Saturday, July 21, 2007

Infantile Sentimentality: SNAG-Nation.

Most people think what most people think. Most people are social animals, conforming to the norms of the mass, ready to go where the others go, to do what the others do, to look like and be like the others. That is so, as Primo Levi points out so vividly, even at Auschwitz where to conform to the norms meant death within three weeks, planned and programmed and determined for effect of no other kind. People get along by going along, even if that means going to their deaths unblinking and unthinking. Conformity is usually a good thing, revolution usually being a bad thing. Here, I have argued recently, we face an imitation of conformity, a blind mummer's play of stupidity, a debased Mystery, a play of the mimicry of falseness.

Most people say what most people say. "It's not that bad," becomes, in the era of the worst of Stalin: "This cannot be happening." And people will refuse to believe their own lives. Ask Plekhanov.

Most people have opinions, and they get them from family, from friends, from social organizations they belong to, churches, synagogues, and so on. From television, newspapers, universities; from people hanging out and chatting them up in public. Most people are too busy with personal concerns and their privacies to lean into the wind of understanding and then to go forth into that storm unclothed. Most don't know, don't care, and rely on the opinions of experts, those trained and recognized as thinkers who know for all of us others who do not have the time and the skill to navigate the cracks and cervices of deep thought. Rather than Mysteries we get mummers. It is always a public performance, a comedy or a tragedy, who can tell? Our masked intelligentsia act out and we have our little catharses, hoping we performed properly, looking for disapproving glances from those around us so we might adjust ourselves properly for the next performance and out-do those who scowled at us last. The prevailing opinion, brought to us from the play-wrights of passion and agony perform for us and we pretend because we have no better reality than mystery, not being able to compete in our banal existences. No tragedy, no mystery, no comedy: we are attending farce, and one "ironic" at that, to which only the unsophisticated or the cruel object.

I suggest to you, dear reader, yet again, that we are cheated and lied to by our intelligentsia.

Sentimentality, for those many who confuse it with right feeling, is falseness of emotion. Basing my conclusions on false premises I can get everything right every time by doing everything wrong after my false start. Fool-proof, sort of. But what a price to pay, if one can. And few are willing to get it wrong all the time in the hope of getting it right. One must conform to survive the life of the masses in concert. Rebels and revolutionaries are only good in very, very small numbers among very, very large groups. And we need those misfits urgently now. We need quickly a number of people honest and tough enough to say "No" to further lies and sentimentality. Most people will go alone with whatever the experts say, even if such means a free trip to rural Poland. Most people will just go along because their embarrassed to cause a scene. Most will not walk out of the theatre in disgust. Most will willingly suspend their disbelief, even when it means the lions are coming into the gallery. Most people are social animals and they would rather die than look bad in public. No matter how horrible and painful and death-beckoning it is, most people will follow the fashion rather than not. They will praise it, they will laud it, they will fawn over it. The wire of despair, if I may, will connect the mass and shut them off. The falseness will suddenly overcome the mass and they will realize too late the imminent demise of the whole, and they will sink into themselves as a whole, will sit in a stupor, and they will await death passively, oblivious to it, uncaring, incapable of movement, incapable of the slightest thought of survival, paralysed by the current of despair. Based on the false premise of sentimentality, doing the right thing will lead each and every time to the wrong outcome, even unto death. Today we need train-wreckers, we need those few who will rip down the facade of mummery and replace it with the realities of Mystery.

Very few of our public intellectuals are able, as people with personalities rather than due to lack of intelligence, to follow the path of Socrates, being impelled to follow his arch-rival, the wholly successful philosopher Medeocrates. Most of our intelligentsia, far from being evil or stupid, are not able to resist the pull of conformity and not able to endure the pressure to return to the fold of the norm. They, like those around them, do what others do; and they are often smart enough to see that what they do is exercise sentimentality. Fear keeps them going. Then sets in the hatred of those who look at them undeceived; and all involved know the game is exposed, and that the only way to preserve it is to lash out and destroy the gaze that condemns. Be honest for a moment and ask yourself how long you'll last if you tell the committee the truth. Truth? Yeah, the ordinary stuff of reality, not the sophist rubbish of our current idiocies, just the simple observable facts of the day in place. Do that, dear reader and, as you well know in advance, you are right fucked.

If you know Zola's Germinal, you'll recall the character Catherine, the girl the hero of the story should have got but didn't. Instead she hooks up with the bad guy of the book, a bad guy who treats her badly, and she knows he treats her badly, sees it clearly, and knows it needn't be that way. She stays, as she says, because to leave and find another man would be to destroy her self-image: "I'm not a slut." Examples of my fine point, unfortunately, abound like gazelles.

People will and do deny and deny and deny, even as they die.

May I digress? There is the famous "Rule of Thirds," noticed by our friend Poussin, I do believe; there is the Holy Trinity; the Three Stooges; and there is the girl I met years ago who said: "After three days you'll do anything." Three weeks without food, three days without water, and three hours without hope. Digression over.

