Thursday, August 28, 2008

People and Ideas

There is a considerable misunderstanding of human beings that arises in America every 4 years. Around election time, a bystander could almost be led to believe that people (voters) have competing and well-thought-out views on complex issues such as the economy and world affairs.

To avoid the liberal error, which is that "*we* have thought through these things, and *they* are content to watch NASCAR and follow their religious leaders," I want immediately to say, this is how things should be. People do not have coherent world-views. 

This, of course, is what Marx means by "ideology" and Gramsci by "common sense"--there are NOT competing and fleshed-out conceptions of the world competing with each other, at least not among persons who are not professional ideologues, pundits, academics, politicians, etc. If there were, the "spectrum" idea of our political parties ("Obama is moving to the center in recent speeches") would fall apart immediately: a spectrum is only slightly more sophisticated at representing complex ideas than our binary political-party system is. Although I will concede that a number of issues, in their party-affiliations, have become hypostatized in clusters of "sites of real struggle"--for instance, the affinity of Black voters with the Democratic party is more or less correct, where their voting for Republicans would be sheer madness.

But I don't want to talk about politics. That is just an example. I want to demolish the idea that people for the most part "have ideas" or "hold positions" or even "act in their self-interest." Aristotle has an interesting idea that knowing something, really knowing it, is the same as knowing its cause: in this sense, I completely reject the idea that persons "know what they think" about things. 

If I didn't have to go buy some clothes right now, I would call Freud into this discussion as well. Needless to say, for me the meaning of life is to "find out what I think about things."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hating on Manohla Dargis

Could Manohla Dargis try any harder to show that she has read some Philip Roth novel? (No great accomplishment, really, in itself.) It's bizarrely tasteless, and so insistent that it almost feels high-concept. Roth, after all, is not Shakespeare, and so many films are adapted from novels that this is a strange one to single out for a book report. I'm a bit embarrassed for her.

This is all from a MOVIE review:

The book is fascinating and repellent, more admirable than likable, a fusion of early Roth (sex) and late Roth (death). 

In the novel Kepesh is pathetic and self-loathing, but perversely enthralling because Mr. Roth's prose is. 

...the humiliating revelations that, in the novel, Kepesh ritualistically bathes in. 

 It shares some of the book's dialogue...

 a spiky, claustrophobic, insistently impolite novel...

the book's blunt force, its beautiful sentences, flashes of genius and spleen.

the novel's furious bite.