‘Liberals engage the right mood by contemplating the experiences of those they take to be oppressed, in what I have called “suffering situations.” You might think this an admirable altruism amid the selfish indifference of the mass of mankind, and there is no doubt that it has often been sincere and that it could at times mitigate some real evils. But the crucial word here is “abstract.” The emotions are elicited by an image, as in the craft of advertising. The people who cultivate these feelings are usually not those who actually devote their time and energies to helping the needy around them, but rather a class of person—liberal journalists, politicians, social workers, academics, charity bureaucrats, administrators, etc.—who focus on the global picture.’
I would add that while I have my doubts about the religious true-believer and salvationist, I have particular doubts about the Neo-Romantic Environmentalist, the secular, progressive do-gooder, and the high liberal globalist shuttling between academy and government.
‘The centerpiece of Miller’s argument is the making and appreciating of art. Miller’s idea of art, as we might expect, is wide-ranging and popular, drawn more from everywhere in culture: dancing, body-decoration, clothing, jewellery, hair-styling, architecture, furniture, gardens, cars, images such as calendars and paintings, creative uses of language, popular entertainments from religious festivals to TV soaps, music of all kinds, and on and on. Miller’s discussion is less focused on the high-art culture of modernism and postmodernism, since it anyway distinguishes itself against popular taste.‘
Of course, there will be all manner of reductionism (art=sex) and popularized idiocy (Bach + brain-scan = pop-neuroscience) to follow.
There’s something about both our cultural tilt towards (S)cience-ifying every aspect of life (stretching out these new fields of knowledge) as well as the popularized explanatory journalism (Jesus Christ not another think-piece) which are worth thinking about.
Witnessing the outcomes and consequences of such truth and knowledge claims downstream, some quite possibly more true than others, invites skepticism.
‘…aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…‘
Don’t worry, ‘ethics’ on the fly, in universities and in journalism is everywhere these days, and beneath that, some crazy new true-believers.
As posted, please check out Jeff Koons (if you thought the celebrification of politics was striking, culturally, this happened quite before with the celebribrification of art):
There’s always been a bit of the showman about Jeff Koons; the kind of young man who could put on a bow tie and try to give many museum-goers their time/money/aspirations’ worth at the membership desk.
This blog forgives people trying to explain what their art ‘means,’ exactly, but confesses to pleasure in seeing Koons put on the spot under the suspicious eye of an ornery old Robert Hughes.
I don’t fault Koons for finding himself firmly within modernism, searching for universal forms and broader historical context within those confines, but I admit it’s nice to see him held to account for his bullshit, and perhaps the broader, deeper bullshit he shares with many modern and postmodern artists: Pursuing novelty and recognition and thus making art into a business and often commercializing it, aiming for celebrity while offering meta-critiques on celebrity, making the personal and private very public (masturbation into social commentary, sex into meta-critques of religious shame, ‘culture’ and pornography).
Two quotes by Hughes that stood out:
‘Religion is diminished into celebrity..a kind of reverse apotheosis.‘
‘This alienation of the work from the common viewer is actually a form of spiritual vandalism.’
It’s tough to say that art is really about religion (though much clearly is), but rather more about an experience Hughes wants as many people as possible to have, and that such experiences can elevate and expand.
Aside from the above, there’s something that strikes me as not just late 20th century-modern about Koons, but also very American
At one point, before his slide into hard-drug use, Biden meets with King Abdullah of Jordan on behalf of refugees (an opportunity derived, he says, from “nepotism, in the best way possible”).’
Cox closes some (A)uthentic (S)elfhood distance between herself and Hunter Biden (measured in units of gritty, 12-step fellowship).
‘I kept thinking of that experience reading Biden’s book. I wish that Biden could acquire that kid’s gift of grace that’s born of humility, of receiving and giving help because we’re all in the exact same place. We all fall the same distance to the bottom.’
