tv QA David Brooks CSPAN April 29, 2019 5:58am-6:59am EDT
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judiciary committee live on c-span3, c-span.org, and on the free c-span radio♪ brian: david brooks, in your new book "the second mountain" you have this sentence. gina wondered if i was going woo woo about eight years ago. i hope she is satisfied with the brooks woo woo phase. david: i was writing about sociology in most of my books. my books have never been about politics. most of my books early on were about sociology. there was a book about the upper-middle-class.
there was one about the social animal. now they have gone more into culture and morality. so "the second mountain" is deeper and deeper into spirituality and the inner life. brian: what got you out of the woo woo stage? david: we writers work on our stuff in public. even if we pretend we are writing about something else, we write about what we are going through in the moment. i was going through a moment of how can i be a better person? who are the people leading beautiful lives and how can i emulate them? it was a process to try to be less shallow. brian: we will talk about the second mountain. what will people get if they read this book? david: i hope they get a formula for rebelling against the culture of individualism. a culture that overemphasizes overemphasizes worldly achievement. i hope they will get a
vocabulary of how to lead a joyous life. i make a distinction about happiness and joy. happiness is what happens when you achieve a goal. you get a promotion, when life is going your way. joy is when the self disappears. when you are in nature and lose yourself. when a mother and daughter are enraptured by each other's love. by certain spiritual peak experiences. and yourself just disappears and you connect with something outside the self. my argument in the book is that happiness is good, but joy is better. if you orient yourself towards a life of joy, you'll have a better life. brian: there is religion in this book. this one line i want you to explain. "the jews, by and large, did not know how to talk to me." david: i talk about my exploration of the christian faith. when i started exploring and asking people, every christian on earth started sending me books. i got like 500 books.
only 100 of which were mere christianity by cs lewis. judaism you are born jewish. you pretty much stay jewish. there is no evangelizing outside. i still feel that tribally and culturally. when i started to talk about how transfixed i was, a lot of my jewish friends had trouble. they did not have a language. at least for me. brian: in that area you say, is it fair to ask, did i convert, did i leave judaism and become a christian? tell us. what is it? david: it does not feel that way to me. i was raised in a jewish home. both of my parents. i went to christian schools and i went to a christian camp, which was the core of my childhood. even as a young kid i was
singing hymns and saying the lord's prayer. singing in the choir and all of that stuff. it was not a problem because i did not believe in god anyway. they were just two cultures. later in life i came to faith. then they both seemed real to me. it did not feel like i was shifting ground, these two stories were in my head. instead of seeing fictional stories, the story becomes true as you live into it. it becomes the phrase i use as the ground of our being. i just felt i was deepening into place, suddenly taking god's presence seriously. brian: when did all of this turn, or when did you get interested in christianity? as you answer that, why do so many people read cs lewis's "mere christianity"? david: i always tell people to
read cs lewis and george orwell e is so clear.pros if they are doing literary things with it, so many metaphors are wrapped into their prose. they both wrote for radio, so they wrote with a clarity that you could hear with the ear. it was just a perfect prose style. there has never been a blinding, shining experience. it started with a fascination when i was probably six, and sitting there in church, and going to hebrew school, and then just gradually a series of incremental deepening. i describe it in a book as, you are in a train and you are talking, then you look up and it seems like nothing has changed,
but you have traveled a long way. there is a lot of ground behind you. you have crossed a border and you think, i'm not an atheist, i do believe the world was created by a being. part of it i think was journalism. when you do journalism, i want to do the stories i do about genetic material. i believe each human being has a soul. each human being has a piece of themselves, which has no size, weight or color. it gives them infinite clarity. -- dignity. there is a yearning for goodness. -- slavery is wrong because it is an assault on another human soul. rape is an insult to another human being's soul. once you get that sensation, then it is a shortly to the sensation that i think we are all joined by something and some transcendent realm. it is weirder than we can imagine. cosmologists have a theory that
there are an infinite number of universes. in one of those universes to of -- the two of us are talking somewhere else. that is a weird theory. the idea of a creator is even weirder than that. i stay humble in that weirdness. brian: when gail collins talked to you about coming to the new york times, what did she think she was getting then? she no longer runs the op-ed there, but what do you think you are giving them now? david: i think she was giving the more conservative voice. they wanted her desk they wanted a diversity on voices. i was a conservative writer. i don't think i have changed. my heroes are edmund burke and alexander hamilton. a base of conservatism and a basic belief in the immigrant dream that we should make a society where boys and girls can
