Very well, I didn't pluck this one entirely at random. I wanted to start some research on olive oil. Nevertheless, what are the odds? First we found the novel with the two adolescent boys kissing on page 64 of 800. Then, the novel whose Russian monarchist emigre in London in 1979 bothered to slam "that awful Thatcher woman," page 16 out of 470, something one doubts a real Russian monarchist emigre would do. Now, in a book on olive oil, we have an author who finds it necessary to invoke "Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him," on page 9 of 238 (Extra Virginity, by Tom Mueller, Norton 2012). Mind you, this is only the Introduction. Why on earth? Is it that Mr. Mueller, like the others, knows what he must say to get past twenty-five-year-old copywriting interns wearing rainbow pride/Che Guevara t shirts? Or is he sincere?
Admiring his picture, one regretfully guesses he is sincere. He looks "sweet and slender," as a no doubt hairy-chested eastern European editorialist couldn't help but comment on the young German men who did not know which way to look or what to do when Muslim gangs in Cologne abused German women on New Year's Eve. (I tried to google the exact quote but I can't find it. When you search the keywords "very sweet and very slender" you get porn.) He looks, our olive oil author, like he would think throwing a sop to the gangs will spare him the fate of the infidel. While we're at it, sorry but I also don't believe some of the scene-painting he indulges in. "Francesco and Marina were waiting for us beside a large olive-wood fire, Francesco resting his head in his sister's lap as they ate pickled cima di Mola olives from a small porcelain bowl and tossed the pits onto the coals." Bull. Too perfect. The first page's chronicle of his witnessing the tasting panel in action in their clean scientific cubicles at the Corporazione Mastri oleari in Milan, rings much more true.
And while we're on the topic of young people, what is it with them? Yesterday was primary day here in Illinois. I had to wait in line -- for primary voting! -- which is encouraging. Civic participation and all. The man in line behind me was actually on the phone to his congressman, asking what to do because the election judges had no record of him as a registered voter, even though he had done what he was supposed to do to register months ago. Before I went to vote at all, a young person at work, who had cast his ballot before his shift, remarked with a similar wonderment that he had seen two teenagers at his polling place. Teens voting is unheard of, never mind in a primary. "I think these young people can tell," my coworker said. (He is thirty.) "The revolution is coming." He was very serious. He means they are voting for Bernie Sanders, septuagenarian socialist. They want change.
Really? The revolution awaits its time? In what sense is the lord of the revolution, Barack Obama, not President? By what measure has he not achieved everything he wanted in two terms in office, with the pending exception of his first announced Change in January 2009, which was to make wounded combat veterans pay for their own hospital treatments? He can always rectify that, with an executive order in the next nine months, and no one any the worse or wiser. Otherwise I should say gay marriage, nationalized health care, bow-from-the-waist abasement abroad, and no southern border constitute a revolution humming along nicely. Granted, if you the voter are eighteen now, you would have been ten when it all began, so to you it may look as though "nothing's changed."
But I decided something else too, as I stocked shelves and ruminated. Two things: one, "the Revolution" is aesthetics-driven. It's just cool to be opposed to stuff. It shows you have a beautiful soul. And as long as there's still stuff to oppose, you'll have a chance to be cool. Cultural historians may trace this back to Rousseau and Voltaire, who discovered sometime around 1760 that the status quo isn't necessarily very good -- what a shock! -- also that aristocrats aren't necessarily very kind -- I know! -- but at this late date, it hardly matters who first got the idea that cool people hate whatever is usual or non-shocking. It doesn't matter about what. Avant garde artists in the 1920s were cool because they were opposed to stuff (representative art). Rock music is cool and it's mostly about being opposed to stuff. (I await the sighs and head-shakings we'll have to hear from our local classic rock station's deejays -- who still smack their lips over "the dark days of 1968" -- should the peasants vote badly this November.) Planned Parenthood is cool because it's opposed to stuff (birth). It's also opposed to people who oppose it, mostly, but still. So definitely you can be cool outside aesthetics, outside the arts. The point is you want to be cool-souled everywhere. Movies are cool. The best of them are about being opposed to stuff, and they get awards. The internet is totally cool and the main guy who is the billionaire from it, Mark Zuckerberg, is opposed to stuff -- he's progressive, open borders, everything. It's those with nothing to say, when surrounded by the righteous beautifully opposing stuff, who seem aesthetically soulless. The old word square still applies to them. Notice that's an aesthetic word, a shape you can see. They just don't seem to care.
So I decided also: item two: no political or economic policy or action even matters much. Deep down, as long as one shred of Western civilization remains, it will be cool to oppose that shred. This is what Limbaugh means when he says "the left never gives up." It's personal aesthetics, the art of the beautiful soul. The revolution will be always bearing real fruit very soon.
I haven't decided if I'll finish reading the olive oil book. It seems to contain some good information, especially about what fraud the phrase "extra virgin cold-pressed" masks, but do you agree there comes a time when you don't want your intelligence insulted on page 9 of 238, no matter what follows, just because the author needed to prove his cred to his masters? I'll bet I can find some equally good book on olive oil, maybe out of copyright and available at Project Gutenberg. Maybe written by some shrewd scholarly lady in 1910 or so, who had three names and wore pearls even at her writing desk. And who bothered to, oh I don't know, spell out "he would" for he'd and "she would" for she'd. Every time. This disciplined modern sloppiness is annoying on top of everything else.