Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Girls, Wake Up"

Camille Paglia seems to have given a lot of interviews lately. I find her views on current cultural matters to be of great value, mostly because I agree with her. Strangely, she is a notable leftist, yet, she is far more sensible than most of those who inhabit the radical, academic and cultural left today. Then again, Paglia has never belonged to the academic elite, that is, to the Ivy League.

Speaking about today’s college students and their crusade to produce an ideal culture, Paglia points out that they are fiddling while Rome burns. Barbarians are at the gates and young people today are out having a party. They are involved in late stage sexual decadence.

It is worth mentioning, as a commenter on this blog pointed out recently, but Paglia has often promoted the raw sexual energy of youth, especially of performers like Madonna. On that score, she is hardly alone. Yet, with age comes wisdom and Paglia has, like many of us, come to see the larger context.

She says:

They [college students] have no sense of the great patterns of world history, the rise and fall of civilisations like Babylon and Rome that became very sexually tolerant, and then fell. If you’ve had no exposure to that, you can honestly believe that ‘There is progress all around us and we are moving to an ideal state of culture, where we all hold hands and everyone is accepted for what they are … and the environment will be pure…’ – a magical utopian view that we are marching to perfection. And the sign of this progress is toleration – of the educated class – for homosexuality, or for changing gender, or whatever. –

“To me it’s a sign of the opposite, it’s symptomatic of a civilisation just before it falls: ‘we’ are very tolerant, not passionate, but there are bands of vandals and destroyers circling around the edge of our civilisation who will bring it down.

These students have no sense that a war is going on. They are not ready to fight and they are not ready to compete. They are indulging what I would call a perpetual state of therapy.

In Paglia’s words:

This hyper-self-consciousness about ‘Who am I? Where exactly am I on the gender spectrum?’ is mere navel-gazing, while in the Middle East ISIS is beheading people. It is a kind of madness of self-absorption.”

The current fevered debates over transgendered restrooms reflect the dissolution… not only of behavioral norms but of mental acuity.  Paglia makes an important point here, one that has rarely been pointed out, namely, that the public debate over choosing one’s gender identity is influencing many confused and disturbed young people to become convinced that they are transgendered, thus that God made a mistake. It is producing more of these cases, not solving them.

I refer everyone to Ethan Watters’ fine book, Crazy Like Us, in which he demonstrates how media attention and concern about certain mental health issues tends to produce epidemics of the same issues.

Paglia also mentions the fact that young people, sometimes children, are being shot up with hormones in order to reverse puberty. The fact that children should never be allowed to make such choices is bad enough. It is obviously a form of mutilation. People are going beserk over the fact that some states will not allow Tom or Dick to use the ladies’ room, but no one has any objection to chemically mutilating children. Paglia also notes, wisely, that we do not even know the long term effects of these and other hormone treatments.

Paglia says this:

“I really pity young people today in this environment because the pressures are enormous. It’s one thing to feel, ‘I’m not quite comfortable in the gender I was assigned at birth,’ but the pressures are to change, change, change, and to telegraph it to the world. People are pushed into making choices about surgical interventions and taking hormones, which is dangerous, and they will have all kinds of medical problems in the long run, I believe…

“I think there are authentic transgender people who had a genetic issue from the start, but they are a tiny, tiny minority of the population, and medical science is still developing to help these people.

“But now it’s become a fashion statement, or a mask [for other problems]. People are being induced to think that all their unhappiness -- in family life, in school, in relation to society – is to do with this gender issue. Well, maybe it isn’t. Maybe there are other issues a person needs to deal with.

“In the old days there were different kinds of guidance to help you focus and develop yourself psychologically, spiritually, culturally. Instead, now, all the unhappiness that people feel in these areas is consolidated in the gender issue. Maybe there is a gender issue for you, but it’s not the whole issue.”

As for the current firestorm about rape culture, Paglia takes a stand against the typical feminist distortion of the issue. She wants girls to take some responsibility for their own behavior and to recognize that their needs and boys’ needs are not the same. Why we should need a renegade leftist intellectual to explain this to campus rabble rousers is beyond me, but since we have gotten to the point where college girls are being pimped out by their feminist teachers, someone had to say something:

“How can [a girl] be so stupid”, says Paglia, as to accept an invitation from a boy at a fraternity party to ‘come to my room’ and not know that he means ‘come and have sex’?

“She doesn’t want sex with strangers. Girls don’t want hook-ups, they want boyfriends ; the boys just want hook-ups. But in gender studies they are told that everything is exactly equal between boys and girls, and if boys are behaving badly they have to learn to be more like girls; they have to talk like girls, act like girls – and if you don’t, you are sexist. At the heart of this is a lack of respect for sexual differences … and I’m saying, Girls, wake up!”


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"They are not ready to fight and not ready to compete."

Of course not! What would they fight for? They've been educated to believe America sucks and Western ideas are macro-aggressions against all the other cultures of the world, held in bondage.

As for competition, that means there has to be a test of something being better than the other. Or, worse yet, someone is better than someone else at something. That is bad, and must not be allowed. Such win-lose paradigms are illusions, and negatively impact one's self-esteem. After all, we know that ALL successful people have high self-esteem... particularly those in our prison systems.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: ...[The young have] been educated to believe America sucks and Western ideas are macro-aggressions against all the other cultures of the world.