rise and succeed. that has not changed. conservatism has changed a lot around me. donald trump has become unrecognizable to what it was when bill buckley was my mentor. i have become less doctrinaire republican, and somewhat of a never trumper. the other thing i have tried to do, my theories of culture is over politicized but never more -- under moralized. we talk too much about politics and maybe not enough about how we do relationships, how we feel gratitude, how we do forgiveness. the things i think matter in life. i think a lot of us are morally inarticulate about. brian: what we first met you when you were with the weekly standard, i want to run this. we will come back and ask you about the weekly standard. [video clip]
david: i had a group of my friends and we were part of a common project. i do think you change history in groups, not as individuals. magazines ought to be celebrated for that. [end of video clip] brian: in december 15 of 2018 you wrote the following. and under the headline "who killed the weekly standard" in the new york times? i have only been around him a few times. my impressions, on those occasions, was that he was a run-of-the-mill, arrogant billionaire. he was used to people courting him and he addressed them condescendingly from the lofty height of his own wealth. why did you start off -- that was not like you. david: i was angry. i would maybe take some of that back. brian: why were you angry? david: the magazine i have found with a lot of my best friend, with andy ferguson and fred barnes, so many good friends, i thought it was a very important
piece of the american conversation. it was a literary and intelligent conservatism. there was a conservatism that was not partyline. there was conservatism that allowed for internal debate. we were known as the magazine that started the iraq war, but i would say most of the staff did not. there was a lot of differences and it was a fun place to work. i thought it was very important, and could still be the most needed time. in the era of trump so much of conservatism needs to be re-argued. he did a phenomenal job in the back of the book in the literary section. it is a loss for culture when a voice like that is stilled. and other people had written
much more about this than i had known, it was especially cruel. brian: you write, they did not merely close it because it was losing money, they seemed to have murdered it out of greed and vengeance. david: i asked around while doing reporting, why was it closed? why wouldn't they allow it to be sold? i think they wanted to harvest the list for another thing they were starting. so they could have said we don't want to own the magazine, but then let somebody else keep it alive. brian: what is the volume of a -- value of a column or a magazine like that? and how many people care about words? david: a lot of people care about words. i think the job of a columnist -- i used to think i will write a column for certain immigration reform and the president will call me and say, we should oppose this policy, but now i support it.
that will never happen. you don't tell people what to think, you provide a context in which they can think. with a column you're trying to provoke. a column is not influential for the policymakers, it's part of our common conversation. you are trying to provoke a thought. maybe they like it, maybe they don't, at least they are provoked into thinking. brian: in your book you have a chapter called "mastery." david: my theory is that our life is made up of four big commitments to a family, a vocation, philosophy or faith, and community. the fifth film it depends on how we choose those commitments. mastery comes in the location section. mastery is getting really good at it. and so -- now i've forgotten the question. brian: mastery. david: once you have chosen your
location, how do you get good at what you are doing? brian: we have some video that goes back to the 1950's. you write about this in the book. it is out of context. let's watch a man named ed sullivan, who has not been around for years. [video clip] ed: he has a great all-star show. right now, singing a medley of some of the songs you enjoy, here is elvis presley. ♪ [girls screaming] ♪ >> all of the correspondence and all of the comments to the
country, the unanimous opinion -- i thinksaw you that is exactly the basis of your popularity. brian: break it all down. ed sullivan, do we have anybody like him today? what was he back then? david: there were certain majority that a huge majority of america watched. it was hard to imagine one show getting the majority. there was the honeymooners, at -- and ed sullivan hosted a variety show back in the 1950's. it relates to my book because a guy i admire, bruce springsteen. bruce springsteen was seven, he was living in freehold, new jersey. he was watching the ed sullivan show and saw that moment, he saw elvis presley. it was like he saw as he put it
in his book, fun. fun appeared. you saw how radical elvis presley looked here and you have those guys in a suit and tie and presley does not dress like them, he does not move like them, his whole affect is different. that was a cultural revolution. springsteen said, that's what i want to be. in a book i have a concept called annunciation moments that prefigure all the rest. he gave him encompass any saw the magnetic forces want to study those. he said when he was seven he saw his first jellyfish. so the wonders of the ocean and became a naturalist at that moment. i am a lesser figure than them, but at seven and read a book called paddington the bear. he begged his mom to go out and
