Category Archive 'Ressentiment'
14 Jan 2019

“Passing” as a Victim

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Victor Davis Hanson marvels at how things have changed. Once upon a time, Americans of immigrant or minority background Americanized their names and whitened their skins and tried hard to pass as members of the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority. Today, Barack Obama’s African identity won him the presidency, the Irish “Beto” O’Rourke pretended to be Hispanic in order to win a seat in the Senate, and Elizabeth Warren leveraged imaginary Cherokee blood into a Harvard professorship.

[I]n a multiracial society like ours no one is usually quite sure of any ancestry that he claims (ancestry companies run TV ads precisely on the notion that we will all be surprised by our DNA results). And when superficial appearance is no guarantee either of minority status (given that we have not yet established DNA badges or quite reestablished Old Confederate racial purity standards), almost anyone can say he is anyone he pleases. Nor is class much help, since thankfully it has become more or less divorced from race and ethnicity. (Most white deplorables and irredeemables did not grow up in upscale neighborhoods nor did they have educated parents like those of Harris and Ocasio-Cortez.)

Is race then becoming a mere construct that we put on and take off as though it were a suit of clothes? In our collective effort to create difference where it does not always exists, we would have to invent an Elizabeth Warren or Ward Churchill if they did not exist—given the perceived advantages of white suburbanites in gaining a part time minority cachet deemed advantageous in terms of career and psychological well-being.

How odd that our establishment insists that being “white” is synonymous with unearned “white privilege,” while millions of whites in job and college applications for decades have been trying to con fake minority-identities and while upscale minorities have no desire—even when intermarried, assimilated, and integrated into the majority culture—of emphasizing the partial white ancestry that is so frequently part of their heritage. The old idea of “passing” now means hoping to be tagged as non-white, not white. The effort is certainly similar to the lunatic racial obsessions of the past, but the conditions under which advantage is measured have flipped completely. ….

Minority identity has become a brand for the upper middle class in the manner of a luxury car. One strives to drive a Mercedes or Jaguar not because it is more reliable or even all that much more drivable than a Toyota or Honda, but because it signals a particular cachet. And so too wealthy suburbanites often find emphasizing non-white identities useful even if it means occasionally constructing them.

Most of the constructed identity movement is deeply embedded within progressive and identity politics of the Left. In our strange society, a Shaun King, who appears to be as white as his birth certificate seems to suggest, is considered a more authentic African-American than a conservative and quite darker Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas, who grew up in poverty and discrimination in the Jim Crow South and yet is often despised by progressives as inauthentic. ….

In the past, immigrants of all classes and backgrounds sought to identify as Americans and did so authentically, on the premise that one left one’s old country for a reason and had no wish to replicate its failures in a new and preferred homeland.

Now many immigrants and natives often wish to distance themselves from the perception of belonging to American majority culture—but many do so as inauthentically as their less well off forefathers once authentically sought to join it.

RTWT

13 Jan 2019

White Guilt: Taxation by Minorities

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Zman is often just a rhetorically clever dispenser of self-flattering Alt Right delusions, but when he is right, he can nail it.

As a practical matter, so-called “third wave anti-racism” is really just a demand by non-whites that whites mitigate the realities of biology. They can’t say that so they have to use weird language and comical neologisms. The demand is that whites exhaust themselves maintaining a white bourgeois society, so that non-whites can enjoy first world comfort, without actually having to maintain it themselves. The new white man’s burden is whites living as despised helots in the societies they created.

For example, whites are supposed to solve the black crime problem, but not notice that black men commit a lot of crime. No one is supposed to mention that blacks don’t cooperate with police. The justification for the former is the history of racism, while the latter is excused as blacks not wanting to attract attention to the black community. Whites are supposed to work around the realities of the black community, while mitigating the realities of the black community. This is impossible and unreasonable.

Another example is how non-whites expect to be allowed into elite schools. In the name of diversity, the elite colleges decorate each class with vibrancy. The professors are expected to make sure these students graduate and never mention that they make up the bottom third of the class. Once out in the world, the process starts over as law firms hoover up non-whites to meet their diversity quota. Of course, no one is supposed to notice that these lawyers are not very good at being lawyers.

Then you have the central tenet of third wave anti-racism, which is that whites, just by being white, are a burden on non-whites. Because whites want the best for their kids and want to live in safe neighborhoods, it means they live in places without convenient bus service. This is a burden on non-whites, as they don’t have easy access to whites and the societies they create. This is so-called white privilege. The only way to eliminate this is to eliminate white behavior, which would end the modern society.

