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Thursday, August 23. 2012
Baby Boomers Bust: "America once valued the high-skilled. Now we value the high-minded. "
It's usually amusing to hear from PJ O'Rourke, but this post of his is rough on his own generation. Quotes:
Posted by Bird Dog in Education, Our Essays, The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 15:25 | Comments (8) | Trackback (1)
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Anything from the man who wrote "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink" is a blessing.
A former Marxist who eventually ran the National Lampoon through some of its glory years, and learned the value of a buck and a bit of responsibility, PJ has given the U.S. something it desperately needed: a Libertarian voice with a sense of humor. Since PJ, many others have followed, most notably Drew Carey and Dennis Miller, but none have matched PJ for sheer audacity.
Even his former National Lampoon co-workers, Democrats or Communists for the most part, admit PJ knows how to craft a sentence, and a damn funny one. They just lament that he's gone to the 'dark side'. I disagree. He's become funnier because he knows the truth, and he's not afraid to say it.
I had the good fortune of seeing PJ speak while I was a Freshman at Syracuse in 1981 or 82. He packed Hendrick's Chapel, a fitting place for his special brand of humor. I was lucky enough to see Barry Freed/Abby Hoffman stand in the same place and blather on about something he considered important prior to PJ's appearance, but PJ was much better than Abby.
We asked PJ a ton of good questions, and a few really awful ones, the kind that only college fraternity boys can come up with when they are really bored and thinking they are smarter than the average snowball. Things like "Boxers or briefs?" (Boxers) and "Crumple or fold?" (that's actually kind of disgusting and I have no interest in replying). But at least he entertained our questions and gave a reply.
He's one of my heroes. I still have "The Liberty Manifesto" hanging on my office wall, a wonderful piece he presented to the Cato Institute in 1993. I am amazed he was a fellow at the Cato Institute in 1993. Only 15 years earlier he was a drunken humorist working through Marxist tendencies while managing the National Lampoon in New York.
Oh yeah, and he graduated from Miami of Ohio....my son's school. Just like Paul Ryan.
Our country was not created and is not governed by a ruling class or even by majority rule. America is individuals exercising their right to do what they think is best with due respect (to the extent human nature allows) for the right of all other Americans to do likewise. This is not an ideology or a system. This is a blessing.
The rest of the world would like to be so blessed. ...
and then again, national mythology is a good thing, because it pulls us in the direction where we should be going. but only if we know that it is and has been a rough trail, and there are many who would not agree that America was not created by a ruling class.
Well, I am one who doesn't believe in deluding myself. I'm not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn't need any legislation; you wouldn't need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn't be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now. They don't have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack an American.
malcom x, "the ballot or the bullet", 1964, a call to participate in the democratic process.
The ruling class during the American Revolution was the British Government/Governors. You can say that the land and business owners who held the Congresses were a 'ruling class', but they were not. You have to have Marxist tendencies, implying that economics is everything, to believe they were a ruling class. However, economics is not everything, and they were not a ruling class. They were simply admired people because they were successful, intelligent, and motivated. They realized their success could be duplicated by many others WITHOUT the existing ruling class. Guess what? They were right! Shocking stuff, isn't it?
Malcom X is intriguing to toss in because he's right they didn't have to pass laws to make a polack a citizen. They didn't have to do it for African-Americans, either. It just made them feel better about their ability to exercise rights they already had.
The legislation, oddly enough, was meant to reverse previous GOVERNMENTAL BLOCKS to civil rights. Let's say, for example, the concept of 'separate but equal'. Which, interestingly enough, is exactly what many African Americans are employing today on their own to maintain their own 'cultural differences'. The legislation also gave them the right to bring racial offenses to court and seek redress, but they technically had the right to do that prior to the legislation, because (ahem) they had. So...that makes Malcom X uninformed, right? Hardly insightful, that's for sure.
the phrase "all men are created equal" in the sense the Founders meant did not describe the condition of all Americans when those words were first written. they were not true after the civil war (pretend that the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments dovetailed with certain war aims expressed by lincoln). and they're not fully true today.
on paper, the blacks had all the rights whites did after 1865 except reconstruction sold all that down the river, and there was another hundred years of jim crow laws. the record speaks for itself here.
right? I'm not imagining jim crow laws, separate but equal, fire hoses, police dogs, combat soldiers escorting black kids to grammar school, klansmen, bodies hanging from trees, poll taxes, literacy tests, bull connor. I swear I saw that somewhere. the hitlery channel?
so if malcom x and MKL and, say, any random black guy strung up by the klan from a makeshift gallows perceived the existence of a ruling class in america that did not include them as members, think of it as just a matter of perspective. maybe they're not as insightful as we are.
if I were black, which I'm not; or poor, which I'm not; or liberal, which I'm not; or poorly educated, which I am definitely not; or had parents or grandparents old enough to have felt the sting of second class citizenship, which I do but they didn't, and someone stated that civil rights laws were passed to make blacks "feel better about their ability to exercise rights they already had", I'd go ballistic. no wonder malcolm x spoke of bullets.
american exceptionalism is real, as a description of who we are and who we want to be. its proponents should never be merely American cheerleaders.
