Ed Driscoll

The Thousand Yard Care Bear Stare

As Betsy Newmark writes, “Rod Dreher has a very provacative column today about people employing the ‘care bear stare’ when they encounter someone who doesn’t believe in the rightness of their aspirations or question the efficacy of their proposed solutions”:

Has this ever happened to you? You’re having a conversation with people concerned about global warming and what we ought to do to combat it. You point out that, yes, climate change is a big problem, but the solutions on the table are unrealistic for various political, economic and scientific reasons. Icy stares all around.

Then someone accuses you of being down at the mouth because you don’t care enough about the planet.

Or maybe you’ve been talking about how to fix the public schools, and you’ve observed that what ails public schooling is not something that can be remedied by putting more money into the system or simply rejiggering the educational formula according to new theories.

“Well,” somebody sniffs, “what’s your solution?” – as if the justice or accuracy of the original critique were somehow compromised by the critic’s failure to posit an alternative.

Either way, you’ve been blasted by what journalist Julian Sanchez calls The Care Bear Stare, after the sugary 1980s cartoon characters. As Mr. Sanchez explained on his blog, “The Care Bear Stare was a sort of deus ex machina the magical furballs could employ when faced with some insuperable obstacle: They’d line up together and emit a glowing manifestation of their boundless caring, which seemed capable of solving just about any problem.”

Behind The Care Bear Stare is the ideological conviction that there’s no problem that can’t be solved by the power of human intelligence and relentless application of good will. It’s premised on the refusal to recognize limitation, as well as an inability to accept that some things simply must be lived with, at least for the time being. The Care Bear Stare is the psychological weapon of choice for people who cannot reconcile themselves to a world without guaranteed happy endings.

Alas for the Care Bears and their cute little tummies glowing with gladsome light, we live in an imperfect world. History teaches that the attempt to perfect it is not only futile but could make things worse (e.g., communism as a solution to poverty and inequality). This tragic vision does not deny the possibility of betterment but cautions that meaningful progress usually occurs incrementally, after skeptical deliberation; almost always requires compromise; and is never permanent.

It’s in the nature of things.

Of course, what’s really devastating is to combine the Care Bear Stare with the patented Head Tilt Of Compassion. That always wins arguments!