Jordan Peterson & former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia John Anderson have a debate on COVID:
What’s with the Australian tendency to go full-lockdown? From an American perspective, why did so many choose the idea of security over freedom (relative to risk and medical/political authority?).
What are some better ways to think about costs/benefits and COVID risks than the ones being discussed now in Britain, Canada, America and Australia?
Choose your external threat: Increasingly authoritarian, post-ish Communist Chinese party leadership, and the China/Russia axis are shaping up to pose many threats to the Anglosphere. Perhaps your favored external threat is Islamic terrorism, or increasing migratory pressure on your borders as a citizen. These threats are quite real. Maybe it’s the ideologues now within many American institutions, seeking to disrupt the bedrocks of freedom of speech and rule of law. Very real, indeed.
As John Anderson points out, what about during the Blitz in London?
Another possibilityof threat-ranking: We have a likely lab-created and enhanced corona virus, now on track to become another human free-rider, killing a few million of us every season. This is a very real threat. We have an ongoing problem that could end-up anywhere between same level of risk as a virulent strain of flu or higher. We have very real front lines to this disease. A fairly shitty, but unavoidable outcome?
What about people who refuse, claiming health or other reasons?
Your deeper principles often mirror evaluations of threat across dimensions (conservatives focused on the common defense against outside invaders, the political Left focused more on external threats (within the West) against health care/education and collectivist conceptions of the moral good)
COVID-19 in King County, Washington (Seattle Area). Well, here we go.
Progressive thinking, to me, gets human nature fundamentally wrong (recognizing human potential generally through the oppressed/oppressor lens as well as through collective and group identity). A lot of progressivism needs an oppressor (evil) for its existence and such evil is usually found within the West (the religious, the traditional, those with ‘power’ etc.) Radical and nihilistic thinking (including a lot of anarchism) is nothing if not ruthlessly cynical about power.
As I see things: The vaccine mandate expresses the counter-cultural, anti-establishment logic which was there all along: A two-tiered society based on vaccine status looks a lot like the vaguely aristocratic, two-tiered society increasingly shaping up in Seattle/Portland/San Francisco. ‘Authority is bad. Oh, look, I”m the authority now‘ doesn’t exactly inspire institutional trust.
Are all the homeless, now frozen out of businesses, for lack of a vaccine passport, better off than they were before the vaccine passport?
What about conscientious objectors or health objectors to the vaccine? What about many small businesses being asked to enforce the new rules?
The utopia on the horizon fades for ever and forever as they move.
A longer-term, skeptical position held by this blog: Attaching one’s sentiments and beliefs to certain ideological doctrines (Marxism, Socialism, Communism), leads toward violent revolution.
Many (H)istorical truth and knowledge claims, with an Enlightened elite claiming to possess knowledge of (M)an’s ends, have proven disastrous.
Attaching one’s sentiments and beliefs to socially liberal political ideals, claiming the mantle of moral progress (environmentalism, feminism, identitarianism, racism/non-racism), leads toward competing political factions. Politics is, by its nature, coalitional and factional.
Universal truth and knowledge claims, coming from the (S)ciences and Social (S)ciences, or simply from many political idealists, unite some and divide others.
This can often lead to pretty bad outcomes for poor folks.
Dear Reader, what am I missing?
Here’s Theodore Dalrymple on using the social sciences as imprimatur, turning George Floyd into something like a grafitti saint. There’s always an ‘expert’ to be found, ready to justify the activist cause as virtuous and ‘normative’, reagrdless of the actual person and events.
‘Blood does not boil without moral judgment, whether right or wrong. In other words, the passage I have quoted about prejudice and stigma is at best self-delusion; the author, unintentionally no doubt, for he is probably a kindly and well-intentioned man, is a corrupter of morals.
He presents himself as a man free of prejudice, but no one is, could or should be, free of prejudice. He clearly has a prejudice himself against prejudice and stigma, as if these were wholly bad and never good; but surely the most cursory self-examination would demonstrate to him that this is not so. One of the reasons one tries to be good, for example, is to avoid the stigma of being bad, and one avoids such stigma because man is a social creature. No one is a Kantian saint, pursuing the good only for its own sake, and if we met such a saint, he would not be very attractive. It is unexamined and rigid prejudice and stigma, impermeable to all evidence and human feeling, that are bad.’
