Second Thoughts Greil Marcus Shape Of Things To Come

July 23, 2007

Greil Marcus

Shape Of Things To come

Second Thoughts

A Review

by R.E. Prindle


     Freud in his 1921 essay Group Psychology And The Analysis Of The Ego laid down the basis of what would later evolve into the concept of Multi-Culturalism.  Thus each culture is a discrete entity governed by its own cultural iudeals or Ego.  Judaism is a culture with a set of ideals and a culture.  Americanism is a set of edeals without either an ego or culture of its own.  Hence ‘Americans’ are eclectic borrowing from many cultures while believing in none and also while granting a sort of sanctity to these cultures because of the lack of its own. 

     From the Jews ‘American’s borrowed the concept of the Chosen People and redeemers of the world.  Greil Marcus in his latest effort ‘The Shape Of Things To Come’ seems to know this but I don’t think he understands its implications.  Mr. Marcus seems to be motivated by a sdort of cultural envy.  Indeed the Jews and Americans are in competition for the role of the ‘Chosen People.’  Perhaps it is significant that like all Jews Mr. Marcus has dual passports.  He is at one and the same time an Israeli and an American.  In other words he is neither one nor the other but like any other American he blesses the non-American side of his split identity.

     Mr. Marcus in this volume of prophecy takes on the role of one of the ancient prophets of Israel.  He seems angry that John Winthrop would borrow the description of Jerusalem as a City On The Hill and apply it to New England.

     Mr. Marcus takes offence at this and comes back to it repeatedly. 

     As he points out that as with the Jews those who form a covenant with God will be scourged by God as the Jews have repeatedly been.  He seems to think that the colonial predilection for slavery is somehow offensive in the eyes of God although slavery was an institution among the ancient Jews for thousands of years.  Solomon the Wise sold his own people into slavery to pay for his temple.

      American slavery, offensive to the nostrils of any decent person, was first White then evolved to Black when scoundrels of various nationalities, including a hefty proportion of Jews, unloaded shiploads of Africans in America.  The Blacks eventually displaced the Whites but there is many an African-American with the blood of a raped White ‘servant girl’ in his veins.

     All this is neither here nor there.  The point is that Mr. Marcus believes the day of retribution is at hand.  That is The Shape Of Things To Come that he prophesies.  He seems ato take a fair amount of pleasure in his visions of blood running in the streets.

     Having established the notion that ‘Americans’ are going to get their comeupance he then goes on to give the Jewish cultural vision of America and Americans.  He relies on John Dos Passos USA trilogy and the paranoid delusions of Philip Roth both of whom are Jewish.  It is a characteristic of Mr. Marcus to cast his fellow Jews as virtuous while the evil persons are goyish.

     As it chances I have read Dos Passos’ USA trilogy a trilogy of times.  While able to plow through the occasional Roth volume no more than once although I did enjoy The Breast immensely.  Perhaps Mr. Roth’s novelette may explain his psychology.

     Now, Mr. Marcus entitled on of is earlier volumes The Weird Old America.  I tranlsiterate the title into The Bad Old America.  thus Mr. Marcus emphasizes the negative appraisal of America by Dos Passos.  There is no denying the negative side of any culture. But it is wrong to speak only positively of the Jewish culture and only negatively of the American.  My undersanding of the work has changed with each reading so that by the end of the third volume, The Big Money, in my third reading I was ready to vomit.  If one were to contrast Booth Tarkington’s Penrod and Seventeen with the USA trilogy you would not only think yourself on another planet but in a parallel universe.  I personally remember the evils of growing up but I also remember the joys.  I have seen the slums, lived in them, but I have also seen the magnificent college campuses before the really big money, concrete and masses of humanity arrived.

     Yes, I have had my moments of displeasure too but I have also experienced the exaltation of delight.  More importantly so has Greil Marcus.

     After having condemned the Bad Old America of the past from the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers on Plymouth Rock to 1936 when Dos Passos finished The Big Money to the present.  All right Mr. Marcus, I’ve got it.  We’re sorry for Hitler did to the Jews.  OK?  But let’s not forget what the Jews did to the Amalekites among numerous others.  There are no innocents.  Right?

      As an example of how foul small town American ‘really was’ Mr. Marcus offers us the vision of an apparent psychopath, movie maker David Lynch.  Mr. Lunch, apparently from Boise was responsible for an aborted TV series, Twin Peaks and a movie sequel called Fire Walk With Me which apparently entranced Mr. Marcus.

     Well, why go into details.  Suffice it to say who would want to live in such a hell hole.  If Mr. Lynch’s vision coincides with that of Mr. Marcus I’m amazed that he can take any pleasure in living let alone living in a place like Berkeley.  Seems exceedingly masochistic to me.  Mr. Marcus’ fellow Berkeleyans had better hope that he never takes it in mind to reveal the real Berkeley steeped in crime and infamy.

     Well, I could go on like this but I’m getting tired of all this negativity.  I do agree with Mr. Marcus that it is a wicked, wicked world out there that requires a lot of caution and precaution to more or less successfully negotiate it.  There is a lot of evil out there to prophesy but the real danger Mr. Marcus as another Jewish prophet, Jacob Frank once foresaw is the evil within.  urge thyself Mr. Marcus.  I won’t be moving to Israel anytime soon to escape the evils of America.

End Of Second Thoughts

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