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April 12, 2005

U.S. Politics Has Definitely Jumped the Shark

I can't believe anyone is taking John Bolton seriously as a possible U.N. Ambassador, let alone getting ready to confirm him in that position. His attempts yesterday to explain his career of anti-U.N. vitriol were not even plausible, yet he's on his way to nomination? Again, I can't believe I can't believe this; it's nothing new. This comes from an administration that gave highest honors to the people responsible for massive intelligence failures, and an administration that has placed environmental protection in the hands of the oil industry, etc. Up is down, black is white, night is day, war is peace. I just can't track the insanity anymore and I remain convinced that is the secret to this administration's success: Sane people are so horrified by the things this administration does every day that we can't even formulate a coherent response. We've been paralyzed with horror and disbelief. If so, all this craziness is our own fault—a consequence of the failure of our imaginations, our inability to prepare for and respond to the avalanche of bullshit that has rained down upon us almost ceaselessly since Yubbledew was first propped up as a presidential candidate. It's our fault that we care about reality, and our mistake to insist that public discourse have some connection to at least a plausible account of history and the world around us. Damn, we suck.

Posted April 12, 2005 08:43 AM | general politics

I'm no orthodox Dem, but tonight's panel at GULC sounds interesting. Info below.

And amen on Bolton. WTF?!

The Democratic Party:
2006 and Beyond

Tuesday, 12 April
8:00 pm
McDonough 200

Major Panel Discussion on the Future of the Democratic Party and your role in it.

Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth (SD)
Prof. John Podesta (Pres. Clinton's Chief of Staff)
Robert Gordon (Sr. policy advisor, Kerry-Edwards '04)
Andrei Cherny (Speechwriter, Kerry 2004)

Moderator: Chai Feldblum

Wine Reception to Follow

Posted by: swanno at April 12, 2005 09:44 AM

"Sane people are so horrified by the things this administration does every day that we canít even formulate a coherent response."

That's the best summation of our current situation I've heard in a long time...

Posted by: -Dave! at April 12, 2005 10:10 AM

Amen. The Democratic Party has been wallowing in the can for too long. Last night I mused with another 1L that maybe we'll have our acts together by 2012. Maybe.

Posted by: Avoiding Billable Hours at April 12, 2005 11:13 AM

Just enjoy the madness. I'm from Texas, and it's been this way down there for a while. It's actually kind of amusing once you realize that it's all in good fun.

Posted by: Feeder Clerk at April 13, 2005 01:52 AM

You and your friends are a caricature of the sociology of knowledge concept of a "plausibility structure". And there are similarly inbred, self-affirming, alternative denying plausibility structures on the right. It's comical that devotees on both sides characterize the other as insane. You're analagous to combatants in the Wars of Religion with your near absolute faith commitment to a particular way of seeing things.

Posted by: Anonymous at April 19, 2005 04:23 AM

Anonymous: Very interesting. And where do you get your detached, enlightened perspective? Are you perched on high somewhere from which you can observe these comical exchanges?

I am not familiar with your "plausibility structures," but they sound analogous to what I would call ideology. And yes, I see the world differently than does our current regime. That's what politics is about, isn't? We differ in how we see things, and so we try to work out our differences in the political sphere. I agree that it is not necessarily productive for one side to call the other "insane," but I have no other way to understand what is happening when people who have spent their lives denouncing the U.N. are appointed to represent the U.S. at the U.N. (Bolton), or where people who have built their careers on policies that destroy the environment and human rights get appointed to head the World Bank (Wolfowitz), or where petroleum companies design our energy and environmental policies, etc. The only way to see these as rational moves is to acknowledge that these people have been appointed to these decisions to do basically what they've spent their lives doing. Bolton was appointed to either destroy the U.N. or ensure it is irrelevant. Wolfowitz was appointed to clear the global field for U.S. capital interests to continue raping the planet and its workers for thier own personal profit with as few barriers as possible. The list goes on. The intent is fairly clear. The goals are shortsighted and antisocial in the sense that they are clearly bad for society. On some scales it's a small slide from antisocial to insane, but there's also a certain amount of hyperbole that becomes effective in political rhetoric.

