Jonah Goldberg, the brilliant and hilarious editor of “National Review Online,” once wrote a spirited defense of “enlightened inactivism.” This is a policy best embodied by Calvin Coolidge’s remark about 10 problems rolling down the road — if you simply do nothing, nine of them will roll into the ditch long before they get to you. I’m not as sanguine as that — in these troubling times, when disaster is always just one fanatic away, I don’t think we can afford to be — but I do think that people these days are way more uptight than they should be. Spring is finally here, and we should take a break and enjoy it. We need to Mellow Out.
I’m taking my own advice here. This column started life as a much scrappier — and therefore undoubtedly much funnier — bit about Liberal orthodoxies and why they’re Satan’s Handi-Wipes. But then I took a walk outside, listened to the birdies chirping, felt the cool breeze on my cheeks (and on my scalp — curse you, male pattern baldness!) and decided, what the hey. Henceforth some mellow reflections on mellowness itself. I’ve always respected Liberals for their idealism and dedication. No, seriously — even as wrongheaded as the folks at ANSWER and so forth are, they at least believe they’re “doing the right thing.” But have you ever noticed the peculiar effect such idealism has on the physiognomy? Take Tim Robbins, for example — these days he always looks like he’s desperately hoping the Ex-Lax kicks in before things reach critical mass. John Kerry manages to avoid this some of the time via pharmacology (does Botox give frequent-shopper discounts?), but more often than not he too looks like someone’s got a firm grip on his, err, voting record. And then there’s Hillary Clinton, who more and more looks like the Yoda of the Far Left (“when investigated several times you be, look this good you will not, mmmmm?”). Being part of the vanguard of Correct Thought does this to you. Mellow out a bit, ya’ll. It’ll do your body good. (Ironically, the same folks who will e-mail me about taking gratuitous cheap shots are the same people who clap when George W. Bush is called a “moron” or worse in newspapers across the land. To them, too, I say: Mellow Out).
Mellowness is also useful when contemplating economic issues. Lots of things seem like great ideas in that first blush of enthusiasm — “free” (i.e. government-subsidized) college, for example. I saw some folks at “The Nation” advocating this the other day. (Yes, I read “The Nation.” I’m a masochist, I guess.) Anyway, these geniuses think it would be a good thing. But apply a little mellowness and a very different picture emerges. When you mellow out a bit, you realize that nothing on this earth is free, least of all college. While you spend five years majoring in Nintendo Studies at Bong State, someone’s picking up the tab. Usually it’s your folks. Sometimes it’s you, in the form of student loans which — guess what? — need to be repaid, with interest. If college is “free” in the “Nation” sense, it’s the government, which — guess what again?–gets its dough by taxing you (when you finally graduate and get a job as a Fritos taste-tester), your folks (who are thereby paying twice, since they kept you in Twinkies and Pink Floyd albums those five years if they did nothing else) and, most importantly, me. I want a return on my investment. Since I’m being mellow, though, I’ll settle for a back-rub from a cute coed rather than put you all to hard labor.
And then there’s social policy, an area desperately in need of an X-tra Strength Chill Pill. Just the other day I got a flyer in my in-box from GESO, for example. They’re furious at Yale for not having enough “diversity.” It’s a weird feeling, but I actually agree with them on this one. Yale needs a lot more open Conservatives on campus, posthaste. We’re as rare as spotted owls around here, and we don’t even have an Endangered Species Act to help us (now there’s an idea! Cigar stores, golf courses, and Brooks Brothers would become Federally Protected Habitats. This has potential). Oh, wait — that’s not the kind of “diversity” they had in mind. Oh well. Mellowness keeps me from getting too angry about it.
Why the blistering rage, the howling intensity, the fiery-eyed determination to fix the world right freakin’ now, gosh-darnit?! (Howard Dean, call your office.) Why be in such an all-consuming hurry all the time? Just chill. People being people, Racism, Homophobia, the Designated Hitter, and all the rest of the world’s evils will still be there tomorrow. The world’s a sewer, and God’s a lousy guy for making it that way — we all know this. Throwing a hissy fit won’t fix it, though. All you get from doing that is ulcers and high blood pressure. Take a walk. Smell the flowers. And … mellow out.
Thanks for reading.
Brian Donovan is a graduate student in the History Department.