Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Losing the Culture

 

Granville, Ohio, is a pleasant place — tucked among the Appalachian foothills of east-central Ohio, with all the old trees and old buildings an old soul could possibly love. Granville is a college town. Its residents are healthy and wealthy and comfortable with their lives. All this means, naturally, that Granville is a Democratic stronghold.

It’s a little odd, of course, that the Denison women’s studies professor comes home, every day, to her little Greek Revival cottage built by a misogynist pig and spends her evenings toying with recipes in the same kitchen where, a century earlier, a beleaguered woman stood barefoot and pregnant, but . . . that’s the oddity of America in 2020. Those who slander the country’s patrimony with the most vehemence happen to be its custodians.

The pattern repeats itself across the state of Ohio — and across the country. Are the lawns in your neighborhood meticulously landscaped? Are its boulevards lined with restored Victorian houses? Are there boutique shops along your Main Street? Do they do a bustling business? Then I’ll bet you that I can guess your city’s voting patterns. The split may be 60-40, or it may be 90-10. But it almost certainly exists, and it’s a reflection of the degree to which left-wing cultural and political sensibilities have become the bourgeois creed of the 21st century, much as Victorian morality was the bourgeois creed of the 19th.

Take a moment to browse the site Meetup.com. You’ll find feminist book clubs. You’ll find reiki healing circles. You’ll find feminist book clubs that double as reiki healing circles (but I repeat myself). You’ll find board-gaming groups. You’ll find leftist political organizations. You’ll find board-gaming groups that double as leftist political organizations. Does your city have an arts center of some kind? If it does, pay it a visit once the COVID apocalypse has come to pass. You may see a little art there. You’ll see a lot of fashionable propaganda.

If your city is anything like the city where I finished graduate school, the only art anywhere near the arts center is the building which houses it — a building which probably began as a Carnegie library or some industrialist’s mansion. Does your town have an orchestra? Hang around after Prokofiev is finished, and watch as the violinists retire to their cars bedecked in Bernie stickers and rainbow flags.**

. . .

Our world is living proof of Conquest’s second law: Every organization not explicitly right-wing becomes left-wing over time. This is a more pessimistic observation than most conservatives realize. It may explain why the only institutions conservatives have managed to build are political ones. Only political institutions can be explicitly right-wing, and any institution which pretends otherwise is merely a political institution in disguise.* Look at Dan McLaughlin’s recent list of “vibrant” conservative institutions: The right has Fox News, the NRA, the Federalist Society (what good has it done?), a smattering of PACs and lobbying organizations, some political magazines, a handful of think tanks, and maybe a shooting club or bible study.

The left has academia, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, professional sports, local libraries, the media, the corporations, the non-profits, the Boy Scouts, and half the churches. Left-wing sensibilities — in both their call-everything-problematic and throw-money-at-the-problem varieties — are the sine qua non of elite and upper-middle-class membership. Keeping up with the Joneses means lapping up whatever watered-down version of critical theory dribbles out from the nearest university. It means fulfilling the Salah by complaining about racists, rednecks, kids in cages, rising oceans, or white males at least once a day. (In all fairness, the right has its own Salah: complaining about the left at least fifteen times a day.)

The result is peculiar: Those with the social capital to build and sustain institutions — and those who do build and sustain institutions — are often anti-institutionalist (and almost always anti-traditionalist) in their rhetoric. Yet, somehow, they manage to build them. Charles Murray and Yuval Levin may have mastered the art of describing the breakdown of American civil society (including elites’ failure to “preach what they practice”), but your local Episcopalian priestess and/or yogi has mastered the art of reversing the trend. Little platoons still exist in America. They just take the form of Antifa cells, Brony conventions (Father, forgive me), and food co-ops, rather than Elks lodges and bowling leagues. “Community organizing,” for all its malignity, is a kind of institution-building — one conservatives might do well to learn from. If there ever was a culture war, it was more akin to the Toledo War than World War II. It ended before it began, and without a shot being fired.

