America These Days, A Newer Elite And Potential Life On Venus?

Via Bari Weiss-It almost feels as though, after a meal, in the back room of an emptying restaurant, I’m a fly on the wall:

Q & A: The Marriage Vows of The American Elite: A Conversation With Benjamin Ginsberg:

I agree. I also agree that there is a kind of interesting elite consolidation under way in the U.S. that does parallel the events of the late 19th century. We have a fabulously wealthy new elite, namely tech billionaires and related folks. The established monied classes in the United States need to incorporate these people, and they’re being incorporated around a kind of woke agenda, just as the elites of the late 19th century were incorporated around a Christian agenda of social do-gooding.

Personally, I suspect if the American body politic were an iceberg, then a large enough portion has rolled so that religious belief comprises only a plurality nowadays. Many people are still deeply religious, and we Americans deeply idealistic, but politically and socially, especially in the upper eschelons, it’s not what it was.

I don’t trust many people promising me what it should be.

Some fears, from a Straussian perspective: This decay could presage a more European-esque politics, with many attendant problems of nihilism (unmoored individuals seeking meaning through ideology, more mainstreamed ‘burn it all down’ political factions, more radical (not merely utopian/communitarian) and politicized art movements, less social mobility and more entrenched ‘classes’, more social stratification with a scelerotic bureaucratized government apparatus).

On that note, a better path seems to pursue and partake in human excellence, where it is to be found. What kind of political order we have is up to us and our Constitution. People desperately need ‘low resolution’ ideas to form cohesive groups of any kind, especially within institutions, and many of those guiding ideas are now more socially activist and ‘change’-focused.

Where creative synthesis and new thinking are often occurring, in the arts and sciences, can lie old wisdom and new knowledge:

Venus is such a hothouse. Do we need more data?

As for the media landscape, it all depends on where you stand.

Is this an accurate map, or are my biases showing?:

Media drift-As to more radical groups splintering and applying pressure upwards upon political idealists, high liberals, atheists and humanists.

Maybe ignorance, zeal, moral judgment and enforcement are best thought of as NORMS, not exceptions, when it comes to human nature.

I’d like to think that secularly liberal leadership, more broadly, including the people who want to be in charge of all of us (at their best operating from within moral communities of not too great a solipsism and self-regard) can resist such pressures. For there certainly are those who would fracture our institutions into rafts of post-Enlightenment ‘-isms’ and politicized movements often driven by illiberal ideologies; movements relying on the presumed self-sufficiency of reason while behaving quite irrationally.

I’m looking around and not seeing too much decency in American politics, lately.

A.C. Grayling makes one of the better cases for morality without religious doctrine, I’ve heard of late, but I’m not entirely sold these particular problems can be addressed sufficiently:

—–

Jonathan Haidt has infused the more modern field of moral psychology with some of David Hume’s empiricist theory of mind, the idea that intuitions come first, and our reasons for them are usually trotted out afterwards (when was the last time you walked away from an argument/debate/discussion totally converted and persuaded by the reasoning of the other guy?

Yet, how, exactly, did our institutions of higher-learning get to the point of catering to the loudest, often most naive, and often illiberal student-groups claiming their feelings and ideas deserve special treatment?

Isn’t this already a failure of leadership, to some extent?:

Related: A definition of humanism:

“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Related On This Site: From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

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”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.… Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

One way out of multiculturalism and cultural relativism:

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

Repost-Michael Totten: ‘The Ghost Of Communism In Asia’ And A Few Thoughts

More from Michael Totten on his then trip to Vietnam:

‘Vietnam’s one-party state, despite being much more relaxed than it used to be, still spends hours each day broadcasting bullshit into everyone’s ears whether they like it or not. I couldn’t help laughing at the absurdity.’

It’s good to start off your day with a little propaganda, comrade.

———————

I occasionally visit Left Bank Books here in Seattle, and gaze out upon the river of ideology floating by: Worker’s Rights handbooks, oppressed victimhood guides, queer-theory radicalism, Gramsci, Chomsky, and Adorno. Perhaps in some small way, as Totten may have experienced in North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam, seeing so much in one place can crystallize one’s thoughts.

