Saturday, February 15, 2014

Trend And Countertrend

First, a significant commercial:

A number of DextroSpheric figures have already commented on that ad, generally quite favorably, albeit with qualifications:

It's a ridiculous, brazen effort to turn the electric car from being an effete progressive's Trader Joe Run puttermobile into a red-blooded American's middle finger to socialist decay, and yet... well, you be the judge. It's a good ad, let's just say that. I don't know if they could ever possibly sell this idea, but the ad is as good a shot at it as I can conceive....

This ad is a good illustration of the basic principle that many products are not sold strictly on utility. Many products are sold much more on the suggestion that they signal a cultural affiliation. Starbucks isn't just selling coffee, of course. The coffee they sell you costs a buck; the rest of the cost represents the sale of "The Starbucks Lifestyle."

For reasons beyond the scope of this essay, a wealthy society is constantly on the lookout for ways to indicate such affiliations. That includes political affiliations.

The key political and cultural trends in the United States today aren't difficult to discern. There's a strong trend toward political separation. Patriotic, conservative-minded Americans are growing ever more distant from left-liberals inclined to denigrate the country, its history, and its traditions. Neither group can bring itself to be civil toward the other. The American political discourse has degenerated to a fusillade of accusations. Perhaps the saddest feature thereof is that some of those accusations are correct.

Cultural separation is in progress as well. On one side, we have the consumption-oriented "urban" culture of the Left, which denigrates the work ethic, demands instant satisfaction of its desires, and sneers self-restraint aside as for fuddy-duddies. On the other, we have the production-oriented "small town America" culture that celebrates work as natural and good, accepts the need to defer gratification, and holds that self-restraint is essential to a civilized order. As with the political divide, the premises of these two cultures are so perfectly opposed that they can find no middle ground; no synthesis can emerge from the clash of these theses.

Any Gentle Reader of Liberty's Torch can see the connections between these political and cultural "families." The late Andrew Breitbart told us that "Culture is upstream from politics." Indeed, it is so: the "urban" cultural developments of the late Sixties and Seventies were the womb in which today's left-liberal political family gestated, while the earlier, "small town America" cultural milieu sustains the political values of American conservatives. That these groups are separating geographically, at the neighborhood level and above, follows as a matter of course...even though such division is to neither side's objective benefit.

One factor is common across the divide: Each community is straining to represent itself as the inevitable victor.

The Founding Fathers hoped to avoid the turmoil that arises from "factions:" populous interest groups willing to trample the rights of others to attain their respective ends. That was a great part of the reason they eschewed more direct forms of democracy, restricting democratic methods to the selection of representatives -- and not all representatives, at that. The few pure democracies known to their era had all been bedeviled by factions, ultimately collapsing into chaos and tyranny. ("There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide" -- Samuel Adams)

Despite several misconceived alterations to their structure, the Founders' desire that factions should be discouraged as much as possible was largely achieved until about the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Up to that point, you could hardly find an American who would not unhesitatingly endorse freedom, free enterprise, the Judeo-Christian ethic with all its implications, and the goodness of the Founders' conception and its effectuation in Constitutionally limited government. Consider:

In a recent conversation with the president of a small college in the South I pointed out that I supposed that I was what is most commonly called a "conservative." Somewhat perturbed, he asked if I associated myself with a particular group -- one which has been given a bad reputation by the press. I answered that I knew of this group only by hearsay, and that I belonged to no organizations engaged in promulgating such ideas. I went on to explain briefly some of my central beliefs. But, he said when I had finished, that is simply Americanism. I agreed that I thought so myself. And thereby hangs a tale.

How pleasant it would be if the matter could be handled so simply, if one could say that he believed in the individual, in individual liberty, in limited government, and in free enterprise -- and let it go at that! How refreshing it is to pass, if just for a moment, from the clouded atmosphere of competing ideas and ideologies into the clear air of simple agreement! There was a time in American history that such general agreement existed that men seldom bothered to recur to principles. Such consensus no longer exists, though national leaders frequently try to make it appear that it does. [Clarence Carson, The American Tradition]

Though that exchange took place many years after the turn of the century, it nevertheless expresses exactly the conviction nearly all Americans held at that earlier point in time.

Dr. Carson's yearning for unity around American principles is at the heart of the sentiment embodied in E pluribus unum. Conservatives generally agree that such a unity is immensely desirable, and seek to promote it. Left-liberals might give it lip service, but as they disdain the principles themselves, lip service is all it can ever be.

