The most recent change occurred in 1964, when its center of gravity shifted to the South and the Sunbelt, now the solid base of "Republicanism." The consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture.The Corner apparently feels rather defensive. Jonah Goldberg says that "I don't think you can dispute" that Yglesias is right to say that "the vast majority of America's premiere institutions of education and high culture are located in the 'blue' areas." Ramesh Ponnuru offers a mild defense of the South, but then asserts that his argument turns on "the Sunbelt," what we used to call the New South. He thereby writes off most of, and indeed the best parts of, the South.
I shall gladly dispute what Yglesias attempts as his main point. When asserting that "high culture" is a blue-state thing, he says, "That's not to say the South is some kind of total wasteland -- I visited the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum earlier this year and it's first-rate, albeit a bit small -- but on the whole this stuff is primarily in the Northeast and to a lesser extent on the Pacific coast."
Well, now. If "high culture" means modern art, you've got a point.
On the other hand, if modernism is precisely the rejection of the classic high culture of the West -- as practitioners of modernism have often argued, and as has likewise been argued by those who reject modernism since at least the time of G. K. Chesterton -- then the location of modern art museums is not particularly telling. Rather than an absence of "high culture," the South is almost the last bastion of traditional Western high culture, both in its intellectual and its cultural foundations.
In the 19th century, Harvard produced Francis Parkman, who wrote the following on the proper education:
[I]f any pale student glued to his desk here seek an apology for a way of life whose natural fruit is that pallid and emasculate scholarship, of which New England has had too many examples, it will be far better that this sketch had not been written. For the student there is, in its season, no better place than the saddle, and no better companion than the rifle or the oar.If you follow that link, you'll find also a bit of scoffing from today's Harvard over the fact that MIT recognizes riflery as a "varsity sport." "Hey!" says a living Harvard graduate. "I was on the Harvard varsity rifle team," once upon a time:
In fact, MIT claims to have 42 varsity sports, one more than even Harvard. Of course, Harvard scoffed snootily, "Hearing that MIT was claiming 42 varsity teams, officials at Harvard, which has 41, chafed. They point to MIT's varsity pistol and rifle teams as evidence of MIT's skewed vision of varsity sports."The problem is that, rather than being a bastion of high culture, Harvard etc. has abandoned the traditional conception of a complete education. From the time of Plato we have seen that conception expressed as a need to educate the whole man, both mind and body, so that he possesses a complete understanding of virtue and also the capacity and will to enact it and defend it in the world. One of the earliest of Plato's dialogues, according to the usual methods of determining their age, is the Laches, which treats the importance of developing courage and the question of whether or not it can be developed by practicing fighting in armor. The union of philosophy and valor is so important that, even in his most developed writings, Plato considered it central to his conception of the soul and the best kind of society. He suggested that society be divided into "golden" Guardians who would be philosophers first, their "silver" auxiliaries who would be warriors first, and the rest of mankind who would be workers first. But this only mirrored his conception of the soul, with philosophy and valor separate from and superior to the rest of the human nature.
Hey, wait a minute! I was ON the Harvard Rifle Team in 1973! The team capitan, a member of my "freak fraternity" and now owner of a software company in Houston, had the key to the Harvard rifle range and we would go down there in the wee hours under the effects of whatnot and invent weird games like hanging tootsie roll pops from shoelaces tied to the mechanized target holders. When we rolled 'em back down the range, the lollypops swung around wildly and were wicked hard to hit. Or even see, for that matter.
We lost all 12 matches that season. Most of the guys we were shooting against were steely-eyed vets with thousand-yard stares just back form Nam and trying to finish college on Uncle Sam, while we were just a bunch of Ivy freaks who liked to play with guns.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, the first virtue Aristotle treats is bravery. The whole point of Aristotle's ethics is to develop the right kind of fighting, thinking citizen. Like Plato, he felt that correct politics grew out of that ethics: the city should mirror the man, as he explains in his Politics.
That philosophy has served as the foundation of the Western understanding. Indeed, we date the rise and fall of the West by the rise and fall of that philosophy: when it perishes, and the rational fall beneath the unthinking, we call it the Dark Ages or the "Low" Middle Ages in spite of the fact that communities of thinkers and monks survived and even flourished. When it arises, so that Medieval society is cleanly divided between Oratores, Bellatores, et Laboratores, we call it the "High" Middle Ages. When capitalism causes a rising middle class to blur the lines again, we call it the Late Middle Ages.
That, gentlemen, is the high culture of the West. In the South, foremost, is it preserved. In the South, alone, do its institutions flourish. The three American military academies are maintained elsewhere, but only the South has native ones of similar prestige: VMI and the Citadel. While the great institutions of the northeast and California maintain instruction in philosophy, they have cast aside the role of educating men who are bellatores as well as oratores: that is, men who know how to fight as well as to pray -- or, as is more and more commonly the case, simply to orate.
Thus we have institutions like Harvard, which once scoffed at the pale 'emasculate scholar,' and now seeks to produce him above all. These are institutions that -- not to put too fine a point on it -- prefer to reject military recruiters out of preference for another cause. Institutions that once instructed men in riflery as well as philosophy now scoff at riflery.
Yet the division of society was always meant -- in Aristotle, in Plato, in the Middle Ages, and now -- to mirror the division of the individual soul. Western high culture envisions a man who is a thinker first, a fighter second, and everything else third. He must be all of these things, or he is not a Man of the West. The Medieval nobleman was meant to be educated as well as a fighter; he was to know tactics and the art of heraldry, at least; and as the High Middle Ages progressed, became expected to know poetry and the rules of courtly behavior. The monk was expected to be a soldier against the devil's cause, if he was not a solider in fact -- as were many priests in the Church Militant.
Do not tell me that the blue states are the seat of Western high culture. By and large, they have rejected it.
Compare those statistics above with these, which break down recruiting by geographic region of the United States. The South is far and away the leader in recruitment, although it is the poorest region of the United States. The wealthiest region, the Northeast, trails in recruitment.No, gentlemen, the seat of high culture is not the blue states. It is the solid South.
That suggests that the media picture is even less accurate. The military maintains these levels of representation in the richest and second-richest quintiles, while drawing 40% of the force from the poorest region in the country and only fifteen percent from the richest region.
That suggests that military recruitment is heavily disproportionate among the upper and upper-middle class everywhere but the Northeast...