Hat tip: Caped Crusader
Part of the Left’s ongoing hunt for heretics arises for a simple, pragmatic reason: it ensures that people with opposing views keep their mouths shut. That pragmatic fact, though, doesn’t mean that there isn’t an additional emotional layer giving real satisfaction to the troops who carry out the elite’s marching orders. Jonah Goldberg, who has spent a lot of time thinking about liberal pieties, offers this interesting take on the Left’s recent escalation of its witchhunts:
But while I was prepping for the speech, I read some reviews of Jody [Joseph] Bottum’s new book (which I’ve now ordered). In, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, Bottum argues that today’s liberal elites are the same liberal elites that we’ve always had. They come from the ranks of mainline Protestants that have run this country for generations (with some fellow-travelling Jews and Catholics, to be sure). But there’s a hitch. They champion a
social gospel, without the gospel. For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills. The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to experience, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob.
This strikes me as pretty close to exactly right. They’re still elitist moralizers but without the religious doctrine. In place of religious experience, they take their spiritual sustenance from self-satisfaction, often smug self-satisfaction.
One problem with most (but not all) political religions is that they tend to convince themselves that their one true faith is simply the Truth. Marxists believed in “scientific socialism” and all that jazz. Liberalism is still convinced that it is the sole legitimate worldview of the “reality-based community.”
There’s a second problem with political religions, though. When reality stops cooperating with the faith, someone must get the blame, and it can never be the faith itself. And this is where the hunt for heretics within and without begins.
Think about what connects so many of the controversies today: Mozilla’s defenestration of Brendan Eich, Brandeis’ disinviting of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the IRS scandal, Hobby Lobby, Sisters of Mercy, the notion climate skeptics should be put in cages, the obsession with the Koch brothers, not to mention the metronomic succession of assclownery on college campuses. They’re all about either the hunting of heretics and dissidents or the desire to force adherence to the One True Faith.
It’s worth noting that the increase in these sorts of incidents is not necessarily a sign of liberalism’s strength. They’re arguably the result of a crisis of confidence.
To use a household analogy, I point out to my children that those of their peers who are happy and self-confident never bully people. Instead, they bring people in. Indeed, oone of my daughter’s friends is the perfect example of this, a sunny soul whose very real popularity rests on the fact that it’s a pleasure to be in his company. It’s only unhappy, self-doubting people who take it upon themselves to make other people’s lives miserable.
In the world of school, I tell my children (a) these kids are more to be pity than censured; but (b) to stay away from them. In the real world, I hope I’m still big enough to pity the anger, fear, and self-loathing that drives the Left but, to the extent they make it impossible to stay away from their reach, they need to be confronted and their policies destroyed.
I have mentioned before that I have the smartest readers. I got more proof of that today:
Recently Drudge and American Thinker had articles on the Jay Carney and Claire Shipman household having old Soviet propaganda posters displayed in their kitchen/great room.
That’s not what stunned me. What caught my eye was the amount of food displayed on the counter for breakfast for a family of four. Good Grief!! What a carb overload! and the amount of butter! I realized that this was a staged photo but still…….
According to the administration 1 in 6 are hungry, 50 million or so are on food stamps, etc,, etc, etc. Aren’t we told about starving Americans every day and how we must sacrifice to help them? Isn’t this picture insensitive to those who don’t have enough to eat? Or eat that well?
Not to mention Michelle O’s campaign to “persuade” Americans to eat natural and healthy. The only healthy things I see are the strawberries (pricey), the orange juice (pricey), and the egg (notice that it’s brown, ergo probably free range or otherwise organic, and pricey.)
If this picture featured a conservative couple instead of a liberal power couple, can you imagine the outrage that would ensue?
Well, now that you mention it….
I’m not a Bill Maher fan, but he occasionally shows an intellectual honesty that makes it worthwhile to keep an eye on him. Last week, he exposed Leftist hypocrisy about racism, when he got Leftist guests to denounce “racist” pronouncements from Paul Ryan, only to reveal that he was quoting Michelle Obama.
On Friday, in the wake of the Mozilla scandal (firing its brilliant and effective CEO for the fact that, in 2008, he supported the same view of marriage that Obama and the Clintons claimed to support), Maher once again went off the reservation. In discussing the furor against Eich, he came out with what must be, to the Left, an unpleasant truth about the strain of thuggery that runs through the gay professional class:
During the online-only post-show segment, Maher, 58, asked his panel of contributors about their thoughts on the tech wizard’s decision to step down as Mozilla’s CEO after facing backlash for supporting a California same-sex marriage ban effort in 2008.
“I think there is a gay mafia,” Maher said. “I think if you cross them, you do get whacked. I really do.”
Let me add some specificity to Maher’s thought. We already know that organized ideological thuggery took Eich down, but I’d like to focus on the mentality that drove the anti-heretic hunt. CNET, which covers the tech world, has a post about the Eich resignation. What struck me about the CNET article was a comment from the man who started it all — a man who said that, if only Eich had announced that the re-education had been successful and then kept his mouth shut, then everything would have been okay (emphasis mine):
The wildfire that brought Eich down was sparked in part by Rarebit developers Hampton Catlin and Michael Lintorn Catlin, who as married gay men took Eich’s politics very personally, removed their app from the Mozilla Marketplace, and called for Eich to apologize or resign.
Hampton Catlin on Thursday, though, called Eich’s resignation “the worst kind of victory.”
“We never expected this to get as big as it has, and we never expected that Brendan wouldn’t make a simple statement. I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration [sic] and say that he never intended to cause people problems,“ Catlin said in a blog post Thursday. “It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.”
Translated: If only Eich had recanted, publicly apologized for all gay suffering throughout America (because up until a decade ago, no one had even thought of gay marriage), and then kept his mouth shut , our kapos would have released him from the gulag and given him tacit permission to hold his beliefs, as long as he never acts on them in any way in the future.
Keep Catlin in mind as I walk you back about 70 years in time, to the mid-20th century in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Boris Pasternak, a truly courageous intellectual (unlike America’s modern “intellectuals” who march in lockstep with the powers that be), lived his life with incredible bravery under Soviet tyranny. That bravery included writing Dr. Zhivago, an indictment of the Soviet system. The Soviets, naturally, refused to publish the book, but it did get published in Italy and, from there, spread throughout the West.
The CIA, in one of its more intelligent moves, decided to smuggle the book right back into the Soviet Union believing, correctly, that it would enable Soviet citizens to see what their government withheld from them, both in terms of reading material and in terms of a free society centered on the individual, not the state.
That’s a fascinating piece of Cold War history, isn’t it? I know about it because the WaPo has written an article about the CIA’s Zhivago operation. And in the WaPo article, I found this (emphasis mine):
In Washington, Soviet experts quickly saw why Moscow loathed “Doctor Zhivago.”
In a memo in July 1958, John Maury, the Soviet Russia Division chief, wrote that the book was a clear threat to the worldview the Kremlin was determined to present.
“Pasternak’s humanistic message — that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state — poses a fundamental challenge to the Soviet ethic of sacrifice of the individual to the Communist system,” he wrote.
Once, we were a country that used its government to advance the notion that “that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state.” Now, we’re a Soviet nation, in which private citizens are told that they must publicly recant their heresies or be destroyed.
So, while Maher’s on the right track, he picked the wrong organization. Yes, there’s thuggery involved, which is a mafia tactic. But unlike the mafia, which was just in it for the money, the new Soviet is in it to subordinate the individual and his beliefs entirely to the will of the Leftist state.
Nor is this thuggery a fringe movement. While I am very honored here at the Bookworm Room to have gay readers who understand that the safest place for all individuals (regardless of race, color, creed, gender indentification, sexual orientation, etc.) is in a nation that leaves the individual alone, I can tell you that every one of my Leftist friends on my “real me” Facebook, gay or straight, applauds the gay Soviet’s successful thuggery against Eich. These Facebook friends are, without exception, affluent, educated, successful, and vocal, and they think it’s a great thing that a productive man who has never once been accused of fomenting any discrimination in the workplace was the target of an attack aimed at destroying his livelihood.
