Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The elephant in the corner

'Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
Don't worry, be happy.

Are the rules of "polite company" worth following? Let's get a little specific, are the rules which determine what you do and don't say in polite company worth following? Protocol, schmo-tocol, how about Cindy Sheehan enacting her own little psychology experiment in Crawford Texas, live on TV doing things you just don't do in polite company.

What kind of psychology experiment you talkin' 'bout, Dude?

Like all psychology experiments, the goal is to observe the human reaction to some phenomenon, in this case, the country's or perhaps even the world's reaction to the sight of a mother whose son was killed in the Iraq War trying to see the War President.. It's like a test of hierarchy, will people be more upset at the idea of some woman pestering the President on Vacation, or the idea of a President who won't come out and meet this bereaved mother of a slain soldier who can't take one more dead kid? Will the President's men panic, and arrest the woman? Will the woman lose her nerve and leave? This is 21st Century art, a real person on the world stage, trying to wake people from their dogmatic slumbers and make them think, fantastic.

Dogmatic slumbers, that old Kantian expression I love so much. Have you ever been driving the car and suddenly realize you don't remember driving the last 10 miles? How you doing Jack? OK, and you Fred? (all without looking up from the paper) What did you do at school today? Nothing. How much of our time every day is spent on, at least partially, auto-pilot? Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters were playing with this a generation ago, poking some guy in a suit while wearing a crazy day-glo shirt-"square," they'd say. Oddly enough, we were at war a generation ago and trying to dodge our way around a necessary readjustment of the international system of exchange as well. It that old "suspension of disbelief" at work again, en masse.

I was reading a chat session given by the author of what appears to be a new book worth reading, Larry Diamond's Squandered Victory and came across this passage: I'm always reluctant to call this administration a failure, because I think that’s a kind of wishful thinking. It’s far more plausible, and also far less pleasant, to think they may have just lied totally about their goals, and have succeeded in their imperialist ambitions as certainly as they secured a first and second term, and have helped shape our FP (foreign policy) for decades. "Far less pleasant to think," hits the nail on the head. That's the problem, you see, polite company.

I guess it isn't polite to know history, or to read the news with a critical eye. And it isn't. Protocol. I used to do financial TV out in Asia and I was well aware that my critiques needed to be tempered or I wouldn't get back on the set. Everyone knew it, but nobody really talked about it. Shiny happy people with nice little air conditioned jobs ( a big plus in SE Asia) and that included me. Psychology experiment: If, say Larry King on CNN were to stop, turn to the camera and say, this War in Iraq must end, repeat with me, This War... , what do you think would happen? Tipping points in public consciousness are amazing times, eh?

Dogmatic slumbers, dreaming dreams of virtuous governments engaged in noble causes. You can almost see it coming into view, can't you...the elephant in the corner. Larry Diamond does, "What concerns me as much as anything is the listless state of our own democracy. Why have the Congress and the news media not effectively challenged the Administration on this issue? Why has the White House press corps not asked President Bush the obvious and urgent question, “Mr. President, do we seek long-term military bases in Iraq? If so, do you believe this strategic goal is worth the loss of more American lives in Iraq? If not, why don’t you declare that we will not do so, so as to remove one of the most powerful political mobilizing grounds for the insurgency?” Why have the Congress and the media not challenged Secretary Rumsfeld: “Mr. Secretary, are we building permanent military bases in Iraq? What are our intentions there?”


Stranger said...

Meeting Cindy: