As to the quote from Louis Menand’s piece on Joan Didion entitled: ‘Out Of Bethlehem:’
‘After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.’
Of course, there’s some truth in this. The U.S. Federal Government is a huge landowner and manager of public lands and natural resources across the West, sometimes overseeing competition between private firms and contractors to create the infrastructure (roads, aqueducts, bridges, especially), that has made some of civilized life possible.
But yes, it is the work of pioneers, settlers, and farmers, too. It’s the work of businesses, employees, voluntary contracts and sometimes exploitation, working apart from the government. Sometimes, it really does come down to survival; new roads built out of necessity, common purpose and ingenuity.
The overall view of ‘economically exploitable’ masses of ‘People’ is a definite turn Left, though, as is the idea that an economy can be centrally planned successfully in the first place (it’s all rigged man…’they’ hate us individuals or ‘the People,’ so it’s either control or be controlled).
Rugged individualism is very common the West, but more Leftward ‘radical chic’ collectivism and solidarity-seeking tend to thrive in California and the coastal cities.
My argument would be this: By Menand’s account, Joan Didion as a writer seemed to drift away from one of the California families earning success through its virtues, ambition and hard work, bringing benefit to many more than themselves. I can’t speak to their character.
Frankly, it’s not uncommon for writers to engage in such drift either, especially solipsistic ones, while always seeking some context or meaning in which to frame their lives.
Thus, passing through the 60’s and growing up in California, having gone to Berkeley, and wandering around amidst some pretty sad, desperate people drawn to the Bay Area, Didion may well have been shaped along more radical and Leftward lines.
But, aside from such ideas, by all means, if you like Didion’s stuff, read it.
On that note: Banksy, the mildly talented, ironic/iconic graffiti artist tries to shock you awake to how the world really is.
It’s not Disneyland, it’s ‘Dismaland.‘
I admit I find Disney theme parks to be rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization, and storybook themes. There’s a lot of kitsch in them thar walls.
Clearly, though, many people love them. They provide families with a place to go and spend time with their kids, and provide the kids a safe place to explore.
They’re a business, operating for profit. I get it, but I don’t really care.
I can understand that a Frenchman, living in the shadow of Euro Disney, consuming a local wheel of perfectly aged cheese might have a different set of concerns, and perhaps some valid concerns, but I still don’t care that much.
So, why ‘ironically’ target Disney, copying their model of people paying to wander through rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization and storybook themes?
Artists often want your attention, usually to have shaped your imagination in a slightly different way, or to make see the world anew by creating something beautiful enough that your reasons can’t justify your aesthetic pleasure.
So, ironically, and with politics infused, Banksy has deigned to get your attention by making something shockingly modern and urgent, globally just and socially conscious enough to direct your attention to the world as it really is.
Deep man, deep.
Surely, while highlighting the problems artists have always had with money and patronage, Banksy has no commitment to post-Enlightenment ideas that offer rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization and storybook themes…still haunting the landscape like so many abandoned theme parks that few people care to visit.
What a sad use of the imagination and relatively little in the way of artistic technique to back it up.
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