Instead, the new anti-racism regime is one where every white person is born guilty, tainted by the original sin of white racism. Therefore, just as man was condemned to toil outside of the Garden of Eden for eternity, whites are now condemned to pay the jizya in order to keep non-whites in comfortable modern lifestyles. That means open borders for formerly white countries and a metastasizing set of rules to govern the thoughts and speech of whites. The American jizya is about keeping non-whites happy.

RTWT

29 Dec 2018

Hating the Hallmark Channel

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Personally, I like watching Jesse Stone marathons on the Hallmark Channel.

Soraya Roberts, at Walrus, on the other hand, is repelled by the coziness of it all, and offended by the fact that Hallmark movies are typically not about her.

Watching a Hallmark movie is like taking half a benzo in an Ikea showroom in the middle of Stockholm. It is a mild, innocuous soporific propped up by a staged, suburban, pseudo-elegant scene populated by a large number of nice-looking white people. I was disturbed to find myself moderately engaged by Switched for Christmas, the most-viewed Hallmark telecast in history (5.8 million viewers, including me), which stars Candace Cameron Bure as a pair of barely human twin tropes—city slicker, country bumpkin—who pull a Parent Trap for the holidays. “Our lives couldn’t be more different,” one—it barely matters which—exclaims as their interchangeable, white-as-snow narratives are mildly shaken up like a marked-down snow globe.

Here, the houses are cut out of catalogues, the kids look like young Republicans, and Happy the dog gets top billing. There’s even a flour fight during a baking scene, all of which adds up to a series of vaguely animated stock images you may find by googling the word “wholesome.” Everything—the acting, the set, the story—is as flatly palatable as, well, a Hallmark card. “We are a place you can go and feel good,” Bill Abbott, the CEO of Crown Media, which owns the Hallmark Channel, recently told the Washington Post. But Abbott, it seems, has mistaken sedation for pleasure.

This particular tranquilizer is designed specifically for a white, conservative audience, enveloping the parade of Pleasantvilles in a sinister frame. Its audience loudly touts traditional family values and charity while less loudly opposing multiculturalism, gender fluidity, and homosexuality. According to the Post, Hallmark’s ratings surged in 2015 when Donald Trump arrived on the political landscape and have continued to soar since, with a number of husbands joining the predominantly female demographic. While every other channel is losing viewers to Netflix, Hallmark—which calls itself “the heart of TV”—is commanding almost as much attention as the news.

“It’s clean and I just don’t enjoy cussing,” a Georgia grandma told E! News in October. The sentiment was echoed by a North Carolina senior who said, “There is no profanity nor any offensive sex acts in any movie I have ever seen.” A middle-aged Minnesotan added, “There are no politics, there is no crime, no hate, no war.” (Even Netflix appears to be attracted, releasing its own Hallmark-style fare this year in the form of A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance.)

This brand of good, clean fun, however, is not for everyone. These films are relegated to the lives of upper-middle-class white folk, the implication being that swearing and sex and strife is the province of the misguided, the folks of colour, the poor folk, the un-Christian folk. With Christmas marketed as the ultimate aspirational holiday, it’s no wonder that Hallmark responds with such anemic offerings.

RTWT

In other words, white people should not be permitted to watch things that white people like. They should presumably instead be watching more edifying films chronicling the travails of the sexually dysphoric and airing the grievances of persons of color.

12 Nov 2018

Camille Paglia Speaks Out

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Yale Professor Cleanth Brooks 1906-1994, leading figure of the New Criticism.

In Quillette, Claire Lehmann interviews Camille Paglia on the current state of the Humanities in the universities, Leftist Ressentiment as Religion, and Feminism.

Claire Lehmann: You seem to be one of the only scholars of the humanities who are willing to challenge the post-structuralist status quo. Why have other humanities academics been so spineless in preserving the integrity of their fields?

Camille Paglia: The silence of the academic establishment about the corruption of Western universities by postmodernism and post-structuralism has been an absolute disgrace. First of all, the older generation of true scholars who still ruled the roost when I arrived at the Yale Graduate School in 1968 were not fighters, to begin with. American professors, unlike their British counterparts, had not been schooled in ferocious and satirical debate. They were courtly and genteel, a High Protestant middlebrow style. Voices were hushed, and propriety ruled at the Yale department of English: I once described it as “walking on eggs at the funeral home.”

