Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The End of the Anglo-American World Order

In what will count as this weekend’s big think magazine article Bard College professor Ian Buruma bemoans the advent of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. He sees them as an omen that presages the end of the Anglo-American world order.

Had he been slightly more astute he might have noted that eight years of President Barack Obama has seen America retreat from many of the values that made it great, powerful and it prosperous. Why blame Trump for something that has already happened?

Buruma argues that Barack Obama was trying to save America by producing a giant wave of equality. That goal was so important that Obama did not bother to concern himself with the production of wealth. Buruma does not seem to recognize that producing wealth and redistributing wealth are contradictory policies.

In what must surely count as one of the most misguided opinions offered by a serious thinker Buruma closes his article with a hope and a prayer that Western civilization, that is Judeo-Christian civilization will be saved by… you guessed it… Angela Merkel.

By pretending that all cultures are the same and that true liberal principles require you to submit to the kind of social chaos produced when unassimilable immigrants are allowed to overrun your nation Merkel has damaged her own country severely and has contributed mightily to the current rise of nationalism and populism.

As for Barack Obama, if I may repeat points that I have made previously, our president has failed to unite the country, refused to exercise American influence around the world, submitted to the ayatollahs and was cowed by Vladmir Putin and Xi Jinping. Rather than engage in the struggle against radical Islam—struggle that would have united the nation against a common enemy—Obama divided the country by going to war against Islamophobia and other forms of what he considered racism.

Purifying the American soul of sin was more important to him than asserting American greatness. If the Anglo-American world order is at an end, one primary reason is that Barack Obama put an end to it. He, and of course, those who voted for him and who still believe that he did a great job.

Obama thinks that America was founded on a racist past and thus that he cannot take pride in its greatest achievements… the ones that culminated in victory in World War II.

Buruma understands that the current world order derives from the last war in which America was victorious:

When Trump and Farage stood on that stage together in Mississippi, they spoke as though they were patriots reclaiming their great countries from foreign interests. No doubt they regard Britain and the United States as exceptional nations. But their success is dismaying precisely because it goes against a particular idea of Anglo-American exceptionalism. Not the traditional self-image of certain American and British jingoists who like to think of the United States as the City on the Hill or Britain as the sceptered isle splendidly aloof from the wicked Continent, but another kind of Anglo-American exception: the one shaped by World War II. The defeat of Germany and Japan resulted in a grand alliance, led by the United States, in the West and Asia. Pax Americana, along with a unified Europe, would keep the democratic world safe. If Trump and Farage get their way, much of that dream will be in tatters.

Buruma notwithstanding, the dream is now in tatters. It is interesting to see him blame someone who has not served a day in office while ignoring the influence of the current president.

Buruma does not draw the obvious lesson from World War II, and from British inventions like the Industrial Revolution and free enterprise. We won the war because we practiced martial values, not because we led the world in free love and peace marches. And he ignores cultural habits like the British stiff upper lip, the British tendency to queue up, and the value of patriotism and loyalty.

Instead, Buruma argues that the Anglo-American world order was produced by a wistful dream for equality. Of course, Jefferson did have something to say about equality in the Declaration of Independence, but the armies and the industries that produced the Anglo-American order were based on liberty more than equality.

One recalls that, well before Jefferson stepped foot in France, one Jean-Jacques Rousseau produced a “Discourse on Inequality” that set the minds of idealists abuzz but that helped produce the bloodbath called the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

The martial values that won World War II were dismissed by the baby boomer generation in favor of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Their children value transgendered restrooms, trigger warnings and legalized weed.

Even before Barack Obama, America had been declining. It had suffered a series of failed military incursions and lost wars. Obama upped the ante by refusing to fight at all.

You can drool all you want about social justice but if your nation keeps losing wars, it will no longer set a standard that anyone will want to emulate.

About that Buruma has nothing to say.

In part, Buruma understands clearly the importance of capitalism:

Anglo-American capitalism can be harsh in many ways, but because free markets are receptive to new talent and cheap labor, they have spawned the kind of societies, pragmatic and relatively open, where immigrants can thrive, the very kind that rulers of more closed, communitarian, autocratic societies tend to despise.

