Subject: THE FORCE OF AESTHETICS: TO ANALYZE, ANALOGIZE, AGONIZE AND APOLOGIZE; THEN RECITE THE 19th CENTURY BRITISH NURSERY RHYME, HUMPTY-DUMPTY SAT ON A WALL.
13 August 2016
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
You’ve probably heard the joke of how Bubba Bill contacted Raving Donald earlier this year and got him to agree to run the most outrageous Republican presidential campaign in US history that would guarantee a Democratic Party victory, with his wife Hillary as the first female president of the United States. In return, Trump would receive lots and lots of money, the commodity he most cherishes. This ‘win-win’ proposition was only one of the many ‘dirty tricks’ played on the American people by their political ‘superiors'; it was like voting for ‘the lesser evil’ as an act of reductio ad absurdum…!
Jokes such as these are floated endlessly today in the social media, but what is the power of humor, really, and how does it affect the 'food chain' that exists in the environment of today's political economy?
While recently reading Philip Freund’s 1947 book, The Art of Reading the Novel, I came across a discussion of ‘Realists turned Romantic’ which caught my interest. Discussing works by Henry James and Joseph Conrad, the author classifies ‘Romanticism’ as belonging to the ‘Realist School’ in its opposition to ‘Classicism.’ By the end of the 19th century, many agreed that “romanticism is natural to human life and human imagination.”
But there is also appearing in the world’s intellectual atmosphere a new conviction. Science, that was supposed to have destroyed poetry, suddenly admits that it is itself but another kind of poetry. The great astronomers and mathematicians, Eddington, Sullivan, Jeans, confess that the ‘truths’ of science can lay no greater claims to objective validity than those of mystical art. They paraphrase, in a sense, all that Conrad bespeaks in his vision of the ‘spectatorial universe.’ They give imaginative literature that philosophical warrant of which we have so insistently spoken. Eddington, in particular, declares that man’s sense of humor is as mystically born, as physically real, as any other force in our world: for the disciples of these scientists, a strange, unexpected dignity now attends Fielding’s expressed endeavor ‘to laugh mankind out of their favorite follies and vices.’ . . .
‘The changing wisdom of successive generations discards ideas, questions facts; demolishes theories,’ observed Conrad. ‘But the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom; to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition –and; therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder; to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation –and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow; in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity –the dead to the living, and the living to the unborn.’ (pp.322-323)
In a later chapter, Freund turns to The Plague, by Albert Camus (1913-1960) of whom he writes :
His new ethical code is not to be based upon science, for he repudiates the logic; if not the data, of ‘science’ too as a groundwork for moral certitude. ‘Modern unbelief is no longer based on science, as it was at the end of the last century. It denies the faith of science as much as that of religion. It is no longer the skepticism of reason in the face of miracles, but rather a passionate unbelief.’ Earlier he put it thusly: ‘Science that was to teach me everything ends up in a hypothesis . . . .’ And, more pointedly, ‘We need to know if man, without the help of religion or of rationalist thought, can create his own values entirely by himself.’ But how? From what? If he rules out mysticism, intuition, science, and rational thought, what tools are left to him?
The solution is never very clear. In a fuzzy sort of way, he suggests that ‘art’ is one path to the truth. (p.385)
Perhaps it was this new aesthetics that Martin Luther King (1929-1968) had in mind when he warned the civil rights activists of the 1960s against ‘analysis paralysis.’ Surely his was a more optimistic view than that which was held by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), in his famous modernist poem, The Second Coming, which he composed in 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War and the beginning of the Irish War of Independence that followed the Easter Rising, (at a time when the British government was preparing to send in the Black and Tans to Ireland.)
The 10 items below speak to the aesthetics we have inherited from our ancient religious traditions --Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Today, under corporate capitalist hegemony a foreseeable regression towards these ancient religious beliefs is used to alienate us from one another and threaten the fabric of society, while attempting to engineer a quasi complete submission of the population to a medieval level by practicing a culture of extortion. The ultimate objective is to reduce the masses to a predictable survival mode of existance in order to assure wide-spread collaboration with political injustice and economic inequality; thereby facilitating the corporate quest for continued maximum profits under the protection of state power.
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
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