An ossified New Criticism was then still ascendant. I had been trained in college in that technique of microscopic close analysis of the text, and it remains a marvelous tool for cultural criticism: I have applied it to everything from painting to pop songs. However, my strong view at the time (from my early grounding in archaeology) was that literary criticism had to recover authentic historical consciousness and also to expand toward psychology, which was still considered vulgar. Harold Bloom and Geoffrey Hartman (whose Yale careers had begun amid tinges of anti-Semitism) were moving in a different, more conceptual direction, heavy on European philosophy.

By the early 1970s, when I was writing my doctoral dissertation (Sexual Personae, directed by Bloom), change suddenly arrived from outside: deconstruction was the hot new thing, hastened along by J. Hillis Miller, who left Johns Hopkins for Yale. I thought Derrida and DeMan and the rest of that crew were arrant nonsense from the start, a pedantic diversion from direct engagement with art. About the obsequious Yale welcome given to the pratlings of one continental “star” visitor, I acidly remarked to a fellow grad student sitting next to me, “They’re like high priests murmuring to each other.”

The New Criticism desperately needed supplementation, but that opaque hash (so divorced from genuine art appreciation) was certainly not it. I was disgusted at the rapid spread of deconstruction and post-structuralism throughout elite U.S. universities in the 1970s, when I was teaching at my first job at Bennington College. The reason it happened is really quite prosaic: a recession hit in the 1970s, and the job market in academe collapsed. Fancy-pants post-structuralism was the ticket to ride for ambitious, beady-eyed young careerists on the make. Its coy, showy gestures and clotted lingo were insiders’ badges of claimed intellectual superiority. But the whole lot of them were mediocrities from the start. It is doubtful that much if any of their work will have long-term traction.

As I argued in my long attack on post-structuralism, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf” (Arion, Spring 1991; reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture), Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault were already outmoded thinkers even in France, where their prominence had been relatively brief. There was nothing genuinely leftist in their elitist, monotonously language-based analysis. On the contrary, post-structuralism was abjectly reactionary, resisting and reversing the true revolution of the 1960s American counterculture, which liberated the senses and reconnected the body and personal identity to nature, in the Romantic manner. It is very telling that Foucault’s principal inspiration, by his own admission, was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which I loathed as a college student for its postwar passivity and nihilism. (As a teacher, I admire Godot as a play but still reject its parochial and at times juvenile world-view.)

Post-structuralism, along with identity politics, made huge gains in the 1970s, as the old guard professors proved helpless against a rising tide of rapid add-on programs and departments like women’s studies and African-American studies. The tenured professoriate seemed not to realize that change of some kind was necessary, and thus they failed to provide an alternative vision of a remodeled university of the future. I myself was lobbying for interdisciplinary innovation in the humanities—something that remained highly controversial right through the 1980s, when there were fierce battles over it where I was then teaching (during the merger of the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts with the Philadelphia College of Art to form the present University of the Arts). Another persistent proposal of mine has been for comparative religion to become the undergraduate core curriculum, an authentically global multiculturalism

Most established professors in the 1970s probably believed that the new theory trend was a fad that would blow away like autumn leaves. The greatness of the complex and continuous Western tradition seemed self-evident: the canon would surely stand, even if supplemented by new names. Well, guess what? Helped along by a swelling horde of officious, overpaid administrators, North American universities became, decade by decade, political correctness camps. Out went half the classics, as well as pedagogically useful survey courses demonstrating sequential patterns in history (now dismissed as a “false narrative” by callow theorists). Bookish, introverted old-school professors were not prepared for guerrilla warfare to defend basic scholarly principles or to withstand waves of defamation and harassment.

However, it is indeed difficult to understand why major professors already in safe, powerful positions avoided direct combat. For example, although he had made passing dismissive remarks about post-structuralism (“Foucault and soda water”), Harold Bloom never systematically engaged or critiqued the subject or used his access to the general media to endorse debate, which was left instead to self-identified conservatives. The latter situation was clearly counterproductive, insofar as it enabled the bourgeois faux leftists of academe to define themselves and their reflex gobbledygook as boldly progressive.

