I went to the Western Montana State Fair and Rodeo last night, where I remembered that the experience of American culture varies wildly from person to person. For one thing, this year’s clown sucked. His first interaction with the audience was built around the joke, “can a bald man get a hairline fracture?” Fertile comic ground though it was, we did not respond, so he launched immediately into one of those math tricks that involves thinking of a number, adding six, dividing it by three, subtracting the original number, et cetera. Math tricks! Fortunately, he won us back with a dog routine. The people behind us went insane, occasionally describing what was happening with gleeful incredulity—e.g., “He can’t get out!” when the clown get stuck upside-down in a garbage can—and generally reminding us of the values of a bygone era. Today is Friday, and a substantial portion of the populace loves Milton Friedman and Dennis the Menace. Won’t you focus your nostalgia on an age that never existed with me?
My brother sent me this interview with potential presidential candidate and dad-complex victim Rand Paul, along with this evidentially grounded if mean takedown of the interview from Ezra Klein. That trillion-dollar deficit Paul says is “an extremely bad situation?” We don’t have one, and we are not projected to run trillion-dollar deficits at any time in the near future. Paul believes that we will, though, unless we adopt his budget, which eliminates the departments of Education, Commerce, and Energy, and it increases defense spending by $126 billion. He also lists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman as his two picks for chair of the Federal Reserve.
Those men are dead. In this way Paul hits an important element of contemporary conservatism, the refusal to accept conditions of modernity. Consider the FreedomWorks campaign encouraging young people to refuse to buy health insurance under Obamacare. That is the purest form of obstinance, right there: the kind that will mess up your life. Andrew Sullivan points out that the young people who foreswear insurance will still be treated in emergency rooms if they get hurt, making the end effect of the campaign a lot more like socialism than Obamacare. He’s also got a quote from Hayek advocating the same policies that FreedomWorks so vigorously opposes.
But we always remember the old values as more extreme than they really were. Everything was more intense in the past, possibly because we’re distilling decades into a memory’s length of salient experiences. Case in point, Yars’ Revenge:
I remember that game as insanely fun, possibly the greatest experience available to living humans. Video evidence suggests it was not, although there is something strangely calming about that man’s explanation, beamed through time from 30 years ago. The voice in that video is probably 60 now. I presume he looks back with no regrets.
Everyone else used to be old, but now they’re young. That’s the insight I had while reviewing GRMLN, a delightful power pop band whose auteur is a sophomore at UC Santa Cruz. You can see his definitively younger-than-you picture here. For a real sense of the gap between generations, though, you should just watch the video, which fortunately comes with a fantastic song. It currently has one comment: “Nice work as usual, Timmy. Love the concept. Tell Rhoda we said hi, and to stop being a diva.” Be nice to your uncle.