I want, genuinely, to be hopeful and optimistic about the future of Egypt even though I am, sadly, an inveterate pessimist and doomsayer—but in order to instill a kind of complicated hope in me I am going to begin this post by talking a bit about South Africa, the country in which I was born some 45 distant years ago (I moved to Dallas, TX with my family in 1980).
South Africa is a great success story. A miracle. A miracle that she was able to emerge from Apartheid with, at the end, such a minimal amount of bloodshed and economic damage (so many, within and without, had predicted total calamity: a bloodbath accompanied by economic ruin). READ MORE >
— Susan Sontag, “Project for a Trip to China”
So I would start out with the dictionary definition of pretense, which would be useful actually, because I feel that many people do not know it, but that would be perceived as pretentious; but then I’ve already made the presumption that many don’t know the meaning of pretense, and thus pretentious and so; in fact, the whole premise of this is totally. An obscure quote? Semi-colons? What an ass, like lifting one cheek. Okay so.
I feel that 99% of the time the word pretentious is used in one very general way: to describe something someone doesn’t understand; either the phrasing of a thing, or the reach, the jargon, whatever. Now you might say, well look Reynard sometimes people are acting the fool and so I call them out when I need to call them out. And I feel you on that (also that is a very polite way to speak to me, thank you). It’s the literary equivalent of honking your horn. Some people honk at white space. I like it. Some people do not enjoy cheese. I can not comprehend their decisions. Why should we agree? Nothing says that anywhere. Some words have such totality, it frightens people. They cannot pry the concept from the object, even if the object does not exist in front of them, which is statistically VERY LIKELY.
The problem is most people use their horn for no reason. Most of the time when they say “pretentious” what people mean is “bombastic.” Bombast is inflated speech, using big words for no real reason, other than to sound smart. If the words are not used incorrectly, because they were culled from some thesaurus with passive regard for the range of their meanings, they are usually used in a way that either adds no greater specificity to the sentence or distracts the reader from the intended meaning. We know all this. So yeah, this is not good. But it is not pretentious either. And you don’t need to use your horn so much.
Then there are those times, like when some jerk doesn’t use his blinker, when a writer’s tone is, in your opinion, pretentious. But look, all tones are affected, even those that come naturally. That’s my opinion anyway. And at a certain point, all of it becomes a matter of opinion. Isn’t everything though? One could try to cite every sentence one writes, but one must eventually face the problem of threes, which is who and how and why? Okay, let’s simmer down a bit. I think I was trying to say something here. Maybe I should have written this essay in a satirical style, so as to deflect whatever criticisms a reader might have into the void of chuckledom and “I have a t-shirt that says I’m with stupid, shall I put it on?” Some people think everything on this site is pretentious. The thing is, those people are right.
To pretend is, of course, the very root of all literary and artistic creation. Were it not for pretense, nothing would get done. No one would tell a single story. Let alone write a poem. All literature is pretentious.
To be against pretense is to be against creation.
For the past 36 hours or so, I’ve been hooked on Al Jazeera.
And yet, on writing blogs and other social networking sites, almost nothing is being said about it, at least from the writers. It leads me to think that many writers develop an apolitical stance, a focus on aesthetics as politic rather than politics as politic. Ken Baumann wrote a smart rant about electronics, which was ridiculed by some, praised by others, but what’s noteworthy is the immediate suspicion and rebuttal against his overt political message. Why is this?
Should we care about Egypt? Why? Why not? Do you see this apoliticization and what do you think causes it? Or: please prove me wrong.