James Lileks on tradition and the good and bad ways to update it. I find him as clever & funny a conservative as Steyn or Goldberg. Imao/fwiw.
I’m deeply grateful the ‘rents clung a bit to the tried-n-true and passed on several fads. I think somewhere along the line we (society) threw the baby out with the bath water while making long-overdue changes for non-white-male subgroups. “Preach what you practice” as they say. Here’s Lileks from the BLEAT:
I keep coming back to that Better Homes and Garden cover in the fall – I’ve used it here, here, and here. It was one of the first things I ever scanned, and it’s an issue my mother kept and set aside for reasons I’ll never know.
As we understand now this is perhaps the worst model for social organization, since it consumes resources, depletes the core cities, leads to alienation, and fails to foster the correct attitude towards property. I thought of this today in the Hunt & Gather antique store, and beheld an enormous Firestone Tire 1949 wall calendar. Father in office uniform – shirt, tie – with his hand on his son’s shoulder. Son is wearing a Scouting uniform. The sky is filled with planes – bombers, figher planes, civilian airlines, even dirigibles. They have an expression of pride and optimism. Inset quote: That government by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
No doubt someone would see the image as fascist, given the way it intertwines corporate identity, patriotism, domestic life, militarism, and rigid gender identity. The past is a constant insult. Unless you define the images in the poster as parental bonds, shared values, the connective tissue of voluntary civic associations, defense against authoritarian ideologies, and so on. Why, it’s as if a picture of dad and son watching the planes go by isn’t a symbol of everything wrong with America, after all.
Nothing we built is without sin, so it’s all cursed. (Unless it’s an adorable Tupperware set on eBay, that’s permitted.) But our conception of their conceptions is correct and right and true, and since we have it all figured out now, there’s really nothing in the past we need to bring along – except pictures of neat-o retro stuff that would put our own irresolute styles to shame, if shame was a thing we were accustomed to feeling, except on the behalf of others.
We burn the plays but we spare the sets.
But, you say, you convenient interior voice who expresses contrary observations in a fashion I can easily dismiss, didn’t the style at the top of the page abolish its predecessors with the same la-de-da disregard for history? Yes. It did. But it didn’t have to disparage history to thrive; it didn’t have to find something morally suspect in the old styles. A change in tastes + the thrill of the modern + a rare clean-break moment in the culture (WW2 over, great technological change, conquest of space imminent, annihilation a constant possibility) meant that the past was just Grandpa on the porch, left with Old Blue the dog and a whittlin’ stick. Whatever change came about was a progression of what was right about things, not a repudiation of what was wrong.
I know. It’s a lot to read into a 1957 magazine cover. I’m spent. Babbling now.