Sunday, September 14, 2008

 

A David Foster Wallace Quote

When asked if novelists should keep up with politics, David Foster Wallace had this (I've abbreviated it) to say:

There’s no more complex, messy, community-wide argument (or “dialogue”); political discourse is now a formulaic matter of preaching to one’s own choir and demonizing the opposition. Everything’s relentlessly black-and-whitened. Since the truth is way, way more gray and complicated than any one ideology can capture, the whole thing seems to me not just stupid but stupefying. Watching O’Reilly v. Franken is watching bloodsport. How can any of this possibly help me, the average citizen, deliberate about whom to choose to decide my country’s macroeconomic policy, or how even to conceive for myself what that policy’s outlines should be, or how to minimize the chances of North Korea nuking the DMZ and pulling us into a ghastly foreign war, or how to balance domestic security concerns with civil liberties? Questions like these are all massively complicated, and much of the complication is not sexy, and well over 90 percent of political commentary now simply abets the uncomplicatedly sexy delusion that one side is Right and Just and the other Wrong and Dangerous. Which is of course a pleasant delusion, in a way—as is the belief that every last person you’re in conflict with is an asshole—but it’s childish, and totally unconducive to hard thought, give and take, compromise, or the ability of grown-ups to function as any kind of community.

My own belief, perhaps starry-eyed, is that since fictionists or literary-type writers are supposed to have some special interest in empathy, in trying to imagine what it’s like to be the other guy, they might have some useful part to play in a political conversation that’s having the problems ours is.

Comments:
...

i'm not sure i can face that burden.
 
It's a tall order. It asks for brave and thoughtful people.
 
I've been thinking about things like this recently. I think that part of the problem is that much of the population is blissfully ignorant (an elitist attitude, I know, but then again over 10% think Obama is a Muslim and that's just the begining). The bloviation and blatant lies stem from that ignorance. How to distract people away from their reality tv shows and the like to "waste" their time getting informed about politics may be the crux of the problem / solution.
 
I don't know. I'm sure that many people are ignorant and are uncomfortable with what they perceive as "difference." But I still fundamentally believe in people, and I wonder what it is that they are not hearing or seeing that would help them to do (what I consider to be) the right thing.

It's a very, very depressing time.
 
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