Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Inner Life of a Microbe

Today is Tuesday, 15 August 2006.

One of the traditional con-servative criticisms made of socialists, Marxists, anarchists (in the proper political sense, not the “smear” sense) is that they share a mistaken belief in human perfectibility.

Con-servatives generally hold to some version of Original Sin, the belief that there is, deep within human beings, a fatal flaw which inevitably propels them toward evil, and that this impulse must be restrained by self-discipline, violence, or whatever it takes.

So, what are we to make of George Warlord Bush’s great Crusade for Freedom and Democracy? (Particularly given that GWB initially claimed the Crusade had Accomplished the Mission in Iraq after not even three months of struggle.) Was he just hosing us? Or is he simply delusional, living in a mental bunker where the light is always shining at the end of the tunnel, the corner has just been turned, and Freedom and Democracy will shortly dominate the world?

During the Cold War, a “branch” of political science was known as “Kremlinology”. The following from Wikipedia gives a good sense of it:

“Kremlinology is the study of Soviet politics and policies based on efforts to understand the inner workings of an extremely opaque central government, named after the Kremlin, the seat of the Soviet government. Kremlinologist refers to media, academic and commentary experts that specialized in the study of Kremlinology. Sovietology/Sovietologist describes specialists of the country more broadly.”

“During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to "read between the lines" and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for May Day parades, and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.”

I have long argued for the need for a complementary “discipline”, which I have named, for lack of a snappier term, “Blancology”: ‘…the study of American politics and policies based on efforts to understand the inner workings of an extremely opaque central government…’

In the case of the Soviet government, the opacity was caused by a paucity of information. In the case of the White House, the opacity results from the torrent of (often contradictory) pronunciamentos of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Snowjob, et al.

Americans like to imagine they understand the inner workings of their Executive Branch. But, without the accident of the White House Tapes, would we ever have known that Richard Nixon was a foul-mouthed racist who enjoyed trading anti-Semitic slurs with Billy Graham?

Likewise, how can one know if Bush really believes the smug follies he spouts in public? Is he a cynical opportunist who will say anything? Is he a true believer who lives in a world whose dimensions are circumscribed by the short-circuit of fanaticism?

I fear not even Blancology can tell us.

The inner workings of the American government are as mysterious as those of the former Soviet government, or the inner life of a microbe.


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