Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rove ridicules everyone for being dumber than him

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Written by Ron Suskind in the New York Times, October 2004 (though I think the principle outlined pre-dates this significantly in its manifestation), quotes attributed, perhaps, to Karl Rove. This is termed the “Reality-based community”. I'm a big fan of Rove, and am intrigued by the notion he paints, and the problems that lie therein for the modern historian.

a) Is this true?
I’ve been reading a bit of modern history in the middle east region recently, playing catch up on the past 40 years or so of political and military movement, the people and their motives and their actions. One trend that is apparent, dishearteningly, is the way information of events, then news, then analysis, then a delay, then interviews of the involved, then reassessment within a wider context finally results in a public picture that is probably as close to the actuality of the event as is possible to record, but with gaps. Put another way, contemporary news is highly inaccurate and the only rational remedy is patience, which even then doesn’t cure the darkness. This most clearly struck me in the book I’m reading at the moment, from where I originally found the Rove quote, Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story; it takes 240 pages to reach 2001 (most of this from the 1960’s onwards, in exhaustive, proper noun and acronym detail) and just 90 to cover post 9/11. There is a marked decrease in the quality of the picture presented post 9/11; more unknowns and more speculation, I assume because those involved don’t have the distance to talk about it yet. The quote is true; an empirical-reality-based worldview is behind reality.

b) Extended metaphor
I learnt many things from my Latin teacher, David Thompson, one of which is the extended metaphor. In the Aeneid, Turnus prowls around the Trojan camp like a wolf around a pen; but if you extend the metaphor (or, in this case, simile), the Trojans are sheep. Latin classes were full of useless information like this. I always believed that public school education consisted solely of this kind of teaching.
If the American Empire is an actor, the world is the stage and we are the audience. So far so good. If the production is of a high quality, the audience must work hard to understand the play; the intricate speech, nuances of look and movement, patterns of ideas that run through lines, scenes and the play as a whole; likely it can only be fully grasped sometime after the performance ends. Still holds true.
The actors do not break the fourth wall, even if they let us “in” through soliloquy, we are “in” on their terms and they are most certainly not “out”. The Empire feeds us with “news” like an honest confidant.
But something we rarely ask of ourselves is; is the narrator/author reliable? Or, are we ourselves a good audience? Do we afford the appropriate levity and consideration to each scene? These are interesting questions in themselves, but, of course, they do not solve the problem presented of being, necessarily, behind the fact of the events of the play.

How does the audience see Iago for what he is from the moment he opens his mouth for the first time?
How can the audience prevent Iago from creating his own reality and watching as the victims themselves act out his self-fulfilling-prophesy/dream?

I don’t quite, yet, believe the Empire to be equatable to Iago, and thus I do not see the need for it to be stopped for there is great potential to do great good through a one-power system (and perhaps an equal potential to do great harm, eh?). But for my intellectual curiosity, sparring with Karl Rove’s logic is a decent way to spend my time, and finding some way to understand the Empire now, and its future, even if through abstract metaphors, should be interesting.

(Of course, in an obvious sense, it is not a difficult problem; one must predict the actor based on what he has done already, and within the wider context of the other characters and the situation of the play... but this is not so simple, and to go down this route requires hermeneutic (interpretation) theory and so on...)

Ponder on this, I will.