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Kidult Konspiracy? | 8 comments
[new] regressive tolerance (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#5)
by BrianHolmes on Wed Sep 24th, 2003 at 04:30:07 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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Here's one of the things that has really made the artistic-political subculture obsolete: the total acceptance of anything if you happen to enjoy it, or if you think someone else does. Amy, I'm sorry, but I can't believe there's any reason to go on with the kind of ambiguity that seems to interest you. It's obvious that American consumer culture is out to infantilize entire populations, and while it's not so interesting to simply state the fact - the NY Times is already doing so - it is really important to give up the old cultural studies standby, "there's always a subjective angle to consumption." At this point one can only say, so what? A country, indeed a civilization (let's get Europe into this too) that can't find the political will to do anything except prey upon its people to make them into consuming blobs (there was a great article in the Monde Diplomatique a few years ago about how American capitalism treats populations like trash cans - now you see obesity on the rise in Europe too), a civilization that can't respond to the enormous challenges facing it - namely environmental decay and global civil war - is in need of some kind of public ethics, clearly an adult preoccupation.

People should be less tolerant of corporate abuse, particularly the kind that reduces your brain to self-indulgent mush (this is a general observation, not a personal insult). Americans should get back to criticizing what is now quite obviously a diseased civilization. Part of the overall disease is the sentimental manipulation that goes on via advertising and consumer seduction, at literally massive scales. Is there a fundamental difference in value between mass produced toys aimed at a statistically defined population, and children's theater programs that present original stage performances to school kids, allowing them to connect the magic of artifice with the human presence and effort that makes it possible? And offering them, not only an exquisite pleasure, but also an experience of the complex relation between distance and participation that has been developed in the theater over centuries? If you can't say yes, then you just have to go along with the deadening banality of consumerism - and people do this all the time because they don't want to appear "extremist," they want to be tolerant. Let's just go out and have some fun. It's to the point where Marcuse's "repressive tolerance" has just become "regressive tolerance" - collective self-infantilization.

If one answers the above question about children's theater by saying, but there are no such programs in the US, or only for privileged children, then there's a conclusion to be drawn: that's because in the US we have failed to realize the promise of a society of abundance. In France you still have such programs mainly in the poorest towns, because the local communists (not to be confused with the former soviet communists please) and other people on the left have been concerned with culture, they have seen it as a path toward autonomy and emancipation. But now the right wants to undo some laws which helped make this kind of theater program possible. So of course, people involved with culture have to actively protest and offer alternatives!

Pleasure, as the old cult studs people always said, is political. But it's far from certain that whatever makes you feel good is good politics - you have to choose, not to make repressive laws about what individuals do, but yes, to make public choices about what happens in the public realm. And the left, particularly but not only in the US, has to admit the huge political failure that it has been part of. Anything else, for intellectuals, artists and so on, is really regressive, it's burying your head in the sand. What we need in the face of the current cultural disaster - perhaps best exemplified by the success of the kidult Hollywood reality show of the heroic rescue of Jessica Lynch, for details see,2763,956255,00.html - is cultural critique and activism. That would be something to do with one's leisure time in the wake of 9-11!

best, Brian

Kidult Konspiracy? | 8 comments


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