Reposing by the pool at his Capitol Hill retreat, David Brooks, New York Times Conservative intellectual juggernaut, faces another deadline. High walls and vegetation around the his demi-demesne cut off the noise of traffic and Trump and the rest of the raucous, riven nation about which he is paid enough each month to keep up the maintenance on this estate. A pricey islands of artificial quiet, mandatory calm, economically homogeneous neighbors and leather-bound books.
Just the sort of place from which to write once again about the country As It Should Be. Not the country As It Is, because Mr. Brooks has not set foot in America As It Is in years. The truth is, America As It Is scares the shit out of Mr. Brooks and the people for whom Mr. Brooks writes, which is why his columns should really be read as surreal dispatches to his fellow refugees from the grim reality of America As It Is -- short missives transmitted from his tree fort to theirs that delivered untainted by being dragged through the ugly terrain of terrifying facts on the ground far, far below.
Languorously -- because he has all the time in the world -- Mr. Brooks lays out the components necessary for this column: a hookah, hand-blown by Dale Chihuly and embedded with pulped nodules of paper from a first edition of B. F. Skinner's Walden Two which was a wedding present from George Will, two fat buds of Alaskan Thunderfuck sativa gifted to him by Imaginary Conservatism fellow-traveler Mr. Andrew Sullivan which Mr. Brooks has cut with 1/20th of a gram of ash purportedly from grave of David Foster Wallace, which was given to him by Peggy Noonan as pledge of mutual silence between Mr. Brooks and Ms. Noonan after a long and terrible weekend about which neither of them have ever spoken publicly. And, finally, a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (1 terabyte capacity) which will be operated by his houseboy/intern, Tuckwell, who will retrieve the various gusts and puffballs of Mr. Brooks spontaneously occurring utterances and arrange them in column-form after Mr. Brooks has passed out.
Everything in place, it's time to light the smoking lamp.
Long deep hit.
One: down to the road block we've just begun.
Long deep hit.
Two: the guards are through.
Exhale. A tingle. Maybe.
Long deep hit.
Three: the Major's men are on a spree.
There's something going on.
Shit, forgot to exhale.
Four: Major and Wladislaw go through the door. Five: Pinkley stays out in the drive...
There you are. Finally. Take this down!
The Art of Thinking Well
Jacobs makes good use of C. S. Lewis’s concept of the Inner Ring. In every setting — a school, a company or a society — there is an official hierarchy. But there may also be a separate prestige hierarchy, where the cool kids are. They are the Inner Ring.
I don't hear you typing, Tuckwell!
Getting it all down boss. Don't worry about a thing.
Six: the Major gives the rope a fix.
Short, hard hit.
Hold it. Hold it.
An underground vein of resentment is tapped.
Other people will resent the Inner Ring, and they will cut all sorts of intellectual corners in order to show their resentment. These people are quick to use combat metaphors when they talk about thinking (he shot down my argument, your claims are indefensible). These people will adopt shared vague slurs like “cuckservative” or “whitesplaining” that signal to the others in the outsider groups that they are attacking the ring, even though these slurs are usually impediments to thought.
Why must people be so hurtful, Tuckwell? Especially the poors and the flyover rubes and the bloggers? Why must they wound me so?
Who knows why people do shit, boss.
I'm so glad I have you around to read my emails and comments and such, Tuckwell. You're a treasure.
It's been an education, boss.
...After all, think of how you really persuade people. Do you do it by writing thoughtful essays that carefully marshal facts? That works some of the time. But the real way to persuade people is to create an attractive community that people want to join. If you do that, they’ll bend their opinions to yours. If you want people to be reasonable, create groups where it’s cool to be reasonable.
Can't you just picture it, Tuckwell? The whole country just like this. (Mr. Brooks gestures around his estate.)
And George Will comes by sometimes. And Peggy Noonan. And even Andy Sullivan. And everyone is so reasonable because its so cool to be reasonable. And then unreasonable, name-calling people will become unattractive. That'll show 'em!!
Seven: Wladislaw throws the hook to heaven.
Last hit. Monster hit.
Because it's time to bring this fucker in for a landing.
You know what the Book of Proverbs says, Tuckwell?
Just dying to know, boss.
Back when they wrote the book of Proverbs it was said, “By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.” These days, a soft tongue doesn’t get you very far, but someday it might again.
Then, nothing but a soft,whistling snore as David Brooks, New York Times Conservative intellectual juggernaut falls into a deep, righteous sleep having saved the republic and proved the virtues of Imaginary Conservatism once more.
Tuckwell stops typing.
As long as we're playing the Cherry Pick The Bible and David Foster Wallace Game, know what the Book of Exodus says, boss?
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.
It says sometimes, before you can build the Reasonable Cool Kid's Club of your dreams, you first have to kick the living shit out of the monsters from your nightmares that stand in your way.
Behold, a Tip Jar!