Michael Maiello's picture

    Olds and Scolds

    Well, I just can't let this one go.  David Brooks looks at the struggles of poor families in America (through the eyes of Robert Putnam) and determines that the biggest problem with growing up poor in America isn't all the poverty but a glut of moral relativism.

    We are just not hard enough on the poor, you see.  Sure, we make it tough for them by not giving them enough money to pay rent and buy food and we leave them with the constant stress of falling short but is that really enough? Can't we also shame people?

    "People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?"

    Because you no longer have rights to short term pleasure, to living for yourself or for... desires. I guess bondage is out, too.  Don't worry, he doesn't leave the rich off the hook.  They should be better government and business leaders, he says.  They should not "self-segregate."  By which he must mean that they should be like Andrew Carnegie, who walked among the lepers.

    Robert Putnam does believe that there should be more communal involvement in the lives of young people.  Kids need mentors but those who are better off economically are more likely to find them while those who are struggling have been dropping out of the types of extra curricular activities where mentors are met outside the classroom.

    Here's how The Washington Post describes Putnam's suggestions for how to help poorer kids advance:

    • Tailor school-based parent-involvement programs to specific skills and supports. For example, Mr. Putnam suggests that rather than simply asking parents to "read to your child every day," schools can provide coaching on specific skills, like questioning-and-response practices.
    • Build more community-school partnerships to provide health, social services, and enrichment activities for students in schools.
    • Ensure that students in poverty have access to both advanced courses and strong career training, even in high-poverty schools.

    Look at that. No sneering lectures about the demon rum or our darkest desires.  None at all. Seems like Putnam is more interested in helping poor kids than kicking poor adults.





    Driftglass on this David Brooks column:

    Imagine the heights of rapture to which I ascended when I read David Brooks -- who has never taken ownership or responsibility for a single syllable of the pro-war, hippie-punching, revisionist schlock he peddles to pay the rent -- demanding that "people" be held responsible for, uh, "stuff".

    Excerpts of two Brooks paeans to GW Bush and the Iraq War that Brooks will never be held to account for, as "nonjudgementalism" rules in the MSM and the 1%, or else he would have been fired from any job in the punditry/TV/PBS years ago. From his Weekly Standard job before the NYT.

    The Certainty Crisis David Brooks (March 7, 2003, 2 weeks before the Invasion of Iraq)

    THE AMERICAN COMMENTARIAT is gravely concerned. Over the past week, George W. Bush has shown a disturbing tendency not to waffle when it comes to Iraq. There has been an appalling clarity and coherence to his position. There has been a reckless tendency not to be murky, hesitant, or evasive. Naturally, questions are being raised about President Bush's leadership skills. ...

    The Collapse of the Dream Palaces, David Brooks  April 28, 2003 (1 month into The War)

    ..no day will come when the enemies of this endeavor turn around and say, "We were wrong. Bush was right." They will just extend their forebodings into a more distant future. Nevertheless, the frame of the debate will shift. The war's opponents will lose self-confidence and vitality. And they will backtrack....The ruling class is reasonably candid about the war's progress. The anonymous people in the corridors of power basically seem to know what they are doing......

    Brooks is exhibit #1 in why TV news/punditry is a propaganda exercise by well paid people who would never speak truth to power, they don't even speak truth about themselves.

    These kids do need mentors and role models. Their grades do go up when there is a program.  

    Oh and David Brooks and Kiss My Grits.  You know the box that came from the food bank. 

    Of course they need mentors and role models.  I feel like Brooks tried to hide all of his ugliness underneath that basic, undeniable point.

    Though he seems to think that these mentors and role models have to be rich (they don't) or that the existence of mentors and role models comes with shaming people who don't live up to that standard (which seems like a weird Brooks psychological issue to me).

    That is true. You can't mentor a child if you are disconnected or clueless about the world that child is living in. 

    I think sometimes those columnists are past deadline and up against the clock and don't have time to edit what they've written before they send it out.  That's being charitable, I know.  I would hate to think that after all this time they still don't understand that you have to get out in the real world before you can report on it.

    Hey, Rudy Giuliani was raised by a Mafia hood who spent time in Sing Sing - and he grew up to be one of our greatest values-scold schmucks we have. (shame his police assistant was convicted - can't always pick the friends you want). A return to values, like Enron, Abramoff and Ollie North?

    Basically Brooks mailed in his "let's kick poor people with anecdotes about unlucky poor people"  column.

    "The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens." - uh, no, it's primarily determined by its GDP and its ability to foist off military threats and grab other countries' resources through trade or invasion or threat. Depending on who's doing the "determining". For some like Pope Francis, it's how you care for your fellow man. If it's Brooks, it's also whether that society has summer houses and hobnobs with the right bellwethers of public opinion and whether you have enough money - if not, every D grade and divorce will be judged accordingly.

    McCain fits as an obnoxious underachieving smartass whose father was well-positioned general, so he got to play the POW thing up through the ranks in that crappy Vietnam era. Lots of POWs that never got that chance. Who are Brooks' other heroes?

    But it's pretty dumb to not be able to differentiate between high school vs. college as not just a symptom or attribute, but also a cause - in an age with lowered opportunity, having only high school will probably give you a 50% chance of having a shitty life, whatever values you have.

    Brooks is a commentator whose opinions are off pretty much 80% of the time. But because as a white boy spouting conservative platitudes and latching on to William F. Buckley at an early age, he's able to ride out that shitty record of poor observation, especially by being the less abrasive voice of conservatism in the "paper of record" rather than the much more abrasive voice that's found everywhere else in the real world and billionaire-controlled media.

    In short, his "values" are controlled well-behaved white boy with mushy but predictable dictums for every situation. Try that if you're female, black or Muslim. If you're David Brooks who grew up living in a whites-only enclave (Stuy Town) in New York, with parents as professors at NYU & Columbia, you can smugly pretend that it's "values" that made your success, rather than the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel prerogatives of the fortunate son, luckily born white-and-middle-class+-in-America. In short, what a schmuck.

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