(Alternate Title: The cockeyed notion of Perpetual Progress in Human Evolution encounters another speed bump on the road to our entrenching cult of habituated victimhood. The Judiciary refuses to sanction a California Law outlawing the kinds of violent computer games currently enjoyed by the nation’s impatient youth. This importunate jolt coughs up a little predictable agitation on the part of the acquiescent ape. The Media Orchestra Pit, on cue then lets loose with a String Section in the Key of Melancholy, however brief. The ape, as is its wont, commences to pant hoot but then moves on in search of another pinprick. Modern America of course, adheres to a bizarre cult of cultural acupuncture that masks a fundamental dysfunction. Memory appears to be the chief victim.)
Washington, Connecticut. Silly me, I have often cringed when the various apologists for our besotted species floridly declare that they take umbrage at the thought of being genetically conjoined with the mere ape. It is as though the so-called Cultural Conservative really believes the human governs himself better than the average chimp. Well pilgrim, he don’t, at least on balance. No ape ever killed several thousand of his own kind on purpose, not even for bananas. We humans on the other hand, kill hundreds of thousands with utter equanimity. A monkey might enjoy the satisfying sport of throwing feces at his zoo-handler but no monkey ever contaminated several square miles with some kind of toxic mess. We, on the other hand, blithely cluck at a befouling of the troposphere without doing anything material about our messy propensities. So, if you are one of those righteously beleaguered souls who try and buck themselves up by running down the monkey, get over it. Then do something about your blasted fate rather than blame others for your reduced state. Try actually living up to your Latin honorarium “sapiens”. You might also try abandoning the notion that the Federal Government should be your family’s mommy and daddy. This current government might be able to run an orphanage on a debt plan but it has never, nor will it ever master the art and science of running a family. This is why the American Family’s surrender to Federal Supremacy is proving to be such a profound disaster.
Justice Antonin Scalia was on the receiving end of lot of flak last week for his trenchant remarks concerning daft proposals to censor computer games. He obviously does not care. After all, he is one of the few who actually laughed heartily when the comedian Stephen Colbert hoisted the petard of the utterly clueless Bush Administration at the annual Foggy Bottom self-stroking known as the “Correspondents Dinner” in 2006. He also thinks the notion of a “Living Constitution” is a bit, as the Brits might say, “naff”.
Our words do not live. They can only, at the very best convey the ideas of the living, whether historic or current. In a democratic polis, it is up to the people to discern the just and root meaning of words based upon fully considering the hard-won experience of mankind. As a Republic, it is up to our appointed representatives not to lead so much as to facilitate the difficult and frequently contradictory urges of self-government through the means afforded by our discursive form of government. In other words, they must carry out a fearless national conversation as dispassionately as humanly possible. This seems a far more prudent thing to do than kowtow to the whims and machinations of any contemporary, self-centered milieu, particularly when the zeitgeist is dominated by crafty ideological pandering. Continuing in the same vein, to assert that the 10 Commandments are alive is to release we mortals from the ultimate responsibility of living up to them in our time. This is obviously a vain hope in this day simply by virtue of our rather institutionalized habit of violating the Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” with such cheerful vigor. As far as covetousness goes, it is our consuming national pastime. But in a less lofty vein, to assert that our Constitution is a Living Thing is to accept that we are citizens who do not think and do for ourselves or that we must bow down as though pagans in a cult of meaning, prostrating ourselves in deference to some words carved in stone but updated regularly by some mirage of the “best and brightest”. Perhaps a winged Assyrian Beast with prominent beak purloined from the Babylonian farce now winding down might be appointed as mascot. Conventional wisdom currently suggests that we surrender ourselves to the words of a fashionable Constitution as interpreted by experts, accepting them dutifully as instructed rather than embracing them both viscerally and with informed discretion. The Living Constitution folks don’t need a constitution so much as they covet a bureaucratic BAAL. What the hell have we come to?
I’ll tell you what we have come to. In Victims We Trust. Any ape can do far better, Highland or Lowland.
