Category Archive 'Ressentiment'
15 Dec 2019

How Marxists Invented “Hispanics”

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In a must-read article in Claremont Review, Mike Gonzalez explains how the Marxist Left successfully created a second imaginary racial category of victims and turned White Mexicans brown.

I know a Spanish count, a grandee of Spain and a descendant of the Hapsburgs, who got into Yale as a Hispanic victim of White European Oppression. He thought it was hilarious.

America’s surging politics of victimhood and identitarian division did not emerge organically or inevitably, as many believe. Nor are these practices the result of irrepressible demands by minorities for recognition, or for redress of past wrongs, as we are constantly told. Those explanations are myths, spread by the activists, intellectuals, and philanthropists who set out deliberately, beginning at mid-century, to redefine our country. Their goal was mass mobilization for political ends, and one of their earliest targets was the Mexican-American community. These activists strived purposefully to turn Americans of this community (who mostly resided in the Southwestern states) against their countrymen, teaching them first to see themselves as a racial minority and then to think of themselves as the core of a pan-ethnic victim group of “Hispanics”—a fabricated term with no basis in ethnicity, culture, or race.

This transformation took effort—because many Mexican Americans had traditionally seen themselves as white. When the 1930 Census classified “Mexican American” as a race, leaders of the community protested vehemently and had the classification changed back to white in the very next census. …

They had the law on their side: a federal district court ruled in In Re Ricardo Rodríguez (1896) that Mexican Americans were to be considered white for the purposes of citizenship concerns. …
And so as late as 1947, the judge in another federal case (Mendez v. Westminster) ruled that segregating Mexican-American students in remedial schools in Orange County was unconstitutional because it represented social disadvantage, not racial discrimination. At that time Mexican Americans were as white before the law as they were in their own estimation.

Half a century later, many Mexican Americans had been persuaded of a very different origin story. Among the persuaders-in-chief was Paul Ylvisaker, head of the Public Affairs Program at New York’s wealthy Ford Foundation during the 1950s and ’60s. Though little-known today, he wielded great power and influence to advance a particular vision of social justice inspired partly by socialism and its politics of resentment. Ylvisaker hoped, as he later put it in a 1991 essay, “The Future of Hispanic Nonprofits,” that Mexican Americans could be organized into a “united front.” That concept, formulated in 1922 by the Comintern, implied a union of disparate groups on the Left into what the Comintern’s 4th World Congress called “a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie.”

Ylvisaker, who saw philanthropy as “the passing gear” of social change, set off to find out if something similar was possible with Mexican Americans. In 1968, he poured $2.2 million in seed funding into the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a national advocacy conglomerate whose headquarters still buzz with activity in Los Angeles today.

He built on foundations laid by the organizing guru Saul Alinsky, who had begun the effort to consolidate the Mexican-American vote during Ed Roybal’s 1949 L.A. City Council election. Roybal, an army veteran and distant descendant of New Mexico’s Spanish settlers, was one of many Democrats at the time whose success in local politics owed much to Alinsky’s organizing tactics. Alinsky’s groups also trained men like Herman Gallegos, Julian Samora, and Ernesto Galarza—Chicano Movement intellectuals who used Ylvisaker’s Ford Foundation money (starting with a one-year grant of $630,000) to found the interest group La Raza in 1968.

What all these radicals sought—and were quite successful at eventually achieving—was to analogize the experience of black Americans to that of Latinos. The term La Raza, literally “the race,” by itself epitomized this process of racialization. Ylvisaker was direct on this point. In 1964 he handed UCLA researchers the then-goodly sum of $647,999 for a deep survey of Mexican Americans in the Southwest. One of the things he wanted this survey to find out was in what respect the Mexican-American experience was comparable to that of “Negroes today.”

RTWT

If you look at any university today, you’ll find that the same bad guys have also got Asian kids brainwashed into signing on as another whiny victim group fighting against White Male Oppression, quite ironically since the only real modern discrimination against Asians consists of college admission quotas created and enforced by the very same Left-Wing Establishment that leads them around by the nose.

09 Dec 2019

Universities Today

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22 Nov 2019

That’s Important!

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The Crimson reports on the latest vital and totally relevant administrative initiative up there at the little commuter school of the Charles.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow announced the creation of a University-wide initiative to address and further research the school’s ties to slavery in an email sent to Harvard affiliates Thursday.

