Archives for category: manners

img_3595-1

For Democrats and Republicans, the biggest issue dredged up by ever-increasing number of sexual harassment accusations against Hollywood, media and political celebrities is whether the scandals will morph from Teachable Moment to Impeachable.

But maybe a better way to look it pertains to what you might call “the demarcation problem”: the thing we need to know, of any particular accusation — apart from its factuality, its truth-value — is the nature of the behavior:

Creepy or Criminal?

According to the exact wording of Donald Trump’s infamous recorded boasts, his offenses were, if true,* merely creepy. But, if his boasted-of grabby hands were not always met with assent, then in those non-consensual instances his offenses were likely criminal.

Indeed, the reason so many people think Trump has confessed to sexual assault is that no one really believes that all the women he has hit on consented to grabbing of them “by the pussy.”

With Senate candidate Roy Moore, on the other hand, we have quite a number of very specific allegations, of which we learn more every day. Moore apparently liked very young women, and we have heard the most about a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old, both of whom he had “courted” when he was much, much older.

That may indeed be creepy. (Most people seem to think so.) But not illegal, since Alabama’s age of consent is 16.

It gets worse for Moore, however, since he is also accused of inappropriate relations with a 14-year-old, and outright sexual assault, too. Those would be criminal.

rat-styleAnd Moore, as Jacob Sullum sagely notes at Reason, has made matters worse for his own cause, putting out conflicting stories about his relations with his older inappropriate inamorata. This undermines his defenses regarding the truly more serious allegations.

Meanwhile, Republicans are rallying around Moore — as if their complaints about the creepy-and-criminal Clintons were just a matter of partisan convenience.

And that is creepy.

What is missing, here? Our attention has been called, once again, away from substantive crimes of the federal government. Like in the Wag the Dog days, the criminal aspects of our government receive scant attention. All the fuss is over the sex stuff — the sloppy kisses, blue dresses, unwanted ass-grabs, and worse.**

The creeps and criminals have distracted us from the true enormities.

twv

cropped-discriminations-logo-taomoultrie
* But remember — the boastful are notorious liars.

** Note that what is missing from a lot of this is any consideration of the appropriate level at which creepy or merely unwanted advances (or even mere ribaldry) might be distinguished from those very few grave affronts requiring a full warlock hunt (as I put it a few weeks ago, and as Claire Berlinsky dubbed the mania more recently) and those crimes that deserve prosecution. (And then there is the technical difficulty of coming to the truth, especially after decades’ long lags, and the horrific institutionalization of enabling mere accusations to ruin lives. Warlock hunt, indeed — what is being established is the cultural totalitarianism of Ms. Grundy.) Most of what we are dealing with, here, are not rapes or sexual assaults, but, instead, faux pas best handled at the level of manners, and not made the federal cases or national outrages that the great Paul Jacob judges with more approbation than I can muster.

Advertisements

A Conjecture

Maybe because my aesthetic tastes are so resolutely minority (or ultra-minority), I have never been inclined — even before I developed any political opinions to speak of — to seek to prohibit the publication, exhibition or performance of any work of art on “community standards” or even moral grounds. Could it be that those people with more standard, popular tastes, are precisely those most likely to leap to censorship or even boycott pressure to squelch art or ideas they do not like, simply because the commonality of their tastes suggests to them the power of majority opinion, and thus the likelihood of success?

IMG_2025And could we be witnessing the loudest crowing for abridgements of free speech (“hate speech is not free speech!”) from college campuses and media enclaves for reasons of this very principle? Universities and Hollywood and major media are de facto intellectual bubbles, self-selected (as well as pressure-driven by intranigent minorities) to enforce ideological ideologial uniformity . . . and thus the perception of majority taste. Leading, in turn, to the current anti-free speech mania.

Well, it’s a theory. A conjecture.

I advance it, in part, to explain why illiberal ideas take form and grow. Perhaps they crystallize when there is too much cultural homogeneity.

