Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Pinker, in TNR:
And since we are always teetering on the brink of barbarism, social traditions in a functioning society should be respected as time-tested workarounds for the shortcomings of an unchanging human nature, as applicable today as when they developed, even if no one can explain their rationale.
This is a common view; I think it is uncommonly stupid. How can you look at history, and proclaim our social traditions "time-tested workarounds?" [Note: this came up recently in the comments with Naftuli playing the part of Archie Bunker, willing to ask others to labor and to suffer so he could enjoy old-fashioned Values.]

Slavery and the divine right of kings were "time-tested workarounds?" The demonization of homosexuals? The debasemenet and objectification of women? The celebration of ignorance over evidence? All of that -and worse- is how society once functioned, and who but an ignoramus or an evil-doer would insist on it in the name of "tradition?" [In fact, many of our mightiest "traditionalists" are GOP politicians like Tom Delay, or Bill Frist, or Ralph Reed, all of them men who've been shown to care more about money and votes then they do about values. In fact, the case might be made that they only cared about "values" so long as appearing to care about "values" kept the votes, and the money rolling in.]

Many of the most horrible inequalities of the past, happily, have been overthrown, always over the objections of the traditionalists. Still, some inequalities remain. In particular, I am speaking of income inequalities, which, however you explain them, are hideous. This is the element of truth in the neo-Marxism that is about to engulf us, and that would have engulfed us years ago in the form of the antiglobalization movement if September 11 had not changed the subject. If I were a poor man, I would turn off the Republican politicians who seek to distract me by appealing to my fears and my traditions. Instead, I would look to my own and organize.

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