Saturday, October 2, 2010

There Must Be Some Other Option

Some years ago, I use to say to students and others that I found it impossible to be a Republican or a Democrat, a liberal or a conservative. I put it this way: I decided I would be a liberal and, sure enough, pretty soon some joker would come down the street, a liberal, saying the most asinine things you could imagine - like let's hire people on the basis of such characteristics as race or gender or age or whatever. Then, after hearing that, I decided I would become a conservative. Pretty soon, sure enough, some joker would come walking down the street saying the most asinine things you could imagine - like let's make war on a tactic, "terrorism." And let's spend huge sums of money on this "war." Well, of course, now it was impossible to be a conservative. Isn't there some alternative that makes sense?

Perhaps this is what politics is like as a matter of course. Pascal in his book titled, Pensees, claims that we make a mistake when we read Plato and Aristotle on politics and read them as if they were being serious. Pascal says that we should read them as if they were writing comedy because for them, reforming politics was like trying to bring order into a madhouse! Perhaps Pascal was right, if not about Plato and Aristotle, then about politics. And this would help explain the success of the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert, who lampoon our politics and our politicians with vigor and intelligence. And perhaps this helps explain why Kurt Vonnegut's book, Slaughterhouse Five, is so good or "spot on." The key delusion that politicians share is the delusion that we are in control here. We are not, as hurricanes and other natural phenomena remind us all of the time. As Billy Pilgrim learned to say, so should we: "So it goes." Or as a parrot says in one of Tom Robbins novel, mocking Marx: "People of the world, RELAX!"

No comments:

Post a Comment