Monday, June 28, 2010

Double Vision

So nice to see Naomi Klein, the Goddess of Virtue, taking time out from her busy Goddess schedule of Israel-bashing to cast a Divine glance at another of her bugaboos: ee-vil capitalism. It's that system, you see, and especially the "financial sector," that's responsible for the bulk of the world's problems; the reason, writes Klein (in the Globe and Mail), why
workers, pensioners and students have taken to the streets against austerity measures in Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Greece, often marching under the slogan: “We won’t pay for your crisis.” And they have plenty of suggestions for how to raise revenues to meet their respective budget shortfalls.
No doubt their suggestions are perceptive, selfless and ineffably wise. Or maybe not, since, as those who don't live in Naomi's world(view), would be churlish enough to point out, a system is simply not sustainable when a spoiled rotten public sector keeps demanding more, more, more while tax revenues keep going down, down, down.

So what's up with these diametrically opposed viewpoints? Why is it that me and Naomi will never see eye-to-eye? The best explanation I have yet to read comes from Thomas Sowell's brilliant book Intellectuals and Society. Sowell says there are two kinds of people: those who see themselves as "the annointed ones"--that would be Naomi. And those who manifest "a tragic vision"--that would be moi:

The two visions differ fundamentally, not only in how they see the world but also in how those who believe in these visions see themselves. If you happen to believe in free markets, judicial restraint, traditional values and other features of the tragic vision, then you are just someone who believes in free markets, judicial restrain and traditional values. There is no personal exaltation resulting from those beliefs. But to be for "social justice" and "saving the environment," or to be "anti-war" is more than just a set of beliefs about empirical facts. This vision puts you on a higher moral plane as someone concerned and compassionate, someone who is for peace in the world, a defender of the downtrodden, and someone who wants to preserve the beauty of nature and save the planet from being polluted by others less caring. In short, one vision makes you somebody special and the other vision does not. These visions are not symmetrical.
More on the tragic vision:
In the tragic vision, barbarism is always waiting in the wings and civilization is simply "a thin crust over a volcano." This vision has few solutions and many painful trade-offs to ponder...

A tragic vision is a sort of zero-based vision of the world and of human beings, taking none of the benefits of civilization for granted. It does not assume that we can begin with what we already have and simply tack on improvements, without being concerned at every step with whether these innovations jeopardize the very processes and principles on which out existing level of well-being rests. It does not assume that the chafing restrictions to us caused by social contrivances--from prices to stigmas--are caused by those contrivances. Above all, it does not assume that untried theories stand on the same footing as institutions and practices whose very existence demonstrate their ability to survive in the world of reality, however much that reality falls short of what can be imagined as a better world...
In brief: one vision is sexy and effervescent and hopeychangey and rather childish; the other is boring, dead sober and adult. Hence the great appeal the former holds for the young.


Tim Johnston said...

this is a great post - thanks.

I wonder if Klein will ever grow up?

Paul said...

Naomi is as virtuous as a megalomaniacal celebrity dominatrix.

(Avi told a friend of mine her "safe" word is "BDS", but sometimes acts like she doesn't hear it.)