Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

July 14, 2005

Moral Minimalism and the Individually-Wrapped Family

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:17 pm

A self-described political progressive attempts to understand and explain American liberalism at the popular level, and I think does a good job.

I think that many political commentators misunderstand my generation. George Lakoff, Berkeley linguist, thinks that American Liberals are motivated by “nurturant parent morality”, based on the model of government as nurturant parent who lives in interdependent community with self-actualized, free-thinking children. … But I’m afraid that Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson are right on this one: my generation is pretty damn amoral. We aren’t motivated by “nurturant parent morality”–our parents didn’t nurture us, so how would we learn what a nurturant family was like, anyway? No, we were raised by TV and our peers. There is a third moral system in America, based on a third model of familiy life that is neither “strict father” nor “nurturant parent.” Let us call it the “Individually-Wrapped Family.” …

Our moral ethic is Moral Minimalism. One sociologist studied the moral life of suburban America, and she concluded that prosperous children are raised in a sparse, largely amoral universe. We learned that being a good person is about minding your own business, keeping your music down, and not depending on others in any way. Here’s what middle-class American families are like. We each have our own bedroom. Good siblings stay out of your bedroom, and you stay out of theirs. Good parents stay out of your hair, buy us what we want, and don’t try to impose their opinions on us. Sometimes our family goes out for some “quality time”, at a restaurant where everyone can order their own favorite dish. When we sweep back to our subdivision in our minivan, our garage door opens automatically and closes behind us, sealing us off from our neighbors before we even step out. …

Religion, for my generation, is something that you do to make you feel good. It’s something to scratch that little itch. Awww, right there. Ok, thanks, see you next week…if I feel like getting up on Sunday. If religion makes you feel good about yourself, than that’s cool. If religion interferes with your goals, or changes your goals, or otherwise makes you weird, than that’s not cool.

For my generation, faithfulness or celibacy is way weird. Why? Because denying any of your little urges is weird. We have a right to scratch every itch, and no one should interfere with your scratching. Promiscuity is not immoral for my generation. Celibacy is immoral. Why? Because good siblings stay out of each other’s bedrooms. And celibacy implies disapproval of OTHER people’s promiscuity, which makes you feel bad about yourself, which is wrong.

When liberals my age get riled up, it’s because they think those stupid fundamentalists are going to impose their morality on them. They don’t get nearly riled up that kids are going to bed hungry, or that there are over 2 million people incarcerated in this country. What makes us mad? Our siblings are trying to boss us around! They’re coming into our bedroom! Mom, tell Bobby to stay out of my room! Tell Bobby to stop bossing me around!

Please, read the whole thing.


(I know, this entire essay is based on generalization. And, I have been cautioned about overgeneralization. Of course, not ever liberal of tis generation is like that, and I’m sure few are exactly like that. However, there is truth there, and sometimes the best way to understand something is to generalize and simplify — as long as you remember all along that you are doing so, so you don’t take it too literally. Besides, the same person who cautioned me about generalization is the one who sent me this article, so it must be OK, right? ;-) )

Why we have to stay in Iraq

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:56 pm

Because if we leave, the people who did this will take over.

My friend called them “animals” — but then decided that was too kind, since “animals don’t perform acts of pure, unmitigated evil.” Well said.

UPDATE:

Clayton Cramer reminds us that these are the same people who Michael Moore called the Iraqi equivalent of the Minutemen.

First, can we stop the Orwellian language and start using the proper names for things? …

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “The Enemy.” They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?

When did the Minutemen blow up little kids?

Who’s being “Orewellian” now? Face it, Michael Moore and his allies aren’t anti-war — they’re on the other side. The side that kills Iraqi children on purpose.

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