Essay

Archipelago Americanus [Flash Fiction]

In the Roman mind, as in the Greek, beauty was always in form, only in form could beauty exist. Yes, form is beauty, beauty form; if this, then Truth is also in form. To inform becomes a kind of bearing truth. The aesthetics of Keats aside, there is too much exchange of information today, a thing a little less than beautiful, or so we could have assumed, we are subject to far too much permeation from institutions wanting information about us, on us–always on top of us. Smothered, are the People. I am not certain today we even know what exchanging information means, where the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion should be for both public and private space. Anything akin to a philosophy of beauty would be lost on us. I could say we do not read well enough and that any highly articulate and intelligent aesthetic would require advanced literacy at a stage we have abandoned as being unnecessarily elitist, but I will not. Aesthetic philosophy has long lost its influence in the academies of learning in America; it resides somewhere now in an intellectual graveyard with philology. I am not trying to resurrect philology, nor am I insisting that we return to some Golden Age of academic learning when Aesthetics and a philosophy of Beauty guided us in perfecting our humanity.

We have given up on ever perfecting any special acumen in a philosophy of beauty–or should that always be Keats’s uppercase Beauty? The exchange of our personal facts, though, is too free and too easy, and it remains offensive by aesthetic standards of appraisal and not just ethical or jurisprudential ones. The kind of information exchanged today is the kind we used to keep close, or offered only to our kin. Now we open the book to those who are not kin and a lot less than kind. And we wonder the fate of the individual in America.

To be bourgeois is to be capitalist, even if you are a worker, and this is one of the hallmarks of American Civilization, the making of bourgeois clones from the organic material of the proletariat or the former peasant classes, a class America had seemingly put under revision before the Civil War, but certainly had to do so afterwards, and had to face the ugliness of in the form of white agrarian southerners during the last gasps of Jim Crow. I do understand that every effort toward hegemony of or by the bourgeoisie was not nefarious. To be bourgeois capitalist is to be western, even if you are Asian in Asia. In fact, to be western is also to be American, in a way, the American transfiguration of Western Civilization has been ongoing, if not in onslaught, for a hundred years or more. And yes, there is a Western Civilization, one that precedes 18th century Oxford Professors and British revisions in the name of their hegemony. The material of our civilization is not a complete fabrication, a mirroring of the emperor’s new clothes, but a wonderful and true fabric of many intricately woven threads.

The world is fast becoming one kind, even if we have yet to raise our ethical consciousness to the level where we can see clearly the oneness of our human kinship. Yet, the scariest thing I noted in Paris the last time I was there was how much like everywhere else even Paris is becoming. Every city in the world an island in the American Bourgeois Capitalist Archipelago, a chain of Post-post Modernist American Islands in a sea of everywhere else.

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