get a guitar. he tried for seven days and it was too hard. a few years later he was watching the ed sullivan show again and the beatles came on and he went downtown. he saw a record album called "meet the beatles." he picked up a guitar again. the rest is history. he had no plan b. he has been playing that guitar ever since. brian: you are either an elvis fan or a beatles fan, but not both. i'm sure that's an overstatement. did you watch them? david: i was probably too young. i remember being aware of the beatles. i was too young to see elvis in his prime. but i was aware of yellow submarine. i think in retrospect, i was more of a rolling stones. brian: what impacted somebody -- impact did somebody like ed sullivan, or the beatles, or elvis have in this country? david: they defined a culture. the culture you see on ed sullivan is the culture of the
1950's. it was very collective, institutional culture. they do big things, like fight the depression. they needed a culture that said we are all in this together. you did not want to stick out too much, you wanted to dress the same. there was the culture of i am no better than anybody, but nobody is better than me. -- if you arehat from chicago, you did not say i am from chicago, you said i'm from 59th and polaski because the neighborhoods were supertight. it was too conformist and too boring. the food was boring. it was also racist, sexist, anti-semitic. along comes elvis pressley and says i am breaking this. the beatles were part of this. we are breaking out of this. i'm going to create a culture that is about being myself. it is much more individualistic. much more open. it was cool to be young and not all.
to be a rebel and not an institutionalist. to be expressive and not modest. the culture shifted from elvis pressley to woodstock. we needed to go through that change. it was good for america. we have had 60 years of hyper individualism. now we are at a point where the individualism has torn us apart in society and the bonds between us has weekend. -- weakened. brian: you say you change your mind about this in the book. individualism to being more interested in community. what happened during that period to change her mind? david: history solves problems of that moment. i can't remember, the social theorist who said history moves according to a ratchet, hatchet, pivot ratchet. we have to win world war ii and have a collective culture. it works for a while, but then it stops working.
you have to chop it up. because people are ingenious, they pivot over and find something else. suddenly the problem is, society is too conformist. elvis gives us something new and we live more in his way. now we are at a point where we are chopping up hyper individualism of 60 years. some people are reverting to tribe as their attempt to find community. i think that is a poisonous direction to go to. tribalism seems like community, but it bonds them over mutual hatred, not a mutual affection. brian: go back to the title of this chapter, mastery. what more do you want to say about mastery? david: it comes about and a lot -- in a lot of ways. people sometimes think i should find what my skills are. i should just go do what my skills tell me to do. i think that is the wrong question. you should go to where your desires are.
skills are plentiful, but motivation is really scarce. the question becomes, what are you so fanatical about you will basically devote your whole life to that thing? i think the research we know, even people like mozart, he said it's not because they were natural geniuses, they just worked phenomenally hard for a long time. springsteen worked on the music his whole life. he did things to remain true to what started him. one of the things i admire most about his life choices is that -- his third album, which was the third superstar blowup album, he could have made a bigger album with national sound global celebrity. instead he went back to his hometown and wrote a very spare, very particular album about his own place. instead of going big, hewitt -- he went back to his roots,
the thing that motivated him. the idea that the core of each of us, there is some question that nags at us. there is some desire that drives us. it can be aesthetic. i quote a woman who is a painter. she was asked, why are you a painter? she said, i love the smell of paint. there is a guy named tom boyce who has a book. it's called "the orchid and the dandelion." orchid children. kids,ids are dandelion they can be planted anywhere. he was a dandelion kid. his sister was an orchid. she achieved a lot, but depression and suicide to occur. -- took her. the comparison between the two has been the animating principle. to me, it is working on that
craft over and over and having the desired to wake up and do the same thing over and over. brian: this comes from your chapter, "mastery." i will show some video. there are three clips. one is a guy who is deceased from 1994. the next one is shelby foot from 2001. deceased.t is not this is from 2011. over the years i have asked questions about how people right when they write and it has gotten peoples attention. let's watch this. i will ask you about your chapter. [video clip] >> if we could see you in your environment writing this book, what would we see? >> you would see me writing in the nude most of the time. we live in total isolation out in the country. the electric man cannot find the meter. we have wonderful isolation.