Which, if true, would be the cream of the jest, since the current batch of illiberals are those progressives who yammer the most about “diversity.”

But, as is now widely known, they are not really interested in value diversity. They are interested in racial and sexual (OK: “gender”) diversity only. By sharing a value-dependent moral vision — not a transaction-based principled vision — they have developed a surprisingly strong sense of community, and use their commonality to enforce strong pressure to out-groups to conform to their in-group.

Even while, yes, preaching the doctrine of “inclusion.”

There is nothing about progressivism which does not give cause for sardonic laughter.

In this context, it has been a hoot to watch major media figures fall from grace over the issue of sexual harassment . . . and graver sexual misconduct. Call it Schadenfreude on my part. It is truly rich. Mainly, what we are seeing here is the purging from the Sanctimonious Classes eminent figures who, it turns out (and to only feigned surprise), had no good reason for self-righteousness, or any standing for righteousness at all.

I may be disturbed by the witch-huntery of mass boycott and social censure that sends the Weinsteins and Lauers and the like into the Outer Darkness — without trial or rules of evidence or much nuance about the acts actually mentioned — but to witness the celerity of the “punishment,” and its apparent extremity (no livelihood left for any of these? Really?), directed at people who have been so smugly censorious of others on these very grounds? Priceless.

When Patrick J. Buchanan declared a culture war, decades ago, I confess: I was not impressed. But he was right. (I know: “far right”! Ha ha.) We are now in full-out culture war on largely political grounds, and I have been thrown in with conservatives whose general approach to life (“there is no kill like overkill”) I have some basic difficulties with. But, though the conservative temper may be fear-based about cultural cohesion, and far too prone to the vices of rage and vindictiveness, progressive vices now seem more dangerous. I can live peacefully among conservatives. But would I be given any peace from progressives? I think not. They would love to tax and regulate me and those I know into conformity with their values. They would never cease to hector me for my disagreements with their dogmas. And their vices? Envy alone could destroy civilization, if it be entirely unleashed. Rage leads to warfare; envy to totalitarianism.

But of course, as I’ve said many times before, progressives in politics are the new conservatives in temper. It is they who rage against differences of opinion. It is they who scream at their ideological opponents and refuse to use reason in debate. It is they who join hands and use the social controls of boycott, shunning, shaming, and moralistic opprobrium to marginalize others.

So, how to attack them? Perhaps reason will not cut it — not to begin with, any way. They must learn that their basic values are not universally shared. That their tastes are not universal, and not written into the warp and woof of the universe.

Maybe, chastened, shown not to be as “open” to diversity as they had pretended, they will then listen to reason, and learn that the way to accommodate diversity is with the easy yoke of liberty and not the dead hand of the totalitarian state.

twv

IMG_2518

I pity the young.

They’ve been programmed to believe that because some men do bad things, we all do bad things, and that when some of those bad things are sexual abuse of women, that makes us all “misogynists.” And “trash.” But listen:

  • You are not trash for wanting sexual relations with women.
  • You are not trash for being forward about it.
  • You may be, however, if you are disgusting about it. (“Trashy,” at least.)
  • You definitely are if you use force to get what you desire.

The crimes of a few (or even the many) does not imbue you with guilt, ineluctably.

IMG_2026Yes, these thoughts are brought to you by a specific essay that has been brought to my attention: “How, If You’re a Man, To Deal with the Fact that You’re Trash,” by Damon Young.

I pity Young himself.

But I am not going to critique his dreadful confession of intellectual cravenness. I will let you read it and judge for yourself.

I am on a rant here.

The problem of the present age is that the only form of chivalry left is what has been subsumed by feminism, which is chivalry metamorphosed and corrupted.

And the only form of modesty with current cultural cachet appears to be the hyper-faux-puritanism of major media scolds.

img_2320Why does the puritanical mindset so quickly lead to witch (and warlock) hunts?