Apparently graffiti art does have a price, and it may be much more than $$$:
Ruling that graffiti — a typically transient form of art — was of sufficient stature to be protected by the law, a federal judge in Brooklyn awarded a judgment of $6.7 million on Monday to 21 graffiti artists whose works were destroyed in 2013 at the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens.
Would you be willing to undermine property-rights and the rule-of-law?
A NY Times beat reporter shared in the suffering of those graffiti artists whose 5pointz canvas was whitewashed in preparation for demolition by owner Jerry Wolkoff.
‘One street artist, who would give his name only as Just, had at least two works painted over. He spent hours early Tuesday gazing at the whitewashed buildings, leaning against a red-brick wall across the street. Then he bought himself a tall glass of beer, which he sipped slowly from a brown paper bag.
“Heartbreaking,” he said. “This is not just about graffiti — it’s about the unity of people who met here from all over the world.” He paused and took a drink. “That’s what really hurts.”
Once the real-estate market began heating-up in NYC, Wolkoff decided to whitewash his building overnight..
Every bit of graffiti scrawled there over 40-years was at his discretion.
Personally, I don’t take pleasure in the erasing of people’s hard work and creativity, nor in the breaking-up of a graffiti-collective which traveled far and wide to get to 5pointz, nor even in the iconic stature they gave the place, but David Thompson sums it up pretty well:
‘The moral of the story, gentlemen, is buy your own canvas’
The pathos in the Times article stops short of a familiar ‘art will unite all races, classes, & genders,’ type of Leftist political ideology.
I”m getting a sense that even should graffiti become a longer-lasting vehicle for artistic expression, beyond the street, it likely began for many non-taggers possibly in affect, driven by ideology, or the boredom and rebellion of the suburbs and people looking for some meaning in their lives.
What are they overlooking? What are they looking for? What do the people looking at the work might think they’re looking at?
Or perhaps it would have been better to celebrate the way street-culture and graffiti has interacted with money and market forces through tourism. 5pointz arguably was a tourism draw.
From The Times piece:
‘Though street art is meant to be temporary, 5Pointz became known as a graffiti museum. And the medium itself, once considered a symbol of urban unraveling, became a sought after gallery-worthy commodity, with work from street artists like Banksy commanding millions of dollars. Which is one of the reasons the whitewashing of 5Pointz’s walls was greeted with such vociferous dismay. “What?! What did they do?!” cried a tour guide named Hans Von Rittern, as he raced out of a tour bus early Tuesday, his arms wide, his face crumpling as soon as he caught sight of Ms. Flaguel. They embraced tightly and wept.’
I can think of some possible messages being sent by the law:
–You don’t have to work and own something to have ownership in it (normalizing a collectivism which rejects the property-rights of others…thus your property rights as well…for what’s to stop the next guy from tagging over your tag?). Someone else owns all this building anyways, so screw him, and screw the guy who came before me too.
–The value of artistic creation is yet again associated with money in the modern world (partially out of guilt, I suspect), and not so much with self-expression, technique, craft, freedom, and moments which can elevate and expand, offering meaning within a process.
–The criminality associated with graffiti is also tactily rewarded/overlooked by a court of law (there are real victims to the kinds of activity that can accompany tagging). I would much rather have lawmakers and law enforcers hold a simple line, rather than set the wrong incentives.
It can’t have been a good day for those who lost something. It’s hard out there.
Here’s a video:
More broadly, romanticizing the logic of the street, and taggers, comes with its own risks. Celebrate the spirit of creative lawlessness and turf warfare with the full acceptance that there ain’t much law involved. I’m sure 5pointz served as an escape, and a positive environment for many, but all the other things going on in these neighborhoods aren’t so uplifting, hence, it’s importance.
Andrew Sullivan and Antonio Garcia Martinez have a discussion (Judaism vs Christianity, time and distance shortening technologies, the darkness potentially coming as we dissolve our common, civic bonds).
Surely you trust the people in the Federal Government?
Here’s James Lindsay on the ideologies and ideologues filling many gaps within our institutions. The Humanities is the education where you can actually learn about your own human nature through dialog with the great voices of the past.
It’d be nice if such a defense weren’t necessary, but it is.
Alas, The New Yorker.
Don’t think the postmodern void and the search for meaning won’t suck on your legs as the tide goes out.
