Category Archive 'Decadence'
23 Jun 2018

The American Character

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I was looking through the archives of my blog, looking for a book reference I’d forgotten, when I found this old column from Fred on Everything which demands republishing.

Fred Reed looks at what has become of the American character.

Americans tend to regard their national character as comprising such things as freedom, independence, individualism, and self-reliance…

In fact we no longer have these qualities and probably never will again. Generally we now embody their opposites. Modern society has become a hive of largely conformist, closely regulated and generally helpless employees who depend on others for nearly everything. The cause is less anything particularly American than the technology that governs our lives. The United States just moves faster in the direction in which the civilized world moves.

Character springs from conditions. Consider a farmer in, say, North Carolina in 1850. He was free because there was little government, self-reliant because what he couldn’t do for himself didn’t get done, independent because, apart from a few tools, he made or grew all he needed, and an individualist because, there being little outside authority, he could do as he pleased.

All of that is gone, and will not return. Freedom has given way to an infinite array of laws, rules, regulations, licenses, forms, requirements. Many make sense, may even be desirable in a complex world, don’t necessarily make for a bad life, but they cannot be called freedom. Various governments determine what our children learn, whether we can paint the shutters, who we must sell our houses to, who we can hire, what we can say if we want to keep our jobs, where we can park, and whether and how we can build an outbuilding.

People who live infinitely controlled lives become accustomed to such control. Obedience becomes natural…

Individualism has withered under the pressure of the mass media and a distaste for eccentricity. Self-reliance died long ago. We depend on others to repair our cars, grow our food, fix the refrigerator, and write our operating systems. The habit of reliance on others has reached the point that even the right of self-defense has come to be regarded as wrong-minded…

Most poignantly, we are become a nation of employees, fearful of losing our jobs. Prisoners of the retirement system, afraid of transgressing against the various governing bodies before whom we are helpless, unable to feed ourselves, we are at least comfortable. We are not masters of our lives.

Dense populations and the complexity of machines and institutions lead inevitably to regulation, which leads to acceptance of regulation and therefore of authority, which becomes part of the national character. This we see. In my lifetime the change has been great. In rural Virginia in the Sixties, you could walk down the road with your rifle to shoot beer cans, swim in the creeks without supervision and life guards and “flotation devices” approved by the Coast Guard, and generally be left alone. Now, no. Regimentation has grown like kudzu. We obey. The new generation knows nothing else..

At the moment we see a great increase in regulation in the guise of preventing terrorism. Other pretexts could have been found and, I suspect, would have been: fighting crime or the war on drugs or something. The result might have been a drift rather than a headlong rush toward control. But sooner or later, technology determines politics. The computer, not the Constitution, is primary.

I suspect that the concern about terrorism is just a particular manifestation of a growing obsession with safety. Not too long ago, Americans were a hardy breed—foolhardy at times, but the one comes with the other. Now we see attempts to eliminate all risk everywhere. Cities fill in the deep ends of swimming pools and remove diving boards. We require that bicyclists wear helmets, fear second-hand smoke and the violence that is dodge ball. Warnings abound against going outside without sun block. To anyone who grew up in the Sixties or before, the new fearfulness is incomprehensible.

The explanation I think is the feminization of society, which seems to be inseparable from modernity. The nature of masculinity is to prize freedom over security; of femininity, security over freedom. Add that the American character of today powerfully favors regulation by the group in preference to individual choice. Note that we do not require that cars be equipped with seat belts and then let individuals decide whether to use them; we enforce their use. The result is compulsory Mommyism, very much a part of today’s America.

Does technological civilization inevitably lead to totalitarianism? Certainly the general fear, in combination with technology, makes a sort of soft Stalinism easy. Just now we move toward national ID cards, smuggled in by linking records of drivers’ licenses. Passports, scanned and linked to data bases, provide a record of our travels. Security cameras proliferate. Some of them read the license plates of all passing cars. Email can be monitored, phones easily and undetectably tapped. Now the government is experimenting with X-ray scanners for airports that provide near-pornographic images of passengers. Whether these will be used for dictatorial ends remains to be seen. Historians may one day note that surveillance, when possible, is inevitable.

