Systems theory, semiotics, and deconstructing post-modernist bull: a rambling exposition on the misapplication of seminal academic theory as interpreted by Baby Boomers.
I really planned to write about birth, sex and death this morning, but demography just isn’t doing it for me today. Eventually I will write about cohorts, and complete that first paragraph that is hanging out pretending to be article 2. But for now let’s get surreal. It’s a Gigery day.
Anyway, putting this site together in the last few days has made me reopen files of neat stuff I’d put away, bookmarked, and referenced for this site if it ever came together. The stuff runs the gamet from mainstream to perverse, from stuff labeled to include, want to include, to probably shouldn’t include (the best stuff is in that last file). So, for a total mind warp, I’m digging through Dead Kennedy files (Jello Biafra’s birthday is in a couple days you know…)
and my kid asks me about the arbitrary nature of language, “Mom, what if the first people who gave words meaning a really long time ago chose totally different words instead of what they did choose? I mean like flower could mean screwdriver.” (I am NOT making this up!) And all this before I’d even had a cuppa coffee. Then within an hour I find myself having to explain to her what a mosh pit is. I pop open my email to find a randy semi-erotic electronic discourse flying between some old high school buddies and I get sucked in. I knew at that point that it would be a sort of a surreal day, filled with juxtapositions of an interesting sort, so I uttered, “why fight it?” I’m going with the flow.
Now hang on, all of this IS related. Today I’m expounding on some of the meta-thematic elements of Late Boomer psychic formation and what it means to the world. (So there!) It was fed by combining thoughts about jello biafra, Giger, reading Interzones, the Walker Art Center, group cyber fliration, and conversations about the arbitrary nature of language with a kid that isn’t even in junior high yet, and all of synchronic coalescing occurs within the space of an hour – made me realize that I live in the FUTURE. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. We are here. This is THE future. It’s starting as we speak. Everyone is pretending like they know what is going on, and no one has a clue!
As I was surfing through hip sites filled with vulgar cynicism, flash-y graphics, dark colors, lots of two dimensional metallic shine and/or minimalist influence, I realized that all the seminal, thought-provoking post-modernist theory of the 80s has come home to roost in mainstream culture. People have accepted the concept that we all create our own realities. They’ve accepted the concept of disorder. Well now it is nice to know that we all create our own realities and in fact are damn lucky if bits and pieces of them even overlap enough with anyone else’s to be able to communicate. But in my personal way of knowing, I’ve found that most people simply cannot hold the type of suspended disbelief about their own reality in their heads for the lengthy time period that is required to speak in a somewhat intelligent and cogent fashion about the construction materials of reality. And most people can’t figure out the difference between seminal and semen-spewing philosophical constructs (I mean really, what person in their right mind actually wants to spend years and years studying and using words like indexicality and Umwelt?) so people who haven’t been trained in the minutiea of philosophy and science are referencing really bad stuff as well as really good stuff.
So what does this mean to you? Run way – do not walk away – as fast as you can, at the slightest hint that someone has internalized deconstructive uber-semiotics. (ooh… see how easy it is to slip into meta-vacuous talk) about post-modernist deconstruction of anything! This is the semiotic stuff I was attempting to decipher in the early-mid 80s. Laurie Anderson did a pretty good job with Let X = X“. But now everyone seems to think that dismembering pop culture while metaphoric life blood spills all over the place is child’s play. And maybe it is, but it is fairly Chucky-esque child’s play, if I do say so myself. All you get is disconnected lifeless bits of flesh. Reality is a process not a thing. Were we listening in college when those academics were telling us that whole is much greater than the sum of it’s parts, the map is not the territory, and information is any difference that makes a difference?
Anyway… back at the ranch… there is a reason they keep people with academic tendencies gathered together in institutions — number one… it is easier to kill them all when the revolution happens, and — number two… it’s a relatively safe environment where they are unlikely to hurt themselves or others and — three eventually they might figure out how it works and you want to keep track of them so the appropriate feudal lord/corporation can fund them and keep all the information about how it is going to be to themselves.
Most people don’t have the breadth of experience to understand what the hell is happening. Late Boomers do. Let me posit a suggestion. We are living at the fulcrum of a Kuhnian revolution. And listen up my fellow cohort members, “We are the ones who will determine the point at which we “tilt” into that Brave New World. A few people to the left or a few people to the right and we can swing the trajectory of the next millenium by a few degrees this way or that. Then take that tiny nudge and amplify it over a thousand years and that is whole lot of change, folks. I suggest we pay attention to what we are doing.
This role is one we are used to playing. We’ve been poised on one fulcrum or another all our lives. We were born in the old world, but we will die in the new one. Sure our grandparents talked about how much stuff had changed during their lifetimes… “saw horse and buggies change into airplanes before my very eyes… blah, blah, blah.” But… and here’s the big point of this whole rant (it must be a rant cause I’m too old to go to a rave) the stuff was all that was changing although the rate of change certainly suggested that a qualitative change might ensue. But how we think (that’s a paradigm in case you didn’t know) is changing as I write. A whole new level of organization to the network is emerging (Hmmm… emergent properties. I always thought that sounded nasty.) While we are inside the system we can’t really get the proper perspective on the process to figure out what is happening, so it is pointless to speculate as to what is really going on, but hey, that’s what people do.
In my more paranoid moments (really folks, the tin foil does help keep out the theta mind control rays), I suspect that one of the reasons we Late Boomers don’t have more recognition is that “the powers that be” figured out what was on the horizon and tried to diffuse the time bomb – that is the peak of baby boom and beyond – after they saw how much trouble our older brother and sister boomers got into. So we were reared with the “if we ignore them maybe they will go away” tactics of a frightened tourist in a unfamiliar neighborhood. So I suggest we fulfill our systemic destiny (how’s this for balloon head, Me Generation thinking?) and nudge the puzzle pieces around to our liking… don’t get caught up in analysis. It is just a distraction! We need to act but act in an organized, aware fashion.
If you can follow all this you have my sincere sympathy and you should probably rush out to the local watering hole and slow the rate of synaptic firing down a bit… But anyway, the change is happening. It’s happening in the how and not the same old “the more things change the more they’ll stay the same” what type of change. Information is connecting in new ways and that is what drives real change. We second wave boomers have been riding the crest of the boomer wave all our lives, but it is only now that we are beginning to understand that the wave is tsumani in scale and future culture will reside where our surf boards come to rest.
Okay… the next article will be about generations and cohorts and what the US 2000 census says about us. Yawn. One can’t expect to have the guide to have the ultimate answer to everything delivered to your doorstep every day, you know.
Enjoy my LEFT-OVERS: Some fun links I couldn’t work in to this article, but are “sort of” related to this article, somehow.