Friday, November 1, 2019

The Problem with Jason Morgan's "Shocking the Bourgeoisie: Our Most Insufferable Cliche" in the American Conservative Magazine

In my wild youth, I spent a season in hell as a devotee of Arthur Rimbaud... I fancied myself a top-flight bohemian... and my defiance of all the niceties that kept the common folk in bondage to the workaday grind.
I had boarded a drunken boat, and, like Rimbaud, made a bad habit out of shocking the bourgeoisie. Or so I thought. What I mostly encountered in response to my pretensions was rolled eyes...
If I could go back now and kick my 18-year-old self in the shins, I would gladly do so. I wish someone had at least slapped me with their gloves or laughed in my face. That nobody did so is because, well, it’s harder than it looks to shock the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie, as it turns out, are pretty nice people...
The bourgeoisie politely smiled through the hippies, the yuppies, the Seventies and the Eighties, Studio 54, David Bowie, the gross gyrations of Madonna Louise Ciccone, the new domesticity of Ellen and Rosie and Elton John, the copulating of David Crosby and Melissa Etheridge, the proliferation of the sperm bank, wardrobe malfunctions, Jim Carrey, the Movable Train Wreck commonly referred to as Johnny Depp...
Young Jason Morgans of the present, take heed. People have been trying to do this since Leonardo da Vinci. No, since Sappho. It’s a phase you don’t need to go through. There’s nothing romantic about tilting at accountant-shaped windmills. In a world in which shocking the bourgeoisie has become the most conventional, most predictable, most stultifying form of utter conformity, I dare you to be different...
Like learning. Like culture. (Remember that “culture” implies cultivation, not laziness.) Like devotion. Like charity. Like discipline. Like rock-bottom time preference. Like sacrifice. Like truth. Like love.
Rimbaud died a sad death and so did Verlaine. They were, in the end, big losers. This wasn’t at all shocking—anybody could have seen it coming. But because we’re all busy trying to shock one another with bathroom humor and pierced Adam’s apples, we tend to miss the obvious truth staring us in the face. Épater is bourgeoisie. Now, young squire, put down the tattoo needle and hie thee to a library.

Jason Morgan defends the bourgeoisie and advises young people to think twice before making fools of themselves as rebels against bourgeois values and norms. On the surface, it's mostly good advice, especially in our degenerate age. One of his proposed alternatives to wasting one's years on anti-bourgeois pain-in-the-assery is the search for truth, but it seems Morgan himself ignores too much truth in his opinion piece that comes across as a bit smug, even glib. So, what facets of reality has Morgan overlooked or mischaracterized in his defense of the bourgeoisie against vapid decadents and vain poseurs calling attention to themselves with their 'enfants terribles' schtick?

First, it's pointless for a mature older person to give advice to one's 18 yr old self, especially in a modern democracy where youths have the freedom of 'self-actualization'. Indeed, if his current self could really go back in time to advise his 18 yr old self, the latter would look upon his older self with equal distress and skepticism. It'd be like the two selves meeting in the sci-fi movie LOOPER. All we can really hope for is that young people eventually grow out of their often foolish but sometimes inspired phase of searching for identity, meaning, and place for themselves. The problem for society is not the phase itself but the inability or unwillingness of so many people to eventually morph into sober adults.
In some cases, it seems like adults, especially as they enter middle age, revert to a kind of juvenilia as if to get their second wind of youthful excitement or to stave away(with growing desperation) the fact that one will never be young again. Especially given all the pop cultural fantasies of narcissism that so many people are inundated with since childhood, many feel cheated as they grow older as their fairy-tale wishes didn't come true. At the very least, they once had youth(and the dreams of a better future) in their younger days, but as it dawns on them that they will even lose youth itself, many grow desperate and go out of their way in self-indulgence to make up for all the things they missed out on. I'm reminded of the mother played by Jennifer Connelly in AMERICAN PASTORAL. A woman who'd been mature and responsible for most of her adult life suddenly turns into vain glam-girl as she enters middle age and is freed from having to worry about her troublesome daughter.

It's no big deal and no great shame for young people to make asses out of themselves. When a person is 20, he has no personal references as an adult. 5 yrs earlier, he was only 15, and 10 yrs earlier, he was only 10. So, even though he's all grown up physically and mentally, there is still something of the child in him, and it takes several more years before he can emotionally mature into an adult. So, Jason Morgan shouldn't be too hard on his younger self. The kid was just trying to find himself, not always in a good way, but we can't expect young people to become adults overnight.
What is truly alarming about our society is that so many people never grow out of their youth phase emotionally, intellectually, and culturally. They are stuck in teen-mentality. Why do so many adults get so excited about superhero movies? Why do so many older women have funny-colored hair? Why are men and women in their 40s and 50s getting hideous tattoos? Why do older women put on 'pussyhats' and make total asses of themselves? This perpetual youth-mentality began with the boomers of the Counterculture, and its impact is truly dire. Instead of older people imparting knowledge and wisdom based on their life experience on younger people, they are so eager to gain approval from the young by trying to appear 'hip' and 'cool' and 'with it'.