What then is the national character today? I think we are first an obedient people. We submit. We are comfortable with authority, and seem to be most comfortable when we are told what to do. We prize security, safety, and predictability. Increasingly we accept being treated like convicts at airports and elsewhere. We want to be taken care of. We can do few things for ourselves. We expect government to decide much that was once regarded as outside of government’s ambit. And we are to the marrow of our bones incapable of rising against the creeping tyranny.

Too bloody true, alas!

10 Jun 2018

Houellebecq Says

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05 Jun 2018

“Goldman Sachs Lobby Art Explains Everything That’s Wrong With Our Elites”

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Julie Mehretu, The Mural, 2010, Goldman Sachs, New York.

“Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts—the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others; but of the three, the only quite trustworthy one is the last.”

— John Ruskin, St. Mark’s rest; the history of Venice (1877).

James McElroy leafs through “the book of their art” of today’s community of fashion elite and shudders.

In 2010, Goldman Sachs paid $5 million for a custom-made Julie Meheretu mural for their New York headquarters. Expectations are low for corporate lobby art, yet Meheretu’s giant painting is remarkably ugly—so ugly that it helps us sift through a decade of Goldman criticisms and get to the heart of what is wrong with the elites of our country.

Julie Mehretu’s “The Mural” is an abstract series of layered collages the size of a tennis court. Some layers are colorful swirls, others are quick black dash marks. At first glance one is struck by the chaos of the various shapes and colors. No pattern or structure reveals itself. Yet a longer look reveals a sublayer depicting architectural drawings of famous financial facades, including the New York Stock Exchange, The New Orleans Cotton Exchange, and even a market gate from the ancient Greek city of Miletus.

What are we to make of this? Meheretu herself confirms our suspicion that there is no overarching structure to the piece. “From the way the whole painting was structured from the beginning there was no part that was completely determined ever. It was always like the beginning lines and the next shapes. So it was always this additive process,” she said in an Art 21 episode. …

Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre gave a lecture to Notre Dame’s Center of Ethics and Culture in 2000 about the compartmentalization of our ethical lives. He argued that in modern Western culture these different areas are governed by different ethical norms and standards. The example he gives is how a waiter at a restaurant acts differently in the kitchen than in front of the customer. In the kitchen it is normal to yell, curse, and touch the food with his bare hands; none of this would be appropriate in front of the customer. And when the waiter goes home, his personal life is dictated by a further third set of norms. Or consider how the ethics of lying are treated differently during a job interview versus at home or at a law office. Like the painting in the Goldman Sachs lobby, our ethical lives seem to be made of different layers that don’t connect. Our culture no longer shares a single ethical narrative, and so our choices are not weighed against a standard that’s consistent. Rather, people ask that their choices be accepted simply because they were made. When the bankers over-leveraged prior to 2008, they made a series of compartmentalized choices without considering the larger societal implications. They and the art in their lobby are the same.

I do not think the bankers at Goldman spend each morning scrutinizing their lobbies for larger ethical implications. Nihilistic art does not create nihilistic bankers. Yet both the elites of art and the elites of finance come out of the same culture. Both are indicative of where we are as a society. The Occupy Wall Street crowd may call Goldman a vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, but they never apply the same harsh rhetoric to our cultural institutions. A decade after the recession, our contemporary high art is more nihilistic than ever. This informs all areas of our culture. When powerful institutions are discussed we often critique in terms of isms: capitalism, liberalism, managerialism. We forget to mention that our institutions are made up of individuals who share the same culture that we all do. IRS auditors listen to Katy Perry. Federal judges watch comic book movies. The spies at the CIA read Zadie Smith novels. Our morality is informed in part by the art, both high and popular, that surrounds us.

RTWT

28 Mar 2018

A New Kenneth Clark Biography and the Subsequent Decline of the West

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Remember Kenneth Clark’s magisterial tour d’horizon of Western Art, the thirteen-part Civilization documentary television series that appeared on the BBC in 1969 and in America on PBS in 1970?

The New York Review of Books is reviewing the 2016 James Stourton biography, Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation, just being released now in the U.S.

Kenneth Clark is an interesting biographical subject, a talented and fortunate fellow who lived a rich and glamorous life devoted to the appreciation and explication of the Fine Arts. But I was even more struck by the reviewer’s, Richard Dorment, a former Art Critic for the British Telegraph, bald opening discussion of just how far contemporary academic fashion has left behind Kenneth Clark and the Civilization he so brilliantly described.