In October 1990, I sat with my longtime mentor Bloom at a presidential dinner preceding his Shakespeare lecture at Bryn Mawr College in the Philadelphia suburbs. I told him about the exposé of post-structuralism that I was writing for Arion (and that took six months to do). He flatly replied, “You’re wasting your time.” I must suppose there was simply a generational divide: as a product of the 1960s, I still passionately believe in reform as an ethical imperative. Furthermore, most of my teaching career has been spent at small art schools, which have always spurned the conformist formulas and protocols of traditional universities.

Nevertheless, the poisons of post-structuralism have now spread throughout academe and have done enormous damage to basic scholarly standards and disastrously undermined belief even in the possibility of knowledge. I suspect history will not be kind to the leading professors who appear to have put loyalty to friends and colleagues above defending scholarly values during a chaotic era of overt vandalism that has deprived several generations of students of a profound education in the humanities. The steady decline in humanities majors is an unmistakable signal that this once noble field has become a wasteland.

Do you believe that politics and in particular social justice (i.e., anti-racism and feminism) are becoming cults or pseudo-religions? Is politics filling the void left by the receding influence of organized religion?

Paglia: This has certainly been my view for many years now. I said in the introduction to my art book, Glittering Images (2012), that secular humanism has failed. As an atheist, I have argued that if religion is erased, something must be put in its place. Belief systems are intrinsic to human intelligence and survival. They “frame” the flux of primary experience, which would otherwise flood the mind.

But politics cannot fill the gap. Society, with which Marxism is obsessed, is only a fragment of the totality of life. As I have written, Marxism has no metaphysics: it cannot even detect, much less comprehend, the enormity of the universe and the operations of nature. Those who invest all of their spiritual energies in politics will reap the whirlwind. The evidence is all around us—the paroxysms of inchoate, infantile rage suffered by those who have turned fallible politicians into saviors and devils, godlike avatars of Good versus Evil.

My substitute for religion is art, which I have expanded to include all of popular culture. But when art is reduced to politics, as has been programmatically done in academe for 40 years, its spiritual dimension is gone. It is coarsely reductive to claim that value in the history of art is always determined by the power plays of a self-referential social elite. I take Marxist social analysis seriously: Arnold Hauser’s Marxist, multi-volume A Social History of Art (1951) was a major influence on me in graduate school. However, Hauser honored art and never condescended to it. A society that respects neither religion nor art cannot be called a civilization.

RTWT

Even well-educated people on the Left,like Paglia, recognize the disastrous state of contemporary culture.

17 Oct 2018

DNA and Victim Status

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29 Aug 2018

Whom Would You Save?

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Contemporary education aka brain-washing is something. Kiddies at a Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio were asked by a so-far-unidentified teacher in a so-far-unidentified subject to choose eight our of twelve people to save from the destruction of the planet on the basis their victim group privilege.

Bizpacreview:

An Ohio middle school is under fire after an assignment asked students to decide based on gender, sex and other factors who to save if the world was ending.

Students at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls were asked to make the decision in the “Whom to Leave Behind” assignment, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

The not-yet identified teacher asked students to choose eight of 12 people to put on a space ship to take to a different planet if the Earth was about to be destroyed.

Some of the choices included in the controversial assignment, which parents slammed as “insensitive,” included a “militant African-American medical student,” a “homosexual, male professional athlete” and a “female movie star who was recently the victim of sexual assault.

RTWT

22 Jul 2018

The African Perspective

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An Igbo with his slave.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, in the New Yorker, has news for Ta-Nehisi Coates and all the other noisy SJWs denouncing European Civilization and America for the sin of Slavery: Slavery existed in Africa long before the European Reconnaissance and has continued right down to the present day, long after Slavery was abolished in America and everywhere else in the Western World. Africans, unlike Americans, are proud of the slave-owning ancestors and despise complaining slave descendants.

There is no Atlantic magazine in Nigeria, TNC!

Down the hill, near the river, in an area now overrun by bush, is the grave of my most celebrated ancestor: my great-grandfather Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku. Nwaubani Ogogo was a slave trader who gained power and wealth by selling other Africans across the Atlantic. “He was a renowned trader,” my father told me proudly. “He dealt in palm produce and human beings.”

