Thu Feb 26th, 2009 at 06:22:54 PM EST
Contents: Meta Meta, Metaphor, Meditation, Mediation, and Something of literary quality.
I've been asked to write a diary in which I put forth (again) the theory that European Tribune bears an uncanny resemblence to a Dostoyevsky novel. I don't really want to do this, since I'd just be repeating myself. And I know for a fact a significant number of you have not even read Dostoyevsky and will have no idea what I'm talking about, and, well, like Colman said, I'm not your freaking teacher people!
On the other hand, I do savor your praise. And while I've never been the "team player" type, I suppose I can make an attempt to try to maybe be accommodating to our FPers in the name of truth and reconciliation. After all, one can't go on fighting forever. Eventually you have to have hot make-up sex. Or kill someone. Which, if my theory holds any water, is more likely to occur here. Hm. When I am done, someone should calculate the number of hot sex scenes v. the number of murders in Dostoyevsky's novels, and then posit that it says something awful about Christianity. Ha!
But first, I present to you :
ET as Dostoyevski Novel, or ,"As usual, art from the keyboard":
The following is a comment I wrote in response to TBG's comment in response to ChrisCook's diary in response to Jerome's response to everyone's response to some people's response to Sven's diary about bears. (<--Note the curious appearance of Russian iconography. You will be tested on its meaning later.)
Bold brackets represent commentary not in the original.
I think people stopped - for a while, temporarily, and in specific instances - seeing the other posters here as people and started treating them as personifications of arguments and beliefs. Usually ones they really really really didn't like much.
All of the mad threads seemed to have this in common. Instead of specific posters we suddenly 'That person who represents this evil thing, and therefore...' [That Brit Guy's comment]
This is spot on, from what I can glean.
Moreover, people have not just been treated as personifications of arguments and beliefs, but somewhat confined to roles. X is the new age person, X is the anarchist, X is the intolerant atheist, X is the nationalist, X is the Atlanticist, X is the troublemaker, X is the clown, X is the curmudgeon, X is the diva... It's probably quite natural and not meant to be malicious. But this is real life, not a novel or play, and no one consistently represents one idea or fills one role. Especially here at ET where people are constantly having their horizons expanded and being asked to prove the credibility of their assertions and to step out of their comfort zones.
Many of the recent tiffs make no sense to many of us; the responses seems so unnecessarily disproportionate or overly sensitive and feel distracting. Perhaps, rather than taking comments in their immediate and logical context, we may be interpreting them according to our preconceived ideas about the person(s) making them or our expectations of their ulterior motivations.
This is a pet peeve of mine because 1) fault is just as likely to lie with the person's preconceived ideas as with the person whose comments are being judged, 2) no one acts consistently over time: our personal mood, new information, or comfort with our situation can determine our motives just as much as any ideology or personality trait and 3) even if the preconceived ideas are correct, the comments may still have a good point, which will be missed because our focus was elsewhere, looking for the fault. [This is what I'd say about Western media coverage of Russia if I were ever invited to be on the Charlie Rose Show. I've been practicing.]
And if your are looking for something, you might think you've found it when it isn't even there. [Like maybe if you are looking for comparisons to Dostoyevsky] It's called a bias. We notice it when journalists write about France or Russia and it drives us berserk. We notice it when fundamentalists explain events which have quite logical causes as conspiracies or divine plans and it makes us exasperated. But ... are we willing to acknowledge that we too sometimes fall into this intellectual laziness? I mean, we're a pretty freaking intelligent group here. We'll admit to all kinds of vices and lurid activities and shortcomings. But not bias. Not intellectual shortcuts! That's ET's version of the Holy Grail. Which may be why we seem to be dancing around a problem while not solving it or communicating past each other. Maybe that's the elephant in the room. Even we are capable of bias - even against one another. Even we are susceptible to allowing our emotions and agendas trump our critical reasoning abilities. Even we might invent a narrative about ET to counter the annoying phenomenon of stuff not always making sense in a way that conforms to our worldview. Can it be possible? And can we graciously acknowledge its possibility without taking a severe hit to our pride? [I really expected this to piss everyone off. It didn't. Other times I say perfectly innocuous things and everyone gets pissed off. WTF?]
Look, we might be exceptional, but we are not THAT exceptional. Of course we do these things. This is a blog, a medium that hardly encourages reflection and patience and with-holding of judgement! We are not robots. We are not omniscient. We are humans with infinite demands on our lives. We are not Dostoevsky characters who are good ideas or bad ideas walking about on 2 legs. And let me remind you, that those Dostoevsky characters were like masters of the flame war.
