Friday, August 31, 2012

Brooks made a funny (addendum)

David Brooks. Image by Driftglass.

I knew it! Or, more accurately, I knew something; Brooks has not actually come out and endorsed Obama as the Burkean conservative in the race, but he has come approximately halfway:
But there is a flaw in the vision the Republicans offered in Tampa. It is contained in its rampant hyperindividualism. Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual. There was almost no talk of community and compassionate conservatism. There was certainly no conservatism as Edmund Burke understood it, in which individuals are embedded in webs of customs, traditions, habits and governing institutions.
Not that that's exactly true: there was plenty of talk about family at the convention, for one thing. I'll never get over Rick Santorum riffing on his father's hard workingman's hands while his extreme makeup job made it look as if he himself was made of marzipan. And there was tons of church, as well, at least from Mr. and Mrs. Romney, and anecdotes of the churchy helping one another out.

What Brooks really objects to in these conservatives is on display in his opening paragraph:
America was built by materialistic and sometimes superficial strivers. It was built by pioneers who voluntarily subjected themselves to stone-age conditions on the frontier fired by dreams of riches. It was built by immigrants who crammed themselves into hellish tenements because they thought it would lead, for their children, to big houses, big cars and big lives.... Many Americans, and many foreign observers, are ambivalent about or offended by this driving material ambition. Read “The Great Gatsby.” Read D.H. Lawrence on Benjamin Franklin.
 Compare Burke, in his speech on Conciliation with America (1775), criticizing
vulgar and mechanical politicians... a sort of people who think that nothing exists but what is gross and material; and who therefore, far from being qualified to be directors of the great movement of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught,…ruling and master principles, which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth every thing, and all in all.... (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
It's that—of course Brooks has nothing against them, my no, salt of the earth, but—they're not very classy. Think a lot about money, less about the higher things such as the writings of Burke and Oakeshott. And apparently not joining things in the good old style; what we're looking at is a kind of right-wing Bowling Alone perspective.

The list of great communitarian conservatives of history goes like this: George Washington, Alexis de Tocqueville, Abraham Lincoln, and Condoleeza Rice. I'll just take a pause here, maybe for quite a long time.
Photo by Kilgub.

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