Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nuance in Modernity

This is just the start of a series of thoughts I've had percolating for a few months, that I hope will grow into something articulable in a concise criticism of the dynamics of political and legal ramifications to both social and economic policy and how they are affected by contemporary ideological movements. It grows, however, out of observations governing art and treatment of individual choices, especially as affected by the mental health industry.

My meditation on this started over the summer when I was listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Phantom is one of those shows that people from the midwest love to see when they go to Las Vegas-- it's been pretty much the only successful traditional theatrical production in Las Vegas (fn1). This is for a few reasons: a broadway/rock mixture in the music, a musical that every girl who ever sang a solo in church can imagine would have been about her a century and a half ago, a musical you can take the kids to where the parents won't get bored, a musical where the men watching it won't feel gay because it has action elements, and the kinds of big sets and pyrotechnics that you expect from a large-theater experience in Las Vegas.

But when you really listen to Phantom, it has a complex and fiercely mature story arc: it makes you fear and sympathize with, essentially, a rapist. And reflecting on this I realized that we don't give people that opportunity anymore, to give sympathy at the same time as reprobation. In effect, modernity compels us to align our sympathies with our actions. This acts as an obstacle to introducing nuance into our understanding of political, social and moral scenarios because it removes tensions that are inherent to any system that integrates multiple ideologies.

There are some problems with what I've just written. What is "modernity"? How are we "compelled"? Is it necessary for a system to reflect multiple ideologies? Must such ideologies be in tension?

In this series of posts, I will attempt to provide an answer to those questions to support a thesis that I am still developing. My thesis, currently, is that American political trends undermine American democracy by promoting fundamentalism at all levels. Such fundamentalisms may not be successful in deconstructing hybrid systems, but they promote discontent with the inevitable results of mass decisionmaking, and therefore decrease investment in common goals. Such decreased investment has the result of entrenching mercenary interests at the cost of improvement of results.

Because the ideology which most occupies my thinking is feminism, I use feminism as an example of the different elements of the thesis. However, I will also endeavor to show how race, class, and economic systems are part of the evolving tension between a moral imperative to improve the status quo and political incentives to polarize messages and goals.

Watch, I bet I won't enter another post on this for a month and a half.

fn1: with the possible exception of Jersey Boys, although a) I don't know the numbers on Jersey Boys and b) Jersey Boys is only barely theatrical and its success lies in the fact that its music is not theatrical music, but is classic pop music that tourists are familiar with in teh vein of the Celine Dion and Elton John vegas shows.

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