A View From The Handbasket

Thursday, June 01, 2006
Cultural envy redux
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:12 PM

Moving on from the much-derided "50 Rock Songs That Are Conservative Because We Say They Are" list (dissected below), noted conservative babbler Ann Althouse takes the right-wing cultural land-grab to its bizarre zenith:

To be a great artist is inherently right wing. A great artist like Dylan or Picasso may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.

(It's fitting somehow that a quote of such monumental solipsism exists as a comment by Ann Althouse on Ann Althouse's blog.)

You know, this whole notion of "taking responsibility" being an exclusively "conservative" practice is a bait-and-switch that I'm quickly growing weary of. "Conservatives" of the sort that are making these statements interpret "personal responsibility" in what can be charitably called an eccentric way.

For them, "responsibility" only exists within a single person. You have no obligation toward anyone else, and the greater good doesn't exist. It's no accident that songs like "I Can't Drive 55" showed up on that stupid list, because they epitomize "taking responsibility" the conservative way: doing whatever the hell you want. (Or, as Althouse says, "taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.") It is from this philosophical candy store that such tasty political treats as hostility toward energy conservation, unchecked development and lack of public transit, disinterest in environmental policy, unilateral military action, dismantling of social safety nets, and DIY health care can be purchased in bulk.

Interestingly, if other people choose to exercise their "responsibility for [their] place in the world" in a way the conservative finds unacceptable (such as not saying "Merry Christmas" or wanting to marry a same-sex partner), then that person is immediately branded selfish and disrespectful of society. Neo-conservatism, of course, is all about being free... to do what neo-conservatives allow you to do.

It's not that taking responsibility for your own actions and individual liberties are bad things (far from it), but to celebrate that exclusively is to mistake Ayn Rand books for real life. A more... mature citizen of the world understands that real ethical conduct (to say nothing of pragmatic policy) requires a more sophisticated understanding of what "responsibility" actually means.

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