The bottom is wherever you say it is:–This topic has become so predictable, so bland, that even Hunter Biden is getting in on the action. First, the fall from grace, then the public redemption and appeal for forgiveness. Addiction’s a disease, just like cancer. We need more awareness and more social programs. Then comes a publicity tour. Some social media couch-sitting, maybe. The Romans had baths and we Americans have warm, therapeutic tongue-baths, open to the public.
The top is wherever you say it is: –I’m pretty sure one’s life will be immeasurably better by not spending it smoking crack or becoming an alcoholic. Shocking! I try and take people as I find them, and hope they do the same with me. Over-sharing is probably not a sign of an organized life, but nearly everybody deserves a little grace.
Also, think of the suffering you can avoid by not reading Hunter Biden’s ghostwriter or Ana-Marie Cox.
A few more thoughts (they’re totally free, after all): Many modernists tended towards genius-level artistry; looking inwards and spinning the suffering of life (reducing life) into form, coherence and a lot of truth. Then focusing outwards onto the world.
At the very least, this made some really interesting architecture, but also an architecture which divorced many people working inside these buildings, from many elements of their pasts, and day-to-day life.
Here’s an interesting presentation. There are some good reasons to re-evaluate things:
For the postmoderns, this task became harder, I’d argue, as the ground became more barren. Inner often becomes outer; all reduced to a (N)ow of (S)elf. That said, there are many geniuses and a lot of good art to inspire. For the post-post-moderns, there is some good stuff out there, too, but questions of epistemology and ontology remain nearly open.
How to live and what to do? Further downstream, in the current social, political and institutional worlds, you’re on your own, unless maybe you gain notoriety through celebrity. Beyond your family and friends, you’ll probably have to join a political tribe. Join a majority and find out later it was just a minority! Invest your money in a (C)ause.
Most of us, most of the time, can’t handle the kind of isolation that comes from such intellectual provenance. I think such insight has a lot of predictive value.
It’s almost enough to make a guy religious!
Let’s conserve weirdos, and innovation, free thought and free inquiry (now that new majorities are forming)?
Is this my political tribe, or can I just float free, as a (S)elf, upon the surface of so many dangerous currents?
No one was harder than Billy Idol. While exploring his (S)elf, he’s nearly died many times over, and was banned from Thailand!
The most morally righteous (not necessarily right) can be found most vocally pushing ‘Climate Justice’. The conflict between Conceptions of (S)cience as a tool of the ‘oppressor’, AND as intellectual justification for technocratic, dirigiste, authoritarian and Statist rule is never fully resolved, nor does it have to be. The (S)cience is clear. ‘We’ must act now!
When your own moral philosophy fails to resolve deeper problems regarding human nature, proper epistemological and metaphysical foundations, and the consent of the governed, you don’t necessarily have to resolve these conflicts. Rather, you just have to gather in the public square (pursuing a kind of ‘Rapture’).
This is a fairly influential coalition, now more visible in Congress and the Senate on the Democratic side of the aisle. Through recent legislation, they are now trying to consolidate political and economic power. The political economy is where we all lose our most important freedoms (to think and speak against authority, to get a job, to try a new venture, to manage our own time and energy). This is where new rules and ‘rule-following punishers’ will be made.
This blog has been seeking to anchor liberal thinking in more tried-and-true moral philosophies of J.S. Mill, Scottish Enlightenment empiricism, and a return to neo-classical thought, for starters.
“For today’s ecologists, their hope of regeneration presupposes a return to primitivism, and thus, whether they wish to enunciate it or not, concomitant anarchy, the burning before the replanting, the cutting down of the dead tree. The father of the movement is an utter rejection of all that is, and for at least three millennia all that was.”
Libertarians would generally see many environmentalists as a threat to their definition of liberty.
-Another environmentalist root comes by way of the’ Tragic Earth’ romantic lament, which may have as much to do with the rise and fall of post-modernism in American Universities as it does with Nature, and the restless attempt to fill the post-modern void in a post-Nietzschean world. I think part of this is due to the collapse of the modern liberal arts curriculum to its current state, which has followed excessive relativism and multi-culturalism to some of its logical conclusions. The “science is settled” may be appealing to many in filling that void. Of course, good poems and poets transcend the often strange things good poets can believe, but I suspect this has something to do with it. Al Gore has probably been influenced by this school of thought, though he is a politician, carbon-credit-salesman, and a poet.
