Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and Postmodernism

On "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and Postmodernism: Can something exist if there's no word for it? Are we not imprisoned by the language(s) we use on a daily basis? These are two fundamental "postmodernistic" questions which underpin the late-1980s kids show "Pee-wee's Playhouse." Because I'm typing in English at the moment, I'm employing about a 1500-year-old linguistic tradition that has evolved from a particular set of Anglo-Germanic tribes on an island off the coast of Western Europe. It has traversed the pages of works like Beowulf and Hamlet. But the language did not really mature until the era of British colonialism in the 17th and 18th centuries. That's when English words started to become standardized, as the British were bringing "order" to an otherwise chaotic world through their empire building. It was this drive for linguistic standardization in modern history that postmodern philosophy intends to subvert. To illustrate this idea, have a look at the above video. The outside of Pee-wee's playhouse appears somewhat orderly with animals at play and the house having been carved from its surrounding environment. But upon entering the playhouse, everything turns into absolute anarchy. In short, the closer one gets to analyzing and dissecting Pee-wee's situation, the more meaningless it becomes.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

On the Oneida Commune and Complex Marriage

On the Oneida Commune and Complex Marriage: Photographed above is utopian socialist John Humphrey Noyes, who in 1848, founded the Oneida Commune in Upstate New York. Rooted in a series of deep-seated Millennialist ideas, Noyes believed the Oneida Commune could "perfect" what Christ had started some 1800 years earlier. In particular, he wanted to create a community free of sin, inequality, and property, as these were the primary pillars of evil in an emerging industrial world. To get rid of sin, which ultimately stemmed from desire, Noyes instituted the practice of complex or group marriage. In other words, everybody in the commune was married to each other. Possessing another person in terms of traditional marriage was strongly discouraged. People could therefore have sex and reproduce with whomever consented to it. Middle-aged women often introduced teenage boys to intercourse while middle-aged men did the same with teenage girls. Community elders generally determined "appropriate" partnerships in an early attempt at communal eugenics. Noyes himself fathered 13 children, many of whom were with 20-year-old women while he was in his sixties. Upon learning of a statutory rape charge that was heading his way in 1879, Noyes fled to Canada where he eventually died in 1886.