Evil Forces in the World

Reflections on ''Evil Forces in the World,'' as well as occasional remarks concerning ''Good Forces in the World.''

Friday, March 29, 2002

John Tierney, one of my personal heroes, has convinced me that my anti-gentrification screeds are ill-informed. My apologies to those of you who decided, after reading said screeds, to deface charming brownstones in a fit of pique. Keep in mind, however, that I've never endorsed criminal behavior.
Further confirmation of an ugly, ugly phenomenon. When will it end? And worse yet, this article includes the following gem: "If you're 6 feet tall, you probably earn about $6,000 more than the equally qualified 5-foot-6-inch shrimp down the hall." A shrimp? I'll have you know that the "shrimp" in question happens to be at the global average. Of course, this is the global average in a world where 20 million die every year of malnourishment and allied causes, but it is the global average nonetheless. I happen to be in this ballpark -- slightly taller, I hope -- and I know for a fact that I do not live in a Ramen flavor pack. At least not yet. And so "shrimp" isn't quite right.

Also, Napoleon was taller than is commonly believed, both in absolute and relative terms. So don't go blaming his megalomania on size!
He's back, and more evil than ever.
This is deeply weird, but very affecting. Good grief. A good force indeed.

But then again, I'm a sucker. I've decided that I'm an enemy of flabby ecumenicism. I always have been, I strongly suspect, but I've never articulated my objections to it. There's something vaguely distasteful to me about trivializing deep differences in what amounts to low-wattage, low-grade ethnic pageantry. This isn't to say that a broad consensus is a bad thing. Cass Sunstein's work on the enduring value of incompletely theorized agreements is a touchstone of mine. But there is a difference between defanging deep differences, which is what every liberal, open, tolerant society necessarily does, and trivializing them. It is, I'll admit, a thin line. Trivializing deep differences certainly does facilitate the defanging process, but it isn't a necessary step by any means.

My opposition to flabby ecumenicism, I should note, is not informed by a fetishization of deep differences -- quite the opposite. There are certain beliefs and practices I consider both wrong and abominable, and I'm utterly convinced that we'd be better off if no one held the beliefs in question. (I am, to be sure, a partisan of a certain set of beliefs, best described as a sort of right-wing, hard-headed Fullerism -- ask if you're interested -- at the moment, and I hope it wins out, so I'm certainly not neutral.) And so deep differences ought to be recognized for exactly what they are -- not opportunities for mutual self-congratulation ("Oh hell, we're so bloody enlightened") but rather opportunities to both interrogate and to defend substantive beliefs and commitments.

I think we do a rather bad job of this here in the United States. Because we're basically nice people, we have a tendency to paper over deep differences, a tendency described in vivid detail by Michael Lind in his book The Next American Nation, another personal favorite and arguably the most important book I've ever read (in that it was literally life-changing, though I can't say that, at this point, I wholeheartedly endorse the Lindian iteration of social-democratic politics championed in the book). In one passage, Lind draws upon his own impressions as well as, if I recall correctly, empirical social science to describe the manner in which Roman Catholicism in North America went from being the emissary of a parallel Latin civilization to a deracinated, apolitical denomination; in a similar vein, Judaism went from being a linguistic nationality, a marginalized and racialized historical community in the shtetls of central and eastern Europe, to being a series of Protestantized denominations headquartered in coastal suburbs and cities. It's a convincing characterization, and there's doubtless some good in this -- less interreligious violence, for one thing, which is nothing to be sneezed at in today's world -- but there's something bloodless about it. But I'm confusing the issue. Far be it from me to criticize assimilation, integration, or, to use Lind's term of choice, "amalgamation." It's just that Jesus Christ isn't the same as the Buddha! Let the Bruderhofs be Bruderhofs! And let's call a spade a spade. Anything else would be moderately evil.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

I'm in my office right now and, with any luck, I'll be leaving shortly. Upon returning home, assuming I can make it through the door -- perhaps I will use the cat-burglar skills I acquired as a wee tyke -- I will eat some cookies. You see, I took a tablecloth normally used for an endtable in our living room as a kind of cape. Though it was square, it suited me just fine. And I proceeded to leap from sofa to sofa, preparing for my most daring exploit, a dramatic jump from the the top of a slide. This being Brooklyn, New York in the pre-Giuliani era, the actual slide was missing, and so there was only a ladder stretching into the cloudless sky. Just when I was about to jump, however, an attentive citizen kept me from achieving my destiny as a sky-faring Rufio figure, which is perhaps for the best. After all, where is Rufio now? (In fact, he has a brilliant career and is, as I write, hurtling towards greatness. Have you seen him in But I'm a Cheerleader?, which featured the seriously ass-kicking Clea DuVall, in English no less, playing the even more seriously, and righteously, ass-kicking Graham Eaton, also known as the penultimate theoretical North American crush object, despite being an avowed lover of the ladies, i.e., a lesbian, or PTNACO, DBALLL, which is not unlike PATCO. Basco was underwhelming in the movie, or rather not overwhelming, but he did a perfectly respectable job; coming soon is some sort of epic Filipino flick in which he'll be the lead. More news to come.)

But if we're going to mention crush objects (even if only in a parenthetical clause), we must never forget the UTNACO, the Pope. Much to my chagrin, Pope-mania has not, as yet, spread across the globe like cellular telephony or the mythical Hong Kong flu. Instead, it is teetering along the edge of the highway like a tortoise with tank treads powered only by synfuels. This is nothing short of infuriating, and something must be done. I plan on writing my parents' congressman, who is allegedly a Marxist of some kind. This comes as a disappointment, but not as a surprise. Marxist is perhaps something of an exaggeration, but he was at one time a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and wouldn't, I don't think, be ashamed of being identified as a disciple of the late Michael Harrington, who was, of course, a "democratic Marxist."

There you have it. Assuming some dramatic steps aren't taken by the House of Representatives concerning the dire need to lionize and celebrate Carly Pope, to sing her name from rafters both real and metaphorical, our government has been hijacked by Marxists, including, no doubt, some wearing bandanas or balaclavas or some combination thereof. It's evil, and it must be stopped.
"What's so funny about that?" - Superchunk.

I was locked out of my small, windowless room today. And my wallet, my life-line, was on the inside, thus leaving me nude. In a manner of speaking, that is. This doesn't happen often. I recall pounding my fists against the door, hoping against hope that someone would let me in. But no, no one answered, which is understandable considering that I live in a hellish urban war-zone in which friends become enemies at the drop of a hat, or at the drop of a "gat." I certainly wouldn't answer the door. And that's evil.

How could I not love Blade II? As of this writing, I've seen it twice, which is to say only twice. The first time was this past Saturday, the day after its nationwide opening. The second time was on Tuesday at The Pavilion, a theater I've never liked very much. The movie was damn good, though I would've done a few things differently. Most importantly, I would have made it several hours longer. It should have been at least seven hours long, and no more than one day long. Anything over twenty-four hours is overkill.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Just so you know, there will soon be a series of epic blogs on Blade II, the first great film of the 21st century. And beyond. And before. And before the word "rock" or the word "fire."

Also, there will be a blog on a rock wearing a polo shirt. And he has twigs for arms.