Elsewhere (271)

Jonah Goldberg on “cultural appropriation” and pretentious outrage: 

Nearly every meal you’ve ever eaten is the by-product of centuries of cultural appropriation, to one extent or another. This column is written in English, a language that contains hundreds of thousands of words appropriated from other tongues. Just under two-thirds of our language derives from Latin or French. About a quarter is Germanic in origin. And about a sixth comes from Greek, Arabic and other languages… We are living through the greatest period of poverty alleviation in all of human history right now because countries in Asia and Africa have appropriated many economic policies and practices — free markets, property rights, etc. — that began as quirky artefacts of English and Dutch culture.

Douglas Murray on race and casting: 

In an era that is witnessing the politicisation and polarisation of absolutely everything, the realm of fiction and art – one of the great barrier-breakers we have – is also becoming a battle-ground for racial exclusivity and racial exclusion… Perhaps those who are attempting to push such agendas will at some point wake up to the fact that they are heading towards an almighty logical crash. For the same logic that saw Sierra Boggess [hounded] off West Side Story [for not being Puerto Rican] can just as easily be used to insist that all future Prince Hals or Isoldes should be white. Casting can either be colour blind or colour-obsessed. It cannot be both.

Kristian Niemietz on the media’s tongue-bathing of Marxism: 

If your ideas require impossible standards of purity in implementation in order to work, then maybe your ideas are not as great as you think they are. A good idea will still work out okay even in a distorted and poorly implemented version. That, arguably, is a big part of what makes a good idea good… Political and economic theories are never implemented in pure form, and their adherents are rarely impressed by politicians who claim to be inspired by them. That’s just par for the course. Marxists, however, are pretty much the only thinkers who accept no responsibility whatsoever for real-world approximations of their ideas. 

And the late Leszek Kolakowski on Marx’s knack for being wrong: 

What in the twentieth century perhaps comes closest to the working class revolution [predicted by Marx] were the events in Poland of 1980-81: the revolutionary movement of industrial workers (very strongly supported by the intelligentsia) against the exploiters, that is to say, the state. And this solitary example of a working class revolution (if even this may be counted) was directed against a socialist state, and carried out under the sign of the cross, with the blessing of the Pope. 

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.

Elsewhere (251)

Myron Magnet on ‘progressive’ policy versus the skills of city living: 

Civility — the art of living in a city — is not innate. We have to learn to stand in line and take our turn, not to blast music from our apartment or car, not to block the sidewalk or market aisle, not to yell on our cell phones, not to litter, not to monopolise public spaces with our “expressive” behaviour, not to bother or offend others unnecessarily. We no longer teach civility in schools: instead of the “citizenship” that my generation learned, we impart “social justice,” which teaches grievance and resentment of others; and city officials, with an Obama edict’s backing, have hamstrung school discipline, fostering misbehaviour. In college, we don’t teach free and civil discussion, tolerance of intellectual differences, or respect for learning, but only a kid’s right to resent microaggressions and silence politically incorrect speech as “violence.” The result will not be urbanity.

And further to this item here, Professor Charles H F Davis returns to the public eye

A University of Southern California professor says he stands behind his tweets that… call for whiteness to be “destroyed,” and the promotion of violence against the “white supremacist heterosexist patriarchy.”

“White supremacist heterosexist patriarchy needs to get the violence it imparts,” says the professor, who invokes “black rage” as a self-validating phenomenon, a kind of moral mic-drop, as if anger were synonymous with righteousness. “Whiteness and white supremacy,” he adds, “must be, by any and all means, destroyed.” This bold, if adolescent, proclamation is followed, belatedly, by a denial of cultivating racial acrimony, and an assurance that “whiteness,” which the professor despises and wishes to see “eradicated,” is “neither synonymous with nor exclusive to white people.” Which I’m sure is a great comfort to any melanin-deficient students in the professor’s proximity, and whose concerns regarding such language are dismissed as “white fragility.” Readers may wish to ponder how such assurances can be squared with the professor’s chosen Twitter banner, or his endorsement via Twitter of sentiments such as these.

Added: Somewhat relevant.

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.

