Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Guest Workers

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This is my first day back in class, and I’m completely frantic–the beginning of the term is ALWAYS a mess, and they ALWAYS change the boilerplate for the syllabus.

Anyway, I can’t do a blog post today, but I did get the following in e-mail from Robert.

It connects to yesterday’s post, so I throw it out there for your consideration. 

I won’t tell you, at the moment, how much I do and don’t agree with.

It comes in two parts.



Your bookstore clerks. I’m not sure they’re a big chunk of the problem if you compare them with actual government employees (with dependents) and regular recipients of government largesse even leaving out the retireees on Social Security. (The left likes to lump them, but SSSI includes, along with some truly needy, a bunch of what are normally called welfare cheats.)
But forget numbers. They’re not as beyond government as you think. Ever see CROSSING DELANCEY? Female lead (Amy Irving) is a bookstore clerk. One of her co-workers has a public access television slot. The owner of the bookshop (“New World Books?”) denounces the plan to build something  “obscenely profitable” on the site. One of her friends teaches a self-defense course for the elderly–presumably on tax money.  Her real psychological barrier is romancing a man who owns a private sector business. Famous authors don’t seem to count, somehow.
Anyway, I know the co-worker–not the actress, but the type–almost to a “T.” Mine works in Hyde Brothers–mostly mysteries, I think–and doesn’t think NPR is far enough to the left. As a body, they’re Humanities majors, and while they may be a little weak on facts, they’re convinced they understand how the world works, and that it would work better with people more like them running it. Obama–Poly Sci, Law and a teaching gig–is one of them, or close enough. So was Al Gore with a Journalism degree or Nancy Pelosi with Sociology. Romney was a complete outsider, as was Shrub. They won’t do the things which might have made them more money–but it still bothers them that the people who did have more money. At least they shouldn’t have so much more money. And they’re very politically involved. They’re connected to NPR. They organize petitions and demonstrations. No, their Congressman won’t return their call–but their city councilman might, and they know a name or two in the congressman’s office, what forms to fill out and which program does what. It’s rather like my relationship to the military, I suppose. I was never going to run it, but I knew some of the people who did, I understood how it worked and approved of its goals.
Now, as for how you convince people who have learned generalities but not specifics that they can’t support their conclusions–good luck. I ran across a short CS Lewis piece during the recent binge in which he quoted approving an old professor who complained that were being “taught” the Parthenon when they should have been being taught the optative–that is, that they were being spoon-fed conclusions and not given the information on which to form their own conclusions. Often true. Catch someone making a general statement about political tendencies, then ask him whether that statement holds up for a historical period he knows well. Sometimes it stops them. More often, you just find out that they don’t know any period well.
The other thing is that they aren’t very bright. Oh, I know: you’re going to give me the “symbolic manipulators” bit again. And they have the surface illusion of intelligence that comes of shared interests and sensibilities. You have many things in common with them that you would not share with a plumber, a carpenter, a rifleman or an engineer. But you are not brighter–or even better-informed–than that rifleman because you read the New York Times instead of the Army Times. Neither are they.
A reasonably intelligent person, by the time he or she is voting and raising children, has an integrated world view. It may be wrong, but it’s internally consistent, and roughly corresponds to observed reality. These people don’t, and as far as I’m concerned, that makes them children even if some of them are drawing Social Security. They know, if you corner them, that government is a neutral thing: it rounds up child-molesters if you tell it to, but it will round up Jews if you tell it to do that. At that point, you only have two options: either you believe in restricted government, or you believe that your opponents should never be allowed to run a government. These people consistently espouse free elections and effectively unlimited government in the guise of a “living” constitution, and then react with shock and horror whenever someone they disapprove of gets his hands on the controls. The actual Bolsheviks and Nazis make sense by comparison. These people are acting like schoolchildren.
The other verse is a distinct–and again, childlike–unwillingness to accept reality. To say, for example, that people kicking back and not looking for work until the unemployment benefits are nearing their end is a necessary price for having the benefits is an adult response, even though I disagree with it. To claim it doesn’t happen is the political equivalent of clapping your hands over your ears and singing. They do a lot of that. To say that carbon dioxide emissions will raise the temperature of the planet to an unacceptable level and we must all abandon fossil fuels is, again, defensible. To claim that solar power will make up the energy shortfall requires mathematical failure of epic proportions.
Welcome, as I think Parkinson warned you, to the tipping point of democracy. Morally, the interests of children must always be taken into account. But when you expand your democracy or experience such a decline in civic virtue that they wind up running things, it’s not going to end well.>>>>>>>
Have fun.

Written by janeh

January 30th, 2013 at 7:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'Guest Workers'

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  1. Please note I wrote “Humanities majors” NOT “people who went to prestigious schools.” It is natural for thegraduate of St Midas’ School to think well of himself–perhaps even too well. But something else happens when years of your life center around how well something is argued and not whether or not it’s true. It’s worse when you’ve convinced yourself that such an education makes you intellectually superior to people who make sure the lights work, the plumbing doesn’t leak and the house won’t fall down–a primacy of intellectual forms over reality I usually blame on Plato, but he’s had a LOT of accomplices over the years.


    30 Jan 13 at 8:28 am

  2. One of the things I learned when studying physics and math is that it is possible to state problems which have no solution. I keep remembering that when I read claims that medical care is too expensive and should be more accessible.

    The more I read liberal and conservative writers on medical care, the more I find myself thinking of magic and superstition. One side utters the incantation “Free market” and the other side replies “single payer system”.

    Is the US president an all powerful God who can solve all problems by some magical decree? Does his magical aura infuse the people working in the capitol so that they have superior capability over the people who live far away?

    Why is there a superstitious belief that a collection of human beings called “government” can solve all problems?


    30 Jan 13 at 5:01 pm

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