wear clothes? they are just a bother. brian: you say you right between 500 and 600 words a day with a dipped pen on paper. how many words can you write and demonstrate for a minute how that would work. >> i like writing with a dipped pen because it makes me take my time. instead of doing the typewriter and reversing the drama. i don't want anything mechanical between me and the page. brian: what do you write on? >> i write with a pencil on a legal pad for the first draft, by hand. a mechanical pencil. when i write something on the computer it's longer and softer. the pencil in the paper slows me down. once i have the first draft then
i will enter into the computer and edit subsequent drafts from there. [end of video clip] brian: you write about some of this stuff. david: the first story reminded me of john cheever. he would get up in his apartment, put on a suit and tie, go to the basement of his building, take off his suit and tie and right in his boxers. at 12:30 he would put his clothes back on and make himself lunch. brian: did he talk about that? david: i came across that story and it impressed me. toni morrison had a hotel room where she had a bible, typewriter and it bottle of brandy. i like that story too. i am not had a computer or a
pen. i have random thoughts that come to me out of order and i write them on little pieces of paper, post-it notes, or slips of notebook paper, then i put them into a big pile, then i take a big pile. i may have 200 pages of research paper that i have marked up, i lay it out on the floor of my living room or office, there is a bunch of piles. each pile will be a paragraph of my column or of the book. for me, the writing process is not typing on a keyboard, it's crawling around the floor organizing my piles. i tell my students, your paper should be 80% done by the time you start putting into the keyboard. writing is about traffic management and structure. you have to get the structure right. for me, the piles are the structure. i don't have clarity about what it is until i've physically see it laid out on the floor. i pick up a pile, write the paragraph, pick up the next pile and throw it out. if it is not flowing, i don't try to fix it, i just start over
with a new structure. if it does not feel like it's flowing, it's a structural problem showing up unconsciously. brian: how about a book, when you write a book? david: it's the same way. except there are thousands of piles. they get into ever smaller piles. so i will have drawers of notebooks. i lay them out and then i will have this chapter, that chapter, that chapter. each sentence has a piece of paper. i will pick up the paragraph lay out the sentences and copy , them down to the computer. brian: here is your column that you wrote about your own book. it was april 15, 2019 in the new york times. headline is five lies our culture tells. do you write those headlines? david: yes. brian: you say, we've created a culture based on lies. explain. david: i wrote the word
character a few years ago. it had some problems, but it was internal. now it has been revealed the last few years, our culture has bigger problems than i understood. i think a lot of it as a said before, the culture of individualism. that life is an individual journey. i quote the dr. seuss book. that depicts life as a solitary journey without marriage, friendship, relationships, just a sole person going into life. the second thing is that we are swept up into the system that you are what you accomplish. there is a view, we deny it, but our society points to it, which is that people earn more and work more than other people. -- are somehow worth more than other people. that has created poison in our society. then there is the lie we tell
our students that success will make you feel fulfilled. you should point your whole life to career and success. we take them at 16, the most privileged ones, shift them into the college admission process that tells them that success and status will be at the center of their lives. i now see the effects of that, just creating this culture of fragmentation and anger. we have lost the ability to treat ourselves well. brian: what triggered this? david: i think it grew up gradually. i think the coulter -- culture individualism. and the meritocracy got purified. it was a rebellion that was done at harvard, it was around 1950, we have to fight the soviets. you looked at harvard, we are just the sons of blueblood protestant families that have been going to harvard for the last 300 years. we have to change this. he was right.
