Once More, with Weirdness


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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51 Responses

  1. Avatar Metamorf says:

    I’m sympathetic up to a point, but you lost me on “the cultural projects of the ‘new left'”. I was around then, and while it’s true that they often enough seemed exciting in a vague, abstract, utopian sort of way, the vast majority of them in reality were silly and juvenile at best, or nightmarish and truly depraved at worst — there wasn’t and isn’t anything bracing or heroic in that sort of mere folly. The 60’s accomplished some good things, yes, and made some good music, but in the process led us down a cultural blind alley that we’re still trying to find our way out of. And, as I said before, too many of the boomers are stuck in that alley — it’s only going to be people of your generation, Rufus, that can find a better route.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Metamorf says:

      @Metamorf, I know the majority of those projects were failures for a reason. Again, it’s the attempt to live heroically that so often results in failure. But, certainly it must have some advantages over ‘let’s just keep doing what we’re doing’.Report

      • Avatar Metamorf in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @Rufus F.,
        Well, I guess there’s always the Don Quixote model, Rufus. But I’d say attempting to “live heroically” is not just delusional, and not just vain posturing, it’s too often arrogant and self-righteous, a trap that many boomers fell into and can’t get out of. The thing is not to seek out heroism as such, any more than happiness, or self for that matter — these are all just attributes of activities you engage in for their own ends. So find those ends — the world isn’t perfect yet, you know.Report

        • Avatar John K in reply to Metamorf says:

          There is room for “the Heroic” in the everyday “bourgeois life”. Try making a point of taking advantage of others in your life choices, being honest and moral at work, raising a family, being moral in a world full of temptations, etc…Report

      • Avatar JosephFM in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @Rufus F.,
        This is actually what I was getting at when I brought up AIDS yesterday. I meant it as an example of this failure, and of the unintended consequences thereof.Report

  2. Avatar Simon K says:

    All those 60s projects that were meant to horrify the bourgeoisie became bourgeois, though, didn’t they? It turned out, in the end, that there was nothing terribly revolutionary about them. Admittedly I live in Northern California and this is probably more true here than elsewhere, but I know plenty of people who’ve “dropped out”, lived in communes, grown all their own food, pursued enlightenment with or without chemical assistance, lived in plural and open marriages, pursued various sexualities, and so on and so forth, while either simultaneously being perfectly ordinary suburban folk or at least alternating fairly smoothly between two worlds on a daily, weekly, annual or decadal basis as appropriate. In fact I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t done at least one of these things, including the conservatives. And of course these aren’t the only available modes of adventure – people do quit the continent (I quit one already), pursue insanely ambitious business ideas, undertake ridiculously dangerous activities for fun, etc. But its all rather easily assimilated into ordinary middle class mediocrity. Plural marriage rapidly turns into a question of who does the dishes and takes out the trash, and it turns out that ordinary bourgeois values resolve these disputes rather better than most of the alternatives.

    Most people adhere more-or-less to the suburban norm and vary from it in random and unpredictable ways. So it doesn’t really hold up that there’s a Cultural Right that upholds that norm as appropriate for everyone and a Cultural Left that holds it up as one of various options on the menu of life. Rather its a matter of whether you focus on the norm or on the variation as the more interesting and important thing.

    This is indeed boring. I’m a big fan of boring when it comes to society at large. Human history has been almost unremittingly exciting thus far, largely because of all those Huge Issues On Which You Must Take A Stand. Taking a stand on huge issues has invariably rapidly devolved into killing those who take the opposing stand. If we’re all headed for a bit of tedium for a while before we get the option of leaving the planet added to the menu of life – well, thats pretty good. Not ideal, but a big improvement on the alternatives thus far.