OMG maybe this IS a Dostoevsky novel!!! [For real, that just came to me while I was typing my comment!] Think about it. You have the believers and the non-believers. The hedonists and the stoics. The progressive reformers and the commie anarchists. The nobility and the riff-raff. The ruined women and the unrequited love. The hysterics and the philosophical debates. The plots, the plans, the people who show up outta nowhere and ruffle things up. The manifestos. No murders so far. But how many of us belong to that "people with names no one can spell" fb group? And wasn't Twank just suggesting a fancy-dress ball? Uh huh... [This is probably really the only section of this comment I needed to use for this diary. Too late now.]
Well, either this 1) is a Dostoevsky novel, which means we're all not real people and someone is going to get killed and there's nothing any of us can do about it or 2) is not a Dostoevsky novel, which means we're each more than characters who personify an idea or archetype and so it would behoove us to keep that in mind was we do this blogging thing. And also no one has to get killed.
Which is good.
Then Ceebs said something about art, Mig asked for a diary, Swedish Kind of Death (whom I always mentally call "Swedish Fish") asked what the hell I have against "X" and I plagiarized the wiki entry for Godwin's law:
Poemless's Law (also known as Poemless's Rule of Dostoyevskian Likeness) is an adage formulated by poemless in 2009. The law states: "As ET grows older, the probability of its members resembling characters from a novel by Feodor Dostoyevsky approaches one."
It should be cataloged right after Orlov's Law which states "As time passes at ET, the probability of someone mentioning the "Collapse Gap" approaches one."
When I wrote my response to TBG, I was pretty certain the psychological phenomenon of "When you have a hammer (read: Russian Lit. degree), everything looks like a nail (read: a Russian novel)" was at work. I read, "started treating them as personifications of arguments and beliefs," and immediately recalled Marco's diary about The Idiot, in which I wrote, "Dostoyevsky is much like Dickens in that just about every character "represents" some idea, or philosophy, or element of society. While their actions might not seem integral to the plot, they're meant to personify ideas, illustrate their consequences or nature, be examples in a larger debate."
A brief biography of Feodor Dostoyevsky: Dostoyevsky was your run-of-the mill progressive intellectual. The kind who reads philosophy and champions civil rights and goes to meet-ups. (<-- Pay attention. This will be very important.) One day the Tsar flipped out and sentenced him to death for his subversive behavior, but by divine intervention, Dostoyevsky's life was spared, and then in prison, he became a strange breed of Christian and Slavophile and wrote these madly brilliant and highly entertaining novels.
His novels, which often get a bad rap for their length, are actually page-turning thrillers. They are like lurid soap operas and crime novels, only instead of monosyllabic bimbos or quirky cops, the characters are philosophies and religions and political ideologies and sociological archetypes. Still, there is lust, greed, murder, heartbreak, and countless scenes in which someone just has to go and say the wrong thing and, lo, a provincial flame war erupts. Business as usual stops and people suddenly all lose their senses and accusations fly and everyone runs about looking for the person to blame. They are experiments of what happens if you take any ideology (or lack thereof) to its logical extreme. They are condemnations of society that breeds suffering and indifference. They are tug-of-wars between the obligation to be morally decent and good and rationally objective and just. And illustrations of just how practically impossible that is.
Jerome recently wrote, regarding the recent chaos at ET:
Beyond the gap on what could be called the rationality vs spirituality divide [...] it seems to me that the most relevant distinction is still between insiders and outsiders, incrementalists vs revolutionaries, or "realists" vs idealists" (all different labels for the same thing: those inside the system, or benefitting from ot, who want to improve it, and those outside it, or abused by it, who want to get rid of it).
It strikes me that this could easily have been lifted from an undergraduate paper on The Demons.
In the name of truth and reconciliation, I am not caring at all if you believe that the dynamics at ET eerily mimic those in a 19th century novel because of some magical Dr. Who-like disturbance of the line which separates reality from imagination. However, if you are interested in a more reasonable and less exciting explanation, you'll be relieved to learn there is one.
Everyone open your books to The Petrashevsky Circle:
The Petrashevsky Circle was a Russian literary discussion group of progressive-minded commoner-intellectuals in St. Petersburg organized by Mikhail Petrashevsky, a follower of the French utopian socialist Charles Fourier. Among the members were writers, teachers, students, minor government officials, army officers, and so on. While not uniform in their political views, most of them were opponents of the tsarist autocracy and the Russian serfdom. Among those connected with the circle were the writers Dostoyevsky and Saltykov-Shchedrin and the poets Pie shcheyev, Maikov, and Taras Shevchenko.
Like the Lyubomudry group founded earlier in the century, the purpose of the circle was to discuss Western philosophy (specifically Hegel and others) and literature which was officially banned by the Imperial government of Nicholas I.
