Om Jonathan Franzen og hvad der er galt med verden

Har ikke rigtig kunne mønstre den fornødne mentale energi til at nærlæse den endnu, men Jonathan Franzens episke, alenlange og let rablende teknologifjendske essay ‘What’s Wrong With the Modern World’ i The Guardian for nylig er vist noget nær nødvendig læsning.

Jeg var ikke rigtig pjanket med den ene af hans bøger jeg har læst (‘Freedom‘). Historien var så underlig selvsmagende, men omvendt var der ingen tvivl om, at manden skriver fremragende. Han har et skarpt blik for paradokserne i det [xxx] (indsæt selv valgfri pseudo-intellektuel term her, eksempelvis ‘senkapitalistiske’, ‘postmoderne’ eller ‘postpolitiske’) samfund og en rask sproglig spidning af popkultur.

Således også i hans aktuelle essay, hvor han ihærdigt forsøger at iscenesætte sig selv som den nye Karl Kraus. Eller, som Franzen frydefuldt siger det: ‘The Great Hater’. Særlig besk bliver han i Kraus’ – og dermed indirekte også sin egen – spydige udstilling af hipsterkulturens let tragiske insisteren på at være ‘individuel’ og noget særligt:

“…The restlessness of who or what is considered hip nowadays may be an artifact of what Marx famously identified as the “restless” nature of capitalism. One of the worst things about the internet is that it tempts everyone to be a sophisticate – to take positions on what is hip and to consider, under pain of being considered unhip, the positions that everyone else is taking. Kraus may not have cared about hipness per se, but he certainly revelled in taking positions and was keenly attuned to the positions of others. He was a sophisticate, and this is one reason Die Fackel has a bloglike feel. Kraus spent a lot of time reading stuff he hated, so as to be able to hate it with authority.

Believe me, you color-happy people, in cultures where every blockhead has individuality, individuality becomes a thing for blockheads.”

You’re not allowed to say things like this in America nowadays, no matter how much the billion (or is it 2 billion now?) “individualised” Facebook pages may make you want to say them. Kraus was known, in his day, to his many enemies, as the Great Hater. By most accounts, he was a tender and generous man in his private life, with many loyal friends. But once he starts winding the stem of his polemical rhetoric, it carries him into extremely harsh registers.

Det er et fedt citat, det der med at man skal læse det man hader, så man kan hade det med autoritet! Og hvad med den her, hvor Franzen i fejende elegant stil drysser misantropisk salt i det åbne sår:

Vienna in 1910 was, thus, a special case. And yet you could argue that America in 2013 is a similarly special case: another weakened empire telling itself stories of its exceptionalism while it drifts towards apocalypse of some sort, fiscal or epidemiological, climatic-environmental or thermonuclear. Our far left may hate religion and think we coddle Israel, our far right may hate illegal immigrants and think we coddle black people, and nobody may know how the economy is supposed to work now that markets have gone global, but the actual substance of our daily lives is total distraction. We can’t face the real problems; we spent a trillion dollars not really solving a problem in Iraq that wasn’t really a problem; we can’t even agree on how to keep healthcare costs from devouring the GNP. What we can all agree to do instead is to deliver ourselves to the cool new media and technologies, to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, and to let them profit at our expense. Our situation looks quite a bit like Vienna’s in 1910, except that newspaper technology has been replaced by digital technology and Viennese charm by American coolness.

Jeg er langt fra enig med alt hvad Franzen siger – dertil er han simpelthen for manisk – men har han ikke fat i et eller andet? Se ham her i endnu en (tilbageskuende? Tvær? ‘Alting-bedre-i-gamle-dage’-leflen?) kulturkritik:

Nowadays, the refrain is that “there’s no stopping our powerful new technologies”. Grassroots resistance to these technologies is almost entirely confined to health and safety issues, and meanwhile various logics – of war theory, of technology, of the marketplace – keep unfolding automatically. We find ourselves living in a world with hydrogen bombs because uranium bombs just weren’t going to get the job done; we find ourselves spending most of our waking hours texting and emailing and Tweeting and posting on colour-screen gadgets because Moore’s law said we could. We’re told that, to remain competitive economically, we need to forget about the humanities and teach our children “passion” for digital technology and prepare them to spend their entire lives incessantly re-educating themselves to keep up with it. The logic says that if we want things like Zappos.com or home DVR capability – and who wouldn’t want them? – we need to say goodbye to job stability and hello to a lifetime of anxiety. We need to become as restless as capitalism itself.

Der er mere – meget mere! – i Franzens spraglede essay, som jeg ikke magter at forholde mig til her. Man kunne utvivlsomt placere ham i båsen med de andre sure kulturradikale, der føler sig fremmedgjorte og længes efter en falsk konstrueret fortid, hvor alting var mere ægte og relationerne bare lidt mere sande og gode.

Hvilket jeg så vil gøre. Alt imens jeg tænker over, at de fleste børn jeg kender i dag sidder konstant med deres iPad. At det er lykkedes erhvervslobbyen at overbevise samfundet om at humaniora er unyttigt. At store dele af min bekendtskabskreds bruger store mængder tid og energi på at iscenesætte deres perfekte liv på Instagram og Facebook.

Måske Franzen ikke er helt gal på den.

2 kommentarer til “Om Jonathan Franzen og hvad der er galt med verden”

  1. Spændende. Jeg skal se at få den læst. Når jeg altså har læst Bowies Top100.

    Forholder Frantzen sig i øvrigt til mennesker, der bruger urolige mængder tid og energi på at iscenesætte deres begivenhedløse liv som værende ægte og rigtigt på blogs?

    Svar

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