Follow by Email

Thursday, October 13, 2011

David Brooks, "The Thing Itself": Zigs and Zags to Get Where You Want to Go

I thought David Brooks's New York Times op-ed, "The Thing Itself" (, was beautifully written and provocative, albeit disheartening. Brooks is of the opinion that the philosophical underpinnings of building projects (specifically illustrated by the reconstruction of the World Trade Center), tax policy, gun control and Green Tech must often be demystified in order to achieve practical results. His conclusion:

"Sometimes circumstances compel you to raise taxes, sometimes circumstances allow you to cut them. Sometimes government can promote innovation; in most cases it can’t.

Walker Percy once wrote, 'God writes straight with crooked lines.' Translated into policy terms, that means it takes a lot of little zigs and zags over the terrain to get where you want to go. Mayors, governors and local officials do this all the time as they respond practically to circumstances. At the national level anybody who tries to zig and zag gets regarded as weak and traitorous by the economic values groups. There are rewards for those who fight over symbols, few for those who see the thing itself."

I can agree with David how practical considerations should trump philosophical regimens regarding taxes, gun control and Green Tech, but art and architecture? Is there no longer a place for projects such as the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, born out of the tension between Michelangelo and Pope Julius II? Nearer to our times, i.e. in my childhood, will there never be another 1964 New York World's Fair, dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe," whose pavillions showcased American culture and technology?

Are our cities headed for the urban demise and debilitation envisioned by such sci-fi films as "Blade Runner" and "The Fifth Element"?

More to the point, will the US ever recover from the trillions wasted on pointless wars and ineffectual attempts to stimulate the economy? Dr. Seuss tells us:

"Why are they sad and glad and bad?
I do not know. Go ask your dad"

Were it only 1964 again and still possible . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment