Tuesday, July 07, 2015

David Brooks: Rise of the Silver Sufferer

I was going to take up my Brooks pen today to talk about how Mr. Brooks once again really, really seems to be writing about his divorce Thing About Which All His Colleagues Have Agreed Not To Mention through the lens of the tragedy of others; this time via a remarkable young woman --  Clemantine Wamariya -- who survived the Rwandan genocide and wrote an essay about her experiences, before, during and since. 

Of course the best way for Mr. Brooks to tell Ms. Wamariya's story would have been to let Ms. Wamariya tell her story.  Turn the column over to her for a day and let her have at it.  I mean, the Times clearly exerts no editorial control over what Mr. Brooks writes, so why not?

But instead Mr. Brooks gave his millions of readers the David Brooks Reader's Digest version of someone else's work in which someone else's experience is compacted into a sermonette on the Complexity of Life, with enough room left over for Mr. Brooks' obligatory Important Lesson:
We work hard to cram our lives into legible narratives. But we live in the fog of reality. Whether you have survived a trauma or not, the psyche is still a dark forest of scars and tender spots. Each relationship is intricacy piled upon intricacy, fertile ground for misunderstanding and mistreatment.
Yeah.  There it is.  "Whether you have survived a trauma or not".  That shot of pure, Brooks-brand stomach-turning cask-strength privilege that should make anyone with an intact soul wonder what Mr. Brooks's last words would be if he were, say, fired into the Sun.  (I'm guessing they would be less,  "Each relationship is intricacy piled upon intricacy, fertile ground for misunderstanding and mistreatment" and more "Saraaaaah.  Why did you leeeeave meeeee!" thus making Mr. Brooks' last words his most honest utterance in living memory.)

I was going to write about that.

I was even going to make this terrific comparison to the not-nearly-forgotten-enough Bob Greene, who also made an abrupt, mid-career transition to moralizing fogey, much like Mr. Brooks.  Who made an amazing living writing gauzy, morally uplifting treacle, much like Mr. Brooks.  And who often by focusing on the mundane --
Increasingly, Greene’s columns began to include a dateline from another state, or even another country. But while his time on the road increased, the subjects of his columns narrowed. He wrote about hotel rooms, faxes or soaps in hotel rooms, airplanes, airports, the life of a chauffeur (Greene gave up driving in the 1970s). When he crossed the ocean on the Queen Elizabeth 2, he wrote about eating in his stateroom and watching television.

Although he still produced funny columns, his writing began showing signs of nostalgia...
-- reducing life into short, carefully-calculated saccharine globs of Midwestern aw-shucks values that delighted the rubes, but were often wildly at odd with Mr. Greene's actual personal history.

Just like David Brooks.

But having written in perfect, uninterrupted futility on the subject of Mr, Brooks 1,000 times over the last ten years, I find that my arm is all crampy and tired.

And I've had a shitty day.  And kind of a shitty month.

I suffer, apparently even as David Brooks and Rwandan genocide survivors suffer.

So I will simply direct your attention to the stylings of No More Mister Nice Blog:
That's what Brooks derives from this story? That if I'm a comfortable middle-class American and I'm impatient with my mother, it's really pretty much the same as what takes place between a refugee from slaughter and the parents she didn't see from ages six to eighteen? That happy and unhappy families are all alike? That (to paraphrase one of his op-ed colleagues) the emotional world is flat?
"He's writing today about this amazing story of survival told by a woman who escaped the horrific slaughter in Rwanda back in the 1990s. What a saga! Of course, it wasn't enough just to tell a tale of genocide and the indomitable human spirit There had to be something in there that connected to the perilous life of a wealthy member of the American opinion elite, beset as he is by the metaphorical machetes of daily life."

And to...well...you get the idea.


Susan of Texas said...

It's enough to break your heart, isn't it. The toadies of the rich get rich (although nothing like their masters) despite their relentless mediocrity. They can't write or think, have utterly appalling morals, are shallow, greedy, vain, lazy and mean. And they are huge successes in our culture.

But that doesn't mean that we are not successes. We work hard and smart and fair. We work for peace and justice and equality. We work to be the best we can be. We are heroes and don't you forget it.

Anonymous said...

WTF is this "fog of reality" bullshit? Only someone who has never encountered the fog of war would vomit that sort nonsense up.

Belvoir said...

"But we live in the fog of reality."

Brooks is such a horrible ditch-pig of a writer. He reminds me of Scientologists who write of "climbing the bridge", even though the metaphor makes no sense. You cross a bridge, you don't climb it, for fuck's sake.

"But we live in the fog of reality." No David, for most people reality is a sharply acute thing affecting their lives, like having to work themselves to exhaustion every day to pay ever-increasing bills. Reality is not a "fog" for most people, it's a pretty anxiety-inducing living nightmare that is sharply felt. A "fog" sounds so comfortable and sleepy for someone getting an astounding amount of money to write horseshit for the NYTimes though.

I cannot BELIEVE the chutzpah of someone like David Fking Brooks taking the stories of Rwanda genocide survivors to give us another moral lecture. Who the fck is he to wag a finger at anyone, again? he' s the worst, and seems to be out of ideas and having a breakdown.

Ps. Hi to Susan of Texas, love your blog and work. Good stuff! My mom brought in some pink Himalayan salt, and I laughed, and explained to her why I laughed, and your blog was essential why I thought this was comedy. Fck Megan McArdle too. A-hole extraordinaire.

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks, Belvoir.

gocart mozart said...

"They crossed the Akanyaru River (Clemantine thought the dead bodies floating in it were just sleeping) and into Burundi."

I can relate to this because I have driven on I-95 from Stamford to Bridgeport during rush hour. What an apocalypse that was.

Unsalted Sinner said...

He's sounding like Steve Martin in "Three Amigos" these days:

"In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo!"

Procopius said...

@Belvoir: "Who the fck is he to wag a finger at anyone, again?" Why, he's the intellectual giant whom Yale University chose to teach a semester-long class in "Humility."