Politics of the risible

You have to laugh.

That is an actual instruction, gentle reader. Please obey.

Through long-settled bad habit, I look at “the news” every morning. Sometimes I have the wisdom to leave this until I have swallowed the full pot of coffee; sometimes my will cracks early. What I find, every day, is a farce. True, there are “tragic overtones,” drawn out with hyperbole. But then the hype itself, and the theatrical gravity of the newscasters, undermine this effect.

We have not “fake news,” in the sense of false information. Or rather, that fakery is elevated in significance by the choice of fake (i.e. media-manufactured) “issues.” Conversely, anything which constitutes a genuine threat to life and liberty, to health and longevity, will be ignored.

Passing example: North Korea’s latest missile over Japan. We exhausted the possibilities for yammering on the last such lune-shot. Now that “Rocket Man” shows he really has both the means and the will to trigger an international conflagration, words fail us. So we ignore it. The story slipt “below the fold” to accommodate the latest jejune terror attack in Europe, and the posturings of our Hollywood stars. Stephen Colbert, who is no threat to anyone in his right mind, currently gets more airplay than Kim Jong-un. Verily, Kim Kardashian beats him out in this morning’s Google-count.

In my opinion, Donald Trump watches too much television. (How would I know this?) Moreover, he keeps tweeting about it. In the world I came from (yes, another planet), presidents were assumed to be fairly well informed. They were thoroughly briefed on the hot topics; they carried hard information in their hearts and minds. They had not the time to prattle. Mr Trump seems to get his information, instead, from the same places we do — from the tabloid media — and while he tweets back with commendable good humour, one is left with the impression he isn’t all there. Who is following whose agenda?

The same could be said of all the other national leaders, whose sound bites fill our air. Each has devolved into a talk show. They seem powerless to influence the course of events. Far from being a new kind of politician, Mr Trump has merely taken the old kind one step farther, into the lunatic unknown. We escaped Mrs Clinton, and whew. But next election, maybe we’ll get Mr Colbert.

I was amused to watch Trump sell out his entire populist base in return for a few moments of Washington flattery. And yet that base doesn’t care. It’s a gameshow to them, so after his deal with the Democrats they want to know only, “Who suckered whom?”

Under current mass-democratic arrangements, I see no prospect for recovery of normal civic life. It can’t be sold. The public and their politicians can be persuaded to accept tax cuts, on the one side, or the reckless expansion of government programmes on the other. Anything else ends a politician’s career. But only God could fulfil the promise of something for nothing. Who, in office or aspiring to it, can withstand the overwhelming public demand to be lied to?

Here’s an amusing item. There is a homeowner in a low-lying Houston neighbourhood who has successfully billed the government twenty-two times for flood damage. It’s his entitlement, he can’t be cut off. (Think of the media outrage when anyone is cut off anything.) The authorities want to buy his house, and demolish it, but he won’t sell. Why would he, with a goose that lays such golden eggs?

Now here’s another giggle. In this “fine province of Ontario” I see that our government (which carries a larger debt than California’s) is establishing a monopoly on marijuana retailing, to match its monopoly on liquor, and gambling. They will open 140 “drug stores” soon. They are desperate for revenue, and this is a new way to tax the mentally and morally disabled.

Let us consider, for one brief moment, the evolution of government in our time: from protector of society, to monopoly racketeer.

You have to laugh. … Now! … Laugh, I tell you.