Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Beauty of Our Disintegration


"People who are lonely, people left alone, sit talking nonsense to the air...
imagining beautiful systems dying, old fixed orders spiraling apart"
[from Tony Kushner's Angels in America]

1. Nothing is inherently nonsensical. "Sense" is one of many fictions that we have created in order to maintain order. We believe certain thoughts and actions to be quite contrary to the maintenance of an orderly society. In turn, we must deem these things "nonsensical" and therefore imprudent. Invalid. Negative. Bad. We must make them so unpalatable for the public that individuals will, by reflex, prefer and endorse the mode of thought that we deem conducive to our society.
I say screw it. I wear the supposed nonsensical as a badge. Not too long ago, folks were being dragged off to jails and looney bins for proposing such nonsensical things as a round earth and an American economy without slavery. Nonsense is merely the intelligence that the masses have yet to embrace.
2. Beautiful systems are dying. Fixed orders are spiraling apart. Patriarchy has been unmasked. Capitalism's seems are showing. Increasingly, yesterday's masters are being pushed toward the margins. I see these things and appreciate the uniqueness of our historical moment. I see these things and welcome my own heterodoxy. I see these things and know that another world is possible.

This passage highlights postmodernism's allure, its strength and its utility.
Postmodernity is said to be "a culture of fragmentary sensations, eclectic nostalgia, disposable simulacra, and promiscuous superficiality, in which the traditionally valued qualities of depth, coherence, meaning, originality and authenticity are evacuated or dissolved amid the random swirl of empty signals."

Only in such a fray as this can the verity of master narratives (ideologies that claim to explain the full range of life's phenomena/the stories a culture tells itself about its practices and beliefs)be called into question and suspended. Only here are we empowered to unseat science, religion and Marxism in one fell swoop, acknowledging that no one system of thought can boast primacy over another.

Color me macabre, but I savor every minute as I watch these things die. These decrepit systems, these defunct theologies. I watch them and applaud yesterday's nonsense bourgeoning into today's intelligence.

from Italo Calvino


At the bar there were fishermen, customs agents, day laborers. Over all their voices rang out the voice of one elderly man in the uniform of a prison guard, who was boasting drunkenly through the sea of chatter. "And every Wednesday the perfumed young lady slips me a hundred-crown note to leave her alone with the convict. And by Thursday the hundred crowns are already gone in so much beer. And when the visiting hour is over, the young lady comes out with the stink of jail in her elegant clothes; and the prisoner goes back to his cell with the lady's perfume in his jailbird's suit. And I'm left with the smell of beer. Life is nothing but trading smells."

"Life and also death you might say," interjected another drunk, whose profession, as I learned at once, was a gravedigger. "With the smell of beer I try to get the smell of death off me. And only the smell of death will get the smell of beer off you, like all the drinkers whose grave I have to dig."

I took this dialogue as a warning to be on guard: the world is falling apart and tries to lure me into its disintegration.


Friday, November 05, 2004

Why it's all going to be okay

From an email to my friend, Jorge...

Dearest Jorge,

Yes, things do seem bleak, but the perpetual optimist inside me (her name is Marie) assures me that something wonderful will be born of this. Despite their best attempts, the Republican party could not depress us into apathy. People are engaged and begining to think critically. Rather than resigning that our votes do not count, the election has had a sobering effect of sorts, forcing us to come to terms with America as it truly is. For a sizeable portion of the population, fear of the terrorist boogiemen and of the dissolution of Judeo-Chrisitian morals is enough to keep a facist despot in office. Yes, it's a terrible thought indeed, but it's our reality. But if forces us to realize that we can not blame things on hanging chads or grand conspiracy theories. This was not a stolen election.

The American public has spoken. It's said to me, "Larry, if you and the academy and the DNC don't do a better job of actively engaging us in critical dialogue about the domestic and international impacts of the policies of the Bush administration, we will continue to be hoodwinked/frazzled/blinded by/subject to the heavy-handed and morally irresponsible propganda that the Republican party will be pumping into our telephones, televisions and newspapers for the next four years.

So, here's to four years of more expansive and resourceful organizing... Of no longer assuming that the circles in which I run are representative of the voting public at large. Of supporting more Fahrenheit 9-11s, more OutFoxeds, more MoveOn.orgs. I hear you America. You're scared. You want to feel safe. You want to feel moral. And I love you for that. My only hope is that my peeps and I can do a better job of showing you how none of these require an extension of the reign of a self-interested tyrant.

Larry D. Lyons II