Friday, December 12, 2003

Yasgur's Farm

The American Digest has an article on perverse joys. The first, the nostalgie pour la boue, is a longing for the gutter, a "compulsion that comes over people when they have, for complex reasons, a need to immerse themselves in self-degradation. It's usually a mix of drink, drugs, and weird sex until the soul is obliterated by the abused flesh". It is the pastime of celebrity and the author, Gerard Van der Leun, wonders whether it is not related to an impulse in the media elite, for the nostalgie pour la défaite.

"Nostalgie pour la défaite is that state of the soul when an American, who either came of age in the Vietnam era, or who was taught and mentored by a leftist or liberal of that vintage, yearns for the defeat of America. This state is then seen as confirmation that his or her world view and social milieu is the right view and right milieu. To operate otherwise would throw not only all the professional views and actions of the last thirty years into question, but the entire structure of the afflicted personality as well."

On closer examination, the rush must have come from a sense of self-righteousness; a confirmation in the moral superiority of the anti-war position which required for maximum effect, a contrasting class of flag-waving bigots who had they never existed would have been invented. For many, the creation of this identity coincided, by unhappy coincidence or Communist cunning, with adolescent self-awareness, so that the nostalgie pour la défaite became fused with the memory of summer nights and music drifting downward from an open door. The true country of the media elite is the land of rememberance; and their secret anthem is unsung.

We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon.
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Yet it is, as Van der Leun points out, a particularly American fantasy. A liberal watching an anti-war march go by is Gatsby gazing at the blinking green light at the end of Daisy's dock. The sound of the Twin Towers falling must never awaken him to a land forever fled from his adolescent dreams.

Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.