|All Politics is Resentment||If Conservatives Occupied Wall Street|
by Christopher Chantrill
October 09, 2011 at 4:03 pm
WE'VE ALL been having a grand old time in the last couple of weeks railing at President Obama and his new class warfare campaign. We happily drag out his post-partisan speeches from 2008 and 2004, and beat him upside the head with his old TelePrompter scripts.
When we get sick of that we can sniggerabout his race war campaign: how he drops his gs when addressing his pals in the Congressional Black Caucus, and urges them to get their marchin' shoes on. It was odd that the president did not order his followers to put on their marching boots. Where I come from, soldiers wear boots, not shoes. Perhaps things are different in community-organizer-land.
There's a deadly serious aspect to all this. We conservatives make fun of class and race politics because we want to neutralize it.
But Howell Raines, former New York Times editor, is aghast. End class warfare? Not on his watch! President Obama should not listen to the Republicans' pejorative definition of economic class warfare as an un-American evil.
In fact, nonviolent class struggle over income distribution has a long and beneficial history in this country and most other industrial democracies. Starting with the rise of the Populist Party in the late 19th century, continuing into the Progressive Era and the New Deal, grabbing for and getting a bigger slice of the economic pie for wage earners has been a major stabilizing force in American democracy.
Class warfare a stabilizing force? No kidding! I was almost ready to believe that divisive rhetoric was always a bad thing. Now Raines says I got it all wrong.
The truth is that if we bury class warfare and routines accusation of racism, then the politicians and their bribed apologists will come up with some other way to divide people. That's because all politics is resentment. The British Tory Benjamin Disraeli made that clear in his political novel Sybil. Queen Victoria ruled not over the greatest nation that ever existed, but over Two nations, between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy... The Rich and the Poor.
Just to make the point, Disraeli the Tory starts the novel in a ruined abbey, and goes on for pages about how the Evil Whigs had founded their fortunes 400 years before on the proceeds of the dissolution of the monasteries. Some memory! Some resentment.
If your are a sophisticated chap like liberal Howell Raines, you know that it demonstrates a higher tone to talk not of resentment but to use Nietzsche's and Kierkegaard's word: ressentiment. Resentment, you see, merely refers to a feeling of frustration. Ressentiment is the idea of converting your frustration into a moral system.
The reason that Howell Raines' nonviolent class struggle politics had such a good run is that, for decades, the ordinary middle class in America didn't have much to be resentful about. Liberals like Raines could fulminate away about the underprivileged and the marginalized and put a guilt trip on ordinary middle-class Americans. So long as those middle-class Americans felt guilty liberals could pick their pockets and fence the loot to their underprivileged and marginalized supporters.
But now, in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008, ordinary Americans are frightened and they are rediscovering their resentment. They have founded a huge grass-roots movement to express their frustration at government that doesn't care about people like them. They call it the Tea Party. This, of course, has completely confounded the sophisticated classes, folks like Howell Raines. They thought the crash would incubate a vast anti-capitalist movement, not an anti-government movement.
But think about it. The folks hurting from the Great Recession are not the underclass: they never had jobs to start with. The recession victims are not the liberals: they already have bomb-proof sinecures in government and the academy. The folks hurting in the current recession are ordinary un-organized Americans who thought that they could prosper in America, the land of the free, without the special assistance of politicians and community organizers.
When President Obama tries to light the fires of class warfare, and Howell Raines eggs him on, there is a danger that the rules may have changed. Maybe the class warfare of 2012 is now the middle class against the rest: the crony capitalist, the privileged academician, the feather-bedded government employee, and the benefit freeloader.
One of Howell Raines' readers, maxdenn, says Obama can and should beat the socks off the Tea Party controlled Reublicans [sic] on the issue of class warefare [sic]. As far as America is concerned, it's not really class warfare, but class armageddon. Suppose, under the new correlation of forces, the Democrats end up on the short side of class armageddon?
I say: Bring it on. I say that our resentments beat your resentments, Mr. President and Mr. Raines, because ours are fresh and raw, and yours are old and tired.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, 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
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
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
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
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
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel