Sunday, November 07, 2004

Where do we go from here?

TO THE THINKATERIA COLLECTIVE
MEMO
COMMANDER KNEMON
RE: TIN SOLDIERS AND RUMSFELD'S COMIN'


The scariest thing, to me - and I know you agree, Aerik, and I'd be interested to know what everyone else thinks - is how the two lobes of America's brain, i.e. conservative and liberal intelligentsia, have entirely split apart and rolled off into opposite corners of the room.

There are now two parallel realities - from the ground-floor of news-gathering and quote-collecting (the right is finally muscling into this in a big way), all the way up to Shields and Brooks.

Look at, say, littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog and dailykos.com. If you read the former, you dread worldwide Jihad, and you're afraid of the bubbling lunacy on the left. If you read the latter, your dread is directed inward - at the Rethuglikkkans.

[This, on a side note, is why I have to end up siding with the former, if they're my only choices. They are at least looking for dangers internally and externally. The latter sees danger located only in the GOP. Plus Israel. Think I exaggerate? Hang out on their comments board for a week].

Okay, both these sites are massively popular "forum" dealies, where a scattering of interesting and substantive posts bob among a sea of grunting. So let's look a little further up the intellectual chain.

Take instapundit.com and talkingpointsmemo.com, run respectively by Glenn Reynolds and Joshua Micah Marshall. Both smart guys, both relatively honest. Marshall is much more of a *party* hack, Reynolds more an *ideological* one, if you see what I mean - Marshall is very much a Clintonista by temperament if not employment (don't know his history except that he's got a PhD in it - history, that is. I think. Could be poli sci). Reynolds is a registered Libertarian who voted for Al Gore (as did the littlegreenfootballs guy, and rogerlsimon.com).

They just aren't speaking the same language. They have completely different concerns. Part of this is natural, since Marshall is the standard-bearer for those out of power, and criticism comes more naturally; Reynolds risks becoming a jingo. But again, this frees Reynolds somewhat to see the forest for the trees.

When these gods o'net, or even we humble but fairly info-hungry mortals, come to polemical blows, we inevitably end up in stalemate. Sure, on factual questions we can be proven wrong all the time (though even that rigid empiricism is fading, not due to either "side" but due to technological/information evolution),

but on questions of strategery, it becomes Link Fu, and the 51-49% grind on the macro level comes down to the micro of us going at each other, all like a fractal, and prevents the argument from ever terminating in conversion of one or the other of us.

Politics is no longer in the streets (and thank god for that - Germany, anyone?), but plays out increasingly through words. Look at cable news - not just a market evolution, it also provides a safety valve function, like monkey grooming-talk to curb nervousness.

This is the Dark Night of the Logos, when sophist rhetoric and professional wordsmiths sieze so big a space in society that a culture goes schizo by simultaneously

a)questioning and critizicing itself relentlessly, if selfishly and navel-gazingly
b) asserting its superiority and trying to Save the World.

Oho, what's going to happen to us - not Roman imperial decadence. Rather, Athenian imperial fragmentation - an Oedipus or Pentheus played out on the world stage.

Gentlemen, welcome to 430 BC. Enjoy your stay.

****

At the base Fear-ridden root of it, isn't it a leap of faith either way. A choice to buy into one narrative or the other. No, I don't mean Creation Science vs. Darwinism, or even "right vs. left" in any other sense, since I reject the post-1968 hijacking of the Democratic party re: the use of military force (though Bubba did his best to reverse that). I'd love to be a Democrat, if they'd get their act together on those issues.

I mean the narrative that 9/11 was a "tragedy." That the best defense is first responders. That since we didn't find a picture of OBL signed "BEST FRIENDS 4 EVER" in any of Saddam's palaces, Saddam was just some run-of-the-mill Pinochet with a penchant for bizarre outfits, who could continue to bubble on the UN's back burner (with ample skimming of of le jus, no? oil-for-whaa?)

This is stupid.

But the alternative, that we are Chosen to Save the World and End History, is not stupid - it's crazy.

[again - I'm not talking about who we voted for. It cuts across that - or rather, *almost* everyone who voted for Bush is on one side of this, and the Dem.s are more split. Which does not bode well for their medium-term prospects].

Stupid vs. crazy. What a fun choice. And by not choosing, you have chosen to be stupid.

(Vidal! can hopefully tell us: is this kind of like what Kierkegaard was on about?)

3 Comments:

Blogger aerik_the_red said...

Knemon:
You are RIGHT... ON... TARGET! I feel like we are really on the same wavelength, at last. There's a passage from the Tao Te Ching that says: "When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king." All I have ever said - the only thing I have ever said, really - is that this hateful performance is far beneath our dignity as Americans and democrats. WHAT exactly do Americans think they're doing? WHY are we frittering away our inheritance, hating our fellows when they are more like us than any other people on earth? When will people WAKE UP? When will our renewal come? And where will it come from?

I am expectant.

Aerik

12:51 AM  
Blogger aerik_the_red said...

Another thing: anyone who denies that there is an essential - that is, organic - connection between all the members of a nation, is a fool treading blindly through a forest of empirical, demonstrable fact, pushing away the branches of reality and claiming he is comfortably at home, asleep in his own bed. There is manifestly an "American" character and an "American-ness" about each of us.

And how do I know this is true? To quote the Tao Te Ching, again: "How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see."

1:19 AM  
Blogger aerik_the_red said...

A last thought before bed. People have said that men who do terrible things in their youth often repent in old age, making a full confession as they try to expiate their sins. According to chroniclers, Tamerlane had nightmares about the children he had killed decades before, which eventually led to insomnia and drove him insane. I've heard, also, that Lee Atwater called Michael Dukakis from his deathbed to apologize for attacking his character in '88. Do not think this is another partisan slur, that I'm trying to make Republicans look like psychopaths or fools or both. Both sides employ such men; and on both sides, I think, it must be against the better moral judgment of these men, though they may not acknowledge it to themselves in such explicit terms, until it is perhaps too late. I only hope that each is able to finish his life with a clear conscience.

1:49 AM  

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