Monday, March 27, 2017

The Price of Solitude

It’s not your oral fixations. It’s not your anal retentiveness. It’s not your infantile narcissism. It’s not even your Oedipus complex.

Scientists—what would we do without scientists?—have discovered that people are getting sick and dying from a lack of social connections. That is, they are dying from loneliness. And from anomie, of course.

The evidence is clear. Karol Markowicz presents it in the New York Post (via Maggie’s Farm):

John T. Cacioppo, author of the book “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection,” writes that “social isolation has an impact on health comparable to the effect of high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity or smoking.” Numerous studies have concluded that loneliness is actually killing men prematurely.

Writing in The New York Times, Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, noted that “a wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones. One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent.”

Should we blame it on social media? Or on traditional media? The truth lies elsewhere. 

Let’s blame it on social mobility, and diversity. How many people do you know who grow up and grow old in the same neighborhood, within the same community? The ties that bound people in traditional communities no longer bind them. People get up and go. They move around the country and around the world. Everywhere they go they try to make new friends, often at the cost of old friends.

Adapting is not easy. Adapting means learning new customs and new mores. Sometimes it means learning a new language and new table manners. It means getting up to date on prior events in the community. It means understanding cultural references and social codes. It means working to make contact and to maintain contact. But it also means not being overly clingy and overly needy. It is a challenge, one that many people cannot meet.

If you move to a place where the population is diverse you will have even more problems fitting in. You will often not know the rules or even the game that people are playing. Different people come from different places and bring different customs with them. They are not necessarily going to throw it all away in order to assimilate into the new neighborhood. In some cases they will not throw any of it away. They continue to speak the language they spoke in the old country and function as though they had never left.

In a more diverse the community social life is more chaotic. In such cities people form subgroups that have their own rules and their own codes. But, such groups are often not easy to penetrate.

One hastens to add that falling in love does not address the issue. Finding your soul mate or the “One” will not solve the problem. Consider that many therapists believe that once you find true love your problems will vanish in the cold night air. Being in love is a type of social connection, but it does not and cannot and should not be a substitute for friendships and collegiality.

Obviously, it is easier to integrate if you have a job, if you are gainfully employed. That’s why Dr. Richard Mollica suggested that the best anti-depressant is a job. When you have a job you belong to an enterprise. The rules are clear. The roles are defined. People get along easily because they are not obliged to be too personal or too intimate with each other.

Or else, Markowicz explains, you can participate in activities with other parents in your child’s school. She notes that it does not feel very natural, but that it is a good thing.

Young people join cliques and gangs. Belonging brings them status and a structured social world. And yet, when they get older, when their old friends have moved away, they have more difficulty forming new friendships. Perhaps they should figure out a way to join a clique or a gang or even a club. Or maybe they should start hanging out at Cheers.

The moral of the story is that when we are thinking of how best to deal with mental health problems the answer does not lie in having more and better treatment options. It lies in more social contacts and more social relationships.

Capitalism Comes to Cambodia

The New York Times is reporting that Cambodians have replaced Karl Marx with Peter Drucker. You know all about Marx. As for Drucker, I have mentioned him occasionally on the blog. He was a famed management consultant, someone whose advice was sought out by the titans of American industry.

The Times reports:

For years, Tep Khunnal was the devoted personal secretary of Pol Pot, staying loyal to the charismatic ultracommunist leader even as the Khmer Rouge movement collapsed around them in the late 1990s.

Forced to reinvent himself after Pol Pot’s death, he fled to this outpost on the Thai border and began following a different sort of guru: the Austrian-American management theorist and business consultant Peter Drucker.

“I realized that some other countries, in South America, in Japan, they studied Drucker, and they used Drucker’s ideas and made the countries prosperous,” he said.

The residents of this dusty but bustling town are almost all former Khmer Rouge soldiers or cadres and their families, but they have come to embrace capitalism with almost as much vigor as they once fought to destroy class distinctions, free trade and even money itself.

After being impoverished by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, former Communist officials have discovered the virtue of prosperity. They are a bit late to the game. China turned got on the capitalist road in the late 1970s, under the aegis of Deng Xiaoping. Like the Chinese, the Cambodians decided to stop railing about inequality and to seek prosperity. They drew the same lesson that the Chinese did. Capitalism is better than starving to death. Who knew?

Here is one story of one former soldier, with a nod to the horrors that were inflicted on the Cambodian people by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge:

“We joined the communists, and now we have joined the capitalists, which is much better,” said Dim Sok, a local official.

Mr. Dim Sok, 65, was a nearly illiterate farmer when he became a revolutionary in 1970, fighting in the jungles with the Khmer Rouge for five years before they seized power. In an effort to remake the country into an agrarian utopia, the Khmer Rouge government swept the urban population into the countryside to live like peasants and smashed up banks and schools. At least 1.7 million people died under their nearly four-year rule.

The Times returns to Tep Khunnal, and show how he developed his business:

Malai was still a malaria-infested jungle stronghold when Mr. Tep Khunnal moved here in 1998, bringing with him Pol Pot’s widow, whom he married shortly after his boss’s death.

Along with a barely educated but savvy ex-soldier, Soom Yin, he took out a bank loan to test some of his ideas. Their company bought the area’s first corn-drying machine, imported a new breed of sun-resistant corn from Thailand and set up a quality-control system for the corn and cassava that moved through their warehouse.

Today, Mr. Soom Yin owns the largest export firm in the area and can talk for hours about the minutiae of the cassava trade, from moisture levels to price fluctuations. In his spare time, he said, he reads books on management.

The Khmer Rouge ways are “very old now,” he said. “Even me, I don’t even dream about that anymore. We just do business.”

Today Khunnal has retired and is teaching management theory in universities:

He said he began reading about economics while serving as a Khmer Rouge envoy to the United Nations in the 1980s. Although he liked Milton Friedman, the free-market economist, and Frederick Taylor, who pioneered scientific management, he was most drawn to Drucker’s insistence that employees were central to an enterprise’s success.

“What I find interesting for me is that he talks about individuals, he gives power to individuals, not to collectivism,” he said of Drucker. “Frederick Taylor in the early 20th century, he talked about efficiency, but Drucker talked about effectiveness.”

