Who we should respect: "No people are uninteresting?"
So Yevtushenko is said to have said. His poem appears in translation:
PeopleSo the fellow is said to have said. He continues along from there.
No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.
Nothing in them in not particular,
and planet is dissimilar from planet.
And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.
To each his world is private
and in that world one excellent minute.
And in that world one tragic minute
These are private...
We first read "People" long ago, stumbling upon in it Ivan Illich's 1971 book, Deschooling Society. We were teaching fifth grade in Baltimore at the time.
We believed the poem then. We still believe it today.
This recent post by Kevin Drum brought the poem to mind. We think Drum's headline was poorly chosen, but we largely agree with the general viewpoint he advanced.
Drum was commenting on the latest manifestation of our own glorious tribe's angry contempt for The Others. This contempt is a very key part of our failing tribe's DNA. At present, it's helping to destroy the world, but we cling to it ever more strongly.
Drum was commenting on Sean Illing's annoyance on being told that he should try to understand the views of Other People. Poor Illing! Unmistakably brilliant as he is, he's forced to cohabit with the likes of people like this:
ILLING (6/30/18): I’m still struggling to understand what exactly these people mean when they complain about the “moral decline” of America. At one point, you interview a woman who complains about the country’s “moral decline” and then cites, as evidence, the fact that she can’t spank her children without “the government” intervening. Am I supposed to take this seriously?Poor Illing! An admittedly brilliant man, he's constantly asked to take "these people" seriously!
Drum suggested, perhaps a bit politely, that Illing should perhaps and possibly try getting over himself. He offered several reasons for listening to the lesser breed, including this:
"It’s just generally a good idea to try to understand points of view that are held by a substantial number of people."
That's especially true, of course, if the people in question are able to vote and they live in the same country you do. That said, people like Illing have the royal impulse—an impulse which has driven so-called humankind down through the annals of time.
We do think Drum made some missteps. We mentioned the headline he wrote. That headline went like this:
We Should Try to Understand Even the People Who Hate UsDrumster, please! The people who vote the other way don't necessarily "hate us." What makes us want to type a headline in which we imply that they do?
The Drumcat also said this. It's where our tribe goes wrong:
DRUM (6/30/18): Illing’s real complaint seems to be that even if this stuff is explicable, there’s nothing much anyone can do about it. So why bother with all the hand-wringing?The highlighted statement shows us the soul of all "human" tribes. If you think with the brain of the tribe, anyone who disagrees with you has to be subhuman, or at least strongly tilting that way.
It’s a good question. There are plenty of people who are simply beyond reach for liberals. They’re either racist or sexist or they love guns or maybe they’re just plain mean. Whatever the reason, they aren’t going to vote for anyone even faintly liberal, and there’s virtually nothing that could persuade them otherwise. For myself, I’d say it’s still worthwhile understanding them...
In the current context, anyone who doesn't vote or think the way we vote has to be "either racist or sexist...or maybe they’re just plain mean." There's no such thing as the possibility that someone may know, or sensibly value, something we geniuses don't.
"No people are interesting," Yevtushenko once said. He hadn't seen our modern liberal tribe in action. Has any group of alleged human beings ever been so perfectly programmed for defeat?
Breaking: In this morning's column, David Brooks links to Professor Walters' Outlook piece. As he does, he calls it cartoonish:
BROOKS (7/3/18): [I]n the political showbiz sphere, Trump’s cartoonish masculinity squares off against cartoonish “Why Can’t We Hate Men?” incitements. It’s only there that we see the usual social media game of moral one-upmanship in which each tribe competes to be more victimized, more offended and more woke.We're in the war of the all against all. Illing holds his lessers in contempt; Walters want to hate all men. Michelle won't stop this stupid shit in which she compares Ivanka to herpes.
Our team is so dumb we think this is smart. But this is the game at which Trump excels. Our glorious small-minded dumpster-class Dumb helps explain how the Trumpcat survives.