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His column today is about columns. Well, it starts off about monument designs and why they stink now. Seriously, who really sees the relative decline of monument esthetics as emblematic of what's wrong with America today? The music used to be better, too, David. Maybe that's the problem? Or maybe you're just wrong?
Whatever. Brooks thinks that monuments suck because Americans have become bad followers. Members of The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (which Brooks incorrectly stands up as moral equivalents) don't "respect the authoritah" of their betters.
He really does say this.
"Then there is our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect. It’s hard in this frame of mind to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves."
For one thing, we definitely celebrate greatness in this society. We celebrate great fortunes, such as those obtained by the celebrity billionaires who we defer to frequently on issues of politics and the economy. We celebrate great athletes. We celebrate great authors and musicians. Right now, in the back offices of Dag World Headquarters, blogger Donal is probably celebrating some accomplishment from Obscure Sports Quarterly. My own avatar features the greatest performer in professional wrestling of all time. Whoo!
But, no, David Brooks, I do not look to the current Supreme Court, to my congressional representative, to either of my Senators or to the President and think, "that person is immeasurably superior to me, I should do what they say."
This is not because I think I am a special snowflake, even though I do think that. It's also not that I think anything particularly bad about our leaders, be they elected, appointed or in the military. I just find very few of them to be "immeasurably superior to me." They are where they are through a combination of their efforts, abilities, interests and luck.
In my own life, I can try my best to define my interests, hone my abilities and try hard to achieve what I want to achieve. I cannot control my luck any more than the people that David Brooks thinks are "better" can. So long as their is luck in the equation, and nepotism and the opportunities at birth that some of us had and some of us didn't, there is no reason for anyone to genuflect to anyone else as "immeasurably superior."
I like Atrios. He has many more readers than I do. He can even blog for a living whereas Genghis pays me a mere $60,000 a quarter to write here (editors note: this is a lie). But I don't even think he's a better writer than I am. Sorry, Duncan Black! Except that I don't have to apologize because Black doesn't seek my adulation.
"I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else."
Obviously, I think this is utter nonsense. I think that people have lost faith in their governing institutions because their governing institutions have sold out to large corporate interests, allowed the people rather than the perpetrators to suffer the costs of a collapsing economy and, oh yes, was able to find money to invade Iraq but not to increase Social Security and Medicare benefits. Arrogance and vanity are not the issue here. The criminality and incompetence of the elites has, quite naturally, dimished their authority.
But there goes David Brooks, droning on about statues. Which, oddly enough, are graven images, something that the ultimate authority recognized by Brooks (but not me) seems to take issue with. But, hey, a better man than I am wouldn't joke about such things.