Monday, June 04, 2012
Where are you going, where have you been?
Although the point of being outraged by how truly useless the Texas government is, is kind of lost on me. That alternative, on the other hand, is why the Texas government is truly useless. True believers think it is and it's uselessness proves the inadequacy of government (except to make the rich and powerful more rich and powerful; ask yourself how Rick Perry got to be a rich man if all he's ever done in his adult life is work for the government of Texas. No, don't ask; nobody else does, or care about the people who do.) The rest of us seem to think there's nothing we can do about it, so why bother?
As for Crooked Timber, I enjoy the site on one level, but on another, that post I linked to is an example of the worst of what Thoreau called hacking at the branches of the tree of evil, and what Wittgenstein derisively dismissed about philosophy as "language games." It's an outrage because it's a lot of people thinking they are terribly clever when, in fact, the emperor has no clothes. It's like the parody of modern art aficionados that show up in every American movie where modern art makes an appearance (but isn't the subject), where the sympathetic characters know the art is a joke, while the snobs fall all over themselves trying to come up with new ways to be fatuous.
Not that that isn't true of the art world, or the graduate school world of literary studies, for that matter....(the stories I could tell! Well, only one or two, actually, but they're enough! O, the humanities!)
Anyway, I'm struck by the fact (slightly, actually) that neither post sparked any comments (boring seldom does! Quiet, you!). Not enough abstract outrage, I'll warrant. Interestingly, whenever a political opponent starts on a subject guaranteed to raise interest if not outrage, the first charge is distraction, as in: "They're trying to distract from the REAL issue!" As if anyone would know the "real issue" if it walked up and punched them in the face. Everybody's always trying to distract from the real issue!* Why, that's the whole point of modern culture. But wait a minute; let me finish that thought, first.
Outrage is always something easily generated when it is about something abstract, general, and fairly vague. No one is outraged by mendacity in state government, especially if it isn't your state. But everyone is outraged by what the Catholic Bishops just said. Now, does it affect you? (yes, yes, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!) No, probably not. Isn't that easier to get outraged about than the equally abstract and unimportant issue of a blog post at Crooked Timber? Or the more concrete case of mendacity (if not outright corruption) in the regulatory agencies of the State of Texas? (the latter case, btw, points out how far our political and social culture has fallen. In the days before deregulation "improved" things, electricity providers got rate hikes after they proved the money was going to be invested in new power plants, not before. There were obvious reason for this, yet nobody seems to remember that, or care. Isn't there at least an allegory here?)
I'm not complaining. I'm just fascinated by the dynamic. When it's a subject that has real impact on the real lives of millions of people (Texas is what, the fourth most populous state in the union?), and an indication of how truly screwed up life in these United States is today: crickets. When it's about an issue that doesn't really affect any of us (I don't think any of the regular commenters here works for a Catholic related institution; if I'm wrong, my apologies): fireworks!
Why is that?
I'm as bad as anybody; and maybe comments is poor way to judge interest.
I have to stop here, and admit I started this with the purest of insightful intentions, meaning to say something profound and illuminating, or at least ruminative; and I can't do it. I spent the weekend gardening, rather than listening to the latest political news, and it has changed me profoundly. Well, for the next 24 hours, anyway. To be honest, I don't care if Scott Walker wins the recall election tomorrow, because I don't live in Wisconsin. I don't care that George Zimmerman is back in jail, because I won't be a juror in Florida (although I do think he handed the prosecution a dandy counter-attack to any claim of self-defense. The defense's new defense that the money Zimmerman raised on the intertubes is in an "independent trust" and this is all one big misunderstanding is too cute by half. It may work for the judge in a new bail hearing, but he's got a major credibility problem now with the jury, one he just handed to the prosecution. Drat! There I go again!). I don't even care about the Texas PUC because, frankly, I can't do anything about it. Texas' political culture is what it is, and among other things it is immutable. Most of the people who live here now are not "native Texans," but they took to the political culture of one party (until the 80's, that party was the Democrats, because the Republicans were associated with Lincoln) and that party as archly conservative as possible, and nothing has really changed; if anything, it's gotten worse. But what am I going to do about it? Become an activist? Be the next Molly Ivins or Jim Hightower?
Not likely. I won't even be John Henry Faulk.
No, Voltaire was right, and Candide reached the proper conclusion. I spent the weekend gardening, and though the work was hard, the results were most satisfactory. I'd be better off using this blog for theological gardening; but I'd certainly be better off, in all cases, tending my own garden.
I'm gonna go watch the butterflies for awhile....
*yes, everybody does it. Is there nothing you can't find on the intertubes?
Addendum: rather than start another post, let's confuse this one. So, speaking of not being able to do anything about it so why bother, consider this chart at the Houston Chronicle. Collin County is in the DFW "Metroplex," home to Plano, Richardson, and other towns. Why it has the highest percentage requesting they stay registered to vote, I don't know. Travis County is Austin, by and large, a city in its own eyes (at least) very politically active (they were blogging in Austin before there was an internet; it was done on telephone polls and in alternative newspapers). A low percentage of those challenged bothered to save their registration.
And why does Texas have such low voter registration? It wasn't that long ago Texas all but pioneered the "motor voter" law. I can remember coming back to the state from Illinois to find voter registration cards in almost every public place I went. Why don't people register? Because they don't want to face jury duty? Or because they don't care?
I'm inclined toward the latter. Texas, as I say, has been a one-party state since Reconstruction. It's a cultural thing, and culture is weirdly impervious to changing populations. Few Texans are "native Texans" (i.e., born here), yet the immigrants adopt the political culture more rapidly than they understand how to use "y'all" or take up the peculiar Texas accent (twang and drawl, used judiciously and only in the right places). I still don't know why that is.
Nor do I suspect a Florida style voter purge here, This isn't Rick Perry trying to win more votes for the GOP. Everyone agrees the newest Senator from Texas is going to be a Republican, and nobody thinks a Democrat is going to defeat Perry if he runs for Governor again, even though the GOP is sick of Perry. No, this is Texas government trying to operate without really functioning, which must be the way people like it down here, because it's been that way for 30 odd years now (actually, it's been that way almost all my life).
The biggest problem with voter registration is that people have to register to vote; and then they have to care enough to preserve their registration. But I deeply suspect most voters see no reason to vote, as only one party is going to win (except in isolated local races) and they don't really see anybody to vote for. So they don't put forth even minimal effort.
Democracy inaction. What're ya gonna do?
Posted by Rmj at 10:25 AM