Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fundraiser Day Five: Love Actuarially

Dear Shabby, My Colleague Keeps Sublimating His Divorce Into Everything He Writes!

Dear Shabby,

A colleague of mine is a Very Famous Column Writer for an important newspaper in New York City.  Twice a week he delivers what his millions of readers take to be either sage insights into the human condition or canny insider information about the political scene, with some stuff about economics or what's going on overseas mixed in to keep it fresh. 

His problem?  He really doesn't know anything useful about politics.  Or economics.  Or what's going on overseas.  And so his "insights" usually start off being to nothing more than the reconstituted, water-cooler gossip of people who already think just like he does, and end up being horribly, horribly wrong.

Several years ago, after my colleague had made a regular featurette out of telling his readers how great everything was going in Iraq, he began to have less and less to say on the subject. As Iraq collapsed he got razzed a lot for what he had written, but he deals with all criticism the same way: he ignores it. Gradually he just stopped writing about Iraq and how terrific everything was there altogether: he never retracted any of his nutty "insights", but instead dealt with Iraq as if it had been sent to a puppy farm upstate where we couldn't see it anymore, but where it was probably playing happily with other countries.

To fill the hole in his lineup, my colleague started cranking out what I can only describe as "advice columns for carbon based life forms as written by a robot from Arcturus."  As I said, he refused to walk back any of the truly awful things he had written, or even acknowledge the existence of the people who had been right all along, but suddenly his columns got very scoldy.  Everyone everywhere should be a lot more humble because everybody was always equally right and wrong about everything all the time. Humans should be more reticent!  Also less judgmental!

Also he took a really weird turn into telling humans who are poor that they should not be having so much sexytime.  Because apparently the problems of the poor have nothing to do with the structural problems of a job market geared to wrecking the middle class and relentlessly slashing wages, benefits and pensions. Or from the a handful of plutocrats blowing up the world economy. Or from seeing the price of housing, education, basic medical care and everything else skyrocket out of their reach.  Or from the policies driven by a merciless war being waged on the poor because Conservatives equate poverty with moral depravity.

Instead, my colleague went on and on about how the poors are screwed up because of all the wrong sexytime they are having.  And their broken families.  And their disordered communities.  And so forth.  My colleague, I should add, lives in a large mansion in a very exclusive neighborhood.  He has vast spaces for entertaining. His job pay him insane amounts of money to dispense "insights" that the years have shown to be pretty terrible.  His job has gotten him many other jobs that pay him a lot more money to basically read aloud whatever he wrote last week.  His job lets him travel the world as he wishes, gives him unlimited access to the most powerful people on Earth, and lets him take extended vacations or "book leave" whenever he pleases. And from this perspective, his advice only the poors is basically that their lives will get better when they start emulating the behavior of high net-worth strivers with their stable families in their well-ordered communities that my colleague interacts with every day.

Then -- very quietly --  my wealthy, well-ordered colleague got divorced.

Like his famous "Now that the war is over" columns about Iraq, this subject is never mentioned (although recently it is rumored that his marriage advice to the Great Unwashed has been seen at an upstate puppy farm where it gambols happily in the sun with Tikrik and Mosul and Baghdad all day long.) Instead, my colleague has quickly and quietly shifted his focus from telling his readers that the poors need to get their shit together, to telling his readers that life is hard and relationships are messy:
Most advice, whether on love or business or politics, is based on the premise that we can just will ourselves into being rational and good and that the correct path to happiness is a straight line. These writers, in the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” school, are essentially telling you to turn yourself into a superstar by discipline and then everything will be swell.

But Netzer’s piece is nicely based on the premise that we are crooked timber. We are, to varying degrees, foolish, weak, and often just plain inexplicable — and always will be. As Kant put it: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.”

People with a crooked timber mentality tend to see life as full of ironies. Intellectual life is ironic because really smart people often do the dumbest things precisely because they are carried away by their own brilliance. Politics is ironic because powerful people make themselves vulnerable because they think they can achieve more than they can. Marriage is ironic because you are trying to build a pure relationship out of people who are ramshackle and messy...
So my question, Shabby, is how do I get my colleague to once and for all Shut The Fuck Up about that which he clearly knows not?  Or, alternatively, where can I get a job that pays a king's ransom for pulling arrant, nonsense out of my ass twice a week?

Yours in Christ,



OBS said...

[slow clap]

Shabby said...

Dear Driftglass,

You already know the answer to your last questions.

There is a Club.

Your colleague belongs to it.

You and I do not.


Yours in Haruhi-kami-sama,

Robt said...

Have you tried writing into Pat Robertson's 500 club mail in questions?
Make sure to include a donation for his prayers and Godly advice on air?

Or try Slow Walking it on Jimmy Fallon's show.

Unknown said...

"Or, alternatively, where can I get a job that pays a king's ransom for pulling arrant, nonsense out of my ass twice a week?"

Have you ever thought about pulling some of that out of your ass and wiping it on a billboard or other sign that would be seen by thousands of people as they drive by? Because I know this guy...