Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Arrogance, Elitism, and Opiates for the Masses II

[Continued from Part I]

I left the Left (or at least activism) in the late 70's for one conscious reason: I came to believe the radical Left would NEVER reach the working class that they wished to organize. EVER. Barack Obama's San Francisco speech about workers in Pennsylvania clearly shows why: we just didn't get the "culture" - and our philosophical, sociological, and political explanations about why "they" [key word that] just couldn't see why we were right were just not right. We were indeed, as Spiro Agnew called us, "nattering nabobs of negativity" and "effete intellectual snobs".

I left the Left for some unconscious reasons as well. I - not by design - "immersed myself in the working class": I got married to a fellow activist with four children aged 9-12 and I had to pay attention to my family, my job, and my life. I would swing a hammer as a carpenter for the next 15 years until I got injured on the job.

As PastorDan pointed out in "Rural Voters, Values Voters, And The Bitterness Of The Elites":

Even setting those issues aside, working class people tend to be somewhat parochial. I don't mean that as a criticism: it's just that they're focused on what happens at the shop, or at church, or in the neighborhood. The town board is pushing a plan to build a park. They also have a reputation for being a good-old-boys club. Both issues are keeping our neighbors up at night: the friendly biker across the road is mulling a run for the board, which we're encouraging for no better reason than that we like him. He also hates the bar down the street as much as we do. That's a good thing. But the point is that the focus around here is definitely on around here.
It goes deeper yet in my mind: the family, the neighborhood, the shop, and the church are inherently conservative, and organic, structures. Organic in that they are not "organized" [except the shop - yet it can develop an organic culture] - they arise naturally out of human interaction. Conservative in a non-political sense that parallels the political sense spoken of by Russell Kirk:
  1. Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. A narrow rationality . . . cannot of itself satisfy human needs

  2. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes . . . equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.

  3. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked

  4. Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters, calculators, and economists" . . . Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man's anarchic impulse and upon the innovator's lust for power.

  5. Recognition that change may not be salutory reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a person must take Providence into his calculations, and a person's chief virtue . . . is prudence.
The shorter version: that family, tradition, land, and faith are the tap roots from which the vast majority of folks' in the world draw their strength and endurance - and not something they "cling to" [unless, of course, you think plants "cling to" their roots during draughts]: it is just part of what they are. As Rick Moran said - they are "embraced and welcomed into their lives". Even Moran, now an atheist, gets this:
Once a Catholic, always a Catholic – that’s me, alright. Despite the fact I have long since left the Church, God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost (changed to “Spirit” in my youth; so much for the immutability of the divine), organized religion, and the idea of the supernatural altogether, I am still a Catholic.

I think like a Catholic. My worldview has been shaped – though not dominated – by Catholicism. In this, the nuns, the priests, the brothers, and probably a monk or two have left their mark on my intellectual, social, and spiritual development. And I will thank them for it till my dying breath. There is great beauty to be found in the strands of logic and insightful, penetrating analysis of humanity by Catholic thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, and other Catholic theologians and philosophers.
So, the Left in my day failed to touch the working class with their ideology because they could not step into and embrace their world - they could not stand in their shoes, or share their roots, long enough to show them the correct direction to walk in them [assuming, of course, we even actually knew the right direction].

When the Apostle Paul gave his famous speech on Mars Hill he understood that point: he did not start from a point of criticism but by understanding the roots of that audience and who they were:
So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.
Of course, political activism tends to run counter to a couple of important "beautiful attitudes" at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them."

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
There are some that it coincides with as well:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
That assumes that your politics are bringing true righteousness, justice and peace as God sees those terms.

True political activism also requires a servant's heart - the first will be last and the last will be first. If you want to lead, you must submit yourself to the needs of those you lead - and, of course, understand what those needs are. The Left has always thought that was economic - it isn't. That is why folks vote against their "economic interests".

However, I really have come to the threads of my current life: evangelical Christianity (and sales). Everything said above applies to that as well. Folks outside the Body of Christ have also put down their tap roots into sources of strength and endurance - and you simply cannot tell them the source of their strength is "wrong". You have to come into their world as Paul did above and lovingly serve them where they are: you have to be part of their community, job, traditions, etc. - and then show them by your fruit that your roots are planted in a better wellspring.

For the sales aspect, I will just leave you with this commercial from an automatic group:

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly