« Thursday Short Poem: Szymborska for my commenters | Main | Choice, and Hugo is a cyborg »

March 17, 2005




As an Irish American I take offense at the use of Lucky Charms cereal as a reference to the Irish.

Clearly the depiction of a little leprechaun is directly derivative of the stylized characitures prevalent in the 19th century used to deride the Irish.



I'm much more concerned with the American practice of using St. Patrick's Day, a holy day in Ireland, as an excuse to consume extremely large amounts of green beer in plastic paddy bars while speaking in very bad immitation Irish accents.


I not sure that I see the disposability of human beings that conservatives deplore (at least some human beings--some do in fact seem disposable or at least worthy only of marginalization), as do I, as separable from materialistic ways of thinking, which I too from time to time have to check in myself. We're saturated with these ways of thinking everywhere we turn, even our places of worship are not immune.

Materialistic thinking, in my opinion, tends toward seeing everything and everybeing as there merely for our taking and use, and when all used up, easily discarded and forgotten and easily replaced by the newest, the latest, the trendiest.

The results of disposable ways of thinking are not merely the use and abuse of human beings, but the use and abuse of fellow creatures, the environment, technology...

I ponder often on the way my great grandmother, a woman who raised her children during the Great Depression, reverenced her belongings, her garden, animals, people. She died having used the same refrigerator for 45 years (repaired now and again, but working perfectly), having owned the same tv for 30 years, careful to recycle or reuse or repair, thoughtful in her buying, generous in her giving (what little she had), and she was deeply happy and at peace. Such satisfaction and relishing of life can't be purchased like the latest CD or i-Pod


a man's selfish "pursuit of novelty" (which seems to me to be the chief, but certainly not the only, culprit in my family break-ups. Women, of course, can fall victim to the dangerous seduction of everlasting novelty as well.)

I don't think so Hugo. Where can one get statistics on the "whys" of divorce? Tough one to unravel, I suppose, but I could provide quite an array of annecdotal evidence of women falling prey to the lie that "out there" is a man who will meet all of their emotional needs -- those "needs" that so convincingly portrayed in the romantic comedy -- and leaving their husbands to find that perfect other.

I've a post to write that parallels Playboy and Penthouse for men with Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally for women. Romantic comedies are porn for women. Showing my essentialist stripes, eh? Still, exceptions do not disprove the rule.



Stephen, indeed, I am arguing from anecdote. If anyone knows of a study that compares men's and women's reasons for initiating a divorce, I'd be happy to see it!


Oh, and craichead, you may well be right. My tiny bit of Welsh ancestry hates it when that noun and adjective is used as a verb to describe betrayal -- I'll take up the issue with the youth pastor who designed the game.


Hugo, just thought you'd like to know...

I did a search on Mennonite + fathers rights and came up with this:


La Lubu

Hugo, this isn't exactly a study on the reasons for divorce of the type that you are looking for, but it's a good article....from the Liz Library. There are several references at the end, and more links too.


"But when conservatives turn a blind eye to cultural forces that teach kids to always want "more, more", they fail to realize how the market itself teaches the young to think of possessions -- and lives -- as disposable."

I could give you a substantial list of where kids from a liberal congregation would get these ideas of materialism from a liberal professor‘s blog, but this would be purely anecdotal and not prove any argument. I guess a free market society could lead to materialism. Conservatives try to drive home self- restraint and self- responsibility but this obviously isn’t solving problems of conservative materialism. Likewise, folks with social values that promote social safety nets can find the same liberals abusing the system and living materialistic lives. Could it be that materialism is a value that the individual places upon themselves or that others see in the individual. Is Christian socialism the answer--maybe, or we could ask a Buddhist monk, but these folks wear robes that may not be all that necessary.



Those were not rhetorical bombs. I stand behind every one. I'm sure there are modern "still-friends" divorces, I just haven't encountered them. And while Social liberals are in general nice people (including my best mate, for the record), Social liberalism hurts.

