You know, keeping an ever vigilant eye on hypocrisy is not altogether a bad thing. You can look around at so many in our world and find it. It sometimes pays to call it out. There is a lot of life-styler rebellion in our world, from Fight Club playing on Blu-Ray to tax-evading Bono selling phones along with world-peace or African starvation or something, to the R/C killers and private jets of Nobel laureates and senators' sons. It's not rebellion, and we do well to remember it.
An earnest attempt to search for hypocrisy, however, will eventually expand to cover our own, and from there we can either resign ourselves to living in sin and accept our powerlessness, or we can renounce our old ways and change, or we can take a look at what our involvement with mass culture means and, I don't know, maybe be a little more humble and a little less rigid.
For a very long time I did the flight-to-class thing. I grew up among rural whites. I was mistrusted by rural whites. I passed, but I talked about my race-mixture and my immigrant ancestry. I was very clever and brought pride to our community, in newspaper articles and elementary school academic competitions, but I challenged my teachers to the point of animal rage and for those I felt were beneath me, I was contemptuous and vain. I despised the truck-fetishists and the honkeys. I loved growing up on a farm but I thought the neighbors were amusing imbeciles. I told my mother of what our babysitters had told us, the faux-sociology and political ignorance and superstitions and the inane just-so stories that people use to impose structure on a chaotic world. And she was kinder than me, but she couldn't tell me that what I heard was true, and I was affirmed. I was smarter than them, and one day I'd find a place where I belonged.
I came close. Through divorce and moves and mistakes and what-not, I found myself coming close to public intellectual status. My picture was in the paper again, no longer a smiling, slightly Asiatic youngster playing catch with a globe along with his grade-school teacher. Now my face showed a slight smirk and I stared straight at the camera. It was a headshot I was happy to see but once in print. The article it accompanied was on the escalation--I refused to use the word "surge." I got done with my long-delayed bachelor's degree, I talked to a mentor, and pondered graduate school. But the degrees recommended to me sounded boring. I was growing depressed, I was economically dependent on my wife, and toilet-training was coming up. I saw who was getting kept on for internships and fellowships and paid positions and I was filled with loathing, for myself and for others.
At my brother's graduation from law school, I met a lot of ethnic white overachievers. Mostly community and alumni, there to see little scions initiated into the inherited wealth and prestige of their social class. I talked about anarchism and revolutionary socialism with a teacher from... Not Connecticut? New Hampshire? No--Vermont? One of those little places from the Northeast. I might as well be talking about Arab tribes. In any case, she was self-confident and friendly enough, but there was something cold in her demeanor, something very established. It might have been paranoia--self-contempt has always sharpened that trait of mine--but I thought, for a moment, that maybe I came off as a bumpkin.
In counseling school, I mixed alright with the upper-middle-class. A friend of mine, another working class white with too much Celt and German in him for some people, noted the way I spoke in class. He's always gotten on me for my court language. Keeps me honest, to some extent. An interesting counterpoint to my brother by birth, who eschews emotional language as imprecise and would have me speak more economically, more concretely, more lawyer-friendly. But after running from the commoners to some elusive and illusory ivory tower clique, and after discovering that the tower cliques are full of assholes and boring solipsistic Last Men and Women, I find myself refusing to totally run from the establishment's ways. No slave morality and rejection of others' ways for me. Now I mix well with the hourlies. "Y'all," consciously avoided throughout my entire youth, has entered my speech. Still, I hold myself stiffly, a petty Prussian, a bey walking the unit. It sets me apart as unusual, but not special, because I do the dirty work along with everyone else. I grab sodas and do favors. And I still talk the professional talk with the professionals, like I talk mild jargon with the nurses. I feel like a polyglot. Anybody who doesn't know me might think that I'm fake. And I heavily resemble myself during periods when I was really and truly a sham.
I'm not sure how I moved to this subject, but that's how the essay moved. I guess all I can take from my odd little wandering is that I am filled with artifacts. As a being I show many of my pretensions and quirks. Few of them make sense except in a context I alone know completely. So when I look at others, I can see some rank hypocrisy--such as when we justify our actions that, in others, we take for fatal faults. But I can also see a man wearing a necktie and not assume that he is a socially-controlled slave to outdated fashion. A man can speak like he's college educated and I don't have to assume he's shallowly learned. A child can listen to Justin Bieber without losing some basic humanity in my eyes (though I admit, this has taken me a while).
I know that there are some things that a revolutionary will not be, and cannot be, in my definition of the role. But what I'm looking for--and, as I am not as wise as IOZ, I am still looking for a Big Historical Something--I'm not sure, and I don't feel too safe ruling too many people out. I've yet to meet someone without the appearance of hypocrisy or who, were conditions right, would not be my bitter enemy. My best friends have started out, often enough, on the other side of but a momentary truce.
This is a very engaging essay. but fwiw, don't be cowed by IOZ. People aren't either absurdly overrated or 100% deserving of the pantheon, although I'm guessing you already realize this.ReplyDelete
but what if he's only, say, 65 or 70, 72% awesome? Yeah, assigning a number is silly, but so is being cowed by him. Anyway, it's a darn good essay.
Thank you. I tried and got somewhere personal. Glad it made sense.ReplyDelete
Really enjoying your writing, Cuynet.ReplyDelete
Don't know how to do the Turkish "umlaut" in your name, though!
I use Alt 0252 on full keyboards. Or copy and paste. Or I don't care about it, and curse the stars that I've been born into a wayward Altaic people who used the Latin alphabet on a whim.ReplyDelete