It’s Been A While, So I’m Going To Complain

I haven’t been on here in forever because nothing much has been going on, and in any case I’ve been in a terrible mood the past few weeks so I haven’t felt like writing anything. To be perfectly honest, I totally forgot I even had this blog. But S. (yes, the S.) reminded me of it last week and I realised I should recommence to some small degree.

I’ve spent the last few months working and killing time until I die or finally leave for graduate school, whichever comes first. I decided to go to University College London, which is incredibly exciting, for Russian and Eastern European Political Analysis.

As far as my writing goes, I have a large portion of two new novels written, but I have been ornery and unmotivated in general and haven’t touched them in months. I also have a book of fifty poems written, on a very specific and secret topic, and which I am going to edit heavily once I get back the desire to do so.

I’ve spent the past few months since I’ve returned absolutely devouring philosophy, literature, and history. Two movements which have particularly captured my attention are the structuralist movements and the critical theorists, specifically Lacan, Foucault, Adorno, and Žižek. I think what appeals to me so much about them is the fact that they complain non-stop, and that conforms greatly to my inner monologue.

Where I work, my manager plays almost only 80s pop, Bruce Springsteen, and all those terrible songs from the 1960s you hear too often. One of these, Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World, always annoyed me for a few reasons: there’s too much reverb on the voice; it’s obnoxiously naïve; the sounds themselves are heavily out of balance; and again, I just like to complain and I really hate sixties pop music in general for no good reason.

I decided, in the spirit of being a curmudgeon, I would tear the song to shreds line by line. Blame Adorno.

I swear to God I’m a real fun guy when I want to be. But I’m also uptight and kind of miserable in this purgatory we call Delaware.

ANYWAY, here are the lyrics and a link to the song:

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book,
Don’t know much about the french I took
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography,
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra,
Don’t know what a slide rule is for
But I do know that one and one is two,
And if this one could be with you,
What a wonderful world this would be

Now, I don’t claim to be an “A” student,
But I’m tryin’ to be
For maybe by being an “A” student, baby,
I can win your love for me

Don’t know much about history,
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book,
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be

So first off, the general message of the song is, “I’m an idiot but that shouldn’t matter and you should fall in love with me”. The first stanza establishes such a premise. He states that he has forgotten almost everything he learnt in school and that, really, that shouldn’t matter.

~DISCLAIMER~ Obviously, not everyone is academically inclined, and that is understandable and even acceptable. But on the other hand, the lyrics are implying that he has wilfully forgotten what he learnt at school or that he never cared about the information in the first place. It is this and not his own capacity by which I am revolted; it is by his conscious and self-righteous ignorance that I am perturbed. Even when he claims that he is attempting to be an A student, it is unclear whether he means at school or in the heart of the object of his affection.

Back to the issue at hand. In terms Adorno would use, we should expect nothing less from the Culture Industry, as it promotes ignorance, complacency, conformity, and distraction above basic intellectual pursuits, as it allows this or that group to control the masses. Hence the song emphasises romance at the cost of intelligence and dependence on another at the cost of introspection. The lines of the chorus If you love me, too,/What a wonderful world this would be underscores the idea that happiness relies on the acceptance of someone else’s admiration and acceptance of you. In Lacanian terms, perhaps we could say the Other, that is, the not-you, against which we instinctively and compulsively compare ourselves in order to achieve self-actuation. Though this be a natural impulse, it is necessarily harmful when one requires romance in order to self-actuate, as it inevitably leads to disappointment. The Other is attributed to the mother, that is, once the child realises he is not the centre of the mother’s world, and that she desires things apart from him, he himself develops his own desires and, as Lacan would argue, we are searching always to become the sole desire of someone else just as we were when we were too young to think otherwise.

Again, he is not recommending that we search for self-actuation in this way. In order to be healthy, one must be able to actuate on his own and rely on no one else for his own identity. So there is a poor moral to this song aside from the one negating the use of schooling, which is the moral that romance is the ultimate aim of someone’s development.

The happiness he seeks is, therefore, entirely dependent upon one person, which is a further problem. There is nothing else that motivates him to enjoy life? There is nothing else that piques his interest? He has no drive aside from that which requires him to be lived through her, and seemingly no aspirations aside from that.

I think I’ve said enough now and I want to defend myself for a second.  Theodor Adorno, in spite of his importance, would probably have been the absolute worst person to invite to a party. He was pretty much a jackass who hated everything and could not enjoy any music aside from Bach and Beethoven, and could not stand any contemporary culture. He honestly sounds like he was no fun, and he even hated jazz, which most people look to today as the most popular form of authentic, expressive music.

I am in no way trying to be that pissy. I honestly enjoy letting loose at clubs and EDM even though I think that, on the face of it, EDM is probably some of the most mindless music ever. But it’s fun, which is what people like Adorno miss entirely. He would argue back saying that fun is something else that is terrible for you because blah blah blah but this was a guy who could not lighten up. I only criticise this song because I’m sick of hearing it every day and I think it has a few questionable lessons that appear from it. Trust me, I’m a fun guy who just does this bitchy stuff for fun, half-ironically.

Thank you for reading, and please check back as I’ll be trying to write more. I went to Montreal last month, actually, but half of the stuff I did I either don’t remember or was illegal so that kind of cuts down what I’m able to do.

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