Sunday, October 26, 2008

Falstaff on Events

Falstaff has two excellent posts up today:

  • Op-edification - A thoughtful and open-eyed view of what changed the political race. It wasn't positions. It wasn't even personality. It was the implosion of Wall Street. There was no change in the campaigns from early September to now. McCain and Obama say the same stupid, irrelevant, substance-free things that have been babbling since June.
  • The Luck Child Theory of History - This is a painful post to read. What could someone with plans, goals, and vision do when presented with this political challenge? We'll never know. We have The Precious. The One Ring never really did anything of its own accord, either, save perhaps slip from a few fingers at inopportune times, but it certainly inspired people across two ages to alter the course of events. Falstaff hits it on the head when he says:
    "So I’m now hoping Obama serves as the stone soup for the collective, wisdom-of-crowds birthing of a new era. I don’t think he has the capacity to imagine it or deliver it himself. I don’t believe he has greatness in him, just waiting to be catalyzed by this crisis. In fact, I think he’s got certain aspects of narcissistic personality disorder, and that that cripples him as a decision-maker and even, long-term, as an inspirer."
    That's a pretty weak reed to support social transformation, but it's what the power brokers and self-appointed guardians of public appearance have decided they want.

Talking to the spousal unit on the way to the garden center today, we discussed the coming bowl of left-over oatmeal that will be the Obama administration. Policy will not be driven from the administration because they are all about emulating Reagan's publicity machine, being cool and popular, not about delivering the goods. They'll genuflectat the altar of High Broderism and try to be on the good side the the Very Serious People.

The engine for change will not be the White House, but the Senate and to a lesser degree the House, and will depend on what gets sent up Pennsylvania Avenue for The Precious to sign.

I know where I'm placing my bets.



Falstaff said...

Thanks for the props, Anglachel. But I actually wasn't feeling quite *that* bummed in the "Luck Child" post. I believe in the wisdom of crowds, and I do think Obama will have a lot of the world (and a lot of America) pulling for him. And that's non-trivial. I don't think he'll originate much, as you suggest. But I also don't think he'll do much to oppose good ideas around which actual consensus develops.

In other words, in battles, not so good -- and some of what ought to happen would definitely require a fighter. But where a critical mass of political energy and opinion forms for progressive things, I think he may be a good guy to have with the stamp of approval in his hand.

I guess, for me, this is inching from mourning toward acceptance. Stone soup starts out as think gruel, but it can wind up as a reasonably hearty meal.

Falstaff said...

Damn, my fingers make confusing puns my mind didn't intend. Bad fingers! I actually only meant to type the conventional "thin gruel."

Koshem Bos said...

The comments about Obama are valid and many Democratic voters agree with them. Way more voters than agreed to Obama's limited capacity during the primaries.

The hope for a senate or house rescue of the banality of the potential Obama administration is misplaced. After the shameful reaction of Democratic senators and congresspersons to the Bush bailout plan (non existent still) all we will get is a highly water down Rockefeller Republican administration and congress.

We are probably going to waste about two trillion dollars on enriching banks and Wall Street with lip service to "main street." We will replace a full blown war in Iraq with an endless full blown war in Afghanistan.

We may have McCain and Palin in 2012.

harpie said...

Falstaff [comment]: “[…] But where a critical mass of political energy and opinion forms for progressive things, I think he may be a good guy to have with the stamp of approval in his hand. […]”

If there had been, in the last three decades at least, such a beast as this particular “critical mass”…for “progressive things” you imagine, I might be tempted to order this stone soup in HOPEs of an eventual “hearty meal”.

As things are, not so much.

What will happen when there is a media-hyped [think “Saddam has WMD’s”] critical mass of political energy and opinion formed around NOT so progressive things…like the [neo-con] dream of war with Iran, for instance? Why should I HOPE Obama has any more AUDACITY to do the progressive thing on that, when he didn’t deliver on his promise to filibuster the FISA “reform” Act…and even voted FOR it?

I have not ONE whit of HOPE that Obama’s spots will “CHANGE” for the better [more progressive], and don’t need to imagine what will be revealed in his true spots…it’s already was nauseating and worse than "thin gruel".

But I’m just a cynical harpie.

Madelyn said...

"I believe in the wisdom of crowds"......really?

I believe the opposite. Crowd group think takeover has not proven to be wise as I recall. I believe in the wisdom in what history has told us, that is, manufactured, mass produced, pr generated elections can be lethal to Democracy.

One thing that appears to be certain is that the Democratic Party has morphed back into the Democratic party of the 1800's. They are now called Republicans.

Susan petry said...

I'm trying my best to come to terms with voting next week. I have absolutely zero enthusiasm for Obama, and this thing that everyone seems to see in him-I just don't see it. I see somebody who has tried very hard to grasp the mantle of others' greatness while doing little or nothing to prove any greatness of his own. this vaunted "cool, calm, collectedness" I keep hearing about could as easily be a void as a reserve. on the other hand, McCain and Palin are both bonkers-and he's old and has had cancer 4 times-and at least we know that if Obama is elected, we won't be bombing Iran (at least not right away).
I quit the Democratic Party after 30+ years over the way this nomination was handled, and reregistered as unaffiliated (no registered Indys in my state). we'll see if I'll be permitted to vote.

Falstaff said...

When I say I believe in the wisdom of crowds, I'm referring to James Surowiecki's book of that title, which looks at emergent, collective forms of intelligence. He is deliberately playing off of Charles Mackay's 1841 classic "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," as well as the conventional wisdom that we're dumber as a whole than we are as individuals. He shows that that's not true. But it depends on understanding what is meant by "crowd" here -- and it is precisely the opposite of "group think." A whole population is inherently diverse, heterogeneous, complex (in the same way physics describes natural phenomena as 'complex adaptive systems').

My thought here is that maybe -- not definitely, by any means, but maybe -- the severity of the current crisis will clarify (is already clarifying?) a new consensus -- not just in America, but around the world. And maybe -- again, big if -- that consensus will be around the need for some things that we would regard as progressive. And to the degree that that happens, I think there's a decent chance that Obama won't oppose it -- precisely because he's not an ideologue.

Koshem Bos said...

The wisdom of crowds goes back to ancient Greece and the Jewish traditions. The Greek believed in democracy, the advantage of the crowd over individual leaders. The Talmud is a system that encourages groups to discuss complex problems in order to reach the best insight and solution.

Wisdom should not be confused with flawless operation and decision. It is a fact that we made huge progress on every aspect of life in the 20th century. Wisdom should not be confused with constant progress.