ON THE AVENUES: Confusion, exile, ignobility and resistance amid various other Chronicles of New Gahania.
A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
I’m feeling really upbeat about today’s encore presentation of a column originally published on November 5, 2015 – just two days after the municipal election, when the Resistance commenced in New Albany a whole year prior to the advent of Trump.
2016 was when the rest of America belatedly awakened to the necessity.
I’m happy because resorting to a column rerun means I’m up to my ears in work pertaining to the arrival of something far more important than either Deaf Gahan or The Donald, this being Pints&union. Gradually the necessary pieces have fallen into place, and we should be ready to debut next week.
Meanwhile, I’m reminded that resistance begins right here at home. What was the original Public House in 1992 if not the local opposition to the nationwide stranglehold of wretched mass-market swill?
Perhaps amazingly, that particular battle was won, and now the world of better beer is overdue for some sprucing up and remodeling, hence the notion of putting a stop to the revolving door of on-premise beer selection.
Quality, reliability and dependability as revolutionary doctrines? Life’s a pendulum, folks, and if you wait around long enough, when it finally swings back the effect is not unlike a fastball right down the middle of the plate.
Returning to the local political scene, it is forever instructive to read old commentaries and compare them to now. I was wrong about Trump’s accession and Gahan’s statewide political ambition (at least in the short term), but much of the remainder stands up nicely.
I’m not sure that anyone foresaw Gahan’s acquisition of David Barksdale, flipping a presumed Republican into a sycophantic mayoral piss boy.
Just remember that when it comes to manipulation and money, the mayor can be trusted to exploit the weak and vulnerable by finding and tapping their jugulars. Gahan simultaneously milked Barksdale for a crucial fifth Reisz Mahal vote and neutered a Republican. The historian blithely handed the charlatan power on a silver platter.
Barksdale’s abrupt collapse might be sad, except it’s all hamartia and hubris to to me: “Hamartia is the (fatal) flaw, hubris is the behavior that does not acknowledge it.”
Gotta go order beer now.
Confusion, exile, ignobility and resistance (2015).
Recently I overheard a conversation at the coffee shop about the point of no return, the last straw – the time when one decides to jump ship.
In this instance, the precise topic was the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. Would such a revolting development merit moving to another country?
Would it mean exile?
To be more precise, would it mean self-exile?
Self-exile is often depicted as a form of protest by the person that claims it, to avoid persecution or legal matters (such as tax or criminal allegations), an act of shame or repentance, or isolating oneself to be able to devote time to a particular thing.
Granted, Trump’s elevation is unlikely, and any conceivable notion of exile remains problematic in the absence of any substantive tradition of asylum for gravely disillusioned Americans seeking refuge in the civilized world – places like Bamberg, Poperinge or Copenhagen.
Even so, I still believe that a plea for asylum accompanied by a few photos of New Albany’s slumlord properties, one-way streets and economic dishevelment cadre just might do the trick. Any self-respecting resident of the Netherlands would be utterly appalled, and offer his spare room.
It so happens that I was reading The Economist on the very same day, specifically, an obituary for the Irish playwright Brian Friel.
Interviewers sometimes suggested he might have stayed in America longer. It was ever the land of liberation for him, the place his characters would leave for as soon as the potato crop was in. But he knew that, if he went, homesickness for green Ireland would gnaw away at him as surely as at them. Exile was not the answer. There was a strange dignity in staying but wavering, trying to balance emotions that would not be reconciled. Confusion, he insisted, “is not an ignoble condition”.
Emigration is a recurring motif in Ireland. During the Great Famine, Irish men and women left the island in droves, primarily to avoid starvation. In the decades that followed, and right up until the recent times, consistent patterns of self-exile continued owing to Ireland’s anemic economy and the absence of reasonable prospects for a life at home.
Over time, it’s the sort of reality calculated to produce torment and melancholy in a country’s cultural milieu, to be expressed in art, theater, music and writing. The playwright Friel decided escape was not the answer, and while he explored more universal themes in his work, we can guess that a certain intrinsic stubbornness played a role.
I can relate to that. Of course, there are other reasons for choosing exile, including war, pestilence and political vicissitude. It is the latter that concerns us today.
To be blunt: Does our recently concluded municipal election constitute one of these “jump ship” moments?
Or, is this a pertinent juncture for progressives to face the cruel facts about New Albany’s perennial hopelessness, and choose exile in a locale where the “A” students rule?