To his mind the Cold War as a battle between ideas. It was our dream of equality versus their despotism.

Buruma argues:

The West, its freedoms protected by the United States, needed a plausible counternarrative to Soviet ideology. This included a promise of greater social and economic equality. 

Thus, Buruma claims that what made America great was the civil rights movement, culminating in the election of a president who had no real qualifications for the job. He ignores the fact that the election of Barack Obama defined the notion of qualification downwards. If Obama was so great and if he made America so great why have he and his political party been so roundly repudiated at the polls?

If Barack Obama set such a shining example why have more and more Americans lost faith in democracy? And, why have other countries around the world decided that liberal democracy is not for them?

If you want to know where Barack Obama’s loyalty lies, consider the fact that not a single member of his administration represented America at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. On the contrary, two White House officials will be attending the funeral of Fidel Castro. It’s not just that Obama is the master of the cheap shot; his sympathies lie with the oppressed not with the victors.

How much more do you need to understand?

In Buruma’s words:

America’s prestige was greatly bolstered not just by the soldiers who helped liberate Europe but also by the men and women back home who fought to make their society more equal and their democracy more inclusive. By struggling against the injustices in their own country, figures like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or the Freedom Riders or indeed President Obama kept the hope of American exceptionalism alive. As did the youth culture of the 1960s. 

He does not mention, even in passing, that Anglo-American principles and achievements are constantly attacked in the school system and the media. The American academy, such as it is, is chockablock with professors who believe that America is an organized criminal conspiracy that needs to be brought down. They teach their students to despise the martial values that won World War II and to disparage the free enterprise system that produced prosperity after the war. They oppose Anglo-American hegemony as an article of faith. About this Buruma has nothing to say.

And Buruma does not appreciate the fact that the assault on America, coupled with the assault on Western Civilization has come to us from the same fever swamps that produced European fascism, Nazism and Communism.

He does not see that Middle Europeans who could not defeat America or Britain on the battlefield or in the marketplace, were taking out their frustration on local exemplars of the values they abhorred. That is, on their own local Jewish population. Within Nazi Europe Jews became surrogates for the forces of Anglo-American culture and values. It is certainly not an accident that today’s social justice warriors, led by Jeremiah Wright’s protégé, a man supported by Louis Farrakhan, reserve a special hatred for the state of Israel.

Buruma makes this point:

Wilhelm II, kaiser of Germany until 1918, when his country was defeated in the First World War, which he had done his best to unleash, was such a figure. Half English himself, he called England a nation of shopkeepers and described it as “Juda-England,” a country corrupted by sinister alien elites, where money counted more than the virtues of blood and soil. In later decades, this kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric was more often aimed at the United States. The Nazis were convinced that Jewish capitalists ruled America, not just in Hollywood but in Washington and, naturally, New York. This notion is still commonly held, though less in Europe than in the Middle East and some parts of Asia. But talk about “citizens of nowhere,” sinister cosmopolitan elites and conspiratorial bankers fits precisely in the same tradition. A terrifying irony of contemporary Anglo-American populism is the common use of phrases that were traditionally used by enemies of the English-speaking countries.

Note how brilliantly twisted Buruma is. Who declared himself a citizen of the world… in Germany, no less? It was Barack Obama, don’t you recall. The guardian class of elites-- idealists all-- has chosen to fight a culture war against the values that prevailed during World War II and the years that followed. These modern Platonists oppose the empirical culture of Great Britain. They have no use for science and they care less for American pragmatism. They do not judge ideas by whether they work in practice. And, let us be very clear, these same cultural elites, these citizens of the world have happily joined Fidel Castro and Jeremy Corbyn in waging war against Israel, the country that represents the values they despise.

Why do they do so? They abhor the notion that some cultures are superior to others, and that a band of Jews could build a free and prosperous nation in a place where Arabs had only known failure.

For his part Buruma resents the fact that Britons and Americans have taken pride in their victories and their successes. He would prefer that they become guilt-ridden slugs, spending their time doing penance for their sins.

