Saturday, 21 June 2008

Voices of hope

Still recovering from Andrew Denton's gushing interview with the distinguished naturalist David Attenborough. I certainly bear no real personal animosity, but what saddened me was confirmation of the critiques I'd heard about over the years, that Attenborough constructs his films so that there is little sense of how the status of Nature has altered under conditions of reflexive modernization, so that it too is a subject of human calculation and control, even, or especially when, it appears to be a pristine, untouched environment (this is attributable to decisions about risk management etc). What surprised me more then was his claim that what is most depressing is the encroachment of humans into the wild, and his portrayal of this in Malthusian terms i.e. "there are simply too many people". Good Lord! What about the distribution of wealth and the ideology of consumption as relevant factors?; coming from Attenborough's relatively privileged position, a failure to mention them sounds very much like a lack of understanding of extended families as the only alternative in the absence, or relativisation, of a welfare state.
As much as I admire Stephen Fry for his deconstruction of hegemonic masculinity, I thought again of his shared background with Attenborough while watching the documentary on Fry's experiences of living with bipolar disorder. Since first going AWOL from his public school, up until more recent reporting of his disappearance from a theatrical production, one can, and should, have considerable sympathy for him and others living with the condition. What was strange though in watching the program was how Fry would talk about going on shopping sprees to help alleviate his depression, without once considering how having this option would be unavailable to many fellow sufferers. Fry must have assumed that for "good television" he would need "articulate" [sic] subjects, so all the other interviewees were, like him, members of "the creative classes"; to use an admittedly crude example, the kind of person who, in an American context, would be attending a New England university and daydreaming they were Sylvia Plath because they had read The Belljar, which had confirmed their sense that no one really understands them. To be sure, a comparable aspiring writer was featured, among others, all of whom shared the characteristic that their illness could have been examined in different terms: a more sociological approach would have considered how the condition could be exacerbated by the hyper reflexive involution associated with late modernity. To repeat, the point is not trivialisation by me of mental illness, but rather that the interviewees may not have been so unanimous in their decision to "walk with the angels" by choosing to keep their illness if given the choice. I doubt that many homeless persons with the same condition, who have to live with the consequences of neoliberal deinstitutionalisation, would have supported Fry's view. If anything, the program was closer to psychologism, mixed with a dash of bioliberalism, as Fry showed greater interest in a possible genetic causal link for his bipolar disorder.
Likewise, Attenborough ends up targeting society without realising the terms he uses are themselves byproducts of a reflexive risk consciousness.
These personal testimonies hardly qualify as "voices of hope" then, but fortunately derridata passed along the following more compelling piece on Antony Hegarty. Very interesting, especially the references to the "difference in repetition" as a defining characteristic of the voicing of queer subjectivities (complicating my own previous musings on seriality and pathology, which I have elsewhere, i.e. not in this blog, acknowledged with reference to another piece on "queer sameness"). I don't pretend to have anything more than a passing knowledge about queer theory though, so I won't undetake anything like a detailed comparison here:

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