Friday, June 22, 2018

David Brooks: Scant Man

Over at The New York Times today, as the world burns in a bonfire Conservatives have spent 50 years building, America's Most Ubiquitous Conservative Public Intellectual, Mr. David Brooks has discovered comic books!

And video games!  And Star Wars!

And would like to tell you what they get wrong!


From the internet blurb:
In Marvel movies, League of Legends and World Cup action alike, we celebrate the virtues of grandeur and heroic superiority common in classical myths. Is there still room in pop culture for quieter, more contemplative parables?
The Fourth Great Awakening

There are certain melodies that waft through history. One is the cultural contrast between Athens and Jerusalem. This contrast has many meanings, but the most germane one for our day is the contrast between the competitive virtues and the compassionate virtues...
And here's the the thing.  Based on the sheer, rambling goofiness of this spray of consternation and adjectives --
Myths tend to celebrate grandeur and heroic superiority; parables tend to puncture the pretensions of superiority and celebrate humility and service to others.

All of a sudden, we are surrounded by myth. As parable-based religion has receded from the public square, heroic myth, and the competitive virtues it celebrates, has rushed in to fill the space.

I’ll just mention three forms that are immensely popular today. The first is mythic movies: “Avengers,” “X-Men,” “Star Wars,” “Transformers,” “Justice League” and the rest...
-- one might suspect suspect that melodies were not the only thing "wafting" around the Brooks' manor  yesterday.   In fact, one might expect the next column by Mr. Brooks to bash a certain "person from Porlock" for interrupting his reverie.

But as with every David Brooks column, once you pop the hood and look at the machinery, you find it's nothing but the same, shitty column the Sulzberger family has been paying him to write over and over again for decades..

You see, every day as their Republican party continues its relentless rollback of the Enlightenment and validates every single alarm Liberals have been sounding for decades, men like David Brooks become ever more desperate to evade accountability.  Ever more frantic to spread the blame for the atrocities committed by their party and their ideological movement as far away from themselves as possible.

You can hear it in Joe Scarborough's mindless repetition of the new mantra of his show -- "Trump is really a Dimmocrat!" --  every day, Monday through Friday.

You can see it in Michael Gersons sweaty, pleading denial that there was ever anything terribly wrong with his Republican party until Donald Trump magically transformed the entire Republican base into a shitpile of bigots and imbeciles overnight and stole the whole party out from under him.

And you can read it twice a week, every week in The New York Times, where David Brooks has spent the past 15 years moralizing from op-ed mountaintop to the squalid masses below by reverse-engineering every vagrant thought and every passing fad into a wheedling sermon about how, instead of Republicans being to blame for the catastrophic choices they make, the lies they tell and the monstrous people and policies they have promoted and endorsed, it's really Both Sides who are always to blame.

Or human nature is to blame.  Or The System is to blame.  Or "tribalism" is to blame, which means everyone is to blame.  

And thus it was today when, after meandering through soccer and video games and Ant Man, Mr. Brooks finally got around the delivering the payload the Sulzberger family pays him to deliver.
There are many virtues to the mythic worldview — to stand heroically for justice, to be loyal to friends and fierce against foes. But history does offer some sobering lessons about societies that relied too heavily on the competitive virtues.

They tend to give short shrift to relationships, which depend on the fragile, intimate bonds of vulnerability, trust, compassion and selfless love. They tend to see life as an eternal competition between warring tribes. They tend to see the line between good and evil as running between groups, not, as in parable, down the middle of every human heart.

We’re spiritual creatures; our lives are shaped by the moral landscapes and ideals we inherit and absorb. I’d say our politics and our society are coming to resemble the competitive mythic ethos that is suddenly all around.
As Mr. Brooks knows perfectly well, we are a nation at war with itself.  And broadly speaking, the outlines of this war are actually pretty simple and clear: One side has always devoutly wished to resolve our conflicts through negotiation and compromise -- has always held compassion and public service and cardinal virtues,  and the other side -- the Republican side, would have none of it.

