Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tea Party Angst

A pretty interesting entry on the Tea Party and the intersection of metaphysics and politics on the NYT Stone blog. J.M. Bernstein argues that our status as independent beings is mostly a construct, and that feeling dependent can make you angry.

This is the rage and anger I hear in the Tea Party movement; it is the sound of jilted lovers furious that the other — the anonymous blob called simply “government” — has suddenly let them down, suddenly made clear that they are dependent and limited beings, suddenly revealed them as vulnerable. And just as in love, the one-sided reminder of dependence is experienced as an injury. All the rhetoric of self-sufficiency, all the grand talk of wanting to be left alone is just the hollow insistence of the bereft lover that she can and will survive without her beloved. However, in political life, unlike love, there are no second marriages; we have only the one partner, and although we can rework our relationship, nothing can remove the actuality of dependence. That is permanent.
Bernstein goes on to argue that the Tea Partiers are really nihilists on the grounds that they seem to want nothing. I think he is mistaken about that; they seem to want everything. He acknowledges as much in the beginning of the piece. The problem with the Tea Partiers is that they want everything. They don't want to pay taxes, but they want their Social Security checks.

In that way, they seem to be the logical next step in a society that suggests you can have everything for nothing. Our politicians have helped create this culture by never talking about the tradeoffs necessary for a functioning government. The Tea Partiers have taken that idea to heart, and they are pissed about hearing otherwise.

1 comment:

emawkc said...

So what tradeoffs are necessary for a functioning government?


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