July 05, 2005

Drama Queens

I read somewhere (long ago) that domestic cats kept indoors all the time will hallucinate their natural environment. Their little cat brains just aren’t wired for couches, dining room tables, doorways, and drapes. When you see them running around chasing nothing in particular they are - supposedly - imagining mice. When you see them running in terror for no particular reason they are - supposedly - hallucinating their own predators. If mice don’t exist in their world, it’s up to cats to create them. Maybe this isn't quite right (I haven't really looked into it) but it makes sense to me. And it explains why my cats often act as though they see ghosts.

Sometimes I wonder if humans behave the same way.

I've long suspected that activistas (meaning those who protest everything for the sake of protesting) are simply bored. Civilization and a comfortable middle class life in a First World economy remove epic and dramatic struggle from our daily lives. We don’t have to hunt. We don’t have to hide from predators. We don’t have regular violent clashes with neighboring tribes. We have to work, but we’re comfy. Our basic survival needs are all easily met. There are more adult diversions, toys, and entertainment than we can possibly spend our lives consuming and enjoying. No foreign armies can conquer us. There are no oppressive overlords with their boots on our necks. Titanic life-or-death struggles have been abolished for the overwhelming majority of us.

But we’re wired for struggle and drama. (Just read history. It comes across loud and clear.) A few years ago - just before 9/11, in fact - a friend of mine in the high-tech industry said “I wish we lived in more interesting times.” I knew what he meant. I worked in a cubicle variously as a software tester and a technical writer. It was a pleasant stress-free job and it paid very well. But God was life ever boring. I think a lot of Americans feel that way, at least sometimes, which is why disaster movies like Independence Day, Deep Impact, and War of the Worlds make so much money. We don’t want our cities to be destroyed by asteroids and aliens, but watching it happen sure is perversely entertaining.

What else might explain people on the political lunatic fringes? I’m not talking about Dennis Kucinich and Tom DeLay here, I mean the fringe of the fringe, the real crazies. People on the far-right who spent the 1990s holed up in the mountains of Idaho and Montana preparing for an apocalyptic showdown with the federal government and the United Nations. People on the far left who think they live in a brutal police state and that they’re bravely defying a fascist regime when they take to the streets.

Human beings are wired for struggle. If we aren’t handed a struggle by real-world events, some of us may just have to invent one. I don’t know how many people are actually motivated by this sort of thing. Those who are most likely aren’t aware of it consciously. But it does seem to explain the woman in this AP photo (hat tip: Harry’s Place) who defies the police at least in part because, as the sticker says on her shoulder, “Capitalism is Boring.”

Capitalism_is_boring.JPG

A commenter named Richard over at Harry’s Place (he goes by Lymanlover on his blog) cited one of the anarchist slogans from 1968 France:

In a society that has abolished every kind of adventure the only adventure that remains is to abolish the society.
I can’t say this is a productive way to spend one’s time, but the honesty is refreshing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 5, 2005 01:12 PM

Comments
A few years ago - just before 9/11, in fact - a friend of mine in the high-tech industry said "I wish we lived in more interesting times."

I remember thinking the same thing. The news stations ran nothing but reports on shark attacks and celebrity gossip. "Why doesn't anything ever happen?" I recall wondering.

I'll never make that complaint again.

Posted by: Allah at July 5, 2005 01:26 PM

Spot on. I've always believed this. Struggle gives meaning. People without real struggle/crisis in their lives will manufacture meaning out of whole cloth. This is why cultures fall. They attain prosperity and no longer have a reason to exist. When Toynbee said cultures commit suicide, this is what he was talking about.

To the chic in the clown suit. Get a job, marry and raise a family. Putting food on their plates will distract you from your meaningless existence.

Posted by: spaniard at July 5, 2005 01:44 PM

"But we’re wired for struggle and drama. (Just read history. It comes across loud and clear.)"

Without meaning to dismiss your point completely, this is the paradigm of cherry-picked evidence. Our written history is the history of conflict. It ignores what 99% of the people were doing 99% of the time.

But in support of your thesis - perhaps this is why many in our society have so eagerly embraced the elevation of our (proper) war-like response to al-Q's attacks, to the level of a grand long-term effort to remake an entire region in our image. Much more of an adventure than simply finding and crushing the actual perps and their supporters.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 5, 2005 02:02 PM

I'm not sure why MT thinks Kucinich and DeLay aren't motivated by the same phenomenon, they just manage to keep at least a toe in reality. At some level everyone wants to dramatize their own lives and make them seem more meaningful. You see this clearly with the reaction to 9/11 both on the left and right. The left tries to make a student hassled for wearing a t-shirt critical of Bush into the equivalent of Andrei Sakarov, and desperately wants to pretend the US is on the verge of becoming Nazi Germany. The right likes to pretend that Islamic terrorism is a dramatic threat to our American way of life on the level of Soviet Communism or Nazi Germany, when in reality it is the ideology of a bunch of unproductive third world losers who have no hope of ever seriously weakening the US. I think 50 years from now historians, probably writing in Chinese, will view the hysterical reaction to 9/11 as the sort of thing that could only have happened in a cosseted insular society.

