Liz Jolly, Chief Librarian of the British Library since 2018.
David Warren is perfectly justified in ranting about all this.
Did you know? That, â€œRacism is the creation of white peopleâ€?
Of course you did, if you are young, woke, and poorly educated, like the white woman who is now the British Libraryâ€™s Chief Librarian. (â€œLiz Jolly.â€) Her statement, in a video to staff last summer, promoting her Decolonizing Working Group, though perfectly acceptable to Guardian subscribers, was mocked by several African and Asiatic scholars who have depended upon that libraryâ€™s resources over the years. Noting that history is more complicated than Ms Jolly was ever told, they criticized her as â€œpig ignorant,â€ &c.
But her explicitly racist â€œanti-racistâ€ programme proceeds, with aggressive â€œanti-racistâ€ exhibitions, new â€œanti-racistâ€ signage, and so forth. The demand to de-acquisition authors who do not reinforce the current ideological stereotypes has not yet gathered to full force, but has started.
The capture of essentially all major cultural institutions by unhinged political fanatics with daddy issues, is among the signs of our times. Those who resist are driven out of employment; those who accede have a lock on the splendidly-paid positions, for which beleaguered taxpayers are billed. The consequences to Western Civ are not trifling.
Perhaps I am unfair to single out just the one career arts bureaucrat, when there are thousands to choose from. I may even be prejudiced, not only against white people, but against those of the scheduled races who have cooperated in trashing the institutional heritage of the Big Wen.
For London was my Athens, back in the day, and I take these things personally. My British Museum Library ticket was among my most cherished possessions, and the old Reading Room among my favourite haunts. I am now so old that I can remember when such places were ruled, and staffed, by respectably boring establishment types with Oxbridge degrees.
Yet this is the very class that has suborned itself to the Revolution. It still works on old boy and girl networks, and has become dramatically more smug. But now it dismantles what its ancestors built. The fish-rot starts at the head of British society, as it has in Canada, and throughout America and Europe.
Daniel Lee finds in the memory of the historic Dixie Highway a reminder of the old America, the optimistic, enterprizing, Get-Things-Done America, that was so different than today’s endlessly complaining, obstructionist, afraid-of-everything America.
Martinsville, Ind. â€” Just visible through the trees off Indiana State Road 37, south of Indianapolis, there was for many years a derelict iron bridge carrying a fragment of an older incarnation of the highway.
You wouldnâ€™t have known to look at it, but that old pony-truss bridge was an indirect ancestor not only of State Road 37, presently being converted to the southern-Indiana leg of Interstate 69, but of the whole American interstate system.
The conversion of Indiana 37 is the latest step in a controversial project that began near Evansville in 2008 and has been marching up the 142 miles between southwest Indiana and Indianapolis ever since. Presently there are about 30 miles to go.
Waiting in my car amid the dust and roar of earth movers recently, I noticed that the old iron bridge was gone, finally giving way to time and progress, cleared to make room for a county road exit ramp.
Itâ€™s too bad. The bridge was one of the last remnants of the old, winding two-lane State Road 37 that was replaced in 1976 by the four-lane on which Iâ€™m stopped in construction traffic. Old roads donâ€™t just magically vanish when bypassed. Through the years they tend to fade slowly away, a bit like Cheshire cats, leaving traces of themselves behind. The bridge was one of those traces.
Old 37 today is just a lane here, a weed-covered track there; in places a longish driveway. A piece of it winds for a lovely ten miles or so through the Hoosier National Forest above Bloomington, along wooded ridgetops and past old rural settlements like Hindustan and Dolan, now just loose scatterings of well-lived-in roadside homes.
Some places itâ€™s plainly marked as Old 37. Other pieces bear different names: New Harmony Road, Liberty Church Road, Hacker Creek Road. The practiced eye can spot these ghosts of the old highway by their character of meandering Indian trail (which they quite likely grew from) compared to the squared-off grid of county-road systems.
