2.04.2008

I just believe in me, that’s reality (Hubs Guest Post)

Well, finally on this day of days, when the “Beatles” (did they really exist? Were there two or four? Was it all a dream?) song Across the Universe (did they even write it?) is supposedly going to be beamed out into “outer space” (prove there’s such a place), the Truth has been received! Finally, 25% of Brits have come to realise (see I am writing like them now and that means I am one of them; join us join us) that Winston Churchill (who would name a kid after that Bulldog Insurance logo?) and Florence Nightingale (a bird? a plane?) are fictional characters designed to keep us all numb and obedient. We have lived in fear of the so-called Crimean War long enough! Didn’t that Iron Curtain keep you warm? I don’t think too many owed too much to too few, do you? (how Seussian! Or should I say Geiselian?). We have at last seen through the veil of the simulacrum and come to know reality for what it is! Schizo-criticism had us in its clutches too long, and now you fucker Frederic Jameson, you’re gonna pay! Yes, it’s a new day for revisionists everywhere (there’s one in every pot, along with that so-called chicken we were promised; and why does everything taste of chicken? Alien mind traps, that's why!). Soon we will all see what the great doctor has said all along (Doctor Who, that is): it is better not to know what is good or bad, or what is real or false).

Other things once thought of as true:

Cary Grant saying “Judy Judy Judy” (he only said “Judy” or maybe “Judy Judy”, but c’mon; it is preposterous to think he would add the superfluous Judy!)

Humphrey Bogart saying “Play it again, Sam” in “Casablanca”. (in fact, he just said, “you played it for her now play it for me. Play it!”)

Shakespeare writing, “Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well.” In fact he wrote, “You mean I kissed that dead guy!? Yuck!” (The Complete Shakespeare)

It doesn’t surprise me that so many people are getting history wrong. It seems that within the last 40 years, the whole enterprise of history has been to dismantle itself bit by bit. I have taught in my classes how there are myths surrounding George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and it would appear that those lessons have taken root … a bit too strongly. True, Existentialism teaches us that we cannot be certain anything exists, with the exception of oneself (and here I always compliment my students on their imagining such a handsome professor), but what have we lost now in suggesting that nothing is real. Is 25% of the British public being ironic? What makes Churchill so unreal, and Holmes so lifelike? (I neglected to mention that the same 25% believe Holmes and Watson actually existed).
The article that I got this story from is clearly criticising the dumbing down of all Western societies, and it has a point; however, it is all an outgrowth of our dependence on the sound bite and the medium of television, which states outright that if it is on that box, it must be true. One only need recall the Presidential Debates, where George W. Bush denied that he had ever said of Osama bin Laden, “I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.”

John Kerry quoted him nearly verbatim in the debate, and all Bush had to do was say, “There you go with one of your exaggerations.” More than half of my students thought “W” had bested Kerry with that remark; few had stayed around long enough to hear the tapes after the debate that repeated Bush saying those very words.

So kidding aside, it is becoming increasingly problematic determining what is the truth (or what the truths are and what they mean). Politics has become simply about who can say something that sounds true, or as Stephen Colbert puts it, the winner must have “truthiness” – not, indeed, the truth, but the appearance of truth. And in this day and age where we cannot believe in the sincerity of anyone’s motives, for to do so would mean we have always already been duped, who could believe that there was once a leader who was a drunk, who was somewhat common, who made crass remarks about women being ugly, yet who stood tall in the face of an imminent threat (and then collapsed later)? Who could believe that some nurse on the battlefields of a place no one can even locate on a map could have been the impetus for so many humanitarian ideals? (and remember, nurses were supposed to be sluts then, or something barely above actresses).

The title of this entry comes from John Lennon’s song “God”, where he lists off all the things he doesn’t believe in: Elvis, Dylan (in one version he uses Zimmerman, Dylan’s actual surname – see, you can’t trust even your favorite folk singer … or is he rock because he went electric? Is he still Jewish?), Kennedy, kings, Gita, all concluding with his shocking “I don’t believe in Beatles!” He was an idealist, as we all were, and perhaps as very few are allowed to be today, denying the value of so many things that are put upon pedestals. We are repeatedly told heroes don’t exist anymore, and I think the statistic that was published today is the result of our embracing that idea.

Oh, and it is also because our schools suck and our kids are all morons! Go read a book, you stupid kids! You’d think all you had to do was play fucking Playstation!!

6 comments:

gingajoy said...

And as Lisa Simpson said, sometimes we need the myth more than the truth-- myth serves its own purpose.

Also. Winston Churchill? Who he?

And finally. We can also always blame advent of teh internets and wikipedia.

Lindy said...

Damn Frank way to make a girl feel like an idiot- I had to read this twice- and I don't even HAVE a playstation!!

Mary G said...

Having just come from seeing an hour 'docudrama' about Elizabeth I, a show in which Mary appears to die while in labour ('there was never any child' says an amorphous courtier) I was so ready for your post. Love it. Really! I'm Canadian, btw, and so have no history to deconstruct; otherwise I would love to join in.

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