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In terms of putting some fleshing out the implications of his preferences for a culture characterized by greater humbleness and gratitude, Mitchell addresses politics, economics, the environment, the family, and education. Here, while the strong and passionate insights continue, I think his attempt to knit them together into a new political alternative to contemporary American liberalism and conservatism falters somewhat. This is no fault of Mitchell’s arguments, which remain compelling even when I disagree with them (and as someone whose localism and communitarianism is more left-leaning than his, the number of my disagreements mounted as I read). It is, rather, a matter of the missing, common thread through his arguments, one which cannot possibly be supplied by mere political and philosophical argument.
Consider how his argument in the chapter on politics develops. Here his guiding light is Tocqueville, and his prescient observations about how self-government and democracy give rise to demands for equality, and how that demand will likely result in greater centralization, as people look for systems of government and economy capable of ensuring equal treatment across borders. Mitchell correctly observes that the real problem which Tocqueville’s observations lead us to confront is the fact that perfect equality is impossible, at least so long as technology fails to completely overcome nature (which is the heart, as he sees it, of the technological scientistic project), and hence that when the desire for equality runs up against such natural differences, “vast energy will be expended to alleviate the incongruity,” which obviously points towards the creation of a vast regulatory state (p. 85). I respect the author for reluctantly acknowledging that America’s federal arrangement was probably fated, “right from the beginning,” to move power away from the states and towards the national government (p. 94), and his subsequent recommendation that the 17th Amendment–which provided for the direct election of senators–be reconsidered has merit. But in the end, as part of his consideration of subsidiarity, he confess that “a metaphysical account of human nature and human society is necessary for sustaining the independence of various spheres of authority” and that “the revitalization of religious belief may be a necessary long-term solution to the problem of centralization” (pp. 97-98). And while Mitchell’s book never turns to outright proselytism, this becomes a recurring theme throughout the rest of the book: a politics of gratitude will likely be impossible until the American people return to taking as a baseline the fact that they are divinely created beings with a need to be grateful for their lives and livelihoods.
Now there is nothing wrong with this connection of religion and political reflection; Tocqueville, among others, does this expertly. But if it is to be done persuasively in our pluralistic, democratic, and individualistic society, it should not, I think, be so entwined with a specific worldview, as it is in this book, whether Mitchell intended to communicate that worldview or not. But communicate it he did: religious humility and gratitude, for Mitchell, is the obvious concomitant of an agrarian, land-center economy, and outside of that kind of economic environment, the rational appeal of religious faith and the persuasiveness of our need for such a revival is simply not much there. Though Mitchell insists that “many of the virtues” he praises can be “encouraged by owning a small business,” he gives no convincing examples of how that might be so (p. 120). His discussion of neighborliness makes reference to barn raising (p. 122); his discussion of the natural world becomes most impassioned when talking about growing a garden (pp. 147-148); his discussion of the family revolves around personal examples of families escaping technological tools and engaging themselves with the land (pp. 164-166). Again and again, the grateful sensibility he urges upon his readers is connected to turning towards a more rural, more agricultural, less specialized and complex, more earthy and religious way of life.
But what it does not do is sketch out an alternative “conservative” political language which could move our modernized, pluralistic society away from an over-reliance upon individualism and towards a different kind of politics. Rather, it is a call for an alternative way of living, a return to a context where politics occupied an entirely different space in our lives–a less important, more participatory, more republican one.So how much dialogue with liberalism or political theory is necessary? Is Mitchell preaching to the choir? Or is there a chance that those who are aware of having certain desires for a more agrarian, republican way of life, might be inspired by the book to take action to make this more of a concrete reality in their own lives? For those with enamored with liberalism or pluralism as a good in itself, can anything persuade them of the rightness of another view? Or is liberalism less a governing ideology than a convenient rationalization for how they live? How many inhabitants of the Uhmerican megacity are willing to question their desires and reflect critically upon their lives?
With his obvious sympathy for the ideas of Jefferson and Tocqueville, Mitchell is clearly moved by republicanism, especially in its classic form as a recipe for polities which were small, land-based, agrarian, and religiously (or at least morally) homogenous. But if that was his aim in this book of political theory, one which was obviously addressed to the America which presently exists, then the development of a better language of politics needs to wrestle with the applicability of republicanism and conservatism to our current moment, and there is not much evidence in this book that Mitchell is actually interested in addressing the arguments of Benjamin Barber, Richard Dagger, Philip Pettit, Michael Walzer, or really any other contemporary republican theorist (though he does briefly touch on the ideas of both Rousseau and Hannah Arendt). In short, this book, lacking an applicable comprehensive political theory, but containing instead a host of powerful and evocative arguments on behalf of a constellation of alternative “conservative” positions–mostly united through an emphasis on a return of farming and God–is really more about exploring and advocating on behalf an alternative attitude and lifestyle, rather than providing real, plausible answers to our contemporary ideological stalemates. The language of gratitude alone cannot create or sustain the agricultural or pious conditions by which its rightness will be understood; on the contrary, it is by being pulled by the power of Mitchell’s language into a greater involvement with God or gardening that the rightness of his points about gratitude become likely to be acknowledged.