This time, it was the non-governmental Leftist collective that acted, but you know they were thinking how much better it would be if they could just outlaw opposing thought. Why convince someone that your position has merit when you can more easily destroy them, which has the useful feature of sending a strong message to any other heretics out there?
Let me end this post as I always do: I think the state should get out of the marriage business, leaving it for religious and private organizations to determine what meshes with their doctrine and values. The state should recognize civil unions in whatever way the state believes will best suit its ends. And when I speak of the state, I don’t speak of a grand Soviet, centralized state, run by Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and Eric Holder. I mean the state speaking through the ballot box, both in direct citizen initiatives and through elected representatives.
Traditionally, the state’s ends included children and economic stability. In a greenie run world, where humans are the devil, maybe the state would do best to encourage only those unions that are incapable of producing even more environmentally destructive children. Then, it’ll be the heterosexuals struggling for legal recognition of their evil child-producing mating.
I was cruising through Google+ and saw this great poster. It’s a little out of date, since the Phil Robertson kerfuffle was a few months ago, and Ahmadinejad is yesterday’s news, but it makes its point so perfectly, I had to include it here:
My point: I view my fellow human beings as . . . well . . . how best to put this? I view them as fellow human beings, capable of all things base and sublime. Once people attain maturity, I believe that all of them are capable of making decisions about how they wish to live their lives. True, not all of them start off with the same advantages, whether those are physical skills, mental abilities, or economically solid upbringing. All, however, can decide to follow the paths of virtue or of vice. Unlike dogs or cows or lizards, they are not bound by blind instinct. Subject to limitations on either side of the bell curve, the vast majority of human beings, of all races, colors, sexes, creeds, and sexual orientations, are rational, conscious beings blessed with will power and the ability to engage in moral analysis.
Leftists, however, invariably view all people but for straight white man as objects of pity. This is true no matter how often they apply adjectives such as “empowerment” or “pride” to these non-white male groups. Without exception, Leftists make it very clear that their preferred victim classes are incapable of standing on their own two feet. That are not fully fledged human beings who are masters of their fate or captains of their souls but, are instead pathetically needy, helpless beings.
Reverend Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
And my favorite poem, of course:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
(Leftist addendum: Unless I’m a victim.)
1. British Christians are slowly being banned from advocating traditional Christian views . . . such as the belief that marriage should involve one man and one woman. The only allowable morality is that which does not align with traditional Judeo-Christian doctrines.
2. A well-known Hispanic actress was fired from play because she supports a Tea Party candidate. “‘Of course she has the right to say whatever she wants. But we’re in the middle of the Mission [District in San Francisco]. Doing what she is doing is against what we believe,’ Lopez [wife of far Left S.F. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi] said.” In other words, Hispanics are not allowed not hold any views inconsistent with the Democrat party platform.
3. Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York: “The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.” Support the Second Amendment? New York is not the place for you. Agree with roughly half the country that pregnant women aren’t the ones making a “sacrifice” when they abort a fetus? Leave New York. Now!!
That’s just from the past couple of days. Please feel free to add any I missed.
I’ve noticed a trend on my “real me” Facebook page. More and more of my liberal friends (and that means almost all of my real world, as opposed to cyber world, friends) are regularly linking to Upworthy and the Good Men Project. Conservatives should heed the rise of these two sites they market themselves to knee-jerk liberals who cast votes as a way of saving their (non-religious) souls.
Upworthy is a site that posts made-for-Facebook (i.e., made-for-easy-distribution) videos showing people striking blows against racism, sexism (i.e., male chauvinism), hetereronomativism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. Here’s just a sampling of the videos of the moment (sans hyperlinks):
- “Her Husband’s Abuse Once Kept Her Behind Closed Doors. Now She’s Speaking Out, Loud And Clear.” (Evil male hegemony)
- “They’re Harassed And Criminalized. But Could They Be The Solution To A Big Sex Industry Problem?”(Fighting prostitutophobia)
- “Bully Calls News Anchor Fat, News Anchor Destroys Him On Live TV” (Beating back weight-ism)
- “Meet The 17-Year-Old Who Blew The Lid Off Racial Profiling With His iPod” (The war on racism)
- “You Might See Tattoos In A New Light After You See Them On This Woman” (Don’t judge a woman by her tramp-stamp)
- “Good military men who support gay marriage” (Even baby killers can be good if they like gays)
- “Nearly 1/3 Of All Campaign Dollars in 2013 Came From A Tiny Group Of People. Care To Guess Who?” (Rich people are evil, a video made by the AFL-CIO. Interestingly, the AFL-CIO forget to say that unions are the nation’s top political donors, and that these donations only go Democrat.)
- “9 Out Of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact” (Income inequality, brought to you by the corporate branch of the Occupy movement)
- “A Boy Makes Anti-Muslim Comments In Front Of An American Soldier. The Soldier’s Reply: Priceless.” (Islamophobia is irrational)
For a website devoted to victim-hood, I find it interesting that I can’t find any videos at Upworthy in which people strike self-righteous blows against antisemitism, which is rearing its hydra-head in virulent form around the world. A quick search reveals that neither the word “antisemitism” nor the word “anti-semitism” has ever appeared at Upworthy. There also don’t seem to be any videos exposing the deadly anti-Christian ideology that’s rapidly stripping the Middle East and parts of Africa of their Christian citizens. Instead, I found only videos attacking Christians for being homophobic (such as this one). Also lacking are videos striking self-righteous blows against the misogyny and homophobia in the Middle East and Africa, that deprives women and gays of any rights whatsoever, and that routinely sees them hanged or stoned for imaginary crimes of adultery or for real or imagined acts of sodomy.
It’s entirely possible that Upworthy’s contributors support Jews, Christians, women, and gays at the mercy of Islamists, and are simply too scared to say anything, just as the Monty Python guys are now too scared to touch Islam. Or it could be — which I think is the truth — that they don’t give a flying whatsit for these truly persecuted (i.e., real victim) groups.
It’s telling that, if you search “Islam” at Upworthy, you only get dozens of variations on “Islam is a religion of peace — honest.” The Upworthy people apparently weren’t paying attention to 9/11, the Fort Hood shooting, the Madrid train bombing, the London subway and bus bombings, the Mumbai massacre, the Bali disco bombing, the London soldier beheading, the attempted Times Square Bombing, the Boston Marathon massacre, the Kenya mall massacre, and all of the other mass murders with perpetrators who made explicit the fact that they were acting in Islam’s name. Alternatively, the Upworthy crew defines “peace” this way: “If I appease them, they’ll leave me alone, which is very peaceful.” Thinking about it, Upworthy’s contributors probably aren’t that familiar with Churchill either (“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”)
As for the Good Men Project, I’ll let Kevin Williamson describe it, as well as describing one of its latest offerings, which is a gender-neutral dating guide:
“It’s not possible to have a completely gender neutral date,” writes therapist Andrew Smiler in a head-clutchingly asinine essay for the Good Men Project, a repository of painfully navel-gazing male-feminist apologetics that describes itself as “not so much a magazine as a social movement.” While acknowledging the impossibility of his daunting task, Mr. Smiler goes on to offer a great many helpful tips in his “Guy’s Guide to the Gender-Minimized First Date.” But not before making a full and frank apology in advance: “I’m trying to write this guide to apply across all genders, masculine, feminine, trans*, etc. If I’ve missed or something is very wrong, I have faith someone will let me know in the comments. I’m also writing based on my own American background and referring primarily to gender roles as they currently exist in the U.S. Depending on where you’re from, you may have grown up with this approach or you may find it completely foreign.” An asterisk on that asterisk: “Trans*” I am reliably informed, is the new, more inclusive way of referring in writing to the phenomenon of transsexualism, or as the ever-helpful FAQ at “Ask a Trans Woman” explains: “Trans, sans asterisk, has a tendency to mean gender-binary folk (trans men and trans women, often by the DSM-IV, GID definition of the words.) Trans* is more inclusive.” It is getting difficult to keep up.
