I RARELY tackle Brooks in one of those Sociology reveries of his, when he's apparently imagining himself at some private, exclusive, expensive liberal arts college, be-Tweeded and Meerschaum'd, privately discussing her semester grade with some pillowy coed, just enough of sixteen, or fifteen, still echoing in her cheeks, or tongue-moistened lips, just enough college girl experience in her eyes, stubby little fingers a bit too fidgety, paint-chipped some ridiculous color or two. Extra credit! The sinecure's wet dream of a sinecure. Because, frankly, I'm subject to fits, and this computer desk has sharp corners.
If the Times wants to pay a rank amateur to regularly fill its Op-Ed pages with unlettered and highly selective culls of social science articles written for the general reader, well, it's not like it has much of a reputation left to lose.
It's bad enough that Brooks evinces no awareness whatever of the basic issues in the social sciences; what's worse--or, at least, what's a greater risk to my maxillofacial structures--is how Brooks seems to imagine he can use this stuff to reinforce his Preppy Monarchist routine without anyone being the wiser. It's always relentlessly aspirational, always wowed by some Untapped or Recently Discovered Human Potential which, in the future, will serve the ever-perfection-bound perfection of Capitalism well, or would, if it weren't largely a shell game. Brooks didn't get where he is on the back of a turnip truck. That doesn't mean he doesn't actually believe this shit. It just means he has to know that not everyone does, and might consider writing accordingly.
Today's column is a bleg for seventy-something readers to write their life stories, and a couple of columns, for him ("around Thanksgiving". Good timing.). This will benefit young readers, who rarely get the advice about adulthood they so desperately crave from withered senescents.
And so does Youth turn to David Brooks for help! like he's an elevated sleeping platform 12 hours up the overnight trail. Actually, Dave recently "stumbled across" brief biographies written by Yalies, Class of 1942, for their 50th reunion. While looking for the definition of "bleg", I'm guessing.
So, first off, young reader, I'm with Dave on this one. I wish someone had advised me to be wealthy enough to attend Yale during a Great Depression.
Of course, Young Dreamer, we are not here to discuss what sort of effect Every Fucking Opportunity in the Book might have on your Life Story, as this is why you have been provided bootstraps, or a Times to sleep under. There is, after all, a 1 in 2 chance you are female and a 1 in 5 chance you're black, or otherwise disadvantaged, and so wouldn't be writing about your time at Yale in the 40s in the first place. Mutatis mutants, future entrepreneur! Enjoy your refrigerated beverage! Not so common among your kind back in those days, yet look where you are now. Consider the selection in the beverage aisle! Consider the opportunities in the burgeoning field of refrigerator repair. Or the admittedly spartan, but relatively inexpensive housing afforded by their ubiquity. David Brooks did not happen to stumble on a treasure trove of bios from the Alumni of the Watts Riots or Khe Sanh or the Auto Industry. Take what aid life gives you, and be thankful he didn't stumble over your bedroll on his way to the Deli.
For example, you might consider a double major--"Appliance Repair" and "Dumpster Diving", say--if you wanna be truly happy:
The most common lament in this collection is from people who worked at the same company all their lives and now realize how boring they must seem. These people passively let their lives happen to them. One man described his long, uneventful career at an insurance company and concluded, “Wish my self-profile was more exciting, but it’s a little late now.”
This, of course, is welcome news had you planned on a career in public education, manufacturing, or anything else, actually, not involving nepotism.
Looking back, many were amazed by the role that chance played in their lives. Others point to the pivotal moment that changed their lives. One man was nationally humiliated when he lost to Charles Van Doren in a television quiz show (Van Doren was cheating).
From which you may learn, Future Leader, that it's a lot better to be the major corporation running the crooked game than it is to be the pawn in that game who broke no law, went on to a distinguished academic career, and will forevermore be referred to as Cheater. At least so long as it's up to the David Brookses of the world to assign blame.
The men all mention serving in the war, but none go into detail about their war experiences.
Take note, Young American! Although if you actually do happen to be headed to Yale you can just skip that part.