Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Care Bears Make A Comeback

It was perhaps coincidental that I had read about the Care Bear Stare approach to solving all the world's problems (via Julian Sanchez) shortly after having a brief conversation with someone on foreign policy, stating that our struggles would be minimized, if not eliminated if only we had "the will". Care Bear-ism is, of course, not limited to one ideological side. The only difference is how each side chooses to employ it.

Rod Dreher's article on Real Clear Politics describes how this all works:

Behind The Care Bear Stare is the ideological conviction that there's no problem that can't be solved by the power of human intelligence and relentless application of good will. It's premised on the refusal to recognize limitation, as well as an inability to accept that some things simply must be lived with, at least for the time being. The Care Bear Stare is the psychological weapon of choice for people who cannot reconcile themselves to a world without guaranteed happy endings.

Alas for the Care Bears and their cute little tummies glowing with gladsome light, we live in an imperfect world. History teaches that the attempt to perfect it is not only futile but could make things worse (e.g., communism as a solution to povertyand inequality). This tragic vision does not deny the possibility of betterment but cautions that meaningful progress usually occurs incrementally, after skeptical deliberation; almost always requires compromise; and is never permanent.

And then there's the Care Bear vision, which takes as given the perfectability of humankind and correspondingly interprets all problems as fixable, given the right conditions. Care Bearism involves, in Thomas Sowell's words, "a disdainful dismissal of arguments to the contrary as either uninformed, irresponsible or motivated by unworthy purposes." Should the critics prove, after the fact, to have been right, Care Bearists grant themselves absolution because their hearts were in the right place.

Since at least the 1960s, liberalism has provided an ideological wigwam under whose pastel-colored flaps the Caring-American community has gathered to emote and caucus in its therapeutic and sentimental fashion, always looking forward to a better future (in part, because it means they don't have to look at the wreckage of their past schemes). Some latter-day conservatives began as liberals, until they understood that The Care Bear Stare was no effective defense against problems originating in human nature, which is not infinitely malleable, and in the intractability of evil.

Conservatives - even compassionate ones - pride themselves on being hard-headed realists who roll their collective eyes at the fuzzy-wuzzy schemes of the goo-goo left. But the right is by no means averse to indulging in The Care Bear Stare when doing so suits its purposes.Care Bear Conservatives, for instance, proclaim that the only thing standing between us and victory in Iraq is belief in ourselves and our cause.


Never mind the persistence of sectarian hatred and the cultural unsuitability of Iraqis for liberal democracy - if the U.S. ultimately withdraws from Iraq having failed to achieve victory, Care Bear Cons will argue, as they did post-Vietnam, that the news media sapped the will of the American people.



Care Bearism is irrational, intellectually dishonest and an exercise in sheer hubris. While I do not mind a "can do" attitude, the manner in which disagreements are met is exactly how Thomas Sowell describes it. A great summary of this was written by Patrick of Driving Out the Snakes. While his focus was more narrow, it still applies to anyone so unshakable in their beliefs that the possibility that they can not be wrong is out of the question. When faced with disagreement, especially one that calls credibility to their own views, the fundamentalist either "1) ignores it; 2) dismisses it or 3) insults whoever said it."

Moreso, it is beyond naivety to imply, as Care Bearism does, that all factors beyond our control can somehow be brought under our control. Anyone who understands how unintended consequences, especially those brought about by some form of state intervention, can exacerbate the very problems such intervention was aiming to address, are skeptical if not outright hostile to this notion.

Lastly, I am plainly sick and tired of people trying to point the finger elsewhere without looking at their own views first. Blaming Hollywood, the left, the mainstream media, Ron Paul or whatever target du jour presents itself does not impress me. Frankly, I find it kind of lazy.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Excellent post, and thanks for the link.

I like your last paragraph especially because I'm guilty of it myself more than I care to admit. It's so easy to blame others rather than admit our own faults.