"Why does contemporary culture so often seem indistinguishable from a Puritan society where everyone is constantly sticking their noses in everyone else’s business?"
This is Freddie de Boer's question in an interesting essay in the Observer. Contemporary culture, in this reading, is one in which "the left," broadly speaking, has in essence won the culture war against the forces of darkness and ignorance. But why in God's name, then, do we still behave pretty much exactly like the intolerant bastards we defeated? It's almost like nothing has changed after all.
The thing he is describing is real, and genuinely ironic considering the rhetorical posturing of "progressives" over the years as against their busy-body opponents' refusal to "stay out of our bedrooms" and their attempts to censor and pillory everyone for impropriety of various kinds. But it seems to me this can only come as a surprise to one who has drawn the wrong lesson from the puritanism and witch hunts of the past. This wrong lesson is that the cultural "good people," meaning we, were by definition in the right (i.e. righteous) simply because of belonging to our own reference group, and that because of this proper cultural-political identity we would never stoop to such nefarious tactics and behavior. That's what the bad people do, and the good people like us, who are wise and righteous, are and will always be far above it.
The right lesson is that, there being nothing new under the sun, this phenomenon can occur whenever any social grouping feels they are in control and can get away with policing and inflicting cruelty on others. People enjoy cruelty; they don't as a rule feel much empathy towards their hated cultural rivals. Tolerance is an unnatural condition among humans, an ideal that must be fought for again and again, no matter who happens to be in charge. "Winning" (or the perception that you have won at any rate) is what entices the "good people" to indulge in the behavior of the "bad people," with very few capable of taking enough of a step back to spot the ugliness that has revealed itself in their own souls. The proper lesson is, in other words, that the good people and the bad people are, in the way that truly matters, the same. Unfortunately, people tend to resist this lesson without being aware that that's what they're doing.
As I have put it before (in the original case sparked by the instance of blue state cultural partisans willing themselves into the idiocy of pretending to think that the Tuscon shootings were caused by Sarah Palin and her maps): of course you think the other side does it all the time while your side does it hardly at all; thinking that is part of "it."
The ugliness is part of being human and cannot be escaped or expunged. What you can do, though, is to be wary of and extremely cautious around people in any large group who think they are "winning" -- winning is where cruel irony, and sometimes atrocities, thrive.
Unless this is some sort of Onion-style joke or something, Suey Park appears to have repented:
I so very much regret contributing to a culture in which knee jerk reactions and call-outs became synonymous with social justice education.— Suey Park (@suey_park) August 14, 2015
Also this from Popehat on Roosh:
It's beyond my modest abilities to feel empathy for Roosh; I won't pretend to. There is in my gut, in my lizard brain, a visceral joy at seeing him humiliated and threatened.
But we try not to order society via our lizard brains, and that's a good thing. Now, if we were to govern by my lizard brain, that would be perfectly acceptable, because my deep-seated hates and fears and instincts are all reasonable and proper. The problem is all those other damn lizard brains out there, worn by lunatics with different hates and fears and instincts. Roosh has a lizard brain too, and so do the losers willing to pay sixty bucks to hear him talk about how evil non-plastic women are. When we unleash the lizard brains — when we give into the temptation to ignore the distinction between speech and assault, between insulting and attacking — we will find to our great regret that the majority of lizard brains don't work like the ones we see on our carefully moderated Twitter feed. Most lizard brains are really fucking scary. For every lizard brain cheering when someone we hate gets chased down the threat by a screaming mob, there's two our three lizard brains ready to cheer when that happens to someone we agree with. I am more afraid of the consequences of normalizing and condoning this behavior than I am gleeful about the humiliation of an awful person.
Maybe it's too much to hope for, and there certainly is ample evidence in our history with its continual moral panic flare-ups to suggest that it is, but nevertheless: my hope for the impending backlash is that participation in such shaming mobs itself will come to be seen as something shameful, something that marks a person as not only brutish, cruel, and stupid, but also profoundly uncool. Dare to dream.
...for Labor Day weekend.
Saturday, Sept 5
Awesomefest 9, Soda Bar, 3615 El Cajon, San Diego CA. Time TBA.
So, like it says, I'm playing at Awesomefest 9 in San Diego along with a whole mess of other folks, including Kepi and (though a late addition and not on the poster) Kevin Seconds. Half my set will be solo acoustic, followed by an electric bit backed up by Turkish Techno.
The schedule still hasn't been announced but I'm told I'm playing in the evening program at the Soda Bar. Tickets here. Everyone who said they were disappointed there was no "Hitler" at the Weasel/Queers show last week in SD -- now's your chance.
Sunday, Sept 6
DiPiazza's Restaurant and Lounge, 5205 East Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach CA. Dr. Frank solo acoustic with Kepi (electric) and Dog Party. Matinee show, 4-7PM.
I don't know what to add other than: pizza and rock and roll. That's my argument.
Also will be announcing more MTX shows soon so watch this space.
(Chris Gethard in background!)
