From Frank Salter:
Now my focus today will be on Western multiculturalism with which I am most familiar. But there is also an Eastern type, and I’m not an expert in that certainly. But as I understand it, multiculturalism as practiced in Singapore and Malaysia, for example, is a different kettle of fish, as we say in Australia. It’s a different matter. One key difference is that Western multiculturalism excludes majorities from the protection of the state. One definition of multiculturalism is that group rights protected by the state, or the state steps in and says, look, we’re going to protect certain groups. And one would imagine they would say all ethnic groups, but it’s not true with multiculturalism.
One authority on American multiculturalism Eric Kaufman observes that it is asymmetrical. So he defines American and Western multiculturalism as asymmetrical. This creed represses majority group ethnic expression. And that is a strong characteristic of Western multiculturalism, that the majority, the core ethnic group of those countries, is not considered to be a protected group.
Now the effect is to leave the ethnic majority vulnerable to subordination. Indeed, Western multiculturalism has as its basis the unilateral demobilization of majorities and the simultaneous mobilization of minority consciousness. It’s asymmetrical. It does different things for minorities and majorities.
From Robert Tracinski:
[The controversy about Scott Walker] isn’t really about Scott Walker’s qualifications. It’s about something deeper.
On the surface, of course, it’s certainly about Scott Walker. The left-leaning mainstream media senses that he’s a potential danger. After all, he has won three straight elections in a swing state, while challenging the public employees’ unions head-on and significantly reducing their government privileges. (This is precisely what makes him interesting to those of us on the right.) The mainstream media feel that they need to disqualify him now, so they’re looking for anything they can use against him.
But behind that, there is a more visceral reaction. The real purpose of higher education is to learn the knowledge and skills required for success later in life. So if someone has already become a success, whether or not he went to college is irrelevant. If he has achieved the end, what does it matter that he didn’t do it by way of that specific means? But for the mainstream elites, particularly those at the top level in the media, a college education is not simply a means to an end. It is itself a key attainment that confers a special social status.
There are no real class divisions in America except one: the college-educated versus the non-college educated. It helps to think of this in terms borrowed from the world of a Jane Austen novel: graduating from college is what makes you a “gentleman.” (A degree from an Ivy League school makes you part of the aristocracy.) It qualifies you to marry the right people and hold the right kind of positions. It makes you respectable. And even if you don’t achieve much in the world of work and business, even if you’re still working as a barista ten years later, you still retain that special status. It’s a modern form of “genteel poverty,” which is considered superior to the regular kind of poverty.
If you don’t have a college degree, by contrast, you are looked down upon as a vulgar commoner who is presumptuously attempting to rise above his station. Which is pretty much what they’re saying about Scott Walker. This prejudice is particularly strong when applied to anyone from the right, whose retrograde views are easily attributed to his lack of attendance at the gentleman’s finishing school that is the university.
That brings us to the heart of the matter. I have observed before that left-leaning politics has become “part of the cultural class identity of college-educated people,” a prejudice that lingers long after they have graduated. You can see how this goes the other way, too. If to be college-educated is to have left-leaning views—then to have the “correct” political values, one must be college-educated.
You can see now what is fueling the reaction on the left. If Scott Walker can run for president, he is challenging the basic cultural class identity of the mainstream left. He is more than a threat to the Democrats’ hold on political power. He is a threat to the existing social order.
From Thomas Sowell:
It is hard to read a newspaper or watch a television newscast without encountering someone who has come up with a new “solution” to society’s “problems.” Sometimes it seems as if there are more solutions than problems. On closer scrutiny, it turns out that many of today’s problems are a result of yesterday’s solutions.
San Francisco and New York are both plagued with large “homeless” populations today, largely as a result of previous housing “reforms” that made housing more expensive and severely limited how much housing, and of what kind, could be built.
The solution? Spend more of the taxpayers’ money making homelessness a viable lifestyle for more people.