Posted by: vanya at July 5, 2005 02:03 PM

Cats dream of being lions and people need to feel heroic. Those who would never dream of associating that desire with, say, joining the military, sacrificing for one's country, turn to mischief to scratch the itch.

At Christmas 1999 all the younger kids were talking about great life is: the stock market, housing, jobs, freedom, leisure. I heard a little ping of worry go off inside my head. Enjoy it, I said, treasure it, these are extraordinarily wonderful times...

Posted by: Patricia at July 5, 2005 02:13 PM

But isn't dwelling on anarchists kind of a straw man? Surely there are more prostitutes, or firemen, or cobblers in our society than anarchists. It seems to invite a distorted sense of reality to extrapolate from the activities of a relatively small number of kids from ages 18 to 24.

Let Clown Chick focus on improving the world in the way she thinks she can. In all likelihood she will moderate her views or her actions in time. I think a modern democracy can absorb a good amount of lunacy from both sides of the spectrum.

Posted by: Preston at July 5, 2005 02:15 PM

But isn't dwelling on anarchists kind of a straw man? Surely there are more prostitutes, or firemen, or cobblers in our society than anarchists. It seems to invite a distorted sense of reality to extrapolate from the activities of a relatively small number of kids from ages 18 to 24.

Let Clown Chick focus on improving the world in the way she thinks she can. In all likelihood she will moderate her views or her actions in time. I think a modern democracy can absorb a good amount of lunacy from both sides of the spectrum.

Posted by: Preston at July 5, 2005 02:16 PM

Preston: But isn't dwelling on anarchists kind of a straw man?

How so? Didn't I say these people are the fringe of the fringe? I'm not conflating anarchists with Hillary Clinton or the Montana Freemen with George W. Bush.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 5, 2005 02:39 PM

Preston: But isn't dwelling on anarchists kind of a straw man?

It's just like Shakespeare said, you protest too much.

Posted by: spaniard at July 5, 2005 02:40 PM

If you want to see Hollywood coming unglued, read the review of Embedded at Libertas. Totally...sick.

http://www.libertyfilmfestival.com/libertas/index.php?p=559

Posted by: Patricia at July 5, 2005 02:46 PM

"The right likes to pretend that Islamic terrorism is a dramatic threat to our American way of life on the level of Soviet Communism or Nazi Germany, when in reality it is the ideology of a bunch of unproductive third world losers who have no hope of ever seriously weakening the US."

And a mosquito has no chance of killing a human with a bite. The death doesn't come from the bite, it comes from the disease. We aren't reacting to the danger of an opponent who has caused fewer casualties in battle than the first hour of the Somme. We are responding to totalitarian diseases that eradicate people by the millions.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 5, 2005 03:10 PM

Patrick Lasswell: We are responding to totalitarian diseases that eradicate people by the millions.

Indeed. A million have been killed by this disease in Sudan alone. Another million or so were killed by Saddam Hussein. Saudi Arabia is spending billions of dollars spreading totalitarian Wahhabism through the mosques they build all over the planet. This is much much larger than 9/11, which is a miniscule pinprick compared with all the rest of it. This conflict isn't all about us, but we have been dragged into it whether we like it or not.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 5, 2005 03:17 PM

Greetings from Kuwait!

Been here a few hours. Very nice people, seems very prosperous. Interesting mix at the airport; I was surprised by the variety of dress among native members of both sexes. The guys checking under our car for bombs were a little disconcerting, but I'm sure over time you get used to it.

No, nothing bad could ever happen to a place like Kuwait. I mean, everyone seems so reasonable....

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 5, 2005 03:36 PM

Mark,

You will get used to the guys checking under the car for bombs. I got used to it in Lebanon after a week or so. I got used to the guys carrying machine guns, too. It helps if you smile at them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 5, 2005 03:42 PM

I think a few western cultural currents have made it worse.

Doubting reflective thought can lead to paranoia (seeing false patterns)... It also needs to be relieved, hence 'romanticism'. Relativism is just fuel on the fire (license to dream up windmills to tilt against)…

So, the anarchists are stuck in this IMO. As are most extremists on the left and right.

Posted by: Thomas at July 5, 2005 04:39 PM

Aww... Hate to see all the little parlor pinks, limousine lefties and suburban Stalinists get bored.

Let's let some more jihadis in... {{{/sympathy}}}

Posted by: richard mcenroe at July 5, 2005 05:28 PM

We are responding to totalitarian diseases that eradicate people by the millions.

I don't disagree, and this is the right thing to do. However this disease simply does not present a clear and present danger to the US in the same way Soviet Communism did, or Nazism. Those two ideologies could at least pretend to offer an alternative to Western democratic capitalism. Islamic fundamentalism offers nothing new, it is retrograde even compared to the Baathist philosphies of Saddam and Assad, which at least paid lip service to technological progress. Bin Ladenism/Talibanism on the other hand is avowedly an attempt to turn back the clock, traditionally an approach that has limited appeal to the young. This kind of Islamic fundamentalism will eventually collapse under the weight of its own nihilism - we are simply speeding the process along.