Long before Europeans arrived, Igbos enslaved other Igbos as punishment for crimes, for the payment of debts, and as prisoners of war. The practice differed from slavery in the Americas: slaves were permitted to move freely in their communities and to own property, but they were also sometimes sacrificed in religious ceremonies or buried alive with their masters to serve them in the next life. When the transatlantic trade began, in the fifteenth century, the demand for slaves spiked. Igbo traders began kidnapping people from distant villages. Sometimes a family would sell off a disgraced relative, a practice that Ijoma Okoro, a professor of Igbo history at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, likens to the shipping of British convicts to the penal colonies in Australia: “People would say, ‘Let them go. I don’t want to see them again.’ ” Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, nearly one and a half million Igbo slaves were sent across the Middle Passage.

My great-grandfather was given the nickname Nwaubani, which means “from the Bonny port region,” because he had the bright skin and healthy appearance associated at the time with people who lived near the coast and had access to rich foreign foods. (This became our family name.) In the late nineteenth century, he carried a slave-trading license from the Royal Niger Company, an English corporation that ruled southern Nigeria. His agents captured slaves across the region and passed them to middlemen, who brought them to the ports of Bonny and Calabar and sold them to white merchants. Slavery had already been abolished in the United States and the United Kingdom, but his slaves were legally shipped to Cuba and Brazil. To win his favor, local leaders gave him their daughters in marriage. (By his death, he had dozens of wives.) His influence drew the attention of colonial officials, who appointed him chief of Umujieze and several other towns. He presided over court cases and set up churches and schools. He built a guesthouse on the land where my parents’ home now stands, and hosted British dignitaries. To inform him of their impending arrival and verify their identities, guests sent him envelopes containing locks of their Caucasian hair.

Funeral rites for a distinguished Igbo man traditionally include the slaying of livestock—usually as many cows as his family can afford. Nwaubani Ogogo was so esteemed that, when he died, a leopard was killed, and six slaves were buried alive with him. My family inherited his canvas shoes, which he wore at a time when few Nigerians owned footwear, and the chains of his slaves, which were so heavy that, as a child, my father could hardly lift them. Throughout my upbringing, my relatives gleefully recounted Nwaubani Ogogo’s exploits. When I was about eight, my father took me to see the row of ugba trees where Nwaubani Ogogo kept his slaves chained up. In the nineteen-sixties, a family friend who taught history at a university in the U.K. saw Nwaubani Ogogo’s name mentioned in a textbook about the slave trade. Even my cousins who lived abroad learned that we had made it into the history books. …

Are you not ashamed of what he did?” I asked.

“I can never be ashamed of him,” he said, irritated. “Why should I be? His business was legitimate at the time. He was respected by everyone around.” My father is a lawyer and a human-rights activist who has spent much of his life challenging government abuses in southeast Nigeria. He sometimes had to flee our home to avoid being arrested. But his pride in his family was unwavering. “Not everyone could summon the courage to be a slave trader,” he said. “You had to have some boldness in you.” …

The British tried to end slavery among the Igbo in the early nineteen-hundreds, though the practice persisted into the nineteen-forties. In the early years of abolition, by British recommendation, masters adopted their freed slaves into their extended families. One of the slaves who joined my family was Nwaokonkwo, a convicted murderer from another village who chose slavery as an alternative to capital punishment and eventually became Nwaubani Ogogo’s most trusted manservant. In the nineteen-forties, after my great-grandfather was long dead, Nwaokonkwo was accused of attempting to poison his heir, Igbokwe, in order to steal a plot of land. My family sentenced him to banishment from the village. When he heard the verdict, he ran down the hill, flung himself on Nwaubani Ogogo’s grave, and wept, saying that my family had once given him refuge and was now casting him out. Eventually, my ancestors allowed him to remain, but instructed all their freed slaves to drop our surname and choose new names. “If they had been behaving better, they would have been accepted,” my father said.

he descendants of freed slaves in southern Nigeria, called ohu, still face significant stigma. Igbo culture forbids them from marrying freeborn people, and denies them traditional leadership titles such as Eze and Ozo. (The osu, an untouchable caste descended from slaves who served at shrines, face even more severe persecution.) My father considers the ohu in our family a thorn in our side, constantly in opposition to our decisions. In the nineteen-eighties, during a land dispute with another family, two ohu families testified against us in court. “They hate us,” my father said. “No matter how much money they have, they still have a slave mentality.

RTWT

19 Jul 2018

Kipling’s “If” Removed from University Wall by Students

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Telegraph:

He is regarded as one of England’s greatest writers, whose poems were praised as the nation’s favourites and whose books were lauded as classics of children’s literature.

