Tuesday, October 30

Many Are Babbling, But Few Are Brooks.

THE last thing I remember is reading David Brooks' Friday column about outsourcing cortical function to our modern digital inconveniences--GPS, iPod, internets--which read like zombie Erma Bombeck without the humor. I know I read it, because I found four paragraphs about it on my desktop this morning, even if three of them tried to explain how James Lileks is the comic-book action hero Brooks would invent as an alter-ego, boldly going into Target an' Red Lobster an' stuff, instead of just imagining the horrors and the prices within. At first I thought--you can appreciate why--that this was where Friday's second "vitamin" had kicked in, even though I woke up not in my office but face-down in the upstairs bathtub--despite my long history of such things this was a first, and, if I may say so, a particularly disconcerting combination of color, texture, and temperature, like waking up with your face pressed against a dead Osmond--and, as I figured out after a few unsuccessful minutes of trying to get my legs to move, wearing those Andy Griffith motorcycle boots my wife likes so much.

So the Lileks thing turned out to be more-or-less rational thought, and the more I thought about it the better I liked it: Lileks has Target, Brooks has sociological faux-profundities built of chain-restaurant menus; Lileks has the Clorox Battery-Powered Rotating Toilet Brush, Brooks has the Chicago School of Economics, and each waves it around like a trophy of mighty battle; Lileks may, or may not, have left the Grange Hall of his ancestors for the post-9/11 bomb shelter, just as Brooks may or may not have abandoned Jewish liberalism for the charisma of Milton Friedman. I'm pretty sure comics are the correct medium for Brooks' work, and I think it's the world's loss that he spent all those hours alone in his room imagining that he was Crofts and his imaginary playmate Seals, instead of working with art materials.

After the universe had righted itself, at least visually, I tried checking the news, which I figured couldn't have gotten much worse in the last 72 hours, and saw there was a new Brooks column. "Hair of the dog," I chuckled to myself as I opened it, only to reveal David Brooks doing a David Brooks impression. You would be correct in assuming this had a startling effect on my re-integration efforts:
Researchers from Pew found that 65 percent of Americans are satisfied over all with their own lives — one of the highest rates of personal satisfaction in the world today.

On the other hand, Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about their public institutions. That same Pew survey found that only 25 percent of Americans are satisfied with the state of their nation. That 40-point gap between private and public happiness is the fourth-largest gap in the world — behind only Israel, Mexico and Brazil.

Americans are disillusioned with the president and Congress. Eighty percent of Americans think this Congress has accomplished nothing.

Although "nothing," I think it's only fair to point out, would vastly outpoll "Taking unfathomable amounts of treasure, thousands of young lives, the foundation of our personal liberties dating to the Magna Carta, and the most basic sort of respect for the very notion of truth and shoveling them into a bottomless pit at the service of your dimwitted alcoholic uncle and his animal-torturing, sex pervert partner," excepting Pew didn't ask the question.

I did slowly come to realize that this was in fact David Brooks, 10/30/07, reinventing himself with a remarkably old-style conservative frugality, out of whatever leftover junk has survived his last four years of championing the disastrous Bush administration, then pretending it didn't exist. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...retro-fear mongering! Yes, you loved it in the early Oughts. Now relive the magic on today's high-tech HD DVD or Blu-ray, without all the worrysome decision-making! Your moral confusion and self-centered disengagement never seemed so clear! And if you act now, we'll throw in the revolutionary Gilt-E-Racer™, a $1.2 trillion value! Yes, you'll once again be proud to announce your personal Lifestyle Niche selection to the world through lawn care practices! Pretend you always cared about Global Warming, and supported Universal Heath Care! Convince yourself you knew the difference between Sunni and Shi'a in 2002, and, furthermore, you cared! Amaze 20% of your friends as you convince them that Congress ought to do more about the war you're ambivalent about! Hurry! Quantities are imaginary!

UPDATE: contractually forced on Friday's News Hour to discuss actual events in the actual decade he finds himself in, Brooks coughed up, "I just wish [the Democrats] had an Iran policy and not a[n anti-] Bush policy." As a dedicated gardener, I have to wish him luck getting six-year-old seed to germinate. But as a proud practitioner of sullen, post-punk, anti-Big Business leftist lawn care I have to remind him that he and his party are suffering from a high-speed collision with reality, not a shortage of trite slogans, and that while dummy threats and phony histories have been winning elections in this country for decades, they have yet to un-lose a war.


heydave said...

But surely, as a gardener, you appreciate his deft use of fertilizer.

D. Sidhe said...

You know, my moral confusion and self-centered disengagement is pretty much all I have left after two terms of Bush. There may be a country song in there somewhere.

Grace Nearing said...

d. sidhe: You had me at self-centered disengagement.