Posted by: vanya at July 5, 2005 06:28 PM

Camille Paglia, Interview (magazine), 1999:

"People keep saying video games and movies caused the [Columbine] violence. It's absolutely the reverse. Part of the attraction young people have to violent video games is simply a reaction to their imprisoning school system and their namby-pamby suburban environments, which are completely homogenized from coast to coast. Video games are the only things that give young people a sensory experience. These young people are longing for something, and their entire world is that of popular culture and media. I'm not saying that's terrible. But for kids in these banal environments, popular culture has become this hallucinatory, atomized freak show. They live in a freak show in their minds."

Posted by: Cridland at July 5, 2005 06:41 PM

I wonder if the police officers enjoy confronting the "activists". I would love to chase a bunch of idiots down the street and hit them with a stick while they choke on tear-gas.

She probably is bored by caplitalsim because she has never had a job or goals. Why would you though if you have a nice fat trust fund to live on.

Posted by: Mike #3or4 at July 5, 2005 06:59 PM

What else might explain people on the political lunatic fringes?

How about insecurity? Some people are so insecure in their own ability to reason through issues that they adopt a generic ideological stance as a rock to cling to in stormy waters. That way, instead of thinking, they can say, Because I am _____, I am superior to others."

Some people fill that blank with the word "anti-war," others with the word "anti-Islamofascist."

Hell. some people fill it with the word "centrist." You may know some folks like that, Michael.

Posted by: Swopa at July 5, 2005 08:19 PM

The science fiction author Jack Vance proposed the "Simíc Principle," along the lines you describe. The (fictional, of course) philosopher Andres Simíc concluded that, humans having evolved in conditions of extreme and continual danger, our mental health requires titillation.

Simíc proposed a corps of dedicated public servants, called by him "Ferocifers," whose duty was to severely frighten each and every person at least once a week, as their health requires.

Perhaps this is an employment niche for those otherwise wishing to become terrorists. I don't know if it would work any better, but it's bound to be cheaper.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at July 5, 2005 08:36 PM

Swopa: Hell. some people fill it with the word "centrist."

Ah yes, centrism. The perfect affiliation for people insecure in their own view of the world and who need an established ideological stance to cling to.

Seriously, though. I know a guy who is a formerly right-wing centrist. He and I agree on absolutely nothing at all. And yet we're both centrists. Centrism isn't an ideology, but rather a personal custom-made mish-mash. It is not for the politically insecure.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 5, 2005 08:59 PM

If adrenaline junkies were looking for kicks in the pre-9/11 universe, there were plenty of ways to find them – day trading, extreme sports, traveling to exotic places that couldn’t be seen before the collapse of Communism, etc.

People who are bored by the everyday, looking for kicks usually go out and buy a motorcycle (or if they’re ecologically correct, a mountain bike).

‘Activists’ are probably motivated by more than sensation seeking – they’re also motivated by the need to be part of something bigger than themselves, the belief that their wants and needs give them the right to do anything at anytime to anyone, anger at Mommy and Daddy and a stunningly extreme narcissism.

Some adrenaline junkies become idiot activists and some become firemen and policemen. Like every segment of the population (Democrats, Republicans, white, blacks, Arabs), there are good AJs and bad ones.

Posted by: mary at July 5, 2005 09:08 PM

Swopa - how could centrists be part of the lunatic fringe?

Posted by: mary at July 5, 2005 09:18 PM

mary,

Scientologists are lunatic fringe centrists. I'm sure we can come up with others. The position on the board does not make you a loony. Being a loony is all that is necessary.

It could be argued that many people deeply involved in their own psychopathy can be middle of the road on politics, and off the map nutbars in an infinite volume of obsessions.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 5, 2005 11:14 PM

Patrick Lasswell: It could be argued that many people deeply involved in their own psychopathy can be middle of the road on politics, and off the map nutbars in an infinite volume of obsessions.

Ross Perot, for example.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 12:27 AM

Yes, yes, how interesting.
And still the bodies are piling up in the prison mortuary. The innocent sit despairing in the groeing prison populations of iraq. The torture camps are doing well. Reprisals against civilians continues. Extra-judicial killings are an open secret in Iraq.
my point? It doesn't matter what motivates middle class liberals to protest. The horror exists.
The US doesn't care for the iraqis. They are irrelevant. They wont even count the number of iraqi people who were killed as a direct result of a totally unprovoked and illegal war.
The US wants whats good for the US. 500,000 dead iraqi children was an acceptable price for the US elite during the sanctions, do you think anything has changed?

Posted by: kevser at July 6, 2005 12:30 AM

Great post, Michael.

I'm in Slovakia ... to change the world ... since Sili Valley wasn't exciting enough in 1990, despite the internet I was already using.

One fringe of the fringe, like radical Libertarians (Anarchists) and Objectivists (Randroids) of a small gov't type (neither Left nor Right), are in that space because of their philosophic leanings (minimum force).

When any one principle becomes the main guide to a life, violation of that principle becomes heretical, hypocrisy becomes one of the biggest crimes, and extremism becomes inevitable.

With two or more principles, there will be cases of inevitable tradeoffs -- more of A means less of B, or vice versa.