Mr. Smiler’s advice, almost all of which is catastrophically bad, consists in the main of pre-cooking evasive strategies for such potentially fraught issues as deciding who pays for dinner or whether to split the check in the name of sexual egalitarianism. His guidance: The party proffering the invitation pays for the party accepting it. This is the sole area in which Mr. Smiler, otherwise a celebrant of sexual fluidity, concedes that expectations may be fixed by circumstance. “You can maintain one roll [sic] . . . or you can switch around,” except when the bill comes, which is to say you can pass the rolls but not the check. Not my own style, though fair enough. (But who says you get to make the rules, Mr. Man?)
You can read the rest of Williamson’s exposé here, but I’d definitely recommend having an emesis basin at your side while you read.
Moving beyond Williamson’s “general neutral dating” focus, today’s Good Men Project offerings include the following:
- “Be Honest With Yourself – How Racist Are You?” (More than you know, my friend. More than you know.)
- “My Daughter’s Room is Grey for a Reason” (What could be more gender neutral than gray?)
- “The Most Dangerous Four-Letter Word (Dick Simon has found a single word that marginalizes, isolate and insult. That word is THEM.)” (You need to know that not all Muslims are terrorists. To which I reply that I totally agree with that statement. I’m just troubled by the fact that the vast majority of terrorists are Muslims — and, worse, they you refuse to acknowledge that reality.)
- “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person” (Believe it or not, it can be done. All white people are guilty.)
- “What’s Law Got to Do With It? A Straight Married Guy’s Perspective on Marriage Know Thyself: An Open Letter to My Transgender Child” (I’m glad you love your child. Now stop politicizing it.)
If you like your men gender-neutral, and that’s how you want to raise your own sons, Good Men Project is definitely the site for you. Me? I like my men a little more . . . you know, manly, so the site doesn’t just leave me cold, it leaves me with a creepy, crawly, itchy feeling on my skin.
What both these sites offer are huge, gushy, pillowy mountains of soul-saving emotion. Their implicit promise is that if you are a gender-neutral, non-heteronormative person who is in touch with your feelings; if you provide unswerving, unquestioning support for blacks, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, other sexuals, hefty people, tattooed people, prostitutes, beaten wives, and all of the other officially sanctioned victim classes; and, most importantly, if you revile Republicans and vote Democrat . . . you will be saved. Hallelujah!!
It’s easy to laugh at Upworthy and the Good Men Project, since they seem more like parodies than anything else. I can easily imagine Greg Gutfeld and crew laughingly brainstorming “dumb websites for Leftists” and coming up with imaginary sites that are indistinguishable from these two sites.
The reality is, though, that not only aren’t these websites parodies, there’s nothing funny about them. They’re emotional soul-saving candy for people who have abandoned traditional faiths but still worry about their eternal salvation. To them, a vote isn’t about what’s best for the country, as a whole; it’s about what’s most likely to make them feel virtuous. In the absence of a traditional God, spiritual redemption can be found in feel-good Progressivism.
It’s these salvation-seekers who, when asked say that they’re liberals. Right now, they’re at 23% of the population, which seems like an insignificant number. It’s not. For those seeking a return to constitutional government, individual freedom, and a sturdy sense of self-reliance, that 23% is scary because it’s really “23% and counting.” Part of why this number is rising, even as Obama’s poll numbers and policies are falling, is that sites such as Upworthy and Good Men Project promise eternal salvation in a non-religious world. If you side with the Progressive’s carefully identified victim-classes, your non-religious soul will be saved from eternal Republican damnation.
All of which gets me back to a point I made a long time ago: To win this fight, conservatives too must offer the American people a vision that allows them to save their souls. There’s actually nothing new about this. In a country that hasn’t stood still since the first European set foot on its shores, Americans, feeling adrift, have always sought salvation, whether it was 18th and 19th century religious revivals, Aimee Semple McPherson hucksterism, or (as is the case now) redemption through voting Democrat. Conservatives have allowed a status quo to exist in which Democrats point to conservatives as the devil incarnate (which is ironic given that are more likely than Progressives to espouse traditional religious views), while promising a baptism and rebirth at the altar of government.
I’ve mentioned before that conservatives with money and style should create a series of widely promoted commercials showing someone doing something wonderful — helping the poor, being an awesome athlete, growing a business out of a home that employs hundreds of people, being an artist, etc. — and all ending with the tag line “and I’m a conservative.” These people should be Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Young, and Old (and anything else I’ve forgotten). What’s important is that conservatives must deprive Progressives of their self-anointed status as the group that determines who in America is saved and who is damned.
We keep trying to give intellectual food to people who want only emotional and spiritual reassurance. It’s fine for us to say that ours are the better ideas, but ideas, no matter how good, are useless if one continuously loses at the ballot box, in the court houses, and, worst of all, in the court of public opinion. Our first and biggest job is to show that conservatives are nice and that, if you’re looking to save your soul, conservativism is at least as good as, and quite possibly much better than, the Progressivism so relentlessly foisted on them. Everything else flows from that.
I found incredibly amusing the Facebook post a very Progressive friend of mine wrote about her daughter. During her gap year (a break between high school and college), the daughter wanted to do the very Marin thing of going to work on an organic farm natural habitats in Africa. When the gal ran the numbers, though, she discovered that this type of charitable work would cost her a fortune. She therefore abandoned the plan (apparently charity’s only worthwhile if it’s free and fun) and, instead, is leaving soon for a “birthright” trip to Israel.
A trip to Israel is a wonderful thing. Unless they’re dumb as posts, the Progressive kids who go on it come back realizing a couple of things — (1) that Israelis are not evil Nazis and (2) that Israel is a vulnerable in a teeny country surrounded by haters. I therefore think it’s great that the girl is going to Israel.
Moreover, a “birthright” trip to Israel is a wonderful way to go. It’s a free trip that introduces young American Jews to the Jewish nation. They tour all over and meet fascinating Israelis who help them understand that dynamic little liberal democracy buried in a theocratic, totalitarian region.
In other words, there’s nothing funny about the gal going to Israel. What is funny is that the biggest funder (or one of the biggest funders) behind the “birthright” program is Sheldon Adelson. Adelson, whom I greatly admire, is a conservative/libertarian. He is the antithesis of everything this young woman has been raised to believe. Nevertheless, she’d rather take his money for a free trip than spend her own money to help out a Progressive-approved charitable endeavor.
* It’s important to note here that the young woman’s parents staunchly support Israel. It’s just that they also support a president who is doing everything he can to empower Iran while destroying Israel, and a political party that is becoming increasingly open about its old-fashioned antisemitism. In other words, they are both perfect representatives of the kind of “thinkers” that the modern Ivy League (both went to Harvard) is churning out.
One of the striking paradoxes in Marin is that the same people who reliably vote for Democrat candidates actually have quite conservative values. In my Marin world, people are educated, ambitious, hard-working, married, and family-oriented, and they happily live in almost entirely white communities. As to that last, it’s not that they would object if a black family moved it. It would simply have to be a black family that was “one of us,” meaning educated, ambitious, etc. Despite their essentially conservative values, these hard-working people support endless welfare; these family-oriented, helicopter parents happily consign poor children to the tender mercies of the state; and these married parents, who have the luxury of a stay-at-home mom, support any policy that advances single motherhood. The Marin dwellers I know are the living embodiment of Charles Murray’s wonderful observation that elite Democrats don’t preach what they practice.
On the rare occasions when I’m able to speak with my friends without using political labels, they invariably agree with me about the benefits of hard work and marriage, about the social and economic virtues of two-parent families, about the problem with the hypersexualization of young children, and about the fact that the best defense against bullies is projecting a strong attitude of self-defense. Point out, though, that these values align them with Ted Cruz or Mitt Romney, who support profiting from ones own labor, being married as a predicate to children, encouraging (although not legislating) a more wholesome popular culture, and projecting American strength abroad, and they’ll back away from you as if you’ve suddenly sprouted horns.
It’s that last phrase that explains why these Democrats, even if their values are completely at odds with their own party, would never, never vote Republican. In their minds, it’s not that
Democrats Republicans have bad ideas; it’s that they’re eeeevvviiiilll. Not just “evil,” but eeeevvviiiilll. To them, Republicans haven’t merely sold their souls to the Devil, which implies that it’s possible to regain those lost souls. Instead, it’s that Republicans have no souls. To the Marin liberal, politics are controlled by a simple syllogism:
Republicans/conservatives are evil.
