Thursday, October 16, 2008

Taking on the control freaks with 'Dumbocracy'

When editorial-page pundits nod their heads approvingly about "moderates" and "centrists," they're usually talking about establishment types willing to borrow a tidbit here and a sample there from the whips-and-chains wings of both the political right and the political left. Want to ban dope and guns? Hey, you're a moderate! And if you keep the penalties for transgressors to crippling fines and the occasional misdemeanor conviction instead of felonies, you're an eminently reasonable moderate.

That's not the kind of moderation that Marty Beckerman advocates in Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Loony Left, the Rabid Right, and Other American Idiots. What gets Beckerman, a twenty-something writer who first hit the literary scene with Generation S.L.U.T., is the control-freakery to be found in the outer reaches of the political spectrum. As he puts it:

Hard-core right-wingers want to shove God down our throats, but hate the freedom of guys who shove things down one another's throats. (Hint: it's their cocks.) Meanwhile left-wingers wish to regulate our behavior with taxes on anything unhealthy/enjoyable, prohibitions on tactless speech, and regulations that determine how much time we spend in the shower.

Says the author: "If you've ever used the words 'social justice' or 'moral crisis' without irony, I probably fucking hate you."

If your defenses are already up after those mini-tirades, the fact is that you're probably part of the problem. You're one of those people who "care" so much that you have an irresistible urge to threaten people with fines or imprisonment for doing things you disdain, or for not doing things you consider oh-so-praiseworthy.

Well, too bad for you, then.

But if you find Beckerman's ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to his newsletter -- or at least delve deeper into his book -- you just may be his sort of moderate. That is, you really don't give a damn how other people live their lives as long as they have the decency to feel the same way about you.

And if you then follow Beckerman on his journey, he'll take you on a tour of extremists left and right. They're the kind of folks who vilify and want to persecute the opposition.

"Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."
-- Robert A. Heinlein
(one of three quotes opening Dumbocracy)

For instance, he catalogues the various and sundry restrictions on abortion that have been imposed by social conservatives, such as the gag rule (on U.S.-funded overseas clinics offering abortion infromation), the partial-birth abortion ban act, the interstate abortion bill "which criminalizes transportation of minors across state lines to receive abortions" and parental approval requirements for teenagers. These restrictions are all a bit ironic in light of the same politicians' championing of policies, such as abstinence-only sex education and controls on access to contraceptives, which tend to result in higher abortion rates.

But if, like me, you can think of some officeholders in their sixties who aren't too old to be terminated, and you're sneering at those freaky right-wingers, Beckerman dodges in from the other side to remind us that Margaret Sanger, the patron saint of birth control, was a nut who advocated sterilizing the "unfit." And it was just three years ago that a Planned Parenthood chapter created a cartoon in which a pro-choice superhero "shoots, drowns and decapitates anti-abortion protesters."

Beckerman takes to task a Bush administration spokesman who suggested that same-sex couples "move to another country," but also targets radical feminists who want to virtually eliminate the male sex.

He goes after uber-religious super-patriots who herd anti-war protesters into holding pens and try to turn the Air Force Academy into a well-armed seminary, and trendy lefties who make common cause with the fun-loving suicide bombers of Hamas.

And he finds people, right and left, who want to ban, tax or restrict anything you might enjoy, whether it's booze, dope, tobacco or food.

Socially conservative religious zealots in both the U.S. and Israel probably get the toughest going-over in the book, but that's logical enough given Beckerman's obvious affinity for the pleasures of the flesh and the eight stern years under President Bush (who he calls King Retard). Still, he has plenty of disdain to spare for extreme secularists, like Richard Dawkins, who question whether parents should be allowed to teach religious ideas to their children.

Overall, if you want to boss people around, you probably should read Dumbocracy for all of our sake. But you won't like it. And if you don't want to boss people around, you'll actually enjoy this book.

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Blogger Fred said...

Ok. I've mentioned the book on my blog. Might even buy it myself. Let's see if you make any sales.

October 17, 2008 7:02 AM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

I'll let ya know ...

October 20, 2008 2:43 PM  
Blogger RPC said...

With apologies to Hainlein, the human race divides into those who divide the human race in two, and those who don't. "Dumbocracy" does the former, offering an entertaining, reader-flattering, but ultimately useless take on an the problem of striking a balance between personal liberty and the general welfare. You say there's no need for a balance? Spoken like a true fundamentalist. How dare I call you that? Well, you adhere to a rigid creed ("Leave me alone and I'll leave you alone"), you enjoy the pleasures of sanctimony (or "irony" as it's called here), and you feel entitled to despise all those who have not embraced your Truth. You've found a way to make all hard choices easy. If you want to live like that, fine, I wish you luck. You even have my permission to "fucking hate" me, but I don't think I'll reciprocate.

October 21, 2008 10:36 AM  

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