Monday, January 17, 2005

"Simone Weil": article by Susan Sontag

click picture for Susan Sontag's web site

This article was pretty interesting. It's from the first issue of the New York Review of Books, from 1963, and it's the first thing I've ever read by Susan Sontag. Definitely a little over-intellectual, and I know should expect that from the New York Review of Books, but still, this sentence almost made me vomit:

"In this sense, all truth is superficial; and some (but not all) distortions of the truth, some (but not all) insanity, some (but not all) unhealthiness, some (but not all) denials of life are truth-giving, sanity-producing, health-creating, and life-enhancing."

On the whole, though, I think she made some really good points. Her main point is that society tends to revere writers that have a bit of insanity in their prose ("It is mostly a matter of tone: it is hardly possible to give credence to ideas uttered in the impersonal tones of sanity.") From there she goes on to talk about how no one actually wants to live out the ideas of these writers, it just makes for good reading.

And then this line reminds me of the whole issue about how Bush's campaign rhetoric was basically a fairy tale:

"An idea which is a distortion may have a greater intellectual thrust than the truth; it may better serve the needs of the spirit, which vary."

I think that is a better way to look at how the election played out. Liberal people just want to say that half of the country is stupid, but that is just pointless whining. The truth is that Bush's image and message, however misleading, gave people something they were looking for in their lives. Millions of people have a very visceral love for him, and find his speaking problems endearing, his manner sincere, and his talk about freedom inspiring. To discredit the people who voted for him as merely "stupid" is to imply that it's not even worth investigating their motives. It's far better to say, "These are millions of good, hard-working people who sincerely believed that George Bush would be a better leader for their country. What did he do for them that Kerry didn't? What 'needs of the spirit' did the Bush campaign satisfy that the Kerry campaign didn't?"

good words from the article:
philistine: indifferent or hostile to art and culture
tendentious: biased
exegetical: related to explaining a text

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