Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sweeping the Nation!****

And the world.

Reading (and writing a stupid comment) over at my friend's blog (and the fact that I have a paper due soon and don't feel like writing it) have prompted me to come out of hiding. Two blog posts in a months time, can you stand it??

I guess I'm technically an ex-pat. I never liked that word, because "expatriate" sounds like an "ex-patriot," which would make me a former patriot, which is not the case. I like to think that I'm still a patriot, even though that word has until recently (yesterday) had negative connotations. Many folks would have you believe that while Bush was in office, you were supposed to be ashamed of the US of A. Being an expat, and apparently a representative of the US and therefore accountable for all of Bush's policies, I have been called to the carpet many times by the locals for everything from the GWoT to subprime lending. Yes, all Japanese people are aware of subprime lending. All I can do is shrug and tell them that the situation is more complicated than the news reports, and that I lack the language facilities to explain it. This is somewhat true -- I can express what I understand, which isn't much, but it's much easier to feign ignorance because I really don't feel like engaging in such conversations. The same goes with the concept of patriotism and love for one's country. Patriotism and nationalism is strange to Japanese people, as it was illegal until 2006 to teach it in schools.

Anyway, I like to think of patriotism in simpler terms. It's like your family. They might piss you off, but they're still family. You still love them, and even if they really fuckup, it's not cool for people outside of your family to talk shit about it and it's OK to get irritated about it. Something like that.

Anyway, this post wasn't supposed to be about patriotism -- my point is that to me, real patriotism isn't something that changes depending on who's in office. It shouldn't ebb and flow like the tide, and it shouldn't explode because of a terrorist attack or some other tragedy. It's shouldn't be a fad and it shouldn't be bandwagonable (new word).

Living in Japan, I'm no stranger to bandwagoning. Japanese culture is probably more susceptible to bandwagoning and "group think" than other places due to how children are socialized, and I always think about how much fun and easy it must be to be a marketing executive here. I sometimes think they have a contest to see how insulting and brazen they can be, but it never fails -- they sell products and the absurdity of each "boom" is trumped by every successive "boom". I guess I never thought the USA was really so susceptible, but bandwagoning seems to have morphed into something interesting. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the:

Bandwagon of Free Thought

Its genius lies in its irony. Who would have thought? Now, bandwagoning on political issues is one thing -- it's sort've like the love for a sports team (which I also have trouble wrapping my mind around). Usually it's a side or a team or a movement, but free thought? Disagree? You're an automaton. You're a neocon. You're a fascist. But you're certainly not a free thinker unless you're on board. It appears that atheism is en vogue these days too, which based on some stuff I've been reading, is a little disturbing due to fervor with which people are not believing in God. Irony. And everyone knows I've been an atheist forever*.

Watching the festivities on TV is like getting kicked in the jaw by irony over and over, as I see people putting so much "hope" in a man who has so little experience. Granted, he is an amazing orator. He inspires. He could very well turn this country in a new direction, but I'm sure most people don't really know how. They just believe he will. Believe, my friends. It's not a matter of hope, it's a matter of faith, because faith and hope are directly at odds with each other**. Faith is stronger than hope, because people with faith know without knowing that something is so. Ya dig? Historically, faith is the stuff of bandwagoning, while hope can lead to ostracism.

So yeah, I'm hopeful. I hope for increased social welfare reform. I hope for a more liberal form of democracy. I hope for world peace. I hope for anthropomorphic garden shears dancing in butterscotch waterfalls***. But faith is never something I've been particularly good at, for which I am eternally doomed grateful. I wish the new Commander in Chief good luck, and sincerely hope for a good next few years.

* - level 6
** - I got that line from Tom Robbins' "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates"
*** - Free beer to whoever can get that reference -- no googling! (You won't find it on google anyway ;) )
**** - This post is convoluted and pretty much sucks


Anonymous Matt said...

When the halo is gone, what will remain?

3:12 AM  
Blogger Hammer said...

Hope is good and useful, but like you say, it is by itself grossly inadequate. And a mob of folks all keyed on hope alone? Downright dangerous if you ask me. The stakes are just too damn high for us to allow ourselves to get lazy or sloppy.

In grad school, my strategy professor put that Far Side cartoon up on the screen where the two spiders sit by a web they constructed at the end of a playground slide, and one says to the other, "If we pull this off, we'll eat like kings!"

His point?

Hope is not a strategy.

It was a point he hammered home time and time again throughout the whole class.

I think it was a pretty good one.

(Incidentally, his other favorite line?

"Why does [company a] do [action x]?"

The answer?

"Because they can.")

12:50 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

matt: that's the beauty of faith. it doesnt need reason to persist.

hammer: interesting, and it brings up a good point. or rather reiterates what i said in my stupid post above. the brand of hope that a lot of people are rallying behind reminds me of the underwear gnomes' business plan, which im sure ive quoted here (or on your place) before. it would look like "Hope -> ? -> Change". or maybe even "Change -> ? -> ?". a lot of the rhetoric i hear reminds me of my favorite anti-war sentiment, "if no one had militaries there would be no war".

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Tony said...

Right now I think the biggest concern for most Americans is the frightening state of our economy. I'm not sure how much a president can really do to change or fix the economy. I am wonder if it's possible that maybe inspiring hope through oratory is the best tool a president has in fixing the economy. Give people the confidence to go out and spend money, take out loans, buy real estate, etc. Of course, this is based on my absolute ignorance all thing economic. Mostly I just hope things will get better because it's a lot more fun than thinking about how royally fucked we all are. But I certainly can't say that I have faith that they're going to improve though.

I like your observation about the free thought bandwagon though because I was just thinking about that a couple of days ago. It's gotten ridiculous. People on both sides of a political argument love to say, "you're just a sheep, listening to what you've been told." Everyone claims that they are the only ones assembling all of the "facts" and thinking critically about them, yet nearly everyone who makes this claim is simply reciting points from they're favorite loud-mouth political pundit. Ahh, the modern philosopher.

3:20 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

yeah.. for the last 8 years we've been hearing that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" (which is bullshit). i wonder how dissent will be handled by the previous dissenters?

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, where'd the butterscotch quote come from?

(**** is very funny)

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Tony said...

It's like everyone is trading the exact same political arguments in from the last 8 years. It's really bizarre. People who were complaining about the "not my president" comments are chanting it now and the people who were making them before are whining about how unpatriotic that is now. You know what would be cool, political discourse based in real issues rather than created as some sort of my team against their team argument style. I can't decide whether it's sad or hilarious.

3:31 AM  

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