Sunday, July 25, 2010

All The Strange Things, They Come And Go As Early Warnings...

Batocchio of Vagabond Scholar wrote an excellent post today. It concerns the rampant class warfare in this country and how people from all over the political spectrum perceive it.

The main thrust of Batocchio's post is that, when it comes to how the way our government should operate as opposed to how it is operating, the conservative consensus is that you have to get what you can while you can because we're all participating in what amounts to a zero-sum game. The liberal consensus holds that we're all stuck here on this one boat floating on this vast and unpredictable ocean whether we like it or not, so maybe we should put aside our differences when it comes to making sure this damn thing doesn't sink before we find a harbor.

For the most part, I fall on the side of the liberals: plainly put, I want the ship to continue sailing indefinitely. I shrink in horror from the idea of drowning. But try as I may, I simply cannot picture any of us ever sighting a harbor. Thus, I can't find much fault with conservatives feeling the way that they do. I'm of the opinion that, if any of us do one say find a harbor to pull into, it will be from a badly battered lifeboat, not the once-magnificent ship that one day finally succumbed to neglect and historical precedent and went to the bottom with hardly a whimper.

Where I part ways with Batocchio is marked in bold, from the last paragraph of the post:

It's been astounding to see the petulant rage that's erupted from conservative politicians and their far right base in reaction to Obama's election and presidency. After ignoring or even cheering on all the abuses of the Bush administration, suddenly under Obama they started attacking even those policies more conservative than Eisenhower's or Nixon's or of the Republicans of 10-20 years ago as socialist. It may be because Obama broke the biggest unspoken rule of the game they thought they owned:You're not supposed to win. A similar dynamic drives all the reflexive hippie-punching and "center-right" blather from Beltway reporters. Liberal activists are very familiar with this rule, and have unfortunately seen plenty of it over the years, including during the current administration. Sensible policies have been denounced as too radical or "liberal" over and over again, watered down or completely eliminated. The conservative critique of Obama is that he's radically changed all the rules and is rigging the game against them – which might be poetic justice, but isn't true. The liberal critique varies, but it's generally that Obama has made some changes and improvements, but also has been too timid about changing the rules of the game, too accepting of how badly the game's rigged. The more sympathetic would argue he simply can't change things that much with an obstructionist GOP and other obstacles. The more critical think he's happy with a rigged game, or is making it worse, or is just too establishmentarian by nature (as with his economic team). If so, he's far from alone in Washington, more's the pity. But beyond any character assessments, the fact remains that good governance is not encouraged by the current rules of the game. Contrary to Brooks, the present set-up does not benefit us all, or anything remotely resembling a majority of Americans. When the dominant attitude in the Beltway is that liberals must always lose - and more importantly, that sensible, effective policy shouldn't guide decisions, especially if it's supported by the wrong sorts of people - it's time to challenge the rules, or change the game.

Let's start with "the present set-up does not benefit us all." Granted. But I don't think it should benefit everyone. Frankly, that's an impossibility, if only because there are those who cannot for the life of them picture themselves as being in the same boat as everyone else, a fact Batocchio tacitly acknowledges. But aside from that, I find the idea that the system we presently have should see to it that we're all covered objectionable. Two reasons: one, I think certain people deserve to be thrown overboard for the sake of everyone else, and two, even those who don't don't deserve that ought to at least have the option of whether or not they want to leave the ship and take their chances with the ocean.

The ones who deserve to be thrown overboard are the ones who don't give a shit if the ship sinks. Most diehard Republicans would fit that description. But there would still be others who wouldn't understand why they should be expected to save what they think cannot be saved. Most self-described teabaggers would fit that description.

So I would give the teabaggers a choice: stay and do your part, or leave -- and never return. I would allow them to opt out only on the condition that under no circumstances could they opt back in. The smart ones would stick around; the rest would eventually sleep with the diehard Republicans. No big loss -- the tasks facing those of us still on the ship would be much greater and far more demanding, but we'd be that much more focused on seeing them through and most likely would be that much more successful in our efforts, having shed the deadwood and thus improved our overall health. Let's face it: there are swarms of right-wingers who make eugenics look like a fantastic idea. The only reason I don't embrace eugenics is because, one hundred percent of the time, it is abominable when practiced actively, even when its victims are those who deserve to be exterminated. It makes monsters of everyone who engage in it. But I have no qualms about letting such people choose the option to exterminate themselves. That's the greatest service they can perform for the human race.

Now about this "challenge the rules, or change the game" stuff. Three weeks ago, I wrote my Mencken was right post -- you'll find most of my relevant opinions there. All I'll add to them here is, when the conservatives say that this is all a zero-sum game, they're absolutely right. You came to this mortal coil with your soul, no more, no less, and that is all you will leave it with. You want to try and change the world, more power to you, I won't stand in your way. I just think you're on a fool's errand.

I wish it were otherwise. Deep down, the only reason I'm not bailing this ship is because I want to see it sail into harbor one day, even though I strongly doubt that day will ever come. Old habits die hard, what can I say? And I act (and vote) accordingly. It's all about forestalling the inevitable, in the hope that some solution, however imperfect, will be found before all is lost.

Gotta admit, I don't like the odds right about now...


  1. The ethicist Milton Raymond talked about "for the good of all who will allow the good of all." My guess would be the ones you're thinking deserve throwing overboard are those who don't allow "the good of all" to happen. "All" here can be seen as all beings that require reasonably good air, water, and food to manage 98.6.

    On the zero sum game: if your soul enlarges doesn't mean that my soul diminishes.

  2. Hey, Jim, thanks for stopping by. Food for thought here.

    How much do we want to parse semantics? On the benefiting "all" and everyone part, sure, you won't achieve it - but you can try, and the realistic gauge is to at least serve a majority. Regardless, Brooks is the one who's claiming we're all served by having him and his buds in charge. I think building a system that's more "fair" or perhaps "just" might get to your point.

    On "zero-sum," I've got more on that in two previous posts on the Social Contract and Plutocracy in America, but liberal economics, or "trickle up" versus "trickle down," do actually create and spread more prosperity, and the effect can be synergistic. That again undercuts Brooks' pitch. But I don't think that's your main objection, or main point.

    On your Going Galt experiment, hey, why not? They've been threatening it all year. Let them all leave. Maybe they can all go to Texas, or Alcatraz. Have an official and legal secession perhaps, and see how it goes. The children can be allowed to defect back to the U.S.A.

    Here's where I do believe in "zero-sum" - keeping the bastards out of power, and throwing them in jail when deserved. (I see that as part of building a better system.) Hey, every little bit helps.

  3. Also – eugenics? Really? I understand the frustration angle, but as you write, we all know where that road leads. More to the point, some people really don't know better, in large part because their local or national ruling class doesn't want them to, and some people who make grave mistakes do actually redeem themselves. And jail's a good option for plenty of scoundrels.


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