Friday, September 21, 2007

Back from the Obama Rally or Pseudo-Intellectualism Abounds

I have now decided that at least one circle of hell should be devoted to pseudo-intellectuals.

I mention this because I wasted six hours of my life by listening to the endless banter of a person who I wished would just.stop.talking. Six hours wasted listening to a pastiche of pithy sayings, urban legends, and cliche: little more than a caricature of liberal thought and academic discourse. Six hours spent in the company of Paris Hilton disguised as an activist. All the precepts one holds dear mangled and reduced to the lowest common denominator. All the time wishing for something, anything, intelligent to spring from her lips.

Perhaps some of you remember Shelly Duvall's character in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall. A rock n' roll columnist, she unknowingly pronounces the word "transcendent" as "transplendant" and finds a deep meaning inside a seemingly prosaic lyric from a Bob Dylan song. Imagine being privy to someone who thinks that the lyrics to the Don McClean song "American Pie" are profound and then you'll understand my pain.

I have always found it most upsetting that "liberal" is the default setting for youth, because that ushers in all sorts of bandwagon jumpers in it strictly for rebellion and for defying the status quo. This was especially true at the Obama rally in Atlanta on Thursday night. Although Barack has a sort of rock star presence and has attracted big crowds just on his own merits alone, I wonder how many people out of the 2000 gathered at the Meeting Hall came to ogle the musician Usher instead.

I hold no sympathy for the irony-deficient. I hold no sympathy for those who think they are much more intelligent than they are in reality. These sorts of people are usually their own downfall--too blinded by their own blind faith in their lackluster abilities to ever see it coming. They are often too trusting of important-sounding slogans and sound-bytes. Perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to judge, but it frustrates me when I come across those who are politically active for all the wrong reasons. They want to thump their chests and proclaim to the heavens just how trendily progressive they are. They come across as dilettantes and posers, about as deep as the shallow end of a pool.

That's what I suppose I find the most upsetting. Liberalism reduced to a brand name. Liberalism as a fashion statement. Shopping at Whole Foods in the same manner in which one shops at department stores. Having no conception of the depths of any subject, but able to repeat verbatim a memorized, prepackaged soliloquy on the virtues of all things organic. Well versed in the evils of capitalism, but just as much a slave to it as the people they criticize.

What concerns me about Obama's campaign, thus far, is that from what I could see, it's is comprised of a heterogenous mixture of true believers, wingnuts, and dabblers. H.L. Mencken said famously that he had rarely met a true believer worth knowing. It is downright trendy to be an Obama supporter these days, but it doesn't surprise me now that he's second in the polls. Rather than attracting the base, he has thus far attracted the fringes. He's cool, sure, but he's also not attracting followers of much substance other than starry-eyed optimists and the star-struck.

This will have to change if he holds any chance of catching Hillary.


Fran said...

What a post!

For the record- I am not an Obama supporter. And I am not a Hillary supporter. If either of them got nominated, yes they get my vote, but that is it.

So how interesting hearing your take on this. I am avoiding saying that what - well I guess I am not avoiding it after all... What I liked was your take because of your age. (God I hated saying that.)

But that is what is interesting - because clearly you are not there to meet Usher. I loved your analogy to "brand" - especially the use of Whole Foods.

The people of my generation have created this monster.

Depth is a lost art. Intellectual thought- real intellectual thought and not the pseudo version is a rarity. Forget critical thinking skills... that would require intellect that, while it may even be present, is an unflexed muscle.

Critical thinking would mean understanding things and really taking a stand. And then that entails all sorts of other details and efforts.

Isn't it easier to shop at Whole Foods and support Obama?

Sadly- that is what many think.

Anonymous said...

I like Obama, but I'm not a supporter either. I don't think he has enough experience, and he recycles too much of the DLC rhetoric.