“The rise of identity politics on the Left has stimulated and legitimated new assertions of identity on the Right. Donald Trump has received support for being politically incorrect, that is, for not respecting the identity niceties that characterize contemporary American political discourse. In doing so he has greatly abetted the rise of white nationalists and the alt-right, which see themselves as persecuted and marginalized minorities in much the same way as the leftwing identity groups. The Trumpist right in the United States today includes many Christian evangelicals, but it would not be accurate to say that the Trump phenomenon is driven primarily by religion. Many of his voters would like to preserve a traditional concept of American national identity that was partly defined by Christianity, but also by ethnicity and conservative social values more generally. None of this squares, of course, with the sort of liberal civic identity that America had slowly built for itself in the wake of the Civil War.” Francis Fukuyama
“Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. … One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.” – Richard Rorty c. 1998
In Daniel Torday’s new novel, Boomer1, a 31-year-old man sits in front of a Grateful Dead poster in his parents’ basement, where he lives, puts on a rubber David Crosby mask, and stares into his webcam to begin recording another so-called “Boomer Missive.” His name is Mark Brumfeld, and he is a relatively unremarkable specimen of his generation—drowning in student loan and credit card debt, unable to find steady employment, and searching for an easy scapegoat for the all-encompassing disillusionment he feels about his life. And so he directs his ire at none other than the largest generation in American history, the baby boomers, anyone born in that postwar, pre-Pill population surge between 1946 and 1964. Torday’s novel addresses the popular and wide-sweeping narrative that boomers are hunkering down with “all of the jobs” and refusing to retire, hogging all sorts of cultural space, and in doing so stunting the economic and emotional growth of the generation below them, some of whom are their literal children. In Boomer1, though, this leads to things getting quickly and dangerously out of hand. First the AARP website is hacked. Bob Weir’s home is vandalized. Iconic boomers Jann Wenner, Philip Roth, and Oprah are all doxed. An enterprising prankster breaks into the Eddie Bauer mainframe and makes it so that every item sold in its stores is marked $666.66. These attacks dominate the news; a (barely) fictionalized David Brooks writes a widely shared op-ed decrying “Millennials Gone Wild.” In the novel, persecuted boomers like Brooks start using a new phrase to describe the mayhem: “domestic generational terrorism.” Lindsay Zoladz
“We must consider how very little history there is; I mean real authentick history. That certain Kings reigned, and certain battles were fought, we can depend on as true; but all the colouring, all the philosophy of history is conjecture.” Dr. Johnson
“Fairness is the philosophical equivalent of the Tooth Fairy.” Thaddeus R. Venture
Before we begin it should be said that much of what follows could be seen as yet another feeble attempt at repeating myself. That’s why I’d like to encourage you to not think of it as one more boorish blog entry, but an attempt to prove that Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal recurrence is correct.
If that doesn’t work for you then feel free to think of this as a sad old man who keeps saying, “I do and I do and I do for you kids and what thanks do I get?”
Bring your service revolver, Watson. We might have need of it before this is over.
Going around the dial last weekend I came up The Seven Percent Solution, Herbert Ross’s 1976 tale of the time Sherlock Holmes met Sigmund Freud. Near the end of the movie there’s a train chase and the engineer tells Holmes he’s run out of coal. To maintain their forward momentum pursuit Holmes instructs Watson and Freud to bring him anything that will burn. As the chase peaks we see that the wooden benches of the train have all been thrown into the fire as well as the curtains, the luggage, and the siding of the cars. At that point there still isn’t sufficient fuel so one by one Watson jettisons the cars living only the engine to carry on.
If you can think of a better analogy for what happened last week please post it in the comment section below.
Years ago I said that the GOP as well as the entire conservative movement was becoming nothing less that the American equivalent of the Chinese Revolutionary Red Guard.
So go head – have Kavanaugh.
But … but …. but we’re Steve and Debbie. We like candlelight dinners and long walks on the beach. Our turnoffs are pushy people and smokers!
NB: What follows IS NOT another discussion of individuality being illusory.
So take a minute, find a free finger, and pull the wad out of your unders.
For the past several months I’ve been thinking about institutions, specifically how we shape them, how they shape us, and what we get out of it. All of this grew out of something that bubbled up out of the primordial warm mud in my head – the memory of an old professor who taught Rousseau by way of what we now call Second Wave Feminism. (SWF) (i.e. the Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug era) Since Rousseau thought people were fine but their institutions were corrupt, my old prof said that what SWF did was make women examine the institution of womanhood which in turn, albeit unexpectedly and most grudgingly, made men consider the institution of manhood. Back then, and much like now, people were also supposed to consider the institutions of race and simultaneously.