Once the most celebrated art historian in the world, Kenneth Clark’s star began to fade in the 1980s when a new generation of scholars rejected the object-based scholarship he epitomized and began to study works of art using Marxist, feminist, and psychoanalytical theory. When Clark placed a painting or a building in its historical setting it was to understand more fully how and why it was made, and what it meant to those who first saw it.

Theory-based art history takes the opposite approach: broadly speaking, the scholar is interested in the work of art not as an end in itself but for what its making might tell us about the society that created it, particularly its attitudes toward subjects like race, gender, and social inequality. This kind of art history is taught in most universities on both sides of the Atlantic today. The scholarship Clark represented survives mainly in some museums and exhibition catalogs. Whereas his books were once required reading in undergraduate courses, many are now out of print. Civilization, the television show that introduced millions of people around the world to art history and lit the spark that led to the mass popularity museums and galleries enjoy today, is largely forgotten.

RTWT

One shudders in horror to realize that it has come to this, that it is our fate to live in such a time, when the enemy of Civilization is not only within the gates, but occupying all the leading academic chairs and in control of all the leading museums, cultural institutions, and even the book reviews.

Kenneth Clark would shake his noble head in annoyance, then smile ruefully and say: “Oh well, after all, this, too, shall pass!”

18 Mar 2018

Modernity Killing Western Man

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Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, 1982. –Our time’s version of The Raft of the Medusa.

Brett Stevens notes that the birthrate of Europeans (and that of the more elite sectors of the American population) has fallen below replacement and he blames Modernity itself.

Modernity is killing us. As Plato intuited, the problem with bad systems is not solely that they are inept, but that this ineptitude shapes people. It causes people to despair. They then die out, much as Western Europeans are in Europe and North America. Why strive if life is fundamentally empty, miserable, and filled with neurotic worry?

Just as with animals, when we are in a good environment, we thrive; when we are confined, hopeless, cornered, despairing, miserable, or in pain, we will ourselves to death. Western European people worldwide have been living in a state of constant hopelessness since the end of WW1, but our doubt about life itself goes much deeper.

Modernity arose with the French Revolution. Away went the little villages ruled by gentle lords, the customs and culture, and the sense of purpose and faith in life itself that quelled our existential suffering. Before the Revolution, we knew we were doing the right thing if we lived according to our tradition.

After the Revolution, in came bureaucracy. Cities replaced the towns. Mass culture and mass mobilization replaced intelligent leadership. There was constant infighting, from the politics of elections to the churn among companies trying to decide who would control large swathes of the economy.

Our once-intelligent society had become shocking dumb. Not only did the stupid but obedient thrive in the age of managerial control, because every manager loves a low-risk worker even if that worker is not particularly good at anything, but all public opinions had to pander to a crowd with the collective intelligence of the audience for an amusement park.

Spread by social coercion, this stupidity quickly absorbed every institution in the West so that they got dumb together. Government got dumb at the same rate that the church, art scene, schools, professionals, corporations, and non-profits did. We kept pace as we rushed into the abyss.

By the time 1968 came around, ready for the coup de grâce, the West had given up on itself for three generations. They had nothing to believe in because modern life was really not all that much fun. Sure, it was prosperous, but everyone spent their time in mindless unnecessary jobs, maintaining glitchy gadgets, babysitting third world or low caste labor, dealing with government and our crazy fellow citizens, filing paperwork, and otherwise being forced into confronting the tedious, ugly, and faith-crushing every day.

This delighted the Left, who are fundamentally neurotics that are motivated by a desire to destroy everything beautiful, good, and true because they do not detect those things in themselves. Solipsism, it turns out, is a form of neurosis where we mistake ourselves for the source of reality itself, when we are really only mirrors.

Our modern world makes us hate life. We spend way too much time working in jobs that are jails, then must live in ugly cities where most people are neurotic or otherwise low-grade mentally disturbed, and participate in a process of life that is designed to humble, humiliate, bore, and subjugate all of us. No wonder people are not reproducing.

RTWT

16 Mar 2018

The Pussification of Western Man

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From James Albert Stringer:

Woman #1: I don’t think I have ever met a man who is an extreme Leftie Democrat who isn’t a complete pussy. Why is it that virtually all males whose sentiments lay at that end of the political spectrum all seem to be girly men, gay, 98-pound weaklings, failures at business, librarians, fops, Ned Flanders, Hollywood entertainers who would not be employed otherwise, or ankle-biting sycophants? I’ve never met a man who calls himself a “feminist” or supports OxFam to be the least bit attractive. Is there a connection between low testosterone and supporting Libtard causes?

