Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tell me a story

Andrew Klavan has a good essay at City Journal that offers a different view of the competition of ideas:

It seems to me that leaves these kids only one recourse: the culture. Where the institution of family is broken, only the surrounding culture can teach people the inner structures required for a life of liberty.

Many conservatives often seem to have given up on culture or not to care. There’s a strong strain of philistinism on the right. When we talk about “culture wars,” we usually mean preventing the courts from redefining marriage or promoting abstinence instead of birth control: culture, in other words, as the behavioral branch of politics.

Culture, in the true sense, is more than that. It’s the whole engulfing narrative of our values. It’s the stories we tell. Leftists know this. These kids get an earful from the Left every day. Their schools serve up black history in a way guaranteed to alienate them from the American enterprise. Their sanctioned reading list denies boys the natural fantasies of battling villains and protecting women from harm. Any instinct the girls might have that their bodies and their self-respect are interrelated is negated by the ubiquitous parable of celebrity lives. And I hardly need mention the movies and TV shows that endlessly undermine notions of manly self-discipline, feminine modesty, patriotism, and all the rest.

Conservatives respond to this mostly with finger-wagging. But creativity has to be answered with creativity. We need stories, histories, movies of our own. That requires a structure of support—publishing houses, movie studios, review space, awards, almost all of which we’ve ceded to the Left.

There may be more profitable businesses in the short run. The long run, as always, depends on the young. If you want to win their hearts, you have to tell them stories. I have reason to believe they’ll listen.

Via Libertas where Dirty Harry points out:

While conservatives won elections the last thirty-years, the left infested schools, universities, the entertainment industry, news media, and publishing. They understand politics follows the culture, not the other way around.

Culture, in the true sense, is more than that. It’s the whole engulfing narrative of our values. It’s the stories we tell.

This is one of the reasons I have been championing the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are the protagonists in the great story of our time. One of the central functions of myth is to provide exemplary figures who represent your society's values and approach to life and who offer an example to follow. The entrepreneur is the hero in our story.

But creativity has to be answered with creativity. We need stories, histories, movies of our own. That requires a structure of support—publishing houses, movie studios, review space, awards, almost all of which we’ve ceded to the Left.

This is another reason I've been promoting entrepreneurship: It is going to take entrepreneurship to win this competition of ideas. We need to become entrepreneurial in order to build the institutions that can create and disseminate the narratives and ideas that will provide the content for our culture. That is how you win the competition of ideas. As Dirty Harry said, first you win at the cultural level and the political success will follow. If you try to focus on the politics without a supporting cultural environment you will always be fighting an outside battle and never really succeeding. The success of the left at that cultural level is not because their ideas work, because we know they don't, but because they have been willing to be creative and entrepreneurial without any real competition. They have been succeeding by default because they have no significant challengers.

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