I like Freedom. I like Security. I like Goodness. Quite a few tradeoffs for me, and "the good", in particular, is contentious. [abortion may be good for a woman; it's terrible for the fetus. The First Bush Confirmation War has begun!]

" who have no hope of ever seriously weakening the US."
The Patriot Act has, already, weakened the US, slightly. And appropriately, in trading some Freedom for more Security. If Islamofascists get, and use, a WMD against the US, a LOT more Freedom will be traded for Security.

The fact that Islamic society is so economically empty is hidden by the vast oil profit (free money for liquid black dirt!) available to the leaders who control it.

And too many of bored Islamic fringe, who may also suffer from cultural inferiority/ shame/ mixed superiority feelings, are willing to die in order to kill.

I see only two realistic choices: Either the US pushes more democracy before the oil-funded terrorists get and use a weapon, or afterwards. If afterwards, a LOT more "innocent" Arabs will be killed in collateral damage actions.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 6, 2005 01:12 AM

Michael -- the reaction to the events of 9/11 THAT day, from the passengers on Flight 93 to the heroic Fireman trudging up the staircases to the Port Authority police who acted on their own to get people out, and stayed to help, does say a lot about people's altruism and well, pure heroism during a crisis. We saw the same thing during the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Chosin Reservoir, and many other times.

In many/most cases those fighting for the "homely virtues" of hearth, home, family, and friends will fight harder, longer, and more ruthlessly than those fighting for some abstract religious theology or ideology. This includes the clown girl. How hard will she fight in a crisis? We already know the answer of ordinary Americans in a crisis. [Note: it was a Denny's waitress who rescued the little girl from the murderer/child molester]

Vanya -- given Al Qaeda and groups like it steady escalation, from hijackings of planes for hostage taking to airport attacks to murdering diplomats to blowing up embassies to the Cole to 9/11, only a fool would say that Al Qaeda (and groups like it, such as the Iranian thugs or the Pakistani ISI-Al Qaeda elements or the House of Saud extremists) are not fully ready, willing, and in some cases able to kill millions of Americans through nuclear weapons. What ELSE could Iran want with their nukes? They are NOT the conservative oligarchy of the post-Stalin Kremlin seeking to maintain their empire and play meaningless, low risk proxy games with careful limits. Their faith is jihad, they believe God tells them that if they simply kill enough Americans they will rule us through their "strength" (of killing lots of people).

The Soviets had the ability to end all life on the planet, but pretty much no will. Al Qaeda is very willing to kill millions of us, but they certainly can't kill us all and in a nuclear attack (Sam Nunn says it's inevitable) will provoke us to horrible things. You seem unable to comprehend the appeal of Islamism to the faithful. It is nothing more than the call to jihad as practiced by the Prophet and his successors throughout history as the heart of the faith. Far from being retrograde it at least was very successful unlike Saddam and Assad who were failures as rulers. Under Jihad Muslims ruled Spain, Sicily, Southern Italy, the Balkans, up into Poland. Muslims know all this very well (bin Laden and Al Qaeda demand the return of Al Andulus aka Moorish Spain), so when bin Laden talks jihad it is direct, immediate, and sensible to those he talks to. Islamic societies haven't changed much at all for over a thousand years. You could transport a Damascene from 1005 AD to today and other than the thin veneer of technology he'd be entirely comfortable with the people, language, mores, and customs of today's Damascus. Even Baby Assad would be familiar in form if not function. You could not say that about say, London or Paris or Rome.

Until/unless Islamic societies confront their own total failures in adopting the principles of the modern world (as Japan and South Korea have), bin Laden and people like him are the wave of the future for their societies. Don't think of Muslims as Westerners adopting some pseduo Marxist scientificism; Muslims have specifically rejected rationalism for tradition and faith since Al-Ghazali won over Averroes.

As for China, having (unlike most commenters predicting their "rise") lived there briefly I will say that China has the following characteristics. It has serious internal legitimacy problems, no world-class products or technology (just cheap sweatshop labor which lots of poor countries have), functional or actual illiteracy amongst most of the population, folks 50 miles outside of Beijing have never seen or used or know what indoor plumbing and bathrooms are (they are used to dropping trou in the fields). China is incredibly corrupt and has no functioning legal system just bribed Party leaders. China is the thin veneer of wealth on the coast, dependent on the politicians for not taking it all away, stapled onto the vast rural poverty and ethnic strife (including the Uighur muslim terrorist campaign) found inland.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at July 6, 2005 01:52 AM

Ross Perot, for example.

May HE was a nut, but nothing he said didn't make complete sense then, and now. Can you hear that giant sucking sound now???

Posted by: spaniard at July 6, 2005 05:50 AM

I thinking getting two cats helps them stay sane. My little Burmese brothers pretty much only chase real things. I don't know if I buy the whole hallucination idea; might apply to a feral/stray cat brought indoors, but probably not to a house-raised feline. They do see things we don't: they have different color perception than we do, better night-vision, can discriminate small objects with their vision centers better, and can see into the infrared iirc. They also have better hearing and smell than we do. So don't be too surprised if they react to something you can't perceive. OTOH, cats do have imaginations and like to "pretend," too, in their simple feline way.

