Dylan got this not only from the american songbook, but, evidently, from Eliot. The wasteland is the easiest modernist masterpiece to read because Eliot, too, has a certain devastating talent for interrupting the elegy form with the banal conversational tag. It was what Berryman was doing in the sixties, too. If you have a taste for it, as I do, it is what you crave in poetry and in song. It is the hardest thing to do in the world, although it looks like the easiest.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

who's the rapist now? Donald, Bill and the Press

I've been thinking about the press and their disservice to the public this election year. Specifically, the odd torpor they showed in investigating or even being interested in Trump's pathological love iife. Many people have told me that Trump's Access Hollywood remarks are only one in a series of racist and sexist remarks, and are nothing special. For liberals, I think this is definitely true. But the republican party, and America, has long had a large population of conservatives who claim, at least, to find the character of their leaders as important as their policies. This constituency is served when the issue has to do with Democrats. From Gary Hart to Bill Clinton, the press was interested and investigative when it came to their sex lives. But when it came to Trump, until he was already a candidate and it was already October, they''ve been inert, disinterested, lazy and hopeless. For them, Trump speaking out against St. McCain was sin enough. But it would be too "low" to investigate, say, Trump and the Playboy culture.
Interesting this word "low". Cause what is low, what is tabloid, comes down to revealing things having to do with women. In the male world of politics, and make no mistake, this is patriarchy armed, a politicians "private life" is sacrosant - until it isn't. And even then it is considered low.
That's bullshit, of course. Politics infuses our sexual relationships. Especially if those relationships are combined with the power of money or position.
On the other side of this is another liberal maxim: Bill Clinton's private life has nothing to do with this election. It is simply sexism, making Hilary Clinton an appendage of her male partner.
Trumpites have a point that this is a way of getting over a problem. Do a thought experiment. What if Hilary Clinton was married to Donald Trump? Would one, as a liberal, think this was just not our business? Would we just be happy to see Donald Trump as the first man? I'd say this is bullshit. Bill Clinton ran very much on the platform that his wife would be an important part of his administration. In fact, she did admirable things then. She spoke out about feminism and human rights, she opposed the appalling bankruptcy bill, and she put her input into healthcare issues.
So, I think a voter has every right to consider Bill Clinton. Myself, Clinton's posse appalls me. I put that down as a definite negative. But I support HRC because there are more positives, as for instance her pledges about childcare, about the minimum wage, etc. I think she has been pushed to the left. I don't trust that she might turn to the right once she is in office, but I am hoping that the left is resurgent enough in the Dem party to give her no cover for that.
Everybody says this is the election from hell. And it is true, it is like being forcefed some awful combination of the Apprentice and the Aryan Nation power hour. But it is, to say the least, diagnostic.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

