Friday, October 23, 2009

Going Rouge: Hating the beautiful people

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 10/23/09

Being born beautiful is a condition of biological fate like being born black like Michelle Obama or Puerto Rican like Sonia Sotomayer. To hate someone for her skin it to hate her for her biological fate. It is the same as hating them for being born Irish with red hair – some consider them witches – or having an epicanthic fold on the eyes as many Chinese do.

This might be the purest form of nihilism. When nihilism awakened in Russia in the1830s, it was with Russian aristocrats who had taken on the plight of the poor. The poor were slaves; Tolstoy had 12 living in the living room under the stairs. It is perfectly understandable how hatred of the rich by other rich in these circumstances came about. It became nihilism when the cause of misfortune was resolved and the hatred continued as a generic condition and became institutionalized.

Hatred of the family extended from that and it is possible to see the roots of that as well if families conspired together to intentionally keep the poor poor as might be said about early tsarist Russia. When I was in college Jean Genet, a homosexual thief, had become the political fashion. His life and writing brought a thematic challenge to family and authority in general. During the student riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 he advised the students to have intercourse with goats. Stupid, but this was an age when getting stoned was considered enlightened engagement and stand-up comics – not ready for prime time – were considered philosopher kings. As they are again.

As the 20th century advanced, the specific initiatives which addressed family issues in particular became chronic conditions after the issues had been resolved and even healthy families were despised. Because nihilism is a virus; a religion of the Lost Boys and the broken circle. Every family was a criminal institution. Still you could see the systemic origins. But by then nihilism had become a theme of the suburbs; the well off and the cared for. Practicing nihilism was like a historic reenactment; like those Confederate battle reenactments they have today in Southern towns. And when I was in college people even wore Mao costumes pretending to themselves that they were wearing uniforms.

But it is difficult to see any human character or dignity in hating someone who by twist of fate doesn’t look like you, has red hair or blue eyes or black eyes or is better looking. It is just an inherent hatred. And I’m certain that that is the motivation of The Nation editors who are publishing a book titled Going Rouge, a mockery of Sarah Palin, scheduled to come out on the same day as Palin’s book, titled, Going Rogue: An American Life.

Today England slumps unexpectedly, the dollar is crashing, 20% are unemployed in New York and China suddenly appears on the verge of war with India. Issues are pressing. When you consider the kind of genius that came out of the left in New York in days gone by when you could have afternoon drinks with surviving soldiers from the Lincoln Brigade at the Lion’s Head and get drunk with Norman Mailer – Kenneth Burke, Alfred Kazin, Wilfred Burchett, friend of Henry Kissinger and Ho Chi Minh, might stop in from Mao’s China or Arthur Koestler after his death sentence in Spain had been lifted – it might be fair to ask, what is left of the left? What is left of New York?