March 8, 2010

"Even on their own terms the politics and business of the world were absurdly evanescent."

"One week politicians, people who worked in the City, and people whose job it was to report their doings would all be kept out of their beds by a financial crisis which, six months later, would be little talked of. By that time perhaps there would be . . . a corruption scandal in local government, which would then be followed by a flurry of public concern over crimes of violence, which in its turn would be pushed out of people's minds by their fury over some proposed new tax; and so it would go on. Each of these things would seem important for a time, then each would pass away and scarcely matter again except to historians. In fact, the truth is that most of them made little or no difference even to the daily lives of most of the population living through them. People immersed in this stream of ever-changing events were filling their minds with . . . ephemera and trivia, what people in electronics mean by 'noise.'"

Is it a mistake to follow politics?

27 comments:

Scott M said...

Is it a mistake? No. Forewarned is always forearmed. That being said, it makes one more cynical than otherwise and, in the aggregate, probably impacts negatively on one's general quality of life.

Can't stop though...

Sloanasaurus said...

Heh....No its not a mistake.

The real crisis is the debt crisis brewing in our states and federal government. Everything in politics is feeding into this. Even liberals should be concerned as the debt will ruin their utopia. The only way to sustain the current level of entitlements is to tax the middle class - i.e. through a national sales or VAT tax. There is no tradition for this in America and it will never happen here. Thus, unless liberals relent on the welfare state, we will have permananet gridlock, and therefore, permanent deficits. Inflation followed by bankruptcy is the most likely and eventual result.

Scott M said...

Thus, unless liberals relent on the welfare state

...which I have serious doubts that they will ever, ever, let go of. My sense is that the Greatest Generation, which gave us the spoiled-rotton Worst Generation, is going to have to be undone by a Bravest Generation. These would be the kids that grow up knowing they have to do for themselves because the entitlements, once all the grandfathered recipients are gone, are going to be extinct.

traditionalguy said...

He is correct of course. The following of politics of the usual suspects (red herring politics) is futile. Yet there is a real need to follow and expose the money in today's Ponzi Scheme Government. That theft of money and capital will directly affect the patrons and their practicing artists involved in those arts.

Joan said...

JAC says, in response to the pulled quote: Not only do I agree with that passage as a description of current-day American politics (even though it was written in the UK in the '90s), but I find it especially silly that people get so worked up about one tax or one appropriations bill without seeming to care much about what taxes are like on the whole, or how much the country spends on different kinds of things overall.

He's not paying attention. On the Left, where I suspect JAC reads most about politics, there is much less context being considered. On the Right, especially among the Tea Party followers, context is everything: we're trying to restore the freedoms that have been eroded over time, and rejuvenate our national character.

I love music and art and film, but to consider that these things, and sex (!) and friendships, as the only things that look to the future, and thus can sustain in our march to our inevitable deaths, is both selfish and juvenile. The political struggle we are in right now will determine, for better or worse, the future of this country and with it, the world.

We've seen the failure of leftist policies in states (CA) and countries (Greece, Italy, Spain). We've seen how multiculturalism destroys freedoms in Canada and the Netherlands. We're coming to a point in history where we can right the ship or just let it capsize -- politics is all about the future. Just one example: Iran's nuclear ambition is an existential question for Israel!

Sorry to mix metaphors, but JAC and his philosopher are missing the forest for the trees.

madawaskan said...

Look I'm just reading the damn last sentence.....which always when people say this makes me wonder about their....

Well.

Define politics. Start there.

Can you really escape it.

Then if you have a bunch of apathetic sheeepile, if they think they can't be bothered to follow politics-well you can do just about anything when you bore them.

In fact I think that's Obama's style of persuasion or the best he has left now.

He goes at it like a lawyer....

Bills that are 2,400 or 2,700 pages long that refer back to ten other bills so that if the whole thing was typed out in its entirety would be twelve volumes.

Hours of summit, hours of speeches-that's a technique-snow the enemy, or the pubic with information.

Then pass the supposed "law" through a process that isn't used for passing large sweeping changes in the government and bend the rules, and do it by a process that few can understand.

End result-good luck finding the real motive, objective or truth.

Scott said...

If I ruled the world, people who used the word "evanescent" would be shot.

