Housekeeping, Epiphany, and a National Elite

Photo by George W. Ackerman

America’s Biggest Owner Of Farmland Is Now Bill Gates.” Ariel Shapiro writes about the massive consolidation of land ownership. Gates is focusing on farmland, but other billionaires own even more US land.

Everything Is Broken.” Alana Newhouse offers a sweeping diagnosis of a decadent culture and its institutions: 

Th[e] disconnect between culturally mandated politics and the actual demonstrated preferences of most Americans has created an enormous reserve of unmet needs—and a generational opportunity. Build new things! Create great art! Understand and accept that sensory information is the brain’s food, and that Silicon Valley is systematically starving us of it. Avoid going entirely tree-blind. Make a friend and don’t talk politics with them. Do things that generate love and attention from three people you actually know instead of hundreds you don’t. Abandon the blighted Ivy League, please, I beg of you. Start a publishing house that puts out books that anger, surprise and delight people and which make them want to read. Be brave enough to make film and TV that appeals to actual audiences and not 14 people on Twitter. Establish a newspaper, one people can see themselves in and hold in their hands. Go back to a house of worship—every week. Give up on our current institutions; they already gave up on us.

(Recommended by Jeff Polet.)

The Insurrection Will Be Live Streamed: Notes Toward a Theory of Digitization.” L. M. Sacasas offers a set of incisive observations about the role digital media plays in mediating our relationships, and why these digital relationships manifested in the form of a mob in the nation’s capitol. 

Our Manorial Elite.” Alan Jacobs draws some disturbing parallels between today’s tech capitalists and medieval economic structures. He concludes, “Call them warlords or the manorial elite, our massive transnational tech companies will protect us only when they believe it is in their interest to do so; and they will never offer us any protection from their own ever-increasing, ever-more-intrusive power.”

A Regime of Small Kindnesses.” Jen Pollock Michel revisits Marilynne Robinson’s early novel and meditates on the work of housekeeping: “housekeeping signals humility, modesty of aspirations, and a commitment to the mundane. It won’t indulge any messianic impulses. Because the value of housekeeping is measured by regularity of attention.”

A Good Woman.” Brian Miller reflects on the life of his aunt and on the qualities that make for a life well lived. 

It’s Hard to Quit Herod, But We Must Worship Another.” John Inscore Essick, co-pastor of the Port Royal Baptist Church, reflects on the capitol riot by noting it occurred on Epiphany, a day marked by Herod’s frustration that another king was displacing him. 

The Case for Wooden Pews.” Drawing on his recent book, A Time to Build, Yuval Levin makes a case for institutions that seek to form our souls: “our religious institutions need to show not that they are continuous with the larger culture but that they are capable of addressing its deficiencies — that they can speak with legitimate authority and be counted on to do the work of molding souls and shaping character.”

Dignity Beyond Accomplishment.” In a deeply moving essay, Justin R. Hawkins critiques a culture that privileges achievement and defends the value of each person’s life, in particular, the life of his sister Jenna who has Down Syndrome.

The Long Arm of Loneliness.” Amber and David Lapp talk with their neighbors in Ohio about the sources of their alienation and distrust. They also suggest ways to give more people opportunities to participate in our political process. 

Restoring American Pluralism through Localism: A Review of David French’s Divided We Fall.” James Davenport reviews David French’s new book and offers a modified prescription for the divisions he identifies: “Rather than just the bolstering of liberalism and pluralism that French prescribes, we need a liberalism and pluralism tempered and formed by localism: a preferential care for one’s own family, place, and community.”

The New National American Elite.” Michael Lind traces the nationalization of elite culture in America:

From the American Revolution until the late 20th century, the American elite was divided among regional oligarchies. It is only in the last generation that these regional patriciates have been absorbed into a single, increasingly homogeneous national oligarchy, with the same accent, manners, values, and educational backgrounds from Boston to Austin and San Francisco to New York and Atlanta. This is a truly epochal development.

Political Harmony.” Asher Gelzer-Govatos commends the formative power of community orchestras: “At its finest, playing music with others offers us this vision of cooperation – a subsuming of the self to something greater.”

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