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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Tuesday, February 21

retrospective

In reference to the post immediately below this one -- more fascist foxism - then and now -- I got this email today from one Geoffrey -- last name withheld for now, though I'd be happy to add it if he's game.
I don't understand how one gets from a "... book [that] shows how the engagement of women in some sporting activity did promote and support some gender emancipation," as presented in "Italian Fascism..." plus the idea(l?)s in "Cult of Health and Beauty..." of an author who, "... examines how different social groups gave different meanings to the same hygienic practices and aesthetic ideals," naturally leads to 'Francesca "Franky" Cook (Angelina Jolie), who is the commodore of an armada of flying British aircraft carriers.' Yes, I do have questions. Please explain.
So, here goes...

Geoffrey,

Understandable. I have questions too. Seriously. I mean, I can't quite explain it myself -- which is of course a total copout. I should say: I haven't adequately explained it... yet. And that's because this blog is a book in progress, emphasis on the in-progress part. It's me musing "out loud" about ideas that are often not quite worked through -- and this is one of them.

I'll admit to a certain amount of intentional... um... let's call it subtlety (I'd prefer not to call it obfuscation, but one legitimately could) in how I'm presenting some of these ideas. On Mystic B, the blog, I'm doing something suggestive (no pun intended, but perhaps it fits) that I won't be able to do in the book, where I won't be able to use graphics (certainly not so many graphics) to explore, test, suggest, hint at the themes I'm developing.

Also (before I get down to concrete cases), keep in mind that these posts are not stand-alone communiques. Each is a part, some part, of a complex overall structure-to-be...

Mystic Bourgeoisie
Numinous Lunacy & the
Sanctimonious Narcissism
of the NewAge++

...the eventual (gods willing) book. Worse, these bits are not coming in linear -- or any other kind of -- order. Many are, as I've mentioned here and there, notes to myself, reminders not to forget this or that person, quote, book, thread, leitmotif.

However, there are continuities, too, and this is certainly the case here. I first visited this general theme on 27 September last year in the brief two-picture post, fascionistas. "Everybody wants a piece" is all I wrote there -- on my best double entendre behavior. The naked bowgirl first appeared on January 25 in a post titled sound familiar?, in which I quoted the following from the book whose cover it adorns, The Cult of Health and Beauty in Germany: A Social History, 1890-1930:

From the 1890s to the 1930s, a growing number of Germans began to scrutinize and discipline their bodies in a utopian search for perfect health and beauty. Some became vegetarians, nudists, or bodybuilders, while others turned to alternative medicine or eugenics.
Note that last word, which has been a major theme here on Mystic B. The same book-cover image figures again on February 1st in my post body, mind and spirit II: empire of ecstasy, which offers further graphical hints that "The Cult of Health and Beauty" is more than an isolated bit of evidence. Note also that every one of these images is linked to a book. Even if readers have not clicked through on these links, they may rest assured that I have, and spent considerable time there -- even before the books arrive by snailpost.

It seems needless to point out, but I will, that "Body, Mind and Spirit" is a core buzzphrase of the New Age um... literature. So there's another clue. I'm exploring certain trends that were already well burned-in before the Third Reich that one could imagine (imagine me imagining it) are making a bigtime comeback today.

One of these trends is an obsessional fixation on bodily perfection as a bulwark against the core concept of "degeneration" -- more about which first appeared on this blog on July 26 last year in who's afraid of virginia woolf? -- where I mentioned the book, Modernism and Eugenics: Woolf, Eliot, Yeats, and the Culture of Degeneration -- and again in more detail on November 2nd in perfection itself, which post I "explained" as...

A disturbing and undisciplined meditation on degeneration theory, H.G. Wells, Doctor Moreau, fear of the dark, white bourgeois racism, the Third Reich, art, big science and the Human Genome Project.
I continued my meditation (so to speak) on perfectionism in another largely pictorial post, body, mind and spirit III: blonde on blonde, which included this quote...
The ideal women were tall, blue eyed, blonde representatives of the Aryan Race. The ideal beauty corresponded to the type of human being that was politically sound. For Hitler beauty always involved health: "We only want the celebration of the healthy body in art."
That post ended with a cover clip from a New Age self-help book -- A New You: Words to Soothe the Mind, Body, and Spirit -- that sports a blurb reading: "If you look at the sunshine, you don't see the shadows."

To which I replied...

If you look at the sunshine long enough, you go blind. Maybe it's time to look into those shadows. (Can you see your mother, baby?)
And all this is important why? It's important because biological arguments for "race betterment" -- a popular concept at the time -- were genetic arguments against "degeneration." And they underpinned, as was their purpose, a eugenics program that led to the murder of millions of "unfit" individuals: Jews, psychiatric patients, homosexuals, Afro-Germans, Gypsies. At risk was anyone unhealthy, less than beautiful, non-blond, non-Aryan -- in a word: imperfect.

So when I see evidence of what sure looks to me like crypto-Nazi chic (e.g., the fetching Frankie) combined with a rampant passion for physical culture -- Bikram Yoga, anyone? Pilates? -- plus star-struck celluloid celebrity worship, a tidal wave of intolerant religious fundamentalism, and a population of increasingly know-nothing faux-innocent (who me?) New Agers... then yeah, I think there might just be legit cause for concern. These phenomena may exist in different boxes to some degree today, but not-so-distant history shows how quickly such separate cultural boxcars can jump the tracks and "converge" in a train wreck that then seems to have come out of nowhere. Gee, who could have predicted it?

Forget about your mother standing in the shadows. Pick up a newspaper in the blindingly shadow-free glare of high noon.

Does this series of graphics really need further explication? The way "Frankie" is portrayed in the first speaks to a certain contemporary fascination with hot babes in darkly authoritarian military getup. And this fascination is hardly a new phenomenon. Let me hasten to add that I have a good deal of respect for Angelina Jolie, from the little I know about her, and very much enjoyed Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (the site's pretty decent, too). Finally, let me say that I think Angelina and Brad seem a perfect match, and that Ms. Jolie looks especially fine in a wetsuit.



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