But it appears that Rudyard Kipling has fallen out of favour with today’s generation of students, after it emerged that his “If” poem has been scrubbed off a building by university students who claim he was a “racist”.

Student leaders at Manchester University declared that Kipling “stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights”.

The poem, which had been painted on the wall of the students’ union building by an artist, was removed by students on Tuesday, in a bid to “reclaim” history on behalf of those who have been “oppressed” by “the likes of Kipling”.

In lieu of Kipling’s If, students used a black marker pen to write out the poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou on the same stretch of wall.

    today, as a team, we removed an imperialist’s work from the walls of our union and replaced them with words of the maya angelou – god knows black and brown voices have been written out of history enough, and it’s time we try to reverse that, at the very least in our union ✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/VT5N3zlfyN
    — Fatima Abid (@fatimabidSU) July 16, 2018

Sara Khan, the liberation and access officer at Manchester’s students’ union (SU), blamed a “failure to consult students” during the renovation of the SU building for the Kipling poem being painted on the wall in the first place.

“We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for,” Miss Khan said.

RTWT

16 Jul 2018

Victimhood and Cultural Appropriation

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Professional victim Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

In Tablet, Claire Lehmann discusses the sudden rise to powerful influence of cultural taboos forbidding criticism of recognized victim groups and the ability of members of such groups to wall off cultural items and artifacts from access by outsiders.

Perhaps the most famous American case occurred in the fall of 2015, when Co-Master of Yale Silliman College Erika Christakis responded with an email of her own to an admonitory pre-Halloween email from the Intercultural Affairs Council — a group of administrators from the cultural centers, Chaplain’s Office and other campus organizations — sent to the undergraduate student body warning against wearing Halloween costumes which could be interpreted as belittling or offensive: no sombreros, no blackface, no turbans, arguing in favor of freedom of undergraduate expression. The campus exploded with protests. University officials, including Christakis’s Co-Master husband, were confronted by screaming, hysterical mobs and, despite Yale’s famous Woodward Report affirming Freedom of Speech and some two-faced expressions of support from Yale President Salovey, both Christakis left on “temporary” sabbaticals never ever to return. A modest and polite demurral to an implicit ban on cultural appropriation sufficed to get two prominent Yale administrators and professors run clean out of town.

In 2016, a flare-up exploded over author Lionel Shriver’s speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival—where she infamously wore a sombrero hat while delivering her speech about freedom in fiction writing. …

In 2013, GQ listed The Human Stain as one of the best books of the 21st century. Arguably, such a book could not be written today, and would almost certainly cause a firestorm if published. That’s a pretty sharp turnaround in sensibility in a very short period of time.

The context surrounding the drama at the Brisbane Writers Festival is important for understanding why it happened. Abdel-Magied migrated to Australia at the age of two and, from a relatively young age, entered the public sphere as a “model minority.” She was an articulate activist and an accomplished student (becoming an engineer and memoir writer) who appeared capable of promoting a modern, sophisticated image of an urban Muslim-Australian. For her activism, she was showered with awards and publicly funded appointments, and given international trips for the express purpose of promoting Australia abroad. Yet for all her accomplishments, accolades, money, and travel opportunities—or perhaps in exchange for them—the young woman was stuck with the felt identity of a victim. This apparent feeling of victimhood was so strong that she interpreted arguments for creative license in art to be “lay[ing] the foundation for genocide.”

Many people—both then and now—find it hard to understand how such complaints can come from a place of good faith. Activists like Abdel-Magied seem unwilling to empathize with those who may genuinely want to show appreciation for cultures which are not their own, or writers who genuinely want to empathize with those who are different or marginalized, or simply to reach beyond a single layer or caste of the multicultural societies in which they live, an ambition for which writers and thinkers have historically been applauded.

What also seems odd is that activists like Abdel-Magied rarely appear to attempt to persuade others to engage with the foreign cultures they are purportedly defending in more sensitive or better-informed ways. Rather, their complaints have a hectoring, absolutist quality, focusing on the disrespect and lack of deference that white people have shown them. Listening to these complaints, it is difficult to come away with the view that they are about anything other than exercises in power. While being an effective social-media activist, Abdel-Magied is not a particularly good writer, which means identity-as-victim is therefore valuable currency at a writers festival. If literature is not reducible to identity, and representation is not a group property, then her own claim to literary significance would be a dubious one.