As for materialism, it's a problem all right. But it's not a conservative problem. It's a Western problem and a human problem. Utilitarianism is also a problem sometimes, but that is, at least originally, a Liberal value. It's infected us, to be sure, but genuine Conservatism is not utilitarian. As for your criticism of the Market as promoting materialism, any human system, including Socialism, does that. It's a human fault. Christian Toryism says with Wesley "Gain all you can, (ethically, mind) and give all you can". Socialism forcibly takes people's money away. Christianity changes their hearts to make them want to give it away. And in general, Conservatism is very conscious of its obligations to the community. Your thesis will not hold, I think.


I am confident that the Burkean model of conservatism might argue for these social obligations, but I am not convinced that our current brand of Republicanism (that of drilling in ANWAR and ever-greater tax cuts) is connected to an obligation to give more. Massive cuts in taxes for the rich have not led to corresponding increases in contributions to charity. I see no reason why the state cannot compel what the church merely suggests.


The Republican party is not perfect, I admit. The National Party isn't either. But as I said when I endorsed them here:


they are friends and Co-belligerents with Burkean Conservatism. They are open to our message. As for tax cuts, they benefit the whole community, because they stimulate growth. And growth means jobs, and jobs for low-income people. Our government has a 6 billion dollar surplus, and since they hate the idea of tax cuts, they won't give any back. We are much further advanced along the path to cradle-to-grave Socialism than you are, and I'm telling you, the results are not nice. As for ANWR, what is the objection to a few miles of pipe in the tundra? As I understand it, it will have minimal environmental impact, and produce great economic and social benefits. Leave it to the local people. They know what they're doing. As for charity, Americans are incredibly generous. And they are most generous, in fact, in the Red States, like Alabama and Texas. I wonder why.....



You might re-think your comments if you moved down here to Texas.


I have not had that pleasure. But the giving stats are relatively clear.


So Hugo - Conservatism = Materialism. I'm sorry, but I don't see it that way. Conservatives believe that businesses should be allowed to operate, within the law and free from heavy governmental encumbrances; and individuals should not be punitively taxed. I bust my hump at work 50 hours a week to feed a family of four. Then I go home and spend my "free" time with my children, wife and chores. My wife busts her hump to keep our home running smoothly. However, neither of us would trade places with anyone. We are both Conservative and wouldn't even dream of keeping up with the Jones'. Our last big purchase was 10 months ago: a DVD player ($55 on sale at Best Buy). Why such conspicuous consumption? Movies are too darn expensive in the theatres and the video rental store mainly carries DVDs now. Do I begrudge those who spend money on stuff? Hell no, good for them. Neither do I refer to a specific group as materialistic on suspect grounds. After all who 'round here jet sets around the world (how much fossil fuel does that take?), buys expensive bicycles, wears designer clothes, ponders going on a spring wardrobe shopping spree, and has the time and money to see ALL the Academy Award nominees for best picture before the awards? It aint me, that's for sure. All I ask is that the government does not punish my hard work and allows me to provide for my family. By the way, since you don't like ANWAR why don't you write John Kerry and ask him why he hasn't supported the Nantucket Sound wind farm project?


I'd like to see those stats. Are they total, per capita, or figured some other way?

Don't get me wrong. I love the people here in Texas. They are a wonderfully giving bunch of folks. But, believe it or not, the state's not as "Red" as the politicos and the media would like you to think.

FWIW, as great as these people are, they are no more giving than were the people where I grew up in Arkansas.

Doc Rampage

I don't think the cases of sexual libertinism and materialism are nearly as symmetrical as you imply. Materialism is a social problem that needs to be dealt with socially. You teach your own children, the kids in your Sunday School class, the people in your congregation, not to be materialistic. And if you do a good job in teaching them what to value, there is little need to spend a lot of time on what not to value.

