Friday, December 7, 2018

The Whole Science of Conservatism

Perkins + Will design for the Suzhou Science and Technology Museum, via ArchDaily.

Not sure I can let go of that Douthat column, in spite of wonderful takes from Steve and Roy (subscribe to his newsletter) and my own fool parody, because I really believe there's much much more, starting with the introductory words:

Why We Miss the WASPs

Their more meritocratic, diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.


And the idea that the United States was once ruled by an ethnic group, a hereditary aristocracy,  the Anglo-Saxon Protestant, presumably lording it over the Scotch-Irish Protestant peasantry. And all the other Protestant tribes of northern Europe and mercurial Papists, some pink and others swarthy, saturnine Hebrews, the sullen American natives and cheerful Africans, with their banjos on their knees.

And the idea that this happy apartheid has been destroyed by an ill-judged sequence of developments starting with the Pendleton Act in 1883, forcing you to take an exam if you wanted a government job, cutting out the stupider WASPS and allowing in the cleverer Others. Then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the possibly related loss of faith in the 39 Articles of the Anglo-Saxican Communion for the trifecta of meritocracy, diversity, and irreligion! For a world in which stupidity, racism, and religious bigotry no longer feel they have a home! No wonder our country is falling apart.

And that's just the headline.
“Those who are mourning the passing of the old Establishment should mourn its many failures, too,” [Franklin Foer] writes. Which is fair enough: The old ruling class was bigoted and exclusive and often cruel, it had failures aplenty, and as a Catholic I hold no brief for its theology (and don’t get me started on its Masonry).
However, one of the lessons of the age of meritocracy is that building a more democratic and inclusive ruling class is harder than it looks, and even perhaps a contradiction in terms. You can get rid of the social registers and let women into your secret societies and privilege SATs over recommendations from the rector of Justin and the headmaster of Saint Grottlesex ... and you still end up with something that is clearly a self-replicating upper class, a powerful elite, filling your schools and running your public institutions.
Not only that, but you even end up with an elite that literally uses the same strategy of exclusion that WASPs once used against Jews to preserve its particular definition of diversity from high-achieving Asians — with the only difference being that our elite is more determined to deceive itself about how and why it’s discriminating.
Speaking of anti-Catholic bigotry, the Ku Klux Klan has generally been run by WASPs too, I believe.

But I think this passage really gives us the whole science of conservatism:
  • Yes, the good old days were pretty bad
  • But if you try to make things better you might make them worse
  • Therefore when you try to make things better you do make them worse
  • I mean, worse for some particular "us"
  • So it's better to let ill enough alone; at least "we" are fine
And better to be ruled by stupid people who belong to our group than some collection of smart people and/or good campaign politicians coming from goodness knows where.

Incidentally, the thing about the exclusion of Asians (not the Chinese Exclusion Act passed during the WASP ascendancy in 1882, the first time in history that the US border was closed to anybody) may not be familiar to everybody; it's about a lawsuit against Harvard University filed by
Students for Fair Admissions,... a group of Asian-American students who were rejected by Harvard. They are led by Edward Blum, a conservative activist who opposes consideration of race in all aspects of public life.
No, 65-year-old Edward Blum is not an Asian-American student who was rejected by Harvard. He's the prime mover behind Fisher v. Texas, the case that almost ended diversity admission at the University of Texas, and Shelby County v. Holder, the case that succeeded in gutting the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act:
the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which neutered the strongest legal protection against voting discrimination, changed the landscape. A flood of new barriers to voting that would have otherwise been blocked were implemented at once, and newly unfettered legislatures were incentivized to press forward with additional restrictions. The new laws were again met with legal challenges, and voters experienced a seesaw effect as new voting rules were imposed, blocked by courts, and then reinstated in modified form, only to be challenged again. Throughout, thousands upon thousands of would-be voters were thwarted at the ballot box over the course of multiple elections.
Including last month's election, memorable for its flagrant voter suppression.

So don't confuse yourself with the idea that the Harvard case has anything to do with combating discrimination against Asians, though it alleges that Asian applicants to Harvard were unfairly given poor ratings for personality and extracurricular activities (incidentally, as somebody who's spent a lot of time among Chinese and Chinese-American young people, I can tell you those children of tiger mothers who are desperate to go to Harvard because being forced to study at Tufts or Wesleyan makes them failures really are some of the most boring kids you ever want to meet, and I imagine the plaintiffs are like that, just as Abigail Fisher was an example of the most mediocre entitled white child you've ever seen). It's a stalking horse for yet another attempt to remove racial language from the admissions process in the hope of excluding black and Latin students.

No comments:

Post a Comment