There are people who make a hobby of finding and tracing these old tracks â€” the forgotten slivers of crumbling cement, asphalt, and sometimes brick they call â€œalignments,â€ the tag ends of early motor-age roads like the old east-west Lincoln Highway and its successor, the more famous Route 66. These hobbyists are a bit like explorers of an America that is in the sad process of disappearing, buried by time and poor choices.
As it happens, the old, two-lane 37 was in its turn the descendant of one of these older traces, call it the ur-37, the Indiana portion of a route from the Midwest to Florida known as the Dixie Highway, which existed under that name from about 1915 to 1926, when the country moved to a more uniform highway-numbering system.
The brainchild of Indianapolis businessman Carl G. Fisher, a principal in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and an auto-parts inventor and salesman, the Dixie Highway was created to be an escape route from bitter Midwestern winters to warm, sunny holidays in the South â€” especially another Fisher creation, the resort city of Miami Beach.
The Dixie â€” at first merely a skein of loosely connected local roads â€” zigzagged through parts of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, labored up and through the mountains of Tennessee and northern Georgia, and then coasted down through the tobacco fields and pine barrens into Florida. At a time when roads almost invariably centered on and served rural Americaâ€™s innumerable tiny villages, the Dixie Highway became in a sense the nationâ€™s first primitive interstate-highway system.
It also prefigured and midwifed the birth of the automobile age and the explosion of travel by road. As detailed in the book Dixie Highway, by Tammy Ingram, an assistant professor of history at the College of Charleston, road-building then shifted from a chaotic, locally controlled process-on-the-fly to a high-priority national project.
But it wasnâ€™t easy. Ingram describes the fractious process of choosing the Dixieâ€™s route, with communities vying for its promised tourism dollars and access to regional markets. A 1915 planning meeting in Chattanooga brought the competing parties together and promptly devolved into a donnybrook that earned the nickname â€œThe Second Battle of Chattanooga.â€
Eventually, Fisher and the Dixie Highway Association simply chose not to choose, essentially doubling the communities it served by creating two northâ€“south branches instead of one main trunk. Connector roads between the branches almost accidentally gave the Dixie its prototypical highway-system character.
Like the Dixie Highway, the planning process for Indianaâ€™s southern leg of I-69 â€” the work presently underway here â€” was also a rough road, so to speak. There were lawsuits, protests, and angry slogans painted on the statehouse. But this time people werenâ€™t clamoring to be included; they wanted out. They demanded that the highway project be stopped or rerouted away from them. …
You are a member of the Classics faculty at Oxford. It has been recognized that the influence of Modernism has significantly reduced serious study of Latin and Greek at secondary schools in Britain and the performance gap between well-prepared students from a small number of elite schools and the generality of students, particularly between male and female students has grown conspicuous.
How do you suggest this national educational decline should be addressed?
[There is on the table] a proposal by the Classics faculty to remove the study of Homerâ€™s Iliad and Virgilâ€™s Aeneid from the Mods syllabus, a decision which has surprised many across the faculty.
This proposal forms part of a series of reforms aimed to modernise the first stage of the Classics degree, known as Moderations (Mods), which take place during Hilary term of second year for all students taking Classics courses across the university.
The Mods course, which is assessed by a set of ten exams at the end of Hilary, has been increasingly criticised in recent years, due to the attainment gaps found between male and female candidates, as well as between candidates who have studied Latin and/or Greek to A-Level (Course I) and those who have not (Course II).
The removal of Virgil and Homer papers, which take up two out of the ten Mods papers, have been marketed as a move that will reduce the attainment gaps and thus improve access to the subject. However many have questioned why the solution to this problem involves the removal of Homer and Virgil.
