The allure of the honey sandwich

On the campaign trail, this was apparently a Romney favorite: the Euro-American staple of the peanut butter and honey sandwich.

There are several interesting things about this news. First, he tended to prepare them himself. This is something no political wizard would do, since it’s better to have subordinates feeling a sense of purpose and loyalty. However, it’s something a good leader would do, since the snack is designed to be simple and quick and so it’s most efficient to make it himself.

It’s this kind of basic value that Romney offered America. Smaller, simpler, smarter. His idea was to treat America not as a political ideology and world symbol, but as a functional entity. A civilization is no different than a corporation, an army or even a church group.

People need to fit into the right places and have purpose. Good work needs to get rewards, and bad work needs to get rejection, and nothing should happen to the mediocre. In fact, this is a path to less overall work, because the important element in work becomes efficiency and not participation. Quality over quantity. When participation is the goal, they only care how many hours you were there. When quality is the goal, they care if you got it right.

America has slowly shifted to being a participation state. In our early days, we were a seat-of-the-pants frontier where we didn’t care how you did it, so long as you did (and didn’t do anything aberrant in the process). These people were ultimately practical, and they found a way to reconcile practicality with morality through a sense of efficiency. The goal was to get it done, then spend your time becoming a real human being.

Fast forward two centuries and we are no longer this civilization. Now, like European socialist states, we emphasize having everyone employed and doing something so that wealth can be spread. You don’t make your own peanut butter and honey sandwich, and you don’t pick up your trash after the meal. That’s for others to do, and the PBH sandwich costs $20.

We got this way because we tried to make people happy, instead of trying to make results happen. You either please reality, or you please people, because the two are opposites. The brain cannot be both logical and empathetic at the same time. When we let emotions rule, we treat every problem at face value and forget about the consequences of our actions. Thus we fix the symptom, but not the underlying cause.

Conservatives focus on end results because only through end results can we figure out what the effects of any action will be. This in turn forces us to think about goals and values. This is an ends-over-means analysis, which is different from “the ends justify the means” which is a means-over-ends analysis based on justification of the means, even if using the ends.

Liberals use a means-over-ends analysis, which means they are concerned about how they do things more than how those things turn out. They base their decisions entirely on social morality, personal preference and “feelings.” Their goal is to look good and make others think good things about them for what they do.

The conservative way is majoritarian. It supposes that we as a society will have values, will share those values, and thus we all want the same thing and so we can use ends-over-means analysis to choose a direction that will benefit us all.

Liberals on the other hand are pluralists. They don’t want a single values system, but many values systems existing simultaneously. This way no individual is forced to make a choice and every individual fits in everywhere. This makes them feel liberated, accepted and “free” from the usual method of civilization. They are anti-majoritarian.

The farther we go into pluralism, the more people demand an entitlement mentality. Under the entitlement mentality, each viewpoint and lifestyle is correct. Because they’re all correct, they should be subsidized whether they work or not. Since all behavior is accepted, there should be no reward/punishment structure. Only a faceless, formless, emotional mob.

We descend to our worst human traits when we try to be compassionate and empathetic. Ironically, we rise to our greatest heights when we think logically about our problems. Sometimes this leads us to even change ourselves, and start liking honey sandwiches because they’re practical enough and taste well enough. We stop thinking about our own egos and desires and think more about the task.

It’s this kind of mindset that enabled this country to be great. Its opposite is clearly that which puts the ego and desire first. At some point, we will learn from our struggles and start focusing on results over feelings.

19 Comments

  1. 1349 says:

    Excuse my persisting quotation-dogmaticness, but the following words could complement some parts of your essay:

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, coon a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
    (Robert A. Heinlein)

    The brain cannot be both logical and empathetic at the same time.

    This might describe men more than women…

    1. As much as I enjoy Heinlein, I’m not sure I agree.

      I think we’re specialized by what we can do, and not everyone can do these things:

      • plan an invasion
      • design a building
      • write a sonnet
      • give orders
      • analyze a new problem

      In fact, these are specialized skills.

      Heinlein’s libertarian solution involves us dumbing-down these skills so everyone can do them.

      1. 1349 says:

        You’re inclined to analyze; i’m taking the thought generally and not that literally.
        To myself, i insert “(if necessary)” in the quote above…
        I believe an effective leader should at least have a notion of how things are done at the lowest level (and, if very necessary, be able to take the place of a simple worker).
        As for the dumbing down, i would say the point is in seeing reality from a large number of angles, not necessarily in being exceptional in all those tasks. Who’s a better knower of reality – a cubicle-dwelling ASP.Net coder or a countryman (peasant) who has no choice but to do a wide variety of things throughout his life?
        Moreover, there are truly gifted people that can succeed in virtually any field. They learn quickly. And those mediocre are mediocre at everything or most things. (Maybe i have some faulty experience, but i don’t quite trust the Soviet-style division of people into “physicists” and “lyricists”.)

  2. EvilBuzzard says:

    Mitt Romney offered a Systems Engineering approach to fixing our problems. We will soon be increasingly sorry we didn’t elect this man. Even if Obama’s plan works by some obtuse miracle, half of Amerika will hate the other half as a result of his obnoxiousness and it will all go to shit anyway.

    1. We will soon be increasingly sorry we didn’t elect this man.

      Obama is going to try to claim his policies “work” by restricting our measurement to the short-term. Just like Clinton, he likes to do things, and then when the next upsurge in the economy comes, he claims credit for it as a result of his policies. This is obviously false because it takes decades for the effects of any policy to be seen.

      This leaves conservatives with an ugly option, which is to strengthen our local communities while we let liberals run government into the ground for the next four election cycles.

