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Archive for July 5th, 2006

Kick Me

Binx Bolling, the alienated and ironic hero of Walker Percy’s fine 1961
novel The Moviegoer, listened every night to the radio show This I
Believe. This I Believe
isn’t just a literary device; it was a real
program, where listeners shared their personal credos, always ending with the
words "This- I believe". You may be sure that these ranged from the conventional
to the acceptably controversial. As in the social conversation of our own day,
the limits are set by the ruling paradigm.

Binx was baptized as a baby and says "this accounts for the fact that I am,
nominally at least…a Catholic". He is, however, an unbeliever. "Other people,
so I have read, are pious as children and later become skeptical (or as they say
on This I Believe: ‘in time I outgrew the creeds and dogmas of organized
religion’). Not I. My unbelief was invincible from the beginning".

National Public Radio – to my utter amazement- has recently resurrected
This I Believe. I have only tried to listen to it once or twice, but
find I am so embarrassed for the self-important proclaimers of My Own Personal
Values, the dogmas of the new orthodoxies, the creeds of the Church of Me,  that
I cannot finish the program.

NPR has the reputation for being serious radio, a reputation it sometimes
still deserves. But it also at times carries a pretty strong thread of the
ridiculous, not to mention the pretentious. Our local outpost’s Station
Identification quip is "This is WKSU: NPR. Classical. Other smart stuff". I know
this is supposed to be wry and ironic, but I still wince.

And so This I Believe, where You the Listener are invited to share
your guiding principles. Within limits, that is. You can be sure that a
submission that begins "I believe in God, the Father Almighty" would no more be
aired than the entry that the fictional Binx Bolling sent in:"I believe in a
good kick in the ass. This- I believe".

I was one of those who was pious as a child, and even in my brief season of
unbelief I bore a strongly religious temperament. I believe in God, the Father
Almighty and the rest of the ancient Christian Creed. But if given the choice
between the puffed-up relativist orthodoxies spouted by the pontificators of
Serious Radio and Binx’s kick in the ass, give me the kick in the ass, which at
least gets the message across to the kickee that there is an objective world out
there, that reality is more than a subjective personal construct.

Daniel Nichols

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Caleb Stegall, of The New Pantagruel & Reactionary Radicals, gets a shot at presenting the case for a new populism in the Dallas Morning News (link via Crunchy Con blog, and no doubt the presence of this piece in the DMN is also due to the fact that Rod Dreher works there). Sample quote:

There are signs. Peggy Noonan recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that
due to popular discontent with the widening gulf "between those in
power and those who put them there," the time is here for a successful
third-party run in American politics.

I read the Noonan article when it came out a few weeks ago, and thought it seemed significant that she’s even talking this way. I think it’s certainly true that large numbers of people believe (rightly, for the most part) that the elites of both parties are at best out of touch with them, and at worst contemptuous of them. Whether this represents a real opening for an alternative I don’t know, although history makes me doubtful.

I’m never entirely sure what people mean by "populism." Sometimes they seem to mean merely "what the people want," sometimes "what’s really best for the people at large." I suppose I’m also just a tad suspicious of it, since I grew up in the time and place of George Wallace, third-party populist extraordinaire (in the first sense, but very much able to appeal to the second sense).

Maclin Horton

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