Of course, he does not see pride as pride, but demeans and slanders it.

The self-flattering notion that the Western victors in World War II are special, braver and freer than any other people, that the United States is the greatest nation in the history of man, that Great Britain — the country that stood alone against Hitler — is superior to any European let alone non-European country has not only led to some ill-conceived wars but also helped to paper over the inequalities built into Anglo-American capitalism. The notion of natural superiority, of the sheer luck of being born an American or a Briton, gave a sense of entitlement to people who, in terms of education or prosperity, were stuck in the lower ranks of society.

As I said, Buruma closes his piece by declaring that the embattled and beleaguered Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, represents the true values of the West. In truth Merkel does represent the values of the guardian class, but she certainly does not represent the values that won two great wars. Could it be that she represents the values that lost two wars, that so totally resented Anglo-American hegemony that they turned their nation and the world into Hell:

The last hope of the West might be Germany, the country that Michael Howard fought against and that I hated as a child. Angela Merkel’s message to Trump on the day after his victory was a perfect expression of Western values that are still worth defending. She would welcome a close cooperation with the United States, she said, but only on the basis of “democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views.” Merkel spoke as the true heiress of the Atlantic Charter.

Speaking of great ironies, the philosophers who have resented the Anglo-American values that prevailed over the great idealistic enterprises called Nazism and Communism want to hand leadership of the Atlantic alliance to Germany. 

Is the EU Unraveling?

Is the European Union unraveling? After Brexit many commentators predicted that the EU was on the road to obsolescence. A primary reason was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the nation to a flood of Muslim refugees. Subjecting your nation to an alien invasion is not good politics.

While Merkel has been trying to step back from her signature policy, the German people want to reclaim their national identity. For now it is not quite a majority, but who knows what will happen if the issue becomes a real referendum.

The Daily Mail reports on a recent survey:

Nearly half of Germans have indicated they want to follow Britain in holding a referendum on their EU membership.

A survey found 42 percent of citizens want a similar vote that led to Brexit, while two thirds of the population believe the European Union 'is heading in the wrong direction'.

It will be seen as a blow to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has been criticised for her open-door policy on immigration which saw one million migrants enter the country last year.

And also:

Figures show 67 percent of Germans want the EU to change its political course and a massive 96 percent want the bloc to be 'more transparent and closer to the people', according to RT
Only 39 percent of citizens think country's deal with Europe is a positive thing and a quarter believe it could threaten their national identity with the majority of those asked considering themselves German and not European.

Again, the problem is immigration:

Germany's migrant crisis is still considered the biggest modern challenge, according to RT.

Seven in 10 respondents want to see the EU's external borders better protected, a fifth of Germans want to see them completely closed.  

And finally:

In a separate study, four out of ten Germans fear their country is being subverted by Islam, according to a new study into attitudes towards immigration and religion.

And 34.7 per cent say they feel like a stranger in their own country. 

New research has also revealed that 28 per cent of people say they can no longer express an opinion 'without getting into trouble'. 

Interesting last point: too many refugees and with too much guilt have produced a witch hunt against dissidents, against Islamophobia. To the leftist mind the only problem with mass immigration is the bad attitude of the local population. So much for free expression.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blog Appreciation Week Continues

Being as this is a conservative blog, I make a special effort to respect tradition. Even my own invented traditions.

Long time readers know that I have taken Cyber Monday—as in, today—as the time to kick off my annual fundraising campaign. It will last for the week, so you might see this same post repeated again and again as the week goes on. Brace yourself.

It might not seem like it, but it does take some considerable work to produce these posts every day. For those who are thinking about how they can express their appreciation for my efforts, I recommend making a donation.

If you click on the orange Donate button on the left side of this page, the kind folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like.

If you would rather not have to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks sent to my address: 
                   310 East 46th St. 24H
                   New York, NY   10017

As it happens, today is called Giving Tuesday. Hint. 

Thank you in advance.

Men and Women See Things Differently

This will come as a shock to the social construct crowd, but men and women do not see things the same way. In the most literal sense, men and women look at faces differently. It must have something to do with different wiring for different kinds of brains.

