Category Archives: Culture
Writing in 1965, in his celebrated book The New Radicalism in America, Christopher Lasch was, as so often, prophetic, seeing advertising (which he here called “publicity”) as the ersatz or synthetic “instrument of solidarity” in the consumer culture which came to dominate in the second half of the 20th century and beyond. He is in no doubt about the paucity of that culture, seeing that the highest value it is capable of evoking is a kind of voyeurism, epitomized in the prevalence of celebrity gossip.
“Publicity is to a contemporaneous culture what the great public monuments and churches and buildings of state are to more traditional societies, an instrument of solidarity; but because publicity is only the generalized gossip of the in-group, the solidarity it creates is synthetic. Its myths are manufactured. It turns out products, in our own time an Ernest Hemingway, a James Dean, a Marilyn Monroe; and the legendary quality about these people attaches itself not to their memorable deeds but to their personal habits and idiosyncrasies, their liking to go barefoot or their fondness for cats or their love of motorcycles or their various phobias and neuroses. The whole process appeals not to the sense of history but to the voyeurism which is the strongest emotion, it seems, that the contemporaneous culture is able to evoke.”
~Lasch, Christopher. New Radicalism in America. (p) 1966 Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
“We live in a world awash with information, but we seem to face a growing scarcity of wisdom. And what’s worse, we confuse the two. We believe that having access to more information produces more knowledge, which results in more wisdom. But, if anything, the opposite is true — more and more information without the proper context and interpretation only muddles our understanding of the world rather than enriching it.”
“Maximum political ignorance dressed up as expertise.” The language of vacuity.
Those who know me, know that I rarely let a chance go by to give an opinion on politics and so-called current affairs. When going to organised political discussions with mainstream journalists, I’m even more likely to proffer a provocative question and get into sometimes heated exchanges with the assembled speakers. But tonight’s discussion, one of the last of the week long Bath Literature Festival, on the upcoming election and UK politics in general, hosted by the BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed, left me so stunned by the lack on any meaningful appreciation of the disenfranchised political landscape, that though fuming throughout at many of the panel’s opinions, I could not bring myself to vent my fury, so futile did I think would be the likelihood of meaningful dialogue ensuing.
On listening to the guests, the Guardian journalists Gaby Hinsliff and Rafael Behr and the Times political sketch writer Ann…
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Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The “newness” in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components. Body and soul therefore have an intensely historical character and find no proper place in what is new, in things that have just come into being. That is to say, our ancestral components are only partly at home in such things. We are very far from having finished completely with the Middle Ages, classical antiquity, and primitivity, as our modern psyches pretend. Nevertheless, we have plunged down a cataract of progress which sweeps us on into the future with ever wilder violence the farther it takes us from our roots. Once the past has been breached, it is usually annihilated, and there is no stopping the forward motion. But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilization and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up. We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by a mounting sense of insufficiency dissatisfaction, and restlessness. We no longer live on what we have, but on promises, no longer in the light of the present day, but in the darkness of the future, which, we expect, will at last bring the proper sunrise. We refuse to recognize that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is cancelled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us. The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.
Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before. Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli est – all haste is of the devil, as the old masters used to say.
Reforms by retrogressions, on the other hand, are as a rule less expensive and in addition more lasting, for they return to the simpler, tried and tested ways of the past and make the sparsest use of newspapers, radio, television, and all supposedly timesaving innovations.
In this book I have devoted considerable space to my subjective view of the world, which, however, is, not a product of rational thinking. It is rather a vision such as will come to one who undertakes, deliberately, with half-closed eyes and somewhat closed ears, to see and hear the form and voice of being. If our impressions are too distinct, we are held to the hour and minute of the present and have no way of knowing how our ancestral psyches listen to and understand the present in other words, how our unconscious is responding to it. Thus we remain ignorant of whether our ancestral components find an elementary gratification in our lives, or whether they are repelled. Inner peace and contentment depend in large measure upon whether or not the historical family which is inherent in the individual can be harmonized with the ephemeral conditions of the present.
– excerpted from C G Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Glasgow: Collins, 1963): 263-264
An interesting article today on the BBC website on how some British English expressions are creeping into American English usage. And some have even “snuck in on cat’s feet”.
BBC News Magazine has an article on those exceptional individuals who speak 11 languages or more