During a recent lecture, Mr. Tep Khunnal exhorted his students to remember that good management was just as important as good ideas.

“In-no-vation,” he said, using the English word, “means a new idea, but to be successful you need strategy.”

It’s not just an idea. In order to succeed you need to have a plan and an organization. And one thing is clear. Rail all you want about inequality, collectivizing agriculture is, as the Chinese discovered in the early 1960s, a formula for mass starvation.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Warrior in a Garden

From American Digest:


Tyranny in the Academy

Some time ago I suggested that New York is a city of free thinkers all of whom think exactly the same thing. The most recent presidential election proved my point. There is less diversity of opinion on Manhattan Island than there is in Manhattan, Kansas. Better yet, the margin of electoral victory in Clinton-loving New York far exceeded the margin of electoral victory in Trump-loving West Virginia.  And New Yorkers think that they are much, much smarter than the rubes in West Virginia. 

New Yorkers are twisting their minds into knots because they do not understand what happened to “their” country. They ought to have noticed that their favorite sources of information, led by The New York Times have been feeding them predigested propaganda, little of which is designed to inform and most of which is designed to tell them what to think. It provides them with just enough skewed facts to make the accepted beliefs plausible. I will not rehash the issue, but in the aftermath of the election Times media critic Jim Rutenberg apologized to his readers for the appallingly bad job the newspaper had been doing. Of course, when it comes to the media, there is a marketplace, and media organs like the Times are barely surviving.

Anyway, New York’s intellectual guardian class cannot enforce its will by the exercise of raw power. It can punish people by marginalizing them, by ensuring that they not be invited to the right cocktail parties, and even, at times by stifling their careers. One suspects that the work of brainwashing and indoctrination began earlier in a place where a guardian class did its work by exercising power over children’s lives and livelihoods.

American institutions of higher and lower education seem, to the eye of John Boyers, to be functioning through social coercion, but in truth they exercise power with the grading pencil. They determine where you can go to college and graduate school. A student who has not escaped to the STEM world will be judged negatively (and ruthlessly) for any deviation from politically correct thinking. A child who defies the brainwashed legions who are controlling academia will end up with bad grades. At the same time, those students who buy into the prevailing ideological dogmas will have been deprived of an education, will have been taught how not to think. In some sense it’s more serious, because such a cohort cannot be expected to lead a great nation to a great future.

Aside from this minor point, Boyers’ article about how the American academy produces groupthink is excellent. He notes that in places like Middlebury College the politics of hysteria have taken hold. Anyone who would dare hold a dissenting opinion has been put on notice. Your job, your career, your future, even your life will be attacked if you hold the wrong opinion. We are obviously dealing with an inquisitional atmosphere where witch hunts are the order of the day. If these grand and petty inquisitors feel threatened by certain political figures, this does not feel like a very bad thing.

Boyers points out that liberal academics insist that they embrace diversity of opinion. This means that they are either deluded or are self-righteous hypocrites… or both:

… the Middlebury incident doesn’t begin to reveal the depth or virulence of the opposition to robust discussion within the American professoriate, where many self-described liberals continue to believe that they remain committed to "difference" and debate, even as they countenance a full-scale assault on diversity of outlook and opinion.

Boyers offers up a passage from John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” noting that all academics agree with its every word:

Of course we understand that "the tyranny of the majority" must be guarded against — even when it is our majority. Of course we understand that "the peculiar evil of silencing"— or attempting to silence — "the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing … posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: If wrong, they lose … the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

What can be more obvious than that? Of course we understand that there is danger in abiding uncritically with the views of one’s own "party" or "sect" or "class." Who among us doesn’t know that even ostensibly enlightened views cannot entitle us to think of those views, or of those who hold them, as "infallible"?

And of course, these principles are discarded when liberal academics are facing ideas that they define as “heretical,” that is, inherently dangerous. One notes, because one does not want to miss the point, that these card-carrying atheists have managed to dig up some of the long buried horrors of Western civilization:

Thus a great many contemporary liberals subscribe to the belief — however loath they may be to acknowledge it — that certain ideas are "heretical" or "divisive" and that those who dare to articulate them must be, in one way or another, cast out. The burning desire to paint a scarlet letter on the breast of those who fail to observe the officially sanctioned view of things has taken possession of many ostensibly liberal people in academe, which has tended more and more in recent years to resemble what the Yale English professor David Bromwich calls "a church held together by the hunt for heresies."

How is it all enforced?

While dissentient views are today not always "absolutely" interdicted, and we do not hear of persons who are imprisoned for espousing incorrect views, we do routinely observe that "active and inquiring intellects" are cast out of the community of the righteous by their colleagues and formally "investigated" by witch-hunting faculty committees and threatened with the loss of their jobs. 

What does it look like when a university ceases to be an institution of higher learning and gives itself over to a totalizing process where all courses— especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences— must produce minds that are connected by thinking the same thoughts and believing the same beliefs:

In the university it looks like a place in which all constituencies have been mobilized for the same end, in which every activity is to be monitored to ensure that everyone is "on board." Do courses in all departments reflect the commitment of the institution to raise "awareness" about all of the approved hot-button topics? If not, something must be done. Are all incoming freshmen assigned a suitably pointed, heavily ideological summer-reading text that tells them what they should be primarily concerned about as they enter? Check. Does the college calendar feature carefully orchestrated consciousness-raising sessions led by "human resources" specialists trained to facilitate "dialogues" leading where everyone must agree they ought to lead? Check. Is every member of the community primed to invoke the customary terms — "privilege," "power," "hostile," "unsafe" — no matter how incidental or spurious they seem in a given context? Essential.

It’s controlling and coercive. In such a world all academic material is judged by its ability to advance the ideological agenda. There is no right or wrong except as it affirms the value of the dogmatic beliefs. Your task, whether you like it or not, is to persuade your guardian masters that you are a true believer and that nothing can shake your belief.

It’s not just students minds that must be occupied and controlled. Thought leaders on campus have made it their mission to police the minds of their colleagues. You might have thought that tenure would protect professors from such harassment. You were wrong. What is happening on campus looks, feels and appears to use the tactics that were afoot with witch hunts and inquisitions.