Bacow selected Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin to be the head of a new University-wide faculty committee that will lead the initiative. The University has designated $5 million for the program, according to Bacow’s email.
“It is my hope that the work of this new initiative will help the university gain important insights about our past and the enduring legacy of slavery — while also providing an ongoing platform for our conversations about our present and our future as a university community committed to having our minds opened and improved by learning,” Bacow wrote.

Bacow wrote that the Radcliffe Institute will work closely with library and museum staff to host both programs and academic opportunities related to the issue.

“By engaging a wide array of interests and expertise, as Radcliffe is uniquely suited to do, this initiative will reflect the remarkable power of bringing together individuals from across Harvard in pursuit of a common purpose,” he wrote.

Other faculty on the 12-person committee include former Law School Dean Martha L. Minow and former Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds.

Bacow’s announcement comes as the University continues to grapple with its ties to slavery. In March, Connecticut resident Tamara K. Lanier filed a lawsuit against Harvard alleging the University unlawfully owns and profits off photos of enslaved people who she says are her ancestors.

Earlier this month, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda penned a letter to Bacow demanding reparations from Harvard for its historical ties to slavery.

In his letter, Bacow also wrote about efforts that former University President Drew G. Faust spearheaded several years ago like installing memorials commemorating enslaved individuals at Wadsworth House and Harvard Law School, and creating a faculty committee to study the University’s ties to slavery.

In February 2016, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith announced that faculty leaders of the 12 undergraduate houses would be renamed “Faculty Deans” — a shift away from the former term “House Master,” which some students associated with slavery.

A month later, the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — agreed to remove the Law School’s controversial seal, which featured the crest of a slaveholding family. The decision came after pieces of black tape were found over the portraits of black Law School professors in November 2015 and months of student protests.

The initiative announced Thursday will focus on researching further the connections Harvard has to the slave trade and to abolition movements, Bacow said in his email.

“Harvard has a unique role in the history of our country, and we have a distinct obligation to understand how our traditions and our culture here are shaped by our past and by our surroundings — from the ways the university benefitted from the Atlantic slave trade to the debates and advocacy for abolition on camp,” Bacow wrote.

After all, hey! it’s only been a mere 236 years since Massachusetts abolished Slavery in 1783!

The great discovery of our Enlightened Age is the principle that the Universe revolves around left-wing sob stories.

14 Nov 2019

Time to Re-Write History at Yale Med School

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The current issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine features a chin-stroking article identifying a PROBLEM and wondering whether or not SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

The problem? 55 portraits hanging in Yale Medical School’s Sterling Hall of Medicine, honoring distinguished former faculty feature the images of 52 white men and three white women.

Walls lined with portraits of past Yale medical luminaries—almost all of them white men—lead some medical students to feel that they themselves don’t belong at the school, a recent study found.

Two students interviewed 15 of their peers, asking them open-ended questions about their thoughts on the paintings in the Sterling Hall of Medicine. The portraits feature 52 white men and 3 white women.

Some students said the portraits displayed values of whiteness, elitism, maleness, and power. Some felt “judged and unwelcome”; one said, “If these portraits could speak, they would not be so excited about me . . . being a student here.” Some reported joking about the portraits or avoiding Sterling altogether.

“For many interviewed students, the portraiture signified that they did not fit the model of the ideal Yale physician,” wrote coauthors Nientara Anderson ’06, ’20MD, and Elizabeth Fitzsousa ’21MD. (The study is online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.) To many women students and students of color, the portraits represent a constant force of disapproval, says Anderson. Medical students of color, she adds, often already face challenges to their right to care for patients in the hospital. Other researchers have found that students who feel they’re on the margins may experience greater stress, potentially eroding their ability to succeed.

What should become of the portraits? It’s hard to know, but the conversation has begun, Anderson says. “In recent years, this is the first time this question is being raised with such force,” she adds. “There’s no road map.”

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Actually, Springer wants $39.95 for you to download and read the article. Nor is it available through a major research library like Yale University’s main library journal subscription service (accessible to alumni). You can only access that particular journal through Medical School libraries.

