May 18, 2006

Mental Furniture

A remarkable post by Wretchard, from a few days ago that has generated some blogosphere buzz, on "abstractions now in need of repair", as world events collide with our partisan certainties and comfort zones, and the tone of the blogosphere changes...

My own theory is that all the old divisions so sharply erected between September 11, 2001 and April, 2003 have been slowly eroded by the uncertainties of the world. The Left and the Right have seen their champions turn out to be all too human, and are confounded. Issues which are a wedge on both sides of the spectrum -- like immigration or Darfur -- have scattered interest groups around like balls after a billiard break. New issues like the resurgence of a hostile Russia, the spread of Marxism in Latin America -- even the malicious buffoonery of the Iranian President -- are crowding at the fringes of the now comforting world of the War on Terror. The old play is ending and yet the new one has not yet begun. And this bothers abstract intellectuals far more than it does the men in the field. A soldier can write with perfect conviction that "the world was a slightly better place every time I pulled the trigger" because he lives in a world of specificity, but the agonized thinker can find no such comfort in cold abstractions; abstractions now in need of repair under the weight of experience.

The need to keep mental furniture in order is the curse of the abstract thinker. A recent visitor from the Philippines told me -- not in so many words, but clearly enough -- about how the famous old Communists of the 1970s and 80s had all gone essentially crazy. Not clinically. But they were all of them gnawing at the ends of old plots, editing unread journals, scheming from miserable academic departments; haunting the peripheries of political life. He described this in quiet tones as we sat at some seaside saloon, a grey mist and rain having fallen over the bay; the perfect time he said "for Godzilla to come popping out of the water". And of course there was a better chance of Godzilla actually materializing than that those dusty old Commies should ever succeed at what they were doing. They knew it and that was the madness. It was better, I thought, to keep watching and have another beer.

Check it all out, including comments.

Austin Bay reacts.

And Cardinalpark has a wonderful post at Tigerhawk celebrating the "near anarchy of endless debate, without agreement" that the blogosphere affords us. Press freedom is not about resolution, it's about debate. Go, for the Ray Bradbury poem alone.

Posted by dan at May 18, 2006 10:14 PM