Monday, March 1, 2021

What Matters Now

There were these periods when you could flirt with what had been hitherto unspeakable ideologies. In the later 70s, with the resignation of Nixon, even a red-blooded and hardened antiwar demonstrator could afford to find themselves disillusioned with the left. "Participatory democracy" was not so participatory. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" turned to be more about dictatorship than the proletariat. Writers like George Orwell who may have fought in the Spanish Civil War began to heft the banner of relativism. Power is conservative was a phrase reinforced by concepts like the sociologist Vilfredo Pareto’s circulation of elite.” Daniel Bell wrote The End of Ideology and Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man. It was fun to trash the liberal pieties found in publications like The Nation and to admire the wit and urbanity of conservative intellectuals like William Buckley. How could you not admire someone who played the harpsichord and even owned more than one? You no longer had to place your copy of God and Man at Yale in the kind brown bag usually reserved for Penthouse or Hustler. You gained points at tony Upper West Side parties by quoting obscure parliamentarians like Michael Oakeschott. You liked to remind people that Adam Smith not only wrote The Wealth of Nations but The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Oh for those halcyon days of the boulevardier and flaneur when being an intellectual was a stone’s throw from Edwardian dandyism and you voted for the party of Oscar Wilde and Huysmans whose A rebours became a form of liberation ideology for those previously enchained by moral righteousness. Value-free politics has, of course, become a dubious luxury in the age of Retrumplicanism. You may find yourself brown bagging or even chucking your copies  of The New Criterion and The National Review that you once used to epater the liberal bourgeoisie.

Read "Trumpty Dumpty's Great Fall" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

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