In addition to the great Dave Brubeck Taking Five yesterday, as James Lileks writes, Oscar Niemeyer, one of the architects of the UN, disciple of Le Corbusier, builder of the Orwellian modernist Brazil capital, died at age 104, causing the BBC to display one of its innumerable blind spots:
He was a firm, committed Communist. The BBC has this classic line:
“His style was not to everyone’s taste, and for a communist some people say his work was not very people-friendly.”
Imagine that. He also designed this structure, although William Harrison is often cited; he was the lead architect on the entire project.
As a critic noted with great astuteness, the building is quite clear about its intention: the bureaucracy is given prominence over the space where the “representatives” meet.
Across the pond,the New York Times’ readers are having a blind spot moment of their own. As Ross Douthat writes in the follow-up to the backlash from the Times’ core readers to his previous column on America’s current birth-dearth, “Don’t Mention The Decadence:”
If you are a true misanthrope, a radical environmentalist, or a partisan of voluntary human extinction, then of course you can feel free to answer “no” to these questions. But readers who consider themselves humanists should consider: Is there any population better situated to bestow fulfilling, flourishing, opportunity-rich lives on future generations than the inhabitants of rich democracies? Yes, those opportunities can be bestowed in part through generous immigration policies, but why not go for the direct path as well as the bank-shot? (Especially since historically speaking, shrinking, aging societies tend to have more trouble assimilating large immigrant inflows than countries like, well, the relatively fecund United States.) Is replacement-level fertility really so much to ask, morally speaking, of people graced with wealth and entertainments and diversions beyond the dreams of any previous generation? If conspicuous consumption is morally dubious when it substitutes for sacrifices on behalf of strangers, as most good progressives seem to think, why isn’t it morally dubious when it substitutes for the more intimate form of sacrifice that made all of our lives possible in the first place?
Likewise for readers who regard any talk about the moral weight of reproductive choices as a subtle attempt to reimpose the patriarchy: Can it really be that having achieved so much independence and autonomy and professional success, today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow? Is the feminist revolution such a fragile thing that it requires outright population decline to fulfill its goals, and is female advancement really incompatible with the goal of a modestly above-replacement birthrate? Indeed, isn’t it just possible that a modern culture that celebrated the moral component of childrearing more fully would end up serving certain feminist ends, rather than undermining them — by making public policy more friendly to work-life balance, by putting more cultural pressure on men to be involved fathers rather than slackers and deadbeat dads, and so on?
Okay, enough rhetorical questions. It’s the nature of social conservatives to be cranky about contemporary trends, often to a fault. But it’s also the nature of decadent societies to deny that the category of “decadence” exists.
I can think of one person at the Times who qualifies for the D-word; can’t you?
Actually, come to think of it, to tie these two stories together, the Times and the BBC are now two groups of Bobos separated by a common current and former CEO — and an ongoing extremely decadent scandal that unites the two as well.
But then, between these stories, Bob Costas’ on-air breakdown, and all of the “unexpectedly” bad economic news — hey, did you hear unemployment stats edged up after the election ended? Shocker! — it really is Fox Butterfield’s world these days:
It’s what happens when someone on the Left makes a statement that is laughably ludicrous on its face, yet it reveals what the speaker truly believes — no matter how dumb.
“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”
Mr. Butterfield is truly perplexed at what he calls the “paradox” of more criminals in prison coinciding with less crime in neighborhoods. An observation that might appear obvious to an 8th grader (crooks + jail = fewer crimes) is simply beyond his grasp. Butterfield of the Times is the poster boy for the greatest conundrum facing the American Left today: How do you explain to people who just don’t get it that the problem is they just don’t get it?
Of course, it’s even worse. That’s from Michael Graham’s 2004 column; these days, how do you explain to people who just don’t get it that the problem is they just don’t get it, when they’re running the White House, the Senate, academia, MSM, and Hollywood?
Update: “Ross Douthat: History’s Greatest Monster”!
Wait, I thought that was Jimmy Carter.