Before the Election
In yesterday’s Globe( October 3)
Ian Brown conjures an interesting picture of Justin Trudeau, impressing me more than when I heard him speak. Towards the conclusion of his article Brown writes “ When everything is performance, nothing is performance: It’s all real.” This statement reminded me of Philip Roth in American Pastoral when one of his characters comments that beneath the surface, there was only more surface. This leads me to my realization that Don Draper from Mad Men, elevated advertisement and consumerism by the lies that billboards boast to make us believe something- is so much better, so idealized than what it is. And that notion has sustained us weary travellers in our desire to think the ideal presented is truth, not just concocted phrases and images to deceive. Playing with our desire for the good and beautiful, charming us into a false state so we can be persuaded and lead -in Draper’s case: so we, as the consumer, the client will buy into and for a product.
Im not saying that is case for Trudeau.Maybe he is more than I thought. Certainly Brown probing and elegiac article makes me want to reconsider Trudeau as possible leader.( As I publish this, Trudeau has been well elected, proving to his antagonists that he was “ready”, and more than just hair).
Still, my understanding of the performance statement in regards to any individual is that perhaps the melding of performances in real and professional lives can produce a seamless or so called “ authentic” person. My husband more darkly says , that in fact, that performance is just that, performance, a thin enactment to make us believe that there is substance when really there is none. Again, we try and sort out the meaning of words, denotation and connotation always at odds. We debated our views this morning over bagels. Me, the forever disappointed optimist persisting in my perspective; my husband more realistically , perhaps,unbending in his. Me, wanting to drink coca cola with Draper on the beach in the sun.
I laugh to think that the words I hear and that are bandied about in 2015 are ones from my doctoral program back in 1996. We spent ages discussing what “ authentic” really meant as everyone of course wants to be real and authentic and gee, mom, I really am a sweet, corn-husking, lovable type with no artifice.
Back from a conference, the husband relayed that “ reflective practitioner” was the hot topic for lawyers there too. Ha. Connelly and Clandinin might wonder at why it has taken so long for such terms to be appropriated in the open. Universities and books have been telling students forever to be reflective and with that, the rise of the first person “I” to substantiate a bias that is built on the thoughtful pondering of who I am when I write something ;and avoid the brashness of first impressions or equally as bad, the omniscient voice that like G-d seems to see, hear and know everything. For ages, journals would not accept the very “non- scientific “evidence that accrued with articles using “I” ,as if statistics and such are not skewed by the I, the scientist, the researcher who also measures, calculates and hopes to prove his/ her certain thesis with a particular perspective.
My husband may have also heard “ multiple intelligences” or “ diversity ” bandied about in his session too. I guffaw at how long it has taken for these phrases to enter into professional conversations. And then I lament that when they do, the meaning is warped and changed until the expressions become pieces of overchewed gum having lost their original intent along with their meaning, not to mention their flavor. So it happens when terms go public; they become public property. At least emojis are pretty clear as to their meaning! As always when a phrase or word enters a larger arena, the irony of wanting a thought to be more wide spread is to exert impact on the life of a society, but in doing so, the spin doctors spin it to pieces that have little connection to the intended idea behind it. This bothers me greatly. No longer authentic.😤
Once -people possessed values of responsibility, hard work, truthfulness. We grew up with these notions. Now they are mere words that describe how we should be, but they are morphed to fit a variety of molds and occasions, like applied makeup over the real visage.
I don’t know if we can blame technology , or if it is just change that older people rebel against, wanting and desiring the authentic, the honest, the true- which we know can differ from person to person. I find it troubling. Sometimes I think we are like Alice down the rabbit hole, not being able to discern what is up and what is down, chasing the red queen around the garden.
For me, it is the arts, the wordless beauty of art, dance and music that stands alone without someone lacquering over what is there. I can see, hear and watch with my own eyes and ears and communicate with the work directly, ferreting out a meaning intended or not by the artist. His/her performance/painting is the thing itself. I, the responder, put my own spin on it, interpreting it as I will. I am not told how to think about the thing unless I chose to read the critic. My relationship is direct. The thing stands for itself.
But how do we know that the “performance” of a politician is in itself the thing itself, the result of belief and hard work that has not been corrupted by a desire to win, to reach, to be morphed when needed into something else?