But Kephalithos! What about churches? Churches, I’m sorry to say, aren’t doing well. I don’t need to rehash the statistics about declining membership and growing distrust in religious leadership. Churches, I think, suffer from the same problem as institutional conservatism in general. Just as explicitly right-wing organizations are inevitably political ones, and thus limited in their reach, so, too, are explicitly religious institutions inevitably . . . erm, religious.

Churches are good at two things: Worshipping and charity. The most successful church-sponsored organizations are those which don’t stray too far from religion’s remit (hence the popularity of bible studies), or ones that strengthen already-existing ties between congregants (cookouts, coffee and doughnuts after mass, and so on). This is something I’ve observed in my feeble forays into the world of Catholic young-adult groups: The more tangential the activity to the Church’s central mission, the more forced it feels — and the less successful it is in the long run. A healthy religious culture should have secular manifestations, but that’s a difficult thing to achieve when the surrounding society is so overwhelmingly hostile.

But Kephalithos! Have you tried to do something? Have you put your money where your mouth is? No. I haven’t. Back in the spring, I played around with a few ideas, but COVID-19 put an end to those. Perhaps I’m part of the problem. Or perhaps part of the solution. We’ll see.

. . .

Social radicalism squats inside the shell of bourgeois morality, just as a vagrant squats inside the shell of a faded-but-beautiful Brush Park mansion, bursting holes in its walls and tearing out its plumbing in search of something to sell on the black market. For a time, the edifice stands. But sooner or later, the vagrant lights a fire that burns the entire thing to the ground.

Will halcyon Granville survive the aging and death of its current residents — mostly polite, liberal Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers whose political creed amounts to a vague desire to “be nice?” I doubt it. I’ve met their children. And their children really do want to tear it all down and begin anew.

* Here’s a thought experiment, to underscore my point: Try to think of one — just one — right-leaning cultural organization whose products are widely consumed by the left. I can’t.

** As the left cements its cultural gains, I expect a fight to erupt between the Augustinians and the Tertullians — that is, between those who think it’s possible to reconcile the new ideology with old forms of culture, and those who think that everything must go. Of course, thanks to its belief system, the Augustinian faction will lack any ability to make substantive defenses, and, for this reason, it may lose. “But . . . but, I like Beethoven!” is hardly a ringing battle cry.

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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member

    My wife and I graduated from Denison in 1991. I loved Granville. It’s grown so much.

    My family was the second European family in the area, in the late 1700’s – they settled around Heath. I was 5th generation Denison (I had an ancestor attend Denison when it was still Doane Academy).

    It was crazy liberal back then. It’s much worse now, I’ve heard.

    When my Mom & Dad attended college there in the 60’s, their professors were mostly conservatives – guys who got their PhD on the GI Bill after they served in WWII. No nonsense guys. Those professors wouldn’t recognize the place now.

    • #1
    • August 26, 2020, at 6:31 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  2. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    What about Hillsdale as an institution? Regardless of some of the student body, the college upholds the ancient standards. 

    • #2
    • August 26, 2020, at 6:40 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. David Carroll Thatcher
    David CarrollJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fortunately, Granville is routinely outvoted by the rest of Licking County including the biggest city in the county, Newark, Ohio, the county seat.

    • #3
    • August 26, 2020, at 7:00 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Granville has sort of turned into a suburb of Columbus, even though it’s nearly an hour away. Lots of people commute.

    • #4
    • August 26, 2020, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. GrannyDude Member

    Kephalithos: Those with the social capital to build and sustain institutions — and those who do build and sustain institutions — are often anti-institutionalist (and almost always anti-traditionalist) in their rhetoric. Yet, somehow, they manage to build them. Charles Murray and Yuval Levin may have mastered the art of describing the breakdown of American civil society (including elites’ failure to “preach what they practice”), but your local Episcopalian priestess and/or yogi has mastered the art of reversing the trend.

