Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hi, I'm Lex, and I'm an Enema Addict; or, New Moves

It's amazing how love and happiness can throw off my habitus, my swagger and my wannabe Slint-y, stop/start-y dynamics of irony/earnestness. This week I find myself filled with the kind of happiness I've forever associated with happy people - all sincerity and good cheer, y'know? But nonetheless, yesterday I forged a new path back to my old catholic-leninist cavern. Guess what? I found it bedecked, as always, in my same old, douche-y and definitive swirl of interpallative echoes: Who Do You Think You Are? [henceforth WDYTYA]/How, Then, Shall We Live?/What Is To Be Done?

How the hell are happy people supposed to live? To think? To dress? Who do they think they are, and how do they sleep? What sort of lexicon changes, tonal shifts and assorted other New Moves, accompany this transition into 'Bliss,' 'Innocents Abroad,' and a whole bunch of other Chisel references...

As I tried to tell a roomful of unionists a coupla weekends ago, WDYTYA? is a necessary, generative, and constitutive strategic question for social movements, families and all sorts of other collectives. But WDYTYA? amounts to little more than a moralistic enema kit when we pose it in self-centered terms. As with political philosophies, my self-understanding is at its most insidious when it is subject-centered (i.e., starting from me and my internal monologue, rather than the relays, relations and the reasons for relating from which my monologue and sense of 'me' should ultimately spring.)

It's an insult to love and happiness, receiving these latter two social materials in self-ish terms. These days I feel a sense of intimacy/embededness/security/assuredness I'd given up on years ago, but even that miracle - and even the triumph of 'Two-Beer Lex' over harder-partying days of old - doesn't guarantee a life without hangovers.

Maybe I can't control that part [- hell, maybe all this inward-facing horseshit is part and parcel of the vagaries of catholic school/graduate school/reading too much/thinking too much/ life on the losing side of medium-term political history. - ed] But, to the extent that an ideology of personal responsibility applies [it rarely does! - ed], I should probably accept the fact that most of these behaviors are part and parcel of a life-path I've chosen for myself...Shucks, though, here's my counter-mantra:

I may never totally vanquish these intermittent emo-bursts, but at least I can let them pass without confusing them with referenda on my character (pfft!), or without confusing my character (pfft!) with my life's work.
Doing right by people I love - and doing right by people I don't even know - is probably as close to a worthy undertaking as is to be found, non? It's also an assured ticket out of navel-gazing, moralizing, enamizing,who do I think I am?'-ing.

At some point, any good socialist, and anybody who's ever felt really loved, recognizes that relations of production, and/or relationships-en-generale, are the privileged venues for building a life worth living, an identity worth articulating or, even, a self worth 'finding' (c.f., Teenage Fanclub, 'Your Love is the Place Where I Come From.') I've been writing against the popular-therapeutic concept of 'self' since I was 21 (See the Spring 2001 issue of Southern Anthropologist, par example), and've sought to inoculate my-self with the widest swath of social-psycho-theoretical tinctures on display since long before then. But there still may be no exit, ultimately, from intermittent bouts of self-ishness that, among other things, define a certain strand of post-Old Testament modernity, and reign over these United States with all the self-evidence and goes-without-saying-ness of gun-related deaths and anti-intellectualism.

Either way, blaming my-self further elevates self, soul, essence, and personhood over the solidarity, love, material-being-in-the-world, and public/intimate socialities to which I long ago pledged my oath and faith. That's just dumb. And that's why today is the first day of the second part of the first day of the rest of my life. That's why I'm working out with some New Moves.