    This does not need to mean that individual lives are boring. Just that they’re not tied up in sacrifice to epochal, society spanning revolutionary conflicts. Its a fairly odd idea, actually, that interesting lives have to be lives given over to such things. I suspect its rather modern idea, actually, and maybe one we’d be better off rid of.Report

    • Avatar Gorgias in reply to Simon K says:

      @Simon K,

      I’m not sure you guys realize how good you’ve got it. There’s plenty of adventure, this side of sexual orthodoxy, but I’d give that adventure up in a heartbeat if it meant that I could have a more comfortably bourgeois life- if my penchant for getting hit with things or having multiple partners didn’t put me at risk for losing my job or my children.Report

      • Avatar Simon K in reply to Gorgias says:

        @Gorgias, Sorry if I implied that some lifestyle choices don’t still suffer from a lack of social acceptance. I see how it could be read that way, but its not really what I meant. As it happens I do know people who (it sounds as if) share your preferences who manage to be quite comfortably bourgeois, but I realise their experience may not be the rule. My point was more that to whatever extent sexual preference (etc) aren’t currently accepted the trend is quite clear that they’re becoming recognised as a matter of personal choice, without much interest for society at large. The consequences thus far have been spectacularly unrevolutionary and in fact downright dull.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Gorgias says:

        @Gorgias, Well, I do know a bit about going to ridiculous lengths to hide some aspects of our life from the neighbors and coworkers (non-monogamous? us too!), but thank god we don’t have to worry about keeping custody of children. I can imagine that’s pretty stressful.

        Wouldn’t a worthwhile cultural struggle be making the case in the public sphere that those forms of sexual freedom shouldn’t have bearing on employment or child custody? I mean, domestic comfort and culture struggle don’t have to be at odds, although I sort of suggested as much.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    My parents’ generation survived the Depression and fought World War II, then lived for forty years under the shadow of nuclear annihilation. My older brother faced the threat of being sent off to die meaninglessly in Southeast Asia. In comparison, my life has been far more prosaic. I’d have a difficult time not feeling silly in complaining about that.

    We are in no real danger — 9/11 was horrific, but it can’t be compared to the Cuban Missile Crisis, or for that matter to the devastation we’ve inflicted on Iraq in badly aimed vengeance. Even with the economy currently in the crapper, we remain an immensely wealthy nation. Americans are going to continue to fornicate and smoke that stuff and watch porn, and the consequences may be unfortunate at times but will remain well short of catastrophe. Nor are we going to be overrun by Muslims and Spanish-speaking hordes. In a generation or two, they’ll be exactly like the rest of us, thought we might be using the Spanish or Arabic words for “shmuck” or “klutz”.

    The real goal of the culture warrior is to feel that he lives at a decisive point in history. That’s why the current crop of immigrants, unlike all the previous ones, are such a threat. That’s why an inoffensive moderately liberal Democrat is a terrorist socialist heathen. And, to be fair, that’s why global warming is going to drown all of us unless we completely change our way of life. Let Malkin and Bill-O rage, and let Bill Bennett put down the lever occasionally to assail us with his virtues. Let Franklin Graham remind us, by stark comparison, what a kind and good man his father is. It’s all an expression of exaggerated self-importance, and the only response it deserves is a horselaugh.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      @Mike Schilling, Mike I hope you have some mountain top land or that Algore “global warming” will get you wet!Report

    • @Mike Schilling, Yeah, I definitely feel silly complaining about it, but what are you going to do? It beats taking Prozac.Report

    • Avatar JosephFM in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      @Mike Schilling,

      Cosign this all the way.

      (Also, this:
      ” In a generation or two, they’ll be exactly like the rest of us, thought we might be using the Spanish or Arabic words for “shmuck” or “klutz”.”
      We’re basically already there, since that basically describes my girlfriend…pretty normal-if-quirky American girl except that she yells “Hijo de puta!” at bad drivers).Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to JosephFM says:


        Cosign this all the way.

        Even if I was off on a tangent.Report

        • @Mike Schilling, I don’t know if it’s exactly a tangent, although I was calling for cultural engagement as opposed to political hysteria. Actually, I was suggesting there’s an inverse relationship between the two. Certainly, I agree that people have very little to really worry about- no real dangers, lives that are fairly easy to maintain, if one puts in a modicum of effort, a high degree of bureaucratic management, and cultural arguments that no intelligent person could care about or take part in. I just see that sort of prosaic existence as a precondition of the fits of hysteria and warmongering you deplore. Think of Hitchens and his joy that 9/11 “finally” gave him a struggle against evil to take part in.

