If This Be Treason….

A meditation on Brad DeLong’s Slouching Towards Utopia

Is the logic of capitalism the logic of the germ cell or the cancer cell? If it actually turns out to be both, what does that augur for our future?

Social democracy demands consensus. Fascism demands obedience. Neither has much respect for the richness of human intention.

We are a mercurial species. Cats are actually easier to herd than we are. Sooner or later, this drives the zealots, ideologues, and bureaucrats of every religion and ism around the bend. If they weren’t so vicious in their disappointments, they’d deserve our sympathy.

There are echoes of an eloquent despair in DeLong’s perceptions, something prophetic, something like an eternally acerbic Brechtian irony:

Wäre es da
Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
Löste das Volk auf und
Wählte ein anderes?

Would it not in that case
Be simpler for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

—Bertolt Brecht, die Lösung

If in the end democracy isn’t robust enough to save us from the metastatic influence of 21st century technologies on our nastier impulses, what then? Even if human evolution were proceeding according to our fondest hopes, could it ever be quick enough to make Brecht’s tongue-in-cheek option a viable one? Clearly not.

I don’t care. I’ve just finished reading Slouching Towards Utopia, and I’m putting away my lantern. I’ve found an honest man. To return to Brecht again:

In den finsteren Zeiten
Wird da auch gesungen werden?
Da wird auch gesungen werden.
Von den finsteren Zeiten.

Will there also be singing
In the dark times?
There will also be singing.
About the dark times.

—Bertolt Brecht, Schlechte Zeit für Lyrik

I’m Not As Smart As I Thought I Was Either

I feel about Elon Musk pretty much the same way the Salieri character felt about the Mozart character in Amadeus. Is this buffoon on Twitter really the guy that beat NASA at its own game, and on a shoestring, too, and almost single-handedly made electric vehicle propulsion for the 21st century a commonplace? Really? This is the guy?

Yeah, this is the guy. The Universe may not care very much about us, even less about our categories, but it does have a sense of humor, and it does deserve respect, even when—especially when—it appears to mock our most cherished pretensions….

More Black Robe Humor

“It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit,” Alito, who penned the decision reversing Roe v. Wade last term, told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line,” he said.

—CNN Politics: Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter, 8:51 AM EDT September 29, 2022

Why Did This Man Have a Chicken On His Hat?

Führers are a dime a dozen these days. Real leaders are born, not made.

Ask Ron DeSantis. Also ask him why he wants to turn America into a place where he can wear one just like it.

Ask Newt Gingrich, the world-renowned historian. I’m sure he can explain precisely how and why we’ve all lost our way since the time when men could wear hats like this without getting laughed at.

Ask Sarah Palin or Lauren Boebert or Marjorie Taylor Greene. I’m sure they’d give up their present gigs in a heartbeat to be the consort of a man with a hat like this.

Già Visto

Reuters news article, 09/25/22:

Italy’s Meloni calls for unity after election victory

Of course she does.

Of course she isn’t talking about camicie nere or castor oil, Giovinezza on loudspeakers in public squares or credere, obbedire, combattere posters on village walls. Per favore, this is 2022, not 1922.

Of course it is.

On Sowing the Wind….

Dulce bellum inexpertis
War is sweet to those who haven’t experienced it.
—Pindar, Fragments, 110,109

The six right-wing ideologues of the U.S. Supreme Court have arbitrarily declared war on millions of people who’ve done them absolutely no harm. Although they may presently consider themselves personally immune to the consequences of their vile self-righteousness, an unbiased reading of history suggests that in the end they themselves will suffer something of the agony they’ve inflicted on others. May that day come sooner rather than later.