Sunday, July 5, 2015

Social Capital

For John, BLUFThe path out of poverty is not just a job, although that is a start.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

On the last day of June International New York Times Opinion writer David Brooks wroke "The Next Culture War".  Here is the lede:
Christianity is in decline in the United States. The share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians and attend church is dropping. Evangelical voters make up a smaller share of the electorate. Members of the millennial generation are detaching themselves from religious institutions in droves.
I was ready to stop reading at that point.  For one thing, Christianity has been in decline since soon after the Puritans arrived, but with periodic revivals.  But, for some reason, I pressed on.

And here are, for me, the two key paragraphs:

We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed.  Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements.  Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital.  Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms.  Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society.  They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment.  They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans.  They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.

It sums up the problems we have and a way forward.  Note the use of the term "social capital".  There are segments of our society where "social capital" is in short supply and we need to rebuild it in those locations.  It is more than providing people a job, although that is critical.  People need the social capital that helps them capitalize on that job.  We have been slowly dissipating that social capital since the 1960s.  We need to reverse that trend, and do it without losing gains in freedom for individuals.

And I liked this paragraph:

This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority.  It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.
Yes, we live in the now, but we should be thinking about the future.  Part of that future is the question of the eternal.  And Dorothy Day provides a good guide.  She finally closed the door on the Father of her daughter, Mr Forster Batterham, after he said he couldn't abide her becoming a Catholic and having their daughter baptized.  They were not married.

Ms Dorothy Day and her implementation of her faith made her a hero to my Mother, and to me.

Hat tip to Memeorandum.

Regards  —  Cliff


lance said...

I really should re read this, but my recollection is that in re weaving we should spend our social capital on the rights and wrongs of society that don't include concentrating on sexual matters.

Renee said...

But all of our problems come from sex. Why? Because our existence comes from our mom & dad, having sex.

So why avoid the origin of the problem? Addressing the problem at the start, and work back from that, rather then waiting to clean up the mess over & over again.

Craig H said...

I think it's a fallacy to credit "social conservatives" with any distinction for their "in private" behavior. In fact, headlines are far-too-often full of what "social conservatives" do "in private", and the stories are both criminal and disgusting. I was raised in veritable citadel of social conservatism, and the behavior I observed behind the closed, gilded doors was reprehensible to an extreme. Alcoholism and other addictions, sexual and physical abuse, and mean-spirited hypocrisy, including infidelity and serial divorce, were far more common than ever admitted "in public", so the "do as I say" rhetoric could be kept at an oppressive level.

Since then, I've found far better moral behavior among social progressives. Of the many parents I know, I count at least two gay couples as among the very best I have ever seen. I also know many church-going folk who provide outstanding examples, but, rarely are those the "social conservative" church-going folk that I know--they are the "bleeding heart" types who put their time and money where their mouths are, and are done a grave disservice by oversimplifications as cited above.

Yes, a solid and enduring family unit *IS* the example we need to better provide for all people. Let's just remember that such things have little to no correlation to politics, other than to observe that it is often the least respected who live far better and better exemplary lives than the folks who make a big show out of a facade they cannot maintain when the doors close in the evening.

Renee said...

Why do social progressives appear so well? Money & therapy make a good cover.

Neither are better the other, kids raised by loving gay parets still ache for their real parents. Just like any other motherless or fatherless kid. Except they have to pretend it's so cool to be raised without the other parent.

Can't speak up or else they hurt the adults feelings.

Renee said...

Grew up with suburban liberalism/progressivism.

C R Krieger said...

"Social Capital", as in those skills and abilities that allow us to survive and go forward in society.  Part of what separates Paris Hilton from people locked in poverty and with no hope for the future is that Paris had a different upbringing, with expectations from the beginning, expectations of success.  And things like the 3 million words heard by the age of three.

For all I know, Paris Hilton is never on time for anything, but she knows the world works on a clock.  She learned that early.  She has expectations of the help showing up on time and if she has to go to work she knows there are narrow limits.

I am betting Paris Hilton speaks Standard English.  She was read to as a child and probably reads well enough to understand the articles in The New York Times.  Children in poverty maybe not so much.

Someone I know was in Army Recruiting and this person said that you got a clue about the possible recruit by visiting the family.  Some had books on a shelf and magazines on a coffee table and some didn't.  Reflected in the quality of the recruit.

Who has a better shot at succeeding? Paris Hilton or someone coming up out of poverty, whose long term goal is a Section 8 housing voucher?

Social Capital is all those little things, all those traits we learn growing up that allow us to succeed.

It isn't really about Progressives or Conservatives, except to the extent that one side or the other helps individual grow.  That said, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out in his famous report, some welfare programs do more harm than good.

Regards  —  Cliff