“The love between husband and wife or parent and child is natural, bred into us over millions of years,” writes Morris. But friends were late on the scene. Homo sapiens, humans like us, arrived 150,000 years ago. For the first 100,000 years, however, they stubbornly refused to talk to each other. Ted Heath would have been proud of them.
Networks of friends weren’t possible until about 9000 BC, when humans in the Middle East – actually the birthplace of the West, says Morris – started farming and the first villages appeared.
Leader of Unified Progressive Party and ex presidential contender Sim Sang Jung showed recently her love and support for the current political drama “All About My Romance” and its female lead Lee Min Jung
The reputable politician expressed via twitter thankful words towards Lee Min Jung who incarnates a newbie representative and leader of New Progressive Party … seems like the reputable politician is also enjoying the story – and the background – of these two lovebirds …. how cute xD :
드라마 <내 연애의 모든 것> 재밌게 보고 계신가요? 국회에도 저런 선남선녀들이 있다면…^^
전 오늘 이민정씨 대사 한 대목이 가슴에 확 와닿았답니다. 메추리알로 바위 치기… 비교섭단체의 설움, 저도 늘 느낍니다.
According to The Connexion, the findings suggest that breasts would gain more tone and support themselves if no bra was used. Researchers explain that bras limit the growth of supporting breast tissues, leaving the breast to wither and degrade more quickly.
Cardinal Bergoglio was the principal author and presenter of the Aparecida Document, which not only echoes many of his fundamental themes but is a reliable indicator of his thought.
The reform of the laity, the document says, must involve re-forming them to become “missionary disciples in communion.”
Those four words define the lay vocation: converted followers of Jesus, who together with others who share Jesus’ life, faithfully seek to spread their joy, life and love to those who have not yet come into that two-fold communion.
It’s a community of believers trained and inspired to go out to transform politics, society, education, neighborhoods, family and marriages.
It’s a brotherhood of Good Samaritans drawing near to neighbors with love and mercy.
It’s the faithful who are salt of the earth and not just salty critics of the Church.
It’s a body of torchbearers radiating Christ’s light rather than hiding it within the bushel basket of self-referential, spiritually worldly and ultimately “sick” parochial or diocesan structures.
Pope Francis has begun the exodus leading to this reform, taking us by example to the outskirts of human existence and sketching for us the journey ahead.
The real work, however, still needs to take place in hearts, homes, parishes, movements and schools across the Catholic world.
What conclusions or observations seem to be called for. Here are a few. First, recall the key role representatives or “fit characters” were to play in our system? Well, forget about that. They should be our first line of defense. Instead, they are a problem. Second, we would do well to devise some safeguards that would control our presidents, not only with regard to their war-making powers but also in those areas where they claim unilateral powers. And don’t be deceived by Professor Yoo about the Founders’ conception of presidential powers. Third, with Professor Birzer (“Westward, the Loss of the Republic”), I am concerned whether we can rightfully be called a republic. As far as I can see, the increasing incapacity of our national government to govern is probably due to the republic being far too extensive with too many divergent interests. In modern times we have never really faced up to one of the questions uppermost in the minds of the Anti-Federalists: How extensive can a republic be and still be a republic? This leads to my final observation by way of addressing Professor Frohnen’s question. We should cut the people some slack. It is highly questionable for reasons I have set forth whether they can exercise sovereign power. This is an additional and weighty reason for questioning whether we are still a republic. It may well be that, upon reflection, what I regarded previously to be our last and best hope is really a lost hope.
But infrastructure projects like big dams and the Interstate Highway System were created to make the mid-20th century model of centralized, bureaucratic, mass-production capitalism profitable. You can thank the Interstate’s artificially cheap long-distance shipping costs, in large part, for driving local canneries and breweries out of business, making large-scale agribusiness competitive against local food production, and for the Walmart “warehouses on wheels” distribution model that’s destroyed Main Street retail. You can thank heavily subsidized irrigation water from the big dams for making giant plantations in California artificially profitable. The goods at Walmart or the lettuce in a bag at the supermarket may look cheap, but you pay the hidden cost on April 15.