On Friday night, the country was treated to a visage of history, as thousands of demonstrators, a multiracial Coalition of the Offended, streamed out of the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, where the Trump campaign had abruptly cancelled a rally, “for the safety of all the tens of thousands of people that had gathered in and around the arena,” the campaign said in a statement. On CNN, John King opined that many of the demonstrators had come “just to cause trouble,” and Neil Bush, brother to George W. and Jeb, pointed out the similarities between the images coming out of Chicago that evening and those of the chaotic 1968 Democratic Convention. This was a miscasting of history, and yet another demonstration of why the Republican establishment has been so inept in its attempts to contain the Trump phenomenon. It wasn’t the demonstrators who recalled the insurgent fury of Chicago in 1968, it was the masses of Trump supporters, fists clenched in a fervor to reroute the country’s trajectory, to seize it from those who’ve taken us down the path of national shame—to make America great again, even if they have to break a few eggs.The Chicago Democratic Convention protests were directed at a political establishment that was responsible for Vietnam, and more broadly for a sense that skewed national priorities had victimized ordinary citizens. Trump’s supporters are not animated by any literal war, but they are fully invested in a rhetorical one, and all the indignation, victimhood, and chaos-brokering of 1968 finds its reactionary equivalent in the current Republican front-runner. – Jelani Cobb
To know all is not to forgive all. It is to despise everybody. – Quentin Crisp
It has always been the practice of those who are desirous to believe themselves made venerable by length of time to censure the new comers into life, for want of respect to gray hairs and sage experience, for heady confidence in their own understandings, for hasty conclusions upon partial views, for disregard of counsels which their fathers and grandfathers are ready to afford them, and a rebellious impatience of that subordination to which youth is condemned by nature, as necessary to its security from evils into which it would be otherwise precipitated by the rashness of passion and the blindness of ignorance. … Every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world, of the petulance and insolence of the rising generation. He recounts the decency and regularity of former times, and celebrates the discipline and sobriety of the age in which his youth was passed; a happy age which is now no more to be expected, since confusion has broken in upon the world, and thrown down all the boundaries of civility and reverence. – Dr. Johnson
This was a week of self examination that managed to get tangled up in much low-rent epistemology. It kicked off with the two of us waiting for our take-out order. As we had nothing else to do Mom picked up a small magazine in the lobby. She held it up and asked, “How long has Archie had a hashtag in his hair?”
I said that Archie’s crosshatching predated Twitter by decades. As a kid I thought those were window panes reflected off this bright red hair.
That’s where that riveting discussion ended.
We were joined on the bench by a young couple who were flirting up a storm. They arrived just at the point where the young man undertook the compulsory male fluffed-up braggadocio. He began, “After I got out of college I wandered around, bartended, was a waiter, then two years ago I really found my calling. I’m the lead buyer for a a consortium of recreational marijuana stores.”
Oh brave new world, that has such people in’t.
In a magnificent example of circular breathing he went on excitedly about traveling here and there and getting to know every half-naked and barefoot Ma and Pa Kettle east of the Cascades. Then he deftly shifted into the need for stores to make sure the dab and oils at the front of the shop are always clear because it sends a message that quality counts!
All the while he was doing that a little voice in the back of my head kept shouting, “DUDE, SHUT UP! SOMEONE WILL HEAR YOU!!” In the car on the way home Mom said something similar, “I wanted to tell him, ‘NOT HERE! NOT HERE!’”
The legality of it all is still very new for us and obviously it’s done nothing for our way of thinking. We’re still locked into thinking about marijuana the way we did 35+ years ago. Changing the law did not change the bits and pieces of shop-worn facts and half-wrong memories that float around at the bottom of our brains.
