Some of my fellow citizens who are compelled to
be in constant despair about the persistent decline of civilization
(an attitude I have always associated with my undergraduate years)
or the impending apocalypse are, I think, very much aided and supported
by their synergistic (or is it symbiotic) relationship with the
thing thoughtlessly (thats a digression I may pursue if I
have call to think of it again) labeled as mass media.
Recently I read that 1900 American men were polled by Esquire
magazine and voted Ronald Reagan the greatest living American
and that report may add to the dyspepsia of the dyspeptic. But then
again, an amusing counter-weight to the perennial national self
abasement Americans engage into show the world and each other
the scope of our ignorance by pointing out what our youth cannot
currently find on the map or globehas been in my mind, established
by the competition in Great Britain to ascertain the Greatest Briton.
Winner of this, uh, contest was the estimable Winston Churchill.
No surprise there, I think. But placing ahead of such world historical
figures as William Shakespeare and Charles Darwin is the poster
girl of fin-de-sicle ersatz celebrity, Princess Di.
Now, I think it is a sign of the glass being more than half full
that Shakespeare and Darwin are on this list And then there
is Lachlan Murdoch, scion of that perpetrator of cynical abasement
of humanity (you know who and what I am talking about), lecturing
Australian media colleagues about the need to make a profit, because
"good business supports great journalism "
"The profit motive is not only fundamental
to our ability to reward shareholders and pay employees, it's fundamental
to excellent journalism." Reportedly he scolded "the self-anointed
media elite" who believe "making a profit is positively
sinister." After reading this account I wished somebody had
practiced some basic journalism and asked young Murdoch whether
great journalism led to good business.
I must confess I have picked up a new habit from
my dog Rosie. When she intends to settle down for a nap or some
respite from her ambitious life style she tends to circle the anointed
spot four or fiveor sometimes moretimes before settling.
Much like my canine companion I am aware of circling around my intended
subject before getting to it. In this case I wanted to offer the
good news that despite the sorry state of newspapers, magazines,
television, movies, radio, billboards and public signage there is
evidence of intelligent life out there. I should say I am not a
devotee of the nascent (maybe not so nascent, if measured by contemporary
tech standards) blogging movement. Part of my recalcitrance is aesthetic,
as I find the word blogging un-pleasing in all its aspects
and moreover something I would ascribe to a distasteful bodily dysfunction.
More seriously, I sense the endless fertility of the Internet weblogs,
and I am overcome by the vertigo that arises from a horizon-less
point of view. It has taken me a lifetime to calm my aspirations
to read all the books that I am even faintly interested in and now
the opportunity to peer into the minds of and converse with so many
mentally agile and intellectually passionate people suggests the
possibilities of overdose.
Anyway, I suppose this is where I finally get to
the point. I recently engaged in some commentary regarding "leftism"
at 2Blowhards.Com. The exchanges included four or five people and
within a day ended with 16 comments, of which two were mine. Then
two days later the definitive, conversation-stopping posting:
"Why would a rational person with some knowledge
of the world choose to be a leftist?"
quite simple, that.
A: So as to never become as profoundly addled
or arrogant as the likes of you and your ilk.
Posted by: s. melmoth on December 4, 2002 10:55
There is a better than even chance that I will modify
my attitude toward this, uh, blogging experience. At this moment,
the best of it was the opportunity to express a truth about myself:
As uncomfortable as I am with labels I am proud
to be identified as a person of the Left. And that identification
has come mostly from the rancorous public debates of the last
forty years, which is to say that being against the Vietnamese
War and against Jim Crow early branded me a leftist.
But I am also not a political theorist and like most people my
politics flow from my sense of right and wrong. I believe in social
and economic justice. What does that mean? I am against people
starving in the midst of plenty and of not having adequate medical
attention and medications. I am against the poisoning of our air
and our water and our land by careless or greedy individuals or
corporations. I am for protecting and educating our children.
I believe in human rights and am against the deprivation of those
rights by governments and global corporations. It may certainly
be a triumph of hope over experience but I believe in the perfectibility
of man much in part because I share Mark Twains belief that
weeach of uscontain some secret kindness.
Well, this was responded to, by the following:
Your statement of economic justice is not leftist.
It's moderate and conservative. So, I might rather conclude that
you and I are both moderates (which is the same as "conservatives,"
as I've argued on my blog). But I guess you must believe other,
more inalienably leftist, things you don't mention, since you
say your are a "leftist."
And it was as I considering my response to this
that I intuited an unsatisfying endgame, a kind of intellectual
coitus interruptus and folded my hand, returning to my breezy
reading of Bob Woodwards new dare-I-say expose, Bush At
Perhaps I should be more subtle about revealing
my bias, but I have never really taken Woodward seriously. Firstly,
I have suspicions about people who actually call themselves Bob.
And secondly, Woodwards television appearances have never
lived up to Robert Redfords portrayal of him in All
The Presidents Men. Setting that aside, I am not sure
what I got out of Woodwards account. Near the end he is at
President George W. Bushs 1600-acre ranch in Crawford, Texas.
The ranch has a simple, one-story house in a corner of its vast
acreage. Woodward goes for a tour with our president in the Presidents
pick up truck. The National Security Adviser goes along as does
a Secret Service agent:
He seemed to gave a particular destination in
mind as he tucked the truck into a hidden corner of trees and
stopped. We got out, having come perhaps two miles across his
property. Rice said she was not getting out because she did not
have the right shoes. The Secret Service agent did not follow,
so the president and I walked alone across a wooden bridge about
20 yards away.
As we crossed it a giant limestone rock formation,
maybe 40 yards across loomed above us, nearly white in color,
shaped like a half moon with a steep overhang. It looked as if
a mammoth seashell had grown out of the Texas canyon. A tiny natural
waterfall tumbled from the center of the overhang. The rock looked
ancient, as old as the Roman catacombs. The air had a sweet pungent
smell that I could not identify. Bush started tossing rocks at
the overhang, and briefly I joined in.
As we walked back, Bush brought up Iraq. His blueprint
or model of decision making in any war against Iraq, he told me,
could be found in the story I was attempting to tellthe
first months of the war in Afghanistan and the largely invisible
CIA covert war against terrorism worldwide.
You have the story. He said. Look
hard at what youve got, he seemed to be saying. It was all
there if it was pieced togetherwhat he had learned, how
he settled into the presidency, his focus on large goals, how
he made decisions, why he provoked his war cabinet and pressured
people for action.
I was straining to understand the meaning of this
Before he got back in his truck. Bush added another
piece to the Iraq puzzle. He had not yet seen a successful plan
for Iraq. He said. He had to be careful and patient. A president,
he added, likes to have a military plan that will be successful.
Hmm. Based on this passage I would probably be adverse
to giving the book much serious thought. But then Bob does have
access to Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell and Ms. Rice and some other
senior policy people and his account of their interactivity is significant.
I think. Maybe.