It has been odd, over the past six months, not to have the gospel of success as part of the normal background music of life. You go about your day, taking in the news and the new movies, books and songs, and only gradually do you become aware that there is an absence. There are no aspirational stories of rags-to-riches success floating around. There are no new how-to-get-rich enthusiasms. There are few magazine covers breathlessly telling readers that some new possibility -- biotechnology, nanotechnology -- is about to change everything. That part of American culture that stokes ambition and encourages risk has gone silent.
The clever trick of this paragraph is the invisible poisonous gas of the second-person plural: "You go about your day . . ." Which is to say, he goes about his day in such a manner. The rhetorical "you" posited by David Brooks in fact means, "people like us." The reader is invited to imagine himself a member of the Brooksian intellectual class whose chief activities consist of "taking in the news and the new movies, books and songs."
Brooks's "you" might include Kathleen Parker or Meghan McCain or any number of other influential, respectable and sophisticated people who occupy those comfortable sinecures where nobody has to hustle for a dollar. But the Brooksian "you" does not encompass Wally Onakoya, driving Fairway Cab No. 1 nights and weekends, paying for his daughter's college tuition. His "you" does not include my older brother, the truck driver. "You" are not my wife, the school cafeteria lady. "You" are not Frequent Commenter Smitty, ex-Navy IT geek slammin' the Cthulhu-fu just for fun.
The actual "you" -- the Ordinary American -- still works as hard as ever in hope of success, still gets up every morning thinking of some new way to make life better for you and your family. You are all right with me, but quite frankly, you don't care any more for my opinion than you care for David Brooks's opinion. The Ordinary American lives his life in the real world, where "image" is not everything, where no one is impressed by the intellectual's ability to write elegant nonsense, where a Harvard diploma and $1.29 will get you a medium regular coffee at Sheetz.
David Brooks thinks you are too stupid to see through his clever little word games, the signifying jive of the privileged elite. But he's not actually talking to you, he's talking to The Republicans Who Really Matter, a private club that you will never be invited to join. David Brooks gets paid $300,000 a year to tell the snobs what they want to hear: Ignore those barbarians, those hell-raisers and holy rollers. Don't worry about the "revolt of the kulaks" and those silly Tea Party protesters. How much do I get paid to point out the fact that David Brooks is so full of crap his eyes are brown? That depends on you. If 150,000 people hit my tip jar with $20 this year, I'll be even with Brooks. But I'll never stop punk-smacking his smirky little face. Every Tuesday until the Brooksian delusion is vanquished, the punk-smacking will continue. So hit the tip jar, you cheapskate bastards.