the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes: on anomic and anemic public culture

Posted by rigorousm on December 28, 2010

77 – “Sensual vitality is essential to the struggle for life. Many people drink as if filling themselves with dirt or starch: the filling of an emptiness. But what comes after is a greater emptiness…. drinking has been romanticized as part of the “poetic fate,” the “despondency and madness” of the poet– as if bricklayers, surgeons, housewives, miners, generals, salesmen haven’t also poured down liquids to fiure up or numb interior spaces of dread.”

78 – “When a vast, stifling denial in the public realm is felt by every individual yet there is no language, no depiction, of what is being denied, it becomes for each his or her own anxious predicament, a daily struggle to act “as if” everything were normal. Alcohol, drugs offer a reprieve– not a ceremony or celebration, but a substitute for vital bonds of community and friendship, for collective memory and responsibility. When there is no public face of interdependence, of justice and mercy, where there is no social language for “picking up the pieces when we don’t know what/where they are,” anomie and amnesia, alcohol and drug abuse can work as social controls and, because they appear “normal,” can be more effective– in a very large country– than terrorization by a secret police.”

79 – “The loss can be a leak in history or a shrinking in the vitality of everyday life. Fewer and fewer people in this country entertain each other with verbal games, recitations, charades, singing, playing on instruments, doing anything as amateurs– people who are good at something because they enjoy it. To be good at talk, not pompously eloquent or didactic, but having a vivid tongue, savoring turns of phrase– to sing on key and know many songs by heart– to play fiddle, banjo, mandolin, flute, accordion, harmonica– to write long letters– to draw pictures or whittle wood with some amount of skill– to do moderately and pleasingly well, in short, a variety of things without solemn investment or disabling awe– these were common talents till recently…. People used their human equipment– memory, image making, narrative, voice, hand, eye– unself-consciously, to engage with other people, and not as specialists or “artistes.””

— Adrienne Rich, What is found there: notebooks on poetry and politics, A Leak in History”


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