Thursday, April 22, 2010

Are Republicans Just Modern Day Bartlebys?

I apologize in advance for my unrefined midnight ramble, but this idea had given me a spark that I hope to revisit, but in the meantime, I wanted to put this out there as some food for thought.

Yesterday, I had posted a video made by Ben Craw, as discussed in an article for The Huffington Post by Ryan Grim.  The video consisted of Democrats reading out judicial nominees and a lone Republican objecting to all 88 nominees.  Later on, I received a comment about the post by Marianne, stating the following:
Amazing, and sad. Can we get a refund of their salaries? If I just sat around at my job and said 'No' all day, I would have been fired a year ago!
This comment had me thinking.  It reminded me of a short story by Herman Melville titled "Bartleby, The Scrivener."  The story revolves around the office of a lawyer that employs a couple scriveners.  Bartleby arrives in answer to an ad for a third scrivener.  Per the Wikipedia article for the story:
At first, Bartleby appears to be a boon to the practice, as he produces a large volume of high-quality work. One day, when asked by the narrator to help proofread a copied document, Bartleby answers with what soon becomes his stock response: "I would prefer not to." To the dismay of the narrator and to the irritation of the other employees, Bartleby performs fewer and fewer tasks around the office. The narrator makes several attempts to reason with him and to learn something about him, but Bartleby offers nothing but his signature "I would prefer not to."
In my response to Marianne, I had also pointed out the philosophical implications of the story, as briefly mentioned in the Wiki article:
The Wiki article also touches upon the philosophy behind Bartleby, stating that his "isolation from the world allows him to be completely free" and that "he has the ability to do whatever he pleases," adding that his isolation allows him to escape a fate determined by none other then himself, which is oddly familiar with the themes found in modern conservative language, attempting to frame the world in conservative terms, to help free it from the confines of liberalism...
Daniel Stemple and Bruce M. Stillians had written that "Bartleby, The Scrivener" was a "parable of pessimism," and they quote Matthew Arnold on like situations that are absent of "poetical enjoyment."  Arnold writes "those in which the suffering find no vent in action; in which a continuous state of mental distress is prolonged, unrelieved by incident, hope, or resistance; in which there is everything to be endured, nothing to be done.  In such situations there is inevitably something morbid, in the description of them something monotonous."  While Arnold was discussing his poem "Empedocles on Etna," his sentiments seem to describe not only Bartleby, but the state of modern conservatism.

The conservative movement, including both the Tea Party and the GOP, seem absent of such "poetical enjoyment," seeming to bask in the despair of America.  Conservatives claim to want to improve America but fight any opportunity to change, claiming it is not the change they are looking for, but at the same time, they opt for the despair that feeds their coffers.  Conservative leadership echoes the messages of the right-wing media, promoting apocalyptic stories, contributing to the "continuous state of mental distress," and at any mention of resolution, or the hope of resolution, all that can be heard are the sounds of mocking tones and condescension - a preference to live in the absence of humanity.  In essence, the Republican Party is Bartleby, the scrivener.

Creating their own fate, the GOP claims to represent the majority, despite major losses over the past few years at the polls and declining membership.  They claim to know what's best, but they rarely offer a solution - they only seem to know the response "I would prefer not to," because to do something, and not know the answer or leave things up to outside factors, would essentially remove control from the party.  The GOP is defying fate to live in their perfectly crafted world, and in an attempt to secure their world, they are projecting out, much like the way Bartleby is a projection, or mirror, of the narrator.

The problem with Bartleby is that while he may live in his own personal bubble, the world continues to operate around him, and his actions, or lack thereof, still impact his surroundings.  Should Bartleby cease performing his job in the law office, he would create larger workloads for the other employees.  Apply this to the real world, and it is easy to see the the conservative agenda - obstruct to cause failure and then blame the opposition, or "resistence" for such failures, but, the only problem with this is that once the opposing party had been deemed a failure, the "Bartleby" continues to "prefer" not to do any work, causing the cycle to repeat.  Reminiscent of the Democratic rise in 2006 and the current conservative obstructionist games playing out today, or Rush Limbaugh's comments wishing for the president to "fail," which is indicative of the entire right-wing camp's philosophy?

Essentially, the Republican Party is filled with a bunch of "Bartlebys." 

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