Balfegor said...

But the media rarely gives us this information for fear of seeming to lack "objectivity" (whatever that is).

Eh, I don't think that's why. Honestly, do you think the media could give us that background even if they wanted to? Journalists get things embarassingly wrong even when experts spoon-feed it to them. And it's no wonder. Explaining things is hard. Researching them and getting them right, in order to explain them is even harder. I think they don't give that broader context, because they don't know that context. And what's more, journalists seem -- much more so than ordinary people, even ordinary political fanatics -- to be prisoners of the moment, prisoners of the news cycle, of the "here and now." It's their job to be. That's what they do. That's how they sell copy.

The Crack Emcee said...

I tried explaining this to Glenn Reynolds but, like you, he's much too smart to take seriously anything I say. Much more comfortable listening to his own counsel - which is so far off the mark it's scary.

One more time - for color - since y'all can't even stop being racial, no matter how many times I warn you about that, too:

Eliminate the Left and they'll be back. Eliminate NewAge and you're done with the lot of 'em.

I better get to work on a store with all my sayings and shit,...

kentuckyliz said...

Read the whole linked post.

This guy was an MP during a time in the UK when the government was pushing the envelope on surveilling the subjects and chipping away at their freedoms (which are NOT Constitutionally protected or defined like ours are)...when the country was handing over is sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels...

and he thinks this doesn't matter?

Numbing himself out with art and Mozart and philosophy and adultery.

Dereliction of duty, sir! I declare shenanigans.

Middle aged people I know are concerned with leaving a legacy--through their work, mentoring others, raising good children, benevolence, giving back, reaching outside themselves and giving to others.

But, given the chav culture overtaking the UK, it would be pleasant to retreat to a country cottage and read philosophy books and listen to Mozart and wait for death, soaking in my brainfarts.

rhhardin said...

The effect is mostly media audience busines model.

Henry said...

It is a mistake to care about politics.

I don't mean by that that one shouldn't care about issues, esp. issues that build upon principle (see Sloanasaurus, above).

But one should never care about personalities, or the posturing.

Much of what passes for "following" politics -- and much of what the media promotes as important -- is petty second- and third-rate scandal mongering.

I prefer to "follow" history. Then, when something political happens, I have a clue about what principles are at stake.

traditionalguy said...

The story of History goes on and on to carry a tested culture and institutions to another generation. But the terrible thing about wasting time with Philosopy is that it ALWAYS ends in exposing itself as a futile attempt to understand life to be a system of causation that can be captured within logical categories in the minds of men, which is not true and never will be true.

Henry said...

@Scott M. Great riff.

But I'm not sure a "Bravest Generation" will be enough. We're going to need an "Inglorious Bastards Generation."

Because a lot of people are going to pissed at the inglorious bastards who stop their plunder.

paul a'barge said...

Yeah, it's evanescent all right. Until you get laid off from your job and can't find another because all the employers have basically pulled up all the carpets, barricaded the windows and doors and gone home.

Then it's not so evanescent at all.

Is it?

traditionalguy said...

Good point Paul a'barge...Life on earth itself is evanescent, but we still prefer to enjoy our full evanescent lifespan of 70+ years. I note that I have lived 64 years, and that is a full one thirtieth of the years since the Easter morning resurection of the Christian's God in Jerusalem and his ascension from there to His Father, to await a return engagement in that City, which may not be so evanescent at all.

tim maguire said...

For the most part, yes. Politics is utterly irrelevant to just about everyone's daily lives. And just about everyone is powerless to do anything about it anyway. Not just politics, but the news as a whole is a needless source of stress that's better ignored.

Only occasionally does something come up that is important enough to pay attention to and have an opinion on.

Richard Dolan said...

Some people don't find politics very interesting. OK, fine. Some people prefer to spend their time listening to music, be it Uchida's recordings of Mozart or something else. Also, fine.

But life isn't an either-or exercise of that sort. Liking music (even Uchida's recordings of Mozart sonatas, which I frequently listen to on my morning walk over the B'klyn Bridge) doesn't require, entail or explain a withdrawal from other aspects of life, including a lively interest in politics.

