I’m loathe to announce which books I’m currently reading, as some bloggers do, but last night, Peter got a laugh out of the reading material I had at hand. I just finished reading Peter Hitchens’ “The Abolition of Britain,” and I’m cherrypicking articles to read from the May/June 2007 issue of Mother Jones, and the May 2007 issue of Reason.
Jonah Goldberg, a pundit I regularly read, recommended “The Abolition of Britain” to understand why British sailors had no problem brown-nosing their Iranian captors. I can’t say the book convinced me that Britain’s cultural changes were to blame. The author, Peter Hitchens, is such a reactionary he makes Pat Buchanan look hip. The “laboratories of sexual equality” he thinks the British armed forces have become is only one of many things Peter Hitchens dislikes about modern Britain. He also hates central heating, the decimalization of British currency, television, the Anglican Church’s alternative to the Common Book of Prayer, “Beyond the Fringe,” and The Sun’s half-naked Page 3 girls, and much, much more.
Nonetheless, I read the book through, and he did make some compelling points, in particular about the corroding consequences of having illegitimate children and relying on the State and/or boyfriend du jour to replace a responsible, committed father; and the groupthink that attaches a social stigma to anyone who dares veer from politically correct standards. I especially enjoyed the notes at the end of the American edition which defined some British cultural touchstones I never would have understood otherwise, such as “Belisha beacons,” “Last Night of the Proms,” and “New Lad’s Monthly.”
I picked up Mother Jones because it has a reputation for great journalism. I’d avoided it because it is a progressive magazine, progressive meaning everyone from left-leaning Democrat to anarcho-syndicalists. I’ve been turned off to progressive thought because in the Bay Area it often involves more posing than thought, and is characterized by people who believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories, the environmental imperative to ban plastic grocery bags, and other ways they can politicize their individual neuroses.
Blessedly, the B.S. and snarking in Mother Jones was minimal, and as a result, the magazine ended up being pleasantly informative and thought-provoking. I even laughed aloud at novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s article about the economics and politics of buying locally-grown, organic produce. At one point, she refers to a backlash towards organic labels because of the fear of a lecture from “Mr. Natural.” She goes on to explain: “I know the [type] too: standing at the checkout with his bottle of Intestinal-Joy brand wheatgrass juice, edging closer as if to peer into my cart to save me from some food-karma horror.” Hey, is she talking about me? Are people who make a point of buying locally-grown produce not wanting to bond in agreement on the anti-allergenic properties of locally farmed honey? Only in Mother Jones could someone writing about the topic be open enough to admit it.
Reason is a Libertarian magazine. Libertarians strike me as somewhere between laissez-faire economists and anarchists. Primarily, they hate taxes and goverment spending, and my perverse sense of humor causes me to vote for the Libertarian candidate for California State Treasurer everytime the office comes up. However, since Libertarians rarely, if ever, win an office, they’re particularly good at criticizing government excess. Reason had a Fortean Times like column, called Brickbats, which compiled reports of government agencies being stupid, in various ways, all over the world. The rest of the magazine was a bit less compelling: it included an article on prison rape, which I’m sure people of all political persuations can agree shouldn’t be happening, and a soft interview with Los Lobos’ (not Libertarian) Louie Perez on Mexico-to-US immigration. But, then, there really aren’t that many great Libertarian issues for Libertarians to obsess and agree on, so they just kind of end up as a clearinghouse for free thought.
So there you have it: my current reading list. By many accounts, I should be shredding at least one of them with impassioned rage, but the fact is, I found all of them worth reading, and I can recommend them to anyone who agrees with their opinions, and maybe in particular to those who don’t.