     

    Perhaps it is because, as Margaret Thatcher said (didn’t she?) “Reality is conservative.” The material and social capital is built by conservative behavior, whether or not it is explicitly conservative in politics. Inherited by progressives, it is quickly exhausted . This happens, by the way, in rich families: The robber barons made pots of cash. The next gen went to Harvard and became genteel lawyers. The next gen were hippies, back-to-the-landers and artists who deplore the robber barons. And the next gen…sells the old, Greek Revival house, splits the proceeds sufficient to pay off part of a student loan or put a down payment on a starter home, and starts over. 

    Don’t it always seem to go…you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone? The other night in Kenosha, mostly-peaceful anti-police protesters whose pal had just been gunned down were screaming “Call the police!” 

     

     

    • #5
    • August 26, 2020, at 7:33 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  6. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment): Granville has sort of turned into a suburb of Columbus, even though it’s nearly an hour away. Lots of people commute.

    Makes sense.

    A lot of suburbs aren’t all that residential, and the trend toward suburban densification is ongoing. (My own suburb, Dublin, just finished a massive mixed-use development downtown.) If you work at the edge of the city, why not live in some bucolic semi-rural village?

    • #6
    • August 26, 2020, at 7:35 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Richard Fulmer Member

    GrannyDude (View Comment):
    The material and social capital is built by conservative behavior, whether or not it is explicitly conservative in politics. Inherited by progressives, it is quickly exhausted . This happens, by the way, in rich families: The robber barons made pots of cash. The next gen went to Harvard and became genteel lawyers. The next gen were hippies, back-to-the-landers and artists who deplore the robber barons. And the next gen…sells the old, Greek Revival house, splits the proceeds sufficient to pay off part of a student loan or put a down payment on a starter home, and starts over.

    New money knows how to make it, old money knows how to spend it.

    • #7
    • August 26, 2020, at 9:38 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    Kephalithos: Here’s a thought experiment, to underscore my point: Try to think of one — just one — right-leaning cultural organization whose products are widely consumed by the left. I can’t.

    Well, whether the left likes it or not, the services of the military, the police, the firefighters are consumed by the left even as the left decries their source.

    • #8
    • August 26, 2020, at 2:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    My wife and I graduated from Denison in 1991. I loved Granville. It’s grown so much.

    My family was the second European family in the area, in the late 1700’s – they settled around Heath. I was 5th generation Denison (I had an ancestor attend Denison when it was still Doane Academy).

    It was crazy liberal back then. It’s much worse now, I’ve heard.

    When my Mom & Dad attended college there in the 60’s, their professors were mostly conservatives – guys who got their PhD on the GI Bill after they served in WWII. No nonsense guys. Those professors wouldn’t recognize the place now.

    I attended Denison my Freshman year (1980-81). It didn’t seem crazy lefty to me at the time. I do remember getting the “Racism requires Power” but at the opening weekend Freshman Convocation, but that was about the extent of it. Otherwise it had more of a reputation as an Ivy-league reject/heavy drinking Fraternity/Sorority school. I transferred after freshman year mostly because at the time I didn’t drink, and there wasn’t a heck of a lot else in town to do.

    They still send me the alumni magazine, and yeah, they’ve gone pretty crazy left. I was on Campus spring 2019 for the first time in about 20 years, and they’ve removed the bowling alley from student center, and there was an LGBTQ society office (or some such) in its place. That was disturbing.

    Edit: Steve Carell was in my class. Given that there were only about 600 people/class, our paths must have crossed, but I can’t say I remember him. I think there are are two small pictures of him in the yearbook (both as part of groups) and he had a beard at the time.

    Edit the second: My room was Crawford 312 (top floor corner room facing Shepardson hall and down the hill into town). My Slayter mailbox was 2107. I don’t remember the combo anymore. I’m pretty sure my student ID # was 671040, which I believe doubled as my username on the VAX. At least that number is sticking in my head for some reason. If I look hard enough I probably still have my ID card somewhere.

    edit the third: damn I’m good. Ignore the “1536” sticker by the picture. Embossed on the left side is the number 671040. My sister is right – I do have a freakish memory.

