–Like so many others, I’m provoked into writing by what I’ve read or heard. Also like others, I file away ideas that didn’t make it into print, but which seem too good to toss as they wait for a better home. This blog is to be one such home.
What follows brings order to the remainders, as prompts, probes and optics: prompts when they pose important questions, probes when they reach for answers, optics when they recast the question or answer more tractably.
Most are short and standalone. A good number deploy ridicule, the only honorable weapon we have left today, says novelist Muriel Spark. The connecting aim throughout is to provoke the reader into thinking further about reliability and unpredictability in the complex messes we call public policymaking and management.
–Why are we in these messes? What follows illustrates one answer:
I can’t quote them because Heidegger was a Nazi, Pound a fascist, Sartre a Maoist, Eliot an anti-Semite. I don’t read Foucault because he didn’t care if he infected guys and I don’t read that mystery writer because she’s a convicted murderer. I don’t go to baseball games because of the players’ strike way back when and I refuse to watch that man’s films because he’s said to have messed with his own kid. I don’t buy Nike because of the sweatshops, listen to Wagner because he was a Jew-hater, or have a TV because it makes children violent. I can’t eat tofu because of genetically modified soybeans or cheese because of genetically modified bacteria. I don’t listen to Sinatra because he was a nasty little man or Swarzkopf because she was a collaborator. The U.S. government’s been screwed since Johnson and the Great Society (no, since FDR and the welfare state (no, since Lincoln and the Civil War (no, since Jackson and the Trail of Tears (no, since Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase (no, since Washington and his plantation slaves…)))). I don’t trust Freud because he didn’t understand women, Klein because she couldn’t get along with her daughter, Bettelheim because he’s said to have hit kids, or Laing because he also wasn’t nice. I think we were never further away from nuclear war than during the Cuban Missile Crisis (only afterwards did Brezhnev insist on nuclear parity). Plus it’s a good thing Japan has lost decades of economic growth or they’d’ve been re-armed by now. I do wish Jodie came out like Martina did. (Anyway, do you really think the historical Jesus worried about who licked what where?) From time to time, I’ve wondered if Socrates could go to heaven. Speaking of which, why is Adam painted with a belly button, and where in the Bible is the turkey that keeps showing up in paintings and tapestries of Eden and Noah’s Ark? Does it bother me that dying means my total annihilation into infinite nothingness? Too bad for eternity, I say; nothingness won’t know what it’s missing. Still that said, little gives me quite the exquisite pleasure as knowing my secrets die with me. Which makes me wonder: Other than the streets, where do squirrels go to die? And whatever happened to pineapple upside down cake and Saturday drives? I also wonder, did Wittgenstein read Rabelais: “Utterances are meaningful not by their nature, but by choice”? Can there be anything more mind-numbing than the sentence beginning, “In hunting-and-gathering societies. . .”? And just who did say, Freedom is the recognition of necessity (Hegel, Engels Lenin, who)? E Pluribus Unum: Isn’t that Latin for “Follow the dollar”? Whatever, every morning I wake up and thank heaven I wasn’t born a minority in this country. If I had a magic wand, I’d solve America’s race problem by giving everybody a master’s degree. Next, I’d make sure they’d be white, married, professionally employed, and own their homes. (BTW, every person in China should have a car; with all that ingenuity they’d have to come up with a solution to air pollution.) But then again, I’m quite willing to say that the entire point about human evolution is there hasn’t been any worth speaking of. As for the rest, I suppurate with unease. It’s probably—possibly, plausibly?—wise not to think too much about these things. Don’t you think?