David Brooks Thinks We Need to Out-Judge Poverty

I’m sure this is the answer: 

But it’s increasingly clear that sympathy is not enough. It’s not only money and better policy that are missing in these circles; it’s norms. The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens. In many parts of America there are no minimally agreed upon standards for what it means to be a father. There are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically.

Reintroducing norms will require, first, a moral vocabulary. These norms weren’t destroyed because of people with bad values. They were destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism, which refused to assert that one way of behaving was better than another. People got out of the habit of setting standards or understanding how they were set.

A plague of non-judgmentalism is what we’re calling the Reagan Administration these days, apparently. Also no one ever had sex before Bill Clinton taught us all how on the nightly news. The effects of NAFTA on American manufacturing could have been mitigated if we had just judged people more rigorously for being poor.

Kids today do not have enough to EAT, it costs almost as much to pay for childcare as pays to keep working, college tuition is getting laughably unaffordable. Let us all sign up for a seminar about bad language, and possibly how women are whores.

Next it will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?

Get back to me with your own answers when you have lived for just one week in an airport motel with your three kids who all need new shoes, you massive jackass.

People sometimes wonder why I’ve taken this column in a spiritual and moral direction of late. It’s in part because we won’t have social repair unless we are more morally articulate, unless we have clearer definitions of how we should be behaving at all levels.

We need better words, because words are what I know, and I know I am important so what I have must be what we need. I can sit here and type the words and be thinky in my office. Type-ity type.

Has this man ever reported a single story outside of Manhattan ever even once?

History is full of examples of moral revival, when social chaos was reversed, when behavior was tightened and norms reasserted. It happened in England in the 1830s and in the U.S. amid economic stress in the 1930s.

With fucking JOBS, and food, and non-imaginary shit that people could use, but let’s hold another graduate program about pants on the ground, and looking like a fool therewith.



9 thoughts on “David Brooks Thinks We Need to Out-Judge Poverty

  1. Oh, let’s start by getting all judgmental on the assholes that cheerled the US into invading Iraq.

    Just take the total civilian death toll, and divide by the number of cheerleaders.

    Hell, that’s too many murder cases to try. Once you get past 50,000, those assholes should just be summarily beaten to death in the street.

  2. Aside from everything you’ve said, Athenae, I’d like to also point out that who is doing what to whom seems really unclear in this Brooks column. What does it mean to say that kids should be asked

    “asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?”

    Who is asking? Under what circumstances? I get that Brooks has had one too many books on child rearing dropped on his head but there is no passive tense parenting from on high in the world. Either parents are able to care for their children and raise them lovingly and effectively or they are not. There’s no big voice from down the hall that “asks” questions if by that Brooks thinks that asking the question is the same as getting the right answer.

    I’m really for better, more loving, more secure parenting for all our children but to get there we don’t need lectures we need (gulp) government programs like
    1) fullly funded prenatal care and parental education for all kids and pregnant women.
    2) fully funded maternal and paternal leave policies
    3) fully funded early intervention programs
    4) visiting nurse/visiting mother programs for all newborns and their parents or newly adopted kids and their parents.
    5) free or subsidized childcare for everyone.
    6) medical care, librarians, and arts in all public schools
    7) afterschool programs for all kids regardless of their parental income.
    Oh, and while we are at it? I’d like to see fully funded and excellent neighborhood nursing homes for indigent and working class elderly. And fully funded mental health care and clinics in every neighborhood.

    And that’s just a start.

  3. Oh, in addition, I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to the recent horrific case of the highly religious and publicly minded public servant in Alabama or wherever the fuck who was nobly and whitely raising his children with just these important questions in mind when he stepped in to save three little girls from the horror of their life with their awful, sexual abuse doing, biological parents. If anything could be right up Brook’s ally it would be this kind of middle class values brought to bear on lower class problems–right? And what do you know, lo and behold, Sainted Adoptive Religious daddy instantly turns the girls over to a new child rapist and “rehomes” them without notifying the state or doing any due diligence to protect these girls. Its almost as if bad parenting, sexual abuse, and etc… can coexist quite happilly with pompous questions like “are you living for today or for your children” blah blah blah.

  4. Ah, morality! What a oleaginous notion, so hard to get hold of properly. How “moral” is it to plunder the poor, then blame them for not creating more Wealth by their Labor for folks like Brooks and his bankrollers to steal? Besides, if working people really expected those social security and pension benefits to be there when they retired, they should have known better than to leave that money laying around where Wall Street thieves could steal it.

    Now, if you will excuse him, Mr. Brooks has to pick up another hefty check from his sinecure; he’ll be back soon to explain again how lazy and undeserving the rest of you are whilst penning pieties for you that don’t apply to him. That money isn’t going to hoard itself.

  5. Yes, by all means, let us lecture hoi polloi about norms. Norms that include abstaining from the use of illegal drugs, and the one about the importance of staying married. Oh, and the one about consistency of word and deed.

    How fortunate we are to be able to count on David Brooks to show us the way.

  6. I read this drivel only because it was one of their free links they send in the morning email. Usually you are supposed to pay good money to read Brooks’ dribble/drizzle/drivel.

    So did this particular one need a wider audience? Brooks gets too few paid clicks? He kindly asked them to let the poors read this particular one, as they needed it so much (and then marked it as a charitable contribution in his taxes)?

  7. moral!?! oh. gotta shame the unlucky in birth. OOPS. wrong parents/wrong color/wrong sex.

    fuck the white is rite crowd. yes. we all should be happy with feudal work + pay. cause that’s all we deserve. i hope your dick falls off.

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