Saturday, December 28, 2002

Another Saturday night.

Some notes that I might turn into something.
What is it Kitsch?
We live in a world of language. We comminicate by way of language. As I wrote elsewhere the difference between a lover who sounds convincing when expressing his/her love and one who sounds like a fool is the language. It is the language or the gesture that 'convinces'. It is the telling of the story that makes someone into a convert, to love or christianity, not the story.
The interesting thing, to me, about religion is that it elides the obvious: that it is the mediating form that attracts people to one specific faith or another. The language of faith/ the rhetoric of faith/ the demonstration of faith... is faith. We can not escape the means of communication and mediation, even, or especially, when that escape is the object of our desire. It's all brilliantly circular, though no believer can accept such a definition.
But what is kitsch? Kitsch is unmediated faith. It is the equivalence of the plastic Jesus with Michelangelo's Pieta; that's the standard definition. But what does it mean? It is belief without rhetoric. In a sense it is the only actual demonstration of a faith in something outside of language, or out of the world. It is the only example of a faith where the rules of rhetoric and representation do not apply. And that very fact makes it off limits to discourse; makes it considered absurd, even by the vast majority of the faithful.

In Angela's Ashes, there is a description of the horror Frank McCourt's grandmother feels when, as a young boy, McCourt pukes up the communion wafer. [I should say here that I heard McCourt tell the story, but haven't read the book] He's been sick as a dog, but she runs terrified to ask a priest what to do: her grandson's body has rejected the Host. An exasperated priest tells her not to worry, that Frank has the flu. We laugh at the story, and we are meant to, or we were meant to when he told it on the radio. But what he is describing is an example of pure faith. And we laugh at it, because it is also pure kitsch.

What is Fascism? A parody of Monarchism. It is the 98 pound weakling who says he is a member of the master race. But he does not have to convince anyone that he is because he has a gun. In other words, he ignores the rhetoric of power, the language of authority, and uses only- and the 'only' is important- the fist in the face. Monarchy is violent but the fascist reverses the order: not the pomp and then the violence, but the violence and then the pomp, to dress it up not for himself but only for others. The rules Louis IV had to live by, on the other hand, were as strict as those of his courtiers. The pomp was the rhetoric of power, a rhetoric that was as important to the king and those around him as to anyone The rhetoric demonstrated that the order was just, that the order was all encompassing. For Hitler, of the kitsch master race, the pomp was a ruse.
If you doubt my logic ask yourselves this question: If it were otherwise, why did the history of monarchy produce so much art of lasting value and fascism produce almost none? Why is fascist art considered kitsch? Is it only that we cannot judge; the crimes are so great and so recent? I don't think so.

What I think we could say is that fascism, unlike monarchism, is a violent order where the perpetators have the same understanding as the victims; the only difference being in the psychological state of the perpetrators themselves.
What does it mean when Antonin Scalia says "The Constitution as I interpret it, is dead"?
He's given away the game. Once one allows interpretation one allows the possibility of alternate interpretations. What a brilliant piece of casuistry. But does such logic even have a place in a court of law? [Florida]
What is it when one tries to remove from history language that in a sense has already been written? If monarchism was once considered just, and was superceded by democracy, can one replace monarchism on its pedestal without doing damage to language itself. What does it mean to be so reactionary in a democratic state?