In search of the holy grail of a middle ground, which in our case is that noisy fantasy between apotheosis and nadir, one does not have to look far in this nervously petulant age to find a suitable haven of middling distraction. But the hubbub over Justice Scalia’s majority opinion is worthy of both nadir and apotheosis, simultaneously. Had the court gone along with the notion that we might circumvent the First Amendment by censoring a commercial product, no matter how egregious, we would surely have watched as the regulation advanced across the board into unforeseen territory while illegal computer games became a swell shot in the arm for organized crime. There is nothing like Prohibition to make criminality profitable. Periods of entrenched unemployment love a good law to avoid. Citing First Amendment protections and the realm of artistic expression, Justice Scalia stated that the California Law, if left to stand, would have created a “wholly new category of content-based regulation”, that would have been “ unprecedented and mistaken”.
New laws you see, they have a way of spawning all manner of unintended consequences and inasmuch as we seem to be in a protracted period of the darker side of unintended consequences, it might be prudent for us to avoid abridgements to the First Amendment, no matter how well-meaning they may seem to be. It was proposed as the First Amendment for good reason. Beyond this most elemental form of learned behavior, we must ask ourselves how long it will take us to shake off the prison stripes of modern America and rebuke the ongoing effort to legislate EVERYTHING because of our accumulating inchoate fears. Simply put, modern cultural folkways, bowing down to political correctness and that moving target of an “open mind” have forsaken the responsibility demanded by our civil liberties. Sure, we are political beings but this doesn’t mean we should favor the pronouncements of special interests over our own native good sense, if we have any of that anymore.
I don’t think we do. It would appear that we think we are too busy for such mundane things.
Fortunately, few civilizations have ever held onto their good sense for long and so this fact places us in good company with several thousand years of bad actors. We Americans put a few spirited decades into the fragile art of good sense writ large but the sentiment waned, leaving us with the 112th Congress and its fellow traveler, the 44th President. I’ve had far better Hangovers than this. No really, even one of the more epic versions with red rock full-body abrasions and peyote enhanced tequila zacklies adding a certain piquant counterpoint to a festering Scorpion sting on the left hand. Sorry, but this cockamamie government always brings drinking and vermin metaphors to mind.
Look, it is finally coming down to something pure in its elemental truth. We either take responsibility for ourselves or we embrace the pandering of a government-commercial combine that will do far more than merely bare its totalitarian canines sooner or later. The nervous and jerky American needs to stop fretting about a savior. We need to get back to basics and the most basic thing for a contentedly able polis is a basic government, one that avoids the worst instincts of our base species by not giving sharp operators a new platform with every legislative agenda. The professional political class and its many assigns have worn out their welcome by bankrupting us. This long-running show will not get better. At this juncture, it gives every indication of getting far worse.
Under the category of nadir, we have the prospect of these wretched games being sold to un-monitored youths with impunity, despite the explicit comments of the Court that striking down the law does not prohibit vendors from deciding not to sell the most sordid games to minors if they so choose. As if that will ever happen to any widespread extent. Due to the fact that this is a $10 Billion dollar a year and counting industry and that furthermore, the best selling game is apparently one hatched by the Department of Defense as a recruiting tool, one also wonders how much mischief from Special Interests is at play in striking toward conservative interpretations of the law. Quite a lot of mischief is at play, no doubt.
I do love the liberal media howling about the evil “conservatives” defiling our youth. This is a preposterous boast by folks who would not know a liberal if they tripped over one panhandling on the corner. The liberal minority of our Supreme Court largely signed onto this rejection of but another California micro-management anyhow. On the other hand, both liberals and conservatives dissented or took variance with the majority opinion. After all, there is neither “conservative” nor any “liberal” in our political process any more, there is only an exquisitely polled theatre, emceed by your host, the politically hermaphroditic Obama in his Technicolor Nightmare Coat. Or is that Corset? It doesn’t really matter.
Soon, the charade will be over. “Hope”, the “City on the Hill”, “Change”, that Dubya pearl of wisdom: “I know the Human being and fish can coexist peacefully” but soon, the sometimes lofty and increasingly fatuous rhetoric of the Chief Executive will simply be tired turns of phrase of little use to a people who have presided over a gigantic gutting of themselves for nigh unto fifty years. Fifty years ago we generated a third of the world’s exports and half the world’s manufacturing. We were a country engaged in work and unconfused by the current Vichyssoise of consumer products and leisure as a preoccupation. Computer games, however sordid, are the least of our worries. Actually, computer games wallowing in death and destruction just might help our children acclimate to their increasingly possible anarchic future.
