All Politics is Thymotic
March 27, 2006 5:27 AM   Subscribe

All Politics is Thymotic. "Let me tell you what men want. Let me tell you why some middle-age men wear the sports jerseys of semiliterate behemoths half their age while others customize their cars with so many speakers they sound like the hip-hop version of the San Francisco earthquake as they roll down the street.

Recognition. Men want others to recognize their significance. They want to feel important and part of something important." (NYT via donkey o.d.)
posted by ZenMasterThis (36 comments total)
Not only is it bad political commentary, but it's bad pop psychology and bad pop philosophy. All in a single-link op-ed.

/posted for the recognition?
posted by graymouser at 5:32 AM on March 27, 2006

Dismissing the entire Islamic community's grievances as due to "the economic and literary backwardness of the Arab world" seems in very poor taste to me, not to mention ignorant.

I'm far more impressed that this guy got a dozen or so paragraphs out of this than by the content.
posted by blacklite at 5:39 AM on March 27, 2006

Men want others to recognize their significance. They want to feel important and part of something important.

posted by sonofsamiam at 5:39 AM on March 27, 2006

graymouser just about covers it. I'd be more impressed if he told us what he would tell the politicians that would change any damn thing.
posted by OmieWise at 5:43 AM on March 27, 2006

If I'm going to be important, I'm going to dress important.
posted by ssmith at 5:49 AM on March 27, 2006

nevertheless it still wins the muthecow prize for most uses of the word thymos and its derivatives in one article
posted by muthecow at 5:52 AM on March 27, 2006

More spesifically, recognition from women.
posted by delmoi at 6:34 AM on March 27, 2006

Democratic activists have increasingly spurned measured, reasonable men for aggressive, thymotic ones: Howard Dean, James Carville and the post-2000 Al Gore.

Well, yes. That's because aggressive, thymotic candidates arouse the base, sway the undecided and attract votes. Meanwhile, the Democratic Committee has spurned aggressive, thymotic candidates in favor of dull, emotionless, wooden ones, such as John Kerry and the pre-2000 Al Gore. I know what problem I'm seeing here; I don't know what problem Brooks thinks he's looking at.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:44 AM on March 27, 2006

Brooks can be some type of amazing idiot.

Wearing a team jersey to somehow make yourself feel significant? Um, what about if it's just a fun thing to do and makes you feel like a kid again. In fact, wearing the uniform of someone who is clearly not you and going to cheer on that team amidst thousands of other people dressed like you seems to me the height of not wanting to be standing out -- instead -- wanting to belong to something bigger.

And, he reduces all politics to some thymotic urge? Wow, that's amazing Brooks. I'm sure that's what Lincoln and MLK and Gandhi were doing......

Brooks has a terrible tendency to stereotype and oversimplify -- which is amazing for a conservative who claims to want to celebrate the individual.

Another example of why having to pay to read him is a good thing. Gee I can't believe that people want to feel important!
posted by narebuc at 6:45 AM on March 27, 2006

Walter Kirn's NYT review of "Manliness" got more recognition from this woman than Brooks's puff piece. Men want recognition? Check. In other news, President McKinley still dead.
posted by scratch at 6:48 AM on March 27, 2006

Let's all pitch in and send Brooks his very own copies of The Origin of Spieces and The Selfish Gene, since he seems ignorant of the biological/evolutionary forces at work...
posted by twsf at 7:13 AM on March 27, 2006

There is a philosophy of history that all history is driven by the desire for recognition.
posted by stbalbach at 7:15 AM on March 27, 2006

um...i thought this was nice little read to start of the morning...a few nice musings, an intersting points, a call to others to think about how thymotics shape the current culture landscape, and (thank god) brevity....
maybe not worth a fpp all to itself, but it gave me a little mulling fodder for the day, so thanks ZMT...
posted by es_de_bah at 7:17 AM on March 27, 2006

I wear sports jerseys because I am a 32-year-old 5'6" out-of-shape man on the verge of a STELLAR NBA CAREER.

