Humility and the Common Man
JadedbyPolitics makes her case for a Sarah Palin candidacy here.
Now, I’m not willing to put any of my eggs into an unannounced basket. I hold to my previous caution that we should concentrate on things, not people for the bulk of 2011. So, it’s Sarah’s “bag of possibles” (an old fur trapping term), her attributes, i find far more interesting right now.
But I also find the underlying arguments against Palin which Jaded preemptively attacks in her title and text (“Elites”) to be very compelling, for that’s a fight I plan to wage here as often as I get even a scent of elitism in attacking her qualifications for office, or for that matter, a dozen or more other “common men and women”, of ordinary education and background who will rise on the political scene in 2012, as we saw in the 2010 election. There will be plenty more.
This beat will go on, so let’s begin to deal with it now. The idea of an entrenched political class needs to be seriously redefined.
I don’t pretend to know what is in another man’s heart, and try to accept one’s words literally when spoken. I always try to treat the well-phrased argument as coming from honest lips. I’d probably even give a birther a strike or two before dumping him. (It’s always their self-inflicted self-righteousness that gets them anyway.) But one cannot help but notice the snarky comment, the mockery, the unsubtle put-down, the Kerry-like-down-the-nose condescension, and arrive at least circumstantially that those words and body language carry a hidden message, if not to us, then to others similarly disposed. We saw with the O’Donnell campaign in Delaware and across America with Tea Party candidates…often by professing conservatives, some with more degrees than I have scars…that these people are simply “not one of us”. This is the dance of elitists.
(A point of order, as I noted to Jaded earlier: i totally approve of “elites”, only more narrowly defined as a group of people who through personal attainment, are popular acknowledged to be the best of the best at what they do. By contrast, “elitists” are by and large self-anointed, whether by education, political career choices, or maybe even poor potty training. It’s important to me to keep these distinctions clear. We will always meet people better and lesser than ourselves and we will be wise to acknowledge those who are better, while remembering also that the “dull and ignorant, they too have their story.” (Max Ehrman, “Desiderata”). Neither kiss up, nor kick down, that is the wisest course. But neither should we allow anyone else to crown himself our better then strut around for very long.
The Common “Type”
I didn’t name the Sands Institute “for the Constitution and the Common Man” for nothing. My mentor and teacher, Moses Sands, said “the common man is the expressed purpose of the Constitution“. If you don’t believe this then your conservative credentials are suspect in my eyes (but still feel free to make your case).
And, on reflection, it seems the One Teacher agrees with him. You can look it up.
Moreover, so did the Founders. And therein lies a lesson.
At this time, still far out from the next election cycle, I prefer to look at Sarah Palin as a type, for she is indeed representative of a whole lot of people, not all of them of the female race, and not all of them even seeking public office. For the tea parties are a giant selection committee as well, also cut from the same mold of ordinary common American stock as the former governor of Alaska. The tea party process continues apace. (Note Ned Ryun’s FP on the New Leader’s Project.) What they all do best, it seems, is upset the apple carts of an existing order that is long overdue for a flushing.
It sad, too, for all of us are common enough, almost all our stock either dirt farmers, day laborers who sweated and toiled in furnaces, or petty clerks who also had to sweep up after closing. Men who buried their wives before forty, and mothers, a third of their children before twelve. And the first of their line, off some boat, somewhere, almost all came here with a passport filed with only a little hope, and a valise heavy with sorrow of family and home they’d never see again.
How soon so many of us have forgotten the common, ordinary shoulders we all stand on.
Since the arrival of Sarah on the national scene in 2008, I have sensed a collective shudder in parts of American political society, somewhat akin to a term of disgust I picked up in Eastern Europe, of “hugging a gypsy” (who are fragrantly unwashed). The tea parties evoke the same kinds of shudders, as if they hadn’t bathed lately either. Conservative “elite” luminaries such as Peggy Noonan (very slowly) and Charles Krauthammer (very quickly) have walked back positions they saw would have left them swimming in a sea of elitist bilge that looks down on these people and the popular will of the people with disgust and derision…a sentiment both generally reserve for the Left..
But many professing-conservatives (not even counting RINO’s and Libertarians) can’t seem to bring themselves to come to this realization, which either indicates a lack of depth hidden among all that education, or a rice bowl in need of serious protection. Be warned, the sledding will be rough here.
