We’ve always had the goofy left, at least as far back as the 19th Century anyway. But until recently nobody was ever dumb enough to give them any real power.
For the most part they aren’t bad or evil, they’re just stupid. That wouldn’t be so bad except they are convinced that they are smarter than everyone else. They also have a quasi-religious belief in their own moral superiority and righteousness. That is a really bad combination.
Of course, these idiot children aren’t children. These are young adults who can serve in the military, get married, buy firearms, drink alcohol, etc. They are at the beginning years of adult life, but they are entirely unprepared for adult life. It’s fashionable to blame Yale and other elite institutions for this sorry state of affairs, but, while the colleges certainly do their share of damage, the truth is that these children are maladjusted buffoons when they show up in New Haven. Yale doesn’t make them into hysterical ninnies — their families do.
There is a certain strain of upper-middle-class American culture that cultivates an excess of self-importance that grows cancerous when it isn’t counteracted by a deep understanding that the world is full of things that are much more important than you are: God, country, the rest of the human race. That American striver culture has many invaluable aspects — it is the culture that produces the high-achieving students who go to Yale and other elite institutions — but in the absence of transcendent values it turns everybody into a miniature Donald Trump. If your concerns in life are limited to personal economic advancement and status whoring, then everything — literally — is about you. That’s when you see things like Lena Dunham’s dopey political advertisements, which reduce citizenship to another shallow channel of self-satisfaction: Never mind patriotism, never mind history, never mind anything else — what does your vote say about you? How do it make you feel?
I understand why the idiot children at Yale are so sensitive. Really, I do. I sometimes list in my mind all of the poor, suffering people who get a raw deal in this life, and Yale students are always right at the top, with the Bangladeshi orphans and women traded by sex traffickers in Vietnam. Yale isn’t a safe space, Congo isn’t a safe space — it all makes sense, as long as you don’t expect it to make sense.
Nobody sets out to be evil. As horrible as their crimes are, guys like Charles Manson are limited in scope. All the great mass murderers in history like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot – they all saw themselves as patriots who were going to make the world a better place. The German people didn’t plan to start a world war that would devastate Europe and leave over 60 million people dead.
But that’s what they did.
Maybe we are victims of our own success. Today’s children are the most sheltered special snowflakes in human history. There are no dragons left for them to slay. Death is an abstraction, not an everyday part of life.
Simply put, too many urban Americans have lots of time on their hands—and in this regard, the deterioration in race relations is largely a city phenomenon. The rural dweller looks at the nocturnal marching and chanting of Black Lives Matter and wonders, “Do the protesters have to be up at 5 AM to get things going?” Nothing is stranger than watching or listening to elite urban white journalists and academics confessing their white privilege to fellow black elites and equally privileged intellectuals—while both groups seem oblivious to class distinctions or to rural white poverty. Does a Cornel West or Chris Rock go to Appalachia or Bakersfield to lecture the white mechanic on why he has it made because of his white skin?
The cursus honorum of the elite that runs the country in politics, finance, journalism, and academia is urban to the core—degrees from brand-name universities, internships at well-connected agencies, residence in New York or Washington, power marriages. The power résumé does not include mechanical apprenticeships, work on ships or oil rigs, knowledge of firearms, or farm, logging, or mining labor—jobs now regulated and overseen by those with little experience of them.
Another symptom of the urban-rural disconnect is trivialization. Given the existential problems facing California—clogged freeways, failing schools, millions of illegal aliens, idled acreage, obscene prices for houses, sky-high power and fuel costs—among the least of worries for the state legislature should be banning plastic bags or mandating gender-neutral school restrooms. Such distractions are possible only because necessities such as food and fuel are plentiful, and their acquisition has become boring to the urbanite in a way that a transgendered march in San Francisco is not. Or is the problem that urban man has no answers for the existential challenges, so he finds psychological refuge for his impotence in obsessing over the trivial?
The Founders and early observers of American democracy, from J. Hector St. John Crèvecoeur and Thomas Jefferson to Alexis de Tocqueville, reflected a classical symbiosis, in which even urban thinkers praised the benefits of life in rural areas, where most Americans then lived. The Founders were pragmatics who also owned farms or at least knew the soil, not romantics who dreamed about a rural paradise that they had never experienced. Jefferson famously wrote of the preponderance of rural life in early America: “I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe.” Jefferson meant that reservoirs of farmers were essential to self-government. As long as Americans were not dependent European peasants or Russian land barons or the shiftless masses of a Paris or Saint Petersburg, there would be enough self-reliant agrarians to check the passions of the fickle urban mob.
Our Constitution, even in its idiosyncrasies, reflected these concerns. In presidential elections, the Electoral College trumped the popular vote that could be heavily weighted to urban interests. Legislative appointment rather than direct election of each state’s two senators would likewise protect the political voices of rural states and counties from being overwhelmed by more numerous urban citizens, whose daily lives were not commensurately predicated on tradition, custom, and a balanced view of nature and progress. States could even establish property qualifications for voting, on the premise that the autonomous agrarian was grounded and sober in a way that the mass of the urban populace was not.
From Hesiod’s Works and Days to Virgil’s Georgics, the connection between farming and morality was always emphasized as a check on urban decadence and corruption. What was gained by the city’s great universities, monumental edifices, churches, and pageantry was often lost through the baleful effects of being cut off from nature and defining success through intangibles such as transient goods, status, and material luxuries. Physical and mental balance, practicality, a sense of the tragic rather than the therapeutic—all these were birthed by rural life and yet proved essential to the survival of a nation that would inevitably become more mannered, sophisticated, and urban. Jefferson idealized an American as a tough citizen who couldn’t be fooled by sophisticated demagogues, given his own steady hand guiding the plow or digging irrigation ditches. Rural folks didn’t romanticize the city, but rather, like characters in Horace’s Satires or the content rustic mouse of Aesop’s Fables, saw it as a necessary evil. Yet urbanites, though cut off from nature, dependent on government for their sustenance, and embedded within the politics and trends of the day, idealized the farm and pasture—if certainly from a safe distance.
To quote Han Solo, “I got a bad feeling about this.”