For a number of reasons too numerous, complex and inconsistent to state, I put up with the antics, insights, flippancy, and vituperation, of the occasionally brilliant, constantly cryptic, usefully pessimistic and caustically biting wit of Craig Nulan, aka Xavier Hesychastic Moon the Subrealist. If he didn't exist, I would have to invent him. He is often Moriarty to my Holmes, which to say a challenging fiend whom I believe is genrally wrong and not often a pleasure to deal with. Every once in a while he says something obscenely crude which makes me wonder why I ever put up with him. Every other once in a blue moon he says something the borders on sheer enlightenment which cements the twisted bond we've shared as black cultural critics for nearly a decade online.
Just the other day he said something of the first sort, and I considered devoweling his comment, it just so happened that I got called off in the middle of doing so, and in the end let the matter slide. But now I need a bit of a refresher to re-adjust my assessment of the relationship. In other words, Craig sweeheart, we need to talk. And of course all others are invited to this retrospective and intervention.
The last time I went down this alley was three years ago. It pretty much boiled down to the following:
I think that blacks have a responsibility to conserve the best of our culture independent of politics. I must confess that when it comes to matters Nulan characterizes as the interpersonal communinion, I find that as a compelling argument primarily in the context of culture. That is to say that I think there's a jazz call and response requirement of soul.
That's EXACTLY the trifling underestimation of the psychological adaptation called Blackness that got the collective membership of the afrofuturist list slapped around for weeks on end, i.e., when you were loving my ruthless dissection of Blackness as a psychological garment. To see you here and now publicly donning this tawdry drag is profoundly disappointing..., try to get with some of MLK's post assimilationist truth!!!
In short, Nulan wants to make a political dollar out of a cultural 15 cents through the bank of King. I'm not invested.
Here's what I suspect. That having represented myself as a black cultural critic, or black at all, that I am subject to an Intellectual One Drop Rule which I do not respect. It is a subject upon which Nulan declined to speak. In that regard, I am suspected intellectually and personally of being something akin to a traitor. I would actually much rather be considered a heretic, because in the end, blackness is a matter of faith whose orthodoxy is incomplete and always undergoing change. My refusal to update my version of blackness is problematic. Not for me, for 'them'.
I am not really interested in updating or changing, and I'm not sure that I care to explain myself any more than I do, but since I know CNu updates his critique of me periodically, I am willing to discuss the implications of his most recent rumbling. I do so with the bold presumption that over time the difference between his worldview and mine might prove of some use to those curious about where 'black thought' is going, if I could presume to call any of this 'black thought' other than as a convenient tag and mnemonic.
Here's the thing and backdrop. Nulan percieves that the great American experiment is about to go belly up. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian in tune with a sort of meditation which cannot be easily witnessed or explained around these parts, he is highly frustrated with the ethics of American life. If there is one way to see CNu, it is rather like the protagonist of Somerset Maugham's 'The Razor's Edge'. He's sick to death of the fatuity of American class-ness, and he sees it riven with the sort of corruption that requires purging by fire. Only he believes the fire will spontaneously erupt, so he's actually not the other sort of revolutionary. In other words, he's a doomday prophet and every day we don't burn, he's a scolding misanthrope. Except that he comes from the ranks of the oppressed and in his own self-actualization realized a better way, and latent in the souls of black folk are the tools and embodiment of the only hopeful future we might possibly have.
Every day he looks at me and my writing he feels the pang of betrayal of a similar soul who has decided to keep hope in Western Civilization alive, and worse yet, I do so without being subversive with the nerve to suggest my investment of self-actualization be branded under the red white and blue - the banner of the winged monkeys since 1776 and before. And worse yet, I do so in the company of a class of morons who have no such deeper aims or understandings. So he sees my patriotism as false. It is either false in the hopeful way of perfidy that under the right circumstances I will abandon with alacrity. Or it is false in the hopeless way of brown nosing a class of vermin I have decided to naively entrust with my loyalty. So he keeps me at arms distance until the real truth of me is revealed, slapping me as Moe slaps Curly on a daily basis. Like Curly, most of the time I'm immune, but every once in a while, he says 'Niagara Falls'.
In one way, I feel fortunate to have someone who cares enough to give my writings contrast, and I am indebted to Mr. Nulan for his attention. In another way it is very much like a bad marriage and I do so want to run off to Bangkok and forget I ever knew him. But since I've never met the man in person, I don't really have an emotional investment at all - which is why I take the time to put all of this in the context of something we have both cared about from varying perspectives and in varying degrees which is The Substance of Black Cultural Identity.
Before I get into that, I need to get at the thing that annoys me most about his most recent references to Niagara Falls (and for those benighted few who don't know, the phrase 'Niagara Falls' was to Curly of the Three Stooges like a call to his subconscious unleashing his id. It released his beast.)
Nulan has taken in recent months a second prong of a two prong attack which falls more heavily on his assumption of a hopeless patriotism. And so this is, I presume, the basis of his whinging, bleating and blathering on about the 'knuckledraggers' of the Tea Party and his misguided broadsides against proper Conservatism. It is not clear to me exactly how misanthropic Nulan is, but he clearly gives no quarter to the rank and file of the GOP and suggests a very strong correlation between them, white supremacy, errant capitalism, and other sorts of devil worship. So here I stand, a not insignificantly gifted blogger, on the side of what is in his eyes a clear and present danger to the soul of mankind. And I actually forgive those people. So he must exert what pressure he can and call me both 'anti-black' and all that implies on the first prong, and now as defenders of the faithless, idiot whiteboys and their great soul-killing manipulations, worse yet with some of the same slogans that Fox uses.
Anyway, that's what I think he sees, and he's wrong, but I can live with that uncorrected so long as he doesn't get on my last freaking nerve. Except that occasionally he does.
And so since it's not all about me, I turn to the substance of black cultural identity, which I think having been given a good airing will deflect me from having to ban Nulan for his ad-hominem screeds and glib derailments of otherwise interesting threads.
It should be said that nothing I say with regard to black cultural identity should be considered outside of the scope of my evolving Peasant Theory. If you buy into the idea of native alienation, then black Americans, as the first true post-modern people are only particular and key in exemplifying the universal truth That truth is that as human society advances, those in power become more and more able to promise and deliver greater prizes for the souls of the civilizationally indigent - aka people who have not yet achieved the status of free men of means. The enticements to peasants should be evaluated as should all such social contracts. That provided by MLK and all others mentioned with him in mind are only Constitutional. I defend that as a patriot, but as a human being who doesn't wish to be considered a peasant, I know better.
What arrangements can black cultural identity make that might be more rewarding than that offered to any and all American peasants? And so why should patriotism be different for anyone? Indeed if America is the superpower and defacto empire of the planet, why should any patriotism be different than American patriotism? Why should anyone want to live under any other sort of rule, and then finally why bother with a racial or cultural nationalist distinction?