Friday, November 14, 2008

Pre-election cameos, satire and greatness

Obama being on The Daily Show and McCain being on SNL are completely different things...
11/2/08 03:25 am
[Expansion of Facebook status and comment]

To be precise, it's the difference between "laughing with" and "laughing at"....McCain may have been being a good sport in his own opinion, but the humour of his opening "infomercial" and Weekend Update piece was of the "it's funny because it's true" variety -- which made it both funny and disturbing at the same time, because of the known lack of distance between parody and demonstrated reality.

Having the man himself (i.e., not an impersonator) come on TV to exaggerate himself only reminds how little room there is to exaggerate -- which certainly produces a negative impression for his campaign. McCain hasn't the operative wit to bely or knowingly tweak his alotted lines, much less the underlying reality to make it clear that they are comedic material. As per my going theory that serious conservatives are incapable of performing or grasping satire (and in general, the more extremist people are in their beliefs, the worse their wit)...

And, need I say it, Obama does have a grasp of this, and can be humorous without making himself ridiculous. Big difference there -- perhaps even bigger than McCain's lack of online-literacy. Fundamentally, it's a pretty big deficit if a presidential candidate (or a president) doesn't have the instincts to detect and understand, much less proactively create, the political satire that is bound to surround him in intelligent citizens' minds (such as the Current Resident when he was having his ass handed to him on a polished platter by Stephen Colbert...) .

McCain complains about how he's portrayed by the media -- he apparently doesn't see that there's grains of truth in it that are both significant and sticking to him. To quote the old dishwashing liquid commercial..."You're soaking in it." How is he going to prove that he isn't what people think he is, when his actions reiterate it over and over again? How do you refute satire or serious accusation, when both of them are dependent for their ultimate success on there being something in it that's true? It's not just a matter of "balanced coverage" or "equal time" in the journalistic media -- if the facts and the reality of things are speaking loud and clearly enough, are we supposed to blame reality for not "being fair" to the disadvantaged party? How very PC, to cry foul on account of being "popularity-challenged" in the midst of the culture war that one is vehemently waging.

Seriously...the McCain-Palin campaign has mounted an unprecedented degree of defensiveness and hostility against the acknowledgement of reality, doing everything possible to demonize the opposition and distract voters away from all the facts and valid comparisons/contracts involved in this campaign. Such as badmouthing "community organizer" as a fluff job without responsibility, or equivocating between Reverend Wright's fiery sermonizing (as if Obama himself endorsed or still tolerated it) and Sarah Palin's accustomed religious culture of exorcizing and xenophobic prayer warfare (which she does both tolerate and endorse, despite the campaign's attempts to downplay its persistence in her life and politics). Or the ongoing conflation of reinstated social responsibility with "socialism" -- they really mean Communism, of course, but using that word directly both plays into Godwin's Law and invokes both the spectre of McCarthyism and its logical refutation. The war of words over "selfishness," with a campaign that claims "Country First" as its slogan actually pulling at the strings of the basest material self-centeredness. The hypocrisy of "marriage protection" rhetoric coming from supporters of a man who betrayed and divorced his wife for a blonde trophy-heiress, while the most solid demonstration of "family values" in action is coming from the candidate who (anathema to fundies and dogmatic Catholics alike) believes in the preservation of
Roe v. Wade against strategic underminings and effectively-negating restrictions.

[more serious]

There is a grassroots culture war going on, though -- between those who want to cling to what's materially theirs and impose laws to preserve what they're personally comfortable with, and those who desire the chance to work together and create a better future together despite their personal differences. In my opinion, the most potent thing that Obama is offering the American people is the opportunity to be co-creators of a better and sustainable 'American Dream', one that is not imposed from above or trickled down from the fickle tables of the rich, but involves a revival of cooperation and community activism, delivering power back into the hands of the people -- and reminding them that it was theirs to begin with all along. After the shock of 9/11 and the ramming-through of an autocratic federal regime, I believe that people -- thinking people -- are tired of having the government thinking for them, operating top-down and in opacity.

Bringing to mind the famous "Ask not what your country can do for you...ask what you can do for your country," it seems that despite all the accusations of forcibly redistributing wealth, what Obama is actually aiming for is the enablement and inspiration of all citizens to work together for the common good regardless of wealth or class, while McCain hides behind his Kennedyesque slogan with a core message to cling on even more bitterly to whatever bolsters one's ego and assuages the emptiness of an undeveloped self. "Selfish" is different from selfhood -- it's the attempt to surround and protect and envalue oneself by external means when one lacks internal character. People who have selfhood do not need to be selfish in order to cushion their world or make much of themselves, because they know that what is inside of them is enough and needs no inflation/insulation. If Ayn Rand hadn't been such a kneejerk anti-Communist and deified "selfishness" as a virtue by that name, we might be having a far more intelligent national conversation about the nature of individual character and self-reliance that was the valuable part of her philosophy. But as it is, selfishness has come to be extolled and excused beyond all rational need, and unchided supercapitalism has made luxuries, appearances, entertainment technology and brand-name status items more respected and deemed popularly necessary than decent food and water and lodging -- which in any truly civilized society would be considered the baseline that all citizens deserve. So I am no fan of this selfishness that laces the current sociopolitical discourse: the "I me mine" has achieved grotesque stature over "Live simply that others may simply live." The etymological meanings of "conservative" and "liberal" have long borne witness to this split between those who want to preserve their own values and socioeconomic privilege (even if they actually lack the sort of privilege that is being preserved...) and those who want to give everyone a fairer chance to make their way in life -- with relative degrees on both sides of wanting to control the social values and the freedom of choice involved in others' actions. And at this time, in this place, the pendulum has swung too far to the side of untrammeled greed and acquisitiveness, combined with a lowerclass-blaming double standard -- the worst aspects of conservatism -- and it is in dire need of a counterswing, into an administration and a society that does not put the Economy ahead of the populace, and where "Country First" is not allowed to be a flagwaving euphemism for "people last."

[/more serious]

Anyhow....with all those IQ quiz ads floating around with references to the candidates' statistical intelligence, I think it makes sense to consider the other forms of intelligence that come into play (or fall short) when one's under the pressure of the campaign trail and the potential weight of executive authority. So let me close with this favourite passage of mine from Dune:

"Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never consistent. It
depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind. The
person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is
in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a
strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in
his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move
within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will
destroy a man."

--from "Collected Sayings of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan

And then there's this.....

"Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-El, to save the planet Earth." [2]

Yep......he's got it.


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