A warped sense of community

Well it looks like Cynthia Tucker has been beaten out for the most obtuse observation of the past 24 hours.  Let’s hear from Chris Mathews, who decided to turn a great story about survival into a partisan political point.

Down 2,000 feet in the ground, a group of 33 men not only survived for 69 days but prevailed. What a story of human faith, hope, charity and yes, community. I know that last word drives people on the right crazy: community.

Theirs is the popular notion that it`s every man for himself. Grab what you can, screw the masses, cash out of the government, go it alone — the whole cowboy catechism.

But how would those miners have survived, the 33 of them, and their loved ones living above if they`d behave like that with the attitude of every man for himself. This is above all, and deep down they`re in the mine about being in all there together. It`s about mutual reliance and relying on others. Not just to do their jobs, but to come through in the clutch.

Not only is this a sophomoric and shameful bit of analysis, but it further proves the point that great swathes of the left fundamentally do not understand what is meant by “community.”

Mathews is guilty of conflating the political state with social society.  Conservatives oppose massive governmentintrusion into our daily affairs.  We believe that a government that grows to large is a threat to our civil liberties.  As government expands, our freedoms are often simultaneously shrunk.  But we oppose this type of intrusion primarily because government is not our neighbor, and because it is an impersonal entity.  As government grows larger all those personal non-governmental organizations and social fraternities shrink in importance.  A government that provides more and more personal services via the welfare system shields individuals from their neighbors.  When the state takes on the primary responsibility for caring for the infirm and the poor, then individuals within the community are relieved of the need to care for their neighbors.  If we are to be our brother’s keeper, then it becomes more difficult to take on that task when the government chooses to do it for us.

The idea that conservatives are driven crazy by the concept of community is therefore nonsense on stilts.  It is in fact progressivism that has driven a stake into the concept of community by building metaphorical walls between neighbors.  Not only do meddlesome social welfare programs enervate the drive towards personal charity, but liberal attitudes about social mores erect further barriers.  In an age when each person gets to establish his own set of social values, communities drift further apart.  Those that seek to protect their children from a rancid culture are forced to withdraw into their own cocoons.  Now obviously there are communities within these communities where people who have shared values can congregate – be it Church or some other organization – but we’ve become more polarized as the gulf in moral values expands.

When Mathews discusses the supposed cowboy catechism of every man for himself, he is in fact describing the leftist worldview.  Not to get too metaphysical, but it is a Hobbesian worldview that flies in the face of the traditional view set out by the likes of Aristotle and Aquinas.  The latter believed that man is by nature a social and political animal.  But Hobbes, and then later Rousseau, rejected this view, instead positing that man is an isolated beast – an island to himself.  Hobbes and Rousseau had slightly different conceptions of isolated man’s role in civil society, but nonetheless both shared a fundamental view about man’s sociability that differed markedly from antiquity.  It is this worldview that has been handed down through the French Revolution and then through modern times, and it is an attitude that strikes at the heart of the concept of community.

Sure there are those on the right that might share in this worldview in some way – we call them libertarians.  But conservatives reject this Hobbesian view of society as a bunch of atomized individuals.  We don’t reject the concept of community, as Mathews laughably asserts, but rather reject the leftist notion of community.

Edmund Burke wrote that “to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections.”  These little subdivisions or platoons are at the center of Burke’s conception of civil society.  But the progressive worldview breaks down these platoons.  The idea of what is meant by community has been flipped upside down.  Instead of a society made up of these small social circles, the only real community is a giant leviathan state.  The Progressive ideal seems to be a collection of atomized individuals whose main sense of civic duty is to the national government.  This manifests itself politically in many ways, none the least of which is hostility to the concept of federalism.

The irony of Matthews’s caricature is that it is apt in condemning his own world view.

20 Responses to A warped sense of community

  • Matthews is the most moronic talking head on tv, but one:

  • I just have to share this. Remember when Obama made his candidacy announcement in Springfield in 2007? I was there covering it as a stringer for a newspaper I used to work for. Man was it cold that day….and that seems like a gazillion years ago now but I digress.

