Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Insouciance

Wonderful word, insouciance, I first became aware of it, long ago, among the writings of the inimitable Ogden Nash:

Introspective Reflection,
by Ogden Nash

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance

Illustration: Felix the Cat being insouciant.

Then again: (source lost, sorry):
Some prefer their musical idols to be insouciant, seeming not to care what their fans think or want. Others like them more eager to please, happy to take requests and engage. The two obvious examples are Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. Armstrong would smile and encourage the audience to participate, while Davis was the insouciant master who showed no concern for or interest in what his listeners might prefer: some people found his insouciant manner irresistible.

And more recently:
From: America, Land of the Lost by Paul Craig Roberts:
Insouciant Americans are undisturbed that alleged terrorists are tortured, held indefinitely in prison without due process, and executed on the whim of some executive branch official without due process of law.

Most Americans go along with unaccountable murder, torture, and detention without evidence, which proclaims their gullibility to the entire world. There has never in history been a population as unaware as americans. The world is amazed that an insouciant people became, if only for a short time, a superpower.

The world needs intelligence and leadership in order to avoid catastrophe, but America can provide neither intelligence nor leadership. America is a lost land where nuclear weapons are in the hands of those who are concerned only with their own power. Washington is the enemy of the entire world and encompasses the largest concentration of evil on the planet.

Where is the good to rise up against the evil?

Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them.
― Julian Assange


Anonymous said...

I realized long ago that an individual is capable of anything, if it can be justified and rationalized in that person's consciousness. Same applies to a group or nation.

I don't know if I would say insouciant is the correct descriptor for the citizens of America. The politicians, lobbyists, organizations, and corporations are certainly not insouciant - and they're collectives of American citizens.

I would liken the current American consciousness to the same nationalism that German citizens in the 1930s displayed toward Hitler's regime. Bush Jr.'s (aka Cheney-Rumsfeld) regime introduced a strong American nationalism ("either you're for us or agin us"). Patriotism gone ornate! Most Americans have accepted the propaganda offered by the fear-mongers in charge, even to the point of giving-up too many freedoms in lieu of protection. Ugh!

The major astrological influence of the 1930s, 1960s, and 2010s is the Uranus-Pluto configurations. Heavy-handed governments of the world are now asserting a new world order, instigating a potential liberation of the governed. This is hopefully leading to a period of reversals with outcomes quite different from the desired political-government result. Seems to be a necessary evolution, if all goes well!

Britain and most other industrialized nations have many of the same behaviors that I would deem ugly nationalism and you are calling insouciant.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ I take your point, Anon. But please, don't forget that it was Paul Craig Roberts who used the word insouciant to describe some Americans, it wasn't my description. I simply illustrated examples of how the word has been used :-)

I don't know how wide and deep in the USA is the kind of nationalism you describe (likened to Germany in the 1930s). I don't get to meet enough people in enough different places to judge. I get, from online commentary around the net, that there's definitely some of that in the mix.

My gut-feeling, from what I read, is that there's also a good proportion of US citizenry who are simply not tuned-in to political issues, other than as they affect them personally - they don't see "the broader picture", don't see the "wood for the trees". Such people aren't even engaged enough to be nationalist. This could be described more as disengaged or apathetic rather than insouciant, I guess.

Insouciant, the word, to me describes someone who understands what they're doing in being careless/carefree, nonchalant, knows the alternative, but has made a choice not to be the alternative.

Dunno...maybe the truth (if there is one) lies somewhere between your description and that of Mr. Roberts.

Uranus/Pluto - yes. Who knows how this new round of configurations will turn out, given all the other challenges on the horizon, which weren't there during similar Uranus/Pluto eras in the past: climate change top of the list, social networking next one down? It's certainly no time for insouciance!

DC said...

The "Land of the lost" article was certainly an interesting one, and with Paul Craig Roberts I agree.
I can't help but think that after, let's say two, three, or even five-hundred years from now in America.....after centuries of learned insouciant behavior, fear mongering and the like, as well as spoon-fed info from the politicians and the media at large....that a day will possibly come when the mere expression of (the emotion) anger, in any way, will cease to be legal?
I believe it will.....truly I day expression of anger or outrage, in and of itself, will be illegal.
Everything I perceive in the news and behavior of Americans THESE days leads me to this controversial conclusion.
To the powers that be....anger IS a threat....and those powers always get rid of that which threatens them. Am I right?
Strange to think that an emotion might one day be deemed a criminal act. But then again....this current trend has already begun to unfold, and has been referred to by many as the "Thought Police". First it will be (and already IS)decided that certain SPEECH, that is deemed a threat will be illegal.....and hence banned and criminalized....then down the line it will likely include thought or "Harmful" emotion that is also banned, and likely criminalized also.
Get enough people on a bandwagon and anything is possible...especially insouciant people.
It won't be in our lifetime....but it seems to be one of the many directions the USA is headed. IMO of course.

Twilight said...

DC ~ If we, or civilisation, or some of it, or any of it, lasts that long (2,3, 500 years) your idea would seem a distinct possibility.

If, by outlawing anger, violence were to be outlawed too, as close cousin of anger, then strong emotions of all kinds would have to go.....and war?

Wouldn't the very act of outlawing anger be a cause of anger though. A kind of Catch 22-ish situation ?

I dreamed up something broadly along the lines of breeding out strong emotion through time and teachings in a sci-fi tale I wrote (still somewhere under the rubble of my bloggy archives). I envisioned it in a benign, well-meaning context though, among escapees from Earth after dire calamity, to another habitable planet. It might have worked there, but maybe not on Earth (astrologers would have reasons!)

Robert Jensen has a good article on several sites this week:

Get Apocalyptic: Why Radical is the New Normal

He ends it saying:
By avoiding the stark reality of our moment in history we don’t make ourselves safe, we undermine the potential of struggles for justice and sustainability.
As Baldwin put it so poignantly in that same 1962 essay, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

It’s time to get apocalyptic, or get out of the way.

Very anti-insouciance!

LB said...

Humans are complicated. Sometimes it's easier for us to keep our heads down and take our cues from the rest of the herd. So long as our part of the pasture has grass (or what we believe to be grass), we don't concern ourselves with how it got there or with the needs of sheep in other pastures. Apathy, disinterest, laziness and most especially *denial* can be very contagious.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Yes, true, those attitudes seem to be commonplace - possibly some of them driven, and sustained, by a deep-seated fearfulness too, maybe unadmitted.

Contagion, especially now with Facebook, Twitter etc in the mix, is rife - it'll feel good to belong to a gang or tribe with similar outlook - makes it all seem like "the right way to be".

LB said...

You're right, Twilight. I forgot about the role fear can play. Survival too. The movie, "Casualties of War" was on TV the other night and as I was watching, I kept thinking how much courage it would've taken to go against the group or its leader. It's an extreme example of the dynamics that can play out in situations in which we're faced with a moral choice.

Twilight said...

LB ~ I haven't seen that film, but can imagine the situation you describe. Finding courage in wartime circumstances, when everyone is galvanised for action, trying to survive, it would be hard enough; but in fairly comfortable, non-life-threatening situations (as now) deciding to not roll with the flow, make enemies, lose friends, it has to seem even harder - especially when there's an available, easier alternative.