Sunday, October 16, 2005


Bush Remains Hugely Popular

I sure wish I wasn't such a slow reader. I read a mere 30 to 50 books a year, and every day of my life I feel the pressure. I have a friend who was a champion swimmer in his youth, and he says he is still haunted by the memory of swimming laps against the clock and constantly being behind, striving to keep up but gradually falling farther and farther back no matter how hard he tried. That's what I feel like when it comes to staying informed and exposing myself to ideas. I'm always behind, and always falling further behind.

And as if that weren't bad enough, I forget half of what I do read. I have an embarrassing habit of forgetting the very titles of the books I've read recently, which makes it seem like nothing stuck in my head at all. It's not quite that bad, but I have to constantly work to try to keep my memory in halfway decent shape.

Re-reading books would help set them in my memory, but, probably owing to my limited capacity to absorb them in the first place, I seldom re-read anything. Recently, however, I've been trying to re-read all of George Orwell. As I've done so, one thing about Orwell (besides what a delight he is to read) seems most prominent.

A fool's game
Predicting the future has always been a fool's game. It is for one thing unprovable until it happens or doesn't happen, so any fool can say anything with about the same chances of truth-value. Consider Marx, for example. Marx's critiques of capitalism were brilliant, and should be read by any individual claiming to be educated, at least in summary. But his pronouncements about the "inevitable" future course of history were, to put it mildly, way, way off the mark.

Even Jesus Christ was woefully bad at predicting the future. As Michael Grant's book Jesus makes clear, Jesus spent most of his ministry preparing for the coming of the Kingdom of God, which he thought was imminent. Almost two thousand years later, the same predictions--called the "rapture" this time, a concept the popularity of which I will never understand--is big business. But it still hasn't happened. (Why the prophets of "rapture" think they're better at predicting the future than Jesus himself was seems a mystery, but never mind.)

Orwell, however, is a different story. He died in 1950, but it's just amazing how prescient he was about what was happening in the world. His insights are still remarkably fresh today. His vision of 1984 hasn't exactly come true, any more than the Russian Revolution took place among farm animals, but in terms of psychological truth-telling it has only gained with the passage of time. Reading Orwell and Affluenza (another of the books currently on my bedstand) at the same time is eye-opening. Orwell's devotion to the unvarnished truth meant that his agenda was formed by his clear vision of the world, rather than the other way around, as it is with most of us humans.

And now for something completely different
Looking at things the wrong-way round is often enlightening. For instance, one thing that's stuck me recently is how the press is universally reporting that Bush's approval ratings are low. Sorry, but that doesn't jibe with the way I see it. A whopping 37% of the American population still thinks Bush is doing "a good job" as President? Holy cow. Given the situation in government and in the country as a whole, that seems to me like an enormous number.

I mean, just take a look at a couple of random facts. The Comptroller General of the United States says that 2004 was the most fiscally reckless in our entire history. Bush's Brain, a.k.a. Turd Blossom, just made his fourth command appearance before a Grand Jury. We have to find a way to dispose of an estimated 22 million tons of wreckage along the Gulf Coast. And of course there's good news and bad news out of Iraq; the good news being that they're making steps towards democracy, the bad news being that if they were truly democratic, they'd promptly vote an authoritarian Islamic theocracy into power.

And, somewhat to my amusement, the President's biggest critics these days are actually Republicans. They've just gotten their first whiff of how terminally pig-headed the man is. After five years of Bush telling the country and the world that it's going to be the way he says it's going to be just because he says so, they're apparently surprised--and in no small measure angered--that he's now doing the same thing to them.

But still, 37% of the population are so partisan, or so brainwashed, or so single-issue, or so corporately co-opted, or so distracted, or so advantaged, that they can still report to pollsters that they think Bush is doing a good job. As I've said before, if that's a good job, one can only wonder what a bad job would be. It's a situation Orwell would have found compelling.

The Quotidian Meander

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