mad in pursuit: greed & arrogance

2004 political season

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greed & arrogance index


8.20.04 The End Is Near

I'm a little fed up with politics at the moment -- even fed up with ranting. There is so much ranting going on and to what effect? It makes me sound like just another whacko to say things like "our society is in decline" but there are some days when it seems to have hit bottom.

Every time I switch on the TV, those Swift Boat Liars are being interviewed. When did the "news" stop being about reporting facts? I can get all philosophical about What Is Truth, but aren't there facts that have been established? Aren't there enough episodes of "Law and Order" and "CSI" to pound into our heads that fact-finding and logical argument is the basis for a just society?

Those television shows are so popular -- yet they seem to have little influence. Maybe because their comfortable formula -- "wrap it all up in an hour" -- feels more like fantasy than the let's-make-believe-unpredictability of so-called reality shows. "Facts" have become a matter of religion, dependent on which team you are rooting for. No one seems to recognize or care anymore that if you choose the wrong set of "facts" to believe, terrible, terrible consequences can ensue.

The August 23 edition of The New Yorker reviews recent history books that update the causes of World War I, which began in August 90 years ago. Everyone agrees it was a disaster. It suddenly ended the Belle Epoque -- a period of peace and prosperity. The fighting began on August 4. By August 29, 260,000 French were dead.

The old theoies said the war was a "tragedy of errors and misunderstandings that carried the unknowing participants toward an end that they could not envision." The new theories say the war "was the deliberate decision of individuals who thought they knew just what they were getting into... a game being played by terribly inept players."

It sounds frighteningly familiar in this ideological era, where special interest money can catapult bad-boys-who-use-Jesus-as-their-psychiatrist into the most powerful jobs in the world.

The New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik makes a final point about war.

...The point we might still take from the First World War is the old one that wars are always, in Lincoln's perfectly chosen word, astounding. They produce results that we can hardly imagine when they start. It is not that wars are always wrong. It is that wars are always wars, good for destroying things that must be destroyed, as in 1864 or 1944, but useless for doing anything more and no good at all for doing cultural work: saving the national honor, proving that we're not a second-rate power, avenging old humiliations, demonstrating resolve, or any of the rest of the empty vocabulary of self-improvement through mutual slaughter.

This seems especially important as we seems to be wading deeper and deeper into trouble with the Islamic world with our cowboy attitudes and neocon motivations, while news programs can't seem to focus on much beyond fact-free arguments over John Kerry's purple heart.





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