That’s the role of art: to resist the affirmation of societal confidence, because it leads to things like war and big cars and bigger houses in cul-del-sac burbs where pot-bellied yobs have an entire room for their NASCAR cap collection. This cannot stand; the center must not hold. That rough beast isn’t going to birth itself, you know; we have to rip it out, saddle it up and ride all the way to Bethelem so we can get on with whatever comes next. And whatever it might be it has to be better than this, because THIS is television-as-anesthesia, food packed in tinfoil, guns in all the wrong hands (citizens and soliders, neither of whom can be trusted) and a general willful refusal of everyone else to understand that this is possibly the nadir of human civilization right here, and if they’d stop enjoying their life for one – single – second for a change, they’d realize it.
Zzzzzzz...oh, sorry! You're back! Anyway, it doesn't seem to bother Lileks that fewer people will see this play than can sing the "Chicken Tonight" jingle from memory, so he goes on to rant and rave about it for quite some time, and winds up with this delightful statement:
a play that makes fun of the other side would be provocative, but it would never enter their minds to do a play about a kid who’s head gets lopped off because he declares Salman Rushdie his hero.
Today's assignment: explain how a professional humorist can fail to understand how a piece of art that reflects the majority opinion cannot be more subversive than a piece of art that reflects a minority opinion. After tossing in another dumb-dirty-hippies aside at the authors of the play, who, like all liberals, he seems to think are pouty 14-year-olds ("It’s a long way from 'Our Town' and 'Ah, Wilderness.' And well it should be, because 'Our Town' was built on a toxic waste dump and the wilderness was cut down to print TV Guides and Wall Street Journals, man."), he moves on to another topic: the largely unmade charge that his new position as auteur of the Star-Tribune's "Buzz.mn" site will become a reflection of his neoconservative views. This is not the case; no one ever argued, for example, that the Backfence was ultraconservative. They argued that it was crappy and boring, and that the people who came to its defense after it was canceled did so not because they were so fond of its content, but because they were devotees of Lileks' politics, which is evident in other venues. Ignoring that rather major point, Lileks makes the curious claim that right and left, liberal and conservative don't mean anything anymore:
The terms are useless nowadays anyway. There are statists, and there are individualists. There are pessimists, and optimists. There are people who look backwards and trust in the West, and those who look forward and trust in The World. Those are the continuums that seem to matter the most right now.
I...I see! Well, I guess I can figure out where Jimbo and I fall on the statist-individualist continuum; my support of government-funded health care clearly marks me as a Stalinist one-worlder despite my love of privacy and civil rights. But where are we on the pessimist-optimist scale? An al-Q'aeda operative probably looks backwards, but may not really trust the West. I think further elaborations are needed. Who can hep Lileks out? What other dichotomies have replaced 'right' and 'left'? Some suggestions:
- people who watch "24", and communists
- people who think there may be something to intelligent design, and people who have doubts about evolution
- people who hate the French, and people who like the French now that they've elected a conservative
- people who love shopping at Target, and people who constantly complain about Target but shop there anyway
- reasonable moderates like James Lileks, and crazy liberals who hate the Army and think TV is destroying our minds, man
Any others? He's a busy man, he needs all the help he can get.