RTWT

06 Aug 2017

The High Life, Silicon Valley-Style

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When they are not saving the planet from the rest of us or enforcing the rights of the transgendered, Silicon Valley moguls drop by Hiroshi in Los Altos to dine on gold-topped Wagyu steak.

Business Insider:

Hiroshi is an unusual restaurant for unusual clientele.

Located in Los Altos, California, the newly opened Japanese restaurant accommodates only eight people per night and has no menus, no windows, and one table. Dinner costs at minimum $395 a head, but it averages between $500 and $600 with beverages and tax. …

Located in a plaza in Los Altos — residents past and present include Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg — Hiroshi looked plain from the outside.

There were no hours posted on the door. A sign read “Open by appointment only.” …

Dim lighting cast a yellowish hue on the dining area, which was nearly swallowed whole by a single wooden table.

It was made from an 800-year-old Japanese keyaki tree. .. [I]t took 10 men and a small crane to lift the table into the restaurant. New walls were constructed around it.

I followed the aroma of meat crackling over an open fire to the kitchen, where I found the chef and owner, Hiroshi Kimura. He arrived at noon to prepare for the evening’s dinner.

On a business trip to the Bay Area in 2016, Kimura surveyed the restaurant scene and decided that few locations served the region’s wealthiest.

He decided the tech elite needed a high-end place to eat. The restaurant’s details — from the privacy shades on the windows to the discreet back entrance — caters to their needs.

Hiroshi accommodates just one seating of up to eight people per night. If a customer’s party has only six people, they must buy out the whole table. Dinner starts at $395 a head, but Biggerstaff said it averages much closer to $500 to $600 with beverages and tax.

Dinner is about 10 courses, and the menu changes daily. One dish, the tonkatsu sandwich, consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet prepared in a demi-glace.

Kimura and his sous-chef, who has a background in French cuisine, present each dish — like these sōmen noodles topped with caviar — simply and tastefully.

Kimura specializes in a rare dish. “Since the age of 16, I have spent 40-plus years in pursuit of perfecting the art of wagyu steaks,” he wrote in a statement on the website. …

Wagyu fetches high prices. The American steak purveyor Allen Brothers sells four two-ounce tenderloin medallions for $165 online. Two rib-eye steaks cost a whopping $280.

Hiroshi has whole tenderloins flown in weekly from Japan. A supplier sends them sealed and packed on ice, via FedEx and includes a certificate of authenticity.

Kimura did not reveal much about how his wagyu steak is prepared. But we know he cooks the steaks over a hibachi — a traditional Japanese stove heated by charcoal. …

The wagyu steak is sprinkled with gold flakes and served with white asparagus and a ponzu sauce. “The gold is more for show,” … “It doesn’t really have any flavor.”

The dish arrives on a sheet of thin, fragrant wood, which prevents the sharp cutlery from destroying the plate.
Each guest has a miniature hibachi stove so they can cook their steak longer or reheat it.

RTWT

26 Apr 2017

Not For Republicans

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Heat Street:

Ever feel like your job in Hollywood or your large trust fund has left you out of touch with the working class in America? Well, now there’s a new way to reconnect with the hoi polloi: Buy a pair of $425 jeans that promise to show “you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.”

Luxury fashion retailer Nordstrom was previously best known for dropping Ivanka Trump’s brand back in February—unofficially out of political spite, officially because of declining sales.

The company is now desperate to ruin its own brand further by selling a pair of working class-inspired pants, so that people with $425 to spare can feel part of the masses. Per the item’s description on the website:

    Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.

RTWT

26 Apr 2017

If You Watch This Video, You’ll Be Sorry

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Bill Nye the Science Guy (if anyone were ever tempted to accept this bozo as an authority on “climate change,” just refer them to this) introduces Rachel Bloom who sings (in the intrinsically annoying rap style) the bizarre recent perspective of the Community of Fashion Establishment that holds that sex is not binary, there is some kind of spectrum (if so I’m on the very extreme male end), and whatever “feels right” (boy scout uniforms, 1936 Bendix wringer-type washing machines, mashed potatoes and dwarves?), go for it!

