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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Why Are We in...Where Are We Again?

Washed up has-been writer Norman Mailer spouts off today in the Houston Chronicle. His thesis is that we're going to war because, um, well, empire, fascism, oil, water, China, and sports. It's hard to excerpt from this fine specimen of Big Shot Bullshit.

My hypothesis is that President Bush and many conservatives have come to the conclusion that the only way they can save America and get it off its present down slope is to become a regime with a greater military presence and drive toward empire. My fear is that we might lose our democracy in the process.

Wow, that's scary, Norm! Tell us more!

By down slope I'm referring not only to the corporate scandals, the church scandals and the FBI scandals.

Why, you're right, Norm! In all of American history we've never had scandals like these!

Also, kids can't read anymore.

Wow! When did this happen? On the other hand, they may enjoy your books more.

Especially for conservatives, the culture has become too sexual.

You're right! The place has become a bordello since January 2001.

War with Iraq...would be a quick, dramatic step that would enable them [the "Bushites"] to control the Near East as a powerful base -- not least because of the oil there as well as the water supplies from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers -- to build a world empire.

No blood for water!

So, if we have an Empire, there won't be any more scandals and kids will learn how to read and everyone will behave, right? Tell us how that works.

Um, Norm? Norm? Hello....

Well, I'm sure he'll tell us eventually. First we get this prediction:

Terrorists are not impressed by democracy. They loathe it...They are fundamentalists of the most basic kind. The more successful democracy is in the Near East (not likely in my view), the more terrorism it will generate.

Gosh! Maybe we ought to dismantle our democracy right away, lest the terrorists try to destroy it. Wait, that already happened. (I thought that wasn't about democracy, though...)

The only outstanding obstacle to the drive toward empire in the Bushite minds is China. Indeed, one of the great fears in the Bush administration about America's down slope is that the "stem studies" such as science, technology and engineering are all faring poorly in our universities. The number of American Ph.D.'s is going down and down. But the number of Asians obtaining doctorates in those same stem studies is increasing at a great rate.

Whoops, changed my mind. Norman Mailer is the most brilliant man---OK, non-scientist---in the universe. He's absolutely right that them yella devils are taking over our precious White Man's Science. We need a purge of furriners, which would by a completely unrelated coincidence mean that my mangy carcass would suddenly become waaaaay more valuable.

Norm, bubba, if the "stem studies" in the US were so bad, Americans would be going to China to study them, not the other way around. And, you know, a lot of those Chinese (and others) elect to stay here and become Americans. Which means we win.

(I thought he made up this "stem studies" business, but it turns out that it means Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.)

And somehow I don't think kicking up sand in Iraq and taking over its oil, water, or vinegar is going to stop this supposed decline in our stem cells. (Are there technology deposits under the Iraqi sand? Are we expecting to find the Lost Knowledge of Ancient Babylon?)

No sirree, the only thing that's going to do that is to lavish great green gobs of cash on universities and scientific organizations in nice climates, so as to make sure that deserving yet unemployed scientists are guaranteed cushy and interesting jobs.

Looking 20 years ahead, the administration perceives that there will come a time when China will have technology superior to ours.

When that time comes, America might well say to China that "we can work together," we will be as the Romans to you Greeks. You will be our extraordinary, well-cultivated slaves...This is the scenario that some of the brightest neo-conservatives are thinking about.

And some of the dumbest old hacks. I can see where it's possible that in 20 years China will have some technologies that are superior to ours. What I don't see is where he gets this "extraordinary, well-cultivated slave" crap. Wouldn't we sort of have to---you know---conquer them to do that? Wouldn't that get messy? And what would be the point? And how could we continue to be all rich and powerful and dictate stuff to people if they've got better technology? And why would they stand still for it?

I was going to mention that Harold Macmillan suggested that this be Britain's relationship to the US, but that was the other way around. He wanted Britain to be Greece, the enlightened home of thought, in contrast to the lumbering military empire. Guess he hadn't heard about the slave part. Tee hee. Boy, what I'd have given to see the look on his face when he found out.

Er, where were we? Oh, right, Mailer's fantasy kingdom:

(I use Rome as a metaphor, because metaphors are usually much closer to the truth than facts.)

And because equating the US with the Roman Empire always impresses the hell outta the rubes. (Stupid facts! What do they know, anyway.)

My guess, though, is that, like it or not or want it or not, we are going to go to war because that is the only solution Bush and his people can see.

'Cause I sure as hell can't think of anything else. What was I writing about again? Norm's forgotten about that little business in New York and Washington. One could certainly argue that it had nothing to do with Iraq, but it's obvious that the administration thinks it just might. But, no, Mailer's going to pretend it didn't happen. Maybe so he can pretend he didn't spout some meaningless yet offensive drivel about it.

The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in our lives...And before it is all over democracy...may give way. My long experience with human nature -- I'm 80 years old now -- suggests that it is possible that fascism, not democracy, is the natural state.

Indeed, democracy is the special condition -- a condition we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascist atmosphere in America already.

Well, I'm only half your age, Norm, but my long experience with horseshit tells me you're shovelling it. I think you've confused reality with one of your novels, bubbe. Flags at baseball games means fascism is just around the corner?

Norm, this country has been tempted by fascism before, in your lifetime and mine. And it didn't succumb. That doesn't mean we can be complacent, but I do think we should save our panic and outrage for a stronger sign than singing the national anthem at baseball games.

Say, Norm, you forgot to explain how, exactly, Bush thought that building an empire was going to keep corporations honest, stop priests from diddling little boys, bring back chastity, make the Chinese dumber, and get more kids to read your books.

Maybe he'll churn out a great thick square book on the subject.