Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The New Groups


Elena Kagan is — let's face it — a Jew. Georgie Anne Geyer ponders what this means to you and me and the man in the next street:

[S]hould she be approved, it will mark the first time in history that no Protestant has been a member of the supreme judicial body of the land.

The court would have six Catholics and three Jews, and what a change that would be for the country founded on a "Protestant ethic."
"Protestant" is Geyer's shorthand for "the Eastern Establishment," which is her shorthand for wealthy and well-mannered white people who dwell "in polished and unostentatious enclaves, in New York, Newport and Palm Beach," just as the Founders intended.

See, the Founders believed that "the interest of their class...was the interest of the nation." And they were right, because as the Eastern Establishment flourished, so too did the nation, as evidenced by the flourishing of the Eastern Establishment.

This process culminated in the election of George H.W. Bush, who was the Ben Hancock of our time:
George H.W. Bush was the last president of the Eastern Protestant Establishment, and there is little question that the values that informed him from that heritage led to his becoming such a great, balanced and successful president.
Now we're preparing to shoehorn yet another Jew into the SCOTUS, and the courtly era of Bush the First seems very far away indeed. As Geyer says, "the Americans who gave us affirmative action now may effectively need affirmative action programs for themselves." Pobrecitos!
Soon, one can imagine a new old movie being made of "the Protestants," sort of like an American Western where the song is over but the memory lingers on.
Yes, it's just like whatever that means!

No, wait. On second thought, it's more like whatever this means:
Or, to lift the entire scenario to a far (far!) higher and certainly more elevated level, one might remember Thomas Mann's great novel, "Buddenbrooks," the iconic story of the decline of a Northern German industrial family, which travels the famous literary route from the first family days of the military, to the second of the commercial class, to the final days when the last generation lives only in and for the theater.
Mayhap. On the other hand, there's a part in Treasure Island where Jim hides in a barrel. So who's to say?

Anyhoo, the Protestants have labored mightily to ensure that American society would not be closed and elitist. This was a noble and generous idea, though not, perhaps, an entirely wise one.

It's not that Geyer dislikes Jews, or anyone else. It's just that she tends to prefer the Eastern Protestant Establishment, like all thoughtful people who appreciate Civilization. It's nothing personal, though: Ethnic arrivistes like Kagan may seem vulgar and contentious and ill-bred, "at least compared to the old establishment with its fine manners. But that is simply natural, for the new groups, no matter their talents, have no common faith, principles and duties at their core."

One must be tolerant, within reason, no matter how culturally and spiritually defective one's inferiors may be. This, too, is part of the Protestant legacy.

Speaking of which, the Protestants really are great, aren't they? I mean, seriously. They're just really, really, really...great.
The form that America took from this remarkable group of people is the form that every progressive country in the world must start with, as it tries to develop. This is why communism gave way to social democracy and why Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Tunisia, and even monarchical countries like Oman and Bahrain are essentially involved in the original Protestant thesis.
And what is "the original Protestant thesis," exactly? Oh, you know...good manners, noblesse oblige, sexual discretion, summering in Kennebunkport, the Five solas, hostility to the Welfare State...stuff like that. You know it when you see it, basically.

Be sure to turn in next week, when Geyer laments that baseball has become much (much!) less gracious and civilized since Kenesaw M. Landis died.

UPDATE: I edited this post to remove a couple of jokes that, on reflection, weren't very funny.

8 comments:

Wit's End said...

Speaking as a half-a-WASP, I think you did a disservice in accusing Eastern elites of being uniformly against the Welfare State.

The rest of it though, is perfectly accurate. You left out though that they have presided over 2 centuries of flat-out global resource depletion and burned enough fuel to destroy a habitable climate, which is soon to cause total social collapse and mass famine.

So, they saw the party virtually to its end. Getting out now is the smart thing to do.

Phila said...

Speaking as a half-a-WASP, I think you did a disservice in accusing Eastern elites of being uniformly against the Welfare State.

That wasn't my intention, though I can certainly see how it could be read that way.

In that paragraph, I was trying to poke fun at Geyer's opportunistic interpretation of "Eastern Establishment" values, based on her admiration for Bush I, and on stuff she's said (and I've criticized) in her other columns.

Basically, I was just ridiculing the idea that there's some obvious "original Protestant thesis" that justifies or ennobles her creepy political ideas.

Jazzbumpa said...

Wow. I might go read Heyer's whole article. But I'll need a couple of stiff drinks first.

I wander what she thinks of out Lebanese-born Miss America?

Cheers!
JzB

Phila said...

Wow. I might go read Heyer's whole article. But I'll need a couple of stiff drinks first.

Good luck with it! It's pretty garbled, even by her standards.

My interpretation of it is pretty uncharitable, obviously. YMMV.

Gail said...

Anyone who isn't already familiar with the Wonkette series on Dame Peggy Nooningtoneth already, will no doubt enjoy it!
http://wonkette.com/?s=peggy+noon

Makarios said...

This is the first article by Ms Geyer that I've read, and I'm trying to figure out whether she's a genius who's being ironic or a moron who really means it.

Phila said...

This is the first article by Ms Geyer that I've read, and I'm trying to figure out whether she's a genius who's being ironic or a moron who really means it.

I've been following her for a while -- I may be the only person on earth who can say that —- and I'm quite sure she's sincere.

As far as I can tell, she's a "racial realist" who finds racism offensive to the extent that it's vulgar. She's an admirer of Shelby Steele, the black historian who has lamented "the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority," and she's been writing increasingly bitter elegies on that theme for years. (See here, for instance.)

In this column, I think she believes she's being positive and gracious about minority aspirations, rather than paternalistic and dismissive. The "Protestant" angle is simply crotchety tribalist prattle, IMO; it isn't based on any real grasp of history or religion.

Rmj said...

It's not that Geyer dislikes Jews, or anyone else. It's just that she tends to prefer the Eastern Protestant Establishment, like all thoughtful people who appreciate Civilization. It's nothing personal, though: Ethnic arrivistes like Kagan may seem vulgar and contentious and ill-bred, "at least compared to the old establishment with its fine manners. But that is simply natural, for the new groups, no matter their talents, have no common faith, principles and duties at their core."

One must be tolerant, within reason, no matter how culturally and spiritually defective one's inferiors may be. This, too, is part of the Protestant legacy.


It won't mean much in this context, but I'm suddenly reminded of a local radio show that used to be on the Pacifica affiliate here (and may still be; but for reasons that will be obvious in a moment, I don't really care to find out). Local university professor and Green Party member (he made sure you knew both about him every week) would opine, sometimes quite intelligently, on the matters of the day.

Then came the day he had a guest on, clearly German (from her accent), and clearly well-educated, and talk turned to kultur and education and apparently neither item could be found in sufficient quantity here in Texas.

I thought first of the irony of B. Franklin's complaint that the Germans were coming to America, and bringing nothing good with them. Nor did these two seem aware of the German heritage in central Texas, mostly from 19th century immigrants. No, no, the only source of kultur and knowledge in America was found on the east coast, largely in New Yawk City, among the cognoscenti who settled there and appreciate the finer things in life, things the rubes and boobs of Texas could no more enjoy than a monkey could admire the Mona Lisa.

And these two would have considered themselves quite liberal and open-minded, unlike the people in Texas they were forced to put up with. Needless to say, I quit listening to that program after that. I'd had enough.