Nicholas Poussin, The Victory of Joshua Over the Amalekites, 1624-1625, Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Eratosthenes notices that the culture wars are being waged relentlessly and with unlimited persistence, by one side which is absolutely and unequivocally determined to win everything it wants every time and which, whenever it wins, will then proceed to move the goal posts even further.
Somehow, somewhere, it has been decided that this one culture should reign supreme. It must ALWAYS win; there can be no exceptions. What do we call this culture, now. We should try to define it, if it always has to win! That’s a lot of influence. We know it by the offenses it takes. Bullying, homophobic remarks, guns. It isn’t “politically correct,” for the politically-correct culture, while also defined according to the offenses it takes, is confined to offenses taken against verbal or written statements. Guns aren’t statements. Ass-kickings are not statements either, although I suppose that may be debatable. But this is not political-correctness, and it isn’t “women over men” since it takes just as vicious umbrage against a woman brandishing a firearm in self-defense, as against any man doing likewise.
It isn’t modern liberalism, either. It doesn’t have an opinion about labor-versus-management, or minimum wage, or affirmative action, or school vouchers. It holds a lot of appeal for people who do not self-identify as liberals. And its field of interest is very narrow. I can summarize it with a phrasing almost bumper-sticker-sized:
“When we make everything safe enough, nothing bad will happen, to anyone, ever again.”
Just outside a school on a 55 mph county highway, it isn’t good enough to take the limit down to 25. My recent experiences here in upstate New York show it has to be 15. I guess twenty-five wouldn’t show how much we care. This culture cares about children arriving at adulthood with all their limbs and with their hearts still beating, but with not too much else.
Can we call it “the nanny state” and be done with it? There is certainly some overlap. The Mayor of New York City trying to ban soda sales fits into the object of my inspection here, and it is certainly part of the nanny state. Pondering it some more, though, I find this doesn’t quite work. There are differences, and the differences matter. The nanny state is an organization, and it is a sale. It is narcissists in office who have power, trying to accumulate some more. ...
This culture — which always must win — is endangering our very society… As the nanny-state seeks to everlastingly grow by way of creating more and more rules, this culture seeks to everlastingly grow by altering the definition of “bad things happening.” It has progressed so far now, without anyone consciously noticing it evidently, that bad-feeling evidently qualifies. If nothing bad really happens, but someone feels slighted, then action is required. This, of course, has to be a selective thing. It’s okay to make a guy “feel bad” when he approaches the State Fair with a Leatherman on his belt, by commanding him to walk a mile and a half back to his car, and back again, to stow the threatening-looking device. And a twelve-year-old girl who wins a pistol shooting contest might feel good with a little bit of extra applause, but this feel-good-all-the-time culture will refrain from that, and command everyone else to refrain as well.
The Leatherman is not dangerous and the pistol is not dangerous. In some situations, they both have the potential to make someone safe.
So this culture is not concerned with safety or danger. It has definite ideas about individuals and what, or how, the individuals should be.
He’s perfectly right. It goes way beyond politics. It is a religious crusade and “the side which must always win” is determined to forcibly convert everyone else to its own entire worldview, values, and perspective.
No Piero della Francesca RESSURECTION, not even an Easter egg, or an Easter bunny, today Google’s search logo art is focusing on something much more important.
For those hoodie-wearing fashionistas down in Mountain View, billions of Christians celebrating the most important date in the Christian calendar are irrelevant, what is important about today’s date is it being the 86th (posthumous) birthday of leftist agitator Cesar Chavez.
So let’s all raise a middle finger to those communist heathens at Google and eat some grapes. (Cesar Chavez was famous, back in the day, for organizing a grape boycott.)
Tasteless and moronic video by Jim Carrey simultaneously sneering at rural America, insulting the late Charleton Heston, and blaming American gun owners for violence. If anyone ever doubted that Carrey is an asshole and an idiot, just watch this. He is so spectacularly stupid that he obviously thinks this is clever, and that the chain of consequences alluded to in the rapid patter, closing section of the song makes some kind of sense.
A rather effective Lutheran satire of soi disant Catholics who feel no obligation to accept the teachings of the Church. This phenomenon, though, is far from limited to young, blonde and female members of the uneducated public. Professional public intellectuals like Gary Wills and Andrew Sullivan notoriously combine self-identification as members of the Church of Rome with a penchant for demanding that the Magisteria renounce its pretensions to divine inspiration and immediately conform itself to the consensus of the left-wing community of fashion, which alone, as we all know, is infallible on matters of faith and morals.
Walter Russell Mead describes the democrat elite’s vision of the future: a massive system of redistributionism devoted to trickling down condescending alms to a nation of losers from a tiny meritocratic New Class elite which rules over all.
