Ship of fools

Sam Smith, 2005 – The ship of state these days is a vessel full of fools, steered by an administration engaged in the reckless endangerment of its citizens as a servile and sycophantic media cheers it on.

Less obvious in Washington, however, is the almost total lack of voices of calm and care. Once, such voices belonged to people sometimes referred to as ‘wise heads.” They weren’t really that wise at all; but they did help sometimes to keep the ship off the rocks.

In normal times, they were negative forces, restricting political, social and economic progress in the name of the status quo. They weren’t even necessarily particularly honorable, for they included hustlers like Clark Clifford.

Their main virtue was that they periodically kept presidents and other politicians from making us all victims of their foolishness. This didn’t require wisdom so much as simply the respected advocacy of traditional establishment ways.

But something strange has happened. America’s establishment is no longer traditional. Many of its lawyers are not keepers of precedent at all, but wildcat litigators treating every social concept and value as just one more new well of legal opportunity. Its politicians rise from mounds of selfish cash rather than from complex and deep-rooted constituencies. Its academics and journalists have joined the cult of celebrity. Its business people have adopted the ways of gamblers and bootleggers rather than of producers and their accountants have destroyed the evidence. In short, the establishment class no longer cares all that much about the status quo, in part because in a derivative reality you are either climbing over someone else or you’re dead.

So if you seek, in the midst of the present madness, some non-heretical voices saying, “hey, slow down,” or “think again” you won’t find them. And without that, even the normally heretical voices become more cautious and quiet until the silence is deafening.


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