Lessons in bad punditry, episode number 17,356. David Brooks has got his talking points loaded and no begging for civility will dissuade him from pulling the trigger.
For some context, let’s go back to 2009. Brooks made a case for shunning modern individualism. Narcissists (you) take heed, there are better ways to live your life:
In this way of living, to borrow an old phrase, we are not defined by what we ask of life. We are defined by what life asks of us. As we go through life, we travel through institutions — first family and school, then the institutions of a profession or a craft.
Each of these institutions comes with certain rules and obligations that tell us how to do what we’re supposed to do. Journalism imposes habits that help reporters keep a mental distance from those they cover. Scientists have obligations to the community of researchers. In the process of absorbing the rules of the institutions we inhabit, we become who we are.
And that’s how you become a civilized American. No more rock stars, thanks. Please join some institution greater than yourself, and then do its will.
Well, now, here we are, back to modern modern life. Back to the Aurora mass shooting and yesterday’s round of very concerned talking heads. Even though David Gregory turns to David Brooks with a practical question, Brooks has his gauzy genius points ready and here they come:
DAVID BROOKS: Right. Well, the theme of the show so far has been, do we focus on the guns or do we focus on the person? And I think the candidates are going to have to figure that one out. I personally think the focus should be on the person. There are two hundred and fifty million guns in this country. If somebody wants to get their hold on a– their hands on a gun they’re going to be able to do it. It’s just not that practical.
There’s your warm up. Gun control is impossible. Now the pitch:
But we also have the situation where we have a lot of 20-year-olds who are living in this under-institutionalized world, lonely, not a lot of people dealing with them. At the same time a tremendous hunger for fame. And you see the rise of these spectacle killings. And I’d like to see a debate about that. There’s not an obvious political solution, but as some of the people like Mister Bratton said there’s a civil society solution where we all look out for people who are just drifting between the cracks.
Now that the bodies have cooled, what should we do? Applying Brooks’ philosophy (since Brooks won’t), we should surely create more institutions. That way the lonely 20 somethings won’t fall through the cracks, or chase fame with predictable spree killing. James Holmes, the Ph.D. candidate in Neuroscience, could have better spent his time in a rigorous, civilizing entity. Like a graduate school. That’s how Holmes could have Brooksified his life, by dedicating himself to, say, studying a hard science. The brain is a Byzantine doo-hickey to understand, for instance.
Of course when the institutions fail somebody this educated, we’re right back to square one. Unless you’re the type to wonder what the 100 FBI agents are doing in some neighbor’s yard, and why they can’t get past the explosive Rubik’s Cubes rigged to the windows and doors. Good one, David.