Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Can wisdom really be conventional?

This past weekend I was exposed to a high level of cable news. For myself, I haven't owned a television since my last one exploded (along with a toaster oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, DVD player, etc.) due to faulty wiring several years back, and I haven't lived in a house with cable since before the advent of 24 hour news. And I have to say, cable news is shitty and facile for the most part. Fareed Zakaria's GPS was excellent and thoughtful, but otherwise cable news appears to suck.

The story that was getting a lot of play beyond rebroadcasting Youtube videos from Iranian protests was the whole 'Obama's health care reform is on the rocks' bit because it turns out that anything close to full coverage is gonna be wildly expensive. Who would've guessed? Now, the question I've been asking myself since big B came out with his statement that he wanted a health care bill by the end of the summer was why such a rush? Why on Earth would you want to rush through what is so clearly a monumental undertaking?

And the answer that came back to me was that those moron economists he's got on the payroll have been whispering in his ear about Milton Friedman's theory of crisis as catalyst for undemocratic change. Friedman came to the idea that if you wanted to get real so-called free market reforms you needed to implement them during a crisis while people were too skittish and freaked out to resist. Once they're on the books, it's hard to undo.

The theory here might be (this is all pure, bald speculation I admit) that B's admin can use the economic crisis to push through a barrel of reforms before conservatives can get their barings and regroup. In theory this kind of makes sense, but in truth it's really idiotic. First off, universal health care is not undemocratic. The core problem is not that we're talking about trying to push through reform that only benefits a small group, it's that conservatives seem to embrace demagogic rhetorical practices to an extent that progressives tend to be uncomfortable with on principle. And those practices had been wildly successful right up to the virtual collapse of our economy.

And there's no reason to think those practices will be abandoned anytime soon. Mostly because conservatives embrace those practices on principle. The principle being that people aren't really capable of making wise political choices for themselves, and therefore have to be kind of tricked into making the 'right' choice. This is all wickedly ironic given the foundation of conservative economic theory, but not the kind of irony I would suggest laughing about.

So, really the choice was to try and counter this with a reverse Friedman political move or to somehow figure out a way to break the back of demagogery. Or to dissolve and transform the demagogic. However you want to think about it (I also freely admit that the warrior paradigm has limited use). It appears that B's admin went with the former, and it may have been the exploding cigar that the Repubs needed to lift there collective spirits and get back into the fray.

Obviously, this has all been speculation and generalization. None of which is of much value. I just thought I'd spout off a little bit about this whole thing because after listening to Obama's press conference yesterday I was reminded how smart and thoughtful this president is and how half-assedly pragmatic his admin's approach has been. The disconnect is not just a little frustrating, but I was not unprepared for that possibility (by that crappily calculated book of his The Audacity of Hope).

So there's that. Also just about through with Humboldt's Gift. The casual nature of Bellow's intelligence and the way he brings us into esoterically weird mystic teachings through a dynamic and funny story coupled with a philosophic journey of thought is quite staggering. I see now that I've started Dangling Man that, really, The Adventures of Auggie March was somewhat of an aberration (his Norwegian Wood, if you will) in that the level of philosophizing is still there but kept minimal, and the story and the sensual details of place and character are brought to the fore. Really he's at the philosophy from word one of novel one. And that's just fine.

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