Tuesday, November 17, 2015

David Brooks: God and Mammon at Yale

David Brooks, November 17, 2015:  Finding Peace Within the Holy Texts
We live, as Sacks writes, in a century that “has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.” The secular substitutes for religion — nationalism, racism and political ideology — have all led to disaster. So many flock to religion, sometimes — especially within Islam — to extremist forms.
David Brooks, November 13, 2015:  My $120,000 Vacation
I tried but failed to ward off the second bottle of champagne. I was sitting in my room at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, on the phone with a friend. The hotel staff had already brought me chocolates and Turkish delight to welcome me. They’d put bookmarks in the books I’d left on the desk. They’d replaced my bathmat midday because I’d gotten the first one wet. They’d arranged my notes for this article in clean little stacks. There was already one ice-bucketed bottle of champagne on the dining room table when the door chime rang.
David Brooks, November 17, 2015:  Finding Peace Within the Holy Texts
The pathological dualist can’t reconcile his humiliated place in the world with his own moral superiority.
David Brooks, November 13, 2015:  My $120,000 Vacation
They treated the crew as friends and equals and not as staff. Nobody was trying to prove they were better informed or more sophisticated than anybody else. There were times, in fact, when I almost wished there had been a little more pretense and a little more intellectual and spiritual ambition.
David Brooks, November 17, 2015:  Finding Peace Within the Holy Texts
Justice demands respect of the other. It plays on the collective memory of people who are in covenantal communities: Your people, too, were once vulnerable strangers in a strange land. 
The command is not just to be empathetic toward strangers, which is fragile. The command is to pursue sanctification, which involves struggle and sometimes conquering your selfish instincts...
David Brooks, November 13, 2015:  My $120,000 Vacation
I’m generally a frenetic traveler, but there were moments when I was frustrated we couldn’t stop for even three minutes to really look at what we were seeing. There were several moments when I was frustrated at how little time was set aside for solitary contemplation.
David Brooks, November 17, 2015:  Finding Peace Within the Holy Texts
Moreover, God frequently appears where he is least expected — in the voice of the stranger — reminding us that God transcends the particulars of our attachments.
David Brooks, November 13, 2015:  My $120,000 Vacation
The people on this trip loved the experience. They were very satisfied customers. But they did have moments of exhaustion. Multiple bucket list items per day — the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul? Check. The main market in Marrakesh? Check! When I asked the guests what their favorite stop was, a plurality said the Maldives, where they got a chance to sit, pause and enjoy the beaches.
David Brooks, November 17, 2015:  Finding Peace Within the Holy Texts
It may seem strange that in this century of technology, peace will be found within these ancient texts. But as Sacks points out, Abraham had no empire, no miracles and no army — just a different example of how to believe, think and live.
David Brooks, November 13, 2015:  My $120,000 Vacation
But sometimes money allows you to see too many things, too quickly. Sometimes if you seize all the opportunities your money affords, you may end up skimming over life and nothing is deep enough to leave a mark.

And, yet, I must confess, other sweet small moments came when I just said what the heck and enjoyed the self-indulgence. The caviar in Russia was really nice. So was the beautiful hotel pool in Morocco, the sweet staff at every stop and the little cubes of Turkish delight. And yes, over the course of the three days at the Four Seasons in Istanbul, I did drink both bottles of champagne.

Of course, we all have a responsibility to reduce inequality in our society. But maybe not every day.

Individuals who are not vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers to whom the NYT gives the back of its hand attracted the attention of the Times' Public Editor long enough to wrangle an explanation of who, exactly, paid for the already-wildly-overcompensated David Brooks' wildly expensive vacation, which Mr. Brooks somehow squeezed in between his other vacations, "book leaves" and book-tour speaking engagements.  Once again, it turns out that the New York Times footed the bill for Mr. Brooks to hang out with globe-trotting millionaires long enough for him to piously leave the gun but smugly take the canoli:
Many readers wanted to know the arrangements behind David Brooks’s participation on part of a $120,000 luxury trip, which he wrote about for T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Many on Twitter and elsewhere charged that this must be a junket — a free trip for a journalist, which is, of course, an ethical no-no. (Others objected in strong terms to the article’s concept, its tone, and the The Times’s relative wisdom of spending a large sum of money for this purpose.) The Times’s standards editor, Philip B. Corbett, assured me late Friday that the company had paid for the portion of that trip for which Mr. Brooks was present. (Yes, that covered both bottles of champagne.) A sentence in the article making the arrangement clear to readers would have been a good idea.
James Warren suggests that as long as the Public Editor of the NYT is feeling all disclose-y, perhaps she could also talk about the fact that the already wildly-overcompensated Mr. Brooks also routinely picks up an additional $40K here and $60K there, rhapsodizing for an hour or so to audiences of America's Most Privileged People about the importance of humility (emphasis added):
...But while the Times is in disclosure mode, this question: Why doesn't the paper routinely tell readers about the outside paid speaking gigs of Brooks and others? The Times has traditionally made a distinction (arguably without a difference) between the paid speaking rules for newsroom personnel, who report to the editor, and those of op-ed and editorial writers, who are under the aegis of the publisher and generally free as a bird. That's folly. A single luncheon or dinner appearances can bring as much as some journalists earn in a year, with the likes of Brooks and Tom Friedman able to pick up gigs for anywhere from $30,000 to $75,000. Even assuming their ethical rectitude, shouldn't readers know about even the hint of potential conflict suggested by the plush oratorical buckraking?
In case you haven't figured it out by now, the most sacred of David Brooks' "Holy Texts" have always borne faces of dead presidents and come wrapped in American Bankers Association compliant currency straps. 

And anyone who thinks otherwise deserves what they get.


Karen Crosby said...

Totally awesome. I had forced myself to read the $120k vacation vomitus just to keep my blood pressure level up there.

Aargh. I am a fool. Thanks for the juxtaposition work. I am now feeling very calm.

Lawrence said...

I had read about the vacation article elsewhere. DFB describes his traveling companions as lower tier rich people before commenting on how they were nice to the help. Because that's odd enough to warrant observation, apparently. And the failure to ward off the second bottle of champagne, was he in a bathrobe the whole time? Because it reads like Hitchhiker's Guide if Arthur Dent were an unlikable asshole.

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good afternoon, Mr. Glass.

"My job was to report back on the merits and demerits of such pampered high-end travel."

Well, it could've been worse. They could've spent $225 million to find out if anybody still cared who the Lone Ranger was (spoiler: no)...


Be seeing you.

dinthebeast said...

So does this mean that the rule has changed to "thou shalt not quote DFB from three days previous"?

-Doug in Oakland

Anonymous said...

"My job was to report back on the merits and demerits of such pampered high-end travel." "My job was to report back on the merits and demerits of such pampered high-end travel." "My job was to report back on the merits and demerits of such pampered high-end travel." "My job was to report back on the merits and demerits of such pampered high-end travel."

Sorry, that's what keeps going through my head and not getting processed. Was this some kind of elaborate joke?