Meaningful, Not Just Useful: Part Two

This is the second post in a series of three (part one; part three).
The phrase comes from Julia Kristeva, who has written so many different kinds of texts with varying focuses and messages. She has argued against "the reign of appearance, pretence" of the freedom that emerged out of the 18th century, as opposed to the "mystical", "sensual" and "superessential". Such are the themes floating beneath the surface of Rimbaud's Le Bateau Ivre: after the climax, comes disillusionment.
Ironically, free subjectivity is threatened by a weaker freedom: rational and individualistic, and ultimately replaced with productivity, sinking the afflicted, "sometimes to the point of suicide, in the overabundance of affects that the refusal or impossibility of verbal communication keeps from other forms of elaboration..."
I was thinking about these things as I finished Chesterton's Cobbett last night: "He could no longer hope, as it had once as it had once seemed so natural to do, that the spontaneous and colloquial language that sprang so easily to his own lips would commend itself as easily to people in his own land; that there he ... would talk without an interpreter." Chesterton describes Cobbett facing "enormous questions as elementary as nursery riddles" - among which we imagine the problems described earlier in the book: busy machines alongside idle men, industrial wealth as waste, and so on.
Over and over again, I find the results of technology (a productivity) foreseen by Heidegger, what is more, Chesterton, too, was picking up on the theme of whether such advancement makes the man mute - or unheard. Kristeva's "impossibility of verbal communication". By communication, I mean the heartfelt type described so eloquently by Chesterton that is often sneered at in popular culture today as naivete.
I probably wouldn't have addressed this theme here, were it not also on Seinfeld's latest Comedians in Cars episode. Seinfeld and Quinn, in a clip perhaps decontextualised, laugh at how thousands of jobs along they waterfront are being "cleaned up" to introduce scenic jogging lanes. There are some prize-winning scenes of an ugly irony of modern displacement of the type described in Chesterton's Cobbett. Like the blood sausage bit (one of the spare parts). Nothing of what I write here are spoilers, because the delivery is priceless. But the crown on the cake comes at the end, when Quinn decides the philosophical conundrum of the day is whether it is better to be held at knife point or part of a soul crushing disneyfication.
The Seinfeld sketch began by commending Quinn and Joyner on their proficiency in the "art of hanging out". Isn't that representative of what we are sometimes missing? The relaxed state we might imagine was part of the cottage economy, when people worked from home, and where, in many cultures, they would work together, talking or singing - telling stories? "The rustic does not rely merely on the [stories] but on the tradition--that is, the truthfulness of a certain sort of people, many of whom he has known." Free subjectivity. Relaxed productivity.

No comments:

Post a Comment