Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Reading

I've been forced to read a rather dry and tedious book called Beyond the University; Why Liberal Education Matters.  But I came across a quote from John Dewey that explain, I think, a fundamental idea present in the Tea Party right.  Here is the quote:

From a social standpoint, dependence denotes a power rather than a weakness; in involves interdependence.  There is always a danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual.  In making him more self-reliant, it may make him more self-sufficient; it may lead to aloofness and indifference.  It often makes an individual so insensitive to his relations with others as to develop an illusion of being really able to stand and act alone - an unnamed form of insanity which is responsible for a large part of the remediable suffering of the world.

(Underlining is mine.)

It is not coincidence that the Tea Party steeps itself in Revolutionary Era rhetoric and a preference for some of Jefferson's more ludicrous statements.  Their goal is independence from the United States of 2014.  Independence from the tree huggers in Berkeley, the blahs in the inner city, the hordes of immigrants from the south, the Prius driving lesbian.  They want no part of that "other" US.

They see themselves as the mythic frontiersman, battling the wilderness and enemies alone.  That's why Cliven Bundy resonated so strongly with them.  He's a perfect avatar of what they see themselves to be from their cubicle at Initech.

I would argue that perhaps the strongest predictor of political ideology is whether someone sees themselves as "aloof" - to use Dewey's phrase - or interconnected.  Take climate change.  The stunning lack of regard for the damage that we are doing to our planet is nothing less than a profound act of selfish independence.  "If my house on Nag's Head gets flooded, I will just move inland, but it's not going to happen because scientists are fakes."  You're not only declaring your separateness from the hundreds of millions of people who would be displaced by rising oceans, you're declaring your separateness from science.

Or take the refugee crisis.  Ted Cruz wants to deport DREAMers, despite being the son of an immigrant himself.  And when I see the crisis on the border, I see children who crossed all of Mexico rather than stay in a violence plagued homeland.  In other words, my heart aches for these kids.  Conservatives scream at them and brandish guns.

One of the reasons you find more liberals in cities is because it is impossible to be independent in a dense urban setting.  And that's why you have conservatives dominating the exurbs.  It's both shaping them and shaping their choices about where to live.

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