I am not evil.
Therefore I can never be a Republican/conservative.
But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, right? For years, conservatives have wryly observed that, while conservative think liberals are misguided, liberals think conservatives are evil. So why am I dragging this old issue to the table? Because now is the time to change this paradigm.
We know from a Harvard study that the young generation is turning against Obama because he betrayed them. Unfortunately, though, despite their disenchantment with Obama, these youngsters aren’t turning to Republicans. Given the fact that Democrats lied and Republicans spoke the truth, these youth voters aren’t making a U-turn and heading for the Republican party. Instead, they’ve opted for a “plague on both your houses” approach to politics.
Their refusal even to contemplate conservativism stems from their constant indoctrination: Republicans are eeeevvviiiilll. In any Hollywood film that touches upon politics (and even in those that don’t), Republicans are evil. In any MSM news story, Republicans are evil. In songs, at award shows, on Twitter, and Facebook, the cascade of obscene, profane, and scatalogical remarks from those on the Left are uniform: Republicans are eeeevvviiiilll.
With Obamacare cratering and Obama being revealed as both incompetent and dishonest, Republicans are trying to figure out how to position themselves as the obvious political alternative. Sadly, the state of American political debate and thinking is not such that conservatives can gain voters by explaining that conservative ideas are better. We take the world as we’re given, though, and that world demands that we suit our argument to our audience. Before they listen to us, they need to like us — or at least they need to stop fearing us. The answer is to run a personality campaign.
When I speak of a “personality campaign,” I refer to gauzy photographs of Republican politicians with their spouses and children. Although that seems to play well to the base, it does nothing to convert the people who think we’re eeeevvviiiilll. Democrats have been trained to view those photographs — when they come from conservatives — as the equivalent of photographs showing Nazi camp guards having tea parties in their homes.
What the RNC and other conservative groups should be producing, instead, are gazillions of one-minute-long commercials and YouTube videos, as well as easy-to-share posters for Facebook and Twitter, all of which focus on ordinary whites, Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics engaging in good acts of the type that thoughtless, but disenchanted, Democrats can understand. Each video or poster should end with the tag line “I’m [fill in the name] and I’m a Republican.”
For example, you might have a video showing an Asian woman working at a homeless shelter, and have it end with her saying “I’m [fill in the name] and I’m a Republican.” Or you have a poster of a black volunteer hard at work for Habitat for Humanity, over the tag line “I’m [fill in the name] and I’m a Republican.” Another video might show someone getting out of a Prius and into a wheelchair, again with the tag line “I’m [fill in the name] and I’m a Republican.
The possibilities are endless, because Republicans are good people, and they actually do many things that make Democrats happy. Posters and videos of beach clean-ups, animal shelter work, homeless shelter work, Big Brother/Big Sister work, tutoring kids at inner city schools, and raising money for African orphanages, would humanize a group of people who have been demonized simply because they believe in the worth of the individual and in maximum individual freedom. When it comes to speaking out to Americans, we need to stop focusing on the politicians, whom the media finds it easy to ridicule and denigrate, and start looking into the Republican community, which is brimful of wonderful, caring, people, for whom being wonderful and ordinary is just a part of their lives.
We cannot convert people to our ideas unless we can convince them that their “conservatives are evil” syllogism is utterly false. The new syllogism should go like this:
Republicans/conservatives are good people.
I share most of their values.
Since the Democrat party has lied and broken its promises, and its ideas have failed, I should vote Republican.
[For those of you who find the ideas in here vaguely familiar, my dear friend Don Quixote made precisely this point many years ago. He was, as is often the case, a clear-sighted visionary.]
Hat tip: Caped Crusader
“Six By Sondheim” is a new, well-produced HBO documentary that stitches together the many interviews Stephen Sondheim has given over the years since the late 1950s and then ties those interviews in with six of his best-known or (to him) most important songs. NPR enthused that the show leaves viewers wanting more but, as I am not a Sondheim fan, I wanted less — or at least less of the music. The interviews, however, were interesting.
My takeaway is that Sondheim is a decent, articulate, intelligent man, who thinks deeply about his craft. I may not like his end product, finding the endless word play emotionally distancing and the music discordant, but there’s serious hard work and lots of talent behind it.
Sondheim has made a living out of thumbing his nose at critics who complain rightly that his songs are not “hummable.” Certainly that’s part of why I don’t like his music. I’m simplistic enough to like pop songs that I can sing later. Although maybe “simplistic” isn’t the right word. When Irving Berlin rhymes “farmer” with “potato embalmer,” there’s nothing simplistic about that. It’s a delightful rhyme scheme that captures in three words one aspect of a farmer’s work. Likewise, there’s nothing embarrassing about Johnny Mercer’s exquisite lyrics to I Remember You. “When my life is through, and the angels ask me to recall the thrill of it all, then I will tell them I remember you.” My primary reasoning for disliking Sondheim’s music isn’t that it’s not hummable; it’s that, to my ears, it’s not attractive.
Certainly Sondheim’s subject matter is seldom attractive consisting as it does of strippers, burlesque, broken homes, and psychopathic moms (Gypsy); deadly street gangs (West Side Story); serial killers (Sweeney Todd); a dystopian view of fairy tales (Into The Woods); attempted presidential murderers (Assassins); a man’s throwing away his life’s talent (Merrily We Roll Along); or broken down marriages (Follies). Listening to Sondheim describe his life, this deeply negative view about relationships and people in general isn’t particularly surprising.
Sondheim’s parents had an unhappy marriage that ended when he was 10. Before, during, and after the divorce, he was a pawn in his parents drama and, most especially in his mother’s obsession with his father and her manifest dislike for being a parent. She hated her son and he knew it. Indeed, when Sondheim was 40, right before his mother went into surgery, she wrote him a letter saying that the worst thing that ever happened to her was to have him.
Sondheim was also a homosexual who came of age during a time when his sexual orientation was unpopular, to say the least. There’s no doubt that, in the Broadway world, he could easily have found sufficient numbers of like-minded people to form a relationship that went beyond casual sex. He didn’t, though. It appears that his upbringing left him so emotionally constipated that, as he confesses, he was only able to fall in love when he was 60.
Blessedly, Sondheim seems to keep his politics to himself, but he’s certainly part of the zeitgeist on the Lefter side of the political spectrum. Those who like him are often the same people who sneer at traditional musical theater, with its bright songs and happy endings.
After watching the documentary, I realized that American art and entertainment present a funny paradox. Leftists tend to create and to prefer art and entertainment that focuses on the sleazy, irredeemable side of human nature. Many of Sondheim’s plays exemplify this fact, but the list of gutter-gazing art from Leftists is endless. Hollywood and Broadway Leftists like, and endlessly produce, movies and shows that focus on the bad guys (Tony Soprano, Walter White), depressing situations (Precious, American Beauty), or sordid behavior (just about every movie out of Hollywood lately).
Conservatives tend to yearn for the type of wholesome fare that Hollywood churned out from the time of the Code through the late 1960s. These shows involve happy people muddling through to happy endings, bad people getting their comeuppances in morally satisfying ways, suffering people rewarded at the end, etc. The tear-jerkers involved deeply sympathetic characters who tried to do good and failed, not creepy psychopaths who worked hard at being evil and, even when they got their comeuppance, never repented.
Looking at the differing artistic fare the two political cultures generate, you’d think that it was the conservatives who were the utopians and the Leftists who were the harsh realists. In fact, though, Leftists are the utopians who fervently believe that, if they can just figure out the correct political coercion, they will perfect human kind, turning each man into someone who joyfully, and without greed, rancor, or violence, gives of his labors to support everyone else in the world. Conservatives, on the other hand, recognize that humankind is inherently greedy, rancorous, and violent, and seek to create voluntarily enforced social, moral, and economic systems that harness and control these innate tendencies in a way that’s simultaneously beneficial to the individual and to society at large.
Presumably, this paradox can be resolved as follows: Leftists use art to establish that the world, especially the American world, is a terrible place because it lacks the guiding hand of a loving police state. Meanwhile, conservatives use their art aspirationally, to encourage all people to cultivate voluntarily their better selves, or to put their “baser” instincts (i.e., greed) to a use that lifts up their own lives while improving and enriching the world.