A lot of the lesser streams in the mainstream media can make more sense after these little visits:  The current progressive activism, red and pink populism, feminism and more radical feminism, environmentalism and radical environmentalism, excessive and ideological egalitarians and communal types, gray ponytails, fringe radical individualists and anarchists….and on and on.

For all the talk of China, it’s important not to forget how recent the Great Leap Forward was, and why many in the Western media still seem attracted to the authoritarian imposition of high-speed rail and economic Statism found there.

Such affinity for top-down impulses isn’t so liberal, really.

I’m guessing if some people get their way, after the erosion of much that keeps us free and responsible, and after some radically individual and anarchic void were actually to be created, it wouldn’t be the secular liberal moralists, humanists, lost-in-the-wood liberals and bien-pensants which would necessarily fill it.

For all that, I’m thinking a continued danger in the U.S is still just European and Californian cultural drift: Bureaucracy and bloat. A larded-up, over-promising, under-delivering group of techno and bureau-crats regenerating from a privileged class up-top, and a base that’s always in need of saving according to their lights.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

***Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by over the years, and so as the blog bends with the times, I try never to break with principle.

Even if you don’t comment or email, it’s appreciated.

On This Site See: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …The End Of History?: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

On That Liberal Project And Many Nihilist Claims Against It-Some Links To Fukuyama And John Gray

Aris Roussinos makes the case for Fukuyama’s ‘The End Of History And The Last Man‘ in:

Why Fukuyama was right all along:

In The Last Man, the under-discussed addendum to The End of History, Fukuyama took his intellectual cues from Nietzsche rather than Hegel, observing that “it is impossible to complete our present discussion without refer­ring to the creature who reportedly emerges at the end of history, the last man,” a creature who is, “in essence, the victorious slave”. With all his demands met and material wants assuaged, will the last man be content at last, pausing the endless revolving wheel of history?

This blog has applied a Straussian approach (reason/revelation distinction) to question the Hegelian–>Marxist–>post-Marxist (via Alexander Kojeve) view that (H)istory in fact should be conceptualized as Hegelians do, and can claim to be known, as many have.

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

The (H)istoricist approach tends to lead to an ever-expanding bureaucratic state, importing many problems much German philosophical idealism has had in conceptualizing God in the face of Englightenment claims to truth and knowledge, Nature, Man in Nature, and perhaps even the fact that Germans rather enjoy fighting, and the piety of ‘we’ Germans.

On that note, as posted, on the profound and what I’d call ‘Will’ tradition nihilist skepticism of modernity, progress and high liberalism, as Simon Blackburn also reviews John Gray’s new book ‘Seven Types Of Atheism

Blackburn on the book:

‘After this taxonomy the book is largely an indictment of misguided thinkers and writers since the Enlightenment, peppered with discreditable stories from their biographies. The examples are sad enough, and Gray uses them to support a general pessimism about human beings altogether, other people being just as bad as religionists. Woe to those who think that things have been or could be improved! Eventually the list becomes reminiscent of Monty Python’s “What have the Romans ever done for us?” substituting the Enlightenment for the Romans. We are all lying in the gutter, and the right things to look at are not the stars above, but the rubbish all around us. The only thing we progress towards is death’

If you’re interested, the below are from past related posts on this site:

Thomas Nagel review of John Gray’s previous book, ‘The Silence Of Animals,’ here.

Simon Critchley reviewed the book at the L.A. Times.

Nagel starts with:

‘John Gray’s “Silence of Animals” is an attack on humanism. He condemns this widely accepted secular faith as a form of delusional self-flattery.’

and:

The question Gray poses is of fundamental importance, so one wishes the book were better. It is not a systematic argument, but a varied collection of testimonies interspersed with Gray’s comments.’

Clearly humanism could use more serious critics and pushback.

