Thursday, November 6, 2008

Morebama

I attended this event yesterday featuring Cornel West and Anne-Marie Slaughter, among others. Of course, as the initial standing ovation indicates, like many campuses the tilt is overwhelmingly to the Left, so not a single conservative was invited to join the five panelists. One wonders how the conversation might have unfolded with even just one dissenting voice, but that might be too much to hope for on a college campus that extols "diversity."

Still, homogeneity has its benefits, one of which is a degree of frankness amid the assumption that there can't possibly be any alternative way of seeing things that one sometimes doesn't get in mixed presentations. I thought that Anne-Marie Slaughter's presentation - toward the middle of her remarks - were revealingly sober, particularly when she explicitly confirmed Joe Biden's admission that a young President Obama will be tested by foreign powers. Her surmise: the radical Islamic community will have to move rapidly to undercut any possible Muslim goodwill felt toward Barak Hussein Obama. She suggested that he will be put in a position in which he will have to kill Muslims in order to appear strong. The event or events that will provoke this inescapable response are worrisome, and may in fact be the first step in a quick appreciation of one generally overlooked aspect of George W. Bush's Presidency: in just under 8 years after 9/11/01, there was not another terrorist attack on American soil. Anne-Marie Slaughter suggested that a President Obama may invite just such an event - an acknowledgment that she admitted was not prudent for Biden to make during the campaign, but was in fact true. A palpable hush fell over the audience that suddenly seemed to realize that the world hadn't in fact been healed.

Cornel West declared the Age of Reagan to be over - especially its emphasis on individualism and neglect for the most vulnerable among us. I found myself agreeing with his criticisms of an economy that stressed short-term thinking and me-first individualism - but I found myself wondering if his observations would be true regarding an Obama era view of accidental or unwanted pregnancies. I guess it just depends on which vulnerable people get to be counted as people. I don't think, in any event, that the Age of Individualism is over, and nor could it be, unless we fundamentally reassess the priority given by both many of Left and Right alike upon the false but self-aggrandizing belief in human autonomy and the limitless ascent of the human will.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I guess it just depends on which vulnerable people get to be counted as people."

My exact thought before you wrote it. Bravo, well said.

Black Sea said...

"When you choose to serve -- whether it's your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood -- you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans."


"Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start."

In other words, voluntary service so embodies all that is best in the "fundamental American ideal" that it will henceforth be made mandatory.

What's more, the Federal government will determine which organizations are most worthy of the "volunteer's" time, effort, and resources. Service in such organizations will be required of those pursuing an education, and will be "encouraged" (use your imagination) among retirees.

Yeah, I don't see any problem with that.

The quotations above were taken from this website:

http://change.gov/americaserves/

Dad29 said...

I don't think, in any event, that the Age of Individualism is over, and nor could it be, unless we fundamentally reassess the priority given by both many of Left and Right alike upon the false but self-aggrandizing belief in human autonomy and the limitless ascent of the human will

Well, yah, that's ONE way to look at Free Will.

You imply, however, that Free Will is used only for bad. Is that true?

Patrick Deneen said...

Dad29-
No, I wasn't arguing against "free will" - obviously that is a gift bestowed by God on man. What I was criticizing was the aggrandizement of HUMAN will as the only source of legitimacy, and thus, the concomitant rejection of the place of God's will or law in how we exercise our own free will. One of the central marks of modernity is the aggrandizement of the human will - our capacity to make, or remake the world, in our own image, and the rejection of any limits upon or standards governing the exercise of our free will.

Anonymous said...

It is unreasonable and implausible to expect to find Republicans at university events because of the contempt that Republicans as a species have for book-learnin'. When you're a group of people who take pride in your ignorance, you can't complain much when you're under-represented in higher learning. It didn't used to be that way, which is why majorities of college graduates used to vote Republican, even when Republicans were a minority among faculty. But the modern Republican party is too much based on prideful ignorance to be able to get the sympathy of college-educated Americans, let alone professors.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you noticed the homogeneity of the Princeton panel and have Tocqueville sited. He warned us of the tendency in a democracy to conform to group think. How it actually, despite the rigor of analysis, almost invariably leads to the same conclusion among its "intellectuals".