A conventional, widely shared view informs the way that blue America looks at that future. This view holds that the death of industrial society means the death of the mass middle class. When millions of people can’t make a living “making stuff” in factories anymore, wages for the unskilled will fall. America will be increasingly polarized between a small group of high skilled creative professionals and a larger group scavenging a living by serving them: mowing their lawns, catering their parties and so on.
Those who think that the blue model needs to be preserved and extended into the future (including, I think, our current president and most of his top allies and advisors), tend to think that under those conditions we will both need and be able to afford an ever-more active redistributive state. The tycoons and the very successful minority will be so rich, thanks to their continuing gains from globalization and technological change, that they can pay progressively higher taxes to fund basic services and middle class jobs for enough of the rest of the country that something like a middle class society can be preserved. From this perspective, a government-funded health care system is more than a method of delivering health care: it is a way of providing protected, blue-model type jobs when the factories have mostly disappeared.
George Will, on ABC News recently, did everything but sing Hallelujah to the river gods as civilization appeared ready to slide another long mile downstream, with the Supreme Court announcing its intention to intervene in the culture wars conflict over Same Sex Marriage in the grim immediate aftermath of the 2012 election.
While Supreme Court watchers ponder how justices will come down in the debate over gay marriage, ABC’s George Will said Sunday on ABC News “This Week” it’s clear where public opinion is headed.
“There is something like an emerging consensus,” Will said, noting voters in three states recently endorsed same-sex marriage initiatives. [emphasis added] “Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying. It’s old people.”
Why, I wonder, is George Will apparently surprised that young people are so commonly successfully-brainwashed subscribers to establishment community of fashion articles of faith, like the principle that no mere theory should ever be allowed to stand in the way of immediate individual personal gratification, or the even more important principle that Equality is the utmost supreme value transcending all other values?
It always looks exactly this way in every culture wars battle. Young people care nothing for theories and tradition and everything for fashionable opinion and being nice.
But Mr. Will overlooks a couple of important considerations.
Young people inevitably grow older and gain experience and most of them recover from the illusions with which they were indoctrinated during their school years. Time is not really on the side of the progressive left. Conservatives and sane rational people do not just grow old, die off, and become extinct, leaving behind a Saturnalia of progressive fantasy. What really happens is that each generation of dummer jungen gradually matures, turning from radicals and fashionistas into sober and responsible burgesses, tax payers, and adults. The gleeful supporters of free love and transgressive sex turn into censorious grey-haired married couples with children of their own.
In the end, you simply wind up with the repetition of the comedy of a society always divided nearly evenly between the party of the young, the radical, and the stupid and the party of the adults.
We have a serious problem in America in having allowed too many important institutions to fall into the hands of an unworthy and only-superficially-intelligent intelligentsia. But we do not need to despair.
George Will obviously spends too much of his time in the fantasy cocoon of media culture. He has succumbed to believing in the left’s narrative of the grand march of Progress, of the inevitable and irreversible movement of society in the direction of coercive egalitarianism, materialism, and statism.
George Will has forgotten the first thing any conservative ought to remember. Magna est veritas et prævalebit. (“The truth is mighty and it shall prevail.” The Revolutionary Convention may renumber the calendar and change the name of the months to “the windy one” and “the rainy one,” an infatuated majority of supreme court justices may decide that the intention of the framers guarantees the sacramental equality of sexual perversion, but History will go on, and absurdities, grotesqueries, and the wild excesses of human folly and obsession over time typically fall of their own weight. Later generations laugh at the Victorian sexual pudeur that once installed skirts on piano legs, and succeeding generations will similarly marvel at the extravagantly bizarre positions so many in our own era were driven to by the current dementia founded upon egalitarianism.
There has never, in the entire history of the human race, been any society or culture that regarded homosexual attraction as a basis for lifelong monogamous relations or which looked upon the sterile couplings of members of the same sex as worthy of the dignity of recognition as equivalent to normal marriage.
Today’s moral breakdown and intellectual disorder may possibly lead to the official proclamation of such absolute nonsense as the new law of the land, but the left’s fools and demoniacs can never possibly in the long run succeed in establishing permanently so preposterously-based an institution as Same Sex Marriage.
Slate reports on an unusual and highly ironic development among the fashionista set.
[T]he evolution of the new lefty urban hunter goes something like this:
2006: Reads Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, about the ickyness of the industrial food complex. Starts shopping at a farmer’s market.
2008: Puts in own vegetable garden. Tries to go vegetarian but falls off the wagon.
2009: Decides to only eat “happy meat” that has been treated humanely.
2010: Gets a chicken coop and a flock of chickens.
2011: Dabbles in backyard butchery of chickens. Reads that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to only eat meat he killed himself for a year.
2012: Gets a hunting permit, thinking “how hard can it be? I already totally dominate Big Buck Hunter at the bar.”
