Friday, February 02, 2007

History and/or Nostalgia

Friends, we don't have to remind you about our embarrassing tendency toward maudlin recollection. For all of our cynical misanthropy (read: tough-minded, demystified realism), for all of our disgusted disbelief in Golden Ages and Greatest Generations, at times we long for the days that used to be.

These are dangerous feelings. This you know. This we know. Look at moments of deep nostalgia for a glorious past embedded in particularly engaging narratives of authenticity (combined with the willingness to fuck over a lot of people) and you have one big fucking fertilized egg just waiting to birth fascism. Distrust people who say things likes "That's just wrong to play that note there" or "Real art does something different, what you've done is degenerate" or "Wipe the cowshit off of the Madonna before I wipe out your whole family" or declare any particular moment to be the pinnacle of art or science or music or anything else.

If we ever begin a sentence with a reproving "Back then" you may kill us. We demand it!

Nonetheless, friends, perhaps we may select moments from the past, evaluate them as best we can in terms of our past and our present and the future that has always depended upon them, and decide that those moments represent something of value: the sort of value that one finds conspicuously absent from our current lives.

We'll cut to the chase: if we have to see -- however accidentally, however fleetingly -- the simpering mug of Stanley Fucking Fish representing the current state of the Public Intellectual in America, well, we may just hurt ourselves.

Or somebody else.

How did we arrive here? How did we collectively become so intellectually lazy, so idiotically passive, so incompletely or perversely miseducated, that Thomas Friedman and David Brooks and Stanley Fish are allowed to pass as intellectual muscle?

We don't know. We can't say.

But we can tell you that there are moments when we look back to a different time and different place; when public discourse didn't arrive as grotesquely pre-digested commonplaces and demonstrably false assertions, degraded wishes masquerading as indisputable facts. These are the moments when we attempt to re-imagine a present by re-arranging a past, to employ the powers of selective memory to construct what Lewis Mumford once called The Golden Day , fully conscious that there had never been any such day.

Then again, through the process of constructing our own historical narratives -- our own highlight reel of nostalgia and longing and loss -- maybe we can find that day, and if we do it right perhaps we can even avoid the sort of low-grade totalitarian fantasies of TRADITION that animate the Right Wingnuts.

So here. Enjoy.


Blogger Kenneth said...

I'm watching with the sound turned down. The guy in the audience with the long hair and the glasses is pretty awesome.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Swill to Power said...

Agreed. The camera rightly loves him. Though I think I'd choke if I ever caught anybody paying that much attention to anything I was saying.

4:59 PM  
Blogger squeezychortle said...

Watching these two, I can imagine the voices of the others. Machiavelli, Socrates, Weber, et al.

Marx, Freud.

Smart people.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Mickey Bones said...

Your best post so far, Swill. I also watched this without the volume, can't help but notice how dashing those two were. That's really the issue with public "debate" today, it's conducted by ugly people. Himmler ugly.

But since I've seen the Swill in the flesh (and remain in awe) I have hope.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Swill to Power said...

Thanks, Bones, and it's true about the attractiveness of these fellers. Dig that hair on Chomsky! Hardwired indeed.

For more on the uses to which Foucault put his attractiveness, we recommend James Miller's *The Passion of Michel Foucault*. Heady stuff.

We'd also like to point out that by watching these without sound, some important information may be lost.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before we all swoon over the ghosts of intelligentsia past, and the brave cultures of public criticism that they led, might I point out that every single person in the audience that I can see is both white and male? To say nothing of the rockstars on stage.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Swill to Power said...

I suppose that you might point that out, but you would be mistaken (hint: not all women have long hair).

Anyway, who's swooning? Did you read the post with the monitor turned off?

And then what? Does your point have something to do with early 1970s Dutch university culture? Well played, anonymous. We guess.

1:45 PM  
Blogger squeezychortle said...

Okay. I don't "swoon." The motherfucker just said "anarcho-syndicalism". David Brooks doesn't know what that means, and, more importantly, wouldn't want to know because it has the prefix "anarcho."

Some smart people were white guys. And structures of repression, the things these two are contemplating so carefully, have preferred that group historically. Ergo, we should go all Red Guard and burn their books. Right.

Post a fucking video of Marguerite Duras, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Joan Didion, et al.

Or, Anonymous, you could just toughen the fuck up.

3:06 PM  

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