Monday, September 19, 2011

Meaty Discourse

Once, even against all evidence, I could have accepted the idea that David Brooks was a human being who lived a relatively ordinary life in the gated enclaves of AwSchucksJustARegularMiddleClassJoeMakingSixFiguresville, Virginia. After all, he showed up regularly on The News Hour for good-natured jowl-punching with Droopy Dog doppleganger Mark Shields,, and surely he must have had to leave his habitat to do that. He must have had the opportunity to at least observe other members of his culture from the depths of his brougham-landaulet during the trip. And even though he could predictably come up with this sort of thing at the drop of an Alka-Seltzer:
"On my journeys to Franklin County, I set a goal: I was going to spend $20 on a restaurant meal. But although I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu—steak au jus, ‘slippery beef pot pie,’ or whatever—I always failed. I began asking people to direct me to the most expensive places in town. They would send me to Red Lobster or Applebee’s. I’d scan the menu and realize that I’d been beaten once again. I went through great vats of chipped beef and ‘seafood delight’ trying to drop $20. I waded through enough surf-and-turfs and enough creamed corn to last a lifetime. I could not do it."
I could still picture him at a computer terminal, torn between finishing his latest Times lament and watching cats play the piano.

Well, I've stood by this belief against all odds, but there comes a time when one simply has to face facts. Brooks' inability to find a restaurant in which to spend more than $20 is not the result of spending too much time watching piano cat. Even a sheltered Cheetos-eating basement-dweller could find a way to do that. No, I'm sorry to say, the only real explanation is that Brooks is a tissue experiment grown on a meat scaffold who dictates his "columns" based on nothing more than the freshman philosophy problems fed to him daily by William Bennett and the perfluorocarbonated head of Leo Strauss. And here is your proof:
"The key to wisdom in these circumstances is to make the distinction between discrete good and systemic good. When you are in the grip of a big, complex mess, you have the power to do discrete good but probably not systemic good.

When you are the president in a financial crisis, you have the power to pave roads and hire teachers. That will reduce the suffering of real people who would otherwise be jobless. You have the power to streamline regulations and reduce tax burdens. That will induce a bit more hiring and activity. These are real contributions.

But you don’t have the power to transform the whole situation. Your discrete goods might contribute to an overall turnaround, but that turnaround will be beyond your comprehension and control.

Over the past decades, Americans have developed an absurd view of the power of government. Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can’t."
Yes, you have sinned by letting the big banks and billionaires destroy your 401(k)--you know, the only kind of pension the Wall Street boys would let you have after they got done with you back in the '80s--and by losing your home in the floods, and your livestock in the wildfires, and your loved ones in the tornadoes, and your job in the layoffs, you fiddle-playing grasshopper! Now you can just shut up about needing a hand from the gubmint, because you're not a patient; you're a zillion zillion decisions! Now go suck it up under a bridge somewhere, and just be glad we're not Greece.

That's just meat talking.
Play it off, Keyboard Cat.

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