The problem with being stuck in the soggy swamp of writer’s block, other than dealing with the usual horrors being stuck in any kind of swamp will do to those brand new shoes you bought just for this occasion, is knowing that there are any number of subjects you could write about if you just put your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone, and what’s left of you to the emergency room posthaste. The times do not admit of satire, someone who could not think of anything funny to say once said in order to hide his inability to come up with some fresh copy that week; these, however, are not times like that. The times do admit of satire, although picking on Pinch and his crew does seem a bit like kicking the village idiot when he isn’t looking, but I still can’t think of a hot thousand words on any subject worth satirizing. Woe is me, I say, woe is me.
So I have taken to reading other people’s blogs, looking for the psychic jolt necessary to lift me up out of this damnable rut and help me bat out five paragraphs of deathless and somewhat mildly amusing prose for the edification of all five of you. Well, I can safely say that that was an hour out of my life that I’ll never see again. Nothing nada rien zip zilch bupkis beam me up Scotty the planet is devoid of life and subject matter. Everyone seems to be talking about North Korea shooting off fireworks without a license, the New York Times sinking ships with their organizational loose lips, and Ann Coulter being controversial. That last one I don’t really understand, since Ann Coulter is almost always controversial; the woman generates controversy the way teenagers generate acne and reasons for not getting out of bed on a school day. In any case, I decided to skip all of the above, which also meant skipping the whole host of corollaries that went along with them, none of which interested me in the slightest.
And then there is Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The great 18th century Swiss philosopher is not much in the news these days, and rightfully so, I think. In his case, dying was not the smart career move that it was for Elvis; very few people spot Rousseau traveling through the moonlit Kentucky night in a pink Cadillac convertible and singing the best lines from his hits The Social Contract, Emile, and Moon River. Rousseau would be bitter about that, but then, he was bitter about everything. Rousseau, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with his works, was the original back to nature boy, that all of humanity’s problems were society’s fault, and that people in a state of nature were naturally good until society corrupted them. To Rousseau, the less society interfered with people’s natural goodness the better, and that the world’s primitive peoples were noble savages, uncorrupted by modern European society. I do not wish to cast aspersions here; say something like this before the minions of political correctness and at best they’ll call you judgmental and Eurocentric; but has anyone noticed that many of the world’s worst troubles occur in places where there’s no half hour pizza delivery and no indoor plumbing? So much for the noble savage.
I do not believe that this is a coincidence, not by a long shot. I might be wrong about this, but it seems to me that a lot of these proponents of the noble savage think that noble savages are wonderful right up to the point where the noble savage does something deeply atavistic like cut up female genitalia or root for the Red Sox or wipe his backside with the New York Times Op-Ed page, and then the shrieks to high heaven would astound the smallest child at the circus; there’s nothing that’ll uncork the unconscious Western imperialist in some of those folks than watching some noble savage violate their prize shibboleths, and in public, no less. Now, this whole theory of human nature, based, as it is, on neither any human I’ve ever heard of nor nature itself, of which more anon, shows Rousseau in his role as the father of modern liberalism; for reasons too complex to fathom, classical liberalism is now modern conservatism. Classical conservatism, on the other hand, has retired from the firm of Flim, Flam, Flapdoodle & Weinstein, Attorneys at Law, and now spends the winter months with his wife Agnes and a cat named Buster in a recreational vehicle camp along a highway outside Ocala, Florida; the happy couple and the cat summer in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
I will concede that back to nature sounds great to your average city dweller trapped in the perpetual urban rat race, especially if there’s a good hotel nearby, but as a basis for philosophical thought it more or less proves that Rousseau was full of toads’ gonads. Back to nature is a wonderful idea until you actually try it, and then it gets pretty nightmarish in fairly short order. Nature, in case you haven’t noticed, almost always includes large amounts of poison ivy and encounters with large carnivores who haven’t gotten the word that humans now dominate this planet. I suppose that in a pinch you could point out to them that the Bible says that man, meaning human beings in general and not merely the biological subset with the excretory ability to write their names in the snow, shall have dominion over the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish in the sea, so on and so forth, you get my drift; in short, the planet belongs to us and if that means we have to move a caribou or two to drill for oil in Alaska and keep the SUVs’ rolling for another few years then that’s just the caribou’s bad luck.
Your average large scale predator, however, being a typical product of the American public school system and as a result being totally unable to read or otherwise comprehend the words of the Lord as expressed in the Holy Scriptures, will not, as a rule, concede humanity’s domination of the entire planet for one minute, much less the little bit of it you and he, assuming the beast is a he and not merely a somewhat hostile she, are sharing at the moment, and will then promptly claw your ass off and have it for dinner. This sort of thing happens a lot in nature, but you will seldom hear much about nature taking a bite out of you in Rousseau, who, I should point out, spent most of his life in cities, far from poison ivy and the depredations of lions and tigers and bears, oh my! He did, however, have five children, all of whom he shipped to an orphanage as soon as they were born. In any case, people interested in nature should stay in the city and watch the Discovery Channel instead; nature, like so many other things, looks much better on television than it does in real life.