Franklin Einspruch has a piece in the City Journal about recent art installation controversies at American universities: “When Artists Fear Their Audience.” In short, leftwing artists have been scandalizing contemporary hypersensitive leftwing coeds* on campus, and the coeds have demanded that their schools banish the unsettling artwork from their precious space. And they get their way. Many social commentators like Einspruch find this trend alarming, wondering what happened to the American spirit of freedom, inquiry, and expression that is supposed to inform our institutions of higher learning. What a circus! It almost makes me think warmly of old school lefties who championed the “open society.” Who knew that their Frankfurt School machinations would ultimately result in tyranny? Imagine—a social revolution instigated by Communists has tended toward totalitarianism? Most unexpected, no?
(* Well, not really coeds in the case of Wellesley College)
Jonah Goldberg examines “social justice” in the following short video:
Since my first days of undergrad at a Jesuit university, I have had to deal with the “social justice” crowd. It has been trying. My favorite commentary about “social justice” is my friend Andrew’s riff on Voltaire’s comment: “Catholic social justice is neither Catholic, nor social, nor justice.” I appreciate the comment’s humor and its appropriate insistence that “social justice” is not just. For me, the perverse word twisting is the most insulting aspect of “social justice” because it denigrates real justice, one of the cardinal virtues and proper aims of politics. Such makes it the maggoty gerbil corpse cherry on the fecal sundae of leftist lunacy.
“Social justice” ideology results from egalitarianism, which against all evidence holds that all human beings—and all human wills—are equal and have equal worth. If such were true, then any inequality would be an offense against nature (if there were such a thing!) and should be corrected. If such were true, then erasing or minimizing inequality would be just—that is, it would give each his due—since all are due the same. If such were true, any hierarchy or order would be inherently unjust—as those arrangements require specified roles for different people and necessarily introduce power structures. If such were true, power structures would intrinsically be instruments of oppression, as any authority of some over others disrupts equality. If such were true, then truth, beauty, and goodness would be merely self created (and self interested and sadly imposed) values, since real truth, beauty, and goodness set standards by which some opinions are truer than others, some actions are better than others, and some things (and, the horror) faces are more beautiful than others. What a messy mass of inequality mankind would be! It is therefore not a coincidence that the “social justice” crowd as a Venn diagram set largely overlaps those of nihilists, amoralists, the aesthetes of ugliness, and other neer-do-wells.
Curiously, I discovered with cynical delight the acronym “SJW” just last month. I had never seen it before, and then, apparently all of a sudden, I found it everywhere on non-leftist web sites. I had to look it up to find out that it stood for “social justice warrior.” It is a brilliant caricature, as it defines that crowd by pointing out their comical belligerence. Parasitic cheerleaders of parasites (PCP) might be more accurate, but SJW works well, too.
I wish you my last Nativity greetings of the season!
Yesterday, I stumbled upon Free Range Kids, which is a site dedicated to counter the “helicopter parenting” style that has come to dominate American bourgeois childrearing. Its owner Lenore Skenazy simply promotes what parents universally used to do (e.g. let your children walk to school or take a public bus), and the chattering classes see her as a revolutionary. She has gigs on television shows, publications, and even a speaking circuit. She may have even started a movement. I wish her well, but I want to know why she is necessary. Why does common sense or a fundamental aspect of our inherited way of life need an articulate defender in the court of public opinion? Is such true everywhere in human history, or is this a special characteristic of the contemporary West? And if so, why? When idiots and ideological psychopaths impose their insanity, I expect Americans to push back forcefully and immediately, and that happens at times. But it appears to happen less and less often—and I get the sense that the American masses are becoming more and more complacent, more mandarin, more thoughtlessly obedient to “experts” and social engineers. Perhaps, this is due to successful conditioning, or a breakdown of traditional order, or secularization, or perhaps even the feminization of our civic life. Women tend to be more herd-like in their moral judgments; female suffrage appears to lead by necessity to increased social and political conformity.
Conformity? In our carefree days? Indeed. How funny it is that our latter day libertines become the most draconian bores when their own oxen get gored. “Live and let live”—with the slight modifications listed in three million regulations designed to shackle all life (and to minimize microaggressions, to be sure). Those who preach liberation just want to paint the yoke a new hue (pink, perhaps, or how about rainbow taffy?).