It’s okay to like the long-form stuff, high-quality cover art and criticism but…
…you will increasingly find reference to political violence, narrow true-belief and a rigid, cloying moralism. The logic was there, all along, beneath the human rights universalism, secular liberal idealism and profound moral concern for the ‘culture.’
The radicals haven’t changed all that much, but here’s one major difference: The new rules involve mainstreaming political violence and blaming your political enemies for it.
‘One study suggests that two-thirds of Americans between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four who were treated in emergency rooms suffered from injuries inflicted by police and security guards, about as many people as the number of pedestrians injured by motor vehicles.’
– Jill Lepore, New Yorker
Perry on Lepore’s piece:
This in a 5,000 word feature on the history of policing in the United States, which draws a link between the early role of police in suppressing slave rebellions, and police killings of Black Americans in the twenty first century.
‘We know that political bias warps cognition, sometimes catastrophically, and this is, I think, an example of that in action. Lepore read Feldman’s research and she misunderstood part of it, despite being an exceptionally intelligent person. Like many other Left-leaning Democrats, she is convinced that police brutality is a huge, under-acknowledged problem in the United States, and she therefore jumped to the conclusion that this wildly inflated ‘two-thirds’ figure was plausible.’
Previous links on this site from The New Yorker:
Our sacred National Parks and EPA regions, uniting all races, classes, genders, and species in a non-corporate, environmental utopia, are being despoiled by the dirty masses:
Carefully balanced rock towers make a pretty picture, but the proliferation of cairns, fuelled by social media, has negative consequences for the environment. https://t.co/q4BGmJtAHC
‘These developments owe much to the recent prominence of French postmodernist thought. Many young feminists, whatever their concrete affiliations with this or that French thinker, have been influenced by the extremely French idea that the intellectual does politics by speaking seditiously, and that this is a significant type of political action. Many have also derived from the writings of Michel Foucault (rightly or wrongly) the fatalistic idea that we are prisoners of an all-enveloping structure of power, and that real-life reform movements usually end up serving power in new and insidious ways. Such feminists therefore find comfort in the idea that the subversive use of words is still available to feminist intellectuals. Deprived of the hope of larger or more lasting changes, we can still perform our resistance by the reworking of verbal categories, and thus, at the margins, of the selves who are constituted by them.’
Not the ‘right’ kind of emptiness for Richard Brody, at The New Yorker, in Todd Phillips’ ‘The Joker.’
‘“Joker” is an intensely racialized movie, a drama awash in racial iconography that is so prevalent in the film, so provocative, and so unexamined as to be bewildering.’
Brody’s review is as much about historical events (The Central Park Five), and moral judgments surrounding these historical events (racist and nothing else, Trump is horrible) as it is about the movie.
Basic plot, aesthetics, and stylized choices are kind of what I’m after in a movie review, with some of the reviewer’s own expertise and respect for the reader’s intelligence thrown-in (should I see this movie?).
The Boston Evening Transcript
The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.
— When evening quickens faintly in the street, Wakening the appetites of life in some And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript, I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld, If the street were time and he at the end of the street, And I say, “Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript.”
‘There was a wonderful article by an editor at the magazine, Mary Norris, about commas. Wonderful, that is, until this passage, “That was during the Reagan Administration, when many of us suspected that Reagan had some form of dementia, but no one could do anything about it. The country was running on automatic.”
Such politicization can make for bad stewardship of the arts, certainly.
Perhaps New Yorker features are increasingly flogged to maintain readership in a competitive marketplace, or are being put to use for other purposes, like reaffirming political ideology and identities to signal the right beliefs and in-group/out-group loyalties. Many of the liberal pieties can be found on display at the New Yorker.
***Who do you trust for discussions of the arts and culture, and would you just rather publications be up front about their ideological bents and loyalties?
Or will this simply take care of itself?
As posted: Maybe some deeper currents from Romanticism to Modernism to Postmodernism are worth thinking about. As I see things, many people who care deeply about the avant-garde also can bind themselves to ever narrower political and ideological commitments.
The journey of The Western Self bears proper care.
According to some folks at The New Yorker magazine, the only answer to injustice is radical and revolutionary equality.
To be fair, the logic embedded within much radical chic usually reveals itself to be cool at first, the same old murderously bad doctrinaire utopianism a little later on:
‘Earlier this summer marked the 50th anniversary of C. P. Snow’s famous “Two Cultures” essay, in which he lamented the great cultural divide that separates two great areas of human intellectual activity, “science” and “the arts.” Snow argued that practitioners in both areas should build bridges, to further the progress of human knowledge and to benefit society.’