And then, like now, everybody lost their spit.
Steve and Debbie do not want to hear how they are part of interlocking events and relationships that invisibly shape their lives. They just want you to shut the hell up so they can enjoy their General Foods cinnamonny (sic) Cafe Vienna International Coffee.
Moving along –
Here’s a few places where institutions intrude without much notice, but finally make you consider their nature:
Absorption – Media, celebrity, and legal institutions reduced Rodney King, Nicole Brown, and Ronald Goldman to footnotes. Their real selves are now gone, we know nothing of them.
Failure – Where do you want to start, the Catholic Church or White Guy Inc.? When those two women pushed their way into the elevator with Jeff Flake it’s gonna be mighty tough to go out for a round of golf with the boys to see how to fix this one.
This morning an illustrated guide on How to Pray for The Church arrived in one of my streams. Not the victims, nor the priests who failed their parishes, but The Church.
Hubris – As the parents of someone who likes to use the term “Boomer Cultural Hegemony” Torday’s n+1 novel comes as no surprise. (OK – for us it comes as no surprise.) There’s no point in repeating what’s been said endlessly about the Boomers’ self-absorbed nature. Instead I take exception to the Torday’s characters descending on Bob Weir’s house. That would at least leave some old hippie thinking, “By God, the little punks did learn something from us!” The better place for agitprop would be at one of Billy Joel’s ongoing dates at Madison Square Garden or The Eagles playing Vegas.
That would hit Steve and Debbie right where they live.
If you take a minute and look it all – BLM, #metoo, neoliberalism, unemployed coal miners, the culture wars, identity politics -our institutions have moved into plain sight and in some cases even been weaponized against us. Everything on the list of current events is an invitation to make each and everyone of us examine the institutions in our lives.
And we don’t like that.
Not even one little bit.
Your love gives me such a thrill, but your lovin’ don’ t pay my bills
Somewhere around the midpoint of the last century Norman Mailer found himself in a Manhattan loft along with a few of his peers – Capote, (“ballsy little guy”) Kerouac, (“lacks discipline, intelligence, honesty, and a sense of the novel) and Bellow (“a style I find self-willed and unnatural”). True to his form Norman claimed to have dominated the room, consuming the cocktails handed to him and occasionally helping himself to someone else’s liquor. This past week Th’ Perfesser managed to do something similar. Like Mailer Th’ Perfesser squared his shoulders, took a stance, his weight balanced equally between his two feet, and dared to take on all comers becoming a literary lion to a kaffeeklatsch full of NPR tote- baggers.
Or at least that’s what we’ve heard.
I couldn’t be there as I had a photo shoot at a dinner held by a group of white guys mostly my age who one after another storide up to the dias to everybody gathered how there’s not one single problem in this world that can’t be solved over a round of golf with the fellas.
Coin of the realm for Th’ Perfesser’s management is something they call “vibes” which are supposed to wash over you like a handful of Madame DuBerry Bath Beads thrown in the tub which will eventually leave you wonderfully fragrant and a bit moist. Th’ Perfesser claims these “vibes” are perfectly good, but we fail to see what utility these “vibes” provide.
Look, whether you call it Late Stage Capitalism or Capitalism’s Sad Last Days (tm pend) we hold fast to the idea that if you want me to consult, amplify, or photograph whatever you and your ilk are up to then it’s cash or check (well … check with appropriate i-d) and you can put that BitCoin back wherever you found it.
Because nobody understands the blockchain.
Have we read Th’ Perfesser’s work for which he was being lionized?
No, it’s far too complicated for us right now. We don’t have the mental bandwidth to deal with it because it all goes back to the question, “Does you son have required summer reading?”
Yes, he assigned Kafka to his mother while I got the usual compilation of contemporary continental thinkers.
A couple of weeks ago we were in the mood for some lighter reading, but we couldn’t find any. You know, lighter reading – Andy Capp collections, Harold Robbins first editions, Ripon Society brochures, Rod McKuen’s Listen to the Warm – reading so effortless that it’s like taking a nap without all the fuss and bother of having to lie down and close your eyes. We tore up the living room and were eventually forced out into the night to seek out a Barnes and Nobel.
That’s merely a statement of fact.
We are not trying to elicit pity.
Eventually we’ll make it up to Th’ Perfesser. Not only will we read his book we’ll invite him over to watch what Alaska Wolf Joe’s grandfather called “The World Serious” on our small-screen tv and offer him his choice of General Food International Coffee selections.
Excuse us now as we must pen a note of regret and send it along to Th’ Perfesser.