Gemini, GenX or White?
Maybe Jon Stewart is right and thus he and his ilk are irredeemable.
Recently I stomached about 7 minutes of some kind of talk between Andrew Sullivan and Jon Stewart. It was uncomfortably glib. As I clicked on my phone which was suckered onto my windshield and headed to Long Beach for some Korean fried chicken, I suffered through the YouTube clips of Stewart’s flunkies who’ve scoured the miasma to capture several airheads incant “racial reckoning”. Half a mile of lane changes later I’ve decided to take Stewart seriously as his blithe conjecture asserts. What if ‘White’ people are congenitally incapable of listening to black folk’s complaints? So what makes him so different after X hundred years in America, where X = 1950 + length of wry comedians’ careers roughly approximating Jack Parr’s appeal - R. So long as the value of the R, the racism constant = 1619 we know which version of the ‘math’ they are using. For the sake of this argument, let the population of normative ‘White’ people be Jon Stewart’s regular audience minus me and other spontaneous listeners in the Venn space between him and Andrew Sullivan. OK then we’ve got, what? 5 million? 6 million? The numbers are not available from Google, but surely there are some select people who know exactly the extent of his systemically informed audience. By the time I got through the drive-thru and in possession of two sandwiches and a dozen wings, I was sick to death of everything Stewart, his chortling audience and shrill myrmidons could possibly utter.
You have to forgive the fact that as a data engineer I cannot locate the tweet in which Sullivan asked if he and Stewart should attempt to do better. Part of being 30+ years in this IT industry is that you lack the patience for trying to make systems do things that they don’t do well. Twitter is categorically not engineered to be reference worthy after 24 hours. Twitter is designed for attention, like slam dunks, baby giggles, and close-up magic. On the other hand I still adhere to the formula that Facebook is for people you used to know, LinkedIn for people you need to know and Twitter for people you’d like to know. Until I can find some crowd interested in the original point of the development of the www, like Berners-Lee’s Solid project, I’m stuck being tolerant of that which is the interwebz. So I’m frustrated with the shape of this market, rather the way engineers who run recording studios must be with singers who use autotune. We have to put away our serious expensive microphones and listen to recording artists who get 20 takes and cannot read music much less be deeply informed about it.
It’s not that the systems of social media, television or recording studios don’t work. It’s just that we’re broadcasting shit. Is it fair to say we are therefore systemically shitty or that deep down in our souls we have not evolved beyond our Hobbesian selves? Maybe. From where I stand it’s a matter of populism as opposed to one of disciplined principle. Could we imagine for a moment that there are chefs who know when their linguine is al dente without throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks? Alas the Felix Ungers among us are homeless, and there are fraught conversations we are compelled to have. Listen to this conversation and pick some ideological pairings and alternative definitions of linguine, e.g let linguine = justice. For extra credit, let linguine = social justice.
The US Census calls for us to self-identify by racial group. This is because without racial identification all of the social scientists would have to disregard all of their longitudinal data from the bad old days. Remember, it’s all about policy, and we can fix everything with policy, so say the social scientists. Put yourself into the 5 or 6 million of Jon Stewarts nominally ‘White’ audience and there you have a slice of America that is, I suppose, whatever his producers have determined them to be. Maybe they’re Generation Z. Maybe they’re ISTJ. Maybe they’re disproportionately something. Like Tiffany surely has long term value statistics calculated for the disproportionately rich customer base they acquire, retain and covet. Heaven forbid we get disproportionately bad demographics. I mean we do have the answer for which races are disproportionately something, right? The answers are not on the tip of our tongues lest they be chopped out of our heads. We leave those answers in the back rooms with the quants and production assistants and then hack out systemic policies.