Boyers writes:

The desire to cleanse the campus of dissident voices has become something of a mission. Shaming, scapegoating, and periodic ritual exorcisms are a prime feature of campus life. A distinguished scholar at my own college writes in an open email letter to the faculty that when colleagues who are "different" (in his case, nonwhite, nonstraight, nonmale) speak to us we are compelled not merely to listen but to "validate their experiences." When we meet at a faculty reception a week or so later and he asks what I think of his letter, I tell him I admire his willingness to share his thoughts but have been puzzling over the word "compelled" and the expression "validate their experiences." Does he mean thereby to suggest that if we have doubts or misgivings about what a colleague has said to us, we should keep our mouths firmly shut? Exactly, replies my earnest, right-minded colleague.

As for the theological roots of these efforts, Boyers explains:

In the early 1950s, Isaiah Berlin identified what he called "a common assumption" informing the work of Enlightenment thinkers: "that the answers to all of the great questions must of necessity agree with one another." This "doctrine," Berlin argued, "stems from older theological roots," and refuses to accept any suggestion that we must learn to live with irresolvable conflicts. The consequence? John Gray calls it "a monistic philosophy that opened the way to new forms of tyranny."

Do you see that it’s a form of tyranny?

The word "tyranny" is perhaps just a bit extravagant as a description of tendencies at work in the contemporary academy, and yet, when we speak of the attempt to create a total culture, dedicated to promoting a perfect consensus, we may well feel that we are confronting a real and present danger. The danger that context and complexity will count for nothing when texts or speech acts become triggers for witch hunts, and that wit and irony will be regarded as deplorable deviations from standard protocol. "Tyrants always want language and literature that is easily understood," Theodor Haecker observes.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

When Jack Becomes Jill

If there’s any consolation, the story comes to us from Great Britain, from the BBC. A television documentary entitled: “Young, Trans and Looking for Love” has discovered the brutal reality: when a young boy who thinks he is a girl goes out to try to pick up boys, he quickly discovers that when a boy learns that the boy who thinks he is a girl has boy parts he ceases to manifest any romantic interest.

Apparently, it never crosses anyone’s mind that these boys who think they are girls might try to pick up gay guys. I am confident that a gay male will not be put off by their boy parts.

There you have it. Problem solved. Sort of….

The producers of the documentary are puzzled. How does it happen in our enlightened age that these lotharios refuse to accept these boys who think they are girls for whoever they think they are? How dare they care about anatomy or even chromosomes?

The Mirror reports:

Claire has also begun making social media diaries of her transition, sharing her experiences with transgender teens across the world.

Hoping on finding a boyfriend, she reveals that she doesn't like telling people the truth and is desperate for an operation.

She says: "In a lot of ways, I don't like telling a guy. Once I tell him all respect goes out of the window.

"Straight guys just can't get over you having the male parts.

"Once I've had or get the surgery, I think it will change a lot for me because right now if I meet a straight guy and he doesn't know - we can't get physical if I don't tell him.

"And then if he finds out, things just get so complicated, I can't even begin to explain."

Are these young people born that way or are they being induced to choose to believe they are transgendered. The medical profession in the US, for example, approves fully of this mass delusion. Of course, there are still a few recalcitrant outliers who think it’s all a delusion, but they are being drowned out… in the name of scientific fact. Link here.

But, the medical profession has failed to explain to Claire that no surgery can turn male genitalia into female genitalia. Surgeons can produce a reasonable facsimile, but they cannot produce the real thing. I will spare you the details. Of course, other aspects of female anatomy will obviously be lacking. All the hormones in the world are not going to cause him to grow a uterus and ovaries.

Of course, the BBC presents this all as something akin to growing pains. And yet, despite what the cowed medical professionals think, we are still dealing with … a belief. People who could not bring themselves to believe in God, are happy to believe that a child is whatever gender he or she chooses to be. People who proclaim their allegiance to science imagine that some people have been given the wrong bodies and are really members of the opposite sex.

No one seems to care that these young people have XY chromosomes and that this is unalterable. As Camille Paglia famously said, this is a sign of cultural collapse.

Worse yet, when the media presents this as just another lifestyle choice it risks manipulating children into believing that they are transgendered. If it’s all about belief, it is possible to manipulate belief. A boy who finds that he is attracted to boys might very well think that he may choose between being gay or being transgendered. The media and the medical profession has given him an option: to mutilate himself and to allow his body to be invaded by hormones... without anyone really knowing the long term effects of said treatments. One does well to consult Ethan Watters’ book: Crazy Like Us… which tells us about media induced psycho epidemics.

If a boy lives in Iran, apparently the nation leading the world in gender reassignment surgery, he has a very good reason to choose to be transgendered. If he announces that he is gay he will be hanged.

How much of this condition is being produced by the media frenzy that presents it as just another way to correct God’s mistake? The great proponents of political correctness and equal rights ought to ask themselves how much responsibility they bear for producing new cases of transgenderism.

Rationing Health Care in England

Will there be socialized medicine in our future? Who knows? As of now it seems more likely than not.

Faced with the difficult choice between opining on the debacle of Ryancare or was it Trumpcare, I prefer to offer yet another example from the wondrous British National Health System. You know, the one that looks to be coming closer by the day.

As we all know, and in despite of what Paul Krugman thinks, the NHS rations health care. If we want universal, high quality, affordable health care, the trouble, as a wise man once said, is that you can only have two. So, choose which two you prefer and you can have them: if it’s universal and high quality it will be unaffordable. If it’s affordable it will be low quality universal or high quality non-universal. Pick your poison. Just don't think that you can have it all. 

Anyway, over in England, where they even ration bariatric surgery for the morbidly obese, the word now is that if you want to jump to the front of the line for such surgery you need to become even more obese. Yes, indeed, the NHS rationing system promotes ill health… because that’s the way to get treatment when treatment is rationed.

The Daily Mail has the compelling story. One notes with some chagrin that the DM uses the utterly and totally incorrect term: "fat people." Of course, we deplore the use of such language, though we are comforted that it is gender neutered.

Anyway, the Daily Mail reports:

Rationing of surgery to treat clinically obese people means that some need to become 'super-obese' before they are allowed a weight loss operation, a new report suggests.

