When I started promulgating this notion of The Interregnum–”The old is dying and the new cannot be born;in this interregnum morbid symptoms abound”(Gramsci)–two years ago, I had no idea how morbid the symptoms would get.
The last week has been as depressing culturally and politically as any in my recent memory. On the political front, the whole Washington edifice seems so terminally broken that I can neither summon the energy to believe that passing this health care legislation which will force every American to pay 15% of their earnings to a private health insurer is worth the kind of energy I and my friends brought to the 2008 election campaign. Nor can I summon the vitriol to denounce the charlatans like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck–the Private Jet Populists–the new Lonesome Rhodes from A Face in the Crowd–for their cynical manipulation of the paranoid conspiracy theorists that we call Teabaggers. The whole scene seems like some ancient Roman tragedy where King Pyrrhus upon defeating the Romans at such cost to his own followers turns to his general and says, “Another such victory and I am undone.”
And then I venture out in to the culture– the Hollywood Oscar parties–the reality TV–the Facebook posts–the TMZ front page–and I think that so little of it passes the “who cares” test. I met Guy Trebay a couple of years ago when we did a conference called Ready to Share. He writes about fashion with the acid vision of a 21st Century Trollope. This rung true.
And that was when someone else mentioned that fame is so cheap these days, that paparazzi fodder is so interchangeable, that celebrities are so dime-a-dozen, that often one has no idea whom the photographers are making a fuss about.
Perhaps, this person added, someone ought to invent celebrity Shazam, a fame app based on the music identification service available on cellphones.
That way, in a landscape prophesied with cold accuracy by Andy Warhol, one could point a camera phone at a given person and immediately learn which minor Italian soccer player or which trophy wife of which French intellectual or which former actor on a Jerry Bruckheimer crime-scene juggernaut one was gawping at.
It all seems so fucking inconsequential. Here we are stuck in two wars where our boys and girls, as young as the kids I teach at USC, are dying every day and it is as if they aren’t even real. What if the 26 year old coke sniffing Wall Street trader was in danger of being drafted? Would he then pay a bit more attention? A filmmaker like Paul Greengrass in Green Zone, puts evidence of the most treacherous deceptions by your government before you in the most wonderful style and panache and you ignore him. Continue reading