David Brooks has a horrible Op-ed piece in the New York Times today called “The ‘Freedom’ Agenda,” in which he effectively says that Freedom, a provocative new book by Jonathan Franzen is wrong to claim Americans are spiritually stunted and shallowly materialistic.
Freedom is Oprah Winfrey’s last book club choice for her viewers.
Brooks sees nothing seriously wrong with the mindset of Americans today. They aren’t too money-oriented, he says, nor is their spirituality compromised by their fetish for purchases (my words, not his).
It was so annoying that I wrote a comment, but the New York Times is no longer accepting comments, even though there are only twenty posted so far. I assume there are hundreds of comments (as usual) and the staff at the newspaper is slowly trickling them through some kind of check.
Anyway, here is my own comment, which the NYT will not permit.
I realize that no one is going to read this, but I am just SO frustrated with the corporate media shills.
Comment on David Brooks’ article, “The ‘Freedom’ Agenda”
It is easy to see why Brooks would be unmoved by an appeal to a greater range of conscience, because he highly prizes economic growth, more than moral truths. A theme that appears again and again in his writing is capitalist vigor vs ethical considerations.
This is perhaps most blatant in a piece called “The Values Question.” (11/24/09) Speaking about health care reform he remarks:
“Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth ... America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one.”
In a more recent article “The Genteel Nation” (Sept 9 2010) he pits “commercial values” against humanitarian values. Reflecting on one of Michellle Obama’s speechs, in which she says, “Become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse ...”, Brooks laments:
“As talented people adopt those priorities, America may become more humane, but it will be less prosperous.”
A willingness to trade human rights for stock market increases is a fundamental element in Brooks’ worldview. In “The Values Question” he says, not disapprovingly, that “the United States was a wide-open dynamic country with a rapidly expanding economy. It was also a country that tolerated a large degree of cruelty and pain.”
Morality, for Brooks, is a bargaining chip on the table of government options, played off against the economic health of the country. In his worldview, human health and economic health horribly clash. This makes him, fundamentally, a moral relativist, even when it comes to our most cherished values, like the right to human life.
Given that Brooks so highly praises a certain economic dynamic, one that happens to favor corporate behavior in a particular culture in a particular time--so much so that morality is debased and degraded to the point of being a bargaining chip--it is easy to comprehend his failure to ‘get’ the message in Freedom.
Young, virile economic ferment is what does it for Brooks. He seems incapable of viewing the massive suffering of millions of people, languishing without medical care, as more than a side effect of what’s truly important to him: sexy money.