Tuesday, June 06, 2017

David Brooks Dreams About Having a Lot of Money

One of the genres of bad fiction which The New York Times pays David Brooks' to write is "What if a buncha shit that will never, ever happen actually happened and it fixed all our problems?  Wouldn't that be cool!"

It isn't science-fiction because (with some notable and canonically-accepted exceptions) science-fiction is the plausible "What If?" extension of some trend or technology.  And it isn't fantasy, because even fantasy has rules.  But whatever it is, House Sulzberger obviously believes it's worth paying Mr. David Brooks a large quantity of American money to extrude 800 words of it into their family's newspaper on a regular basis.

And so he has again today.

From The New York Times:
Giving Away Your Billion

Recently I’ve been reading the Giving Pledge letters. These are the letters that rich people write when they join Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge campaign. They take the pledge, promising to give away most of their wealth during their lifetime, and then they write letters describing their giving philosophy...

The letters set off my own fantasies. What would I do if I had a billion bucks to use for good?...
How would Mr. Brooks spend his nonexistence billion dollars?

First, he would lift subplot from Kurt Vonnegut's 1976 novel "Slapstick"

From Wikipedia:
The siblings created, among other things, a plan to end loneliness in America through vast extended families. Under the plan, all citizens would be provided with new middle names, made of the name of a random natural object paired with a random number between 1 and 20. Everyone with the same name would be cousins, and everyone with the same name and number would be siblings.
From David Brooks:
Thus, I’d use my imaginary billion to seed 25-person collectives around the country...

A collective would be a group of people who met once a week to share and discuss life. Members of these chosen families would go on retreats and celebrate life events together. There would be “clearness committees” for members facing key decisions.
And then, as Tom Scocca of The Twitter noted, the Acela Corridor's great Explainer of Real America to the Beltway elite would deploy his legions of "25-person collectives"...
The collectives would hit the four pressure points required for personal transformation:

Heart: By nurturing deep friendships, they would give people the secure emotional connections they need to make daring explorations.

Hands: Members would get in the habit of performing small tasks of service and self-control for one another, thus engraving the habits of citizenship and good character.

Head: Each collective would have a curriculum, a set of biographical and reflective readings, to help members come up with their own life philosophies, to help them master the intellectual virtues required for public debate.

Soul: In a busy world, members would discuss fundamental issues of life’s purpose, so that they might possess the spiritual true north that orients a life.
...to invent the 4H Club (from Wikipedia):
The 4-H name represents four personal development areas of focus for the organization: head, heart, hands, and health. As of 2007, the organization had over 6.5 million members in the United States, from ages 5 to 21, in approximately 90,000 clubs.[4] 
The goal of 4-H is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills of youth through experiential learning programs and a positive youth development approach.
So as long as we're using pretend money to invent things that already exist, may I suggest Mr. Brooks used his next imaginary billion to invent vaudeville, and the billion after that to create the Women's Christian Temperance Union (which still exists and is headquartered a few hundred feet away from where I used to work in Evanston, IL.) 

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the congressional leaders of Mr. Brooks' Republican Party still plot in secret to strip 22 million real Americans of their health care so that people like Mr. Brooks can enjoy the largest tax cut in history.

Also back in the real world, President Stupid continues to lay waste to everything he touches to the delight of the tens of millions of bigots and imbeciles who make up of the Republican Party's very own "clearness committee" and who think President Stupid is doing a fabulous job.


dinthebeast said...

My sister raised a blue-ribbon winning sheep in 4-H, which she sold and helped pay for the first motorcycle I ever got to ride in 1968.
And why does it have to be imaginary money before DFB does something good with it? He's got a damn sight more money than I do, and I still manage the occasional act of civic goodness with the proceeds of my SSDI, so why not him?

-Doug in Oakland

driftglass said...

"Empy" sorry for accidentally deleting comment. It was unintentional & entirely the fault of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

Lawrence said...

I doubt DFB reads Vonnegut. I've got $20 on this being lifted from Burke's Little Platoons.

Andrew Johnston said...

In lieu of repeating the mammoth comment I left at Yas's place, here's the short version: I actually had a principal who was into this bullshit. She had this grand plan to foster unity and break up cliques by rearranging the school day and forcing random students together to complete more or less arbitrary projects. It was incredibly awkward at best and downright painful at worst. Most of what I remember was being introduced to various assholes, bullies and psychos from the other grades, because heaven knows I didn't have enough of those in the classes I already had.

I get that this plan to spend a billion dollars to hire an army of guidance counselors isn't a serious one, that it's another stab at reinforcing Brooks' currently favored "enlightened" persona while wringing a few more bucks out of the NYT. Even so, I am continuously in awe that Brooks things that the biggest problem facing the country is that more people haven't read his book ("a set of biographical and reflective readings" my ass, we know what you're talking about).

dinthebeast said...

...AAannd meanwhile back in reality, Warren Buffett is auctioning off a "power lunch" with him with the proceeds going to the Glide Foundation. As of yesterday, the bidding was over a million dollars. This is the seventeenth year he has done this, and the previous two years brought more than three million dollars each, for a total of more than twenty million dollars donated.


-Doug in Oakland

Mike Lumish said...

Brooks's program sounds alarming similar to the Small Groups that have been a commonplace in American churches for at least thirty years. One might expect that an acute observor of American mores and social practices would have noticed such a widespread social movement.

trgahan said...

So instead of feeding the hungry, cloth the naked, healing the sick, etc. DFB would spend his money funding thousands of micro Aspen Institute retreats mixed with highway clean up days?

So this means DFB is admitting he agrees with Ben Carson that poverty is just a "state of mind" Got it.

Lawrence said...

@Mike Lumish
DFB doesn't go to church. But he's pretty sure you should.

proverbialleadballoon said...

David Brooks, why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling donut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the moooooooon?!

seriously, though. Fuck this 'person'. Put your money where your mouth is, Brooks, you get paid millions to wipe your ass with the NYT, put up or shut up. Actually, just shut up.

Empy said...

Acceptance of Jefferson's resignation will cover the emotional damage.

The Kraken said...

Beyond 4-H the military does a bang up job of uprooting volunteers and depositing them in arbitrary and random platoons. Then forcing them to work together under great stress, and under the threat of individual and group punishment. Funny, but my experience was that we still self-sorted along usual lines.

That took a few billion to organize and execute too.