November 21, 2005

Roger Kimball's The Long March

..is a systematic take-down of the '60s radicalism and its longterm effects. His style and argumentation remind me of Dr. Blosser's. Towards the end of the book he mentions NY Times columnist David Brooks, red state ambassador to the blue states. But as a defender of the reds Brooks certainly leaves a lot to be desired. Kimball writes that Brooks praises faintly:
According to him, the bourgeois doesn't want to bother with "grand abstractions," he is "never heroic" and "has no gradeur," he "never seem[s] to look up from the quotidian concerns to grapple with great truths or profound moral issues."...

What Brooks neglects is the fact that what conservatives have traditionally championed are bourgeois values not bourgeois vices. And those values are rooted deeply in God-fearing Protestant ethic that emphasizes church, community, country, family and moral honor. The bourgeois ethic is not a form of Romanticism, true enough; its ideal is moderation, not excess. There is a deep sense in which Schumpeter was right that "capitalist civilization is rationalistic and 'anti-heroic'." But that does not mean that bourgeois capitalism need embrace the vacuous, feel-good, "I've-got-mine" philosophy that Brooks apparently wants us to embrace. "Anti-heroism" need not exclude passionate commitments or steadfast loyalty to transcendent values. Irving Kristol once wrote that "if you believe that a comfortable life is not necessarily the same thing as a good life, or even a meaningful life, then it will occur to you that efficiency is a means, not an end in itself."
Another interesting passage:
One sign of [conservative defeat in the culture wars] is that one hears considerably less about those battles today than in the early and mid-1990s. That is partly because, as Robert Novak notes in his book Completing the Revolution, "moral issues tend to exhaust people over time." Controversies that only yesterday sparked urgent debate today seem, for many strangely beside the point.
He also culled a marvelous quip:
"The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity...is often untruthful." - GK Chesterton

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