Whatever your view of the science, its transition and use for ideological, economic and political purposes should give intelligent people pause, not just those who see threats to liberty.
Self-reliance may still be a better intellectual American influence, even with some downside to pragmatism.
I don’t mean to imply some people have turned their limited understanding of climate data into an anti-human, anti-science cult. Given human nature, such a turn of events is completely unforseeable!
Aside from passionate crazies, however, there are certainly not people who’ve turned global warming into a gnawing, apocryphal certainty; certain enough to offload their own fears of death into abstract ideals which might live beyond them. This can lead to technocracy as a form of leadership; knowledge implemented through institutional bureaucracy and more diffuse accountability. Plenty of journalists and aspiring professionals will follow those incentives into careers, opportunity and authority.
Some poets, even, and there’s certainly not any postmodern mysticism, anti-science rationalism and irrationalism to be found around and about:
‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelm- ing the planet.’
‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’
Older folks are left to display one’s virtue, good behavior and rule-following among the living. That Tesla sure is sleek. Show off that new canvas bag. Scowl at the plastic one. This binds people up together and keeps social harmony. The knowledge is here, all that’s left is the wise, equal, and just enforcement of new rules. Don’t you want to be good?
Maybe we can turn this thing around after all, discovering that Romantically primitive modern Eden upon the horizon. We must act.
Alas, young, true believers, reformers and the narrowly righteous see deeper, of course, through the hypocrisy of a more settled complacency. Tim Black at Spiked: “The Ongoing Creation Of Greta Thunberg.“
They can become heroes to some, rather pathetic ciphers to others:
‘It is all very disconcerting. From her breakdown, to her recitation of carbon-emission facts, the Greta that emerges in Our House is on Fire doesn’t feel like an individual. She feels like a fictional device. A God’s fool-style character, descended down to Earth to expose our folly.’
And by no means are those on the political Left, often seeking radical revolution and ‘Capitalism’s’ overthrow for the new ‘scientific’ Socialism to come, involved here. Institutions are clearly not susceptible to committed ideologues, operating upon failed theories of (H)istory, forcing themselves into institutions (which radicals don’t normally recognize as having moral legitimacy, unless and until it’s their moral legitimacy).
What if you have an opposing, or different view to a majority? Isn’t that the point of free speech?
‘It’s de rigueur on college campuses to pledge allegiance to the climate agenda, denouncing Luddites who impede progress on the climate policies that all right-thinking people support. Those of us who work in academia are used to this ritual, but every once in a while an academic decides to distinguish himself by making his denunciation louder and more strident than the rest of the crowd. ‘
At Peace Pavilion West, breathing restrictions help keep the Collective healthy. Put the canvas bag over your head when entering the Human Pagoda. Zero-carbon. Zero-oxygen. Zero-waste. Namaste. Be safe.
From a reader: Christopher Essex discusses ‘Believing In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, And Climate Models:’
It really shouldn’t be that difficult a thing to keep a strong interest in the natural world and a desire to understand it quite apart from such true-belief, collectivist virtue-signalling, hyperbole and ideology.
‘Communes being communal, they are invariably seen as uniquely virtuous, fair and compassionate forms of association. Yet they rarely turn out that way. Discipline and authority are always a problem.’
What do rich folks and the children of many rich folks happen to believe these days? Does it happen to be more vaguely Communal? Many are definitely (S)elf-Oriented, or have bathed in the waters of such thinking.
How might this bear on the consent of the governed, and those difficult things which must be carried to maintain the Republic?
What are you carrying, Dear Reader?
Gore Vidal from a while ago did a thing called a ‘book review’: ‘Rich Kids’. Words can become delightful daggers.
