Sunday, February 15, 2004

I'm taking a fascinating online class this semester. The fact that it's online just adds to the fun. It's a Popular Culture class that's not what you would think. The teacher is an extremely interesting individual who I have taken in a previous class. He talks about a mile a minute so actually reading his words is great. I find myself re-reading a lot of his passages because there's so much going on. This is a man who understands all aspects of communication, from symbolism, writing, history, and art. Through the online discussion boards, I feel like the class is less like a lecture and more like a real discussion (imagine that).

The direction he's taking in teaching this class is approaching popular culture (or "reality") from the perspective of the Great Thinkers. Through each one, he can explore the idea of identity, history, relationships, advertising, everything. He started with Nietzsche and the idea of self. Are you a Herd members, a noble, a priest? And then, in a great turn, the next "class" was about Advertising, it's effect on buying, on culture, on politics and foreign affairs. This latest class introduced Michel Foucault and continued on the idea of self. A little history on the man, very interesting, and much on Foucault's ideas on History.

The following is a passage from the class (probably not suppose to do this, but whatever). Just to show the flavor of the words, the way a good teacher can start off with the hugest possible canvas and narrow it down to something direct.

The identity of the United States is its History. History and identity are inseparable. Without history there is no existence. The manufacture and control of U.S. History is of utmost importance. For the U.S. to be seen in a certain light, to be identified in a certain way has a tremendous effect not only on the citizens of this country but, of course, on the peoples of the world as well. An example of this would be the general outcry that resonated from the people of the United States after the event of 9/11, of ‘why us? We’re the good guys!’ For this to be a ‘true statement’ in the hearts and minds of several million people indicates the power wielded by the sculptors of Traditional American History. In that traditional history, which is taught in public schools, colleges, and universities across this great country (from sea to shining sea, so to speak), the U.S. shines forth as the paradigm of Democracy, Freedom and Liberty. She is a great light shining in the darkness… a light of hope for all the peoples of the world. Her policies, domestic and foreign, are based on principles of honesty, decency, and fair play. She reaches out to the rest of the world with hands filled with good things, a cornucopia of humanitarianism.

It comes as no surprise that so many of us looked on with consternation at the events of 9/11. The amazement still resonates of how heartless and without virtue these terrorists must be to attack a country of such quality and virtue! Such is the power of the Canon of American History. It isn’t difficult to get a more realistic picture of U.S. involvement in the Middle East that gives a more complex and problematic representation of our historical identity. This other picture can be found in books, pamphlets and on-line sites of alternative historical sources. But there an even more complex, complicated and problematic image exists. It is the reality of the day to day involvement of U.S. Governmental, Military, and Corporate interests in the Middle East, and this reality is almost impossible to be connected to. There are tremendous forces, economic and otherwise, which are aligned against the average inquiring mind knowing what is actually going on at that very real level.


Album of the Day: The Postal Service - Give Up

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