living in the pre-Freudian age

I just finished the slyly debunking article about the “girl in the dark” in last week’s New Yorker. The girl in the dark is a woman named Lyndsey (or not – that is her pseudonym) who began to experience such violent bodily reactions to light  that she quit her job and made the house she shared with her husband into a blacked out den in order to survive.  
Ed Caesar, the author of the article, never comes out and says that he believes the condition is psychosomatic, but the article obviously tips that way. Lyndsey strongly objects to this interpretation. To her, this is a way of dismissing the condition, or blaming her for it, instead of finding out what it “really is.”
I was struck by how we have regressed to a pre-Freudian era in the terms that are set for illnesses and conditions.
There’s an obvious antinomy in the argument that psychosomatic conditions aren’t real.  The ground of that objection is based in a sort of common folk psychological positivism, a naïve materialism. The argument goes that an illness or something with sickness like symptoms is real if you can trace the cause back to some alien presence in the body – a virus, a bacteria – or some genetic or natal cause. Otherwise, the symptom or disease like condition is not real, in as much as its cause is some idea. It is, instead, feigned. However, how would feigning be possible if ideas in some sense had no effect on the physiological condition of the body? Once we grant that the effect can occur, we have granted another causal route for bodily conditions. We don’t really have to go too far afield in our folk interpretations of our actions to see the most commonplace instances of this. I have an idea that I want to run, so I run. Running causes my heart to beat faster and my breathing to quicken. Nobody would say that the heart beating faster and the breathing wasn’t real. One might say, however, that I was proximately responsible for this by my decision to run. We can change our example and make the responsibility charge (which, I should point out, is a term that is overdetermined – it is not just a way of talking about a cause, but a way of talking about the morality of an act) a little fuzzier. I’m afraid of heights. When, for instance, I went up with A. to have drinks on top of a swank L.A. hotel, recently, I experienced some slight physiological changes and a great deal of a sort of proprioceptive mental discomfort that I cannot trace back to a decision I made, as in the running case. Instead, the phobia has a subconscious status. I am aware of it, but I can’t turn it off and on in the way I can the decision to run. Even those peope who are resistant to the idea of a subconscious would probably try to pursuade me to treat it like running or other actions I turn off and on, implicitly acknowledging that it has another footing. In habit, say.
The point is, whether Lyndsey’s condition comes from chemicals or a virus or something unconscious,  it is in as much as she feels it real. A therapist might speak of Lyndsey’s unconscious decision to feel in a certain way, using the model of decision-making that would put the idea on the same plane as the decision to run, but this is a simplification and distortion of the unconscious idea. Eventually, Freud, needing “deciders”, came up with a topography of the self that included the ego, the id, and the superego. It is not clear, however, that decision actually describes the effect of an idea on the unconscious level.
The unconscious is back in style, scientifically, although neurologists try to make clear that they are not talking about the yucky Freudian unconscious, with all that sex going on. This unconscious is sexless and data driven. It has become obvious that we take in far more sense data than we can consciously process. It has to go somewhere. The popular model for this is the User illusion – taken from computers. Users downloading a file will look at the little graph showing the file being downloaded as if it is connected to the activity, instead of being a mere icon pointing to the activity going on, and thus unconnected to it in a real sense – in the same way that the blinking light warning you to get oil for your car is not the thing you pour the oil over when you get the oil.  The user illusion idea is that mostly we deal with icons in our consciousness  instead of the real processes going on in our unconscious.
This view of the unconscious dovetails with Freudian theory much more than the neurologists and pop scientists think. That is because most of them have never read Freud at all, but have read magazine articles about what a kook Freud was. Oh well.

The violent resistance to the suggestion that a symptom or condition can have its ultimate cause in the unconscious is another symptom of the flatheadedness of our time. On the other hand, the original Freudian therapeutic impulse, which was about understanding our unconscious idea and thus ‘curing’ the condition or syndrome, seems to have been way too optimistic. What changes the body necessarily operates through the bodies tools, and corporal tendencies can reinforce themselves in different ways once a condition is established. It is likely that if Lyndsey were really suffering from some psychosomatic condition, she would really need certain physical treatments. My point is that the rejection of the psychosomatic is something encouraged by the positivist trend in medical science that is ultimately therapeutically unsound. 
The unconscious – can’t live with it, can’t live without it. 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Jules Renard I

Jules Renard is one of the great untranslateables, everybody says. Although his Poil de Carotte is a classic French children’s book – or rather, classic book about children, more Huck Finn than Tom Sawyer – and though his posthumously published Journal is considered one of the great (although eccentric) books of the fin de la siecle, his  name resonates only with diehard francophiles among us speakers of that mongrel Normand dialect,  English, people like Julian Barnes, who wrote a great essay about him. Perhaps the Journal awaits a translator of genius, who might do for Renard what Barbara Wright did for Queneau – translate not just the letter but the spirit.  Like the difference between a freshly opened bottle of  champaign and that same bottle the next morning, the difference between the original ane the translation can be that the latter “goes flat.” Technically, the translation can get the glossary right without being able to capture the bubbles, the irrepressible spirits in the original. This is why poetry is so much harder to translate than prose – why Montaigne is part of English literature and Du Bellay is not.     
Renard’s Journal was published – in a version that was censored by his widow – in three fat tomes in the nineteen twenties. In the Pleiade edition, this adds up to a fat  thousand pages. The  book became quite faddish in the 30s. Nibbles from  it were translated by Louise Brogan in the 60s, and the reviews congratulated her for not heaving the whole whale  into English. But a greatest hits approach does the Journal an injustice. I think its equivalent is that strange thing,  essoa’s Book of Disquiet, with its mixture of autobiography and revery. Renard had a weakness for aphorism – he was a man of the theater, he liked lines – and he produces them next to things described, situations deciphered, self-analysis, and dialogues that were obviously caught on the wing. A writer’s workshop, in other words.  
 Here are two aphorisms.
“My past is three fourths of my present. I dream more than I live, and I dream backwards.”
“I don’t know if God exists. But it would be better for his reputation if he didn’t.”
The first one is close to Pessoa, the second to Nietzsche – at least the Nietzsche of Dawn.
One of the great readers of the Journal was Samuel Beckett. As his friends testify, Beckett would read them bits from the Journal. When, briefly, he taught French at Trinity in Dublin, he assigned Renard. According to all the Beckett biographers, he used Renard’s dry style of observation and noting of things said in getting beyond, or out of, Joyce-land.  The last entry in the Journal is pretty much the seed for Beckett’s triology. “Last night, I wanted to get up. Dead weight. A leg hung outside. Then a trickle runs down my leg. I allow it to reach my heel before I make up my mind. It will dry in the sheets, like when I was a redheaded boy.” That’s a pretty fine finis.

