Promise and glamourPosted: December 17, 2018
You’re not gonna get what you were promised.
An angry making idea. Maybe one of the most angry-making ideas possible.
I’ve been wondering if anger about the feeling of a broken promise is a major driver in US politics. We were promised something, and we’re not gonna get it.
But what, exactly?
The United States is the absolute best as promising. All of our greatest politicians were great promisers. Our founding fathers were great promisers.
John Lanchester, writing in LRB:
Napoleon said something interesting: that to understand a person, you must understand what the world looked like when he was twenty. I think there’s a lot in that.
I notice, talking to younger people, people who hit that Napoleonic moment of turning twenty since the crisis, that the idea of capitalism being thought of as morally superior elicits something between an eye roll and a hollow laugh. Their view of capitalism has been formed by austerity, increasing inequality, the impunity and imperviousness of finance and big technology companies, and the widespread spectacle of increasing corporate profits and a rocketing stock market combined with declining real pay and a huge growth in the new phenomenon of in-work poverty. That last is very important. For decades, the basic promise was that if you didn’t work the state would support you, but you would be poor. If you worked, you wouldn’t be. That’s no longer true: most people on benefits are in work too, it’s just that the work doesn’t pay enough to live on. That’s a fundamental breach of what used to be the social contract. So is the fact that the living standards of young people are likely not to be as high as they are for their parents. That idea stings just as much for parents as it does for their children.
But it’s not just politics. If you live in the USA and you turn on your TV, you are being tempted, teased, and promised.
The illusionary promise.
There’s a connection here, I believe, to the world glamour. What is glamour?
The Scottish term may either be from Ancient Greek γραμμάριον (grammárion, “gram”), the weight unit of ingredients used to make magic potions, or an alteration of the English word grammar (“any sort of scholarship, especially occult learning”).
A magic spell. An illusion.
Here is Larry McMurtry talking about glamour, and its lack:
Kids in the midwest only get to see even modest levels of glamour if they happen to be on school trips to one or another of the midwestern cities: K.C., Omaha, St. Louis, the Twin Cities. In some, clearly, this lack of glamour festers. Charles Starkweather, in speaking about his motive for killing all those people, had this to say: “I never ate in a high-class restaurant, I never seen the New York Yankees play, I never been to Los Angeles…”
He was teased with something he could never have. Here is Andrew Sullivan on Sarah Palin:
One of the more amazing episodes in Sarah Palin’s early political life, in fact, bears this out. She popped up in the Anchorage Daily News as “a commercial fisherman from Wasilla” on April 3, 1996. Palin had told her husband she was going to Costco but had sneaked into J.C. Penney in Anchorage to see … one Ivana Trump, who, in the wake of her divorce, was touting her branded perfume. “We want to see Ivana,” Palin told the paper, “because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture.”
Interested in readers’ takes on glamour and glimmers.