Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kitsch idealism. Idealism as drag performance. Nostalgia

Geek Humanism is an oxymoron.
Note-taking: idiocy
parts of my two comments
”To contemplate the possibility that words like “all men are created equal” might be bigger and more noble and enduring than the flawed men who wrote them. Like George Lucas and the original Star Wars.”

I don’t know what’s more absurd: the belabored effort to make an obvious and simple point about textual interpretation, or that the second text invoked is Star Wars….

The Constitution is a revolutionary text, and its laced with ambiguities. Did you know that in Canada the Living Tree Doctrine states that Originalism is not a valid argument in Constitutional interpretation? Imagine how boring out country would be if the opposite poles of our legal discourse were suddenly shoved that much closer to one another? The moment Scalia opens his mouth to sing, Zero Mostel shouts: "Th…ank you!!"...
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From the introductory sentences to this post, referring to:
“a characteristic American tendency to see radical social change as the inevitable expression of values expressed and promises made at the country’s inception”

Divide in two:
1- Radicalism and revolution.
2- The expression of values over time.
There is no necessary relation of one to the other, and the difference between Canada and the US is in the former, not the latter. The debate over interpretation in the United States is one of dynamic extremes, the debate in Canada is not. The process itself is more or less identical.
There will never be one Constitution as there will never be one Bible, or even one King James Version [how many Christian denominations use it?]; as there will never be one history of the Revolutionary War or biography of Winston Churchill. There will never be one Shakespeare or Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In language and communication oneness is banality. Democracy is the culture of language in use. You do honor to an idea or a text by arguing over it. This is something MacDougall can't quite grasp.
I try to explain this maneuver to my students, to show them how it returns again and again in American rhetoric. And then they are free to make up their minds about it. It is logical and entirely defensible to decide, as I think Bercovitch does, that the whole thing is a kind of put on. … But I like my students to at least try to hear the music. To imagine themselves Americans for a day. To contemplate the possibility that words like “all men are created equal” might be bigger and more noble and enduring than the flawed men who wrote them. Like George Lucas and the original Star Wars.
It's not a put-on to make an argument about the meanings of a text. It's not a put-on to make an argument about Shakespeare's sonnets. I'll prove my point by contradicting myself:
Is it a put-on for a lawyer to defend a paying client?



"Rob MacDougall is the king of geek historians.”
Old is the New New. Weird History, Mad Science, Occasional Robots.

As I wrote on his site "You're describing the difference between theater and grand theater, but you're also describing theater as bunk." Historian as ironic Fordist. To a rationalist language is "weird." Look at the banner. There's a whole intellectual culture described in it: the culture of geek academic humanism, or ironic "college" radio stations; of "Cyber" and "Steam" Punk; the literature of invention or inventiveness and inventors; of "Tom Swift Studies". To see it deterministically, it's the culture of the children of idealism who are still in its shadow. It's kitsch idealism, or idealism as drag performance.

I saw all this years ago. It seemed so clear to me that I never bothered describing it, but seeing it in academia over the past few years it just becomes depressing. I'm largely a determinist. But I see it as something to fight against, not to indulge. So I remind people.
As I've said again and again, the mature multiform culture of interpretation and theater is growing, expanding outward.
But still these arguments depress me.

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