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Thursday, June 23, 2005

the politics of apologize

Cato wrote a book entitled Indignatio. Typical of him. I’m with Robert Graves about Cato: he was a complete Roman prick. His nightmarish obsession with exterminating Carthage was quoted for almost two millennia as the model of patriotism, which just shows you that there is a lot of psychosis at the heart of Western civilization. The authoritarian personality was obviously alive and well in the ancient world. Such a mean, limited spirit would naturally be attracted to the rhetorical mode in which resentment is most at home.

Indignatio has always been particularly dear to American political types. Liberals get goosebumps thinking of Joseph Welch asking Joseph McCarthy if, at long last, he has no shame. Nice shot, but since McCarthy had pretty much succeeded in exterminating the impulse to form labor or socialist parties in the U.S. – parties that were once as much a part of our culture as the Republican or Democratic party – I’d give the points to McCarthy. Indigatio, at best, is the loser’s victory. For instance, look at the last week: Dick Durbin’s speech about torture arouses the Republicans to such thunderclaps of offence that it drives Durbin to make a tearful apology on the Senate floor. Now Democrats are about to mount a campaign of mock anger about the speech Karl Rove made to some GOP carnivore fest. rove implied that liberals and Democrats were the enablers that made 9/11 possible – soft traitors, if you will. Is anybody really surprised that Rove thinks the Democrats are soft traitors? Yet the point is to find the offending moment in order to be offended by it. The most politically aware groups in America, on the web, seem to spend most of their time surfing for offenses, seeking out scandals to their (by this time abraded) sensibilities, like pigs rooting up poison truffles.

LI has done a share of this ourselves.

In saner moments we know, however, that the politics of apologize is not a winner. What is odd is that the left side of the spectrum, with so much to rail against, spends so much of its time demanding that such as Karl Rove say they are sorry. This is a strategy that is discarded even by sullen adolescents, after a certain point. It is so evidently pointless.

This level of counterfeit politics, however, does fit the larger strategies of the D.C. elites. Yesterday, Senator Clinton sternly read out bits of Rove and asked various administration officials whether this was the kind of stuff they approved of. This got the pack behind her, baying up a storm. Let’s write our congressmen! I imagine there was movement on the emails. Maybe the WP will have a story. Meanwhile, Clinton’s own collaboration with the administration in every false, mad, and simply stupid move that generated this war even as it preserved Osama bin Laden as an ontap terrorist; her support for every creepy move that has guided American conduct during the course of this war; it all falls away as gentle as short term amnesia.

It isn’t that I am surprised or offended that the Roves, Limbaughs, O’Reilly’s, and on and on think I am a traitor. I could care less. I happen to think they are cretins, mouthpieces for the vulpine D.C. eggheads who have an unblemished record of failure.

So why has our politics been captured in the dumb show of fake shock, indignatio as hollow drama, the theater of the ridiculous Kabuki? And why has the left been especially vulnerable to it, given the feast of real daily shocks that are provided by the D.C. masters of war?

Well, in typically weasel fashion, I’m going to turn to another, related question in my next post: why did Socrates, in the Lesser Hippias, hold that Odysseus was a better man than Achilles? I think, at least, that it is a related question.


Deleted said...

I can't remember the name of the quality Odysseus is supposed to embody. Something to do with competence and resourcefulness, perhaps cleverness, as well. It's not brilliance. Oh, well. I bet both you and Paul Craddick know it.

Achilles got his foolish, preening, swaggering self dead in a pointless, destructive war.

roger said...

I think the redoubtable Mr. Craddick is taking some hammock time -- there's been no activity on his site for weeks.

I sort of envy that. Blogging has obviously become an addiction for me. I wonder if they have started Bloggers Anonymous yet?

Deleted said...

Here's the real outrage.

roger said...

Nice link.

Paul craddick said...

I'm not sure if this is what Harry is thinking of, but the quality of sophrosyne is an arete (excellence of character) often associated with Odysseus. Like many of those Attic Greek terms, it is protean - but its pith is something like self-possession or self-mastery, entailing a knowledge of one's capacities and limitations.

Deleted said...

Paul, thank you. That is exactly what I was having trouble recalling. I think that it is better to possess sophrosyne than to be gifted. It is the underlying quality and prerequisite for resourcefulness.