Saturday, September 04, 2004

Our People Deal In Absolutes

Part of what makes reading Lewis H. Lapham so much fun is the way he combines his fierce intelligence with a such a rich prose style. Lapham uses two sticks of butter where lesser prose stylists stuggle with one. Here's an excerpt from his long piece in this month's Harper's on the modern history of the Repuplican propaganda machine:

During the course of the 1990's I did my best to keep up with the various lines of grievance developing within the several sects of the conservative remonstrance, but although I probably read as many as 2,000 presumably holy texts (Peggy Noonan's newpaper editorials and David Gelernter's magazine articles as well as the soliloquies of Rush Limbaugh and the sermons of Robert Bork), I never learned how to make sense of the weird and too numerous inward contradictions. How does one reconcile the demand for small government with the desire for an imperial army, apply the phrases "personal initiative" and "self-reliance" to corporation presidents utterly dependent on the federal subsidies to the banking, communicaitons, and weapons industries, square the talk of "civility" with the strong-arm methods of Kenneth Starr and Tom DeLay, match the warmhearted currencies of "conservative compassion" with the cold cruelty of the "unfettered free market," know that human life must be saved from abortionists in Boston but not from cruise missiles in Baghad? In the glut of paper I could find no unifying or fundamental principle except a certain belief that money was good for rich people and bad for poor people. It was the only point on which all authorities agreed, and no matter where the words were coming from (a report on federal housing, an essay on the payment of Social Security, articles on the sorrow of the slums or the wonder of the U.S. Navy) the authors invariably found the same abiding lesson in the tale- money enobles rich people, making them strong as well as wise; money corrupts poor people, making them stupid as well as weak.

I also like the guy 'cause he espouses a point of view fairly parallel to my own, albeit with far more rhetorical finesse.

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