Tuesday, November 10

And This Guy Writes For The Times! Vol. MMDLXXXI

David Brooks, "The Rush to Therapy". November 10

MY Poor Wife took a break from teaching at one point and spent a few years as an artisan in a small shop. And, as is no doubt universally true, found herself working alongside someone who was utterly unreliable, whose attendance was a die-roll, and whose frequent absences never came with more than about ten-minutes' notice. This was little more than a slight rash--the woman in question was no more than a minor cog--until they talked my Poor Wife into being shop steward.

And, y'know, cue the montage of two weeks of last-minute absences, the straighten-up-and-fly-right talk, the earnest this-can't-go-on talk, after which it does, after which my wife goes to the owners and says, "She's got to be fired," knowing full well that the reason she hadn't been fired long ago is that the owners liked her. Which was their reply.

"Well, then," says PW, "for the sake of efficiency, could we just create a list of numbered excuses, so I wouldn't have to spend so much time on the phone with her? You know, 'Hi, I won't be coming in today. Number 19.' "

Maybe the Times could do that with Brooks. Maybe "#12" could be "Night School Sociology Lecture", with "12a" meaning "veers off into defense of corporate rapine" and "12b" as "includes sudden insertion of right-wing talking point Brooks imagines is subtle".

Not, mind you, that I'm shirking personal responsibility for continuing to read something that starts out like this:
We’re all born late. We’re born into history that is well under way. We’re born into cultures, nations and languages that we didn’t choose. On top of that, we’re born with certain brain chemicals and genetic predispositions that we can’t control. We’re thrust into social conditions that we detest. Often, we react in ways we regret even while we’re doing them.

But unlike the other animals, people do have a drive to seek coherence and meaning. We have a need to tell ourselves stories that explain it all. We use these stories to supply the metaphysics, without which life seems pointless and empty.

Okay, sorry to break in here, but this is going to go on for another six or eight paragraphs before we find out what he's really on about ("12b"), so, first, I'm willing to sit through the first lecture, or the second, reserving the right to be bored out of my fucking skull. But not both, and when the second argument has already been annihilated by the first, I want my money back, to boot. "Coherence" and "meaning" are as much a product of our language, and culture, and our "place" in history as blogging, tramp stamps, or nebbishy "conservative" apologists. Second, isn't it interesting that no matter how much pseudo-science gets front-loaded into the argument, in the end we're always urged to Make Room for Metaphysics! on the grounds that we're "supposed" to want to "feel that way", as the alternative is "emptiness" ?

Most people select stories that lead toward cooperation and goodness. But over the past few decades a malevolent narrative has emerged.

Who, O, Who, I wonder, has disturbed the entire 6000 years of the warm bathwater of human history?
That narrative has emerged on the fringes of the Muslim world. It is a narrative that sees human history as a war between Islam on the one side and Christianity and Judaism on the other.

This narrative causes its adherents to shrink their circle of concern. They don’t see others as fully human. They come to believe others can be blamelessly murdered and that, in fact, it is admirable to do so.

Jesus Christ, Mr. Brooks. You familiar with the Old Testament?
This narrative is embraced by a small minority. But it has caused incredible amounts of suffering within the Muslim world, in Israel, in the U.S. and elsewhere. With their suicide bombings and terrorist acts, adherents to this narrative have made themselves central to global politics. They are the ones who go into crowded rooms, shout “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” and then start murdering.

So let's put the blame precisely where it belongs. On Metaphysics.

Look, how far are we removed, in 2009, from the time when the disingenuousness of this argument was supposed to fly right over everyone's head? Either it's a religious matter or it isn't. If it is, then accept the frequent murderousness that Metaphysics is heir to; if it's not, then quit portraying the other side as religious automatons. There's plenty of murderous intent to go 'round. There're plenty of political reasons to resent Israel, and the Island that gave in to terrorists and abdicated its international responsibilities, which were partly the result of its self-righteous Christian self-assurance that it was ordained to rule over simple brown peoples, and the country which created the modern state of Israel out of other people's land to atone for still other people's murderousness.
When Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan did that in Fort Hood, Tex., last week, many Americans had an understandable and, in some ways, admirable reaction. They didn’t want the horror to become a pretext for anti-Muslim bigotry.

So immediately the coverage took on a certain cast. The possibility of Islamic extremism was immediately played down. This was an isolated personal breakdown, not an ideological assault, many people emphasized.

So, anyone wanna bet on how long it takes for "understandable and in some ways admirable" resistance to anti-Muslim bigotry to become "Objectively pro-terrorist"? Do I hear two paragraphs?

