Monday, October 09, 2006

How Conservative Is It

I'd like to go back to the dinner party to start a discussion about how conservative Cryptonomicon is. The dinner party is obvious; we are not using our secret conservative code breaking abilities to figure out that Stephenson is making fun of lefty academia. The part about nature being a social construct is particularly funny, and yet not at all subtle. So there is a subtext of social conservatism and, through the use of a Lord of the Rings metaphor, a recognition of a real world where people do things that matter. What is it that's missing from the world that reason has created.

Two strong hints will come in the next installment: through page 524.)


Blogger Hey Skipper said...


My reading was completely undisciplined -- I raced through the book without really stopping to think about much.

Would you please tell me which page the dinner part is on, so I can get back in synch?

10:04 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Making fun of lefty academia, while both entertaining and gratifying, is no more challenging than dynamiting fish in a bucket.

There are other ways in which the book is conservative -- there are many passages evoking the immutability of human nature, in all its conflicted splendor.

I can't remember the page, but Randy uses a computer geek metaphor to explain the left: they are like administrators who have this wonderfully complex operating system -- Unix -- but then throw away the manual. The operating system then starts to break down, but without the manual, these administrators have no hope of fixing it.

On the surface, that is fine. However, like many metaphors, it breaks down, at least a little, upon closer inspection. First, the OS, standing in for Wester Civilization, is far from flawless. Stephenson's metaphor would have been more accurate, if less persuasive, had he substituted Windows for Unix.

Stephenson leaves unclear precisely what "the manual" really is, whether it is the rejection of religion alone, or that plus the Left's complete desertion of reason.

What is it that's missing from the world that reason has created.

Are you sure Reason created these problems, or is it reaction formation to the problems attending Western Civilization?

(Keeping in mind that no human endeavor is without problems. This is a sure sign that "the world" criticized here is not the product of reason, but of reaction absent reason.)

9:41 AM  
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