Walker Percy with dogs
Walker Percy in one of his essays discusses how modern man, unmoored from faith, has become an alienated being that can only think of life in terms of sex and death. All we have left are moments of pleasure and the fear of death. It’s a generalization, sure. But in the aftermath of my personal marital catastrophe, I’ve been struck by how many secular friends have suggested I need to just get a girlfriend and get laid. It’s the default response and a crude one at that. Percy got it right.
So here I find myself sitting on the roof in the dark, and from the stairwell bursts a man and a woman. Drunk. Talkative. I’ve had drinks myself but I’m lucid and the man engages me in conversation. Within a word or two I realize he’s gay (Check that, I discover later he’s bicurious. Either way I find the gay inflection as annoying as the macho bro’s style of discourse. Stop putting on an act and talk to me like a goddamn human being. In this way I’m an equal opportunity bigot.).
The Revenant has some things going for it. For one, the cinematography is beautiful. Tom Hardy proves, yet again, he has acting chops. Leonardo DiCaprio, after much grunting and groaning over the years to get an Oscar, gets a role where he literally grunts and groans his way the whole movie to achieve the allusive gold (really, I want to see the script). The script itself is fine and there are great, dramatic moments throughout, but on the whole it needed editing (over two and a half hours long). What irritated me most, though, was the eye-rolling, ahistoric, cliché moralism of the film.
Yes, it is the historian in me that is annoyed, but it isn’t over presentism (see every Ridley Scott movie) or pedantic historical inaccuracies. Rather, what irks me is the Zinnian tripe in which the white man is the invading oppressor and the red man is the oppressed (not the first time I’ve gone after Zinn the “historian”). Granted, Zinn presents a fun and simplistic morality tale and as with most morality tales there is a kernel of truth, but in the end, it is just that: a tale, which as expected, has sparked equally obnoxious right wing backlashes. It is a truism among historians that bringing politics into the study of history leads to bad history. And bad history begets more bad history, which, not surprisingly, worms its way into our films. I had hoped a skilled director would have handled the topic with more care, but alas.
A few days ago David Brooks put out a hilarious, ironical piece called: “I Miss Barack Obama.” Well, I assumed it was tongue-in-cheek for the first few paragraphs. It’s sad really, and perhaps a testament to how much politics has worn Brooks down over the years. Yes, this primary is exhausting, but Brooks looks to be coming out the other side like a statue buffeted by harsh winds and sand for a thousand years: so worn down that he offers only approximations of realism and a hint of a coherent figure. After reading it I got the impression that the poor guy really needs a vacation. As the old saying goes: if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Brooks is still in the kitchen, but he had a fainting couch placed conveniently beside the stove. He has approached a psychotic break brought on by stress. As an amateur student of the human psyche, that is my diagnosis. I have three observations which led to this conclusion, and each one logically follows the prior.
I’ll protect you from the corporations.
Hillary recently published a piece on CNN decrying campaign finance laws (see Citizens United) and state’s “restricting voting rights.” I’m not convinced that Citizens United is the great evil it’s cracked up to be. Jeb(!) with his grand war-chest is on life support. Trump is playing the game with pocket change. So much for buying elections. Nor do I think that efforts to improve the integrity of the voting process necessarily imprudent (we don’t want dead people voting, do we?). But I’m not interested in either of these issues at the moment. What interests me is Hillary’s belief that democracy, and more of it, is a good in-of-itself. As she puts it: “Let’s restore people’s voices and people’s votes to their rightful place — at the center of our democracy.” Clear away the barriers thrown up by corporate money and voter restrictions, let the unadulterated voice of the people ring forth, bring freedom to the oppressed, and the nation will rise to a glorious future. In this assumption, Hillary is joined by her competitor, Bernie. Of course, it’s Hillary, and she’s received gobs of money from corporations and so I suspect Hillary’s appeal is fundamentally disingenuous, and yet the belief in the will of the people is deeply ingrained in the progressive left. Continue reading
“Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system.”
-Marcus Tullius Cicero
“How are the polls?”
“Holding for now.”
“Should I be worried?”
“You always ask that as though there is a definite time one ought to worry.”
“When I go down in the polls, far enough down that you would be worrying in my shoes.”
“Well that depends. Are you self-destructive?”