Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Starbucks Blank Face

(continued from Models & The Unconscious)
The most important and urgent problems of the technology of today are no longer the satisfactions of primary needs or of archetypal wishes, but the reparation of the evils and damages by technology of yesterday. - Einstein
- Look at these people. Look at how they look back at us.
- The writer in the corner has some serious competition in the blankest face at Starbucks contest.
- The question I can't get rid of is, what's going on there, behind those looks, the blank expression that precedes and follows the words they say?
- You've already said: calculation of social advantage. But how do you know there is anything?
- When I choose my words I'm sure there's something in my mind previous to speaking, there already, but incomplete. Levi Strauss' anthropology says there is something there. Something that is brought into order when we experience listening to orderly music or hear a myth recited.
- So the blank passive face is in the grip of an idea?
- Yes. If myth is our idea, a relation of society to the individual is expressed. A better myth better expresses a more balanced relation of individual and society, as better music more completely expresses resolution of tonal conflict.
- I know you're going to object there are better and worse relations of the individual to society. So I'll skip ahead and ask, do music and myth express this better and worse?
- Yes, they can, but don't usually.
- Why not?
- Because for the most part they are collectively produced. Popular literature, like myth, like popular music, is a product of individual writers each projecting what would secure the collective better, each adjusts the common forms in that direction. Better and worse relations of individuals to society requires an individual author. It's the difference between Levi-Strauss' interpretation of the Oedipus myth as a balancing of too much attachment to family and too little, and the tragedy by Sophocles in which Oedipus' own mistake causes the crises and imbalance of too much and too little attachment.
- So anthropology says that the social order is the product of explicit rules to be followed, and a general sense of safety that is felt when we are reminded that the rules, all together, keep us all together. Not in a better or worse way, only in the simple meaning of not killing each other. Human sacrifice might make a society stable, but might not make the best society. Or do you mean something else?
- That is what I mean.
- Then anthropology has been enlisted to support our free market economics? While pretending to be morally neutral?
- Well, it's not all bad. If it can help describe what's going on behind those blank Starbucks faces it's done something useful.