La Mer from Fragile Dignity on Vimeo.
The great derangement in this society is precisely the manner in which a culture falls apart. And this is why there is no easy fix. It’s like we’re approaching a socioeconomic event horizon. In physics, the event horizon is the zone where time and space and reality are warped beyond all recognition as one enters into a black hole. We’re in the middle of this process sociologically, approaching the singularity of capitalism, entering the final acceleration where the fabric of this social reality will become more and more insane, reality turned upside-down, where the earth really does seem flat and fascist, in-real-life social reality molded by Facebook algorithms. Where we see all the paranoid tropes and fears and desires whiz by faster and faster so that we can never keep up with the 500 television shows we can’t seem to turn off vying for our ever shorter attentions, where our deranged reality becomes spaghetti-fied and ripped apart at the seams.
Yet we are trained by the stories of this self-styled individualism, its attendant self-obsession over personal wounds and desires that must be faced. As if stories were there to serve only a private therapeutic function. This basic level of selfish heroism is in fact a fantasy. And perhaps, I suppose it could be argued, a necessary one in some respects because it is itself a bulwark against an unbearable reality of our own foolishness, our own meaninglessness, our own boredom, the slow tedium of everyday life. We are, perhaps all, in fact becoming Walter Mittys – or perhaps a better more recent example is Sam Lowry from the film Brazil – one of the quintessential American heroic tropes. We’re all timid bored milquetoasts trapped in an addicted consumer-driven neoliberal dystopian nightmare who increasingly rely on heroic fantasy to cope with reality becoming more and more unbearable.
Most dramatic fiction these days takes places in a world of the color blind, unconscious to the racial contours of society, as if race were incidental, and certainly showing no thought on the character’s behalves of their own whiteness. Here I to look at three films to show a kind of time lapse of a similar racial story tropes, separated by about twenty-five years and all having Sidney Poitier as a symbolic touchstone. These three films all touch a kind of inflection point in white racial awareness in their respective eras – Get Out, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (the boilerplate for these type of movies) and Six Degrees of Separation. These dramas don’t present one-stop answers, nor are they meant to, but they do demonstrate and dramatize the contours of the problems of whiteness with different levels of fledgling racial self-awareness.
This Tom Hanks horror-satire is basically a compendium of middle class white fragility, which is the engine of the suspense as well as the humor.
History is a pile of bones, and even if offensive, should perhaps provoke us and shake us from the amnestic waters of late capitalism, which by its own design wishes to maintain the façade of reason, order, and omnipotence making us all feel the helpless consumerist torpor. Shoppers don’t want to be bothered by statues of Puritans restraining the mohawked red menace. It’s a historical fissure breaking through the postmodern simulacrum revealing the truth of our world. Racist statues pierce the veil of McWorld, exposing its menace. One cannot understand the history of his nation without understanding that its history can be measured in red, brown and black bodies. Both in flesh and wood.
At the same time it leaves open the question that perhaps we ourselves are not the bastions of enlightenment that we think we are, but are much the product of our cultural time. I suspect every generation believes that they are the ones who have it all figured out. Until they start to be replaced by a new generation and start to long for the good old days. But the acceptance of this mutability and ambiguity leaves open the consciousness possible directions for the future striving for the wokeness of self-knowledge. A future in which, inevitably, future generations will look back at us as prisoners of this time and see us for the barbarians we are.