The question in the last post was: How did 19th century America, which had all the Old World’s beefs and the most disgruntled Old Worlders themselves over here stirring things up, end up becoming America? Why is, say, Greektown a charming place to get some good souvlaki and not a hotbed of ethnic tension? The former Frontier is full of towns with names like “New Krakow;” why aren’t they feuding with the “New Konigsberg” just down the road (as they would be — still are — back in Europe)?
The last post suggested an answer: Imagined communities and invented traditions. Or, put simply: Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.
“Traditions” are easy to invent. Current Year America is full of examples, from the smallest to the largest. Consider Liberals, and their vanguard party, the SJWs. These people baffle anyone who passed Psych 101. Isn’t there this thing called “cognitive dissonance?” Isn’t it supposed to hurt when you believe obviously contradictory things? Unless it’s only the “woke” who are driving the opioid epidemic, there’s either something wrong with our understanding of CD, or our understanding of Liberals. (It’s the latter).
We normies look at Liberalism as a set of… well, ideas is stretching it, so let’s say “propositions.” Propositions like “race is a social construction.” Taken in isolation, that’s not so strange. It might even be functionally true*. But it directly contradicts one of Liberalism’s other dogmas, that race is the only thing that matters. The only way those two things could possibly harmonize is if we’re getting all worked up about something we know doesn’t exist… which contradicts a third pillar of the Leftist faith, that they’re The Science People. Does “The Flying Spaghetti Monster” ring a bell? Ruining people’s lives over made-up crap we know is fake is something only Godbag Christofascists do, amirite?
Instead, look at Liberals as an imagined community. The “community-based reality” was a fun joke back in the W. Bush years (read the first sentence of that link for a meta-example), but it’s true for all that. Maybe Millennials missed out on the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah high school experience — too traumatic for the campus ferns or something — but the rest of us remember Friday nights at the stadium. We weren’t gonna win, and our team wasn’t number one, but there we were anyway, filled with something close to bloodlust. I can’t stress this enough — nothing is dumber than high school football, but look at how well it works. Your parents chose to move to the same arbitrarily assigned district at some point in your past, and you’re supposed to be best buddies for life with a large group of random people, because — and only because — their parents also chose to move within the same arbitrarily-defined district at some point in their past. But… but… but…. Class of ’85 rules!!!!
All the stuff we call “virtue-signaling” is just policing up the boundaries of the imagined community. Chanting “race is a social construction!” or “there are 37 genders!” on social media is exactly the same as chanting “we’re number one!” down at the stadium. That race isn’t a social construction, and that there are only two genders, is exactly as relevant as you’re team’s real record (0-8). The chant — NOT the words of which the chant is composed — is the point.
Which explains all their behavior. To Liberals, your team’s 0-8 record is irrelevant, because it is irrelevant. It means exactly nothing that you didn’t win a game, including the big rivalry game to the evil school across town. For them, politics works exactly the same way. If it mattered — if the parents of everyone from the losing school got beheaded, Aztec style — then Massachusetts Liberals would take high school football as seriously as Texas conservatives do. Liberals don’t have to live with the social constructions, which is why they vote how they do. So long as it’s possible to keep imagining — and facts can intrude a long, looooong way into the fantasy — the imagined community will be more important than any real one.**
The trick, then, is figuring out how to make this work for us.
Baseball is a benign example (European readers, please feel free to substitute “football,” as I suppose the process was the same). Something like “professional sports” would’ve happened anyway — the leisure class and all that — but baseball, specifically, became the “national game” through savvy marketing. It was pitched as a “sandlot” game than anyone could play anywhere, at any time, even though that’s not true — soccer and basketball, just to name two, are far less space- and equipment-intensive, plus baseball can only be played in summer (Naismith specifically invented basketball as a year-round sport that could be played with small numbers). The first baseball heroes were portrayed as everyday joes, even though they weren’t — as several different players point out in The Glory of Their Times (a must-read for any fan, btw), there were proportionally far more college grads playing pro baseball than in the general population. For every Shoeless Joe Jackson there was an Eppa Rixey, a University of Virginia graduate who was a high school Latin teacher in the offseason. In an era where the only other popular sport, football, was strictly a college boy’s game, the Shoeless Joes and Dizzy Deans and Honus Wagners were working class heroes — by design.
Once you had that, the rest was easy. Just as Rixey and Shoeless Joe could’ve peacefully coexisted on the same diamond, so America’s class and ethnic divisions could coexist peacefully in the stands. You can cue the gooey Ken Burns music here if you’d like, since moron socialists like Burns have been getting moist over the class-leveling effects of baseball since the Gilded Age. They’re marxoid dopes, but they’re not wrong about this one.
You’ll have noticed, of course, that baseball is scalable…. but only if properly done. It could’ve easily gone the way of English football hooligan culture*** — Pirates fans attacking Phillies fans in the streets whenever their teams play (yeah yeah, I know inter-league play started in 1997; the point still stands). Why do you think Civil War retrospectives all feature the Blue and the Gray playing baseball (as if it were the same game everywhere), and Union Gen. Abner Doubleday gets the credit for “inventing” it? Why did the Presidential first pitch start in 1910, just in time for the Civil War’s 50th anniversary? Why, of all the shots of G.I.s relaxing that photographers could take, do they invariably take pictures of baseball?
“Phillies fan” (or whatever) is constructed as a subset of “baseball fan,” which is constructed as part of American-ness. Or do you think it’s a coincidence that all the diabetes-inducingly saccharine portrays of baseball — in the movies, in books, on TV — ended early in the Clinton era? You think Robert Redford would make The Natural (1984) now? How about Kevin Costner and Field of Dreams (1989)? Ken Burns’s Baseball was 1994; Major League, The Sandlot… all late 80s or early 90s. The only Current Year “baseball” movies anyone has heard of — scan that list; ye cats! — are either sappy rom-coms to which baseball is incidental (Summer Catch; Fever Pitch), or glorifications of nerd culture (Moneyball), in which handsome jock Brad Pitt is helpless without a fat dork and his computer.****
You’ll have noticed also, I hope, that this is a possible solution to the legitimacy problem. That’s the other great thing about baseball — every team has a superfan kid whose fandom is the only thing keeping him going. He’s excluded from all other forms of social / political participation, but his fandom is reciprocally legitimizing — being a team fan keeps him going, and simultaneously his fandom makes the random collection of mercenary millionaires wearing the jersey this season seem like a meaningful unit……
*Stipulating, for argument’s sake, that the “superstructure” (as Marxists would say) of culture can override the genetic “base” of behavior. I personally don’t believe this, but I don’t have the bioscience classwork to argue against it with someone who does.
** Cf. Magic Dirt Theory, Liberals’ explanation for why a horde of 80 IQ Aztec subsistence farmers will turn into 110 IQ customer service reps just by stepping on our side of the Rio Grande. If America is only an imagined community, this makes sense, since it’s all pretend anyway.
*** Or, at least, the caricatured American understanding of football hooligan culture. I’ve read Among the Thugs, but I didn’t get the impression this was a mass phenomenon (i.e. that the “firms” are quite small). Recusant et al, please clue me in here.
**** SJWs are still too busy shitting on Star Wars to go after baseball again, but since white people play it and normies enjoy it, it won’t be long. Is there a BALCO movie in the chute yet? They’ll have to cast a white guy as Barry Bonds, but that’s no challenge for the makers of Girl Luke Skywalker (and besides, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens are whiter than mayo on wonderbread). I bet we’ll be seeing it by 2020, right in time for the Democrats’ white privilege whining for the election.Loading Likes...