Friday, April 7, 2023

Politicians, like everyone else, swim in the sea of mass culture. Political movements emerge and ride the wave of mass culture for a while, then sink back into the sea. It is impossible to imagine the New Deal outside a culture that valued people and the idea of society, just as it is impossible to imagine the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-war protests that followed outside the Counterculture of the Sixties and Seventies. The problem with the American political system now is that not only the leaders, but all of the possible pretenders to positions of leadership, to political office, you see, have been vetted by an establishment process that has eliminated the possibility that any anti-establishment, read anti-Wall Street and anti-Corporate, idea will work its way into the political process. The culture of dissent just isn't there to sustain it.
It’s not my intention to create a culture of dissent. I wouldn’t know where to start. My intention is less ambitious and less serious than some. Norman Mailer felt “imprisoned with a perception that will settle for nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time." I just want to raise sensibilities a notch. I freely admit that my intention is highbrow, though I fear I am too lowbrow myself to produce anything of real highbrow value. I will settle for building a little raft by lashing together, in homage to a brilliant scene in the HBO series Rome (2005 - 2007), the bloated bodies of a few old thoughts.
I read John Simon and Pauline Kael before I went to film school. In film school I read Andrew Sarris, Robert Warshow, Claude Levi-Strauss and Hannah Arendt. After film school I read Bazin, Wollen and Tarkovsky. I believe it was Simon who said the difference between critics and reviewers is that critics assume you’ve seen the film.
I could find out if it was John Simon who said that, but I’m determined to resist the urge to “google it." I’ve had too many dinners and friendships ruined by people reaching for their cell phones to resolve a doubt, nail and ambiguity, or dispute a fact. No one vaguely recalls, imagines or speculates in the face of a cell phone and Google. No one makes up a more pleasing reality at dinner anymore.

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