The fact that I seldom actually finish reading anything that he writes probably has to do with my own perhaps irrational conviction that Dr. Coles’s heart is so entirely in all the right places (mouth, boots, upon the sleeve) that nothing he has to say will ever surprise me despite the fact that he has traveled far and reasonably wide because “One hopes; one hopes against hope that somehow it will make a little difference; only a little, but still some, if people mostly unknown to almost all of us get better known to more of us.”
Liberalism, and many rationalists, New Atheists, and other bright types often overlook some basics about human nature; just why Churches undergo schisms, why (S)cience might not be enough, and the many darknesses of the human heart. The rationalists/irrationalists have many causal relationships.
Perhaps the postmodern ground has been cleared, and the appeal to property, free-markets, collective duties and personal liberation won’t exactly cut it against points further Left. The call to adventure, and purpose, is partly what drives violent ideologues, anti-humanists and the same old Communists. The existential void and the abyss are deep.
Activists, the most impassioned and zealous, are definitely seeking to remake the world, and other people, through politics and law.
And if they’re wrong about a particular policy or law?
When knowledge claims are insufficient, and disagreement reasonable, the failure to maintain open dialogue is a failure which many liberals I know will be loathe to acknowledge, offloading onto the same old targets: Anyone conserving anything.
Feynman (wikipedia) wonders what makes science science. He manages to argue quite well why he doesn’t think psychology meets a certain standard.
At least, he says the following:
I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas–he’s the controller–and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all theapparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.’
A potentially interesting thought: Let’s all take a moment to recall Jeffrey Dahmer, shall we?
What if through the social sciences and American institutional innovation (IQ tests for the military, academic placement testing), there dripped-down a battery of tests given to all American schoolchildren. After an hour or two taken out of a child’s day, a thick envelope would arrive at home a few weeks later; to be examined or unexamined by the parents and/or child:
While possessing above-average intellience, JEFFREY scored high for violent imagery and/or ideation. JEFFREYmight display a predilection to become fixated on objects, animals and/or other living things in his attempts to understand and navigate the world. Providing positive and rewarding outlets for JEFFREY will likely enhance learning opportunities and the chance to develop fruitful interpersonal relationships.
Oh, there are a few more out there…
As posted, someone’s going to be running our institutions and making rules out of a presumed universal and common sense set of knowledge claims:
There’s a popular narrative that drug companies have stolen the soul of psychiatry. That they’ve reduced everything to chemical imbalances. The people who talk about this usually go on to argue that the true causes of mental illness are capitalism and racism. Have doctors forgotten that the real solution isn’t a pill, but structural change that challenges the systems of exploitation and domination that create suffering in the first place?
No. Nobody has forgotten that. Because the third thing you notice at the American Psychiatric Association meeting is that everyone is very, very woke.
Carlo Lancellotti, keeping alive the flame of Augusto Del Noce, from the comments section of this post by Rod Dreher.
This blog checks in on various Catholic points of view, often wondering: Liberalism-What is it? What are its flaws? Where are some views from the outside?:
‘There is much discussion today about the dissociation of political and economic liberalism. But it is also true that the ideas are necessarily linked in the naturalistic and Enlightenment foundation of liberalism, which is the foundation of current liberalism. For it, a link is established between liberalism and an optimistic appraisal of human nature; one has faith in the marvelous fruits that the liberation of human nature from all external bonds will bring. On this basis a dissociation of political and economic liberalism is clearly impossible. It becomes possible only if the concept of freedom is deduced not from optimism about nature, but from the consideration of the connection between truth and the person. In the same way that I think a Catholic awareness of the liberal implication of Catholic thought is necessary, I also think that a revival of liberalism is not possible without an awareness of its Christian foundation.’
