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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Pedro Kicks Teddy's Butt

Pedro The Quietist is getting frustrated. He doesn't even intend to kick Teddy Kennedy halfway down the stairs, he doesn't even mention the man's name, but Pedro is a social force propelling Teddy off the stage with such immense force that Teddy is destined to meet a Falstaffian fate:
Nothing discredits leftist ideas like actually putting them in practice, so usually they don't last long before people wise up. So where do they survive? In universities, public schools, and nonprofit interest organizations. In other words, in those places completely isolated and protected from the real world, kept alive artificially in a persistent vegetative state by the feeding tube of tax dollars and private donations. In other words, nonproductive areas of our society, those industries that produce nothing that people would want to pay for, and produce no wealth for people to spread around -- these are where leftist ideas continue to fester well past their sell-by date. They contribute nothing of substance to our collective prosperity; they just criticize those who do (even though their own survival depends on the wealth produced by those they criticize).
...
The lucre and luxury of today's college student, professor, journalist, or professional "activist" depends entirely on the unheralded efforts of the nameless mass of dilligent American workers toiling away in the capitalist system. Ironically, as that system produces more and more wealth, it becomes easier and easier to leave the productive ranks and join those who sit around benefiting from their labor and criticizing them. ... But this means that as our economy becomes more and more productive, there are more and more people biting ankles and dragging it down. How much longer can it last? Once virtue becomes a silly anachronism to most people, how long can the virtuous carry the load for us all?
Earlier in the post Pedro contends that only a virtuous people is capable of self-rule:
In a tyranny, nobody has to worry about issues of personal responsibility, because you're just following orders. It is the natural and appropriate state of a society that places little value or emphasis on individual virtue. Existing in a tyranny is easy. Self-rule is difficult. I agree with Robert that too many in this country, by sneering at the very concept of virtue, are leading us down the path that leads to tyranny and backwardness.

Those who know history know that it wouldn't be the first time that a civilization became mired in decadence and collapsed into despotism.
No kidding. It's Isaiah's prophecy and the story of most cultures. But I want to focus on Pedro's statement: "The lucre and luxury of today's college student, professor, journalist, or professional "activist" depends entirely on the unheralded efforts of the nameless mass of dilligent American workers toiling away in the capitalist system. Ironically, as that system produces more and more wealth, it becomes easier and easier to leave the productive ranks and join those who sit around benefiting from their labor and criticizing them."

He's right about the contempt shown by the official culture of the left towards those who are the foundation of our society. This is now such a deeply marked phenomenon that even the Supreme Court passed down a decision allowing the rich to use a facade of law to seize the property of the working and middle class, and our Congress has not been able to rouse itself from its stupor long enough to ban the practice of funding the companies who are doing it. And it is the progressives who celebrate that decision as a good thing!

This week during lunch at work I found myself in the awkward position of trying to explain to two coworkers in their twenties (both of whom are among the groups that the Democratic party considers its base) that the Democratic party didn't used to be this pack of elitist snobs. In other words, when I was a kid there were a large number of Democratic politicians who genuinely represented not just the ranks of the poor and and the (genuinely!) disenfranchised minority groups, but also the interests of Pedro's "nameless mass of diligent American workers" toiling away to keep this society running.

As I stared into their skeptical eyes, I realized what a hopeless and irrelevant task it was. They had facts, they are informed, they are intelligent, and what they see now is what they have to work with politically. This Democratic party is not on their side, and they know it. They have social consciences and they think it is important for society to support those who are in trouble, but they see no reason why they, who are already eating macaroni and cheese, should be expected to support the lazy or the irrational. They aren't possessed by feelings of social guilt, because they are the first generation of their families to go to college and they are supporting their kids and trying to help other people who are even more hard-pressed than themselves.

They look at national politics and do not see their points of view represented on the national level by the Democratic party. They are interested in making life work here and now. They aren't selfish, but they are pragmatically egalitarian in a very deep, deep way. The only way I connected with them was by pointing out that Zell Miller was a Democrat, and that he had been responsible for the HOPE grants which made it possible for Georgians to get an education qualifying them for decent jobs in the new economy. That they understood; they seemed amazed that I would argue that the Democratic party once represented that agenda.

Martin Luther King they understand, but to them the "content of his character" message is represented more by the Republicans. One of them is Hispanic and the other comes from an Irish laboring family. They are best friends who roomed together in college. The Hispanic guy loves to call his best friend a racist cracker; his best friend responds happily that he is. They have common interests and they know it; they move in an interracial circle of friends who have those same common interests. They think the Dems are race-baiting. New Orleans came up several times. They think Democratic politicians lie their heads off and don't stand for anything; one example they brought up was the Democratic anti-military rhetoric.

Dick Meyers should not be talking to Stanford college students. He should be talking to this demographic to understand why they are practically divorced from politics. There are definite similarities, but when Meyers writes:
They had two basic theories beyond noting that virtually all undergraduates think politicians are gross, television news is dumb and government is futile.

These kids said their classmates felt politics didn't matter in practical ways to their daily lives or their future prospects. Yes, there may be a war, but there's no draft, so the war is "abstract" for most students. They grew up in prosperous, stable times and nothing about the political world has ever endangered their view of their own prospects to do well.
But these two men are very similar to those Stanford undergraduates, except that they are just climbing onto the edge of the "prosperous, stable times". You cannot attribute their lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic party (because that is what Meyers is really addressing) to complacency. If the Stanford undergraduates believe that they are complacent it is because the rationale has been fed to them by their professors. Try viewing the empty rhetoric of Teddy Kennedy through the eyes of the lower working-class, and it turns out that it's way, way beyond lame and has launched itself into stratospheric insanity. To them the politics of a Teddy Kennedy is an attack upon virtue and fairness itself.


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