For eight years, the Clinton Administration tried it Mr. Brooks' way and Mr. Brooks' Republican party spared no expense trying to sabotage, slander and witch-hunt him from office.

And for eight years the Obama Administration tried it Mr. Brooks' way to a fault, and Mr. Brooks' Republican party -- already an suppurating mass of rage, racism and paranoia -- simply and irrecoverably lost their minds.  For eight years, the way they treated The Kenyan Usurper made the way they they treated Bill Clinton look like they had been greeting a long-lost lodge brother.  The pathologies of Mr. Brooks' Republican party are so ingrained, so deep in the bones, that in 2016 they ran to the polls to nominate and elect an openly racist madman because he promised to burn down everything Obama had ever touched.

And here we are now, a nation fully at war with itself, not due to The System or "tribalism" or Both Sides, but due entirely to the fact that Mr. Brooks' Republican party has always wanted it this way. 

And if for some reason you absolutely must have the casus belli that has rent our nation explained by a Republican then run as fast as you can the hell away from the asphyxiating sanctimony of Mr. David Brooks and pick up a copy of one of the greatest speeches in history, delivered to a war-weary nation.  Delivered by a compassionate, selfless American superhero who also stood heroically for justice and fiercely against foes.  Who never wanted to his nation plunged into a "competition between warring tribes" and did everything humanly possible to avert it, but  failed, for reasons he explained in words carved into the bedrock of our democracy so deeply they will never be forgotten.  He also frequently spoke in parables and is buried just a few miles from where I'm sitting right now:
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war -- seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

Behold, a Tip Jar!


Lawrence said...

I clicked over to the Times article because I wanted to confirm my suspicion that DFB was going to veer into god bothering. I was wrong. He doesn't even expend the energy to do that. Lots of lists. Movies, Bible stories or people. Five things where three would do (Newton, Einstein, Surak). No indication he is familiar with any of the referenced material. I know writing padded for lack of content when I read it. I am wondering how young I would have been to dare to turn in something this lazy, much less think it was clever. It's not so much a broad brush as a paint roller to assert that The Avengers, or Star Wars, or Greek mythology are not concerned with relationships. Hell, X2 opens with a White House tour guide reciting part of a Lincoln speech about bringing the nation together. Do we get a disposable reference to video games because it's a culture war boogeyman, albeit a minor one? Do we get World Cup because it's not football season? Ratings may be down but football matters to American culture in a way that soccer (currently) does not. And all this tapioca pudding gets splattered on the wall, for what? A plea for civility is my best guess. I'm afraid I can'd do that, Dave.

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good afternoon, Mr. Glass.

When you get right down to it, fictional violence is more fun than non-violence. Most people don't want to negotiate with zombies. We want to shoot them in their heads.

Be seeing you.

Lit3Bolt said...

OT but Andrew Sullivan has another article that's NOT a BLOG POST, thank you very much, but is 1/3 nuanced treatment of LGBT issues (of course), 1/3 hagiography of Charles Krauthammer, who if God is Just, is fighting forever in the Blood War right now, so he can slake his thirst of endless war and pain, and 1/3 "Let's Try to Appease White Fee-Fees By Doing Everything Trump Says On Immigration." What Andrew Sullivan doesn't realize, because he's a White Fee-Fee himself, is that his racial anxiety and fear of blahs will never be appeased, so why would building a wall make anything better?

dinthebeast said...

"We’re spiritual creatures; our lives are shaped by the moral landscapes and ideals we inherit and absorb."

Our lives are also shaped by whether or not we can pay our bills with the wages we earn and whether we can get healthcare when we get sick or injured, you despicable Republican.

-Doug in Oakland

jim said...

Wow ... pretty sure DFB is trying for a highbrow(er) version of Jordan Peterson here.

Stay tuned for references to lobsters, dragons, feral toddlers & the collective unconscious.

Mark Armstrong said...

Clearly doesn't know zhit about comic books and films; all these are very personal and tortured stories that illuminate great issues.