I wrote the other day of the religious aspects of Cultural Marxism. In fact, I find it more difficult to the use the term “Cultural Marxism” the more I think about the outlook of our cultural elites. Cultural Marxism assumes a consciousness of purpose, an end in mind, when I don’t see evidence of that in these people. What I see is a grasping in the dark for what, no one can seem to describe.
This David Brooks column is what I mean.
Lately it seems as though every few months there’s another urban riot and the nation turns its attention to urban poverty. And in the midst of every storm, there are people crying out that we should finally get serious about this issue. This time it was Jon Stewart who spoke for many when he said: “And you just wonder sometimes if we’re spending a trillion dollars to rebuild Afghanistan’s schools, like, we can’t build a little taste down Baltimore way. Like is that what’s really going on?”
The audience applauded loudly, and it’s a nice sentiment, but it’s not really relevant.
The problem is not lack of attention, and it’s not mainly lack of money. Since 1980 federal antipoverty spending has exploded. As Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post has pointed out, in 2013 the federal government spent nearly $14,000 per poor person. If you simply took that money and handed it to the poor, a family of four would have a household income roughly twice the poverty rate.
Yet over the last 30 years the poverty rate has scarcely changed.
To be perfectly honest, I think Brooks is a gold plated phony. By that I mean he has carefully cultivated a persona that satisfies the sort of people who run the NYTimes, PBS and tax-dollar funded think tanks. He makes a living flattering people who have the money to keep him in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.
That said, he can write and that lets him break the bad news to his patrons in a way that allows them to accept it. In this case, it has to do with the multi-generational war on biological reality, otherwise known as the War on Poverty. This project has largely been a Baby Boomer project to rebuild America into an egalitarian utopia.
As Brooks notes, it has been mostly a failure. I think he overstates the success, but there’s an argument that it has done some good. All of those government employees would be living in squalor if not for the trillions in social welfare transfers. The same can be said of the vast war machine we have financed for seventy years. I know families that are now third generation defense contractor.
The sadness in the tone of his piece is what is worth noting. As the Boomers begin falling into the abyss, they have to look around and wonder if it was worth it. If you were born in 1950, for example, you grew up in America that is vastly different than today. It’s one your grandchildren will never enjoy. The trillions spent knocking down what you inherited could maybe have been spent more wisely.
I don’t think Brooks and his coevals in the managerial class are just looking at the material side of the ledger. They are looking at the spiritual side. They have spent their whole lives waiting for the prophesies to come true and we are no closer to the egalitarian paradise than fifty years ago when much of this madness began.
In a fantastic interview that David Simon of “The Wire” gave to Bill Keller for The Marshall Project, he describes that, even in poorest Baltimore, there once were informal rules of behavior governing how cops interacted with citizens — when they’d drag them in and when they wouldn’t, what curse words you could say to a cop and what you couldn’t. But then the code dissolved. The informal guardrails of life were gone, and all was arbitrary harshness.
That’s happened across many social spheres — in schools, families and among neighbors. Individuals are left without the norms that middle-class people take for granted. It is phenomenally hard for young people in such circumstances to guide themselves.
Yes, jobs are necessary, but if you live in a neighborhood, as Gray did, where half the high school students don’t bother to show up for school on a given day, then the problems go deeper.
The world is waiting for a thinker who can describe poverty through the lens of social psychology. Until the invisible bonds of relationships are repaired, life for too many will be nasty, brutish, solitary and short.
Put another way, the organic ways in which society managed the unproductive classes were blasted to bits by a bunch of people convinced they knew better than the dozens of generations that came before them. The proposed replacement for those ways have utterly failed, meaning everything guys like Brooks grew up believing was nonsense after all. Meathead is learning that Archie was mostly right.
I have to chuckle at the last paragraph. Brooks and his coevals are in the pumpkin patch waiting for the “thinker who can describe poverty through the lens of social psychology” because it will take a super genius to unriddle this problem! After all, if the credentialed members of the managerial elite are stumped, well, no mortal can solve this problem.
Steve Sailer is working from the premise that we are going through a replay of the late sixties and early seventies. The coalition of fringes is once again blowing apart and taking a bunch of us with it. There’s some truth to that, but history only sort of repeats itself.
Forty years ago as the optimism of the sixties devolved into the cynicism of the seventies, the faithful still had communism, socialism and Cultural Marxism to keep them going. The spiritual side was still there, even if the material side was a bust. Today, there is a spiritual exhaustion to go along with the material disasters.
No one knows what to do next. So they wait for the messiah.