Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No Free Passes

I (too) often complain in this blog about the tendency by many to place individuals on pedestals, and grant them groundless coolness cachets on the basis of gender, ethnicity, past accomplishments in social realms, or general reputations of being past ascended masters. We have a chance to invent ourselves anew each day, and should strive to work for kindness, integrity, and worthiness in our daily interactions with other people. Snaring a free bathroom trip from the hall monitor tends to make the anointed lazy.

Now granted, this can get pretty difficult in figuring out how to weigh the integrity of artistic vision. I might grant that a misogynist wife-beater can crank out good prose, maybe that a transcendent vision even requires a but of antisocial behavior, but I'll be damned if Ezra Pound will ever make my pantheon of poets after all his years as a Nazi sympathizer. The personal is political, and personal faults do hamper integrity of (artistic/cultural/political) vision. Why is this so hard for some camp-followers to accept?

This came to mind in early June because of all the attempts I saw by some team players to excuse the inexcusable. Examples:

* Thankfully, few feminists today are ready to say that a woman winning a political race represents a victory merely because of her sex. It was good to see two former high-tech CEOs enter California congressional races, and I would have no problem seeing either Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina be declared Republicans with a message of fiscal responsibility. Where I have a problem is watching both women pander to the tea-party irrational conservative movement. Whitman was bad enough, spending her way to certain victory and making unsupportable statements on tax policies. But Fiorina has left the sane world behind, rejecting the reality of global warming and trying to sound like Glenn Beck's best friend. Is it any wonder some Hewlett-Packard board members wanted to remove someone this disturbed from HP management?

* Barack Obama has taken hits for everything from civil liberties to the BP oil spill, but few have noticed how much his recent actions with drones and Special Operations expansion, negate most of what he has said about zero nuclear weapons and a new National Security Strategy. Granted, his views on preventive war are not as extreme as Dick Cheney's, but as Ivan Eland pointed out at, what you say in public is not nearly as important as actions on the ground.

* I know I bore you all with my tirades as a confirmed Apple hater, but I tried to give design expertise its due when I got an iPhone as a birthday gift in late May. As I posted in Smartbook Blog, I loved the phone and its apps, but did not love my experience after the digitizer glass smashed only one week into ownership. I could forgive this not being covered under warranty, but I could not forgive the cult-like experience of entering an Apple Store, or the staff's refusal to admit that you can buy digitizers in the after-market. Apple simply is not a company that treats its customers (or partners) fairly.

So let's go through the ground rules one more time - be you a woman, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, disabled, LGBT, a politically-correct do-gooder or an artist with decades-long reputation, you are not entitled to a coolness quotient on the basis of identity or past actions. You must win the respect of your admirers anew every day, and those participating in bad behavior should be reported to the principal.


Ruth said...

Yes. We need to step out of boxes.

And who knows, maybe Ezra Pound repented on his death bed.

Loring Wirbel said...

Ruth, I've never heard of any Ezra confessionals, but even if he did, it would be sort of like the medieval kings who found Jesus in their last ten breaths. Maybe it would fit some priests' views of repentance, but the whole thing would seem a bit fake...