Sunday, November 01, 2009

Believe It or Not

An old Believe It or Not comic I read as a child breathlessly announced that common table salt was actually made out of two violent poisons, chlorine and sodium. I don’t remember if this attempt to make chemistry lurid explained what happens if you throw sodium in water—that information may have been restricted to an R-rated version I wasn’t allowed to read. The bit did make an impression on me, though; and it has since become part of my own private transcendental apparatus, one of the synthetic a priori propositions in the Swiss army knife of my mind. I find it especially useful in thinking about politics.

I know too much history to romanticize revolutions or long for radical change, but the endlessly harped upon themes of bipartisanship and civility have no appeal for me either and not just because they are bleated out with such transparency insincerity by apologists for the status quo whose idea of social peace is the permanent triumph of one side. I prefer to recognize that there really are conflicting interests in the world, beginning with, but certainly not limited to the haves and the have nots. A rational political chemistry seeks to compound something more savory than endlessly strife or endless oppression from these ingredients, but it doesn’t pretend that conflict is just a misunderstanding. Indeed, thinking there is no conflict is the misunderstanding.

No comments: