Maybe I’ve hit on a formula! Reaction to last week’s piece, that used the device of looking at current events through the prism of a fictional character (Emma Bovary) evidently struck a nerve. In fact, the only complaint seems to be that I should have hit harder on the morality points. Your wish is my command…
After burying herself in debt, and destroying her reputation with a series of extramarital affairs, a despondent Emma swallows arsenic and suffers an agonizing death. Compare her suicide to what might happen today. As to the debt, no problem. She would either find a “debt management counselor” that would negotiate with her creditors, or she would simply file bankruptcy, and be back in the malls within days.
As to the affairs, no problem either. These days, cheap sex is now part of every empowered and liberated woman’s birthright. Whether expressed in a somewhat subtle manner as in The Bridges of Madison County (1995), or in a lurid, salacious tone as in Unfaithful (2002), the movies and pop culture in general have little time for fidelity. And, of course, there is absolutely no stigma whatsoever involved with having children out of wedlock. We’re soooo enlightened. Just tell that to the millions of fatherless American kids. I think I liked it better when we were all repressed.
If Emma had a banal existence, and needed to drown herself in diversion, how are today’s Americans, addicted to moronic television entertainment, obsessed with the pathetic lives of brainless and lascivious celebrities, raised on instant gratification, and cursed with an attention span more befitting of a 4-week-old puppy any better? We guys can’t even take solace in televised football anymore, as it has become all but unwatchable, with its constant game stoppages, as well as stupefyingly awful commentary from “sideline reporters,” seemingly chosen for their ability to be ignorant, irrelevant, and just plain idiotic.
Emma, at least, felt responsible for her actions, but nowadays that word has no meaning at all. When Janet Reno said that she “took responsibility” for the Waco fiasco, and then did nothing, and was not even censured, it became clear that “taking responsibility” means the same thing as NOT taking responsibility. Which brings us to more fictional characters.
In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand tells of the conflict between the producers and the “looters”—those socialist types who would live off the productivity of others. One defining characteristic of a looter is to never accept responsibility for anything, and there is little doubt that the looters are well represented today in all walks of life. In the book, all the productive people and great thinkers eventually go on strike, bringing the looter-run society to its knees. Belying Rand’s supposed bent against sacrifice for others, at least one character, Francisco d’Anconia, purposely trashes his very successful business, has to appear the fool, and gives up the woman he loves, to further the cause of the strikers.
And today, we have Enron, scandals at scores of investment banking and brokerage firms, Dick Grasso of the NYSE getting compensation in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and CEO’s of large companies lacking basic common or business sense. Ayn Rand had John Galt, the genius inventor and leader of the strikers, while we have Gerald Levin, of AOL Time Warner infamy, who presided over the single worst deal in the entire history of commerce. Be sure to mention that the next time you’re on a job interview, and someone asks about your qualifications.
You could also note that THE most qualified governor in California’s history, Gray Davis, is also our worst, and considering that the field includes the likes of the bumbling “Sunny Jim” Rolph, socialist Culbert Olson, the execrable Pat and Jerry Brown, ultra racist Peter H. Burnett, and the arrogant and clueless Henry Gage, that is saying something.
But even the cynical Rand wouldn’t have predicted the ultimate recipe for disaster, coming incredibly as it does in the wake of 9/11, and that’s stealth amnesty. Give an illegal alien legal identification documents, and its pretty much “game over.” But look on the bright side: the Lefties have finally found a way to cut government! With stealth amnesty, who needs the INS?
It’s time to find a real life John Galt.