Friday, October 17, 2014

You Crazy, Man!

- You finished your book? Started another one?
- What book?
- I saw you on TV, man. You're that writer guy.
- No I'm not.
- Whatever you say, man.
- You're surprisingly not crazy.
- Hey, you call me crazy. That's not cool.
- You sit all day outside Starbucks talking to yourself.
- I'm like you, man. I'm an artist.
- What art do you practice?
- I panhandle. Some sing, I talk. In Beverly Hills they like politics. I talk politics.
- You don't think people will wonder why a stranger has started a conversation and isn't expecting a response? If you're an orator where's your soapbox?
- I don't have nuthin', man.
- Do you know who you remind me of?
- Who?
- Talyor Swift.
- She a white girl, man. She a singer.
- She does a video ad for Coke with the slogan, "What if life tasted as good as Coke?" She takes a sip of Coke and a kitten appears in her room, she takes another sip, more kittens appear. Coke is making a statement, as ads like to say.
- What's the statement, man?
- "Buy Coke and life will be good". A product that makes a statement comes complete with the kind of life it is to be consumed in. Orwell called this kind of statement making "newspeak".
- Who's Orwell?
- Another writer guy. Newspeak remakes language so as to make thought difficult or impossible. This is accomplished, like in the Coke ad, by determining in advance for each idea named by a word the sentence describing the world it becomes part of, and restricting the use of that word to that sentence: "Drink coke and you'll have a sweet life filled with kittens". Call a law removing political freedom "The Patriot Act", and citizens imagine themselves patriots in their uncritical acceptance of it.
- That's some cool @h!#, man.
- Coke, making a statement, speaks for consumers, leaving the consumers themselves dumb, literally speechless. Choosing which statement to acquire with their consumables appears like freedom, a weird kind of freedom of speech. It is like a game: in chess you can play the role of rook, which has its particular moves, but along with role we take on come the rules of the game we have to follow: for example, one move for each player at each turn.
- Life is a game.
- Absolutely not! That's the problem. We use language to discover, to learn, to create. When we begin a sentence we don't know how we're going to finish it. We make it up as we go along. When we get our statements pre-made from advertisements or from a totalitarian government we're confined to our role and the game's rules. We can change games, we can buy a new product, we can make an infinite number of statements but none of them will ever be creative. We won't create art, we'll live out the possibilities of pre-created art.  Do you know now how you are like the white girl singer?
- No, man. You call me crazy, I call you crazy.
- Your speech making out here is like the Coke sips that create a community of kittens. Your speeches are like the Patriot act that makes us all patriots. They give you a place in life, a fixed place, an artist receiving pay for panhandling, but never does any of your words lead to a new statement, never does your speech open up into a conversation.
- You crazy, man, I talking to you. I gonna go now, make some money. Have a nice day.

Further Reading:
Killer Metaphysics
You Have To Have A Story