The Cultural Snobs
I tried to listen to a radio program on arising this morning--an overcast but seabreeze-cool morning, the weather for the past two weeks in Gotham being freakily wonderful--nothing over 87 so far this summer--and evenings down in the bottom 60s--a very tropical weather! And isn't that exactly what the Global Warming brothers and sisters have been saying all along? They've been saying New York City is going to become "tropical" in terms of its weather, like Miami is now, or like a Caribbean island, like Bermuda, the closest one to NYC. Yep, they have been saying that for years and this year is a prime example of this big city coming out of a very mild winter and into a tropical summer. Yes, hell yes, it will get unbreatheably hot here soon, August should boil us up to near hundred temps by its middle weeks--if we make it through August with these temperatures, then the Global Warming folks are scientifically proving their point and in the meantime, I'm enjoying the best weather in the USA right now--I ain't complaining--I'm laying back in my cut-off jeans and Oklahoma Redhawks game shirt (#9), barefoot, and lazy, sipping on a juice cocktail (my fav: beets, celery, carrots, apples, and tons of ginger--man, that drink will snap you out of your lethargy and shoot you to the natural moon in a matter minutes--it will also keep you regular, too, in terms of colon emptying and rinsing out). While laid back and taking it easy, I'm reading The Problematics of Sociology by one of my Simmel addicts, Neil J. Smesler, a German, American-trained, Sociologist. Smesler was the guest lecturer at the 1993 Georg Simmel Lectures held each year at Humboldt University in Berlin and this little fun-packed book is his lecture on the problematics of Sociology, which, as you know, is my bailiwick (Sociological theory) since I consider myself a Sociological Commenter--my Master's thesis was on Georg Simmel's theories--yes, I rather took to the German Sociologists--they were good writers, too. Simmel, along with Ferdinand Tonnies and Max Weber, was the founder of German Sociology. He was a wonderful lecturer and an admired intellectual and became at one time a rather star-type celebrity in German university and lecture circles in the late 19th Century. Simmel's theories (social psychology) of city life expressed in his essay The Metropolis and Mental Life (1903) eventually had a profound influence on American Sociologist Robert Park who founded at the University of Chicago what later became known in Sociology circles as "the Chicago school." I learned my Sociology from University of Chicago grads, one, Rosser B. Melton, who had actually studied under and was a graduate assistant to Park and E.W. Burgess, the designer of the concentric circle theory of city planning. "Problematics"--is Sociologists challenging themselves--problematics being "Is Sociology truly scientific or is it simply 'social science' or pseudo-science?" "Are Sociology's measurements all that scientific (quantitative) or are they merely humanitarian (qualitative) and thereby subject to criticism of being subjective rather than "scientific."
The first thing I heard on the radio this morning was a woman radio personality interviewing a playwright. The interviewer was the radio program's host. She started off her interview (very precise in her pronunciation and use of words), "I, being a playwright, too, when I'm around other playwrights become interested in process! What was the process you went through in coming up with this play, which to me is fascinating." The playwright, a dude, replied (just as precise in his pronunciation and delivery as she was), "Ab-so-loot-ly," he started off. Ugh! Already I'm pulling my hair out. I know I'm not going to listen to this high-nosed fop give me a detailed study of his creativeness. Needless to say I turned the radio off and trickled downstairs here to my computer--the machine through which I think nowadays--and computers are logic machines--and started growling out my happy cynicism--all fun cynicism--the Jolly Cynic, that's me.