Nagel finishes with:

‘Gray thinks the belief in progress is fueled by humanists’ worship of “a divinized version of themselves.” To replace it he offers contemplation: “Contemplation can be understood as an activity that aims not to change the world or to understand it, but simply to let it be.” Though he distinguishes this from the ideal of mystical transcendence toward a higher order of being, it, too, seems more like a form of escape than a form of realism. Hope is a virtue, and we should not give it up so easily.’

Gray discusses the book below.

While science may proceed and real progress is taking place, in the realms of ethics and politics, Gray suggests things are learned but they don’t stay learned.

Are we rational beings? Rational animals?

Also On This Site: Francis Fukuyama, a neconservative up until the Iraq War or so, student of Huntington’s, and author off The End Of History, has a view that modernization and Westernization are more closely united.  Yet Fukuyama envisions a Western State which has an endpoint that the minds of men might be able to know.   This breaks with Karl Marx’s end point of Communism rising from the ashes of capitalism, is more Hegelian via Alexander Kojeve in Paris, and advocates for a State that ought to be bigger than it is now in the U.S.  This requires a more moral bureaucratic class to lead us here at home and perhaps an almost one worlder-ish type Super-Government for all.  Can you see limited government, life, liberty and property from here?:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have plans for America and India to address some of the corruption there, and it may involve much more state involvement here in America by extension.  Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The CrisisMartha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution..
Liberalism has plans for you and me, and supremely abstract ideals which would bind us together: Martha Nussbaum At The Chronicle Of Higher Education Responding To The 10th Anniversary Of 09/11: ‘Justice’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Yoram Hozany-A Religiously Conservative Point Of View And More On The Mystery Of The Moth-Eaten Marxist Coat

Where is that coat?

Podcast here.

Yoram Hozany takes two institutional data points, the NY Times and Princeton University, to argue that whatever you want to call it (‘Marxism’, ‘Neo-Marxism,’ Postmodern ‘Wokism’); these institutions increasingly have a new moral, ideological orthodoxy in place.

James Bennet resigns as the New York Times opinion editor (pushed-out, really).

Bari Weiss resigns from the New York Times opinion pages.  Her letter here.

-Even ol’ Andrew Sullivan left the NY Mag (The ‘People’s’ vox media helping to push him out)

-Over 300 Princeton faculty propose a new ‘anti-racism agenda.’

From Hazony’s reasoning then, it follows that this new moral, ideological orthodoxy is driven by committed and competing factions of radicals and true-believers, ideologically purifying towards revolutionary praxis.

It also follows that on the American political scene many moderate, opposing groups will have to deal with this new reality:  Religious believers, social conservatives, traditionalists, constitutionalists, economic conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals, moderate and reasonable liberals, and even the populist, union Left, will be in some kind of tension with this group of radicals and true-believers.

Is there some kind of New, new Left forming?:  Towards A New Center? Ted Cruz & Eric Weinstein Have A Talk-Also, Alas, The Atlantic & Let Poetry Die

Ah well, it could have been about free speech and free thought, a morally decent center, but Twitter’s more about about geekier white kids wanting to hang out with cool black kids.

Welcome to the new wealthy and woke:

Jay Z promoting his then new album alongside Marina Abramovic at MOMA, many years ago.

Cringe:

A lot of people I know resist such arguments, often because they’re caught up in the pro-Trump, anti-Trump battles of the day.  Or they’re older and can’t process the levels of institutional capture, rot and over-build we’ve got.

Or they haven’t seen the glazed eyes and closed minds up close.

If you’ve been keeping tabs on this stuff, from a perspective like mine (small ‘c’ conservative), it’s been a long, depressing ride.

Did I leave it at the Oscars?

Is the exotic Oxiris Barbot, former people’s Health Czar of New York, wearing my jacket?

Meanwhile, as for policing in Seattle, something’s always gotta change (moral progress don’t ya know), and this means always reacting against what’s here, what works, and what’s basic common sense.

Repost-Watching The Shadows Go By-A Few Links & Thoughts On Romantic Primitivism, ‘Culture’ And Political Idealism

As posted:

Just pointing out that predictions of the NY Times ending up like The Guardian are proving true.