The tone of high-minded, world-weariness in the Magee piece is a bit much. JAC is too young for such nonsense. It's in the same category as a declaration that poetry is a bore, or history is a waste of time. It says a lot about the speaker and very little about the subject matter.

Duscany said...

Jaltoh: "And as for anyone who considers art "meaningless" if it doesn't contain a social critique, or if isn't "appreciated in the social context in which it was made," I feel sorry for them for what they're missing . . . "

Once when speaking to a class of journalism students at a liberal private school, I told them that researching and writing stories about politics and social issues was a useful and undoubtedly important thing to do, but it was far from the highest calling of a journalist.

Being well brought up young men and women they didn't scoff at my notion but they were clearly deeply puzzled--"Whatever is he talking about?"

William said...

I suppose you could argue that the bubbles on the river tell you which way the deeper currents are flowing. But even there, more often than not, they're just moving with the tide....I know the bubbles mean something, but I doubt any of us have the ability to read their meaning. The moment passes and even in hindsight it's difficult to fathom the meaning. Gibbons, Hegel, Marx, Toynbee: they were able to convince a fair amount of people that they had it figured out. But history has shown that their understanding of history was incorrect....I offer this observation not in a nihilistic way. Given that we are involved in events whose consequences we can ill predict, it would behoove everyone to refrain from making impassioned speeches on the barricade.

kentuckyliz said...

The highest calling of a journalist is to record birth announcements, marriage announcements, and obituaries with precision and sensitivity, for future genealogists.

madawaskan said...

The playground is politics.

War is politics at it's extreme.

The damn water cooler gossip is politics.

The bar scene is flippin' politics.

Good luck avoiding it.

Palladian said...

Uchida and Mozart? The former, overwrought, the latter, underwrought. Both overrated. Two mediocrities that deserve each other. Perfect escapist fare.

The Crack Emcee said...

I think politics are important to follow, but it's more important to know which politics to follow. The mainstream narrative is occasionally interesting, rarely important, and mostly worthless. I have a much better track record of determining what's what, or who's going to get in trouble - merely by following beliefs that lead to goofy behavior - than any mainstream journalist out there. (The role of dualities in NewAge belief is a pretty good indicator that, if there's a NewAger involved, somebody's lying about something.) Right now, all the over-arching issues are NewAge - and not one of them is being seriously addressed by the Tea Parties, I might add:

Environmentalism/Saving the planet

Healthcare/Wellness

Multiculturalism/Political correctness

And more. NewAgers are leading this country by the nose after scaring it into thinking these are it's most important issues. The acceptance of this is a sign of some really weak minds.

Nothing I can say about my own country will ever be sadder than that.

The Crack Emcee said...

Sloanasaurus said..."The real crisis is the debt crisis brewing in our states and federal government. Everything in politics is feeding into this."

The debt crisis is the product of a culture with no critical thinking skills. How can anyone be declared able to handle money when they'll do this? Or donate to Scientology?

In order to be successful, you've got to have something to work with.

We're stuck with three generations of morons.

Paul said...

A few years ago I decided to listen to NPR a lot less and listen to audio-books a lot more. Most of what's on the news is either complete bs, or pc mind-rot, or speculation about what's going to happen that time will render moot.

I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that he never really understood how the world worked until he stopped following the news. I can't locate that, but i think the idea is hat the news is mostly a distraction, or worse, intentional misinformation. You can listen to pundits talk about "our children and grandchildren" paying this 10-trillion dollar debt, but only when you turn the sound off do you realize it will never be paid. Everything must crash down.

I am a reactionary, and some of my fellow reactionaries can't understand why I have some liberal friends. The reason is that, as individuals, what we think about politics is meaningless. Whether I am pro-abortion or anti-abortion affects nothing in the grand scheme of things. Something so meaningless cannot be allowed to interfere with otherwise enjoyable relationships.

Duscany said...

Kentuckyliz: "The highest calling of a journalist is to record birth announcements, marriage announcements, and obituaries with precision and sensitivity, for future genealogists."

I wouldn't think you would need a journalist for that. A good secretary could do it just as well and a heck of a lot faster. The highest calling, I would think, is telling true stories--what people did, why they did it, what they thought, what they felt and what it all meant. Telling non-fiction stories about our lives.