I don't care what this guy says; I'm gonna be a star.
posted by grubi at 7:39 AM on March 27, 2006

so thanks ZMT...

Quite welcome, es_de_bah.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:49 AM on March 27, 2006

Derail: how would one pronounce thymos if one wanted to impress people by sounding scholarly?
posted by nowonmai at 8:08 AM on March 27, 2006

Nowonmai, however the hell you want, 'cause you're a man. Unless you're a woman. 'cause, then, y'know...
posted by slimepuppy at 8:20 AM on March 27, 2006

Then I choose to pronounce it the way I learnt it from this tutorial, except substituting an 'ewww' sound for the 'y' as I declare the authentic pronunciation to be pretentious. I am now an expert on Ancient greek, and will spend the rest of the day telling people when to pronounce 'y' differently. Recognise my superiority, mortals!
posted by nowonmai at 8:33 AM on March 27, 2006

Fascism is a cultural/political pathology that exploits this desire/drive to be part of something important, hence its intimate and inevitable ties to national greatness mythology, glorification of war and warrior culture, and idolatrous religion. The twit Brooks hasn't figured that out yet, hence his continued (unintentional, I think) shilling for an authoritarian rightist movement. But, hey, it's a paycheck.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:45 AM on March 27, 2006

On the one hand, you may be right that David Brooks is an oversimplifying idiot.

On the other hand, he's writing columns for the New York Times and you're writing follow-ups to a post most people are skipping on an anonymous group weblog.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 8:51 AM on March 27, 2006

Since when does financial reward have anything at all to do with merit, _sirmissalot_?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:53 AM on March 27, 2006

Lookit me, I'm doin' tricks!


Why, I'd LOVE to join your authoritarian rightest movement! Y'all have the COOLEST uniforms! Who do I need to oppress to get in?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2006

narebuc: I don't think Brooks is as wrong as you paint him. Like everything else that has ever been written, it's a generalisation, but recognition often has something to do with men wearing sports team regalia. When Liverpool won the Champions League last May (to those who don't follow soccer, that was a big deal) then I felt pretty proud strutting around Manhattan in my Liverpool shirt. When I see somebody else in the street wearing such a shirt, I irrationally applaud their great taste in soccer teams. Obviously, sometimes I'm just wearing a soccer shirt because it was top of the pile, but whatever.
Similarly, when I go to a metal concert, I take pains to wear the kultest shirt appropriate for that occasion, and enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling when somebody says "sick shirt, dude" or similar. Every day at work, I also wear a heavy metal T-shirt, but I just try to pick one out without too much cussing or satanism on it. Some of the time, therefore, my wardrobe choices are motivated by Thymos in the way Brown says; mostly they are nit.
I wasn't aware of the word thymos or its historical usage until today, but thinking about it, I understand that it plays a large part in motivating a lot of what I do. I now have to decide whether it's a good or a bad thing for me.
As regards politics, I always thought that vanity was a major motivation for them. I don't think vanity and thymos are the same thing. For the Greeks, thymos was not as intrinsically bad as we (I?) regard vanity as being today. I will read some more stuff by dead Greek guys and think about it next time I'm cynically assessing some politico's motivation.
As single-link, pop-psych FPPs go, this one has given me more food for thought than most, so thanks.
posted by nowonmai at 9:13 AM on March 27, 2006

It's just that I don't get the Brooks hate. Many of the criticisms made here seem to actually agree with his point, not contradict it -- that men aspire to self-importance, on their own or through identification with a group. What's so CRAZY about that? I don't read all of his columns (or should I say, none of his columns since they went behind the wall), but in general he seems like a harmless guy, not a fascist. Probably to the right of me, but who wants to read only self-reinforcing political opinions?