Vices and Virtues
So, what is it about “these kinds” of common people that make “certain other kinds” of people react so negatively?
I think we need look no further than the ancient list of seven deadly vices…wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, and their opposites, the seven virtues…patience, charity, diligence, humility, chastity, kindness, and temperance. (I jotted these down and hung them over my desk…a daily reminder. You might consider it also.)
Note that while the deadly vices all exist in nature, describing Man in his basest state, as much animal as man, the virtues are all acquired. We aren’t born nice. We are born brutish, gluttonous, etc. So, then, each virtue represents a mark of purposeful achievement by an individual; an intentional turning away from the bad. This is important to remember. A conquest of Good over Evil.
The Personal Journey
If you haven’t stopped to think about it, Christianity is about the only religion that involves a personal journey of finding moral attainment and achievement. Most others involve a bus and group rates. There are no troop trains, as with Islam. C.S. Lewis might have reached for his Webley had Obama or Jeremiah Wright ever mentioned “collective salvation” in front of him, for while it is Marxist to the core, it is also un-Christian to the core.
It is this personal journey that links Christian theology with humanist philosophy, making the latter inclusive rather than exclusive. This is why the founders didn’t just believe, but knew that all the virtues, and other attributes held high by civilized society, could be attained by anyone who pursued them, irrespective of prior station. Good God, some of RedState’s best writers, right here, from the little bit of personal history they’ve revealed, were put through a wringer and hung up wet, and yet their insights and experiences are some of the best things RedState has to offer. (Diarists all.) What greater proofs can you want to have of the uncommon, even exceptional qualities of the American man and woman than as found right here?
I have a higher regard for some people here on RedState, who I haven’t even met, than for Sarah Palin. But the very idea that someone “like her” is unfit for high office gnaws at my very being. Again, I invite any who would like to argue the point to join in.
The whole point of this Virtue-exercise is that the Europeans essentially created a class system around these virtues. The French built their nobility around them, then tied it to rank and the hereditary ownership of land (A very bad idea.) The English improved it a little, by allowing for commoners to attain a certain rank just below nobility, as gentle men and women, “and gentle shall his condition be” (Henry V) through personal merit and achievement as opposed to bloodline. (A less bad idea.) I’d always thought of myself as a gentleman.
By the time of the American Revolution, and several generations of colonial “experiment and expression” away from England, it was pretty much settled among the gentle classes that 1) virtue was learned…but 2) only certain people could learn it…and 3) we would know them by their rank, and possibly the cut of their clothes. (College degrees came later.) This notion still persists, and always will, as we will see.
Of all the insights the Founders are honored for having made about Man’s quest to be free, the least examined is their simple observation that the rules I just laid out above were pure Booshway. (My words, not theirs.) Even Thos Jefferson, one of the landed gentry among the Founders, knew that in his father had moved to the Albemarle region of Virginia, not because there was better land, but because all the good land east of there had already been taken two-three generations earlier…a process that would last until the last settler laid down stakes in the Cherokee Strip in 1893.
And Jefferson knew that his kinsmen did not come to Virginia as gentlemen, but as planters and farmers, and just like everybody else, had to borrow two mules to pull stumps to clear land for a farm and small house that, a generation later would end up on top of that hill. The book learning and porcelain bathtubs came later.
Jefferson knew about those older shoulders, so, unlike most of his fellow gentry, threw in his lot with all those first generation freemen seeking their own dominion over a piece of land, and a greater say in their lives. While knowing he was a smarter, better-read and an all-round extraordinary man Jefferson also knew that the virtues underlying those skills did not belong solely to “his kind”. He had a kind of humility.
As did the rest of the Founders. If you’ll notice, Wisdom, which I’ve written about already, isn’t mentioned in our list, but rather is a culmination of several virtues, principal among them, Humility, which I consider the lynchpin to Wisdom. Likewise justice, courage and others, all the culmination of those several virtues.
The Constitution was a result of these things, all arising from those seven virtues.
Yeah, I know they read and studied, and were educated. But they also observed. The Founders had good common sense. Unlike Marx, who imputed the plight of the worker from books, never straying far from a library or coffee house, the Founders observed in the streets and towns of America a validation for every belief In the ability of common men to succeed, grow and prosper, and sire a nation of builders.