Some regions in England are demanding that patients must have a body mass index score of over 50 before they qualify for bariatric surgery.

Health experts are concerned that the message sent to obese patients is to get fatter so they can access surgery.

Those who have a BMI [Body Mass Index] score of over 30 are classed as obese, while those who surpass a 50 reading are clinically classed as super-obese.

The new report from the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society and the Royal College of Surgeons is based on Freedom of Information requests to all clinical commissioning groups  across England.

These groups have now taken to lobbying for an end to the rationing. Which is surely a good idea. And yet, unless the government of Great Britain has limitless funds, when it stops rationing in one place it will soon be rationing somewhere else.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stop Complaining! Do Your Work!

Vindication is sweet. Often have I counseled a no-drama approach to the workplace. And to everyday life too. I have often suggested that it is better to see life as a game than as a drama. It's better to see yourself as a player than as a thespian.

Now, a  study from the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology has demonstrated that I was correct. It tells us that it is best not to complain and not to dramatize issues that arise in the workplace. Instead of complaining you should show what the authors call sportsmanship. Yes, indeed.

Their abstract tells the story; with apologies for quoting academese:

We explicitly focused on good sportsmanship or abstaining from unnecessary complaints and criticism as a possible moderator of the effects of daily negative work events on daily work engagement and positive affect. 

We tested this possibility with a 3-day diary study among 112 employees. As expected, we found that daily negative events lowered daily engagement and momentary positive affect for two consecutive days. However, this effect only held on days that people exhibited low sportsmanship. For days that people exhibited high sportsmanship, there were no significant effects. Creating a resource rich work environment that enhances individuals’ sportsmanship behaviour can help to minimize the unfavourable impact of daily negative events.

Negative work events are inevitable. How you handle them is not. If you follow the lame advice offered by the denizens of the therapy culture you will feel compelled to confront the person who offended you or even the person who did not do his job very. You might want to vent your deepest feelings, because you have been told that bottling them up will give you cancer. And you might even choose to lean in, the better to show them how tough and strong and assertive you are. The research suggests that such is a bad approach. It is posturing, not gamesmanship.

You should not see yourself as a human monad trying to regulate the pressure of your emotional gasses but as a team member whose goal should be to advance the best interests of the team.

Alex Fradera explains the research in the Research Digest of the British Psychological Society:

But when sportsmanship was high – meaning that participants hadn’t complained, escalated minor issues, or stewed over things too much – bad events, even if rated as severe, didn’t impact mood or work engagement, that day or the next. Demeroutia and Cropanzano think there may be two reasons for this. Firstly, revisiting the event gives it a second wind, further reinforcing the association between it and the normally transient negative emotions that were initially provoked, turning a bad experience into That Bad Experience. Secondly, if complaints are poorly expressed or directed at the wrong person, they can exacerbate the situation, and that’s all too possible when you are still caught up in a drama.

As for a better alternative when problems need to be solved, Fradera offers this advice, from the research:

When a problem keeps manifesting in an organisation or relationship you need to resolve it, and that begins by putting it into words. But purposeless complaining can just as easily be a way to avoid moving on, the out-loud version of mental rumination keeping us in its undertow. Demeroutia and Cropanzano point to more constructive methods like expressive writing, which have an evidence base showing success in making sense of negative experience. This form of reflection, or attentive conversation focused on straightening out a knotty problem, are vastly preferred to unconstructive venting.

Negotiate your differences. Don't dramatize them. The first can solve a problem. The second cannot. One is amused to note that the out-loud version of mental rumination corresponds well to what used to be called Freudian free association.

The moral of the story comes from director Lee Daniels. In his words: “Stop complaining.” “Do your work.”

Immigrant Children in Public Schools

The authors of the report do not consider the effect it’s having on American education, but an influx of poor uneducated non-English speaking immigrant children is surely not improving anyone’s academic prospects.

When we were discussing the gang rape of a fourteen year old in Rockville High School we raised the question of what happens to a child’s education when too many classmates do not speak English. How much learning can take place? How much classroom time is consumed by the need to discipline children who do not understand what is being said?

Steven Camerota has analyzed the statistics. He has discovered that the number of immigrant children has exploded over the past years. Surely this poses a problem.

He writes in the Daily Signal:

We find that nationally, nearly one in four students in public schools is now from an immigrant household (legal or illegal). The number of children from immigrant households in schools is now so high in some areas that it raises profound questions about assimilation.

What’s more, immigration has added enormously to the number of students who are in poverty or speak a foreign language.

All of this has occurred with little debate over the capacity of our schools to educate and integrate these students into our culture.

As recently as 1980, just seven percent of public school students were from immigrant households, compared to 23 percent today.

High-immigration states have seen even more dramatic increases: eight percent to 35 percent in Nevada, 11 percent to 34 percent in New Jersey, and 10 percent to 31 percent in Texas. Even in states that are not traditional immigrant destinations, such as Minnesota, Alaska, and Kansas, one in seven students are now from an immigrant household.

How well will these children be able to assimilate? Not very well, if at all. The issue is statistical. The higher the concentration of immigrant children in one area the more likely the community will retain the customs and the language of the old country.

On the one side, it is something of a saving grace that immigrant children live together. This means that there are fewer places like Rockville where a third of the students do not speak English and where students speak over a dozen different languages. (One notes, in passing, that this cacophonous Tower of Babel fulfills the great multicultural wish.) And yet, if immigrant communities are more homogeneous their children are less likely to assimilate. We are not at the point that Europe has reached with Muslim no-go zones in major cities-- we are a much larger nation-- but still the problem is there.

Camerota reports:

Immigrant households are very concentrated: Just 700 of the nation’s 2,351 Public Use Micro Areas account for two-thirds of students from immigrant households, but only one-third of the total public school enrollment.

There are many Public Use Micro Areas in which the overwhelming majority of students are from immigrant households—for example, 93 percent of students in North Central Hialeah City, Florida are from immigrant households, as are 91 percent in the Jackson Heights and North Corona parts of New York City, 85 percent in the Westpark Tollway neighborhood of Houston, and 78 percent in Annandale, Virginia.

As for the use of English in the home, the numbers look like this:

Immigration has also added enormously to the population of students who speak a foreign language. In 2015, nearly one in five students in the country spoke a language other than English at home.

As the old saying goes: Houston, we have a problem! We all know that this problem will cause more and more parents to withdraw their children from the public schools. Otherwise they would be sacrificing their children to the gods of multiculturalism.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Case of Whiny McWhinerson

I am not going to strain your mercy today so I will not share Ask Polly’s thoughts about her newest letter writer. You know already that, whatever the woman’s problems, Polly is going to share some irrelevant and uninteresting information about her own life , then to tell the woman to feel her feelings.

As might be expected, women who write to Polly are often whiners. Today’s letter writer is different, because she has a wee bit of perspective on her habit of complaining about her good life. She dubs herself: “Whiny McWhinerson.” I am not sure why she had to tack a “son” on to it, but she gets extra credit for her self-deprecating humor.

In any case, Whiny McWhinerson is seriously upset about the lack of justice in the world. She is not going to storm the barricades and burn down the White House. She is not going to protest for women’s rights behind a leader who thinks that women have it great in Saudi Arabia and she is not going on strike behind a female terrorist who was convicted of murdering Jews.

Whiny’s problem is not really about her life. It is about her ex-boyfriend’s life. You see, Whiny has it pretty good. She has the baby she wanted, she has a wonderful boyfriend and she lives in a nice house, etc. She is not sick and she is not crazy. She has it pretty good. She says nothing about wanting or not wanting to be married, so we will ignore that question.

In this luminous paragraph Whiny describes her ex and recounts in some details the horrors he subjected her to. Gruesome does not begin to do it justice:

I sometimes feel consumed with thoughts about my narcissistic ex-boyfriend. I by no means want to get back together with him, as he is a glistening turd of a human being. He treated me like shit for the three years we were together, like straight-up emotional abuse. He was often very cruel to me, and there were times when I feared him. He would criticize my every move, refuse to pick up his phone for days on end, humiliate me in front of our friends, blame any- and everything on me … the works. He had no empathy, and I’m certain he has some kind of personality disorder. When he eventually dumped me after three exhausting years, I was devastated. 

But, Whiny recovered:

A year later, I met my current boyfriend, who is a lovely, kind, and loyal person. I got my happy ending, however cheesy that may sound. So why am I not … happier?

You will readily agree that Whiny has a way with images. Think of it—better yet, try not to think of it—a relationship between a glistening turd and a piece of shit. It sounds like an assholistic relationship.

You are also thinking to  yourself: why did she allow it to go on for three years? Admittedly, she was crushed by being dumped, but-- Heaven help us—why did she not do the dumping? If he was as bad as she thought, what was she waiting around for—a metamorphosis that would turn him from a glistening turd into a prince?

If it was as bad as she says—I do not doubt her word—and she stuck around for three years, refusing to disengage, what was she thinking? She does not tell us, so we will not speculate.

Anyway, Whiny is completely unhappy to see that her glistening turd of an ex-boyfriend has moved on and is doing very, very well, indeed. Alchemy has turned him into a golden boy.

My ex has a new girlfriend, and they seem to be in love. Whenever I run into him (we have the same circle of friends), he goes out of his way to convince me that he’s redeemed himself and his life is an assembly of highlights. Today, when I checked his Instagram (ugh … I know, I know), I saw he bought a huge house with her. He is a film director and makes shitloads of money. He flies business class all over the world. When I saw the picture of their house, my heart sank, and it is NOT because I am still attracted to him or wish I were in his girlfriend’s shoes. It’s not even jealousy (I think). I’ve mulled it over, and I’m pretty sure my question is this: Why does this complete and utter shit-stain get to have everything after the way he treated me?

Of course, if he treated her so badly why did she not dump him? As for the transmogrification of a glistening turd into a “shit-stain” it seems clear that Whiny is trying to tell us something about someone’s bathroom habits or sexual predilections. But we will not indulge in further coprophilic speculations.

Anyway, his newfound success feels to Whiny like a cosmic injustice. She is beginning to doubt God or Zeus or whomever:

I know I’m not God or Zeus or whatever and I don’t get to say who gets to have what, but COME. ON. I’m certainly not a saint and have made my share of mistakes. But I think I can say that I’m a good and sincere person who has always tried to do right by the people around me. I’ve never hurt someone deliberately or been cruel like he has. And now it feels like that all means nothing. Like there’s no point in trying to do and be “good.” I know this must seem very childish, like I’m on the floor throwing a temper tantrum right now and whining “It’s not faaaaiiiir.” I know nothing in life is fucking fair. I see bad things happen to far better people than me every day. And there are FAR, FAR worse problems to have. My thought process is probably flawed in that I think in terms of: good person + hard work = “success,” love, happiness … whatever. I know life isn’t a candy machine, in which you put a coin and get out what you want. I know all that. Then why do I feel so shitty?

In a world defined by her conception of justice, her ex-boyfriend would be suffering the guilt of the damned. He would not be a famous director—when did it happen that film directors became paragons of propriety?—but a grunt pushing around klieg lights on a movie set. He would have no money and would certainly not make more money than her new boyfriend, father of her child. Yes, I understand that she says nothing about comparing the two men, but still, the question does arise.

As for why she feels so shitty… maybe she misses the anal sex?

Of course, I did not really mean that. One notes a couple of salient points. First, that she has told us nothing about what attracted her to her ex. She has made the relationship seem like it belonged in the fifth circle of Dante’s Inferno and then tells us that she did not have the courage or the gumption or the good moral sense to debark from it. One suspects that there was something good about it. Otherwise she is making herself look like the perfect victim and an utter fool.

Nonetheless the question remains intriguing. Allow me a speculation. If she imagines that X was involved in a very bad and abusive relationships with her shittiness but has found a warm loving relationship with another woman, she might conclude that she was part of the problem. If she recalls him being a mediocre aspiring filmmaker when he was with her, what other conclusion could she draw from his current great success and his “shitload” of money?

Naturally, Polly does not have a clue. So, I will tell you. She seems clearly to be questioning whether the problem was not him, but was her. Did she manage to bring out his worst? Did she provoke it? Did he need a different kind of woman to be happy and loving and caring? Did a different woman provide what he needed from a woman, something that she, good social justice warrior, did not or could not or did not know how to provide?

