Friday, January 31, 2014

Snowden's Snow Job?

Was Carl Orff a lousy composer because he appeared to sympathize with Nazis--even though he had a Jewish grandfather who'd converted to Catholicism?  The Nazis loved his music--they loved Wagner's music too, and Wagner wrote stuff that might be construed as anti-Semitic, if you can get through his prose that could be cut with a machete (try reading the proprietary lease to your coop, and then try reading Wagner, and then decide which is more difficult to understand).   Was Benjamin Franklin a lousy statesman because he tormented and then threw in jail his only son?  Did you know that the author of Poor Richard's Almanac also wrote Fart Proudly?  (Because that's what he was "really" thinking).

I love to listen to Carmina Burana.  I like "The Ride of the Valkyries" sections of Wagner.  I don't have to live with either of these guys, just their music, because I choose to do so.  

Was Clinton a lousy president because he enjoyed an illicit extra-marital fling with a thong-twanging nineteen-year-old nonentity?  (Why is anyone shocked that a guy with the balls to run for president has balls?)  If you knew what Dr. Seuss was "really" thinking when he wrote The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, or One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish--that the Japanese were bad people from whom Americans should be protected, and that they belonged in those interment camps in the desert because they were all traitors--would you read these childhood classics to your kids?

Yes, Dr. Seuss did write stuff that would curl your hair:  

But right now, when the Japs are planting their hatchets in our skulls, it seems like a hell of a time for us to smile and warble: "Brothers!" It is a rather flabby battle cry. If we want to win, we've got to kill Japs . . .

Because my grandfather was a pedophile--and he really was--does that mean I don't like his paintings?   Sargent would have been flattered, looking at them. I find, glancing at Wikipedia, that Sargent was said to be a "frenzied bugger."  Because Edward Snowden "really" thinks all those juvenile things he apparently wrote in chat rooms under the name "TheTrueHOOHA,"  if you follow Sean Wilentz, in his article for The New Republic, then Snowden must be snowing us all, out for fun and trouble and what-all.  So here's what renders Wilentz nearly incoherent with indignation:

<TheTrueHOOHA> save money? cut this social security bullshit
<User 11> hahahayes
<User 18> Yeah! Fuck old people!
<User 11> social security is bullshit
<User 11> let’s just toss old people out in the street
<User 18> Old people could move in with [User11].
<User 11> NOOO
<User 11> they smell funny
<TheTrueHOOHA> Somehow, our society managed to make it hundreds of years without social security just fine
<TheTrueHOOHA> you fucking retards

Now, plowing through Wilentz's article--now up on my website with a few ripostes from other publications--I found poor writing and inconsistency, but the biggest fault of all seems a lack of historic, psychological and indeed artistic understanding.  Talented people, our heroes, our beloved writers, our admired politicians, tend to have large ambitions and larger appetites.  Remember when Dumbledore admits that because he's a man of large talents, his mistakes tend to be large as well?  Want another example?  How about David Petraeus.  Look was he was "really" thinking when he was solving military problems?  If I were his wife, I'd tear off the top of his head.  But does the public really want to do that?  They don't have to live with him either, just benefit from his brainpower.

Creative, talented people get their ideas partly from regressing (yes, acting like a two year old).   Try Freud, "Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming," in which the writer is complared to the child at play.  Remember Keats's idea of negative capability:   "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason"

That state of mind can produce good ideas.  And a lot of bad ones you have to go through in order to get to the good ones.  Sometimes even bad behavior.  The NSA could stop their irritable reaching after fact.   The aftermath of September 11--suspicion, the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the ruined lives, the young people so wounded that they turn to terror--is worse than the attack.   I think Snowden wants to counter this American fantasy that a virtual panopticon prevents terror, and worse--the fantasy that we can control and prevent every bad event.  Religion, philosophy, art, are all there to help when things go wildly wrong.  
But hey--would you read Goethe if you knew he was really thinking those scatalogical thoughts expressed in the poem about the guy who'd have lived longer if he'd had a good shit?  (see another post for gory details).

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