Second, Morgan's put-down of Arthur Rimbaud makes little sense. Rimbaud isn't remembered simply or mainly because he was a bad boy who snubbed normality and the bourgeoisie. It was because, whether one likes his lifestyle or not, he was a brilliant and original poet. Cases like Rimbaud demonstrate why we must make a distinction between genuine strangeness and poseur weirdness. Rimbaud was a genuine weirdo, an eccentric. It wasn't just an act. Likewise Vincent van Gogh really had personal demons, some of which served as his muse to create great works of art. Luis Bunuel was not a phony. He had a genuinely strange vision of the world. David Lynch isn't a fake either. His strange visions are real. David Bowie was half-poseur, half-poet. Much of his act was BS glamour-puss nonsense, but he was a singular musical talent who heard and created voices and sounds no one else did. Morgan says he's for 'culture', but so much of culture was made by genuinely strange people who stood apart from social norms. Same goes for religions. The great ones were founded by people who rejected normality & conventionality and ventured off to find a deeper truth, often risking madness or death(to themselves and/or others).
The real lesson is that anti-normality isn't enough for art and creativity. The problem is too many fools fallaciously think that, because such-and-such great artist(ancient or modern) was a strange or 'subversive' individual, putting on a bad attitude or doing something outrageous means one is special in talent and creativity. Most of contemporary art is garbage because it's all premised on the conceit of 'outrage', 'subversion', or 'cynicism'. Indeed, most 'creative' people today are either normal people who strain to be 'different' or genuinely messed-up people without talent or originality. But they comfort themselves with the notion that, just because many great artists in the past were not appreciated in their time, they too must be geniuses or visionaries who have yet to be discovered and prized.
In contrast, artists like Rimbaud, along with Van Gogh and Edgar Allan Poe, really had different ways of seeing, sensing, and feeling things. And it is often from such people that art and culture arise. While strangeness or different-ness per se doesn't guarantee creativity — most weirdos and messed-up people aren't artistic — , it is what lends depth and shade to intelligence and talent. Indeed, compare filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Stanley Kubrick. Pollack was a very intelligent director who mastered the A-B-C's of film-making, yet even his best works don't come anywhere near the masterpieces of Stanley Kubrick. What made the difference? Kubrick had a genuinely strange and 'different' take on world and psyche. Franz Kafka was another person who didn't lead a happy life, but his works are among the towering literary achievements of the 20th century that will haunt, provoke, and inspire humanity as long as literature exists. Many artistic types didn't lead happy lives. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died young in depressing circumstances. Beethoven's final years were dark and gloomy. Many Jazz and Rock greats died too young. Sam Peckinpah crashed and burned. And yet, they left lasting works that have entered the pantheon of arts, culture, and entertainment.
Could they have achieved such had they all been respectable bourgeois types? While bourgeois values are good for most people, notable achievements in arts and culture(and even in science, technology, and business) are made by people with certain dark obsessions and compulsive need to make a difference. The real problem seems not the existence of such individuals but the vulgar popularization of such types as a 'cool' ideal for most people to emulate. I don't mind Rimbaud being Rimbaud, leading a dark existence of unhappiness but in the process producing works that have entered the canon of poetry. The problem is people who are all-too-normal becoming so enamored of the hipsterism of being 'different' or 'edgy'. Look at Art Schools. They are filled with spoiled bratty middle-class kids who go out of their way to be 'subversive' and 'rebellious'. It's all an act. They've bought into the cult of artist-as-glamorous-weirdo. (Some do have mental issues but are generally without any talent.) Truly strange people don't have to try to be strange. And truly talented people don't need the crutch of arbitrarily violating rules as easy call for attention. The fact that ideology plays such a big role in the art world is a sure sign that most artists are privileged bratty middle-class types without genuine strangeness. That's why they rely on ideology to supply them with the cachet of being 'radical', 'revolutionary', or 'avant-garde'.
This is why, despite modernism having burned out and its ideals rendered meaningless over the years, many middle class brats play dress-up with retro-rebellion so as to pretend that the cultural revolution is ongoing. Some people may get the wrong impression from the movie AMADEUS that Mozart was specially talented because he was so exuberant in his vulgarity, irreverence, and uproarious antics. In fact, there is no guarantee as to whom will be favored by the muse. It could be an extrovert, an introvert, a rationalist, a spiritualist, a rich person, a poor person, a kind person, a vicious person, a lout, or a saint. Still, it's generally true that what all great artists have in common is they have a way of experiencing and sensing things in a way that strays off from conventionality and normality. Even if the artist happens to believe and uphold social norms and conventional values of mainstream society, he has an inspired and imaginative way of seeing things that are denied to most people. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE may be an All-American movie about the virtues of small town values, but it is a work of individuals of special talent and vision all-too-rare in the Narrative Industry.

Third, does anything like the real bourgeoisie exist anymore? Morgan speaks of impetuous young ones making asses of themselves for attention and notoriety(a good thing these days apparently), but can we really speak of the (respectable) bourgeoisie vs the anti-bourgeoisie when 80% of Americans support 'gay marriage'? When so many middle class suburban soccer moms have bought into the notion of 50 genders? When ugly rap is the biggest musical genre in the country? When even supposed conservatives embrace 'LGBTQ' celebration? Perhaps, the so-called 'bourgeoisie' roll their eyes at silly 'outrageous' antics not in mockery but in agreement? It could be they're signaling, "Why do you make such a fuss with degeneracy when we are fully on-board with it as the New Normal?" Even at libraries, we see fat, hideous, staff members with green hair and tattoos. There have been so many cases of female high school teachers having sexual relations with students. American conservative politicians receive most donations from the vile gambling industry. So much for 'family values'. Even though hardcore pornography is readily available to young ones via the internet, no one makes a pip about how to deal with the problem.
Morgan speaks of the bourgeoisie as mostly nice people who patiently suffered through the comings and goings of various culturally degenerate pop cultural idols and celebrities, but did it ever occur to him that members of his favorite class actually consumed, enjoyed, and embraced so much of this junk culture? Many in the 'respectable' middle class don't so much suffer fools gladly as support them eagerly. Look how the 'bourgeoisie' took to 'gay pride' and entire downtown districts being shut down for globo-homo celebration. Consider how the so-called 'bourgeoisie' are A-Okay with all the foul TV shows and trashy commercials that spread decadence and degeneracy. If there was a true bourgeoisie, they wouldn't suffer fools so gladly. They wouldn't be so 'nice' and, if anything, would take measures to resist the overflow of cultural sewage. What we have is not the bourgeoisie but what David Brooks called 'bobo' or 'bourgeois-bohemian' culture. Brooks' idea is that the aspirational class wants wealth & privilege, status & approval, and the cachet of being 'different' & 'subversive'. Especially following the social revolutions in the 1960s(though the process was well under way since the Romantic Era of the 19th Century), being chic & trendy counted more for status & approval than the older mode of respectability did. Thus, we live in a world where even the seemingly respectable 'bourgeoisie' want to be thought of as 'edgy', 'cool', and 'hip' than as 'respectable', which is considered 'lame' and 'square'.

