Cheney is running for office as an optimist.
the notion of the dour, cynical little class warrior
being our little ray of sunshine strikes you as
faintly absurd, consider the fact that this administration
(which has bogged us down in a quagmire in Iraq,
pissed away trillions of dollars in the national
treasury in a giveaway to major corporations,
and aroused rage and concern throughout America
and the world) is describing itself as being happy,
optimistic, and looking forward.
soon, we'll have campaign spots of Putsch leading
a national sing-along of "If you're happy and
you know it, clap your hands." If nothing else,
this will answer questions people may have as
to whether the President can, in fact, sing and
successfully clap his hands at the same time.
I'll definitely set my VCR for the one where Ashcroft
is singing "I'm a Little Teapot."
all reminds me in some awful way of the scene
where the campers manage to get Wednesday Addams
(Christine Ricci) to smile.
you're wondering why this collection of cold and
angry men are lining up to do a rendition of "The
Good Ship Lollipop," the reason is that their
campaign consultants -- that would be the same
campaign consultants Putsch swears they never
listen to -- have told them that optimism sells,
and pointed to the successful campaigns of Reagan
and Bush Sr as examples.
hit a peak in the 1992 campaign, when we had "Don't
Worry, Be Happy" running against "Don't Stop Thinking
About Tomorrow." Aghast innocent bystanders wondered
if the whole country might shrivel up from a saccharin
died down in 1996 (Bob Dole doesn't DO "happy")
and in 2000, when neither Putsch nor Gore were
very convincing as happy-go-lucky types, and Nader
was enough to encourage suicide among the Mouseketeers.
it's back. The GOP is spending millions to try
and convince people they stand for hope and optimism,
and the Democrats are the party of pessimism and
only does optimism sell, but the GOP hopes that
by branding everyone who points out the glaring
deficiencies of their regime as cynical America-haters,
they can discourage people from pointing out that
this administration has been a major disaster.
the captain of the Titanic warning everyone that
the next person caught spreading rumors that the
ship was sinking would be tossed overboard. Not
only would this dissuade people from questioning
why the captain was backing up to hit the iceberg
again, but if someone did say something the captain
thought was negative, he could toss him overboard,
and it might help keep the ship afloat for a couple
of extra minutes.
the good ship Lollipop!
in general and Americans in particular are suckers
for the "don't worry, be happy" approach. After
all, it says right in the Declaration of Independence
that "pursuit of happiness" is a basic right.
it's widely believed, includes optimism. Of course,
optimism is ALSO a component of denial and delusion,
too, which suggests that optimism isn't always
a bedrock indicator of mental and emotional good
hygiene. As an example, there is the insistence
by the neo-cons that Iraqis would run out into
the streets to greet American invaders with flowers
and kisses. It's one thing for the Little Engine
That Could to believe he could haul his load up
the grade, and quite another for him to believe
he could fly. The administration optimists on
Iraq believed they could fly.
happiness can be regarded with a certain amount
of suspicion, and not only because I'm of Scots
descent and thus am genetically forced to believe
happiness is a flaw in yer murrel character. The
first problem is what is happiness, and the second
is whether it is good for you or your society.
one person what leads to happiness, and he'll
say "success": success in making money, or getting
ahead at work, or raising a family. Another will
say "being liked and respected," and yet another
"blowing up frogs with firecrackers." If the pursuit
of happiness were the unalloyed blessing we have
been led to believe it is, then we wouldn't have
laws against drugs or have a culture that heaps
so much scorn on the phrase, "if it feels good,
Is happiness joy, contentment, serenity, or a
mere sense of satisfaction? It's all of those
things, or some, or none. And that's the most
definitive answer you can get.
trying to determine the effects of happiness on
human behavior quickly discovered that of all
human emotions, it was the most difficult to quantify.
People who might describe their lives as "happy"
on a sunny day, might give a non-committal or
opposite answer on a rainy day. People tend to
be happier overall at 10 am than at 4 am (try
calling people at 4am and asking them if they're
happy or not).
worse, psychologists aren't even sure happiness
is a beneficial thing, either for the individual
or for society. People who are happy, they say,
tend to be more facile, less empathetic to others,
more prone to superficial and simple answers to
then, anyone who attended high school who wasn't
part of the jock/cheerleader elite kinda suspected
that already, right?
So, let's sum up. The administration is basing
their campaign on the most subjective and nebulous
human emotion, one which despite the fact that
it makes people more superficial, more prone to
not thinking, or putting any consideration into
their decisions, is seemingly endorsed as an "American
value" by no less than the Declaration of Independence
Sounds like something the Republicans need to
play up, given that everything else they touch
is a disaster.
worry. Be happy.
Posted: July 9, 2004