Tragic Optimism

Daily Bread for 5.8.24: The Special-Interest Hierarchy of a Small Town (Adjacent Support)

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 75. Sunrise is 5:38 and sunset 8:04 for 14h 26m 27s of daytime. The moon is new with 0.2 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1877, at Gilmore’s Gardens in New York City, the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show opens.

In September, I wrote of The Special-Interest Hierarchy of a Small Town:

In a small town, and perhaps elsewhere, there are four tiers within a special-interest hierarchy: principals, operatives, catspaws, and residents. Only the first three serve, reliably, the special interest; the fourth is a large group of unaffiliated people that the special interests must persuade or dissuade repeatedly. 

A special-interest faction, or in the case of the Whitewater Schools an unresponsive board and superintendent, depends on the reliable service of the first three groups (principals, operatives, and catspaws). Some residents, however, may be counted on now and again to support special-interest or insider-group actions. These kinds of residents offer hit-or-miss support. I’ll list a few of them, readily recognizable in Whitewater and towns across the world.

Boosterism and Toxic Positivity. There are always a few residents who feel that criticism is a crime, an offense against man and God, and so must not be tolerated. The boosters feel that accentuating the positive, and burying the negative, is a legitimate (indeed necessary) pursuit. You’ll see them patrol social media looking to rebuke others who offer sincere criticism.

The delusional are sufferers of toxic positivity; the most acute cases are simply lickspittles.

Many of these types are a few moments away from screaming ‘love it or leave it.’ All of those who would do so are ignorant of their own country’s proud history of robust criticism. Even the most degraded hovel in medieval Europe, flea and lice-infested, had apologists of someone’s special schemes. Centuries later, in an America that is a world-historical state, there are still a few locals who live as though American liberties meant nothing, carrying on as though vulgar locals in a rat-dominated hamlet of 1300s Bavaria.

The indictment and conviction of the boosters: narrow of mind and small of heart.

These types, however, are useful as apologists and enforcers of special-interest schemes.

(A better outlook: Tragic Optimism as an Alternative to Toxic Positivity.)

The Concerned Passerby. When faced with a challenge to their position, special interest men cannot always count on themselves as principals, or their operatives and reliable catspaws. Cronyism and entitlement do not run themselves! They’ll look around, and find someone who seems unaffiliated, but is willing to do their work now and again. Although not reliable all the time, these types can be persuaded for a specific task.

They’ll seem like concerned passersby, simply trying to help, but no! They’re truly working to advance a special-interest or closed-government perspective. They’re harder to spot than boosters, sufferers of toxic positivity, or lickspittles, but still identifiable to ordinary residents. They’ll show up and profess simple concern, as ‘adults in the room,’ but after listening to them, it’s clear they’re rationalizing a nefarious cause (e.g., advancing a self-dealer’s plan, or shutting down a discussion).

Scoundrels. Special-interest men want to win, and that means bending public policy to their own ends. Closed-government types want to control public policy without public consent. In both cases, they pervert public life. They create a corrupted, degenerate form of government.

When faced with a difficult challenge, and when smearing challengers is too much even for principals, operatives, and catspaws, they’ll turn to scoundrels. The Oxford American Dictionary offers a plentiful list of synonyms that describe the type (e.g., rogue, rascal, good-for-nothing, reprobate, unprincipled person; cheat, swindler, fraudster, trickster, charlatan; informal villain, beast, son of a bitch, SOB, rat, louse, cur, hound, skunk, heel, snake, snake in the grass, wretch, scumbag, bad egg, stinker).

Scoundrels will say anything to aid a special-interest or closed-government cause, while the principals, operatives, and catspaws delight from a distance. (These main types know what’s happening, hoping it will benefit them, yet hoping it won’t be identified back to them.)

In all of this, however, the overwhelming majority of ordinary residents are normal & well-adjusted. It’s a only few, entitled and avaricious, or entitled and autocratic, who beset and bedevil a community.

NASA Simulation’s Plunge Into the Whitewater School District’s Central Office a Black Hole:

Daily Bread for 3.19.24: Better Days for the Whitewater Schools

 Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be windy with a high of 53. Sunrise is 6:57 and sunset 7:07 for 12h 10m 16s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 73.1 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater Common Council meets tonight at 6:30 PM

On this day in 1918, the US Congress establishes time zones and approves daylight saving time.

I went to sleep last night nearly a pessimist; I awoke this morning an optimist yet again. People choose freely, sometimes well, sometimes poorly. For the Whitewater Unified School District, these many months — ending at last night’s board meeting — were a time of free choice for the district’s board president and the district’s superintendent. 

The board president has chosen not to run for reelection; the superintendent has chosen to seek employment elsewhere. In both cases, those decisions are right for those officials and for the Whitewater Schools. Some relationships, including political and employment ones, sadly become irretrievably broken. Repair requires reconciliation, and reconciliation requires a willingness to accept the principles on which a sound relationship rests.

For the Whitewater Schools, reconciliation required these officials to make a choice and commitment they chose not to make. See Speech & Debate in the Whitewater Schools.  See also What Ails, What Heals, and Heals & Ails, General & Particular, Public & Private.

No one should be compelled to choose; it must be a free decision. One wishes the best to both — truly — in the future.  They deserve situations suitable to them. Not every fit is a good fit. The Whitewater Unified School District’s board will soon have the opportunity to choose a new president. That board will be able to oversee the selection of a new superintendent at the earliest opportunity, either through her employment elsewhere, a settlement agreement, or if regrettably necessary through lawful public action of the board.

For Whitewater, the daunting — yet hopeful — building of a new administration in a new district awaits. We need not fear that a choice today will lead to worse outcomes tomorrow. This community can achieve for its students academic success, athletic accomplishment, and artistic achievement under principles of individual rights and tolerance for all, without prejudice toward race, ethnicity, gender, or orientation.

The principles of limited, open, responsible government and individual rights hold the commanding heights. They occupy good ground; they have a defensible position. Those who hold these values will over-match those who oppose them. We need not be afraid of what comes next — we will shape what comes next. 

The work of crafting a new district begins. It is the work of years to come. It will require ongoing attention. Sometimes hard, but easier if we join together. Sometimes daunting, but always possible. 

It’s spring break for the Whitewater Schools next week, but while our students, teachers, and families enjoy their well-deserved vacation, others of us can begin our reflections and recommendations for the future. 

The Whitewater Schools will come through just fine. 

Daily Bread for 11.13.21: Toxic Positivity Is Worse than Annoying as Public Policy

Good morning. Saturday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 39.  Sunrise is 6:45 AM and sunset 4:32 PM for 9h 47m 07s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 70.8% of its visible disk illuminated.  On this day in 1940, Walt Disney’s animated musical film Fantasia is first released, on the…