And yet, the fall of the bourgeoisie owed to something within bourgeois mentality itself. It was an element of artifice. At its core, the bourgeois mindset was less about truth, courage, and virtue than social approval, status anxiety, and cultural conformism. True, the bourgeoisie could practice real virtues and stand for worthy principles, but the core animating force was not courage and conviction but anxiety and confirmation. It's like a dog can be led to do good things, but the main impetus is not moral reasoning but the eagerness to please the master. To please the master, a dog can be made to do good things or bad things.
Likewise, even though the bourgeoisie could be led to do good things and stand for sound principles, they could just as easily be swayed in the other direction. Either way, the bourgeoisie were motivated mainly by status-anxiety and hunger for confirmation by those deemed as 'social betters' either economically, culturally, intellectually, or etc, though those considerations were almost always interlinked. After all, many of the top 'intellectuals' tend to be those favored by those with money.
For this reason, anarchists, rebels, mavericks, and free-thinkers loved to target the bourgeoisie. It wasn't necessarily out of envy and resentment for bourgeois wealth and privilege. It was the sense that, even when the bourgeoisie were doing the right thing, they were acting not out of real understanding, true conviction, and genuine virtue but out of status-anxious sense that it was the 'right thing to do' according to the prevailing social norms. Ironically, this very quality of the bourgeoisie made them so malleable and useful to the avant-garde and enfants terribles who loved to insult and mock the bourgeoisie for their obsession with respectability. After all, if the bourgeoisie were really philistines with airs of respectability and hadn't a real clue as to the real truth, meaning, or culture, they could easily be fooled into supporting whatever was deemed as the New Reigning Fashion. While anarchists and modernists felt much animus toward hardcore reactionaries and religious fanatics, they felt a grudging respect for them to the extent that such people had true convictions that could not be shaken or shucked by New Fashions. Indeed, this is the difference between someone like Pat Buchanan and David French. Buchanan, agree with him or not, has core convictions that he won't surrender for social or status expediency. In contrast, all these 'cuckservatives' are typically neo-bourgeois in that their main animating force is being approved by the reigning dogma, ideology, or 'idology'(as the West went from ideological to mainly 'idological' worship of the Holy Three of Jews, Negroes, and Homos). Thus, there is an artifice at the center of bourgeois mentality. Even though we may associate the classic bourgeoisie with virtues such as work ethic, thrift, sobriety, self-control, and good manners, was it really a matter of real conviction and commitment, or were most bourgeois folks just going along with such norms because they were deemed most proper by rules of prevailing respectability? Given the fact that bourgeois norms changed so fast, indeed to the extent that it was the bourgeoisie that was funding and patronizing all those avant-gardists and modernists in the 20th century, one wonders if there was anything substantive, let alone eternalist, at the core of bourgeois thought.
As modernism and radical modes of thought and expression became the new fashions in the Late Modern Era, most bourgeois types seemed to fall in line, pretending to like 'modernist' whatever without real understanding or appreciation of them. This was especially beneficial for vain and cunning homos who could toy with neo-bourgeois status anxiety to manipulate people with money into patronizing or investing in things of dubious value. At their core, the bourgeoisie was about money and stuff, but mere money and stuff don't lead to moral meaning, cultural understanding, or spiritual depth. Also, as people don't live on money alone, they crave respectability or some kind of social confirmation. But how can the bourgeoisie know what is good, right, and true if they are, at the core, mere status-anxious cultural philistines? This is why the modernists and avant-gardists had a grand time proto-trolling the bourgeoisie into investing in and patronizing all sorts of arts, expressions,and ideas that were so anti-bourgeoisie. It was like fooling the Emperor into believing he's wearing clothes when he's naked.
Over time, modernism's assault on the bourgeoisie was so overwhelming — albeit with the full participation of the bourgeoisie and their children who were led to believe that people like Andy Warhol meant something — that the notion of middle class respectability and bourgeois ethos was flushed down the toilet. Then, is there no more bourgeoisie since the bourgeoisie themselves came to adopt anti-normative ideas and expressions as the New Normal? Yes and no. Bourgeois culture in the traditional and classic sense are gone for good. And yet, the bourgeois mentality is very much alive because today's so-called bobo's(coined by David Brooks) are animated by the artifice of status anxiety. (Maybe they should be called 'boogiwazi'.)There is no other way to explain the Globo-Homo-mania spreading like wildfire among the elites and wanna-be elite class. How could something that absurd and vile be adopted, even with gushing enthusiasm, as the greatest thing since sliced bread or baked buns? It's because most affluent people are moral voids, cultural idiots, and spiritual zombies. They have deforested minds and uprooted souls, and what animates them the most is status anxiety and eagerness for social confirmation. As such, they are easy dupes of those charlatans, grifters, and con-men who promise them the quasi-neo-respectability of being 'hip', 'cool', or 'woke' with the latest batch of fashionable posturing, such as passion for tranny nonsense.

And the 'conservatives' aren't much better. True conservatism is supposed to be about deep understanding of nature(and human nature), eternal truths of spirituality, and commitment to morality. But American Conservatives have been easily sold on the Mammon of Libertarianism, the mindless supremaicsm of Yinonist Zionist Supremacism, blind worship of the Warfare State, and even 'gay marriage is a conservative value'. In that sense, the most artificial and vapid aspect of bourgeois mentality is very much alive. Today's progs and so-called 'radicals' would like to think of themselvse as 'free thinkers' and 'rebels', but the fact is 99% of those dolts adopted all their ideas and values from corporate media and indoctrination-industrial-complex to satiate their status anxiety and need for social confirmation. Just think. Why would anyone who really cares for justice and truth vote for Hillary Clinton, the Deep State tool, warmonger, and corrupt bitch?
But then, look at the state of the GOP. Totally foul. Your average conzo, like your average libby-dib, will ultimately make up his or her mind on the basis of status anxiety and social confirmation. Look how easily the children of the Bushes and McCains all jumped on the 'gay marriage' bandwagon. Look how S.E. Cupp, the so-called 'conservative', wept with joy over Supreme Court forcing 'gay marriage' on the whole nation. Why such rapid change of heart? Because they have no real heart, no real soul. There is void at their core except for the status anxiety for the neo-respectability of hipsterism, hedonism, and 'wokeness'. As Jews and Homos control the media and decide what is hot and what is not, most people(as brain-dead minions of Pop Culture and Political Correctness) just learn to go along and get along.

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