Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir would have wanted us to sled

Last night I went sledding with some New York friends who grew up near me.

There are all kinds of interesting observations about neoconservatism's origins among reformed Trotskyites. People on the left now use "neoconservative" as a pejorative label for things that they simply do not like, including tax and regulatory policies, when at base, neoconservatism's sin is naive optimism about human behavior. It's a lot like Marxism in that respect.
We paid $17 tickets to enter the sledding park. It's been a few years since I've gone sledding, but I loved it when I was a kid. It's all we did at recess. We'd take our roll-up sleds to the hill behind our school and sled for 15 or 20 minutes. It only takes a couple of days before fresh snow turns to sheets of ice. For most of elementary school, I spent my winters with bruises on my legs and hips and scrapes on my face. Our tailbones always hurt from the way we slammed into bumps and makeshift ice ramps.
The Bush Administration's neoconservative project has sometimes used as its justification this idea that freedom is human destiny and mankind's ultimate achievement, that a free Iraq will be a beacon for the Middle East and have a restorative power over neighboring repressive regimes. This kind of observation is hopelessly naive, and dreamier than the most extreme lefty-hippie talking points. No supporter of this administration can claim to favor a toughminded foreign policy grounded in reality.
When we got to the sledding park, most of the other clients were fifth graders and their parents. As the night went on, the crowd transitioned to rowdy teenagers and a handful of other people in our age range. I liked the teenagers better. They would plow each other down at the base of the hill. My sled and I slammed into a few dudes as the night went on. A member of my party hurdled some guys. No big thing.

Even if you want to believe in them, neoconservative ideals, like Marxist ones, are just unattainable. They are premised on selflessness. They can't work in practice. As in, you've got the Bush crowd talking about the transformative power of freedom while simultaneously lying in bed with a military dictator in Pakistan. They're talking radical idealism while playing classical-realist hardball. Musharraf is another pro-American dictator, just like the Shah, Pinochet, Ferdinand Marcos and Batista. Supporting his regime is irreconcilable with neoconservatism.
It's been maybe 10 years since I've gone sledding, and it's as good as I remembered. Maybe it's not as cool as yuppie favorites like skiing and snowboarding, but with that shit you have to worry about balance and coordination and everything. Sledding, it's all out of your hands. You can throw other bastards off their sleds, get knocked down, knock other people down, and there's none of that shit about sharp poles or edges.
And, you know, Benazir Bhutto was no saint herself. Her governments were corrupt. She was part of a family political dynasty that ran itself like a ruthless political machine. As the BBC was saying all day yesterday, the Taliban rose in Afghanistan under her watch. She was extremely attractive to us as Westerners -- Oxford educated, handsome as she grew older but truly beautiful 15 years ago. Benazir had a great media image. She was hard not to like.
The same group of teenagers kept channeling behind us. A couple of girls flailed and fell down as we waited to ascend the hill. When I tripped and slammed on my ass, they laughed hysterically. I brushed myself off. They apologized for laughing at me. "I saw you guys fall," I said, "and your falls were way worse than mine." Later, the teenagers debated the merits of going to iHop versus Denny's at 4 a.m. They were around 16. I know because one of them talked about driving so the others could drink on the way.

This is how we go into 2008: An instable nuclear power is on the verge of collapse. American capital markets are unmanageable. The dollar is becoming worthless. Foreign governments are acquiring significant holdings in American financial institutions. We're on the eve of the worst recession in 30 years, and the weak dollar invites the people running China, Dubai and -- who's next, Putin? -- to keep buying up American institutions. It's one massive, rotten flea market. Pakistan is on the brink of becoming a failed nuclear state, and when the inevitable coup d'etat ends with Musharraf getting the Ceausescu treatment, hello nuclear South Asia. It's a great time to be alive! Happy New Year!
I wanted to go with them to iHop or Denny's and drink in their car. I wanted to knock girls on their asses with my sled and then become self-righteous when they yelled at me. I wanted to push my friends on the ice patch, just because. Then they could push me back. Snow was down my boxers due to a mid-hill wipeout. Rosebud


double entendre said...

This is a nice post.

dmbmeg said...

I liked it too.

Flop said...

This post is better than the current political situation in Pakistan.

crimenotes said...

Thx and Happy New Year to all. I dare you to have fun without me.

dmbmeg said...

Apparently I am taking over your role as Silly String Dispenser. I am honored.