Posted by: ambimb at April 19, 2005 07:12 AM

My perspective is not detached but quite the opposite, it's very engagned. I came to my perspective through LISTENING. I am committed to listening to people from multiple perspectives who are responsible and temperate. Weber called this verstehen, an attempt at sympathetic understanding. Better, philosopher/theologian Augustine called it the "hermeneutic of charity." Anecdotally it seems to me that responsible, temperate people are becoming more rare, though perhaps they are less noticable in comparison to irresponsibile, intemperate voices.

"Plausibility structures" is a term originated by sociologist Peter Berger in his work on the social construction of reality. "Knowledge" is socially constructed and as we inhabit social structures the plausibility of ideas rises and falls. When people move from one plausibility structure to another they often (not always, this is not rigidly deterministic) experience a change in what they deem plausibile and implausible.

What I believe is detecable in contemporary discourse by those Left and Right is a foreclosing on the ideas (and actual persons) of the other side. This is a hermeneutic of suspicion. While some things in life may be black and white, most things strike me as grey. In line with that, most people are mixed and many ideas and agendas have positive and negative aspects.

Thus, if I am going to engage people and their ideas I try to do so sensitively, treating humans with dignity and respect. I confess I have a harder time doing this with intemperate people, but I should try harder in these instances. With the lens of the hermeneutic of charity on I try to sift for what is accurate and good. (My determination of accuracy and good inescapably contingent, of course.)

As you would expect, much more to say about such things but I've exceeded the bounds of convention for blog comments.

Posted by: Geepers at April 19, 2005 10:00 AM

Geepers, you sound a lot like Grant. If you are so engaged, your patience and tolerance is either admirable or foolish. I agree that it would be nice if we could work out social issues in responsible, temperate ways; however, if some sides of a debate attempt to be responsible and temperate while a few other sides decide to be anything but, which sides do you think will be on the losing end of things?

I suppose you could say I practice what you call a politics of suspicion because the current regime in the U.S. (which is the focus of most of my intolerance) has done nothing to earn my trust or respect, and everything to destroy it. I agree that contemporary left/right political discourse forecloses ideas; in fact, that seems to be its whole purpose. So what to do about this? Run around being reasonable and temperate? That worked well for the Democrats in the last few elections, don't you think?

Please feel free to make your comments here as long as you want. Better yet, if you have a blog, please link to it and we can continue the discussion on from one site to the other. If you don't have a blog, why not?

Posted by: ambimb at April 20, 2005 07:21 AM

I hope that listening engagement is admirable but you may well be right that it is also foolish. I get frustrated, too, not only by the current Administration but by the thinking, agenda and public discourse of many actors and institutions in the cultural and political spheres.

At times I think listening, striving to apply a hermeneutic of charity, treating humans of varying perspectives with dignity and respect is a recipe for being steamrolled by those committed to the Will to Power. Certainly Will to Power perspectives and methods appear to be more efficacious in the short term. But what sort of society are we fashioning when more and more go the Nietzschean way? Tracing this out I envision a dystopic future worse than what we have now. For all the challenges we face presently, we yet retain a residue of commonly shared assumptions about the worth of people and notions of ordering a better world where many may flourish. If Nietzschean perpectives continue to gain ascendancy, it will be harder (I think) to have social bonds and a commitment to "the Other" flourishing.

Some disagree; they think the more we are liberated from the religiously intellectual underpinnings of Western civilization the better we will function. They may be correct. My sense is that when the unravelling of shared notions has pressed beyond a certain point (and I am agnostic about where that speculative point may be), our social bonds will be a form of 'enlightened proceduralism.' I.e. multiple ad hoc transactions that are seen as mere transactions between interested parties.

Perhaps that will work, and such a state of affairs is already partially present and growing. However, my sense, following sociologists from Durhkheim onward, is that a mere proceduralism bereft of the enmeshing webs of commonly shared culture (and various forms of religion historically and globally are THE glue that has bonded socieites together) will not incline "individuals" to the duties & sacrifices that a collective "society" requires.

Re: a blog. You bloggers have remarkable energy to do what you do and it seems, as readership grows, a bit of responsibility not to let your readers down. Also, because it's a disembodied medium, seemingly moreso than television and radio, there may be fewer social constraints on discourse. I'm not sure if I were in your shoes if I would succeed in the goal of temperate, responsible engagement. The blogosphere seems to lend itself more than shock TV and shock radio to searing takes on people. I would probably fall prey to the same escalated, suspicious rhetoric as the Frankens and Coulters of the world.

Posted by: Geepers at April 21, 2005 12:41 AM

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