Columns » Bob Lancaster

Weasel world

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I know this is just another geezer hankering to break out and romanticize yesteryear, but I’ve just been thinking how life used to be a lot more interesting than it is now. Best I can tell, it’s got progressively less interesting by decade since 1952, when TV took it over and reconfigured our brains to serve as a kind of rabbit ears.

For a time there, we had Adlai Stevenson, Martin Luther King, Hugo Black, Vladimir Horowitz, James Thurber, and look at what we’ve got now. Weasels. Weasels and more weasels. With the same weasely predictability. The same weasel autopilot talking points. Who can tell them apart anymore? Or is it just one weasel with the mother of all multiple personality disorders? The matrix weasel.

Justice Jim Johnson once announced himself beleaguered by a Mess of Trash. It was a prophetic term, and one that proved subsequently almost infinitely expandable. The contemporary mess of weasel trash overspread the culture, weasel-tunneling down through it from the top and up through it from the bottom. They rule now. In the new weaselgarchy or weaselocracy, they’re going to monitor your womb and your phone calls to granny and your library check-outs and your sinus-pill purchases, and steal your freedoms one by one in the name of protecting them. Don’t like it they’ll sic God on you, rat-poison your coffee, make out that you and Ted Kennedy blow one another.

Englishmen used to speak of humbug. It was one of those things that you couldn’t say what it was but you knew it when you saw it. It’s all humbug now. Even this.

Some of it is humbuggier than the rest, for example the Hucktacular dog and pony now playing here and abroad. Everything you might expect from the selfless Christian exemplar, only the direct opposite.

I spent just about every minute of the free time of my youth outdoors — an idiot, but tan — and if my investigations didn’t rival Sherlock Holmes’ and if my explorations didn’t rival Hernando DeSoto’s, still I acquired by them a great wealth of worldly experience that was simply no longer acquirable or available when my children and their children came along. I learnt about crap like fishing-reel backlashes and rolling down hills as a competitive sport without fracturing your skull, at least very often. This wasn’t practical lore, but aye-doggies I never was bored. Never once.

Don’t get me wrong. These young’uns and young’unses’ young’uns are smarter than I am, and they’ve had their own adventures in a sphere that has Keep Out and Abandon Hope signs on it addressed to ol’ moi personally. The special effects in their orb are amazing indeed, and there’s gloss and scope and sophistication there, of a quantity or degree to blow my poor old barefoot baby-boom Arkansas doors off. But then almost every day I find myself feeling sorry for them for what they’ve missed. I think they got cheated out of something. I think I know what it was, too.

Those explorers of yore were said to be searching for gold. Cities of gold, mountains of gold. Gold nuggets tumbling down crystal wilderness streams. Greedy, rapacious, deluded bastards they were said to be. You know what? It took me 60 years to realize that that gold was a metaphor. It was 24-carat metaphor, 99.44 percent pure metaphor.

All gold is metaphor finally. Even the kind you bite. Biting it is supposed to prove something that you already know is not true.

How many of those children and grandchildren have ever ventured far enough out of Cyberia to have climbed a genuine tree? I mean unsupervised and without somebody making a video. Who of them would think to cross the road just to get to the other side? Would think to cross the road to get to the other side because the view over there was better composed somehow, had some balance or symmetry or some other preferable extrospective quality, in short was more interesting?

They get bored. That might be less because yesterworld was so interesting and more because of the banality of latter-day weaselry. Weasel humbug can be briefly entertaining, but only briefly, and boredom may be the only antidote when they make like a tree and root instead of make like a more appreciated tree and leave.

I hope you’ll pardon the backslide into nostalgia. I’ve not forgot the New Year pledge to hang more on the sunny side, and I figure this lapse as more funk than despair.

BTW my first thought on this topic of the formerly more interesting world was this: European intellectuals used to have interesting ideas, even the silly ones, the opaque ones, those that were three-dollar queer. But now they hate Bush and what else? And how much candlepower does that require?

Pre-Pootin’ Russia was interesting too, and China when Mao swum, and Ceylon, and Jamaican bobsledding, and outcome-based something, and zero-sum something else, and psychology, and paleontology, and baseball players, and wildlife, and newspapers. Now it’s all humbug, all weasels everywhere you look and everywhere you turn.

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