This makes it sound as though she might be blaming herself. And yet, she has only provided one side of what was happening between them, so we are reduced to speculation. For all we know the Strurm und Drang excited her and turned her on. If she understood clearly that she did not deserved to be mistreated and had done nothing to provoke it, why did she stay?

Can We Be Saved by Art?

Back in the day a distinguished professor of literature named George Steiner tried to shed the light of reason on a secular dogma. He suggested that there is nothing magical about great art, that great art does not purify your soul and fill it with the correct opinions. In truth, he noted, the concentration camp guards at Auschwitz spent their leisure time listening to classical music, to Schubert, I believe.

I recalled this thought when reading an article— probably in the New York Times—to the effect that if George W. Bush had developed his artistic talent before he became president he would not have invaded Iraq. Or some such thing.

People who despised W. in their marrow have been trying to explain how it was possible that he seems to have mastered the art of making art, that is, of painting pictures that are not bad at all. In a better world these same people, who did nothing but excoriate and vilify Bush from the onset of his presidency, might reconstruct their own views of Bush, recognizing the good as well as the bad. Alas, it is not going to happen. They do not make mistakes. And they never say they are sorry. They prefer to invoke a counterfactual—if only he had discovered his creativity he would have been a better president.

One understands that Bush himself remained nonplussed by all the criticism directed against him. He played rope-a-dope with the press, much to the chagrin of his supporters. He did not exhaust them and did not start throwing punches at them. One reason why our current president has taken out after the media on Twitter—damaging himself and his presidency in the process—is that he refuses to have happen to him what happened to W. Trump has chosen to fight back against the media. For now he does not seem to be doing very well. But, if Trump has declared war on the media, one reason is that the media demonized George W. Bush and that Trump wanted to return the favor.

Now, Ross Douthat has penned an intriguing column about Jane Austen, of all people. In it he responded to a new panic on the radical left. The alt-left is terrified that the alt-right will appropriate Jane Austen and make her something other than a propagandist for global warming. Or something. Apparently the alt-left cannot imagine that a great artist can have less than the most politically correct opinions. One assumes that these same alt-leftists believe that art achieves its highest purpose when it disseminates politically correct dogmas… which only means that they have no understanding of art or its purpose.

One hastens to point out that art has occasionally been relegated to just such a function… in totalitarian dictatorships. You will recall Nazism and Communism and you will certainly recall the art police who were afoot during Chairman Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. During the latter great pogrom Mao’s wife, a leader of the revolution, had dictated that the only opera worth watching was opera that conformed to Mao’s thought. And, of course, the only thoughts worth thinking were those of Mao himself. People were not allowed to read anything else anyway.

Today’s alt-leftists have created their own totalitarian enclaves on college campuses. And they want to bring their favorite authors along with them. If they thrilled to reading Jane Austen, then Jane must be politically correct. They would hate to have to burn all Jane’s books, so they must protect her from the alt-right.

Of course, there’s nothing liberal about this. Yet, Douthat, in a gracious moment, calls them all liberals. In his words:

This is an idea with a powerful hold on the liberal mind — that great literature and art inoculate against illiberalism, that high culture properly interpreted offers a natural rebuke to all that is cruel, hierarchical and unwoke. The idea that if Mike Pence really listened to “Hamilton” he would stand up to Donald Trump … that Barack Obama’s humanistic reading list was somehow in deep tension with his drone strikes … that had George W. Bush only discovered his talent for painting earlier he might not have invaded Iraq … these are conceits that can be rebutted (with Wagner or CĂ©line or Nazis-at-the-symphony references) but always seem to rise again.

Obviously, there’s method in this madness. They are working to create a new religion, a religion of culture, a religion that will form the basis for a new human community, one that is dedicated to the pursuit of justice. It was the great Communist hope; it was even the great Nazi hope. Replacing religion with a new culture is the ultimate goal of the alt-left.

Douthat offers his reasoning:

In part they endure because contemporary liberalism has substituted aestheticism for religion, dreaming of a universal empathy sealed through reading rather than revelation. But they are also powerful because the last few generations have produced very few major artists or movements that are not liberal or left-wing. The defeat and moral disgrace of fascism, the eclipse of traditional religion, the philistinism of American conservatism and the narrowing of post-1989 political debates have all helped forge a political monoculture in the arts and the academy, making the link between literature and liberalism seem natural, inevitable, permanent.

The moral of the story: perhaps the National Endowment for the Arts is not as much about the arts as it is about cultural indoctrination. And perhaps the National Endowment for the Humanities is less about promoting the humanities than about running an indoctrination mill.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Solving the Illegal Immigration Problem

The alt-left narrative tells us that illegal immigrants are fine and wonderful people who have come to America seeking an opportunity to better themselves. Every day you can find a heart-wrenching story about a valedictorian “dreamer” who is terrified that he will be sent back to Central America.

The narrative was recently upset by an event that occurred in Rockville, Maryland. One of those fine young immigrant men, caught and released seven months ago by the Obama administration, joined with another illegal immigrant to rape a fourteen year old girl in the boys room at Rockville High School.

Suddenly, the meme of the tired and hungry refugee yearning to be free crashed on the shoals of reality. If immigrants are here to exploit the system and to abuse Americans the narrative shifts. The Obama administration never said so but it acted as thought the refugees were victims of American imperialism, that they had been oppressed by free enterprise capitalism and that they had a right to come her and take back what had been taken from them. Besides, they were likely to vote Democratic... which signaled their moral superiority.

You probably know that Rockville was about to make itself yet another sanctuary city. Now, that is in serious doubt. Some community do-gooders have just discovered that certain members of the immigrant population are not seeking sanctuary.

Those who believe in opening the doors to anyone, regardless, see these events as tests of their faith. Parents are rightly outraged, but those who see more votes for a waning Democratic Party retain their faith in the goodness of human nature and whatever else.

