Tuesday, August 16, 2011

John Cooker's Cure Your Democracy

Cure Your Democracy: The Infection, Spread and Treatment of Contagious Opinions by John Cooker, MRI is an incredibly amusing and accurate exploration of the politically extreme natures that are symptomatic of society today.  Cooker highlights the disease and infection-like nature of political and social extremity through biting social commentary, written as a diagnosis for the diseases he’s dubbed “Democratitus” and “Democratosis”, or the extreme right-wing and left-wing sentiments that are orally passed from person-to-person, using unsubstantiated opinion as their basis with little regard for facts.

Cooker advocates that it is “high time we look at these viruses seriously and treat them for the debilitating diseases they are.”  Democratitus and Democratosis have “spread throughout the entire country yet they remain untreated and, amazingly, undiagnosed in the majority of those infected.”  He illuminates the various symptoms of each disease, from conspiracy theory to paranoia, and the similarities and differences that exist.  Cooker’s acerbic wit shines through when explicating possible symptoms: “some put PhD after their names to guarantee common people would never be on familiar terms with them,” and his description of one man plagued by paranoia as someone who was motivated by the belief that “Social Security should have security taken out of its name and replaced by ism.”

He even provides a diagnostic quiz to help readers determine whether they are afflicted with Democratitus or Democratosis with answers that are highly amusing, yet highly reflective of American society.  The quiz includes such indicators as your reaction to a Michael Moore movie, finding instructions in Spanish, and discovering that your cousin, Bruce, is marrying Terry with a “y”, not an “i”, and that you are at a gay wedding. Yet another quiz gauges how favorably you view various items, concepts, and institutions, with responses that evoke laughter when reading of another’s symptoms and nods when reading your own.  One such response is found in gauging your view of Marlboro cigarettes: “it’s terrible for your health, unlike smoking marijuana;” another is found in one of the responses to how you feel about the green movement: “there are neighborhood covenants against hanging clothes out on a line to dry for a reason.”

The true strength of the work lies in Cooker’s ability to criticize all ends of the political spectrum fairly and without bias, illuminating the detrimental nature of political extremity through wit and humor.  Although we may not recognize our own symptoms, seeing only the symptoms of those with opposing viewpoints, Cooker helps us to identify our disease and control its spread. 

For some readers, Cure Your Democracy may stimulate self-reflection and personal growth, realizing that they are afflicted by the very same symptoms that they have long accused others of having; whereas, for other readers, it is simply entertainment, keeping you laughing out loud from cover-to-cover.