STARTING TOMORROW: The double Harvards...

MONDAY, APRIL11, 2022 opposed to the kids left behind: We've begun to think that David Brooks has been receiving instruction from the same disconsolate major experts who have been instructing us in the past five or six years.

We refer, of course, to Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves, the disconsolate group of future scholars who report to us through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams. 

Through that ancient medium, they report to us from the years which follow the cataclysmic global event they still refer to as Mister Trump's War.  Have these same despairing experts been counseling columnist Brooks? 

We suspect that columnist Brooks has been having those same "dreams!" Yesterday morning, he offered this analysis in the New York Times:

BROOKS (4/10/22): The fact is that human behavior is often driven by forces much deeper than economic and political self-interest, at least as Western rationalists typically understand these things. It’s these deeper motivations that are driving events right now—and they are sending history off into wildly unpredictable directions.

First, human beings are powerfully driven by what are known as the thymotic desires. These are the needs to be seen, respected, appreciated. If you give people the impression that they are unseen, disrespected and unappreciated, they will become enraged, resentful and vengeful. They will perceive diminishment as injustice and respond with aggressive indignation.

Global politics over the past few decades functioned as a massive social inequality machine. In country after country, groups of highly educated urban elites have arisen to dominate media, universities, culture and often political power. Great swaths of people feel looked down upon and ignored. In country after country, populist leaders have arisen to exploit these resentments: Donald Trump in the United States, Narendra Modi in India, Marine Le Pen in France.

Is man (sic) really "the rational animal," as we've long been told?

At the start of that passage, Brooks rejects one form of that ancient construct. Employing a term we always eschew, he discusses the potent "thymotic desires" of our persistently war-inclined species.

Meanwhile, beware the resentments generated by those groups of "highly educated" urban elites! (We place one term inside scare quotes, perhaps for obvious reasons.)

Just imagine! Le Pen could imaginably win in France, just as Trump once triumphed here! Meanwhile, at the Washington Post, one of our rattled urban elites  is still selling the rest of us rubes the moral uplift—and the pleasing sense of identity—contained in this featured video:

‘We’ve made it’: Jackson on being first Black woman confirmed to Supreme Court

We're invited to watch that video and believe that we're moral and good.

A "highly educated" journalistic elite is handing us a Storyline we can use to build our identity. We're asked to thrill to the ascension of the "double Harvards" (Senator Booker)—to thrill to their triumph over adversity—but also to blow past the many others, the millions of kids left behind.

It would make sense to let this topic go, but we've decided to continue with it this week. Against our better judgment, we've decided to discuss the novelized plight of the double Harvards, along with the plight of the millions of kids we're fecklessly leaving behind.

We first met one group of those good, decent kids in the street-fighting autumn of '69. We met them in a tumbledown, turn of the century small brick school right here in Baltimore. 

They were in a "forgotten village" back then. On balance, quite a few things haven't changed.

At present, we're taught to attend to the concerns of the double Harvards, and to ignore the millions of kids we're agreeing to leave far behind. We'll continue with this topic for one more week because, after all these years, we remember that group of good, decent kids, and quite a few others besides.

In the past few weeks, our tribe's journalistic and political elites have tirelessly offered us novelized "narrative product" concerning the plight of the double Harvards. 

That isn't the fault of the double Harvards. Also, the double Harvards are just people, just like everyone else.

Increasingly, though, the mental world of our failing tribe is formed by a series of novelizations. We're just a stack of simplified tales. We're novelized all the way down.

We're endlessly served simple narrative product; we endlessly gobble it down. Around the world, and in the U.S., many Others are pushing back. Le Pen may win in France!

We're endlessly served this narrative product; we endlessly gobble it down. This is what we humans are like, despondent top experts insist.  

This doesn't mean that we're bad people. It simply means that we're people people—human beings all the way down.

Tomorrow: "Affirmative action" versus "Have to be three times as good"


  1. "Through that ancient medium, they report to us from the years which follow the cataclysmic global event they still refer to as Mister Trump's War."

    Whoa, dear Bob, Mister Trump's War?

    Sounds like those future anthropologists huddled in caves inside your head have been asleep for well over a year now.

    Leaving the Vege in Chief aside, surely what appears to be an upcoming doomsday event should be called "Liberal Tribe's War". for Mr Brooks ruminations: "In country after country, groups of highly educated urban elites have arisen to dominate media, universities, culture and often political power. Great swaths of people feel looked down upon and ignored." -- yes, we tend to agree.

    ...however, in our humble opinion it's not about them being "highly educated urban elites". It about them serving the ruling class, which is, currently, in the west, none other than global finance. That's all...

  2. How can we respect and appreciate them when they are hundreds of millions of bigots?

  3. For some reason, conservatives don't seem to get credit for elite education. Donald Trump is seldom lauded for this Ivy League degree. G. W. Bush is seldom lauded for his Yale undergraduate and Harvard graduate degrees. Why is that?

    1. Trump cheated his way into college and cheated to get his degrees. He had people who took his tests for him.

      Remember when they found a transcript of George W. Bush's Yale grades?

