The Four types of Americans

A glossary of terms used at TomHallett.Com

Abandon the outmoded silly labels like Republican, Democrat, liberal, or conservative.
With thanks to Dr. Clyde Wilson of the University of South Carolina, here are the four
categories of folks constituting the American polity:

1) Statesmen. This tiny minority is responsible for most of the positive aspects of government. Those with original ideas and broad vision, who accomplish benevolent laws and institutions, even taking into account the welfare of posterity. Leaders who provide great moral examples by serving their people rather than themselves: George Washington, R.E. Lee, Charles de Gaulle, the late Pope John Paul II. (You can think of others. I tend particularly to admire skillful and indomitable leaders of small, beleaguered peoples, like President Kruger of the Boers and Marshall Mannerheim of Finland.)

2) Yeomen. The ordinary, decent folk who respect the gods, obey the laws, support themselves, help their neighbors, deal honestly, and do public duties faithfully when called upon (paying taxes, defending the country, jury duty, trying to cast a responsible vote). The most numerous and indispensable class of citizens. But because they go about their own business and expect others to be as good as themselves unless proved otherwise, they tend to pay little attention to public matters, change opinion slowly, and normally trust and follow rather than, as they should, suspect and question the constituted leaders of the state.

3) Ninnies. These are people whose ideas on public questions are childish and self-centered, who desire both to conform to fashion and to be regarded as superior in daring, wisdom, and virtue to the ordinary folks. This category includes most professors, journalists, middle-level bureaucrats, political activists, and, unfortunately, a great portion of the clergy. Ninnies are responsible for a vast amount of static and pseudo-knowledge which foul communication between Statesmen and Yeomen. I suppose Ninnies can be found in any country, but I have the impression that they are nowhere else as numerous and prominently placed as in America. (Americans began in the early 19th century to notice and decry the large number of aggressive, pseudo-intellectual, self-appointed moral superiors coming out of Boston.) Sometimes a Ninny achieves great status by serving as a front for Politicians, a classic example in recent times being George W. Bush. Ninnies are numerous on the left, but in recent years they have been found abundantly on the Republican side (example: people who think Condi Rice would be a great president). One particular right-wing subset of the Ninnies (O’Reilly, Hannity, Savage, etc.) displays nasty fascist tendencies.

4) Politicians. People who create nothing but control everything. Machiavelli was not only giving advice, he was describing an eternal type. Man is an institution-building animal. Statesmen’s’ accomplishments lead to institutions, and institutions perpetuate themselves and bestow distinctions and profits. These distinctions and profits, in time, come to those who concentrate on maneuvering to position themselves well. During ordinary times of inertia and limited attentiveness, successful maneuvering for position within an institution is enough to make one seem to be important, esteemed, and useful, even if one has contributed nothing to the world or to the mission of the institution. One can achieve political power by flattering the Ninnies and seeming plausible to the inattentive Yeomen. A certain number of clever but morally defective people will early observe that the world’s rewards are as often bestowed for the appearance of achievement as for achievement itself. The folk conception of a politician as one who watches which way the people are heading and then gets in front to “lead” captures this truth. It is commonplace for positions of great power and respect to be filled by people who have never in their entire lives done anything unselfish or useful for their fellow citizens or had any sincere idea or impulse directed at the public good. This category includes most congressmen, presidential advisors, bishops, media moguls, university presidents, generals, and top corporate executives. The type is universal and immemorial but, again, I suspect is particularly numerous in America, which invented the phenomenon of Celebrity—being well-known for being well-known—and where there is no measure of individual value except money. The worst part of this is that when real crises come, Politicians are in charge and they lack the intellectual and moral resources to meet the crisis. They can only think and do what they have always thought and done—manipulate appearances to keep themselves on top. Thus Dubya Bush can never resolve the Iraq debacle because his vision of the alternatives is short-term and self-referential. He may blunder or be forced into a solution, or he may acquire a handler who can find a plausible face-saving solution, as the politician Nixon did for Vietnam.

(There is another sizable category of persons inhabiting the United States who are not really citizens at all, merely Sports Fans, Gadget-worshippers, and Shoppers.)    And, Dr. Wilson, may I add to that category "Television Watchers"..........Tom, June 21, 2009