Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Progressives' Institutional Slavery
A week ago today, I had a random conversation on Twitter with Tom Lyden, a well-known television reporter for FOX 9 News in the Twin Cities. I don't know Tom much but I like what I do: he's refreshingly himself on and off air and his Twitter presence is not to be missed. He tweeted that his friend, FOX 9 anchor Robyne Robinson, had gotten a new job as "arts and culture director" at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Who knew? I scoffed at the make-work-for-liberals-nature of the position. Airports are hell and they'd all be better off piping in Brian Eno and delivering luggage faster.
Lyden was prompt in insisting on its value because "institutions make us." Apparently anything qualifies as an institution because this position is a bureaucratic slot paid for by users of the airport, most of whom would fail to notice, let alone appreciate, some absurd "cultural" focus on tater tot hot dish. Yet I realized Lyden had given me an insight into the progressive mind-set. This post isn't about Tom; our Twitter interaction is only its point of departure. In direct messages, Tom & I talked about this; they remain private. What follows isn't directed toward him per se but to the larger progressive understanding of institutions as I see it.
That institutions have effect is but a truism. Progressives seem never to have advanced much beyond that in their thinking, however. Which institutions, with what effects? Strip away policy fights, as important as they are, and this is the bedrock issue, the bedrock question progressives and conservatives not only don't agree over, but whose views are so diametrically opposed that they might each be said to be considering a question wholly separate from the other one.
Which is odd. Because with enough discussion between them, instead of talking past each other, some actual progress might be achieved between progressives and conservatives.
The idea of man as perfectible animates most progressive ideology and, hence, legislation. Indeed, knowing better in this regard than the unwashed largely gives progressives a pass from themselves for being heavy handed and wrong. They are congenitally unable to see themselves as such, of course. Good intentions: that's all there is to liberalism. It's the easiest, laziest political mindset to adopt. No wonder the uneducated and dependent flock to it, encouraged by the Chicago mindset of politics. That mindset is governmental dependency masquerading as concern. What's in it for you?
Liberals persecuted Daniel Patrick Moynihan for showing actual results, for showing the actual results of their policies, ie, destroying the black family in the midst of that government institution known as The Great Society. This was in the 1960's, if you can believe it. They haven't changed.
"Institutions make us" however, is a key insight. It represents, yes, hope. Who's against hope? The question, however, is always whether a particular hope is warranted. My sister Karen Gilmore
Egan, dead ten years this past September 2 of metastatic melanoma, hoped to the end, beyond the point the rest of us non-dying knew to be futile. Shockingly, she taught me how not to die; her hope was unwarranted. Hollywood usually doesn't option those kinds of stories.
I raise this otherwise very personal anecdote because that's exactly what moves most liberals: some sad sack tale of what the rest of us would otherwise consider the human condition. Their ability to transcend is nonexistent; their penchant for politicizing every aspect of human experience according to their policy lights is endless. This is poverty by another name.
For as smart as liberals, unconvincingly, try to tell us they are, some emotional one-off story will do for them going forward with unsound public policy. Results don't matter; when was the last time one of them told you to look to outcomes to prove their point?
Simone Weil once wrote that "love has no direct connection with rights."
Liberals, thinking ever so well of themselves, want to love through enforcing "rights," usually ones never thought of as rights before. Enforcing them through state power on others. This contradiction is beyond their Kenwood attentiveness to those with whom they never socialize. Doesn't everyone write a check? See you at the next Headwaters event. Or maybe encampment?
By abandoning the human and trusting in the institutional, liberals fail themselves and the "others" they purportedly seek to help. Liberals trust the wrong institutions and disdain authentic ones.
Heterosexual family is the most authentic and successful institution known to mankind across all cultures bar none throughout recorded human history.
In a departure from some of my more conservative friends, I'll take same sex married men and women as adoptive families in a heart beat. Why? Because "love has no direct connection with rights."
Yet my liberal friends would not see traditional family, in that sense, as authentic but "socially constructed." The three year old boy who wants to be a girl? Authentic! Right.
Few of us know how to think clearly without presupposing the worst in our opponents. This is regrettable. For me as a conservative, that is hard to do, given the ugly track record of liberals. Get back to me when my side produces a movie "The Death of a President" like the Left did about W. Liberals are wonderful people though, just ask them. Yet on a personal level, the ones I know really are. The disconnect between liberals as people and liberalism as a destructive ideology is substantial. Shop Kingfield Market while ignoring exploding poverty rates under Obama.
I also recently had an interesting interaction on Twitter with a progressive I follow, Geri Katz @gkatz. She had tweeted something in connection with Betsy Hodges, her preferred candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, that dealt with "gaps" involving race or income. I replied, suggesting that the true metric which should concern progressives and conservatives aren't those old, easily-manipulated benchmarks but that of married versus unmarried, regardless of income or race. She asked for more.
I provided it but didn't realize one of my sources, journalist Jonathan Rauch, had the politically correct sexual bona fides as a gay married man but whatever. I went to his analytical point which, to my way of thinking, is the only thing that should interest anyone:
"Marriage is displacing both income and race as the great class divide of the new century."
Single motherhood is the surest route to poverty for mothers and their children yet discovered.
To state this truth is not to show indifference. That's the lazy liberal retort, the kind of response that make thoughtful conservatives think "why should I bother?"
But we must bother, despite sometimes hackish responses from the other side. Honest liberals, truly caring ones, will move past the fund raising monikers of race and income to look thoughtfully at the source of our problem. The unmarried contain all ethnicities but certainly the poorer ones. What now?
Perhaps we'll have to wait while bien pensant liberals are finished congratulating themselves about same sex marriage before they buckle down to address the truth of our socio-economic troubles. But if someone like Jonathan Rauch, and many others, can see the problem, why can't others on the Left?
Liberals want to invent new institutions while ignoring or misshaping the oldest, most successful ones. They are eager to create institutions, traditionally thought of in their-oh-so care-free-minds as that which enslaves. But no, they want to create more in the hopes of perfecting human nature. The magical thinking that a "job" as "arts & culture director" at a medium United States airport is one such route displays this mindset to a fare thee well.
Welcome to progressive institutional slavery whose jailers will never understand themselves to be.