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Yes, It's a Crazy Rant.

This is likely to be at at least a bit incoherent because I'm jet-lagged and metabolizing a glass of prosecco, a half bottle of Amarone, and a Glenmorangie (Port wood finish, for those following along at home,) so I apologize in advance. Forgive the misspellings and lousy sentence structure.

I'm in Florence, alone, cold, and I just finished Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" while enjoying a rather nice dinner of pumpkin millefoglie and wild boar. These facts alone disqualify me from giving advice to anyone because I am obviously a lucky bastard. So. I get that.

Cormac McCarthy is a terrific writer. He owns the language. But "The Road" is a shitty book. Why? Because bleak is easy. Bleak and hopeless is easy. Kindergarten for intellectuals. A fucking monkey can write hopelessness. Just as any loser drunk, drug addict, or writing program grad can write it. Yeah, hopeless. We get it. The world is a sick machine bleeding a mass of shit, as Green Day puts it so eloquently. Wow. What a brilliant insight. If only every stoned college kid since 1968 hadn't had the identical insight I'm sure I'd be shattered and blown away and impressed as all hell.

The Road is every half-smart pothead's midnight insight set to the music of the English language.

Here's the thing that bothers me. H. Sapiens didn't crawl up out of the goo and come to rule this planet by whining like a goddamned pussy about how hopeless and bleak and pointless and miserable it all was. We were a stooped, starving, bug-eating, carrion-eating, illiterate, artless, cultureless race of monkeys, and we became the race that swam and flew and wrote and composed and cured and built and carved out a place where we could love. We went from Og the Mastodon-skinner to Mozart, and we did it all on the backs of people who believed in the face of sneering criticism from fucking smart-asses, who at every step had a nice long list of reasons why we'd fail.

Yes, this is weird coming from me, because I think a lot of the people who read this blog take my atheism, my insistence on evidence, my snark and my satire as proof of cynicism. Well I'm not a cynic. I haven't given up. Not by a long shot. And I'll be godless-damned if I'll spend my life sitting on the sidelines playing the cynic. If that's what you thought, well you misjudged me. I haven't given up on believing that the world can be a better place, and I haven't entirely given up on believing that I can give that wagon a little push of my own.

Which brings me to Barack Obama.

He's all talk. He's all rhetoric. He doesn't have a nine point plan for reforming the fucking commerce department. Waaah! All he does is talk. All he does is say maybe if we all stop acting like assholes we might marginally improve the world. Waaah! Fucking asshole talking about hoping for a better world. Fucking asshole suggesting maybe the shit that is currently just about up to our necks could be, oh, I don't know, a little lower?

People are passing out at his events! Oh, my God! Sweet fucking Jesus! People are getting . . . excited! It has to be stopped. It can't be right. People under the age of 90 are getting . . . excited and . . . it . . . it scares us! Teenagers and 20-year olds actually imagining, the stupid little shits, that they could inhabit a world different than the squalid, manipulating, self-hating, soul-dead, self-loathing, empty machine we're trying to pass on to them.

Stupid fucks. Getting excited. Stupid fucks. Hoping. Stupid little fucks, how dare they long for something better? Don't they know it's all going to come to shit in the end?

Says bitter old-age and cynical middle-age to youth. Don't you know there's no goddamned point?

Where's his five point plan for ensuring that in my dotage I can be cared for? What about me? What about the past? What about all the lessons we burned-out old fucks have learned from the world we created? Huh? What about us? Why are you stupid little bastards even trying?

Here's our advice: give the fuck up now, because we tried and we failed, so you're doomed to fail, too. And that, my friends, is how we managed in a few brief centuries to go from being a race that didn't know what the fuck was going on in the next valley to Googling the sum of all human knowledge in 1.2 seconds. We got here by giving up.

Do any of you reading this really think you have anything to teach me about how life can go wrong, fall apart, disappoint? Really? I'm 53 years old. I've had a hard eye for most all of that time. You really think maybe I just don't get it? You figure maybe I'm a giddy little school girl swooning because I just, golly, haven't noticed the fact that Obama doesn't seem to have a position paper on the law of the sea treaty? And that's really, really important?

