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Friday, June 06, 2008

In Defense of Small-Town Life

Jim Manzi's quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. He's clear, sensible, and (mostly) right. This (blog post) essay at NRO really hit home with me. Not because I grew up in that sort of town. I didn't - I was an Air Force brat who moved from suburb to suburb. Rather, it hit home because it so clearly articulates what's missing in our contemporary political options: if there is one thing that at least the national Democrats and Republicans can agree on, it's that things local must go, whether by virtue of chain-store reconstruction or bureaucratic centralization (or, preferably, I suspect, both). Local communities don't fit into "rationally" planned ideals - they are too thorny, too full of idiosyncratic traditions that don't always make "sense." The essay is well worth your time and reflection.


James F. Elliott said...

Jim Manzi is an excellent writer, and you can find both his Corner posts and original essays at The American Scene.

I don't know that a need to refocus on local community is so much a conservative/liberal thing as a necessity whatever side of the political/social aisle one finds themselves on. If there's one thing my work in government-based social services is teaching me, it's that the community makes a mistake in trusting that government can meet its needs -- whether we're talking poverty or security -- when the focus is on state/national level discussion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

James, it's my observation that those on the left [not necessarily liberals, mind you] see government and society as synonymous.

Those who lean to the right [not the fascists, mind you] see government as attending society, government being an artificial abstraction of society, which itself is basically organic.

So when Barack Obama sees "community organizing" as more a political activism thing than an organic and decentralizing one, I get the willies.

Outside of his foreign policy philosophy, this is at the heart of my reservations about him, that all things are political.

James F. Elliott said...

I recommend reading "Reveille for Radicals" by Saul Alinsky. It'll both broaden your mind a wee bit, and give you a good indication of where Obama is coming from. It's community organizing with an emphasis on channeling resources, which usually, now, come from government.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Um, James, I'll rely on you for a summary. Aristotle is sitting on my to-do pile. I sort of get the gist.

I say this because I did a benefit with Lou Grant, who brought in a piece with Himself playing Saul Alinsky in his life story. I played bass while he spoke-sang. Very artsy.

But you seem to agree that Obama's view of "community" is political. This is not good, in my view.

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