Metrics and the Ineffable

I have said from time to time that I’ve lost faith, and thus have lost interest, in politics. I now have objective proof.

In the 2008 Presidential cycle, I “clipped and saved” (digitally speaking), categorizing by candidate even, 1168 articles or columns. In the 2012 Cycle, 40. Total.

Barack Obama alone had 378 in ’08. John McCain had another 105.

It’s not that I think politics is utterly incapable of doing anything I’d care a little about. It’s that I don’t trust our national elected officials to do it (no, I do not make an exception for my own “conservative” Congressman) and, in an observation or attitude that is increasing in my thought, politics in the end is weaker than and subservient to the culture.

Conservatives and religious traditionalists are losing The Culture Wars because we’re losing the culture. And we’re losing the culture in part because when we try to do culture, we tend to produce drek.

Brandon McGinley at Ethika Politika has a plausible theory on why the many issues of the gay rights side are not only winning, but routing the opposition: stories, not logic. Not even stories from which logic can fabricate a good case, but just stories that effectively silence and trump logic.

I’m haunted by the insight. And if it’s right, there’s no point in my explaining how you can’t logically get from an attempted murder of a gay man in Arizona 6 years to the moral imperative of gay marriage. Indeed, the insidiousness of the situation is that it would look positively reptilian to make the effort. (E.g., “What kind of soulless creep are you?!”)

In the same vein, Rod Dreher laments that conservatives are all left brain, and we need some judicious – very, very judicious – funding of the conservative right brain:

[A]rt and culture should not be approached from an instrumental point of view. This is why, for example, so much contemporary Christian filmmaking is so bad: it’s designed to culminate in an altar call. It’s about sending a message, not telling a story. I’m personally aware of a conservative donor and investor who poured millions into an independent film because he thought it was wholesome, and would improve the character of its viewers. I watched the movie in a private screening, and it was terrible. A total waste of money. My sense was that the investor had no idea what he was paying for, and in fact he wouldn’t have paid for a film that was anything other than moralistic propaganda.

That model is not what conservative artists and writers want or need. What would it mean for the conservative donor class to become authentic and effective patrons of conservative writers and artists? They would need to have reliable advisers from the arts and humanities who could help them identify worthy causes and artists — and then trust those advisers. For example, if I had $100 million dollars, I would contact a conservative humanities professor like Wilfred McClay and ask him where my donation could do the most good in nurturing conservative talent in the arts and humanities.

If I had a pile of money to donate, I would probably cut a check to the Dante Society of America , and earmark it for the development of outreach programs to teach Dante to high school students and ordinary people. Why? Not because this will result in electing more Republicans to office, but because I am convinced that there is deep wisdom and beauty in The Divine Comedy that American culture would benefit from rediscovering. I would hope for some tangible result from my donation, but in general, it’s hard to predict where and when the tree of knowledge that one patiently waters will blossom.

Indeed. One of the things I have come to realize is that if we can cultivate a wise younger generation, they may have a few things to tell me about where I’ve been foolish. I’d welcome that (when I got over the prideful grumbling reflex).

Dreher, by the way, was riffing off a much longer article at National Review.

So I’m again affirmed in abandoning the Culture Wars for culture – most of the time some of the time occasionally. That seems to be the long game, which if I succeed will ramify in ways I can’t imagine.

UPDATE: I plan to write a support check to Image later this week. Is it conservative? I don’t know. But it’s faith-connected and has unvarying artistic integrity.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.