- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

Have you ever noticed the semi-cruel message of the carol “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”?

Seriously: Rudolph is ostracized by the other reindeer because of a seeming defect.

Then he’s accepted only after said defect proves useful on a foggy Christmas Eve. Rudolph isn’t accepted for who he is, in other words — only for his freak utilitarian functionality!

Cruel, I tell ya, cruel.

That’s not really why I’m blogging, though. The real reason is an incredibly stupid passage I came across in the novel “Indecision” by Benjamin Kunkel, one of Manhattan’s hot-shot literati and cofounder of n+1 magazine.

Anyway, it’s about an aimless, overprivileged Northeasterner who, after getting the sack from Pfizer, travels to the Amazon to find himself. There he falls under the sway of a Belgian-Argentine beauty whose politics fall somewhere between Hugo Chavez and Noam Chomsky.

Her name is Brigid and she tells main character Dwight the reasons why natural-resource-rich Latin America is mired in poverty while New England has prospered. She says “you had nothing for Europe to want … And your climate was very like England’s, while here and of course in the Caribbean one could cultivate sugar, cotton, coffee, tobacco, indigo”; therefore “the mother country” could “let go of New England, let go of North America. Because you were redundant …”

Is this what they’re teaching in New England prep schools and at the Ivies? Good Lord, this is stupidity on stilts!

Great Britain did not give up just Hamiltonian, strong-manufacturing New England. It fought a war to keep New England and the southern colonies. Read your Michael Lind, for crying out loud: The South was precisely the kind of raw-material lode the mother country coveted. The Latin-style organization of the Southern economy was one of the factors that prefigured the Civil War as well as the dysfunctions that followed.

I’m not saying I agree with Lind totally on this, but listen anyway: “Having failed during the Civil War to realize its ambition of leaving the United States to become a formally sovereign but economically dependent resource colony of London, the South, from its perspective, achieved the next best thing: it became a resource colony of New York. The terms that were negotiated in the 1870s were unfavorable to the Southern white and black majority, but very favorable to the Southern rich, who were given a free hand by the Northeastern elite in crushing dissent within their region, in return for becoming reliable suppliers of cotton, cattle, and (later) oil and gas.”

In her general mission of turning Dwight into Howard Dean, Brigid preaches a leftist variation on Damon Linker’s characterization of Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus’s “decisionist” conversion. You must submit to something, else you’ll believe in nothing.

I have another problem with the book, which in fairness is very funny and often beautifully written. It’s a narrative incoherence: Kunkel dumbs down Dwight’s dialogue, having him say “dude” and “like” a lot, and then smartens up the interior monologues. Essentially, Dwight exists only in quotations; the rest of the time he clearly is Kunkel.

But that’s enough about fiction. It’s time for real life and real people. Like that Santa dude!

Merry Christmas, all!

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