Two stories today about internecine warfare on the Left:
I am gleefully wallowing in schadenfreude.
Long-time readers know that I’m hostile to bicyclists. In 2007, I devoted an entire post to mob bicyclists. Although I didn’t blog about bikes after my trip to Amsterdam, one of the things I just hated about the city was the bicyclists. Collectively, the bicyclists make up a brutish mob that controls the streets. Woe betide the unlucky pedestrian or car that tries to cross an intersection when any bicyclists are near. Indeed, even a single cyclist, without the comfort of the mob at his street will take aim at any pedestrian foolish enough to try to cross when a bicyclist is near. They are terrifying in their arrogance and entitlement.
I live near a scenic street that, every weekend throughout the year, and every week day when the sun is shining, is a bike route. There is no bike lane, so the bikes just ride down the middle of the road. The road is extremely curvy so, as I round every curve, I recite to myself “Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle,” so that I don’t get careless and run one down. The speed limit on the road is between 20-25 MPH, depending on how curvy the road is. The speed limit is irrelevant. We drivers go bike speed: 5-10 MPH.
In other parts of Marin, bikes run red lights and stop signs, dart into traffic, block roads, and move in large packs. A few months ago, a bicyclist almost hit my car. I don’t know why. I was in my lane, on a multi-lane road, driving along at the speed limit, and he just swerved into me.
Lucky for the bicyclists, although they arouse anger in me, my dominant emotion is fear. I’m absolutely terrified that, in a run-in between my two-ton car and their bike, even if they’re at fault, I’ll walk away and they’ll be dead. For that reason, I give them an especially wide berth whenever I see them. Some drivers don’t. They act on their anger and come dangerously close to bicyclists, putting those frail bodies at risk — and putting the driver at risk of a lengthy prison sentence and the end of his life as he knows it.
My thinking has always been that the bicyclists believe that their environmental chops mean that they are wrapped in an invincibility cloak, one that allows them to ignore the law of physics. That is, I’ve thought that, in their overweening bicyclist arrogance, they truly believe that, even as they break all known traffic rules, they cannot be hurt because they’re on the side of angels.
How naive I was. They know they can be hurt. But rather than following the rules of the road, they have a different plan: to make cars illegal. More frighteningly, they seem to be succeeding in many communities.
Drivers should strike back. The reason the car took over the road shortly after Henry Ford brought mass production to manufacturing is because they are better than bikes: they’re safer, they carry more people and goods, they’re faster, they protect people from the elements, they bring more traffic to commercial areas, and they more comfortable. Certainly it’s nice if they burn fuel more cleanly, or if drivers make time in their lives to exercise so as to offset sitting, rather than walking, but they’re still better. Bicyclists, however, would have us revert to a pre-industrial time when transportation was limit to a person’s own two feet — whether without wheels, or augmented by two slender ones.
Arne Duncan defended common core by verbally assaulting “white suburban moms.” He’s now issued the standard Obama-era apology, which is to say that he’s not sorry for what he said, he’s just sorry that he got caught saying it: “I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret.”
I was going to ask, “How dumb does Duncan think the American people are?” That’s a stupid question. The American people are dumb enough to have given people like Duncan virtually unfettered power in the halls of academia for upwards of 40 years now.
Dunca is right — he doesn’t owe us a real apology. We had it coming. Americans have had ample evidence that he’s a scorpion and they still held out their arms and said “Sting me.”
It’s we who owe the youth of America a real apology for inflicting these monsters on them.
If you’re looking for a unifying principle of everything, at least everything Democrat, Victor Davis Hanson has it:
What is the common denominator of the Obama administration’s serial scandals — the Justice Department’s spying on AP, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the NSA surveillance, the lies about Benghazi and the ACA — and much of the White House damage-control rhetoric? In a word: the advancement of postmodern notions of justice at the expense of traditional truth.
By the 1980s, in law schools, university social-science departments, and the humanities in general, the old relativist idea of Plato’s noble lies was given a new French facelift. Traditional morality and ethics were dismissed as arbitrary constructs, predicated on privileged notions of race, class, and gender. The new moral architecture did not rely on archaic abidance by the niceties of “truth,” which simply reinforced traditional oppressive hierarchies.
Instead, social justice by definition transcended the sham of traditional ideas of truth and falsity. The true became the advocacy of fairness, while the real lie was the reactionary adherence to a set of oppressive norms. All this was faculty-lounge fluff, but soon it filtered out into the larger culture.
Read the rest here.
In other words, everything Jonah Goldberg said in Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change was true.
Obamacare fails at so many levels it’s hard to count them. It fails because it’s the only piece of significant legislation in American history to be passed on strict partisan lines, using procedural tricks and bribes, and with a majority of American people disapproving of it. It fails because its implementation violates American religious freedom insofar as it forces people of faith to fund abortion and birth control. It fails because the administration knowingly used lies to pass it, a tactic that has a legal name: fraud.
Obamacare fails because it turns people into slaves to the government, making its opponents the new abolitionists. It fails because tens of millions of Americans will lose the insurance they were promised they could keep. It fails because it raises insurance costs for millions of Americans who believed Obama’s blatant lie that their average annual costs would decrease substantially. And of course, it fails because the Obamacare exchanges are so dysfunctional that the only parts that work are the routine breaches of privacy.
Right now, owing to all those failures, Americans are not happy with either Obama or Obamacare. Democrats are unsympathetic. Rep. Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.) sloughed off American concerns. According to the National Journal, he had a simple message for Americans: “Change is hard. Get over it. Barack Obama is president, and the Affordable Care Act is the law.”
Actually, this is not a new Democrat message. In the years preceding the Civil War, they kept telling Americans to “get used to” slavery, because “it’s the law.” And in the post-Civil War era, when Jim Crow laws depriving blacks of their civil rights were enacted throughout the South, the Democrats had the same message: “Get over it. It’s the law.”
Put another way, whenever slavery is at issue — and this is true whether it shows itself straightforwardly as “slavery,” or masquerades under such euphemisms as “Jim Crow” or “Obamacare” — the Democrat message has been the same for 160 years: “Get over it. It’s the law.”
(I originally wrote this post for Mr. Conservative.)
My liberal friends have been absolutely silent about Obamacare. Not a whisper . . . until today:
I know Obamacare has been totally fucked up. I still feel like i’m gonna puke, though, when i hear republicans blaming democrats and yelling for Sibelius to resign. Where were they when Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld sent thousands of people to their graves in Iraq because of their fuck up?
In comments, the same person makes it clear that, because Sebelius had to testify before Congress and said she took responsibility, justice has been served and no more is required.
Last week, Emily Yoffe, who writes regularly at Slate set of a firestorm when she wrote a post that offered what normal, non-politically correct people, recognize as extremely good advice: Tweens and young women, if you don’t want to get raped, don’t get drunk. Yoffe wasn’t giving rapists, even drunk rapists, a pass. She was just saying that, as a practical matter, a young woman who is to incapacitated to make rational decisions or to lift a hand in her own defense, is a natural victim:
A 2009 study of campus sexual assault found that by the time they are seniors, almost 20 percent of college women will become victims, overwhelmingly of a fellow classmate. Very few will ever report it to authorities. The same study states that more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol. Frequently both the man and the woman have been drinking.
Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.
Honestly, I don’t think Yoffe could have been more clear.
I happen to agree with Yoffe 100%. I agree to the extent that, whether sober or drunk, certain young men see a drunken woman, especially an unconscious drunken woman, as a perfect target for rape.
I also agree to the extent that drunken young women say “yes” when, had they been sober, they would have said “no.” Men aren’t the only ones who wear beer goggles. When the girls or young women wake up the next morning filled with regrets, they tend to whitewash their complicity in drunken sex by claiming “rape.” Those fake cries of rape destroy the men against whom they’re aimed, but in today’s culture, these young women are so brainwashed that they actually convince themselves that their drunken “yes” equaled a rape — and then they go around suffering permanent emotional damage from the mantle of victim-hood that they draped upon themselves.
