Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Mind of Camille Paglia

For those of us who enjoy reading Camille Paglia we now have a smorgasbord of her ideas in interview she did with’s Nick Gillespie.

I have posted about Paglia’s views on numerous occasions. There’s no harm, as I see it, in reviewing some of her thoughts.

You will recall that Paglia has declared that many graduates of America’s finest institutions have minds like jello:

I've encountered these graduates of Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton, I've encountered them in the media, and people in their 30s now, some of them, their minds are like Jell-O. They know nothing! They've not been trained in history. They have absolutely no structure to their minds. Their emotions are unfixed. The banality of contemporary cultural criticism, of academe, the absolute collapse of any kind of intellectual discourse in the U.S. is the result of these colleges, which should have been the best, instead having retracted into caretaking. The whole thing is about approved social positions in a kind of misty love of humanity, without any direct knowledge of history or economics or anthropology.

These minds do not contain knowledge. They are prey to the vagaries of emotion. They wallow in critical banalities and have never learned to think clearly about culture or history or economics. They read clowns like Slavoj Zizek and fools like Judith Butler and think they have learned something.

Worse yet, Paglia continues, the great American nation has been descending into decadence. No stranger to decadence herself Paglia understands that people who put their sexuality front and center, who publicize it, suffer from moral lassitude:

But over time, what's happened, I think, is that gender identity has become really almost fascist. It's to me a very shrunk and miniaturized way of perceiving your position in the world and in the universe.

There [comes] a time when these fine gradations of gender identity—I'm a male trans doing this, etc.—this is a symbol of decadence, I'm sorry.Sexual Personae talks about this: That was in fact the inspiration for it, was that my overview of history and my noticing that in late phases, you all of a sudden get a proliferation of homosexuality, of sadomasochism, or gendered games, impersonations and masks, and so on. I think we're in a really kind of late phase of culture.

A decadent culture is a culture in decline. It no longer has the will or the courage to compete. It merely wants to sit back and indulge.

I have often mused about this topic. Here is Paglia’s analysis:

Yes! Western culture is in decline. There's absolutely no doubt about it, in my view, looking at the history of Egypt, of Babylon, of Byzantium, and so on. And so what's happening is everyone's so busy-busy-busy with themselves, with this narcissistic sense of who they are in terms of sexual orientation or gender, and this intense gender consciousness, woman consciousness at the same time, and meanwhile...

Unfortunately, the concept of gender has become unmoored. It no longer has anything to do with reality. As Paglia (and I) would say it, the discourse lacks a referent:

But I think most of the problems as I perceive them in my students and so on, is that there's this new obsession with where you are on this wide gender spectrum. That view of gender seems to me to be unrealistic because it's so divorced from any biological referent. I do believe in biology, and I say in the first paragraph of Sexual Personae that sexuality is an intricate intersection of nature and culture. But what's happened now is that the way the universities are teaching, it's nothing but culture, and nothing's from biology. It's madness! It's a form of madness, because women who want to marry and have children are going to have to encounter their own hormonal realities at a certain point.

Moving on to politics, Paglia, like most sensible Obama supporters, is disillusioned. She had hoped that an Obama presidency would promote racial harmony. Now, she sees that it has done anything but:

I voted for Obama, but I've been disappointed. I think we had hoped that he would inaugurate a period of racial harmony, and I think the situation has actually become even worse over recent years. It seems to be overt inflammatory actions by the administration to pit the races against each other, so I think there's a lot of damage that needs to be healed.

And then, there’s Hillary. In some sense Paglia identifies with Hillary. And yet, she cannot support a Hillary candidacy. You see, she thinks that Hillary is a fraud.

As always, she does not mince words. Here is her dialogue with Gillespie:

reason: So what is it about Hillary that bothers you?

Paglia: She's a fraud!

reason: Explain how.

Paglia: She can't have an opinion without poll-testing it. She's a liar. This is not a strong candidate for our first woman president. To me, Dianne Feinstein should have presented herself.

Later in the interview, Paglia elaborates:

Hillary is a mess. And we're going to award the presidency to a woman who's enabled the depredations and exploitation of women by that cornpone husband of hers? The way feminists have spoken makes us blind to Hillary's record of trashing [women]. They were going to try to destroy Monica Lewinsky. It's a scandal! Anyone who believes in sexual harassment guidelines should have seen that the disparity of power between [Bill] Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was one of the most grotesque ever in the history of sex crime. He's a sex criminal! We're going to put that guy back in the White House? Hillary's ridden on his coattails. This is not a woman who has made her own career. The woman failed the bar exam in Washington! The only reason she went to Arkansas and got a job in the Rose Law Firm was because her husband was a politician.

As I say, Camille Paglia always has interesting things to say.


JK Brown said...

It is not that the students described are unknowledgeable, they are uneducated. While it used to be possible to achieve the seed that could grow into being educated from our centers of teaching that seems to be becoming lost. Perhaps it was inevitable with our hubris of thinking one could be provided an education instead of being instructed in facts while being shown by example and training how to become educated? We test for facts as they can be seen objectively but have abandoned assessment for comprehension as its subjectivity opens the door to accusations of cultural hegemony.

Usage: Education, properly a drawing forth, implies not so
much the communication of knowledge as the discipline
of the intellect, the establishment of the principles,
and the regulation of the heart.
Instruction is that
part of education which furnishes the mind with
knowledge. Teaching is the same, being simply more
familiar. It is also applied to practice; as, teaching
to speak a language; teaching a dog to do tricks.
Training is a department of education in which the
chief element is exercise or practice for the purpose
of imparting facility in any physical or mental
operation. Breeding commonly relates to the manners
and outward conduct.
[1913 Webster]

Dennis said...

I have often wondered why I find Camile Paglia interesting at the same time as being some what disturbed by the fact that something seems to be missing. Surfing the internet I came upon a comment on "instpundit" that create an "Ah Ha" moment for me.

"Paglia is merely smart enough to see the truth of leftism. However, she does not have the moral strength to usefully oppose it, like, say, David Horowitz. She seems a novelty to conservatives because she is not calling for our decapitation."


Unlike David Horowitz, who was a true believing leftist, who finally started asking himself where his ideas were going to ultimately lead and was horrified, Paglia seems not to have developed the moral courage to oppose it with actions as well as words.
At some point Paglia should recognize where leftist's ideas lead and be significantly horrified to be spurred into more than word play.

GutterDandy said...
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GutterDandy said...
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GutterDandy said...

It's always interested to hear the shrieking from the indoctrinated American minds who read an essay by Lacan in translation and subsequently consider themselves "theorists." And don't get me started about the currently fashionable, seemingly cocaine-fuelled (though he denies it) ramblings of the Lacanian Zizek, whose brain is pudding indeed. Lacan is undeniably bad for you and is far bigger with easily fooled American academics than he is anywhere else.

Paglia is twice as smart as these fools they sense it and resent her for it. She was needed in the 1990s and had a great effect on academe by shaming such jargon-ridden types, and as they have returned like The Walking Dead, Paglia is needed again now.