There’s something undeniably appealing about American conservatism, like a sweater that, though comfortable and cozy, doesn’t really look all that flattering. I’m sure it’s great, the urge socially and culturally to circle the wagons and gather the brood around the kitchen table to dispense lessons on young earth and the divine origins of the second amendment. It offers certainty in spades, something altogether in short supply in these days of global financial upheaval.
It stands to reason then that newest incarnation of Mickey Mouse was developed to reflect the tastes of its audience. The boisterous, sweet-tempered mouse is now a law-breaking, egocentric rat. And while Mickey’s newest incarnation may be the stuff of nightmares, it certainly isn’t anything new. In fact, it is eminently fitting. We have the Mickey Mouse we deserve. We are no longer that charmingly boisterous (and yes, sometimes devilishly devious) nation that smashed National Socialism and inspired the likes of Jack Kerouac to drive across the country and then come home, drop some speed, and write about his wonderful adventures in a strange land, but an ill-tempered, duplicitous empire on the decline, ravaged by the boondoggles and Ponzi schemes of a financial sector run amok, bereft of the hope of regaining any kind of cultural or intellectual prominence.
McNaughton’s painting does with images what Beck and Skousen do with words. Blending apotropaic and imitative magic, McNaughton has not created a painting so much as a charm or a spell intended to restore the old America of goodness, virtue and abundance. His symbols, and the control he exercises over them is not an attempt to create meaning, but to strip it away. Once the excess meanings and connotations of these ghosts have been excised, the absent god-men can be properly conjured up, and America will be restored, One Nation Under God, with no King but Jesus.
Islamofascism transformed the incomprehensible face of worldwide Islam into mere incoherence: they hated freedom in general and our freedom in particular. Even better, Islamofascism tied in perfectly with our own growing belief that 9-11 was the new Pearl Harbor. Unable to accept that the events of 9-11 had been masterminded by a very tall Saudi billionaire criminal who now lived in a cave or by the disheveled and obese Khalid Sheikh Mohamed we knew that hidden eastern hordes lay in wait, ready to make the trains run on time and destroy our way of life. So what if nobody had actually seen Islamofascists goose-stepping to midday prayers, we had found our enemy and our war.
9-11 is only a Rorschach test, a mirror disguised as something else and held up before our believing eyes. We want life to be meaningful and when it is not or when it defies our chosen meanings, we call that disaster. Somewhere in the hazy cloud of debris raining down on Manhattan we thought we saw something: the devil’s face, American virtue, a clash of civilizations, or our own fragility. This is the reality of legerdemain: the suicide bomber is quicker than the eye. The act of flying an airplane into a building and the subsequent fall of that building are fundamentally meaningless. Viewed objectively through the eyes of god or the camera of a spy satellite flying far overhead, 9-11 is simply an event that occurred. The closely held truth of the magician is that magic takes place entirely in the minds of his audience.
Neoliberal political economy is nothing less that a coming-of-age story, complete with the requisite struggle against parental authority. To the state is born a little bundle of joy, the market, which the state does everything to nurture and protect. After a period of toddling and awkward youth, the market develops into a brilliant, multi-faceted creature. At this point, the state, incapable of appreciating the free-market’s many deep and subtle complexities, becomes more of a hindrance than a help, overweening in its abiding impulse to interfere in its child’s affairs — for the child’s own good, naturally. Against this parental impulse the market asserts its freedom, and eventually wins it. The novel practically writes itself.
The genius of a health-savings plan is that it dodges the politically explosive charge of rationing by foisting the rationing on the covered individuals. A $2,500 deductible is a king’s ransom in a country where the saving’s rate is a negative percentage, and in which consumer debt is the economy’s life’s blood. Notice how Mackey refers to employees’ “own health-care dollars” as if they have any such thing. Where do these health-care dollars come from anyway, if not from employees’ pay? What Mackey proposes essentially amounts to a surreptitious clawback of his workers’ wages in the form of premium defrayment.
The Culture Wars’ tawdry legacy may, like the war in Iraq, have arrived at a stage of demobilization with President Obama’s appointment of former congressman Jim Leach to the chairmanship of The National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). The June 28, 2009 edition of The New Times characterizes this appointment as an “instance of what [...]
Over at Crooked Timber (truly a trove of timely tidbits, as blogs go), Michael Bérubé offers some remarks on William Deriesiwicz’s Nation article discussing a voguish strain of literary criticism. This strain’s presiding deity is not T. S. Eliot or Jacques Derrida, but Charles Darwin. As the name suggests, Darwinian literary criticism approaches written texts [...]
The blog ideonexus recently presented some musings on C. P. Snow’s famous 1959 lecture, “The Two Cultures.” Snow, who wore two professional hats (scientist and novelist), argued that both the matter and methodology of science and the humanities stood irreconcilably opposed; because science, which places supreme important on the scientific method and the reproducibility of [...]