No pictures. 18 WordPress updates. It has been awhile since I wrote anything other than emails and Facebook posts, so on this Wednesday I am attempting to get my thoughts in order.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but it is not a holiday here in Latvia. I am, however, attempting to make some sort of celebration this weekend. I just hope that I can find a turkey.
I have been depressed lately. I may even up that to distressed. The news coming from America just continues to burn into my psyche, and the stream of noise and disillusion never seems to come to any sort of close. It just continues, getting louder and louder, more and more obtrusive and obscene. Until what?
That is the question I am wrestling with right now. I started reading this article by Claire Dederer, but have to admit that I was unable to finish. I felt like my mind was burning as I was reading because I too deal with this issue of what happens when our artistic idols get burnt down by scandal?
I loved Louis C. K. I never thought he was a saint or moral individual. I thought he was funny, and in his comedic way, he was able to expose some deeper social truths in the vein of George Carlin, Bill Hicks, and Eddie Izzard (among dozens of others). I have always admired these artists because they say things that many of us thing but are too cowardly to voice. I think that is the role of artists in any genre.—expose truth through beauty, laughter, whatever.
I am writing all of this while trying to eat grapes. The grapes here have seeds. It is a beautiful, gorgeous inconvenience.
Anyway, Dederer questions how much she can enjoy art created by people like Woody Allen who have become grotesque to her because of their actions. I have a hypothesis I want to share, and I know there are exceptions, and I am not asking you to agree with it, but please, just hear me out.
I have this meta theory about our current state of reality. I taught Humanities for many years, and in this class, we started with Ancient Greece and progressed through historical eras (as determined by, I think, historians) teaching the concepts and main ideas of Western Culture spanning over two-thousand years. The more I taught this course, the more I thought about how it was strange how these eras seemed to be getting shorter and shorter. The Classical era lasted for a thousand years. Medieval, over 500. Then the Renaissance and Romantic (with some others) seemed to last for a few hundred years. The Modern era? Less than 100. Then the Postmodern era which many believe we have already left behind after only 50 or so years.
I always joked with my students about how when I was young, nostalgia was fifty years ago, but for people today, nostalgia was yesterday. Kids in their teens are nostalgic for stuff they were doing two years ago. Dance themes are the 90s and the like. We do not even have time to reflect on the past because it is folding into the present so quickly that we just keep standing on the edge of the surfboard trying to keep afloat before all this history comes crashing down.
I see some interesting results from all of this. Right now, my students are self-aware. I was not self-aware when I went to school. I was simply a student, playing the role of a student, functioning as a good student should. One of my architecture students brought up the point that the school was designed to keep students in the school whether the students were good enough to be architects or not because it was in the best interests of the finances of the institution. My high school students also make astute statements like this about the system they are a part of. There is no more curtain. There are no more secrets. God is dead, and so are all of the people who play him.
What else does it mean? It means that we live in an age where the sins of the past are no longer a generation or two away. We could not judge slave owners just because they owned slaves because that was the way it was back then. We have relied on this logic for centuries. We allow time to become a lens for looking back at the past and not allowing the present to stain our former heroes with the sins they may be accused of today. Of course, we have gone back to try to smear them and belittle them, but for the most part, they are judged on their merits with the minor crimes of marrying their teenage cousin (Poe) or hooking up with slaves (Jefferson) go.
However, because of the folding of time, this collapse of judgements and values, our understanding of what is right, moral, correct, etc. is shifting faster than we can be expected to keep up with it. As with many people my age, I think we feel exhaustion just trying to keep up with what is right, cool, trendy, expected, and just plain normal. People in Latvia ask me if it is okay to say “Indian” when talking about “Native Americans” who, I think might now be something like “indigenous people of the Americas.” And I am aware, constantly, that I probably just offended someone. One of my students called me a “native American” because that is where I am from, and I pondered as to whether this was an okay thing for him to say? I do not know.
So like technology, where a new iPhone is introduced every 6 days, my operating system is on permanent update mode, and nobody knows what the next hot app is, morals and ethics are in crisis mode. Roy Moore did something awful. He was in his 30s trying to date girls in high school. Back when we were in school, there were guys like this in Yutan. We thought they were creepy losers, not necessarily immoral molesters. Does the fact that he was a creepy loser mean he shouldn’t be a Senator? Maybe. But it means he probably shouldn’t have been a D.A. or a judge, too. Right? Why is it so different now?
When Kevin Spacey did his horrible things, it was probably almost normalized behavior in his peer group. I am not excusing it or saying he is fine… but just that he has been caught in this time trap of “Oh shit, I didn’t die before my sins caught up to me!” And Al Franken? He didn’t seem to really do anything. One woman says he gave her a creepy kiss during a stage show, and in the photo he is just pretending to grab her boobs. It isn’t cool or smart, but again, something we might have dismissed as loser behavior that has now become uncondonable.
I do not think this whole post is about Political Correctness, although that whole movement certainly plays a part in this. I keep thinking back to the movies I grew up on. How many of them are unwatchable or will be soon? I keep thinking of this quote (and watch the whole clip if you like that sort of thing), and relating it to the Roy Moore scandal.
The other problem is the leveling out of all of this behavior like so much peanut butter on bread. Weinstein gets lumped in with Cosby and then Louis C. K., Kevin Spacey, and Al Franken?! Are they all equally sinful? We keep dredging up Bill Clinton, and even “old grabby”, George Bush has gotten into the game. When I was growing up, I heard my dad say a lot of flirtatious things to a lot of grateful women. I still remember the old lady at the Wahoo courthouse telling me how charming he was when he was dropping her lines. Now he would probably be arrested and given some shock therapy to make sure his thoughts were pure and clean.
I cannot remember all the words to use and how to make sure I do not offend anyone. I have to say that I am glad I am here in Latvia where people do not seem to give nearly as many shits about these things. I have to tell my students that they probably shouldn’t say certain words and such. I warn them that if they were in America (the home of free speech and bearer of the Freedom torch) they would get in trouble for even thinking that. I wonder why this is?
Thanks for reading. I have more to say, but there is a word limit to my expressions and I have to go back to work!