I know that, on the liberal side of the blogosphere, people went ballistic over Yoffe’s article. I didn’t have to read those posts to know what they were saying. I linked to Yoffe’s post on my Facebook page and got more comments than I’ve gotten on any other thing I’ve ever linked. With the exception of comments from three conservative friends, all of my other liberal friends said variations on exactly the same thing: While Yoffe is correct factually, they cannot approve of her saying what she said because it’s unfair to girls to say that they have a responsibility to protect themselves.
Please think about this for a moment. These liberals agree that girls who drink to excess are vulnerable to rape and other attacks. They simply think that this truism — one with huge practical implications for women’s safety — must go unsaid because its offensive to feminist ideology to state in any way, shape, or form, that young women have a responsibility to protect themselves.
In the comments section, I got all sorts of arguments against warning girls that drunkenness can be their undoing and all of these arguments were premised upon enormous logical fallacies:
There’s no excuse for men to rape. I agreed, but pointed out that there’s a virtue to making it harder for them to do so.
Suggesting that women can take proactive steps to prevent rape will make them feel guilty if they are raped. Yes, maybe, I said, but it will also mean fewer women get raped.
Just because people are drunk doesn’t mean they rape. Huh? Well, no, most drunk young men thankfully don’t rape drunk or unconscious women, but some do. Given that reality, why shouldn’t the women avoid the risks of running across the “bad” drunk guys? And certainly one of the most effective ways to avoid these guys is for you to keep your wits about you.
Men need to be told not to rape, rather than telling women not to drink. But, but . . . can’t we do both? And incidentally, we already tell men not to rape, a proscription that carries with it a heavy legal penalty. Despite that, some still do, whether they are drunk or sober.
Saying that drunken women are essentially willing victims is a free pass for men. Men are always morally responsible for their actions. If a thief robs a house, he’s still morally and legally in the wrong. But it doesn’t mean homeowners are relieved of the obligation to lock their doors.
It’s not fair to tell women not to drink if we also don’t tell other people not to do things that will protect them from crimes. Okay, now they’re really getting desperate. How often are we told to lock our houses, carry our purses so snatchers can’t grab them, check our surroundings before going to the ATM, lock our car doors, etc.? But even if we weren’t told these things, there’s a difference between crimes of property and crimes of person. While having our house broken into feels like a violation (been there, felt that), it’s not the same as having our person violated. That means that the need for warnings about careless behavior with our bodies should demand more attention than for careless behavior with our property.
Since I’ve been working on Mr. Conservative, I’ve spent way too much time writing about rape, sexual assault, and pedophilia. In 90% of those stories, alcohol is a factor. It’s definitely a factor in terms of the malfeasor’s conduct, but it’s equally a factor in terms of the victim’s conduct. This is especially true in the cases of the high school girls who find pictures of themselves on social networks naked or being sexually assaulted. Two things invariably happen: (1) The girls admit, or witnesses confirm, that the teenage victims had drunk themselves insensible; and (2) the other students at the school place more blame on the drunken victim than on the drunken perpetrator(s).
This last isn’t fair. Indeed, it’s absolutely vile. The fact remains, though, that outside of the rarefied world of elite feminism, it’s a reality: On the street, kids know enough about the world to believe that girls shouldn’t drunk themselves to vulnerability and, if they do, they shouldn’t destroy some guy’s life by complaining if he takes advantage of that situation.
The best thing that the feminists can do for girls dealing with the real world, rather than the elite’s dream of a real world, is to issue constant, graphic warnings telling teenage girls not to get drunk. If their body is a house, getting drunk is the equivalent of handing the keys to the guy trolling the neighborhood looking for a house to rob.
Putting aside all the racist rhetoric flying around from the Left, the uncontroverted evidence coming out of the Zimmerman trial proved that (a) a hooded figure was sitting on top of another man brutally beating him and (b) the man being tried for murder showed all the signs of someone who was on the receive end of a severe beating, from the broken nose to the bleeding back of his head. Putting aside the racist rhetoric from the Left, the incontrovertible facts that the court refused to admit (incontrovertible because they came from the dead man’s own phone), showed that the dead man was a drug user and fighter who was fascinated by guns and violence.
Now, Florida’s state capitol has announced that you (and you and you and you and you!) are Trayvon! This assault on American (and Floridan) integrity and decency takes the form of a painting unveiled at the state captiol, purporting to show a hooded figure being shot in the back of the head (which avoids the fact that Trayvon wasn’t running away but was, in fact, intensifying his full front assault) by a man who looks like a cross between George Zimmerman and Stalin. However, instead of seeing Trayvon’s face in the hoodie, it’s a mirror. (This ham-handed propaganda device somehow made me think of “Soylent Green” — you know, the bit where he says “It’s people!”):
In other words, says the State of Florida, we’re all drug addled thugs who try to beat people to death. Even worse, if you look at the wall sign behind the painting, it says that we’re looking at the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
If you’d like to let the State of Florida know that you find this fact-free, racist at of political propaganda offensive, you can contact the capitol building at the building’s website. As always, remember that a polite, firmly worded message is effective. Obscenities, personal attacks, and threats only make you look bad and strengthen the other side’s sense of self-righteousness.
I enjoy reading my Liberal-Lefty friends’ Facebook posts because they are so insightful into the mindsets of the Left.
One insight that I have gained over time is that the differences between us conservatives and the Progressive/Left are so profound that they are unlikely to ever be bridged, barring some cataclysmic, life-changing events. What I have tried to do is understand why this is so. I share this with you because I greatly appreciate the insights that Bookworm group has to offer on such issues – be it “yay” or “nay”.
Our disagreements appear to come down to three levels of separation.
1) First, there are objective facts (OK, I am being deliberately redundant here). These are easy enough to resolve. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock world has arrived: everybody is so overwhelmed with information that we can’t absorb and process all there is to know and we therefore choose our facts selectively.
As Ronald Reagan said, ““It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”
In discussions, factual disputes are easy enough to resolve: my typical response to Liberal /Lefties is simply tell them to “Google it”. Amazingly, many apparently don’t know that you can Google entire texts or sentences. A good example was the recent George Zimmerman trial…many people with whom I disagreed told me outright they were too busy to bother looking up facts. The Left operates on so many facts that just aren’t so.
2) The second level of separation involves our assumptions or premises. These are tougher to resolve, because we assume and presume events based on our past experiences. I suspect that we humans are hard-wired to build assumptions (true or false) as a defense mechanism: for example, my cave ancestors probably assumed that to allow a saber-tooth tiger to stand in their path was not a good thing and that such assumption is one reason why I stand here today.
We go through life building mental templates on how the world works in order to short-circuit decision making and evaluation. Otherwise, we would soon be overwhelmed with indecision. As long as our world templates work for us, we continue to hold onto them. Many formerly Liberals (e.g., David Horowitz, Bookworm) only became conservative when one or more events (e.g., 9/11) rendered their previously comfortable world views untenable. For me it was Reagan’s second term, when his policies led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic resurgence. I, young man at the time, knew then that my Democrat world template had been very, very wrong.
I use the word “comfortable” deliberately, because our templates represent our comfort zones. Losing that comfort zone is terrifying. Imagine if all of a sudden nothing in the world made any sense to you; you would feel totally deracinated and quite possibly insane. You would also feel a deep sense of personal failure, as in “how in the world could I have been so deluded?”
And, the older you get, the more frightening that sense of loss, confusion and failure would be. So, the older we get, the more desperately we defend our mental templates, selecting and force-fitting “facts” to fit our own perceptions of reality. I believe this is where modern Liberalism and Progressivism are today (Google “Paul Krugman”). As Thomas Sowell put it, people of the Left expect the world to conform to their misperceptions. Eventually, however, reality hits like a 2 x 4 between the brow…as in “Detroit”.
I believe that this dynamic also explains the sheer viciousness expressed by many on the Left when the presumptions of their world templates are threatened (as by Sarah Palin or by black conservatives, for example). This is also the reason why I believe that world Islam will fail, because it doesn’t work and eventually people in Muslim worlds, aided by the internet, will eventually realize this (some of my Middle Eastern friends assure me that many already do). Reality is a harsh mistress.