    The following incident was something I did not personally see happen, but I read about it later on another blog.

    Chris Matthews was there all set up to do his “Hardball” show live, in a small tent with electric heaters going full blast. He was all bundled up, of course, and wearing a big, fat pair of hunting socks with a red stripe at the top. A passer by called out to him, in a good-natured fashion, “Hey Chris, nice socks!” His reply: “Go (bleep) yourself”!

  • What a great product of Catholic education Chris Matthews is! He has dropped the F-Bomb live on television before Elaine:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1780729/posts

  • Are we offtopic by nailing mattew’s own faults than talking about the issue of community are we? I will admit this guy along with Michael Moore are charlatans much like from the right rush limbaugh and Sean Hannity
    Anyway I would like to ask some questions from a ‘liberal’ perspective. I think we have the same ideas about community and I do agree we have lost many of our views of the world. What did you mean by

    “It is in fact progressivism that has driven a stake into the concept of community by building metaphorical walls between neighbors.”

    I will take this one piece at the time. I speak to my neighbors with no problem. Fact is once my dog ran off and I had no time because I was going to be late for work I could not call in for that my neighbor told me if they would find her they would put her in my back yard. To my surprise (not really) i got back and there she was. I am liberal but I am just like you not some monster that locks my doors and does not talk to people. Maybe i am missing what you are trying to say here I will continue.

    ” Not only do meddlesome social welfare programs enervate the drive towards personal charity, but liberal attitudes about social mores erect further barriers. In an age when each person gets to establish his own set of social values, communities drift further apart. ”

    I have been a catholic my whole life I would like to hear what you means by this. Who defines these social values if not by people? The church? The Government? I think this is were we start parting ways a little as well. But maybe I am more conservative then most. I believe that states(or local communities) should determine some of these social issues not any fundamentalist group from right or left. I see the pro-gay movement and anti-gay movement, but are our laws based on this? In many ways yes I would say that most people don’t care unless to really effects them directly. So why are we making some laws that are not hurting society. But I guess that is how we define that too. We are going to strung up on DEFINING a great example is clinton definition on sex. I think both sides need to look at this problem in depth.

    “Those that seek to protect their children from a rancid culture are forced to withdraw into their own cocoons.”

    I think you can talk about some of these radical issues like little girls looking like 30 yr old and having sex … etc .. You will find most people on the left outraged much as yourself. Yet you will disagree we need more regulation if your a true hawk right person. Yet we can disagree with the financial issues and regulation, but I hope you can agree we need more regulation on this subject. Much are the parents fault in my experience as a substitute teacher parents from both right and left will allow there kids come into school dressed a mini- pimps and whores. I believe we need schools to start enforcing better dress codes ad sending them home. I also believe if one crazy parent disagrees o well maybe we should setup some kind of mini elections to make that one crazy parent not able to get their way. Get out of your cocoons and participate in government and your community!!

    Here is a side story that makes me sad: I was doing pre-cana with my future wife and the people had us do this back to back thing. One question they asked was “Helping my community is important to us”. We both raised our hands ( win for our relationship) . We look around and saw only about 25% of the couples with hands raised. I expected more, but that is why I believe in taxes on to give to everyone evenly because 75% of people based on this experience will not give back to society so taxes is the only way to guarantee some resources are given back to society. If it was 75% to 25% i would say maybe you republicans are right by having less taxes for everyone.

    ” Now obviously there are communities within these communities where people who have shared values can congregate – be it Church or some other organization – but we’ve become more polarized as the gulf in moral values expands.”

