Some people talkin’ progressive reform, other people talkin’ conservative reform. Well, one of those seems to have done a better job than the other of marrying theoretical speculation to empirical observation. Plus, it seems to me that if you exile the identitarian fundamentalists, the postmodernist academics, the vestigial Marxists, and the social media garbage babies from the Left, at most you’re left with…welfare-state liberalism. I dunno, maybe “true” socialism is hiding down a well with the 12th Imam.
Like any Liverpool fan, I was elated by the appointment of Jürgen Klopp as manager in early October. Having been a longtime fan of the Bundesliga, and of Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund team, I was giddy with anticipation. And while the style of football has already begun to live up to high expectations, the real treat has been listening to the man discuss his philosophy as a manager.
I’ve seen exquisitely talented players, exciting teams, and thrilling games as an LFC fan. The current signs of renewal at pitch level, while certainly welcome, isn’t completely novel. What has been a delightful surprise is the way he’s dealt with the typical breathless and brainless manner of the English media — their ubiquitous tropes, their fatuous clichés, their shallow obsession with titillating gossip, their self-serving narratives with unwarranted sweeping conclusions, and, of course, their relentless, frenetic hype.
In this extended interview with Sky Sports, we have almost a “greatest hits” compilation of the themes he’s been expressing since his arrival. In vain, he once again tries to make clear that superstar players do not appear, fully developed, from a vacuum — they are made through training, management, and above all else, time and patience. Football, like life itself, he keeps reiterating, is mostly about hard work with a little bit of luck, but journalists, like impatient children, want something more glorious and glamorous. The press desperately wants to hear stories of superstar players being bought for ridiculous prices, but he keeps reminding them that today’s superstars were yesterday’s squad players struggling for playing time (while being dismissed by an attention-deficient media as expensive flops or has-beens). In response to a generic question about what would constitute a success for Liverpool this season, Klopp reminds him that even successes, such as Liverpool winning the Carling Cup in 2012, are treated with bored indifference (whereas an early exit from the tournament would have been gleefully pounced upon). Arsenal have won the FA Cup for two years straight, but, as he points out, the dominant media narrative is to scorn them as perennial failures for not having won the league in over ten years. Nothing is ever good enough by these standards, and the only thing that seems to matter to journalists and fans alike is affecting a smug, knowing, jaded posture — “Oh, isn’t it all just so obvious.”
“Why should the world be like this?” Klopp asks this about the callous disregard the media have for players who have — in their eyes — outlived their novelty or usefulness. When you demand that I should buy these four players who will supposedly help me win the league for sure, he says, you’re overlooking that four other players will lose their jobs as a result. What happens to them? Do we care? Do we blithely assume that they will do fine somewhere else, in some faraway league we’re not interested in, where all the losers and second-rate players go? Do we secretly resent all of them anyway for being young, beautiful, rich athletes and take a small measure of delighted revenge upon them by gloating over their fall from grace? What a petty, sad way of going about “enjoying” your favorite game. Why should the world be like this? Klopp is far too savvy to ask this out of innocence; it comes from his self-assurance. What matters most, he dares to say, is treating people like human beings and having fun without concern for what others will say about it. The fact that this is absolutely heretical to a class of noxious, superficial people who care about nothing but money, status and gossip makes it all the sweeter.
I had always daydreamed about a manager who could win big games and titles for LFC, of course. But a manager who could puncture the fraudulent bubble economy of media self-worth by speaking plain common-sense truth? I never imagined such a thing was possible, so much so that I didn’t even know I wanted it until I saw it happening.
Killing us? Don’t abuse hyperbole. Leftism has been nailed to the perch for decades. It’s not like the nation was on the verge of a revolutionary change until those meddling kids fucked it all up with their narcissistic tantrums. If anything, the spectacle of lefter-than-thou college brats striving to outdo their peers in fanatical moral purity is the status quo. It has at least a half-century of established tradition behind it at this point! At worst, it has become a tiresome rite of passage for spoiled rich kids steeped in the politics of resentment; at best, it has ironically become a safe careerist choice for tomorrow’s faux-radical academics.
Still, as Clarence Darrow said, that is an obituary I would read with great satisfaction. Nevertheless, I’m afraid “committed leftists” are currently busy with more respectable work, such as, uh, re-issuing calls to burn the Constitution:
For the vulgar 2nd Amendment adherents, a reminder that the constitution is a garbage document. Burn the damn thing. https://t.co/LbYbCiR9jT
Ah, the perennial “burn imperfection to the ground and build utopia in the ashes.” The idea can never fail, it can only be failed. Sorry; who are the serious adults here again?
The only interesting thing about all this is wondering how long deBoer can continue to convince himself that these predictable paroxysms of identity politics represent some sort of regrettable deviation from “true” leftism, rather than its pathetic denouement. Then again, though he doesn’t get a paycheck for it per se, his shtick as the Last Honest Leftist on the Internet depends on him not seeing it that way. After all, if your angle is writing several hundred near-identical posts excoriating the social media left for signaling and status-seeking instead of engaging in useful activism, and you don’t maintain an impervious faith in the true democratic socialist potential of the Twittering masses, well, then, you might need to consider whether you’re just doing a more niche version of the same signaling yourself.
Similarly, Santayana’s aloofness from political and social duties, and in general his avoidance of communal activities, is explained, or at least symbolized, by his adherence to the kernel theory. It may also account for his tolerant attitude toward the lives that others chose, and his more or less egoistic concern about his own. A person who is secure within his or her kernel need not feel threatened if different people experience the world differently. That only means that their kernels are not the same as our kernel. And neither is ours necessarily in conflict with theirs, or inherently preferable to them. Likewise, one can help other people fulfill themselves not by directly contributing to their welfare, as the spiral theory would suggest, but merely by refusing to impose restrictive outer layers. Because no one can change the inner core, we do best to leave it alone. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of being let alone oneself.
In this context Santayana goes so far as to admit that he is both selfish and heartless in his attempt to “resist human contagion, except provisionally, on the surface, and in matters indifferent to me.” Still, as he also points out, his selfishness was never competitive or aggressive.
The “kernel” theory here refers to a sense of self centered on some irreducible essence, whereas the “spiral” theory describes the view that the self is merely the sum total of experiences. As a fellow traveler of Spinozan pantheism, I’m inclined to see the spiral version as more accurate in an ontological sense, but in practice and temperament, I can certainly relate to this passage.