Hunting is undeniably in vogue among the bearded, bicycle-riding, locavore set. The new trend might even be partly behind a recent 9 percent increase from 2006 to 2011 in the number of hunters in the United States after years of decline. Many of these new hunters are taking up the activity for ethical and environmental reasons.
“It feels more responsible and ecologically sound to eat an animal that was raised wild and natural in my local habitat than to eat a cow that was fattened up on grain or even hay, which is inevitably harvested with fuel-hungry machines,” writes Christie Aschwanden, a self-described “tree-hugging former vegetarian.”
A recent spate of books with titles like The Mindful Carnivore and Call of the Mild chronicles the exploits of these first-time hunters as they wrestle with their consciences and learn to sight in their rifles.
We are going to have to read an avalanche-load of omphallic ethicizing and isn’t-it-wonderful-that-I’m-the-first-civilized-human-to-master-the-skills-of-my-primitive-Republican-neighbors accounts, but all this is still doubtless going to turn into a positive development. Hunting puts man in direct touch with Nature and allows him to enter personally into its processes. Hunting fulfills a deeply-embedded portion of our human nature, and the activity and experience of hunting inevitably makes us healthier, mentally as well as physically.
Perhaps, Nature has actually come up with a way to seduce residents of the urban community of decadence and mental disorder back into health. One pictures the metrosexual gradually turning from reading Rolling Stone and Mother Jones to picking up Garden & Gun and Double Gun Journal.
Williams-Sonoma says: “Flaky, buttery, and made by hand by celebrated caterer Callie White.”
Price:$72 (set of 24)
Notes from Drew: That’s $72 dollars for biscuits. At Popeye’s, the biscuit comes free with your order. At Williams-Sonoma, it costs you the rough equivalent of your phone bill. How good could these biscuits possibly be? There’s a threshold past which biscuits cannot improve. Even the best goddamn biscuit in the world isn’t $72 better than a Popeye’s biscuit. Unless that biscuit can make you teleport.
And what kills me is that there are clearly people out there who have shitloads of money and NO cooking skills who order this shit. Who are these people? How are there so many of them that Williams-Sonoma can sustain its business model? Are we all just racking up massive biscuit debts that will soon break the economy? I imagine that 60 percent of Williams-Sonoma’s business come from a group of six Persian oil barons, who buy everything in every catalog five times over every year for no good reason at all. Seventy-two-dollar biscuits. WHAT THE FUCK.
Manhattan Upper West Side brownstones
William Deresiewicz has an uncharacteristically self-critical commentary on the aesthetic sensibilty of the urban-based community of fashion elite.
[N]ow I wonder if there’s also something new. Not middlebrow, not highbrow (we still don’t have an avant-garde to speak of), but halfway in between. Call it upper middle brow. The new form is infinitely subtler than Midcult. It is post- rather than pre-ironic, its sentimentality hidden by a veil of cool. It is edgy, clever, knowing, stylish, and formally inventive. It is Jonathan Lethem, Wes Anderson, Lost in Translation, Girls, Stewart/Colbert, The New Yorker, This American Life and the whole empire of quirk, and the films that should have won the Oscars (the films you’re not sure whether to call films or movies).
The upper middle brow possesses excellence, intelligence, and integrity. It is genuinely good work (as well as being most of what I read or look at myself). The problem is it always lets us off the hook. Like Midcult, it is ultimately designed to flatter its audience, approving our feelings and reinforcing our prejudices. It stays within the bounds of what we already believe, affirms the enlightened opinions we absorb every day in the quality media, the educated bromides we trade on Facebook. It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, doesn’t seek to disturb—the definition of a true avant-garde—our fundamental view of ourselves, or society, or the world. (Think, by contrast, of some truly disruptive works: The Wire, Blood Meridian, almost anything by J. M. Coetzee.)
There is a sociology to all of this. As Clement Greenberg pointed out in “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (1939), the predecessor to Macdonald’s essay, high culture flourished under the aristocracy. Mass culture came in with mass literacy, while Midcult is a product of the postwar college boom, a way of catering to the cultural aspirations of the exploding middle class. Now, since the ’70s, we’ve gone a step further, into an era of mass elite and postgraduate education. This is the root of the so-called creative class, the Bobos, the liberal elite as it exists today. The upper middle brow is the cultural expression of this demographic. Its purpose is to make consciousness safe for the upper middle class. The salient characteristic of that class, as a moral entity, is a kind of Victorian engorgement with its own virtue. Its need is for an art that will disturb its self-delight.
A lot of people have been puzzled by the Obama Campaign’s reliance on trivia and refusal to move toward the center. How can a president presiding over this economy hope to win, especially with a polarizing campaign calculated to turn off centrists?
Stanley Kurtz seems to have found the blueprint for Obama’s strategy (and its raison d’être) in an article in last June’s New York Magazine by John Heileman.
