I think I might actually enjoy blogging this way–you know, the whole bi-weekly thing. I just never thought I’d swing that way. I’m a firm believer in the idea that free creativity ought to be counter-balanced with a healthy dose of structure and I’m already seeing the benefits of applying that concept to my blog. Of course, I don’t know how “creative” any of the things I have to say in this post are, but you get my drift.
Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve changed the name for these posts. They will now be numbered communiques. It’s a meme typically associated with coups: when a military junta comes to power, they will often initiate communication with the population through numbered communiques, such as what Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces did on February 10, 2011. Even so, I wouldn’t read too much into the change. More specifically, I’m not suggesting I’m the leader of a coup–I just like the theme.
900 DOLLARS FOR A MEAL?
A couple of issues ago, I was reading an article in the New Yorker about the times and trials of Eleven Madison Park, a 900-dollar-a-meal joint in the Big Apple. Yeah, you read that right: 900 fucking dollars for a meal (per diner, I might add, and that’s not even including the wine). What’s more, there’s apparently a whole industry of these unfathomably expensive haute cuisine restaurants around the world frequented by people suffering from an utter lack of creativity concerning how to spend their hopefully vast personal wealth. I’m pretty big fan of the New Yorker, which I love primarily for its cartoons, political and social commentary, and in-depth reporting pieces. But, occasionally, there’s something in there that just literally doesn’t compute with my proletarian mind. This would be one of those situations–sorry, rich folks.
I mean, at the risk of forever destroying my cosmopolitan street cred, I just can’t take that seriously. I balk at the idea of spending $25 on a meal. Granted, I don’t own a hedge fund or a diamond mine, but, even if I did, I’d hope to retain good enough sense to know that spending $900 (or more, at some establishments) is both grotesquely ostentatious and incomprehensibly stupid. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I spent $900 on a meal knowing that I could have taken that money and fed several starving Third World villages for several months (if not years). And, again, it’s granted I’ve never been a position where eating at a $900-a-meal restaurant was even feasible, but what could possibly make any one meal worth that amount of money? We’re talking groceries for a family of 10 for a month. Sure, there might be a few rare truffles from an isolated Alpine valley that made their way into the sauce on top of that equally-rare bird that was boiled in melted snow from the top of Mount Blanc, but seriously? Common sense must be left at the door when entering a place like that.
But, anyway, to each his own, I guess. That’s one threshold, however, that I’m just glad I’ll never have to cross–physically or metaphysically.
THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS IS STILL EVIL
Since I decided to cast my vote for Barack Obama on November 6, I’ve known from the beginning that my vote will be essentially meaningless. That’s what I get for living in one–if not the–most politically conservative states in the Union. To get an idea of how conservative, President Obama didn’t carry a single county in the state when he was elected in 2008 and Oklahoma was the only state where that happened. While there is a latent racist element present in his lack of support within the state–particularly in rural areas–it’s mostly because Oklahoma is a heavily religious state and statistics show the most churched people tend to vote Republican–a fact that baffles me to no end, but that’s another discussion.
The reason my vote will be meaningless is, of course, because presidential elections are decided by the Electoral College, a holdover from a time when the leading figures of the day were concerned that the common folk wouldn’t have access to all the necessary information in order to cast an informed vote for the national leader–they also wanted to even the playing field between big states and small states. The solution adopted by the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was to have people cast votes for Electors who would make that decision for them with the understanding that their decision would be more informed. Anyway, there probably was some justification for that system in the 1790s when communication was much slower and critical information much less available than it is today but it’s almost truistic to say it has outlived its usefulness. The ultimate result of the Electoral College today is that unless you live in a Swing State, you have little to no chance of being a real part of determining the outcome of an election.