I say this with deep affection for most of you, and great respect: fuck you. You go ahead and give up; I won't. You surrender; I don't. There's nothing you know about this that I don't know. No suspicion that you have but I have somehow overlooked. But you don't get to play cynic unless somewhere, deep down inside, you are still an idealist. Cynicism can only be the armor, it cannot be the man or woman. And we did not build this race from the DNA of cynics.

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“Yes, It's a Crazy Rant.”

  1. Anonymous Gran Says:

    amen...
    sorry no offence intended

  2. Blogger Randy (Internet Ronin) Says:

    Take heart, Michael. Cartoonist Scott Adams, who generally believes voting is a waste of time, has come perilously close to endorsing Obama. His latest post about what is needed in a President pretty much agrees with what you've been saying. FWIW, I'm not sure all that many people actually believe Obama himself believes the hype that has grown up around him. Most people I know admire the dedication of the kids in particular.

    If you go to his website, he does have the equivalent of "a 9-point plan to reform the Commerce department" and more. I disagree with many of his proposals, I continue to think he reminds me of an empty suit, but I will still vote for him if he wins the Democratic nomination.

    Enjoy Italy. Forget about this while you're there.

  3. Blogger Dyre42 Says:

    Drop by Amba's and read her post titled "In The Email..." and see what you think then.

    http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog/2008/02/in-the-e-mail.html

  4. Anonymous Kevin Says:

    Rant, yes. Crazy, no.
    There's something to be said for the ability to inspire people to reach for something better than business as usual.

  5. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    I haven't read "The Road" and now I don't want to ... I don't mind bleak so long as there are characters who are fighting the bleakness. If everyone is just wallowing in their own misery, I get bored very easily.

    As for Obama, I think people can call him hollow without being cynical. But those who act like hope is unimportant are worhty of your condemnation in all its ranting glory.

    Have an extra scotch for me.

  6. Blogger amba Says:

    You're a thousand percent right that the reason we're not sitting in caves is because of those deluded fools who believed something was possible.

    I have often puzzled over how the way the world gets bogged down in mire is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You grow up full of hope and idealism and then you discover how hard it is to make anything happen, mainly because of all the people around you who have given up, or given in to the path of least resistance to greed, sloth, indifference, addiction. What happens then is that another wave of idealists breaks, gives up in turn, and decides, "Since it's so nearly hopeless, why don't I just kick back and get mine, too." So often the sludge of the world that's so hard to slog through seems to be made of little more (other of course than entropy, inertia, gravity, aging, etc.) than collective human defeatism.

  7. Blogger Meade Says:

    Civilization did not begin with dreamers and hopers and change agents, whatever that is. Civilization began when a critical mass of humans, basically a tribe of losers, agreed to try to live by some simple rules:

    Don't murder
    Don't steal
    Don't lie
    Keep your promises
    Don't desire stuff to the point that it hurts others

    In November, l will vote for the presidential candidate who convinces me that he or she will be the best person to lead us in living within the law, respecting the Constitution, and defending our nation from enemies who want to murder, steal, lie, cheat, and covet us to death.

  8. Anonymous wj Says:

    One small quibble (although I guess it's actually with Annie, rather than with you). Important as hope is, I suspect that the major reason we are not still huddling in caves is mankind's most unappreciated virtue: sloth.

    Pick virtually any invention before 1900 (to take a totally arbitrary point at which some people started inventing stuff just for fun). Alomst every case was a matter of someone saying to himself, "This is just too much effort. There has to be an easier way."

    Too lazy to drag the dead animal home from the hunt? Invent the wheel. Too lazy to walk a few miles to the ford? Invent the boat. Tired of poking thousands of holes in the ground with a stick, in order to plant the crops? Invent the plow. You get the idea.

    You've got to have the optimism to believe that there is an easier way. And that you can find it. But the motivation....

  9. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    You learn something every day. I've learned that to be against messianic political fantasy is to be a fatalistic cynic who's against hope and progress.

    Of course, Michelle assures me that Barack, the only candidate who's shown commitment to serve others, can cure my soul and heal the nation, so there's hope for me yet.

  10. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    But there's one thing we can agree on -- now that Obama is a presidential candidate, we can all be proud of our country for the first time in our adult lives.

    There's been nothing in the past 25 years which made Michelle Obama proud to be an American -- until her husband ran for President and brought hope to the people?

