Thursday, December 26, 2013

Opting Out: Gonzo Euvoluntarity

Hunter S. Thompson was the last of the Great American Outlaws. His multi-decade, drug-and-alcohol-soaked assault on the pretense of dignity borne like a ponderous, festering tumor adorning the throat of the disgraceful profession of career politician (his sentiments, not necessarily shared by any writers here at EE) earned him the ire of his targets, and like all rich folks, he got to live a few years in the future. In his case, he earned the honor of rather extensive surveillance by agents of the state.

He also called his Colorado home Owl Farm, presumably to keep The Angus away.

His eccentricities and his magnificent death kept in the highest tradition of the American Outlaw, a puckish, madcap opting out of the highest allowable caliber still safe to fire without wrist protection. He went in one side of weird and came out four parts legend, three parts cipher, two parts Ovid, one part mescaline, and a dash of public menace.

He opted out in a big way. He opted out of sane journalism, opted out of moderation, opted out of yielding to artificial men the honor they seek. He opted out of honeying his words, filling articles instead with frothy bile, moist treacle, and a crystalline, distorted interpretation of the never-illusionment once toted around by a cigar-chomping H.L. Mencken half an America earlier.

As performance art, Thompson's exit from the puff-bubble of an unfaithful America scraped the dental enamel off a billion fluoridated teeth here in the Land of the Weird. But was it euvoluntary? His art, reaching with a nicotine-stained claw at what Herzog calls the ecstatic truth, surely influenced folks, helping peel back the gaudy wallpaper of the Disco Era, so there were external effects, though it's not clear that there was a net cost of relentlessly mocking the stuffed shirts this side of the Rio Grande.

But suppose for a moment if you will if he had actually sparked some sort of anti-authoritarian cascade effect, flaying the false hope and betrayed faith from the carcass of the median voter. What then?

Easy answer for all my cherished anarchist friends: the best of all possible worlds, of course. But it's unlikely you, gentle reader, are one of my cherished anarchist friends. An America without political pageantry is a profoundly different place. Not necessarily better or worse, but different. Imagine an election cycle without confetti, where newspapers and cable networks reported on actual news, where gossip was about real people, where the District of Columbia hadn't metastasized like a small cell lung tumor o'er the land. Imagine for a moment an America where politics were boring, where only a few stuffed-shirt academics knew the name of the Chair of the Federal Reserve. Suppress your shivers.

Opting out grandly may be euvoluntary enough for those with the cojones (and the BATNA) to pull it off. But spread far and wide enough, it may well pose a risk to the vital nectar that sustains the precious lifeforce of the politician: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, for the office if not the person holding it.

And we mustn't have that, mustn't we?

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?