My two cents: This blog tends to worry about modern ‘one culture’ visions, too.
On the one hand, you’ve got your ‘scientific socialism;’ the clear dead-end, totalizing Marxist theories of history and various neo-Marxist movements having since colonized many faculty-lounges, HR departments, and media pulpits across America.
Deep, bad ideas tend to live on once plugged into many deep, human desires and dreams. The radical pose will be with us for a while.
Of course, it’s rather sad to witness the sheepish, suburban apologetics of identity amongst the chattering classes; the moment of surprise and fear when a previously insulated writer (leaning upon traditions) realizes today just is their day in the barrel.
Sooner or later you’re going to have to stand up for your principles.
You’ve also got many modern ‘-Ist’ movements, which, whatever truth and knowledge claims they may contain (some quite important ones, I think), are often quick to conflate the means of science with the ends of politics. ‘Join us,’ they say, and become a part of the modern world. The mission of ‘Education’ is easily mistaken for knowledge, learning with wisdom, collective group action with individual achievement.
There is a kind of a high middlebrow drift towards….I’m not sure where, exactly.
Alas, if you’re still with me, here are some links:
“I’ve been skeptical from the beginning of attempts to show that for hundreds of years people have missed the real point,”
Did literature professors at one point have something more substantive to teach?
In a broader context, hasn’t the Western mind has shifted to “science,” instead of God as a deepest idea, and so too isn’t literature a part of this shift?
As Richard Rorty sees it, no standard objective for truth exists but for the interpretation of a few philosophers interpreting whatever of philosophy they’ve read. It’s all just an author’s “stuff.” Here’s an excerpt discussing the debate between him and Hilary Putnam:
Addition: Western mind shifted to “science?”…well as for poetry T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens had some fairly profound religious influences.
‘Planetary health views human health from the perspective of multiple intersecting systems.’
Dear Reader, within this first sentence alone, I’m hovering, ‘Gaia-like’ out of my postmodern body in space, able to witness all humans criss-crossing, ant-like, beneath my transcendent vision. Standing upon the shoulders of Marx, verily, I gaze down from the position of ‘Director Of Budget’ at whichever institution I shakedown choose.
Oh, how I will lecture you!
In a mighty display of my educational credentials (justifying so much pseudo-scientific gobbledygook), I might quote something like the following:
I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. . .
Such lines sprinkled in casual, high coversation demonstrate that I am no mere anti-technological, Neo-Romantic ideo-crat, worpshipping Gaia with a thousand inchoate thoughts. Nay, my yearly salary alone commands respect as an intellectual anointed by ‘The People’ to bend all of (H)istory towards a New Age.
Come and sign this ‘social contract’ with our blood.
Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).
According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.
Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.
Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.
Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian neo-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.
Here’s the view through a radical lens at The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals. Keep this in mind the next time there’s an important announcement to the public from a respected institution.
It doesn’t exactly inspire public trust to have obvious anti-scientific ideologues operating within institutions which depend upon scientific discovery and authority.
If you believe that institutions, local institutions like the city council and the school board, are only as good as their members, then you have to rely on yourself to be a somewhat useful person. Sooner or later maybe you step up and volunteer; maybe you have some spreadsheet knowledge, have worked with budgets, have tutored kids etc. We are only as good as our own decisions and our own self-regulation, and so are these institutions.
Our Republic requires this kind of virtue.
Now, imagine your Federal Government, hundreds if not thousands of miles away, is currently acting as though people who aren’t citizens, who have not contributed, and whose first act in our country is breaking the law, could have as much right to be here as you. This is a pretty ridiculous contradiction.
The potentially good news: Old, sclerotic, poorly functioning systems without much direct accountability, like many institutions in Washington, aren’t working very well. In their weakened states, and because of deeper trends and natural incentives, the rot has become obvious. Also, in their weakened states, they’ve become captured by many of the wrong people. There’s some good, at least, in having this understanding and knowledge.
The bad news: Maybe after a period of instability, we end up with worse institutions, or we flirt with tyranny, or back our way into an authoritarian technocracy. Pendulums swing after all. Actions and groups of actors create opposite actions and actors, more or less. Maybe the worse people don’t get pushed out as they should. Maybe many of the loudest and worst fight over the spoils.