The Guardian: Left and Far Left. Funded by deep and shallow-pocket[ed] activists (revolutionary and avant-garde thought-leaders liberating ‘The People’ from false consciousness and oppression, towards ideological and liberatory purity).

So.Much.Guardian

The NY Times: Quickly becoming like the Guardian

The Guardian (exhibit #1): Melanie Phillips was generally on the Left and was Israel-supporting. Colleagues at the Guardian saw such support as heretical, pro-colonial, pro-‘fascist’ and pro-oppressor.

Not a friendly environment:

The NY Times (exhibit #1): Bari Weis (center-Left, freer speech and thought, pro-Israel) resigns because she’s not welcome at the Ol’ Gray Lady any more. Similar pressures apply.

From her resignation letter:

‘The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people.’

The Guardian says ‘Hey:’

As for the NY Times, I think this ‘The Hunt’ piece from the Real Estate section sums up my expectations nicely.

Oh yes, it’s real:

‘As conservationists, they decorated almost exclusively with secondhand furniture. The large closets — “the biggest I’ve had in my life,” Ms. Sinclair said — have enough storage space for the craft materials she uses for her feminist tableware line, Oddtitties.us.’

Still funny in my opinion: Who reads the newspapers?

But, still to me, even funnier: Yes, that’s a Chinese brothel.

A Bill DeBlasio sighting out West? Is he still running for President?

Plot(s) of the 1st and 2nd ‘Poltergeist’ movies: A naive surburban family buys a house from greedy speculators who’ve built atop an ancient Indian burial ground. Horror unfolds as they discover the truth about their home, the past and the supernatural as they act to protect their innocent daughter.

Later, it turns out the spirits were just wayward souls moving Westward across America, having blindly followed their religious leader into a cave for eternity. Slowly they rolled a boulder over the only entrance in preparation for the coming End times.

No more sunlight.

Let’s do a quick re-write: The shabby, itinerant preacher wandering the countryside is actually just a Marxist. Released from a local university due to recent budget cuts (evil oppressors), his trust fund is nearly gone. Moving from town to town on the fringes, he seeks new acolytes to enroll in his ‘media studies’ course. Why can’t the People see the material world as it really is?

Critical theory is actually a very valuable tool, [he says].

He knows a lot about art and the avant-garde, (S)cientific progress is coming and in fact his ideas are (S)cientific, too.

‘They’ don’t want you to succeed, he says. Your identity is sacred. Liberation is next.

The Environmental End Times are nigh!

Eliminating traffic deaths to Vision Zero and creating more pedestrian safety is the current, stated goal.

DeBlasio’s managed to get money set aside for universal Pre-K as well. (the People’s future will secured through taxpayer funded health-care and education, also with real-estate money it seems).

NY times piece here on the Sandinista connection. De Blasio’s inner circle.

***Perhaps, according to a certain point of view, many of the functions that charities, churches, and religious organizations perform will be co-opted by the government (the De Blasio coalitions no doubt see many things this way). Interestingly, old-school Democrat, poor Brooklyn kid, and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan made some interesting arguments about the dangers of such Statism.

Walter Russell Mead had an interesting analysis a while back, on some of what’s going on in New York City, and I think the conflict between police unions and their interests on one hand, and De Blasio and his interests on the other (activist, race-based protest movements and quite far Left coalitions of ‘the People’) can help to clarify some of what’s been going on lately.

‘The good government upper middle class, the entrenched groups with a solid stake in the status quo and the marginalized working or non-working poor with no prospects for advancement apart from the patronage of the state: this is the mass base of the blue electoral coalition — and the groups in the coalition don’t seem to like each other very much.