I don’t think it is, but these are bleak times, indeed. Book readers have almost as much reason to be scared as sheep during a second Jeff Gahan term in office. However, there are a few reasons for optimism amid the gloom, and his looting goons.
First, although you wouldn’t know it in the absence of detailed analysis by any traditional local media source, Gahan’s victory was not a landslide. It’s undeniable that a win is a win, but the incumbent lost 11% of his decisive 2011 mandate. 53% of the voters opted for Gahan, and 47% expressed a preference for his two challengers. It’s bad, but closer than before. Another $50 million in TIF bonds and he’s toast.
And we’ll be broke.
The Republicans made incremental gains, picking up two seats on the council. Along with independents Scott Blair and Dan Coffey, three Republicans occasionally might be able to throw a spanner into Gahan’s luxury palace construction plans.
Unfortunately, the winner as usual was apathy, with more than 70% of the city’s voters refraining from participating in the election. They’re about to get what they deserve, good and hard. So are the rest of us, especially the dissidents who challenged the re-coronation.
Still, I’m not giving up, primarily because giving up is something I resent having to do. For one thing, “love it or leave it” is a false dichotomy in my contrarian’s cosmos.
There’s a third way, by staying and continue trying to change this bastion of underachievement for the better, in whatever way can be mustered, great or small, if for no other reason than to prove that old white males need not be angry quasi-fascist reactionaries.
They can be angry muckraking leftist malcontents.
It isn’t as though I lack for experience in such endeavors, because however one might describe my clan, it was outnumbered long before the 2015 election took place. I’ve been a dissenting thorn in the side of presumed propriety since the 5th grade, and I’m not finished yet.
(See what I did there?)
Underdog defines my life. Among other things, I’m a humanist, an atheist and a heretic. Hereabouts, roughly nine bad beers are sold for every good one, and so that’s the one I drink. My diet includes more pickled herring than hamburgers. I took the Bernie Sanders test, and got 95%. Pro sports mean more to me than college, and education always trumps athletics. A car is an onerous appendage to be regrettably accepted, not exalted as an extension of one’s tumescent genitalia.
I support local independent business, level playing fields, the rank and file, walking and biking, human rights, diversity and fundamental decency. I oppose cliques, boorishness, time servers, cowards and willful stupidity.
At least simple ignorance is correctable.
Make no mistake, taxpayers: Gahan’s going to come out spending, and as before, it’ll be for those otherwise senseless capital project “wants” best calculated to preserve the Democratic Party’s stranglehold on power, and never as intended to alter any fundamental problems in the city. Too many people profit from decay management and pretend-decay-rectification, and Gahan needs his share of their money.
If nothing else, he’s really good at that.
Once the customary flagellations and reprisals take place. Gahan’s insipid cult of personality will be propagated even more heavily in preparation for the next step in his ambition, perhaps a State Senate run in 2018. Gahan’s team of acolytes is in place, its arrogance undoubtedly stoked by victory.
But it’s a machine with numerous holes, more illusion than substance. That’s because Gahan’s only palpable objective is political self-aggrandizement. Like most cults of personality, the aura doesn’t extend past the shadow of the chieftain, and his narcissistic need to be viewed as the fount of all wisdom is so ludicrous that it cannot survive dismemberment.
I shall continue writing the dismantlement manual, and soon enough, the curtain will be parted to reveal the great and mighty Oz, pulling at his levers. Meanwhile, let’s remember that Gahanism itself is no political doctrine.
It is a giant sucking sound of a well-tuned fundraising mechanism that never met a book.
Gahanism is neither defined by concrete ideology, nor illuminated by transparency. Rather, it is measured by crass transactions made in back corridors, rubber-stamped by co-opted functionaries, and executed to produce maximum monetization for candidate and political organization alike. It’s a pyramid scheme, and it might well crash and burn even before Gahan declares for higher office.
His political prospects will return to room temperature soon enough. Meanwhile, I’m not going anywhere, because Gahanism doesn’t frighten me. It is soulless, anti-intellectual, and so much the personification of unalloyed mediocrity that if the mayor did not exist, a reanimated Ayn Rand would have to invent him, so as to be denounced by John Galt over social media.
I can hear the bleating of the dullards now, just as I’ve heard it before: “BLAH BLAH BLAH if you don’t like it here, why don’t you move somewhere else BLAH BLAH BLAH.”
Ah, but you see, jumping ship is the one thing I cannot do, because I’ve got to be myself … and self-exile isn’t me.
Like Friel, I’m staying put. If you agree, start stockpiling paint, sit tight and wait for instructions.