Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shame: The Culturist Film Review

Ironically, the film “Shame” (2011) portrays the shameless life of a sex addict in New York City. Instead of funding this descent into filth, the UK Lottery funds should have bought and distributed copies of James Twitchell’s marvelous book, “For Shame: The Loss of Decency in American Culture,” (1997).

If I am being generous, the film “Shame,” shows the hollowness of modern consumerism. But the laconic lead, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) explores this dynamic with fewer words than Sylvester Stallone in Rambo V. Despite its lack of verbal insight, the film won award after award. One suspects, the critics were only celebrating its relentless portrayals of transgressions.

In contrast, James Twitchell provides thoughtful cultural analysis of the roots of shame. Employing sociobiology, he portrays shame as a near universal feeling with the biological components of blushing, lowering the head, and averting the eyes. The emotion being so visible to others indicates cultural survival value. For example, it used to keep westerners from irresponsible breeding.

Twitchell lays a lot of blame at the feet of television. Competitive pressures cause programmes to show relentless fun with zero consequences (ie; sex without STDs or pregnancy). And ratings rule all. People used to retire from tv when caught in unseemly acts. Now, they get rewarded with a reality show. So, advertisers’ biggest target, youth 18 – 34, have seen no consequences, boundaries, or shame in their young lives.

Consumer culture doesn’t stop at the television, Twitchell tells us. To attract audiences, Churches speak less and less of hell and more often sing of heaven accompanied by rock bands. Educational philosophy now forbids shame in the name of “self-esteem.” And males’ traditional parenting role of disciplining has been denigrated in favor of the feminine values of sensitivity and unconditional love.

The film “Shame” provides a perfect example of Twitchell’s contention that our culture now gives too much honor (the opposite of shame) to victims. The most significant line in the film comes when, just prior to her suicide attempt, the sex addict’s sister, (Carey Mulligan), pleads, “We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.” Poor evil, wretched filth; how sorry we should feel for them.

In the end, Twitchell recommends we bring shame back by denouncing and shunning ethical trash. As is the western tendency, his solution has an individualistic tint. Rather, culturists seek systemic reform such as changing school curriculum, rewards and punishments, inculcating cultural pride and honor with culturist border laws, and such. But, at very least, the UK Lottery should stop funding sex films, with no redeeming values, that parents would be ashamed to watch with their families, like “Shame.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Culturist Review - The Great Gatsby

When I say this will be “The Culturist Review” of the Great Gatsby (2013), I should write “The Culturist’s” review. The first person to earn the label “culturist” was Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888). And, he would have quite a lot to say about the recent remake of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book. Thus this review – packed with spoilers as it is – will feature the views of the culturist, Arnold.The-Great-Gatsby-2013-Movie-Poster
Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) searches for something true throughout the film. He thinks he has found it in the form of Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). But, she cannot love him because he is not of the aristocratic “Old Money,” crowd.
Rather, Gatsby he crawled up from poverty. He can only live in their lavish neighborhood and throw ridiculously crass parties because of profits from bootlegging and worse. But this crass display of conspicuous consumption does not impress his betters; Gastby is lowbrow in blood and taste.
Matthew Arnold lived during the peak of the industrial revolution. He recoiled at the proliferation of many Gatsbys equating money and values. And the glamorization of this class, led the middle class to also only worship money, and money only. “Where might cultural leadership come from?” He wondered.
Just prior to Arnold’s day, the aristocratic class – the House of Lords and such – had modeled breeding and morals for the populace. But in Arnolds time, they had assimilated downwards towards shallowness. And, here Arnold’s disillusionment parallels Gatsby’s. Daisy Buchannan chooses class over love. Her husband, with all his “Old Money,” plays polo, cheats on his wife with a gas station girl, and parties just as desperately as Mr. Gatsby’s guests.
Gatsby’s main meditation concerns the past – I think this is why he’s called “Great.” When he ran away from his poverty he made up an aristocratic past. Gatsby met Daisy in a small town before her marriage. When discussing his obsessive love for her, he always couples his love with desires to return to the past. He repeats, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can.”
The Aristocratic class being permanently materialized, Arnold hoped public education would allow the middle class to become the new standard bearers for cultivation. This would come via connection with the past and the best that had been thought and said in history. Without the standards culture provided, the culturist Arnold opined, crassness would simply feed upon itself in a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction.
Ever the culturist, Arnold also argued that the West could find guidance in his new secular, literary reading of the Bible. Religion provides values that compete with money and materialism; rather than wealthy, it tells people to be spiritual.
While killing Gatsby – because he thinks him a sinful murderer – the murderer repeats “God sees everything.” And the eyes of God watch over the poor section of town. God likely appears in the poor area of town as the rich are too full of spectacle to see him. The moral act by Gatsby’s murderer also illustrates Arnold’s hope of values coming via infusing the masses with religion.
Arnold foresaw the emptiness of the lavish hedonism director Baz Luhrmann captures so well. But audiences, ironically, go to this film to enjoy this very hollow spectacle. Thus today’s audiences too partake in the shallowness of modernism; they too worship this very “eye of a needle” behavior that keeps the wealthy out of heaven.
Gatsby cannot go back to the past. The aristocrats that used to provide some connection with the West’s grandeur provide no road map. The film and book hint at his being Jewish, but Gatsby has severed ties with religion. As long as we do not get values from the past, religion, or some other source – as Arnold would tell us – the West will continue to slide into the decadence typified in Gatby’s long self-destructive vacuous hedonistic parties.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Culturists Celebrate an Election Landslide (In India)