Education is a field with endless reforms, creating endless problems, requiring endless solutions. One of the invincible fallacies among educators is that all sorts of children can be educated in the same classroom. Not just children of different races, but children of different abilities, languages, and values. Isn’t it nice to think so? I suspect that even most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world conjured up in the liberals’ imagination rather than in the kind of world we are in fact stuck with.
The result is that many very bright children are bored to the point of becoming behavior problems when the schoolwork is slowed to a pace within the range of students who are slower learners.
By federal law, even children with severe mental or emotional problems must be “mainstreamed” into classes for other students — often in disregard of how much this disrupts these classes and sacrifices the education of the other children.
Parents who complain about the effect of these “solutions” on their own children’s education are made to feel guilty for not being more “understanding” about the problems of handicapped students. Nothing is easier for third-party busybodies than being “understanding” and “compassionate” at someone else’s expense — especially if the busybodies have their own children in private schools, as so many public-school educators do.
Whether in housing, education, or innumerable other aspects of life, the key to busybody politics, and its endlessly imposed “solutions,” is that third parties pay no price for being wrong. This not only presents opportunities for the busybodies to engage in moral preening but also to flatter themselves that they know better what is good for other people than these other people know for themselves.
Right now, there are people inside and outside government who are proposing new restrictions on how you may or may not visit the national parks that your taxes support. Among their proposals is doing away with trash cans in these parks, so that visitors have to take their trash out with them. Just how they would enforce this, when millions of people visit places like Yosemite or Yellowstone, is something the busybodies need not bother to think through — much less pay the price when trash simply accumulates in these parks after trash cans are removed.
Obamacare is perhaps the ultimate in busybody politics. People who have never even run a drugstore, much less a hospital, blithely prescribe what must be done by the entire medical system, from doctors to hospitals to producers of pharmaceutical drugs to health-insurance companies.
This includes federal laws requiring the turning over of patients’ confidential medical records to the federal government, where these records can be looked at by politicians, bureaucrats, and whoever can hack into the government’s computers. Neither you nor your doctor has a right to keep this information confidential.
What could lead anyone to believe that he has either the right or the omniscience to dictate to hundreds of millions of other people? Our educational system may have something to do with that, with its constant promotion of “self-esteem” and its emphasis on developing “leaders.”
Our schools and colleges are turning out people who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do. The price of their self-indulgence is the sacrifice of our freedom. If we don’t defend ourselves against them, who will?
I’ll skip the next half-century, since the tragedy is too well known, and focus instead on the vastly different, contemporary liberal mindset. To be blunt, what strikes us about its recent and most vocal emissaries — politicians such as a Barbara Boxer, John Edwards, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi; or the Hollywood celebrities; or the great fortuned like a Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, or George Soros; or the credentialed technocrats who run the foundations and government agencies, or the high-paid media types in the NY-DC corridor — is how vast apart are the circumstances of their own lives from the objects of their concern. In addition, present-day liberalism finds its most numerous adherents among the upper-middle class suburbanites and those who work for government and enjoy de facto tenure (e.g., the public employee unions, teachers, the public professoriate, etc.).
Let Them Eat Steak
Insulation is the common theme here. To the degree that one’s job insulates one from the vagaries of the marketplace — not just the danger of losing a job, but often the petty humiliation so often integral in making a scarce buck, by selling, peddling, hawking, or working for a business — one is now more likely to support the redistributive state and all its satellite philosophies. And to the degree that one has a good salary and capital, and can buy such insulation — where one lives, where one sends one’s children to school, where one vacations — one is most likely to advocate a sort of politics that will not affect directly oneself. The key then is to insulate oneself from the worry over losing a job and livelihood, either by guaranteed employment or ample wealth. (When the London riots started to hit the “better” sections, then suddenly the police appeared in real numbers and the unapologetic public anger increased.)
