Battle of Symbols
Place Vs. Space
One of the key reasons for Americas greatness is the embodiment of eastern and western symbols within the context of one culture. As we noted, America was founded at the intersection of the grand paradox between freedom of the west and equality of the east.
The two concepts have waged a historical cyclic battle within American culture. The truth of each has been expressed in individual and collective psychology at particular points in time. Yet both cannot create a dual dominance at the same time. A culture, like an individual life, is cyclic, either young or old, either filled with the equality of youth or the freedom of age.
American history has shown the dominance of one of these visions at particular times in American history. Just as freedom and progress of western culture as a whole has been identified by a general western movement, freedom in America has also been identified by western movement and the establishment of a particular place on the new frontier.
Equality has always been identified by a center in the east and rumor of a certain space all around. In the ideas of Republican and Democrat the ideas of place and space do battle in the contemporary world. The battle is carried to the Internet. The feminine ocean of cyberspace and equality is against the masculine islands of words called websites in cyberspace.
Equality and freedom fought their greatest battles during the 20th century. With the founding of the American West, an important symbol for Western culture came to an end.
For thousands of years, western culture was symbolized and mytholized as a movement west. When western expansion of Western culture came to a final halt in California a symbol also came to a final halt.
It was the symbol of place and the freedom it implied. The Pacific Ocean stopped this dream. Once pioneers reached California the world was a discovered place. Darkness disappeared from the old maps of Joseph Conrads time. Smaller and smaller lines were filled in. We could see our world in so much more detail. Our technology gave us the ability to see all the information of detail.
Interestingly, when the myth and symbol of place had run its course in western symbolism the symbol of space began to emerge. It emerged of course with that great movement inward away from the places of the outside world to the spaces of the inside world. The name of the movement was the psychoanalytic movement. It rose to prominence at the turn of the century. Those same years which saw the death of the American frontier.
At the beginning of the 20th century, America swung away from place and freedom to the equality of space. The cyclic swing in American symbolism expanded outward from Freuds psychoanalytic movement to consumer culture and mass marketing. The swing was from the freedom of outward place to the equality of inner space. The suggestion was an appealing one. We may fight on the outside but on the inside we are all the same and, implied, at peace.
This equality symbol dominated the first third of the 20th century. It was a monolithic symbol of equality because it was closest to its creation years at the turn of the century when the western idea of place evolved into one of space. Under its banner was created American advertising and the golden era of Hollywood.
The monism of American equality began to split in the 40s with the creation of a dualistic world of the free world against totalitarian worlds of Nazism, Fascism and Communism. The symbol of duality dominated American symbolism from the 50s into the 60s.
From the 70s into the present, American has been under the symbolism of plurality or a number of small symbols trying to attach themselves to a larger symbol. No one great symbol draws all the gravity during this time and truth becomes relative to all the "minor planets" that swirl about the human universe.
Yes, in a grand sense the idea of western freedom has reached its logical ascendance in America. That is why it is so interesting that this symbol of ultimate freedom lines up against an ultimate foe in the symbol of ultimate equality in the Islamic culture.
The real truth and irony and paradox to be understood today is the idea of the exportation of equality out of America. That dual symbol of America called equality that dominated America in the first part of the 20th century now dominates a large part of the world opposed to the symbols of freedom.
America enlists the aid of a number of other nations in its efforts to go into battle against the symbol of equality in the world. But the truth is that only America understands the dualities against freedom and equality.
The equality of the eastern symbol the freedom of the western symbol now goes into battle against is in a strange way America battling its inner demons in that equality part of it which escaped in the Clinton administration and tries to find a place in a freedom dominated contemporary American psyche.
Are these increasingly small little symbols the natural outcome to the capitalistic system? Does it end not with a magnificent explosion but rather with some guy looking at chads" with a magnifying glass?
Equality and freedom is a type of atmosphere and weather that ubiquitously hangs over and through. If we are right, its grand division of the world into smaller and smaller pieces precedes a cycle that rejects all these petty concerns. In the process it returns America to a particular grandness of equality when all of us feel some type of common bond.
But the internal battle in America between equality and freedom has been exported outward to the global culture long before America makes the cyclic swing to equality.
In a large sense, the real battle is between freedom and equality rather than freedom and terrorism. The old battle within America has been exported outside the American collective psyche and now perhaps the real challenge of the world is to understand how freedom (place) confronts equality (space) in a global rather than a cultural context.