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By using the tag Popular songs I am able to trace the development of my short and unsuccessful songwriting efforts. I started in September &...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Amnesia

Sometimes I think I have come up with a new idea and then a little while later I remember that I wrote about it in a book published 4 years ago, or an article from 20 years back. For example, I just remembered that I had critiqued national stereotypes in Apocryphal Lorca too. Sometimes the trick is not just thinking of the idea but re-remembering it and developing its full scope later on.

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Really smart, well-educated Spaniards have deployed stupid stereotypes when dealing with me, like cowboys, or Indian reservations. That is helpful because then I am reminded being smart doesn't prevent you from reaching for the closest stereotype. I'm reminded of David Brooks who defends his work by saying, look, it "rings true," in other words, it resonates with one's internalized but ideologically based notions of reality. We can imagine a world populated by methodical Swiss, sensual but rationalist Frenchmen, alcoholic Irish cops, drawling Southerners, violent and noble Gauchos, passionate Latins, laconic New Englanders, understated British with "stiff upper lips," and so on. Even if these ideas "ring true" and are confirmed by experience from time to time they are still false and dangerous.

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The usual response to a stereotype is that it is untrue or not verified empirically. That is not really the problem though. Or only part of it. Unsophisticated students love to study stereotypes, for example. The real problem lies elsewhere, in their ability to monopolize whole swaths of discourse around just about everything. Everyone knows they are false, that is an "open secret," but then the same people often come back and affirm the stereotype's essential truth. "Well, most stereotypes are false, but this one rings true." You can be a very sophisticated thinker and still come back thinking "typologically."

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From a review of some translations of Neruda and Vallejo in the 70s. The reviewer is Hays, himself a pioneering translator:
We can speculate on why writers from the "underdeveloped" countries of the south seem to be capable of more sweep and passion than those of the states. The chief difference in our environments is technology. Our colleagues of the south remain closer to the jungle, the snowtopped peaks, the untamed rivers and the pampas than we. It appears we suffer from the castrating effect of our packaged civilization and even our emotions are in danger of being wrapped in cellophane.
Closer to the jungle and untamed rivers. I am not making this up. This is not even ironical.

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