a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
So, these past three weeks we’ve been in conversation with Last Best Hope, George Packer’s recent book, and we continue that. We recall that in part 1, we considered free America, in part 2 we looked at smart America., and in part 3, we peeked at real America.
Bias disclaimer . . . .
First, Packer makes technical terms of sorts (i.e., caricatures) out of these words. While I am bullish on all four of the terms in general (i.e., free, smart, real, just), I confess that the words “just America” would seem to come closest to describing my best hope. The truth is, we need the best of all four, and, as we’ll see next week, Packer argues, one more, too — “one ring to rule them all.”
So, the temptation for me is to test and critically treat every running-inch of Packer’s description of this ‘just‘ perspective. However, as with the other three, my intention is to just sample Packer’s arguments and hopefully encourage folks to read the book for themselves.
—I strongly recommend that you read Packer’s book. Your local library will loan you a copy.
If I were pressed to speculate about it, I suspect that Packer’s caricature of just America is why the book has enjoyed relatively little media attention/promotion. What we’ve noted previously — i.e., the financial benefits that accrue through “the media’s” complicity and collaboration in the overreach of just America — is quite evident in Packer’s account. And, as Packer is a part of “the media,” his candid, self-aware frankness on this perspective only adds credibility to his book overall, imho.
Secondly, Packer’s vision of what these terms mean and the way he is using them here are quite different from my own. To me, this reflects what I’ve said about Packer’s way of making these perspectives a bit caricature-like. The time-stamp that Packer uses is, for my reading, the key to understanding his take on just America. He writes:
In 2014 American character changed. [pg. 118]
This was the year when the views of some Americans — white Democrats and people with college degrees — took a sharp turn to the left on identity issues. [pg. 125]
2014?! So, what Packer is talking about only became politically ascendant in 2014.
The “just America” that I’ve been seeking is grounded in the prophetic traditions and restorative justice principles found in ancient (Jewish and Christian) theology/religious movements. Packer is using the terms ‘just America‘ in his own particular, present-context way.
So, just America?
As with real America, Packer sees just America as a reaction to (i.e., rejection of) the failures of the two dominant contemporary American visions (free and smart).
Here’s an enumeration of several characteristics of Packer’s just America — tersely expressed general points (the characteristics are closely edited for brevity, i.e., sans contextualization). [note: The author reads his own text.]:
Perennially missed opportunity?
Packer quotes author of The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, when he writes:
So, for Packer, Just America forms a “dead end street,” then?
Multi-purpose critique — i.e., too esoteric
Both smart and just Americans wear a target on their backs labeled “elitist.”
I note that one of the critiques that Packer offers regarding just America may also be applied to a significant problem with Integral Theory (when applied widely across society), i.e., its esotericism and the dangerous dogmatisms that result. Packer quotes D. H. Lawrence as he writes:
I’ve previously written (here, here, here, here, and here) about making dogma out of problematic expressions like: “everybody’s right” — an Integral Theory approach that acknowledges/asserts the (partial) validity of all perspectives. The main problem is the esoteric nuance (i.e., partialness) quickly gets lost, giving us no common foundation for a harmonious communal life.
“Millions of young Americans were steeped in assumptions of critical theory and identity politics without knowing the concepts.” —GP
Packer ends his take on the four visions with:
” . . . tell a story in which we see ourselves, and start on a path that most of us want to follow.” [pg. 138]
So, in my second a mystical möbius post, i.e., “Perennial Leading Edge Failure,” I basically came to some of the same conclusions about much of leading-edge social justice in the U.S. as Packer does about just America.
For Packer, just America “goes…down a dead end street.” He describes it this way:
Next week: “Four perspectives (visions) [pt.5].” Come and see.
[this post ~725 words (3 minute read) + 8:05 media/audio]