When I would read his column first thing in the day, I could often find something to mull over, even if it only took 20 seconds to do the mulling. Sometimes you want a donut for breakfast, not steak and eggs.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 9:24 AM on March 27, 2006

Men want others to recognize their significance. They want to feel important and part of something important.

Because, you know, women want neither or those things. Oy.
posted by jokeefe at 9:32 AM on March 27, 2006


posted by jokeefe at 9:32 AM on March 27, 2006

In this country, when workers strike, they're not enraged over a few cents an hour. They're enraged because they feel their company is not acknowledging their worth. When social liberals squabble with social conservatives, each group is trying to assert the dignity of its own lifestyle.

What, is this guy like twelve years old? And he's writing for the NYT? I have to say I'm not sure why this is an FPP. Sorry.
posted by jokeefe at 9:35 AM on March 27, 2006


The thing is, to mean anything Brooks's broad generalization has to be so wide that it tells us nothing we don't already know: politicians aspire to higher status in society. Check. You don't have to bring in Plato to make that generalization. And you don't get anything useful out of the bargain.

Somewhat true generalization + gratuitous philosophical reference <> insight. And why one would want to resurrect the Platonic conception of the soul is beyond me.
posted by graymouser at 9:37 AM on March 27, 2006

This would be interesting if he had anything to back up his central thesis besides his unsupported claims of how everyone thinks about every situation.
posted by moonbiter at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2006

Somewhat true generalization + gratuitous philosophical reference <> insight. And why one would want to resurrect the Platonic conception of the soul is beyond me.

Fair enough.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2006

It's his pedantic way of telling us obvious points like "Men like being recognized" and is stupid way of using things he sees in society to describe it.

Nowon -- I can't really see where you are getting off on all of society to notice your wardrobe choices -- it seems you care most about certain subsets (fans of your teams, metal rockers) sort of associating with you.

Just because Brooks is an op-ed writer for the NYT does not mean he's something great sirmiss.....and just because we're here does not mean we're stupid. I'd argue we (well at least some of the day) are more productive.

This column still gets back to my major qualm with Brooks -- a supposed "thinking conservative". Conservatism celebrates the individual (hates racial quotas, PCness, government regulations, etc.) but if you read his columns and books (like Bobos and stuff) -- Brooks lives off the stereotyping and de-individualizing people.

I think he's also really upset he went to the University of Chicago instead of an Ivy League school. UC is a damn good school but some inferiority complex about it seems to run through his wriitng.
posted by narebuc at 10:35 AM on March 27, 2006

Once a week Brooks goes on NPR with E.J. Dionne and invariably tells at least one lie that he is never called on. Very annoying.
posted by wrapper at 11:55 AM on March 27, 2006

David Brooks?

So not thymotic.
posted by dhartung at 12:11 PM on March 27, 2006

Nowon -- I can't really see where you are getting off on all of society to notice your wardrobe choices -- it seems you care most about certain subsets (fans of your teams, metal rockers) sort of associating with you.

Yup. On introspection, it's more that society as a whole is several billion people who I have nothing in common with and to whom I am irrelevant. I value more the opinions of, and can gain appreciation from, smaller subsets of people with whom I have something in common. It is thymos, I now realise, that drives me to identify myself to such people. I just didn't know there was such a neat word for it.

Also, as a scientist, I realise that without thymos we wouldn't work so hard for so little tangible reward.
posted by nowonmai at 12:18 PM on March 27, 2006

I understand Brooks likes to be addressed as "sweetbread."
posted by rob511 at 9:35 PM on March 27, 2006

For all that we're saying it's 'obvious' that men like being recognized, singularly or en masse, I bet someone, somewhere, learned something from Brooks's piece. It's not a fucking dissertation, it's just him pointing out something that's interesting to think about.

Though his factual underpinnings are weak, and his delivery is sneering. Go back to Latin camp, Mr. Brooks. You're not special. You need to hear that loud and clear.
posted by breath at 3:18 AM on March 28, 2006

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