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.