There have been a number of other recent reforms proposed by the faculty, including changes to the way in which students are streamed based on previous levels of study as well as an increase in the amount of language tuition available to all Classicists. However, this most recent reform has accused of being an unnecessary step by members of the Classics faculty who claim that the removal of the compulsory study of Homer and Virgil would result in an incomplete and less fulfilling course of Classical study.
There were, and there are still, here and there even today, some who would take a different approach.
â€œYou know,â€ [the headmaster] said, â€œwe are starting this year with fifteen fewer classical specialists than we had last term?â€
â€œI thought that would be about the number.â€
â€œAs you know Iâ€™m an old Greats man myself. I deplore it as much as you do. But what are we to do? Parents are not interested in producing the â€˜complete manâ€™ any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?â€
â€œOh yes,â€ said Scott-King. â€œI can and do.â€
â€œI always say you are a much more important man here than I am. One couldnâ€™t conceive of Granchester without Scott-King. But has it ever occurred to you that a time may come when there will be no more classical boys at all?â€
â€œOh yes. Often.â€
â€œWhat I was going to suggest wasâ€”I wonder if you will consider taking some other subject as well as the classics? History, for example, preferably economic history?â€
â€œBut, you know, there may be something of a crisis ahead.â€
â€œThen what do you intend to do?â€
â€œIf you approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.â€
— Evelyn Waugh, Scott-Kingâ€™s Modern Europe, 1947.
Ross Douthat penned a pretty decadent essay last Sunday, contending that, yes, Virginia! we are living in a time of generalized decadence, and then, arguing that, though decadence ought to be resisted, at least, a bit, really decadence is not so bad after all. Yup, there is decadence for you, alright.
Following in the footsteps of the great cultural critic Jacques Barzun, we can say that decadence refers to economic stagnation, institutional decay and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of material prosperity and technological development. Under decadence, Barzun wrote, â€œThe forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result.â€ He added, â€œWhen people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.â€ And crucially, the stagnation is often a consequence of previous development: The decadent society is, by definition, a victim of its own success.
Note that this definition does not imply a definitive moral or aesthetic judgment. (â€œThe term is not a slur,â€ Barzun wrote. â€œIt is a technical label.â€) A society that generates a lot of bad movies need not be decadent; a society that makes the same movies over and over again might be. A society run by the cruel and arrogant might not be decadent; a society where even the wise and good canâ€™t legislate might be. A crime-ridden society isnâ€™t necessarily decadent; a peaceable, aging, childless society beset by flares of nihilistic violence looks closer to our definition.
Nor does this definition imply that decadence is necessarily an overture to a catastrophe, in which Visigoths torch Manhattan or the coronavirus has dominion over all. History isnâ€™t always a morality play, and decadence is a comfortable disease: The Chinese and Ottoman empires persisted for centuries under decadent conditions, and it was more than 400 years from Caligula to the actual fall of Rome.
â€œWhat fascinates and terrifies us about the Roman Empire is not that it finally went smash,â€ wrote W.H. Auden of that endless autumn, but rather that â€œit managed to last for four centuries without creativity, warmth, or hope.â€
Whether we are waiting for Christians or barbarians, a renaissance or the Singularity, the dilemma that Auden described is now not Romeâ€™s but ours.
Jan Matejko, Stanczyk during a Ball at the Court of Queen Bona after the Loss of Smolensk, 1862.
July 1514: Stanczyk, the famous jester of Sigismund the Old, was renowned for his cynical humor, but Matejko shows the jester in a private moment of despair in a palace anteroom outside the royal ball being given by Queen Bona Sforza. On the table next to the jester, we see dispatches announcing the fall of Smolensk to the Muscovites. Alone among the denizens of Poland’s royal court, only Stanczyk the jester forsees with dread the rise of Moscow and the destruction of the Commonwealth.
If Stanczyk were employed as jester these days at Yale Universuty in New Haven, Connecticut, he’d probably looked similarly after reading this Yale Daily News story.
