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Care Bears Take Dallas

November 20th, 2007 · 6 Comments

My friend Erica notes the Care Bear Stare metaphor popping up in Rod Dreher’s Dallas Morning News column. Maybe this one’s got legs. Adorable, stubby, furry legs!
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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 LP // Nov 20, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    My favorite part:

    “Since at least the 1960s, liberalism has provided an ideological wigwam under whose pastel-colored flaps the Caring-American community has gathered to emote and caucus in its therapeutic and sentimental fashion, always looking forward to a better future…”

  • 2 dan // Nov 20, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    I’m curious whether you think Dreher’s hypotheticals about global warming and education conversations are good examples of the phenomenon, because if so, I think I misunderstood your initial post, and perhaps still don’t understand the idea. I had thought the care bear stare meant something like “belief that ‘consciousness-raising’ is an important end in itself,” which is a belief a lot of my fellow liberals annoy the hell out of me with. Dreher seems to be talking about something else though–on the environment, the idea seems to be a) speaker says global warming is a problem, and policy X should be adopted to fix it, b) listener says “policy X is unrealistic,” c) speaker says “well what’s your policy proposal,” and gets annoyed when d) listener doesn’t have one. That’s really sort of a nihilism of conservatism, to my way of thinking–there’s a tacit agreement in his examples that a problem is significant, but since the proposed solution of the person bringing it up isn’t feasible, the problem must be insoluble, and the proponent, by advocating an unrealistic policy, is no more serious than a care bear.

    Maybe my point is this: Dreher seems to be saying it’s care-bearish to advocate a politically implausible solution (“Congress would never pass the Kyoto accord!”), whereas it seems to me it’s only care-bearish to advocate in the absence of a proposed solution that would have any practical effect on the problem.

  • 3 Julian Sanchez // Nov 20, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    I guess I was a little open-ended about precisely what I meant. To my mind, the core of the “Care Bear Stare” approach was a faith that all problems are soluble given sufficient concern, usually resulting in a sort of impatience with specific instrumental or pragmatic objections rooted in the belief that those things will all work themselves out *somehow* if people just will hard enough.

    What you’re talking about would count as an example if it’s based on the idea that people’s just knowing and caring about Issue X will somehow–ta da!–make things better, so much so that they seem almost unconcerned with exactly what we’re supposed to do about it once we care.

    But I think Dreher’s sort of case at least sometimes count also. Again, the key elements here are a belief in the omnipotence of concern and a corollary near-indifference to mechanism. Now, if it were *just* a question of “political implausibility,” I’d tend not to count that, since that really is, at least arguably, a case where the problem is people just don’t want it badly enough. (On the other hand, it might be Care Bearish for a small cadre of activists to believe they can radically change the views of large swaths of the public in a short period of time.)

    Anyway… Dreher. I don’t think it’s Care Bearish as such to care about solving a problem without having a very clear idea of how to go about it. It is Care Bearish to *forget that these are not the same thing*. On the one hand, it’s Care Bearish to imagine that methods that have generally failed in the past, or that otherwise suffer obvious problems, are going to suddenly start working because you really want them to. On the other hand, which the side Dreher seems more concerned with, it’s Care Bearish to suppose that somebody who doesn’t think the available plans of action will do any good just must not care enough–because anything is possible if you care enough! Maybe Dreher’s particular example is a little unfair: It’s fair to ask someone with so many objections whether they’ve got any better ideas, and it’s surely true sometimes that the guy who sees no workable solutions just doesn’t care enough to have thought about any. The unfair, Care Bear part is, again, erasing the distinction, on the grounds that all problems necessarily have workable solutions given sufficient caring.

    Does that make more sense?

  • 4 dan // Nov 20, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    yes, thanks. Although I’m not sure I like the phrase as much as I did when I didn’t quite understand what you meant. Every year I have to attend a “breast cancer awareness luncheon.” It’s more or less the same insular group of people every year, and as far as I can determine no money is raised for breast cancer research or treatment or anything. There is no purpose for the luncheon that I can see except to get a bunch of people together and allow them to think that by eating bad chicken and handing out a pointless award they are somehow Good People, fighting the evils of breast cancer inawareness. That’s what I thought of when I read your first post, and why I laughed out loud and started using the phrase to describe that and similar “consciousness raising” events. Forgetting the distinction between what you want and whether it’s possible to get there strikes me as less useful, somehow. But that’s probably just me pouting because I misread the post and really liked something I guess you weren’t quite saying.

  • 5 dan // Nov 20, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    (although on the basis of that post, I decided I trusted your judgment, and therefore would finally cave in and read the watchmen after years of hearing glowing but slightly untrustworthy recommendations. So the care bear stare made Alan Moore a little better off. Funny how things work)

  • 6 Julian Sanchez // Nov 21, 2007 at 10:46 am

    I don’t know, your case still like a valid instance: The luncheoners have lost sight of the fact that caring about breast cancer is not the same thing as *doing something* about breast cancer. Still sounds like a case of expecting that what’s in your head will somehow, magically, change the world all by itself.

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