A “Commie” and Ideology

Every once in a while, Youtube gets a really… interesting video. Such a video is David After Dentist:

As the title of this video asks, is David just suffering some post-knockout-gas-confusion or is he on a wilder trip? Personally, my own experience with anaesthesia and dentistry leads me to say that David is absolutely not on drugs. But what really intrigues me about this video are the questions the poor kid asks; “Is this real life? Why is this happening to me? Is this gonna be forever?” Basically, I don’t know the answers to his questions!

But there might be some headway that can be made in terms of this being reality. Yes, David, your haze is real, but it probably won’t be forever. Is it reasonable to think that we are out of a haze in the “real” world? Or are we stuck in some kind of cave? Using the theme of suspicion, or that appearances are deceiving, we may very well be underground, chained and assuming understanding.

Public Enemy’s song, “Don’t Believe the Hype,” seems to cry out to this. The title kind of tells it all — hype is not something to believe in. (Incidentally, if we do “believe” the hype and “believe” in God, what does that tell us about our faith?) And what exactly is hype? From the greater context of the song, it seems to be (particularly) the press. From my point of view, the press seems to try to fulfill the job of recounting recent history. It’s like a historical account, only the events are within memory.

And of course we cannot go a day without hearing about the “biased, liberal media” (how does “liberal” explain Limbaugh?). Ignoring the claim of a “liberal” media, it seems fair to say that anything, especially a political discourse (or, more likely, shouting match), is going to have bias — and an ideology to go with it. Marx points out the ideology behind commodities like diamonds in Capital. It has no chemical/physical “value” that makes it worth more than a loaf of bread. A loaf of bread will feed a person; a diamond will not. Yet the bread is worth less. The ideology he points out is that some perception gives value to the valueless. And when demand rises above “supply” (diamond-hoarding schemes have long been suspected) basic economics says that price goes up. The hype is that a diamond is worth more than a loaf of bread. That ideology doesn’t hold up on a desert island.

Eliot’s approach, culture as determiner of literary value, makes him a racist. Barthes approach, remove author entirely, makes things indecipherable because of lack of cultural/historical context. A combination may be a better approach. Foucault does not kill the author, but does significantly limit his authority (and thus the authority of cultural/historical context). Devoid of historical (and cultural) context, the David After Dentist video would indeed be very concerning. Barthes would appreciate it for the philosophical questions David raises, but it would be only frightening, not funny, if we were unable to reason that David just underwent some kind of dental procedure with anaesthesia. Eliot would lose out on humor too! Part of why it is so bizarre is that it’s a cute kid who is acting like he’s had a few too many, yet Eliot’s platinum-author is not a part of the equation.

But it also raises a very ideological debate. Is this just a funny video (think, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”)? Or is it cruelty and emotional scarring? I don’t want to debate that. Because I know that if my parents had a video like this it would absolutely be on Youtube.

    • Tom
    • February 19th, 2009

    I really like what you have going here. First off the intrinsic questions that the kid is asking about life. “Will I be like this forever?” and so forth really seem to illustrate the utter brilliance of your comparison to Plato’s cave. To even take this further, it would be useful to include Naomi Klein’s book No Logo. In it, as I am sure you already know, she discusses the pervasive nature of the globalized world and the way that marketing attaches itself to every aspect of human existence. This in turn, would play an interesting comparison with Marx since her and Marx are essentially asking the same question: why is something worth something? To this question they both arrive at the same answer: human fetish nature. But while Marx would argue, I assume, that fetishism is inherently human it seems that Klein would say that such a state of affairs is fabricated by the global expansive capitalism that we live under today.

    Where are I going with this? What am I doing here? Both excellent questions. The main thrust of my argument would be to categorically present the Plato’s cave reference not just in a metaphysical sense (is this going to be forever? like the little kid said), but to expand it to accompany the real, tangible world. The purpose of the cave, as I am positive that you know, is really to explain enlightenment or the idea of becoming a philosopher (king). We are shackled, chained, and the only thing that we can see are images of monsters dancing on the wall. The only way one becomes enlightened is to be brought out of the cave and to be shown the world at face value. The shadows are not monsters but people controlling you and so forth. What I took out of the whole cave reference is to the very backbone of our society. We are all trapped in the “cave” which helps to drive our fetish impulses to shop, spend, and to try and wear the cool brands. Only once someone shows use the light and carries us out of the cave do we truly leave the grip of consumerism. But also like Plato’s cave we are constantly thrown back into the cave even after obtaining enlightenment. This is either because we betray our newly found knowledge or it is a depiction that we still are not entirely infallible or both. Not sure. Anyway, good post.

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