Posted by: glue | August 6, 2008

Virtue (Life)

Since the movies provide our General Cultural Interface (GCI), it is important to notice the wisdom they sometimes intimate. However attenuated may be our memory of the virtues, there is one that continues to be promoted, and that condenses all the others — Life (in a word). An example is The Perez Family (Mira Nair, Dir. 1995).



“Recently released after 20 years in a Cuban prison, Juan Raul Perez (Alfred Molina) is on his way to Miami to join his wife when he encounters beautiful young Dorita Perez (Marisa Tomei) a prostitute longing for the freedom of life in America. When the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) see the same last name, and mistakenly sign the two up as a married couple Juan and Dottie play-along with the error becuase the INS gives priority to families.” What the synopsis neglects are the states of mind represented by the couple. Jaun is melancholic, turned toward the past, the shadow side of the mountain; Dorita is vivacious, optimistic, hopeful about her new life, the sunny side of the mountain. In mythological terms, Dorita saves Juan’s life, or enables him to rejoin the living (eros).

The lesson in the context of Expression is to notice how this film (any movie) may make us aware of our conatus. By means of identification, the narrative activates in us hope and fear — the mode in which the joy-sadness axis manifests itself intersubjectively (in the city). A path through the scenario opens by means of my feelings: I actively hope Juan and Dorita will get together and become a real Perez family, but I fear that they will be prevented from doing so. The director uses the arts of cinema to manipulate these feelings as a kind of Gee and Haw to steer my experience of the value.


Yin & Yang

Whenever eros is in play, school is in. In our terms, Entertainment as an institution already promotes the value of conatus, the lesson that well-being, the joy of enjoyment, is a primary criterion of what counts as Life. The promise of electracy as an apparatus is that the Internet may evolve into an institutional representative on behalf of this virtue (capacity), in negotiations with the institutional voices of the other two axes of society: belief and knowledge.


  1. Hype and Fear

    Paul Krugman in one of his columns called attention to the political manipulation of the expression axis, accessing conatus through hype (hope) and fear.

    “When the economy is doing reasonably well, the debate is dominated by hype– by the claim that America’s prosperity is truly wonderous, and that conservative economic policies deserve all the credit. But when things turn down, there is a seamless transition from ‘It’s morning in America! Hurray for tax cuts!’ to ‘The economy is slumping! Raising taxes would be a disaster!’

    “The whole point of scare tactics is that they can work even in the face of inconvenient facts. Barack Obama won his impressive victory in Iowa with a sunny, upbeat message of change. But there’s a powerful political faction in this country that understands very well that any real change will create losers as well as winners. And members of tha faction will do whatever it takes to scare people into believing that change means disaster for the economy.”

    (Gainesville Sun, 1/9/08).

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