Ties That Bind

What all three groups share is a burning desire for more: a hunger and demand for ever larger amounts of government revenue and power. Money and power for the government enable the upper middle class good government types to dream up new schemes to help us all live better lives and give government the resources for the various social, ecological and cultural transformations on the ever-expandable goo-goo to-do list that range from a global carbon tax to fair trade coffee cooperatives and the war on saturated fat. All these programs (some useful in the Via Meadia view, others much less so) require a transfer of funds and authority from society at large to well-socialized, well-credentialed and well-intentioned upper middle class types who get six figure salaries to make sure the rest of us behave in accordance with their rapidly evolving notions of correct behavior.

The Times reporters represented the goo-goos at the Bronx courthouse. Sixty years ago the reporters would have had more in common with the cops, but the professionalization of journalism has made these jobs the preserve of the college educated and the upwardly mobile in status if not so much in money.

The angry and determined unionized cops represent what used to be the heart of the blue coalition: the stable urban middle middle class. In the old days, this group included a much bigger private sector component than it does now. The disappearance of manufacturing and the decline of skilled labor in most of New York means that the middle middle class, so far as it survives, depends largely on revenue from the state. The cops, the teachers, the firefighters, the sanitation and transit workers: these are most of what remains of the backbone of what used to be the organized working class.

 

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-What Are You Doing With The Arts & Humanities? There’s Been A Lot Of Bad Stewardship

I suspect a lot of wisdom can be found throughout ‘Western Civ 101’ about the problems of the human heart, human nature and political power.

Apparently, though, such wisdom is being lost on a lot of people these days. I humbly submit such people should not merely think their ideas will become more justified, their hearts more pure, simply by organizing coalitions with the purpose of gaining political power.

As previously posted:

Ira Stoll here.

‘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.

Unsolicited advice for The New Yorker: Build a wall around your political stable, don’t bet too much on current trends and politicians, and keep other spaces free for the genuinely ‘avant-garde,’ the strange and beautiful, and biting satire when it shows-up.

For further context:

Here’s one senior New Yorker editor, Hendrik Hertzberg, discussing years ago how to abolish the Electoral College, arrive at a National Vote (to better serve the People, of course) and enact ‘democratic change.’

This strikes me as in-line with much Left and Left-liberal majoritarian populism. activism and softly (ultimately hard) radical change.

He has knowledge, of course, regarding what the People (will, should?) want, and why eroding such checks will lead towards more victims enfranchised voters and the ‘good’ society.

Perhaps some of the publishing decisions at the New Yorker make a little more sense…

===================

As previously posted-A breath of fresh air from George Packer at the New Yorker: ‘Mute Button:

‘The problem with free speech is that it’s hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance. But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts, you forget how to think them—how to think freely at all—and ideas perish at conception. Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy had more to fear than most of us, but they lived and died as free men.’

Maybe this kind of moral courage will make a comeback…

As for free speech and public sentiment, perhaps we’ll see where a new speech beachhead lies as the tide recedes from the powerful pull of an activist moon.

The problem with ‘brownstone activism’ may be the material itself:

‘Brownstone is a word used both to refer to a type of building material and structures built or sheathed in it. While it is most closely associated with the Eastern United States, this material was at one point used all over the world in construction, particularly in upper class regions. A distinctive architectural style using brownstone is very familiar to many residents of industrialized nations. Its popularity as a building material waned when builders began to realize that it weathered poorly, and that other materials might be more suitable.’

Soft, crumbly, loosely aggregated, weathers poorly…

Christopher Hitchens at Slate: Yale Surrenders

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

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

***Whom 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?

The George Floyd Arrest Video, Google, And A Reminder Of Some Better Standards For Speech & Reasonable Discussion-This Thing Won’t Land Itself

Rod Dreher and commenters have a discussion about the George Floyd arrest video.  Eleven Updates.  It’s a hot topic.

‘Please don’t use my real name – there are issues where taking a stand is worth risking a job, but this isn’t one of them.
I’ve been a practicing attorney for 12 years, mostly doing civil litigation but with a little bit of criminal defense work. The big point you and many others, left and right, have missed about the new bodycam footage is that it’s likely to get Chauvin and the other officers acquitted–not because it shows Floyd resisting, but because combined with the autopsy results, it’s likely to prevent the government from proving causation beyond a reasonable doubt.’

