“Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed” — Tennyson
Most college professors of literature — most readers of Flaubert across the board — will tell you that the characters in Madame Bovary are bourgeois. But one thing that should be called attention to is the exact meaning that the author gives to the term bourgeois.
Unless it simply means townsman, as it often does in French, the term bourgeois as used by Flaubert means “philistine,” people occupied with the material side of life and believing only in conventional values. As is the case with the vast majority of U.S. citizens, those arrogant abusers and rulers of the earth. The philistines who can only boast of 36% holding passports. With the well-known blowback Americans have experienced from their ongoing and very cruel wars, etc., I thought that there would be far less interested in traveling abroad these days. Canadians own passports to the tune of about 60%, Brits and Aussies numbering 75%.
That means that 66% of the philistines do not hold passports, and when considered relative to citizens in the UK, Australia and Canada… the figure should register as significant. Think in terms of the fact that when universities first started springing up in Europe one wasn’t considered educated unless one went abroad for a period. USers are hostile or indifferent to the arts.
American citizens are preoccupied, as everyone knows, with the material side of life, and they’ve had a major influence on the world population respecting that outrageous outlook, detracting from aesthetic and spiritual values on many scores… for a very long time. In fact, by many standards, one could say that U.S. citizens are the demographic most responsible for the world being headed for the precipice right now. In terms of their potential to influence everyone else on earth, that certainly must be said to be so.
Flaubert never uses the word bourgeois with any politico-economic Marxist connotation. Flaubert’s “bourgeois” is a state of mind, not a state of pocket, you might say. Marx would have called the French author a bourgeois in the politico-economic sense, and Flaubert would have labeled Marx a bourgeois in the spiritual sense; and both would have been right, since Flaubert was a well-to-do gentleman in physical life and Marx was a philistine in his attitude towards the arts.
American youth are taught to revere a college education, and — at present — they are fighting the powers that be to free up education for one and all, to do away with the high debt factor that’s plaguing youth dwelling in institutions of so-called higher education. The problem, however, THE problem is that academia is mostly about grooming youngsters to become philistines.
We need to free college education from itself. Free it from its bourgeois treadmill, its diploma mill willful self-destruction. There are plenty of arts-related programs on campuses, but too little authentic art respected. Popular art gets a pass, for sure, and grand grants are secured to ensure that THE ARTS are honored along traditional lines. But art without “lines” — outside of the parameters drawn for it by philistines — is hard to come by these days. Always was in America, where politicians, not artists, are festooned on our monetary units.
When a society is consumed with apocalyptic fears, individuals securing higher education tend to go into utilitarian fields. They may play or watch ball on the football field, but that’s a distraction from what fills their blood and bones, what they obsess about morning, noon and night, and suffer frightful nightmares about in their sleep. They weep for their fate, and are, therefore, slated to study what’s practical, what they deem useful for battling with the elements which scare them to death.
But Death has a weak bite for men and women who are at the opposite end of the spectrum from the philistines filled with fear. For they have a capacity to wonder at trifles — no how imminent a given peril — asides of the spirit. The arts that attract them nurture that healthy kind of being. And the bagatelles of life, for them, are worthy of the highest forms of consciousness. It is their childishly speculative, introspective state of mind, giving way to curiosity, so different than what’s known as commonsense and its logic that leads them to know the world to be good.
Red in tooth and claw thinking is the opposite of that positive outlook.
There is a need for youngsters who seek higher education to back away from colleges devoted to commonsense thinking. One must secure an education that is not dominated by numbers and logical positivists. If it means bonding with a single enlightened mentor for learning purposes, so be it. But, one way or another, what’s in vogue on campuses must been seen, nay, felt, as anathema. Complicity in U.S. horror will not do; for starters, look at the history of the APA, comprised of highly educated (misguided) souls.
Those who call the shots at commonsense colleges and their underlings and charges are focused on their vulnerability in life, not treasuring spontaneity and what the arts have to offer. All their foci are narrow and their agendas are designed to look out for what they call Number One (in a bourgeois, mundane sense), not the Collective Good, not even looking out for their own enlightened self-interest. Not nurturing their soul.
Virtually no one on campuses across the U.S. understands how sick American society is. When they hear comedians joke about foreigners chanting “Death to America” they only laugh, they do not take stock of themselves or what they’re embedded in. They certainly don’t question who they’re in bed with — no matter how odious the “partner” — if they’re making good money with benefits up the wazoo. If they’re getting laid, being applauded and/or compensated sufficiently on a philistine plane.
The value of attending such institutions has waned sufficiently now for anyone with eyes to see… to see that the world of mathematical symbols and problematical profit margins don’t resonate with the divine world of the authentic mind and soul.
Commonsense college must be replaced with another kind of education.
Earning a doctorate in Destruction of the Soul and the World will do no one any good.
Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at email@example.com.