Monday Meanderings and an Announcement, 7/30/12

  1. Why Capitalism Has An Image Problem.
  2. Your tax dollars at work.
  3. Best thing said about Mitt last week.
  4. Putting off parenthood for pleasure.
  5. Will the Barbarian Politicians shift the Overton Window?
  6. MYOB, Moreno.
  7. Tipsy is evolving.


1

Charles Murry, who has made a career of being a lightening rod (The Bell Curve and Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010), steps into the Overton Window with a Friday Wall Street Journal column, Why Capitalism Has An Image Problem.

  1. “One is the rise of collusive capitalism. Part of that phenomenon involves crony capitalism, whereby the people on top take care of each other at shareholder expense (search on “golden parachutes”). But the problem of crony capitalism is trivial compared with the collusion engendered by government.”
  2. “Another change in objective conditions has been the emergence of great fortunes made quickly in the financial markets.”

That list may not be exhaustive, but it’s an awfully good start, don’t you think?

2

Your tax dollars at work. Do you feel safer because the feds are swarming Nancy Black? Or do you feel fresh sympathy with the only Ayn Rand quote in my repertoire?

3

Nicest thing I’ve heard about Romney in weeks: “Abortion-Rights Activists: Romney’s VP Choices Don’t Favor Choice.”

4

Nona Willis Aronowitz notes “more people are putting off parenthood,” and asks “what will that mean for their kids?” It’s a real phenomenon that drew me to read her story, but I’d urge you to read with a critical eye if you do read, and to ask what her unstated premises are.

5

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web” Friday suggested that those politicians who threatened unconstitutionally to ban Chick-fil-A from their turf (Boston and San Francisco Mayors, Chicago Alderman with backing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel) may actually advance rather than retard the cause of same-sex marriage.

If the previous paragraph is indecipherable to you, perhaps you grew up in a world where corporations weren’t overt political players (some are today; Chick-fil-A isn’t), and nobody woud have thought of boycotting a corporation because of a political opinion held by shareholder or officers. I don’t appreciate Jeff Bezos throwing $2.5 million of his weight to the wrong side in Washington state, but if I “boycott” Amazon, it will be because I prefer local business when possible, not because Amazon appeared on somebody’s hit list.

Anyway, Taranto thought these guys might, with their extremism, move the Overton Window, a political science concept with which I was not familiar, by redefining the sexual liberationist extreme (unconstitutional and anti-American political persecution of businesses whose officers express any doubt about sexual liberationism) and thus maving SSM closer to mainstream.

Having now looked at the Wikipedia article on the Overton Window, I think maybe these politicians are using the Door in the Face technique (with which I also was not familiar). It sure isn’t the more familiar Foot in the Door, though that’s also been used plenty over the past 50 years to advance the Sexual Revolution.

Take my musings with a grain of salt since I just encountered two of the three political science concepts and have never had even one course in political science. I just wish sane traditionalists could move the Overton Window by contrasting themselves to Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist bunch, or even to the folks who insist that you can “pray away the gay“* (because surely God wouldn’t allow anyone to suffer a thorn in the flesh for very long if they’d just pray hard enough about it).

But traditionalists can’t seem to move the window. There’s something bigger than conscious manipulation going on. I see it as a sort of mass insanity the etiology of which ought not to be a mystery. Not all social evolution is in a good direction — think of Germany in the 1920s, for an extreme proof.

[* Note: The linked video, starting at 4:11, has a very interesting and sober distinction from an mainstream member of the American Psychological Association: there’s no good evidence that any therapy or prayer can change sexual orientation, but (he quickly adds) that’s not to say one can’t change behavior or even “identity.” If that’s all that’s meant by the APA criticism of the “pray away the gay” folks, and if mainstream APA members will help an unhappy gay or lesbian change behavior or identity, then I take back all the snarky things I’ve said about the APA.]

6

On Friday, Mr. Moreno conceded that free-speech rights trump his authority on the issue, and shifted his focus from Mr. Cathy’s remarks to potential discriminatory policies at the fast-food chain. He said he would reopen talks with Chick-fil-A, but pledged to fight the company until it amends or clarifies its anti-discrimination policy.

MYOB, Mr. Moreno. If they violate Chicago’s anti-discrimination laws, that’s one thing, but you have no license to bully them into changing their policy because it isn’t sufficiently servile to the Zeitgeist.

7

All but the first item of today’s blog were substantially written Saturday. Then came news that prompted yesterday’s somber blog. That news, of which I still may not speak, reminds me how broken things are on my side of the culture war divide.

In many ways, “blue state” citizens are living, better than those who propound them, the values propounded by “red state” citizens.

But I didn’t want entirely to waste a few hours’ work.