the sat was part of the tool they would use so it would not just be inherited sons of rich men. so they did it based on merit. the median sat score was five something. by 10 years that was changed. it changed to the high 600s. it made society a lot more fair. somehow the competitive pressure of the meritocracy, combined with natural individualism of andaterialism of america the natural individualism of america, we have taken good ideas, and taken them too far. if you want the book in one sentence, we've got the culture of the meritocracy, individualism, which is true. you are not completely sucked up by these values. you have a better moral system. the book is an attempt to survey philosophers and say here is a moral system to balance capitalism, not to replace it,
just so that we are not morally corrupted. brian: people are asking what is on his lapel? david: i talk about this in the book, but not only in the book. i think culture changes when a small group of people find a better way to live and the rest of us copy it. elvis was one of those small people. we have a crisis of social isolation in this country. i created something that was a social fabric project. it is based that isolationism is being soft on a local level by -- solved on a local level by people called weavers. some just behave as neighbors. there is a woman named sarah in baltimore created in an organization called thread which takes 450 underperforming students and surrounds them with volunteers and creates a social
fabric around them. it's a beautiful program. that's like a formal organization. brian: you mentioned baltimore. we don't need to get into this. the mayor of baltimore, and there have been a couple of mayors of baltimore, in both cases they are women. what's the word you want to use to describe what they have done. it typical leave of absence because she was a part of -- i don't want to make any accusations that i can't define, but she basically made a tremendous amount of money off of book sales that really never happened. you know what i am talking about. how can a kid grow up in that environment? david: change will not come from politicians, it will come from the bottom up. brian: but they still are out there and those are the people we see. david: politics matter and we should have honest politicians, but i think change will come when we have a shift in culture,
but then a shift in community. all of us lived a little more for our neighbors. we adopt different habits. you don't change her life and go in be a teacher in an urban school. if everybody in our society invited their neighbors over for dinner, if everybody checked in on old people during the heat wave, if we had a shift in our manners so that we all joined in organization, joined a club that put us in contact with people unlike ourselves once a month. all those millions of changes would have an effect on the social fabric. it would make people embrace a different lifestyle. most care and societies informal. we had a friend who ran into a lady and florida who was helping kids across the street after school. he said, do you have time to volunteer, she said, no. he said, are you getting paid for this, she said, no.
she said i will go bring food to the ill. he said, that's not volunteering, she said no, i am just neighboring. most people do that, they just neighbor. we lost the art of neighboring. we just take the weavers who are great at relationships, we take their values and try to lift them up and illuminate them. brian: where did the term come from? david: we just thought of it. the term is important because, in 1960, nobody called themselves a feminist. by 1975 millions of people said they were a feminist. to me, i look at all the weavers around the country and know it is a movement. we had the feminist movement to solve gender equality. we have the civil rights movement. we have a community problem but no community movement. brian: you mentioned aspen more
than once and you talk about it in the book. i have some video. i want to roll this and just ask you how many people really have an opportunity to go to this kind of an environment? this is in new york. how do you get access to that? it costs lots of money, the same thing with aspen. the prices in aspen are astronomical. very few people can enjoy that. when you talk about these places, and norma's number of -- an enormous number of people in the united states could never participate in this kind of thing. david: aspen is very expensive. aspen itself is 40 programs and policies that reach across america and across the world. the festival has become famous in what aspen is known for.
janet runs our rural program. every time i was in nebraska they know janet across rural america. most of what aspen does is not the aspen ideal festival. chautauqua's upper people that rent little cottages. those two places are more above average wealth. one of the things we have done in weave is to go with the problems are, to go where the people are. i spent a year in 2016 trying to understand why i got the trump of election so wrong. then i spent the last year and a half with the weavers in north carolina, in nebraska, in new orleans, all across america where normal america lives. in youngstown, ohio. that has been a very great
experience. while politics has gotten quite the weavers in youngstown -- i met a really good guy who really loved youngstown. he started activism by standing on the towns square of youngstown. i have met the most amazing people not motivated by money, status, they are motivated to do good. life is really hard for them. they take on heavy burdens, they don't have a lot of money. but they lead very inspiring lives. i have heard so many stories. one woman i met in new orleans, lisa fitzpatrick was her name, she was in health care. she was driving and saw two scared young boys, they shot her in the face. she recovered. she decided she was not the only
victim, they were victims of something they did not start. she started doing work with gang members and then she moved into a neighborhood and young kids started knocking on her door who needed community. she let them in. one day she found herself in her 50's surrounded by 35 young kids, teenagers who were hanging around her house. she said, why do you hang around with a middle-aged lady like me, they said, because you open the door. so many people are hungry for community. the people who create it can get a lot done. brian: here is some video from february the 21st of this year. it is only 30 seconds. you will recognize the individual. this is another part of your book. [video clip] >> as desperate as i am for the church to do what it does, in my life and in the life of the society i am concerned about, the church does not only need to be confined to hallowed halls.