          You consider the culture warriors to be a subset of loons, but I’m sort of using the term differently. Someone who “crusades” to share with others the resounding power of poetry is what I think of as a culture warrior. People who sit up all night debating the worth and meaning of art are what I had in mind. I think that sort of passionate cultural engagement is healthy- and not just in dorm rooms!- but people who haven’t the stomach, the access, or more often the brains for it, seem to me the same ones who will yearn for the sort of “cultural struggles” that inevitably involve exterminating the brutes. Like I said in the first post, I’d much rather have cultural struggles that are worth getting passionate about than bullshit and bloodbaths. But, you know, cultural decadence- boredom and lassitude- often fuels those blood and iron fantasies.

          So, I guess this is a tangent in response.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

            @Rufus F., Okay, let me give an example of what I mean- the French. I mean, talk about “culture warriors”! They will sit up half the night arguing about a painting, or a movie, or how to make love, or what sort of family relationship is the most fulfilling. Every one of them I knew over there would do this every night of the week, usually while drinking. Half their television shows consist of people sitting around tables having these heated debates about every aspect of culture- my favorite was one that went on for hours- I used to call it “I can’t believe they’re still talking”. This is cultural struggle that wrestles over all of the things that most Americans see as “unimportant” or “pretentious”, instead seeing them as what truly matters in life. It really matters what you think of Michel Houellebecq or Madonna or how butter should be made- at least to them! I mean, most of us would think those discussions are crazy. But if I had to choose between people arguing about a poem as if their life depended on understanding it, or treating such things as unimportant and saving their energies for “serious” work like firing up the jet fighters, or competing with their neighbor over who has the biggest SUV, I’m leaning towards that sort of culture war.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F. says:

            @Rufus F.,

            Umm, “tangent” was a pun.

            Think of Hitchens and his joy that 9/11 “finally” gave him a struggle against evil to take part in.

            Not that different from the Unabomber, whose main complaint about industrial society was that it made his life too easy and thus meaningless. (He wanted to be out in the fields, getting his back into his living, but saw that this was a futile gesture so long as there were Burger Kings around.)

            Anyway, given your definition, you’re a pretty skilled general, given the way you can get people to stop nattering about politics and appreciate Plato instead.Report

          • Avatar JosephFM in reply to Rufus F. says:

            @Rufus F.,
            That would make me a culture warrior as well. Especially around this time of year. Last week was Banned Books Week, I took part in a public reading with the mayor of Tallahassee as a representative of the American Library Association.Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    I think your main question, how to live life, is our unviersal human question. I don’t particulay buy into looking at this in solely a generaltional manner. In a very strong sense we are lucky enough to have the wealth and soceity where we can ponder these kind of questions. Finding meaning and purpose is just difficult unless you are sold on one of the generic off the rack meanings the the “cultural right” has on offer. Those do work for a lot of people.

    I think you are bit off inn suggesting the cultural left has abandoned the field of battle so to speak. The point of letting everybody is choose their life is not to have a guru telling you what to do. When Brian in Life of Brian said “Now fuck off” his acolyte said “How shall we fuck off, O Lord.” Not telling people how to live is the only way to fight the battle for private choice. Now i would suggest that there isn’t actually much of cultural left in any coherent sense, which is a different issue.

    It seems like the deeper question you are asking is how i can i live well as part of group living well. In a lot of what you wrote you talked about cultural trends and past movements. This is actually a bit different then just how do I live. There is all sorts of adventure to find, how can a culture abolish it? In some ways it is much easier then ever to engage in truly life threatening adventure due to improvements in equipment and mobility. I can hike into thousands of square miles of wilderness just 20 minutes from my house, can’t you find something like that? Is that not the kind of adventure you mean? Is it a great crusade you are looking for? It sort of sounds like it. Not to sound like an ex-counselor but i think you need to go a bit deeper to specify what you are looking for.