This level of separation helps to explain why Liberals and Conservatives usually talk past each other. We try to rationalize our positions to each other, but our rationalizations only make sense if the other party shares the same assumptions and understandings of how the world works. We operate from completely different templates.
3) Faith. This the most difficult and potentially dangerous degree of separation, because it addresses fundamental values that are non-negotiable. Our “faith” defines how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world, irrespective of facts, logic and reason. I cannot, for example, “prove” the veracity of my Christian faith. Environmental extremists and atheists cannot “prove” the righteousness of their positions. We just “know” that what we believe to be true is true. There is no logical argument that I know of that can challenge faith-based values. Our values define who we are and how we perceive the world to be. Utopian fascist ideals (Progressivism, Nazism, communism, Islamism, etc.), for example, are defined by a faith in a future to come – they require no proof. Abortion is a similar issue of faith and values – there is no middle-of-the-road compromise if you believe abortion to be murder and that murder is wrong (a value proposition). Psychologists have claimed that only very powerful shocks to the system can challenge faith.
I have no dealing with the first degree of separation. I admit, however, that I am totally stumped on how to address (2) and (3). Any ideas?
Traditionally, one of the things to remember about “justice” is that “justice” isn’t always fair. Sometimes doing the right or “just” thing means that someone gets hurt or left out or punished. A friend of mine sent me an image that tries to pervert language so that “equality” means “unfair,” and “justice” means “equality of outcome.” And really, once you’ve done this, nothing has any meaning at all anyway:
The bottom line is that life is sometimes unfair, and the moment you pretend that fairness and justice have an acceptable meaning only when they are identical to equality of outcome, you’ve cleared the pathway to tyranny. if I had any artistic ability, I’d do another image, showing all the people behind the three boys who can’t see a damn thing with them standing on those stacked boxes in the front row.
With three exceptions, those members of the British public on the scene when jihadists murdered Lee Rigby and then beheaded him showed that they still had the capacity for horror, but that they had lost their ability for action. They tweeted, they photographed, they videotaped, they exclaimed, they emoted . . . and that was all.
The three exceptions were three women. Two were a mother-daughter team, deeply devout (I assume Christian, although the article doesn’t say), who believed that “no man should die alone,” and who therefore sat with Rigby’s poor, mutilated body:
Gemini Donnelly-Martin, 20, and her mother Amanda Donnelly, confronted the suspected killers and asked the attackers if they could be by Drummer Lee Rigby’s side.
Their refusal to be cowed by the terrorists won praise from all quarters, including Downing Street.
Amanda’s son Simeon, 22, said the two women acted out of love.
He said: ‘My mother was just driving past and she saw something and wanted to try and help. ‘She just showed a bit of motherly love. She just did what any mother would have done.
‘She felt that could have been me lying down there in the street. She just felt for the poor guy.
‘No man should have to die like that in the street with no-one around him.
Gemini said that they had simply done what they thought was right.
She told the Daily Mirror: ‘We did what anyone would do. We just wanted to take care of the man. It wasn’t brave. Anyone would have done it. It had to be done. They (the killers) said women could pass.’
‘The only thing people need to worry about is that poor man’s mum. We are grateful, though, for what people are saying about us.’
When it became apparent Drummer Lee Rigby was beyond their help, they shielded his body from further desecration by his savage attackers.
Amanda, 44, insisted she be allowed to pray for the dead man even when confronted by one of the killer. Kneeling at his side, she cradled him gently, seemingly unfazed by his horrific wounds.
Gemini said “we did what anyone would do.” But the fact is that, in today’s England, what anyone would do was . . . nothing.
The other person to act was Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, who went right up to one of the killers and just confronted him:
At the same time, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett remonstrated with the fanatics, despite her fears they would attack again.
The Cub Scout leader and mother of two asked them to hand over their bloodstained weapons and listened to their hate-filled tirade about wanting to ignite ‘war in London’.
She selflessly tried to draw the men’s attention, later saying: ‘Better me than a child.’
It’s deeply disturbing that London’s streets could muster so little action. These women’s bravery and compassion — behavior that would be exemplary in any circumstances — stands out especially clearly given the stark, frozen backdrop against which they acted.
In modern Western cultures, people are inundated with “feeling” phrases about fellowship and compassion and diversity and any other navel-gazing term you can say. But they are told — always — don’t act. Feel, but don’t do anything. You might get hurt. You might hurt someone. You might get sued. It might be a cultural misunderstanding. You might be viewed as an overbearing white imperialist, or a sexist, or a racist. Whatever you do, please be sure that your feelings are in accordance with all that is light and good under diversity and political correctness, but for Gaia’s sake, don’t just do something, stand there.
David Remnick, writing at The New Yorker has a very interesting article about “The Brothers Tsarnaev” (and yes, we all appreciated the little Dostoyevsky reference there). It’s interesting at two levels. At the first level, the beginning is an elegant piece of journalism that looks at the region and at Chechens, and acknowledges the region is distinctly Islamic and prone to blowing people up (although the word “Beslan” never appears). Remnick also writes about the boys themselves, noting the mixture of shallowness and venom that characterizes them. I was quite impressed. By George, I thought, I think he’s getting it. Maybe this liberal is having a reality moment.
But sadly, it was not to be. He just couldn’t hang on to enlightenment by the time he got past the first half. There was the reflexive drift towards “banality,” which James Taranto eviscerated so effectively. By the third paragraph from the end, Remnick was blaming social media for the brothers’ killing spree. I’ll agree that social media probably facilitates evil’s spread, but the evil is the particular brand of Islam the boys followed, and that seems to have been a gift to them from Chechen connections and their local radicalized mosque. Facebook was a tool, not a cause.
The second paragraph from the end spoke about their loving families, and how we should feel sympathy for them. The aunts and uncles who disavow the evil and speak of America . . . yes, I guess. The Mom who screams about conspiracies — well, she could be in denial, which is a mom thing; she could be as evil as her sons; or she could be right. As for the Dad, Remnick couldn’t resist a little selective editing. Feel pity for Daddy he writes, because Daddy loved his boys: “The father described Dzhokhar as an ‘angel.’” Somehow Remnick forgot the rest of Daddy’s quote, where he said that, if Dzhokhar died, “all hell would break loose.”
And then, in the final paragraph, Remnick finally gets to his point — it’s the fault of both America and the internet:
The Tsarnaev family had been battered by history before—by empire and the strife of displacement, by exile and emigration. Asylum in a bright new land proved little comfort. When Anzor fell sick, a few years ago, he resolved to return to the Caucasus; he could not imagine dying in America. He had travelled halfway around the world from the harrowed land of his ancestors, but something had drawn him back. The American dream wasn’t for everyone. What they could not anticipate was the abysmal fate of their sons, lives destroyed in a terror of their own making. The digital era allows no asylum from extremism, let alone from the toxic combination of high-minded zealotry and the curdled disappointments of young men. A decade in America already, I want out.
Funnily enough, in all those paragraphs, even though Remnick could acknowledge that the boys were Muslims, he could not make himself acknowledge that Islam is the core problem. Everything else is window-dressing.
I’ve written before about one of my favorite writers, Paul Fussell. He wrote a wonderful essay entitled Thank God for the Atom Bomb, about the righteousness of dropping the atom bomb. He was in the Army when Truman dropped the bomb, so Fussell wholeheartedly approved — and had the data to back up his personal opinion. (More recently released data completely backs up his 30 year old hypothesis.) I also wholeheartedly approve, as my Mom was a few weeks away from dying in a Japanese concentration camp when the bomb dropped.
Fussell also wrote what I think is one of the greatest books ever about WWI, The Great War and Modern Memory. I just bought the Kindle version to reread because my copy, which I bought in college, has disintegrated. It’s a beautifully written book that looks at both the war and concurrent war literature to track a vast paradigm shift in intellectual thought during the four years the war lasted. Young men went in imbued with Victorian ideas of chivalry and honor; they came out jaded, cynical, and completely unable to accept that aggression is sometimes necessary and could have been useful in preventing Hitler’s rise. It is a triumph of both military writing and literary writing.