Nicholas I, worried that the revolutions of 1848 would spread to Russia, mistook the largely harmless group for a subversive revolutionary organization. He closed the circle in 1849 and arrested and incarcerated its members. Fyodor Dostoyevsky was even sentenced to death in 1849 for his involvement, but was reprieved to serve six years in prison.
That's right. Fedya spent his free time fraternizing with social-justice-minded political types who were followers of some French utopian socialist, people who came from all kinds of backgrounds and who got their kicks discussing philosophy. Huh. Well that's funny... Because... Dude, that's just spooky. Even spookier: if the debates in his novels are any indication, these intellectual types also talked a lot about trains, relations between Russia and Europe, and the merits of pure reason v. mysticism. And were prone to passionate outbursts and disagreements.
What have we learned today?
Fuck - I don't even know. I've gone and confused myself. The morally decent and good part of my says we should treat each other like the vulnerable and complex humans we are. The intellectual part of me thinks it is clear that we are actually not humans but some incarnation of the madness borne out of an epileptic Russian mind. The just part of me tells me to get the hell out of ET while I am still alive, before I end up in a gulag or murdered by someone. Dostoyevsky would have us err on the side of the morally decent and good because those intellectual types always turn out to be blood-thirsty nihilists. Plus, I know for a fact Mr.D would be a blogger if he were alive today, based on the existence of this. Which is basically a blog without technology. So today we have learned that we should be kind and blog. Even if we are true believers and commie nihilists.
Be kind, and write.
Ok, since this is an Odds & Ends and not meant to be pedantic or scare the pants off you, let's - hypothetically ... or on the off-chance we are in fact incarnations of the madness borne of an epileptic Russian mind, find out what character you are. We won't put you in a box. Unless we really are characters, but then, it would be Dostoyevsky who is putting you in a box, technically, so blame him.
I'll go first: Nastasya Filippovna
Of the many characters we see in Dostoyevsky's novels, few of the principal characters are female. However, in one of his more famous novels, The Idiot, we find perhaps one of the strongest female characters of most nineteenth-century literature, if not of Europe, then at least of Russia. Nastasya Filippovna, a proud, yet exploited woman, is by far one of Dostoyevsky's most intriguing characters. She has an instantaneous and dramatic affect on the characters surrounding her. Nastasya Filippovna has been systematically destroyed by her surroundings. She finds she is unable to survive in the society of her time. Valued by men only for her beauty or her possessions, feared by jealous women, Nastasya Filippovna succumbs to insanity and finally, her own murder. Believing herself to be guilty and in need of punishment and purification, Nastasya Filippovna fights yet, finally, submits herself to destructive forces that surround her. (...)
The first time Nastasya Filippovna is actually seen in the novel is not until the end of Chapter Eight in Part One. Her presence at Ganya's is unexpected and arouses a great deal of activity. From her first entrance, we see that she has undergone some changes since the milder, forgiving Nastasya Filippovna at the end of Chapter Four. Her eyes "flashed in annoyance" at the sight of the Prince, not knowing who he was, presuming him to be a servant, "flung" her coat at him (107). This starling and unusual entrance allows the reader to see Nastasya Filippovna in a the height of her pride, the pinnacle of her haughty behavior. Her tone is harsh and condescending, she commands respect almost to the point of fear. She has a regal presence that immediately captures our attention.
This scene reveals a great deal about Nastasya Filippovna's apparently free laugh and haughty attitude. We learn that she "laughed in fact, and hid her feelings beneath a show of good humour" (107). Rejected by Ganya's mother and sister, Nastasya Filippovna makes little attempt to make them feel comfortable in her presence. Their coldness towards her "...seemed only to intensify her gaiety" (114). Nastasya Filippovna laughs "hysterically" and "continued laughing" (122), even during Rogozhin¹s attempt at "purchasing" her. Nastasya Filippovna makes no false pretences about who she likes or not. She asks questions then does not wait for the response, cutting off the speaker, making them feel small and ridiculous. Her laughing, almost to the point of wild and insane, is prominant particularly in this section. (...)
From the beginning of Part One, Nastasya Filippovna appears to be a fascinating, wild creature who is rebelling against the "natural&" role of woman for her time. The shock and scandal that seems to surround her exploits suggests that her actions are not within the confines of her "role". However, the more we come to know her the more we see that she has been exploited by society of the time and the men that surround her and desire to possess her. Unable to stand up under the destructive forces that surrounded her, the strongest, most promising character was reduced to insanity by Dostoyevsky. It seems that he may sympathize with her situation, given the use of word choice we have seen, and even some of the ironic, yet sad depiction of a young girl violated. She has been refused her own identity and "renounc[es] the world...[she] has almost ceased to exist and [she] know[s] it" (480). Nastasya Filippovna must die to escape the tragic and unjust plight of a woman scorned.
(BTW, I am pretty sure that Heath Ledger's Joker is based on the character of Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky.)