I pity the young. They have not been taught the skills to recognize b.s. when they encounter it. They do not seem to realize that most messages they receive are not simple but complex, and one need not accept or reject anything wholesale. Pick at the ideas, men. Prescind one notion from another. Discover principles. Take ideas apart, see what the consequences may be, and then slowly start putting them back together.

If you’d do that, then you would see that much of what is dominating Twitter and cable news is trash talk cruelty and bigotry. It is that way not because important issues are being raised, but because important stuff is being wed to triviality.

IMG_2080And let’s get real: if people would consider marriage as the primary outlet for sexual passion, a lot of this would change. A lot of this is the de facto sexual freedom we have, and the unprepared reactions to it by men (and women) of ambition.

I pity the young. They are caught in the rush of history and it is not slowing down even as it reaches the ocean of oblivion.

twv

Brain

9D32040C-5C8C-4BB0-89EB-29E2BB552527

My little sister had red hair. I mean, really red hair: dark, bright, astounding.

When she was a very young child, adults, particularly women, would gush over how beautiful her hair looked. This constant barrage got on her nerves.

One day, after being asked for the umpteenth time where she got her “beautiful red hair,” she responded, “my hair is black!”

That was a statement, a social statement. I am not sure if it was irony, exactly, but it was a signal: stop bugging me.

Many statements are not what they seem. What looks like a false statement may very well be a performance of some sort, a “speech act” more than a proposition.

Which brings us to race. In America, sometimes it seems as if everything brings us back to race. The fretting about race is so ubiquitous that I would not be shocked to hear someone respond to some inapt racial query with “my race is red, white and blue.”

But we probably will not hear this from Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris.

83FE0212-4584-44EE-85DE-EB247C7E6E80“Most people,” she says, “that don’t know me call me white. I’ve got light skin and, especially since I’ve had my hair blond, I look like I was born in Finland or something.”

So, doesn’t that make her white?

At least “off-white”?

Not according to her father, who “would look me in the eyes and he’d point his finger at me and he’d be like, ‘You’re Black. Be proud of your roots.’”

Dutifully, she follows her late father’s instructions. “I consider myself Black,” she says.

She does not look “black.”

I guess the one-drop rule still applies. The commonsense color-coded race designators no longer apply; it is not about color as such, any more. The issue seems to be tribal membership, instead . . . and there is open enrollment.

Or maybe it is about self-identification, the presentation of self in a social context. It is a badge.

Progress? Regress?

I confess, it seems utter perversity to me. But then, I not only look “like I was born in Finland or something,” according to 23andMe I am thoroughly and almost entirely Finnish. To me, race and ethnicity are fun games to play, something of a lark. But seriously, I “identify” as my very own self, an individual. Or That Individual, as Kierkegaard put it.

Others do not have — or take — that “privilege.”

They seem to prefer not to emphasize their personhood.

Bizarre.

twv

The Moon at Apogee and Perigee

I began my interest in politics with a fascination with anarchism. It was how I reacted to the discontent and horrors of the Sixties and Seventies.

This early study put me in an ideal historical context to assess all forms of radical activism. How? Because the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries may have been the least effective proselytizers of a cause in our time. They completely undermined their own dreams and ideals by engaging in “propaganda by the deed.”

Most such deeds — shootings, sabotage, bombings — amounted to anti-propaganda.

But earnestly done nevertheless.

Which brings us to the spectacle of radicals jumping off, willingly, their alleged high moral ground with stupid, indeed, utterly foolish actions (and writings) . . . allegedly for their cause.

Can I Punch Nazis?

So here we are, witnessing the lunatic Left immediately following apogee. That’s fine with me, but I guess I would prefer it if, somehow, these lunatics would break orbit and wander away from the home world.

In any case, to witness a whole movement in self-destructive behavior — committed to self-destructive behavior — is breathtaking. And it does suggest that radicalism tends to be dominated by (if not reserved for) the unhinged.

