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.
In the dark times Will there also be singing? There will also be singing. About the dark times.
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 who 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….
“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
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.
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.
Watching Republicans in situations where they aren’t sure whether bullying or bootlicking is the safer path to glory is always good for a laugh. What the Nazis perfected in less than twenty years has taken them forty, and they still can’t manage it with any grace.