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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Friday, August 27 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Elitists

A headline in Wednesday's news: "Outspoken Canadian legislator calls U.S. 'idiots.'" Of course Canadian Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish is not alone in her assessment of us; tinhorn European public figures, many American entertainers who fancy themselves "artists," and not a few Democrats and bumpersticker campaigners say as much about at least half of us Yankees. I'm not going to go into the merits or motives of the unkind cuts, but rather want to take up the philosophical underpinning beneath them: elitism. The phrase "media elite" has wormed its way down to household use, and no one would be perplexed on hearing of an "academic elite," "the establishment elite," or "the Eastern elite." Back in his days, former vice president Spiro Agnew was famous for referring to their kind as "effete snobs." Though both he and his chief, Richard Nixon, were among the most corrupt politicians of our history, they also got some things right sometimes, and this was one of those times.

It's an apt metaphor to describe the self-professed liberal or modernist. We've gone into lengthy definitions of these synonymous terms repeatedly, but for any who've recently joined our roundtable or have short attention spans, once more: modernism, as used here, is the thinking adopted by the philosopher-scientists of the Enlightenment, which flowered in Europe around the time of the American Revolution (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, most notably, can be called Enlightenment thinkers of their generation, but they were in a small minority in this land at that time). It was the movement to make reason the king, to overthrow all kinds of revelations like religious tradition, visions, divine visitations, or scriptures, and supplant them all with science and scientific thinking. In calling themselves the "enlightened," and referring to their historical juncture as the beginning of "modernity," which they did, they were taking upon themselves the mantle of an "elite." The movement that flowered then kept seeping down into the general population, peaking in this country, many (including myself) believe, in the 1950s.

I'm now reading a book* by an author who, as best I can tell, is himself a member of this modernist-liberal establishment, as a professor in the School of Religion at the University of Southern California, but he flat-out restates my point. To wit:

An absolutely fundamental feature of modernism...long a strength but in the end a fatal flaw—is that it requires an elite vanguard that most completely fulfills its requisites for education, scientific/ technological expertise, and the management of a complex unitary state, marginalizing many other people in terms of where the action is, and where the rewards are. When modernism has sufficiently advanced that those others are aware of the discrepancies and are not content to be merely in awe of their betters, trouble is afoot.

The "trouble" that he sees as being "afoot" is postmodernism. And postmodernism is so many things that it's not nearly as powerful or politically cohesive as the politics of the modernists. Both what the media refer to as the "far right" (George W. Bush's core supporters) and the "far left" (Ralph Nader, for example, and the often violent opponents of the World Economic Summits) are onto the elitism of modernist liberals and are dedicated to at least disestablishing them. The Democratic Party now represents modernism's elitists; the mainstream/grassroots Republicans, but also all "fringe groups," are postmodern. Liberal Protestantism is modernism, but is already moribund. Vatican II was a reflection of modernism, but the orthodoxy reintroduced under Pope John Paul II, and especially his opposition to sexual liberalism and the culture of death (abortion, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia), is postmodern. John Kerry is politically a classical modernist, but his "Catholicism" is "postmodern," in the sense that it is a "Catholicism" that has no bishop, no Pope, no rules, except whatever he chooses to profess.

George W. Bush, and evangelical (as well as what the media call fundamentalist) Christianity generally are postmodern. In that, they are dedicated to pluralism (for example, in the faith-based initiatives for social projects, voucher schools, and home schooling); theirs is not a unitary vision for America that tries to manipulate everyone into one mold, but a platform that thinks that an educated computer-literate population can stand on its own feet given sufficient freedom.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

*The 60s Spiritual Awakening, American Religion Moving from Modern to Postmodern, by Robert S. Elwood, Rutgers University Press, 1994.

Foreign approach

People in other countries sometimes go out of their way to communicate with their English-speaking tourists. Here is a collection of signs seen around the world.

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: OUR WINES LEAVE YOU NOTHING TO HOPE FOR.

In a Tokyo bar: SPECIAL COCKTAILS FOR THE LADIES WITH NUTS.

Sent by Mike Harris  

Thought for today

Tolerance, anyone?

It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I'd rather not know.

Linda Ronstadt, in interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune  

Top daily news stories linked from our sister webpage
Xnmp, news that signifies
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