Of course, the Obama administration had chosen to ship illegals around the country, in order to distribute the pain equally across America. While it does not rise to the level of raping a child, the presence of large numbers of non-English speaking children in public schools effectively ruins everyone else's educational opportunity. If you were wondering why American children cannot compete against their peers in academic scores, you might ask how many of the American children do not speak English or are incapable of learning. If a third of the children in a class do not speak English no one is going to learn very much. If you have a school like Rockville High where children speak nineteen different languages there is not going to be very much education. Until the rape no one was paying attention to this fact.

One understands that the children are in these schools because the Supreme Court ruled that they had to be accepted into school. And yet, at what price for the other children? The pervasive of the problem was produced by an Obama administration policy that allowed a large number of illegals into the country, especially unaccompanied children, and then spread them out around the country.

One also understands that the current state of affairs will cause more and more parents either to send their children to private schools or to homeschool them. Sacrificing your child’s education to a malicious idea ought to be unacceptable.

As it happens very little of this problem will be solved by E-verify, but still, a New York Times editorial (via Maggie’s Farm) makes a salient point. Simply put, it argues that the Trump administration ought to spend some time and money cracking down on employers who are hiring illegal immigrants. Strangely, it says, the Trump budget spends next to nothing on E-verify while spending a ton of money on the wall. It suspects, probably with reason, that the business lobby prevailed on the administration not to take away its cheap labor.

To give the Times the podium:

His administration has been largely silent, however, about the strongest magnet that has drawn millions of immigrants, legal and not, to the United States for generations: jobs.

American employers continue to assume relatively little risk by hiring undocumented immigrants to perform menial, backbreaking work, often for little pay. Meanwhile, as Mr. Trump’s deportation crackdown accelerates, families are being ripped apart, and communities of hard-working immigrants with deep roots in this country are gripped by fear and uncertainty. As long as employers remain off the hook, a border wall and an expanded dragnet can only make temporary dents in the flows of undocumented immigrants.

Of course, the Times could not resist tugging at your heart and exploiting your well-developed capacity for empathy. But it is correct to point out that a strict E-verify system would limit the entries of those who are looking for work.

The idea would have no real effect on the unaccompanied minors, because they are not here to work. If the same policy had been implemented in Germany when Angela Merkel opened the country to over a million immigrants, it would not have worked either. According to the German government, as reported in this blog, the unemployment rate of the million or so refugees Merkel welcomed last year is around 97%. Either they do not want to work, do not care to work, do not know how to work or want to convert all Germans to Islam.

Moreover, the wall and the new enforcement posture make a statement. And perhaps the statement is as important as the physical barrier. The wall tells people that they are not welcome here. Clearly many prospective fence jumpers have gotten the message.

Evidently, this contrasts sharply with the open arms policy of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau—or is it Justin Bieber—which has attracted migrants from America and from the Middle East. A recent poll, however, suggested that Canadians are beginning to turn against the policy.

Anyway, if employers adopt E-Verify it will certainly help the situation. It will not solve the problem, but something is better than nothing.

The Times does not want to say so, but some of the illegals are here for the benefits. They are in Germany and other European nations to live off of the welfare system. They also go there because they believe that they deserve to be sustained and supported by Western governments. They believe that the West is responsible for their misery and that the West owes them a living.

Now we read that some American illegals are not taking food stamps for fear that they will be deported. But if they are so hard working and contribute so much, why are they on food stamps. And ought we not to ask ourselves whether people who are working off the books and thus are not paying taxes are profiting from America’s welfare benefits… like food stamps.

Keep in mind that the Mexican government strongly supports illegal immigration—to America but certainly not to Mexico—because the funds that are sent back to Mexico sustain its own economy. Doubtless the same applies to other Central American nations. Apparently they are not investing in America or spending money in American malls.

One likes to think that people who come to America want to better themselves. But if they want to exploit America in order to support their home countries, doesn’t that change the narrative? And if they believe that they have a right to abuse Americans for forcing them to do menial labor, then perhaps we ought to consider our attitudes and to revise our narrative.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Is Trump Making People Crazy?

Just when you thought we could stop offering wild diagnoses of Donald Trumpism a New York psychoanalyst named Joel Whitebook explains that Trump is leading the nation into a mass psychosis. And he does it in the New York Times, which should know better than to publish such silliness.

Whitebook is not just your everyday garden variety psychoanalyst. He runs the Psychoanalytic Studies Program at Columbia University. So, he does not just embarrass himself. He embarrasses Columbia, too. Since he suggests that the Trump administration has been producing a mass psychosis in the nation, he will suffer no adverse consequences.

I do not need to mention it, but Trump’s detractors seem to have been competing to see who is more emotionally overwrought, who is more unhinged, who can present more conspiracy theories. One might say that those who oppose Trump have taken leave of their rational faculties and have descended into the fever swamps of mass hysteria. After all, they think that it’s World War II in France and that they are part of the Resistance. Who’s detached from reality now?

Anyway, Whitebook opens with this apercu into his clinical practice:

Sometimes, when psychoanalysts begin treatment with a new patient, they quickly find themselves feeling that they can’t make sense of what is going on. The patient’s statements and behavior simply don’t add up, and the flurry of dissociated statements and actions can quickly begin to produce something like a disorienting fog.

Most seasoned clinicians will have learned that they shouldn’t attribute this confusion, which is typically accompanied by a distinct form of anxiety, to their lack of skill. Instead, adept clinicians take the experience itself and the accompanying anxiety as significant data, indicating that they are dealing with, if not psychosis in the strict diagnostic sense, at the very least something in the vicinity of psychotic-like phenomena.

Aside from the salient fact that psychoanalysts insist that their patients free associate, and thus produce a series of disconnected fragments that are supposed to give access to the unconscious mind, why has it never crossed this psychoanalyst's mind to step in, to ask some questions, to engage in a conversation, to try to make sense of it all? What was it about his training that made him so inert?

For all of the proposed advances that psychoanalysts have made, apparently they have not gotten to the point of engaging with their patients. Whitebook keeps his distance and thinks to himself that the word salad he is hearing is clinically significant, a sign of anxiety if not psychosis.

One cannot fail to note that, according to Whitebook, some analysts think that the dissociational flurry is a sign of their own incompetence. Freud might have said that they are in denial, or better denegation, and that their mute status as dummy has perhaps contributed to what they are hearing.

