Can I Get a Whiteness?

The notion of white guilt as a felt need apparently is not supported by the surveys. At least according to George Hawley, in The American Conservative. He comments

even if there is a powerful, coordinated effort to shame and demoralize whites, it does not appear to be working. The self-flagellating whites so derided by the alt-right and even many conservatives are a tiny fraction of white Americans.

What is also clear is that the impact of race as a forensic item and to a lesser extent in the carried assumptions of whites remains. While whites may not have the “feeling” they certainly gain the benefit of the racial doubt. A century later, the problem continues to be the colored line.

Arms, Rebellion and Autonomy

At The American Conservative, Samuel Goldman brings a skeptical eye to the current common place in gun discussion, that the bearing of arms and militias are there to secure the community against tyranny. The short answer: well meant, but ineffective.

What often goes missing is one other condition, that of civil rebellion itself.

Bearing arms in resistance can only be legitimate to the extent that it is just. Theologically, this is a tough nut; the standing rule is go with even unjust kings. The religious violence of the post Reformation era undercut such an easy answer. For those in the Reformed tradition, obedience is conditioned by obedience to God. Even here, there is a social element.  Calvin lays out the conditions in The Institutes  Book IV.xx.31: the just rebellion against the king is done by the righteous magistrate.

The Second Amendment discussions of arms as a deterrent to tyranny broadly omit the discussion of when it is just (treating it in Frontier fashion as self-evident), and even less who then becomes the summoning authority.  To the degree that individual arms bearing is understood as a formal protection against the central State, it remains one bounded by collective decision making, something I think can be seen in the notion of “militia” itself.

(What I find that further confuses  this discussion is the role of individual arms bearing not as a protection against political tyranny, but as an assertion of individual autonomy against cultural “tyrannies.” In this, the language of resistance to a tyrannical state, a language often conveyed with great emotional vehemence, is more a kind of political theatre for what is finally a more interior sensibility. As a lover of theatre, I don’t doubt the legitimacy of the gun as a sign of autonomy.)

On Minimum Wage

Noah Millman points to some basics about the role of the minimum wage as part of a conservative approach to a more just society.

In principle, any kind of “one-nation” conservatism has to care about inequality as such, and particularly about the weakness of labor’s bargaining power in most of contemporary America. Right-wing individualism is often conflated with a conservative approach to governance in contemporary American politics, but that conflation is a profound error. As a practical matter, I’m convinced that wage stagnation is the deep reason for the financial crisis. The Bush-era answer to stagnating wages was cheaper credit. That papered over the problem for a while, but it teed America up for a terrible crash. … Avoiding a repeat requires fixing the structural drivers of widening inequality, and particularly means raising wages at the low end of the scale. In that context, a legislated rise in the minimum wage should absolutely be on the table for discussion.

He concludes,

Wage stagnation is a serious economic and social problem with far-reaching consequences. You don’t get to say “I don’t care about that problem” because your ideology doesn’t have a ready-made answer. That applies to free-market-oriented conservatives and client-service-oriented neo-liberals alike, because solving the problem is going to require solutions from the “left” and “right” side of the policy box, and these solutions may be more complementary than contradictory.

In short, there’s something for everyone to contribute.

Embodied art

Alan Jacobs writes of a Ray Davies of the Kinks and his nostalgia for the shared musical life with his sister Rene

Oklahoma!might show you some of the shortcomings of your world, but it didn’t necessarily make you hate it. There was a way to bring those distant beauties into your everyday life.
But perhaps this can only be done if you’re a creator and performer as well as a consumer. Davies’s sister Rene went to the movies, yes, but she also danced in the ballrooms and played piano with her brother. She made those songs her own by using her body and her voice, rather than merely observing the words and movements of others. Perhaps we have the power to incorporate mass culture into our lives — but not by just consuming it.

It’s not just for Davies, or for nostalgia to English working class culture.

If we are to be collaborators and co-creators then we would be well-served by creating cultural spaces for this work to take place. Art not as product but co-creation is the stuff of arts / music education. The tragedy being that we have been steadily stripping such programs from our communities in the performance driven educational reforms.

Over at The American Conservative, Alan Jacobs takes up the subject of reading Dickens and notes

Bleak House has everything: a cast of characters not discernibly less comprehensive than that of Copperfield; a great mystery story at its heart, featuring one of the first detectives in English fiction, Inspector Bucket; a brilliant and vicious satire on the law; coverage of the whole range of English society, from its height (Sir Leicester Dedlock) to its depths (Jo the crossing-sweeper),

Having just finished the novel myself, I can only agree.

As commentators point out, one of the problematic characters — perhaps the problematic character — is that of Harold Skimpole. A man of few sympathetic characteristics, especially to modern readers. He is a type of Romantic, existing at the sufferance of others, of self-conciously no mind for money, and one who presumes the world to be a gay place. Yet. His carelessness in mannered speech is like a squid’s ink. The person hides behind it, and we rarely see him; perhaps in his home, and again in Bucket’s sharp warning. A character like this raises the awareness of the writing, that the person referred to has his own unspoken history. The verbal display thus hides us from his “real” self.

And Skimpole’s  caricatured Romanticism creates a tension with  Dickens’ own pastoral inclinations (e.g. George’s last scene, turning his back on the Manchester mills to head to the country; or for that matter the sugary description of the New Bleak House in Yorkshire, Esther’s new home). I would think that it is the tug of Romanticism in Dickens that prevents him from seeing or developing Skimpole, the arch Romantic.

Skimpole’s false, Romantic innocence was also the subject of an interesting essay at First Things (1993).