in fact, what i've discovered is that in my time, in this democracy, there is a whole bevy of organizations, and famous and nonfamous people who have a common language of the human soul. [end of video clip] brian: who is that woman? david: she is my wife. her name is ann snyder, formerly and brooks. we were married about two years ago. she is a writer, on some similar subjects, but differently. she wrote a book called "the fabric of character." it's about organizations that turnaround lives. she went to a moving company in salt lake city that takes men and women at a prison and is reform ancient so they come out two years later totally transformed. it's humbling to be around these people. the funny thing about them is
some of them are former burglars. they are good at getting things out of buildings. their slogan is, we used to take things up a window, now we take it out the door. she does that work. happily married. brian: in your book you tell us about your divorce. we talked about it the last time you are here. you say you and your ex-wife have an agreement not to talk about your divorce. but then you tell us everything about your new wife, how you met her, she was your researcher, she is 23 years younger than you are. why did you decide to do that? you get a sense that divorce was a real blow to you, but you won't talk about it. david: i tell my journey of faith. as you can tell from that clip, ann is christian. it was really only a two-month
window in august or september of 2013, we were working on this book and i would write her these emails trying to understand what was all the stuff. she would write me long emails back, that sort of explained the exploration of faith. she got a job in houston. that was pivotal, then my journey of faith continued. brian: you say in the book, and if you did not talk about all this people would be cynical and that story would be told. how much of a fear did you have that you hired a woman considerably younger than you? david: it was a fear. i worry about predeceasing her. we went through a lot of
discernment, especially ann did. love became too powerful to deny. we could not go through life -- this happened in 2016. you couldn't go through life with that person out there and not be with that person. eventually, what had seemed impossible -- you don't think about it when you are just working together and being friends. but eventually what seemed impossible, and the age gap, it just seemed unavoidable. brian: this is another small item. your first wife's name was jane, she was a christian and converted to judaism. she changed her name to sarah. as a jewish man, you married a woman named christian. it is just the opposite. does any of this stuff bother you?
david: life has surprises and does not go in straight lines. i called the chapter on religion the most unexpected turn of events and it was the most unexpected turn of events. brian: you mention and tell us you will mention a lot of different people and quote a lot of different people. let's start with dorothy day. david: she was a writer, she grew up in san francisco and chicago, then she came to new york think and she would be a -- thinking she would be a radical socialist writer. on the birth of her child she was flooded with joy. she needed somebody to thank so she became a catholic. she started something called the catholic worker movement. she founded a paper called "the catholic worker." she founded homeless shelters. then she founded communes. also years of organizations, not only to help the poor and homeless, but to live amongst
them. she paid herself no salary and lived a life of poverty. she is someone who gave her life to others in almost a family way. i suspect she will become a saint before too long. she wrote a book, which i highly recommend, called "the long loneliness," about her early life. it is a deeply moving book for anybody, whether you are religious or not religious. just to see someone taking on the burden of being poor out of the sense of this is what i am called to do. i teach it in my classes at yale. all writers are very moved by her. brian: i had the pleasure of interviewing you for years. you don't seem to ever change when you are sitting in that chair. if you read this book you go back to the time where you say you were lonely, you are in an apartment, did not care about anything, what is the difference of the feeling you had then, after your divorce, and the feeling you have now every day when you get up?