We each of us have a public life-- and a pubic persona, a mask to wear when we're "out." We mask our privacies and carry on as actors in publicities. This is usually a good thing. We mostly don't want to know the "real you." But where publicity begins and privacy ends is sort of kind of fuzzy. When you get home and take off your smelly shoes, do you know who you are and who the publicity is that you can't stash on the back porch with the sneakers? How much of the stuff you picked up during the course of the day sticks to you and won't come off, or even be noticed? How much play-acting do you do even when you're alone in the dark? Well, one would hope, a great deal if one is a social being. Often we "just have to lump it." No, we don't have to like it, but being Human means we often have to put up with it anyway for the sake of getting along in the world. I'm all for that. To a point. And not an inch or a millimeter more beyond that point. To the best of my admittedly limited abilities I am more than happy to follow the norms of publicity. Nod and smile when I get my meal at Chez Pierre? Well, anything that costs that much must be good, even if I can't stand it. Throwing rocks at a girl and killing her? Hmmm. No. Making excuses for it because that's the popular thing to do? Uhhh. No. Diverting attention from the evil by clouding the issue with false comparisons? I-don't-think-so-bud-dy. Nope, I ain't got no friends, an I don't care.

Most people have no idea about most things. That seldom stops people from having an opinion they demand be heard in public. That it's thoughtless and a mostly a re-hash of some trite piece of nonsense to begin with, well, never you mind. That the best thoughts of our time are usually from the lips of conformists who repeat each other's nonsense? Well, try getting along if you piss everyone off.

We are in the grip of a plague of public idiocy. Not, please, to confuse that with lack of intelligence. Idiocy is, in the worst sense, "privacy". We cannot live in a world of privacy, not even if mom let's us live in the basement. We are made to live in the publicity not of our own choosing even if we don't like it and even if we don't like the very concept of it. Too bad. We are social animals. Today we are stuck in a social scene of infantile sentimentality, a play brought to us by wankers.

And such is the terror of being seen as a non-conformist that the majority nod and smile and board that train. Yeah, the train to Vanity Fair. It's. Not. Real.

People need permission to do the other thing. They also need encouragement. They need sometimes a letter or a carte or a sign or an emblem or a uniform or a flag or a crowd or a cloak or a tattoo or a suit or a or a or a. Even when one has permission to do it there is the fear that others will see and will not like that one does that. One needs to wave a note of permission to show one has the right, the duty, the order from above to do that. Even with an order from authority one needs a mask to hide behind. One third will, one third won't, and one third are already dead in a meaningful sense if not literally. Just about everyone, regardless, still goes along with what most think and do, even in a war, even among criminals and the vividly insane. At best, only a third will really ever. The other third won't really, though they might lump it. And the middle third will keep on sitting there smoking pot. You still need permission.

For now, because we're social animals, most of us "celebrate the difference" of pot-smoking idiocy as culture. One third will even write in and complain about the complaint. One third will agree, and one third will drool. But most will simply carry on as before rather than say anything that might cause trouble or make them look bad. Yes the pose hurts, and yes, the play is awful, and yes, there's way more things more fun than living a lie; but hey, everyone's doing it.

OK, so I give up. As of today I'm going to be Dag SNAG. I'm going to smile, smile, smile and be happy because I live in a SNAG-Nation. No more of being a guy who pisses people off by contradicting them. No more gadfly from this guy. No way. From now on I'm Mr. Sensitive New Age Guy. Yuppers, I'm going to be a flaky idiot, a clown, a fool in public; in short, I'm going to get a facial and be a Metro-Sexual.

Whatever other people say, that's what I say, only I say so moreso.

Excuse me, I'm... I'm... I was weeping because I just recalled how the evil Zionists were clubbing Palestinians and baby seals, and I was thinking really hard about the hole in the ozone layer and the one that's in Bush's skull where his brain should be (har har har.) Uh, this is all new to me, so I'll have to go Beyond Robson st. to find out what else I think. Fuck, I wanna be a SNAG! Gotta wanna cause I live in SNAG-Nation.

Oh well, that didn't last long. I don't care about being anything other than who and what I am. No public persona is going to make me different or better, even if it would undoubtedly improve my social life. No, I'm not willing to pretend in public. I don't care that I don't have permission not to be. So what? Those beyond Robson don't like me? So what? Nobody likes me? Well, that'd be a problem, if only in getting a date, not to mention getting a pay-cheque for the rent. Beyond that, I don't care. I'm not overly sensitive, and I don't like the idea of pretending I am. I don't feel the need to have permission to do and to write as I do. I'm one guy, and not representative of the vast majority, thank God. It doesn't follow that I'm doing anything right or anything better, only that I'm not concerned about doing the wrong things of our Snag-Nation. I prefer to make my own mistakes rather than the mistakes everyone around me is making. You would likely prefer to stop the usual reign as well, but it's not easy. It's usually not permitted. Even if it were, you'd still need encouragement to stand up and do the thing. You'd need a way to deflect criticism from yourself. Hey, don't look at me, I can't help you. There's a very good chance that you're fed up with infantile sentimentality. Why would you like anything about it? But even if you out-right hate infantile sentimentality, are you going to risk the shit hitting you if you protest in public? You need protection from that, friend. A third will agree with you, a third will call for your blood, and a third will sit and grin and drool. Unfortunately for you, even the third who agree with you won't likely do a damned thing to save you from the third who hate you. Mostly, unless you become really famous, no one will ever care. But it's your life in direct focus, and you are the centre of that possible attraction of unwanted attention. You need protection. Yes, you need right guard. You need permission and encouragement from an authority, and you need a shield. If you're going to go on stage and announce that this play sucks, then, friend, you need a way of surviving the outrage of the few who'll bewail their lost investments.

