"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Sky Is Falling! Class, Confidence, And Indifference To The Environment And Other Things That Don’t Matter

Betsy Plummer thought the world was not as it was but what it should become.

‘'Don’t take the problems of the world on your shoulders”, her mother said.  “Finding a faithful husband is hard enough”.

Betsy’s parents were unconcerned, and totally disengaged from politics, diplomacy, the environment, and the state of the union.  As far as they were concerned, whatever happened to the United States of America had happened over and over, many times before throughout the eons of history.  Not only were disasters, misfortunes, bad luck, wars, bad leaders, and corrupt institutions an integral, indissoluble part of history; they would be forever more.

Bill Plummer was a bad golfer ever since he had taken up the game as a teenager.   He had a wicked slice, and when he overcompensated, a devilish hook that rattled the trees on the far side of the first fairway. “Damn’, he said.  “Again”.

Image result for images golf courses

Yet his predictably errant tee shots, wobbly putts, and deep fairway divots did nothing to dissuade him from the game.  He knew how it should be played, how bad he was, and how irremediable were his mechanics; but he kept playing. Every Wednesday afternoon and Sunday morning he, Canzonetti, LaCava, and Mylnarski teed off and hooked and sliced their way through eighteen holes, up or down a few dollars, tired out, but happy.  The game meant little.  The friendship, competition, and roll-for-drinks at the 19th hole meant everything.

Such was his attitude towards life and early 21st century politics. Man had been around for a very long time, had improved his lot very little, continued to squabble and fight over nothing; and despite perennial calls for reform, inclusivity, and compassion remained as territorial, self-interested, and aggressive as ever. 

Bad golf very much enjoyed was a metaphor for Bill Plummer’s attitude towards life.  Better to hack and chop, hook and slice, and love every minute of the three hours with the same buddies he had played with for decades than to protest, invest, sign, and go to the streets.  His miserable scorecards were more a testament to a life well-lived than any petition to save the planet.

Image result for images golf scorecard

Nancy Plummer was the child of a Philadelphia Main Line family whose forbears had come over on the Mayflower, were counselors to William Pitt, and had joined Lewis and Clark on their expedition west.  Their home on Rittenhouse Square had been in the family since colonial days, and their membership on the board of banks, investment corporations, and private foundations was an acknowledgement of and tribute to their patriotism and engagement in the well-being of the commonwealth.

Image result for images william pitt

Her husband’s family came to Albemarle Sound with the first Virginia settlers, and had been the earliest developers of the rich land on the Northern Neck.  As confidants to King Carter and investors in his Tidewater properties they became wealthy and among the very first of the First Families of Virginia.

It was because of this very traditional, settled, and storied history that Betsy’s parents cared little about the future.  There would always be a landed aristocracy, an intelligentsia, and a ruling class regardless of the environment over which they ruled; and their descendants would certainly be members of it.  The Plummers cared little whether that environment were flooded, sere, baking, or frozen; for they knew that they were destined to lead.

Image result for images king carter virginia

In other words, the nature of mankind had nothing to do with the physical world itself but how man governed it.  Because the Plummers were convinced that blood, lineage, patrimony, and history favored them and families like them; and that they would rule over whatever environmental legacy they inherited, they were singularly unconcerned about the temporal issues of the day.

This casement of inheritance which the Plummers assumed to be impermeable and ineluctable turned out to have some cracks – or so they assumed when they witnessed the evolution of their child, Betsy.  Somehow the temporal concerns of the early 21st century had made their way through the fissures of the casement.  Centuries of self-confidence in family, legacy, and inheritance were being eroded.

“But what about the environment?”, Betsy asked her father.  “Aren’t you concerned?”.
Bill Plummer had learned after many years of his daughter’s importuning that rational argument had no sway.  Regardless of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard or any number of other nihilists; and no matter how many references to English, European, Indian, Persian, or Mongolian history he might make, he knew that his daughter had folded her logic into modern idealism.

Image result for images kierkegaard

Golf was an idle waste of time when the world was burning. Ladies teas at the New Brighton chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution nothing more than revisionist white supremacy. Benefiting from generations of investments in blue chip stocks – the foundations of America –was an insulting, raw, exploitation of the working classes.

Rather than provide Betsy with a convincing countervailing perspective – the nature of American entrepreneurship, the role of private finance, the permanence of hard currency, the religious, social, and cultural foundations of Christianity – they served to harden her progressive resolve.  It was because of the retrograde attitudes of her parents that the country and the world were in peril.

An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, her mother always said to Betsy’s chagrin.  “You’ll see”, her mother said.  “You’ll change.”

Her mother knew that although her words would temporarily drive her daughter deeper into idealism, eventually she would remember them.  There was no way that a few well-meaning but naïve millennialists would ever claim her daughter.

Betsy’s indoctrination was complete by the time she had finished undergraduate school.  Campus administrators had ceded all intellectual and academic authority to the students and to their tenured supporters; and Betsy learned little of substance in four years.

Yet she could not ignore the portraits of illuminati of the 16th and 17th centuries on the walls of Whittier House, many of whom were distant relatives.  She could not disregard the religious faith of the college’s founders and the importance of faith to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

She protested outwardly, but rebelled inwardly.  By the time she graduated and went on for a Harvard PhD, she had come full circle.  She was more academically well-trained than her parents, and her education consolidated her preferential class roots.  She was not only as convinced as her parents of the importance of family, intelligence, education, and rational worldview, but now had the credentials and learning to promote its principles.

Image result for images logo harvard

Betsy’s family – mother, father, husband, and children – was an island of sanity and rectitude in an overblown and fearful world. Theirs was not a defended perimeter against illogic, but a calm oasis of reason.  They were neither evangelists nor salesmen; but only offered to any interested party, the following advice.  “The sky is not falling.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.