Monday, December 8, 2008

A Manifesto

Celebrate naiveté! Embrace earnest emotion! The post-ironic backlash against cynicism and sarcasm has fully descended. To keep up the Presidential theme, it seems fair to declare this trend in full effect after all the fawning over "Change" and "Yes We Can," especially amongst younger crowds and the web-savvy. To start a blog aspiring to find the "the wonderful in the mundane" or "the mundane in the wonderful" seems like an excellent opportunity to cash in on the great upswelling of sentimentality.

But the internet has long been at the vanguard of this new culture: the earliest and most successful blogs like and have long dedicated themselves to curating the best new niches of heartfelt, bite-sized webtainment. To start another such blog in this day and age is becoming cliché.

BoingBoing describes itself as "a directory of wonderful things," while Kottke coopts the nostalgic language of cottage capitalism at his "home of fine hypertext products." It is no longer surprising to see BoingBoing hoisting the banners and raising its army of emotion-heavy but content-light readers to fight the latest in technological injustice: the rally against DRM or the rally for closing the digital divide! While many of the causes seem weak in comparison with real social-ills, the emotional power invested in them is strong.

Meanwhile Kottke documents the incestuous constellation of wonder-lovers. He regularly regularly points to Gladwell, the TED conference, This American Life, McSweeney's, Wired (all that it entails) and back to BoingBoing; before long a reader is surrounded by twitter feeds, unrealized intellectual ambitions, the comedy of the quotidian or the latest quick technological fix that will change the world. An individual wearing thick glasses (just like ours!), toiling in obscurity to document every appearance of the axis mundi in Czech movie posters (1960-1985) on their flickr account is hailed as the great artiste of the Long Tail economy.

But where are we left with all this conviction? Political correctness (or "liberal dreams as rules, not feelings") led to the intellectual policing of a properly tolerant society. It failed in its mission to lead us toward Barney the Dinosaur's utopia of diverse harmony. Instead it became rotten and gave way to hardened, fearful realists and the snide commentary of South Park.

Irony quickly stepped in to help us maintain emotional distance from the farce of "correct liberal thought," but clutching to the comfort of sardonic wit like a well-worn comfort blanket has gone out of vogue.

The new task before us is twofold: we must go forward with our hearts on our sleeves; finding examples of virtue and beauty for show and tell. But we also have to address the limits of idealism without complete dismissal -believing in ideas while holding them to the fire and embracing the most embarrassing criticisms.

The need is to overcome the pride inherent in cynicism without succumbing to the coddling, fuzzy warmth of Panglossian feeling.

We ultimately need a new definition of wonder in this new mold; one that loves the profane as much as the sacred --the grime as much as the sheen. We will no longer have to catalogue the wonderful and the mundane because they will be the same.

The low hanging fruit is gone; the blunderers who have come before may have been misguided and unfocused, but they have already scoured the commons. We will have to aspire to greater heights because the wonderful and the mundane is ultimately profound --and it is here our predecessors have all stumbled.

So be warned, for:
A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true. -Demosthenes

1 comment:

  1. I'm Pseudo-Hermes Trismegistus, and I approve this message.

    In all its implications.