But I think the part on people is dead-on accurate. We are hardwired for conflict and disaster. When none happens, our brains need something to plan around. Just look at all the zombie-survival guides out there.

Posted by: TallDave at July 6, 2005 07:39 AM

MJT,

I think you hit a bull's eye with this post. I joined the Marine Corp becaue I wanted to "do something." I have been saying for years that the best explanation for much liberal nonsense and overreaction is that they are trying to recapture the glory days of the Civil Rights struggle.

Can't find a modern equivalent to Jim Crow? How about this? Pretend that a dog or cow is morally equivalent to a man. Abbra cadabra, hocus pocus, preto chango, MILLIONS ARE ENSLAVED! IT IS ANOTHER HOLOCAUST! WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!!

(Which is not to say that I approve of torturing animals.)

Posted by: jbp at July 6, 2005 10:16 AM

Karl,

"Without meaning to dismiss your point completely, this is the paradigm of cherry-picked evidence. Our written history is the history of conflict. It ignores what 99% of the people were doing 99% of the time."

But doesn't that salient fact really prove MJT's point? Why do only the conflicts get written down? Is it because of the psychology mentioned in the post?

As an aside, what is wrong with cherry picking? Who eats cherry leaves?

Posted by: JBP at July 6, 2005 10:16 AM

Vanya,

"I'm not sure why MT thinks Kucinich and DeLay aren't motivated by the same phenomenon, they just manage to keep at least a toe in reality."

I agree. However ...

"I think 50 years from now historians, probably writing in Chinese, will view the hysterical reaction to 9/11 as the sort of thing that could only have happened in a cosseted insular society."

You don't think that people trying to kill us is a big deal? 3000 dead and an economic downturn from one attack is nothing worth getting your dander up over? A suitcase nuke in DC, New York, or Denver doesn't do anything for you?

"Those two ideologies could at least pretend to offer an alternative to Western democratic capitalism."

To a mind raised in western culture, I mostly agree. Nevertheless, the terrorists seem to have a few converts in parts middle eastern, African, and Southern Asia. Suicide bombing does take a certain amount of motivation doesn't it?

Posted by: JBP at July 6, 2005 10:17 AM

erm, anybody wanna discuss something relevant, like the G8 meeting currently taking place?

Posted by: novakant at July 6, 2005 10:23 AM

I think Karl Jr made an excellent point above. Your thesis, Michael, works the other way too. As someone has pointed out, more people die because of bathtubs than are killed by terrorists, yet there is no "war on bathtubs" to match the "war on terror". It's all about spectacle, and a war against evil terrorists is far more fulfilling than a war on bathroom fixtures.

I remember a slogan from the Swiss anarchist unrest in the early eighties - "We don't want to exchange the risk of dying from starvation for the risk of dying of boredom." Spoken, of course, by someone who has never had to starve.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 6, 2005 10:24 AM

"Ross Perot, for example.

May HE was a nut, but nothing he said didn't make complete sense then, and now. Can you hear that giant sucking sound now???"

I made a comment in a thread yesterday, saying I never voted for a democrat or republican.

Perot is the only presidential candidate Ive ever voted for.

A nut, but like Spaniard said, he made a lot of sense. I loved his charts and graphs.

Posted by: mnm at July 6, 2005 10:24 AM

I think 50 years from now historians, probably writing in Chinese, will view the hysterical reaction to 9/11 as the sort of thing that could only have happened in a cosseted insular society.

Yep, just as tody we view the invasions of Japan and Germany as a hysterical overreaction to Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: TallDave at July 6, 2005 10:56 AM

This reminds me of the gay pride parade we just had in Portland recently. There was a small group of "anarchists" who crashed the parade and protested the "corporate" nature of the parade; after all, companies such as Nike and Starbucks among others sponsored floats for the parade. I wish these people would all move to Somalia where they could enjoy the utopia of anarchy, liberated from the oppression of evil corporations and government although they would still have to deal with the reality of capitalism just as they must deal with the reality of gravity. If we were to collect all the money and wealth on the planet into one collective pie, and then share that pie evenly among us all, that collective pie would be much smaller than the size of the collective pie now that we are all competing for a slice of. If their vision becomes reality, I will quit my stressful high tech job and become a dish washer and take my uniform slice of the wealth pie.

Posted by: John Wenning at July 6, 2005 12:12 PM

"more people die because of bathtubs than are killed by terrorists, yet there is no "war on bathtubs" to match the "war on terror""

When a single bathtub has the capability of killing a million people we shall have your war on bathtubs. For now, we'll stick with the Islamists.

Posted by: Sweetie at July 6, 2005 12:20 PM

>>>"more people die because of bathtubs than are killed by terrorists, yet there is no "war on bathtubs" to match the "war on terror"

bathtubs kill more people than guns too, but I never heard a Lefty who liked guns more than bathtubs.

Posted by: spaniard at July 6, 2005 12:45 PM

This might also explain a few other things:

Sports has replaced religion as “the opiate of the masses”
This explains the increasingly violent tone of the sports attending crowds (not necessarily the players).
Could sports be acting as an outlet for this deconstructive behaviour.
Is this a human version of the madness of the lemming?