Yale will stop teaching a storied introductory survey course in art history, citing the impossibility of adequately covering the entire field â€” and its varied cultural backgrounds â€” in one course.
Decades old and once taught by famous Yale professors like Vincent Scully, â€œIntroduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Presentâ€ was once touted to be one of Yale Collegeâ€™s quintessential classes. But this change is the latest response to student uneasiness over an idealized Western â€œcanonâ€ â€” a product of an overwhelmingly white, straight, European and male cadre of artists.
This spring, the final rendition of the course will seek to question the idea of Western art itself â€” a marked difference from the courseâ€™s focus at its inception. Art history department chair and the courseâ€™s instructor Tim Barringer told the News that he plans to demonstrate that a class about the history of art does not just mean Western art. Rather, when there are so many other regions, genres and traditions â€” all â€œequally deserving of studyâ€ â€” putting European art on a pedestal is â€œproblematic,â€ he said.
â€œI believe that every object I discuss in [â€œIntroduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Presentâ€] (with the possible exception of one truly ghastly painting by Renoir) is of profound cultural value,â€ Barringer said in an email to the News. â€œI want all Yale students (and all residents of New Haven who can enter our museums freely) to have access to and to feel confident analyzing and enjoying the core works of the western tradition. But I donâ€™t mistake a history of European painting for the history of all art in all places.â€
Instead of this singular survey class, the Art History Department will soon offer a range of others, such as â€œArt and Politics,â€ â€œGlobal Craft,â€ â€œThe Silk Roadâ€ and â€œSacred Places.â€ Barringer added that in two or three years, his department will offer a substitute class to â€œIntroduction to Art History.â€ But the new class â€œwill be a course equal in status to the other 100-level courses, not the introduction to our discipline claiming to be the mainstream with everything else pushed to the margins,â€ Barringer said.
It’s essential, you see, to flatter the amour propre of representatives of Identity Victim Groups (specially recruited and affirmatively actioned into Yale) by assuring them that the crude carvings of devils and bogeys their Stone Age ancestors turned out are the equivalent of Michelangelo’s David.
Pascal Bruckner, in a must-read essay in Quillette, describes how Europe is allowing its own virtue to destroy it.
Western Europeans dislike themselves. They are unable to overcome their self-disgust and feel the pride in their heritage and the self-respect that is so strikingly evident in the United States. Modern Europe is instead mired in shame shrouded in moralizing discourse. It has convinced itself that, since all the evils of the twentieth century arose from its feverish bellicosity, itâ€™s about time it redeemed itself and sought something like a reawakened sense of the sacred in its guilty conscience.
What better example of this proclivity exists than Angela Merkelâ€™s embrace of about a million refugees fleeing war-torn Syria in 2015? Even though this gesture that would help replenish a shrinking labor force was not strictly disinterested, for this pastorâ€™s daughter it was also a spectacular way to repudiate Nazism and escape its shadow. After the catastrophe of the Second World War, the Federal Republic would now offer itself as an ostentatious example to the world. Germany would practice open-heartedness in a single country, just as Stalin in the USSR had once practiced socialism in a single country. Already pre-eminent in Europe, Berlin would call the shots, whether exercising toughness or kindness. Merciless with the Greeks in July, when the Chancellery wanted to eject them from the eurozone, but beneficent with the Syrians in September, it could demonstrate severity or an ever so imperial charity. …
Many people are wondering why it is only Europe that feels guilty, not only for its own past crimes, but also for the faults of others? The answer is simple: we dominated the world for four centuries. The empires have collapsed but their memory remains, and this has given rise to an ever-expanding discipline: post-colonial studies. We have become the continent of the uneasy conscience and we wish to show the rest of the world the face of moral law in all its purity. Europe sees itself as a sacrificial offering, through which the entire world can expiate its sins. It offers to assume the shame for every misfortune that befalls the planet: famine in Africa, drowning in the Mediterranean, terrorism, natural disasters, they are all directly or indirectly our handiwork. And when we are attackedâ€”by terrorists, for exampleâ€”itâ€™s still our fault; we had it coming and are undeserving of compassion. Since we are overcome by such a torrent of sins, all we can do is bear up and attempt to correct and atone for them all, one by one. An unctuous discourse intended to edify is replacing what was once political and historical analysis; an ideal society must replace the existing one of ordinary men, and be cleansed of its impurities. Two areas in particular reveal this delusion of sanctityâ€”immigration and ecology.
