Monday, May 13, 2002

If You Ain't Got Elegance...

So I got an email back from that website guy to whom I wrote yesterday (see below), and am absolutely crushed. His admirable grasp of the English language and his eye for web design masked an unfortunate but all-too-common sloppy mind. He used phrases like "people like you" and "your ilk," and then had the effrontery to call me (and my ilk, one assumes) a pseudointellectual. Of all the nerve! I'll have you know, I am a bona-fide dyed-in-the-wool real live actual intellectual, thank you very much. I spend most of my day thinking, and I do a great deal of reading, and I think about what I read...most importantly, I apply scientific method and ethical theory to my thinking, rather than arranging my thoughts to match my beliefs.

And I never let anybody tell me what I think, which is becoming rather rarer these days. I guess it's so much easier to let other people think for you. Then you can just tuck the thoughts into whatever part of your brain makes speech, and start blathering away to your heart's content. I'm not saying that my America-Lovin' correspondent doesn't think his own thoughts: but he displays the sloppiest thought-process of all, lumping people together into one-word groups as if America were one single-minded entity and My Ilk were a separate and mutually exclusive single-minded entity. And people who are capable of that sort of sloppiness are usually the same people who stand up with rakes and torches and storm the castle whenever somebody with a ringing voice stands up and tells them that the perfectly innocent Monster is evil.

I'm currently trying to decide whether or not to respond to the website guy again. He was awfully rude to me, returning my attempts at courtesy with accusatory statements. He obviously doesn't benefit from rational discussion, he only responds with his own set piece. I don't see what will be served except me getting something off my chest. On the other hand, I just hate letting anybody get the last word in. Well, I'll think about it a little while, anyway (speaking of thinking...I just now thought of the last scene in Mommie Dearest, which was of course on TV today; at the end, Christina and her brother Christopher are in the lawyer's office, learning that Mommie left them absolutely nothing in her will; Christopher said, "Well, she always has to have the last word"; to which Christina got all mysterious and looked straight into the camera and said "Does she? Does she?" at which point one assumes that Christina ran home and started jotting out her novel)

But to return to the sloppy thinking...the website guy wrote: "It's interesting that people like you always want to blame America for the attacks. The fact is, there is no justification for terrorism"...I don't remember saying that America was to blame...I believe I said (let me check) that America is not entirely blameless. There's a world of difference. And I never said there was a justification to terrorism...though in fact, one can justify almost anything if given the opportunity and a serpentine mind. That's what really ticked me off about this guy's was clear from his comments that he hadn't read my letter, he had just sought out buzzwords and formed his preconceived argument around them.

He went on to say "It is also interesting that your ilk never has an intelligent solution to the terrorist problem. I suppose you think you think we should sit back and let them attack us again"...which is the sheerest balderdash. There is no intelligent solution to terrorism, because it is not an intelligent phenomenon. Nobody sat in a think-tank library poring over Santayana and Spinoza while sipping a cup of tea and listening to Vivaldi, then suddenly decided that the best thing to do would be to fly hijacked commercial aircraft into populated buildings that are completely unrelated to the entity you are supposed to be fighting. That just doesn't make sense.

But here's an intelligent solution: make sure everyone in the world is fed, clothed, housed, and comfortable. Quietly murder everyone who seems dangerous or violent, for the good of the people. Constitutionally meek people with food in their bellies never, ever start revolutions or join terrorist cadres. Simple. Intelligent. Expensive. Immoral. Requiring sacrifices of the people who are already in control of the world's wealth. Ain't gonna happen.

I also never said that our military should not have attacked Afghanistan or sought out the terrorist strongholds...though I believe they should have concentrated on the latter, instead of the former, which was of course easier...I only objected to calling it something else. Operation Enduring Freedom, or whatever piece of crap euphemism the Bush Cabinet has come up with, is a simple case of misnomy. It means nothing and diverts attention away from the fact that we are engaged in seeking retribution. Nothing wrong with retribution, except that it is ineffective (you kill guy A, and guy A's people kill one of yours, and you kill one of his, and they's terribly inefficient and circular); but there is something wrong with pretending it's something else, some noble crusade to make the world a better place.

War and killing are mere wastes of time. For everyone involved. Nothing enduring can ever be accomplished through violence. As Will Cuppy said of Alexander the Great, when summing up what happened to the greatest empire the world had yet seen, was, "and after he was gone, the only thing that remained of his work was that all the people he'd killed were still dead." This is a gross generalization, but gross generalizations seem to be the order of the day.

Which leaves me and the website guy with this same question: what do you do about terrorism? I don't know. He doesn't know (though he thinks he does). Bush sure as hell doesn't know (I'd be amazed if he could fill an 8x10 piece of paper with everything he knows). I'm inclined to do the proper Miss Manners thing: ignore it. It won't go away, death and evil never go away; but then at least you wouldn't have wasted your time on it.

Instead, let's think about this:

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