Theodore Dalrymple On Making Graffiti Saints & Some Past Links-(M)an’s Ends

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.

An Orgy Of Self-Righteous Sentiment:

‘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.’

As posted:

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?

NY Curbed had original 5Pointz coverage here.

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.”

Three photos and some backstory here. 5pointz had become something of a graffiti mecca, arguably more than the sum of its parts:

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.

That’s right Banksy, it’s still a tagger’s world:

Related On This Site:Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’

So, You’re Telling Me What’s Cool?-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Banksy In Neverland’

Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?: Brasilia: A Planned CityAnd AestheticsRoger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Under A Green Moon-Ira Stoll At The New York Sun: ‘Comma in the New Yorker Opens Up Quite a Vista Of Liberal Parochialism’

From The New Yorker: ‘Writing Powered By Amtrak’

Repost-No More Western Art Survey Courses At Yale-Some Links

Via the Yale Daily News: ‘Art History Department To Scrap Survey Course:’

Art history department chair and the course’s instructor Tim Barringer told the News that he plans to demonstrate that a class about the history of art does not just mean Western art. Rather, when there are so many other regions, genres and traditions — all “equally deserving of study” — putting European art on a pedestal is “problematic,” he said.’

As posted:

Click here. Thanks to a reader. Quite a varied discussion on Bloom’s surprise 1987 bestseller: ‘The Closing Of The American Mind

Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

Camille Paglia: ‘The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil

Some people are trying to erode common sense until it becomes less common:

‘The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.’

Christopher Hitchens (nearly a free speech absolutist, railing against many of his former friends on the Left) discussing the Yale Press, which was genuinely afraid that publishing this book could lead to violence in the Muslim street:

“…Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”

Theodore Dalrymple on Medical Correctness here.

Some Sunday Links-The People Shall One Day Control The Means Of Recreation

Michael Moynihan on British historian’s Eric Hobsbawm more recent estimation amongst many chatterati.

Let’s not forget:

‘In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of “15, 20 million people might have been justified” in establishing a Marxist paradise. “Yes,” Mr. Hobsbawm replied.’

That interview here.

Moynihan finishes with:

“How to Change the World” shows us little more than how an intellectual has committed his life not to exploring and stress-testing an ideology but to stubbornly defending it. The brand of Marxism that Eric Hobsbawm champions is indeed a way to “change the world.” It already did. And it was a catastrophe.’

From the De Blasio files, at the NY Daily News:

Let Orchard Beach be a beach of The People!:

‘A bright new future dawns for Orchard Beach with Mayor de Blasio’s promise to commit money to upgrading the great Bronx Riviera.’

The People shall one day control the means of recreation:

‘Now, de Blasio, who has committed to spending park money fairly in rich and poor neighborhoods, has the chance to right the scales of recreational justice, in the process improving life for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers as a major part of his legacy.’

(Addition): Apparently, this is how you rope the People’s Revolutionary Representative into money for your pet project when he’s out for a photo-op (end).

Let’s hope this isn’t a Red Dawn, dear reader, where we find ourselves somewhere beyond the dunes and dressing rooms of the once great Bronx Riviera; filthy, exhausted, huddled around a beach campfire, gathering the shards of recent history that have led us to our fates.

What if history is nothing but an abandoned Orchard Beach bathhouse full of spiders?’…mutters Powers Boothe, clenching his teeth, pouring his hooch onto the fire.

It rages up into the starless night.

C. Thomas Howell muffles a sob.

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As previously posted, some light humor:

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss.

Yes, these ideas are responsible for the deaths of thousands, right now, in real time.  To say nothing of a few lost generations of human potential, hopes, dreams and basic securities.

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

How’s that Russian reset going?:

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What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

The End Of History? –Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Related On This Site:  What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

 

Repost: Via Youtube: Ric Burns—New York: A Documentary Film – Episode One: The Country and The City (1609-1825)

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From the onset, Manhattan was a place for trade and commerce.  It has an exceptional natural harbor. It was an outpost for the Dutch to invest and turn a profit and it’s continued from there (after many years of British rule and even British control during the Revolutionary War).  It didn’t become our nation’s political capital as Jefferson made sure of contra Hamilton, though it has had distinct artistic and cultural influence.

As the series points out, what drew and draws so many disparate groups and pits them against each other is economic opportunity.  What unites them is not diversity (that’s a by-product), but self-interest and a chance for a better life by getting a job, making it big, getting away from somewhere else,being the first or the best in your field (finance, trade, insurance, fashion).  I suspect both religion and secular religion (the current rise of the equality of outcome crowd, nanny-staters) have always had and hopefully always will have a hard time bending New York’s commercial bustle to their moral visions.

Related On This Site: The market will make people better off, but always leaves them wanting more and in spiritual malaise, which invites constant meddling.  Can economic freedom and free markets reconcile the moral depth of progressive big-State human freedom:  Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’

Both agree God has something to do with it…Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

The Irish were a mess:  William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

Politicians and politics likely won’t deliver you from human nature, nor fulfill your dreams in the way you want: anarchy probably won’t either: Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

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Timothy Snyder At The New Republic: ‘Savagery’

Full review here.

Snyder reviews Paul Preston’s new book on the Spanish Civil War.

There was plenty of savagery to go around during the War, and the little I know I do from having spent time in Spain and getting to know a few people whose grandparents fought during that time.  The Valle de Los Caidos is seldom talked about, and for good reason (Franco used prison laborers from the other side in order to construct a monument to his fallen fellows).

