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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Topic: Bush

MAILBAG: Bush, Wealth and the Rich Folks

A few of the recent entries here have been on these topics.

I received this reaction from an old friend, a woman who teaches in Boston:
And on how Americans love the rich, yeah, yeah, I know. But through my experience working and worshipping among the urban poor, I have come to prefer their company a zillion times over than those who are preoccupied with how to spend the next several thousand. Personally, I'd rather be glued to a tree in a swamp than to dwell among those whose primary concerns are brand name clothing, fancy car and jewelry purchases, home(s) decorating, obtaining tickets to major sporting events, appointments for the spa, manicurist, masseur, hairdresser or personal trainer, charity ball, the lives of celebrities, various surgeries to evade the natural effects of time and whatever else the conspicuously wealthy do to fill their idle purposeless days.

... So many Americans, rich, poor and in between, seem to have lost the concept of Enough. Sufficient. Satisfied. I suspect it's the ugly underbelly of the culture of fear and is perpetrated by those who want us to believe we can spend our way to immortality. Just stuff enough stuff into the emptiness and fear (Of what? Death? Insignificance? Old age? Exposure for the dull and ordinary souls we really are?) will cease. What a shell game!!! There was a man in colonial Boston, forget his name, who prayed daily that his daughters would NOT marry a rich man. He wanted them to be happy, fulfilled.

...I realize this is a lot more complicated that I suggest in this rant, but it's fun to rant. And I'm disinclined to get more complicated at the moment.
And so she should be.

As for me? The rich?

My view is skewed by living in Hollywood for almost fifteen years. Need I say more? It's a joke. I'm not kidding when I say I sense most folks love the idea that they, some fine day, could, maybe, be rich themselves, and then abuse others. Cheney and Halliburton? Hell, it excites them to think about what he gets away with. Bush - inarticulate, proudly ignorant, scornful of those who read - and in love with abusing those who oppose him? They LOVE that. It feeds their fantasies. When you're powerless you tend to think of revenge without effort. You admire Bush. You want to be just like him - a fellow with enormous power no discernable talent who doesn't have to take crap from anyone. Folks think it's cool when he smirks at intellectuals and foreigners. They imagine how good it would feel to be able to pull that off. And that's why I suspect he'll win the next election easily. He'll ride to victory on a wave of popular anger and resentment against how unfair the world is.

Cynical? You bet. No wonder George Carlin appeals to me.

Ron Suskind's new book The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill tells it all.

Suskind unwittingly explains the visceral appeal of George Bush.

To O'Neill, the overriding impression was of a president who lacked curiosity, deprecated dispute and remained disengaged. Honest brokers need not apply for high positions. Global warming? Fuggeddaboutit. Former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman, another of Suskind's major sources, says she was reduced to making "blind stabs at deducing the mind of the President." Bush "doesn't offer explanation, even to his most senior aides," as Suskind puts it. "O'Neill knew that Whitman had never heard the President analyze a complex issue, parse opposing positions, and settle on a judicious path. In fact, no one - inside or outside the government, here or across the globe - had heard him do that to any significant degree."

He does need to. People love that. Bush is the kind of guy who just gets what he wants, and doesn't take crap, or need to look into things. Isn't that the fantasy of many people?
O'Neill was watching Bush closely. He threw out a few general phrases, a few nods, but there was virtually no engagement.... O'Neill had been made to understand by various colleagues in the White House that the President should not be expected to read reports. In his personal experience, the President didn't even appear to have read the short memos he sent over. That made it especially troubling that Bush did not ask any questions.... 'This meeting was like many of the meetings I would go to over the course of two years,' ...
Ah, the good life - all power and no need to worry about things.

Yes, Bush "was caught in an echo chamber of his own making, cut off from everyone other than a circle around him that's tiny and getting smaller and in concert on everything.... " And frankly, that's comfortable. His supporters envy him this state of ease.

Suskind's book is full of such stuff. Bush's well-known propensity to assign nicknames, he says, is more than a cute ingratiation maneuver, for "nicknaming ... was a bully technique. I've given you a name, now you wear it."

How many Bush supports wish they could do that at work?

I suspect Bush support is broad and deep because Bush is leading the life his supporters wish they themselves could live. They cheer him on. They get their vicarious jollies through him.

And that circles back to how folks feel about they rich. They wish they had the balls to grab the money and laugh all the way to the Swiss bank. They cannot. Life's not like that. But they can dream.

So Bush will be elected, again - or elected "for real" if you wish. And things aren't going to get any better.

This is what people want to see - Bush smirking and the rich grabbing everything. What they see feeds the fantasies that keep ordinary life from being overwhelming.

Posted by Alan at 07:05 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 28 January 2004 07:35 PST home

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