Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sisters are doing it for themselves

For someone with the right post-everything sensibility, it must be easy – and probably a lot of fun – to dismiss #ChristopherLasch as a white middle-aged male curmudgeon, overreacting to some sort of personal insecurity. It is curious, though, to what extent his anxieties resonated with those of one of the main ideologists of the “new left” quasi-revolution – #Marcuse. Both detested the soul/eros-draining drudgery modern labor had become – and neither was eager to see women drafted en masse into the capitalist meat, corporate/bureaucratic structures, the hedonic treadmill, etc. Which, of course, did not prevent “leaning in” and full-throttle self-expression from becoming the main plank of women’s lib (with some digital detox and meditation thrown in) – at least in some freedom-loving circles. Apparently, that was a more stimulating experience compared to the choke hold of the family nest. The way this total makeover was pulled off must remain one of the abiding mysteries of the short but eventful 20th century. And the caravan, indeed, must press on…

Monday, November 24, 2014

Life, liberty, and the #pursuitofoverstimulation

A few months ago #VivianGornick sought to rehabilitate American #self-absorption (“In Defense of #Narcissism”). The intellectual target she chose, though, was not psychologist #JeanTwenge. Rather, she sought to deconstruct #ChristopherLasch. An alleged “age of diminished expectations”? “That, unfortunately, was the way the world looked to a white, middle-class man without the gift of empathy who found all the social tumult depressing rather than stimulating” – or so Gornick thinks. In fact, Lasch did realize that the multi-pronged rebellion that broke out in the 1960s was quite stimulating. He described how the human quest for freedom turned mostly into an exhilarating pursuit of overstimulation – until meta-habituation (and relativistic non-judgmentalism) set in.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The post-cringe society

A former student sent me a link to a new video clip – #Only, by female rap “artist” #NikiManaj (featuring also some male collaborators). She had found the piece utterly appalling – offering final proof that there is, indeed, nothing sacred left anywhere anymore. This, of course, should hardly be surprising – given all the hand-wringing (or celebration) regarding the “desacralization” of the world since the 19th century. The “song” itself is a string of profanities set against the backdrop of a music-like sound track and stylized/computerized Nazi-like imagery. Of these, only the latter has apparently provoked some – no doubt anticipated – protests. The whole video project, meanwhile, has “received generally positive reviews from critics” – if the Wikipedia entry is a reliable source. This latest contribution to the neverending quest to shock, and shock, and shock the bourgeoisie seemed particularly grotesque – as I watched it after a CNN “story” featuring a young man lying dead in front of his shack in Freetown. So why do “artists” now need to go to such lengths to appear provocative and generate some buzz?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

#WitheringoftheState - finally!!

#PatrickBuchanan, who is apparently still taken seriously in some circles, recently made the following sweeping observation: “Many private institutions are succeeding splendidly. But our public institutions, save the military, seem to be broadly failing.” It is, indeed, hard to argue on behalf of any public institution these days. As for the private side, we seem to live at a time when RIO has become the measure of all things. So I guess Buchanan’s verdict would apply most forcefully to the most financially successful entities – the likes of Goldman and the other Godzillas of shadow banking (or “alternative banking,” as some aficionados prefer to call it).