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Kings, Villains, and the Personage

I was re-reading Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles this week, and it occurred to me to wonder about an eternal country built on what amounted to a feudal system. The problem in any fictional work, of course, is that any system will have its flaws and so any form of government described will have failings which readers will discover and announce. Then again, some are better than others - J.K. Rowling is a very good writer, for example, but her attempt to create a believable magic world parallel to the mundane world we know falls on its face as soon as any critical thought is applied to the matter. Zelazny's Amber and Chaos realms function relatively well as monarchies, even if that include byzantine rules and Machiavellian conspiracies. The focus is on the royal person, and the story works because the reader focuses on him naturally as the protagonist. That, in turn, made me wonder how much we have really advanced in our sense of democracy.

Far and away, the voter who supported Barack Obama for President in 2008 did so because they liked the man, not because of his qualifications. Because frankly, one incomplete term in the U.S. Senate, some talk show appearances to plug his books, and a network of cronies in Al Capone's old neighborhood do not begin to qualify a man for the most powerful political office on the planet. President Obama is far from the first President, however, to win office over more qualified opponents. America's history is full of men who became President because of eloquent speeches, wartime heroism, or even physical appearance - some voters said to the press that they voted for Warren Harding in 1920 over James Cox because they thought him better and more honest-looking. Critics from the media and rival political factions have noted the royal demeanor of Presidents Reagan and Kennedy, and even of far earlier men like John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson. In that manner, Barack Obama is merely acting in a pattern long established, though a strange one for a nation conceived in the notion that men should build their own fortunes and the government work for the people. This brings up the second class to consider, the villains.

In modern parlance, "villain" means the bad guy, but for many years a villain simply referred to a person in a village - that is, a common and crude person. The inference was usually that the villain was a hindrance to the hero of the story (usually noble), because he was unable to understand the hero's mission and did not properly respect the noble for whom he was. Vestiges of this thinking still continue - in most movies and TV shows, the villain is not especially smart, and is almost never good looking or successful, while the hero is smart, wise, good looking and conveys a clear biological superiority over everyone else. So naturally, in politics the major players always try to cast some villains, in order to shine in comparison. It was not enough, therefore, for Barack Obama to cast himself as the hero of his story; it was necessary for him to mock and insult Senator Clinton, and after winning the part nomination, to do the same to Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. Since winning the White House, Obama continues to deride anyone who stands in the way of his policies and proposals, rather than defend his position or prove that his position is the best course or even well-considered. It's just easier, and no doubt more fun, to rail at his enemies a la Richard Nixon.

The problem is, there are a lot more ordinary people than privileged people. And eventually, folks decide that they get a bit tired of a privileged person lording it over them, especially since he already enjoys a life with more luxury and comfort than they have. The glamour of supporting a charismatic hero fades if that hero is only seeking his own advantage.

As we open 2010, one can only hope that we can finally find leaders who can grow beyond the one-dimensional pretense of fictional leadership.



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Comments (11)

Obama's success is more tha... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Obama's success is more than just that. It has been based on a cult of personality. He was "The One" and his picture appeared everywhere with his head surrounded by halos. He was heralded as a messiah who would bring us world peace, make the US beloved amongst all nations and he would pay our mortgage bills.

Unlike other historical leaders who have risen to power on such imagery, he utterly lacked the experience and ability to govern. He has never really lead anything more serious than a classroom discussion.

He has made extra efforts to demean the office of the president by bowing to nearly every foreign leader he can find and by comporting himself more like a tabloid celebrity rather than leader of the free world.

His campaign promises (like those of virtually every other president) have all gone past the freshness dating. Unlike other presidents, however, he no longer even pays lip service to the notions of transparency and honesty. The kleptocracy that he has established is the ONLY transparent part of his administration.

Can we do better in 2010? Well, it's awfully hard to see how we could do worse.

Zelazny's Amber Chronicles ... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

Zelazny's Amber Chronicles is an splendid seriers of books! Thx for blending it into the Obama Chronicles!

