“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Thursday, December 09, 2004

in a prig's eye: the self-righteous take over

For most of human history, the prig has been a stock comedic character. From Theonoë, the self-righteous priestess of Euripides’ Helen, through Malvolio of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night all the way to Frank Burns and his replacement Winchester of television’s 1970s hit M*A*S*H, audiences have delighted in watching overly inflated balloons get punctured.

What happened?

At the butt-end of 2004, the self-important, self-proclaimed paragon of virtue has suddenly stopped being a comic victim and has become Ruler of the Universe. Instead of Malvolio strutting obliviously about with his socks cross-gartered we now have Carolyn Kepcher, who sitteth at the right hand of Trump the Capitalist Almighty. In a world better conforming to literary convention, James Dobson would have his Bible hidden and altered by Hawkeye and Trapper John. On this side of the looking glass, Dobson pulls the strings of parents who abuse their children on his orders and demands that the lawgivers issue thou shalt nots telling us whom we can love.

It’s not surprising. All the conventions of human intellectual history have been upended and transformed as liberal democracy fails and the last dregs of science and the Age of Reason evaporate into half-remembered myth. The Emperor W himself is a self-righteous draft-evader who parades about in military uniforms, a drunken snorter of Hefty garbage bags full of cocaine who claims that God speaks to him and him alone. Suddenly the entire world is populated with Malvolios and Theonoës and Sheppards straight out of Flannery O’Conner who terrorize us with “Pro-Family” groups that organize against your family, who insist that you go to their church, who call you unpatriotic if you dare to doubt them for a second.

Because the Age of Questions has given way to the Age of Good and Evildoers. For a thousand years, the scientific method gradually taught us that the earth orbited the sun and that man evolved from other forms. For a thousand years, liberal democracy slowly developed concepts of individual rights and an open society. But that’s all over now.

You are no longer allowed doubts and you are no longer allowed honest differences of opinion. You are no longer allowed to search for truth because the truth hath been spaken unto you on the Fox News Channel. Carolyn is watching. Dobson is demanding. Cal is scribbling. O’Reilly is shouting. Drudge is scandalized. And over it all, the child emperor preens and prances in his new uniform: look at me, look at me, look at me.