    • #9
    • August 26, 2020, at 7:49 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I attended Denison my Freshman year (1980-81). It didn’t seem crazy lefty to me at the time. I do remember getting the “Racism requires Power” but at the opening weekend Freshman Convocation, but that was about the extent of it.

    One other thing occurred to me – Angela Davis was brought on Campus as a guest speaker at some point during the school year. I wouldn’t call her reception “hostile”, but it would probably be fair to characterize it as “skeptical”. She certainly wasn’t fawned over by more than a few people, that I noticed anyway. Of course you have to remember, this was late Carter/early Reagan era America.

    Not all speakers were political – we also had a lecture by “Susan” from Sesame Street.

    • #10
    • August 26, 2020, at 8:31 PM PDT
    • Like
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  11. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    it had more of a reputation as an Ivy-league reject/heavy drinking Fraternity/Sorority school.

    Correct. My freshman year we came in second in “craziest party school” or some such annual contest in some magazine. First place was USC. Now THOSE people had a problem.

    My Slater Box was 2057. Combo FS. I spent 2 years in Sawyer, right next to Crawford. My wife lived on Crawford 3rd floor her sophomore year. 

    • #11
    • August 27, 2020, at 5:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Old Bathos Moderator

    The left is so self-devouring that I don’t see the current regime at universities lasting into another generation. Consider the emerging irony in which “conservative” refers to a revolutionary movement opposed to the existing power structures in academia, bureaucracy, education, and media and “progressive” means strict adherence to structures that are simply worse versions of what Mussolini and Woodrow Wilson originally envisioned.

    People are stung and chafing under PC rule. The intellectual sterility of leftwing professors is killing the value of a college degree. The clumsy indoctrination in failing schools by second- and third-rate teachers and the ham-handed power grabs emerging from COVID, Climate, and race are not endearing, popular undertakings. The poisoned fruit of our education is in black mall ninja costumes burning our cities. 

    Liberated from static defense, we could be attacking in new ways, from new directions. Instead of a backfoot defense of a flawed, inefficient health care system against the onslaught of Obamacare, could we craft new public-private solutions instead? And with regard to complete welfare reform, people with better math skills than mine have opined about a buyout plan for social security–a deposit for a kid at birth in a protected account in lieu of a weak income payout after 65. Before one screams “Heresy! Burn the RINO!” consider that political reality, simple fairness and sound policy (given deeply entrenched expectations and perceptions) means that to prevent the continuous expansion of purely governmental solutions, we need to use government to create new private-sector solutions.

    • #12
    • August 27, 2020, at 6:03 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    People are stung and chafing under PC rule. The intellectual sterility of leftwing professors is killing the value of a college degree. The clumsy indoctrination in failing schools by second- and third-rate teachers and the ham-handed power grabs emerging from COVID, Climate, and race are not endearing, popular undertakings. The poisoned fruit of our education is in black mall ninja costumes burning our cities. 

    Wow that’s an awesome paragraph.

     

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    The intellectual sterility of leftwing professors is killing the value of a college degree.

    If our current educational establishment crashes and burns at some point, I think this will be the basic reason why. 

    Suppose you’re selling something worth $5, and charging $10 for it. If it’s really popular or something, people may actually pay that for a while, like they did with pet rocks.

    But at some point, they will stop.

    If the banning of independent thought in universities sufficiently degrades the value of a college degree, eventually people will start to wonder if it is really worth it. And at that point, when colleges are asked to prove their worth, then they have a problem.

    What will colleges tell prospective employers? “Yeah, well, we don’t teach our students how to think. But we do teach them how to hate their employers – like you!”

    That won’t sell well. And certainly not at going prices.

    • #13
    • August 27, 2020, at 6:40 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment): What will colleges tell prospective employers? “Yeah, well, we don’t teach our students how to think. But we do teach them how to hate their employers – like you!”

    It’s more likely that the colleges and employers are conspiring to make students hate their parents.

