Friday, 17 November 2017

Conservative Consolation


Another class, a week after being told about unconscious learning and training, tried it on the professor. Every time he moved toward the right side of the lecture hall, they paid rapt attention and roared at his jokes. It is reported that they were almost able to train him right out the door, he remaining unaware of anything unusual.
(from Origins.. by Julian Jaynes)
This is just the sort of thing worked by the label ‘conservative’. Move towards that corner and no one laughs at your jokes, your remarks are viewed as dangerous reaction and in general a spiritual halitosis sets in. Move in the direction of the liberal corner and the most trite observation is deemed deep and wise. Is it a consolation to remember that most of the greatest writers and thinkers have been conservative? I find it so.


3 comments:

John Doyle said...

Conservative as in "Not having any interest in politics in a systematic doctrinaire way is a conservative stance"? Or conservative as in adhering to traditional values and standards? Or conservative as in disregarding popular opinion about what constitutes excellence?

At the end of the most recent post on the new Ficticities website, which I see you've discovered, I wrote:

"The criteria by which fictions are judged are themselves fictional, derived from invention and reified by convention. Is it necessary to renounce contemporary genre and middlebrow commercial standards only to champion a nostalgic return to a fantasized golden age of elitist literary artistry? Or are the fictions generated in the post-capitalistic precarity to be judged by unprecedented standards of value?"

I suppose this is the remark of an extremist who cheers when the professor moves either far stage left or far stage right -- I would thou wert cold or hot, so then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

ombhurbhuva said...

John:
"'How knowest thou,' may the distressed Novel-wright exclaim, 'that I, here where I sit, am the Foolishest of existing mortals; that this my Long-ear of a fictitious Biography shall not find one and the other, into whose still longer ears it may be the means, under Providence, of instilling somewhat?' We answer, 'None knows, none can certainly know: therefore, write on, worthy Brother, even as thou canst, even as it is given thee.'" (Thomas Carlyle)

Tradition is most important for excellence. We feel there is something with which we are intimately connected that has a quality that we can measure our own productions by. It is there, it is attainable. The old publishing paradigm is defunct. What may come will after it has arrived seem obvious. Best Wishes,
Michael

John Doyle said...

Yes, it's always possible retrospectively to trace a trajectory by which what may come is continuous with what came before, preserving thereby the continuity of tradition. Someone has to to keep using the cutthroat razor just to remind us where the 12-blade disposables came from.

I'd never read anything by Carlyle, so I selected as my first foray his notorious "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question." Very funny, wonderful writing. I realized however that I couldn't distinguish the satirical from the sincere, that in fact the entirety of the discourse struck me as parodic. Maybe my response is a correlate of the "what may come will seem obvious" hypothesis: what did not come seems in retrospect preposterous.