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Ed Driscoll

Purity Of Essence

February 28th, 2009 - 1:35 am

Strange goings on amongst the elite in two American cities on opposite coasts that up until a few decades ago were considered amongst the most fashionable in the world. You’ve been warned, gentle reader…

In his post linking to our item earlier this week on San Francisco’s mayor expressing guilt and requesting penitence at having been caught drinking-as one of the NYU protesters so eloquently phrased it-“corporate water”, James Lileks brilliantly summed up the remarkable puritanism of the “non-judgmental” left:

This sums up with exquisite precision the people we elect to guide our institutions:

Fix on something small and symbolic, and demonize it;

Propose a response that does little to address the fundamental problem;

Forbid the thing to others;

Reserve its use for yourself;

Adopt a penitent tone when caught which underscores the hypocrisy and makes you look like a dweeb for apologizing for something which, while petty, you have infused with moral failings.

I’m not big on shouting HYPOCRITE, for the most part, because failing to do a thing you   endorse does not mean the thing you’re endorsing isn’t a good idea. But that equation changes when it’s something they want to take away from you, but reserve for themselves. In any case, it’s just laughable to see a weightless fool who, for the sake of public image and sending the right messages,  has to apologize for having the wrong kind of water container  – and has an aide describe it as an indulgence.

Sir. Six oysters for breakfast with a rasher of bacon is an indulgence. Three showgirls in your lap is an indulgence. Racing a car at high speed on weekends is an indulgence. Having a moral tuning fork that twinges when someone drinks water from a plastic bottle is an affectation.

One commenter below our post suggested that Mayor Newsom’s self-created “transgression” is a byproduct of the remarkably recent inversion of the morality of sex and food that Mary Eberstadt recently described. And speaking of morality, as another commenter wrote (and thank you to Miriam for pointing it out), “Religions have plenty of arbitrary rules”:

The modern environmental movement has it all: sins (including original), heretics, commandments, ostracism, confessions, indulgences, tithing, prophets, high priests (of unquestioned authority), blind faith, and guilt by the sackful.

I’m really surprised they don’t acknowledge their rich and varied historical betters.

All of which are examples of replacing traditional religion and morality with aesthetics. And it’s not all that new development, as this brilliant passage by Thomas Sowell highlights:

Perhaps the best way to try to understand these reactions [to Sarah Palin] is to recall what Eleanor Roosevelt said when she first saw Whittaker Chambers, who had accused Alger Hiss of being a spy for the Soviet Union. Upon seeing the slouching, overweight and disheveled Chambers, she said, “He’s not one of us.”

(On the other hand, replacing morality with aesthetics very occasionally pays unexpected dividends: perhaps Michael Moore’s own slouching, overweight and disheveled appearance was one of the reasons why liberal film critic Pauline Kael was among the first to point out his lies and obfuscations.)

But while the west coast mayor’s weird guilt-laden fetish over bottled water conjures up flashbacks to Sterling Hayden in Dr. Strangelove (not the first time such a left/right inversion was noted on the topic of fluoridated dihydrogen monoxide), the house organ of east coast liberalism takes its General Ripper-esque obsession with bodily fluids seriously.

As far back as the mid-1970s, Tom Wolfe was talking about liberalism’s “nostalgie de la boue” (nostalgia for the mud). But as a byproduct of liberalism having oozed into puritanism, the New York Times, a newspaper that, in a less enlightened era, once prided itself for focusing on “all the news that’s fit to print”, somehow morphed into a newspaper with a bizarre Freudian obsession with–how does one put this delicately?–the smallest room in the house. How else to explain these two articles, both appearing within a day of each other:

(The latter of which is a reminder that her obligatory botched joke protestations to the contrary, Sheryl Crow was likely not kidding during her infamous cri-de-Cottonelle a few years ago.)

On the other hand, as Newsbusters points out (and as Ann Althouse also suggested a couple of years ago), shouldn’t a newspaper obsessed with the overuse of paper stop using it themselves as a communications medium? How do they look at themselves in the mirror in the gender-neutral bathroom?

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