Gerard Vanderleun provides the cultural geographical backdrop to CNN Anchor Richard Quest's arrest in Central Park. He provides, among other things, an explanation into the various recreational uses of rope in secluded streets after dark. Noting the tendency of self-destructive bad habits to eventually take over their hosts, Gerard notes that "once the needle goes in it never comes out."
Which is almost to say that if you give some things a foothold they just won't stay where you locked them. They rail against the bars even your sleep. They howl incessantly in weird voices only you can hear and one day, when you're tired, down, or just plain careless, the Thing breaks its bonds and drags you into the dark.
For different people the key to the door which holds the thing back lies in different objects. A bottle stashed behind the sofa. A needle in a drawer. For those poor souls addicted to various disgusting varieties of visual stimulation, there is the cool, blinking, almost inviting Internet modem connection. People know where the key to the secret door is, but won't get rid of it. Because they want the monster around; thrill to the idea it's there. They know the dangers but have convinced themselves they can live with this beast and keep it in its bounds.
And so It stays out of sight. But there is always the howling.
That it tore up an anchor in CNN, "The Most Trusted Name in News" is really an argument for the necessity of individual judgment. Part of the lure of hero worship, part of the attraction of the cult of celebrity is that it allows us to delegate the formation of our opinions to others. And there is no shortage of organizations offering to relieve us of the burden of choice. Are we looking for a book? Well there's the New York Times list of bestsellers. Or Oprah. And if we're looking for a window on the world, why there's Richard Quest from CNN, with his manic, toothsome smile. But the truth is that while NYT lists, talk show hosts and networks can do some things, they are in the end compiled by people who -- not to put too fine a point on it -- are very much like us. The opinions of the experts and famous are often worthwhile, but often they are no more meritorious than Joe down at the barbershop.
For this reason most conversations in life are between equals. It's a fundamental mistake to think there's some stratum of wise men upon whom the masses can rely. The real problem with the conviction that there is an enlightened class who can help people who are "bitter ... cling to guns or religion" to "rise on the steps of their dead selves to higher things" is that the enlightened class has never existed.
With any luck, Mr. Quest is going to pick himself up, as we all do from time to time. You can do worse than 'cling' to guns and religion.
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