      "He was a C student, scoring 77% (with no As and one D, in astronomy) with a grade point average of 2.35 out of a possible 4.00. Bush joked that he was known more for his social life than for his grades."

      To be lauded for attendance at Harvard, as a legacy, you have to graduate cum laude or magna cum laude. Otherwise you are assumed to have coasted through (and probably did).

      Somerby has stated a few times that he got Ds or Fs and had to repeat philosophy courses during summer. It seems to me that he didn't want to go to Harvard in the first place but was pushed into it by his mother. He seems to have picked the most useless major possible and spent no time learning anything in it. He keeps quoting from his old college textbooks, to the point of obsession, but he also keeps saying that he doesn't understand anything in them and that his professors didn't explain them. I find it hard to believe he ever went to class given what he writes here about fields such as anthropology and psychology. I think he was a fuck up during college and has major resentment against people who actually do know stuff, to the point of dedicating his waning years to writing anti-intellectual crap.

      He seems to have wanted to be a serious political writer or journalist, but if so, he should have taken a course or two in political science, so that he might understand what is going on around him. He didn't even prepare for his teaching job!

      I am beginning to think that belief in right wing garbage is a serious indicator of early onset Alzheimer's.

    2. 1) Leftists view the Ivy League as a tool of classism and oppression.

      2) Neither W nor Trump received much of an education from those institutions, such as it is, gentleman Cs and all. It is clear from their off the cuff speech that neither have a firm grasp on any subject outside their own personal needs.

    3. The Ivy League teaches leftists that the Ivy League is a tool of classism and oppression. To the extent that those with lower SES and oppressed people are excluded from the Ivy Leagues, that idea may be true, but increasingly those admitted and who obtain degrees are agents of change who have come up from the lower classes and ranks of oppressed peoples. For example, Ketanji Brown Jackson went to Harvard & Harvard Law. Bill Clinton grew up poor but went to Yale in order to become a change agent, which he was in the sense that he displaced the entrenched power brokers in DC. Hillary grew up middle class, not a member of any elite. Elizabeth Warren worked her way up too.

      Here is AOC's education bio:

      "Ocasio-Cortez attended Yorktown High School, graduating in 2007.[15] In high school and college, Ocasio-Cortez went by the name of "Sandy Ocasio".[16] She came in second in the microbiology category of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2007 with a research project on the effect of antioxidants on the lifespan of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.[17][18] In a show of appreciation for her efforts, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory named a small asteroid after her: 23238 Ocasio-Cortez.[19][20] In high school, she took part in the National Hispanic Institute's Lorenzo de Zavala (LDZ) Youth Legislative Session. She later became the LDZ Secretary of State while she attended Boston University. Ocasio-Cortez had a John F. Lopez Fellowship.[21]

      After graduating from high school, Ocasio-Cortez enrolled at Boston University. Her father died of lung cancer in 2008 during her second year,[22][23] and Ocasio-Cortez became involved in a lengthy probate battle to settle his estate. She has said that the experience helped her learn "first-hand how attorneys appointed by the court to administer an estate can enrich themselves at the expense of the families struggling to make sense of the bureaucracy".[24] During college, Ocasio-Cortez served as an intern for U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy in his section on foreign affairs and immigration issues.[25] She recalled, "I was the only Spanish speaker, and as a result, as basically a kid – a 19-, 20-year-old kid – whenever a frantic call would come into the office because someone is looking for their husband because they have been snatched off the street by ICE, I was the one that had to pick up that phone. I was the one that had to help that person navigate that system."[25] Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude[26] from Boston University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in both international relations and economics."

      These are people coming from outside the traditional pipeline from wealth to Harvard to corporate leadership.

    4. David - hello? Bush was a legacy. His granddaddy the investment banker and Senator went to Yale and his daddy who went on the run the CIA and be president went there. Why isn't he lauded for being a legacy scion of millionaires? What an enormously dumb question!

    5. Despite his father's many millions and education at a private prep school, Trump's best option on entry to college was a bastion of mediocrity, Fordham. Bush, a legacy Yale student (about 30% of every class) had an academic career about as auspicious as Somerby's. Not great examples, David. Do you actually research this stuff? Trump's cousin stated that he paid someone to take his SAT. Michael Cohen stated to congress under oath that he had sent letters to Trump's high school, colleges, and the College Board threatening them with legal action and jail time if they ever released his academic records, letters completely unnecessary insofar as such disclosure would be illegal. There are many examples of conservatives with Ivy League credentials; choosing Trump and Bush as examples is not smart.

    6. 7:17 I can appreciate your sentiment, but the extent that it holds value is very limited.

      Unlike pseudo intellectuals like Vivek Chibber, I do support shifting elitist education institutions away from legacy and moneyed students.

      Two main notions Leftists work to dismantle are: hierarchy and meritocracy. Those elitist institutions do little to advance Leftist values, mostly they provide networks for the wealthy, and recognition for the Tracy Flicks.

      Clinton wound up governing as a neoliberal.

  4. "‘We’ve made it’: Jackson on being first Black woman confirmed to Supreme Court

    We're invited to watch that video and believe that we're moral and good."