    This is "hope" for people with bumper stickers that read If you're not angry, you're not paying attention.

    I guess people who don't think the sky is falling aren't sufficiently "optimistic" to appreciate Obama.

  11. Blogger Meade Says:

    Pastor Jeff, I'm afraid people may be reading too much into that.

    In Michelle Obama's defense I'll suggest that what she meant was not that she's never been proud of her country but that with people coming together now around HOPE and CHANGE, she is, for the first time, REALLY proud of her country.

    Cindy McCain could say something similar: I've always been proud to be an American, but campaigning now with my husband and really getting to talk to and getting to know so many hardworking decent fellow Americans, I find myself EXTREMELY proud of my country.

  12. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    Meade,

    Even with that extremely charitable interpretation (of what she didn't actually say), she made her point clear with "for the first time in my adult life."

    So even if she's been moderately proud of America before, the first time in her adult life that she's been "really" proud of America is since we've responded with such hope to Obama's message.

    That's only marginally less creepy and self-serving.

  13. Blogger Randy (Internet Ronin) Says:

    Meade, I think you are right. When I heard it, that's how I took her statement - didn't think twice about her meaning. Did think twice about it being incredibly politically stupid because of how it could be twisted. As my brother, who's been in GOP politics for 40 years likes to remind me, national campaign neophytes often make these kinds of mistakes, and some destroy their candidacies with them. There is a reason that successful GOP candidates tend to be ones who ran for the office once before. (I doubt this will destroy Obama, however.)

    Jeff, your comments strike me as creepy, self-serving, and stomach-turning.

  14. Blogger Meade Says:

    It's a little like the plagiarism accusations: too much being made about too little. The critics end up making themselves appear picky and small-minded. (Two characteristics, btw, that I do not associate with Pastor Jeff.)

  15. Blogger Randy (Internet Ronin) Says:

    I agree, Meade. The plagiarism charge doesn't stick with me because, like almost all politicians these days, he doesn't write his own speeches. For the most part, they just read them. As it turns out Deval and Obama share the same speechwriter. The funnny thing is that neither is going to come out and admit that this a case of Axelrod recycling content because almost all politicians like to pretend (and some even believe) that those were their own words.

    Picky and small-minded, indeed. And I agree, too, that Jeff should not be described as being so. But pouncing on this kind of crap smacks of the Clintonian politics of the '90's and GOP talk radio politics of the past decade. Enough, I say! Talk about policy - there's lots to criticize, but let's leave the professional politics of personal destruction behind us.

  16. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    Apparently my last comment got eaten.

    Randy,
    I agree that the plagiarism charge is small-minded and stupid. And the comment about being really proud of America for the first time could be an innocent misstatement, if it didn't fit in with a number of other troubling statements.

    I don't think America is on the skids, and even if I did, I don't think Obama can heal us. I don't believe in political saviors, and I find the overt messianic themes offensive, dishonest, and simplistic.

    Personally, I think the guy is intelligent, charming, and a compelling speaker. I'm in favor of hope, progress, and optimism. But the core Obama message (America is broken, but I'll lead us into a bright tomorrow) is as ugly, divisive, and self-serving as "politics as usual."

    Can you elaborate on how my criticisms are creepy and stomach-turning?

  17. Blogger Michael Says:

    The Road? You didn't get it. You missed it entirely.

    The power of the book--and yes, the faint sense of hope--derives from how very little McCarthy allows into the work (he's taken out overdeveloped backstory, deeply plumbed character, and other novelistic standbys that have no place in this gray world in which survival is the whole story).

    What's amazing in the end is what endures despite the stripping away of the world, and of story: love and hope. Despite the horrors of the road and what would seem to be the obvious hopelessness of existence in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, we and they continue to hope for something better. I found it quite moving in the end in a way I hadn't expected at all.

    Hopelessness is easy, sure, but this book does the hard work--and doesn't phone it in.

    Of course, I'm an editor and a notorious crank.

  18. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Stern Editor:
    I knew you wouldn't be able to resist commenting on this. I think all he was doing was playing us, pretending to construct a little thread of hope, baiting a hook, taunting, mocking.

    I take nothing away from the fact that the man can write.

    But then I'm a writer, and a notorious dick.