In short, the Founders didn’t just believe in an abstraction, but knew that the common man not only could exhibit all the virtues of civilization, but he could exercise them, in the aggregate, as a mass, in ways that no hereditary nobility in history had ever proven they could do for any extended length of time.
History has proved they were right, which is why America is the most despised nation on earth by most of the world’s leaders…and the most beloved and admired by their peoples.
Of course, we all know the rest of the story, how, after awhile, we began taking on passengers in our wagon, first from Christian charity, then by decree, but always for free (to the riders), then we slowly began passing over the reins, first to citizen-drivers, then professional teamsters, eventually dismounting the wagons altogether to walk along the overloaded wagons….while still paying the full freight.
I think it was when the whip intended for the mules’ backs began to lash across our own that people began to say (and I quote) “What the hey?” and decided to pull those scroungy drivers out of their seats, by now knee deep in popcorn kernels, peanut shells, empty pizza cartons and beer cans, and toss them into wayside ditches. Over sixty got doused on Nov 2, 2010, and by my oath, nearly as many will be brought down in 2012.
Some of us has been calling for this for years. After all, it’s our wagon, dammit! Bout time.
Elitists, What to do?
What I’ve found curious about the attacks on Sarah, Christine, Sharron, and others, is how curious the political class sees all these changes in the political landscape; that the ordinary people of America should wish to take back the political processes the Constitution had expressly bequeathed to them in the first place.
And even more curious, that under the glare of bright lights brought about by the emergence of this “ordinary class”, the political class has lost all sense of hypocrisy and shame and stated in more or less uncertain terms that the Founders were wrong…society, political society, economic society, human society, cannot move forward without the guidance (and tacit permission) of an elitist political and associated professional class. Self-proclaimed. Me? I’d still rather be wrong with Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller, than come out smelling like a rose with Chris Coons nee Mike Castle, or Lisa Murkowski.
Just who are elitists?
Most elitists are of the Left, and we’re already in a fight-to-the-end with them anyway, so not much use in talking about them a lot, except to ID them.
We all know that the Left, even the little 18-year old crumb crunchers lounging in bathrobes in Mom’s basement, are elitist by nature. All they have to do is read one book they don’t understand, then pretend they do by glossing over a copy of Cliff’s Notes, which is exactly what I did in high school when I read Origin of Species. (I still can’t wade through it.) Like Marx, they instinctively think it’s unfair that people less intellectual (that’s “stupider”, for you sophomores at Amherst) should be making all that money and getting all the girls, or hunks, as the case may be. So Marx created this religion, er, theory, that justified them going around being pissed off all the time. They don’t so much believe as they have to delude themselves in the notion that the ordinary person, especially the guy in the Mercedes SLR, is incapable of managing his own life and that this theory of Marx’s, in the proper hands, will make the lives of all the ordinary people much, much more equal, er, better.
If this sounds a little like the libertarian, it is. At least the “better than thou” part. Libertarians most often have habits that the common herd (the majority) has somehow or another taken a different legal view on. And vote against. Libertarians think they can handle it, even as they don’t care if the common man can handle it or not…and by this I mean drugs, sexual extravagance and other kinds of profligacies. They don’t think C-Students should be allowed to come between them and their appetites. They’re not so much into a moral society (John Adams) as they are into self-gratification. And they’ve built a belief system around it.
The reality is, the common man, even SoCons, have less a wish to ban these dirty little pleasures than to ask people to take them indoors. There is nothing more disgusting than to see a couple walking down the street with their hands inside each others pants…a common scene in San Francisco, or to see bobbing heads in the front seats of a Volvo around the DC Mall at lunchtime, while cops stand idly by. The law of unintended consequences tend to some home to roost for many libertarians more than most.
I’ve never understood why they can’t be content with sneaking to enjoy their joint. I break the law all the time. Plan to keep it up, too. Only I’m not stomping my feet because I have to be at least a little stealthy doing it. I recall telling someone that the last really good tasting cigarette I ever smoked was the last one I smoked before my Dad ever saw me smoke. (That was a lie.) I’m all for sneaking…and for the notion that hypocrisy is the price that vice pays to virtue.
