Magical Thinking, Cake, Tea Parties

Magical Cake

I’m all for certain types of magical thinking.

I’m completely sold, for instance, on the idea that food eaten standing in front of an open refrigerator has no calories.   Just like the slivers of cake that are eaten as part of straightening the cuts made by other people’s pieces;  these are purely aesthetic slivers, consumed in the name of maintaining order;  they cannot possibly go to your waistline.

But some kinds of magical thinking are too much even for me to swallow, such as the ideas that (i) the United States would thrive with a government that had no taxing authority or system for monetary regulation (sorry to change gears so abruptly);  (ii) the United States could support its army without a taxing authority;  (iii) a government with no central taxing authority could provide services to, among others, senior citizens and the disabled;, (iv) that, if government stopped providing such services, private charities would fill the gap;  (v) that, in the absence of governmental regulatory agencies, business would protect the environment,  the consumer, and ensure food and product safety.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice? (This notion doesn’t even work out in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, a magically-thought-up world that exists on the back of a turtle supported by four elephants.)

Government is very far from perfect; it can be arbitrary, unreasonable, officious, corrupt.  (Just like a lot of big companies.)  But, as poorly as some rules and agencies function, it’s important to keep in mind that they came into being to fill specific needs;  virtually all of these needs were historical, many ongoing.

However, some of the Tea Party persuasion seem believe in a kind of creationism.   (I’m not talking Genesis here.)  They see rules and agencies as products of spontaneous generation, like Athena sprouting from Zeus’s head ( in this case it’s the governmental many-headed hydra.)    In this world view (which fails to take either history or reality into account),  the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency were formed not because of unclean food, water, air, but because some bureaucrat woke up one morning determined to ruin some decent person’s day.  (Does anyone remember The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair?)

(It’s interesting to note that both the EPA and the Pure Food and Drug Act, were established under Republican administrations, Richard Nixon, in 1970, and Teddy Roosevelt , in 1906.)

The Tea Party belief system is further skewed by conspiracy theories (weird magical thing);  the claim, for example, that global warming is a hoax, the product of a worldwide cabal of scientists desperate to take away Americans’  SUVs, air conditioning,  automatic lawn watering systems.  What is never explained however is (i) how disputatious scientistscould form such a secret cabal, and (ii) why they would want to.  Are they all just sourpusses?  Have they invested heavily in wind?  Is it a push for more government grants?

I, for one, can’t understand all these connections.

All I know is that there’s a cake in my kitchen which was cut in a way that could really use some calorie-free straightening.

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2 Comments on “Magical Thinking, Cake, Tea Parties”

  1. Sian Says:

    Karin,
    I can’t make statements about governments or health care or tax systems. I can’t even say anything useful about people being nice as it never seems to be a permanent state. But I can contribute that Terry Pratchett didn’t make up Discworld – he’s taken his image directly from Hinduism.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_depictions_of_turtles_and_tortoises
    “In Hindu mythology the world is thought to rest on the backs of four elephants, who stand on the shell of a turtle.[9] In Hinduism, Akupara is a tortoise who carries the world on his back. It upholds the Earth and the sea.[2] One avatar of Vishnu is said to be the giant turtle Kurma.”
    A variant of this image appears in the central bas relief on the walls of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, “The Churning of the Sea of Milk.”
    To inject myself into the story, I came across this image five years ago when I went to pick up my son Madryn – otherwise I’d have had no idea what you/Pratchett were talking about.


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