Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Republican Dumbth

The late comedian Steve Allen wrote one book that was more likely to bring tears of sorrow than of laughter: Dumbth, self-described as a catalogue "of a host of hilarious and sometimes alarming personal encounters with shoddy workmanship, bad service, failures to communicate, and the general breakdown in the capacity to reason".

Had he lived long enough to update his 1999 book, Steverino would have loved the following question-and-answer segment from the recent Republican National Committee debate, undertaken to find a new chairman. Current RNC chairman Michael Steele gives a less-than-impressive answer to the simple question: What is your favorite book?
“Probably my kitchen table,” said Ms. Wagner, misunderstanding the question as “favorite bar.” She corrected that to say: “I like George W. Bush’s new book.”
Ms. Cino chimed in with “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
After which Mr. Steele said, “War and Peace.” He then dashed off the opening line from, well, a different book: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

1 comment:

Dag said...

I might benefit from being a more critical reader. It would put me in direct competition with the author, and in that I might get more from the synthesis, if that occurs, than from my usual "sympathetic" reading. I ask what the author means, what his or her point is, how it could perhaps be done better, what it needs to be deeper, and so on. That puts me at odds with my hero, Socrates, against his technique of elenchus, the rigorous examination of all propositions in minute detail. I don't read like an investigating policeman or a prosecuting attorney. It comes in handy for me, like now as I read a great book by a Chicago School economist, Deirdre McCloskey, _Bourgeois Virtues_.

It would be easy for me to criticise nearly everything about any book written by a man who chose to have himself castrated so he could dress up like a woman and sort of get away with it. But aside from the ad hominem, still there are numerous points per page that could, if I cared to, pick at like a sore. I could do the same with a telephone book. To pick at McCloskey's work would be simple for any thinker, so long as one has a point of view. Where mine differs from McCloskey's I remain silent and grateful for the amazing good I find in the pages otherwise.

I have never before considered Capitalism to be a prime motivator in civilising behaviour. I've assumed it, but never considered it. So, I find this work to be akin to a symphony by a great composer, an experience I can sit back and enjoy as it is, whether I would have composed it such myself or not. I would not have, as I see from how few notes I take from this 500 page work of lovely scholarship and good sense and attractive style.

This is a book written by someone I would truly like to spend some personal time with. I can't recall the last time I felt that way about a 70 year old trans-sexual economics professor. Since my phone isn't ringing I guess it means I can still enjoy this author's company in this volume and the proposed five or perhaps six other volumes of this project. Criticism later. For now it's pleasure and happiness.