More from the year-end closeout sale of stray ideas and opinions:
With Liberty and Responsibility for All…. Earlier this year I did a short Q and A with Stephen Covey, famed author of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, about his new book, The Eighth Habit. Near the end of the talk, Covey mentioned his work with the Statue of Responsibility Foundation, which I knew nothing about.
Some Googling showed me it’s a real project under way to build a companion Statue of Responsibility off the West Coast, a bookend to the icon in New York harbor. The foundation got the idea from the provocative author and death-camp survivor Viktor Frankl, whose Man’s Search for Meaning I read in college. Dr. Frankl believed that liberty and responsibility must go hand-in-hand. It’s a book well worth reading, and the statue is a great idea. Here’s a link to the website.
*What privacy? Every few weeks some organization issues dire warnings about our privacy rights being chipped away by an intrusive Big Brother government. But this year brought countless stories, including this one, showing that Big Business already knows almost everything about us. (And, I’d add, they have more incentive to stockpile and cross-index that knowledge than some Grade 14 bureaucrat.) Someday, and soon, we better figure out what zone of privacy we really care about holding, and see if we can keep the IRS, Google and Macy’s from violating it.
*More kid gloves for Obama? I like a lot of things about Barack Obama and sure wouldn’t rule him out this early, but does the guy have a glass jaw? First, a Clinton staffer gets booted because he predicted that the GOP will use Obama’s admitted drug use against him in the fall campaign. You think?
Then former Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Clinton backer, had to apologize because he said Obama, due to his background, would make a good ambassador to black people and Muslims around the world. Just one problem: Obama would make a good ambassador to black people and Muslims around the world, and if he doesn’t become president or VP, the president should ask him to play such a role. What’s next? Maybe John Edwards will apologize for calling Obama “a former editor of The Harvard Law Review.”
*Love Those Saudis. If we need yet another reason to reduce and one day eliminate our pusher-junkie relationship with Saudi oil, it came in the astonishingly medieval case of the Saudi woman who was gang-raped, which led to her being sentenced to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail for being with an unrelated man in public, a perversion of justice so blatant that even the Bush administration made disapproving noises. She was pardoned, but not before a high-ranking Saudi judge said he would have sentenced her and her male friend to death along with the attackers. Every time I fill up the tank, I’ll think of how I’m bankrolling these zealots.
“Rage” on the Upper West Side. A recent New Y0rk Magazine piece tried to explain the curious influence of online hit squads like Gawker.com, which has done a lot to saturate today’s media scene with meanness, sleaze and petty back-biting. It’s largely due to the buzz-dominance of Gawker, Wonkette, Defamer and related blogs that so many bloggers think insults and profanity trump actual reporting and reasoned argument.
Writer’s nutshell: “Gawker. . . is all about the anxiety and class rage of New York’s creative underclass,” who are angry because “the $200,000 a year print-publishing job, once an attainable goal…has all but disappeared” as the publishing industry contracts.
Which makes it all such a typically American story of entitlement: Here’s what the world owes me because I deigned to be born. In how many other countries would a highly educated 30-something’s failure to land a cushy job with a fat expense account justify “rage”? Try selling that one in Kenya. We should remember that the inner lives of those who purport to tell us about our society are not irrelevant to the pictures they present.
It’s hard to segue from a tale of spoiled-brat bitterness to a happy ending, but I hope every day of 2008 brings you something that increases your ratio of smiles over winces. Contra the old bumper sticker, he who dies with the most smiles wins.
With that in mind, let’s leave 2007 laughing with a story via Dick Cavett, who says that Groucho Marx was having lunch in a restaurant one day when a couple approached his table. They were almost breathless with delight at finding the acid-tongued comic in public.
The man said, “Groucho, we just adore you. Please, say something insulting to my wife.”
Groucho looked her over and said to the husband, “With a wife like that, you should be able to think of your own insults.”
Happy New Year, everybody.