Anyway, I loathe contemporary American pedagogy, with all its toxic, inhuman, suffocating filth. I wish Lenore Skenazy the best in fighting for a “cause” that only requires a champion in a crazy world. And since she has a website and a following, other dutiful mothers might now feel free to follow their instincts and rational judgment rather than the 24/7 media-hyped paranoia. Brave Lenore Skenazy—trailblazing the obvious so that the bovine masses might slowly moo to greener pastures. I say this with genuine admiration for Skenazy coupled with acerbic contempt for human nature—or at least for our sorry, perverted remnant of it.
For a sample of Free Range Kids, check out Skenazy’s New Year’s post, “The Craziest Zero Tolerance Stories of 2014.” It makes one want to grab his pitchfork and a torch and march down to the local board of education. If only Americans had the healthy sensibility of yesteryear’s peasants . . .
A few months ago, Laura Wood showcased “A ‘Feminist’ Who Refuses to Hire Women” on The Thinking Housewife. I especially like Buck’s comment below the excerpt.
Human beings are so fascinating.
My friend Andrew recently sent me a link to Brian Patrick Mitchell’s “What Is ‘Ethical Conservatism’?” in The American Conservative, and I recommend it as a brief manifesto of good sense in an age of insanity. Besides the good deacon’s regrettable use of gender instead of sex, I find it remarkably unobjectionable. However, I did find the following passage a bit unclear:
The contradiction at the very heart of progressive ethics is undeniable: People must be “forced to be free,” as Rousseau candidly admits. Why? Because the prideful, passionate, progressive heart cannot admit that what it wants is wrong; it must therefore insist that what others want instead is wrong and identify itself with the Promethean lawgiver, “enlightened despot,” or “revolutionary vanguard,” in sympathy with “the People” but not benighted like “the masses,” capable of divining the “general will” of the former and compelled to force that will upon the latter. This follows, perversely, from the Rousseauean conceit that man is innocent of the evil he finds in the world, which originates outside of him and is only imposed upon him. As man is forced to be evil, so must he be forced to be free of it.
“As man is forced to be evil, so must he be forced to be free of it.” Does Mitchell mean that, as Rousseau’s ideas externalize evil, they thereby externalize all morality? As such, must the state direct human decisions? In short, are virture and vice politicized not only in the classical way—the ancients knew well how law and custom cultivate virtue or invite vice—but completely so that there is no individual moral reasoning at all? Or is it rather that after the original sin of man’s corruption by society, only an enlightened state can redeem lost souls, depraved as they are in a condition of complacent repression? I don’t know.
The rest of the essay is clear and reasonable. Kudos to a fellow Cincinnati(ish) native who labors in the devil’s fields (around the Potomac).
Христос Возкресе! And happy feast of Saint Athanasius the Great!
In her last two weekly columns, Ann Coulter provides Clayton Lockett’s gruesome backstory and then marvels at the Left’s souciant concern for Lockett’s “botched” execution: “Lockett & Load” and “Death Penalty Opponents, Have I Got a Deal for You!” From the latter:
As described in last week’s column, The New York Times and other sanctimonious news outlets censored details about the crime that put Clayton Lockett on death row, the better to generate revulsion at his deserved execution. You might say they buried the facts alive. [J.A.: In the first article, we learn that Lockett buried one of his victims alive.]
For example, the Times neglected to mention anything about the raping that preceded the murdering, which seems odd for a newspaper so consumed with the “War on Women.” (At least Lockett never refused to pay for a woman’s birth control pills!)
The Times also dropped the part about Lockett’s dangerous behavior while incarcerated, such as ordering hits on the witnesses against him, his threats to kill prison guards, and the bounty of homemade weapons seized from him in prison—saw blades, sharpened wires, shivs and shanks. (Old Times motto: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” New Times motto: “Nobody Likes a Rat.”)
The newspaper also failed to report that Lockett had ended up in an adult prison by the age of 16 and then was convicted of four more felonies before committing the torture-murder of Stephanie Neiman that sent him to death row.
No, that information might distract from the Times’ florid descriptions of Lockett’s execution.
Bless their hearts, they gave it their all, but even the Times could not make Lockett’s “botched” execution sound particularly grisly. Here is the paper’s full, terrifying description:
“According to an eyewitness account by a reporter for The Tulsa World, Mr. Lockett tried to raise himself up, mumbled the word ‘man,’ and was in obvious pain. Officials hastily closed the blinds on the chamber and told reporters that the execution had been stopped because of a ‘vein failure.’ But at 7:06, the inmate was pronounced dead of a heart attack.”
HE RAISED HIMSELF UP? WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY ARE WE???
Actually, I’m not that horrified. It sounds as if he suffered a bit, which is nice, and he’s dead, which was the objective of the whole enterprise.