Also kinda bad: Because most of us are living in less religious, less patriotic, less physically connected towns, and living amidst more secular, Self-focused and human universalist ideas, the turn Europewards to a more entrenched Left, as in many European institutions, could be inevitable.
Slower growth economies, more people fighting over less, and a greater likelihood of mid- to long-term violence and less trustworthy politics could also be inevitable.
‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’
‘Here our account of the disposition to be conservative and its current fortunes might be expected to end, with the man in whom this disposition is strong, last seen swimming against the tide, disregarded not because what he has to say is necessarily false but because it has become irrelevant; outmanoeuvred, not on account of any intrinsic demerit but merely by the flow of circumstance; a faded, timid, nostalgic character, provoking pity as an outcast and contempt as a reactionary. Nevertheless, I think there is something more to be said. Even in these circumstances, when a conservative disposition in respect of things in general is unmistakably at a discount, there are occasions when this disposition remains not only appropriate, but supremely so; and there are connections in which we are unavoidably disposed in a conservative direction.’
Oakeshott, Michael. Rationalism In Politics And Other Essays. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991. Print.
“Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality.”
See the interview below for a discussion of what Steele has lived through and how he came to doubt the rise of Identity and power politics during the 1960’s (people speaking out against the dominant ‘narratives’ actually are in a minority these days, and subject to censure by many new gatekeepers):
As I see things, establishing facts while arguing and applying the law (A Nation Of Laws) is one of the cornerstones of our Republic.
Legitimate moral authority, institutional competence and public trust are hard to come by, and will likely be harder still in the years to come.
In my experience, there is some other value or ideal placed higher than law, fact and freedom of speech regarding the issues Steele discusses (Ideologies which support (V)ictims against (O)ppresors, (I)dentity above Citizenship, (E)quity or (S)ocial (J)ustice) above individual choice and equality under the law. The flaws in internal logic and real-world conflicts created in pursuit of many such ideas will always be resolved in the utopia to come.
I can think of many currents affecting this state of affairs, including postmodern drift (individuals isolated from all tradition and responsibility,.. narratives all the way down), the baptized Marxism of Reverend Wright’s church and the Democratic Socialism of Cornel West.
A lot of Steele’s thinking comes down to the support of what he calls ‘poetic truths’ over the establishment of empirical fact.
In fact, applying this thinking to the reparations debate, I’d say Ta Nehisi Coates was the voice of ‘poetic truth’, while Coleman Hughes’ was defending empirical fact:
‘He had not walked five hundred yards down the road when he saw, within reach of him, the plaster figure of a Negro sitting bent over on a low yellow brick fence that curved around a wide lawn. The Negro was about Nelson’s size and he was pitched forward at an unsteady angle because the putty that held him to the wall had cracked. One of his eyes was entirely white and he held a piece of brown watermelon.’
Redemption, mercy, original sin, and a decent short-story leaving you not knowing what to think, exactly.
================ Also As Sent In: Martin Luther King’s intellectual development came mainly through theology and seminary, social gospel (addressing social injustices), but also depended on various other sources, including Gandhi’s non-violent resistance (not acquiescence) to displace the force of the laws used against blacks for centuries. He welcomed a broad definition of rights enacted into law to include black folks, and a vast involvement of Federal authority…
And…where some of that energy has gone…further Left.
‘Being a leftist is a calling, not a career; it’s a vocation not a profession. It means you are concerned about structural violence, you are concerned about exploitation at the work place, you are concerned about institutionalized contempt against gay brothers and lesbian sisters, hatred against peoples of color, and the subordination of women.’
“7. What is meant by enthusiasm. This I take to be properly enthusiasm, which, though founded neither on reason nor divine revelation, but rising from the conceits of a warmed or overweening brain, works yet, where it once gets footing, more powerfully on the persuasions and actions of men than either of those two, or both together: men being most forwardly obedient to the impulses they receive from themselves; and the whole man is sure to act more vigorously where the whole man is carried by a natural motion. For strong conceit, like a new principle, carries all easily with it, when got above common sense, and freed from all restraint of reason and check of reflection, it is heightened into a divine authority, in concurrence with our own temper and inclination.”
If many folks at NPR could be like the CBC, or the BBC (forced licensing fees since WWII), I’m guessing they would.