Luckily the social construct crowd does not believe in science anyway, so, don’t feel too badly for them.

In any event, I report the research from PsyPost: 

Women and men look at faces and absorb visual information in different ways, which suggests there is a gender difference in understanding visual cues, according to a team of scientists that included psychologists from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

The researchers used an eye tracking device on almost 500 participants at the Science Museum over a five-week period to monitor and judge how much eye contact they felt comfortable with while looking at a face on a computer screen.

They found that women looked more at the left-hand side of faces and had a strong left eye bias, but that they also explored the face much more than men. The team observed that it was possible to tell the gender of the participant based on the scanning pattern of how they looked at the face with nearly 80 per cent accuracy. Given the very large sample size the researchers suggest this is not due to chance.

[Addendum: Now, the Daily Mail has reported on the same study. It adds the following Darwinian explanation for the difference between male and female facial recognition:

Many experts believe that the way women see faces goes back to early humans, as females spent their lives as gatherers – they had to recognize close at hand, static objects such as wild berries.

On the other hand, men had the job of hunting prey and keeping predators away, which did not require a detailed view.]

The Case of the Man-Whore

Don’t you wish you knew what really went on in therapy sessions? Wouldn’t you want to know how therapists really treat their patients? Aren’t you just a wee bit curious to know what all of that advanced education, all those credentials produces in real life situations? Besides, the chances are good that insurance companies are paying for it. Think about that one.

Well, today, we get a hint from an unlikely place. From New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries. Each week the magazine turns a column over to an everyday citizen who offers up an account of a week’s worth of debauchery. Because, it is mostly debauchery. People who debauch themselves are much more likely to write about it for a magazine, even anonymously. I will emphasize that these columns tend toward the obscene and the graphic. Consider yourself trigger warned.

Anyway, this week we have the sex diary of a 38 year old real estate broker who is in therapy. With a woman, he notes. The man became depressed when his wife ran off with someone she met in acting class. He had been faithful to her for ten years and was seriously crestfallen when she rejected him. So he went on anti-depressants. With the help of his therapist, he developed a plan for dealing with his post-divorce state of mind.

If one were examining the case one would want to know about whether or not, during the ten years of marriage, the unhappy couple had children or tried to have children or wanted to have children. Given that this is certainly a salient point—some might even say that it has something to do with sex— he (and apparently the therapist) ignores it entirely.

What does his therapist advise? In the man’s words:

Monday therapy! My shrink is all about embracing bad behavior, i.e., sleeping around. She says being a man-whore is helping me transition into healthy, single living. About that: I slept with both my dates this weekend.

For those of you who imagine that therapists never tell their patients what to do, it’s time to get over it. I offered something of a critique of the notion that therapists never offer advice in my book, The Last Psychoanalyst. Therein I pointed out that, as far as Freud was concerned, the truth was that when Freud offered advice he simply offered very bad advice.

One assumes that some serious level of philosophical sophistication has taught this therapist to advise her patient to go out and embrace his essentially male badness. One suspects that said therapist was taking cues from someone like Slavoj Zizek. If you want to know what Zizekianism looks like in practice, here it is.

Naturally, this leads me to be slightly moralistic and even judgmental. Are we to assume that the patient really wants to be a man-whore and that this wish exists in the depths of his Freudian unconscious? Of course, since the broker is not being paid for sex, the term is something of a misnomer, trotted out by a therapist who is trying to show how cool and how stupid she is.

And, pray tell, why is being a man-whore a natural prelude to healthy single living. Did you notice the non-sequitur in this piece of bad advice?

And, ask yourself this: what about the women who are involved in this man’s acting out what is fairly obviously, to anyone who knows how to think, a revenge fantasy. He was faithful during his marriage. His wife left him. Ergo, he can express all of his negative feelings toward his wife by taking advantage of any multiple other women. Since he is not, strictly speaking, involved with any of them, he cannot say that he is cheating. Do any of these women take it all as casually as he does? We do not know. He does not really see any of them as human beings anyway so he never asks the question.