Perhaps the more conservative, traditional, religious parts of the nationalist coalition weren’t prepared for some of the folks that made up Franco’s forces:

‘First, many of the soldiers fighting under the banner of Spanish nationalism against the Republic were Muslims, mercenaries from Spanish Morocco. Second, Christian soldiers were little interested in the application of ethics to their deeds.

Well, this is war and Franco did amass his army from the Spanish colonies in Morocco.  Yet as for the Republicans:

‘The most violent political force in the Republican zone were the anarchists, who fought against Franco but also opposed the Republic. Beyond the reach of the government, and bountifully armed, they were all but impossible to control. They ran the most murderous of the checas, including one squad that decorated their murder van with skulls and their uniforms with death’s heads’

The fight had been brewing for quite some time to get Spain on the path to “modernity” and “progress.”  Clearly, not everyone agreed how to get there or where they were going…as other European ideological conflicts and interests consumed the country:

‘And so the Republic itself, when it was re-established in 1931, was bound to provoke determined and articulate resistance. Its new constitution propagated a secular state, which angered the priesthood and the conservatives. The first government purged the officer corps, demoting many officers who had been promoted for their deeds in Morocco. But more infuriating still, it concerned itself with the fate of the peasantry, rather than leaving them under the authority of local notables.’

Our author wants to note that Preston’s book is careful to point out that the Nationalists were worse, however, which raised a bit of suspicion on my part:

‘Preston is concerned to show that violence from the Right was on a greater scale than violence from the Left during the Spanish Civil War. Contemporary accounts of atrocities came from Madrid, the Republican capital, where reporters and ambassadors could observe and criticize the actions of the Republic but not those of the rebels—with certain exceptions, such as that airdropped corpse. Preston reminds us that prevailing opinion in the British establishment (Churchill was a good example) held at the time that right-wing killings were relatively insignificant. But with the help of massive documentation recently published by Spanish historians, Preston shows that roughly 150,000 Spaniards were murdered on territories controlled by the rebel nationalists, compared with about 50,000 in the Republican zones’

Well, everyone has their interests while examining the conflict, but point taken.  Snyder goes on:

‘From Poland’s Galicia in the east to Spain’s Galicia in the west, conditions of radical inequality conspired with weak state institutions to turn the energy of capitalism against democracy by generating support for the far Left and the far Right, especially during the Great Depression’

Is “capitalism” really the bogeyman here, a handmaiden to both the anarchic revolutionaries and the fascist mercenaries with “democracy” lost in the shuffle?  Implicit in the review are certain assumptions about democracy, which seem pretty liberal by American standards.

In fact, this review is found in “the New Republic”, so, duly noted.

Related On This Site: Snyder is perhaps not a fan of libertarianism Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

From The Chronicle Of Higher Ed Via A & L Daily: “Myths Or Facts In Feminist Scholarship?

Full article here.  (Once archived, no longer free)

As the A & L daily notes, that’s Nancy K.D. Lemon vs Christina Hoff Sommers.  

Sommers started the criticism here.

I think one piece of the puzzle is Roger Scruton’s argument here, which suggests a failure to keep aesthetic judgment apart from political judgment in the humanities…:

“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.”

This can spill out into our politics…and we get many people on the right criticizing entire institutions of higher learning…and many on the left mixing race, gender politics and humanities into theories which clearly have ideological aims and political consequences.

Though of course, Lemon is on the faculty at Berkeley Law…

From the comments section:  

If, in the interest of advancing her cause, she [sic, Lemon]  perpetuates fallacious reasoning, she forfeits her position as a scholar and becomes a mere advocate–something any of us can be, because there are no standards to advocacy. If she pretends to something better, she has to BE better. The same holds true for Sommers, and those who can root out fallacious reasoning on her part are right to do so.

See Also: From The Chronicle Of Higher Ed Via A & L Daily: Christina Hoff Sommers “Persistent Myths In Feminist Scholarship” Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment…Revisiting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

You could just try reading Shakespeare, and go from there…

Thanks to iri5

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Garrett Mattingly On Machiavelli-The Prince: Political Science Or Political Satire?

Full article here.

“The notion that The Prince is what it pretends to be, a scientific manual for tyrants, has to contend not only against Machiavelli’s life but against his writings, as, of course, everyone who wants to use The Prince as a centerpiece in an exposition of Machiavelli’s political thought has recognized…”

Mattingly (wikipedia), a historian, argues that this short work of Machiavelli’s overshadows his attempts at plays, poems and prose, and overlooks the following:

“‘…Popular rule is always better than the rule of princes.’ This is not just a casual remark. It is the main theme of the Discorsi and the basic assumption of all but one of Machiavelli’s writings, as it was the basic assumption of his political career.”

Well, perhaps Machiavelli did really believe in the traditional virtues (Christian, Aristotelian?) and thus did not truly question those traditional beliefs…

…and instead perhaps The Prince should be viewed more as work of art in the vein of his other works (and not as philosophy necessarily?) as Mattingly argues…

Are you convinced?

See Also On This SiteFrom Nigel Warburton’s Virtual Philosopher: Machiavelli Is Always RelevantFriday Quotations: Machiavelli And The Founders

Niccolo Machiavelli by Crashworks

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