June 26, 2006

"There are two major narratives in the world, the narrative of fundamentalism and the narrative of consumerism."

Do you watch that PBS show "Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason"? Edward Rothstein -- paid by the NYT to subject himself to such ordeals -- is "agnostic — perhaps, even atheist — about whether this group of novelists and artists can provide profound insight on such an urgent subject." Go read the whole thing. I just want to excerpt this adorable fragment:
[Novelist Mary] Gordon suggests that "there are two major narratives in the world, the narrative of fundamentalism and the narrative of consumerism." Given her own religious faith, she explains, she is much more comfortable imagining the inner life of a suicide bomber "than I am of Donald Trump"; she finds the terrorist mind, with its belief in eternal truth, "much more comprehensible."

Ms. Gordon says that whenever she sees people driving Hummers, "I want to just drive them off the road" — or worse. She could "go out on quite a spree," she says. What stops her from becoming a roadside bomber fighting for eternal truth, she explains, is her Christian belief that these "greedy" materialists "are sacred and valuable in the eyes of God."
Well, come on. The mind of Donald Trump -- that's a very special object of contemplation. Who can fathom it?

But it's scary to think of novelists with murderous thoughts restrained only by their religious faith. I guess if there are "two major narratives," she herself is subscribed to the fundamentalist one, and we're just lucky she's locked onto a religious belief that includes nonviolence and all that love -- that love for all the greedy bastards in this damned world.

27 comments:

StrangerInTheseParts said...

When I read stuff like what Mary Gordon says here I am struck by how little she understands herself. Such comments as these tell me that she is built on rage and resentment and a large large dollop of entitlement. It ain't her magnanimous religious beliefs that keep her from running all those SUV's off the road. It is the fact that, deep down, she has MUCH more in common with those 'evil consumerists' than she will ever have with suicide bombers. The far left is forever confusing the difference between having a common enemy and actually having anything in common.

PS - Anne - Please comment on the new Slate re-design! I will withold my (strong) opinion until you do....

David said...

Welcome to the world of the New York Times and it's publisher, Mother of all leakers, bill kellor.

Speaking of narrative fever involving fundamentalism and consumerism, note the current imbroglio involving NYT's Kellor passing out state secrets in the guise of public's right to know. This even though Kellor can find nothing illegal going on.

The common enemy is the delusional and traitorous far left who provide aid and comfort to our enemies on a daily basis.

Jake said...

The drivers I hate are the one that are not greedy enough. I am referring to those who are driving cars 10 years or older. Old cars because of obsolete technology, worn internal parts, and general state of disrepair are causing 8 times as much pollution as a new Hummer.

SteveR said...

Where does she draw the line? At some point "consumerism" creates jobs, income and ultimately some one might have a few bucks to buy one of her books (Now that might be someone I'd like to run off the road). I guess if they drove a Taurus and worked for Microsoft that'd be ok?

Who pays for Moyers and PBS to be on the air anyway?

Goesh said...

-she sounds like a regular ELF fan/supporter

Zach said...

Maybe terrorism is like a first novel to some people. You know how you make the first abortive attempts, save them on your hard drive, gather "background" -- the process can be quite lengthy.

It does give some food for thought, though. "The author is dead," indeed.

tcd said...

I guess the Donald is way more evil than terrorists who behead innocents. Must be the combover Ms. Gordon finds so repulsive. So does she cheer everytime a military Humvee is knocked over by a roadside bomb in Iraq? I guess I never realized how muddled some people's thinking can get and they forget that sometimes things really are just black and white.

Zach said...

Maybe Gordon is just focusing on her competitive advantage. The world is chock full of terrorists -- perhaps even too many. But they all seem to have the same manifestoes, and they're all in Arabic, and aren't they all just terribly gauche, anyway?

If we could just use our novelists' insight to write the correct manifestoes retroactively, maybe people would stop driving Hummers.

tiggeril said...

Fathoming the mind of Donald Trump is a THIRTY BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY!!

Hayduke said...

The drivers I hate are the one that are not greedy enough. I am referring to those who are driving cars 10 years or older. Old cars because of obsolete technology, worn internal parts, and general state of disrepair are causing 8 times as much pollution as a new Hummer.

Really, Jake? My 1988 Honda Civic produces 8 times as much pollution as a new hummer, even though it burns half (maybe a third of) the fuel and just "quick passed" a state emissions test?

Of course, you're right that I haven't upgraded to a Hummer because I'm not greedy enough. It has nothing to do with the fact that I can't afford new car, that I have other, more important things to spend money for seating and horsepower I'll never use. But, hey, at least with a new car such inefficiency would be more efficient.

Christy said...

Hey there. I'll have you know that my 10 year old car just passed the Maryland emissions test, thank you very much! And do you know what kind of return on investment that $53k for a new H2 brings to a smart capitalist? I applaud everyone else's consumerism. In fact, I bet heavily on it.

Gave up Bill Moyer not long after his Joseph Campbell series of series. I kept wanting to throw things at the TV as I watched him shape the narrative of his guests.

I'm with Ms. Gordon in that the jihadist is understandable to a person of faith, even to those of us who would like to be a person of faith. Doesn't make the jihadist acceptable, just understandable. What I don't believe is that their leaders are men of faith. They've another agenda completely. As Heinlein also once said, "Faith is for the congregation."

tcd said...

I'm thinking it would be pretty hard to run a Hummer off the road with her Pious, er Prius.

PatCA said...

I think Moyers is presenting a false choice, faith or reason. In fact, our constitution acknowledges that both faith and reason have a place in ordering the affairs of mankind, but I'm sure Moyers would deny that.

