I dislike David Brooks.
This week, he’s decided it’s time he rolled up his sleeve and, with a flourish, place his finger square on the root cause of the Penn State sex crimes (or, more specifically, its cover up), and in doing so, illuminate us all in the light of… truth? So what is this root cause?? You’ll never guess…. Give up? MODERNITY, duh:
In centuries past, people built moral systems that acknowledged this weakness. These systems emphasized our sinfulness. They reminded people of the evil within themselves. Life was seen as an inner struggle against the selfish forces inside. These vocabularies made people aware of how their weaknesses manifested themselves and how to exercise discipline over them. These systems gave people categories with which to process savagery and scripts to follow when they confronted it. They helped people make moral judgments and hold people responsible amidst our frailties.
But we’re not Puritans anymore.
Knowing what we know about the widespread “plague” of sexual abuse occurring (and tolerated), for example, among the Amish, or that took place within “moral” institutions that put a great deal of emphasis on the sinfulness and cultural uncleanliness of those they dominated, like the Church-run residential schools for First Nations people in Canada (pdf), does David Brooks seriously believe that the decline of puritan ideologies is really at the core of both the occurrence and toleration (within the inner community of UPenn football) of Sandusky’s crimes?
We live in a society oriented around our inner wonderfulness. So when something atrocious happens, people look for some artificial, outside force that must have caused it — like the culture of college football, or some other favorite bogey. People look for laws that can be changed so it never happens again.
So really, underneath it all, it’s the self-esteem movement, which, unlike “the culture of college football,” is not just “some artificial, outside force … some other favorite bogey.” Which is credible, if you forget that the “culture of college football” is far from “outside” the context of the relevant crimes and cover-ups, or if you’ve never read David Brooks before and don’t know that the self-esteem movement is arguably his very favorite “bogey.”
How does this slimy fucker not just wanna punch himself in the face?