Beckettians have noticed Renard. But Beckett was not the only Renard reader – Sartre read him too, and had his say in a 1945 essay that ended up in Situations I: The Man who was all tied up. L’homme ligoté.  I have not found an English translation of this essay, even though it is Sartre’s most compact look at modernist literature. I am going to look at this next.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

the human geography of attention

The term allergy was invented in 1906. In Mark Jackson’s Allergy: history of a modern malady, it is noted that the man who invented the term, Clemens von Pirque recognized there was something counterintuitive in a disease that seemed to orginate in the immunity to disease. On the  other hand, in 1906, the wonders of the human immune system were not well known.
There was some resistance to this linguistic newcomer – I’m tempted to say that the term allergy was treated as an allergen. Jackson’s book is about how the disease – or condition – took off in the 20th century.  That is, the prevalance rate for allergies climbed throughout the century. Other diseases – tuberculosis and polio – did not – they, famously, declined. And they declined not just because cures were found for them, but also because – at least in the case of tuberculosis – there was a concerted public health effort to alter the environments that favored tuberculosis. It is always worth remembering that the greatest medicine broadcast in the twentieth century was public sewers. Rene Dubos, in a famous study, showed that tuberculosis was declining precipitantly before the advent of drugs to treat it. He also made a strong case for the idea that tuberculosis skyrocket in the 19th century due to the environmental changes brought about by industrialization. Or perhaps I should say: changes in human geography.  Similarly, it is rare tht one hears of someone dying of stomach cancer nowadays, even though, worldwide, it is the fifth most common cause of death by a malignancy. In the US, it used to be a bigger killer than lung cancer. Epidemiologists have shown that the decline can be directly linked – some say up to 50 percent - to the refrigerator. In those regions of the world where food is still preserved by using salt, stomach cancer is relatively common. Even in the refrigerated countries, incidence are climbing again, due to obesity.
It is interesting to compare the discovery and investigation of allergies as “industrial” conditions with the discovery of attention deficit disorder, or ADHD. Our attention landscape has not been mapped very well.  I like some attempts: for instance, Jonathan Crary’s excellent book about the attention crisis in the 19th century, Suspensions of Perception. But there’s no systematic mapping of the changes wrought by, say, literacy. Literacy is often treated as an unmitigated good. How can anybody be against literacy? But the question is not whether literacy is good of bad, the question is whether the increase in literacy and the creation of human landscapes that incorporate literacy on a large scale has created a psychological neurological response among a certain portion of the population that feeds into ADHD. The landscape changes have been rapid and recent. A relatively short time ago – in 1900 – in the US, for instance, half the population was rural. In 1910, only 35 percent of 17 year olds were in high school – the majority of kids stopped their education at the 8th grade level. Education and literacy are, among other things, experiments. It wouldn’t surprise me if an attention landscape that favored one form of perceptual interaction  would produce attention casualties when the landscape shifted. It would also, of course, privilege certain individuals that the previous attention landscape handicapped. To quote from Jackson’ book about allergies: “As Ludwik Fleck insisted in 1927, diseases should not be regarded as stable natural
entities but as ‘ideal fictitious pictures . . . round which both the individual and the variable morbid phenomena are grouped, without, however, ever corresponding completely to them’.

If the attention required by literacy is qualitatively different, so, too, is the attention required for driving a car. In fact, it would be interesting to me to see if attention micor-environments don’t conflict with each other. Is it possible that the attention required for going at 60 miles per hour, judging other cars, stopping, starting, the whole range of attention tasks required by the automobile, is in conflict with the attention required for looking at equations being put up on a blackboard and taking a written test?