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The Common Man Narrative: Rousseau, Tito, the Obamas

The Obamas and Bidens tout themselves as "common people." But common people are not necessarily virtuous rulers.

by
Mary Grabar

Bio

August 31, 2008 - 12:05 am
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Such degradation of culture and art arises from the disastrous and romantic ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The notion that poverty breeds nobility comes from spoiled theorists like Rousseau who have not experienced the meanness that such an environment often brings about. (Perhaps the most dangerous is the man who grows up rich and then acquires populist pretensions.) The romantic view is dangerous in its sentimentality. The romantic poets charted heroic narratives for themselves as they championed those they saw as simple and virtuous.

More often, hunger and poverty breed coarseness and meanness. Those who rise from such depths often lord over those beneath them. It is especially true of those who resent the “aristocracy” — those embittered by having been beneath anyone else socially or economically. They seek to get what’s “theirs” — whether on a private or public scale.

Rousseau’s notion about the “general will” of a people who follow a leader attuned to their desires provided the blueprint for communism. Rousseau saw civilization, and its order, as impediment to a natural happiness. Of course, natural feelings lead to, among other base inclinations, greed.

Back in the place of my birth, a machine worker, Joseph Broz Tito, rose to be the tyrannical leader of Yugoslavia. Forming his little oligarchy, this “worker” indulged himself with villas and extravagances for guests, paid for by peasants like my family who sometimes had to give the government more crops than they harvested.

It is the Democratic Party that questions the Electoral College and agitates for the popular vote. They spread their largess from money confiscated from taxpayers. Obama calls the 65-year-old Joe Biden — who never served in the military, has worked for only two years in the private sector, and has enjoyed a comfortable standard of living at public expense — a “public servant.” But he is no Cincinnatus, no General George Washington who declined a third term as president.

And the narrative of Michelle Obama, who in reality enjoyed a middle-class upbringing with a stay-at-home mother, and then an Ivy League education and the benefits of affirmative action, should send a warning. The Michelle Obama speaking on Monday night sounded quite different from the one who took perceived slights during her days at Princeton and turned them into a bitter social indictment in a thesis. Her “public-sector” volunteer work at the University of Chicago Medical Center, a public hospital, for which she presumably “gave up” a lucrative law career, garnered her a $200,000 bonus after her husband’s election to the Senate, to make her salary well over $300,000 a year. And the Obamas have been helped by a convicted felon slumlord who did not use his government aid to keep up his housing for poor people.

I’d rather see someone in office who didn’t know how many houses he has acquired from an inherited private fortune over one bent on acquiring villas or mansions at public expense. The notion that a future president, as Michelle Obama stated Monday, wants to remake the world into what he says “it should be,” should sound the alarm bells. We’ve heard egomaniacs state similar sentiments to the masses before.

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Mary Grabar earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia and teaches in Atlanta. She is organizing the Resistance to the Re-Education of America at www.dissidentprof.com. Her writing can be found at www.marygrabar.com. Subscribe to dispatches here.
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