Art Flushed For Consumerism, Progress, Academia

The blog is still alive, I have just been busy with studying, so I have neglected it.

Here I go…

As I listen to the presidential debates and the mundane and requisite mudslinging, Obama firing this way, Palin firing that way, McCain being, well being old, and Biden just being entertaining, I wonder just what our current form of American democracy is actually doing for our culture and intellectual thought and betterment on the whole. All those who think critically must certainly be fed up with the non-critical, homogeneous thought coming out of the political machine that, ironically and pejoratively speaking, is not much more than a mere reflection of the culture it wishes to appeal to. The political machine, simplistic, intellectually frustrating, an epistemology of a television inspired materialist culture, turns to these very strengths, with appeals to economic stability, world domination (or, er, a reinstatement of America’s world preeminence, I suppose), and–ah yes–safety and contextual comfort for the common person in trade for their vote.

But I feel that 90% of our population suffers from a kind of cultural amnesia. What can one learn from the mistakes and successes of our nation, from humanity from 50, 100, 150, or 1000 years back? Who cares because no one paid attention in history class and few put much stock in the intellectual history that has passed before them and continues to provide keys to deeper social, and cultural questions. If anything, most people feel enmity for the “intellectual elite” because it serves as a another impenetrable class system. However, the base issues we experience about our existence, the meta-life issues we face, are made powerfully manifest when the populist’s cultural status quo resides at its lowest, most futile; I would say that it’s there now. So why do we continue to put our faith in politicos to save us, to raise us from this hopeless state when they are the ones who, with our enabling votes, orchestrated the cacophony? Many greater people know and understand this depression. People like Homer, William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad, Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Tim O’Brien, Ursula Le Guin, and Flannery O’Connor do, and do well in explaining the condition in their art.

“The practice of art isn’t to make a living,” Kurt Vonnegut said. “It’s to make your soul grow.” Who wants their soul to grow in our day and age? I think our wallets and egos might be more important.

“The gallows,” the gravediggers in “Hamlet” poignantly remind us, “is built stronger than the church.” Supposed fear is kept at bay through a rigid retention of mores and laws enabled by death. The trade-off of this un-objective retention of “law” and “order” is the loss of spiritual and artistic exploration and development.

But what’s the solution to this difference in philosophical ideals across our society? Academics seem to be the closest thing to shamans or priests, people who have the keys to and who quintessentially live outside the world of the mundane day-to-day. But academics fit within the system just like consumers fit into capitalism. They serve a purpose in our culture, feed our businesses with bright green undergrads who perform in such educated roles as mid-level manager, or brilliant operations officer, or even helpful and egalitarian human resources manager. Sadly, I feel that most academics are to art and literature as radiologists are to to the intricacies of human emotions.

Most academics are bogged down with grading papers and writing papers themselves (in an attempt to retain the strictly stipulated academic status and to remain gainfully employed), both activities that suck the vitality out of the endeavor of propagating the profound truths their foci of study expound upon. Academics, with their hyper-developed intellects, seem also to have a stunted emotional maturity, probably caused by the fear the profound divulgements sitting in front of them incite, truths that demand they do more than publish papers, and require that they fight vigorously, to throw themselves upon the un-truths and misconceptions of our contemporary world. I suppose, and I am guilty of this in my own scholarly studies, to dismantle a form, the style and mechanics of a text using critical analysis and the en-vogue scholarly lens, is much easier than taking action to react to the form, to help common humanity. As hard teaching a class is, it simply is not enough either.

Bradbury said, “you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” That’s where we’re at now. People allow themselves to be overtaken by what’s inundating them, the overt capitalist manifesto of things, of buying and buying, of accepting the fear spewed by the “pundits,” and in allowing this they also authorize their own thought, their very sense of the world around them, to be absconded. Action, dire and explosive action, is needed, and we are the ones who need to create this action. I am spitting into the wind, I know, but spitting nonetheless.

This entry was posted in Commentary, Critical Theory, Essay, Fear.

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