Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cannonball Read #5: Parliament of Whores by PJ O'Rourke

This is another one of those books that's long overdue, though this is overdue in the Political Science department. Political science can get kind of depressing sometimes, what with the need to look at wars and fighting and dumb politicians and all that stuff, so sometimes it helps to have someone funny to lob some cherry bombs into the US political system's toilet bowl and then scamper off with to hang out under the bleachers in the gym and talk shit. This is that shit talking book.

Then you wind up talking about Nazis again. GO POLI SCI!!!

Parliament is a fairly brisk, informal read, but it's developed a certain cachet over the course of its publication. I generally get pissy when confronted with political comedic writing, because I frequently find it to be misinformed...I like my funny factual, thank you very much. (Yes, for those of you wondering, I DO gross myself out sometimes.) O'Rourke is a conservative, and enjoys swiping at the liberal side of the aisle, but he doesn't say much that any thinking liberal would admit. His most scathing jabs are directed at the Democrat party, which is appreciated and accurate...the sad part is that it's stuff I still bitch about now, and the book came out in 1991. The book is remarkably thorough despite its brevity, hitting all major branches and departments of government as well as a broad swath of Big Issues, gleefully pointing out the stupid running rampant throughout. The "hahaha...oh" moment comes in his reminders that it is the general public that tolerates and allows this kind of inspired lunacy from its political and governmental leadership (NANCY. HARRY. It's never a bad time for a swipe at Pelosi and Reid. HOWARD.), and that's kind of depressing, particularly under the light of this election.

I not only appreciate the reminder that the success or epic failure of the government depends on the citizenry's capacity for care, but I also like that he drops the point in at the very beginning and then not again until 223 pages later, when you've spent the past hours chuckling quietly to yourself about the dumbness of it all.

This may be somewhat dorky, but one of the more interesting aspects of the books was the little window into pre-hyper-political-correctness political discussion. Of course, O'Rourke is a comedian, and thus has no constituency to keep happy or client's reputation to keep unbesmirched, but some of his commentary would be somewhat startling even in casual conversation. The sad thing is that these surprising comments aren't untrue or even all that's just that we've neutered our political discourse to the point that even some aspects of reality have been placed off limits. Talking about the idiotic tendencies of either party and the vagaries of race's impact on our politics shouldn't be taboo, but it seems like all anyone wants to do today is pull punches and dance around these things like they don't matter. To my mind, that's the unhealthiest thing in politics.

233 pages

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