You want horrifying? Imagine a 2-inch baby being chopped up with scissors. That can’t feel great.
Maybe they—and MSNBC’s similarly high-minded Rachel Maddow—should comfort themselves by thinking of Lockett’s execution as a very, very, very late-term abortion. You know, the kind that liberal darling Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours to keep legal.
Since Rachel and the Times are such big fans of partial-birth abortion, would they mind if we took a gigantic pair of scissors, jammed them in the back of Clayton Lockett’s head and let his brain slide out? Let’s get Kermit Gosnell working again!
Or how about giving the citizens of Oklahoma the right to choose an acid bath for condemned murderers? We’ll submerge people like Lockett in a tub filled with burning fluid until he’s mostly disintegrated and can be flushed down the toilet. (If it’s low-flow, flush twice.)
Or maybe an industrial vacuum designed to tear Lockett’s body apart.
Which reminds me: Would the Times ever give as detailed a description of an abortion as it does for the execution of a remorseless killer? The odds are pretty high that the baby isn’t even a rapist/murderer.
Opposition to the death penalty has nothing to do with compassion. Liberals weeping for murderers have zero compassion for an innocent baby trying to escape an abortionist’s cranioclast. Their dead earnestness about monsters like Clayton Lockett is solely designed to demonstrate how virtuous they are.
Coulter treads close to Steve Sailer in her analysis of leftist opposition to the death penalty. I know that she reads Sailer as she links to him occasionally. I wonder if she also read Lawrence Auster’s site. Speaking of Auster, Coulter’s current topic reminds me of a thread from a couple of years ago in which I caused some dismay to Lydia McGrew and others for defending the subhuman characterization of men like Lockett. From “Feral blacks and the image of God”:
The discussion in “Feral blacks and the image of God” requires some useful metaphysical distinctions.
As Lydia McGrew notes, Christians affirm that all human beings are made in the image of God. However, we often fail to live up to the high calling that our nature demands. Church Fathers from Irenaeus of Lyon to Bonaventure distinguish between God’s image and God’s likeness in which we are made. The image is in our essence; we cannot lose that, just as we cannot become oak trees or bullfrogs. However, through sin, we lose the likeness, and thus the way that the divine image manifests itself becomes marred. Therefore, it is correct to call evil people subhuman or bestial if we mean that they are failing to live up to the fully human standard of a rational creature oriented toward the good. This is true of everyone to some extent and at certain times, but it is sadly holds for certain souls to an extreme degree most or all of the time.
Consider the wicked boys who tortured the Haitian mother and her son in Florida five years ago (I wrote about it here). Such boys are human beings in that they have a human nature; they do carry the image of God. However, they have been so fully perverted that it is sensible to say that they are less than human. They are like Dionysius’ demons or Tolkien’s orcs—so fully corrupted that they no longer appear to have the essence given to them by God—though they fundamentally do.
In the Nicomachean Ethics [typo in the original], Aristotle recognizes that repeated vicious actions slowly pervert one’s practical reason, and this process eventually leads to the complete destruction of one’s moral compass. Therefore, the vicious man is no longer fully human in that he has lost his ability to perceive the moral good. Of course, his essence remains human, but his actuality is not.
Such appears to irk certain folks for two main reasons. First, any suggestion that dehumanizes a member of Homo sapiens troubles them greatly. “First, they came for the men who raped and killed infants. Then, they came for the unrepentant matricidal maniacs. When will they come for me?!?!?!” That is a K-Y slippery slope, but Godwin’s Law is absolute. Second, the modern mind has difficulty in grasping “vertical” metaphysical distinctions, as the thread demonstrates.
Here are some links to posts about our sorry academic and general intellectual situation:
“College Students Demand Respect” on The Thinking Housewife with a guest article by Richard Cocks
“The Academy Then and Now” by Paul Gottfried at the the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy site (courtesy of Thomas F. Bertonneau)
“Arguing Over Argument in the Internet Age” by James Kalb in Crisis Magazine
If that was not enough doom and gloom for you, check out this enthusiastic support for constructivism: “Constructivist Learning and Teaching.”
Sigh. I stand by my belief that nominalism has been the chief specific cause of the West’s decay.
Rend your clothes and toss dust.
A few weeks ago in “Worse than the Matrix,” I linked to a story about hospitals’ using fetal remains in energy saving furnaces. Last week, Drudge shared an article in The College Fix that covers a celebration of abortion at the University of Michigan: “University of Michigan Exhibit Celebrates Abortion as ‘Life-Sustaining Act.’” Read the post and look at the provided posters.
