Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Too much of nothin'

It occurred to me, scribbling a comment at Street Prophets this morning, that this "War on Christmas" fits in perfectly with the worst aspects of blogging, because it rests on a sad truth of human nature: "If you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose."

And of course, we all want to have something; something important enough that someone else would want to take it away from us. Because that would mean we are important enough to matter to someone else, preferably a stranger, preferably a nameless force whose every thought and waking moment is bent on pondering our existence and, if not how to improve it (how often does that ever happen?), then certainly on destroying it.

So a great deal of complaining and moaning on blogs is about how important "we" must be, that "they" want to hurt us so. Or, how important "we" must be because "we" alone see the error of "their" destructive ways, ways that surely are meant to hurt people like "us."

So "we" must be pretty important, huh?

Guilty as charged, by the way. 20 posts visible on this blog as I write would fall easily into that category. Of course, maybe it's not always that important; maybe it's just ego. We want everyone else to share our outrage, to be as angry as we are. But anger is a cheap emotion; it is easily stirred, and largely impotent. Even "righteous indignation" seldom leads to anything more than violence: either the violence of war, or a street fight, or just verbal salvos. It was "righteous indignation" that justified the invasion of Iraq, that has justified every political struggle since, well, since politics began, and that drives most people to either write, or comment on, blogs.

It all comes back to "us," one way or another, and how important "we" are. It is all our way of saying we will not go gentle into that good night; because otherwise, no one would know we had ever been here.

So O'Reilly rails about banned postage stamps or red and green clothes at schools, and it is none of it true, and perhaps he knows it, and perhaps he doesn't. "When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose," and "too much of nothin' can make a man feel ill at ease." It works because it sells. It works because it is precisely the attitude the world wants to have. We all want to thnk we have something to lose, because otherwise, what do we have? In it's bluntest form, that is the question and the answer of materialism; of utilitarianism; of all the reductio ad absurdum excuses for saying "this is all there is."

Because if this is all there is, we can never have enough of it; and someone will always be trying to take from us what small part of it we do have. If we ain't got nothin', and we got nothin' to lose, aren't we, then, nothin'? And too much of nothin' makes a man feel ill at ease; but at least, we're feeling something?

Is that what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown?

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