01 Apr 2017

Today’s Students Not Part of Our Common Culture

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Patrick Deneen has more bad news from the Academe.

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.

It’s difficult to gain admissions to the schools where I’ve taught – Princeton, Georgetown, and now Notre Dame. Students at these institutions have done what has been demanded of them: they are superb test-takers, they know exactly what is needed to get an A in every class (meaning that they rarely allow themselves to become passionate and invested in any one subject); they build superb resumes. They are respectful and cordial to their elders, though easy-going if crude with their peers. They respect diversity (without having the slightest clue what diversity is) and they are experts in the arts of non-judgmentalism (at least publically). They are the cream of their generation, the masters of the universe, a generation-in-waiting to run America and the world.

But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?

Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural? What are the Federalist Papers?

Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students have not been educated to know them. At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide.

Another must-read.

13 Mar 2017

Camille Paglia on Transgenderism and the Late Stages of Culture

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02 Mar 2017

Better than the War on Drugs

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French Opium Party, 1918

09 Feb 2017

This Culture Yearns for Death

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Palomo Spain men’s wear at 2017 New York Fashion Week. more examples here.

Vogue:

[A]s the first look walked out, a man to my right said out loud in pure exhilaration: “Gender! So last season!”

What would result lived up to and, in fact, beyond the hype—and it was a privilege to witness. Not a moment too soon, and somehow fitting for the final day of the menswear loop, Palomo sent out a lavish and over-the-top collection that, at its core, gave a bejeweled and feather-trimmed middle finger to the unaccepting and the regressive. How fabulously timely.

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PaperMag:

The 24 year-old, who told Vogue in an interview last month that he works with “materials that are usually used for womenswear”, founded the label less than a year ago and has since been doing the most to shatter the traditional gender binary that has long ruled men’s fashion.

Alejandro’s Spring ’17 collection is so goddamn regal it hurts. Think Elizabethan ruffles meets Studio 54 with thigh-high boots (held up by garters no less!), pleated schoolgirl skirts and of course, a lot of skin.

Adios forever heteronormativity, one corset at a time.

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W Magazine:

[T]he Palomo Spain fall 2017 collection looked like what would happen if a young Spanish prince got into his mother, the queen’s, wardrobe. Or if a matador was feeling a bit kinky. (It also owed a major debt to the in-your-face hauteur of the the bad boys of the so-called Movida Madrileña of post-Franco Spain, like Pedro Almodovar.) The show opened with a feminine take on suiting, with ruffles, bell sleeves, and exposed shoulders. And closed with virginal boys in all white gowns and garters, plus one latex suit that resembled a bridegroom’s condom.

“It’s all the boys in the club,” said Palomo of his collection the following day. “You’ve got the dandies, the very serious, masculine guys, and then you’ve got the slutty boys in high boots.”

For his first two collections, Palomo had a much more romantic, poetic approach, but for this season he wanted to be less “beautiful” and more naughty. “It’s not this naive thing anymore,” he added of his relationship to fashion. “I wanted to go a little further to a more sexual place. It’s about trying to find your sexual self inside and exploring it. What’s the role of sex in our lives?”

Before he could answer, the tall and slender model named Pol Roig waltzed over wearing a bedazzled sequin houndstooth blazer, knee-high sliver go-go boots, and nothing else. He reached his hand into the pocket of Polomo’s pants and pulled out his iPhone. “See! This is what I’m talking about,” said Polomo, with a laugh. “We thought about putting trousers on him, but he looks better without.” And it’s true, he did. He just lacked pockets of his own.

“When you feel attracted to something, you can’t control your body,” said Polomo, who nervously stroked a rose flower while he spoke, eventually breaking its stem.

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It seems odd that at least one major industry is dominated by the mentally disordered and psychologically defective. That sexual perversity is able to strut openly as an identity is symptomatic of Liberal Egalitarianism’s inability to resist any grievance-bearing constituency.

This sort of thing went on, as well, in Ancient Rome, and, then as now, was recognized as gravely symptomatic of that Empire and Society’s imminent downfall.

Apart from celebrating our culture’s impending Apocalyptic collapse into supine decadence, I personally find it impossible to understand the point of all of this. How do you make money by producing a clothing line of grotesque statements of perversity that not even a West Village Queer could possibly wear anywhere outside a Gay Pride Parade?

