It has been some time since the New York Times has provided quality information for the masses. It has been quite some time ever since the New York Times hired decent regular opinion writers to adorn its famous columns. I know that this blog has played its part in the collective blogolynching of Maureen Dowd back in the day, but I would like to change target and give the poor woman a break while she retouches her roots and talk about David Brooks.

David Brooks. The same David Brooks who should never, never, NEVER be allowed to teach sexual education to anyone, regardless of their age, color, or sexual orientation. I feel bad about doing this op-ed as I feel like a bully who is picking on the popular kid for trying to be popular, different, edgy, thinking outside the box, all those things they tell you in liberal arts school and I never felt were really applied in real life, on the other side of those iron gates shielding secondary education from the masses. To reinstaure balance and protect my karma, I will say this as a disclaimer: David Brooks should not write for the New York Times if he believes what he believes in the following.

David Brooks: he doesn't care!

I am young and ideological. I believe politics should be driven by a profund willingness to further the well-being of the community. I have a set of principles and rules that have been engraved into my manipulable little brain as a child by politically conscious parents, but David Brooks is telling me that the last twenty-six years I have been told a lie! No! Mister Reality, break into someone else’s house!

[T]he Obama campaign, like all presidential campaigns, was built on a series of fictions. The first fiction was that government is a contest between truth and error. In reality, government is usually a contest between competing, unequal truths.

Surely he jests. (quote taken from Allison Kilkenny’s spin on that column).

“The first fiction was that government is a contest between truth and error.” Perhaps David Brooks meant to say “trial and error”, in which a government is allowed to fail and retry in order to make the best out of its four-year mandate in this glorious nation and make the decisions for which said government has been elected. No, I don’t think this is a typo. At least David Brooks is clear on the fact that we are not mentioning the ideological, antediluvian war between truth and lie here, no, it’s truth and error. As in, whatever is not truth is a mistake. All the fact-checkers in us are rejoicing, except, sadly, we were all believing that governments are nothing but working for the people as representatives, and that therefore, there is no such thing as “unequal truth”. Truths that are less truthful than other truths judged more truthful than the average truth is not the truth. Get it? David Brooks does, and he’s going to tell you how.

The second fiction was that to support a policy is to make it happen. In fact, in government power is exercised through other people. It is only by coaxing, prodding and compromise that presidents actually get anything done.

Bullet points. That’s an academic right there.

See, once again I am scratching my head at this idea of governance, since I was so convinced that the Constitution in place gave powers to the President to make policies happen, you know, the good ole game of lawmaking which, obviously, is slightly more complicated and requires compromise when the Congress majority is against the President, but this is not the case here. Here – and this is not fiction – President Obama, a Democrat, is holding the majority in the House, I mean other Democrats. I do not see why people fighting on the same side should coaxe, prod, and compromise, and by the way, I feel a bit dirty just listing those actions.  By “coaxing-prodding-compromise”, I think David Brooks lays down a slightly different series of three points through which he believes lawmaking is done: “feigning to care – polling Republicans – pulling strings”. According to David Brooks, what independant journalists call corruption, selling out, not following a mandate, or simply ignoring the will of the population is simply the way things get done! When in Rome, you know, you might as well be Caesar and throw reality TV and junk food at your intellectually and politically starved population before they start questioning your methods.

The third fiction was that we can begin the world anew. In fact, all problems and policies have already been worked by a thousand hands and the clay is mostly dry. Presidents are compelled to work with the material they have before them.

Raise your hand if you have ever believed in a political clean slate.

I thought so.

The fourth fiction was that leaders know the path ahead. In fact, they have general goals, but the way ahead is pathless and everything is shrouded by uncertainty.

David Brooks: stating the obvious since 2009. On another completely related note, if things are so uncertain, why are political campaigns for? And what are ideological clivages for? Why is there a left and a right? Why are there Republicans and Democrats and independants if all we have ahead of us is a long, winding road to nowhere, kind of like the bridge Sarah Palin refused to fund? That’s right. David Brooks believes that whoever is in charge up there on Capitol Hill doesn’t really matter. It’s all uncertain! Leave your social fate to the hands of fortune, because only God knows what tomorrow is made of, and that, as mere human beings who were tricked by atheist parents into existentialism and responsibility for your own people, we are not to know. But like Senator Inhofe, take comfort in the fact that God watches over you. That should totally compensate for the fact David Brooks basically said you have no political power at all and that you may as well not vote.

Barring a scientific breakthrough, we can’t merge Obama’s analysis with George Bush’s passion. But we should still be glad that he is governing the way he is. I loved covering the Obama campaign. But amid problems like Afghanistan and health care, it simply wouldn’t do to give gauzy speeches about the meaning of the word hope. It is in Obama’s nature to lead a government by symposium. Embrace the complexity. Learn to live with the dispassion.

No, we can’t merge what is opposite (or at least, what we thought at first was diametrically opposite). But taking passion out of social activism, and bringing complexity about subjects as straightforward as healthcare is dangerous, and lead to inequality, injustice, and ultimately, apathy. David Brooks is basically claiming that there is nothing we can do, hell, there is probably nothing he can do either except disapassionately covering political topics weekly for the New York Times, unideologically following lawmaking like he would mow his lawn, and care about the well-being of his fellow citizens the way he does about the well-being of anyone else who does not have a subscription to the New York Times. Maybe the world will end in 2012 indeed if we all follow David Brooks’ path. Again, it might not. Because we live in a world of uncertainty!

I mean, seriously.

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