But the masses have every right, indeed, the duty, to insist that society’s moral and legal conventions protect their children from too early an exposure to these forbidden pleasures, and their streets from the sights and sounds of decadence. They know they have more to lose.
And they have the right to be wrong or mistaken about it from time to time. That’s precisely what the 10th Amendment was about, to let the states and cities experiment. If you live in Taylor County, Kentucky and want a beer, you still have to drive to the county line. All the libertarians moved to Louisville.
Libertarians tend to be navel-gazers, never really sensing that their “I can handle it” posture doesn’t work well in the community at large, especially among the youth of our nation. Still, not quite like the Left, they allow the common man a live-and-let-live world to live in, only they really don’t like the fact the common man can vote to narrow their own choices. At the heart of libertarianism then, is a discomfort with the voting franchise in general, and one which they cannot square with the Constitution, especially the 10th Amendment.
Finally, if it hasn’t come as a surprise to you, there isn’t just a large elitist tumor growing inside the Republican Party (RINO’s) but also among many calling themselves conservatives. This fact causes us to want to peer even more deeply into this “elitist” seed, for here, clearly, there is a direct contradiction between conservatism and the secret desires of many of its practitioners…enough so i think I can call them out as faux-conservatives.
Socrates said “Know thyself”, not “Compare Thyself” but it seems the default position of elitists is to compare themselves with others. Actually, we all do this, so don’t get too smug and self contented. In fact, we do it all day long. I do it at least ten times a day right here on RedState, as when I read a post or comment that is either better written, more insightful, or more clever than my own. But like a dog biting his own toenails, i just think “I wish i could do that” then move on. I don’t dwell on it. Elitist often can’t sleep at night they’re so bothered that some rube ten states away may be using Pabst Blue Ribbon as a chaser for Glen Morangie single malt. Or worse, filing papers for Congress with only a bachelor’s degree in Animal Husbandry.
Elitists tend to compare only downward, never upwards….which to my mind is unconstitutional and un-American.
It is French.
What weds all the ruling class, including its wannabes; Left, Libertarian, Moderate and Conservative, is this notion of defining themselves by who they are not, a horrible cancer i see especially among the younger professing conservatives today, many of whom aren’t conservative at all, as time will prove. For just like the Left of my generation the 1960s, “who they are not” are the ordinary, common herd, so their hearts and minds at some point have to turn leftward. It has to, for their self image is both negative and nihilistic.
Sarah Palin and the Tea Parties have flushed this covey of carrion out into the open, and if a few conservatives get squished along the way, well, too bad.
Just be warned, the new emerging political class will become just like these people over time. The Founders also knew this. What will remain unchanged will be the common man, the ordinary people, and this is why they, and the Constitution vested power in the People rather than the political class. When the political class gets too much in love with itself, the people have to replace it…or die.
That they can still do this is the beauty of the Constitution, not its principle flaw.
So you have to know now, you can’t cure elitism. It is a natural condition. The Constitution merely provides a way to flush the sewers from time to time. And the agitation we’re seeing now is a natural reaction to what most of us would do if we knew we’d been grabbed by the scruff and the neck and about to be dumped into the crapper.
All this said, this isn’t a sermon against Elitism.
In the end, you can’t cure it. Hell, like bedbugs, we’re all infested. All we can do is understand it….both in others, and in yourselves.
Nor is this a sermon I even expect “elitists” in the conservative aisle to read. I already know they never do, anyway. Besides, none of them ever admit it, even to themselves, that they have this fatal flaw. That’s why we have to squish them like bugs. You can’t teach them anything, and in truth, they “don’t know nothing” (h/t Hodge). But they are always getting in the way, and in these times, we need to attend to that.
So, I’m addressing this to the good guys, for it all comes down to how we see them, not how they see us. And how we continue to view the commonest of men and women among us…for in them, and from their offspring will arise great leaders, scientists, doctors, engineers and thinkers, and maybe even an honest lawyer or two…as long as America remains the way it always was…a Piccadilly Circus of activity, a Chinese fire drill of planning, a free-for-all, and all-for-freedom. Either we’re fer it, or agin’ it. Them who’s agin it, we squish.