There are so many things going on, in the world, in my world, in my thoughts, in the company of my family that even now after 83 years I don’t know what to make of it all. There are those, and we hear a lot about them, and from them during the present primary campaign, who seem to know what is going on. One of them, for example, knows that “It’s a fiction, to be dispelled once and for all, that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.” Somehow this Republican candidate knows that Obama knows exactly what he is doing
It’s that certainty that others seem to have and that I don’t. OK, I’m a skeptic, and if you find something you’re sure of, give it to me and I’ll make you question it.
What should we say about the recent Super Bowl? Did you watch it? I did. And I can’t imagine that even the Romans, in that time the rulers of the world, could have ever imagined a comparable extravaganza, let alone stage it the way “we” did.
And then, there were over 100 million Americans watching. Why the population of the combined eastern and western Roman Empires in the 4th century CE is estimated to be only 50 to 60 million people. How many people attended the bread and circus extravaganzas in Rome in the 4th. century? At Levi stadium in San Francisco there were over 60 thousand.
I watched the game with Gus. Afterwards my wife told me how she loved to watch the two of us thoroughly enjoying laughing loudly over the action on the field and with beer and chicken wings, being very American.
Then there is what I’ve been reading lately, this passage from Richard Hofstadter’s book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life:
One of the major virtues of liberal society in the past was that it made possible such a variety of styles of intellectual life—one can find men notable for being passionate and rebellious, others for being elegant and sumptuous, or spare and astringent, clever and complex, patient and wise, and some equipped mainly to observe and endure. What matters is the openness and generosity needed to comprehend the varieties of excellence that could be found even in a single and rather parochial society. …
It is possible, or course, that under modern conditions the avenues of choice are being closed, and that the culture of the future will be dominated by single-minded men of one persuasion or another. (the present Republican presidential candidates, at least many of them,)
It is possible; but in so far as the weight of one’s will is thrown onto the scales of history, one lives in the belief that it is not to be so.
this is one of the beliefs I do hold, that a major if not the greatest virtue of our liberal society are the many ways and styles of living and thinking made possible in our country. Is this no longer to be so? No it can’t be, the richness and variety of our lives can’t be coming to an end! Yet the evidence for the disappearance of pluralism of thought and action in our country is probably greater today than nearly 60 years ago when Hofstadter wrote these lines.
And finally I wondered, after watching the Super Bowl circus extravaganza, and especially the halftime craziness led by ColdPlay and Beyoncé,
if it was still possible that one could find “men notable for being passionate and rebellious, others for being elegant and sumptuous, or spare and astringent, clever and complex, patient and wise, and some equipped mainly to observe and endure.”
Watching the thousands of mostly young people at Levi Stadium jumping and screaming in response to the performers I wouldn’t bet on it.