Saturday, May 10, 2008

World weary

"Your analysis is right on, as far as it goes. But this isn't 1972, or even 2004. It isn't even yesterday. I'm as old as you are. Older, in fact. And I can do the world weary bit just as good. But my daughters and my wife's nieces loooove Barack. Their excitement is infectious."
Jay Salter
David Seaton's News Links
Jay, who I quote above, is a long time reader of News Links and a fine blogger in his own right and the following post should not be taken as an attack on his comment. His words only got me started thinking and this led me quickly to the heart vein of my argument, with many interesting capillaries, this in turn helped me to clarify my views and I saw that all of this would give me a fine chance to riff. Eh voilà.

First lets look at "this isn't 1972, or even 2004. It isn't even yesterday".

For a human being today is actually all of those things, whether he or she is aware of it or not. This is something we don't share with trees and rocks. We are the memory animal

From a metaphysical viewpoint nothing exists except the present moment; everything else is merely a mental construction... However making mental constructions is what our species is about and our ability to store up and retrieve the past, to weigh it and to use it as a tool to measure the present,
and to use it to illuminate our actions in the now, is an important part of what we as humans are about. Our capability to maintain and organize the past under our observation in the present is what has made us such a formidable and dangerous animal.

So in fact this is 1972 and even 2004 and yesterday and as William Faulkner said, "The past isn't history, it isn't even past".

We are who we are because of what has come before us. The longer you have been around -- unless, like "Ground Hog Day", you have been living the same day over and over again -- the more of a chance you have of finally understanding where you are and who you are and how things work. If that were not true, if memory had no meaning, then old people would be nothing more than young people who have become ugly, slow, clumsy and costly to maintain, with no value to add whatsoever...

Euthanasia would be the logical solution.

Some of us who came to consciousness in the Eisenhower years have trouble realizing, how little consciousness of the past kids have today. Through no merit of our own we were given an historical sense that would be hard to come by for kids today.

We who are in our sixties now had parents -- no matter what color -- who had all been through two defining and collective experiences: the Great Depression and WWII. Everybody had had a hard time in the 30s and all our dads had been in the forces. Those years were constantly put before us as a living thing in our own and in all our neighbors and playmate's houses.

And just as important, TV first became a mass medium and a huge business when we were tots.

All of us were plunked down in front of those 17inch black and white screens and the network owners discovered that they had almost nothing to show us. They raided the vaults of Hollywood to find something to entertain us little brats.

We had the enormous good fortune to be exposed to hundreds of hours of silent comedies, Saturday matinée westerns and Flash Gordon from the 30s and 40's, masses of cartoons going back to the twenties, the "Our Gang" comedies, Laurel and Hardy, all with period music... we were insatiable and they couldn't produce enough themselves to keep us sitting in front of the box long enough to see the commercials.

Unwittingly they gave us a sense of the 20th century. "Gee dad, did you really have to wear short pants like Spanky?" Nowadays children are shown what is being made at the moment. How many children right now have ever seen Buster Keaton or Fatty Arbuckle? Each new generation thinks itself Adam and Eve.

Of course this can be remedied by study. However at the beginning of the 90s I had a conversation with an American woman my age who was a full professor of history at an important American university. She told me that if she tried to assign the same load of work today to her students that we had all carried as students they would surely rebel, their attention span was too short. So although more people go to university than every before, it appears that less is being learned. Perhaps there is some connection?

We read all the time how American youngsters score horribly on all international tests of geography and history. So we would have to ask ourselves what kind of intellectual equipment do the young people, whose enthusiasm for Obama is so infectious, actually have to judge much of anything? Aside from their charming enthusiasm, their smooth skin and flexible joints, what exactly do they have to recommend them as political savants?

What I know for sure is that these young enthusiasts are going to be disappointed. It could happen in the following ways, listed from least to most probable and disappointing.
  1. Hillary actually finds some way of knocking Obama out of the race.
  2. Obama loses to McCain
  3. Obama wins and becomes President
Number three, the most probable outcome, would hurt the most. Because Obama is not going to change anything... even if he isn't a bluff, which I suspect he is.

This is because contradictory forces of enormous complexity push things along and the people involved muddle through the best they can. Spencer Tracy's revelation of his fabulous acting technique comes to mind, "Don't forget the jokes and don't bump into the furniture".

Leaders are symptoms not causes.

The best example of this is George W. Bush. How could a political system produce someone so unfit for the job? How could he get reelected? Its not Dubya's fault that Dubya is Dubya. It's the system's fault for producing him and ours for choosing him.

Now it and we are going to do it again.

The chances of the next president being successful, no matter who it is, are very small. Any one who raises great expectations is doomed to fail before they start.

The greater the expectations the greater the failure. America's role is diminishing in the world, the next president will have to administrate that diminishing. No fun. No glamor, not cool. Tough, sad.

Am I world weary?

A long life of observation, study and rumination leading to some understanding of the world and one's fellow creatures is a privilege and a pleasure for any human being. Who could ever weary of it? DS


RC said...

I see you bit the bullet. The draw for you, in observing and commenting upon the scene is that you enjoy it. I think the next ten years, in the US and around the world will be very entertaining, as in: full of the unexpected, the shocking, the horrifying, the glorious and the dramatic. Obama will fit into that production much better than Hillary or McCain. We need someone with stamina, it's a marathon. As to why the general election will or will not go to him it seems plain that getting out the vote is all that is left now. His organization has the edge on that.
Says George Will: "“minority” presidents are not unusual. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan carried 44 states and defeated President Jimmy Carter 489-49 in electoral votes, Reagan won the votes of 26.9 percent of American adults. The winners of the 1996, 2000 and 2004 elections received 24 percent, 24.1 percent and 28.2 percent, respectively."
I see the November race as perhaps a contest, but Obama will win.
As a political junkie {why else would I be looking at your opinions?} the entertainment values are reaching unprecedented levels and I think they'll stay that way well into 2020.
Where's the problem?

stunted said...

What a gorgeous final papagraph. Thank you

Jay Salter said...

Well, David, now that you’ve got that off your chest, how do you feel?

You’re absolutely right. All of them cheeky lads and lassies are going to be massively disappointed after they elect Barack and he proves to be, well…just Barack.

Then we’ll get to say, “Told ya so.”

On the other hand, he might be more than just a flake. Occasionally history offers up a genuinely progressive change agent. Lincoln, Ghandi, FDR come to mind.

It just might happen. If it does, you and I will get to enjoy some shadenfreude as we watch all the forces of swinishness that have accumulated in both the Republican and Democratic parties howl and rage.

Meanwhiles, all those sweet kids portrayed in that photograph will get to take all the credit and take charge too.

Of course, if it doesn’t happen, no skin off our ass, eh?

By the way, thanks for publishing my blog address. I’ve had a nice bump in page views and, even better, I got a great email from a very literate guy living in Vieques, Puerto Rico. His name is Robert. Perhaps you’ve heard from him.

Jay Salter

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Lincoln and FDR didn't publish their autobiographies before achieving anything of note. And comparing Obama to Ghandi? You've got to be kidding.

RC said...

Just don't publish my email Jay.