True Story: Over a decade ago, there was a story on one of the local Seattle NPR stations I haven’t been able to track down (Seattle or Olympia). The topic was toys imported from China; some potential problems with toxicity.
There was one interviewee. She was neither lawyer nor doctor, nor chemist. She didn’t work in politics, nor in trade policy. She didn’t work in the toy business and didn’t know about freight/transport/toy sales. She might have had a child, but that seemed to be about the extent of knowledge. She had some interesting potential facts and information, but that was about it.
‘This is curious,’ I thought, ‘why is she on the air?‘
An activist is someone who becomes active. Activists activate. Becoming morally and emotionally engaged on some topic or other, for activists, is a good thing. Virtuous, even. Activists have had enough. Activists, of The People, stand up and speak for The People. Activists are in a kind of war with the world as it is, with injustice, and activists are always busy going to war with the truth and knowledge they have, against their enemies.
Whatever your thinking and/or experiences, Dear Reader, inevitably, some questions arise.
What if the activist is wrong? What if the activist has bad or missing information? Would a such a person as the activist, with the incentives and passion of the activist, ever admit to being wrong?
Do they justify violence in the name of their cause?
A bigger problem at NPR: For all my life, before I was born, back when NPR was created in the hoary mists of time and 60’s Civil Rights idealism, the activist has been at the core of their business model. Interview an activist and a guy in the oil industry. Split the difference. Get some jazz musicians and some good photographers and do a money-losing piece on both (I am grateful for these, thanks, NPR). Get a lady from Code Pink in here along with Senator so-and-so to mainline some pure democracy into the discussion.
Well, the activist capture is clearly catching up with them (along with a failing business model).
As this blog has been arguing for over a decade, there might not be much stable ground beneath liberal idealism, enough to maintain the consent of the governed and legitimate moral authority.
If you think, as I do, that human nature generally needs to be constrained, that we have a good Constitutional model to do so, and that Christian thinking (to be viewed with profound skepticism) at least prohibits violence in principle, then the activist model is to be viewed with profound skepticism.
Many of the true and good causes have already devolved into rackets (much Black activist leadership, the ACLU, Civil Rights). Look no further than the think-tank and activist Right to see that such devolution is probably inevitable.
If you can’t see that your own idealism is a point-of-view, then you’ve consigned yourself to be surprised and perhaps, attacked, by thought which disagrees.
‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.’
This is what I think many New Atheists, Men Of System, Men of Reason, Rationalists/Idealists so often miss: A lot of what human nature is, is capable of, even, can’t necessarily be molded by you. At least not in the short and mid-term and not according to many current plans. Where you put your thinking is where your hopes follow. If you find yourself hating what humanity is, then your ideas aren’t good enough to understand humanity.
And they are certainly not good enough to be in authority.
A lot of what motivates those who want change is mobilized resentment against current authority, and this passes for everything that is ‘good.’
You don’t get to speak for all of the public. You don’t get to presume to curate the arts and sciences. You have to survive in a free market, with free speech.
Via a reader: Saul Leiter’s just a great photographer. Each photograph is well-composed, layered, with excellent use of color. They are like paintings. Abstract Expressionism was hot in the painting world, and it shows. He didn’t pursue too much attention, making some great images with the tools he chose, in search of beauty:
Readers of this blog know I harbor deep skepticism. I’m not persuaded that many people advocating for change are any more ‘peaceful,’ ‘democratic,’ or worthy of authority than what’s come before. Will radical ideologies wrapped in high ideals actually work any better than a sovereign nation, full of citizens following the rule of law?
At the ol’ Human Church, the crazies gather in the back pews.
‘The place of Foucault in 2021 is not just a matter of academic interest; his changing position tells us a great deal about recent evolutions of both the left and the right.‘
Oh, there will be rules, and authority. Beneath that, a group of influence-peddling scribes, directing flows of received opinion and vaguely new information. ‘Explainers’ as they say. I suppose we all need to keep explaining the world to ourselves, and for ourselves, for as long as we can.
‘Used judiciously and with a suitably grim humour I think Plato can be a help. On the one hand he suggests that the issues raised by the relation of Showbiz to the rest of society have changed little over more than two thousand years. On the other, that the myriad effects of high-tech modern illusionism, both social and political, should not be too casually brushed aside.