More Proof That I Am Not a Thirteen-Year-Old Girl

Victor Luckerson, Time magazine:

Text messaging is on the decline, according to a new study by mobile industry analyst Chetan Sharma… During the third quarter of 2012, the average American sent 678 texts per month. That’s a big number, but it’s actually the first time America’s texting habit has declined, down from a peak of 696 texts per month over the summer. Experts say the decrease is likely a sign of a permanent shift away from SMS messaging carried over the same network we use to make phone calls. “With social networking and other platforms, they really take the messaging feature away from that usual channel,” says Wayne Lam, a wireless communication analyst at IHS Technology. “Consumers are messaging, but text messaging as a whole is competing with other forms of messaging.” 

And remember, phone years are like dog years. If you haven’t upgraded yours in the last 18 months, there’s a good chance you’ll be looked on as some kind of contrarian throwback to the Dark Ages. A couple of months ago I ventured into a popular high street phone shop to get a new SIM. A greasy young man in bad trousers looked at my old BlackBerry as if it had been unearthed in the ruins of Xunantunich. “Wow,” said he with just a hint of amused contempt. “Old school. I haven’t seen one of these in years.” Greasy Teen then struggled in vain to open the casing, as if eager to behold its clockwork innards. The device was indeed four years old, before human history began, so obviously the locking mechanism was inscrutable to him, involving as it did the pushing of one button. Then came the inevitable, shame-inducing question. “Have you thought about upgrading?” 

And since you ask, yes, I did.

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Via Samizdata, Frank J Fleming ponders the role of President: 

What was the concept of the U.S. government when it was created? That it’s our servant — we’re in charge of it. The president serves at our pleasure. So the president trying to lead us is like your butler dictating your agenda for the day. What would you do if your butler tried that? That’s right: You’d lock him in a small room in the wine cellar for a couple of days to teach him his place. Yet somehow we not only put up with the president trying to lead us, but we’ve come to expect it. 

Related, Jeff Goldstein on two visions of government: 

Either you believe the government owns you, and therefore you owe it tribute which it will then, in its wisdom, distribute as it sees fit; or you believe you own the government, and that while you keep more of your money and the fruits of your labour and allow the bureaucracies to molest you less, the federal government can learn to make do with what we decide to give it in revenue. And if that means, for instance, Big Bird or Planned Parenthood or solar energy companies have to compete in the marketplace with Cartoon Network or Wal-Mart or frakking, oil drilling, coal mining, and natural gas pipelines, then so be it.

Somewhat related, Zombie is compiling a “complete list of Barack Obama’s scandals, misdeeds, crimes and blunders.” It’s an ongoing crowd-sourced project so submissions are welcome. 

And from the vaults, Heather Mac Donald on fatherhood and poverty:  

The premise of the Young Men’s Initiative, like that of its predecessors, is that government has the capacity to produce upstanding, bourgeois citizens - if it just gets all its agencies to act in a coordinated fashion. […] Since Mayor Bloomberg claims to be a fan of managing by information, here are some more data for him to focus on: in the Bronx’s Mott Haven neighbourhood in 2009, 84 percent of births were to unmarried women, according to city health statistics, followed by Brownsville, Brooklyn, at 81.2 percent; Hunts Points, the Bronx, at 80.4 percent; and Morrisania, the Bronx, at 79.1 percent. East Tremont (the Bronx), Bushwick (Brooklyn), and East New York (Brooklyn) all had out-of-wedlock birth rates well above 70 percent. Compare those with the rates in largely white neighbourhoods, such as Battery Park (6.8 percent), the Upper East Side (7.9 percent), and Murray Hill (8.6 percent). 

The breakdown of the family lies behind all other urban dysfunction. Until marriage is restored as the norm for child-rearing in the inner city, black and Hispanic crime rates and education failure will continue to be disproportionate. No government programme can possibly compensate for the absence of fathers in the home and the absence of the cultural expectation that men will be responsible for their children. […] The mayor is eager to talk about marriage for gays and lesbians, but he cannot bring himself to use the word when it comes to black and Hispanic heterosexual couples.

But hey, let’s do what Laurie Penny says instead. Yes, “fuck marriage,” “fuck monogamy” and fuck all of those other “small ugly ambitions.” Because, rather like Laurie herself, it’s all so incredibly radical and defiant. Just don’t look too closely at the practical results. 


Speaking of practical results, or the denial thereof, let’s not overlook the bewildered educator Grover Furr. A Professor of Medieval English and a devout Marxist, Furr has been mentioned here before and readers may recall his indignation at the fact that a few non-leftists still have the temerity to remain in the humanities, despite the professor’s wishes for ideological purity. Well, it seems our unhinged academic is still sharing his wisdom with students.

Feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.

