Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's With "the Establishment" in this Blog?

I've used the phrase "the establishment" fairly often, as a handy way to refer to the folks in America who hold influential political positions, important posts in business or academia, and the many others who like things pretty much the way they are.

The Establishment in 'the Good Old Days'

When I was growing up, about a half-century back, the establishment was a fairly conservative lot of folks - mostly men, pretty much all Anglo. They botched their civic and familial duties, making the '60s possible: sit-ins; tie-died brains; and all.

That's my view. Seriously, though, what did they think would happen when the 'best' people in a society:
  • Give their kids money instead of time
  • Expect their wives to be a sort of hybrid
    Martha Stewart/Jennifer Love Hewitt
    • Who were, respectively, under age and not yet born at the time
  • Say "she's as smart as a man" - as a compliment
  • Continue to ignore broken 19th century treaties
  • Fail to clean up after the War Between the States
    • Repairing damage done during the Reconstruction
    • Acknowledging that American citizens are citizens
      • Even if they don't look English

Woodstock, Disco, Leg Warmers, and Change

That was then. Woodstock was drowned out in Disco, campus radicals became tenured professors or respected pillars of industry and media, and I grew up.

This is now. I've changed, but not much:
  • I used to think God exists
    • And still do
  • I used to think that change happens
    • And still do
  • I used to think the status quo could be improved
    • And still do
  • I used to think that some traditions were worth keeping
    • And still do
  • I used to think God set the universe going, then let it run itself
    • And learned I was wrong
My conversion to Catholicism sounds more dramatic than it really was. As my wife put it, I've 'always been Catholic.'

The Establishment Today

I didn't have a 'successful career,' for which I'm profoundly grateful.1 A fair number of my fellow crazy-college-kids worked hard and are now the folks who run America. They've been 'the establishment' for the last few decades, and may think they're nothing like their 1960 counterparts. I think they're wrong:
  • Establishment, ca. 1960
    • Looking for commies
    • Pursuing 'the American dream'
    • Maintaining conformity
  • Establishment, ca. 2010
    • Looking for racists
    • Being afraid of global warming
    • Maintaining conformity
      • Ever hear of political correctness?
If that list looks familiar, it should. I've used it before. (September 6, 2011, January 12, 2010)

Two and a Third Centuries of Not Standing Still

America hasn't been 'unchanging' for the 235 years we've been around, but some periods are more obviously in flux than others. The '60s was a time when a person would have a hard time not noticing dramatic alterations in the social and political landscape.

I think we're going through massive changes in the status quo today. Which is hardly a novel observation.

I also think that the establishment, the folks who have gotten used to having power and influence, don't like what's happening. At all. Which should surprise nobody.

I don't think whatever we get next will 'finally' be that perfect society, an earthly paradise where everybody sits around with vacant smiles and says how happy they are - and how much they agree with me.

Good grief, would anybody really want that? Which is another topic. Sort of.

The Establishment's Going Crazy? Been There, Done That

I'm not surprised that a respected member of the establishment told people to "Take These Son-of-a-Bitches Out." Or that a prominent member of society apparently believes that anyone who doesn't believe what he does is dangerous.

I've seen the same sort of thing before: during the '60s, when the 'good old boys' noticed that their tidy little half-make-believe world was falling apart.

Back in the '60s and '70s, the establishment didn't stop change - and the long-overdue corrections my generation wanted. I don't think The New York Times, tenured professors, and folks who like the way things are, are going to stop what's happening today.

But I think they're going to raise quite a fuss on their way out.

Change can be Good

I'm part of an outfit that's more than 19 centuries old.

As empires came and went, we've been trying to follow the twin rules of 'love God, love your neighbor.' (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31) And realize that everybody is our neighbor. (Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825)

Since we're told to love our neighbor, we have to work at helping our neighbor. (Catechism, 1928-1942)

Sometimes that means fixing things that are wrong with the society we live in. When that happens, the establishment can get rather tense. It'd be easier, in the short run, to let whoever's mismanaging things in our day keep on with business as usual.

'Easy' and 'right' aren't necessarily the same thing. But at the end of all things, I'd rather be explaining why I had trouble correcting problems I saw - than why I ignored them.

Related posts:

1 I made choices that gave me opportunities for learning quite a bit about quite a lot - at the expense of having a conventionally 'successful' career. I don't have a corner office with my name on the door, or a fancy title, or income that almost keeps up with an inflated way of life. Which is okay, for me:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

There's an article missing: "and familial duties, making '60s possible:"

I think one of the hyphens might be in the wrong place: "of my fellow-crazy-college kids worked hard"

Extra letter in the article: "Two and an Third Centuries"

Why is there a hyphen in here? "anyone who doesn't believe what he does - is dangerous."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

P.S. "everybody sits around with vacant smiles and says how happy they are" That sounds scary.

"I don't have a corner office with my name on the door" You did have a corner office, sort of, for a while. No name on the door, though. Come to think of it, you sort of work in a 'corner' right now. :P

Brian Gill said...

Brigid,

Found, fixed, and thanks!

And, re. P.S. - ain't it the truth! ;)

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

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