Friday, July 09, 2004

Leisure leads to Triviality

George Will has a typically good piece today, called "The Left, At a Loss In Kansas" about a book called What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank. I'd heard of the book, and Will summarizes Franks typically facetious thesis, but what struck me was this, near the end of the column:
When the Cold War ended, Pat Moynihan warned, with characteristic prescience, that it would be, like all blessings, a mixed one, because passions -- ethnic and religious -- that were long frozen would come to a boil. There has been an analogous development in America's domestic politics.

The economic problem, as understood during two centuries of industrialization, has been solved. We can reliably produce economic growth and have moderated business cycles. Hence many people, emancipated from material concerns, can pour political passions into other -- some would say higher -- concerns. These include the condition of the culture, as measured by such indexes as the content of popular culture, the agendas of public education and the prevalence of abortion.
It's something that I only half-grasped before, but it sure seems to be true. Yet, Moynihan's prescience is especially impressive and we have the current War on Terror as evidence. This also explains how many can't seem to get over their obsession with the trivial, and have even placed those matters over the "really big things" of our time. In our post-9/11 world, some have slipped back into the 1990's mindset and can't seem to recognized that "the times, they are a-changin'" for real. Victor Davis Hanson touches on this today when he explains that
At a time when tens of thousands are risking their lives to end the barbarism that has spawned a quarter century of worldwide terror, the New York Times wishes us to know that its columnists can properly pronounce Iraq and really do remember that freedom "rings" more often than "reigns."

Meanwhile, an even smugger Billy Crystal was introducing the billionaire John Kerry at a millionaires' banquet in L.A. with similar gravitas — comparing 9/11 to the president's SAT scores. Oh yes, 3,000 incinerated on September 11 add up to the president's combined SAT score. Analyze that: comparing charred corpses to multiple-choice tests taken by high-school seniors.

The message of this out-of-touch, spoiled idiotocracy seems to be something like, "How embarrassing for us to have an inarticulate president who has freed Iraq and inaugurated democracy in Saddam's place." Are all these people crazy and ignorant of history — or do they simply want a free civilized Iraq and the American soldiers who brought it about to fail?
These people have let their rhetoric fog their perception of reality. They are ideologues of the worst sort as they have let their ideology drift so far from the truth that most can't tell the truth from half-truth. They believe every conspiracy that justifies their wildest anti-Bush, anti-Republican, anti-Capitalist, anti-American dreams. But some may be waking up, at least a bit, according to Hanson.
So John Kerry is starting to get it that the conventional ignorance of Michael Moore, the New York Times, and George Soros is already anachronistic. You can see that well enough when a grandee like Tom Brokaw, Christiane Amanpour, or a Nightline flunky starts in with the usual cheap, cynical hits against Iraq reformers — only to be stunned mid-sentence, like deer in the headlights, with the sense that they are berating noble and sincere men and women — far better folk than themselves — who at risk to their lives are crafting something entirely new in the Middle East.
But there are still plenty who place the pithy comment and still cling to the cynical, materialistic philosophy of life that served them so well in the past.
For over a year now, we have witnessed a level of invective not seen since the summer of 1864 — much of it the result of a dying 60's generation's last gasps of lost self-importance. Instead of the "innocent" Rosenbergs and "framed" Alger Hiss we now get the whisk-the-bin-Laden-family-out-of-the-country conspiracy. Michael Moore is a poor substitute for the upfront buffoonery of Abbie Hoffman.
And what about those conspiracy theories...

The oil pipeline in Afghanistan that we allegedly went to war over doesn't exist. Brave Americans died to rout al Qaeda, end the fascist Taliban, and free Afghanistan for a good and legitimate man like a Hamid Karzai to oversee elections. It was politically unwise and idealistic — not smart and cynical — for Mr. Bush to gamble his presidency on getting rid of fascists in Iraq. There really was a tie between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein — just as Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton once believed and Mr. Putin and Mr. Allawi now remind us. The United States really did plan to put Iraqi oil under Iraqi democratic supervision for the first time in the country's history. And it did.
...well, they'll just make up new ones, you'll see.

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