Elsewhere (61)

Heather Mac Donald on poverty and behaviour:  

We are supposed to assume that a 21-year-old mother of two should not have been expected to assess whether she and her male sexual partners were ready to support a family; it is for her to have babies and for taxpayers to provide for them. And if Temporary Assistance to Needy Families cuts off that support for failure to comply with its rules, [we are supposed to assume that] the problem lies with the law, not with the decision-making that led to the need for welfare in the first place. […] So assiduously non-judgmental is the liberal discourse around poverty that [New York Times reporter, Jason] DeParle portrays the crime committed by single mothers as the consequence of welfare reform — rather than of those mothers’ previous abysmal decision-making regarding procreation and their present lack of morals. […] Underclass poverty doesn’t just happen to people, as the left implies. It is almost always the consequence of poor decision-making — above all, having children out of wedlock.

Regarding the fallout of illegitimacy and absent fathers, see also this and this.

Related to the above, a vintage post by Peter Risdon:

One thing, and one thing only, keeps people trapped in the kind of poverty of mind where they don’t feed their children properly even when they could, and shit in their own stairwells. It’s a lack of ownership; a lack of self-reliance. It’s a lack of the very concept of self-reliance. It’s an idea that the mere thought that they should be self-reliant is immoral, evil, callous and cruel.

And a random thought from Thomas Sowell:

When politicians say, “spread the wealth,” translate that as “concentrate the power,” because that is the only way they can spread the wealth.

As usual, feel free to add your own.

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Via Kate, Michael Moynihan on the reprehensible fantasist Eric Hobsbawm:

In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of “15, 20 million people might have been justified” in establishing a Marxist paradise. “Yes,” Mr. Hobsbawm replied. Asked the same question the following year, he reiterated his support for the “sacrifice of millions of lives” in pursuit of a vague egalitarianism. That such comments caused surprise is itself surprising; Mr. Hobsbawm’s lifelong commitment to the Party testified to his approval of the Soviet experience, whatever its crimes. It’s not that he didn’t know what was going on in the dank basements of the Lubyanka and on the frozen steppes of Siberia. It’s that he didn't much care.

Readers of How to Change the World will be treated to explications of synarchism, a dozen mentions of the Russian Narodniks, and countless digressions on justly forgotten Marxist thinkers and politicians. But there is remarkably little discussion of the way communist regimes actually governed. There is virtually nothing on the vast Soviet concentration-camp system, unless one counts a complaint that “Marx was typecast as the inspirer of terror and gulag, and communists as essentially defenders of, if not participators in, terror and the KGB.” Also missing is any mention of the more than 40 million Chinese murdered in Mao’s Great Leap Forward or the almost two million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.

Similar sleight-of-hand and attempts to isolate Marx from the practical fallout of his totalitarian blueprint can be found here. And for sheer tragicomic delusion, this is tough to beatAs is this.

KC Johnson on the difficulties of juggling Designated Victim Groups:

The contemporary academic majority worships the trinity of race, class, and gender. Class is clearly the third wheel - unsurprisingly given that most tenured professors are well-off financially and secure in employment, and therefore don’t have a personal connection to the preferred ideological viewpoints on the issue. The competition for primacy between race and gender, however, is less clear-cut. In a matter like the lacrosse case, where the preferred viewpoint on class, race, and gender all dictated a rush to embrace false accuser Crystal Mangum’s wild claims, the result - as we all saw with the Group of 88’s activities - can be vicious. But the rape of Katie Rouse, a white Duke student, by a local black man was met with utter silence from the Group. As I noted at the time, they seemed desperate to avoid making a politically difficult choice.

Armed and Dangerous finds affirmation in a flash mob Bolero:

Ravel could not even have imagined the cellphones the musicians used for coordination; our capacity to transvaluate old forms – and our willingness to do so – is unparalleled in human history. What I saw in that video is that embracing this process of perpetual reinvention is what being “Western” means. We have developed more than any previous or competing civilisation the knack of using our past without being limited by it. I looked at those musicians and that audience, and what I didn’t see was decadence or exhaustion or self-hating multiculturalism. I felt like pumping my fist in the air and yelling “This is my civilisation!” It lives, and it’s beautiful, and it’s worth defending.

And Laban Tall notes a lesson in cultural contrasts:

From time to time, I fly to Stockholm from Manchester. On arriving at Arlanda, I’m greeted by giant posters of Stockholmers saying (in English), “Welcome to my town!” On return to Ringway, I’m greeted by posters warning me not to assault airport staff. A few months ago I flew to Munich for the first time. On arrival I was greeted by a Bluetooth message from BMW, promoting their cars. Returning to Manchester, I was greeted at luggage reclaim by a giant poster offering me a test for chlamydia.