      I think you’re right about America being half/half divided however. There’s no way to knit the 47% together with the 53%. We just want different things.

      1. There are a couple of people whom I don’t really want to be friends with anymore since the election and one of them was an Obama ant. The other one is a 47% member. But now that leaves me with less of them to care about and more of me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to cope with the rise of socialist Amerika, and to this day I’m still stressing. But it’s forcing me to look at what I can change and what I can’t. Today I’ve come to the conclusion that America is me, and I’m a mess. It looks just like me. It does only what it has to, it relies on supporting a big moneymaker, it wants to be creative but is a bit too lazy. So, before I can change Amerika back to America, I am forced to make repairs to myself. But I think it’s important for us to talk to one another. That will have a good effect.

    2. America is already divided.

      One side wants Amerika: no one can be wrong, everyone is subsidized, and there are no consequences.

      The other side wants America: we cut out the parasites, we cut down the red tape, we have a culture of decency and goodness, and everyone who is competent and well-meaning can earn a good living.

      The Americans would deliver us the best result without involving us spending so many hours commuting, working for the sake of being seen, or manipulating the hoop-jumping tests that this society uses to pick its ranks.

      The Amerikans will deliver a short-term corporate hell, followed by us descending to the level of third world nations (Brazil, Mexico, Iraq, Africa, Vietnam) not through immigration per se but through drastically lowered levels of shared values, which leads to internal dissolution, infighting, then corruption, militarism, lowered hygiene, lowered services and institutions, and less rule of law.

      It’s a heck of a choice. America requires some short-term sacrifice for long-term good; Amerika offers long-term sacrifice for short-term good. Amerika eats the seed corn; America plants it. Many people have made the choice for an easier present and a longer-term doom, hoping that happens after they’re dead.

  3. NotTheDude says:

    I just want it to be absolutely clear that Leftism is the problem to everyone around me. Yet, that would require a disbelief in Leftism itseelf. To be scientist don’t you have to mistrust science?

    1. Leftism is a form of politics, so a political scientist would probably see it as an experiment which achieves definite results (fatality to the surrounding civilization) across consistent instances of use.

  4. Leftism is not going away. At all.

    I see it as if there’s a big, long elastic band. It’s being pulled into a 3-way tug of war triangle. At one corner are the so-called progressives. At another corner are conservatives. At the third corner are power brokers and right now they are corrupted badly.

    For it to stay a triangle, we keep pulling against the other two. But there’s two of them and one of us. To break the triangle, we have to let go. Let the other two have a tug of war and let’s minimize our dealings with them.

    1. NotTheDude says:

      As conservatives produce all of what is really worth anything on earth, that should work. It is great to hear sane thoughts about what we can do. It would be quite easy for me as I live in the sticks out of the way of most of the madness, trying to beat back the tentacles of doom. Haha.

    2. EvilBuzzard says:

      No. It’s an absorbing state. That’s why Vladamir Lenin once said “The worse it gets, the better.”

      1. Hence our parable of leftism.

        Leftism isn’t a thing; it’s the absence of a direction, and the result is that human weaknesses take over.

        We are either moving forward toward a goal, or we are bickering among ourselves about “fairness” because no one has any purpose except to use society for their own profit.

        That’s what happens when a society is no longer unified.

        We had it good in America and Europe. We assumed it would always continue no matter how much we meddled with the formula. We were wrong.

        1. NotTheDude says:

          So it really is that simple? We gave up on value and goals and this is what we got? Hard to believe a group of humans could be that daft though we know they can and do. I think your last sentence is the most true. We were comfortable and fiddled around with society just to see what we could make of it. Just let it go and go back to the old ways.

          1. I think it’s perhaps even simpler than that. Originally, we had a goal, and thus were responsible to consequences. When we lost all purpose (and culture), we became a society of individuals doing whatever is convenient, thus our values system became one of not having standards, values or norms.

    3. I wonder if the power brokers oppose leftism at all.

      For one thing, it’s totally market compatible since its only value is individualism. Sure, you have to pay out some welfare. Their short-term solution is to cut the military budget. When that bites them in the ass when a real conflict arises, they’ll send out the draft and all the well-meaning people will sign up. They have no responsibility to minimize casualties, as the US Army showed (to a lesser degree than the Red Army, but to a much greater degree than the Wehrmacht) during WWII.

      The ugly truth of modern society is that consumerism is a form of leftism. People want what they want. They don’t want any rules, culture, values, ideology or anything else getting in the way. This puts them on the anarchy-welfare spectrum of leftism.

      Whatever power brokers exist will find that this rampant individualism (and subsidiary altruism) is something they can work with.

      A conservative ideology designed on preserving what’s best for the nation as a whole? That might even be seen as anti-business, although it’s more accurate to say it takes on short-term losses for long term gains through a more stable consumer base and fewer external threats to business. Also, stable labor.

  5. I’m reading a book by Rod Dreher called Crunchy Conservatives. The title describes me pretty well, and it’s saying that our values including our families and community networks can make a huge difference in how we handle the upcoming problems we’re going to have.

    1. Me too. Combine paleoconservatism/New Rightism with deep ecology, and that’s basically where I am.

      1. I read a lot of comments on my FB page from those of us who had the rug pulled out from under our feet in the last election. Many of them are digging in, repeating what they’ve already been saying for a year or ten. It’s something I must dig myself out of or I’ll be buried. I’m already turning into an anxiety-ridden, avoidant hoarder and I’m so grateful I know better!

        I want to see a reality show where an enterprise is peeled open and shown for how it works and who contributes to it. There are so many new ideas left undiscovered, and at the same time so many good old ways that can be relied on.

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