Monday, October 17, 2016

Constituencies

     Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday. I was busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger. I “ran out of gas” before I could settle at the keyboard for my daily emission of bile. However, at the behest of the CSO, we did go to see an excellent if somewhat offbeat movie: The Accountant, starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, and John Lithgow. I can recommend it unreservedly.

     Now, on to the good (?) stuff.


     As I’ve written on several previous occasions, ours is an era of coalition politics. That is: a political party will be principally concerned with identifying voting blocs it can enlist, by means of bribery or intimidation, in its cause, or at least against “the other side.” What occurred to me yesterday, as I was dealing with, ah, the emissions of certain domesticated animals, is that the very same approach, and the mindset that sustains it, has penetrated the private sector in significant ways.

  • Businesses pitch their wares to specific demographics.
  • Entertainers promote themselves to specific sexes and age brackets.
  • Religious denominations appeal to specific races, sexes, and sexual practices.
  • Sports organizations promote themselves according to race, ethnicity, and quasi-political criteria.

     Yes, it’s been going on for a while. You might even say that it’s the essence of marketing. But the dynamic that propels it is becoming one with the political struggle over the nature and future of these United States.

     The flap over Colin Kaepernick, for example, highlights the National Football League’s targeting of the male American patriot as its principal customer. The NFL wouldn’t be in as deep a dither over Kaepernick if it weren’t for that concentration of its fans. Its problem is exacerbated by the high proportion of black players in the league. Many of them have sided with Kaepernick out of racial solidarity, a phenomenon with tentacles I’ve explored in previous essays.

     It’s possible to see this phenomenon as innocent, merely a kind of specialization comparable to much else in our division-of-labor economy. As you might have guessed, I don’t see it that way.


     Isabel Paterson was vehement in her insistence that corruption issues from the aggregation of political power. Here’s a pointed quote from her best known work, The God of the Machine:

     Now the sole remedy for the abuse of the political power is to limit it; but when politics corrupt business, modern reformers invariably demand the enlargement of the political power.

     As political power has battened upon our once largely free economy, it has created socio-politico-economic niches for the emergence of special interest groups. I hardly need to enumerate the most prominent ones for the readers of Liberty’s Torch. What’s less obvious is the specific appeal the rise of such interest groups, and the coalescence of citizen identification with them, has presented to businesses. Every business has a need to market its products or services. If a business can achieve a substantial improvement in its sales by suggesting to an identified bloc of potential customers that by purchasing its product they can not only benefit themselves but can also benefit their social or political allegiance, it will market accordingly. Moreover, having established that bloc as “one of ours,” it will tend to sculpt subsequent products and services toward that bloc, sometimes in blatant ways: e.g. beauty products’ vendor Paul Mitchell.

     Strictly speaking, there’s nothing amoral about this – certainly nothing criminal. However, it throws a bright light onto the trend in political self-segregation that’s grown strong these past twenty years. Patterns in consumption and patronage have followed our political polarization in detectable ways. One can find them even in politically mixed districts, for example by assessing the cars in residents’ driveways against the ballot results after a quadrennial election.

     “Keeping up with the Joneses” was once a cant phrase about the advance of envy-powered materialism. Today, the more apt formulation might be “distancing ourselves from the Joneses, those disgusting liberals / conservatives / libertarians / socialists.”


     This might not seem like a problem to some. Perhaps it isn’t one. But it chills me even so. Anything that reinforces the divisions among Americans, inhibiting us from seeing one another as trustworthy and dependable, seems to me a bad thing. There are certainly enough persons and things for us to fear with good reason.

     I get some of this myself. I’m not particularly wealthy, though I am comfortable in my retirement. The CSO and I live modestly, especially for my neighborhood, which is populated mostly by professionals and business owners. (We bought into the area when it was still modestly priced, which makes us not only its longest residents but also “the poor folks in town.”) However, my one luxury indulgence – my Mercedes – has caused me some social difficulty, because I’m a member of a parish in a less-well-off, more left-inclined district. Quite a lot of my fellow parishioners disdain me specifically for that reason.

     I don’t like it. Whatever our political differences, when we’re at Mass we’re all Catholics together. Our concerns should be for our individual souls, the well-being of our neighbors and parish, and the health of the larger Church...which, sad to say, has also been riven by economic and political divisions. It’s very hard to countervail the divisive tendencies when no less a figure than the Pope himself has been aggravating them.

     Just a few Monday-morning thoughts. Feel free to dismiss them if they cause you undue agita, as always. And how was your weekend?

5 comments:

Joan of Argghh! said...

My only beef with Mercedes drivers is that they are so slo-o-o-w!

:o)

Dystopic said...

My luxury indulgence is my muscle car. It's not very expensive, mind you, but I do lot of my own wrenching on it, and so it looks nice, sounds great, and is very fast.

It attracts dirty looks from a lot of folks where I live. It amuses me because they *think* it's an expensive car, even though it's not -- and the new Kia or Toyota in their driveway probably cost more. But I wonder now if part of that is because I live in a suburbanite area and I'm supposed to be driving a family sedan or something equally tame -- and I have, as you pointed out, bought something that is outside of my designated demographic and political profile.

Ideological conformity is bad enough. But if our purchasing habits are expected to conform to our politics and demographics, we've really gone off the rocker.

Anonymous said...

Weekend? Oh,that. Worked both days, because I'm retired and... nevermind. Thankfully, did have time to watch the early service online, since I did not have time to drive across town and back before work. And other than firearms, my luxury indulgence is a large diesel 4wd suv. It is purpose built to assist the family in getting out of this kill box we reside in; when this mess we're all in finally cooks off. It's impractical - until it is necessary. Then, not so much. Folks may hold whatever opinon they have, likely I think the same of them. Sad it is that in your church, it seems the focus is on others and not on the knowledge of Holy. But,we live in that nation that has turned its back on God. And my church is the same... - Grandpa

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

Francis,
I have known for some time that you are a Merc fancier. I am curious as to which variety you allot garage space.

Our current stable includes a 1966 230 SL roadster, a 2005 E320 CDI sedan and a 1993 Ford F250 4X4 pickup (the latter 2 drink diesel fuel). Their names are respectively: Tante Freida, Prinz Eugen, and Nessie. I have always tended to name my kinetic possessions.

Tante Freida is displayed occasionally at local car shows whereas Prinz Eugen serves as the family daily driver. Nessie serves as the heavy hauler.

Tante Freida is the only "head turner" but when driven elicits mostly smiles and thumbs-up gestures.

As for envious alt-leftists, I say screw 'em.

Allen N

Francis W. Porretto said...

Milla is a 2011 S550 4MATIC, Leo. I purchased her last year as the successor to Miranda, a 2007 S550 that had just reached 100,000 miles.

Given my poor groundskeeping, the dogs' habit of barking at 4 AM, and our general air of dishabille, if it weren't for Milla we might be run out of the neighborhood.