Monday, November 02, 2009

A Wasted Week

As I was under some sort of hallucination that my writing and thinking had been clearer than usual during in recent days, I feel the urge to try to restate, only more concisely, my thoughts on various matters people in the great world like to argue about nowadays. However once I had finished these were all as convoluted, qualified, and wishy-washy as before. So I am going to try some super-brief micro stances to get to the bottom of where I stand.

Gay Marriage. I am not vehemently against it, but I hate it as an issue because it causes too many people to get very puffed up and righteous about whatever side of the argument they take, and the spectacle of this on both sides I find unappealing. I'm not morally advanced enough to get the argument that not having it equates to a gross injustice or the deprivation of a fundamental human right, which I don't remember ever seeing presented before about five years ago. I enjoy the idea of moving in bohemian circles where non-traditional menages are nothing to get excited about (though of course I don't do it) but I also don't see where the state has any moral obligation or even pragmatic interest in sanctioning such affairs as marriages if the citizenry is opposed to it.

Government Health Care. I lust for it, even though in our country there is every reason to believe it will be a disaster (see Schools, Public). While I am generally physically healthy, ideologically I am an extremely sick man. Every suggestion that socialism is about to be imposed on the American populace, that the wealth of the innovative and successful is about to be confiscated and given to the worthless and unproductive, causes my heart to flutter with delight. Why is this so? Do I imagine that I, who have repeatedly proven unable to compete at a meaningful level for honors and prizes in this society as it is currently constituted, will feel myself to be a winner of some kind if this comes to pass? I will be diligent in resisting the onset of any such feelings. I have been pretty well schooled by the capitalist/Republican dogma which has held sway in my lifetime to an extent that earlier generations of the comparatively downtrodden would have found ludicrous; I feel chumpish taxing the super rich--it is an admission that one cannot keep up with one's fellows in the defining arenas of male life, and needs to handicap one's competition to avoid the total pulverization and reduction to penury or slavery one probably deserves--but it is the most effective weapon at the common man's disposal, there is most definitely an economic class war going on, and one ought to make some token stand at fighting back before any pretense one has to public dignity and human status before the almighty beings of the overclass have eroded entirely. By the way, I am still about 99.6% certain that full government health care will become inevitable within a few years. Women and the elderly in particular I find seem to consider themselves entitled to it regardless of costs or who will have to pay for it, and their numbers are not declining anytime soon, despite the crises in the health system. Rugged individualists who assume responsibility for their own incurred costs or forego treatment on principle I am pretty sure are going to be overwhelmed by entitled freeloaders within a few years, if they are not already.

Vegetarianism. I am needlessly obsessed with this--why? Why can't I just tell animal rights activists and intellectuals to get a life like almost any accomplished high-testosterone man would do easily and without a whiff of internal conflict? (I am thinking especially of my man Fred Smerlas, a former nose tackle for the Buffalo Bills and now a Neanderthal sports commentator on Boston radio, who affects to be confused by the whole concept of abstaining from eating animals). Because I am at bottom a pussy, first and foremost, and secondly because I am not able in my diminshed mental state to construct a proof to the effect that it is not immoral nor a detriment for men to eat the flesh of animals. My other problem is that I am tired of feeling that I am being demanded to give things up and receiving no reward in return. I will not be turned to vegetarianism without at the very least a tempting prospect of respect, intellectual comraderie, the frequent society of smart and attractive women, all of which will be socially accessible to me more or less permanently. I would be giving up a lot, and I would require a lot in return, more probably than anyone would be willing to give me.

On most of the great humanistic issues of the last 50 years: feminism, civil rights, homosexual rights, immigration/multiculturalsim, globalization--my instinct is not/would not have been, I don't think, that of the total reactionary barbarian, barricading doorways and that type of thing, but neither would I have been an agitator, nor probably would I have gone out of my way to support/demand anything in these movements. I would have sensed, probably, that people were being treated unfairly, and would have supported a certain degree of concessions and so on to the complaining parties, but not so much that they became a threat to my own precarious comfort and/or status. Animal slaughter seems now like a far-fetched succssor to these other issues but it seems to be something a lot of bohemian/intelligentsia type people--the exact class of people I feel most deeply thwarted by, excluded by, and estranged from in my desire to get on in the world--feel strongly about, as appears to be the case, it could impose its own demands on the consciences of the quasi-educated/journal-reading classes who live at a distance from all this mental energy and activity and wonder why it has been their fate to do so ("Is it really all just because I like steak? Is it because I couldn't smile when the pretty girls always wanted to talk to gays rather than me at parties time after time after time?")

Compensation. I should probably develop a whole other post around this subject of star performers in traditionally humble professions such as the clergy or academia needing to get paid these days, and do some research on it. But I was reading about some of the negotiations for big name professors and administrators at the top universities, whose salaries now go into the six figures, and for certain superstars like Cornel West or Stephen Pinker there is also the opportunity to make a lot of coin on the speaking circuit, as in $10,000-$15,000 an appearance, and I couldn't help but think of what Princeton had to shell out to hire Albert Einstein back in the 40s. As we all know, this isn't even just a run of the mill Nobel Prize winner we are talking about, but Einstein, the incarnation of twentieth century human genius and scientific advancement itself. What would he be worth as a free agent in today's market? I have no doubt he could command millions of dollars. Back in the day I knew he had lived in a pretty modest home, so I was guessing his salary was not exorbitant, and the great narrative of Einstein at Princeton never centered around money, but around his freedom to be allowed to do pretty much whatever he wanted--that was big of them, wasn't it?. According to the internet when asked for his salary Einstein asked for $3,000 a year. The university had to plead with him to take $10,000, Einstein apparently having some embarassment at receiving such largess. This kind of attitude among leaders and prominent people is so foreign to our modern conception of the world that it doesn't even seem credible. All education and scholarship, even science, nay, especially science, is only valuable insofar as it relates to the economy and one's personal income potential. If people aren't willing to pay you well for what you know, then why should anyone believe what you isn't worthless. Now I know Einstein got money for winning prizes and probably had enough to live a decent middle class life on in his day, so obviously his knowledge was not worthless, but I guess the point is under today's system he could have claimed his worth to be much greater financially than it seemed to ever occur to him to do in his own time.

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