Sunday, January 6, 2008

Agents of C.H.A.N.G.E.

The Democratic candidates had yet another debate last night, in the wake of the Iowa caucuses and on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, and it appears Hillary got into a snit over something John Edwards said regarding the "agents of change" vs. the "forces of the status quo".

The first video sets up some of the context:

The second video provides Hillary's somewhat agitated response:

It made me flash back to Maxwell Smart, agent of C.O.N.T.R.O.L., in the old TV show, "Get Smart" -- which would actually not be a bad subtitle for this particular Democratic spat.

As in, "Gentlemen, and lady: would you please get smart?"

But of course they know what they're doing, because they know their customer base.

Democrats are inordinately fond of the idea of "change". They love this sort of rhetoric, and if you want to play to the Democratic gallery, you're going to interlard all of your points with encomiums to "change". In fact, you can leave the points out entirely; you don't have to specify what kinds of "change" for which you want to serve as the "agent". The word "change" itself will accomplish everything you need. The liberal audience will swoon. You'll feel like a stud. It's the Democratic equivalent of porn.

The less pruriently-minded political observer, meanwhile, might be forgiven if he were to ask, "Excuse me, but what kind of 'change' are you looking for?" Is all change good? Is any change to be embraced? Freedom of the press is part of the status quo -- anyone think we should change that? Throw away habeas corpus, anyone? What about turning our economy into a cheap imitation of Zimbabwe's, where the typical yearly wage is $30? Hey, it's change! What are we waiting for?

What if we all just decided to deed all of our property to the federal governnment and do whatever they tell us? That would be change, wouldn't it? What if we were to decide that Jews, or blacks, or (for that matter) Presbyterians all need to be rounded up and kept in work camps, where they will be starved and eventually gassed? That would certainly be a change. Or what if we started incarcerating people who write liberal Op-Eds in the New York Times? Or conservative Op-Eds in the Washington Times? Have show trials? Mandate adding DDT to the water supply? Institute child sacrifice to Baal in public school assemblies? Require lettuce growers to add e. coli to their shipments?

All of these things would constitute "change", but I certainly hope that, contained in these suggestions, there is at least one that would make a liberal burp up his latte.

It is best to view change with a gimlet eye, even at the personal level. I had always hoped to age like a movie star, and I have -- except I was hoping for Paul Newman and instead got Ned Beatty. I look in the mirror sometimes, when I can't avoid it. I'm in my fifties now, and what I see looking back at me is not the thin young kid of twenty-five I used to see. Ugh, look at that gut. I like beer, and it shows. Man, I'd like to change that. But you know, one way to change it would be to gain another hundred pounds. Does that sound like heading in the right direction? No, it doesn't sound good at all. Fatter is not better. In fact, if I were to go about it all wrong, thinner isn't necessarily better, either, not if it meant starving my body of necessary nutrients and weakening my heart in the process, or making myself more susceptible to illness -- we refer to such things as unintended consequences. Change is always accompanied by unintended consequences. Sometimes, they are benevolent, or at least neutral. Sometimes they are neither.

Look at the trap a lot of folks -- especially Hollywood starlets -- fall into as they age and feel the pressure to look younger than they are. They visit the plastic surgeon, and oops, sometimes the results make them look even worse. Change isn't necessarily for the better. Part of being a good citizen -- same as being a good Christian -- is remembering to count one's blessings. It's learning to be thankful for what one has, and reluctant to throw it away. It's knowing that one must be careful about change.

Now, back to the national level. There may even be some little-regarded and unappreciated aspect about the status quo that has an importance we cannot even dimly comprehend, but upon which nonetheless we desperately depend. Anyone who works (as I do) with complex systems knows that you can completely ruin something just by changing a couple of variables, and it's hard to predict what could go wrong, or even to diagnose after the fact what did go wrong.

Liberals exist to wreck institutions. They live for it. It's what they do, and they're very good at it. This means, when you find an institution that desperately needs to come down, you should call a liberal. He'll call all of his liberal buddies, and they'll show up at your doorstep, along with the 10 o'clock new folks, armed with placards, petitions, and indignant facial expressions. And sometimes that's a good thing. You want to abolish slavery? No problem. Jim Crow? Gone. Police brutality? Not on their watch. Problem is, they are just as eager to tear down any institution. Marriage, the family, religious belief, private property -- all of these institutions, and more, have been on the wrong side of the liberal wrecking ball in recent years. With each swing, something cracks. Sure hope it wasn't something we needed.

We in the U.S. have a lot of things for which gratitude is the appropriate response. Saying we should "change", without specification, is to show very little respect for the blessings we already have. So, I wish all this breathless exaltation of "change" would just stop. Democrats: from now on, please specify what kind of change you want, and please show some sign that you have devoted sufficient thought to the unintended consequences. Then we can decide whether the appropriate response is to cheer you, or throw rotten tomatoes.


Glen said...

There seems to be one thing liberals agree should not change, and that's the climate. Tom speculates that when Global Warming is finally discounted as a great hoax, there will be too much momentum, money and emotion tied up in doing something that they won't be able to just stand by and do nothing. Global Warming or Global Cooling doesn't really matter. Any climate change is bad and must be addressed immediately with huge programs, sacrifices and expenditures of your tax dollars. Perhaps liberals need to contemplate this bit of wisdom...

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Glen said...

Liberals also seem to agree that Roe v Wade is something that should not be changed. We have a living Constitution, but this Supreme Court decision is unchangeable.

Lee said...

Good points, Glen. I think the unifying thread is each decision aggrandizes liberal power -- the unacknowledged single standard behind the apparent double standard.