Sunday, November 16, 2003

Is the Global Brain schizophrenic?

Considering the savagery with which the Snarling Right excoriated President Clinton as a "sociopath," blocked judicial appointments, undermined U.S. military operations from Kosovo to Iraq, hounded Vincent Foster and then accused the Clintons of murdering him, it is utterly hypocritical for conservatives to complain about liberal incivility.

But they're right.

Liberals have now become as intemperate as conservatives, and the result — everybody shouting at everybody else — corrodes the body politic and is counterproductive for Democrats themselves. My guess is that if the Democrats stay angry, then they'll offend Southern white guys, with or without pickups and flags, and lose again.

Nicholas D. Kristof isn't the only one to notice this. Andrew Sullivan sees the same thing from a different perspective.

I was searching around for a metaphor for what life is actually like as a politically interested person in the U.S. right now, and I'm not sure I've come up with anything that accurately conveys it. The term "polarization" seems a little too anti-septic. "Bi-polar" suggests serial ups and downs, whereas America's divisions are deep and simultaneous. The "red-blue" split - between blue coastal elites and red Middle America - has become an almost meaningless cliche; and it misses the fact that there are plenty of blue-style voters in red America and vice-versa. Evoking the deep divides of the Vietnam war is also rhetorical over-kill. We're not there yet.

He also reminds us that the problem is chronic, even if it happens to be getting worse around now. He goes on to blame more liberals than conservatives - sort of the opposite of Kristof.

Collective consciousness doesn't have to be anything mystical - just the recognition that in certain ways we are all in the same boat. And yes, enough mutual respect to work with others on solving certain classes of problems. If we turn from asking how a Global Brain could come into being to asking what's preventing it, this is high on the list.

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