Does it all spell psychosis? I have no idea. I do know that psychosis is a serious psychiatric condition, one that most contemporary psychiatrists believe to be a brain disease. Surely, Whitebook knows better than to offer up a diagnosis based on some dissociated ramblings. I trust that the average psychiatrist would want to much more about the patient before concluding that his condition was so dire.

A competent psychiatrist would not do as Whitebook does, and imagine that Sigmund Freud offered the last word, or even the first word, about psychosis. After all, Freud was not a psychiatrist, and his views about psychosis and neurosis are no longer taken seriously by any serious psychiatrist.

Thus, Whitebook offers up one side of Freud’s theory of psychosis, ignoring the possibility of a neurological condition. He ignores the last century’s work on this illness, illness that responds to some medical treatments but that does not respond to psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

Back in the day—the mid 1970s-- when I was working at a psychiatric clinic in France, a clinic that was directed by students of Jacques Lacan, the clinic did not allow anyone to psychoanalyze a psychotic. Medication and group activities were considered to be the best approach. Of course, Lacan et al. did theorize about psychosis, but they did not cry out about mass psychosis.

To imagine that Freudian analysis would tell us something cogent or interesting about psychosis is… dare I say… crazy. Of course, Whitebook, like Freud was involved in storytelling, not in scientific diagnosis.

In Whitebook’s words:

In contrast, because psychotic individuals tend to find reality as a whole too painful to bear, they break with it globally, and construct an alternative, delusional, “magical” reality of their own. This alternate relation to reality, manifesting itself in the initial meetings with the patient, is at the root of the clinician’s confusion.

Feel some pity for poor Joel Whitebook. He feels anxiety over the election of Donald Trump:

Now many of us throughout American society at large, after an interminable electoral campaign and transitional phase into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, have experienced a form of disorientation and anxiety that bears a striking resemblance to the clinical situation I have described. And recent events indicate that this feeling is not going to abate any time soon.

Disorientation and anxiety… it suggests that they are off their meds, or that some of the meds are not quite as effective as they think. Being unable or unwilling to accept that you lost, that the world as you knew it was a bubble having little to do with the real world… these are not psychiatric conditions. They are not signs of psychosis or even neurosis. Aside from the fact that Whitebook, like nearly every therapist who writes about these topics, is trying to gin up his business… it makes no real sense to tell people that their feelings, such as they are, constitute a grave mental illness. You do not have to be a psychiatrist to know that psychosis—as in schizophrenia and paranoia—is not to be taken lightly.

Anyway Whitebook jumps the shark here:

Just as disorientation and bewilderment tell analysts something significant about what they are experiencing in the clinical setting, so too our confusion and anxiety in the face of Trumpism can tell us something important about ours. I am suggesting, in other words, that Trumpism as a social experience can be understood as a psychotic-like phenomenon.

One understands that it’s trendy for psychoanalysts to consult their emotions to learn about their patients. It’s a genuinely bad idea, suggesting a very high level of self-absorption. Perhaps they ought to do a serious interview and try to converse with their patients. Perhaps they ought to attune themselves to the reality of the patient’s life situation before drawing very serious conclusions. Without having probed sufficiently to know what is going on in a patient’s life you really do not know very much about the patient’s emotional state.

As for “our” confusion and anxiety, perhaps this derives from the fact that psychoanalysts like Whitebook know so little about what is going on in the real world. Perhaps it signals their lack of knowledge of the facts of the situation on the ground. Perhaps it means that they are living in their own fantasies and have been blindsided by reality. It’s a possibility, don’t you think?

Now, Whitebook suggests that Trump is conspiring to detach him and his buddies from reality, thus to render them all psychotic. In truth, Whitebook has demonstrated nothing more than his own ignorance of what is going on. Many psychoanalysts, when they do not know what is happening, retreat into storytelling.

Whitebook continues:

The point is, rather, that Trumpism as a social-psychological phenomenon has aspects reminiscent of psychosis, in that it entails a systematic — and it seems likely intentional — attack on our relation to reality.

Which reality would that be, Joel? He says that this new attack is not the same as the criticism of the sacred dogma of climate change, dogma that Whitebook accepts as a scientific fact. I will not repeat that distinguished climate scientists like Richard Lindzen of MIT have seriously disputed the science behind the climate change… hysteria. Note that I did not say climate change psychosis.

What has Whitebook most agitated is the word of that famous “witch” Kellyanne Conway about alternative facts. Freudian analysis has a great affinity with witch hunts, but I have already discussed it and will leave it for another day. Whitebook is saying that a woman’s off-hand and somewhat ironic remark is like a witch casting a spell.

In his words:

Armed with the weaponized resources of social media, Trump has radicalized this strategy in a way that aims to subvert our relation to reality in general. To assert that there are “alternative facts,” as his adviser Kellyanne Conway did, is to assert that there is an alternative, delusional, reality in which those “facts” and opinions most convenient in supporting Trump’s policies and worldview hold sway. Whether we accept the reality that Trump and his supporters seek to impose on us, or reject it, it is an important and ever-present source of the specific confusion and anxiety that Trumpism evokes.

Lest we forget, alternative realities might also be fictional worlds. After all, the Obama administration, like most other administrations cherry picked facts that support its narrative. In the Obama world you could keep your doctor and your plan… remember that, Joel? And in the alternative universe concocted by the fans of the presidential messiah he never did anything wrong, never made a mistake, never erred. One of the reasons that the intelligentsia cannot grasp the Trump phenomena is that their sense of reality was so totally distorted by their mania about defending Obama that they lost touch with reality and with facts.

While we are talking about Freud and facts, it’s a good time to recall what philosopher Karl Popper said about the famed Viennese neurologist. Popper said, some seven or so decades ago, that Freudian theory had nothing to do with science… because it refused to accept that any facts could refute its theoretical premises. It lacked falsifiability. Whitbook’s use of Freud’s tarnished authority and widely discredited storytelling to dismiss anyone’s use of facts is risible, on its face. After all Freudian theory resides on literary characters who exist in literary fictions: Oedipus and Narcissus.

If you want to get in touch with reality, forget psychoanalysis. If you want to show that you care about reality do not pretend that the primary evidence for a diagnosis is your own emotion.