When I (re)named this blog early in its life (“Intellectualoid,” which persists in the URL, was the original name), I self-mockingly was alluding to a G.K. Chesterton quote:

Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are least dangerous is the man of ideas.  He is acquainted with ideas, and moves among them like a lion-tamer.  Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are most dangerous is the man of no ideas.  The man of no ideas will find the first idea fly to his head like wine to the head of a teetotaler.

I’m a third- or fourth-rate polymath, interested in many things, intellectually facile (at least in my youth; I know I’m not as quick now). My late, sainted father used to talk of a “jack of all trades, master of none.” I’ll leave “none” for others to judge; I’d like to think I’ve mastered one or two.

But I’ve been inconstant. I’ve fallen off the wagon. I declared in March of 2010 that I was a conscientious objector to the culture wars. Last September, I was explicitly ready to re-enlist, and I’ve been waging Guerilla War on the “conservative” pretensions of the GOP ever since the scales fell from my eyes.

But yesterday’s somber blog included a quote from Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image:

Somewhere in our history we passed a divide where politics began to be more highly valued than culture … Whereas I once believed that the decadence of the West could only be turned around through politics and intellectual dialectics, I am now convinced that authentic renewal can only emerge out of the imaginative visions of the artist and the mystic.

Gregory Wolfe, Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age (quoted in a review in The American Conservative).

Here are a few more excerpts from that same book review:

[T]he very phrase “culture wars” is an oxymoron: “culture is about nourishment and cultivation, whereas war inevitably involves destruction and the abandonment of the creative impulse.”

[T]he Eucharist, the preeminent Christian sacrament, consistes of bread and wine,  not wheat and grapes. “In other words, the gifts offered to God at the altar are not the untouched products of the earth, but artifacts, transformed though human hands through an art.”

I intend to drop out of the culture wars again, and to do what I said in March of 2010:

So who am I hangin’ out with these days if not with the Alliance Defense Fund and the acolytes of R.J. Rushdoony? Check the bloglinks to the right – Especially Front Porch Republic (“Place. Limits. Liberty.”), Distributist Review  (guardedly). Small Is Beautiful has taken on new meaning for me. (My benighted generation got a few things right before we sold out or got complacent – and appreciating E.F. Schumaker was one of them).

I can’t even rule out Father Stephen. Nothing he writes is “about politics,” but everything he writes is about sane, human and humane living, which surely connects up somehow.

Basically, I’m going back and rethinking all things political and cultural. I’m wisdom-hunting. I read Wendell Berry essays and poetry, Bill Kauffman books, Russell Kirk’s Conservative Mind, Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, Scott Cairns’ Poetry, W.H. Auden (“For the Time Being” is now on my list for every Advent).

My conversion to Orthodox Christianity started it in a way. I soon realized that the Church has not always prevailed, and has produced martyrs in every century. And that’s okay. Better we should lose honorably than win by selling our souls.

I’m Tipsy, though, and I may have lapses. But if you’ve been reading to blog for the lapses, I intend henceforth to disappoint you far more often than not.

I’ll be blogging less frequently since cultural tidbits come harder than political.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Lord’s Day, 7/29/12

My heart is heavy with the weight of things of which I may not yet speak. Were I free to speak of them, I have no proper words of my own.

          THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

(William Butler Yeats)

Somewhere in our history we passed a divide where politics began to be more highly valued than culture … Whereas I once believed that the decadence of the West could only be turned around through politics and intellectual dialectics, I am now convinced that authentic renewal can only emerge out of the imaginative visions of the artist and the mystic.

Gregory Wolfe, Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age (quoted in a review in The American Conservative).

Have mercy on us, 0 Lord, have mercy on us; for at a loss for any defense, this prayer do we sinners offer Thee as Master; have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Lord have mercy on us, for we have hoped in Thee, be not angry with us greatly, neither remember our iniquities; but look upon us now as Thou art compassionate, and deliver us from our enemies, for Thou art our God, and we, Thy people; all are the works of Thy hands, and we call upon Thy name.

Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

(An Orthodox evening prayer.)

 

Saturday, 7/28/12

  1. Citizens United.
  2. Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day (and invisible Christians).
  3. I bet my life on that.
  4. What will embarrass you in 20 years?
  5. Same-sex attraction as “Eucatastrophe.”
  6. Reed Heustis was half right.

1

I’m not a fan of the Citizens United SCOTUS decision, but it does produce some interesting humor (“With polls this week showing the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tightening even further, a growing number of political experts have declared this year’s election will almost certainly be decided by a small handful of swing corporations”) and it’s not easy to get rid of without really bad consequences or fresh Constitutional violations.

2

In support of Chick-fil-A and of the traditional Christian conception of marriage (you know the one: the odious, indefensible, homophobic view that President Obama officially held as recently as 6 months ago, before the Overton Window shifted), former Presidential candidate and Baptist Minister Mike (“Gosh! He’s Lost A Ton!”) Huckabee and CatholicVote are encouraging everyone to go eat at Chick-fil-A on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, Wednesday, August 1 — a day on which the most traditional Christians will be fasting from meat, poultry and other things because (a) it’s Wednesday and (b) the first day of a major Fast for those on the Gregorian (“new”) calendar.