Somebody used the lovely construction (from Twitter) “Everybody likes to hear that they’re right, and I’m part of everybody.” So I certainly appreciate everyone who subscribes here and I hope you have the patience with my impatience with Stewart and his young replacement on that other show he used to do. But I’m really tired of being entertained with this useless schlock. Was I ever? Is there something still ticking in me that digs Aeon Flux and Cypress Hill and leather Africa medallions? Stewart’s production assistants dug up quotes from Sister Souljah as ‘the legit black voice’ from ‘the black community’. No. It cannot be. I am not stuck in Spike Lee’s Brooklyn, neither are you ripe to throw a chair through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria. Everything changes and nothing stays the same except those with a hunger to belong and those who have not decided.
Surely it is the hungry and undecided who are motivated to be a part of Stewart’s ‘White’ audience. People who know who they are and are satisfied with their incremental improvement don’t need to reach back X number of years to find an all-encompassing [racial] mirror into which they reflect upon themselves. Those of us comfortable with our complexity and the myriad sources of influence on ourselves from Neil Simon plays to Korean cooking resent being reduced to a color or a community or a demographic. I stand in defiance of such reductions as well as such aggregations of power that will always be irresponsible to our plurality.
So when it comes to ideas and values, I wish to disabuse myself, and you, from the use of these terms. No generations, no races, no ethnicities, no genders, no nationalities, no communities. Posterity, humanity and mankind will suffice. If whatever is to be proposed is not good enough for those entities why are you telling me?
Why indeed is Jon trying to tell me something? Maybe I already know enough. Maybe my program for self-determination and improvement doesn’t require his primer. Primer as in a base coat that prepares the wall for the color to come. We’ll live comfortably within such walls, yes? Not me.
I’m upset today because I think I’ve run out of runway. I’m on my way over to the research library at UCLA because I’ve purchased two books too many on the recommendation of Wikipedia. I want to know something about the Comanche from the perspective of the sort of historian who recognizes something about the universality of human combat, and not someone who needs to chastise and placate audiences. I want to know something about reserve currencies and how crypto might change something as large as exactly whatever Bretton-Woods was from the perspective of the sort of economist who’s not peddling a SPAC or ICO. I feel like I haven’t cultivated enough PhD friends or folks who were ‘up at Oxford’ as I find some of them as the only crowd on Twitter that I find credible these days. They’re not in charge. Maybe I should have been a tree instead of a monkey. Maybe I should have picked a single spot and spent all my time growing implacable and tall instead of trying to cover distances and picking the opposite of low-hanging fruit.
I’m upset because I couldn’t quite figure out what was unnerving me yesterday while my pals were enjoying the UNC-Duke game more than I. It wasn’t only the deaths of five people I knew this past month. It wasn’t only the unproductive week at work. It wasn’t only the frustration of passively playing along with a 1 hour sales pitch of a $2000 mattress. It wasn’t only the pain in my back and missing out on my bike rides that necessitated my presence at Sit & Sleep. It was the combination plus the knowledge that I’m going to keep trying to know these things I try to understand and writing these things I write. Writing is a lonely compulsion.
Finally I recall the genius of the War in Iraq. Yeah I said it. It drew every ideologue who wished to draw the blood of the Great Satan on the battlefield. Surely there was the compelling narrative whose telling and retelling grabbed men by the heartstrings and drew them from their ordinary lives to make extraordinary sacrifices. So they came to fight, not to America but to the proxy battlefield that generated actual death and destruction in the hideously brutal way that modern warfare accomplishes. I have worked at SnapOn in Kenosha and had reason to know the place unlike Ferguson, MO. To this day it is the reason I eat hot dogs and fries with mayonnaise. X years of racialism will eventually compel the racially invested to attend the reckoning. You can pretend racialism is not a dual-use component of both social science and weapons of mass civic dissolution but I think I understand the chemistry. Take my word for it or not, people still want to keep giving power and recognition to racial identity in this country. Everything changes, and so does identity. So the scenarios will always differ, but I think the pretexts for conflict will remain the same. It’s always a clash of civilizations. Us vs Them.
Me, I’m a Gemini. Y’all can do what you like.
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