    I watch Ketanji Brown Jackson on video and believe that SHE is moral and good. I would never say WE are moral and good because Somerby is uniquely rotten. Brooks has nothing to say to any thinking person.

  5. "Le Pen may win in France!"

    Le Pen is not going to win in France.

    Here is what happened in 2017 -- we have been through this before:

    "The 2017 French presidential election was held on 23 April and 7 May 2017. As no candidate won a majority in the first round, a runoff was held between the top two candidates, Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (EM) and Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN), which Macron won by a decisive margin."

    What is Somerby's interest in suggesting that Le Pen may win when she is still substantially behind Macron? Somerby suggested Trump would win in 2020 too. Why does he do this?

  6. When Bob and I were young, the notion of a black woman on the Supreme Court would have seemed pretty far fetched. To see this, it's taken most of our lives.
    The journalistic elite, the well paid mouthpieces who blabbed about the Jackson hearings were hardly all
    on her side, finding inspiration in her appointment.
    Indeed, the least qualified, best paid voices were on the most popular cable station were in the corner of the
    Senators who tried to tie her to child molestation, who voted against her and walked out of the vote when the results were read. Just because these people are very lowly souls does not mean they are not part of the journalistic elite. And if anyone is being paid to ignore those still struggling in our Country, it is them.
    And Bob knows this goddamn well.

    So does Bob see her appointment as .... immoral and bad? An objective reader of his points might at least conclude he finds something wrong with it.
    I'm not a huge fan of Senator Booker, but I do know he has an impressive record of community organizing. Doe Bob think he's the only one who ever gave a damn about struggling workaday black people? Sadly, that's the impression he creates.

  7. Earth to Somerby and Brooks, it's not rocket science, but it is social science.

    "Thymotic desires" is not a real thing, it is from ancient Greek philosophy, and then filtered through Hegel's right wing philosophy. Brooks uses it as a way of explaining away bad behavior that have actual causes and solutions, which are things Brooks opposes.

    American society has always had a significant amount of oppressed people.

    Currently there are various groups of people that are oppressed, suffer from injustice and inequality, do not have their material needs met. There are a ton of studies showing how these people are losing out in society, getting the short end, getting conned, getting hoodwinked, getting suckered - mostly by the right wing. These conditions have been brought about by conservatives, and Leftists oppose those conditions and work to bring about change, which conservatives then fight against.

    It is not about recognition, made all the more poignant by the fact that Leftists only look down on bourgeoisie capitalists. This whole nonsense about the Right lashing out because they feel insulted is utter nonsense without evidence. It is right wing elitists that are the ones dumping on the working class, who they only view as laborers to exploit.

    It is about overcoming oppression, solving injustices, meeting people's material needs.

    Ironically, it is conservatives who are obsessed with hierarchy and meritocracy (see classism and racism).

    What are the core values motivating conservatives? Broadly speaking, and for the most part: racism and capitalism.

    Why do they have so un-human-like traits? For most of human existence (at least 100k years, probably more), humans have lived, mostly, peaceably in egalitarian tribes, but things started to shift about 10k years ago. It was a newsworthy shift! It does seem like modern society came with some issues, it does seem like conservatives came about, in large part, because of unresolved childhood trauma.

    1. "Thymotic desires" is an unfortunate term for an obvious fact of human existence (one of many treated by ancient Greek philosophers, and also by Hegel).

      Without resentment redirected to a scapegoat, there would be no fascism, and probably much less racism. You're quite right about who is doing the oppressing and exploiting, but they pretty much count on the hoi polloi having more thymos than logos.

      Also, that 100k years of hunter-gatherer heaven is coming in for some revision, maybe (see The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow).

  8. I think there is a subgroup of people who value intelligence to process life, a combination of scientists and liberals, and intellectuals. The rest of us have some intelligence, but maybe we value love, or cynicism, or fairness. But intellectuals are very
    useful as judges and scientists to society. It's good to have a society that is sane.

    The first crisis of liberalism I heard of was the problem of Bush as a demagogue, because Bush and Trump can pretend to be a cool guy and acting or just being smarter than him cuts against it. Some problems don't have a clever solution. You have to pound pavement and knock and doors and take courageous protests, and you learn as you go. Being witty and knowing a lot might not be so useful. This was the lesson the left was taught after Obama won. There's something to being wise, but you should have a movement too or your agenda can stall.

    The other big crisis is the turn towards meetings with donors, away from actual democracy. This has chilled popular economic rights, and lowered the bar for both parties to produce results to win votes.

  9. The lesson the left was taught after Obama won was how to emerge from the worst recession since the depression and how to make progress in healthcare despite a republican congress having zero interest in compromise or getting anything accomplished. Obamacare still stands and is beneficial to millions of Americans, as well as viewed favorably unless, sadly, you are a Fox viewer. So let's not hear about the left and their supposed dismayment for a level of competency sandwiched in between a feckless fool who led us into an unnecessary destabilizing war and a phoney grifter who punctuated his stay in the White House by encouraging an insurrection. Not sure what's going on in your paragraph 2.