A Response to David Brooks

This is from the comment section of the NYT article today by David Brooks titled “It’s Not About You”. It’s a comment by a William Taylor of Nampa, ID, and it rang a bell with me.

As Robert Cole pointed out in his “Habits of the Heart” America entered its individualist era during the early to mid eighteen-hundreds, as documented by de Alexis de Tocqueville in his famous book chronicaling his journey among the American people. The visitor from France wondered what would happen. I think he is the one who first coined the word “individualism,” describing a pattern in which the horizon is finally reduced to “me.”

The main thing lost due to the triumph of individualism has been a sense of the common good. Democrats still have some allegiance to the idea, as illustrated by their continued concern for social welfare and the supportive role of government. The Republicans (David Brooks is a good example) have always been suspicious of this idea, but their almost religious individualism really took over with Reagan and now reigns supreme thanks to the libertarians and the Tea Party. The Ryan budget is a good example of individualism’s rotten fruit.

In philosophy, they talk about a “reductio ad absurdum,” the condition that exists when the fallacy of an idea finally reaches its ultimate point of absurdity. With the ongoing financial debacle…the loss of cheap oil…and climate change, we face huge problems that can only be solved when “I” becomes a “we.” The prognosis is not good.

That’s right. The prognosis is not good.

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  1. pwlsax’s avatar

    Brooks got pretty much hung out to dry, if the comments at nytimes.com are any indication. Those agreeing with him seemed to be mostly ditto-heads. The real discourse was all on the other side: putting it briefly, Brooks is more comfortable with banks and corporations following their bliss than with individuals doing the same.

    For my part, I thought the piece was sadly lacking in moral dimension. Brooks is one of those who has a glimmer of communitarianism now and then, but here, he was too timid to show it. The impression he gave: Don’t devote yourself to other people or the common good. Focus on the system, the hierarchy, the machine. THAT is true selflessness. Or as close as cuts any ice these days.

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    Yes, you’re right, he got pretty much hung out to dry. He usually gets such a treatment. I love to read the responses to his columns. I agree with you that what he’s saying is don’t rock the boat, go with what’s there and don’t change it.

  3. missey’s avatar

    OBama has a way of frightening people. ( He is not your
    ordinary American.) I really think “OUR MR. BROOKS”
    knows that OBAMA is surrounded with the likes of
    Acorn, The Black Brotherhood and a host of others.

  4. Mardé’s avatar

    Thanks for your comment, missey, but I’m afraid I disagree with it. Maybe we can agree to disagree.


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