And the problem appears to be there with both Early and Late Adopters of a radical position.

twv

N.B. The photos of the Moon, above, show the sizes of the Earth’s smaller double at apogee and perigee.

Dr Seuss WWII cartoon

Racism is and always will be a problem.

But it is not a simple problem. Some people who fight against racism are so fixated on race that they become racist through the back door. Anti-racism sees itself as the Id of the atavistic ism, but, nevertheless, Racism transforms into the Shadow of anti-racism.

Every day, it seems, I can find in my Facebook feed some outrageous bit of racist anti-racism from my friends or my friends’ friends and spouses. I have to bite my tongue, stay my typing hands. But there is more than enough of the racist anti-racism (and anti-racist anti-racism) in the major media that I can focus on the controversies there, rather than confront the absurdities among people I must get along with, but who would, were I to speak my mind, be offended at my analysis of their opinions.

First, courtesy of Townhall, the sad spectacle of “College Professor: Believing in Hard Work is White Ideology.”

Now, I know a lot of folks of darker hue (the “p.o.c.” as some say — a designation I find absurd) who work harder than me, and hold to the doctrine of hard work more resolutely than I do. And I am very white.* Not only does my most recent photo show it (see below), but 23 and Me testifies with DNA analysis. Further, based on the work and leisure habits of the white people in my valley (retirees, unemployed, barely employed, self-employed), I would say that the evidence of the “white ideology” at play in “white lives” is a little weak.

So, on an observational basis, the charge of “white ideology” seems an unjustified stereotype. We whiteys should object! Oh, we white people have so much to complain about, including the imputation of an ethic that we honor, today, mostly in the breach.

But, back to the Townhall column: “Pennsylvania State University-Brandywine professor Angela Putman recently asserted in an academic paper that the notion ‘if I work hard, I can be successful’ is merely a product of white ideology,” Timothy Mead informs us.

Angela Putman conducted a study to critique and examine “ideologies within college students’ discourse that are foundational to whiteness.” Her resulting conclusion published on Thursday was that “meritocracy”, or the belief that people should rise based on the fruits of their own labor, is a “white ideology.” In her mind, this “white ideology” is unfortunately widely accepted in academia.

But, Professor Putman argues that professors can change this “ideology” by teaching students “how racism and whiteness function in various contexts, the powerful influence of systems and institutions, and the pervasiveness of whiteness ideologies within the United States.”

Putman believes that it is somehow a bad thing to teach students personal responsibility. Emphasizing a collectivist mindset, Putman puts forth the idea that Americans are falsely “socialized to believe that we got to where we are . . . because of our own individual efforts.”

This “ideology” she says, perpetuates whiteness and racism throughout society. Once students learn more about “white ideology,” they will hopefully “resist perpetuating and reifying whiteness through their own discourse and interactions,” and challenge systemic “manifestations of racism and whiteness.”

This farrago of ill-thought-out concepts and arguments is a hornet’s nest of contradictions, of course. It might be important to show just how the author engages in a sort of performative contradiction, how she undermines her own thesis.

I will not provide the necessary vivisection, but will readily advance this thesis: the truth is probably more complicated than either the ideology she targets or the ideology she pushes. No one succeeds just by “hard work.” For one thing, it is not the difficulty that makes work valuable, and thus worthy of recompense. The difficulty of making arm-pit hair sculptures is no doubt tedious, but no one (I hope) wants such art any more than they want smegma-based cuisine.

But there is a point to pushing a “hard work” ethic: it encourages people to not give up, and thus makes them more likely to succeed.

And perhaps this ethic was one reason why prosperity emerged so impressively in the West, and not elsewhere.

By attacking the ethic as racist, the professor hobbles her students. And encourages laziness, entitlement, thievery. All bad things.

I wonder if the professor would dismiss my value judgment as itself racist.

Which would lead to further judgment by me. Of a very negative sort.

AngelaPutnamAlso, notice that this woman is white. Her thesis could be interpreted as an expression not merely of white guilt, but of that most dreaded of all things, “white supremacist.”

