Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Political Consciousness

"So much of human genius is unintentional, is stumbled upon, and found amidst the ruins of dead traditions and full-proof plans." -TNC

That's a line from one of TNC's latest posts. He's focusing on President Obama's critique of new technological devices like iPads and Xboxes as being distractions. Coates takes the angle that what Obama is doing is over-emphasizing past culture at the cost of recognizing the innovative spirit of new technologies and mediums. And there's a real truth to what Coates says. As a self-professed geek Coates doesn't hesitate to say that without these alternative mediums (in his case comics, hip-hop and computer programing) he would have ended up as another college-degree holding menial worker. Moreover, he explains how having a parent not only aware of the cultural products their kid is absorbing but actively participating ties past culture to the culture of now. By understanding these mediums, as Obama claims not to, parents can readily connect with their kids while providing a history to these new mediums.
There's the trick. My own father would constantly critique my music but the critique was one part a denial of the present and one part revealing past music that informed what I was listening to. Without him I wouldn't have the appreciation for melody, lyrical ability and song structure that I do now. But that took my dad listening to my music first and then pulling on its ties to the past. Yes, he was an old codger at times, but equally he was an appreciator of music. I still find it amazing how he actually liked Fujiya Miyagi because of the bass lines. Thus his attempts to understand my music led me to do the same for his and I'm better for it.
It's all well and good to say that you're open to new things, new experiences and such. Modern life though requires understanding the past through the present. Without that knowledge of the past the present becomes less meaningful, less revealing. It calls for knowing both the old and the new. So for a pragmatic man like Obama to take shots at the new is a touch depressing. I can understand his basic argument that we shouldn't devote excessive time to outright distractions. That doesn't mean we should go without any distractions at all.