Baudrillard, racism, "the condition," etc.<debate>

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Mon, 1 Apr 1996 08:40:27 +0900

First, to Messrs. Stevens

Mr. James Mooney, late (he died in 1921) of the (late itself) Bureau of
American Ethnology, had a thing or two to say about such "sentiments:"

1) "The doctrine that the world is old and worn out" (Mooney, *Ghost
Dance and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890*, p. 661), is certainly not a new one,
butone that he found running through the history of humankind
(althought he has nothing to say about Confucius!).

2) "The remote in time or distance is always strange. The familiar present
is always natural and a matter of course. Beyond the narrow range of our
horizon imagination creates a new world, but as we advance in any
direction, or as we go back over forgotten paths, we find ever a continuity
and succession" (Mooney, p. 928). One of Mooney's theses was that
humankind draws on and (to use a term of Greg Dening's) "re-presents"
history in particular, culturally and circumstancially shaped ways.
History is "strange" in that things were different "back then," and often
seen as extremely better or worse. Most interesting here is Mooney's link
of imagination with continuity, which (given his thoughts in *Ghost
Dance*as a whole) is an argument for the construction of particular
histories.As we create a new story we link it to events in the past and in
essenceboth create a new story and assert that we are telling the old one

and Thornton,

"Ultimately, I think we will find that the auguries of the post modern
heralds and diviners will look very much other auguries and
divinations, and that we are in a moment in which exactly this, and
little else perhaps, can really speak to us. Is this 'a condition'
or is it just 'the condition'? Is there no balm in Gilead?"

Bravo! Bravissimo!

Still, on Mooney via Stevens, "The more in time or distance is always
strange." As someone whose childhood was in Eisenhower America and
has lived long enough to read Baudrillard and WIRED magazine,
I suspect that " the condition," that one that Thornton talks about, is one
in which radical change has made *the present* strange. We are all,
stealing a thought from Victor Turner, permanently liminal now (And
we don't know what status it is that we're being initiated into!).

And to Messrs. Read and Cohen, I agree, absolutely, with your views on
racism. As, however, in the great "patriarchy" debate, there comes a
moment, I think, when it's useful to say to the opposition, "OK, already,
let's work with *your* definition and see where it gets us." I applaud your
showing so clearly where that destination is.

P.S. A footnote on the image that John Stevens likes, " And in place of
Marx's utopia, the result is something like a transvestite bar past
midnight, with tired drag queens flirting in an atmosphere of stale beer,
smoke, and vomit." The transvestites are straight from Baudrillard
himself. Making them tired and staling the atmosphere was me,
influenced by some Jude Brand photos of Tokyo night scenes, William
Gibson, and Ridley Scott. Hey, we're all post-modern here. :-)

John McCreery
April 1, 1996