Full piece here, which could have some explanatory insight:
Del Noce’s emphasis on the role of Marxism in what I called the “anti-Platonic turn” in Western culture is original, and opens up an unconventional perspective on recent cultural history. It calls into question the widespread narrative that views bourgeois liberalism, rooted in the empiricist and individualist thought of early modern Europe, as the lone triumphant protagonist of late modernity. While Del Noce fully recognizes the ideological and political defeat of Marxism in the twentieth century, he argues that Marxist thought left a lasting mark on the culture, so much so that we should actually speak of a “simultaneous success and failure” of Marxism. Whereas it failed to overthrow capitalism and put an end to alienation, its critique of human nature carried the day and catalyzed a radical transformation of liberalism itself. In Del Noce’s view, the proclaimed liberalism of the affluent society is radically different from its nineteenth-century antecedent precisely because it fully absorbed the Marxist metaphysical negations and used them to transition from a “Christian bourgeois” (Kantian, typically) worldview to a “pure bourgeois” one. In the process, it tamed the Marxist revolutionary utopia and turned it into a bourgeois narrative of individualistic liberation (primarily sexual).’
From where I stand: Many people can be seen clamoring towards (S)cience these days (or at least claiming some of its authority), but the people doing science are, well, doing science. They might be informed by their political beliefs, but their political beliefs shouldn’t be present in their work. Natural philosophy, mathematics, statistical modeling, empirical research etc. go on in the public and private sector, despite potentially serious supply/demand and other structural issues.
Institutional capture, however, also continues, and incentives within institutions. Many Arts & Humanities departments have been over-run by the ‘studies’ types, especially within administrations.
Activist sexual, moral and political liberationists could be said to be the driving force behind much in American life right now. Such movements tend to attract true believers who punish their enemies, seeking administrative/bureaucratic control of our institutions and political life.
The postmodern roots are pretty deep. Good luck with your prognostications:
When it comes to the arts, do you know what’s coming next?:
It’s not so much that change is occuring, but in pointing out the change agents, and many ideas driving change, and questioning many such ideas opens one up to the mob.
Other critiques and criticisms along the same vein, gathered on this blog over the years:
This one’s stuck with me over the last few months:
‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’
‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’
‘Progress, Communism, and Olympianism: these are three versions of the grand Western project. The first rumbles along in the background of our thought, the second is obviously a complete failure, but Olympianism is not only alive but a positively vibrant force in the way we think now. Above all, it determines the Western moral posture towards the rest of the world. It affirms democracy as an ideal, but carefully manipulates attitudes in a nervous attempt to control opinions hostile to Olympianism, such as beliefs in capital or corporal punishment, racial, and otherforms of prejudice, national self-assertion—and indeed, religion‘
-A Multi-Level neo-Marxist Marketing Scheme. If you’re at a BLM protest, fast becoming a riot, you’re the sucker.
-If you’re a police officer, responding to a scene with a young, armed type….don’t expect most media outlets to try and get at the truth these days. Not getting backed up by your own institution nor political leaders exposes you to more risk.
-In fact, if you’re still partaking in old media outlets, you have a higher likelihood of being a sucker. Then again, there’s a sucker born every minute, so try not to be one on new media, either.
As found on the internet.
Hmmm….predictions are hard, especially about the future, though I largely agree on simple matters of technology, capital assets, and attention.
Scaling-up usually means more brittle, unwieldy institutions. Combine old media outlets, trying to crush competition by becoming co-opted by the ideological grifters parasitizing institutions, and it’s ugly out there.
Though there’s plenty of capture in the new institutions, as well.
‘Globalization is having very odd effects on our thinking, but none is more curious than the Olympian project of turning the West’s cultural plurality into a homogenized rationalism designed for export to, and domination over, the rest of the world‘
Charles Hill strikes me as a man with actual, real-world experience, and an interest in theory. A man who focused on his students, challenging them beyond what he saw as anemic ‘issue-based’ thinking. This is getting a lot of things right, in my opinion.
It’s a pretty rough, and ‘real’, world out there.
Yes, the Chinese leadership is playing a longer game with Taiwan, Hong-Kong, its historical borders and the Belt and Road initiative. This is a strategic, deeply authoritarian vision, ruthless at times, and quite adversarial to many American interests. A sizable number of Chinese folks probably don’t agree with their own leadership. Good luck with that, Chinese folks, American policy-makers, American allies, and anyone along the Belt and Road.
We all have interests, reasons, and hard choices to make.
