I recommend the documentary “What Killed Michael Brown?” by historian Shelby Steele.
Two things about it struck me.
1) Steele’s term “Poetic Truth” sounds very much like a Grand Narrative: An overarching story that provides the framework through which we understand and react to the world.
2) Obama and Holder, in the way they handled the death of Michael Brown, fanned the flames of racism and racial animosity in America in a huge way.
Item #2 goes to a point I’ve struggled to communicate for years.
The Prime Directive of conservatism is the nurturing of social capital, to which, as Haidt points out in The Righteous Mind, the left is blind. Yet the left dominates every major industry and institution that controls the culture; academia, media, and entertainment. The ramifications of this are tragic, and largely invisible to the vast majority of analyses of current events.
Conservatives, due to their intuitive appreciation of social capital, knew instinctively that Obama made things much worse. But because of the left’s blind spot and the fact that for all practical purposes it has de facto hegemonic control of the culture of the West – to the point that the left’s Grand Narrative of Poetic Truth described by Shelby Steele in the documentary has for all practical purposes become THE truth – communicating such things to the left feels to conservatives like shouting into a hurricane.
Conservatives also know instinctively that the substance of policy trumps the facade of personality and style. But this too, because of its one-dimensional perspective, seems lost on the left. It seems that acting “presidential,” as Obama and Biden do, and as Trump did not, is of greater importance to the left than the effect on social capital of the policies they introduce. As you’ll see in the documentary, the policies of the one-dimensional world view of Obama/Biden/leftism do immeasurable harm to race relations in America, but because of the dominance of today’s West by the one-dimensional culture and its emphasis on style over substance, this too is invisible to the blind spot of the powers that be.
Recalling the fictional story Spaceland, in which a three-dimensional being from Spaceland tries to introduce a two-dimensional being to the in-fact three-dimensional world, being a conservative in today’s West is like being a Spacelander in a population of Flatlanders, with the following exception. The Flatland/Spaceland story understates the problem. As Haidt pointed out in his discussion of the Left’s Blind Spot, the world really is a multi-dimensional space. But because because of the left’s inability to perceive and think in three dimensions, the culture of anomie it creates is an existential threat to civil society and a clear and present danger to the individuals within it. (This too is a lesson of The Righteous Mind, even if Haidt did not intend it to be.)
We conservatives, for our efforts in trying to reveal the reality of Spaceland to the West’s dominant culture of Flatland, are perceived and treated by that culture in much the same way Flatlanders reacted to Spacelanders in the original story; with horror and disgust.
Here’s my point:
The West, and in particular Academia, does not “get” conservatism. Even the best of academia’s explanations of conservatism feel to me to be sterile, reductive, superficial, and, well, academic. If conservatism were a house, honest academics would be able to describe all of its parameters, but they would have little idea what it *feels* like to live in it; to *perceive* the world through its windows; to *experience* the world from its perspective; to *understand* the way it works, to situate one’s self in it, and to interact with it. Academia is great at sterile reductive analysis, but true empathy rightly understood? Not even close.
I don’t mean to compare myself to such a great man as Winston Churchill, but I have to say that being a conservative in today’s West, warning of the dangers of the one-dimensional world view, must feel very much like it felt to be Winston Churchill in his day warning against the impending threat of Nazism.
The Flatland/Spaceland dynamic of today’s West seems invisible to the dominant culture of the left. The left’s failure to perceive that this dynamic exists and to understand the deleterious effect it has on civil society and the individuals within it is far FAR more harmful than anything that Trump, conservatives, or even the extreme right has done or ever could do.
Watch the documentary. I hope in it you’ll see what I mean.
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