Saturday, April 15, 2006

Looking into the miasma

I always wanted to use that word in the title of something, 'miasma', ever since I owned an album back in the mid-eighties by the celibate Rifles called "The Turgid Miasma of Existence". Even back then when I was a down-faced college boy I thought 'Holy crap, thats a pretentious title for some low effort punk music'. What brought that little vignette of my college days to mind was reading some of the posts on the Daily Kos, the most prominent of the left wing blogs in the US. What strikes me first of all about many of the posts is confusion- lack of logic, lack of clarity, lack of facts to support arguments, lack of analysis that seems to fit the stated scenario and most of all cogency. Cogency is the appropriateness of supplied facts to to the argument you want to make.

Its a well known fact that an excess of emotion makes it difficult to argue coherently. What is immediately obvious from the Daily Kos is that many of these people are in the throes of violent emotion- hatred for President Bush, hatred for right-wing Christians, hatred for the traditional virtues (and vices) of America, hatred for the particular place America has in the world and at least a partial hatred for themselves. Additional to the hatred is frustration that a large majority of Americans DON'T have the aforementioned hatreds and self-loathing, and keep voting in Republicans who support Christianity, traditional values etc. There is also a rising petulance about them, which in previous era's led some liberal Americans into treason and such activities as spying for the soviet union.

Reading their rants is painful. I'm guessing that pot-smoking is rampant among these people; anyone who has spent time talking to people who smoke a lot of pot will know how uniquely boring it is to try to converse with people who think what they're saying is profound and organised, but is in fact the dribblings of a smoke-addled brain. There is no ability to go from point to point with purpose, or to adduce facts to back up assertions. Wild statement after wild statement, it becomes tiresome after just a few minutes.

The most annoying thing of all though is lack of seriousness. When you are a teenager, you think that the most important thing to do is criticise what other people are doing. You don't need to do anything yourself, nor do you need to provide alternative plans or guidance or solutions. Its enough to sit on the sidelines and tell everybody how wrong they're getting it. When you leave the teenage years, and get a job, take on responsibilities, maybe start a business, you start to understand how much harder it is to DO than to talk or write; how making judgements may directly affect the existence or not of your job or enterprise or family. You get serious, because there are serious things to do, and serious matters to make a call on.

What seems to mark out the political left in both Britain and America is an almost complete lack of seriousness. They seem to be people whose most important decision in their whole life seems to be which Issue of the Day shall I champion. I wish I could make each and every one of them start a business, run a farm, build a building from scratch or organise a public transport system- something difficult. How differently would the narrative run then?

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