And here, again, we navigate the treacherous waters of a strait. Everyone admits the waters are treacherous, and everyone admits there's a strait, but somehow, Mr. Brooks, you always wind up describing the terrain on one side only. I don't give a fuck about minimizing anti-Muslim bigotry, which is out there, in spades, and is the lookout of your side. The grandfatherly Sikh gentleman who works at the Target doesn't have any worries that I'll sneak up behind him and bash his somewhat-suggestive-of-an-Arabian-Nights-movie-I-saw-once head in. I haven't waterboarded anybody, or locked 'em in a cell for six years because I mistook their identities. That's you. The guy whose Metaphysics resembles theirs about fifty-times more than my own.

All I want, sir--and I'm beyond expecting it--is fair fucking coverage. As in, coverage which did not begin speculating about "terrorism" the moment Major Hasan's name became public, when it wouldn't have if the perpetrator of yet another Second Amendment Freakout was called O'Malley or Cohen. Coverage that either keeps its powder dry about the man's religious affiliation, or which calls Christianity or Judaism to account whenever their adherents go Postal. If there was some reticence on the part of the mass-market media to immediately denounce Islam as the Devil's religion, let's say, one, it's overdue, and two, it's not the result of some Wingnut PC Run Amok fantasy but a baby step in the appropriate direction.
This response was understandable. It’s important to tamp down vengeful hatreds in moments of passion. But it was also patronizing. Public commentators assumed the air of kindergarten teachers who had to protect their children from thinking certain impermissible and intolerant thoughts. If public commentary wasn’t carefully policed, the assumption seemed to be, then the great mass of unwashed yahoos in Middle America would go off on a racist rampage.

And this from the guy who announced to the world that "neocon" was an anti-Semitic slur. Do you not have enough Decency at this point, sir, to stop pretending you speak for pretend Midwesterners?

Or at least to cough up evidence that you actually read that Red Lobster menu this time? Who're you talking about? Which network was most unfairly Fair to Muslims? Why th' fuck would anyone watch teevee coverage of whatever Wall-to-Wall expecting accuracy? Why would anyone be surprised to find a zeitgeist-placating script? The early bulletins said Hasan had been killed and his two accomplices were still at large. Izzat the sort of coverage you think there should be more of?
It denied, before the evidence was in, the possibility of evil. It sought to reduce a heinous act to social maladjustment. It wasn’t the reaction of a morally or politically serious nation.

Neither's ignoring war crimes, which hold the distinction of being officially sanctioned. I dunno why you'd need, or want, a bunch of fluff-headed teleprompter readers to analyze this, or anything beyond the Season's hot new giftables, for you. But I do know that performance was influenced by our culture, our nation, and our language. So're the contents of our landfills, but I don't see why we should roll around in them just so we all smell like your opinions.


LittlePig said...

It wasn’t the reaction of a morally or politically serious nation.

Damn, that's remarkably retarded even by Brooksian standards. The politically serious response is to, what, go invade some random country of brown skinned folks?

When they start calling folks like the Orlando dude that shot up his old office or the white guy that shot up a church he didn't agree with "terrorists", then a discussion can begin. Until then Brooksie and his ilk are waiving the flag for their side like any junior high cheerleader.

"morally serious nation"? Yeah, like that ever happened.

Augustus Mulliner said...

And, conversely, we can devise a numbered list of capsule critiques to slap on Bobo after every burst of verbal flatulence: (12) Rampant Ass-hattery, (27) Corporate Shillery, (8) Egregious Fuck-Wittery, etc. Although I admit it's ever so much more satisfying to read your deconstructions in full.

Kathy said...

Cal thomas: "[W]e .... tolerate virtually everything, ... and subscribe to a bogus belief that if radical Islamists can see we mean them no harm, they will mean us no harm."

Good idea Cal (with a capital C and that rhymes with P and that stands for___)

Cal? Caalll? OH CAL!

Please tell me exactly HOW we can convince ANYONE we mean Islamists (his spelling) NO HARM.

Groucho Engels said...

How exactly is metaphysics to blame for anything? Metaphysics is simply the realm of inquiry related to the non(or not currently)-emperically verifiable aspects fo the universe like free will, physicalism versus dualism, etc. It's very similar and related to epistemology and ontology.

Unless you are taking some hard-line materialist or positivist stance that contends to reject the very existence of these issues then your use of the word metaphysics makes no sense.

Metaphysics is not a synonym for religion or spirituality or the supernaturalism. Metaphysics is not heir to murderousness any more than the scientific method is heir to it for it's role in being used by those who invented the atomic bomb.
Please either show me what accepted definition of metaphysics you are basing your use of the word on or tell me what you meant by using the term and we can look for a more accurate word.