Gnomicon 133

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  133
Wednesday 19 September 2012

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Violence is man re-creating himself.
Franz Fanon (20 Jul 1925 – 6 Dec 1961)

This is the kind of mindless drivel that used to pass for insight, even wisdom, in some former cellars of academe – a kind of call to arms for the world’s “oppressed”.  Sounds good at some late night bull session of sophomores on the eighth floor of the campus dorm after a kegger, but in my opinion it ain’t wisdom, and it certainly ain’t insight.

Fanon, an Algerian psychiatrist born in Martinique, is – or at least certainly once was – a beloved Marxist figure in many a classroom of the nation’s campuses during generations past, a quondam standard bearer in the everybody-but-the-oppressor-white-male-is-a-victim movement. And he was in fact very influential in many circles.  Today I suspect students  are too busy thinking about moving out from the folks’ and finding some kind of a job to worry too much about the bizarre notions of this formerly trendy headliner for the similarly once-upon-a-time popular ‘discipline’ known as Colonial Studies.

I’m not even sure why I bring the subject up here, but recently, thumbing through one of those lush Times Sunday supplements with an ad or a piece on women’s fashions, I got to thinking back on the intellectual fads and fashions that have slipped in and out of the American academy in the course of my own college years and those that followed.

Just skimming the churned surface of the vast seas of criticism I recall how central Nietzsche was at one point as a ‘key to understanding’, and even more so Freud (and,  to a lesser degree Jung).  Sigmund, alas, has become pretty much superannuated thanks to our evolving understanding of the wonders of neurochemistry – the etiology of all those personal problems we have that we once thought we could offload on our mother’s denying us the attention and affection we deserved at some infantile stage is as we now know rather a much more pedestrian matter of billions of synapses firing or not, and of serotonin and defective reuptake inhibitors, and all that.

The mystical has become mechanical.

Then there was structuralism, a chimera cobbled together from Saussurian linguistics, Lévi-Straussian anthropology and the novel notion of ‘binary coding’ (thus, in the flow, touching hands with a basic concept in the then developing and soon-to-be dominant field of ‘computers’).  After structuralism had pretty much run its course there came – not without some irony, I ween – Derrida’s deconstruction and its spawn, neocolonialism and postmodernism.   And then there are the other ‘Theory’ tribes of post-this-es and neo-that-s fending for supremacy alongside the ever fragmenting and narcissistically self-differentiating clans of ‘Studies’ (Black, Chicano, Crip [sic aka Disability – a curious reversion to once taboo terminology {cf. Queer}], Fat [I kid you not!], Feminist, Gay, Gender, Lesbian, Queer, Subaltern, Women’s, etc etc etc).

Anyway, people, some of those (hard) left isms and theories are what the kids are indoctrinated with today.  And it’s quite interesting that all these left-wing weenies still seem not to have noticed that communism died in Russia (it didn’t work!) a few decades back and that in China it has morphed (it didn’t work there either!) into a robust if statist  capitalism.

I am not necessarily mocking all these proliferating academic movements, you understand (though some are, IMHO, just a bit de trop or, as we say in the vernacular, outré), for each in its own way (even, I suppose, Fanon’s musings) had and has its intellectual fascinations and offered new and different distorting prisms through which to look at the world and one’s self.  And that’s not entirely negative.  But after their day in the sun they fade only to be replaced by still newer models in that endless human quest to make sense of and perhaps gain some control over the world, both the one out there as well as that much more intriguing one within.

Who will be the latest influential, fashionable Fanon to be replaced yet again?

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