    Do we live in unheroic times? Probably, but that is likly best. Heroic times suggest great peril. FWIW there are times in life when just getting up one more day and going on is heroic. I don’t mean because it is boring, but that life will be brutal to all of us and surviving another day is something to be proud of.Report

  5. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Oh my the whining here! Talk about the corruption of language, and the missing and distorted symbols. You people are lost and getting loster!
    The one thing I’ll give ‘you people’ credit for is that at bottom there does seem to be the effort to, as Vogelin said, to recapture reality. Reality has been subsumed by deformed ideologies that youns call truth and while you may barely be aware that ‘something’s happening here’ no on has taught you how to recover the language symbols, for example, that will, at the very least, give you some tool to work with in order to regain the truth of stuff.
    You guys have been capture by what Cicero called the ‘anxieta’ in his Tusculan Disputations where reason is rejected in part because man exists in society in a state of ‘allotriosis’ (anxiety) brought about by confusion, twisted opinions, and the inevitable corruption that always results (see Voegelin’s essay “Reason”).Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      @Robert Cheeks, Bob, I would think you’d feel more impetus than the rest of us to rebel loudly against the culture. I mean, you claim here often that the very perception of reality has been deformed by these dishonest ideologies, but certainly you’d have to include the dishonest ideologies that claim to express that truth to the culture Christians, while reinforcing whatever the audience wants to hear about the way they’re living. The Christian message is nothing if not radical. So why not aim higher than electing the occasional bought-off DC mandarin who pretends to oppose abortion?Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @Rufus F., Yes, yes you have a point. But, I’m working on a project along those lines: the restoration of a language that explicates the disorder and facilitates a recovery of truth as a function of the Logos gained in the ‘experience of Christ.’ It is, as you’d suspect, a difficult project given the unrest in the West where the summum bonum has been superceded by the summum malum as Voegelin says.
        At this point any success at slowing down the consolidating momentum of Leviathan is a legitimate victory and allows a little more time to correct the sundry psychopathologies.
        Then again if the Word teaches an apocalyptic end, well there’s not much I can say to convince a bunch of people captured by a ‘reductionist fallacy,’ second realities, and “the function of philosophies of history in creating an illustion of ‘immortality’….”
        It’s the drama of humanity where so many are needlessly destroyed by pride.Report

  6. Avatar Sam M says:

    “1. It’s just not enough to buy into for the next five decades or so I have on earth,”

    Well. just keep in mind that “The Man with the gray Flannel Suit” was written in 1995, not 2005.”The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was written in 1939. So if life was exciting at the time, someone forgot to tell the people living it.

    “2. Given the slow-motion collapse of the economy, the natural environment, the American dream, a sane government and meaningful politics, defending the status quo seems, in itself, a tad reactionary and unrealistic.”

    So can you point to an era in which the environment, the government, the status quo and the economy were better, more sane, and more worth defending? Take a look at, say, Pittsburgh in 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, etc. Right now I live near the Allegheny National Forest, which has one of the most valuable and beautiful stands of hardwoods in the world. In the 1920s, the land was so heavily deforested it was known as the Allegheny Brush Heap, and mostly it was known for uncontrillable forest fires, and topsoil sliding down the mountains into the Allegheny River.

    Last night I was up feeding a baby at 2 am and I saw a documentary about Daniel Ellsberg and the release of the Pentagon Papers. Everything about that era makes me glad I didn’t live it in. Yeah, OK, they had the Rolling Stones and it was probably more fun to hitchhike across the country and eat at local diners instead of Arbys. But other than that, my world is cleaner, less corrupt, more sane and… get this… MORE EXCITING.

    The vast majority of people in 1969 had little access to books, movies, television, travel, far-flung family, natural wonders and just about anything else. I bet, right now, you could afford a trip to Alaska. The 1969 version of you almost certainly could not, and the idea that a woman would run a business while a man pursued a PhD would be preposterous in about 90 percent of American zip codes. Do you have any black friends? You probably wouldn’t have. In fact, not so long ago, you wouldn’t even be allowed to watch black athletes on television, watch black actors in movies, or vote for a black politician.

    Modernity. Enjoy it. It’s awesome.

    I am ust not sure what excitement you think previous generations had? Factory work? Farming? The idea that people were excited to do these things strikes me as extremely dubious. I guess life was exciting for Hemingway, but as a very dear college friend pointed out to me, remember, Hemingway killed himself.Report

  7. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    In short: “Shouldn’t there be more to life than this?”

