H. L. Menken, 禮崩樂壞之際

短短一年前,Woodrow Wilson還是一個大體上被廣為尊敬的人。美國歷史上唯一的PhD總統,Johns Hopkins的PhD校友,Princeton的前校長。

談論Woodrow Wilson,這個命運悲慘的人,理應是絕對安全的,尤其是他已經“蓋棺論定”——Wilson逝於1924年,將近一百年了。

然後,今天,Woodrow Wilson已經成了板上釘釘的種族主義者,飯桌上談話的雷區,沒人敢細說。聰明的你,能告訴這是為什麼嗎?為什麼一個歷史人物會成為taboo,容不得任何學術討論?

當一個人不停地感慨時代變化太快的時候,是否自己變瘋的前兆?還是這個時代太過瘋狂?

John Stuart Mill,在On Liberty (論自由)第二章說:

[A]ges are no more infallible than individuals; every age having held many opinions which subsequent ages have deemed not only false but absurd; and it is as certain that many opinions, now general, will be rejected by future ages, as it is that many, once general, are rejected by the present.

比起個人來,時代更容易出錯——因為每個時代都有很多種看法,在隨後的時代不僅會被認為是錯誤的,簡直就是荒唐的;同樣,有很多如今被人普遍接受的看法,以後將會遭到拒斥;也有很多過去被人廣泛接受的看法,卻遭盡人拋棄。

所以,在宣布自己變瘋之前,我更願意相信這個世界變瘋了。

這個世界變瘋的跡象很多,不僅僅侷限在美國:10年前,我和國內的朋友們都用facebook, Gmail, Windows Live, 還有Google。那是一個充滿希望的時代——彷彿中國也是全球觸手可及的一部分。今天和國內的朋友們聯繫,被問到最多的是微信——即使你人在美國,所有的人都預設你是微信用戶。不用微信的人是可恥的。往國內發Email近乎已經無人回;打電話,無論固定電話還是手機,都被擱置一邊。多麼懷念那個時代(十年前),新年,除夕,中秋,還可以一個個翻電話本打電話問候。多麼懷念那個Windows Live Space的時代,飛越重洋,人人都用一個網絡抒發心思。那個時代,寫Blog有人讀有人評論的,水木清華還不像今天那麼荒謬——“來自清華的高知社區” (是我,還是這個時代太過瘋狂?)。

今天的facebook是一個除強國在外的全球網絡。強國究竟輸出了什麼價值觀?是微信朋友圈,還是 “帝吧出征”? 為什麼一切都變得令人無法直視?

回頭看美國。我是一個鐵桿的liberal——幾年前,我做了Political Compass測試,結果是liberal中的liberal。直至今日,facebook依然把我歸類為”very liberal”。 Liberal如我,也經常發現自己讀不下去New York Times, 看不下去DNC Conventional。

僅舉一例——紐約市的31種性別——有人能告訴我這個官方文件意義何在嗎?恐怖的是,這不是玩笑,而是法律。這個以自由為立國之本的國家,已經陷入了充滿newspeak,處處文字獄的肅殺言論環境。

我喜歡H. L. Menken。他批判一切,即使在他生活的時代,都是那麼地政治不正確,汝若不信,不妨讀一讀他對林肯總統著名的Gettysburg Address的評價:

But let us not forget that [Gettysburg Address] is oratory, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it! Put it into the cold words of everyday! The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — “that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i. e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle an absolutely free people; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and vote of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that vote was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely any freedom at all. Am I the first American to note the fundamental nonsensicality of the Gettysburg address? If so, I plead my aesthetic joy in it in amelioration of the sacrilege.

我讀完這段話的感受是:如果Menken活在今天說出這樣的話,他可能已經陷入一場巨大的爭議甚至永無翻身之日。

美國,你究竟怎麼了?那些理應被誓死捍衛的言論自由權利呢?

如果有一天H. L. Menken也被當作種族主義者,無人敢公開稱讚他,我不會驚訝——畢竟,連Tina Fey在2010年接受Mark Twain Award的時候都預料:”I hope that like Mark Twain, a hundred years from now, people will see my work and think, ‘wow, that is actually pretty racist’.”

那個時候,我會百分之一百地確信我們生活的這個時代已經徹底瘋狂了。

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