Normally I don’t bother with David Brooks, because life is too short to waste on poisoned pablum. But Jessica Roy at NYMag had a brief post:
…David Brooks made a stunning discovery in this week’s op-ed: Friends. People should have them. Wow, big if true.
After making the sociopath’s case for having friends, such as the way one stands to benefit politically and socially from friendships, Brooks says that if he had $500 million he would create a happy fun time summer camp for adults to make friends.
I have a better idea, David Brooks: Give me $500 million and I will happily be your friend (though I’ll probably still talk about you behind your back).
The amazing thing — and this, no doubt, is why the NYTimes gives him the big bucks & the premium op-ed space — is that Brooks’ piece is even worse than Roy described, starting with its oxymoronic title:
Somebody recently asked me what I would do if I had $500 million to give away. My first thought was that I’d become a moderate version of the Koch brothers. I’d pay for independent candidates to run against Democratic or Republican members of Congress who veered too far into their party’s fever swamps.
But then I realized that if I really had that money, I’d want to affect a smaller number of people in a more personal and profound way. The big, established charities are already fighting disease and poverty as best they can, so in search of new directions I thought, oddly, of friendship…
Shorter BoBo: “Current politics have convinced me that $500 million is not nearly enough money to force people to vote for the Thought Leaders I would prefer to see in charge. It might, however, be enough for me to finally buy some syncophants.”
… In the first place, friendship helps people make better judgments. So much of deep friendship is thinking through problems together: what job to take; whom to marry. Friendship allows you to see your own life but with a second sympathetic self….
How many times has this man been divorced?
Second, friends usually bring out better versions of each other. People feel unguarded and fluid with their close friends. If you’re hanging around with a friend, smarter and funnier thoughts tend to come burbling out…
Somebody needs to break it to him: Gail Collins only laughs at his “jokes” because she feels sorry for him. (Actually, I suspect those squirm-inducing ‘conversations’ are written into her contract, but it’s clear even from the published results that she feels sorry for him. Gail Collins is a nicer person than I am.)
Finally, people behave better if they know their friends are observing. Friendship is based, in part, on common tastes and interests, but it is also based on mutual admiration and reciprocity. People tend to want to live up to their friends’ high regard. People don’t have close friendships in any hope of selfish gain, but simply for the pleasure itself of feeling known and respected…
Or so Brooks has been given to understand, from his copious research on the subject. Even if he had to spend $500 million to come within range of “the pleasure… of feeling known and respected”, at least he could expect that financial incentive to ensure any ‘friend’ mocking him behind his back to be exposed by their fellow paid pals!
I envision a string of adult camps or retreat centers (my oldest friendships were formed at summer camp, so I think in those terms). Groups of 20 or 30 would be brought together from all social and demographic groups, and secluded for two weeks. They’d prepare and clean up all their meals together, and eating the meals would go on for a while. In the morning, they would read about and discuss big topics. In the afternoons, they’d play sports, take hikes and build something complicated together. At night, there’d be a bar and music…
BoBo: “It would be like the Aspen Institute, only without eavesdropping catering services or cellphones! Or that Burning Man festival Grover Norquist keeps babbling on about, only without the distasteful nudity, dirt, and illegal substances!”
However restricted my daily existence sometimes seems, there is always this consolation: Barring a serious frontal lobe disorder, at least it will never be as limited as the inside of David Brooks’ skull.
Apart from mocking the deserving, what’s on the agenda for the weekend?