    Its sad, but i do agree with this point a little. I see my future family in law they are very polarized. My future wife grew up in a home with no focus on god and my fiancee told me that she feels that church makes her feel she has more a foundation because her parents seem to only care for material possessions. We need some of these values back in our society. But as educated Catholics we know that our christian brothers and sisters believe in the same values maybe not same dogma. But this country is not only made of Christians, but Hindu, Muslim, Buddhists, etc… I think many religions have very much the same ideals and we should be a country of god. Yet it seems the atheists have been winning. We could have prayer still in classrooms but maybe it should be to a general god not Jesus, or Shiva … I think our failing is we have become very polarized and not look at things in a middle ground. Yet Americans rather have nothing than something. Either prayer that is only centered on christian beliefs or nothing. This attitude is what is making things more polarized and I hope to see some new movement pushing us back to where we were in the 50s in this country were left and right can find some common ground . I hope that is not too late.

  • At this point Chris Matthews should just be chained, strait-jacketed, and shuttled around the country in a train car with steel bars as a circus exhibit of freakish lunacy, tingling leg and all.

  • “We look around and saw only about 25% of the couples with hands raised. I expected more, but that is why I believe in taxes on to give to everyone evenly because 75% of people based on this experience will not give back to society so taxes is the only way to guarantee some resources are given back to society. If it was 75% to 25% i would say maybe you republicans are right by having less taxes for everyone.”

    You could just as easily say that nobody feels any inclination to give back to their community because they know the government will forcibly take their money and do it for them.

    It’s almost as if, by constantly telling upper-to-middle-class wage-earners that they are greedy and selfish for not wanting their job salaries confiscated to pay for things like bank bailouts and abortion clinics, they give up and actually start acting that way.

    Just a theory.

  • “Are we off topic by nailing matthew’s own faults than talking about the issue of community”

    Yes, we are, and I gotta plead guilty to helping steer the thread off topic.

    I agree, Alex, sometimes we get so caught up in this liberal-conservative, red state-blue state thing that we forget to look at the real people behind it. It seems to be an occupational hazard for people who have a strong interest in politics and social issues (and I use the term “social issues” here in a very broad sense — everything having to do with society, not “just” abortion and gay marriage, though they are important)

    I personally do not know anyone who is either totally 100 percent liberal or totally 100 percent conservative. The question is where to set the balance between these two extremes.

    On a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is total anarchy and 100 is an ironclad communist police state with absolutely no freedom at all, I’m guessing that a hardcore objectivist/libertarian would set the dial around 20; most conservatives would set it between 30 and 50; liberals would set it between 50 and 75; socialists would dial it up to about 80; and hardcore communists like the Chinese and North Koreans have it cranked up to about 95. So the majority of the debate is really taking place in about the 30 to 75 range. Again, these are just rough guesses on my part, but you get the drift.

  • “He has dropped the F-Bomb live on television before”

    I should clarify that the incident I was referring to did NOT take place on the air, but while he was getting ready to go on the air. Just wanted to clear that up.

  • “I personally do not know anyone who is either totally 100 percent liberal or totally 100 percent conservative. The question is where to set the balance between these two extremes.

    On a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is total anarchy and 100 is an ironclad communist police state with absolutely no freedom at all, I’m guessing that a hardcore objectivist/libertarian would set the dial around 20; most conservatives would set it between 30 and 50; liberals would set it between 50 and 75; socialists would dial it up to about 80; and hardcore communists like the Chinese and North Koreans have it cranked up to about 95. So the majority of the debate is really taking place in about the 30 to 75 range. Again, these are just rough guesses on my part, but you get the drift.”

    This is a great point, and it also helps explain the growing chasm between “elites” in America and those without the benefit of university educations.

    I have attended roughly five different colleges in the last seven years, from community colleges to an Ivy-league university, and political science seems to be discussed among the college-educated solely in terms of academic abstractions such as “left, right, conservative, liberal, capitalist, communist” all of which are useful terminology but none of which exist purely, or have ever existed, or could possibly exist, in the actual state of reality.

    I always hear about the “growing polarization” in American politics, but the most polarization I see is between the political class which uses these terms merely as rhetorical weapons to fight over power, and the average workers and salary-earners who recognize the real issues that undergird the rhetoric.

