Triump of the Will, the post-virtuoso era

This morning in the shower contemplating the meaning of life, I saw a solution to an old problem.

The Book of Revelation confused me (and I suspect I’m not alone) in seeming to suggest that The Apocalypse could simultaneously offer the last big war, and a thousand years of peace, a little bit of paradise mixed with a sprinkling of hellfire and damnation signaling the end of everything.  Or were those prophets just covering their butts like good astrologers or weather forecasters, being deliberately vague while hedging their bets?  40% chance of rain, with 10% chance of brimstone and fire?

It struck me that convergence opens doors, creates opportunities, and in so doing may seem to be like the asymptote or the defining condition for both the worst and best of possible worlds.  With rapid change there are winners and losers, and we’re living in a world of such intimate communication that we’ll hear from both groups, if we care to listen.

It hit me that Donald Trump is very much like a crossover artist.  Excellent in his world of BS and bluster, in reality TV, he came to politics the way Aretha Franklin came to “Nessun dorma” or Jose Carreras came to Broadway musicals.  They –Donald, Aretha, Jose or anyone else crossing over—might be good in their old field, but in crossing over we don’t hold them to the usual criteria.

  • Only the opera world (and I struggle to keep a straight face as I say this) objects to Aretha singing out of tune or departing from the original text
  • I don’t think Broadway did object to Jose’s performance, but he was very much a fish out of water
  • And now only those sticklers who actually worry about the usual qualifications of a POTUS have concerns about Donald.

The phrase we keep hearing is “post-truth”. Fake news has depressed the press.  But as a blogger, I must speak of convergence again, that any idiot—me included—can write an opera review or offer their opinions on politics.  We are not so much post truth as post credentials, because disciplinary boundaries have vanished.  Anyone can write, anyone can sing, anyone can run for political office, and the crazy thing is, that so many people seem to prefer inexpert incompetents over genuine virtuosi.  Al Gore was a smooth pro as a politician but perhaps the electorate wanted someone less perfect and more human; enter GWB.   Obama gave several of the best speeches I’ve ever heard.  I cried when his 2009 inauguration alluded indirectly to the Great Depression, citing one of my absolute favourite songs.

Obama said:

This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.  Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.   (for full address )

Never mind post-truth, when truth isn’t what it used to be.  If a virtuoso plays a brilliant piece and nobody notices, is there brilliance?  We live in a post-virtuoso age.  Convergence means anyone can do anything.  Youtube is jammed with brilliant performances that can all be had for free.  Labour prices are likely to go down in the USA, between Trump’s cabinet appointments and his love for outsourcing.  Convergence’s economic correlative is the interchangeable parts of the world economy, starring third world workers paid next to nothing.   It’s nothing new of course, but the one fascinating development is the huge throng of voters supporting Trump who are likely to be the very people to be in trouble.

This might be paradise if you’re a rich man, or hell if you’re a working stiff. There are huge opportunities and huge risks, all in the same moment. Some are swimming for their lives to reach a land of plenty, others (me?) maybe don’t properly assess the risks and/or bonanzas ahead.

Happy New Year, banzai and mazel tov!

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