EXCELLENT ARTICLE BY David Brooks, the author of Bobos in Paradise, called “Among the Bourgeoisophobes“, which would make a very good double feature alongside with Tom Wolfe’s “In the Land of the Rococo Marxists” essay. Brooks starts with 1830s French intellectuals, and their irrational hatred of the bourgeois, and takes them to their final destination: communists, Nazis and the Taliban. While he doesn’t feel American bourgeoisophobia is as virulent a strain, he does note that it falls into several categories:
There is straightforward, left-wing bourgeoisophobia from writers who think commercial culture has ravaged our souls. Then there is the right-wing variant that says it has made us spiritually flat, and so turned us into comfort-loving Last Men. Then there is the conservative pessimism that purports to be a defense of the heroic bourgeois culture America embodies while actually showing little faith in it. Writers of this school argue that the solid capitalist values America once possessed have been corrupted by intellectual currents coming out of the universities–as if the meritocratic capitalist virtues were such delicate flowers that they could be dissolved by the acid influence of Paul de Man.
It all adds up to a lot of dark foreboding, and after September 11, it doesn’t look that impressive. The events of the past several months have cast doubt on a century of mostly bourgeoisophobe cultural pessimism. Somehow the firemen in New York and the passengers on Flight 93 behaved like heroes even though they no doubt lived in bourgeois homes, liked Oprah, shopped at Wal-Mart, watched MTV, enjoyed their Barcaloungers, and occasionally glanced through Playboy. Even more than that, it has become abundantly clear since September 11 that America has ascended to unprecedented economic and military heights, and it really is not easy to explain how a country so corrupt to the core can remain for so long so apparently successful on the surface. If we’re so rotten, how can we be so great?
It could be, as the bourgeoisophobes say, that America thrives because it is spiritually stunted. It’s hard to know, since most of us lack the soul-o-meter by which the cultural pessimists apparently measure the depth of other people’s souls. But we do know that despite the alleged savagery, decadence, and materialism of American life, Americans still continue to react to events in ways that suggest there is more to this country than “Survivor,” Self magazine, and T.G.I. Friday’s.
Confronted with the events of September 11, Americans have not sought to retreat as soon as possible to the easy comfort of their great-rooms (on the contrary, it’s been others around the world who have sought to close the parenthesis on these events). President Bush, a man derided as a typical philistine cowboy, has framed the challenge in the most ambitious possible terms: as a moral confrontation with an Axis of Evil. He has chosen the most arduous course. And the American people have supported him, embraced his vision every step of the way–even the people who fiercely opposed his election.
It’s a long article, but well worth reading. (Link found on InstaPundit.)