    For example, the Bush family and the Clinton family might genuinely hate each other, and might be convinced that they have serious ideological differences based on the topics they chose for their respective senior theses at Yale or Harvard, but the American people aren’t seeing the difference anymore. To quote the man talking about the Falkland Islands war: “It’s like two bald men fighting over a comb.” And voters are sick of it. That is where the “polarization” is occurring.

  • I’ll try to be as comprehensive as I can in response to you, Alex.

    First of all, one of the problems with political theory is that it is all very generalized stuff. When I talk about the Hobbesian tendencies in society I am trying to get to an overall trend. Are left-wing individuals themselves social misfits who hate others? Most are not (Rousseau indeed was), and indeed most of my neighbors are on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me, and are all quite nice. But what I see is that the overall trend in leftist policies tends to diminish the importance of these little platoons.

    On the point about social mores, a couple of things. Here it is important to distinguish between secular leftists and religious leftists, and on these sorts of issues there might be more division on the left. Also, contrary to my previous point, I am not really talking about policies, per se. What I am referring here is a cultural clash that is beyond the political sphere. We live in an age of moral relativism where a certain segment of society seems to think that it’s pretty much anything goes out there in the wider world. There are large swaths of society that seem to think that it’s no big deal to promote teen sexuality, for instance. How can society properly function when a large segment of it think traditional sexual mores are outmoded, and in fact when those who do have a less “liberal” outlook are outright mocked?

    Yet you will disagree we need more regulation if your a true hawk right person.

    Again, I am not talking about regulations or policies in this instance.

    As for the tax issue, I think Linus made a good point. Now, I’m not saying we have to get rid of all government assistance, but the more we rely on government to be this sort of safety net, the more it discourages others from becoming more personally involved.

    I think our failing is we have become very polarized and not look at things in a middle ground.

    Well, yes and no. First of all, there’s always been polarization. We always harken back to some mythical time when everybody compromised and got along swell. This never happened. Ever. It’s actually in the foundational design (read Federalist 10) to have disagreement. Modern forms of communication make that disagreement seem more virulent than it once was – and perhaps it is to some degree – but it’s really not much different now as back then.

    Also, I think this kind of sentiment, while nice, glosses over the fact that there are fundamentally different points of view, and they are not reconcilable. I’d rather not have my kids pray in school than pray to a generic deity that isn’t the triune God. These are not things we can compromise about.

  • Oh, and it’s certainly no diversion to mock Chris Matthews. All that philosophy mumbo jumbo was just an excuse to point out how stupid he really is. ;)

  • @Elaine
    You make great points. Yet I think our politics are starting to sound a lot like post WWI Germany that is what makes me scared.

    @Paul
    “What I am referring here is a cultural clash that is beyond the political sphere. We live in an age of moral relativism where a certain segment of society seems to think that it’s pretty much anything goes out there in the wider world. There are large swaths of society that seem to think that it’s no big deal to promote teen sexuality, for instance. ”

    I agree with this statement because I do see this from my fiancee’s mother, but I think this group of people are much smaller than you think. I think many of those who are left or right will be on common ground than some of these fundamentalists on either side. I think if we had more people participating on both sides in both government and community we would not be where we are today. As I do think it feels that these 1-5% of the people that pay into the shit of moral realism are taking over from the left. As well as the 1-5% of these too big to fail companies have taken over the republicans and some democrats.

    “Also, I think this kind of sentiment, while nice, glosses over the fact that there are fundamentally different points of view, and they are not reconcilable. I’d rather not have my kids pray in school than pray to a generic deity that isn’t the triune God. These are not things we can compromise about.”

    Why I agree yet disagree with this point. I think that prayer is needed. I don’t want to push my views on others, but I think that if lead we can have multi-disciplinary view. If our pope can meet other religious leaders and be civil why can’t we teach more tolerance. I have seen some bishops go to Buddhist meditation classes. We can disagree on praying to Jesus but i think we all see that prayer is what is needed. Why do we have to disagree on this point. If your child is praying to Jesus and the next kid is praying to Shiva i see that as a win. The next step from this is those who are not Christians opening up dialog with us and that is where we can start on a common ground to do as Jesus and spread truth, but i feel that only happened from starting in tolerant position not a fundamentalist view. Jesus did not compromise on his values and god he did show tolerance and patience. All that intolerance has given us is more wars and more polarization.

