Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sing the Song of Experience

Over at, Jackson Lears does a top-notch job of reviewing Martin Jay's Songs of Experience, an intellectual history pondering what authentic experience is and the disasterous effects the pursuit of it can have. I won't bother you with my two cents on what authentic experience is, because, well, hell if I know. But I will leave you with a money paragraph of Lear's explaining the way experience can be manipulated politically in an information age and therefore our zeal to experience the world unmediated by anything other than our selves.
In our mass-mediated image empire, the Bush Administration has constructed its own political reality without regard to evidence, putting radical epistemology in the service of reactionary politics. Under these conditions, old ideas about truth acquire a new luster, and the ideal of authentic experience remains a necessity.
I won't lie and say I don't delude myself into thinking I can achieve "authentic experience," because I do. But when I really get down to it, I think our pursuit of authentic experience isn't much more than our avoidance of boredom. The thing to always keep in mind during this pursuit is not to privilege our pursuit more than others, because as the past two cataclysmic centuries of history has proven, the tendency for "authentic experience" -- under the guise of U.S. Providence, Sovietism, and Fascism -- to produce murder and mayhem is ripe.