Saturday, August 30, 2014

David Brooks Phones In Another Book Report



He does that.

A lot.

Here is this week's:
The Mental Virtues
Oh goodie!

Another lecture on virtue!

From David Brooks!

Because who better?
Even if you are alone in your office, you are thinking. Thinking well under a barrage of information may be a different sort of moral challenge than fighting well under a hail of bullets, but it’s a character challenge nonetheless.
Words fail me here, so let me illustrate what David Brooks alone in his office confronting a moral challenge looks like:



Mr. Brooks continues:
In their 2007 book, “Intellectual Virtues,” Robert C. Roberts of Baylor University and W. Jay Wood of Wheaton College list some of the cerebral virtues. We can all grade ourselves on how good we are at each of them.
And here we go...
First, there is love of learning...
So far, so good.  What's next?
Second, there is courage. 
Sure.  Who doesn't value courage?  But of course, this being David Fucking Brooks, only a specific, Centrist-y kind of courage will do:
...The reckless thinker takes a few pieces of information and leaps to some faraway conspiracy theory. The perfectionist, on the other hand, is unwilling to put anything out there except under ideal conditions for fear that she could be wrong...
And for any new readers interested in a truly embarrassing abundance of examples of a shamelessly "reckless thinker" leaping to "some faraway conspiracy theory",  just Google "David Brooks", Iraq and George Bush or click here. I guarantee that you will be shocked at how deep into the wingnut sewer Yale's favorite Professor of Humility used to happily dog-paddle for a dollar.
Third, there is firmness. 
Terrific!  But, once again, the only real "firmness" is David Brooks brand-name "firmness" equidistant between two straw men will suffice:
You don’t want to be a person who surrenders his beliefs at the slightest whiff of opposition. On the other hand, you don’t want to hold dogmatically to a belief against all evidence. The median point between flaccidity and rigidity is the virtue of firmness. 
Mr. Brooks continues --
Fourth, there is humility, which is not letting your own desire for status get in the way of accuracy. 
-- and I struggle mightily to keep my lunch down.
Fifth, there is autonomy. 
But, once again...
You don’t want to be a person who slavishly adopts whatever opinion your teacher or some author gives you. On the other hand...
And, finally.
Finally, there is generosity. This virtue starts with the willingness to share knowledge and give others credit. But it also means hearing others as they would like to be heard, looking for what each person has to teach and not looking to triumphantly pounce upon their errors.
Which ironically demonstrates the one virtue Mr, Brooks truly values above all others but never talks about -- the virtue of never having to listen to your critics or be held accountable for anything you say, do or write.  It frees Mr. Brooks from the obligation of ever reconciling his former career as a paid slanderer of Liberals and triumphant pouncer upon Liberal errors (which, it turned out in the fullness of time, were not errors at all but 100% accurate) with his current career as ass-stick containment unit and truckling Centrist scold.

And or course, what half-assed book report would be complete without an extra-credit end-quote you hope will bump your lazy, forgettable trash into passing-grade range:
Montaigne once wrote...
Finally, as hundreds many several one minor early 21st century wag once noted:
Like a lot of his columns, this one reeks strongly of Brooks obliquely writing about himself. Or about how he sees himself: a noble man who got caught up in an unsavory profession for the very best of reasons and now is trying to cut a different trail for himself (without actually changing or taking responsibility for anything.)
Which is why Mr. Brooks finishes off this 800-words-of-nothing with what I'm sure he fervently hopes will be the first line of his obituary --
 It’s possible to be heroic if you’re just sitting alone in your office.
 -- and will be positioned precisely in the middle of New York Times obit page.



10 comments:

Hef said...

St. David (Davi in the original Welsh) was canonized for the miracle of raising a small hill during a sermon from which a white dove (of centrism, I assume) appeared. Some 6th century smart-ass cried out:"Just what we need in Wales, another bloody hill! He (the smart ass, not St. Davi) was burned at the stake for his courageous thinking. There's a lesson in humility for ya.

bowtiejack said...

A more disturbing question about all these pundits, David Brooks, Chuck Todds, David Gregorys, and the rest is why any of them have jobs. Their obsequious moronic conformity to the stunted worldview of their conservative overlords would do a medieval courtier proud.

My own small take on it is that generally:
(1) most people don't like people a lot smarter than them, you know the "pointy egghead" argument and they particularly get nervous about having people work for them who are smarter than they are;
(2) the narcissistic sociopathic greed drive necessary to become a pirate captain, a CEO, or whatever does not correlate with wisdom or insight - street smarts are not the same thing as real smarts; and
(3) pirate captains and CEOs want "reliable" crew members who won't rock the boat, even if said crew members are not that bright (e.g. Steve Doocy and the Fox crew and Our Own Ms. Brooks).

CM said...

You blogpost "What Matters is The Work" is outstanding. Have bookmarked it to use it on my center-left friend who is a big fan of Brooks' 'balanced and moderate' opinions.

dinthebeast said...

The median point between flaccidity and rigidity is the virtue of firmness.

Making you good for what, exactly?

-Doug in Oakland

driftglass said...

dinthebeast,

Writing op-ed columns for the NYT.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

@Hef

Thanks, man, that was too funny. Let me go settle down and catch my breath.

Cirze said...

Seems I remember Brooks' wife left him over his generously diddlin' some other woman.

Or was that just George Will's wife's definition of moderate autonomy?

I fergit.

These virtues seem to have been the driving force for some time among that supremely (and not afraid to claim it) courageous crowd.

Their logic and moderate opinions all nice and balanced has always escaped my awesomeness detector.

Seems the NYT has determined I must try harder as they will never be allowed repentance (or silence).

- Nattering Nabob of Negativity

Like a lot of his columns, this one reeks strongly of Brooks obliquely writing about himself. Or about how he sees himself: a noble man who got caught up in an unsavory profession for the very best of reasons and now is trying to cut a different trail for himself (without actually changing or taking responsibility for anything.)

steeve said...

Egads.

It's possible to do something too much, or not enough. It's also possible to do something else too much, or not enough.

I'm smart.

Anonymous said...

Wheaton fucking College. Where Billy Graham got a degree.

Mark K Bilbo said...

"The median point between flaccidity and rigidity is the virtue of firmness."

Dude, Viagra?