In other words, if one opposes charters and vouchers, supports teachers’ unions, praises the present-day public schools, and champions the therapeutic curriculum, one is still hardly likely to put one’s child in the L.A. or Fresno school system. If one is a strong advocate for more state subsidies and redistributive policies, one will not live in an East Palo Alto, an Orange Cove, or the wrong side of St. Louis or Baltimore where the money is aimed. Liberalism is, like all politics, self-interested, embraced by those who receive transfer payments and those in charge of administering the redistributive state. But it also provides psychic exemption to a new upper class and asks little concrete in return — no tutoring of the illegal alien, no side-by-side residency in the Section 8 apartment to help create “community,” no hiring in the progressive law firm of a ghetto intern in lieu of the Yale undergraduate. It is the worst sort of petty hypocrisy: an exemption for the guilty soul through support of the redistributive state aimed at the noble but unapproachable poor —and through a clear disdain for the crass and aspiring middle class, which lacks the taste of the elite and the supposedly tragic nobility of the impoverished and victimized.
The Apotheosis of Barack Obama
Some are surprised that Barack Obama – the community organizer, the hard-core leftist, the pal of Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright (compare the homes of each), the totem of the left — would buy a mansion and worry about the price of arugula. Or that when president, he would play golf more in three years than the aristocratic Bush did in eight. Or that in recessionary times, when iconic presidential sacrifice is critical, the First Family would favor Martha’s Vineyard, Vail, and Costa del Sol over the White House grounds or Camp David.
But this disconnect again is logical not aberrant. It is precisely because Obama rails about “fat cats,” “corporate jet owners,” “millionaires and billionaires,” and pontificates about “redistributive change,” “enough money,” “spread the wealth,” and “unneeded income” that he feels spiritually cleansed and so can satisfy his natural appetites for the good rarified life. On Monday swear that corporate jets blew up the budget, on Tuesday feel free to host corporate jet fly-in donors who pay $50,000 to hear you rail about the pernicious culture of corporate jets. Mutatis mutandis, so too an Al Gore or John Kerry.
Human nature argues that contemporary liberalism does not work; but if one is not proximate to human nature in the raw, then one can find psychological penance in promoting something that will never come back to haunt you. Let a flash mob hit Park Avenue or have a group from East Palo Alto swarm the quad at Stanford, or have a Malibu star’s kid shoved about in a downtown L.A. school, or an open borders idealist live in an apartment in Calwa, and then one sees first hand the real-time dividends of a distant elite channeling state money to the less fortunate.
The Wages of Hypocrisy
Barack Obama has hit 39% approval in the Gallup poll. Pundits point to the debt, to the mixed-up foreign policy, to ObamaCare, to his grating sermons on civility, to his blame-Bush fixations, to the serial banality of his inauthentic cadences and his canned Nixonian “make no mistake about it” and “let me be perfectly clear” emphases. All that is true.
But much of our public weariness stems from his loud liberal hypocrisy. Our president lectures about a certain sort of school he never has sent his child to. He talks about “folks” with whom he has never wished to vacation. Unlike a Truman or Humphrey, he sough office not to help those clingers with whom he might have wished to associate, but to feel good about wanting to help from a safe distance from those with whom he most certainly did not wish to mingle.
Golfing or walking the Martha’s Vineyard beach, in the fashion of Kerry’s 7th estate getaway or million-dollar yacht, makes one fret over “why lucky me?” — and requires an antidote of one or two spread-the-wealth sermons a week.
The weird sudden appearance of swarmy, young urban and highly-educated leftist bloggers, with little experience in the physical world or with manual labor, is likewise logical given that most do not raise families in the barrio or shop in the ghetto, or teach school on the wrong side of town or try to buy a house and support three kids on $70,000, or even hit the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. Only such abstract liberal advocacy can square the circle of self-absorbed concerned metrosexuality.
As we saw last week in Britain and in some American cities, liberal redistributionism makes far worse the innate problems it was hailed to solve. But it remains a powerful narcotic to an aberrant elite, one that feels guilty over its apartheid circumstances and is desperately seeking spiritual redemption on the cheap.
