Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Mandate for Perversity

Rather brilliant piece of writing by Phillip Lopate  in which he tries to digest the disastrous election. Those of us who like, self-importantly in my view, to thrash ourselves for being elitist and therefore cut off from the righteous rage and discontent of the uneducated will take no comfort from it. Lopate sees the Trump victory coming from other sources than our failure to connect, not that his analysis provides much in the way of relief. But it does, by way of Mikhail Bakhtin and Fyodor Dostoevsky, bring the conversation to a deeper level than the current obsession about class v. identity politics has managed to do. As Lopate describes it, a vote for Trump was a vote for perversity, and therein lay its power.

Again and again, Hillary Clinton appealed to Americans’ higher nature—we are kinder, better, more tolerant and so on—only to discover that many of her countrymen had no better natures. She would say “Love trumps hate”; it was all like a church sermon, and as often happens with sermons, it turned many voters off. It wasn’t “fun.”
. . .
The liberal-progressive commentators all blamed themselves afterward for failing to take into sufficient account the “anger” of the “forgotten, disenfranchised” white working-class voters who had turned the tide. Now, anger is a very sexy notion for commentators to latch onto, but I think it has been overstated. . . Rather, I would say what mattered more was the desire to have fun, to be entertained, to do mischief and see chaos break out—what the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin called the “carnivalesque” turn. . . . Boredom and spite, more than righteous anger, were at the wheel. Dostoevsky’s Underground Man argues that sometimes the only way to feel free is to spite our best interests.

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