Obama’s strategy, says Heileman, is built around the idea that he can win with a coalition of the “demographically ascendent,” African Americans, Hispanics, women, and young people. To a degree, the bad economy has pushed Obama toward this approach. The obvious hope is that economic weakness can be countered by appeals to socially liberal women and young people on cultural issues. But don’t underestimate the extent to which this strategy is a deliberate decision that could have gone otherwise, as the behind-the-scenes opposition of some Democrats indicates. Obama is clearly willing to abandon centrist voters and place his own likeability at risk for the sake of creating a socially and economically liberal Democratic coalition that would allow him
to govern securely from the left. ...
The president is going for broke. He wants to govern from the left and ignore the center. His top strategists promised a campaign that would permit this, and that’s the campaign Obama has delivered. Noticed that Obama has actually doubled down on this strategy when he still might have tried a last-minute pivot to the middle. That’s how badly Obama wants to abandon the center and take this country to the left.
In 2008, the junior senator from Illinois won in a landslide by fashioning a potent “coalition of the ascendant,” as Teixeira and Halpin call it, in which the components were minorities (especially Latinos), socially liberal college-educated whites (especially women), and young voters. This time around, Obama will seek to do the same thing again, only more so. The growth of those segments of the electorate and the president’s strength with them have his team brimming with confidence that demographics will trump economics in November—and in the process create a template for Democratic dominance at the presidential level for years to come.
In countless areas of life, we are urged to bow to the better-informed consensus of the highly-educated community of fashion elite. After all, unlike you bitterly-clinging rubes and bumpkins out there, these people attended elite schools. They know better. Take Andrea Mitchell, for instance, she graduated from U of P. And as Glenn Reynolds gleefully notes, she recently identified herself as being one of The ‘Elite, Smart People.’
It’s amazingly easy to exploit the community of bedwetting holier-than-thous, you can even mock their stupidity while getting them to re-affirm all of it by supporting you. Follow the frog, wet ends, he’s more intelligent and better suited to survive than you are.
Hat tip to poor crying-his-eyes-out-over-the Obama-implosion Andrew Sullivan.
I can’t seem to find a very flattering photo of Clint Eastwood out there today for some reason, but there are sure a lot of photos making him look angry or confused.
It is always impressive to see just how thoroughly and competently the professional apparatchiks of the left-wing commentariat do a take-down on a genuinely threatening adversary. The same kind of pretentious culture mavens who will happily queue up for tickets to a six hour opera by Stockhausen, and who have no difficulty in parsing the subtle symbolism of the latest Abbas Kiarostami movie, we are being told today, were supposedly baffled by Clint Eastwood’s little skit.
Since last night, the anti-Eastwood quips have been flying like snowflakes in a blizzard of negative commentary. What you see going on, of course, is the customary effort of the establishment media to write history its own way.
Bias and political manipulation aside, today’s massive hit job on Eastwood, I thought, constituted a revealing commentary on the dimness and superficiality of the American elite and its culture. Most societies respect the elderly. One might suppose that elite members of a nation as highly educated and sophisticated as the United States would be perfectly well aware that most men of Clint Eastwood’s age are, in fact, already deceased. That very, very smart people would be conscious that a fellow 82 years of age (if lucky enough to be above ground) is usually bent, shriveled, wrinkled, bloated, palsied, confused and barely able to navigate. Clint Eastwood actually looked damned good. He was slender and still handsome and stood tall and straight.
With characteristic self-deprecating modesty, Clint Eastwood deliberately chose merely to ad lib an informal conversation with an imaginary Barack Obama. Eastwood’s performance was by intention spontaneous and un-professionally-polished. It could doubtless have been smoother and more crafted and artfully designed, but Clint Eastwood (being an ordinary American and a Republican) decided to just wing it and went with authenticity. Non-snobbish-members-of-the-leftwing-pseudo-intellectual-community-of-fashion naturally recognized that it was no easy thing for an 82-year-old guy to stand up that long, or to concentrate well enough to extemporize such a performance, and we all thought Eastwood did really well. He performed smoothly enough, and delivered several nifty and very telling lines with an impact that was highly effectively underlined by his obvious modesty and sincerity. We recognized, and admired, his disinclination toward indulging in insult and open animosity and could see that his criticism of President Obama was deliberately being understated. We liked Clint Eastwood’s performance very much, and thought it was fitting and a real indication of the rightness of our cause that a man like him was on our side.
I thought myself that it demonstrated beautifully the way the American left’s commentary emanates from Planet Asshole that, when an elderly celebrity is courageous enough to speak in public honestly, displaying openly some of the deficits of old age, the pseudo-intelligentsia scratches its head in confusion and demands aloud: “What’s wrong with that guy? Doesn’t he understand that you’re supposed to be completely smooth, polished, perfect, and… young?” There are no old men in the country of the left.