    @linus

    “For example, the Bush family and the Clinton family might genuinely hate each other, and might be convinced that they have serious ideological differences based on the topics they chose for their respective senior theses at Yale or Harvard, but the American people aren’t seeing the difference anymore. To quote the man talking about the Falkland Islands war: “It’s like two bald men fighting over a comb.” And voters are sick of it. That is where the “polarization” is occurring.”

    As I agree very much with this. Both sides that i think is even more amusing is they call left “elite”, but most on the right are “elite” as well. It is not about education this term has been thrown around since the beginning and guess what the founders of this country was “elite” all of them. I think we all need to start participating because the people that are the real “elites” are going to take over and we may see our freedoms continue to leave. Bush gave us the patriot act, and yet it still there. Obama has left that law in place and from the sounds of if we are having secret trails and people disappearing. I am afraid if it continues we will be much like nazi germany soon. I think we all both right and left need to start waking up or we may lose this type forum to agree to disagree. Yet how do we get people to participate more that seems to be a problem we have had for over a century in this country.

  • “You could just as easily say that nobody feels any inclination to give back to their community because they know the government will forcibly take their money and do it for them.”
    Linus,
    I lived for several years in that social safety-netted paradise, Europe, and came away with the distinct impression that charity was not a priority there. Tax rates are high and the attitudes that “the government takes care of that,” and “given what I’m contributing, I’m taking full advantage of my entitlements” are pervasive. I believe it’s been pointed out before that the bulk of contributions in the wake of major disasters usually come from private charities in the U.S.

    “We always harken back to some mythical time when everybody compromised and got along swell. This never happened. Ever.”
    Paul,
    Funny thing–my husband got into a conversation with a very liberal religious Sister (older than he) last weekend. She told him she couldn’t think of any president who had been treated so roughly by the press so early in his administration as Obama. Not one. Amazing how keen our perception of “rough treatment” becomes when it’s happening to a public figure we like.

  • I hope Matthews never shuts up. He demonstrates what liberalism does to someone.

  • I submit that that is also a demonstration of a warped (universal it seems) sense of journalism.

    When I listen to, read, or watch the “news” I want to be informed. It’s not that difficult: How?; How many?; What?; When?, Where?, Who?; etc. Just the facts . . .

    Seems to me the universal journalist warp is the omission of facts that don’t advance the “narrative.” Regarding the Miner Miracle: Did any US journalist report that the first thing the miners requested when they were provided with the rescue tube was a Crucifix? Or, that our Pope personally blessed and sent each a Rosary? That they asked for statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Lorenzo? There were many other faith facts that were censored.

    Finally, I wouldn’t hear/see liberal liars’ brain farts if they weren’t posted here.

  • Mr.Zummo- Thank you for your ability to articulate a fundamentally sound Catholic understanding of the co-equal principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.

    Thank you as well for using such an “equus asinus” (in the words of my beloved Latin professor), aka, Chris Matthews, to make your point.

  • It’s a mistake to conflate the political state with the social order, but it’s also a mistake to separate the two. Government can become something separate from the people, a tyrannical state, but it can also be a means by which the people practice justice and even charity.

  • but it can also be a means by which the people practice justice and even charity

    Not precisely ‘charity’, but redistribution and collective consumption. Discretionary authority in the distribution of benefits invites corruption.

  • You know, I have to admit that I had a rather long blog written out in response to Mr. Minion’s post, but then I came to this sentence:

    The tea parties embody the worst elements of the mob rule, and mobs rarely serve the common good. There are many antecedents in history – the one that comes to mind is the riot of the Blues and the Greens against the tax policies of emperor Justinian that led to the Nika riots and the burning of Constantinople. There is no way that any of this can be seen as conservative.

    And I thought to myself, why waste time refuting that which is self-refuting.

    Affectionately,
    “that guy”

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