By contrast, sexual libertinism is not merely a social problem but a political problem in the sense that there are powerful political forces using the government to press the agenda of sexual libertinism. The response to this sort of political agenda is necessarily going to be more political, and therefore much more visible than a response to mere social trends.

Hugo Schwyzer

Doc, I would say that the great multinational corporations are doing their damndest to use the government to boost consumer spending on things that consumers don't need. Think of the planned obsolescence of the auto industry, the aggressive marketing of technology to teens -- our capitalistic economy is connected to ever-growing consumer demand for things folks don't need. Look at the godawful bankruptcy bill just rammed through the Senate to make sure that consumers cannot escape their crushing debt burdens (so much for Leviticus 25, especially verse 37)... I hardly think Playboy has the same pull on Capitol Hill as General Motors and Wal-Mart.

Hugo Schwyzer

Based on itemized deductions from tax returns, here are the giving figures state-by-state.  Mormon Utah leads the way. California is 37th, Texas is 40th!  Of course, not all who give itemize.  But we blue Californians kicked some Texas butt!

The numbers, of course, are depressingly low.  Even Utahans (sp?) average less than 7%  of adjusted income.


Here is another take on the same numbers.

I direct your attention to page 4, in which the percentage of income is calculated. OK, Texas is average, but not by much. It was a bad example. But my general thesis is upheld. Kicking California's butt (To coin a Hugoism), is Alabama, Kentucky, Tenn. and Mississippi. And, indeed Arkansas et. al. And CA isn't monolithicly Democratic either.

The other interesting number is New England's. Rich, white, and incurably liberal, and they spend 1.7%. National Average 2.3. Those Dubya-voting hicks down South (And I'm a country hick too) are generous people indeed.


Here is another take on the same numbers.

I direct your attention to page 4, in which the percentage of income is calculated. OK, Texas is average, but not by much. It was a bad example. But my general thesis is upheld. Kicking California's butt (To coin a Hugoism), is Alabama, Kentucky, Tenn. and Mississippi. And, indeed Arkansas et. al. And CA isn't monolithicly Democratic either. I note in Hugo's numbers, my thesis is likewise generally true, that is, that rural conservatives give more than urban liberals.

The other interesting number is New England's. Rich, white, and incurably liberal, and they spend 1.7%. National Average 2.3. Those Dubya-voting hicks down South (And I'm a country hick too) are generous people indeed.

Hugo Schwyzer

I do think secular folk, in general, give less than believers -- that much is probably true. But I am (at last) back to tithing on the gross, and I know I am not the only liberal out there doing so. My obligation to tithe on the gross is separate from my obligation to help Caesar fund his many worthy programs


> Those Dubya-voting hicks down South

Wash your mouth out!!!

If anyone in the Texas county where I live caught you saying they voted for a Bush, they'd hog-tie you. They know the Bush family well, and are not impressed.

I cannot be a true conservative until the organized right is willing to see the damage that materialism wreaks upon our culture, and willing to take policy steps in order to do something about it.

This really intrigues me. What policy steps would you advocate for fighting materialism? I know you're not made of spare time, but if you ever did a post on this subject, or just provided a link or two, I'd be interested.

Doc Rampage

I can't disagree with any of the factual claims in your response to me, but you seem to have misunderstood my point. The powerful political forces I alluded to are not Playboy et al., but the political forces that gave us easy no-fault divorce, adultery without consequences, abortion, abortion without parental notification, inability of communities to enforce standards of decency, inability of communities to enforce standards of health where it impinges sexuality, public schools giving sex lessons and endorsing homosexuality, and soon, gay marriage.

These are all political events, brought about by political forces, and if one opposes them, one must do so politically.

Yes, corporations are doing their utmost to foster a materialistic society but there are few political actions I could take that would effect this. I can't imagine what kind of law I would agree to that would keep corporations from encouraging materialism. All I can do is refuse to do business with them and encourage others to do the same.

As I said, the two cases are simply not symmetrical.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004