Monday, July 16, 2007

Your Brain: Use It or Lose It

I recently called up a good friend of mine who's an ad executive to tell him how stunned I was to unexpectedly experience an "in-tunnel" subway advertisement, an illuminated animation projected on the windows of my speeding coach.

"That's nothing," he replied. "Soon we're going to wire the seats so that the ad plays in your head."

"Kill me now," said I.

"I," he countered, acknowledging the cost of admission in his chosen profession, "am already dead."

But setting aside the prospect of such a consummation of the Orwellian descent already well begun, the exchange got me thinking... about thinking.

The curdled pudding between our ears is perhaps that last virginal territory not directly accessible to marketers and gub'mint spooks. Yes, we are highly subject to the power of suggestion, and we can as a trivial matter be made to cluck like chickens, buy prescription medications for a host of non-existent maladies (chronic dry-eye syndrome, anyone?), or believe that terrorists hate us for our freedoms.

But we still have the option--rarely though we avail ourselves--of actually thinking our own thoughts, and coming to conclusions scandalously inconsistent with what CNN is saying, ingracious to the dear leader who is working so hard to protect us, and which have nothing to offer in their favor but the small fact that they are true.

So let us think. How is it that the debate about the progress of the "surge" has been framed as a mere measure of violence in Iraq? More killing this week--surge failing! Less killing. Surge working! Now, all of us that would see this sorry debacle brought to an expeditious close can be most pleased by the fact that killings of every variety show no sign of abating. Each time a new batch of swarthy, mustachioed caricatures of actual individual humans are blasted into a collection of unattached limbs and torsos, we can relish the satisfaction that we are just that much closer to consensus on withdrawal. And of course, it also means we are Right. Oh, how well we'll sleep tonight!

The MSM tracks the rising chaos in the cradle of civilization while Tony Snow plays hopscotch with smiling children in the one neighborhood of Bahgdad that is not in flames. But think--the visible violence is only an indirect and superficial measure of the state of affairs. Common sense and a little bit of background info--the un-spun facts that the media and the administration let on because it is quite inconceivable to them that you would ever use them to think for yourself--will tell you all you need to know:

1. Every Iraqi knows that we don't have the resources to police their country for much longer.

2. The old power structure is gone. There's a great big pie to be divvied up. Yes it's made with dates and it's got sand in it, but it's a pie all the same. And everybody likes pie.

3. In modern history, Iraq has only been at peace when beneath the suffocating weight of dictatorship.

4. Everyone over the age of nine has a gun.

So even if Bahgdad echoed with the chirping of songbirds and the gleeful shouts of children at play, it wouldn't mean squat without sustainable, enforcable political agreement. That means agreement that meets the needs of at least the three or four most important interest groups in a substantial way.

And friends, we are a long ways away from anything like that.

I'm not trying to be really negative. I'm only sayin'