• xenopolitix

483. Possession in great measure (VI)

“The left can’t meme,” says the 4chan enthusiast. “Oh yeah, how come they’re in power? How come everyone is indoctrinated with leftist ideas?” retorts a somewhat smug, we might even say “Reddit-ish”, rightist. If you look at leftist “memes” what you find is a lot of explication, whereas the right tends to let the image speak for itself—or, as with a Ben Garrison cartoon, adds minimal labels to clarify the situation (boot = the deep state; snake poised to strike = patriotic Americans; man asleep in rocking chair on porch = sleepy Joe Biden). If the left produces a meme, by contrast, there is usually a large rectangle at the bottom filled with text.

Partly, this is to do with the masculine/feminine divide in politics: the right is masculine, men are laconic—their actions and images speak for themselves. Women want to explain everything, really to express their emotions. Further, the left is neurotic; it cannot deal with reality—hence it talks a lot to cover reality up with ideas that circle the issue without getting to the issue’s heart. At a very intellectual level this behaviour is seen with men like Slavoj Žižek, who uses a lot of big words and concepts and exaggerated body movements to express his own neurotic discomfort at certain facts about reality—such as the ethnic divide in his own former country, Yugoslavia. Leftist “memes” represent the same behaviour in a less sophisticated way—lots of neurotic talk to cover up the basic reality, a reality which may be, admittedly, unpleasant. Leftists tend to be word-thinkers—journalists, lawyers, and academics—whereas rightists tend to be imagists, engineers and electricians.

The divide is also between art and entertainment. The left can entertain and indoctrinate people, and this is what the dissentient rightist means when he says, “The left can’t meme? Yeah, they only have total control…” The left controls the state education system, it indoctrinates people with word-based frames and prohibitions that constrain what people can notice. It also controls entertainment, because entertainment is about escapism—you go to Hollywood to flee reality; reality is too cruel and harsh for you, better to entertain yourself to death; or smoke crack until you die—at least you never feel anything.

Art, by contrast, is about ways of seeing: the artist is encouraged to trust his eyes. The artist wants to represent reality—to mirror it or to catch its essence. Art is memetic; it is image-loaded—even poetry is really about rhythmic image creation. “This is the night mail crossing the border / Carrying the cheque and the postal order.” It is an image that also contains, in its rhythm, the cha-cha-chaa-cha-cha-chaa that a steam locomotive produces. It was written by Auden, a leftist, and yet there is nothing leftist about it—reality is right wing. To make it political—to make it deviate from reality—you would have to break up the rhythm and exit reality to engage in commentary and put a frame around it.

In common usage, “a meme” is an image—perhaps very slightly adapted to comment on contemporary reality; it then spreads quickly because people derive catharsis from an image that represents reality, especially an unspoken reality—or one that is unexpressed due to a verbal frame imposed by the left. It might make you laugh, but a meme can also be quite poignant; it is possible to binge on Netflix, but not to binge on memes. Actually, memes are collected—as a connoisseur collects butterflies or fine wines; and this suggests that a meme is a quality product, it is not pumped out by journalists or scriptwriters—actually, a meme is often a personal and individual creation. It expresses a certain point of view, as art usually does.

So be careful not to confuse indoctrination—constraint of consciousness—imposed from above for artistic vision that emerges in a spontaneous emergent way from below (from the frog pond). The left has narrative, the right has vision.

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