    You have a family, a house, a steady income, and one of the best educations ever conferred on a human being. If you want something more, get out there and make it. And consider yourself lucky that you get such artistic freedom. Most other generations didn’t, as the others have already noted.Report

  8. Avatar Boegiboe says:

    There’s nothing more I have to add in a general sense to what everyone has said so far (I even sort of agree with Mr. Cheeks, that your ‘anxieta’ [I read ‘ennui’] stems from a disconnect from reality, though Bob and I might disagree on the nature of reality). So, allow me to offer some ideas that I know have helped friends in similar states*:

    1. Write some fiction. Like a novel or a bunch of short stories. You’re a good writer, but you may be overly focused on trying to figure out reality. Fiction allows you to separate reality from fantasy in really helpful ways.
    2. Take a long trip to a foreign country as soon as you and your wife can get away. What languages do you speak? What country’s language had you always thought would be fun (or hard) to learn? Go there for a month or more.
    2+. Join the Peace Corps. I’ve never known anyone who came back from the Peace Corps that didn’t feel infused with a sense of purpose.
    3. Go on a binge with whatever substance suits you (there is real danger in this, of course, of legal problems, injury, or death–but it has helped some people)

    So, I look at those ideas, and I realize they are united by the fact that you, getting your PhD, and your wife, supporting you getting your PhD, cannot do them now. Could it be that you are suffering from the syndrome that causes so many people to end their schooling with the degree A.B.D.?

    *Now that I’ve typed these suggestions, I think they’re horribly patronizing to you, because I seem to imply you haven’t been through this yourself already. I don’t really believe that. But, I’m going to go ahead and submit it, because I think talking about these specifics adds to the generalities of the discussion here. These are some practicable avenues of adventure for the affluent of the developed world, and some of them can even change the lives of others for the better.Report

  9. Avatar North says:

    I think I follow your concern Rufus but here’s the thing. All those alternatives to the bourgeois turned out to be either generally unpopular or compatible to the bourgeois life style. It turns out, much to the hippy’s astonishment, that the bourgeois were remarkably capable of absorbing new ideas and moving on. So it’s not like the left chose to abandon these things per say so much as they simply lacked the social force to be considered alternatives and thus dropped out of the conversation.
    So it seems to me like what you need is a new alternative. Fortunately you live with all the economic, social and legal freedom that is necessary to come up with such an alternative. Put the spurrs to your cortex and think one up. In today’s society the world will bead a path to the door of a person who comes up with a remarkable exciting new idea. Go for it! (And don’t forget to credit the League when you do, we could doubtlessly all do with some of that internet money.)Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to North says:

      @North, Yeah, I’m not saying we should re-do the ideas of the past. I’m talking about the spirit that gave rise to those unrealistic ideas. Actually the spirit behind all unrealistic ideas. In general, I think the left is in need of new and daring ideas, instead of being so consistently terrified of backlash. It’s inevitable, but again, if there weren’t crazy people who were frustrated with the way things are, we’d still be living in caves.

      I’ll give an example of what I mean- An Inconvenient Truth. Now I don’t know if Algore (hat tip- Bob in 2,000 comments thus far) is right about everything in that movie, but I suspect that he thinks he’s right about everything in that movie (particularly the Gore hagiography). And those people believe that, unless we make radical changes to our way of life, the planet will be devastated. They literally believe that now is a make-or-break moment. And what do they propose at the end of the thing? What sort of sweeping changes? Carpool more often! Maybe think of using energy efficient lightbulbs! That’s the “utopian” spirit of the Clinton left. And, let’s be honest, Obama is the living embodiment of that gutless spirit.

