Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Generation

This is something I wrote a little over a year ago. It is technically part of a much larger project that will probably never reach any stage of completion, but I found it in my notes and, though it isn't about anything in particular, it has the virtue of being sustained and liftable. It was also before Obama-fever took over the Left. My cues are from Rorty, obviously so (with some Pirsigian pathos), but the way Obama has swept the Left off its feet, I think, shows that Rorty was tapping into a vein that was far more real than I imagine he even imagined. I wish he'd lived to see it.

My generation has become deathly cynical and I'm not sure who to blame or how to change it. It's no use simply blaming us, those goddamn kids, nor our parents, those goddamn hippies. Everybody's just responding to their environment and the environment changed, no doubt irrevocably, and we didn't. We don't know how to maintain faith anymore because we now live in a time when just about every object of faith has been exposed as flawed. Intellectuals have been doing it for centuries, that's the basic function of intellectuals, but before the Industrial Age it stayed amongst the very few. The creation of the printing press, the fall of Latin, and the rise of the Modern University changed all that. Education is for everyone now--or at least increasingly so. Well, that's the hope at least. Maybe a goal we still need to work towards. Oh, who am I kidding, college is still only for well-off, white pricks like me.

You see how easy it is? We know too much. Current reality blots out hope for the future. Thanks to the Democrats, colleges were flooded after World War II. And the flooding didn't stop. People began to learn more, know more stuff, the kind of things only the few had known before--namely how corrupt and broken down everything is, how the rich and powerful (kinda' redundant) are always trying (and succeeding) to fuck us over.

Knowledge isn't bad. Unmasking objects of faith isn't bad. Why we should call it an "unmasking" is a better question. The effect of unmaskings is to expose flaws. To call it an "unmasking," however, is to imply that we were lied to, that we were told it was flawless and--surprise!--it wasn't. What is unclear to me is why this should cause us to be cynical rather than simply more self-aware--noticing finally the continuity between governments and religions and, ya' know, every particular person we've ever met. The idea of flawless objects is so absurd, we should wonder how we ever got conned into believing it.

See, again: the cynicism. Because this is exactly what the hippies began to think: they had been had, conned. They began spouting Foucault (fuckin' French), about how Truth is Power and Power Truth. The Man's got the Power and he defines the Truth. Nobody noticed that once you dissolve everything into a power relation, you lose your ability to use "power" as a derogatory epithet--you'd just as well speak of the power to help as the power to hurt.

But such nuance is lost on most people, especially when they're angry and looking around for a stick to beat people with. The question is: why were they so angry? Why do we call our grandparents the "Greatest Generation" and our parents "dirty hippies"?

I think it wasn't only the fact that far more hippies went to college than their parents, but also the fact that our grandparents combined faith in an untarnished object with a war worthy of fighting and our parents an unmasked--absurd--lie with a war that should never have been fought. How does anyone not become disillusioned after that?

So we lost hope. We became cynical. The intellectuals left us without an object--however flawed--to hope for and became preoccupied with an increasingly boring series of unmaskings, an army of academics who'd never heard of the law of diminishing returns. Everyone else was left adrift. We feel powerless to change anything. We have only one vote in millions.

Which is just about the stupidest thing--we have one vote? We is many, and many votes can do many things. When these lazy-ass bastards with opinions till Sunday on what's wrong with everything whine, "Why vote? I only have one," I just wanna' punch them in their stupid ass face--do they really think, after all, that we were better off when only white, landed dudes with slaves were voting? And hey, I'm sure it was a lot fuckin' easier when the King was the only one making any decisions. It just tears me up when--hey, not everyone's got new ideas about where to go or how to get there, but you don't even vote!?

Take [identity obscured]: she has one of the coldest, narrowest circle of sentiments I have ever encountered. She laughed at 9/11, thought they (Americans) were getting what they deserved. She thinks that anybody who joins the military deserves whatever they get if they were stupid enough to join. She'll believe any fool conspiracy, up to and including astrology. I cannot believe someone as intelligent as she could be so malformed--but then I remember that Heidegger was a Nazi and one of the world's greatest philosophers, and if Popper has his way Plato was a fascist.

[Identity obscured] is dumb about politics. I can't make chicken casserole. I guess we're all stupid about something.

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