We have given in to mundane, socially acceptable evil that we now accept as good, and that starts with individualism/equality, which is the backdoor into the human psyche. All of the stuff that the far-Right detests â€” diversity, decay in behavior, shattering of the family, international finance, Idiocracy, mass/pop culture, ethnic crime â€” has its origins in equality or being used to justify equality as a workable program. We target the root, where everyone else is swatting at flies and missing the big point. …
The core of politics for me is realizing that most people mean well, but do not understand how their actions translate to reality. They see a thing, want that thing, and desire that some all-powerful force will make it so, but that is religious thinking, not leadership. Democracy means that whoever sells the most pleasurable lie wins, and as a result society has drifted Leftward. At the close of the twentieth century, however, it had become clear that the liberal West was dying just as the Communist East had done.”
Successful civilizations lead to weak populations. Weak populations know they are inferior. They know this instinctively. They have no purpose for existing. They donâ€™t articulate this directly. They act it out indirectly by throwing themselves into acts of symbolic importance because they are not capable of acts of importance.
“The movement towards androgyny occurs in late phases of culture, as a civilization is starting to unravel. You can find it again and again and again through history. In the Greek art you could see it happening. All of a sudden the sculptures of handsome nude young men, athletes, that used to be very robust in the archaic period, suddenly begin to seem like wet noodles toward the end. And the people who live in such periods (late phases of culture)â€Šâ€”â€Šwhether itâ€™s the Hellenistic era, whether itâ€™s the Roman Empire, whether itâ€™s the Mauve decade of Oscar Wilde in the 1890s, whether itâ€™s Weimar Germanyâ€Šâ€”â€Špeople who live in such times feel that they are very sophisticated, theyâ€™re very cosmopolitan: â€œhomosexuality, heterosexuality, so what, anything goes, and so onâ€¦â€ But from the perspective of historical distance, you can see that itâ€™s a culture that no longer believes in itself. And then what you invariably get are people who are convinced of the power of heroic masculinity on the edges. Whether they be the Vandals and the Huns, or whether theyâ€™re the barbarians of ISIS, you see them starting to mass on the outsides of the culture. And thatâ€™s what we have right now. Thereâ€™s a tremendous disconnect between the infatuation with the transgender movement in our own culture and whatâ€™s going on out there.”
Several weeks ago, a FB friend steered me to an essay on the decline of the university. It was pedestrian, as these things go; you likely know the reasoning as well as I do by now. But there was a reader’s comment attached that has haunted me since.
The reader argued that the essayist was upset because he (the essayist) assumed that the mission of the university was fixed. He (the reader) has a point. Most of the earliest universities in Europe and America were founded to glorify God and train clergy; that was the dominant university mission for over 600 years and only began to shift during the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment refocused (again, most) universities on the pursuit and dissemination of truth. (Note, that “t” is in the lowercase; truth, in the lowercase, is merely a correspondence between what is thought and said and a reality that exists independently of what is thought and said.)
Perhaps what’s going on now is yet another shift in the mission of universities–a shift away from the pursuit and dissemination of truth and toward a kind of bourgeois, psycho-therapeutic performance of collective identities and grievances.
If that’s what’s going on, then we are surely going to witness a schism within the university, a schism in which mathematics and hard sciences go in one direction (i.e., continue the pursuit and dissemination of truth) and the social sciences and humanities go in another direction (described above).
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!