Friday, March 25, 2011

From Picasso to Libya


With everyone trying to explain what sleep of reason induced The President Without a History to immerse "his" country in a tribal war between Libyans, type 1, and Libyans, type 2, I might as well throw in another theory. It makes no more sense than the rest, but perhaps no less.

Let us cast our gaze back a century and consider a bloke named Pablo Picasso, an artist about whom your blogger has mixed feelings (with oil and vinegar dressing). He is famous as a pioneer of Cubism, a style that departed from conventional views of people and objects by observing them from multiple viewpoints simultaneously. However, for our purposes, that is neither here nor there nor anywhere else.


Picasso was, if not the first artist-as-rebel, at least the first superstar of the artist-as-rebel cult. And the beginning of the widespread cultural celebration of the outsider thumbing his nose at traditional standards, thereby showing his superiority. High-class primitivism, nostalgie de la boue as the French called it, and they had quite a bit of it in Paris in the 1920s.

The Depression left too many people trying to keep body and soul together to have time for counterculture monkeyshines, and then came a world war that had many distracted for a while. But after the war, hoo boy.


Rebellion 1.0 had been mostly confined to artistic circles, was not without some excellent products, and the bohemian life style could be enjoyed from the sidelines as an eccentric subculture. But postwar rebellion began to trickle down to the masses. One early pop culture manifestation was the 1953 film The Wild One, with Marlon Brando as the leader of a motorcycle gang taking over a small town. (Something like it actually happened a few years earlier in Hollister, California; appropriately, a line of teenage clothing now bears the Hollister label.)


There's a famous line from the movie that goes something like this:
"What are you rebelling against?"
Brando: "Whattaya got?"

Then came James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and rock and roll, then ... the '60s. There is no need to elaborate on that social revolution. Easy Rider. All of us in our 20s were dropouts, protesters, anti-anti-disestablishmentarians.

And ever since, hip and cool and fashionable has meant edgy. Revolutionary.

Are you beginning to see where this is leading?


During the Cold War, our presidents and diplomats were strategists, whether you agreed with their strategy or not: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennan, Dulles, for example. Grown-ups with some knowledge of history and geopolitical facts were in charge of foreign policy.

Beginning with Bill Clinton's mob, we have been led by people raised on the rebellious imperative. That trend has reached escape velocity with our incumbent. In war as in movies, the Obama maladministration views rebels as the good guys, even if they're Muslims of unknown pedigree in an opaque cause.

Hey, Mr. President, what are you rebelling against? "What have you got? American military power used on behalf of American interests? Or not used to protect the lives of civilians conducting an armed revolution in Hollister-on-the-Mediterranean? It's our job to organize the rebels' community for them. If we can do that and bottle up those Yids in downtown Tel Aviv, world peace is guaranteed forever. Can they give me the Nobel Peace Prize again?"

What have I done? 


1 comment:

Maria said...

Great commentary Rick. I'm pretty sick of the rebellion for rebellion's sake myself as well.

Once upon a time, we celebrated the building of things; now we celebrate tearing them down.

It's sick.