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Thursday, June 13, 2013

David Brooks, "Religion and Inequality": Narcissism, Plutocracy, Prevarication and Mud

"It's been a brilliant journey of self-awakening, and you've simply got to ask yourself -- what is happiness to you."

- Ventura asking David if he wishes to awaken from suspended animation, "Vanilla  Sky" (2001), written by Cameron Crowe.

Was it always this bad? Was government always so corrupt? Were people always driven by greed? Or is it simply that we are so much more aware of all that swirls around us owing to the Internet and the immediacy which it grants?

More to the point, are you adaptable to this new age of narcissism and plutocracy, or would you prefer to remain in suspended animation? What is happiness to you? Is it all about happiness? Is it all about you?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Religion and Inequality" (, David Brooks observes the ascendancy of "meritocratic hierarchy of professional success" at the expense of other status hierarchies. Brooks writes:

"Many rich people once felt compelled to try to square their happiness at being successful with their embarrassment about it. They adopted what Charles Murray calls a code of seemliness (no fancy clothes or cars). Not long ago, many people covered their affluence with a bohemian patina, but that patina has grown increasingly thin.

Now most of us engage in more matter-of-fact boasting: the car stickers that describe the driver’s summers on Martha’s Vineyard, the college window stickers, the mass embrace of luxury brands, even the currency of 'likes' on Facebook and Reddit as people unabashedly seek popularity.

The culture was probably more dynamic when there were competing status hierarchies. When there is one hegemonic hierarchy, as there is today, the successful are less haunted by their own status and the less successful have nowhere to hide."

Culture was more "dynamic"? I don't know what this means. My value system is antiquated. My handful of customers know that I live by a code of ethics. I don't sport luxury brands. You won't find me on Facebook. I read books, and I listen to the same music that I listened to in the 1960s, not that I'm certain it was any better then.

And when you live in the past, you don't easily forget. A week ago, David Ignatius, in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Susan Rice, a provocateur in the West Wing" (, wrote:

"Enough, already, about Benghazi."

Sorry David, but not enough already about Benghazi. Americans were spared having to see what was done to Ambassador Steven's body after the Obama administration refused to lift a finger to prevent his murder and the deaths of three other Americans. Since that time, none of those responsible for this abomination have paid the price.

Do Obama and Hillary go to bed thinking about Chris Stevens? I doubt it.

I am also insulted by the answer of US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki to a question concerning the Obama administration's response to the use of chemical weapons by forces loyal to Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad (

QUESTION: Okay. But the approach still is – and correct me if I’m wrong – the approach still is that if chemical weapons use can be – is proved to a certainty or to a degree with which you’re confident that it is – that is accurate, that that is a game-changer --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and that a game-changing means a policy shift, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is – the President said it is a redline, it is a game-changer. What that means in terms of the options, as you know, I will leave that to them to discuss.

QUESTION: Well, does changing the game mean – I mean, to me, that means that – that would signal – it would be a harbinger of a policy shift. Am I incorrect?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get ahead of where we are, which is we’re not at that point.

QUESTION: So a game-changer doesn’t necessarily change the game. Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, the President himself --

QUESTION: Because I don’t get it then.

MS. PSAKI: The President himself, and the Secretary has repeated, have said – let me just finish – that this is a redline, that if it’s crossed there are a number of options for them to consider. But we’re not at that point yet, so I don’t want to get ahead of what it means when we’re not at that point yet. We haven’t crossed --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, fair enough. Now it seems to – you seem to be implying that one of the options is to do nothing, is to change nothing. Is that an option?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to analyze the President’s options. They’re expansive. They’re – he’s asked his national security team to look into them.

QUESTION: All right. I understand. But it seems to me the Administration has been about as clear as mud on this, on what it means. And I just want it --

MS. PSAKI: Some mud is clear.

"Some mud is clear"? I worked in muddy farm fields when I was younger, I waded through mud in the military, but I have yet to encounter clear mud.

Welcome to our brave new world, home to a culture of lying, which has become second nature to anyone pursuing a career in government. Unlike David (Tom Cruise) in "Vanilla Sky," I think I would opt to continue living in suspended animation.


  1. 1) music in the 60's, and early 70's WAS better than the disco and rap that followed.

    2) Was thinking "Some Mud is Clear" would make a good bumper sticker for 2016, because, like JG, I have never seen clear mud. But, last night, it did make me wonder if ground diamond dust would make clear mud. Or, maybe Psaki was using an acronym for Mutually Uninsured Destruction?

    3) My PTSD main trigger is being lied to about anything important aka 'Betrayal of Trust', so let me know how I can hitchhike to that State of Suspended Animation: no doctors, lawyers, contractors, or Weiners allowed; only dogs, horses, and the ten honest, moral, and ethical people that surely must exist somewhere...hopefully one who plays backgammon.

    4) David Brooks should have stopped with "Bobos in Paradise", and relocated to Nagaland, that bit of India that is 75% Baptist. Maybe he could navel-gaze an explanation for THAT imperial legacy.

    JG: I do appreciate your insightful blogposts in a place where Google never tries to block my access. Delicious irony that I first read you in a NYT comment thread.


    1. K2K, thank you for your very kind comment.

    2. "Delicious irony that I first read you in a NYT comment thread"
      Me too, me too. I was impressed by Jeffrey's comments and followed his link.
      I no longer waste my time at NYT.