What you might not know about Fussell was that this iconoclast was a university professor. Nowadays, the phrase iconoclastic professor is an oxymoron. Not so in Fussell’s heyday. Wikipedia sums up his military and academic career:
Fussell attended Pomona College from 1941 until he enlisted in the US Army in 1943. He landed in France in 1944 as a 20 year-old second lieutenant with the 103rd Infantry Division, was wounded while fighting in Alsace, and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was honorably discharged from the army in 1946, returned to Pomona to finish his B.A. degree in 1946-7, married fellow Pomona graduate Betty Harper in 1949, and completed his MA (1949) and Ph.D. (1952) at Harvard University.
He began his teaching career at Connecticut College (1951–55) before moving to Rutgers University in 1955 and finally the University of Pennsylvania in 1983. He also taught at the University of Heidelberg (1957–58) and King’s College London (1990–92). As a teacher, he traveled widely with his family throughout Europe from the 1950s to 70s, taking Fulbright and sabbatical years in Germany, England and France.
As his writing shows, Fussell was an entirely original thinker who didn’t march to the beat of anyone’s drum. Indeed, he delighted in challenging what was already becoming stifling academic orthodoxy:
Fussell stated that he relished the inevitable controversy of Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983) and indulged his increasing public status as a loved or hated “curmudgeon” in the rant called BAD: or, The Dumbing of America (1991). In between, Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (1988) confirmed his war against government and military doublespeak and prepared the way for Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989). The epiphany of his earlier essay, “My War”, found full expression in his memoir Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic (1996), “My Adolescent illusions, largely intact to that moment, fell away all at once, and I suddenly knew I was not and never would be in a world that was reasonable or just”. The last book by Fussell published while he was alive, The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-45 (2003) was once again concerned with the experience of combat in World War II.
Fussell was never petrified or brainwashed by his academic career. I wonder what Fussell would have thought if he’d been a teacher at Bowdoin in the last twenty years or so. Bowdoin found itself in the news lately because of what David Feith calls “The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World.” It all started when Barry Mills, Bowdoin College’s president, had a golf game with investor and philanthropist Thomas Klingenstein. During the game, the subject of academic diversity came up. Both Mills and Klingenstein would agree that Klingenstein didn’t like it. According to Mills’s retelling at a subsequent graduation ceremony, Klingenstein was hostile and, in a word, dumb. Writes Feith:
In his address, President Mills described the golf outing and said he had been interrupted in the middle of a swing by a fellow golfer’s announcement: “I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons,” said the other golfer, in Mr. Mills’s telling. During Mr. Mills’s next swing, he recalled, the man blasted Bowdoin’s “misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.” At the end of the round, the college president told the students, “I walked off the course in despair.”
Klingenstein got word of this graduation address, which implied that the anonymous golf-companion was a troglodyte and racist, and knew that Mills was talking about him. Klingenstein decided to set the record straight. Rather than just saying “that’s not what I meant,” or offering his opinion about diversity, Klingenstein took his money and funded a National Association of Scholars project that carefully examined Bowdoin’s curriculum, especially in the last ten years. The results were eye-opening, to say the least — or, saying a little more than the least, eye-opening to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on in, and the product (i.e., graduates) coming out of, these academic “gatekeepers of civilization”:
Published Wednesday, the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.
The school’s ideological pillars would likely be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to American higher education lately. There’s the obsession with race, class, gender and sexuality as the essential forces of history and markers of political identity. There’s the dedication to “sustainability,” or saving the planet from its imminent destruction by the forces of capitalism. And there are the paeans to “global citizenship,” or loving all countries except one’s own.
The Klingenstein report nicely captures the illiberal or fallacious aspects of this campus doctrine, but the paper’s true contribution is in recording some of its absurd manifestations at Bowdoin. For example, the college has “no curricular requirements that center on the American founding or the history of the nation.” Even history majors aren’t required to take a single course in American history. In the History Department, no course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history—the only ones available are organized around some aspect of race, class, gender or sexuality.
One of the few requirements is that Bowdoin students take a yearlong freshman seminar. Some of the 37 seminars offered this year: “Affirmative Action and U.S. Society,” “Fictions of Freedom,” “Racism,” “Queer Gardens” (which “examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces”), “Sexual Life of Colonialism” and “Modern Western Prostitutes.”
Regarding Bowdoin professors, the report estimates that “four or five out of approximately 182 full-time faculty members might be described as politically conservative.” In the 2012 election cycle, 100% of faculty donations went to President Obama. Not that any of this matters if you have ever asked around the faculty lounge.
“A political imbalance [among faculty] was no more significant than having an imbalance between Red Sox and Yankee fans,” sniffed Henry C.W. Laurence, a Bowdoin professor of government, in 2004. He added that the suggestion that liberal professors cannot fairly reflect conservative views in classroom discussions is “intellectually bankrupt, professionally insulting and, fortunately, wildly inaccurate.”
This is an intellectual, academic paradigm shift of almost incomprehensible magnitude. Since its inception, regardless of the reality on the ground, America’s self-image (which was sold to generations of school children and college students right up until the 1950s) was of an inclusive nation, a melting pot, dedicated to the principle that all American citizens are entitled to equal treatment under the law; have a right to equal access to American opportunities (with it being up to the people whether to take that access); and are subject to the downside risks should they refuse to seize the opportunities or violate the law. With slavery and Jim Crow, we deviated from the principles, but the principles were sound.
At Bowdoin, though, and others like it, the paradigm has shifted. Young people are taught a new, ugly paradigm about their country: America is composed of disparate groups, with a few select groups made up of white men (and, probably, Jews) controlling the nation and doing what they can to exploit, denigrate, and impoverish a never-ending, every-growing list of victim classes, ranging from women, to homosexuals, to non-white races, to Muslims, to fat people, to anything that can be brought under the umbrella of victim. There is no such thing in this world as equality of opportunity. There is only equality of outcome that can be attained by using the government to strong-arm the ruling class of white males (and, possibly, Jews) so that they redistribute their ill-gotten gains to the victims.
I was talking the other day to a friend who works at elementary schools in a large, urban ghetto. These schools have no white children. The schools are dreadful, and the children — innocent victims all — suffer terribly. They grow up in abysmal poverty, and they don’t have role models within their homes showing education or wealth. Their neighborhoods are rife with crime (especially gun fire) and substance abuse. Almost all come from broken homes.Their streets are dangerous because of gangs. The message one receives from those brave enough to work in those neighborhoods is that these children can succeed only if we pour government funds into their schools. And if those funds don’t work, then we need to pour more in, and still more in.
In my mind, I compared these children — and they are so sad, since they are bright little lights that are blinking out — with the immigrants who came to this country between, say, 1850 and 1950. They lived in ghettos; they lived in abysmal poverty; their parents didn’t speak the language of wealth (many didn’t even speak English); the streets were dangerous, not because of gunfire, but because of knives, disease, and starvation; there was significant substance abuse (alcoholism and opium); schools were grossly underfunded, etc. And yet these children became working class, their children became middle class, and their children became upper class. It wasn’t a 100% success rate at every generation, but it was a substantial rate at every generation.
They went from this:
What’s the difference between then and now? I don’t believe that it’s because American blacks (and it’s mostly blacks stuck for generations in ghettos) are forever developmentally disabled by slavery. John McWhorter points out that blacks were ascending rapidly, both socially and economically, before Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society enticed them into welfare and single parenthood (welfare pays single mothers better than two parent families). Starting in the 1960s, the increasingly Left-leaning white leadership in America told blacks that, the end of slavery and Jim Crow notwithstanding, they are not created equal and they are not equal under the law. They are different — they are needier. Without Mama and Papa government, they are nothing.
I think it’s this paradigm shift, one that starts in the Ivory Towers by creating infinite victim classes, all of which that can be raised up only by government intervention and control, that trickles down into the streets. In the old days, you had to do it yourself, so you did. Nowadays, the government is supposed to rescue you. Homes don’t emphasize education, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility. They emphasize “Why isn’t the government helping?” This is not about race, or slavery, or poverty — it is about an intellectual environment that explicitly educates future leaders that government needs race-victims, and slave-victims and poverty-victims to fulfill its purpose. Without those classes, government is meaningless and by definition a vehicle of evil.
Paul Fussell, who thought outside the box, would not have approved. (Or at least I like to think he wouldn’t have approved.)