Posted by Adam @ 9:49 am on February 24th 2007

Please accept my resignation

Perhaps Groucho Marx’s most famous quotation is the following: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”.

When I was younger, I played roleplaying games; Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest, Middle-Earth Roleplaying, Rolemaster, Shadowrun, plus a bunch of others. And by ‘when I was younger’, I mean that I last played a couple of weeks ago. Now, I am no longer concerned about cool; that ship has long sailed. However, there was a time when I was more interested in cool and with good reason. There were women to impress. It would never do, when I was sitting with some women – a situation that I might ingraciously, were I a rapper, describe as “Chillin’ with ma bitches” – assiduously building my image as a tortured soul with a poet’s heart hidden beneath that hard exterior so that they were the only ones able to see that chink of inner humanity, should a greasy-haired nerd wearing a Metallica teeshirt appear and attempt to engage me in a conversation about his intention to dual-class his 6th Level Fighter, Thangorodrad the Terrible (as an aside, in 1st edition AD&D I would advise waiting until at least 9th level is achieved before dual-classing your fighter, preferably to magic-user).

The instinctive reaction never completely fades. The other day, I was in the coffeeship in our local Borders, with a D&D book that I had taken to have a look at (the 3rd edition D&D ‘Epic Level handbook’, as it happens – three and a half stars, my rating) when the friendly barista called out, in a voice that carried at least halfway into the store, “what D&D book do you have there?” Even now, all these years later, my first instinct was still to claim that it was, in fact, a pornographic magazine, a ‘practical bestiality’ manual, a James Carville book, or pretty much any other tome that would be less embarassing.

I find myself now in a predicament that is similar but not identical. Many times that I see a conservative pundit on television expressing views that are, on the face of it, similar to mine, I watch aghast as they spout logic-free, sentiment-laden, drivel replete with wild generalisations, an utter misunderstanding of, for example, what Europe is actually like, topped off with a double helping of wild optimism. If I were less assured of my own extreme fantasticness, I’d start to worry that I am, in fact, basing my opinion on similarly ill-formed argumentation. Let’s all laugh at the very idea.

Ah, that was fun. Anyhow. I have a few key objections to the way that conservative ideas are expressed in the media. Amongst the most irritating are:

The use of the word ‘elite’ as an insult: This is a crock. ‘Elite’ means to be amongst the best. Used with qualification, as with ‘the elite competitive eaters’, it’s pretty clear what is being referred to, but without qualification it presumably means ‘the best of us’. Using it as an insult looks at best anti-meritocratic, at worst the whining of the fat kid that didn’t get picked for the gymnastics squad. Pick a more appropriate word, morons (I mean that in a meritocratic way).

The idea that no one will end up worse off under conservative proposals: This is clearly a lie. Some people will come out as losers; the correct response to this fact is fire up the world’s smallest violin. But yes, bad luck really does happen to people that don’t ‘deserve’ it. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t. Also, feckless losers are still people. That shouldn’t stop us in our conservative tracks, but we should be aware that the roadkill exists and not pretend otherwise.

Accusing opponents of being unpatriotic This is a seedy nonsense; there is no reason to believe that loving America is not consistent with leftist ideology, including leftist foreign policy. The people that call for policies that we believe would harm America are not calling for those policies because they hate America; they are calling for them because they believe that the harm to America will be non-existent or, at worst, small. People can even hate how America is run, or what some Americans are like, without hating America (indeed, many conservatives feel similarly). The exciting result of abandoning the ‘they hate America’ rhetoric is that we can use the time to actually focus on what our political and ideological opponents do believe. Just imagine the world of possibilities! I feel giddy. Hold me.

Casting things in simplistic moral terms The point of enacting policy is success. Many conservative pundits spend far too much time on explaining why something should happen in terms of some ill-defined and simplified moral model, without explaining how proposed policies are actually going to work; if there is a description of how it will work, it’s generally laden with optimism. Whatever Reagan told you, optimism is not a conservative trait; it’s for children. Let’s embrace realism as we would the addition of a level 11 cleric laden with healing spells to our 8th level party in the middle of Castle Ravenloft.

Wild extrapolation of ‘down home’ wisdom The problems of organisation and management do not scale linearly from household to nation. It’s really not the same thing. The ‘conservative values’ that allow your village of Cleft Palate GA, pop 84, to function amicably* are not going to run the Federal government. Additionally, not everyone is up to the job of running the government, however strong you think their moral fiber to be. It takes talents that are not all that common.

Believing what the administation tell us For Christ’s sake. Just because the administration, who have a clear political interest in at least moulding the truth to their benefit and at worst, lying, say that Guantanamo Bay only contains the ‘worst of the worst’, or that Jose Padilla is a Threat to Every American or that they have quashed X terrorist plots or only tap the phones of Evil Men, doesn’t mean that those claims are automatically true. Let’s not look like pitiful yes-men, OK? Giving at least the impression of analytic ability would probably serve us well. Oh, and that time you caught your wife in bed with the cable guy? The floor was clear; he couldn’t have tripped. So there was really no need for his buddies to be trying to catch him.

I guess that I don’t want to be a member of a club that has those people as members. This nonsense had better stop, else I will resign. Really. And then, my friends, the sky will fall.

*I am not going to suggest that the values at play are, literally, ‘family values’. I will instead raise the possibility by mentioning it and pointing out that I’m not going to suggest it. Additionally, Al Quaida and Iraq belong together in the same sentence.

2 Comments »

  1. Spot on.

    Comment by Mike — 2/24/2007 @ 2:15 pm

  2. […] just aren’t enough rpg references on this blog (this aside). Allow me to begin a […]

    Pingback by The Crossed Pond » Political figures as D&D characters — 3/15/2007 @ 9:06 pm

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