“Conventional Wisdom” isn’t.
Everyday life is the process of understanding and using key facts about the world around us. The sky is blue, red means stop, the 94 bus leaves at 7:53, and coffee will wake you up. Most of the important things in life are obvious enough, based on immediate observation or past experiences strung together.
However, the presence of technology and a growing interconnectedness impinges critical “facts” onto our lives which reach far beyond our senses and sensibilities. Cell phones work because they just work, this thing called “money” in our bank account is extremely important, people who live in distant lands are motivated by something akin to demonic possession, et cetera.
This is where it all breaks down. Or, more importantly, where things breaking down accelerates as reason itself fails.
The scraggly oak trees intertwine their branches in a tall ceiling that shades the entire drive. Here, the appropriate view of the eternal isn’t blue and bright, but sheltered and close to the ground. The rows of marble and granite dazzled by bright flowers have their own quiet redemption as the slow speed limit and a gentle wave from each passerby gives the setting grace.
This is Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul’s municipal cemetery, founded in 1853.
My concern is no longer with politics, per se. “Politics,” as we know it, has come to be so totally divorced from policy it is largely meaningless anyway. It’s primarily about identity, which is what far too much of language is actually about.
So let’s instead talk about politics, the art and science of human interaction.
I am far more interested in anger as the primary response to … well, everything. Every interaction, artful or not, seems to produce a lot of anger. The pathology of this pathological response is worth thinking through in many ways – if for no other reason than to cool it down.
The moment comes about halfway through Mel Brooks’ brilliant 1968 movie “The Producers”. Max Bialystock is deep into his plot to stage the worst musical ever for the purpose of having it close after one performance. All he has to do is raise far more money than the flop could possibly take to stage and no one will ask for their share of the 25,000% of the profits which has been sold to investors. The worst musical ever, “Springtime for Hitler,” has been chosen. It’s now time to cast it.
Hippie Lorenzo Saint DuBois wanders into the casting call and gives his performance. As soon as he says, “If everyone in the world had a flower instead of a gun the world would be one big smell-in!” Bialystock rises triumphantly and declares, “That’s our Hitler!”
It’s the moment when simple comedy runs boldly over the line into farce and never looks back.
So it is with the Trump “budget”. For all we have said about the aspiring dictatorship we can now proclaim that we have our Hitler – but not in the sense anyone expected.
Still terribly busy. This is a repeat from 8 years ago which I hope feels a bit prescient.
Think for a moment on how much you know about the world around you. If there’s a debate about banning a very useful chemical because some people have found it is toxic or dangerous, what is your opinion? If that’s too much, what do you know about how the operations of the Legislature that is debating your taxes and services for the next year? Perhaps we should try something simpler – how do you know if the sneakers you are wearing were made with child labor?
Perhaps you say, “I don’t care. I’m too bizzy to worry about it all. There are experts to handle these things, I’ll trust them.” Which ones do you trust? In the next election, do you vote based on an appeal to your guts because it sounds right, and what do you get for it?