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Playing the "Violence" Card The Bonds of Faith

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Liberals and Political Kitsch

by Christopher Chantrill
January 12, 2011 at 10:55 am

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THE LINK at RealClearPolitics said “Eliminating Inequality is Good for the Soul.” But at the New York Times Nicholas Kristof’s article a week ago was more bland: “Equality, a True Soul Food.”

Kristof was boosting The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. They argue, using social science data about the developed nations, that societies with greater inequality demonstrate bigger health and social problems. Obviously the solution is more center-left policies to social-engineer equality, from taxes to fighting global warming with a low-carbon, sustainable economy to employee-owned corporations. In short, All Power to the Liberals!

Obviously, if Nick Kristof is getting all tingly about some new center-left book then conservatives need to know what is going on. If you want to get my detailed look at The Spirit Level, you should look at my blog’s Spirit Level Week. But we have bigger fish to fry. Let’s go into the kitchen.

I’m all in favor of equality, at least in its Abe Lincoln version, the world open to talents. It’s equality run by liberals that sticks in my craw, just as, to liberals, the talent open to the world called Sarah Palin sticks in their craw.

But what is it, exactly, that sticks in the conservative craw? I will tell you. It is the fact that iberalism is political kitsch.

Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton helped me see the light. I was reading his Beauty, in the chapter where he talks about the problem of kitsch and its alter ego, desecration.

Kitsch deprives feeling of its cost, and therefore of its reality; desecration augments the cost of feeling, and so frightens us away from it. The remedy for both states of mind is suggested by the thing that they each deny, which is sacrifice.

Our liberal friends champion a politics that eliminates sacrifice. “No one should have to (insert specific sacrifice here),” they bellow.

They used to have a point back in the mid-19th century when it looked like the working class would never get a fair shake. Prophets like Marx predicted the “immiseration” of the working class.

That was then. Today, Wilkinson and Picket write in The Spirit Level: “Overweight among the poor seems to be strongly associated with income inequality.” Something has gone wrong when liberals are telling us we need more government programs because the poor are too fat.

When liberals aren’t kitschifying politics at political conventions with Al Gore’s famous kiss or Barack Obama’s Greek temple they are desecrating our cultural memory by removing crosses from military cemeteries and taking God out of the public square.

But their great crime is that their political kitsch trivializes the sacrifice of Everyman in the Great Migration from farm to factory over the last two hundred years. It is the most astonishing story in the long story of homo sapiens: how tens of millions left the brutal world of subsistence farming and traveled, on a hope and a prayer, to the city on a hill. There, despite the challenges and the cruelties and excruciating setbacks, those millions thrived. What a story! What a movie!

Only, the way liberals tell it, the story was all about the legislation liberals passed to save helpless victims from a fate worse than death.

In my determined effort to escape the cloying kitsch of liberal politics I have been reading the lady novelists of the 19th century, writers like George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. What was life like, I wanted to know, before liberals got their noses into everything, and what did women think about it?

What they thought was that every act was pregnant with moral meaning. Ordinary plain people could thrive in a difficult world, they wrote, but they had to be serious about every act, and diligent in building a moral community around them in the face of inevitable setbacks and hardship. They knew that they could be called upon for great sacrifice at any moment and they were prepared for it. Needless to say, hey had to be especially wary of idle young sons of landowners, manufacturers, and businessmen.

The liberal idea is different. Liberals say: Don’t you little people bother your silly little heads with all that hard stuff. No one should have to (fill in the blank). Meanwhile liberals want to be the ones that save the planet, succor the poor, create the great art, and instruct the ignorant. They take all that moral stuff very seriously.

That’s the trouble with the Equality agenda. It denies Americans the right to live their own lives, accept necessary sacrifice, and create their own moral communities. It treats the American people as cogs to be fitted into the big liberal Equality machine. It reduces politics to political kitsch.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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