Change Comes From the Margins


  re simon's post

The "Mainstream" (aka "center") is the persona which most people watch.  It is the loudest drama that is going on.  And it is not just a drama ... it is the dominant habit of existence ... it is that against whcih it is almost impossible not to measure the drama of our own lives. 
source: from article

It would be a simplification of the full nature of the center to identify it as merely the site of social change or of victories in the march toward what we might like to believe is greater social justice. The center has a character of its own, which does not care one way or the other about our moral imperatives.

By definition, any center is a site of concentration and intensity " after all, it’s the place toward which everybody is attracted in some way or another. That’s also what makes it so formidable. The center possesses a wealth of prospects, opportunities and resources, but also anxieties " it is the place where the possibility of collapse, disintegration or descent into chaos figure prominently. To keep such dangers at bay, life at the center has to be regulated in every detail, its energy well managed, impulses properly channeled and spontaneity standardized. Sophisticated and expensive bureaucracies are developed to make sure that the pursuit of happiness does not turn into a stampede.

If conformity remains unchallenged over time, a general sense of atrophy threatens to set in.

There is, then, a certain way of conducting your life at the center, of making a living, getting an education, writing an academic paper, of greeting your neighbor, dressing yourself or just sitting at the table. You signal your determination to belong to the center by unreserved conformation to its standards. For all these elaborate protocols are also meant to ensure that not everybody gets in and that enough are left out; this way the center makes itself perpetually desirable.


Power and standardization, though, make for an intriguing combination: to gain full access to the former you have to excel at dealing with the latter. The better one is at following the standards established by the center the more one advances towards the place of power. And that can be intoxicating. Among the many privileges of the center, for example, is the power to name things, one of the greatest powers of all. From there you can say what others are doing, and who they are, without them having any say in the process.

As long as one does not follow the standards set up by the mainstream (the center’s other name), one’s work is in vain, no matter how brilliant or original it is. Indeed, the more original, the more problematic. In 1925, one of the finest institutions of higher learning in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt, rejected Walter Benjamin’s habilitation thesis, “The Origin of German Tragic Drama.” The work did not meet the standards of the German academia, which disqualified Benjamin from teaching at a German university. The center’s punishment for disobedience can be crushing.

What usually happens as a result is that an inordinate amount of talent, energy and time is spent on figuring out the best ways to elbow one’s way to the core of the mainstream. Then, once there, one has to behave in a way that will never jeopardize one’s position. Since most do what they can to keep their place within the status quo, far-reaching innovation is usually discouraged, and conformism rules. In the sphere of humanistic scholarship, for example, that’s conspicuous in the scholasticism that often comes to dominate one discipline or another. Desperate that they not be left out, the aspirants (Ph.D candidates!) blindly imitate the establishment’s preferred style " using and abusing the same formulaic language, the same safe patterns of thinking, the same old tricks.


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Tags

  1. to read
  2. pataphysics
  3. marginal
  4. mainstream
  5. m$m
  6. the world
  7. political correctness

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