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Back into the ruts

P and I have often discussed work and its daily routines in the context of its necessity for keeping one's head on straight. The daily routine of getting up, getting ready and going to work serves to frame the day, and without that frame things come unglued.

That framing effect came to mind when I saw Cobb's musings on The Blue Butterfly, because it seems to me that's what he's talking about here when he says "We don't take our own myths seriously enough...We don't take Western Civilization seriously enough." There's a lot of unserious BS floating around the country right now by people who suffer from a lack of framing and don't take our history and our civilization seriously enough to understand why it's worth explaining to people who don't understand it and why it's worth defending against people who want to tear it down and go back to some kind of totalitarian rule, whether that rule is a religious mullahocracy or an agnostic socialist bureaucracy. Or, for that matter, why it's a bad idea to let a small but noisy bunch of people lead a charge into some kind of utopia.

The answers to all these questions are in our history - not just the relatively short 230 years of the American nation, but the thousand-plus years of Western Civilization going all the way back to the Greek city-states and the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. It takes time to get your head around all that, especially if you want to keep in touch with the popular culture, which is really the bulk of our culture. (There's a thin veneer of high culture that is American, but it's really European in its forms. The really enduring literature of America is science fiction; the true music is country, blues, rock and soul; the true theater is on the big and small screens. Everything else is just somebody's hobby.) Honestly, I don't see any way to have a real thorough grasp of American history - political, economic, and cultural - if you're less than thirty years old, and even then you'll have gaps in your knowledge. There's no way to avoid it, because the mass of data is just too huge. The best you can hope for is to have a working knowledge of what's important: the basic structures of Anglo-American society and how they came to be, the major art forms, the important people. Which means you have to pay attention to what the adults are saying, while keeping their biases in mind. Nobody said any of this was going to be easy, and the continuing suicide of the urban school systems isn't helping. All those uneducated/mis-educated people contribute a lot of noise to the cultural/political scene, to say nothing of being a drag on the economy as well. Not all the boyz in the hood grow up to be Ice Cube; there's a lot of talent getting wasted on the street, and I mean that in both senses of the phrase.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
materia_indigo
Jan. 8th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
American art
I'd like to add:
Jazz
the Broadway musical (and community theatre summer-stock, which Europe will never understand)
wombat_socho
Jan. 8th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
Re: American art
You're right about jazz. How are musicals different from light opera, though?
IIRC there's not too much difference in form between Gilbert & Sullivan and, say, Rodgers & Hammerstein. If there is, I'm sure you or windelina will set me straight. ;)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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