Sunday, June 25, 2006

James Lileks' Bleat

This guy can write. Not only is he sensible; not only is he knowledgeable; but he puts it down with such verve that you whiz through it just gathering up 'Yeah!'s as you go. Here he is on an old hobbyhorse of mine, but he rides it so much better.

We’re always held up to the most peculiar standards. Our motives are base, our freedoms illusory or rationed or insufficient. It matters less that a freedom was granted in 1920; what’s truly illustrative of this rotten house is the fact that it wasn’t granted in 1871. As thought the world has always been free, kings died when the first Caesar was stabbed, Papal bulls since 500 AD have boiled down to “oh, whatev” and the entire world was a grand placid Sweden, where civilized people nibbled on crackers and tried to ignore the rude Yank on the lawn firing off his blunderbuss for no particular reason. You can site a hundred stories about French racism all you like, but it won’t matter because they applauded Josephine Baker’s nightclub routines in Paris in the 20s.

But now there’s no hope of absolution. The tipping point is past. Darkness falls. The mask is off. The rough beast slouches. Cliches accumulate. The weight of the past swamps the boat, and faith in the future drowns alongside the ability to take pleasure in the present. “The world’s least free place for making movies is the US.” [Ang Lee] How true, how true.

What’s the Keats line? Half in love with easeful death. It is easier and more satisfying to number yourself among the elect who mutter the funereal rites than stand up on a box and shout dammit, we’re still alive! We enter our fourth century taking for granted freedoms that were unimagined in our first.

...A little faith, that’s all I’m asking. Faith and perspective.
A big ask, that.

(From The Bleat - Friday, June 23)

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