Sometimes I read a David Brooks column and I think to myself, I get it, New York Times, you’re playing a joke on us. HAHA. It’s a funny bit you have going here, wherein you allow an adult mental patient to mumble a series of non-sequiturs into a recording device, the contents of which is later assembled into a comically meaningless news leaflet. Today’s column ends with the emptiest sentence I’ve ever read — and I’ve read a disturbingly large amount of David Brooks.
Friend-to-the-little-guy Brooks spends 800 or so words lamenting the fall of the old elite power structures (nothing new for him) and the shortcomings of the relatively new meritocracy in America. Though he claims to be in favor of expanded access to the ruling class — how could he not? — Brooks still finds all sorts of things to be cranky about. In a particularly un-self-aware moment, he writes:
Our system rewards those who can amass technical knowledge. But this skill is only marginally related to the skill of being sensitive to context. It is not related at all to skills like empathy. Over the past years, we’ve seen very smart people make mistakes because they didn’t understand the context in which they were operating. [emphasis added.]
Yeah, it’s a real shame when people with important jobs don’t have a sense of empathy. Like, say, columnists who call for unending war for years on end.
The rest of the missive is just as oblivious as that last passage, but it doesn’t veer into WTF territory again until the final paragraph, which, as I wrote above, is just god awful. Really, just, ugh. After spending an entire column in the goddamn NYT describing how institutions are more hated than ever and transparency in government is a problem (ha!), Brooks leaves the reader with this masterpiece of semantic emptiness:
This is not to say that we should return to the days of the WASP ascendancy. That’s neither possible nor desirable. Rather, our system of promotion has grown some pretty serious problems, which are more evident with each passing day.
Slow. Clap. Slow clap. SLOW clap. SLOW CLAP. SLOW CLAP, SLOW CLAP, SLOW CLAP SLOWCAP SLOWCLAP-SLOWCLAP-SLOWCLAP!!!!!!!!!! Thanks, Mr. Brooks, for that stunning observations. Things were bad, and they’re better but not perfect now? Good work. Really going out on a limb, there, Brooksy.
I’ll do you one better: Some things in the past were pretty all right, and we’ve lost some of them, but I still like the present. I DID IT! I WANT A JOB, NYT!
Seriously, New York Times, it’s a good joke you’re pulling on us but it’s running thin.