3

A campaign to “end AIDS” is in the news lately.

AIDS is only one disease acquired (mostly) by reckless behavior, and we treat diseases whatever the cause, from Pepto Bismol (remember “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”?) to surgery, radiation, chemo and whatever for cigarette-induced lung cancer. But it’s an enduring annoyance to me that our public health approach to AIDS is condoms rather than chastity. Would we congratulate ourselves on promoting the great health benefit of filters on cigarettes without encouraging people simply to stop?

A sexually faithful couple does not need condoms. I bet my life on that.

4

I’ll give him credit for not comparing it to black civil rights, but I think Michael Kinsley may be trying consciously to create a halo effect over same-sex marriage by associating it with future, not past, social reform movements:

  • Prisons. We incarcerate more of our population than any country in the world. Jokes about prison rape are staples of American comedy. In 20 years, we may look back in amazement that people would think this was funny.
  • Industrial farming. The longstanding discussion of the conditions under which animals are grown for food is turning into a discussion of the morality of using other animals for food at all.
  • The elderly. Baby boomers already feel guilty about how their parents spend their last years. Just wait until it’s the boomers’ turn.
  • Greenery. Environmental degradation is a debt to our children that parallels the debt to our parents.
  • My own favorite nominee will win me no friends: high school football.

I agree that all of these are scandals waiting to be perceived broadly, though I don’t think that vegetarianism is the logical and necessary consequence of opposition to industrial farming. I cite in support unrepentant carnivore Joel Salatin.

And on the same-sex marriage subject, I’ve weighed in enough times that I’ll take a pass this time. I may be shouted down, but I expect to be saying it’s a bad idea in 20 years just as now.

5

I am fascinated in these latitudinarian times with the stories of faithful Christians who struggle with, rather than capitulate to, same-sex attraction. The latest installment coming to my attention is from a man involved in the arts in the midwest who does not call himself a “gay Christian”:

I do not identify as “gay.” Rather, I say that “I live with same-sex attraction.” Like “consubstantial,” it is an awkward phrase, nearly absent from common usage. I refuse to identify myself as gay because the label “gay” does not accurately describe who (or what) I am. More fundamentally, I refuse to use that label because I desire to be faithful to the theological anthropology of the Church.

In 1986, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the “Pastoral Letter on the Care of the Homosexual Person.” In it, we read:

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

With confidence in the Church, I embrace this teaching about my identity in the same way that I have accepted the word “consubstantial” in the Creed. I accept all of the words of the Catechism concerning who I am in nature and in grace. I take no umbrage at the phrase “objectively disordered” and feel no shame that it truthfully describes my sexual desires. I view my same-sex attraction as a disability, in some ways similar to blindness, or deafness, and I view it with the same hope communicated by Jesus about the man born blind: It has been allowed in my life, so that God’s work would be made manifest in me (cf. John 9:3). In the words of Tolkein, I view it as my personal “Eucatastrophe.”

In an age that’s forgotten that sex is optional, such voices need to be heard. I’ve subscribed to his blog.

6

In 2002, I made the acquaintance of a California Attorney, Reed R. Heustis, Jr., under Religious Right auspices the details of which aren’t relevant. We remained in a sort of contact via e-mail or listserv for some years thereafter, and I became quite annoyed when he began lambasting the GOP as worthless and insincere on issues that mutually concerned us, and pledged his support to the Constitution Party.

I eventually dropped out, and have mostly stayed out, of the Culture Wars, though my sympathies, subject to several qualifications, generally remain with the Right side of those wars. But the last time I glanced at the Constitution Party platform, my blood ran a bit cold. The goal to “restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations,” for instance, is one that I’m disinclined to entrust for implementation to a “Reformed Baptist” like Heustis.

So although the Constitution Party is, I think, the wrong cure, I now agree with Heustis’ diagnosis of the GOP, and if he’s reading this (fat chance) or has a Google alert set for his distinctive name (likelier), I thought I’d give him his due on that.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Friday follies 7/27/12

If you think this soup lacks a theme, you’re probably right. But it’s got a lot of flavors I hope you’ll find interesting.

  1. Batman → Massacre?
  2. Olympics open.
  3. “Compassion and rationality are such a drag.”
  4. A confession.
  5. Sally Ride’s Unforbidden Love.
  6. Church Welcome Message.
  7. Indiana Democrats cement pro-abortion stance.
  8. Abolish the NCAA!
  9. Pop music scientifically proven boring.
  10. Jack Daniels scientifically proven to mellow you out.
  11. Academic follies.
  12. Toxic web dumps.

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