So i started out just planning on writing a quick question to Himanshu Suri, who is a cool rap dude, on his tumblr blog, but it got long and i kinda started to like it, so i’m putting it up on my shit. i will be honored if Hima reads it here, and not just because that would be, like, 100% more people than would see it otherwise.
yo hima, did you actually like that response to patton oswalt? weak-ass treatment of marx (why did you just drop a bushy-mustached s-bomb?), weaker-asser treatment of the frankfurt school! the point he makes about the privilege inherent in oswalt’s 1987 is an important one, but to call his argument culturally elitist seems mad ignorant to me.
horkheimer/adorno’s writing on mass culture is a critique of the affects of technological advance on art and culture, not a call to revert to a previous system of artistic or cultural expression. to accuse them of cultural elitism totally misunderstands their theoretical project, which is not to scoff at the ignorance or poor taste of the masses, but to open the eyes of a society to the brutal realities of the technical system that controls it.
oswalt needs to be careful when complaining about technological advances, in much the same way that marxists do, because there’s no doubt that they make life easier for everyone. it’s fucking awesome that i can download an entire decade’s worth of hip hop in a week. it’s also true that i’m probably not going to know it as deeply as i would if i had to gain the same information in that old fashioned way. what is the matter with expressing distaste at the negative effects of the internet on the way new generations communicate, culturally and artistically?
further, if oswalt is advocating a progression toward singularity with respect to access to culture, he’s not really open to the one good point this article makes (oswalt’s privileged upbringing as it affects his experiences with geekdom), is he?
finally, what the fuck is that last paragraph? this dude seems like he got to a point were he was closing in on his word limit and decided he needed to just start swinging, but couldn’t think to do much but ask silly rhetorical questions, which i feel like answering right now:
1) “Why is austerity and difficulty so important for this perspective? “
it isn’t necessarily, but comfort and ease breed complacency and laziness. to understand a subject, whether it’s academic, artistic, cultural, etc, you have to do some fuckin research. easy internet research is better than inconvenient, inter-library loan, haul heavy books, but the existence of the former has the potential to keep you from actually doing the work. it stifles creativity in that it places every answer at your fingertips, rather than giving you time to write your own answers.
2) “What about the process of spending long hours to discover something special only to keep it to yourself is so appealing?”
uhh, who said anyone was keeping shit to themselves? in oswalt’s example, his daughter’s sharing the moment with her friend. anyway, point is moot, soon we will live only on the internet, everyone’ll be watchin everyone else, so it’s cool, dude.
3) “How many of today’s geeks grew up as Oswalt did, with a family with means so much so that as children they could spend hours upon hours digging through geek-cultural esoterica?”
many, many fewer than have access to really cool shit today. things are better now in that way. i hope oswalt would grant that point. marxists do.
4) “Is not Oswalt’s lament basically one that assumes a middle-classness of yesteryear that no longer exists for the majority of America’s potential geeks?”
yeah, it is, and that’s an important point to recognize and make explicit. but does that make his critique of the current state of affairs less true? (answer: no, but again, he better be careful when he proposes a road forward)
5) “To call for a return to the hard-work era of geek culture, is not Oswalt simply providing a cover, a rather well-argued one at that, that is founded upon a sacrosanct status quo ante that, well, is simply a justification of elitism under the guise of “revolutionary” politics?”
maybe, if that’s what oswalt was calling for, but it doesn’t seem like it is. and on a semi-related note, i don’t think you understand dialectical materialism.
oh shit, i know this one—alienation of the workers’ labor power! the alienation of a worker’s labor power is more capitalist than an ethic of hard work! also, the hard work that oswalt is advocating has little to do with the protestant work ethic that your hyperlink references. the hard work of the geek is hard work for the geek; its ethic is an individual rather than a social ethic. individually, it is an anticapitalist ethic, as the market value for knowing fucking everything about the watchmen is very low. politico-economically, it is an anticapitalist ethic, as having everyone geek out on obscure shit (what seems to be oswalt’s true desire) does little for a nation’s economy.
anyway, that got longer than i’d planned it to be, but these are some of my thoughts.