    • #14
    • August 27, 2020, at 7:45 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Old Bathos Moderator

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    People are stung and chafing under PC rule. The intellectual sterility of leftwing professors is killing the value of a college degree. The clumsy indoctrination in failing schools by second- and third-rate teachers and the ham-handed power grabs emerging from COVID, Climate, and race are not endearing, popular undertakings. The poisoned fruit of our education is in black mall ninja costumes burning our cities.

    Wow that’s an awesome paragraph.

     

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    The intellectual sterility of leftwing professors is killing the value of a college degree.

    If our current educational establishment crashes and burns at some point, I think this will be the basic reason why.

    Suppose you’re selling something worth $5, and charging $10 for it. If it’s really popular or something, people may actually pay that for a while, like they did with pet rocks.

    But at some point, they will stop.

    If the banning of independent thought in universities sufficiently degrades the value of a college degree, eventually people will start to wonder if it is really worth it. And at that point, when colleges are asked to prove their worth, then they have a problem.

    What will colleges tell prospective employers? “Yeah, well, we don’t teach our students how to think. But we do teach them how to hate their employers – like you!”

    That won’t sell well. And certainly not at going prices.

    It is not just the poor quality of the product the colleges are turning out but that they may be an express liability. An office worker with poor writing skills and limited math ability might improve or find a slot where those defects are not a big problem. But a second-rate worker trained to accuse, cause discord and provoke civil liability or bad publicity is a disaster. Once it becomes worth it for employers to band together to sponsor a replacement product for colleges, they are toast. Lots of dying small colleges and jucos would seem ripe for that kind of takeover for a new kind of prep.

    • #15
    • August 27, 2020, at 7:52 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    People are stung and chafing under PC rule. The intellectual sterility of leftwing professors is killing the value of a college degree. The clumsy indoctrination in failing schools by second- and third-rate teachers and the ham-handed power grabs emerging from COVID, Climate, and race are not endearing, popular undertakings. The poisoned fruit of our education is in black mall ninja costumes burning our cities.

    Wow that’s an awesome paragraph.

     

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    The intellectual sterility of leftwing professors is killing the value of a college degree.

    If our current educational establishment crashes and burns at some point, I think this will be the basic reason why.

    Suppose you’re selling something worth $5, and charging $10 for it. If it’s really popular or something, people may actually pay that for a while, like they did with pet rocks.

    But at some point, they will stop.

    If the banning of independent thought in universities sufficiently degrades the value of a college degree, eventually people will start to wonder if it is really worth it. And at that point, when colleges are asked to prove their worth, then they have a problem.

    What will colleges tell prospective employers? “Yeah, well, we don’t teach our students how to think. But we do teach them how to hate their employers – like you!”

    That won’t sell well. And certainly not at going prices.

    It is not just the poor quality of the product the colleges are turning out but that they may be an express liability. An office worker with poor writing skills and limited math ability might improve or find a slot where those defects are not a big problem. But a second-rate worker trained to accuse, cause discord and provoke civil liability or bad publicity is a disaster. Once it becomes worth it for employers to band together to sponsor a replacement product for colleges, they are toast. Lots of dying small colleges and jucos would seem ripe for that kind of takeover for a new kind of prep.

    Also: even when the graduates are not politicized, many have been trained to believe that any disagreement or challenge is *hurtful* or even *threatening* to them…and to require constant feeding of their self-esteem, to the point that they cannot tolerate failure.

    This forecloses whole batches of potential careers to them…who wants a salesman who can’t take it when a customer says ‘no’, for example.

    • #16
    • August 27, 2020, at 11:08 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Just as a hypothesis: (a) people in a (non-political) organization are more likely to devote themselves to the politicization of that organization IF they have less interest in the (non-political) purposes of that organization than they have in filling an empty place in their hearts/souls, AND (b) People using political ideology to fill that empty spots are more likely (in America in 2020) to be ‘progressive’ than they are to be conservative or traditionally liberal or moderate.

    Thus, for example, the artist who is truly passionate about Impressionist painting is less-likely to be focused on turning her art group ‘woke’ than is the individual who likes defining herself as an artist but has nothing in particular that she wants to do, or is particularly good at.

    • #17
    • August 27, 2020, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • 5 likes