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Monday, December 05, 2011

Something Else Happens


This is Saigon.

I'm sorta old. When I was young, I'd sit in the living room in my footie pajamas while Huntley and Brinkley counted the day's dead for us on the evening's news. It was like some insane football score from a game that never ended.

There are a lot of pundits who like to invoke the law of unintended consequences to explain everything everywhere. They are mostly mistaken about everything, because they don't understand what's going on, and they misapprehend very intended outcomes as unintended collateral damage. The flip side of this sort of thinking is just as confused -- always spotting a plan cooked up somewhere, designed by cabals if you don't like it or heroes if you do, in random, or at least widely dispersed, individual activity. It's tiresome sorting through this sort of thinking. It's an opinion onion with no center. I'm especially weary of a commentariat that tells me they are experts at everything because they can half-remember more of the misapprehensions they just read in newspapers, all written by partisan dullards, than the next guy.


I wonder (no I don't, I'm lying my ass off, I don't wonder at all) how so many people can be so very wrong about so many things, and have that wrongness demonstrated to them over and over, and in such a lapidary manner --incontrovertible-- and they still never draw any sort of sensible conclusion about their worldview and the faulty approach to analyzing things that gave it birth. The average, educated person has an internal ruler that's missing two or three numbers and they keep using it to measure time, stir their porridge, beat their dog, and set their oven temperature anyway.


I don't subscribe to the law of unintended consequences because it's like saying you obey gravity or think capitalism works. Like there's any choice in the matter. As if you're choosing not to fly off into space. Like the natural behavior of humans to barter and accumulate is something you're ambivalent about, and have a manifesto you're working on to replace it.


I subscribe to Something Else Happens. That's generally what happens. That video is a long way from black and white footage of napalm and helo extractions and Dean Rusk and Ho Chi Minh and Abbie Hoffman. There have been legions of men and women lecturing --hectoring-- me for a generation about what it was and why it was and what it meant and who was to blame and they're still rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic of their opinions and hoping no one looks at what they said last week about it. But there it is. Something Else.

14 comments:

Tom Hyland said...

I am happy to see this vibrant and thriving Saigon. Just goes to show what can happen when Uncle Sam backs off from his global jihad to deliver "peace and freedom" and allows the people to simply BE.

Anonymous said...

Except Uncle Sam was pursuing the strategy of containment set down in the Long Telegram of 1946, not a "global jihad to deliver peace and freedom." Had something to do with the Soviets not demobilizing, and keeping huge armies in the European nations they supposedly "liberated" after the War.
Had something to do with aggressive support of Communist movements around the world, including the United States.

Mike James

Tom Hyland said...

Yeah... right, Mike. Quack, quack, quack...
The Gulf of Tonkin incident was a fabricated hoax and McNamara himself admitted the entire VietNam adventure was a huge mistake. When it's all said and done, the story is China, Russia and the US experimenting with their newest toys and their financial shenanigans. I like this little film, Sipp. Looks what happens when you leave people alone.

Lande de Boyle said...

I thought the point was that no one could have predicted a "vibrant and thriving Saigon." It could just as easily have become North Korea, could it not?

Anonymous said...

It wasn't Uncle Sam backing off that saved Vietnam. It was the implosion of Communism and the spread of Capitalism...

Or maybe it was just something else
:)

Tom McHugh said...

TH,
There are many other outcomes available when you leave people alone. Cambodia springs to mind. I would caution you on reading more into the film than the fact that things change; often because they cannot stay as they are. "Peace and Freedom" is a noble slogan, but a dangerously naive one.

Tom Hyland said...

I'm aware of that, Mr. McHugh. I used the phrase "peace and freedom" with generous sarcasm because that is the usual alibi the US offers to explain its policies of aggression and domination throughout the world. What happened in Cambodia was a tragedy beyond belief, but US military presence has never been a deterrent to violence... in fact, if we've got boots and bombs on the ground, we contribute greatly to the mayhem. I think George Carlin explains it perfectly in this video...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr7ePrCAqzo

Les Cargill said...

Congratulations! By doubting the Law of Unintended Consequences, you have reinvented the Law of Unintended Consequences. If Joseph Heller were still alive, why he'd....

Anonymous said...

Preview of Baghdad in 30 years.

Sam L. said...

We do know that wasn't the intention of the North Vietnamese when they overran South Viet Nam. So did those thousands of South Vietnamese who became "the boat people". I am acquainted with two of them; my father-in-law hired the husband 35 or so years ago. They have 4 daughters with post-graduate degrees.

Daphne said...

I love your interesting mind, Sipp.

I had nearly the same thoughts when I saw that video earlier today, although I'm not nearly as coherent or capable as you in bringing those words to writerly light.

As I watched the credits roll, I wondered if Baghdad would be as vibrant some forty years down the road.

I could almost see it, except the theocratic cloak of Islam keeps getting in my eye.

Maybe the same way communism did for our parent's generation?

Beautifully written, my friend.

Sorry I haven't been around for a good visit in long awhile. My house is in tatters at the moment and taking up a good deal of my time trying to put it all right.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Daphne- If I work really hard on my house, eventually, after a ton of effort and money, it'll be in tatters. I aspire to tatters. Dream of tatters.

Squalor would be unattainable, of course.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Mmmm. . . like a fine bit of gesture drawing you have captured the human nature of The Problem with minimal and skillful strokes. Masterful.

Daphne said...

Tatters and boys seem to go hand in hand...

I'm working at a more basic level; functioning bathrooms and not-plywood floors.

I may (do) need some more furniture soon, after the first of the year if all goes well.

Your long bench has been one of the most satisfying purchases of my life. Form, function and beauty all combined with fine craftsmanship. (Yes, the end tables are gorgeous and the owl house is still sitting in a place of pride in the heart of my house - I couldn't bear to part with it.)

We'll talk soon. If I miss you before Christmas, may you have a joyous day.