Anonymous said...

Anonymous II - Please have the courage to leave a name if you go a spoutin' some polemic.

Signed,
A Republican Book Learner

Patrick Deneen said...

Anon (II),
your comment is STUNNINGLY ignorant. But it's the sort of delusion that can be self-generated when the academy no longer permits serious challenges in its midst. (By the way, I'd also advise against conflating Republicans and conservatives, since you'll find - on this site at least, and a goodly number of others - that there are discerning people who are not so conditioned to necessarily confuse those two things). I dare say that it's our few conservative scholars who still really give a damn about "book learning," believing - unlike John Dewey and his many epigones - that there's something to be gained from the wisdom of the past.

Anonymous said...

I don't conflate Republicans and conservatives since I am one of the latter. That's why the word "conservative" doesn't appear once in my comment, although your entire response is directed at my alleged conflation of conservatism and Republicanism. As for the "self-generated" "delusions" of the "academy which no longer permits serious challenges in its midst": the overhwhelming shift of college graduates away from the Republican Party cannot be accounted for in those terms. Most college graduates will only ever spend a few years in a university, and in the not-too-distant-past most of them still voted Republican. So the state of academia is beside the point as far as explaining why they now reject the Republican Party. Beyond that, it simply false to assert that only "our few conservative scholars" really "give a damn about book learning". Turning out pathetic, pampered uber-nerds who flit around squeaking about how "manly" they are and who drool over the "manliness" of their "teachers", and except the rest of us to believe that all of this snivelling over the imaginary "manliness" contained in old books maybe. That's why Bill Kristol had to be kicked out of the academy. Plato to Palin: Republican ideas in a nutshell.

Kate O'Hare said...

Sarah Palin is a college graduate, and a self-made woman who has become a success without the benefit of old-school-tie cronyism, family money, regional prestige or any other advantage other than intelligence, determination and hard work.

She got all the education she could afford by her own labor (and beauty pageant scholarships), since her parents could not afford to send her to college.

(As mine could not afford to send me, so I worked my way through community college and night school -- so therefore I obviously don't qualify as a proper Republican or conservative in some folks' books.)

This self-congratulatory degrading of all but the Ivy League conservatives is not only rude but deeply disrespectful and ultimately may doom the party and the movement. In case you forget, Ronald Reagan himself would not live up to your educational standards, as he went to a Christian college.

Perhaps you consider these people to be the "surplus population" of the conservative movement, but as Dickens observed...``Man,'' said the Ghost, ``if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!''

Anonymous said...

"Sarah Palin is a college graduate, and a self-made woman who has become a success without the benefit of old-school-tie cronyism, family money, regional prestige or any other advantage other than intelligence, determination and hard work."

Sarah Palin relied on the old-school croynism of Bill Kristol's neo-con network, and Kristol himself relied on family money (Kristol was an undergraduate and graduate student at Harvard, and was taken to have dinner with Harvard professors when was a small child, around the same time he was attending French private schools; and Palin would be nowhere today without him, just as he would be nowhere without his father). Palin's whole campaign message was based on asserting regional prestige: "American parts of America", "real Virgina", and so forth. The whole Republican message is based on regional snobbery: the snobbery of hicks.

"This self-congratulatory degrading of all but the Ivy League conservatives is not only rude but deeply disrespectful and ultimately may doom the party and the movement."

Actually, the movement is already doomed, and its not as result of "self-congratulatory degrading of all but the Ivy League conservatives", but the reverse: decades of sneering at anything resembling a real education... by people with real educations like Kristol. Its basically an incoherent populism: super-elites like Kristol are mad at the other elites around them, and so they glamorize uneducated people whom they don't know, making ignorance a virtue. After about twenty years of this nonsense you wind up with a conservative movement that believes that ignorance is the key to governance.

Finally, I don't have "educational standards" per se, since I never went to college myself. I just don't glamorize ignorance, and I observe that a party that massively turns off college graduates is never going to get elected again.

Kate O'Hare said...

That "hick" is the governor of a state and you never graduated college. Physician Anonynmous, heal thyself.

Anonymous said...

Real hicks like to call themselves hicks, as us non-college graduates know well.