Back when philosopher Marshall McLuhan began spinning thought-provoking communication theories (the medium is the message, etc.) his publisher objected.
"Your stuff is 90 percent new," the man said, or words to that effect. "People can't handle more than about 10 percent new."
Long ago, it became pretty clear that this is usually the case for most things, especially those that are true. None of our politicians dare dwell very much on how profoundly corrupt our system of financing government really is, for example.
You can bet that nothing happening in next year's election will have much to do with shoring up, much less rebuilding, this nation's foundations. But, damn! You can expect a billion-dollar war to end all wars over what whitewash to use on the windowsills.
Fortunately, however, my relentlessly pure conscience has led me to a decision. In keeping with my principles, and lack of ready cash, I will not be a candidate for either president or the Huntington Woods Stray Animal Board next year.
This means I am free to offer, as a free secular RamaHanaXmas gift to my devoted readers (both of you) some thoughts on a few unpleasant truths which our various systems work hard to prevent us from confronting.
Then later, whether in line for that late-night bus or at Neiman Marcus, try hard to remember which one most angered and annoyed you. Then let me know how long it took for you to realize you were most upset ... precisely because I hit closest to home.
And was right too, naturally.
· Nearly every white American is deeply racist, right down to their core, even including many married to minorities. (Whites living in mostly black neighborhoods may be a partial exception.) This is, contrary to what many blacks believe, based more on culture than color. Most whites really believe their culture is superior, though they prefer to remember the invention of the light bulb and the flush toilet, not slavery and the systematic and successful genocide practiced on Native Americans. Despite denials, many have flirted with Bell Curve theories claiming blacks might be, on average, intellectually inferior as well.
· Black Americans use racism as a convenient excuse for their own current failings, many of which are not the direct fault of the Klan. Moreover, while African-Americans are quick to notice any slight by the dominant culture, many seldom take any interest in or show much compassion for the suffering of any other group. For example, black students are often tone-deaf to the Holocaust. "That wasn't as bad as slavery," more than one has told me.
· Baby boomers, the most self-indulgent age cohort in the history of primate evolution, mostly make appallingly little effort to understand what's in the heads of today's younger generations, especially those born since 1980. Their (our) much-maligned parents actually made far more effort, back in the '60s, to understand us and even our music.
· Today's students are far less informed — especially about world affairs and history of any kind — than baby boomers were. Their ignorance, and especially, lack of curiosity, is so profound it is often frightening. Recently, I asked a university class to read the newspapers for a week and identify the prominent leader who might have thrown Washington into a tizzy by showing up at the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle. Fidel Castro was the easy answer. Most of my students not only missed that; mysteriously, two of them put Mao Tse-tung, though a)he died before they were born and b)the preferred spelling (transliteration) has been Zedong for many years.
· The mainstream media's belated saturation coverage of the hunt for the Detroit schoolgirl rapist was really, consciously or not, largely designed to allow news directors and newspaper editors, most of them white, to claim to civilians — and most importantly, perhaps, to themselves — that they care about the inner city.
· Political and racial correctness will probably doom the crucial effort to reform (reinvent) the horrendous Detroit Public Schools. What is needed, for now, is a dictator whose only focus is on making these schools places where kids can and will learn enough to give them a fighting chance in life, and incidentally, not get killed while at it.
Any honest citizen ought to know that if the best person to do that job is a tangerine lesbian from Morocco, that's who it ought to be. But the ho-hum group of semifinalists looks like a typical cattle call of candidates to head the schools in some normal large suburb. This isn't one. David Adamany is a prickly old guy who pisses people off, but doesn't give a damn as long as he gets the job done. We need to clone him.
Anyone who comes in looking like they want to be mayor or to get a spiffy big new Edison project job in a year will fail, spectacularly. If these schools don't become places parents of any color can comfortably put the kids in, Detroit will never make it as a real city.
Well, I haven't even gotten to the really hard issues, but, oops, I'm out of news print surface area. But like it or not, I'm apt to hold our noses up to it again. Incidentally, if anything above is so offensive that the fillings in your teeth tell you it is time to send me to Allah, a polite warning. The photo with this column is actually one of Nikolai Bukharin, taken in Tiflis in 1928. I am a dead ringer for Ricky Nelson. I mean Martin. Whatever.