Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bill Clinton: Not Human Shit 

In honor of President Bill Clinton's marvelous speech at the convention tonight, I recur to one of my old themes in giving to Clinton the highest praise I can give to any actor operating within the constraints of the current political system:  my assertion that he is not human shit. 

The rules of the system are simple:  shit rules because it has the power to be shit and rule.  A Republican stands before the nation as a piece of shit that is not even worth ruthlessly exterminating, and he is treated by the press as a leader; this inexplicable response from the press to the Republican's manifest, inescapable, undeniable, and known-to-everyone status as a piece of shit confers upon the Republican a magical aura:  if that palpably shitty piece of shit, the people think, can be treated as a real human being--indeed, as a leader of men--then that piece of shit must already occupy a position of power, must have already received the blessing of a supreme and incomprehensible power.  Thus Bush runs for President as the piece of human shit who is supposed to be President.  Thus the idea of being "Presidential."  Thus Bush is currently enthroned shit. 

In a system that works this way; in a system where the naked assertion of power--always asserted by the assertion of the right of the powerful to be shit--is always rewarded by a demented and coprophagic press corps; in such a system, a human being--a human who is not human shit--is at a serious, almost insurmountable disadvantage.  The fact that Bill Clinton is such a human being, and that he nonetheless won the Presidency twice, attests to his immense skill, and even to his heroism.  As this superb review of the Clinton autobiography by Hendrik Hertzberg makes clear, the President was able, heroically, to out-shit the shitters at their own obscene game.  This involved doing any number of things, policy-wise, that he probably did not want to do.  It involved at times making himself appear like a piece of human shit.  And yet he somehow could always maintain his sense of the difference between what he was and what, occasionally, he had to appear to be.  He could turn himself into shit if he had to, and then he could, at the right time, seize the opportunity to behave as a normal human being would like to behave.  Those moments were, again, few and far between--for Clinton was operating in a system where being human shit was required for political success.  But he managed to steal a few human actions in behind the backs of the shit-eaters.  What Hertzberg helps us to see is that without his repeated masquerades as a piece of human shit, Clinton would have been able to do nothing at all worth doing in the White House.  And those few things that he did do--those few human as opposed to excremental acts--mattered

They didn't change the whole system.  They didn't reduce our shit-diet.  But they produced fewer corpses than a piece of actual human shit (like Bush) would have produced had he been President from 1992 to 2000. 

Those of us outside the excremental political system can avoid behaving like human shit more often than can the system's compromised participants.  And so we have our own obligations.  But when we consider the deeds of someone who has taken upon himself the cross of simulating human shit, we should recognize the sacrifice involved, recognize the severe constraints on his action, and recognize that slipping a few human actions into a system dominated by human shit does mark a small victory for humanity at large.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?