The genteel trap
Thursday, November 12, 2020
The genteel trap
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Throwin time away - hattip BLCKDGRD
The story of the structural anthropologist and his deconstructive sidekick (his Sancho Panza, his Gilligan, his Groot). How they go out, like shamen, into the bush to listen to the phrase and fable of the tribe. How they ponder, back in Sherlock Holmes apartment, the cliches they have collected from the folk like songs. How it stitches together into a mythology – the structuralist – and how the weave unweaves itself – the sidekick.
Take the phrases, the binary: wasting time/saving time.
In the wasting corner: masturbation, addiction, hobbies, the
masculinist view of emotional expression. In the saving corner: technology,
devices for home and work, rationality, investment.
When I was growing up in the seventies, a mark of the way
the parental order was being overturned was the elevation of waste to an
honorific. Man, you were wasted last night was said not as a reproof, but as a
sign of respect, as though the waster had won a battle. Indeed, by being wasted,
that is, intoxicated, high, time was wasted in a superbly aristocratic way.
Outside, in the parental order, savings were squandered: schoolwork wasn’t
done, grades were falling, teens were sullen and alien.
The parental order, for my generation, reasserted itself,
but the mark of time wasted was on that generation. And indeed, time saving
devices – the computer, the connected computer, the Internet – were touted as
ways in which time would be available – for wasting. As it turned out, the more
time that was saved, the less leisure there was. Instead of the computer making
the office easier, it made the office ubiquitous.
Such is the structure of late capitalist culture. The tear
between the stone age metaphysics of our consciousness of time and the physics
of time, in which time became the space-time continuum, glimmered before us in
films, which can give us the retro-illusion that time goes backwards – a hopelessly
Newtonian illusion – and can also give us a sense of how backwards and forwards
are not part of the fundamental structure.
But these facts are not part of our stubborn experience. You can go to Santa
Monica and send postcards saying: Having a good time in Santa Monica, wish you
were here. But you can’t find cards saying: having a good space time in Santa
Monica, you are already here – cause that wouldn’t have any meaning for the
sender or receiver. Here would crack open, and out of it would emerge something
In The Hour of the Wolf, the Ingmar Bergman film with Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman, von Sydow plays one of those tormented artistic types who takes his depression out in being mean to women. At one point, von Sydow tortures Liv, his wife, by holding up his watch and demonstrating how long a minute lasts. Nothing happens but the watch ticking, and it turns out that a minute is an infinite thing. Here, time and waste collapse into each other. Indeed.
I write this in Paris and Margaritaville. Man am I wasted. Wish you were here.
Sunday, November 08, 2020
In my opinion, one of the worst pieces of advice in all American history is: 'when they go low, we go high.' This is not just appeasement, it is smug appeasement - the kind of passive aggressive gesture that makes you want to go lower. It is a symptom of what George Santayana called America's genteel culture. So what is the counter-model to be adopted by those rejoicing in the ruin of Trumplandia - or its temporary ruin?
American politics is a
revenger tragedy, and the liberal difficulty - liberalism in the purest sense -
is to disentangle the toils that keep the revengers and the offenders united in
the slaughterhouse. One can't pretend the slaughterhouse isn't there. Or lift
yourself out of the revenger tragedy by thinking pure thoughts. Who by
thinking, as the Man sez, can grow a cubit taller?
The liberal answer
must, at last, make peace with ritual. Rituals operate in the now - they have
the vaguest sense of the long term. The now has to be welcomed: the spontaneous
overflow of gloating, cursing, crying, laughter can't be dealt with by
references to page 454 of the U.S. Treasury's report on the budget deficit.
So, how to be low in a
limited sense? Here, politicians should turn to their well thumbed copy of
Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism, who gives a good hint for those caught in
a revenger tragedy:
notice however the frequency of the device of making the revenge come from
another world, through gods or ghosts or oracles. This device expands the
conceptions of both nature and law beyond the limits of the obvious and
tangible. It does not thereby transcend those conceptions, as it is still
natural law that is manifested by thetragic action. Here we see the tragic hero
as disturbing a balance
nature, nature being conceived as an order stretching over the
kingdoms of the visible and the invisible, a balance which
or later must right itself. The righting of the balance is what
Greeks called nemesis: again, the agent or instrument of nemesis may be human
vengeance, ghostly vengeance, divine vengeance,
justice, accident, fate or the logic of events, but the essential
is that nemesis happens, and happens impersonally, unaffected,
Oedipus Tyrannus illustrates, by the moral quality of human
involved. In the Oresteia we are led from a series
revenge-movements into a final vision of natural law, a universal
in which moral law is included and which the gods, in the
of the goddess of wisdom, endorse. Here nemesis, like its
the Mosaic law in Christianity, is not abolished but fulfilled:
developed from a mechanical or arbitrary sense of restored
represented by the Furies, to the rational sense of it
So, that's the plan,
guys and dolls. Let's hop to it!
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