April 21, 2009
The Difference Between Them and UsBy Christopher Chantrill
As I walked through the tea party-goers in Seattle's Westlake Park last on Wednesday, April 15, I couldn't help noticing the difference between the people there assembled and the people you see on TV.
We are talking about the kind of people you see on the news, on the prime-time shows, and in commercials.
The people who had peaceably assembled to discuss a petition of the government for a redress of grievances were ordinary citizens, living their lives as mothers and fathers in families and businesses and churches. People like us want limited government and we want liberty because we want to live our lives independent of the government and its force.
But the people you see on TV are different. They live, as Charles Taylor would say in his Secular Age, in the Age of Authenticity. They are "expressive individualists." Here is what he means.
In more sophisticated terms, Taylor echoes the injunction of Joseph Campbell to "follow your bliss " or, more crudely, "do your own thing."
Everyone on TV is living in the Age of Authenticity. They are all acting the part of the Romantic expressivist, going their own way, way above the pedestrian conformist.
Romantic expressivism is great fun in its way. Lord Byron was "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." Walter Pater burned with "a hard, gem-like flame." The Bloomsbury set in Britain, scions of the haute bourgeoisie, felt it a duty to resist bourgeois codes and standards and come out as homosexuals. Sartre and Beauvoir made the expressivist ethos into a French orthodoxy, Existentialism.
But when the Sixties came along and the newly educated baby boomers turned authenticity into a mass phenomenon, we turned a corner. Authentic individualism is one thing when it's practiced by a rich elite. Who cares if a bunch of rich kids burn up their lives on the off-chance that they could be the next Warhol or Scorcese? But when millions of people do it, then we have a problem.
We have a problem because 97.2 percent of artists (or thereabouts) don't make money at it. That's not surprising. When you follow your bliss, the chances are that you won't be adding to anyone else's bliss any time soon, and that means it's not likely that anyone will want to pay you. Perhaps your mother will be willing to provide what Stanley and Danko in The Millionaire Next Door call "economic outpatient care." But maybe she won't.
People have a canny way of figuring out how to make ends meet. The authentic expressivists are no different. If people won't pony up the money to support their creative projects voluntarily, then the only sensible thing to do is to force them. Government should provide grants and funding to creative people: it's only simple justice.
All sorts of things about our age start to make sense when you get inside the head of the authentic expressivist. Abortion, for example. You really can't allow an unexpected pregnancy to divert you from your own way. You can't expect someone to soldier on in an uninspiring marriage when they could be following their bliss with someone more compatible. You can't really expect someone to pay for their kid's health care when they could get S-CHIP and spend the savings on their creative development.
Do you see now why liberals hate conservatives with such a passion? See why liberals scorn the warrior ethic, the faithful spouse ethic, the volunteer ethic, the pro-life ethic, the natalist ethic? Conservatives think that, while the creative life is a wonderful thing, it ought to be kept in perspective. Children come first. Entree comes before dessert. Do the right thing, not the easy thing. To the authentic expressivist, that is intolerable.
Now you understand why the Democrats and their bribed apologists in the MSM were so quick to sneer at the Tea Party-ers. Limited government, lower taxes, reduced spending and all that are like a stake through the heart of the Age of Authenticity.
The authentic people on TV are the commercial for the authentic life. But in the small print, it says that someone has to pay for all that authenticity, and that someone is you.
That's why people are gathering together in Tea Parties all over the nation. They look at the commercial and the fine print and say: this doesn't add up.
Like I said. Liberals and the folks they present on TV are different from you and me. They don't want to surrender to "a model imposed on [them] from outside, by society, or the previous generation, or religious or political authority." They just want to impose their model on everyone else.