Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dallas, Milwaukee, and the Care Bear Stare

Dreher, bedeviled with an Editorial Board position in Dallas, connects those dots for us.

He quotes from Julian Sanchez:

For those of you who didn't grow up (or have small children) in the 80s, the reference at the close of the previous post is to the cartoon Care Bears. The Care Bear Stare was a sort of deus ex machina the magical furballs could employ when faced with some insuperable obstacle: They'd line up together and emit a glowing manifestation of their boundless caring, which seemed capable of solving just about any problem.

Got it?

Good. Now to Dreher:

Examples of The Care Bear Stare, anybody? I'll give you a recurrent one from my line of work. On our editorial board, we are often meditating on the woebegone condition of the local, state and national public schools. It falls to Your Curmudgeonly Working Boy to point out that what ails the schools chiefly are problems not fixable by the spending of more money or the devising of new schemes, programs or initiatives. Nobody wants to hear this, and I don't really blame them. Who wants to be told over and over again, "That won't work"? And it's true that I don't have a clear idea of what would work, at least not within the law (e.g., if teens are troublemakers and don't want to be at school, why should the good kids and their teachers be held hostage by the bad kids? Kick them out, I say. But you can't do that legally. See what I mean?). Anyway, this is unacceptable because it entails the dispiriting idea that some problems can't be fixed, at least not without a radical change. So we go forward putting our hope in this new tax, or new administrator, or new program that won't leave any children behind, confident that if we only apply sufficient caring to the problem of failing public schools, we can turn them around. The failure of this strategy is taken by many as evidence that society didn't care enough.

Sadly, the practical equivalent of 'the Care Bear Stare' happens to be money.

Dreher doesn't really have a resolution, but he can define the problem, to an extent:

Admittedly, it's hard to find a sensible middle ground between Care Bear-ism and Cynicism. It's the space between the kind of optimism that refuses to deal with reality of limits, and the kind of pessimism that refuses to deal with the reality of possibility -- that is, the fact that positive change can happen, that nothing is fated. Between Care Bear-ism and Cynicism lies Realism. I think American culture and politics are far more subject to rampant Care Bear-ism than Cynicism. It's what happens when idealism is not tempered by a tragic sensibility.

He's right, of course. Care Bear-ism is part of The Myth of Progress which is part-and-parcel of the entrails of Social Darwinism; the "redemption myth" which forgets that the first requirement for redemption is ASKING for redemption, rather than shunning it.

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