11 July 2006

Eulogy for a blog name

Piri' Miri Muli' is the standard Raramuri “good morning” greeting, which translates as “what did you dream last night?” They have a lot of time to think in relative isolation in those canyons with no TV or blogs. With all the grad students in anthropology, linguistics, literature, etc., I’m struck by how the many Amerindian languages continue to be untranslated. I think we need more grad students.

All About Your Caste punned on Wyndham Lewis’ statement “Yourself is your caste” in the Code of the Herdsman, which was written during the late stages of a long literary silence that was followed by a long prolific period. In that way the logical self=caste creates a semantic “It’s about me,” or more accurately, “it’s about you (the reader),” not the essentialized reader, but the actual individual reader that reads, since groups don’t read despite the ongoing and persistent efforts of many to exploit that potentiality. The expectation often is that one’s awareness of ‘reader’ is determined by awareness of ‘self.’

As my blog has functioned as an anti-block exercise the potential for misunderstanding that “All About Your Caste” presents has been welcome, since the potential for misunderstanding is a component of blockage. It is no accident that the capacity of the PBMI (potential of being misunderstood as insensitive) block is acted on directly by the Flarf aesthetic, where statements deemed unacceptable by editorial standards become the source of inspiration.

Caste as a political phenomenon today gets addressed infrequently in political discussion except by the Durban Conference and C.A. Conrad. It is against literary fashion to (1) address class and (2) to disagree with the American notion of a meritocracy. As for the latter, I don’t -- America is distinguished from Europe and India by the lack of rigidity in class structure.

It is precisely this difference that often inhibits socialist organization in America -- the social psychology descended from aristocracy in Europe creates a heightened sense that the working classes are stuck in their position and must organize themselves accordingly. American political dominance in an era its academics call “post-colonial” derives itself partially from the same academies attracting ambitious and talented students from around the world who are confident that they will get at least more of a chance to be affluent and respected here than elsewhere.

This phenomenon intertwines the literary theme of socialist emancipation with the theme of fate, which is intertwined with the echoes of religious order. It is the belief in fate in Hindu religion that cements the caste psychology. The mythology of the War on Terror existing astride the Huntingtyama propagandists' view of Islam is that of a conflict between an agnostic view of fate and a sectarian one.

Steinbeck could be accused by Lewis’ same “Code” document of “mistreating his intelligence with parables” regarding fate, at the height of a socialist aesthetic. I am inclined to believe that the novelistic exploration of fate has declined since the buoyant irony of Cervantes and Lermontov, with the overly programmatic treatments of the subject by Tolstoy in War and Peace and Sartre in the Roads of Freedom trilogy being the byproducts of the cult of literary criticism and ‘the masterpiece.’

Looking at modernity-post-modernity through the prism of fate, Surrealism dealt with fate in a way that can‘t be summarized, but extending out Rimbaud‘s ‘change life,’ followed by Existentialism that dealt with fate at the level of action, deconstructionism that dealt with fate at the level of consciousness, and Langpo that dealt with fate at the level of the surface of the work.

Both the Hindu religion and Amerindian traditions are more advanced with regard to fate and its determination on consciousness than deconstructionism, structuralism (despite Lévi-Strauss' interventions) and its related discourses because of the necessary abandonment of method, scientific or other, and the thousands of years of evolution that those ‘mythologies’ have undergone.

Lyn Hejinian’s Langpo-post-langpo riff on Diderot -- “The Fatalist” is treated comprehensively in a new batch of essays on Andy Gricevich’s blog.. The good folks at the bookselling site tell me my copy is somewhere between Philly and here.
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Anthropologists love fertility rites; I had perhaps conveniently forgotten this aspect of the recently deceased blog name until I had a few hours to bestow on it the anthropological gaze.

Bourdieu noted in ‘Distinction’ how caste psychology increased fertility, citing a 1971 study that workers with a less than 4.3% chance of access to the ‘dominant class’ have the highest birthrate (2.1 avg. children for a skilled worker to 3 for an unskilled farm worker), followed only by those with a more than 35% chance of access to the dominant class. Bourdieu:

“As soon as the chances of access to the dominant class (or, which amounts to the same thing, to the instruments which can provide it, such as the higher-education system) reach a certain threshold, among foremen and office workers, fertility rates fall markedly…. In the middle classes, where chances of mobility are comparatively greater, fertility remains at a minimum; in the dominant class, the fertility rate rises strongly again, showing that biological reproduction does not fulfill the same function in the system of reproduction strategies of these categories, who only have to maintain their position.” (332-3)

So the name All About Your Caste was a fertility charm, and who can use such a thing more than the blogging subculture?

4 comments:

david raphael israel said...

Wowz: good stuff, Ian.
As you began to unwind the fate thread, I was getting ready to remark to you (and/or note to Andy G.) the coincidence of his launch into consideration of The Fatalist; but . . .

Meanwhile (to the hoary gesticulation of socalled shameless self-promotion; or more modestly-self-conceived as an incidental and tengential aside):
I've most lately writ&blogged an (for me) ambitious narrative poem "fable" playing (among else) with some questions of time, fate, the so-called eternal recurrence, immortality (as mystically conceived; not really a question of egolife-extension), and kindred quaint themes, said 64-quatrain curiousity bearing the name An Inland Journey.

I like your mention of Amerindian and Hindu views of fate in one breath. I feel more acquainted (at least in certain respects) with the former; but the degree to which a core of fate-germane ideas insinuate themselves into all folktale-rife cultures, seems an interesting question. And anybody who's read or heard any of those tales (the Amerindian ones) cannot fail to sense something interesting afoot vis-a-vis the patterns and textures of story: which are deeply tied to what we else (wearing often another hat) call fate, yes?

basta [Italian] / bas [Hindi] /
pasta [Italian via Marco Polo],
d.i.

andy gricevich said...

Thanks for the "shout out," Ian.
Quite an explosion of posts here in the last few days. I'll miss the old title, though we must move on...

Lotta stuff to think about, ask about (what "fate" means in all these contexts, etc.), chuckle at... hope I have time to do more than the last soon.

cheers,

Andy

Ian Keenan said...

DRI: I have enjoyed my first go-round with your verses, especially as I don’t quite get the XYZs. I take that as a sort of “The world is all that is the case” semantic completion, that the alphabet has come to an end and the poem must be an ‘incomplete set’ with voids within its closure. That sounds better than ‘Rameau’s fly is down.’

Andy: Yes we’ll all miss All About Your Caste, or at least show up for the free food at the funeral reception.

david raphael israel said...

Ah, well the XYZs serve somewhat various uses in different poems and stanzas of that sequence ("Vishnu's Watusi"); -- though my note above sought actually to point to a subsequent poem-cycle ("An Inland Journey"), but no matter . . . beyond noting the latter is a more conventional narrative (though with complicating interfusions of timeframes in some later parts, among else).
But (as I remark somewhere), my basic sense of the XYZ reiterative end-phrase -- as style and function -- owes something to readings in ghazal poetry (where a repeating refrain at couplet-end is a strict requirement of the form). On one level, this was merely a silly solution to an alphabetic problem (viz., relative dearth of X, Y, and Z-starting words in English -- I had a hard enough time with Vs and Ws and even Ks). I kept to it, as it seemed (to me) to hold maybe a tad more than jejune or sheer obfuscatory or pseudo-dada utility. Although one may overestimate one's scribbles at times.

cheers,
d.i.