Blind-sided

There’s a day, and then there’s another not at all like the future you thought. For Frank Bruni it was blindness, for KW it was Hodgkins. Bruni describes that day

I went to bed believing that I was more or less in control — that the unfinished business, unrealized dreams and other disappointments in my life were essentially failures of industry and imagination, and could probably be redeemed with a fierce enough effort. I woke up to the realization of how ludicrous that was.

Another catechism notes that we are not our own. Indeed.

Am I Going Blind?
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All Woke Up?

Charles Blow highlights one of the saddest truths about the Russian interference with the 2016 electoral cycle: the dampening of the minority, and especially the millennial black vote. They may have been woke to their cause, but they went to sleep as to their interests.

According to a May Pew Research Center report, “The black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election.” The report said that the number of naturalized citizen voters was up from 2012 and the turnout rate for women was mostly unchanged from 2012. And while the percentage of eligible millennials who said they voted in the last election rose among every other demographic group, it fell among black millennials.

This is a version of “What’s the Matter with Kansas” only on the left. In the name of ideals, one votes against one’s own interests. The result, not surprisingly, is a sort of sideways movement of despair, a righteousness of the put-upon and the defeated.

The righteous, solitary vote can convey virtue when it is the subject of reflection and affirmation of ideal, but what happens when what looks like our opinion is the result of manipulation? As Blow has it, “what we do now know with absolute certainty is that in making their electoral choices, black folks had unwanted hands on their backs, unethical and illegal ones, nudging them toward an apathy built on anger.”

Sometimes Woke is not woke.

 

Man of the Hour

26brooksWeb-superJumbo-2This is nothing like the attention Paul VanderKlay pays, but the man of the cultural moment certainly seems to be Jordan Peterson. As some one outside the moment (and basically wanting to remain that way), I found Patrick Mitchell’s review of Peterson useful. Not surprisingly, David Brooks connects some of the dots.

Parents, universities and the elders of society have utterly failed to give many young men realistic and demanding practical wisdom on how to live. Peterson has filled the gap.

What strikes me as particularly relevant to the age is the insistence on fundamental truths about humanity, not just about our gender tendencies, but our seeking meaning as a necessary condition of our life — that’s a variant of Abraham Heschel’s approach, that we possess the moral duty to explain the wonder, the ineffable we encounter. Both Brooks and Mitchell highlight the realist, the tragic sense of life, this too, coming as an echo of Reinhold Niebuhr.

Ours is a conservative age, if not a reactionary one, and in that framework Peterson provides the essentialist and ethical voice necessary for its navigation, a voice with strong appeals to conservatives. The same voice, its fundamental humanism also offers the alternative to the tawdriness of expression and sloppy ideas that marks so much of the conservative ruling class.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules
The Jordan Peterson Moment
photo: Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star, via Getty Images

 

Whose Body, Whose Profit?

Is abortion a matter of economic justice?

Matthew Loftus notes Miles Smith’s recent article in Public Discourse, American Abortion, American Freedom, and the economic objectification in abortion.

Try it at home: take any argument for slavery, substitute the word “fetus” for “African-American”, and see what happens!

“Abortion’s growing comfort within the capitalist order is not surprising. […] As in the case of slavery, economics proves to be the biggest motivator for abortion’s disciples. Political and social considerations prove to be little more than smokescreens.

In particular the article builds off of a recent piece in the New York Times from Lindy West, citing (again) the notion that abortion is a matter of  “economic justice.”

Smith turns the West article into an examination of political ideology, akin to that of the Southern defense of slavery.

Like slavery, abortion has become in the leftist mind the central political issue, on which the economic and social liberties of the modern United States all hang.

Well, yes, but it misses the real point in West’s work, that economics should drive the decision. Here, Smith would’ve been better to actually pulled the neo-liberal trigger. The notion that abortion is necessary for economic reasons is not simply hearkening back to slavery, but is a participation in a globally oppressive economic order, one that reduces people and their values to commodities, so that a privileged few can have “experiences” (evidently, our new Veblen-esque word for wealth impacts).

In this world, the problematic employment is assumed — can’t do nothing about it — so abortion provides a ‘freedom’ a human right. West’s argument assumes the economic status quo with its emphasis on consumerism. The path of economic justice lies in another direction, that of better wages, better maternal care, better pre-schools etc. There’s a lot to be done for women, it’s just that we don’t want to.

So we get the argument for the status quo, where one body is sacrificed so another — the investor class — can enjoy its consumer privilege borne from cheap wages and a poor social contract. The Christian response at the least allies, if not adopts the neoliberal criticism: arguments of spurious economic rights mask the real actions that can be taken for justice. To do so reduces the woman to an economic producer, a widget (in classic Roman terms, a “tool that thinks”) — and here we are in fact not that far from Smith’s link to slavery.

Dodging the Trump bullet

Neil Carlson cites this NYT article to observe

party identification and religious identification can both reflect pro- or anti-Trump selection bias. People who used to be “independent” and “no particular religion” may now say they’re Republican evangelicals, because that brand is associated with Trump’s iconoclastic populist nativism. And vice versa. The more we repeat the “81% of evangelicals voted Trump” figure, the more we reinforce the brand and create further self-fulfilling prophecies about support and opposition.

Speaking practically, this shifting of brands means that an institution like the CRC must be especially on its toes. How does it position itself within its communities as a non-Trump entity? (Not anti-Trump, but as a counter). The Trump party is going to end soon enough and will definitely be giving Evangelicals a morning-after headache of the worst sort. The trickiness is of course, that by conviction the US wing of the church sides broadly with the Evangelicals and has a record of voting that inclines that way. But separate we must if we are to have any morning-after credibility, particularly with our vision of reaching a broader set of communities.

Can the Middle Be Claimed? pt. 1

Thomas Groome argues for a broader understanding of the abortion issue among Democrats. The hard line of the platform and of current orthodoxy makes it impossible for Catholic sympathizers to get on board. The key issue here is that of building a centrist coalition. The righteousness of opposing the President appears to remove any necessity of claiming the center. However this path of orthodoxy only feeds the polarization of the present, long-term growth demands a broader, more inclusive stance.