The ‘is-ness’ of say, Unit Vector scaling (used in game dynamics) need not answer the many questions we might have about reality and the world (how should I behave? why am I here? what is my purpose? where is all this headed? when should I turn GTA off and go to bed?) but hopefully, such knowledge will simply produce people capable of understanding this knowledge and applying it, as well many others just enjoying a game.
Against the modern grain of having such questions asked solely by the religious, countered by the New Atheists and the secular, but also by the increasingly moralistic ‘-Ismologists’ and ‘Wokists’, it’s interesting to cast such a debate in more ancient terms.
Such framing can even provide breathing-room beneath the arguments flung over the table between analytic philosophers and many a postmodern nihilist.
Camille Paglia has her own take, from 40 years spent within, and on the fringes of, American academia. This is quite a curious mix of 60’s radicalism, art theory, history and criticism, some political philosophy, pop culture and various other influences:
A body-positive, quite radical/anti-anaesthetic and associative feminist art historian (with deep Italian Catholic roots)?
‘However, these boundary-dissolving expansions were unfortunately not the route taken by American academe in the 1970s. Instead, new highly politicized departments and programs were created virtually overnight — without the incremental construction of foundation and superstructure that had gone, for example, into the long development of the modern English department. The end result was a further balkanization in university structure, with each area governed as an autonomous fiefdom and with its ideological discourse frozen at the moment of that unit’s creation. Administrators wanted these programs and fast — to demonstrate the institution’s “relevance” and to head off outside criticism or protest that could hamper college applications and the influx of desirable tuition dollars. Basically, administrators threw money at these programs and let them find their own way. When Princeton University, perhaps the most cloistered and overtly sexist of the Ivy League schools, went coeducational after 200 years in 1969, it needed some women faculty to soften the look of the place. So it hastily shopped around for whatever women faculty could be rustled up, located them mostly in English departments at second-tier schools, brought them on board, and basically let them do whatever they wanted, with no particular design. (Hey, they’re women — they can do women’s studies!)’
“Between these two lines of attack, she believes, the university must articulate a conception of itself that defends the standards of reason, while remaining open to new points of view; that preserves the intellectual traditions and canons that define U.S. culture, while consciously broadening the curriculum to expose students to traditions which diverge from their own and which, in their difference, may confront students with an awareness of their own parochialism; that remain respectful and tolerant of many points of view without lapsing into relativism; and in short, that manages to prepare students simultaneously to be citizens of U.S. society, and cosmopolitans, “citizens of the world.”
This has always struck me as a little too broad of a vision to maintain (too heavy on the gender and equality side of things, deep the shards of disruptive radicalism embedded),though I certainly respect the attempt. We should aim to be citizens of the world and in the best Aristotelian sense (such depth and breadth may be in fact necessary). But is it enough within this framework?
“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”
“…in the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”
“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”
Much like Paglia…
Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.
Will Marxism & continental philosophy become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America as we find much more so in Britain?
Are we really that thick into the postmodern weeds?:
Judgment, as Scruton points out, shouldn’t necessarily be subsumed to political ideology. I would agree, and I generally default in assuming that each one of us is the ultimate arbiter of our own judgment.
But, no man is an island.
Does Scruton’s thinking eventually lead us back to the problems that religion can have with artists and writers?
Is there anybody whom you trust to decide what you should and shouldn’t read?
Parents? Great authors? Public intellectuals? Professors? God? Laws and lawmakers? Religious leaders? A school-board? A democratic majority? People who think like you? A Council of Cultural Marxists?
The Department of Institutionalized Idiocy?
As to the policial/social climate, did the 60’s counter-culture and the conservative counter-counter culture both win, in a sense?
Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley and Peter Robinson discuss below, including the sexual revolution:
What did a man who eventually became an openly practicing Roman Catholic witness during the 60’s protests on campus?
Bork argues that during the 1960’s, likely starting with the SDS, a form of liberalism took shape that promotes radical egalitarianism (social justice, equality of outcomes) and radical individualism (excessive freedom from the moral and legal doctrines which require an individual’s duty and which form the fabric of civil society). This is the New Left.
Bork is quite explicit about the violence and threats of violence he witnessed, the barbarism on display, and the confused, tense years that unfolded (culminating in the Kent State debacle). He was one of two conservative law professors at Yale during the late 1960’s and he argues that events have rarely been represented accurately as he saw them. It is a personal account.