It is said by some that it is always important to keep one’s eye on the future and to remain hopeful. Okay, but let somebody else do it. I’m firmly not on board at all.
I’ve seen the future, and I can report to you it is a recurring disappointment. Let’s take World War I just as an example. “The war to end all wars”? How did that work out? The New Deal promised a future of prevailing humanism and middle class dignity and prosperity. That future has been under attack for seventy-five years by a soured and rancorous subset of American zealots, and is teetering on the brink even as we speak. The Age of Aquarius? Reagan and the era of political, cultural and economic barbarism he ushered in put the Age of Aquarius out of its abiding misery. Which brings us to the sober dawning that Obama’s “audacity of hope” isn’t going to fare terribly well either.
Reasonably intelligent people will pay some amount of attention to the larger issues in the world around them, and attempt to retain a modicum of understanding of their actual substance. It is arguable that the more active one’s moral, political or artistic imagination, the more prone one is to deflation by pedestrian reality. I count myself among this group, so I think I can say this makes us something approximating idiots. That isn’t to say we will stop, or that we should stop succumbing to our higher expectations, or to the hope that the reaches of our imagination will see some small realization in the corporeal plane. It’s just that we are by nature especially ripe for disillusion (and rotting, presumably).
The upside of disillusionment of course is the remedies. Alcohol and drugs it is clear were sent by the gods somewhere between Hammurabi’s Code and the Ten Commandments just in case we were at all tempted to take those two documents at all seriously and expect results. It is nearly impossible to be disillusioned by drugs and alcohol simply because they are so dependable. Disillusionment requires unmet expectations, a condition which rarely ensues when ingesting a mind and spirit altering chemical substance. What is promised is delivered, and little else in life is that dependable. There are hazards no doubt, and these certainly are not remedies for everyone, though we tend to want things that dependably satisfy us on a regular basis. This is something less than a mystery to me, and far from a tragedy or perilous state of affairs.
In the political realm, one can conclude only that the current “negotiations” regarding the debt limit are less the extension of Enlightenment ideas that famously enflamed the founding fathers, than of the absurdist theater of Eugene Ionesco and Alfred Jarry. Though nothing should be surprising in this ongoing spectacle of mad hatters, weaklings, lost souls and intellectual and moral vagabonds attempting to catch the wind, Obama offering up Medicare and Social Security for the chopping block, whether as a grand tactical maneuver as some have said it is, or as more of his earnest belief that surrender in order to get any deal at all is an acceptable result (for him), either is a jump in the level of frivolous insanity, or an indication that all is seriously lost, the price of rational hegemony in the commodity markets moving down with a bullet.
If one takes the highly optimistic view that Obama throwing Medicare and Social Security into the mix is a bold strategy designed to pin the Republicans perceptually, it should alternately be pointed out, that according to the ideas of George Lakoff, the cognitive linguist to whose work I have referred admiringly, there is every bit as much likelihood that rather than forcing Republicans into an impossibly tight perceptual corner, throwing these two crowning achievements of New Deal liberalism cherished by an overwhelming majority of Americans onto the poker table will imprint on the minds of voters, that a concession has been made by the administration that the programs were as amiss as conservatives have long claimed. Were I betting, I wouldn’t take the optimistic view here.
In the same vein that one can say that paranoids also may have enemies, sometimes alarmists have reasons to be alarmed. I have been fairly alarmed by the zombie-like utopianism of the currently reigning Republican Party, and any prior conviction a reliable firewall would be erected at some point in time to repel the invasion and subsequent triumph of irrationality seems less and less likely to materialize with every passing day. Yes, it can happen here.
I could proceed on with a lengthening list of profoundly disillusioning developments. But I am reminded I desperately need a drink.