If you want to see something truly thoughtful and profound on the subject, see On Faith and Doubt. IMO faith versus doubt is the true paradox, the one that ensures we don't become another Iran. Freedom of religion implies doubt--how could we allow it if we knew the one "truth"?

J said...

"Really, Jake? My 1988 Honda Civic produces 8 times as much pollution as a new hummer, even though it burns half (maybe a third of) the fuel and just "quick passed" a state emissions test?"

It actually depends on your definition of pollution. A Hummer produces more CO2 than an 88 Civic, but every other component of what is commonly considered pollution is a function of how completely the engine burns fuel, not gas mileage - so yes, your 88 Civic almost certainly produces far more "smog" than a new Hummer, emissions testing notwithstanding. I don't know where you live, but when I lived in California emissions standards were based, among other things, on model year. Cars with VIN numbers issued prior to the enactment of emission standards were exempt from meeting any standard at all, for example.

Pogo said...

Moyers poses the first false choice, in asking "How do we keep the public space between reason and faith, where most of us spend our lives, from becoming a no man's land of constant warfare?" Are reason and faith separate? Moyers seems to believe that most of "spend our lives" in the space between reason and faith. What nonsense.

In response, nevertheless, Ms. Gordon cites her own religious faith, saying that while greedy" materialists deserve to be killed, they are nevertheless (somehow) "sacred and valuable in the eyes of God".

So I gather she gets some measure of satisfaction from jihadis doing what she only dreams of.

Jonathan said...

I don't get liberal-arts types who assume that authors, poets, artists and other intellectuals whose main modes of interaction with the world are observation and discussion, have a better understanding of reality than do scientists, businessmen and others who deal in empirical knowledge and face real consequences for failure. Absent empirical feedback, jargon-rich concepts such as "narrative" serve mainly to lend an illusion of insight or precision. If you want to know what an intellectual really believes, ask him if he prefers the bridges he drives over to be designed by engineers or poets.

RogerA said...

Ummmm--Didn't Thomas Aquinus wrestle that question of faith and reason to the mat in the 14th century? Summa Theologica comes to mind.

Of course, Bill Moyers never did come up with anything original.

Jeff said...

I saw Moyers and Gordon on Charlie Rose. She referred to Trump as a "consumer", and example of fuzzy thinking if there ever was one.

Trump is a creator. He creates buildings and casinos and golf courses and anything else he can stick his name on, for consumption by others. I'm sure he consumes plenty (private jets, trophy wives, hairspray, etc) but being a consumer is the opposite of his persona a sa developer and business tycoon.

Internet Ronin said...

Ms. Gordon must enjoy quite a luxurious life to inhabit such a simplistic black and white world as hers in the 21st century.

XWL said...

I love false dichotomies.

What about those who mash-up the two worlds of fundamentalism and consumerism?

There are those fundamentalist who are consumeristic in their approach to their fundamentalism (think Pat Robertson), and Consumerists who are fundamentalist with regards to their consumerism (Rappers, really make the best example of this concept, Diddy, comes to mind).

And Bill Moyer is fundamentally idiotic.

And defund PBS and CPB now, there is no need for these entities in today's culture, if they can't make it in the marketplace, then they should go the way of the dodo.

(and yes, I am a fundamentalist for consumerism, myself)

Thorley Winston said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Thorley Winston said...

I don't get liberal-arts types who assume that authors, poets, artists and other intellectuals whose main modes of interaction with the world are observation and discussion, have a better understanding of reality than do scientists, businessmen and others who deal in empirical knowledge and face real consequences for failure. Absent empirical feedback, jargon-rich concepts such as "narrative" serve mainly to lend an illusion of insight or precision. If you want to know what an intellectual really believes, ask him if he prefers the bridges he drives over to be designed by engineers or poets.

I think that’s a more useful test than what said “intellectual” thinks of astrology. ;)

What I also find amusing is the author, poet or artist who condemns “consumerism” when their own vocation or life’s pursuit is a essentially a “luxury” that only exists and is afforded because of the wealth created by people who do real work. The difference between buying an expensive yacht or a painting or poem is that the yacht is at least good for something useful.

Mike said...

Who pays for Moyers and PBS to be on the air anyway?

"... and viewers like you". It was this tag-line at the front of Moyers' NOW that caused me to terminate my 20+ years of contributions to my local PBS affiliate.

tjl said...

Mike said about Bill Moyers:

"and viewers like you". It was this tag-line at the front of Moyers' NOW that caused me to terminate my 20+ years of contributions to my local PBS affiliate."

Entirely understandable. There's something in the way Moyers expounds his sanctimonious liberal pieties that makes you want to flee virtue (in the form prescribed by Moyers) and seek out vice.

Kirk Parker said...

You know, more than once I've replied to those who go on about Moderate Islam, "So why aren't these moderates denouncing the terrorists who have supposedly hijacked their religion?"

Well, time to eat my own medicine: Gordon can call herself a Christian if she likes, but it's a pretty twisted type that I want nothing to do with, and indeed will happily denounce right here in public. She should get herself some counseling for her anger problems, not go talking to the media about how her faith makes it easy to understand the Jihadists.

aaron said...

Religion, helping psychopaths function is society since 0001.

Eddie A. Tejeda said...

"Throughout the interview, Ms Gordon deflects difficult issues by blaming consumerism; an easy and often valid target, but in this case it is an obvious scapegoat. Veiled under contemporary concerns, to me, it sounds like Ms Gordon still possesses intolerant views sometimes instilled by religion, but now those views are not expressed using a religious language, instead they are expressed using the language of anti-consumerism."

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