An rudimentary version of that last thought had occurred to me earlier in the day when I happened up a Newsweek article written by my favorite grouch, Slavoj Žižek. At long last Zizzy had gotten around to writing about Donald. Trump. Somewhere in the article he says –
The problem here is what Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel called Sittlichkeit: mores, the thick background of (unwritten) rules of social life, the thick and impenetrable ethical substance that tells us what we can and cannot do. These rules are disintegrating today: What was a couple of decades ago simply unsayable in a public debate can now be pronounced with impunity.
It may appear that this disintegration is counteracted by the growth of political correctness, which prescribes exactly what cannot be said; however, a closer look immediately makes it clear how the “politically correct” regulation participates in the same process of the disintegration of the ethical substance. To prove this point, it suffices to recall the deadlock of political correctness: The need for PC rules arises when unwritten mores are no longer able to regulate effectively everyday interactions—instead of spontaneous customs followed in a nonreflexive way, we get explicit rules, such as when “torture” becomes an “enhanced interrogation technique.”
The crucial point is that torture—brutal violence practiced by the state—was made publicly acceptable at the very moment when public language was rendered politically correct in order to protect victims from symbolic violence. These two phenomena are two sides of the same coin.
That took me back to something I’d seen a few years ago.
The article and the video have many valid points about what the kids call “late stage capitalism.”
Yes, late stage capitalism.
That’s how they say it.
You know, as in “23 skidoo, late-stage capitalism, Chicken Inspector!”
Where were we?
Zizzy’s solution for all things that ail us is a neo-Stalinist state.
Which got me to thinking – where’s the hate for that?
Chomsky’s an old man now. He’s only got a few years of being the go-to for being the public intellectual the Right loves to hate. Never mind that the foundation of Chomsky’s entire critique of society was shaped by the Vietnam War. Never mind that the old hippies who still hang on Chomsky’s every word also have a worldview shaped by that war. More likely sooner rather than later Noam Chomsky won’t be around nor will most of the people who love and/or hate him. If one side or the other is looking for heroes and villains – then it’s time to start looking around and Zizzy is my new default value for “grumpy.”
More to the point- look at the pull quote from Jelani Cobb at the top of this post. We couldn’t even make it out of Friday night before somebody brought up 1968.
Why can’t we move on?
Is this something that comes with age?
Do we finally reach a point where the body of knowledge that we’ve been walking around with for years finally fails us?
Now, I’m not saying that the sum total of our experiences is bad. (e.g. hand on hot stove = BAD! NO! STOP!!) What I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of is how entropy fits into our memory. Do we unconsciously come to a point where – on any given topic – we say, “OK, stop there. That’s good enough.?” Or do we get distracted by time and daily routine so as to never re-visit a topic or a given certainty?
How else did we reach the point where Mom and I got nervous around a guy who very openly buys and sells – what was for us for many, many years – an illicit substance?
The kid wasn’t talking to us. He probably didn’t even notice us. We had no interaction, but our brains were on fire.
So what about the things we unconsciously take for granted as fact, but no longer have a place in navigating the world?
On the evening after encountering the kid at the take-out place I downloaded the first episode of Louis C.K.’s Horace and Pete. Like all good theatrical production, all the characters are completely unaware that what they know is no longer serving them well. Whether it’s Jessica Lange’s drunken shirttail relation proudly proclaiming her liberalism while calling Hillary Clinton a cunt or being very matter of fact as to how Cam Newton needs to learn his place, then it’s Allan Alda’s elderly Uncle Pete who says he’s not a racist as his family let all sorts of “coloreds” come in the bar the years. The entire first episode is nothing but people who have let ideas that no longer serve anybody rule their lives.
Again – I’m not saying all previously acquired knowledge is bad. this is more of a summary of how several things came together on a certain day which lead to a larger examination. Put another way – beyond the hot-stove example there are those things you remember that can be put to use. Sometimes those factoids can be used in casual conversation. Now and then I like to bring up how I became a fan of the band X after Exene called Stevie Nicks “The witch queen of Beverly Hills.”
Not to mention how this song becomes relevant every now and again.