Friday, March 19

I'll Just Go And Have A Tidy First, M'Lord.

David Brooks, "The Broken Society". March 18

HERE'S Brooks' goddam Tell, and I know we've said this a hundred times, but for such an "open-minded" "moderate" "conservative" he sure seems oblivious to practically all liberal thinking beyond his own characterization of its lawn care habits. For all this David in the Lion's Den bullshit, he never seems to namecheck anyone or anything those Liberals at the Times or PBS have tossed his way. In seven years.

Of course, Brooks himself "was" "a Liberal" prior to his conversion to Friedmanomics, but that liberalism seems to be encompassed by that War Is Not Healthy For Children And Other Living Things poster he had in his bedroom before Mater objected.
The United States is becoming a broken society. The public has contempt for the political class. Public debt is piling up at an astonishing and unrelenting pace. Middle-class wages have lagged. Unemployment will remain high. It will take years to fully recover from the financial crisis.

Well, by golly. Y'know, maybe we've failed to point this out before, but public contempt for politicians ("the political class"?) is almost as old as the Republic, and it's returned in spades. St. Ronnie ran--and won--on it twice, and I don't remember hearing a peep out of you. He ran on the Horrors of the Public Debt, too, and then nearly quadrupled it. ("Oh, but he had a good excuse" y'all said.) The goddam debt's been piling up since you were in nappies, Brooks, and the one administration which reversed it met with something less than your full-throated approval, although you did spend a good portion of it talking about full throats. Once it was the Bush II administration's turn to play Incontinent Tax Cutting Is The Solution To Everything, here's which side you were on:
The Bayh Democrats are centrist but not visionary, and they seem to worry more about adding an extra $10 billion to the deficit than about the future of the Middle East. They may have read memos from the Democratic pollsters on the unpopularity of the $87 billion plan, but they don't seem to have read about the Versailles Treaty and what happens when strong nations impose punitive burdens on proud ones.

That's from October of 2003, when, we'll remind you, if we ever stop laughing at that "$87 billion", that "Six Months, Tops" Excursion to End All Excursions had already begun to morph into a multi-$trillion Vietnam remake. Oh, but you had good reasons. I almost forgot.

Of course the Heroic Drunken Marine Warriors of the Bush/Cheney administration came in for a little criticism in June 2004:
The final and most serious argument is that whatever the short-term benefits, the tax cuts have left us with a long-term fiscal mess. When you ask administration folks about the deficit problem, they argue that it isn't caused primarily by the cuts, but by rising health care costs and the aging baby boomers. That's true, but it evades the fact that the tax cuts made the situation worse.

'Course, their subsequent refusal to do anything but obstruct attempts to address rising health care costs have sorta made that situation worse, too.
This confluence of crises has produced a surge in vehement libertarianism. People are disgusted with Washington. The Tea Party movement rallies against big government, big business and the ruling class in general. Even beyond their ranks, there is a corrosive cynicism about public action.

Fuck you. On at least two occasions your column has quoted approvingly the fluff-headed theologizing of MeganJane McGalt. So either there's such a thing as too much libertarianism, or it shouldn't get into the hands of the Wrong Sort. Maybe Rand should have been published in Latin, like the dirty parts of old psychological studies.

As for "corrosive cynicism about public action", well, fuck you again. This sort of thing just never occurred to you between 1980 and 2008, huh? Like Douthat; you guys just didn't realize what your party was up to during all that time. Too many Burke weekends, maybe? At any rate, it's like a Coca-Cola™ salesman saying he didn't realize the stuff contained high-fructose corn syrup.

I know; let's ask the Tories for help!
But there is another way to respond to these problems that is more communitarian and less libertarian. This alternative has been explored most fully by the British writer Phillip Blond.

He grew up in working-class Liverpool. “I lived in the city when it was being eviscerated,” he told The New Statesman. “It was a beautiful city, one of the few in Britain to have a genuinely indigenous culture. And that whole way of life was destroyed.” Industry died. Political power was centralized in London.

The Rabble started wearing track suits, and calling their Betters by their Christian names.
Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.

For cryin' out loud, the goddam virus has jumped the Pond. Lord Blond was born in 1966. He was thirteen fucking years old when Lady Thatcher rode to the rescue.

