On The Couch With The Neo Neocon
Every now and then, a voice emerges from the blustering, self absorbed cacaphony that is the blogosphere, that is fresh, relevant and pointed. Neo-Neocon is one such voice. A former New Yorker and committed liberal, Neo-Neocon came to her new, more conservative beliefs by virtue of reason rather than revelation.
This serves the Neo-Neocon well. Her positions and beliefs, are cogent expressions of an adaptive and nuanced evolutionary examination of experiences- they are not expressions of a 'party line' thinker. She will give you pause, make you think and at times, cause you to reconsider that which you might regard as 'gospel.' That in itself would make the Neo-Neocon a worthwhile read. In fact, there is more to the Neo-Neocon- much more. She presents her ideas, thoughts and arguments in such a way that the reader is less of a reader and more of a participant in the exchange. Her readers are well served by participating and sharing in her journey.
The Neo-Neocon is the consummate student- ever learning, questioning and passionate. Her readers benefit from that fire. That in the end, serves us, her fellow sojourners, well.
I agree: narrow but deep, and difficult to traverse. I don't know that angels with flaming swords bar the re-entry, but there doesn't seem to be a way back.
1) You moved from NYC to New England. Besides the pizza, what do you miss most about the City?
Aha, you're making an unwarranted assumption based on a paucity of information. I actually don't miss the pizza all that much. The pizza in New England isn't half bad--in fact, New Haven (which really isn't so New Englandy, come to think of it, being south of the Sox/Yankees divide which occurs at Hartford) has exceptional pizza.
But you are quite correct in that I miss the food--most of all, the Middle Eastern food. There is no good Middle Eastern food north of Boston. I periodically visit the Watertown section of Boston for supplies, and it's pretty decent, but every time I return to New York there's a pilgrimage to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and especially to the mothership, Sahadi's.
Now that we've gotten the all-important food over with, I also miss the theater, dance, and art. New York is cosmopolitan in a more intense way than any other city in the United States. IMHO, it's the only US city that is a world capital. I grew up on a steady diet of the aforementioned arts, and I miss them terribly--although at this point, they've mostly been priced out of my reach as anything but occasional fare, anyway.
I also miss the incredible vitality of the city.
2) Is there a difference between NYC liberalism vs the New England version?
I think New York liberalism, like New York itself, is a bit more in-your-face. That's a generalization, of course, but I think it has some truth to it. New England, especially Boston, is the home of academic liberalism, since it has far more than its quota of colleges. Since I don't really get into too many discussions about politics with liberals any more--most of the ones who still talk to me have done so by setting up the caveat that we'll have to steer clear of politics--I'm probably not the best qualified person to explain the difference at this point.
3) Do you believe in God? Did you believe in God before 9/11?
You may notice that on my blog I don't talk about my religious beliefs much, if at all--although I certainly discuss religion, such as in my series of posts on Quaker pacifism. But my personal religious views are something I feel private about (as you may have guessed from the photo on my blog, I'm a fairly private person, for a blogger). That said, I will state that I do have religious beliefs, and that I did have them before 9/11, as well. Since then I've felt the need to draw on religion even more than before.
4) Is it a fine line or a deep chasm that separates liberals from conservatives?
Well, if it's a deep chasm, then I've leapt over that chasm. As Christopher Hitchens said, describing a related phenomenon: It's a narrow but deep crevasse to cross, and once you've crossed it, I'll tell you this, you can't go back over it again.
In general, I think that most liberals and conservatives tend to be of different personality types, and that's one reason there's not a whole lot of crossover or ability to understand each other. My rather lengthy "A mind is a difficult thing to change" series is devoted to exploring some of these questions, so it's hard for me to summarize. But I do think that, as a very rough generalization, conservatives tend to be more into factual information and history as forming the underpinnings of their political beliefs, whereas feelings and their own sense of how to help people are more the province of liberals. The left--that's another story entirely.
5) How should our society encourage personal accountability?
I do believe that the profession of therapy has been at least partially responsible for the lack of personal accountability--or, at least, those therapists whose understanding of therapy seems to be that the goal is to make the individual feel good, and to encourage high self-esteem to the point of narcissism. To encourage personal accountability, we must practice it: hold people responsible, and follow through both in rhetoric and in action. I see the educational system as key.
6) What don't liberals 'get'? What don't conservatives 'get'?
On a more serious note, liberals don't get that conservatives are not mostly motivated by greed and lack of love for humanity. Conservatives don't get that liberals are not all America-hating moonbats.
7) Should morality be taught in schools?
Morality is already taught in schools, whether intentionally or not. Every act of a teacher is an example to students, as is every school policy, and every disciplinary action or failure to discipline. The same is true of parents--morality (or lack thereof) is taught by example every moment. Lectures don't really cut it, example does--although sometimes defiant children decide to do the opposite of the examples set by parents and teachers.
It wouldn't be a bad idea to have ethics courses in school also, to discuss the murkier areas that present moral dilemmas.
But by "teaching morality," people often seem to be referring specifically to sex ed. This is tricky, because anything you try to teach in that arena--anything!--is going to offend someone or other--including teaching a sort of moral relativism where anything and everything goes (that would offend me). There's no way around the dilemma, and I don't have an answer to the problem. But my attitude is that if a person really objects to what is being taught, he/she can always have the child opt out of sex education class. Or send the child to a religious rather than a public school if the objections are religious in nature. The public school system can't be all things to all people; it would end up contentless.
8) Does Hollywood give us what we want or do they feed us off a menu of their design?
Well, they certainly don't give me what I want--but then, I've never been a big moviegoer. I think the truth--even though it sounds like I'm copping out of the question--is "both." They give us what people will pay money to see, because Hollywood's main interest is in making money--and then, what people see often ends up shaping what they want to see in the future.
9) Who was your favorite President, and why?
Churchill. Oops, he wasn't a President, was he? I am an inveterate Churchill fan, I'm afraid. But my favorite President was undoubtedly Lincoln--for reasons that are similar to some of the reasons I like Churchill, although the two men are certainly not superficially the same. Both were unusually eloquent writers, both were intrepid and courageous wartime leaders, both had a strong gut sense of what their countries needed in times of terrible crisis, and both suffered from depression (or perhaps manic-depression in Churchill's case). I think this last fact gave both a special depth and humanity.
10) Would you describe yourself as a realist or an idealist?
As a neocon, I'm afraid I'd have to say "both." (Oh-oh, another copout?) I'm certainly not a starry-eyed idealist; I am not a Rousseauvian, for example, one who sees humankind as an innately peaceful and loving crew who, if left in a state of nature, would automatically be noble and kind.
However, I am idealistic in having the notion that democracy can spread around the world, and that this would be, on the whole, a plus. But I'm realistic enough to realize the whole enterprise is attendant with grave pitfalls and dangers. However, pushing for democracy can't be helped--I see no true alternative. It's that old saying, "Democracy is the worst form of government there is, except for all the others."