      And they wonder why the Tea Party seems so much more enthusiastic than they do.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @Rufus F., Well Rufus, it seems to me (though I reason this anecdotally having missed the 60’s and much of the 70’s by virtue of not having been born yet) that the great energy and ideological vim of the era came from a youthful population rising up and breaking free of the oppressive fetters of social convention that was repressing them at the time. Based on that criteria I’d guess that if you’re looking for the zones where the new hippies will arise you’d be well advised to watch say, Iran, when the Imams finally loose control. It seems entirely possible that the next great subversive social revolution and bundle of ideas may arise somewhere foreign when the unfree make themselves free. That kind of bottled up repressed inventiveness may not be present in much of the west.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to North says:

          @North, It’s an interesting prospect (although, I’d note that Foucault made the mistake of lauding the last Iranian Revolution a bit prematurely). One of my close friends is a Persian philosophy instructor, although she’s becoming an expert on Heidegger, God knows why. She’s also one of the most fiercely independent-minded people I know. I’ll have to ask if part of that comes from having much of her family still back in Tehran.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @Rufus F., The ‘left’ typifies my lament re: ‘twisted ideas’ etc. Algore is an insane bandit; insane if he believes what he says, and a bandit because he stand to make millions from the stupid.
        Rufus, it ain’t about ‘progress,’ or inventiveness, or getting off on excitement, it’s about the truth!
        Do you ‘seek’ the truth, do you want to ‘know’ the truth? If so you’re a philospher who can fail and become a philodoxer, oh, so very easily.
        Read Voegelin, he will at the very least point you in the right direction. Start with Vol. 34 of the CW, “Autobiographical Reflections,” Univ. of Missouri Press.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, Here’s the thing though Bob- I’m well aware of that danger. I’ve no intention of following a guru or proposing my crackpot theories very loudly- actually, I’m not expecting to gain anything like truth or wisdom for the next three or four decades. Then I’ll let the kids know what I think! But the search is more exciting than any destination for now. I’ll read Voegelin- if only to know what the heck you’re talking about!Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks,

          I’m working on a project along those lines: the restoration of a language that explicates the disorder and facilitates a recovery of truth as a function of the Logos gained in the ‘experience of Christ.’

          Algore is an insane bandit

          Keep working.Report

  10. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    You know, I’d imagined this was a tad provocative when I wrote it…

    Just a general note: me and my wife are in the process of making a number of fairly radical changes to our life, and I suppose I’ll report on the results when they’re in. I am certainly happy to live at the time I do, given the alternatives. But in terms of the baby boomers, what I had always heard, and correct me if I’m wrong, was that their parents’ generation told them that they had gone through the Great Depression and WWII in order to provide them with the best possible life, and one that had never been possible before in human history, so they had an obligation to embrace it, right? I mean, nadezhda wrote a very stirring defense of how the boomers demanded a more passionate life over being stultified and ignored. I mean, good for them- they didn’t shut the hell up and get happy about their society. In fact, if people had done that throughout human history, we’d still be living in caves. So, while I appreciate that the establishment left is made up of older people who went through Vietnam and Woodstock in order to give us the best possible life and the end of human history, I feel no obligation to embrace it.Report

    • Avatar Sam M in reply to Rufus F. says:

      @Rufus F.,

      “I’ll give an example of what I mean- An Inconvenient Truth.”

      Well, sure. You are picking a mainstream politician’s take on things. Mainstream politicians are… mainstream. You can go back to the 60s and find mainstream politicians with extremely modest proposals for getting out of Vietnam, embracing Civil Rights, etc. And today, if you look around, you can find some EXTREMELY radical leftist views about global warming, the war in Iraq, and just about everything else. In fact, your access to these radical views is a much better than it would have been lo those many years ago. Nobody needs to move to Haight-Asbury anymore; you can buy a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook and the Turner Diaries from the comfort of your armchair.

      No, mainstream politicians do not embrace the radical ideas, but they never did. Has there ever been an era in which that era’s version of Al Gore talks about completely re-ordering society?Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Sam M says:

        @Sam M, Okay, that’s a fair point about Al Gore and politicians in general. But, conversely, those radical ideas are more fringe than ever. I remember them being even more mainstream in the 90s. If you watch a nostalgia documentary about the 00s say thirty years from now, I’m willing to bet that Earth First! won’t get a mention. Maybe it’ll be more like, “Do you remember when a very small fraction of us made minor and ineffective changes to our lives in order to ‘fight global warming’?”Report

        • Avatar Sam M in reply to Rufus F. says:

          @Rufus F.,

          “But, conversely, those radical ideas are more fringe than ever.”