I suppose Stuart's "Ethan Watters’ fine book, Crazy Like Us" is an example of "Western ideas" that other cultures should have been smart enough to avoid.

And while Paglia doesn't seem to mention self-esteem here, IAC reminds us that people like sociopaths in our prison systems are known to have high self-esteem.

Myself if I skip the need for contempt and go for curiosity, I'd assume self-esteem would not be a holistic measure of status and self importance, but selective, like I can have a high self-esteem in middle distance running racings since I can finish in the top 20% of my age group, while a low self-esteem in the skill of painting human faces that don't look like Grumpy Cat.

Maybe sociopaths think perfectly well of themselves despite their also lack of ability to paint human faces? They believe if they actually tried, they could paint like Michelangelo if they wanted, but they just had other priorities. At least I agree think I could improve if I just cared more.

But on the other hand, it makes sense that self-esteem can create false confidence across fields of skill, like if you're a genius in one field, you might imagine you're brilliant in other fields you've not well studied, and people with too high self-esteem might frequently assume people who have studies things for decades are idiots because they see things differently.

Self-esteem definitely looks like a problem. People with very high self-esteem can't imagine they're wrong, and people with very low self-esteem are too timid to question the facts of people with high self-esteem.

It's a hard question to try to imagine where the balance lies, especially in fields that are more subjective than the hard sciences, and truths are more qualitative than quantitive. Or some truths might work in the short run, like infinite growth on a finite planet sounds like a great idea, until it isn't, and exponential growth means by the time you approach the bottlenecks, you're too far gone to reverse course without a crash. So science doesn't do well on "single experiments" even if they're big like the earth, or the global GDP based on how fast we can extract and burn one-time resources.

Lastly, we'd better get a quote from Camille Paglia about self-esteem, to make sure we're on topic. Interestingly a first google match talks about her self-esteem in a 1990 book review.
Ms. Paglia's esthetic judgment is as erratic as her self-esteem is healthy.

I wonder if "healthy self-esteem" is different than "high self-esteem"? It might be a promising distinction if we could define it, unless the book reviewer is just being tactful and doesn't really mean "healthy" as much as "YUGE" to quote Trump or Sanders.

I wonder if people with high self-esteem give more opinions? I'd suspect so, although perhaps there's still the question of how much confidence one has in one's opinions. I like opining, but I'm not sure I want the responsibility of being wrong.

Healthy self-esteem might be about:
(1) Having opinions
(2) Being curious if you're wrong
(3) Finding out how to find out if you're wrong especially when there are consequences
(4) Picking the important potentially wrong opinions to worry about.

Something like that might be healthy. Or you can be provocative like Pagalia and just go for quantity, and assume some of them might be right?

Leo G said...

Dhalgren - Sam R. Delany

BrianE said...

I'm drawn to the conclusion that malleable gender identity is a feature of the progressive/homosexual path to Eden.
Ms. Paglia separates the few transgender sufferers from what is being advanced by accelerating gender confusion. Is this just another name for homosexual recruitment? The vast majority of all self identified transgender persons also identify as gay/lesbian.

At some level the education system is producing high self-esteem at the expense of achievement. Dumb and proud of it.

priss rules said...


Anonymous said...

Ares - The Gray Lady is an odd place from which to base a considered judgement upon the redoubtable Ms. Paglia.

Mr. S. - I've read Camille for years. Never found much, if any, leftism. That's why her career was blighted. She refused to go with the bien pensant Program. -- Rich Lara

AesopFan said...

"It is worth mentioning, as a commenter on this blog pointed out recently, but Paglia has often promoted the raw sexual energy of youth, especially of performers like Madonna. On that score, she is hardly alone. Yet, with age comes wisdom and Paglia has, like many of us, come to see the larger context."

Not so much wisdom (although in some ways I think she is certainly wiser than most of her leftish companions) but more along the lines of seeing "the raw sexual energy of youth" as a philosophical abstract, or the province of selected entertainment icons, rather than as a role model for actual youth.
As parents anytime in the past might have said, "Well, yes, I like (Elvis / the Beatles / rappers), but that doesn't mean I want you kids acting crazy like they do."

If you celebrate celebrity vice, you will inevitably bring it down to your community.

Dennis said...

Rich Lara,

Paglia's willingness to take on feminists, the Left, et al is why many of us have enjoyed her. There are many things she's sees from a theoretical or philosophical point that many of us might find not to our liking, but that does not discount how close to the truth she becomes. The theoretical/philosophical have a bad habit of not working in reality. Human beings just do not fit in easily defined categories.
I have to admit I like Puglia's "I don't care what you think of my ideas" because it is refreshing in today's current environment where large numbers of people are attempting to stop people from challenging their ideas. So many people, in academic environment are afraid of words to the point they need "safe spaces."
I would suggest that most of this comes from the fact that most of them lack the intellectual capacity to present well reasoned argumentation for their ideas. I remember that early feminism attempted to present this, but change to the "mean girl" tactics when many of those argumentation lacked fact or logic and did not work. Unfortunately large numbers of interest groups have succumbed to the same way of trying to shut up, shame or use the government to punish those who disagree.
I may not always agree with Ms Paglia, but I will defend her right to say it.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

What many in the helping professions would call "healthy" self-esteem is ego-driven. It exists for itself.

Freedom is not doing whatever one wants. A slave can tell you that. Freedom is being able to reach your highest and best contribution.

The self-esteem movement has nothing to do with contribution.