I think these people could be easily mass hypnotized by flashing lights on TV and then verbal ques could be planted in their subconscious to correct and modify their mindless behavior. The Lemming effect could be countered but then again, maybe the Lemming Effect is built into our DNA for a reason. Maybe people need to go through an extinction cycle just to keep from overburdening Earths resources.

Posted by: Peter T at July 6, 2005 12:47 PM

The scary thing? Even if George W. Bush turns out to be right (as even the most dedicated cynic must hope, somewhere deep down) and the spread of democracy defeats Islamist terror as a galvanizing ideology, and ten, twenty, thirty years from now, the Muslim world largely respects the rule of law and the rights of individuals, including women-- what then? Does that really mean Fukuyama's "end of history" finally kicks in? Or does humankind, after a couple decades of relative peace and prosperity, go fishing about for another utopian vision that involves destroying most of existing civilization?

After a few decades of ideological simmering, Marxism became a political force in 1917, as with National Socialism in the mid 30s, as with Islamism in the 50s and 60s with Qutb and the Muslim brotherhood... every 20 or 30 years, a new utopianism arising, and we spend the next few decades contending with it, and untold millions are killed or murdered in the fracas. So even when we close the book on the current conflict, what bloodbath comes next?

Posted by: Wagner James Au at July 6, 2005 04:29 PM

Or does humankind, after a couple decades of relative peace and prosperity, go fishing about for another utopian vision that involves destroying most of existing civilization?

Otherwise known as Leftism. Destroying existing civilization in order to remake it in their utopian vision is exactly what they're doing now. Just take a look at that chic in the clown suit. She's crude in her methods, but she makes most university professors proud.

Posted by: spaniard at July 6, 2005 04:57 PM

Wagner: Does that really mean Fukuyama's "end of history" finally kicks in? Or does humankind, after a couple decades of relative peace and prosperity, go fishing about for another utopian vision that involves destroying most of existing civilization?

Fukuyama asks a similar question at the end of his book. He thinks the "End of History" will never arrive because, as the anarchist said, "In a society that has abolished every kind of adventure the only adventure that remains is to abolish the society."

Fukuyama gets a bad rap for predicting "the end of history." He predicted no such thing.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 05:05 PM

Predictably, many now seem to want to drive this meme to absurd lengths.
Believe it or not, most of the world's great upheavals have deeper roots and motivations than boredom.

Most people actually enjoy peace and prosperity. Although it is politically incorrect (RW version) to mention it, the Europeans can serve as a good example of how to make attitudinal and political changes that result in a long-term (permanent?) end to centuries of hostility amongst neighbors.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 6, 2005 05:31 PM

Karl, Jr. -

The Europeans are living in a fantasy world, made possible ONLY by the existence of the Cold War -- i.e., they had somebody else to protect them, AND the world was dominated by two superpowers who were interested in maintaining the status quo). Their utopia will come crashing down soon enough. Eventually, they will realize that some people don't agree with them and want to kill them and take what they have.

Predicting an end to political turmoil is a very bad bet. As long as any group of people doesn't like the status quo, there will be war. Since, by their very nature, human beings are unlikely ever to reach unanimity on anything, much less the shape of their society, the Europeans would appear to be a fools errand. Human nature is the one constant in an ever-changing world. Wishing that it could be different will only lead to disappointment.

Accepting human nature as it is and attempting to structure incentives so that otherwise destructive impulses are put to good use seems to me to be the only viable alternative. Ultimately, this is the genius of the way the Founding Fathers structured American society. Competition occurs in the political arena and the marketplace rather than on the battlefied.

Posted by: Ben at July 6, 2005 05:50 PM

Although it is politically incorrect (RW version) to mention it, the Europeans can serve as a good example of how to make attitudinal and political changes that result in a long-term (permanent?) end to centuries of hostility amongst neighbors.

Europe?? LOL. The Swedish model of multiculturalism and 'peace' has created a nation that is beginning to resemble the South Bronx of the '80's.

Via the Fjordman
Only a couple of generations ago, Sweden was talked about with respect, and the "Swedish model" referred to as an example to follow by other countries. Some of this may have been an illusion. A significant number of the problems we are witnessing now have their roots in the ideology of the all-encompassing state, the generous welfare system and the long period of Socialist dominance that has crippled a genuine political debate. Education teaches people to respect the consensus, and not sabotage it. As Roland Huntford demonstrated in the book The New Totalitarians, Sweden is a "peaceful utopia" totally controlled by a bureaucracy which actively discourages all signs of individuality and dissent. Sweden hasn't been involved in war since Napoleonic times. It managed to stay out of both world wars, was neutral during the cold war and has never experienced invasion or occupation in modern history. In short, there are few if any Western nations less suited intellectually to deal with the Islamic challenge than Sweden. It shows.

Many Europeans expect that fascism will be the predictable European reaction to the current excesses of multiculturalism.

The European left and right tend to be more extreme than the American versions, veering between Marxism and fascism. They have a history of tolerating totalitarianism, unlike the United States. We call it oppression, they call it 'peace' and 'stability'.

