Via Rod Dreher: ‘Rednecks And The Two Randys’-Selfhood Tribalism And The Same Old Human Nature?

Via Rod Dreher, ‘Rednecks And The Two Randys’

‘That’s how I felt listening to Terry Gross and the other NPR show after listening to Jackie talk briefly about the Squad. Our media elites will fall all over themselves to defend and celebrate people like Ilhan Omar and Randy Rainbow, but guys like the middle-aged man who came down from my attic today dripping sweat, and who can’t bear people like Ilhan Omar — in the eyes of our liberal elites, they’re what’s wrong with this country.’

I’d rather not have to choose between ‘Jackie’ and ‘Randy Rainbow, ‘ personally.

Unfortunately, however, choices can be very real when it comes to people, coalitions and politics.  Often these choices boil down to the lesser of evils, or certainly, compromises and more compromises.  When a lot of change overwhelms our instititutions, at a time when those institutions are arguably seriously over-built and over-leveraged, well, arguably, here we are.

Where did I put that hobby horse? Beneath the appeal to experts (some ‘studies’ professors, some social scientists, and some scientists) is a constant showcasing of activist concerns at NPR (the assumption of moral rightness and truthfulness of activist causes, mostly, the vague moral suspicion of religious belief, conservation of established traditions, corporations etc).

I find myself disagreeing often, despite the high production value.

As I choose to see the world, when it comes to politics, much activist logic is, well, radical and revolutionary, the truths activists have to tell coming with destabilizing dangers and deadly serious risks (they can be important truths).  Not only change but maybe even violent change.  Certainly liberatory.

If I go looking for ignorance, in-group/out-group dynamics, a desire to believe, I can look no further than myself, frankly.  Such urges never really go away, though they can be channeled better; mediated and expressed through love, family, friendships, work and some attention and care with one’s own mind through deeper reasoning and ‘big ideas.’

Looking for and working hard to get at the truth really matters.

What I’m pretty sure of:  Such impulses certainly can’t be directed towards what I see as modern Selfhood tribalism (from tattoos to Romantic Primitivism to political idealism and identity coalition-building) without consequences for everyone.

What is true of religious organizations, traditions and corporations, of course, is also true of political orgs and missionary secular humanists.

Also from the American Conservative, ‘Wendell Berry Goes To Indiana:’

Wendell Berry, on “tolerance and multiculturalism,” from his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”:

‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’

Addition:  The search for religious purity through a relationship with God, purity of the spoken word, and purity of of the perfectibility of Man and the Human could have some serious overlap, here, folks.

From The American Conservative: ‘What’s Wrong With Academic Freedom?’

Full post here.

Addition: File this under the ‘Mill touchstone.’ Better Mill than points further Left.

Patrick Deneen:

‘So it is today—the faculty largely accept as true most liberal mantras, including the widely-embraced view in academe that the Pope is wrong on abortion, its support for gay marriage, and avoidance of not only racism (agreed), but “triggers” of “classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression.” They are the fruits of Mill’s transformation—the defenders of “experiments in living.” Sandra Korn has not called for a fundamental change, but described how things are.

The real debate lies not between Sandra Korn and the defenders of “academic freedom,” but the truth or falsity of the commitments that are most deeply held. Mill was right about conservatives if we think that they “win” by upholding an academic freedom that has issued progeny like Sandra Korn. I agree that we should be committed to academic justice; I disagree that today’s academy has defined justice correctly.’

Ken Minogue (in discussion with William F Buckley) touches on similar ideas, including Mill (starts at 1:20):

‘The exercise of arguing against falsity strengthens truth.’


Related On This Site:  Roger Kimball At Arma Virumque: ‘Kenneth Minogue 1930-2013′Kenneth Minogue At The New Criterion: ‘The Self-Interested Society’

Stanley Fish defended Ward Churchill’s academic freedom too: From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux…

Broad, but maybe not broad enough.  Martha Nussbaum says the university needs to be defend Socratic reason and still be open to diversity:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

A lot of this could be avoided by keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart, argues Roger Scruton: Repost-’Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment’

Some Monday Links-Syria, California & Iran

Tom Switzer At The American Conservative: ‘Three Realist Lessons From Obama’s Syria Missteps:’

‘As realists from George Kennan to Henry Kissinger have argued, Americans do not have the understanding of other societies and people, the attention span or staying power, to engage in an active, interventionist policy of nation-building and democracy-promotion on a large scale.’

What are our objectives in fighting terrorism, and how do we best achieve them?

We can’t necessarily lash out in full-scale WWII conflict, nor engage in a Cold-War style chess games against a single player, so how do we best fight our enemies and secure our interests?


Carson Bruno & Jeremy Carl At The Hoover Institution ‘What California Comeback?:’

‘So while the media may call it a comeback, our poll suggests that Californians aren’t feeling the love as far as their pocketbooks, job prospects, and retirement plans are concerned.’

I suppose we’ll see.