How worthwhile it would be to take the trouble to read the entire article is rather questionable. Why would anyone take seriously a “study” which consisted of soliciting the personal opinions of a mere 15 people?

Nonetheless, all three authors now sit on the Yale School of Medicine Committee on Art in Public Spaces, “work[ing] to ensure that artwork hung in public areas of the medical school reflects the mission, history, and diversity of the Yale medical community.” Anna Reisman M.D., who co-chairs the committee, says “this study is an important step in effecting institutional change.” And the Yale Alumni Magazine has joined in promoting it as “the beginning of a conversation” about just what’s going to happen to all those portraits of Dead, White Men.

I think we all know just how this kind of “conversation” always ends.

15 Sep 2019

Europe Faces Death by Bad Conscience

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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, it’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 Merkel’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 pastor’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 attacked—by terrorists, for example—it’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 sanctity—immigration and ecology.

RTWT

11 Jul 2019

More Reparations Needed

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Sahil Matani points out, tongue firmly in cheek, that, as it is now proposed to compensate hereditary victims of Slavery, it can easily be argued that the same principle ought to be applied even more broadly, going back in History even farther, and farther, and farther.

One glaring example is the great evil visited on the Anglo-Saxon population by the Normal Conquest of 1066. By any standard, the effect on indigenous English society was enduring devastation. Through war, invasion and genocide, the Anglo-Saxon ruling class was almost entirely replaced, control of the church and state surrendered to foreign adversaries, English replaced by Norman French as the language of government, and England’s entire political, social and cultural orientation shifted from Northern Europe to the continent for the next thousand years.

This matters because, just as the pain of colonialism continues to be endured by its descendants, the Conquest continues to have lasting effects. In his study of surnames and social mobility, economic historian Gregory Clark concluded that Norman surnames continue to be 25 per cent overrepresented at Oxbridge to this day relative to other indigenous English surnames. As Clark put it: ‘The fact that Norman surnames had not been completely average in their social distribution by 1300, by 1600, or even by 1900 implies astonishingly slow rates of social mobility during every epoch of English history.’ Not for nothing did Nonconformists and Whigs loudly oppose ‘the Norman yoke’ during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Cambridge University, which still drips with Norman money and influence, should now consider to what extent it needs to compensate its Anglo-Saxon victims. The Sutton Trust estimates that Oxbridge graduates earn £400,000 more during their lifetimes than graduates from other UK universities. These figures imply that descendants of the rapacious Norman invader class could be earning tens of thousands of pounds more than other graduates — an undeserved lifetime premium that has survived 31 generations. So, reparations must certainly be made. But who shall pay, and who shall receive?

It should be straightforward for a Royal Commission to trace the present-day descendants of Britain’s Norman usurpers through a combination of genealogical and administrative research as well as — inevitably — mandatory genetic testing. A small tax on the Lampards, Vardys and Gascoignes of the world, payable to the Bamfords, Bransons and Ecclestones, would be sufficient to catalyse healing for the open sores of the past.

What are the sums involved? By 1086, the Norman arrivistes had stolen almost a third of the 12.5 million acres of arable land in England, parcelling it into manorial estates. At a conservative estimate, that land is now worth £7,000 per acre — or £25 billion in total that the Normans owe Anglo-Saxons for the Conquest. France’s liability could, of course, be offset against our exit bill from the EU.

There will be inevitable quibbles, such as descendants of Normans claiming that they were not personally responsible. But this is feeble prattle. Countries typically honour treaties dating hundreds of years in the past, despite no one being alive who signed them. We pay debts accumulated by previous generations.

RTWT

14 Feb 2019

Millennial Snowflakes at Yale Apparently Need a Professional “Cool Aunt/Uncle” Whom They Can Run to Whenever They Feel “Unsafe” or “Uncomfortable” on Campus

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Snowflakes at Wellesley reacting to 2016 Election returns.

My blood boiled this morning when I read this reply to a question on Quora:

TheFire.Org asked, rhetorically:

Is the reaction of Yale University students against professor Erika Christakis email the signal of the start of the steep and rapid decline of Yale and its motto of truth?