Barack Obama was contemporary America’s clearest example of just such an iconic liberalism — both as a purveyor and a recipient. Just as voting for Obama gave a pass to so many, so too for Barack Obama his own rhetoric and advocacy provide a pass for his own preferences. Liberalism has gone from a first-hand concern for equality of opportunity to a psychological condition of very blessed, but equally unhappy, people.
God, I wish I could write like this.
From Charles Krauthammer:
In an increasingly desperate attempt to develop a narrative for the coming Democratic collapse, the Democrats have indulged themselves in what for half a century they’ve habitually attributed to the American Right: the paranoid style in American politics. The talk is of dark conspiracies — secret money, foreign influence, and big corporations, with Karl Rove and, yes, Ed Gillespie lurking ominously behind the scenes. The only thing missing is the Halliburton-Cheney angle.
But after trotting out some of these with a noticeable lack of success, President Obama has come up with something new, something less common, something more befitting his stature and intellect. He’s now offering a scientific, indeed neurological, explanation for his current political troubles. The electorate apparently is deranged by its anxieties and fears to the point where it can’t think straight. Part of the reason “facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time,” he explained to a Massachusetts audience, “is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.”
Opening a whole new branch of cognitive science — liberal psychology — Obama has discovered a new principle: The fearful brain is hard-wired to act befuddled, i.e., to vote Republican.
But of course. Here Obama has spent two years bestowing upon the peasantry the “New Foundation” of a more regulated and socially engineered, and therefore more humane, society, and they repay him with recalcitrance and outright opposition. Here he gave them Obamacare, the stimulus, financial regulation, and a shot at cap-and-trade — and the electorate remains not just unmoved but ungrateful.
Faced with this truly puzzling conundrum, Dr. Obama diagnoses a heretofore undiscovered psychological derangement: anxiety-induced Obama Underappreciation Syndrome, wherein an entire population is so addled by its economic anxieties as to be neurologically incapable of appreciating the “facts and science” undergirding Obamacare and the other blessings their president has bestowed upon them from on high.
I have a better explanation. Better because it adheres to the ultimate scientific principle, Occam’s Razor, by which the preferred explanation for any phenomenon is the one with the most economy and simplicity. And there is nothing simpler than the Gallup findings on the ideological inclinations of the American people. Conservative: 42 percent. Moderate: 35 percent. Liberal: 20 percent. No fanciful new syndromes or other elaborate fictions are required to understand that if you try to impose a liberal agenda on such a demonstrably center-right country — a country that is 80 percent non-liberal — you get a massive backlash.
Moreover, apart from ideology is empirical reality. Even as we speak, the social-democratic model Obama is openly and boldly trying to move America toward is unraveling in Europe. It’s not just the real prospect of financial collapse in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, with even the relatively more stable major countries in severe distress. It is the visible moral collapse of a system that, after two generations of increasing cradle-to-grave infantilization, turns millions of citizens into the streets of France in furious and often violent protest over what? Over raising the retirement age from 60 to 62!
Having seen this display of what can only be called decadence, Obama’s perfectly wired electorate says no, not us, not here. The peasants have seen the future — Greece and France — and concluded that it does not work. Hence their opposition to Obama’s proudly transformational New Foundation agenda. Their logic is impeccable: Only the most blinkered intellectual could be attempting to introduce social democracy to America precisely at a time when the world’s foremost exemplar of that model — Europe — is in chaotic meltdown.
And it isn’t as if this political message is new. It had already been sent in the last year with clarion clarity in the elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts where independents — swing voters without ideological attachment one way or the other — split two-to-one, two-to-one and three-to-one, respectively, against the Democrats.
The story of the last two years is as simple as it is dramatic. It is the epic story of an administration with a highly ideological agenda encountering a rising resistance from the American people over the major questions in dispute: the size and reach and power of government and, even more fundamentally, the nature of the American social contract.
An adjudication of the question will be rendered on November 2. For the day, the American peasantry will be presiding.