Liberalism: The Key to Failure and Secret of Unhappiness
I just wanted to say a few more things about Murray's Coming Apart, mostly for my own benefit. It's a very important book, not one to race through and toss aside.
One of Murray's most important takeaways is that for some fifty years our elites have been preaching a doctrine which legitimizes dysfunctional values and behavior, but which they themselves would never practice, except perhaps at the margins. In other words, they toy with certain degenerate behaviors and attitudes as a means of gaining "authenticity," but you generally don't see liberal politicians, CEOs, lawyers, and educators with barbed wire tattoos around their necks and six baby mamas.
Insofar as culture is concerned, when the elites sneeze, the lower classes catch pneumonia, the reason being that the poorer one is, the less margin for error there is in one's behavior; or, to put it the other way around, the more likely it is that one will receive negative feedback, i.e., punishment. The wealthy and powerful such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, or ___ Kennedy, can get away with years of dysfunctional behavior, where you or I would have long ago hit the wall financially, vocationally, legally, or medically.
Murray makes it clear with abundant statistical evidence that successful elites, to the extent that they are successful, do not practice what they preach or preach what they practice. If anything, they are more narrowly bourgeois and predictable than the conservatives of my acquaintance, but for some reason like to pretend that they are "liberated," or "free-thinkers," or "avant-garde."
Apparently there is some sort of guilt over being a successful conformist, so they must rebel in symbolic ways -- a discrete tattoo here, the trace of a pierced ear there, the proudly ignorant contempt for traditional religion, which is to say, religion. These are all status markers of the new elite, like an invisible code they all share.
Murray reminds us that another important part of the liberal elite code is nonjudgmentalism. We all know this is an empty pose, since they just shift their harsh judgmentalism to agreed upon targets:
"Nonjudgmentalism is one of the more baffling features of the new-upper-class culture. The members of the new upper class are industrious to the point of obsession, but there are no derogatory labels for adults who are not industrious. The young women of the new upper class hardly ever have babies out of wedlock, but it is impermissible to use a derogatory label for nonmarital births....
"When you get right down to it, it is not acceptable in the new upper class to use derogatory labels for anyone, with three exceptions: people with differing political views, fundamentalist Christians, and rural working-class whites."
A prerequisite of any successful culture -- in fact, culture, period -- is recognition of the morality that attaches to human sexuality. I have discussed this at length in previous posts, but it is clear that sexuality is a force that must be bound and channeled in order for culture to develop.
And to the extent that this obvious truth is denied, a culture or subculture will degenerate, as we have witnessed over the past half century. For example, for blacks, the problem of fatherless children absolutely dwarfs the problem of racism to the point of insignificance. We have identified the behaviors that almost guarantee poverty -- and intergenerational poverty -- but the left doesn't care.
It isn't just success that these behaviors bring about, but happiness. Naturally, studies show that conservatives are happier than liberals. A big reason is that liberals externalize agency and thereby internalize an attitude of passivity, helplessness, and dependence.
But Murray brings out other reasons, backed by statistical analysis. After sorting through all the variables, he identifies the four that are most likely to result in a self-report of being "very happy"; these are family, vocation, community, and faith (for the record, Murray is an irreligious libertarian). For example, he writes that "The relationship of marriage to happiness is as simple as can be. There's hardly anything better than a good marriage for promoting happiness and nothing worse than a bad one."
Now, note how the left has spent the past fifty years devaluing marriage as the telos of human sexuality and ideal for men and women. The result? Among the lower classes, marriage has indeed become the exception and not the rule, which brings with it the likelihood of unhappiness. Thus, it is no surprise that the Democratic party reaches out to these unhappy people, promising more of the very drug responsible for their unhappiness.
Yesterday I heard a statistic that 85% of single mothers vote Democrat, which makes perfect sense. Although "liberated" from men, these helpless women have simply married the state instead (which is a kind of perverse inversion of nuns who are "married" to Jesus). And this is progress?
The same applies to religiosity, to such an extent that it is almost as if God exists. In describing the statistical correlation between religiosity and happiness, Murray says that "Social scientists rarely find such an orderly relationship.... At the bottom, only 23 percent of the white adults who never attend worship services report they are very happy."
Putting the statistics together, Murray finds that if one is unmarried, dissatisfied with one's work, professing no religion, and harboring a low level of social trust, the probability of being "very happy" falls to just 10 percent.
Conversely "Having either a very satisfying job or a very happy marriage raised that percentage by almost equal amounts, to about 19 percent.... Then came the big interaction effect: having a very satisfying job and a very happy marriage jumped the probability to 55 percent." Toss in social trust and the figure rises to 69 percent. Top it off with religiosity, and we reach 76 percent.
Think of what liberals preach and the unhappiness it engenders, say, for blacks: a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Religion is nonsense. Our culture is fundamentally racist. White people hate you. Don't bother trying, because the cards are stacked against you. Wait for the white liberal massa' to bail you out.
Liberalism is indeed the key to unhappiness in general and black discontent in particular.