Thursday, August 27, 2020

What Puts the Evil in Evil Geniuses?

      Evil Geniuses is Kurt Andersen's work of (recent) historical and analytical journalism.  It seeks to recount and explain how a group of very wealthy conservatives used their money to alter the public consciousness and influence politics to bolster their own profits, and in so doing set the country on a path of social, economic and climatic ruin.

     In his review of the book for the New York Times Book Review, Anand Giridharadas discusses how Andersen closes the book on a note of hope (I suppose you'd technically call this a spoiler, but I doubt anyone's reading this book for a shock ending).  Just as the conservatives stole the world out from under the liberals back in the 1970s, when liberal power appeared to be at its height, so too can the liberals now take back that power and steer the country away from destruction.  They must, Andersen suggests by way of Giridharadas, simply use the same cunning, the same manipulation, the same power-grasping practices that were once -- and continue to be -- used against them and the rest of us.

     But here's what worries me.  What if it's the abandonment of self-limitation, the willingness to steamroll over everything else in order to get what you want that is the actual problem?  Granted, we are not in a good place right now and granted the liberal route is far preferable in terms of both humane existence and just plain old survival.  And granted, the methods they are currently using have not seemed sufficient to the enormity of the task.  But what if, in doing ANYTHING you need to in order to win, you become something different than you were, and the extreme level of power you wield simply sends us toward ruin, just a different kind at the other end of the spectrum?  What if how you do something is just as loaded with consequences as what you do?