As always, feel free to add your own.


Isn’t it difficult to register on these dating websites with only one name?

So asks the wonderful Mr Eugenides, with what I feel ought to count as a Classic Sentence from the Guardian. He’s responding to this,

After this long, dark, pointlessly bitter winter, my sap is rising at an exponential rate.

And this,

Usually, I only act when I see something completely and utterly spectacular, the ultimate best thing ever, a sole Prada piece in a sea of Primark.

And this,

What if “true love” is a pathetic, filthy, perfidious gigolo who will open its pants for anyone who shows it a little bit of attention? That is to say, it’s a deceitful and damaging fantasy.

All of which alerts us to the mating urges of Bidisha, the rising of whose sap raises issues of great intrigue. Who, after all, could hope to meet the exacting standards of a “non-white angry political female” who can detect misogyny and racism in the movements of atoms? And who describes those who don’t share her dogmatic suppositions as “lazy,” “complacent” and “apolitical.” And surely an official partnership is out of the question?

Wedlock. It’s the kind of word that ought to send chills down a modern woman’s spine. It describes with deadly aptness the prison-like qualities of that institution and evokes a cold sense of confinement and consignment... The hermetic seal of wedlock provides the perfect cover, the immaculate veneer which conceals at worst domestic violence and emotional abuse and, as a norm, a vast well-documented housework and childcare disparity between the sexes... I have no deep desire to get involved in the legalised prostitution trap cum labour exploitation racket that is wedded bliss.

There was, I seem to recall, a brief enthusiasm for the “kinkiness” of celibacy. Followed by much pining over the actress Sandra Bullock:    

I love Bullock’s tawny tallness... I also want to buff her all over and comb her russet hair for hours like a keen stablehand at a pony parlour.

I’d assumed Bidisha dealt with any residual mating urges by less orthodox means, thus signalling her status as a counter-cultural force. Say, by releasing spores into a strong crosswind.

Reheated (7)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives.

Thrashing the Hegemon.

Fearless artist José Carlos Teixeira gives Western society the thrashing it deserves.

Mr Teixeira’s ostentatious subversion is all the more amusing because it’s so conformist. He, like many others, is doing what he thinks he ought to be seen doing, if only by those playing much the same game. Making a thing of beauty isn’t a consideration and isn’t attempted, possibly because it doesn’t suit the role-play of being a “social and political agent.” What matters to Mr Teixeira is demonstrating his compliance with the belief that art should be a vehicle for anti-bourgeois gestures, which signals both the cleverness of the artist and his ideological credentials. This is done by muttering the standard incantations – “hegemony,” “subversion,” etc. The use of such terms indicates the artist belongs to an approved ideological caste and has the approved political views. (We can be fairly sure that the assumptions being “challenged” and “subverted” won’t include egalitarianism, the parasitic nature of arts subsidy or the latest conceits of the postmodern left.) So the more loudly a piece of art affects an air of subversive radicalism, the less reason there is to believe it delivers anything of the sort.

Moral Inertia.

Anti-social behaviour and the weight of doing nothing.

The stare, body language and bellowing have to be calibrated just so. Too little force and mockery may ensue – from which there’s no recovery. This is after all a game of humiliation. You have to look as though you mean it absolutely. Those being bellowed at have to at least entertain the possibility that you may do them serious harm if they fail to comply. The risk of embarrassment has to be theirs and theirs alone. This requires a certain willingness to look like an escaped mental patient, at least temporarily. But looking utterly bonkers and socially incongruous is much easier to do if you’re not inhibited by a large group of other people conspicuously doing nothing.

Every Bit as Hobbled.

Christina Hoff Sommers highlights inaccuracies in feminist textbooks. The Sisterhood takes umbrage.

Needless to say, Sommers’ line of enquiry isn’t universally welcomed. Her points about gross errors, overstatement and competitive victimhood are often met with prickling indignation, not least from those whose activities include some combination of the above. Some denounce Sommers as “conservative” – a synonym for evil – a “female impersonator” and an “anti-feminist,” a term that suggests both the crime of apostasy and a very narrow definition of what “real” feminists should be concerned with and how they’re permitted see the world.

There’s more, of course, in the greatest hits.