At home and in the Anglosphere, I like Eric Kaufmann’s practical suggestions for restoring some balance in our universities.
It’s almost like we’ve had a couple of generations of relatively unrealistic, questionable stewardship about what’s important. When it comes to Self-knowledge (instead of (S)elf-Worship wrapped in liberation fantasies and New Age claptrap), people, all too often, are finding themselves captive to rules and expectations.
This way lies further opinioneering:
Joe Biden was the establishment alternative to a populist-Left Bernie (something like a Socialist). Socialism, if fully implemented, is immiserating, soul-crushing and murderous. Old dreams die hard. If we’re lucky, here at home, Bernie’s leadership would mean a politics of fewer jobs and freedoms, lots of incompetence, strikes, and more violence.
Biden, after becoming Obama’s VP and with Obama’s imprimatur, has courted as much of the black vote as he can. He is also seeking to maintain the black-leadership vote (SPLC, ‘race’-leaders, Civil Rights and BLM wrongs). A good amount of such thinking flirts with Democratic Socialism, ‘baptized Marxism,’ and supporting the rule of law…some of the time.
Channeling such interests has led to a spate of new executive gun orders. As for me, Dear Reader, I choose to see Joe Biden as a decrepit, glad-handing product of his times and places, guiding an overbuilt and semi-functional executive branch (the next guy will have many similar incentives). He’s what vanishingly remains of the ‘moderate’ old-school Democratic leadership, back when people talked about War Bonds.
Much left-liberal sentiment, these days, is finding release by blaming lot of current political and media failures, and the country’s failures, on psychologically comforting sources like Trump (for all his faults) and various tribal enemies. Or by pursuing policies like gun-control and Teacher’s Unions'(I be-LIEVE the CHIL-dren are our FU-ture….).
It is what it is.
Oh, there will be politics. Where have you been seen?
In the meantime, many Country-Club Republicans have been seen a bit dazed, wandering local putting-greens, nursing martinis. Some Never-Trumpers have been seen posing as Democrats, sneering at rednecks and definitely seen as NOT RACIST. Some religious folks have gone woke, and some religious folks have gone crazy. Many traditionalists have been seen hiding out within traditions. Many folks in big-businesses and the corporate bureaucratic webs of influence, have been seen signaling professional wokeness as a matter of cultural relevance, and survival. A lot of people I know are interested in ‘Helping the Cause’ when they patronize a restaurant or buy a bit of stock (I be-LIEVE I WILL BE in the FU-ture…).
Once such right-of-center coalitions get into power, I’m expecting a fair amount of dipshittery and bad policy, too. There are always assholes and creeps in the mix. Politics is the art of the possible, after all. They’ll no doubt be a lot of finding release by blaming political and media enemies, and on psychologically comforting sources like The Left and Socialists (as real as I think these threats are to genuine freedoms).
Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be less government?
It’s probably too much to hope.
Political institutions, not too long ago, were still appealing to a profound American idealism with much more credibility than they have now. The call to higher things, these days, is very faint among better sorts, while the bellows are busy with hot emotions and worse people.
Socially and culturally, rural folks, gun-owners, and small-government types (me in this last category, definitely), are something of an out-group. The majority hasn’t held, and many longer trend lines have caught-up. Such folks are often mischaracterized and held to ridiculous double-standards. Sure, I don’t mind being someone it’s okay to piss on!
What a hot, glorious rain!
On a personal and professional level, I take people as they are, and hope they do the same for me. We’d probably get along in most situations.
With and increasingly sclerotic leadership bench (Bush–Clinton–Clinton–Younger Bush–Younger Bush–Obama–Obama–Trump–Biden), we’ve all got, needless to say, serious problems.
On that note, please enjoy some photos I’ve managed to take while out walking (not working, not with loved ones):
I’m getting to levels of passing incompetence with my iPhone 8:
“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis. Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure. In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup. In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest. Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.
Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides. Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world. This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”
Is anything central? Orchards flung out on the land, Urban forests, rustic plantations, knee-high hills? Are place names central? Elm Grove, Adcock Corner, Story Book Farm? As they concur with a rush at eye level Beating themselves into eyes which have had enough Thank you, no more thank you. And they come on like scenery mingled with darkness The damp plains, overgrown suburbs, Places of known civic pride, of civil obscurity.
These are connected to my version of America But the juice is elsewhere. This morning as I walked out of your room After breakfast crosshatched with Backward and forward glances, backward into light, Forward into unfamiliar light, Was it our doing, and was it The material, the lumber of life, or of lives We were measuring, counting? A mood soon to be forgotten In crossed girders of light, cool downtown shadow In this morning that has seized us again?
I know that I braid too much on my own Snapped-off perceptions of things as they come to me. They are private and always will be. Where then are the private turns of event Destined to bloom later like golden chimes Released over a city from a highest tower? The quirky things that happen to me, and I tell you, And you know instantly what I mean? What remote orchard reached by winding roads Hides them? Where are these roots?
It is the lumps and trials That tell us whether we shall be known And whether our fate can be exemplary, like a star. All the rest is waiting For a letter that never arrives, Day after day, the exasperation Until finally you have ripped it open not knowing what it is, The two envelope halves lying on a plate. The message was wise, and seemingly Dictated a long time ago. Its truth is timeless, but its time has still Not arrived, telling of danger, and the mostly limited Steps that can be taken against danger Now and in the future, in cool yards, In quiet small houses in the country, Our country, in fenced areas, in cool shady streets.
Helen Vendler on Ashbery here, in ‘The Democratic Eye.’ Too-Freely-Associative Abstract Expressionist & Self-Referential Mid-Century Modernist, or Great Poet?
‘Not all of Ashbery’s poems are diary-like: his long poems (at least those that are extended autobiographies in abstract form) usually have an intermittent purposeful coherence, while the diary-lyrics allow a more whimsical, wayward, teasing progression that has been, to his readers, by turns annoying, provocative, and enchanting. ‘
As posted: Let’s go further back, now, to a place and time which we’ve never experienced, but live partially within:
Maybe it’s Pilgrim’s pride, or perhaps the Puritan pursuit of image-less purity, or the Colonialists ecumenical style, or maybe even some Shaker weirdness that finds itself up for analysis.
Perhaps somewhere there’s a spare, Yankee work ethic resting on a simple, wooden shelf in the ‘American mind.’
Could such a thing be discovered within mid 20th-century modernism?
Robert Hughes takes a look at Donald Judd’s ‘Temple Of Aesthetic Fanaticism,’ and Richard Serra’s nod to Jackson Pollack and abstract expressionism in the rawness of material sculpture. You know, making stuff (a potentially sensitive subject with so many technological changes going on right now).
(link may not last):
As for Land Art, Michael Heizer’s life’s-work land-art project is apparently complete, if such a thing can be complete:
Apparently, Heizer’s been working since 1972 on this sculpture in the Eastern Nevada desert, which was originally called ‘Complex One.’ It’s morphed into his life’s work, called City. It’s very large. It can’t be moved. You can’t reproduce it. It represents a break from traditional sculpture. It can’t be put in a museum and it’s not clear that it has a function.
In Brasil, they just started from the top-down and built a city that doesn’t work that well for people: Brasilia: A Planned City
I have to confess that seeing that structure upon the wide open emptiness of Eastern Nevada is comforting for the familiarity it brings. It’s a little bit of order upon the unknown, and the design, or lack thereof (about which a man may wonder), within Nature herself. I think this is why a military installation out in the desert can captivate the imagination as it’s been known to in Hollywood and in the public mind (dreaming of aliens and conspiracies).
To expand on that theme, Wallace Stevens might shed some light. He was an American poet on the hinge between Romanticism and Modernism:
Anecdote of the Jar
I placed a jar in Tennessee, And round it was, upon a hill. It made the slovenly wilderness Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it, And sprawled around, no longer wild. The jar was round upon the ground And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion every where. The jar was gray and bare. It did not give of bird or bush, Like nothing else in Tennessee.