Victor Davis Hanson tries to recover ‘California’s Promethean Past‘ and get back to non-governmental big public works projects.  The conservative Democrat position in California is a minority one.  Public sentiment is much more gathered around green, multicultural, and mildly collectivist thinking, which generally lead to the bureaucratic state of mind and the regulatory state.


From The Economist on Iran Negotiations: ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm

‘If Iran resists such a deal, it would be further evidence that it is still trying to follow the North Korean route, as the Israelis keep insisting it is. If Iran however seems serious, then America is right to engage in negotiations at the highest level. The questions are when and how fast to lift sanctions.’

So, are they as bad as North Korea, back when George Bush lumped them together in the Axis Of Evil?

If only we could break through the hard-line, repressive, Islamist thugocracy down to the pragmatic, pro-democratic Green thinking, this would be a masterstroke, goes the current and perhaps wishful thinking.

I can’t help but think of all the bumbling and lack of strategy that brought us here isn’t a good sign.

Gerald Russello At The American Conservative: ‘Un-American Conservative?’

Full piece here.

Russello takes a look at how Russell Kirk and others resuscitated the Anglo-Irish Burke and re-fashioned him as a champion of modern American conservatism:

‘Seen in this way, the conservative reappropriation of Burke becomes more comprehensible. Burke’s mysticism and reliance on some form of natural law were not meant to convey a legalistic structure of metaphysics, with “ought” confidently derived from “is.” Nor is Burke’s common resort to “circumstance” a rejection of natural principles. Rather, it is a recognition that mystery—not reason—lies at the heart of each individual and the societies the human race creates, thus conservatives are enjoined to eschew social engineering and respect the bewildering array of ways in which we can organize our life together. There are enduring principles, but they must be sifted from particular facts, not theorizing’

I don’t support blind faith, nor the overweening brain teeming with faith, and find thinking and reasoning to be often be the best way forward in my own life, but not reason unbound from experience, nor thinking without doubt.  I’m skeptical of deriving top-down principles from reason, and those who come bearing the products of reason with plans for everyone else.

Leo Strauss seems to have had Burke succumbing to historicism to some extent. A response here.

As to the American and French Revolutions:

“In both cases the political leaders whom Burke opposed insisted on certain rights: the English government on the rights of sovereignty and the French revolutionists insisted on the rights of man.  In both cases Burke proceeded in exactly the same manner:  he questions less the rights than the wisdom of exercising the rights.”

“What ever might have to be said about the propriety of Burke’s usage, it is here sufficient to note that, in judging the political leaders whom he opposed in the two most important actions of his life, he traced their lack of prudence less to passion than to the intrusion of the spirit of theory into the field of politics.”

The spirit of theory into the field of politics…

Also On This Site: Karl Popper, Milton Friedman, Austrian Economics and maybe Thomas Sowell: From Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?: From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…

Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Some Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’

Carl Bogus At The American Conservative: ‘Burke Not Buckley’

Jordan Bloom At The American Conservative: ‘When You Have No Hometown To Go Back To’

Full piece here.

There’s no place like home

Language is the only homeland (for poets, especially).

It’s a challenge to try and keep up with the demographic changes going on in America right now.

Do you want to be around family?  Do you need to be around family for economic reasons?  Where is meaning and group membership coming from in your life?

‘As Linker points out in his review, it’s the idea of returning home that separates the Drehers and Kauffmans from simply advocating ruralism. He writes, “If you live in a coastal city or suburb, the supremely unconservative message appears to be: Pull up your shallow roots and relocate to a region of the country where you can start over with a simpler, more humane, and happier life.”’

I suspect this may be part of a larger conservative trend, seeking to regroup around family, church, civic clubs and perhaps, a concept of home.  It should be pointed out that a large open market and economic liberalism don’t necessarily lead to social conservatism, at least as some of the current thinking on Margaret Thatcher’s England suggests in her wake.  You can wrest the economy from the unions and from the maw of nationalization, but so much economic freedom may be at odds with the good, moral, upstanding, civic-minded citizens desired on that vision.

In a word:  rooted.

The Reagan and Thatcher eras had in common a fight against socialism, or creeping statism and secular communitarianism and collectivism.  If your ‘community’ tends to be a city, then diversity and multiculturalism will likely have more relevance in your life as practical glue to bring various people together, even if you live in a religious enclave.  If you live in a city, your politics is more likely to be machine politics, and corrupt in many cases, and a path for immigrants to attain a better life and more control.  Such is human nature.

This may also be a bend in the road at which we can observe conservatives and libertarians more likely to part company.  Libertarians tend to draw a ring around the individual and proceed from there.

Here’s a quote from this short essay I wrote, trying to contrast Brooklyn hipsters (many of whom, I maintain, come from the suburbs), and Charles Murray’s vision together (perhaps not successfully):

‘I can understand why many conservatives and traditional thinkers are upset about the decline, as they see it, of our culture.  They arguably control much less of it than before, and have much less influence in the public square than they used to, as does organized religion.  Many people with conservative views feel targeted by Hollywood and the media generally, as though it’s turned against them, espousing ideas which undermine the virtues and duties which maintain civil society.  Even the technology sector tends to vote non-Republican.