For commentary, I refer you to my post from two years ago: “Abortion as a Sacrament.” Aside from my attempt to understand “the culture of death” therein, I admit that the wicked have become more brazen and unhinged in all sorts of frightening but fascinating ways. For instance, college students have come to decorate university grounds with hanging plastic vaginae to celebrate their alternative to Saint Valentine’s Day. Homosexual activists parade with sacrilegious depictions of sacred persons and symbols. Naked women with body paint have invaded Christian temples and danced upon altars—a disturbing image of the West’s own abomination of desolation. It all seems rather demonic—as if our civilization has openly invited Satan and his minions to possess it. And it has.
A few months ago, James Kalb published a short essay on The Catholic World Report about subsidiarity’s place in the modern world: “How Do We Advance Subsidiarity?” A selection:
. . . A basic problem is the difficulty of limiting the modern state and modern economic life. The state doesn’t want to be limited, because people who like to run things believe they know best. And technology has multiplied our ability to buy and sell whatever we need, and seems to hold out the prospect of absolute freedom through unlimited wealth.
For that reason money and the state pervade more and more aspects of social life today: fast food, day care, social welfare schemes, and electronic entertainment all substitute for family life, for example. The result is a political and social system based ever more totally on government bureaucracies and the market, with their relative power determined by relative institutional advantages and by shifting popular sentiment that both powers try to mold and manipulate with the aid of their allies and hangers-on.
The two working together are unlimited in their ambitions and demands, and they have no interest in subsidiarity. They believe they can do anything, and the growing exclusion of religious faith from public life means that the secular utilitarian ways of thinking that guide them function as a substitute religion. The result is that they feel called on to remake all human life in their own image, turning it into a system of maximum equal preference satisfaction consistent with the efficiency, coherence, and security of the social machine.
The only constituents ultimately taken seriously in that machine are the state and the individual. Church and family dissolve as independent institutions with their own principles of legitimacy. . . .
Such a system is at odds with subsidiarity, since the latter won’t exist unless non-state institutions have their own principles of legitimacy, and the system insists on extirpating such principles for the sake of its own coherence and dominance. . . .
Kalb has some thoughtful practical suggestions in the piece for those of us who find the contemporary situation repellant.
Below is a comment that I made earlier to Kristor’s Onward, Christian Bloggers Orthosphere post. The readers there are trading words over several issues, and I decided to respond to an objectionable comment:
If you want to talk about CS Lewis and fantasy stories than there’s always Charlton’s blog. Because you know, that is what traditionalism really needs another commentator on the Inklings.
Egads! I find Charlton’s commentary on Tolkien et alia very interesting. Do we really need to reduce ourselves to one thing needful? The inhuman Left is full of tedious bores who fanatically confuse the personal and the political, who won’t ever bury their bone du jour, and who bother everyone around them with their passing obsessions. For the love of the world, we need more folks to comment on the Inklings . . . as well as on patterns of seasonal duck migration, the spiritual benefits of tinkering on old machines, the best ways to incorporate spinach in baked goods, how to entertain jack russells, and so on. This is what we traditionalists claim as our “seamless garment.” Life and the world are unified—the cosmos and our participation in it are divine gifts, and we should comport ourselves appropriately and with gratitude.
I agree that our society is going to hell in a shoddy handbasket, but we cannot reduce our lives to that decay—or to the response to it. If we were really on a sinking ship (not metaphorical), then, of course, it would not be the time to talk of Dickinson or blueberries, but that is due to the allotted time and urgency. Our civilization is breaking beneath the waves, but man cannot live so single-mindedly for long without becoming monstrously imbalanced. Plan, strengthen yourself, manipulate the enemy, but do so as a man rather than an ideologue. And men eat, laugh, play, sing, read, and ponder. Act this and act that . . . this cult of doing is largely how we ended up in this mess. To quote Eliot’s Harcourt-Reilly:
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm—but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
Quite true—it is as if post-Christian society has perverted Paul’s redeeming the time with anxious busy-ness for some cause or other. Maybe, if we crossed a Yankee Presbyterian with a Zen Buddhist, we might get a balanced human being—geographically and temperamentally, we’d come up with a good Bavarian Catholic who works hard, loves his family, minds his manners, and enjoys beer and dancing on Saturdays.
How I love Bavaria.
Well, spring is reportedly on its way. At least, my crocuses are blooming, and I have the blue orchard mason bee houses hung around the yard awaiting their springtime occupants. If better weather is nigh for you, enjoy the outdoors—and the rest of March.