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Talking American sends me thinking now and again. All the questions about the left and the right came up again the other day, questions that come up more often than I think they should, and which I fear can never be articulated in a way that contains partisan passions. That’s how it is: The terms of political art are almost unique in how contentious and disputable they really are. But this sent me thinking, as I said, so I have some questions and remarks below, and a sketch for a crash course on the politics of left and right — I hope you’ll be interested in this enough to make it possible to have more conversations and, possibly, more clarity.
- Is it worth learning what left and right mean in politics? Where they come from? How we ended up talking this way?
- Do people who talk this way think of it as more than a mere expedient?
- Do people who insist on talking this way have any good faith that’s not limited to partisanship?
- Do people who want to go beyond left and right really get what’s in people’s hearts as per the previous two points?
I might write something serious and respectable about this, but is it worth the time? I do have some provisional remarks, meanwhile, about what seems to me to be at stake:
Thesis: For 55 years conservatives would eventually win every argument on economics, trade, and immigration by chaining liberals to the whippin’ post of data analytics. America is now on the brink of ruin, conservatism on the brink of irrelevancy, and the two political parties are stranded on terra incognita. If conservatives don’t stop winning arguments […]
So I was out last night, and had cause to remark on the beauty of the California hills and canyons, unbelievably green this season, and the Romantic allure of the cities by night, when you have to guess at what you see and light precedes shape. Then, coming in, I caught a scene of “Madame Secretary” on TV.
I know what you’re thinking: Is that show even running anymore? Well, surprise! The episode was a doozy: The Sec was hard at work to “shift the paradigm” concerning rhino poaching in Namibia. Piecemeal approaches don’t work, you see…
Skipsul’s recent post on the nefarious role that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) sometimes unwittingly play in the third world is an excellent read and echoes other recent articles critical of NGOs as a whole. (A Jerusalem Post piece called them the “new feudalism”). As an American expat working for an NGO in Iraq, I felt somewhat compelled to respond, not out of any desire to “defend the herd,” but simply to offer a little insight into their nature, both good and bad. I’ll restrict my commentary only to the areas I’ve worked in or observed personally. I would suspect some of what I say might not be relevant or applicable to NGO work outside of Iraq.
Important to note, NGO work is broadly divided into two often mutually exclusive parts; advocacy and humanitarian work. Most NGOs exist either to advocate and lobby for a particular issue or to provide a particular humanitarian service. You might assume they do both as a matter of course, but with rare exceptions, most NGOs stick to one or the other. The reasons for this are quite simple and each have their tradeoffs. Advocacy work is inherently political in nature. Either you’re lobbying for local/foreign governments do do something (give money, provide assistance, etc) or you’re lobbying for local/foreign governments to stop doing something (genocide, discrimination, neglect) Since local governments often bear some responsibility for the disaster being addressed in the first place (Iraq especially), advocacy NGOs can find themselves at loggerheads with local politicians. And believe me, you will never find a more petty and conniving politician than the ones this country produces. As such, advocacy groups are usually reluctant to delve into humanitarian work because these efforts would be hampered by their too-public profile.
H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone somewhere is having a good time.” What I know of the real thing suggests to me that Mencken did the Puritans a grave injustice. But there can be no doubt that his quip applies in spades to contemporary liberalism.
Consider the posture of preachiness and horror adopted by pious liberals in the face of the comic call-and-response duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which Frank Loesser and his wife Lynne Garland threw together and first performed for their friends at a housewarming party in the Christmas season in 1944, and which MGM inserted in the movie Neptune’s Daughter in 1948 — where, as you can see, Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams did one rendition and Red Skelton and Betty Garrett did another with the roles reversed.
Further to a discussion with @6foot2inhighheels I thought the Ricochet community may have some thoughts. Said 6foot2: “The revelation that men have distinctly different motivations and impulses that are at odds with female cultural assumptions came to me late in life, and from an unexpected source; a young man who explained everything in one simple […]
Evan Sayet will be speaking at The Conservative Forum in Mountain View on Tuesday, July 12. Highly recommended — I’ll be there, and it would be great to see the local Ricochetti. Read More View Post
Mr. James W. Caesar is one of the very successful political scientists who owe their education to Leo Strauss & who have educated generations of political scientists who need not be ashamed of their education, which is a rather rare thing. Well, Mr. Caesar is another, older kind of conservative–a learned man who contributes to his […]
A friend reads this journal, which I have not seen advertised on Ricochet, so let me do the honors. I would describe it as Straussian patriotism. Strauss was the one man who restored political philosophy in academia–including your Founders & Lincoln. Professors at Hillsdale–indeed, the man who runs the place–are students of students of Strauss. (In that […]
Beat them at their own game, What we’re not doing in Hollywood. Read More View Post
Two months have passed since Stanford University’s celebrated student body voted six-to-one against reinstituting a required Western civilization course in its academic curriculum, generating a flurry of commentaries about the majority’s ideological orientation.
Critics didn’t have to look far, as an editorial in The Stanford Daily outlined the views of those on the six side of the equation pretty well. After introducing an excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden for sneering purposes, the op-ed launched into a scathing attack on Western civilization, peppered with phrases that undoubtedly would have kindled smiles by Marx, Lenin, or Stalin, along with perhaps a few tears of approbation.
Ok conservative America. What do you when it comes to hi-tech lynch mobs? What did you do the first time around? What are you doing now? Are you betting Marx was right, it was tragedy at first, but it’s a farce now? Or what? Comments & attempts to walk me off the ledge are welcome! […]
I use adblock. I recommend it. It makes ads go away. I worry sometimes if I’m not doing something stupid to websites I should be supporting–I’d like to be able to find out, I’m not too unreasonable or entitled… What I am is yellderly, only I don’t yell. I’ll get back to this later. I […]
Allan Bloom says somewhere that Americans are the funniest people, because nowhere else will you ever hear someone say Mr. Aristotle. I think that is meant to show how good manners are mostly a matter of innocence. I came to think of that today. I teach kids how thinking works, grammar, & language. You know […]
The talk about radical chic got me thinking about Radical chic. Let’s talk about a bit about this perpetual & restless desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death. Mr. Wolfe is famously the last American novelist. This is because he brings the revelation of status seeking; that’s an ugly phrase, but that’s what you […]