What do you do with an uncivilized, wild land? Import European learning and literature “atop” it? Christian tradition and the Natural Law? Import the triumph of the Western mathematical sciences and technology? Import its movements of the arts and the individual artist?
‘Clarity: As I’ve said, the movie abstracts from concrete reality certain general character types, purges from them the nuance and complexity in which we find these general patterns embedded in everyday life, and re-embodies them in extreme characters so that we might more carefully consider those types. Just as we know more clearly what it is to be a triangle by abstracting from particular triangles (red ones, green ones, triangles drawn in ink, triangles drawn in chalk, etc.) and considering the general pattern, so too does the movie allow us to see more clearly what it is to be a desperate man, a cruel man, a weak man, a dishonest man, a broken man, and so on, by way of its skillful caricatures.
So, in its integrity, proportion, and clarity, Glengarry has the marks of a beautiful thing, despite its grim subject matter. One need not admire and approve of Satan in order to admire and approve of Dante’s or Milton’s literary representations of Satan, and one need not admire or approve of the sorts of people represented in a film like Glengarry in order to admire and approve of the representation itself.’
‘You call yourself a salesman you son-of-a-bitch?:’
For those who’ve ever had a real job, and seen people at their best and worst, or been reasonably honest about their own motivations and willingness to be do right by others under duress, well, there’s a lot of truth to be found in this particular work of art.
Like boxing gyms and MMA matches, or call-centers full of debt collectors, or daily life on public city buses, the stuff of humanity is pretty much the same as anywhere else, just more raw and closer to the surface.
On fuller display, perhaps.
Feser provides some reasonable context, here, the kind that forms the backbone of a good Catholic education, and which this blog considers to have enriched the debate.
For those who didn’t ask!:
As this blog sees things, the modernist project is not explicitly ideological, but it is extremely ambitious: Make it new. Start from the ground up, or go back to the foundations and take a really good look, and have the individual genius start building his own, new foundations (alone or in contact with others, such as the Bloomsbury Group).
It takes really talentedindividuals to pull this off; often individuals with previous exposure to tradition; young practitioners with enough talent and perseverance, as well as enough of a pedagogy to inherit and rebel against should they choose.
As this blog has noted, it’s not hard to witness a string of causation between high modernist aims and a lot of the modern and postmodern aimlessness we see all around us. There sure are a lot of poseurs and would-be artists bobbing in the postmodern stew, left to sort out the entire world and their relation to it alone, or upon a stage (as alone and not alone as one can be).
They write these f**king art blurbs before they have any art! What the f**k is this lady doing?:
‘The most useful definition of modernist fiction I’ve encountered comes from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction. He says modernist fiction tends to “foreground epistemological questions” such as “How can I interpret the world I’m part of? What is there to be known? Who knows it? What are the limits of that knowledge?” In contrast, postmodernist fiction tends to “foreground ontological questions” such as “What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there and how are they constituted? What happens when…boundaries between worlds are violated?’
The above can invite all manner of despair and isolation, and perhaps a deeper cynicism we see in upcoming generations’ rather pervasive desire for fame and recognition.
The above can also exacerbate the spiritual and meaning-making demands individuals place upon the Marketplace, the Church, and in The Media and The Academy (where an authoritarian/totalitarian radical Left seeks to control institutions, institutions where a kind of Western secular humanism and standard-issue political idealism often dominates).
As I see it, I cannot call myself a believer in the questions the Catholic Church claims to to be able to answer, but many modern political and politico-philsophical movements are incomplete at best, and dangerously wrong at worst.
Ah well…there’s my two cents.
There’s good art to be found, of course, but like most well-made things, good art is relatively rare, its ultimate value and quality endlessly disputed, but perhaps, enduring.
–Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough. He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles. Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered). I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.
***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies. See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.
–Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican. There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left. There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).
Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature. This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves). As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.
I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed). I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.
–Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor. If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show. Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.
Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.
Anyways, this is just a brief summary. Any thoughts or comments are welcome.