From Anne Rice's facebook page:
I think we are facing a new era of censorship, in the name of political correctness. There are forces at work in the book world that want to control fiction writing in terms of who "has a right" to write about what. Some even advocate the out and out censorship of older works using words we now deem wholly unacceptable. Some are critical of novels involving rape. Some argue that white novelists have no right to write about people of color; and Christians should not write novels involving Jews or topics involving Jews. I think all this is dangerous. I think we have to stand up for the freedom of fiction writers to write what they want to write, no matter how offensive it might be to some one else. We must stand up for fiction as a place where transgressive behavior and ideas can be explored. We must stand up for freedom in the arts. I think we have to be willing to stand up for the despised. It is always a matter of personal choice whether one buys or reads a book. No one can make you do it. But internet campaigns to destroy authors accused of inappropriate subject matter or attitudes are dangerous to us all. That's my take on it. Ignore what you find offensive. Or talk about it in a substantive way. But don't set out to censor it, or destroy the career of the offending author.
There were a lot of things I hated about the '80s: the drum sounds, the identity politics, cultural Marxism, the post-structuralist war on clear writing and thinking, illiberalism from everyone including self-identifying "liberals", the moral panic/witch hunts, political correctness, censorship attempts, sexual puritanism, ideological puritanism, just general writ-large puritanism, the punishment of eccentrics, the therapy movement and its view of the human soul as nothing more than a staging ground for (potentially actionable) trauma, the ever-present victimology.
But it seems as though a lot of my contemporaries, the people who now run the universities and most of the media, really loved all that stuff, and have brought it back, forging it all into a new, comprehensive, 80s 2.0. Except for the drum sounds, mercifully. Please don't bring them back for God's sake.
Punk = an haute couture fashion movement from 1970s London. Punk rock = a species of rock and roll. Hardcore punk = punk rock played too fast with the rock and roll surgically removed from it and the subject matter is Reagan or whatever. Emo punk = meaningless. Pop punk = essentially meaningless. Any use of the word "punk" on its own that does not reference Vivienne Westwood on some level = non sequitur. Everything else = meaningless.
The most obtuse journey of discovery you'll read all day. Oh, that quaint Italian logic with its confusing expectation that words be used to refer to those things to which they actually refer.
Andrea Janov reviews the NYC Webster Hall Weasel/Queers/MTX show.
"They also played a new song, that he ties in with his King Dork book series, which was super catchy and awesome (a new MTX record would be pretty sweet if he is writing songs that sound like that)."
Well, I'm working on it.
So this is Brigid, whose dad sent me a bunch of books and records to autograph for her. I think I signed the book she's holding in the picture "for Brigid, when she's ready" because she's only seven and because I'd seen a book inscribed to someone that way by C. S. Lewis and the whole thing made me feel a bit C. S. Lewis-y. I'd also done a similar batch for her brother Caleb a ways back. So, for better or worse, these kids will grow up well-supplied with Dr. Frank/MTX memorabilia. You're welcome (and I'm sorry.)
You might think you'd want your office thermostat policy to minimize the chances of the most likely to break into a sweat breaking into that sweat, for the sake of everyone involved.
But as it turns out true equality depends on the sweaty, stinking, greasy, dripping discomfort of the fat, the menopausal, the nervous, the socially awkward, and the male, as well as the discomfort of the olfactorily sensitive.
My uncle Bill introduced me to the Pentangle in the mid 70s when I was around 10 and it all was still kind of current, but to me at the time 1968 seemed quite ancient, as did the music itself. That was part of the romance of it, and it remains so of course. I'm pretty sure it was the Sweet Child double album, that first one, and I remember it being described as "eclectic" which was a fancy word I'd never heard in any other context and which for some reason I got mixed up with the word "ethereal" -- my side of these conversations was likely quite confused, as I was myself when I read an interview with Frank Zappa in which he described his own guiding light as "eclecticism."
Anyway, over the years by a gradual process the entire catalog absorbed into my consciousness bit by bit, a lifetime project. With typical perversity, I suppose, I latched on to the commercially success-less and universally two-star rated Cruel Sister as the favorite, go-to Pentangle album above all the more celebrated ones. I know that record backwards and forwards, sideways, inside out and down. It plays in my head all the time, for no reason I can justify. Some things just do that. (If I ever were to make the effort to write one of those 33 1/3rd series books, that'd be my most likely candidate, if it hasn't been done already, though I really doubt it'll ever happen.)
The latest bit in this bit by bit process, occurring just this morning, is Solomon's Seal, the generally-panned swan song LP of the band's original, pre-reunion phase. It's a record I was aware of and one I've owned for quite some time without ever getting around to listening to. I'm not sure why this is, though it is possible that I was influenced by the negative chatter about it enough to choose Cruel Sister instead yet again each time when it came right down to it. But I have been known to "save" a work by a favorite artist from time to time, just so I'll know I'll have something to look forward to sometime in the future, and it is possible that Solomon's Seal's blackout years were the result of a pledge of that sort that I've now forgotten having made. (Many of these "saved works" have fallen by the wayside -- Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, E. Nesbit, Robyn / Alfred Hitchcock, Dylan -- which is kind of the general plot of what's supposed to happen eventually. Others remain. There's still one P.G. Wodehouse on the saved list, as well as a Patricia Highsmith, one of the Great Brain Books, a Zilpha Keatley Snyder, an E. L. Konigsberg, a Robert Cormier, an H.P. Lovecraft, a Hornblower, a Father Brown, a Norse saga, a Hemingway, a Thomas Hardy, a Michael Moorcock, a Philip K. Dick, a Barbara Tuchman, a Hammer Horror, a Polanski, a Truffaut, a Free Design, a Flying Burrito Brothers, a Swamp Dogg, a Sweet, and a Mott. Among others.)
So anyway, I'm listening to Solomon's Seal now. It is sounding gorgeous, eclectic, and ethereal.