Diary

A diarist keeps a daily record of everyday experience, regardless of relevance or importance to the outside world. The prototype might be Pepys. One of the characteristics of a diary is that it is usually meant to be private, and it might become more interesting the farther it gets from its time of origin. In that sense, a diary might be that letter to the world that never wrote to you, because it was unable, that world being a future after your time. A diary is not a blog.

“Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)” was a John Cage project that went on for 16 years. And Cage made it a public project. A diary need not have rules. It doesn’t even need to be written. It might make use of photographs, or drawings, or quilting or needlepoint. A diary might be impressionistic, or some other artistic or technical expression. Or it might be cut and dry and matter of fact and as unambiguous as possible. But of course what readers can’t know is what the diary has left out.

Out, for a morning walk up to the park, my thoughts distracted by a sign at the outset: “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here.” I thought of the days I was busy with rhetoric, argument. That sign was an argument of proposal. The appeal is logical but also of pathos, for it causes us to think of our own kids. But what if we have no kids? Or, we do, but we are not particularly safe with them, either? Another assumption the sign makes is that children are in harm’s way. No doubt. But if you care about your children, shouldn’t you keep them out of harm’s way? And what of old people? Should we not also drive as if our grandparents live here? Maybe a more effective sign would read: Drive as if you love your neighbor like yourself. But note that assumes one love’s oneself. I’ve never quite understood that biblical proposal, having known so many people whose behavior, full of bad habits, suggested they did not love themselves. Maybe an even more effective sign might read: Drive Like You Are The Child.

By the time I got up to the park, my thoughts had cleared of argument, and I was in among the trees, and I continued as if they were my trees.

Becker-Posner: fodder for rhetoric foragers

The shallow depth of the unstated warrants at the Becker-Posner blog makes for good fodder for rhetoric foragers. Consider this, from Posner’s half of their 15 Nov 09 post: “Should the U.S. economy grow more rapidly than the public debt, we’ll be okay. But the government’s focus appears to be not on economic growth, but on redistribution (the major goal of health reform) and on creating at least an aura of prosperity, at whatever cost in deficit spending and future inflation, in time for the November 2010 congressional elections.”

Redistribution may be an effect of health care reform, but there’s no evidence that it’s a goal; at the same time, distribution, and redistribution, is always a goal or effect or both of most legislative programs, so why mention it? Because redistribution is always viewed as a negative value (something one doesn’t want), particularly for those who do value the current distribution.

Posner’s claim is that the “major goal of health [care] reform” is “redistribution.” In Posner’s view, wealth should not be redistributed to achieve health care reform (redistribution by definition is a wrong).

Yet it’s impossible to have meaningful health care reform without some form of redistribution, so Posner’s unstated warrants here include that we should not have health care reform, that redistribution is a wrong, an economic wrong, and that he values this wrong over the health care uninsured – and over the inflated costs being paid by those who do have health insurance. Posner values the wealth of a minority over the physical and economic health of the majority, and the support for this is found in his cynical reference to yet another assumption – that any legislation that involves redistribution has as its root cause an upcoming election. It’s no wonder we never get anything accomplished.

Posner’s claim is that the government should not take something from someone who has and give it to someone who has not. Redistribution is a trigger word intended to attract those that have with its click. It’s quick draw rhetoric. Posner’s use of “government’s focus” also serves as a trigger, for the word government in this context is meaningless, or can only mean one thing – that entity constantly at work to take something from one and give it to someone else – it’s the government of Huck Finn’s father.

There are many entities at work on health care reform, including doctors and hospitals. For a thorough discussion of health care costs and what’s at stake in trying to lower those costs while insuring everyone, see Atul Gawande’s article “The Cost Conundrum,” in the June 1, 2009 issue of the New Yorker.