Dear You Guys (I apologize for this break in protocol. Normally I would begin with the traditional salutation of “Dear Reader.” But now that “you guys” is under assault, I felt this was, quite literally, the least I could do),
If I’ve made one point over the last 20 years, it’s that you can never put too much cheese on anything involving meat. Coming in a close second is that the reason I’m a conservative is that I believe conservatism and libertarianism are only partial philosophies of life. Obviously, this is even more the case for libertarianism than it is for conservatism, but both schools of thought set relatively clear boundaries for what politics should touch. Not so for what we call liberalism.
The progressive vision sees all of mankind as clay to be molded, sheep to be herded, a third-grade diorama to be diorama’d. There are no safe harbors from politics because the personal is political.
The problem with saying “the personal is political” is twofold: You politicize what is personal (“Everyone must celebrate my lifestyle!”) and you personalize the political (“Your opposition to the minimum wage hurts my feelings!”).
This is how you un-think yourself out of a civilization; When politics becomes a fashion choice and fashion becomes political. If you wear your politics on your sleeve, it usually means you don’t keep them in your brain where they belong.
The progressive vision sees all of mankind as clay to be molded, sheep to be herded, a third-grade diorama to be diorama’d.
This is at least partly why so much of what passes for politics these days is really lifestyle branding. I loved David Brooks’s BoBos In Paradise, but its biggest flaw was in underestimating how much of the so-called bohemian-bourgeois lifestyle came pre-loaded with very political features. In 1997 Brooks wrote in The Weekly Standard that “one of the striking things about Burlington [Vermont] is that it is relatively apolitical.” I really don’t think that was true. More likely: Burlington was — and is — so uniformly liberal that even an astute observer might confuse stultifying political conformity for apoliticalness (not a word, I know, but like they said in Fast and Furious 3, you get my drift).
It’s telling that when Phil Griffin predicted MSNBC would overtake Fox News by 2014 (Stop laughing!). He said he wanted to do it by turning MSNBC into a “lifestyle” network. “It’s a mistake for us to limit ourselves to news,” he told The New Republic. Instead, he wanted to build up something he dubbed, “the MSNBC lifestyle.” This is the sort of thinking you fall into when you can’t see where politics ends and “lifestyle” — i.e., life — begins.
I’m not a big fan of generational stereotyping, but it’s fair to say that a large number of Millennials constitute the first big cohort of kids to be fully raised within this lifestyle-ized politics.
What’s been the effect? Well, funny enough, I have a theory about that.
There’s a lot of evidence that being too sanitary, i.e. too clean, causes allergies. If you’re not exposed to dog hair, dirt, bugs, nuts, CHUDs early in life, your immune system doesn’t know how to recognize these allergens later on and deal with them in a healthy way. It turns out if you give babies peanut butter, they are much, much less likely to get peanut allergies when they get older. Unfortunately for my kid’s generation, this news came too late. And while she doesn’t have peanut allergies herself, enough kids do at her school that all you have to do is whisper “peanut butter” and the place becomes like that scene in Monsters Inc. when the creature has a human sock stuck to his back (“23-19! We’ve got a 23-19!”).
As I’ve been arguing for quite a while, I think America is going through a kind of autoimmune crisis. We’re increasingly allergic to our own civilization and as a result we’re attacking once-healthy organs of the body politic.
Frankly, I have trouble seeing all this “trigger warning” shinola (no, wait, the other stuff I always confuse for shinola) in any other context.
“America is the land of opportunity,” “There is only one race, the human race” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” are among a long list of alleged microaggressions faculty leaders of the University of California system have been instructed not to say.
These so-called microaggressions — considered examples of subconscious racism — were presented at faculty leader training sessions held throughout the 2014-15 school year at nine of the 10 UC campuses. The sessions, an initiative of UC President Janet Napolitano, aim to teach how to avoid offending students and peers, as well as how to hire a more diverse faculty.
Now, if you suffer heart palpitations, feel light-headed, or in some other way manifest symptoms of panic because you hear that “America is the land of opportunity” or “there is only one race, the human race” you have an allergy to America and its ideals.
The danger is that if we cater to these allergies, they become worse. “A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure,” Orwell observed, “and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.” We fail our kids by giving them these allergies and then fail them all the more completely by catering to them.
MISS PIGGY AMERICA
Anyway, as I was saying, progressivism sees no safe harbor from politics because it doesn’t see politics as distinct from lifestyle. There is no limiting principle for what passes for liberalism, because liberalism has simply become defined as whatever liberals believe in today. Hence the once-gold standard of liberal thought — “there is no race but the human race” — is now offensive and should be avoided lest it set off some kid’s allergies (a point of view I could better understand if there were a lot of skinheads in the classroom).
One upshot of this that drives me batty is the injection of politics into areas that should remain politics-free. To pick examples near my heart, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica were corrupted by politics. A few years ago, the Children’s Television Workshop started mucking around with Cookie Monster. Suddenly Cookie Monster was talking about how “cookies are only a sometimes food.” This is true — for humans. But for it to be true of Cookie Monster is to erase his identity. As I wrote at the time: