Now that the Ever Clear ship is cleared, we can view the Suez Canal blockage with irony, as a metaphor of our times, that culture is stuck.Continue reading #cultureisstuck
According to Plato, political regimes evolved consistently, from oligarchy to democracy to tyranny. When the elites become self-indulgent, lazy or promiscuous, and develop interests apart from the masses, they fall, oligarchies give way to democracies. And in turn, when mob passion overpowers political wisdom and a populist despot seizes the moment, democracies yield to tyranny. However, the despot is not quite a tyrant just yet. In a democracy, the would-be tyrant always offers himself as the champion of the masses. He simplifies everything, and make everything whole again.
In Donald Trump, this evolution is pretty straightforward: a vulgar right-wing populism coalesces in the midst of an anti-establishment hysteria and a strongman fascist declares that he will stick it to the elites and make the country great again, and presents a familiar scapegoat, an alien Other the masses can redirect their poisonous resentment. For a fragmented and bitter populace, this is rhetorical palliative, and just like Plato predicted, the very sort of thing that pushes a country over the edge. Continue reading Plato on Trump
In Saul Bellow’s novel, Seize the Day, the protagonist Tommy Wilhelm remarked that “cynicism was bread and meat to everyone. And irony too. Maybe it couldn’t be helped.” Irony became entrenched in the fifties, where the American economy flourished under the shadow of a potential nuclear war. Once the Cold War and the economic boom ended, the national self-definition was subverted until irony became the cultural currency. While irony served a valuable purpose in the works of great American writers like Barth, Coover, Burroughs, Nabokov and Pynchon, the commercial culture of the US filtered that into the national aesthetic as postmodern irony, resulting in David Letterman, The Simpsons, and rap, among other things. Continue reading Cynicism in the 90s and today