david: as i say, i devoted my life so much to work. i had no weekend friends. somehow that was the way life had become. when the kids left to college, and elsewhere, i just suddenly all had nothing. this vast expanse of loneliness in the weekends, and i realize the void was in myself. i was writing a lot of articles, but i was not really living an eternal life of devotions. i think you become ashamed. i'm supposed to be a smart guy writing about life and all that stuff. i was not doing well. i was humiliated. life gives us valleys. my mom died two years ago, that was another valley. i was with a 94-year-old who
said, life is defined by our moment of greatest adversity and how we react to it. you are either broken, in which case you turn bitter by life's trials, or you get broken open, in which you get more vulnerable. hopefully i have tried to get more vulnerable. brian: when you get up every day is there a different feeling? david: i have a joyful life. that is luck. i have fallen on some warm communities where they demand you show up in a loving way. partly it is being blissfully happy. partly it is china work out -- trying to work out these issues through the book. we really try to write our way to a better life. i enjoyed writing this book. it was stressful because it was tough to organize, but it allowed me to be in touch with their he smart people. some jewish, some christian.
scientists, einstein. i just take the wisdom that i found and try to pass it along. this book is like a teacher. these people have wisdom, i have harvested it for five years and handed off to the reader. brian: another writer you mention is matthew, from the bible. why? david: people say there are all these miracles in the bible. to me the miracle is the bible. that some group of people thousands of years ago could come up with genesis, or exodus, or matthew is a miracle. parting the red sea is nothing compared to the depth and complexity of these books. matthew is sublimely beautiful. the revolutionary ideas
expressed in the sermon on the mount is a beautiful miracle that is a revolution. a quoted in the book, the celestial grandeur shines through in the book. brian: you came from canada and graduated from the university of chicago in history. the time you were in college you despised edmund burke. but you no longer despise him. who was he, and i see this all the time of people who say edmund burke is my guy. why? what did he write that matters? david: i was a college freshman and in chicago they assign you books you don't want to read and make you take courses, you have no choice. i was assigned a book called "the reflections and the revolutions in france." edmund burke was in the late 18th century and supported the
american revolution, but oppose the french revolution. this was a book against the french revolution and against the revolutionaries. brian: what was the difference? david: he thought the american revolution was a conservative revolution. we were just defending our rights. the problem with the french revolution was an attempt to wipe the slate clean and create a new society out of nothing. the key phrase i take from burke, or his key thesis is, epistemological modesty. society is really complicated, so we should be careful in how we think we should change it. you should do change, but do it incrementally and constantly. he is suspicious of revolution and of rewriting society. he put his faith in the acquired wisdom of the ages that is embodied in institutions, customs, and in the traditions of the past. he said when he wiped away those traditions you're asking for trouble.
when i was in 18 her old kid i thought it was horrible. but then i went off as a police reporter in chicago and i saw cabrini green and these housing projects were they hope to improve the lives of the poor and they made it worse. when they tore down the old downborhoods, they tore the connections of the social capital. these products are awful places. the unintended consequences of good intentions. now those projects have been torn down and those places are much better. brian: i know you have written some about donald trump, i know you don't want to go over all of what people have said about him. i do want to ask you this, when he is gone, weather at the end of 2020 or another four years, what you think will be the legacy? i'm not sure that is the word,
but what will have changed in our system at that point? david: i think culture really shapes history. some people think technology, but i think culture, values and ideas. donald trump will have put a tear in a lot of our norms in the culture of how we are supposed to behave. what are the values we are supposed to -- brian: give me an example. david: you would not to off -- tweet off nasty stuff as president of the united states. you would not pay off a stripper and be unabashed about it. but he does all of this. without shame. brian: hold on with the stripper thing. go back in history and name a president. lyndon johnson, john f. kennedy. go back over the list, we just did not know about them. david: but if we did know it would have been a scandal, so there was certain norms.
there was a norm about keeping it quiet between us boys. there was a sense that if a president lied a lot then there would be a price to pay. brian: is there any difference between what donald trump did and what bill clinton did? david: clinton had his affairs, but trump is open and flagrant about it. there is not even paying homage to the norms. i was friends with clinton at -- i was upset with clinton at the time, but this is a different order of magnitude. brian: what will have changed? david the crucial question to me : is, what happens after? is this the new norm? it was clarified for me in the first republican debate in the primary were he already attacked carly fiorina for her faith. then he went after rand paul, i will not go after your looks, but i have a lot to
work with. and you take away the norms of politeness and civility than everything becomes dog eat dog. i worry about the decay of civilization. it is the core belief of conservatism that the crust of civilization is thinner than you think. if you tear away that crust and unleash things you don't like. brian: are there other things? david: more than we talk about often, our attitude towards china has changed. he has probably changed it in a correct way. china has become the more threatening presence in the world. brian: what about military intervention around the world? david: he continues their retrenchment in a different way that had began with president obama. whether we stay in this posture is an open question. the famous vietnam syndrome happened in the 1970's.