Enough! goes the refrain.

Perhaps we could take a look at hipster culture for some clarification (about much I will invariably be wrong):

Instead of how many conservatives might want individuals to live;  looking for meaning and group membership through church and civic organizations, intimacy and love directly through marriage, and vocation through traditional means of work, many hipsters (those who can afford it) withdraw into a bubble of irony, seeming to lack outward enthusiasm for anything.

They tend to seek meaning and group membership (while remaining totally individualistic) through the arts, fashion, music and popular music.  There is some real drug-use there, and a few real artists.  There are definite counter-cultural undercurrents as well.  Intimacy and love are explored further away from marriage, but maybe not terribly far (gay marriage is now the hot topic).  Vocation for hipsters often incorporates ideas of the local, communal, environmentally sustainable, and more often anti-corporate. Sometimes it can veer into the collectivist.

Haven’t we seen these folks before?  I’ve heard the argument that they are less radical, and milder copies of the beats and original hipsters.’

How are the economy and technology, meaning and family, the rural/urban, red state/blue state divides, affecting your life?

Are we inevitably drifting towards a secular, more European-style society?

First National Bank of Houlton, Maine

Related On This Site:   Richard Epstein, libertarian law/economics thinker at Chicago, says family, churches, and clubs aren’t enough, and open markets and a growing pie should fill in the gaps in a pluralist society of over 300 million people: Link From A Reader: ‘Richard Epstein Introduces Chicago’s Best Ideas To Students’

Is technology making isolated individuals out of us, eroding civil society? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest-’Hey, You’re Truly Unlimited: Didn’t You Know?’

What might the 3 wings of conservatism be?:  Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences, and admits we can’t turn back time:The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’

Good luck doing having a conservative revival in The People’s Republic Of California:  Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?  Yes, Edmund Burke opposed the French revolution Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Ron Unz At The American Conservative: ‘The Myth Of American Meritocracy’

Full essay here.

The essay is ideologically tilted toward the right, but well-researched.  Comments are worth a read.

How do admissions work in practice, and how should they work?

‘But if selecting our future elites by purest “diversity” wouldn’t work, and using purest “meritocracy” would seem an equally bad idea, what would be the right approach to take as a replacement for today’s complex mixture of diversity, meritocracy, favoritism, and corruption?’

Everyone has some ideas about higher education and it’s tough for me to see how money, connections, some nepotism, favoritism, going with what you know, the biases we all have (some we know, some we don’t) won’t color the process.  I still think it’s important to try and maintain an equality of opportunity approach, getting intelligent people where they need to be while working against the fruits of excessive egalitarianism, the growth of administrative staff, and other interests attached to the core educational mission.

A tough problem.

Related On This Site: Should you get a college degree, probably, but you also probably shouldn’t lose sight of why you’re going and divorce yourself entirely from the cost:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

The libertarian angle, getting smart, ambitious people off of the degree treadmill…or the very few for whom college doesn’t work:  From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’ I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be:  A lot like it is now?: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Allan Bloom thought about some of this in The Closing Of The American Mind, at least with regard to what he saw as a true liberal arts education: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Harvard is no place for Larry Summers, at least running the place: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-

From The American Conservative: Going Off The Rawls–David Gordon On John Rawls

Full article here.

David Gordon offers a surprisingly deep analysis of some of John Rawls’s ideas.

Perhaps classical liberalism and utilitarianism would be a good antidote to much of the far left’s current excesses (gender equity ideologues, radical feminists, racial theorists, pseudo and real Marxists). Martha Nussbaum (wikipedia) seems busy along this vein.   Yet utilitariansm, as Rawls realized, has its limits:

“Some people’s interests, or even lives, can be sacrificed if doing so will maximize total satisfaction. Suppose executing the Danish cartoonists will appease a Muslim mob, and that doing so increases total satisfaction. A utilitarian would have to endorse the execution. As Rawls says, “there is a sense in which classical utilitarianism fails to take seriously the distinction between persons.”

On the other hand, individualism has its limits as well.   According to Rawls there still has to be some common ground which we all share…

“Rawls thinks that everyone, regardless of his plan of life or conception of the good, will want certain “primary goods.” These include rights and liberties, powers and opportunities, income and wealth, and self-respect.”

So how do you define these “primary goods?’ and balance both equality and individualism?  Rawls offers his difference principle (there should be no differences except those that can be justified on grounds of efficiency), as well as his idea of public reason .  Gordon isn’t too impressed:

“[public reason]…consists of principles that everyone, regardless of his conception of the good, will have cause to accept.”

“His final position was that you could mention your private views as long as you also had an argument from public reason to support your stand.”

We are all familiar with the idea that there are common public ideas that we have to accept, or at least pay heed to.  Yet, Gordon seems to ask:   Do we want a theory like this one to be the arbiter of those ideas?

John Rawls His Life and Theory of Justice

by Miller Info Commons

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