A Digression: One Grand Narrative

No, this will not be about the latest opening of your shiny, new neighborhood casino. But that may well be part of it. Grand narratives are these ego inspired attempts at suturing the disparities of history, theory, and the contemporary to try to make sense out of what someday will be meaningful only to a machine. I mean, it is sort of getting to that point already today where even the umps and refs at sports events are undermined by what the “official” replay machine “sees”. Someday, maybe the athletes will only compete before the “official” view of automated, calibrated machines, with the rest of us designated as pure spectators, for entertainment value only. But I digress. To a certain extent grand narratives are going that way also. No one is much interested in Homer’s tale of the Trojan conflict. Show us the real Troy and have LiLo or Angelina as Helen, to enhance the info/entertainment value. It takes imagination to read the Odyssey. Grand narratives require active readership. Distraction addicts need not apply. Speaking of which yours truly was distracted while listening to an interview with the author of a neuroscience study on the difference in brain activity between reading while distracted and reading as an exclusive activity. The study concerned reading Jane Austin while having earbuds plugged in, or texting/checking the phone, or having video/video games in the environment. Reading Pride and Prejudice without any other (distracting) stimulation found the various parts of the brain much more active and involved, even the parts that discern body placement in space. According to the authors, it is almost as though the reader were “living” the experience, at least from the perspective of brain activity whereas the distracted readers were primarily utilizing the parts of the brain that specifically process information. Junk in, junk out. But I digress again. A grand narrative sometimes can jog a different imagining as to what has been assumed to be, present a different perspective, an opening to what a more sophisticated thinker like Alain Badiou would describe as an event, a catalyst of change (not as a direct experience of course but probably more as the Austin study in lighting up parts of the brain that otherwise would not get engaged). So a grand narrative may have some self-worth, but as that Poppins woman insinuated: it wouldn’t hurt to have some sugar with it.

This blog’s recent postings have been following a thread that reveals a narrative’s toe from beneath the drapery. Zizek’s use of fitness indicators to invert the assumed primary/secondary hierarchy of utilitarian/aesthetic combined with the contemporary politics exposed by the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling reveals what lurks behind that curtain. Many have adumbrated parts of this narrative, and stressed its ongoing nature (so no uniqueness here). Many have also pointed out, on the basis of Hardt and Negri’s work (as well as others), the “police” function of governments (to ensure market access and functioning). It is only a skip and a jump from there to realize the utter inconvenience of maintaining the sham of populist democracy when corporate leadership could also be actual functioning government leadership; the redundancy required of machines now can be applied to institutional management (doubly guaranteeing market access and function). Evidence of this is not only within the current US election but also the recent one in Georgia, as well as various other democratic leadership positions worldwide.  Suffice to say, corporate leadership morphs into democratic leadership.  The transition appears to be seamless (no violent upheavals as in the 60’s). Considered historically, fitness indicators may also present more than a sociological/psychological understanding of human sexuality. They contribute to an equally inverted narrative with regard revolution/change. All of which could benefit an imaginative student of current events. The American, French, and other revolutions may have been more about establishing Capital as a “fitness indicator” than about populist democratic aspirations. Marx may have been a distracting digression. Indeed, some speculate this revolution of the priority and supremacy of utilitarian economy (Capitalism) as a “fitness indicator” over the primordial one of potlatch and waste actually began with the religious Reformation in Europe (others make an even stronger link between Capitalism and religion citing the Catholic Church’s theology of “The Mystical Body” as the basis of corporate organization, yet again, I digress). The current Romney/Ryan ticket, along with the boss hog politics of Karl Rove is only the latest struggle in this revolution begun in the 1700’s, or 1500’s depending on your willingness to take on complexity (If you want to do business with our political party, you must support our agenda exclusively. David Siegel, owner of Westgate Resorts, threatening to fire his 7,000 employees and shut down his company if Obama retains his presidency would lie in that same logic, still again I digress). The “real” revolution may be that of establishing Capital as the exclusive and singular “fitness indicator”, bar none. These other “leftist” or “progressive” ideologies are merely resistance holdovers of an archaic (and primordial) valuation.


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