Quarterly Potpourri: 2012, Q4
Intro. OK, three months are up. Time for another potpourri of unconnected items.
I can't claim any thematic thread this time. Like the universe in current cosmological models, my output is tending toward perfect entropy, pure randomness. (Before reaching that blessed state, most of the matter in the universe will disappear into black holes. Whether my output is trending toward that ultimate outcome, I leave to the judgment of others.)
Abstract politics. The more elections I sit through — this latest one, counting only presidential (US) and general (UK), was my 13th — the more they seem like all form and not much substance. If politics were painting, these big elections would be abstract, not representational. If politics were stage performances, they would be ballet, not drama. If … oh, you get the idea.
I mean, does anyone actually give a fig about the issues? Does anyone ever?
You've seen the exit-poll numbers: In Mississippi, 89 percent of whites voted for Romney, while in Vermont only 33 percent did. Married women went 53-46 for Romney, while unmarried women went 68-30 for Obama. Black women aged 18-29 voted for Obama at a North Korean level: 98 percent.
Amnesty for illegals is supposed to be a big selling point with the Hispanic vote, yet as every numerate pundit has noted, Hispanics were less inclined to vote Republican after Ronald Reagan's 1986 amnesty than they were before.
And how about that Asian-American vote — three to one for Obama? Aren't Asian-Americans entrepreneurial bourgeois types? Shouldn't they be going for the low-tax, small-government stuff? Razib says it's religion. He may be right.
I went to a meeting addressed by Norman Podhoretz when his 2010 book Why Are Jews Liberals? was released. Wasn't it just because they don't like Christianity? I asked him. Norman stared at me blankly for five seconds, then asked for the next question.
See what I mean? It's not issues, it's race and religion. All those acres of print, all those months of TV time given over to talk about taxation, education, protecting small business, protecting Social Security, America's role in the world, a path to citizenship, opportunities for women, deficits and debt, unemployment, abortion, fracking, gay marriage … nobody gives a rat's ass about any of that — nobody but a tiny and ignorable minority on each topic. People vote based on vague, generalized images of the parties — on gestalten.
When I tried out this thesis on a very knowledgeable and worldly acquaintance, a political journalist of some prominence, he said: "Yeah, it was a cultural election."
But aren't they all? Eisenhower got 38 percent of the Catholic vote in 1952 and even more in 1956. But in 1960, according to William Shannon, three out of five Catholics who had voted for Eisenhower switched parties and voted for Kennedy. Why did they do that? Worried about the missile gap? Keen on civil rights? Put off by Nixon's five-o'clock shadow? Mmmm …
A cultural election, right. If "culture" means "race and religion," that's sure enough what it was. And here we are yet again with Mr Lee.
Since this is early winter, it's time to kill some birds. Saturday, December 1st is the day. I shall set off with my son, two shotguns, orange vests, and earplugs into the wilds of Pennsylvania to commit some serious ornithocide.
A slight change of plans this time out. On previous expeditions I've taken the family shotgun, a pump-action model I immortalized on this very website four months ago.
However, needling from friends and readers has gotten through even my thick hide. Pump-action is for home defense and law enforcement, they've been telling me with barely suppressed sniggers. For the field, you want a REAL shotgun.
All right, guys, I've got it. On Saturday I'll be shooting a fine sleek old side-by-side, product of the Ithaca Gun Company of Ithaca, NY, borrowed from a neighbor. If I'm happy with it, I'll buy one and keep the pump-action for burglars.
If either of those is your thing, I have the perfect Christmas book for you: Steve Bodio's An Eternity of Eagles, subtitled The Human History of the Most Fascinating Bird in the World.
Steve knows everything about eagles and has hunted with them (as, by the way, has Mrs Taki Theodoracopulos). Did you know that the fierce martial imagery associated with eagles applies mainly to the female bird? Steve:
I once asked an eagler in Mongolia if he ever hunted with males. His somewhat unkind reply was that he didn't hunt mice.
An Eternity of Eagles is superbly well produced. I keep reading articles about the death of books, how flat-broke the publishers are, and so on. Well, no expense was spared on this one. Almost every other page has a beautiful color picture. The typography is flawless, the paper fine. If printed books are on the way out, on the evidence of this one they're going out in a flourish of loving craftsmanship.
What's happened to all the mad people?
The common wisdom is that back in the evil intolerant days of the middle 20th century, anyone even mildly unhinged was locked away in an institution surrounded by barbed wire. Then the "rights" lobbies and the "new psychiatry" came up, Jack Nicholson got everyone's sympathy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and the mad folk were all given their freedom.
If that's right, there should be mad people all over. To the contrary, it seems to me there are far fewer mad people around now than in my childhood fifty or sixty years ago.
I recall knowing lots of mad people back then. They were an accepted part of the world's human furniture. The headmaster of my secondary school was noticeably mad. An elderly female relative of mine was mad: She would sit in her armchair carefully plucking invisible objects from the air above her head. The reading rooms of public libraries were full of mad people muttering and squawking.
Now there are no mad people at all among my acquaintances. Patrons of library reading rooms read in silent concentration.
I suppose medication has something to do with it. Or perhaps they've all gone into politics.