She does not believe that whites should be successful. But she does believe that whites are successful because of their characteristically “white” ideology and its most obvious consequence: hard work. She obviously believes that p.o.c. are not capable of taking to the ideology, and thus not really very capable. She has a very race-centric view of human potential. She is not a culturalist, though she no doubt pretends to be against biological determinism. But by identifying an ideology that has (obviously) led to success (or at least aided in the process) as attached to a race she accepts the notion (hardly believable, if you ask me) that the value system is not contingent to biological humanity but an efflorescence of one sub-group, she unwittingly demonstrates that she thinks whites are better than p.o.c. and that the only way to make for racial equality is to sabotage a natural advantage of white people.

I have to say, I am astounded at how racist this is.

But racism is something we have come to expect of the intersectionalist left. Did you know that Dr. Seuss was racist? Well, that has been argued, too:

Now, this is a “demented” charge, says Tucker Carlson. But as the Democrat he interviewed asserts, Seuss did draw some pretty strange and crude anti-Japanese stuff during World War II, and they are “stereotypical.” Note how Tucker responds: during wartime one should expect that kind of thing. His foil insists, strongly, no.

Now, I have seen at least one Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel World War II toon. I am not aware of any black people caricatures, but I have seen some Warner Brothers cartoons from the period that are pretty . . . bracing in their use of old-fashioned “black” stereotypes. But I side with Carlson, here, and note a feature of the cartoon at the top of this page: Hitler is also caricatured. For some reason no one complains that Geisel caricatured white people, and that he was racist against whites because he drew Hitler in a funny way.

Now, the way he caricatured the German, we are told, is appreciably different from the way he caricatured the Japanese:

Dr. Seuss drew many cartoons that, to today’s eyes, are breathtakingly racist. Check out the cartoon above. It shows an arrogant-looking Hitler next to a pig-nosed, slanted-eye caricature of a Japanese guy. The picture isn’t really a likeness of either of the men responsible for the Japanese war effort — Emperor Hirohito and General Tojo. Instead, it’s just an ugly representation of a people.

OK. Maybe. Though considering the way Hitler thought about the Japanese, a haughty Hitler is apt. But the racism could be evident. And it is certain that Seuss repented:

In 1953, Geisel visited Japan where he met and talked with its people and witnessed the horrific aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. He soon started to rethink his anti-Japanese vehemence. So he issued an apology in the only way that Dr. Seuss could.

He wrote a children’s book.

Be that as it may, not accepting a Dr. Seuss book from the First Lady (as was the case, recently, of a smug, moralistic librarian) is idiotic, of course. Even if, at one time, the “liberal” Dr. Seuss was a bit racist early on.

Having race on the brain is deranging a lot of people. But maybe it is just a bunch of people seeing how far they can push white guilt. I think what really shocks the left these days is more and more whites are saying: no more.

And that’s considered racism.

Well, if liking Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose or The Lorax or Horton Hears a Who makes us racist, what will happen is this: white Americans will accept the charge and dismiss the accusers of some sort of reverse racism, despise them for their idiotic malignity, and vote in any direction that does not include such nonsense.

So, during wartime, Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel was a bit racist. Get over it, people. Carlson’s final charge is apt: the racism-mongers are moralistic scolds.

And this carries on a theme I have been writing variations on for decades: the left has become conservative. Everything I despised about conservatism as a child is on the left, today, and much worse.

If you are incensed that Dr. Seuss was racist before he became anti-racist, and dismiss him as a hack in part for that reason, there is not merely something wrong with you. There is probably something wrong with the people around you, the people you admire.

And that explains a lot about the current epoch.

twv

* Offered in evidence of my whiteness:

Photo on 9-30-17 at 5.13 PM

A friend passes on a news report she saw in Minnesota:

Third graders kneel for the national anthem at their football game, and turn their backs to the flag.