The parade celebrating the victory of the culturist Indian BJP political party, started with a bang – literally.  A “bomb” firework about eight feet from me exploded.  As embers went down my shirt they burned my upper right back.  I call the BJP culturist because they hold to a variation of “Hindu Nationalism,” (which I’ll detail in another article). Celebrating this culturist victory in the streets of India was exhilarating. If I have a scar from celebrating the BJP political victory, I’ll wear it proudly.

The “bombs” and 30 foot long, six explosive wide, strings of fireworks, were repeatedly detonated as we wound our way through the small north Indian town of Rishikesh.  This aspect of the parade mimicked the main celebration of the major Hindu holiday “Diwali.”   We also painted each other red to duplicate the main activity of another major Hindu holiday’ “Holi.”   Thus, this combination of fireworks and paints replicated Hinduism’s two main holidays and so reinforced Hindu culture.
We marched to the constant pounding of 3 large Indian drums.  The traditionally-dressed women paraded behind the men as a group.  The genders frequently broke out in dance independently from one another.    And though the genders got jostled as we avoided “bombs” through narrow streets, traditional Hindu gender roles got reenacted via this aspect of our celebration.  Raised in progressive circles, the women celebrating a party dedicated to traditional roles, pleasantly warred with my assumptions.  But women frequently left their homes to dance with the parading women.
Often on the route, the hippie tourists would come out of their hotel rooms to look at the parading crowd and wave.  Between the bombs, drums, colors, and dancing, we made quite the impression.    The left leaning youth support, “the people,” in pseudo-Marxist solidarity.  If they actually knew that this was a local celebration of culturist nationalism, they would have hidden in revulsion.  Just earlier a close leftist friend had warned me that the June National Culturist Conference would contain NAZIs.
Most nations have been and are culturist.  The people support the traditional majority culture’s right to protect, promote, and defend itself.  The era of all indigenous peoples feeling bullied by the Cold War ended decades ago.  Culturist celebrations and identity trump the “globalist” social justice model the left assume “humanist,” “global citizens” desire. India is an overwhelmingly Hindu nation, thus the hippies should have guessed that a political party celebration would be for a culturist Hindu party.
As we wound through the streets, the winning candidates and the crowd stopped at Ashrams (Hindu monasteries).  As Rishikesh is a holy city on the Ganges, my town is packed with them.  At each the ashram head would emerge and exchange blessings with the new political bosses. Hippies, as they see Hindu political figures as holders of ancient wisdom far superior to the West’s, would have found this mix of nationalism and religion counter-intuitive.  But, Yogis must have contributed to my state’s Hindu Nationalists landslide – the BJP takes their culture seriously.
I danced and marched with the BJP for about two hours.  In every part of the town locals came out and waved and exchanged greetings with us.  At one point a child tore down a poster belonging to the opposition party. The elders scolded him. I detected no hostility by the culturist celebrants towards any minority group, Muslim or other. Good feelings and respect appeared to be the order of the day. No NAZIs, my leftist friend would have been shocked to see, appeared.
As a member of the National Culturists, this a culturist victory parade bolstered my spirits. Our political philosophy can lead to electoral victories and incredible parades.  The BJP is one of the two biggest political parties in India.  The National Culturists are not alone.