Here is David Brooks using a football metaphor as a counterargument to the notion that the ideal society functions "like a military unit." He thinks society should be more like a rain forest. I think society should be more like a vacuum, personally, or an exoplanet maybe, but if wishes were horses . . . what was I saying? Ok, look, Brooks is a dummy, and lord only knows he's made the plural of anecdote into a sort of holy writ, but I am actually on his side here, sort of. The progressive view of society is martial and mechanistic--expert-driven, kid-tested, mother-approved, market-researched, etc. Though it admits the humanity of gals and gays and the African diaspora more readily than the supposedly countervailing conservativism whose atavistic yearnings are for a non-existent era of greater cultural homogeneity in which chacun avait son rôle à jouer or whathaveyou, liberalism's own future Utopia is decidedly grim, sterile, and selfsame: a rationally run central bank . . . increasing the monetary supply . . . to stimulate growth . . . forever. So, you know, obviously I'd rather live in an Amazon than a biodome, and for all the errors of emphasis, Brooks has almost sortakinda got a point. Which is why the goddamn football thing is so extremely jarring; the entire sport is a military metaphor; the whole game is a symbolic enactment of warfare.
Anyway, I've read enough to suspect that somewhere deep in Brook's middlebrow mindfile, a program that actually believes in a non-mechanistic humanity hums away, but it is always and forever overruled by a random received-wisdom generator that says things like:
The essential truth about poverty is that we will never fully understand what causes it.Well, you could say it was caused by a lack of money. But we'll stick with him. It isn't an unreasonable point, even if it's uttered with the gaseous phffft of truism. It's complicated, see? And you can't address it from a, you know, policy perspective by crafting some kind of monomaniacal good-management program; you can't regulate it away. I'm with you, David, so far. Then he concocts Sh'tangwéa from da Hood--he doesn't name her as such, but I grew up in Dave's own demographic, and I know exactly what pops into his mind's eye when he imagines
there is a 14-year-old girl who, for perfectly understandable reasons, wants to experience the love and sense of purpose that go with motherhood, rather than stay in school in the hopes of someday earning a middle-class wage.She's not named Madison and she ain't brunette, lemme put it to you that way. And fuck it, let's even grant that she wants to experience the joie et souffrance of motherhood--she isn't seeking the approbation of male peers; she isn't just horny, god forbid; she wants to be a mommy.
So how do you prevent this? Well, first of all, why do you want to? Because of poverty? But you just said that poverty is a complex ecosystem of technocrats, or something. So it isn't exactly because teenage parents generally remain poor; it's more about morality: namely, it's that teenage pregnancy is inherently morally dubious. So you "surround her"--uh, flood the zone; how many military metaphors do we need to make this point?--with faith groups. They make people want to serve! They don't ascribe to contemporary norms and mores, i.e., that Tashondanette can have as many babes as she wants, and whenever, because welfare. In any event, the argument becomes that since you cannot craft a simple social policy to alleviate poverty, you must instead construct a monumentally complex one. Brooks is not making a libertarian argument here; he isn't arguing that some sort of market of social philanthropy will fill in the blanks where no government agency exists. He wants an explicit federal policy to promote churchketeers in the ghetto. Vouchers and programs and subsidy and so on. These things are somehow supposed to be the opposite of technocratic liberal overreach, when in fact they are of precisely the same order. Everyone wants to avail themselves of the same government to achieve their peculiar ends; no one laments the bureaucracy, merely the particular drawers.