Not that Britain didn't have a couple thousand years of the Divine Right of Inbred Warmongers ("Can you get your servants to eat rook?") to contend with; not that Tradition is ever any less formidable for being ridiculous on the face of it (at least this one isn't wholly manufactured of Ozzie and Harriet reruns and guided tours of Diamond Jim Brady's private dining car). But, please; try WWI, not Carnaby Street.
Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.

The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.

Look, God knows, I'm sorry hippies stole your lunch money, or gang-bonged that girl you had a crush on in homeroom; I'm sorry that, today, you are occasionally forced to deal with surly underlings, unkempt go-fers, tattooed baristas, and coloreds where there didn't used to be coloreds. But the suggestion that this calamitous turn of events came about through some accidentally enshrined, psilocybin-flavored Sixties craze, rather than centuries of righteous struggle which included the social reformations following both global wars of the 20th century and the American Fucking Revolution, in case you've forgotten, is just politically-motivated crapola. And it's particularly ironic coming as part of a "rebuke" to excessively disrespectful Tea Baggers, whose perpetual aggrievedness comes in no small part to their having been fed that crap about elitist left-wingers eradicating the Perfect Social Order that existed for two hundred years previous, back when you were only interested in harvesting their votes. Do you really imagine that we would have gone from 1946 to 2010 without addressing Civil Rights, or gender equality, except for the evil machinations of a few lefty professors? That without the throbbing beat of Race Records the internet today would be a place where Nice Girls and their Beaux did wholesome, patriotic, family-oriented activities instead of having group buttsex? Really? And you think this somehow equates with the past thirty years of multinational corporations running the government, and the global economy, for their own benefit, and fuck everyone else? Y'know, somehow, the more you guys demonstrate a twisted perception of history, the more understandable the Reign of Terror looks in retrospect.


heydave said...

One wonders what color his sky appears to be to him.

grouchomarxist said...

Floating at the precise center of all things -- wherever that might be at the moment -- the Brooksiesatva teaches us of the bliss of Unknowing. The cause of all Suffering and Embarrassment is Remembering. The Way to Pundit Seriousity consists of knowing what not to know, and when not to know it.

jrsutter said...

If you need some joy after Our Mr. Brooks--and didn't I need some cheering up--my husband called Pete Sessions--R TX an "insurofacist" and I want the trademark on that--after Andrew Weiner D NY got through with him today via C-SPAN hearings. Sessions must have cried after that spanking or was it a whooping?--he got on national TV.

I don't care if they pass a blank sheet of paper, just pass something and act like a majority party for Kheeerist's sake?

R. Porrofatto said...

Brooks is the guy who spends years admiring the many brilliant colors of the emperor's clothes and then has an epiphany about nudity in public. He's also been writing some version of the column you so lovingly gutted here for years. I like to go back to his Weekly Standard effluent for some real fun -- any piece will do, but I'm particularly fond of this one from April, 2003, in which he actually begins a paragraph with "Now that the war in Iraq is over, we'll find out how many people around the world are capable of facing unpleasant facts."

If you make it as far as pages 3-5, you'll meet Joey, Future Teabagger of America and Appalling Rhetorical Device to Meet A Word Count On Deadline.

BTW, lines like The goddam debt's been piling up since you were in nappies, Brooks, and the one administration which reversed it met with something less than your full-throated approval, although you did spend a good portion of it talking about full throats. are more astute and entertaining than anything Brooks has ever written. Always a pleasure.

PR said...

Sign me up for some of that 'Reign of Terror'. Where's Robespierre when you need him?

Anonymous said...

Milord Blond's comments are interesting as a mild update on Gone Are the Golden Days syndrome, which I expect may be as old as ancient Sumeria. At least. Crappy new stuff always seems crappier than the crappy old stuff, which one is used to. The crappy old stuff you grew up with is downright sacred, since it's obviously an essential, indivisible part of the natural order, not to mention God's plan.

I can't help sympathizing with him a little. It's true that there are human values in small-community life that wither when the village is invaded and splintered by the outside world. But then there are the defects of the virtues.


Li'l Innocent