Thursday, November 22, 2012

Zeitgeist Surfboarding

The Germans have a word for it, and it's not surprising that it sounds as profound as can be: Zeitgeist, which literally means "spirit of the times." It refers to the intellectual climate, the sum total of ideas, including prejudices, that influence individuals' thoughts in the era in question.

Politics and academe have several things in common: both areas are inhabited by individuals who are extraordinary bloviators, who dress outlandishly, who wish to shape opinions, and who have the remarkable gift for making minor ideas sound like profound insights. (Like J-P Sartre). 
But, hey, it's all in the packaging! These are merely like the people who can put so-so or even crappy beer or perfume in cute, eye-catching containers and make those bottles sell!

I use the term Zeitgeist surfboarding to refer to the immediate tendency of people who want to be opinion-shapers to latch on to an idea, present themselves as one of its important proponents, and ride this developing wave for their own advantage. Part of the problem is that we put a premium on innovativeness: if it's new, it must be good. Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

This somewhat like my putting on a brief sequined cheerleader costume, strutting to music while twirling a baton, and positioning myself in front of a parade -- "Gee, Angel really looks swell leading the band and parade! She must be -- ta da! -- a leader!"  People do the equivalent all the time.  And most cannot separate the trend surfers from the real innovators.

In short, this Zeitgeist surfboarding is the act of trying to look current and fashionable as a career move, even to the extent of using the language of administrationspeak or mellowspeak. "Let's see now, we should deal with the formidable challenges imposed by events through empowering all shareholders in a multiparadigmatic and multidisciplinary approach that will allow us to embrace change."

Remember the parachute pants? Or the Jellies? Maybe not. That's the nature of fashion: here today, gone tomorrow. Or that can be hair today, gone tomorrow.  Maybe there's hope that we'll see the last of the mullet?

Here's a few ideas that are bruited about by the Butthole Surfboarders . . . . . oops, that's a former minor band.*  I mean the Zeitgeist Surfboarders.

1. Cultural relativism. Yeah, we should be sensitive to cultural differences, and not be disposed to judge other cultures harshly in light of our own values. But, does that mean that we also have to buy the whole package of uncritical cultural acceptance, such as female genital surgery, polygamy, infant abandonment, or even soccer hooliganism? 

2. Postmodernism. Truth is made rather than found. But these postmodernist puppies are either woefully unskilled at making truth or looking for truth in all the wrong places! Yes, all political and social discourses are saturated with cultural and ideological biases that seek legitimacy and have an equal right to it. Yes, and maybe the Boob Fairy will visit me sometime. So, let's celebrate our differences even though some ideas are generated by the likes of Suzanne Somers, Rush Limbaugh, or L. Ron Hubbard; not to mention that distinctively unpleasant minister from the Westover Baptist Church!.

Celebrate! Celebrate!. Dance to the muuuusic!
-- K. C. and the Sunshine Band

3.  Feminist criticism. "It's all the men's fault that things are the way they are and we womyn can do it better!" Look at how proficient we are in conducting our lives!

4. Criticisms of science.  Scientific reasoning is based on a Western view of the world and is stridently left-brained in its preference for logic and cause-and-effect. But there are alternative paradigms, and some argue that we should think of these as well. For examples, think holistically, go in for homeopathy, crystal-gazing, aromatherapy and feng shui. Oh well, at least with aromatherapy I can mask possible athletic or canine odors.

5. Big Band music. This was okay for gramp's time, and I will admit that some numbers are catchy, but much of it is really tedious.

6. Wearing ribbons to promote various causes. Okay, you can wear a pink ribbon to indicate support of breast cancer research, or a yellow ribbon for our troops, but there's a proliferations of ribbon-wearing and no seeming clarity as to what they signify. It's possible to wear a ribbon from a box of chocolates and no one inquired as to why she feels so strongly about Godiva's!  It's an opportunity to appear to be so sincere while being their usual shallow self.  Or maybe they were just being polite regarding a lapse in taste?

7. Signing petitions just to be signing. There was a girl's school in New Jersey that got an incredible shaming a few years ago because many of its students signed a petition to "end women's suffrage," not knowing what the word "suffrage" meant?   People really need to think more and react less.   And maybe enlarge their vocabularies.  By the way, I am for women's suffrage or women holding public office because I really believe that women can equally royally screw things up as men seem to do so effortlessly.

8. Special mention should be made for the lemmings who signed any of the secession petitions on "We the People."  W.T.F., Alfie?  Why did you sign a petition for Vermont or Mississippi to secede when you live in California or Florida?  You need a hobby.  Or a sex life.  Or read a good book, for a change. 

*For true. 

Happy thanksgiving, Everyone!


Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

A nice long one for the holiday. Trendy people can seem so clownish at times. Oh well, I hope your Turkey Day goes great, Angel.

(not a stripper name, unfortunately).

Mike said...

Bilbo likes the word bloviator but not the people it describes.

TexWisGirl said...

the best comment i read on one of those petition sites was 'i petition to stop the petitions.' :)

thanks for finding my spot and leaving a comment. really appreciate it. happy thanksgiving to you - and happy leading whatever parade you like! :)

John said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Angel.

Clarissa said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Angelique!

Bilbo said...

Good luck with the Boob Fairy, and happy Thanksgiving!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I hope you all had excellent Thanksgivings too!


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