Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Vision Thing

I saw a news clip of Obama commenting on the selection of Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate.  He made polite comments that Ryan was a decent man, etc, but that his vision for America was very different from Obama's.

Stop right there.  I don't want either of them to have a vision for America at all - at least, not in the sense that is usually meant.  To Barack Obama, it is the most natural thing in the world to have a vision for America, and he believes it is a necessary thing for a leader to have.  That is very much a liberal assumption, and carries with it a lot of dangerous stuff.  It involves other people having plans for what they want to do with your life.*

It may go to the heart of what is different between statists and the various leave-me-alone types.  The interviewing media likewise assumes that candidates should have a vision.  They pressed the idea that Bush 41 lacked "The Vision Thing."  Well good on him for that.  But they saw it as a fault.  If you seek examples of how the media biases the discussion by enforcing a liberal framing on the very questions themselves, this one should go front and center.  Republican candidates eventually have to come up with some vision thing, and the nearest items to hand are usually general prosperity and/or American Greatness. Fine, I suppose.  But why be so focused on that?

Religious conservatives tend to do it as well, though I think it is tied up with a vision of the past.  I don't like that any better. They get caught up with "My people perish for lack of vision," bending the meaning of that considerably. It's not what the vision is that bothers me, it's having one at all.  All of the visions accentuate only the positive possibilities and disregard the potential negative consequences, so they all look like a pretty comfortable place to live.  Everyone has a nice job and gets along, children laugh, all the poor are deserving and given enough to live without fear and make something of themselves, all illnesses and conditions are taken care of and quickly banished.  Who wouldn't want to live there?

Nor do liberals have to be motivated in such a fashion - or at least, they didn't used to be - MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech is remarkably free of it.  That picture is of how individuals will live, not groups, nor what we're all going to do together.  Individuals might have a vision, or families.  Groups or even communities might edge in that direction, for everyone to sign on to be an adoption community, or a beautiful town, or devoted to a particular industry so that more jobs may come.  Even states might have a character, and seek to accentuate that in some official way, taking care that even social pressure to go along is minimised.

But a country?  Shouldn't happen.  It's a terrible idea. Statists, especially liberals, and most especially wealthy and powerful liberals have these lovely visions of what we should become.  It's not generous.  It's evil.

*If this seems an exaggeration, I have just finished Lewis's essay "Membership," and was deeply disquieted by the changes in how much privacy and solitude have been sacrificed since the 1940's.  I fear I haven't minded most of it, because it grew up gradually, and I like what I've traded for it.  But to read how far from that we now are - how statism is just so natural to us - has me wondering.


james said...

"Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken." Neither invader nor criminal nor bureaucrat will make them afraid.

Of course the Lord has to see to that, but it's a good vision anyhow. Given the dividing line between good and evil going through every human heart, and that O(2%) of us are criminal I don't think any set of human rules will achieve that vision.

But such a vision can be good for "anti-policy". There'll always be a gap, but if the gap between vision and the reality is growing, perhaps the powers that be are doing something wrong.

Texan99 said...

I don't have a vision for what we should become, but I am fanatically devoted to a vision of what kinds of institutions keep a country free. That's not "vision" in the sense of "prophetic insight" but in the sense of "worldview." I want a president with a grasp of what works and what doesn't, rather than one who simply hopes that political compromises will work out for the best somehow.