Friday links! Varieties of human experience edition

"I actually find nothing strange about Antonin Scalia. Bafflingly, I regard Antonin Scalia as the default human condition. Now bring me Solo and the Wookie."

We at Combat! blog spend a lot of time considering the problem of others. Partly that’s because I work from home, where I live with several terrariums. When you live alone, have no coworkers and socialize with an insular peer group, it’s easy to start thinking that other people are basically the same as you. They are not. The human experience is characterized first by its stunning variety, and what one person considers the givens of existence are, to another, mere trifles. Take lying, for example. When I lie, I have to take care that what I’m saying sounds like the truth. Otherwise, people will start to think less of me, and because I see the same people over and over again—the colloquial term for this phenomenon is “friends”—my life will get worse. For other people, lying is a sort of formality, the way Japanese people say ittadakimasu before eating. They just have to make the gesture of a declarative statement, and even though nobody believes them, that gesture is enough. It’s probably because they have no friends and the truth means to them what Rembrandt’s Christ With Arms Folded means to a labrador, but who knows? This week’s link roundup is chock full of absurd behavior undertaken by weirdos, and it serves to remind us that other people are startlingly different. Won’t you shudder in disrecognition with me?

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Rand Paul and the art of authenticity

As our unhealthy fixation on Rand Paul continues to grow, we at Combat! blog are impelled to consider the other prong of his narrative prod: authenticity. Paul and his ilk are, by their own avowal and by media announcement, outsiders—folks who feel the same way you do about the shysters in Washington because, like you, they watch ’em from afar. It’s a reform year. Two big stories dominate the news: 1) the entire country being economically, politically and environmentally fucked plus we’re losing two wars, and 2) people who cannot necessarily articulate the specific elements of #1 blaming the dang government. The trick, if you want to get elected in 2010, is to make yourself part of story #2. Hence the popularity of Rand Paul and his father, Ron, whose views are extreme but whose personae are paradoxically that of the everyman. As Meghan McCain put it, “I can’t help but interpret the congressman’s cult-like, libertarian-leaning following as yet another indicator of a growing resentment of all people incumbent and in power in Washington.”

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