Macy’s will not be purchasing this stuff for its Men’s Department. There must be some unfathomable-to-straight-guys connection between these kinds of costume statements and clothing for women that women actually buy. There is a profound mystery there.

08 Feb 2017

The Disgraceful State of American Higher Education

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José Clemente Orozco, The Epic of American Civilization, 1932-1934, Dartmouth University Library. “Academia as a corpse of dead knowledge, birthing intellectually stillborn graduates each year as the world burns in the backdrop.”

Anthony Esolen, at National Review, wonders aloud whether higher education in today’s America is even possible.

The frieze beneath the rotunda of the state house at Providence, the city where my college is located, proclaims, in the words of Tacitus, the happiness of the times when a man “may think what he will and speak what he thinks.” This may still be true of men sitting at a diner or a bar, drinking beer and arguing about politics. Rational argument and freedom of thought, like the exercise of religion, has retreated into the realm of the private. You may still think what you will, so long as you keep it to yourself. You may not think or speak freely in our political assemblies, our newspapers, and our colleges.

Here the reader may supply plenty of anecdotes about professors, insufficiently “liberal,” who have been driven from their jobs or burdened with legal troubles because they violated the new iron etiquette that governs the public sphere. My favorite, if such it may be called, involved an instructor of composition at the University of Winnipeg who remarked, near the end of a semester, that the most important work that most women do will be to raise their children well. For that remark — which would have struck sensible people alive three cultural minutes ago, both men and women, as a bland truism — the instructor was relieved of his duties forthwith, barred from his office, and forbidden even to administer his final exam.

People who say that such events are rare and therefore not to be taken too seriously are either fools or liars. A thousand public lynchings are expensive and tiresome. Two or three will intimidate your enemies very nicely and save you the sweat and the struggle against your conscience. That is especially true if the victim is powerful and visible, as was Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard who opined that the difference between the numbers of men and women pursuing the natural sciences at the highest level might be due rather to predilection and intellectual inclination than to sexism. Again we are dealing with a bland truism; but the long knives came out, and Summers was dispatched. …

In such a world, it is insufficient to say that higher education suffers. Except in the most technical of disciplines, and perhaps even in those, the very possibility of higher education comes to an abrupt halt. If a professor must negotiate an emotional and verbal and political mine field before he opens his mouth, then he is no professor any longer. He is a servile functionary, no matter his title and no matter how well he is paid. He instructs his students not in freedom but in his own servility. That many of the students demand this servility of him and of themselves makes their capitulation all the worse.

The colleges have not abandoned moral considerations utterly. Relativism is an unstable equilibrium — imagine a pyramid upside down, placed delicately upon its apex. It might make you break out into a cold sweat to stand in its shade. The question is not whether some moral vision will prevail, but which moral vision. The colleges are thus committed to a moral inversion. High and noble virtues, especially those that require moral courage, are mocked: gallantry in wartime, sexual purity, scrupulous honesty and plain dealing, piety, and the willingness to subject your thoughts, experiences, and most treasured beliefs to the searching scrutiny of reason. What is valued then? Debauchery, perversion, contempt for your supposedly benighted ancestors, lazy agnosticism, easy and costless pacifism, political maneuvering, and an enforcement of a new orthodoxy that in denying rational analysis seeks to render itself immune to criticism. You sink yourself in debt to discover that your sons and daughters have been severed from their faith, their morals, and their reason. Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper. They might well be healthier, too.

Read the whole thing.

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Mene Ukueberuwa, in the New Republic, blames all this on the rise of the Administrator.

This crisis of confidence at colleges—driven by conflict-shy administrators and self-effacing professors—has come to a head in the culture of protest that has developed on American campuses. Once again, political polarization is only one part of the story. Today’s college students are certainly more liberal and more ideologically uniform than their counterparts of the mid-twentieth century. But the focus on the little things that we see in campus protests—as in the movement to suppress insensitive Halloween costumes at Yale in 2015—shows the extent to which the political fervor is being driven by the absence of bigger, richer ideas to seize students’ attention. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat made this case in a column during the same outburst of protests, which swept through dozens of campuses that fall. “The protesters at Yale and Missouri,” he pointed out, are “dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt, and that’s long relied on rote appeals to the activists’ own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.” In other words, if hollowing out collegiate culture of all of its challenging substance really was just a ploy to dodge controversy and keep the money coming in, then it looks like the strategy has decidedly backfired. …

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