by the 1980's we elected ronald reagan and america was more active in the world. america tends to feel they need to be active in the world. the next president will find himself or herself as president and america will have to act and be active. we are talking and there is a refugee crisis on the southern border, it is because we have ignored and now defunding some of those countries like honduras and el salvador. things turn bad when america is not active in the world, trying to maintain basic decency. brian: have you seen the column written by robert simmons? about your book? david: no. i am a big admirer. brian: he says, dear david, the headline gives it away. "david brooks, let me
respectfully suggest: lighten up." he says, i am a big fan, you write beautifully and have insights about lifestyles and beliefs that others had missed. then he says, i really respond -- rarely respond directly to other columnists, it's a good rule because it would make commentary more personal and shrill, but sometimes rules need to be broken and this is one of those times. let me respectfully suggest, lighten up. to be sure, most of your insights are true, but they are also utopian. let me stop there. what do you think? david: i'm not sure where he is going with that. it is about cultural anxiety. i think we are in a culturally perilous place. 40,000 people are killing themselves a day with opioid addiction. -- a year with opioid addiction. brian: he said, here are a few
comments on the lies. he said ambition is america's blessing and curse. it has people try new things. what do you think? david: maybe i was exaggerating. a lot of the things that i think i call lies our truths taken to an extreme. i believe in alexander hamilton, ambition, and social mobility. but i think we have taken it to such an extreme that it has destroyed our culture. if i sat down with him, we would probably say. brian: this is not a practical goal of public policy, even if government reduces things that make people and happy or -- unhappy or miserable. he says happiness is not a practical goal of public policy. david: i do agree with that. the government can offer services, but we offer each other care. that is where happiness comes in. brian: he says the meritocracy
criticize is not so sinister as portrayed. david: we might differ on that. i live in the meritocracy, i have felt its teeth and embody it. i think the lack of social trust, social division comes from a meritocracy that has lost some of its values. i see his point. brian: finally he writes, finally there is a matter of work, everyone complains about it, but without it most of us would die of boredom. learning new stuff is inherently rewarding and you and i are paid to do it. the virtues outweigh the vices. his last sentence, let's keep perspective, we don't live in an ideal world, and never will, but things could be worse, let's try to avoid that. david: i agree with that. i have a chapter in the book on vocation.
i think work is one of the pillars of life. but i think you should do it as, what am i contributing here. i don't think you should do it just because it makes you money or makes you famous. brian: when you sat down to write this book, who did you have in mind reading it? david: myself. you really try to work out your problems. my books, popular or not, popularity comes not as you are a genius, but i have common problems. i say them in the book that i am an average person with above average communication skills. when i go through a problem, a lot of people are going through it. i am very typical. if there is any popularity it's because there are a lot of people going through the same thing. it's my averageness that is the key. brian: our guest has been david brooks. he is a new york times columnist. the name of his book, "the
second mountain: the quest for a moral life." thank you very much for joining us. david: thank you. ♪ >> all q&a programs are available on our website, or on the podcast at c-span.org. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] >> next sunday on q&a, a discussion on c-span's "the presidents." that is q&a next sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern and pacific time on c-span. here is a look at what his life today on the c-span networks. next, your calls and comments on "washington journal."
carnegie endowment for international peace calls a discussion on the trump administration's policy toward iran. at 2:00 p.m., the week begins with legislative business. mike pompeo on u.s. foreign-policy at an event hosted by the hill newspaper. at noon, the cato institute holds a discussion on economic equality -- economic inequality. and continuing work on executive nominations. discussion on syria and the middle east hosted by the center for new american security. and at 3:30 p.m., former vice president joe biden kicks off this presidential campaign with a rally in pittsburgh. later, how to prevent suicide by military veterans. >> tonight on "the communicators." a conversation on privacy and internet.