Anyway, the female therapist, with her superior knowledge of female psychology, does not seem to consider that the women who are becoming notches on this man’s bedposts are perhaps not being treated very well. Why would a female therapist advise a man to mistreat women? Does she think that developing this habit will make him better at monogamy? If so she is dumber than I thought.

Who but a woman would imagine that this is the way for a man to be more of a man?

As for the risk of contracting an STD, our real estate broker has that under control. He explains:

I tell my partner (we do apartment sales together) that one of the women from the weekend mentioned she had an STD. It was totally taken care of and I was at no risk of catching it, especially with a condom (which I ALWAYS use). My buddy and I agree an STD handled “with class” is not a deal-breaker. We decide that most people probably have STDs and probably lie about it, which is far grosser. I wonder if HE has an STD. Speaking of, I should get a physical.

As it happens, and as any physician can tell you, a condom is not a foolproof, 100% sure barrier against STDs. I will not explain it in graphic detail, but this man is clearly living an illusion. Is his therapist a physician? Has she explained this to him? We do not know.

In a world where everyone is having sex, as our realtor mentions, the chances for contracting an STD multiply. One notes that he lives in the bubble called Brooklyn.

Strangely, this man-whore is doing what he is doing because it was prescribed by his therapist, not necessarily because it is what he wants out of his life. He finds the exercise tedious, but he thinks it is therapeutic. He has confidence that it will lead him to a relationship. With the One…. God help us!

He writes:

Catching up on all the online dating, texting, post-sex follow-ups, etc. It’s tiring. I’d trade it all in for a real relationship, but I know that will come in time. I would not trade it in to be back with my ex-wife. I really fucking hate her. We don’t speak or see each other at all.

So we get to see what happens between our man-whore and a woman he names Eva. Again note the influence of his therapist—who apparently has bewitched him:

Eva is a freelance food writer. She claims to be bisexual, but she also said she’s never had sex with a woman. Oh, Brooklyn. I remember her saying she was turned off by my line of work, which hurt my feelings. My therapist suggested bringing it up at lunch.

I ask her what she meant by real estate being a turnoff, and she tells me her mom did real estate and that it seems like a shady business. My reply: “Only as shady as you make it. I’m not shady. I never tell lies.” (That is the truth, by the way.)

I go on to tell her that it was kind of a rude thing to say, but that I’m past it. She halfheartedly apologizes, jokingly saying something like, “Oh, get over it!” I think I can get over it.

Notice that he has gotten in touch with his hurt feelings. We all feel very badly for his hurt feelings. So he ends up telling Eva that she was rude. This means that he has been turned into something of a whiner. Another point for therapy. Eva, who apparently does not have a dippy therapist, tells him to get over it, thus, to be a man.

Of course, once the couple engages in some kind of sexual activity, our man-whore still feels hurt by the fact that she dismissed his feelings. Yikes. It shows you where his mind is. And it is not with Eva. 

After another casual encounter with Eva, the hung over man-whore has an epiphany:

Hangovers make me depressed. I don’t really like being single. Does anybody? (Seriously, does anybody?) Again, I don’t think Eva is the one. My gut says nah. But who is? I’ll keep looking. She’s out there somewhere. 

Of course, one might ask whether sleeping around with many different women is the best way to find a suitable mate. One suspects that it is not. And yet, for allowing himself to be led around by his therapist, he is not getting any closer to finding a good wife. And he is certainly not getting any closer to knowing how to function in a relationship.

One notes, if one dares to read the text, that he is especially happy to be in the company of his brother’s family. Clearly that is what he is looking for, not to perfect the art of the man-whore.

He writes, in passing:

Taking my nephews to swim class at the Y. I love them so much. Can’t wait to have kids of my own. Hoping I meet the one soon.

Again, we do not know why he did not have children during his ten year marriage. The question will remain in limbo, because it did not seem to interest his therapist.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Blog Appreciation Week

Being as this is a conservative blog, I make a special effort to respect tradition. Even my own invented traditions.

Long time readers know that I have taken Cyber Monday—as in, today—as the time to kick off my annual fundraising campaign. It will last for the week, so you might see this same post repeated again and again as the week goes on. Brace yourself.