It is by considering the power dynamics at play that the logic of cultural appropriation starts to become clear. In a culture that increasingly rewards victimhood with status, in the form of op-ed space, speaking events, awards, book deals, general deference, and critical approbation, identity has become a very valuable form of currency. It makes sense that people will lie, cheat, and steal in order to get some. Expressing offense over a white person wearing a sombrero hat might seem ridiculous on its face—but for those who live inside these sententiously moralistic bubbles, it may be both a felt injury and a rational strategic choice.

Complaints about cultural appropriation are not really complaints, they are demands. When Abdel-Magied walked out on Shriver, it was not because of her insensitivity, it was because of her defiance: her refusal to kowtow to the orthodoxies written up by her moral betters, from which Abdel-Magied’s own claims to significance and social status are derived.

In their newly released book, The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars, the moral sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning describe the three main moral cultures that exist today, which they give the shorthand labels of dignity, honor, and victimhood. A dignity culture, which has been the dominant moral culture of Western middle classes for some time, has a set of moral values that promotes the idea of moral equality and was crystallized in Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision that people ought to be judged according to the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

Victimhood culture departs from dignity culture in several important ways. Moral worth is in large part defined by the color of one’s skin, or at least one’s membership in a fixed identity group: i.e., women, people of color, LGBTIQ, Muslims, or indigenous peoples. Such groups are sacred, and a lack of deference to them is seen as a sign of deviance. The reverse is true for those who belong to groups that are considered historical oppressors: whites, males, straight people, Zionists. Anyone belonging to an “oppressor” group is stained by their privilege, or “whiteness,” and is cast onto the moral scrapheap.

In a recent interview in the online magazine which I edit, Quillette, I asked Campbell and Manning what they thought about cultural appropriation. They explained that they found such complaints baffling, like everybody else, but that they also “illustrate victimhood culture quite well.” One of the key components of victimhood culture is its projection of collective guilt, social offenses between individuals are no longer about the actual people involved, they are about “one social group harming another.”

RTWT

25 Jun 2018

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Name Pulled from Award over “Stereotypical Attitudes”

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Fox News:

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name is set to be removed from a major children’s book award after concerns were raised about the “Little House on the Prairie” author’s depiction of certain races in the early-to-mid 20th century.

The Association of Library Service to Children’s (ALSC) board voted unanimously on Saturday to rename the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” as the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award.”

The association, which took the vote at its board meeting in New Orleans, said the vote “was greeted by a standing ovation by the audience in attendance.”

Wilder is best known for her “Little House on the Prairie” novels, which the ALSC has stated “includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values” based on Wilder’s portrayal of black people and Native Americans.

The first award was given to Wilder in 1954. The ALSC, which is based in Chicago, says her work continues to be published and read but her “legacy is complex” and “not universally embraced.

RTWT

I expect that Wilder’s Libertarian views were actually more responsible for provoking the animosity of ALSC members.

16 Jun 2018

The Right to Discriminate

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One of the bookplates used by Harry Worcester Smith, 1865-1945.

Bruce Walker argues, perfectly correctly, that people have a right to discriminate.

The left has created a macabre myth that runs counter to the whole experience of mankind. The left has persuaded the gullible masses of America, including, sadly, most conservatives, that “discrimination” by individuals and businesses is wrong and that it violates the Constitution.

Precisely the opposite is true. All serious cognition and all honest moral judgments involve discrimination. When individuals and businesses are not free to discriminate, then the power to determine what is true and false and good and bad becomes the sole property of the state – or that even more odious creature, that lobotomized Frankenstein monster, “society.”

Instead of diverse opinions and actions freely manifest, which are what happens when the state and society are denied the power to force a certain viewpoint down the throats of private citizens and enterprises, what happens is that all debate, all differences, and all individuality are crushed based upon what those who run the state or manipulate society deem sacrosanct.

RTWT

The framers never intended there to be federal laws and actual divisions of the Department of Justice prying into American’s hearts and minds and telling them what they can and cannot do with respect to their own property or businesses.

I may think, almost all of us might think, your personal opinions and inclinations wrong, stupid, even reprehensible, but that gives the rest of us no right whatsoever to tell you that you have to hire, rent to, or serve somebody against your will.

04 Jun 2018

If You Were Wondering Why Trump Won…

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