Arrest video here, via Youtube via the Daily Mail.

On that note, New Tech is New Media, to a large extent, and it is displaying signs of the same ideological capture as much as Old Media and many of our educational institutions.

Youtube is balancing interests by moving away from independent content-creators and towards larger, existing media players.  Money is probably a main reason, but there’s also this:

Wojcicki said that she decided to start prioritizing authoritative sources in the wake of the terrorist attack in Nice, France on Bastille Day (July 14) in 2016.

“I remember reading about it and being just extremely upset and thinking our users need to know about it,” Wojcicki said.’

Equality–>Equity–>Ideological Capture.

From Google’s CEO:

‘Today we are announcing a set of concrete commitments to move that work forward: internally, to build sustainable equity for Google’s Black+ community, and externally, to make our products and programs helpful in the moments that matter most to Black users.’

The more I think about how complex the search algorithms, how many iterations I’ve performed with them while I/They alter my behavior, and how much information I am giving data stakeholders, well, Dear Reader, I’m a bit chilled.

When I see ‘equity’ language, however, specifically coming from the CEO at the company responsible for many of those algorithms, then I know it’s only a matter of time before that portion of the company becomes toxic, if it doesn’t break Google apart.

Towards understanding why ‘Equity’ is a word which will be used to shut down the pursuit of truth, new knowledge and reasoned debate.  All Enlightenment values many liberals, and now increasingly conservatives, will have to defend:

Come with me to my ‘field of gathered abstractions’:

Why I think the ‘modern’ maps greatly underestimate the depth and wisdom of the religious and humanities’ maps of human nature, rather than the ideological maps of oppressor/oppressed and the postmodern capture.

Highlighting ideological capture with libertarianism:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

‘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.’

Highlighting ideology with Darwinian Conservatism, as Larry Arnhart is dealing with many of these ideas.  Here’s the banner from the site:

‘The Left has traditionally assumed that human nature is so malleable, so perfectible, that it can be shaped in almost any direction. By contrast, a Darwinian science of human nature supports traditionalist conservatives and classical liberals in their realist view of human imperfectibility, and in their commitment to ordered liberty as rooted in natural desires, cultural traditions, and prudential judgments.’

The move from Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism is a deeper and very important current in the Western World, and it is isolating many of us into (S)elves, and promoting a radical posture of first the artist, now each individual, as existentially apart from and outside of all institutions.

Highlighting postmodern skepticism with postmodern skepticism and some British Idealism:

Review here of a book by author Luke O’Sullivan on 20th century British conservative and thinker Michael Oakeshott. Other books by O’Sullivan on Oakeshott can be found here.

Highlighting ideology with 20th-century liberal philosophy

Before modernism, there was the Romantic break of the individual artistic genius driving all this change forward on his own. Isaiah Berlin had some thoughts about this (as well as the horrendous totalitarianism which emerges when you start-out thinking the Ends Of Man are already known).

Thanks, reader. Probably worth revisiting:

Highlighting ideology and speech with older liberalism: How about speech?:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

It’s Not A Religion Exactly, But It Engages The Beliefs, Moral Sentiments, & Actions Of Millions

Full review here.

Ronald Bailey at Reason reviews Mike Shellenberger’s new book: ‘Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All’

According to these activists and politicians, humanity is beset on all sides by catastrophes that could kill off civilization, and maybe even our species. Are they right?

Absolutely not, answers the longtime environmental activist Michael Shellenberger in an engaging new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. “Much of what people are being told about the environment, including the climate, is wrong, and we desperately need to get it right,” he writes. “I decided to write Apocalypse Never after getting fed up with the exaggeration, alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of positive, humanistic, and rational environmentalism.”

As posted, via a reader:

I’d like to remind folks that Peace Pavilion West, an Eco-Romantic Human Collective Going Back To Nature and Forward Towards Progress, is still accepting applications.

-Would you like to live in your OWN ecopodment as part of a living, working Community?

