Cheryl Rofer replies to an essay by “Lexington Green” at Chicago Boyz, asking plaintively and apparently sincerely the same question asked before by Steve Benen at Political Animal.

Sorry, Cheryl, you don’t understand. You can’t, and won’t, and trying will just frustrate you and make your head hurt. If you had the aptitude leading to understanding, you would have taken a very different course through your education and life experiences, and might well have found yourself on the Mall last Saturday.

Here is a hint to start with: “inclusiveness” is a red herring. The question of religiosity vs. atheism avoids the subject rather than addressing it. Beck spoke to the crowd in a vernacular comfortable to himself and them, as any good speaker would. You might as well suggest that he should have spoken in Swahili or some computer-generated artificial tongue, in order to avoid offense from lack of “inclusiveness”. Put that part out of your mind.

I like Georgia O’Keefe and Tchaikovsky; I find the Russian Revolution fascinating, and The Dream Life sounds like something worth attention. Unfortunately, I never had time to follow up on those interests because I was working for a living. You did it for me; you are, in a way, my deputy, sent to explore lands inaccessible to me. You probably did it well — but your recitation of what occupies your days tells us that you know hardly anyone (and value none) who ever contributed materially to sheltering another person from the elements, providing food or clean water to a child, or disposing of waste safely. No doubt you agree that all those things are necessary and proper, but the folks who actually do them are, well, rubes; no person of value goes about with them. You are the spiritual successor to the friends and associates of Hero of Alexander, who ridiculed the poor fellow for demeaning himself by dealing with mere mechanics, properly the province of slaves and helots, and caused him to abandon efforts that could have led to principles Newton didn’t explicate until many centuries afterward.

See this? The fins, the chrome, the swoopy curves, do nothing to contribute to its function as transportation. Rich men would pay extra for them because they provided evidence of wealth. Not-so-rich men would scrape and defraud to acquire them in the hope of being taken as wealthy. Just so did a gang of ruffians, assembled in a board shack beside a sluggish stream to develop a fraud that would get them out from under an unbearable indebtedness, put in the Constitution of Texas a requirement that the State provide a “University of the First Class.” All the cool countries and States had them, and Texas was determined to join the cool kids. Just so did the Soviet Union send the “Great Ballet” to impress the West. Art and Learning do produce worthwhile outputs, but that is not their primary function. They are for display, visible evidence that the society supporting them is productive and worthwhile — or wishes to simulate those qualities.

Your function in society is tail fin, a decorative accent providing gratification to the eye and ego. The productive, and frauds who pretend to be productive, can point to you and say, “Look! We’re good! We produce so much wealth that we can afford to support this individual who provides nothing for the common weal, and provide her a top-class life style to boot!” In the same way, peasants and the “common people” of Europe could point to the excesses of the nobility and say, “Look how rich our Prince is! Are we not fine workers?” The nobility took it too far. They decided that the fins and chrome were overwhelmingly important, and the engine could be disregarded and taken for granted. They were eventually cast down for that.

Your puzzlement at Beck and the tea parties is the incomprehension of a courtier to Louis Quinze: What in the world do those people want? Unlike those people, we don’t want to kill you, hurt you, or even turf you out of your comfortable existence — but if possible we mean to wipe the self-righteous sneer off your face. Since you aren’t even conscious of the sneer and will deny its existence with equally self-righteous vehemence, the hope of your understanding is small, and that of your sympathy near nonexistent. Give it up, Cheryl. You’ll never figure it out.

One thing you would be well advised to do: stand out of the way. Your other function is as cats-paw to cynical opportunists. Beck and a number of others are hopeful that you can be made to understand, and thus be separated from the people who are using you as a club — and no doubt plan to do with the club what is normally done with a tool when its purpose is achieved: Hang it on the wall, toss it in a corner, or discard it completely. They are also (it may be hoped) suave enough to attempt that separation in ways the blunt and cynical have no hope of using. I and my fellows stand ready to aid them in any way possible in that effort — but we also prepare for its failure. Think of me as one small part of a sort of distributed Carmichael. If you won’t listen to Glenn, you may have to deal with us.

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