So, obviously there’s a need to reform to electoral system in the U.S. Sure, amending the Constitution to provide the framework for direct popular election of the president would be a start, but the brokenness and polarization of American politics is rooted in far more than the Electoral College. The downside to a winner-take-all system of electing public officials is that it leads to the situation we have now: a narrowing of the band of the political spectrum actually represented in government and an entrenched two-party system. Reforming that system would require such a radical change to the federal structure of American government that I’m not sure what the ramifications would be or even how you’d go about doing it. At any rate, being in the position of having to choose the lesser of two evils is never fun: Mitt Romney would be a terrible choice for president but, then again, Barack Obama–the man, for example, who gave us the NDAA, told us not to worry, and promised he’d never abuse it–is no unblemished angel himself. But, what’s a progressive to do? Democracy is a slow and messy process and it’s impossible to win every battle. You just have to take it one step at a time.
REALITY DOES NOT NEGATE THE MESSAGE OF MYTH
I was thinking the other day about something that’s probably more of a pet issue for me than for most. I think it’s important because of how destructive it can be. Most who know me know that I’m not a big fan of religious conservatives. While they generally are very good-hearted and well-intentioned people, they also tend to be plagued by irrationality and are often belligerent about it. Generally speaking, it’s hard to have an intelligent discussion with one because they’ve somehow been so convinced–or convinced themselves–that they’re right and must defend the “Truth” in the name of God that to argue with one is almost like attacking the core of his or her soul. The black and white lenses through which they often view the world almost makes intelligent discourse difficult at best, especially if they occupy the white and people not like them are in the black. Anyway, I could talk about that all day.The pet issue, as it were, is the ongoing and utterly inane public policy debate in the U.S. over whether the various and often-contradictory “theories” lumped together into an idea called “Creationism” should be granted scientific parity in public school classrooms with the well-supported Theory of Evolution. That argument in itself is incredibly dense: what people mean, for example, when they say “Creationism,” has great baring on how scientifically plausible it is. My intent isn’t to dive into that discussion here, but to to address a very limited and particular aspect of the philosophical questions involved. While there are many–myself included–who believe in theistic evolution, there are a great many (far too many) people who continue to hold that Genesis contains in its early chapters a literal recounting of how God created the world. It, of course, doesn’t contain that but for many this is a make or break issue: I was there when the leader of the largest McChurch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, told his congregation that unless they believed in a so-called “literal” interpretation of Genesis, then they probably weren’t true believers. That’s a stumbling block many people can’t overcome–because, as should be obvious, it simply isn’t true–and the result is that they often simply reject the whole of Christianity as a hoax.
Many have told me I shouldn’t worry so much about this and that it really doesn’t matter that much anyway, but I continue to hold that it does–a lot. The fact that such a wide swath of Christianity stubbornly refuses to accept overwhelming scientific evidence makes the whole look like a bunch of ignorant buffoons and creates a barrier between the Church and educated, rational people. I realized that, at the core, perhaps what makes these stalwarts so hesitant to move away from that “understanding” of Scripture is a fear that doing so somehow undermines the truth of the Faith. The fact remains, nevertheless, that reality doesn’t negate the message of the mythology. Understand that literally what people are arguing over are timelines (six days vs. an ongoing process, 6000 years old vs. 4.5 billion years old) and that’s not even what those stories are about. I mean, here’s what it really boils down to: the purpose of the Genesis Creation story is to show that the Earth, life, and ultimately Man were created by God intentionally and for a good purpose (a revolutionary concept in an age when most people believed creation myths suggesting the existence of the world was an accidental side-effect of a couple of gods duking it out). Is that truth–namely, that life has purpose–contingent on a particular timeline? Of course it isn’t.
Anyway, all this could very well be an oversimplification, but the real point I want people to get is that there’s nothing wrong with believing Scripture is true; just don’t believe it’s true for the wrong reasons. As I’ve said before, truth is not dependent upon accuracy.
- I finally finished the book Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed America, which is an inside account of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I feel I can now write some intelligent opinions on OWS and what it means for American democracy. Be on the lookout for that in the coming days (hopefully I’ll hold to that promise.)
- Advances are being made on the job front! I hope to have some good news to report in the next week or so.
- Jennifer Granholm (former two-term Democratic governor of Michigan who stood in for Sarah Palin in Joe Biden’s debate prep for the Vice-Presidential Debates in 2008) predicted on her show this week that President Obama will lose the first presidential debate. You should check it out.
- I just love my cat. Thought you should know.