Thursday, July 19, 2007

Grunge, Christianity and Normativity, Part 2

This is continued from here by Michael Fletcher, the title of this section is mine and not the Authors. LEK Ed. Note 7/20/2007: after posting this I realized that there was only another paragraph left of this article. I am not sure why but I thought it was longer. this is only a two part post after all. LEK

Integrity, Credibility and Normativity

The alt-rocker who bucks for street credibility does not see himself as one with the intention to be a star and make a lot of money. Or at least the renunciation of this is what is officially required of any would-be possessor of street credibility. Artists like Love and others want to be recognized as street-credible but that commits them to certain things. It commits them to being a certain way. But--and here is the problem--what grunge or punk commits her, or anyone like her, to is difficult to say. It's easy enough to see that it commits her to having and maintaining a certain aesthetic--the grunge aesthetic--which is nothing more than attitudinizing and dressing a certain way. But is there anything more substantive than that?

To me, Grunge is dead only for those who thought it was something to wear. But a consequence of that being so, is that all the things that were or are most significant about the grunge movement are not the property of grunge at all, but the property of Christianity, if traceable to anything. The rejection of conspicuous consumption, of pretension, of self-obsession; of homophobia and racism. The best things about grunge, when looked at more abstractly, are expressed in creedal statements of Christian orthodoxy, to love one another. That single precept rules out clear psychological obstacles to loving one another such as pretense, racism, sexism, etc. My conclusion is necessarily parochial due to the fact that I'm not really acquainted with other religious. But it's likely that there's much overlap in precept.

It's difficult to pin down what's distinctive about the grunge movement's ideology that isn't essentially Christian ideology. If anything novel about grunge is present it's that is functions as a new mode of presentation for the entrance of these cultural values in the young. For us old timers, who went to Sunday School, however, it gives us contemporary cultural expression to some properly moral sentiments, like righteous anger against gay bashing or sexism, that has cachet and secular edge and a legitimacy outside the endorsement of the Church. And that is refreshing to see. But it's important not to suppose that one is got onto totally new ideology, if ever there was one. And there certainly wasn't an ideology in punk or grunge in the way that there was an ideology in Marx, articulated and codified. But ideologies can be implicit practices, so that's not a running concern that would take the "movement" out of The Grunge Movement.

Love's easy integrity makes it impossible for one to ever be without integrity, and since this is patently false, not integrity can be captured by saying that integrity is whatever is in the heart. If, as I have argued, grunge has its ideological roots traceable to attitudes and convictions constitutive Christian practice, then it certainly follows that not everything that is in the heart is consistent with what should be in the heart. Normativity enters into the picture by placing a condition on integrity, that condition being one that allows it to have a content that makes assertions to the effect that "Person X has integrity" empirically falsifiable: if integrity is to mean anything at all, it has to be the case that not every conviction, not every action, can be consistent with someone's having it. Having integrity requires reference to some principles the practice of which make it possible to specify behaviour that contradicts them.

Certainly, the thin conception of grunge as a movement prescribing flannel wear allows this, but I am trying to locate conditions for the possibility of leveling a more substantive kind of criticism against those like Love than just a criticism of inconsistent garb. Relating grunge to Christianity (or other suitable religion) makes it possible for Love's acceptance of her Hollywood lifestyle--i.e., its vain consmeticism a la boobjobs and nosejobs and partying and phony Hollywood smoozing, etc.--consist of behaviour that is inconsistent with her grunge identification (if she ever had one). By reference to Grunge's ideological ancestry, Grunge obtains the content which allows the moral accusation of practitioners like Love to have the content necessary to charge her with possessing a character lacking in integrity.