Skip to Content.
Sympa Menu

percy-l - Re: [percy-l] Percy-L Digest, Vol 58, Issue 9

percy-l AT

Subject: Percy-L: Literary, Religious, Scientific, and Philosophical Discussion of Walker Percy

List archive

Chronological Thread  
  • From: Wade Riddick <wriddick AT>
  • To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion" <percy-l AT>
  • Subject: Re: [percy-l] Percy-L Digest, Vol 58, Issue 9
  • Date: Sun, 2 Nov 2008 02:04:05 -0600

Sounds to me like Mr. Riddick has a bit of ideological rigidity himself when he writes:

3. Bush has an ideological rigidity/born-again certainty/willful
ignorance/autistic negligence that leads him to stumble through life like
Don Quixote on meth.

I don't have much truck with -isms and -ologies; I would say I am rigidly committed to pragmatism - that distinctly American invention of political philosophy that undergirds our constitution and flows from the notion that no one is perfect and therefore anybody who holds power bears close scrutiny. I find the ideological spoutings of Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan as equally useless as those of Jeremiah Wright and Abbie Hoffman.

The same could equally apply to Pelosi, Obama, Barney Frank, Ted Kennedy, Common Cause, etc. as well as Bush, Cheney, et al.

But then again much of that statement could apply to everyone as we stumble along our journey. I have never met an individual in my life that did not reflect to one degree or another those qualities.

I would certainly not describe the current crop of congressional leaders as more ideological than their predecessors. If anything, their policy positions are much closer to the median voter in the electorate.

And, hey, in light of the collosal economic damage done by the collapse of the latest Bush family Ponzi scheme (remember S&Ls in the '80s?), I thought my above line was pretty restrained. The question posed to us was, how does today's literal-minded fundamentalism compare to the Catholic version seen in the Spanish Inquisition - the sort we're now witnessing in the Shia-Sunni conflict. I can't say I'd construe Percy's criticism of the science-obsessed astronomer in _Lost in the Cosmos_ - the one who understands stars a billion miles away but doesn't know his marriage is in trouble back home - as endorsing the Vatican's attack on Galileo. I don't think Percy had much faith in infallibility - whether of popes or presidents or protons.

Now that I think about it, there's another parallel with the golden age of Spanish power. Conquistadors had a lust for money that eventually led to an unraveling of their imperial ambitions. The destructive chase for New World gold reminds me of the recent Wall Street chase for high yield and "beta" (or is it "alpha?" I forget hedge fund jargon; it might as well be "omega" given where this dismal market is headed). The Inquisition was a fusion of adventure-seeking, mercantile fundamentalists craving material salvation via gold accumulation with Catholic fundamentalists/papists craving spiritual salvation with rigid, doctrinaire literalism (albeit through material pursuits like torture). One viewed the body and its material needs as supreme and the other viewed them as irrelevant to the point of taking a destructive disinterest in health matters. A peculiar combination. (I can see Dick Cheney in conquistador armor saying, "Conservation may be a virtue *but*...")

That old Spanish coalition has got some striking ideological similarities with the current (and exhausted) governing coalition in Washington - a coalition of deregulation cowboys and right wing Pharisees.

I don't seem to recall, though, Percy taking as much interest in the Great Depression and other financial calamaties as he did compared to massive WWI battles and Nazi death camps. From raiding Aztec tombs full of Indian gold to raiding 401ks with CDO Ponzi schemes, I suppose bank robberies lose their literary luster/pale in comparison next to the Holocaust.

In that later regard, today we have divided off a minority for suspicion and a bit of demagoguery, substituting Jews in Germany for Muslims in Georgetown. I think Percy might be struck by the certainty of purpose behind locking up suspects in perpetuity without due process - particularly when that government appears only more convinced in its own certainty the more it's proven wrong by reality.

Much of today's paranoia does appear to have sunk beneath conscious notice. When someone accused Obama of being a Muslim at a McCain rally, McCain said something to the effect of no, Obama was really one of the good guys. In attempting to avoid insulting one group, he ironically insulted another by misspeaking. Nazis might not be around reading the bumps on people's heads or divining Nazi-invented Jewish mysticism but we have had kooky data mining keeping harmless grandmothers off airplanes and misspellings getting innocent civilians "renditioned" (is information technology the new astrology?). There has also been a faith about the reliability of information extracted during physical torture that is almost medieval in its stupidity and lack of compassion.

There are plenty of ironies and hypocrisies in the war on terror to write about. Of course, none of this is as severe as it was during the first two world wars and the nominal aims of the Bush administration are quite different but the tendencies toward absolutism and their ironic results are quite striking.

Archive powered by MHonArc 2.6.24.

Top of Page