Oh, David Brooks

October 19, 2011

I'm a big fan of The
Conversation, the New York Times online
feature in which Gail Collins and David Brooks have a casual chat. I think the
appeal is supposed to be that the two are reasonable, amicable and witty
columnists who clearly like each other a lot. That's all nice, but what I enjoy is the palpable pleasure the
hilarious Collins takes in needling the less intentionally hilarious Brooks.
(His act is so tired: Is he an orthodox conservative, a bipartisanship-obsessed
beltway cliché or an armchair
sociologist who just makes stuff up? Depends what day it is.)

Last week's entry has some good material about
policy compromises the two would be willing to make with each other if they
comprised Congress. But first you have to get through Brooks's jokes about
Occupy Wall Street:

time you give up something the left wants I'll try to give up something much
bigger that the right wants. Just so long as you understand this whole exercise
is in direct violation of the spirit of the Occupy movement. You shouldn't be
negotiating with me. You shouldn't even be talking with me.

Occupy Wall Street
intentionally, explicitly welcomes people of a huge variety of political
persuasions. The "99 percent" language captures this: the group aims to include
the many that runaway inequality has left behind,
not just a subset of them who share a particular analysis of how to fix this.
It is governed by consensus-based direct democracy, with no
barriers--ideological or otherwise--to participation.

As those of us who have dabbled
in intentional community know, this essentially means that the group spends a
huge amount of time debating, negotiating and compromising amongst
themselves--and again, "themselves" refers to a vastly expansive entity. In
short: what the hell is Brooks talking about?

He closes with this: "We
better not show our faces in the park. This [conversation about compromise] is
exactly the sort of thing they are trying to wipe out."

No, it really isn't. But I
wish I could wipe out the habit of comfy media stars using their soapbox to
mock popular movements instead of working to understand them.


Well said

That bugs me about Brooks too sometimes. This intent to shove OWS into a box will be interesting/fun/frustrating to watch.

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