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2007 12 31
Reading Toronto’s Debasing Great Poets Holiday Edition



As far as the evolution of the hyperreal was concerned, 2007 was a banner year. The unsustainable, simulacra cities of the world like Las Vegas and Dubai continued to accelerate towards god knows what ultimate and decidedly artificial end (Dubai, at least, has tipped its metaphorical hat to the idea of sustainability—Las Vegas makes no excuse for what it is). Wars and civil unrest "surged" ever more into our awareness as western governments continue their "war on terror." As new technologies allow, we are becoming a surveillance society where governments monitor their populations looking for activities that threaten to destabilize the socioeconomic status quo using "1984" not as a warning but as an operating manual.

But the war on reality had a symbolic high point just last Friday when underage drinkers trashed the historic home of Robert Frost, author, if you remember, of "The Road Not Taken." While not my favourite poet, Frost is an American legend and represents, at least for this posting, something that might be considered authentic in the American cultural discourse.

Here is the news report:
Homer Noble Farm, a former Frost residence that's now a historic landmark, was ransacked late Friday night during a party attended by up to 50 people, Sgt. Lee Hodsden said Monday.

The intruders broke a window to get into the two-story wood frame building -- a furnished residence open in the summer -- before destroying tables and chairs, pictures, windows, light fixtures and dishes. Wicker furniture and dressers were smashed and thrown into a fireplace and burned, apparently to provide heat in the unheated building, he said.

Empty beer bottles and cans, plastic cups and cellophane apparently used to hold marijuana were also found, according to Hodsden. The vandals vomited in the living room and discharged two fire extinguishers inside the building, located on a dead-end road off Route 125.

The story says that as many as fifty people took part in the destruction of Frost's landmark home. What does that tell us about a society when fifty kids break in to a home and trash it? When the home is a protected landmark belonging to a person many in the U.S. call the country's greatest poet, is the act representative of a declining society no longer aware of its own history?

I have come to accept the idea that there is a "Wisdom of Crowds," effect that provides insight into seemingly complex problems. In this case—the damage to Frost's home—the insight given is that we are as a culture becoming disassociated from history and from value. This act follows in the tradition also seen Iraq when its museums and historical sites were looted while curators watched helplessly as their country's history was swept away by chaos. The kids in Frost's case may just be the canaries in the coal mine signaling that the youth in a well-to-do eastern town gave no value to the history of the place. We won't even touch the less abstract truth that what gives anyone that age the idea they can collectively damage anyone's home.

So, goodbye to 2007 and hello to 2008. What more stories in the passage towards hyperreality will the new year offer? Let's keep track of these kinds of stories and find out.

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 12/31 at 05:18 PM

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