Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Gurus Just Keep On Coming

David Brooks reports this morning that he has found love, in one Ericka Brown, who teaches her notion of Judaism in Washington. She's tough, but empathetic. Makes latecomers to her class sit in a chair in the corner. Gaawrsch:

I concluded that Brown’s impact stems from her ability to undermine the egos of the successful at the same time that she lovingly helps them build better lives. She offers a path out of the tyranny of the perpetually open mind by presenting authoritative traditions and teachings. Most educational institutions emphasize individual advancement. Brown nurtures the community and the group.


--Let me repeat that: 'the tyranny of the perpetually open mind'. Amongst the world's pressing problems, surely that isn't the worst. And Brooks' implication that toughness and an open mind are incompatible is utter nonsense. Meanwhile, the community and group, while necessary and, today, placed far lower than individuals in political rhetoric, can themselves be 'tyranny'. Yet another facile manipulator of weak people, this Brown, no different from those arising in countless other traditions.

Community and group can tyrannize as well. A perfect example is Brown's assertion that one's obligated to expose adultery, even at the cost of friendship. Some marriages complicated by adultery (and a myriad other secrets and transgressions) are worth saving; some aren't; the decision should obviously be up to the married couple rather than an external observer. Brown advocates the destruction of all adulterous marriages in the name of group values, while, rather incredibly, dismissing friendship as a group value. This, too, is tyranny, as well as incoherent.

Yet another manipulator, seems to me, turning gold or dross into hogwash for those yearning for authority.

Not to mention that, hearing Brooks describe Brown, Freud smiles from his grave. I quote Tom Lehrer on the subject:

From the Bible to the popular song, there's one thing we've heard right along:
Of all the things we hail as good, the most sublime is motherhood.
There was a man, though, who, it seems, once carried this ideal to extremes.
He loved his mother, and she loved him, and yet his story is rather grim...

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