A sign of the times. The United States no longer sports even a hint of a unified nation, and the general government is approaching bankruptcy . . . if at the speed of Zeno’s arrow.

IMG_4603The coming collapse? Perhaps soon.

The people, even the youngsters, are preparing for it.

Two questions:

  • Will we mitigate the calamity of our fall?
  • Who shall be our Odoacer?

As for me, I have not changed my tune. I advise a new political movement, one with a very specific program: put the federal government into Receivership.

twv

KimJong-un-rocket-man

Trump’s “Rocket Man” epithet was of course funny.

All the non-witless agree. But there is more to the story.

Scott Adams explained on Periscope how it is funny. It really is about Trump finding the boundary of “good taste” (political etiquette; verbal rectitude) and deliberately crossing that borderline. The joke works not because it is, itself, hilarious — stand-alone it’s worth a mere chuckle — but because the quarter of the audience that expresses shock and dismay make it funny.

Two birds with one rock, man. Humor depends upon a logical catastrophe, as John Allen Paulos has explained so well. We laugh when the logic slips and our grasp on categories shifts, when something or someone in one category falls into a lower category (occasionally the reverse). In the case of “Rocket Man,” not only does a dictator get a demotion, but Trump has yet again tweaked the sensibilities of his critics.

“Something for the fans.”

In a follow-up talk, Adams notes how it proved to be more than that. Trump effectively took away one of Kim Jong-Un’s goals: the “prestige thing.” Trump’s belittling of the dictator, Adams perceptively argues, effectively took out of the negotiation room one whole issue.

“Rocket Man” became “weaponized.”

It all depends on the full frame. “A month ago, every time Rocket Man launched a new rocket, how do you think he felt?” Adams asks. “I’m gonna guess proud. Probably good for his ego. Made him feel important, made him feel like he was a big player on the world stage.”

That must be right. The dictator surely felt the bigger man because of the rocket launches, because of his threat. “Powerful. Bold. . . . his T-count went up a little bit.”

After Trump’s mocking monickerization, however, “he will feel that the entire world is laughing at him.”

Correctly feel, I might add.

Trump, Adams argues, effectively took Rocket Man’s nukes away from him in terms of honor — with a simple two words. Without touching a nuke . . . or dropping one.

I must admit, I worry about a dictator stripped of his last shred of pride. What does he have left, now, but his life? Even his power may taste like sawdust.

But there’s no doubt that the negotiation game has changed. And, short term, this may be quite advantageous to nearly everyone but Kim Jong-un. (The loss of honor will eat away at the man, though. That could be quite bad.)

Trump’s “linguistic kill shots,” as Adams dubs them, amount to something important. At first blush, this routine may seem not too much different from schoolyard taunting. But there is a difference. It is not the “slow kid” or the “ugly girl” who receives the brunt of the ribbing, the humiliation; it is not the lowly or the powerless: in most cases it is the cultural elites, the people who have cultural power, the people who have determined for decades what may or may not be said. They are the ones who take the hit.

And in the case of Rocket Man, he who took the hit is someone with outrageous, horrifying political power. A man utterly deserving of any put-down we can deliver.

In this context, the litany of complaints about Trump’s rough language seem, increasingly, to be vapid and even stupid.* Schoolmarmy.

The schoolmarms naturally object to his example. What will the kids do? Will bullying go back on the rise? Perhaps.

But they miss something. Trump’s not the bully. That’s not the right metaphor. He’s the smart-ass who mocks the principal and the teachers in the hallway and, if the jocks misbehave or abuse their power, the jocks, too.

It’s not “Truth” to Power, of course. Not exactly. Trump is saying not that the Emperor has no clothes, but that the empire’s hangers-on and petty enforcers have their flies open.

And that our biggest enemies are dicks.

Keep those pocket-rockets docked, boys, or the Donald will getcha.

twv


 

*The piling on of boos and hisses, sad-faces and disses by world leaders is just the usual bit of U.S.-bashing. It is cheap credit for the world leaders. It is pathetic.