Georg Simmel died in 1918 of liver cancer. He died pissed off at WAR. He left society and went off into the Black Forest and finished his last book alone--he grew to be a very antisocial guy--he had a lot of problematics in his own background--born into a rich Jewish family, his father ran a very successful chocolate factory in Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia (isn't that strange looking?)--by Georg's birth, his Jewish father had converted to Catholicism and baby Georg was baptized a Catholic; Georg's very Jewish mother converted to Lutheranism--now ain't that a clashing of true believing? Most of my Sociology heroes loved isolation, thinking and writing in isolation, like Thorstein Veblen who went out into the Wisconsin woods and holed up in an attic reading for seven years, eventually reappearing with his masterpiece, The Theory of the Leisure Class, in tow. Simmel had a lot of influence on American Sociologists from Park and the Chicago School through C. Wright Mills, Robert K. Merton, to Talcott Parsons, who Neil Smelser cowrote a book with.
While still contemplating the condescending attitude of the two playwrights on the radio this morning--you know that "I'm a playwright, too, so therefore I'm as creatively important as you are, blah, blah, brag, brag, brag"--and that is all these two playwrights were doing on the radio this morning, PR-ing themselves--advertisements for themselves, selling us there plays as lollipops and not anything nutritious, damn if that didn't remind me where I got that lollipop analogy. I went right to the source, Charles E. Ives, in the book Memos, p. 134.
"Men (that is, women and men) are so constituted that they are at first more inclined to buy the easy (to hear and look [at] it) than the difficult. Toward art in general, especially music, they are like the five year old boy who comes down to breakfast. He sees two tables in the dining room: (1) nice lollypops, (2) oatmeal. He goes to #1, if he has his way. But most of them don't always have their own way (as everybody does on the radio [he's talking about music programs on the radio--written in 1933]). For that reason most boys go to #2, and they grow up strong, more or less. But towards music, and to a certain extent towards literature and art in general, the majority still go to table #1 (lollypops etc.), because the president, the directors, and stockholders of the Rollo [Ives's Yahoo character--Rollo comes from an old boys's book--Rollo was the dumbass boy who went for lollypops rather than oatmeal] companies are weak sisters, and not strong fathers and mothers--for there is more money in selling #1, because it's easier to sell."
Think about it: how stupid are for-profit healthcare companies? Rollo companies. Selling lollypop medicine to us! In order to make profits in the healthcare industry you must dump the sick! I'm puzzled as to why the government doesn't establish free healthcare clinics especially in poor neighborhoods--or, hell, in all neighborhoods, where people can go and get basic healthcare--tests, innoculations, basic diagnostics, nursing care, primary care--maybe use interns--pay them out of Medicare. Why can't We the People of the USA get at least that kind of basic healthcare? President Obama's new healthcare package, the one he's pushing, is going to force people who currently have no medical insurance to get it, the government to make up the difference in the costs they can't afford to pay. The healthcare profiteers still have control of the machinery and shit, the high-cost machines that don't necessarily save lives--like MRIs are now being criticized as sometimes missing tumors and things. Seems like government-run neighborhood clinics could handle a lot of senior citizen problems or psychosomatic problems, etc., even to the point of having expensive machines like MRIs and CATscans and dialysis machines. I know, that's socialized medicine--and I'm sorry, but I don't see anything wrong with socialized anything! Are we a society of like-minded human beings or are we a society of rugged individualists, like the Neo-Cons say we are? G.W. Bush told poor people to forget government help--the government helped the successful--the poor aren't successful, so G.W. said the poor had to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps." George Orwell wrote an essay about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. This is the attitude of the Power Elite! They claim that's how they got control of our wealth--can you see G.W. Bush pulling himself up by his boot straps? He couldn't even ride a bicycle.
The following is a typical antiliberal view of "pulling one's self up by his or her bootstraps":
Whinning is a liberal value. "How can you pull yourslef up by the bootstraps if you don't have any boots?" whine the liberals. All the term means is simply engage in self improvement where need be which for just about everyone on earth exists somewhere in our lives. If you can't engage in even the most minor self improvement efforts then not only are you a pathetic creature, but helping you is a waste of time in that invariably people will have to help your ass through every stage of your pathetic life! [this is a comment found on a social worker's (Sociologist) Website]
He still doesn't answer the problematic question: How do you pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you have no boots?
for The Daily Growler