A Response to John Ebert’s Review of Cloverfield
By William Irwin Thompson
As always, John, an interesting spin on the ordinary. Yes, catastrophes are coming our way, which is why I feature them so strongly in my essay on “Catastrophist Governance and the Need for a Tricameral Legislature.”
But another point is that our culture has been kept in arrested development by the media at the stage of the 13 year old–the age of the comic book for my generation–witness the recent acne outburst of comic book movies. The 13 year old is not a child and is not yet an adult capable of dealing with threats. So it imagines itself to be a superhero in the same way Piaget once noted that 13 year olds generate life histories of fame for themselves and already see their statues up in the park. So the superhero is a preteen mythic unconscious projection.
Teenagers now sense the imminent age of catastrophes and are scared to grow up. When I look at the skateboarders on my Portland streets, I do not just see thirteen year olds but young men in their twenties. I am told that high school kids do not now have girl friends in a process of learning how to pair-bond with the needs of another human being; instead, they hook up and get their rocks off through oral sex, much in the same way that they get rid of their hunger with fast food take outs.
For my generation, the reading of comic books at 13 was the sunset-effect of childhood. At 14, I read Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, then at fifteen Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, then at 16, Thomas Wolfe, Emerson, and Whitman. At 17, I shifted gears into third and started reading the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, and Moby Dick. At 18, I was reading James Joyce, Whitehead, and all of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Now that we are no longer living in a literate culture, that process of intellectual maturation no longer occurs. But our hormonal maturation is still triggering the development of the frontal lobes–the seat of higher judgment–so our American culture’s blockage of intellectual development is creating monsters of cancerous fundamentalisms. Fundamentalism of all kinds– from Christian to scientism– is a metastatic carcinoma of consciousness.
And yet, in spite of the media trying to block the process of our lntellectual maturation, we cannot avoid growing up. Superheros cannot be expected anymore to get us out of this fix; no wonder Bush has been incompetent and the worst President in the history of the United States. We will have to do it ourselves. So philosophers such as I re-vision government and call for tricameral legislatures and present very specific New Enlightenment moves. Obama is part of this appeal to become adults, whereas Hillary and McCain are still trying to appeal to a puerilized working class through their invocations of cultural banalities. It is what McLuhan would call the cliche rather than the archetype.
It looks like Obama is going to lose and that McCain and Hillary and Rev. Wright have united to bring him down and preserve the political status quo mentality. Through slickness and in stealth, the political ad serves as an impediment to the marriage of true minds. Democracy takes street smarts, but the Godzilla creating havoc in our streets is the monstrous transform of our own stupidity.
–Thompson’s website and blog can be found at: williamirwinthompson.org