          Fringe to you, maybe. Perhaps because you aren’t living on a college campus anymore and talking about such things all the time? My mom admits that she completely missed the 60s and 70s because she was at home taking care of babies. Not that moms can’t be activists, but unless you consciously seek out radical ideas, they can slip by you pretty easily.

          I mean, have you ever seen “Whale Wars”? It’s on basic cable. Guys well-enough funded that they can afford a ship, for heaven’s sake, to actively sabotage Japanese whaling efforts. This would have been Bill Ayers level stuff in the 60s. Now teenage girls watch it and opine on it.

          I admit that “radical ideas” have less aesthetic impact than they did 20 or 30 years ago, but that’s because they have become more mainstream, not less.Report

  11. Avatar Matty says:

    May you live in interesting times

    As Simon K implies there is a reason this is usually quoted as a curse.Report

  12. Avatar Trumwill says:

    When I was younger, I used to ask all of the questions. Why couldn’t things be different? What is with all of this creativity-stifling?! The older I’ve gotten (I’m not playing the age card here, we’re about the same age) the more I’ve discovered that the “they” from The Logical Song were actually more right than they were wrong. Or at least way less wrong than I used to believe.

    I look at the lives of people that the lives of the people that did their own thing and marched to the beat of their own drum along their own unbeaten path… and their lives did not turn out as well as it did for the squares. I don’t mean that they’re less wealthy (though they are) but they seem less happy. Maybe in a world where their path was the norm they would be happier.

    But the path that was created with the norms and institutions in place have served the rest of us pretty well, I think. I don’t see the Lives of Quiet Desperation as do a lot of people. I see people (even people who “did all the right things” or more commonly were not given sight of or access to the right paths) struggling to get by, but that’s a different and more economic rather than cultural matter (except to the extent to which the two are intertwined).

    I don’t know that I am what you would call a social conservative, but when I look at a lot of the bedrock values that some (I emphasize *some*) on the left look at with utter disdain, I see them providing me the bedrock of security from which I can more safely pursue my own interests and ideas. Sort of like how since I repaired the perimeter fence outside, I was suddenly able to let the dog explore the yard as far and wide as she wants. Before that, she was free to walk out of the hole in the fence, but the actual result was just that I needed to keep her near me at all times.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to Trumwill says:

      @Trumwill, A Supertramp reference in 2010!!!!! The end might be nigh. Or at least fatally overplayed.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Trumwill says:

      @Trumwill, I do know where you’re coming from (aside from not being part of the Supertramp fetish community of course), and I think I argued some of the same things when I posted on Confucius a while ago. In general, I do sympathize with your distaste for knee-jerk left resentment for some of those values.

      Actually, I went through about a decade of being ticked off every time I heard someone complaining about the suburbs or domesticity or the values that foster social stability. I do have a strong Tory streak in me. The problem is that I’ve been here for five years and, holy crap, some of those critiques are really ringing true for me!

      So I just wanted to vent. I promise not to become the regular “emo” writer at the League!Report

  13. Avatar Steven Donegal says:

    Just remember the immortal words of Dorothy in the Emerald City:

    “… if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard because, if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

    Good luck with your search.Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My complaints, were I to verbalize any, would be that at my best, at the top of my game, when I am 100%… I am a mere Salieri who is able to maybe recognize greatness but not talented enough to create it.

    Of course, one can only curse God in response.

    When one is reconciled to the fact that, hey, not all of us can be a Mozart and, let’s face it, God hasn’t called all of us to be Mozarts but has, instead, called us to tend our own gardens… well, I get back to tending my own garden.

    Then when I remember that there isn’t a God, there isn’t a purpose, and that we’re just here until we die… well, that puts the whole “I don’t feel like I am fulfilling my purpose” sensation in perspective.

    And it’s only the occasional Mozart who makes me pang.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, You and me both Jay. I never looked at the world in quite the same way once I met someone who was my equal in age and opportunity who I knew absolutely for sure was smarter than I was. Its a humbling experience, but also liberating.Report