Posted by: mary at July 6, 2005 05:51 PM

Sadly I kinda expected that the great intellects on the right would be unable to focus on a particular point, but would get lost in their enthusiasm to do their usual Euro bashing thing.

As was quite clear from my comments, I was referring to the manner in which the historical enemies - Germany, France, UK in partiuclar, have managed to construct a peaceful accomodation that seems absolutely unshakable, at least as far forward as the eye can see.

Unable to acknowledge this obvious truth, we get one comment that eagerly anticipates Europe as a whole being attacked, while another commenter focuses on the internal situation of one country (and a totally clueless interpretation at that).

The issue is whether we can "all get along". The European countries have accomplished that. We in the US accomplished that as well, although it was far less difficult. These are objectivly good things - and if any of you actually wish to see the world become a better place - well there are examples of how that might be accomplished.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 6, 2005 06:03 PM

Mary,
May I make a couple of wild guesses here?
You have never been to the south Bronx.
And you have never been to Sweden.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 6, 2005 06:05 PM

Karl, Jr. -

And you have totally missed my point, which is that no amount of wishful thinking will change basic human nature. It's true that France and Germany have patched up their differences, at least temporarily, but you seem unwilling to consider the context in which that happened. Absent the catastrophic losses suffered in two world wars and the peculiar circumstances of the Cold War, this rapproachment is unlikely ever to have happened. War-weariness and the dominance of two competing Superpowers made Europe what it is today. The environment has changed, and Europe will, too.

Without the controls imposed by the Cold War system, Europe's vacation from history cannot last. Europe inevitably will be threatened at some point in the future, and it is simply too weak to deal with an external threat on its own. At that point, it will have to make a choice: either go begging to the Americans for protection, or change their system.

Posted by: Ben at July 6, 2005 06:14 PM

Karl - If the European nations could cooperate as well as the American states have, they might have been able to show the world a thing or two. Sadly enough, they can't.

I've never been to Sweden - my Dad works for a Danish company, and his Danish friends tell me that the food is bad, the hotels are expensive and the Swedes are just like the Germans, "without the sense of humor." Sometimes, they call the Swedes 'mummified Germans'.

But I have been to the South Bronx, many times. My Grandma lives in the area. It's gotten a lot better in the past two decades, mostly due to Rudy Giuliani's policies.

The mess in Sweden is comparable to the mess in France, the mess in the Netherlands and the mess in Britain. Denying that Europe is a wreck right now won't make the problem go away.

Posted by: mary at July 6, 2005 06:27 PM

"Without the controls imposed by the Cold War system, Europe's vacation from history cannot last. Europe inevitably will be threatened at some point in the future, and it is simply too weak to deal with an external threat on its own. At that point, it will have to make a choice: either go begging to the Americans for protection, or change their system."

You seem to be missing the point. They may well have to change their collective defense posture, but why on earth would the existence of an outside threat do anything to undo the internal peace that the Union has achieved?

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 6, 2005 06:44 PM

"If the European nations could cooperate as well as the American states have, they might have been able to show the world a thing or two. Sadly enough, they can't."

And why not? They have been cooperating quite well for 50 years now.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 6, 2005 06:47 PM

Karl, Europe needs to worry about fucking and a new economic system. Socialism/Communism is dead and Europe is adding immigrants not Brits and Frogs. It does not matter if your leaders "cooperate" or not. Europe is falling off the face of the Earth (good ridance).

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at July 6, 2005 07:37 PM

"Europe is falling off the face of the Earth (good ridance)."

I find this compulsive bashing so strange. Europe has a perfectly fine economic system. It gives them the second-highest standard of living in the world - and it could be as high as ours except they simply choose to purchase a higher quality of life in exchange for some growth. They may be rethinking that, but it would be merely a minor shift, in the grand scheme of things.

They are also a subcontinent full of democracies - with people as free as we are. Such hostility - that you wouldn't mind them disappearing - so strange. Once agian, in the grand scheme of things, they are our closest ideological allies.
They would be the last group of foreign nations I would expect you to wish to disappear.

If you cant abide the level of disagreement that we have with these free, capitalist, democratic countries, then who on earth do you look to for allies?

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 6, 2005 07:50 PM

Thanks for proving my point TallDave. Anyone who thinks 20 terrorists flying hijacked passenger planes into skyscrapers is comparable to the armed forces of the largest military power in Asia attempting to wipe out all our naval capacity in the Pacific has clearly lost all sense of perspective. As horrific as it was, 9/11 was not a military attack and accomplished no military objective. The threat of a nuclear suitcase is unfortunately very real - but the current war on terror is only peripherally related to the threat of another 9/11. And I've always supported the war to take out Saddam - I'd just like people to show a little more awareness that building democracy in the Middle East is a worthy goal in and of itself. But it will not make America safer over the near and medium term, long-term emphatically yes, but for the next 20-30 years a democratic volatile Middle East is more likely to produce terrorist types than a stagnant repressive Middle East. Terrorist groups are usually most active in areas that are modernizing more rapidly than the population can absorb- pre-revolutionary Russia, 1920s Germany, 1970s Italy. There is little reason to think the Middle East will be an exception. What 9/11 showed is very scary - a very small group of people with limited resources and enough will can inflict serious harm on the US population.

