Islamofascism transformed the incomprehensible face of worldwide Islam into mere incoherence: they hated freedom in general and our freedom in particular. Even better, Islamofascism tied in perfectly with our own growing belief that 9-11 was the new Pearl Harbor. Unable to accept that the events of 9-11 had been masterminded by a very tall Saudi billionaire criminal who now lived in a cave or by the disheveled and obese Khalid Sheikh Mohamed we knew that hidden eastern hordes lay in wait, ready to make the trains run on time and destroy our way of life. So what if nobody had actually seen Islamofascists goose-stepping to midday prayers, we had found our enemy and our war.
9-11 is only a Rorschach test, a mirror disguised as something else and held up before our believing eyes. We want life to be meaningful and when it is not or when it defies our chosen meanings, we call that disaster. Somewhere in the hazy cloud of debris raining down on Manhattan we thought we saw something: the devil’s face, American virtue, a clash of civilizations, or our own fragility. This is the reality of legerdemain: the suicide bomber is quicker than the eye. The act of flying an airplane into a building and the subsequent fall of that building are fundamentally meaningless. Viewed objectively through the eyes of god or the camera of a spy satellite flying far overhead, 9-11 is simply an event that occurred. The closely held truth of the magician is that magic takes place entirely in the minds of his audience.
It’s no secret that Generation Bubble’s political slant tilts to the left. Which is as it should be, I believe most days. But like any idealist, I suffer the occasional dark night of the soul. At such times I’m reminded of some words of Samuel Johnson’s. “None of the cruelties exercised by wealth and power upon indigence and dependence is more mischievous in its consequences, or more frequently practised with wanton negligence,” Johnson wrote, “than the encouragement of expectations which are never to be gratified, and the elation and depression of the heart by needless vicissitudes of hope and disappointment.” It is in the spirit of Dr. Johnson’s maxim that I present the following three theses.
This upping of the ante represented by McDonalds’ latest ad (and by guerrilla marketing generally) exacts a terrible price, one well beyond that of a venti McSpresso. It induces a form of epistemological vertigo that comes when we can no longer trust our own experiences, when we innocently sign up for a course and are made complicit in a spectacle that will earn millions for the company advertised, while we walk away with only crap-ass swag and lattè-foam moustaches for our trouble.
Such Olympian rifts among the super-rich seem like they’ll become the new normal, giving the lie to the incredible esprit de coeur and sense of shared purpose writer David Rothkopf credits them with in his depressing, dispiriting paean to plutocracy, Superclass. Yes, it appears that those “differently sheltered” populating tent cities and Hoovervilles across this great nation who are otherwise occupied with stirring watery pots of squirrel soup over fires fueled by shredded 401K-earnings and Social Security statements can look forward to a little old-fashioned skullduggery among the sheikhs of Araby.
One wonders how bad things really are if can still find money for an eight-ball. At any rate, cocaine is not necessary a drug associated with economic downturns. Smack, certainly. Crack, definitely. But blow retains too much of an uptown aura really to be associated with hard times. One thinks of all the 80s cocaine glam: Delorean car tires, shitters in some Manhattan or Miami nightclub, the backseat of a BMW 500 series — all mis en scènes for a drug that defined a decade. If crystal meth is the poor man’s cocaine, then cocaine remains the rich man’s cocaine.
Yet the object is precisely what the “engrossed reader” so deeply esteems (one is tempted to say, fetishizes). To this kind of reader, universal access to books means nothing if one cannot hold them or turn their pages. Moyer does not say it, but one need not read between the lines too strenuously to tease out a critical implication: the “engrossed-reader” position — the position that gives primacy to having over sharing books — is clearly reactionary, because it assigns more value to the material object’s preservation than to the de-materialized text’s dissemination.
The Culture Wars’ tawdry legacy may, like the war in Iraq, have arrived at a stage of demobilization with President Obama’s appointment of former congressman Jim Leach to the chairmanship of The National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). The June 28, 2009 edition of The New Times characterizes this appointment as an “instance of what [...]
We at Generation Bubble confess that few things perplex us more than the contemporary cult of fitness. The whole phenomenon strikes us as an exercise (pun intended) in superfluity, if indeed not futility. The cardio cubicle dweller, the steroidal stock analyst, the iron-man management consultant — each appears a picture of irrelevancy. Muscles taut as [...]
Over at Crooked Timber (truly a trove of timely tidbits, as blogs go), Michael Bérubé offers some remarks on William Deriesiwicz’s Nation article discussing a voguish strain of literary criticism. This strain’s presiding deity is not T. S. Eliot or Jacques Derrida, but Charles Darwin. As the name suggests, Darwinian literary criticism approaches written texts [...]