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Cathy Xue, Silliman ’19 replied:

During the 2015–2016 school year, I was a freshman in Silliman College, where Erika Christakis was Associate Master (the position of “Master” has since been re-titled as “Head of College” or “HoC”). *Mrs. Christakis’ decision to express her opinions on free speech and Halloween costumes in an email the students of Silliman College, **/where she occupied a position of authority/**, was inappropriate. *I do not doubt that if she instead published her statement in a more general forum, for example as an op-ed in the /Yale Daily News/, that the reaction would not be as intense.

Basically, *Erika Christakis failed her duty as Associate Master by sending that email*, and this upset a number of students in Silliman College and in the broader Yale community. At Yale, the role of (Associate) Master/HoC is one of social and community leadership and support — kind of like the cool aunt/uncle for the 400 or so students under their watch. Erika Christakis was supposed to be someone that Silliman students could feel comfortable approaching if they felt unsafe or uncomfortable on campus. Instead, she indicated to her charges that she valued the principle of free speech and intellectual discussion over the very real personal hurt that insensitive language or other expression (like Halloween costumes, for example) might cause.

Also, the negative reaction didn’t occur in a vacuum — other events had already fueled discussion and unrest about racism on campus.

And unconditional emotional support is more important to them than Free Speech.

I’d say: Yale made a huge mistake whenever it started admitting these kinds of spoiled, entitled, sensitive blooming plants.

The Master (Bugger that “Head of College” nonsense!) of a Yale Residential College, I have news for you, Snowflakes, was never intended to be the “Cool Aunt/Uncle” meant to be used as a crying towel at all.

College Masters, in my day, were older male faculty members of distinction whose role was approximately that of the British Viceroy of some minor Imperial Colony. He received a suitably impressive residence and an expense budget. His role was to preside as Master of Ceremonies over regular significant events, to represent the college officially, and to exist remotely, floating above the daily life of the college, as a benign tutelary deity, capable of dipping into that special budget under his control to bestow special favors, a celebratory dining-hall feast, a high-end table soccer game for the Common Room, special funding for the print shop or the wood shop.

The actual administrative work of the college, the disciplinary role, the shit work generally was all handled by the Dean, an humble graduate student type, only a bit older than the undergraduates, who was burnishing up his resume with an eye to future university administrative grandeur at some rinky dink institution far away from Yale.

The College Master could be relied upon to smile benevolently in your direction and to acknowledge you with a “Hullo!” or “Good Morning!” when passing by, but no one, in the pre-millennial Yale, would have dreamt of running crying to the College Master that his feelings had been hurt, Boo hoo!

Nobody, in the old days, old enough and smart enough to get into Yale could possibly have been imagined to consider himself “unsafe” or “uncomfortable” as the result of some other student or students wearing Halloween costumes.

In the old Yale, the natural response to some inadvertent insult, would have been to shrug it off. The natural response to a deliberate insult would have been to retort with a wittier and more devastating response.

21 Jan 2019

Five Rectors and, At Least, Eleven Presidents of Yale Are Spinning in Their Graves

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The Oldest College Daily reported last week on Yale’s latest accommodation to the Zeitgeist.

Students can now change their registered gender in the University Student Information System, University Registrar Emily Shandley announced in an email to the Yale community Wednesday.

The policy change arrived two months after the Trans Rights Coalition at Yale — a newly formed group of Yale-affiliated organizations — launched a petition calling on University President Peter Salovey to uphold, protect and reinforce trans rights at Yale. According to the email, students may change their gender online at any time, and it may differ from their legal sex. If students wish to update their personal data on Yale’s Student Information System, they will have three gender options: M for male, F for female and N for nonbinary. Students have the option to fill in any additional information regarding their gender in a text box.

This change in the university system comes just months after The New York Times reported a leaked memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that defined gender as an immutable biological trait under Title IX law.

“Recognizing the importance for students to be able to identify their gender beyond the standard binary options for legal sex in University records, the Office of the University Secretary, the Office of Provost, Information Technology Services, and the University Registrar’s Office, worked together to draft a policy for gender identity at Yale and to build the technology infrastructure to support a self-service option for student to change their gender, on their own, at any time,” Shandler wrote in an email to the News.

Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun said that this addition helps University technology “catch up with current understanding and practice of gender.”

RTWT

If there were a current constituency of madmen thinking they were each Napoleon, and they self-identified as victims, Yale would probably be offering the choice of the title of Mister, Ms., or Your Imperial Highness.

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.

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