Posted by: vanya at July 6, 2005 08:27 PM

The Unabomber said about the same thing in his manifesto. We don't have to fight to survive, but we need to. So we are unhappy. My take was, "Speak for yourself."

Posted by: John at July 6, 2005 10:47 PM

FYI: The quote "in a society that has abolished every kind of adventure the only adventure that remains is to abolish the society' is not anarchist. It comes from the French situationists who were marxists in the councilist tradition.

After the infamous Seattle protest, led mainly by the "lunatic fringe", there was a poll of Americans about it. 56% supported the goals of the protest (I think my source was a Doug Henwood book).

Posted by: Drydock at July 6, 2005 10:50 PM

Holy shit. My poor cat has spent her entire life wandering around in a hallucinogenic hell.

Also, we tried to get her a little friend. We kept one of her kittens as a companion once but she hated her daughter and used to beat her up. No, I'm not kidding. The daughter eventually died of a respiratory illness, but at least she's no longer wandering around in a furniture-induced hell.

Posted by: lindenen at July 6, 2005 11:13 PM

Also, this entire topic reminds me of the film Fight Club and predates a lot of what is being said on this topic.

"Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

Posted by: lindenen at July 6, 2005 11:21 PM

"Does that really mean Fukuyama's "end of history" finally kicks in?"
-- yes, Wagner, when we have a World Without Dictators.
When all countries have democratically elected leaders and a press free enough to criticize them -- without their companies being taken over (Putin's Russia is not yet fully democratic).

Insofar as history, as we know it, is mostly the military conflict between different nations (whether as states or not) or between religions/ideologies (in the same or other nations). A world of democratic nations is a far different world.

One where terrorism will still be a big issue. And prolly poverty, too.

I hope that "acting locally" increasingly will mean -- GO to where there is poverty and help them create wealth. So the poor can economically advance, and then they, too, can be bored by a middle class life.

Of course, ending poverty won't happen with aid to gov'ts of poor countries -- only with loans to private people and private companies who create enough wealth to repay the loan. The clown-chick should go to Africa and start a business and HIRE a poor person -- reducing poverty one job at a time.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 7, 2005 02:20 AM

Unfortunately if the Clown Chick did go to Africa to start a business and hired a poor person she would immediately have 15 different bureaucrats asking where her licenses are and whether her papers are in order. Than they would make her pay fines and taxes. Than they would force her to hire their nephews even though she barely makes enough income to cover herself and the poor person. Than they would confiscate her business, kick her out of the country, fire the poor person she had hired (after beating him up for kicks) and put another nephew in charge of running it. Than the business would eventually be looted and go bankrupt but would probably run for another few years thanks to some grant money provided by an international donor organization.

Posted by: vanya at July 7, 2005 06:22 AM

Robert Louis Stevenson said it in 1887:
http://conservativeforum.org/EssaysForm.asp?ID=12616

That for which man lives is not the same thing for all individuals nor in all ages; yet it has a common base; what he seeks and what he must have is that which will seize and hold his attention. Regular meals and weather-proof lodgings will not do this long. Play in its wide sense, as the artificial induction of sensation, including all games and all arts, will, indeed, go far to keep him conscious of himself; but in the end he wearies for realities. Study or experiment, to some rare natures, is the unbroken pastime of a life. These are enviable natures; people shut in the house by sickness often bitterly envy them; but the commoner man cannot continue to exist upon such altitudes: his feet itch for physical adventure; his blood boils for physical dangers, pleasures, and triumphs; his fancy, the looker after new things, cannot continue to look for them in books and crucibles, but must seek them on the breathing stage of life.

Pinches, buffets, the glow of hope, the shock of disappointment, furious contention with obstacles: these are the true elixir for all vital spirits, these are what they seek alike in their romantic enterprises and their unromantic dissipations. When they are taken in some pinch closer than the common, they cry, "Catch me here again!" and sure enough you catch them there again - perhaps before the week is out. It is as old as Robinson Crusoe; as old as man. Our race has not been strained for all these ages through that sieve of dangers that we call Natural Selection, to sit down with patience in the tedium of safety; the voices of its fathers call it forth.

Already in our society as it exists, the bourgeois is too much cottoned about for any zest in living; he sits in his parlour out of reach of any danger, often out of reach of any vicissitudes but one of health; and there he yawns. If the people in the next villa took pot-shots at him, he might be killed indeed, but so long as he escaped he would find his blood oxygenated and his views of the world brighter. If Mr. Mallock,2 on his way to the publishers, should have his skirts pinned to the wall by a javelin, it would not occur to him-at least for several hours-to ask if life were worth living; and if such peril were a daily matter, he would ask it nevermore; he would have other things to think about, he would be living indeed-not lying in a box with cotton, safe, but immeasurably dull.

Posted by: Elam Bend at July 8, 2005 11:55 AM

errr, I hope Michael does realize that I posted that quote as a criticism of the clown face lady and her ilk. Bit confused as to that last sentence about spending one's time.

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