It's a game for grown-ups we play here. The "let's pretend" world of the ruling classes and the sullen masses cost a lot to set up, and more and more to maintain. There will be sore losers when this stuff ends, and those who get caught wrecking it will suffer when they get caught. You need a shield unless you're tougher than I am and you can take the blows of the crowd without breaking. Yes, the whole play is phony, and we all know it; but we also know that those who stand up and defy it will get trashed. It doesn't matter how much make-up men wear or how full the lady's moustache is, if you piss them off, you step outta line, the Man come and take you away.

Sentimentalists are not necessarily weak or stupid. They are basically cynical and vicious. They have no genuine feelings so they concoct false ones to have feelings at all. Why they bother is a mystery to me. But the false works on many, on even as many as a third. Given the investment many have made in this idiot mummers' play you must not think they'll pack up the tent and quietly go away.

The fools running the show are going to let things get so bad that you might end up being murdered, and at best you'll lose your personal freedom. Is it Bush and the neo-con conspiracy? Is it really the Joooos? Or is it really a gang of invested Leftist idiots? Did Bush and the Oil Companies really fill in the blank? Is the sentimental and the rotten really the good? Big-eyed dogs on velvet? Kitch? Irony? Well, if you close your mind to the sentimentalism of our culture you'll bankrupt many who've invested their life-savings in the plastic puke business. They won't go quietly. Nor will you have a lot of friends backing you up. Yes, plastic puke is infantile, and yes, I have dozens of them scattered around my office. I do know when to put them away. Our culture hasn't figured that out yet. We live in a SNAG-Nation.

Here, just in case this wasn't long enough, is some top-notch thinking from Adam Katz. He more or less agrees with every thing I write. I think his office is filled up with, like, plastic pukes. Even if he doesn't agree with me, he's still a good read here.

Next from me is Infantile Publicity: Tattoos, Pornography, and Gladiation. Or something like that.

"We can be generous to Muslims who would explicitly abandon claims to Islamic supremacy precisely to the extent that we have freed ourselves from all conditions our "sensitivity" to the various hang-ups of the Muslim public has placed upon us. As long as we take for granted that "of course" any actual implementation of the U.S.-Israeli alliance would be "impossible" because it would enrage the Muslim "street," then we are still allowing their rage (or fabricated expressions thereof) to determine our policy." Adam Katz,
A Calculus of Covenants; or, Fifth Generation Warfare
http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm?frm=3882&sec_id=3882.

(You need a shield, don't forget.)

4 comments:

truepeers said...

As I already mentioned to dag, I think this is a great post. THe only question that remains for each of us to ask, and we must constantly ask it: Do we really need permission to do the right thing (from the wife, husband, parents, kids, friends, etc.)? Or do we just need good faith? And whatever our answer, how or where do we get it? We should be looking for it all the time because only then will the mystery open enough to let us in, and permission and good faith will be as one, graceful.

dag said...

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to do nothing at all. There are times for that, people to whom one must not rise against in fury. I let things happen when doing nothing is the right thing to do.

But the situation we face needs more than stoicism. This needs attention.

zazie said...

"most people are social animals"...
"les hommes sont faits, nous di-on,
pour vivre en bande, comme les moutons ;
moi,je vis seul, etc'est pas demain,
que je suivrai leur droit chemin...
Je suis la mauvaise herbe,
braves gens, braves gens,
c'est pas moi qu'on rumine,
et c'est pas moi qu'on met en gerbes ;
je suis la mauvaise herbe,
braves gens, braves gens,
je pousse en liberté
dans les chemins mal fréquentés..."
Georges Brassens wrote those lines when I was very young ; they have been comforting companions to me ever since the first time I heard them on the radio (no TV at home in those days!)..
I suppose you will easily find somebody to help you, should a translation be necessary ; otherwise, just ask me : poesy can't be translated, in my opinion, but of course I can give you the meaning !

dag said...

Zazie, an old girlfriend used to sing a song, in English, with lines: "Everyone wants everybody to love them; but nobody, nobody loves everyone. Everyone wants to be Marilyn Monro...." I can't recall more than that. Any idea?

I might have Georges Brassens' songs in my possession, though not accessible at this time. I'll see if I can make that happen.

Thanks, Zazie, you're aways a lift.