3/02/2006

Catch-22 and Politics

I listen to books on tape on the way to work. It helps the time pass quickly and I get to increase my weekly fiction intake, an intake that is perilously low since my movie attendance dropped off with the arrival of TK. I just finished listening to Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I always thought I'd already read the damn book, but when I read the dust jacket, I realized I'd been thinking of something else. Anyway, in the last chapter there's a bit where Yosarian suddenly speaks with the author's voice. You know the part. I happens in a lot of books, when the hero suddenly realizes where he's been going wrong and sets his life on a new track. Of course, before he can do that, he must soliloquize. It's gimmicky, but I always like it. I suppose most people do, which is why the authors keep doing it. Anyway, there was a paragraph in the last chapter that I just had to have:

Yossarian rejected the advice with a skeptical shake of his head. "When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don't see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every human tradgedy."
"But you must try not to think of that," Major Danby insisted. "And you must try not to let it upset you."
"Oh, it doesn't really upset me. What does upset me, though, is that they think I'm a sucker. They think that they're smart, and that the rest of us are dumb. And, you know, Danby, the thought occurs to me right now, for the first time, that they may be right."
--Catch-22, Joseph Heller


That quote pretty much sums up my feelings about politics in america. I don't mind if a politician disagrees with me, as long as I feel he really believes what he saying; he's being honest with me. But most of the time, he's not. Instead, he's constructed a scenario that explains how one might come to believe the same thing he does. But he doesn't tell us his real reasons. We're much too stupid to understand those. Instead, he gives us an emotional pitch designed to inflame passions and hide the all-too-frequent truth that he believes as he does because (and solely because) his political enemies believe the opposite. I think I'll have t-shirts made with that quote for the next presidential election.

4 comments:

Nemo said...

Your statement about pols, "...emotional pitch designed to inflame passions and hide the all-too-frequent truth that he believes..." seem more based on a popular stereotype than reality. Could you give a specific example?

Mike said...

Since we're talking about hidden beliefs, it would obviously be difficult to cite an example. Any example I found would only be an example of a failed attempt. This is merely the impression I've gained over the years. It's based on gut-level instinct, and the fact that I've discovered but a single counterexample - Senator Russ Feingold. Care to consider me a follower of popular stereotypes? That's fine. It won't hurt my feelings one bit - misperceptions of me rarely do.

Nemo said...

Would that be the same Senator Russ Feingold with his name on the "Campaign Finance Reform" that prohibits some from speaking his name 60 before an election? If anything this permanent incumbent gives your argument more weight.

Mike said...

Yeah, I admit that grinds at me a bit. I stand on the side of free speech there. And RF has a fair number of other do-gooder things that he wants to steal my money for. But I do believe that his goals are sincere and the he has put time into thinking about them. Perhaps it's just that I've never yet come upon him in a "bald-faced politico moment". But hell, it's one of my last illusions, I'm gonna hold on for all I'm worth.

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