What should incite the wrath of a credulous public is the fact that their government and commercial infrastructure is no longer their own. Serfdom never had such a convoluted mortgage or murky lien trail. This computer game imbroglio is just another distraction for a distractible populace. If you don’t like the games, don’t buy them. If you are afraid your child will download them furtively from the Internet in your absence, control their access to a computer accordingly. Not to sound too much like Justice Thomas in his dissent but if you find your child playing them against your wishes, break his or her fingers with the butt of your keyboard. After all, consumer society sets them up to hate you anyway. But don’t feel bad because you are not alone. Beyond all the platitudes and sales pitches, Consumer Society is a monument to unceasing want and if there is anything as fertile for fomenting hate or nervous frustration as unceasing want, I don’t quite know what it is. Except, perhaps, the 112th Congress or that other perpetual motion machine of bottomless hate known colloquially as a “War of Occupation”, charmingly re-named “Democracy Building” by the gaming officials in our Department of Defense.
Even if by accidental reasoning, and I do not think this to be the case but I stand with Scalia because I’m damned tired of the fact that on top of the terminal insult represented by my government and corporate interests plunging us into debt and perpetual war, I must rely, at long last on the Librarians of the Seattle Library System to remind me of the essential beauty of our somnolent nation.
What? What do librarians have to do with our constitutionally protected liberties? Well, aside from housing the great books that are far better than any flashy computer game, they told the Government to shag off when it demanded the public’s book borrowing records. Seems the government went around them however, as evidenced by a recent case of two Secret Service suits showing up at a retired Doctor’s rural home in Connecticut in order to investigate her dalliance with certain profane websites criticizing our sainted president. When pushed, they asserted “open sources” had alerted them to this woman’s electronic research. Perhaps this is what the “Living Constitution” folks believe an “open government” means. I wonder how much money the Federal Government squandered to investigate free inquiry on the part of a retired American, including interviewing and alarming her friends and stonewalling an ineffectual Congressional Representative. Multiply the debilitating waste of fear by several magnitudes and you have the budget of these United States of America in all its delusional glory. Fear seems to be a reliable market for a nation without much more to rely upon.
So, I salute the Librarians of Seattle and am currently plowing through my drawers in search of a bumper sticker they sold me that admonishes: “Oh well, I wasn’t using my civil liberties anyhow”. I’d always liked it but never managed to take the step of affixing it to the all-terrain heap. I think I will do so now as a result of this current Supreme Court distraction as well as the fit of pique smoldering from this morning on the heels of a phone call from the United States Labor Board.
A cheerful apparatchik attempted to extract $189.00 “tax deductible” dollars from me so that I might be favored with a permanent supply of Federal Labor Law Posters in order that I might not be “fined or even imprisoned”. After dealing with my pointed skepticism, the unctuous caller had managed to reduce my posting obligations down to a duo of posters involving sexual harassment and CPR that would putatively be “of benefit to your clientele”. As a consequence of doing most my business in the open air or solitary at the board, I told her the only other living and sentient being in my office is a dog. I admitted that while said canine is female and perhaps subject to inappropriate advances, if the contrapuntal ticker were to finally give out, she could not read said Federally Mandated Posting and furthermore, her idea of CPR is restricted to a routine of dropping a slobbery tennis ball in my lap before licking my bourbon-infused snout whilst I lie in a heap upon the cold floor. Federal Contractors, which are now legion have a hard time with arcane humor so she quickly beat a hasty retreat, leaving me triumphantly still in possession of $189 shaky dollars and bereft of the Federal Posters. Now, where is that bumper sticker? I’ll tell you one place it is not, it aint hidden under a stack of Computer Games. With three children raised and fledged, we managed to avoid their seductive pox and the kids are actually grateful for it. All three of them are engaged in creative professions. Pushing buttons makes for better button pushers but an imagination comes from a combination of independent thinking and a life lived as much outside as inside.