When your morning editor was browbeaten into blogging three days a week on this accursed site, he swore a blood oath to himself to never write a post parsing the rambling, overpaid opinions of Maureen Dowd or William Kristol or the beardy guy at the Post who simply does not care for anything that happened after 1975 or any of the rest of them. But that was before a heroic anonymous Wonkette reader sent in a link to the latest David Brooks column, at the midpoint of which you can see the exact moment where his mind completely falls apart and he starts gibbering madly about some abstract concept he calls “The Big Shaggy.”
As is fairly typical, Brooks’s latest column actually starts off fairly sensibly, in an effete upper-middle-class kind of way. He decries college students abandoning the liberal arts for other majors that might result in lucrative job offers, since the humanities equip you with critical thinking skills necessary in a complex world. But that only took up around half of his required wordcount, so that’s where he stepped away from the computer, ingested whatever substance David Brooks needs in order to get the creative juices flowing (our guess: Mr. Boston gin), and then returned hours later to type out the following:
Over the past century or so, people have built various systems to help them understand human behavior: economics, political science, game theory and evolutionary psychology. These systems are useful in many circumstances. But none completely explain behavior because deep down people have passions and drives that don’t lend themselves to systemic modeling. They have yearnings and fears that reside in an inner beast you could call The Big Shaggy.
You can see The Big Shaggy at work when a governor of South Carolina suddenly chucks it all for a love voyage south of the equator, or when a smart, philosophical congressman from Indiana risks everything for an in-office affair.
You can see The Big Shaggy at work when self-destructive overconfidence overtakes oil engineers in the gulf, when go-go enthusiasm intoxicates investment bankers or when bone-chilling distrust grips politics.
And it goes on like that! Perhaps, because of our unfamiliarity with the finer points of the Brooksian oeuvre, we have missed the definition of what exactly this big, shaggy Big Shaggy is. Our own humanities degree is no help in finding this “inner beast”! It may be that we will have to wait to really understand the nuances of this concept until Brooks’s long-awaited next tome, The Big Shaggy: How Americans’ Inner Hopes And Fears Are Like An Enormous Hirsute Manimal, arrives in 2011 from Simon & Schuster. (The book will contain nothing but yeti porn.) [NYT]