-Does 1,200 calories of guaranteed bug-paste and 8 glasses of fresh spring water a day sound good to you?

-Close your eyes: The day’s field labor is done. Honest sweat and natural musk mix with memory. Your mind, body and soul begin to rise towards the Cosmos, as each Community member joins hands, chanting Earthsong at dusk:

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Urbanists love to hate Joel Kotkin, as he has offered them much in the way of criticism. At the New Urbanist website, I found the following quote:

“Only when humans are again permitted to build authentic urbanism — those cities, towns, and villages that nurture us by their comforts and delights — will we cease the despoiling of Nature by escaping to sprawl.”

Bjorn Lomborg is skeptical of ‘Earth Hour’ in Blinded By The Light. Go towards the light.

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘The Failure of Al Gore Part Three: Singing the Climate Blues’

Amy Payne At The Foundry: ‘Morning Bell: Obama Administration Buries Good News on Keystone Pipeline’

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And LibertyFrom The WSJ-A Heated Exchange: Al Gore Confronts His Critics…From The Literary Review–Weather Channel Green Ideology: Founder John Coleman Upset….The Weather Channel’s Green Blog: A Little Too Green

Towards A New Center? Ted Cruz & Eric Weinstein Have A Talk-Also, Alas, The Atlantic & Let Poetry Die

Ted Cruz is a Constitutional Conservative (U.S. Senator) and Eric Weinstein is what I’m calling a New, New Left independent thinker (pro speech, pro-mathematical sciences, pro-change, anti-identity).

Of Note:  Weinstein focuses on the years 1971-1973, where he pins a crucial slowdown in American economic growth, continuing today, which would help explain many changes we’ve been seeing in our lives.  This would include the calcification and cratering of our political parties and the dysfunction in many of our social and educational institutions.  It seems that everyone’s fighting more over less, and perceiving less all around, thus fighting more.

Previous generations, used to good returns on personal effort, relying upon institutional stability, were accustomed to generally playing by the rules in big companies, universities, law firms, and rent-seeking investments; generally climbing hierarchies and getting ahead.

Of course, if the theory is accurate, we have a lot of other potential contributing variables depnding upon your principles and point of view.

Mine include a longer sweep from Romanticism to Modernism to Postmodernism and increasingly atomized Western Selves living in ‘the modern world’.  I tend to focus on 1960’s counter-culture rebellion (now probably the ‘culture’) moving towards radicalism in universities, education and media.  In my own family, I’ve seen a subsequent move away from religious belief, and more broadly out in the ‘culture’, movements away from W.A.S.P culture and civic nationalism.

Let’s not forget the many obvious technological changes in networks and automation going on around us, either.

Which maps are you using?

No small irony for my dead horse: Many at the Atlantic are supporting rather obvious Democratic party positions, often Statist, while increasingly being co-opted by the loudest voices with an agenda to push (critical and race theorists and writers, politicizing the personal).

It’s kind of Orwellian to ask poetry to serve ideological goals, but my guess is having a poet who isn’t black or isn’t (B)lack would be racist these days, once you’re playing the game.

Perhaps this gives Atlantic writers special insight into the CCP in China and Artificial Intelligence.  An explicitly Communist, increasingly calculating and expanding State apparatus is utilizing the latest technology for control, driven somewhat by ideologues.

Well, it might hit a little closer to home, anyways.

I just want to find good poetry, and not play the game.

Also, I’d like to find out what is going on in China.

As posted, long ago.  All the foundations seem to get co-opted:

Let Poetry Die.

‘The best thing that could happen to poetry is to drive it out of the universities with burning pitch forks. Starve the lavish grants. Strangle them all in a barrel of water. Cast them out. The current culture, in which poetry is written for and supported by poets has created a kind of state-sanctioned poetry that  resists innovation.’

Has the institutionalization of poetry done it much good?:

‘Lilly’s contribution (and contributions) to the Poetry Foundation are the only reason it is what it is today. In other words, it’s not through any intrinsic or hard-earned merit that the Poetry Foundation is surviving and flourishing today, but because of a drug baron’s fantastic wealth.’