You're not imagining any of those things. But as much as you assume they were societally driven, they were actually politically driven - the governments (in some cases local, in others state) were enforcing laws which were technically unconstititutional. There was no need for additional laws to 'make black people really free'.
I don't feel I'm a part of any 'ruling class', nor do I care if I feel like I am or not. It doesn't matter what race or ethnicity I am. If I can live a reasonably free life, then I'm better off than 90% of the rest of the world - correct?
My problem, today, is the slow erosion of those freedoms in the name of 'diversity' and 'equality'. I can no longer use words that offend people. Well, I can, but I'll be mistreated by people who are offended, even though it's my right to say those words and their right to be offended.
So should we pass some Civil Rights Laws to help protect my freedom of speech because I'm put upon by language Nazis?
This is a very real situation that mimics, to a degree, the experience of blacks in the US after the Civil War. I sit through interminable HR meetings explaining what represents a "protected class" of citizens and what language I can and can't use or face potential release by my company. A "protected class"???? Aren't we ALL protected? What in God's name is a "protected class"???
It is a 'class of people who have traditionally been mistreated or otherwise put down throughout history'. I see...so now they get SPECIAL TREATMENT to make up for stuff that never affected them to begin with? Seriously? This is what these laws represent, and it's absurd.
As for your use "all men are created equal", this is an interesting use of language that is rarely understood by anyone. It doesn't mean we are all physically or economically equal, nor was it ever meant to imply this. Any doctor can tell you that, at birth, not one single child is equivalent in any way. Some are healthier, some are stronger, some have been born into backwoods homes rather than Park Avenue apartments. This is not at all what the Founders meant.
What they meant was we all have the same inalienable RIGHTS - and we do, regardless of our physical or economic ability to take full advantage of them at any point in time. The problems you've outlined for the black community indicates they were somehow denied those inalienable rights, and to some degree this was taking place. But they often sought, and received, redress through the courts - as is right and proper. What additional laws were needed to make this concept real? None. The additional laws have done things to address physical and economic differences, which have wrongly been applied, as in Malcom X's examples, as the meaning of being American. He was wrong, he was applying Marxist and Hegelian dialectics to make a point by confusing the issue.
You're correct, American Exceptionalism IS real - but you seem to think those who promote it are ONLY cheerleaders. I disagree. We need cheerleaders to remind us that we ARE exceptional when we have so many idiots trying to knock us down by confusing reality with their perceived slights.
By bringing up the plight of black Americans, you prove the point of American Exceptionalism. As one of the few deeply heterogeneous nations in the world, we have gone farther than any other nation to make our nation welcoming of others. You may think it was these Civil Rights Laws which did it. Perhaps, but I disagree. Many other nations have passed similar laws which have done nothing to assist those who have been oppressed. What makes the difference, and what has ALWAYS made the difference, is the true nature of our citizenry. Our ability to learn, adapt, improve, integrate and move forward.
Not one other nation that I've visited has done as much as we have. They talk big, and they often talk down about the US. I lived in London and loved hearing how "well, it took you quite a while to accept the blacks, didn't it?", as if we were flawed in some fashion. Meanwhile, racial riots were occurring in Birmingham, Brixton, and several other areas. Paki-bashing and curbing were common complaints by non-Anglos living in urban areas. The National Front is still, today, a pervasive force.
Even Canada still has major issues with their Native American and French population.
We're not different than them, in some respects, but in many others, we better because we confront our issues publicly, discuss them, and more times than not, go a long way toward solving them WITHOUT government intervention (which I'd add is usually more a hindrance than a help).
I find it amusing that people look at certain laws, then claim we need more laws to 'fix' the old laws. In other words, as you point out, Jim Crow laws were very real. So we need laws to fix laws? I think not. Jim Crow laws were unconstitutional. We needed a legal judgement to eliminate them. There was no need to add additional laws to fix laws which existed due to a failure of good governance.
That is the kind of approach OTHER, less exceptional, nations take. With limited success.
Civil rights is not universal or guaranteed. Today if you are a white male your civil rights are being denied you by your own government. Some would argue it is just and retribution for past denial of civil rights to women and people of color. But still it is truely bizarre that normal intelligent people could agree that it is OK to deny white males their civil rights for wrongs committed by unknown people probably long dead against other unknown people who are also noo longer alive today. Today it is acceptable, even encouraged to discriminate against an 18 year old white male trying to get into college because 50, 100 or 150 years ago that college discriminated against blacks or women. In fact this discrimination against white males even justifies searching the world for foriegn students so that all the students in an American taxpayer supported college is not just reflective or America but the world as well. Like past Jim Crow laws and state sponsored discrimination this latest version of it is disgusting and unacceptable... Unless of course you are a member of the favored class.
thanks, good response and one that deserves more time to reply to than I have at the moment. but I'll be back.
Tracked: Aug 24, 11:24