Wednesday, January 17, 2007

LIFESTYLE CONSERVATISM. Like Megan McArdle's defense of being wrong, described in the previous post, the latest Lileks Bleat confronts reality with a rubber sword and a victory flag.

What sticks in his craw is a Times thumbsucker on the increase in unmarried women. Lileks cannot dispute that women who don't want to be married don't have to be, and some may even be happier on their own. But simple pursuit-of-happiness grounds are as nothing compared to Lileks-grade nostalgia! "To my parent's generation," he says, "divorce for no good reason was proof of moral failure." They also thought nuclear radiation was harmless, Jimbo. (Also, they would have considered a fellow with your fussiness about breakfast sausages and old matchbooks to be, erm, a mite tetched.)

And then comes that last refuge of a propagandist: prose poetry!
It's a consequence of the triumph or Romantic Love, I suppose; if you don't mesh at the elemental level, something's wrong. The notion of simply inhabiting the same road as you move towards the horizon isn't enough; you must both be fascinated by the same things. I prefer the model where one person is interested in the flowers that grow by the road, and the other discourses on the history of pavement, and you both speculate on the birds in the boughs above. But that's just me.
This is the sort of thing that makes me sorry I learned how to read.

Like McArdle's plaint, this is all about being right when you're wrong -- defending an indefensible premise (in which you're too invested to back off) by any means except logic, which has already been failed you. To this end, Lileks even avails the old trick of speculating, what if the thing I'm ranting about were actually something entirely different? ("Or would a Times piece by this author about surging rates of marriage -- especially among the young -- somehow communicate a sense of dread and regret, of oppurtunities lost?") This is known among nerds as a "thought experiment," and among regular people as bullshit.

Finally, though, one is left wondering: Why are the private beliefs and behaviors of other citizens so annoying to Lileks? Probably because what was once said of the left wing is now demonstrably true of the right: for them, the personal is the political. The marriage habits and bedroom behaviors of others obsess them; they obsessively judge the political content of movies, TV shows, and so forth. I guess when your politics are shown to be disastrously inapt for the country, what else have you got left?

UPDATE. For a more seriouser look at the single-gal issue, see here.

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