Maybe it wasn’t Emerson that kept Whitman going, but rather, the thought of returning to his tenure track position after a long hiatus.   Yet should there be no state funding at all of poetry…only patronage?

Also On This Site:   Cleaning up the humanities?:

Did Martha Nussbaum succeed in addressing a perhaps broader problem?  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily argues the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities:Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion (was he most after freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?), at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Hopefully it won’t go this far:  From Big Hollywood: ‘The National Endowment For The Art Of Persuasion?’

From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

 

Away From The Self, Towards The Self-Evergreen’s Failed Experiment & Douglas Murray On Anne Applebaum’s New Book

Interesting quote from Benjamin Boyce (a Camusian formerly at Evergreen State?):

Built within this activist rhetoric, built within the very foundations of criticial race theory and white fragility theory is a shifting of blame away from the Self.

The Self becomes co-opted into identity cateories and failed theories of History.

White Fragility as lucrative charlatanism.

From Quillette Magazine, a podcast:  Professor Wilfred Reilly discusses his new book Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About

Your moment of Zinn:  The 1776 project is a response to the 1619 project.

George Packer on his experience in the New York City Public Schools.  We’ve got to have buy-in to the public schools, and bad ideas make buying-in a lot harder to do.

My dead horse:

Many universities, newsrooms and outlets (The NY Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, NPR) are running similar experiments as did Evergreen.  Many cities (Seattle, Portland, especially) are doing the same.

Yes, it’s violent in Portland.

The loudest, most commited ideologues co-opt nice-sounding ideals, which often overlap with liberal ideals, capturing the ears of many liberal idealists, but also the political and administrative apparatus of the institutions they inhabit.

In my view, this won’t really get us closer to understanding Nature, nor proper humility and understanding regarding our own natures, nor help maintain legitimate authority.

Humility and self-reflection are hard; sometimes harder for people writing for money.

It can be easy, and hard, to write about one’s Self.

Douglas Murray on Anne Applebaum’s new memoir:

‘There is a tradition of books by intellectuals recounting their fallouts with their former friends. Applebaum, a former deputy editor of this magazine and justly celebrated historian, frames her memoir with two actual parties: one at her restored mansion in Poland on the eve of the millennium, the second at the same house in the summer of 2019. In the years between she has parted ways with many of the guests at the first celebration. All had been elated by the events of 1989 and hopeful about the post-communist future. Twilight of Democracy is her attempt to explain that divergence of ways. Perhaps predictably, she finds other people to be most at fault.’

Let’s check in with Emerson:

“I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Daniel Dennett from 1998:

‘When I was a young untenured professor of philosophy, I once received a visit from a colleague from the Comparative Literature Department, an eminent and fashionable literary theorist, who wanted some help from me. I was flattered to be asked, and did my best to oblige, but the drift of his questions about various philosophical topics was strangely perplexing to me. For quite a while we were getting nowhere, until finally he managed to make clear to me what he had come for. He wanted “an epistemology,” he said. An epistemology. Every self-respecting literary theorist had to sport an epistemology that season, it seems, and without one he felt naked, so he had come to me for an epistemology to wear–it was the very next fashion, he was sure, and he wanted the dernier cri in epistemologies. It didn’t matter to him that it be sound, or defensible, or (as one might as well say) true; it just had to be new and different and stylish. Accessorize, my good fellow, or be overlooked at the party’

Out of the postmodern malaise can come nihilism, moral relativism and a general desperation where many can be found clinging to the sciences, or some standard of rationalism and reason that doesn’t seem sufficient in answering all the questions religion claims to answer. Nor does it seem sufficient as a platform to understand human nature, history, tradition, the wisdom in our institutions, and the experience past generations can offer beyond its own presumptions.

Lots of people can thus make ideology their guide and political change their purpose, or the State their religion and their own moral failings or moral programs everyone’s moral oughts through the law and politics.