Defeating all that Obama stands for is crucial...and will determine whether America lives or dies.

"The problem in any fiction... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"The problem in any fictional work, of course, is that any system will have its flaws and so any form of government described will have failings which readers will discover and announce."-djd

Gulliver's Travels, anyone? It's only a classic!
Everything that's good to *read* is either 1)history (including biography, philosophy, *brand* hagiography), or 2) satire (fantasy, comedy, philosophy, pornography, *brand* hagiography).

Which means, the reader SHOULD "announce". It's a sign of literary relevance. Who DOESN'T get disgusted with Polly Golightly by the end of Breakfast At Tiffany's? Who DOESN'T declare Hitler a Retard for declaring war on the USA in late December 1941? Who DOESN'T get amused by YHWH demanding that ALL those pigeons MUST be eaten by sunset, barf or no barf, you whiny bastards?

Reading is an elevated form of gossip reception. Who wants to hear how "great!* and *squared away* someone is? That's called "cardboard" in the trades, I believe. The model doesn't exist.

As for the rest of your article: Obama isn't/wasn't "picking on" McCain and Palin. McCain and Palin (and Obama) would feed your (and my) progeny to the crabs and grackles if the US presidency were assured them for 8 years. Or they'd feed some AfPaKhazAnis to the crabs and grackles. THERE! That's reads better and is exactly correct!

PS. Good article. No sock puppet, you.

Can we do better in 2010?</... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Can we do better in 2010?

Hell, the only way we can go is "UP", considering what we have right now.

The battle cry after the 2010 elections should be "CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?".

Of course the Democratic response will be "Huh?".

Look forward to more "speec... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Look forward to more "speeches" by The One. As well as frequent appearances on specified "home court" TV programs.

"Can We do better in 2010?"... (Below threshold)
914:

"Can We do better in 2010?"

If We dispense with all the puff and pompous fakery of the "affirmative One", hell yes We can.

So Obama "mocked and insult... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

So Obama "mocked and insulted" McCain and Palin? Whaaat? Were you paying attention at all when McCain ran ads comparing Obama to Paris Hilton? Or when Palin sneered at "community organizers" (even using air quotes) at the Convention?

Not that there was anything wrong with that, particularly. It was a campaign, after all. It's just that I must point out your rather selective memory, Mr Drummond.

I want to derail this threa... (Below threshold)
epador:

I want to derail this thread, not for any reason of the content of the posting, but because I am getting tired of looking at the voting buttons and seeing always 2 negative votes (rarely if ever more) for most if not all popular comments, and, despite innumerable "troll" names of commentors, rarely more than two positive votes for the "unpopular" commentors.

I can't believe that there are so many liberal commentors allergic to casting a positive or negative vote. Is this indicative of a sock puppet infestation, or liberals who DON"T like to vote? Or is their a Machiavellian limit to negative votes for conservative comments built into the code?

Inquiring minds want to know.

For myself, epador, I typic... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

For myself, epador, I typically don't bother casting negative votes here unless someone really really pisses me off. Since this is only a comments section on a blog, I usually don't get all that pissed off. On the other hand, I will sometimes cast positive votes for comments by, say, Mr Crickmore, or SAUD, just so they know someone agrees with something they said. But to be honest, most of the time I don't even think about voting or not voting. It's a matter of whim, not habit, with me.

epador, given that there ha... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

epador, given that there have been admitted sock puppets here (Jay Tea could provide a list, and that might make for a fun post if he's bored with the news one day), you're probably on the right path. I've noticed some high profile stories where Wizbang gets linked or mentioned on a lefty forum or blog, the number of "counter votes" and first time posters screaming WINGNUT moves past 2.

"I am getting tired of look... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"I am getting tired of looking at the voting buttons and seeing always 2 negative votes (rarely if ever more) for most if not all popular comments,"-epador

Monkey buttons. Geek squat. I never "vote".

Kevin should repent.

Unless it's a sneaky moneymaker, i.e $20/wk.




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