The critical trends here are two:

  1. One, determined to believe that "we really all want the same things," seeks to unite the country;
  2. The other, aware that the cultural gulf cannot be bridged, strains to pull it asunder.

A great deal of shot and shell has been expended over the rightness of the Civil War. That conflagration erupted over two subjects above all others: slavery and tariffs. The states that seceded from the Union believed it was their prerogative to do so; the other states, and (of course) the national government to which they adhered did not. Neither side's motives were pure; both were determined to have it their way. The thing could only be settled by the test of arms.

The test of arms is what settles most such irreconcilable differences.

The United States is currently under the heel of a leftist Administration determined to nullify the very principles upon which the Constitution is founded. Barack Hussein Obama will occasionally render lip service to freedom and free markets, but his actions make it plain that he dislikes both notions. Meanwhile, the entire federal government is militarizing; check the reports of recent purchases of arms and ammunition by federal agencies. Bureaus such as the EPA are growing increasingly oppressive. The IRS openly seeks to suppress groups that organize against the regime. The Department of Homeland Security is encouraging local police departments to become military in equipment and practice. Reports of high-handed and abusive treatment of private citizens by cops are multiplying rapidly. Meanwhile, conservatives and their associations plead for sincere dialogue, for civility, and for peace. To do otherwise is considered unthinkable by most.

One side sees a test of arms approaching, and is girding for it. The other strains to reject the possibility.

In part, this is because the Left knows it has been defeated in the war of ideas, while the Right sees that as the preferred battlefield. But in greater part, it's because the Left has decided that the Right must be either stupid or evil, and has persuaded itself that against such opponents, only force will suffice to gain its ends.

Such trends cannot coexist peaceably for long.


Martin McPhillips said...

"The United States is currently under the heel of a leftist Administration..."

"Leftist" is too vague a term for Obama's regime. *Leninist* accurately captures its character. What's interesting is that a politically literate person can see it. It has fully decloaked, yet remains invisible to most Americans. They simply see a cool youngish Harvard guy who could talk his way out of an international traffic ticket.

He would have been impossible without the public schools, which have advanced a Gramscian-Leninist agenda as though on an oven timer.

The cake has been baked.

Anonymous said...

"Those other countries think we're nuts. Whatever" ha ha ha, this is good stuff.

It IS only an ad, after all, so it can essentially present any legal viewpoint it wants to. But I find it interesting how it ties Americanism and ostensible environmentalism into one neat package. In another light, I like the fact that it presents American culture and ideals in a way that is accessible. I'm sure people who don't feel deeply in their hearts that America is exceptional won't be swayed in the least, and it's sad that, in the mainstream media, it takes a commercial to encapsulate this message in a way that will be considered socially-acceptable by a larger swath of the population than if it were presented in a more editorial format. Be that as it may, it can still only be a good thing.

Some people will be offended by it. These are the dead-enders. Some people won't think twice. This is the America we know. But the large middle ground will view it as a novelty, but one that reminds them of something they forgot about at some point...the culture of an exceptional nation that is in disrepair, but worthy of restoration.

From yet another angle, I'm proud to own a Cadillac, but it's got a 472 V8 and runs on regular gas. Why does Cadillac choose to put the strong "Americanism" spin on it's most "environmentally friendly" model? Would "proud American" and "most-powerful gasoline Cadillac ever made" be too boastful? Can pure American pride only be displayed safely when done so in conjunction with a plug-in electric vehicle? I'd contend that a 1970 DeVille exudes a more "American" character than any vehicle that uses an electric motor for propulsion and electronically-generated noise to remind you that it's "on". But then I'm a car guy and a proud American, so I think a lot about these things.


Wombat said...

The right (whatever that happens to be) is foolish to believe that left (whatever that happens to be) can be beaten in an arena of ideas.
The very thought of it instantly snapped to mind a quote from an entertainer, though likely not one on your "must see". :)

Another thing, fellas - don't argue. You cannot win. You cannot beat a woman in an argument, it's impossible. You will not win, cos men, we are handicapped when it comes to arguing cos we have a need to make sense. Women ain't gonna let a little thing like sense f*#k up they argument. Cos she not in it for sense, she's in it for distance and irritation.
-Chris Rock (sic)

That's the progressive way. If socialism was a rock then the progressives would argue that it must surely float. It's density is irrelevant to them. Past experience is irrelevant. All evidence is irrelevant. The socialism rock will float, damn it! Why? Because! That's why!