It might not seem like it, but it does take some considerable work to produce these posts every day. For those who are thinking about how they can express their appreciation for my efforts, I recommend making a donation.

If you click on the orange Donate button on the left side of this page, the kind folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like.

If you would rather not have to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks sent to my address:
                   310 East 46th St. 24H
                   New York, NY   10017

Thank you in advance.

The Mind of the American College Student

Trust me. I do not revel in the opportunity to cast aspersions on America’s youth. I do not thrill to the prospect of writing churlish commentaries about the snowflake generation, or even about the millennial generation. After all, America’s children are its future, and we all prefer to remain optimistic about America’s future. The happiness merchants in the world of cognitive psychology have insisted that we do so.

Lately, as students take to their crying towels and tootsie-rolls to whine about the most recent presidential election, it has become harder and harder to see a bright side to this open-air therapy. But, it is not remarkable that these students, for having been raised in a therapy culture, think first of their feelings and last, if at all, about what is happening in the world.

Their education has cut them off from their civilizational roots and their national pride so they are suffering from mass anomie… if such is possible.

Naturally, some commenters have proposed, reasonably, that my view of the younger generation is unduly harsh. They cannot possibly be as bad as they appear to my jaded vision. It’s easy for the older generation to take pot shots at the younger generation. Even if one’s motives are pure—as mine certainly are—it all looks utterly and unreasonably judgmental. We would not want that.

Besides, since I do not teach at a university I do not have very much direct contact with the snowflake generation. A fair point, indeed. But one that does not apply to Notre Dame Professor Patrick Deneen.

Deneen has taught at Georgetown and Princeton. Thus, he has earned the right to offer some opinions about his students. In an article that appeared in Minding the Campus (via American Digest) early this year Deneen offered a view that is based in real experience. Sorry to have to say it, but his opinion of today’s college students is bleaker than mine. It turns out that I have been offering a rosy scenario about today’s youth. Who would have guessed?

Don’t believe me? Try this, from Deneen:

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of … a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.

In other circles it’s called cosmopolitanism, or citizen-of-the-worldism. It seeks to cut students off from their culture roots, the better to make them into fully human asocial beings.

As Deneen sees it, the educational system and our culture at large have done it on purpose:

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.

And also:

What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, history-less free agents, and educational goals composed of content-free processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.”

As I have occasionally mentioned, if you do not identify yourself as a member of a group, but only as a member of the species, you need not practice the kinds of good behavior that will sustain and maintain your membership. Since you do not need to do anything to continue to be a member of the human species and since nothing you can do will cause you to be any more or less human, cutting people off from community and their common culture makes them amoral.

Deneen explains:

In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.

It began with multiculturalism and ended with the idealization of diversity:

Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.

You end up not belonging to anything. You have no real interest in connecting to your culture, to the achievements of your forebears. Thus, you are lost and adrift… ignorant and self-absorbed. Your values, such as they will be, are valueless.

In Deneen’s words:

Ancient philosophy and practice praised as an excellent form of government a res publica – a devotion to public things, things we share together. We have instead created the world’s first Res Idiotica – from the Greek word idiotes, meaning “private individual.” Our education system produces solipsistic, self-contained selves whose only public commitment is an absence of commitment to a public, a common culture, a shared history. They are perfectly hollowed vessels, receptive and obedient, without any real obligations or devotions.

How are we going to get out of this predicament? Deneen is slightly less optimistic than I am, but his point deserves consideration. People will not wake up to the cost of cultural collapse until everything else collapses all around them.

But even on those better days, I can’t help but hold the hopeful thought that the world they have inherited – a world without inheritance, without past, future, or deepest cares – is about to come tumbling down, and that this collapse would be the true beginning of a real education.

Have a nice day!

Angela Merkel's About Face

Guess who said this?

It can not be that all the young people from Afghanistan come to Germany.

If you guessed beleaguered German Chancellor Angela Merkel you would be right.

Now that Merkel wants to run for a fourth term as German Chancellor she is seeing more clearly. Her open-arms immigration policy has failed. It caused her political party to decline. Indirectly, it caused Great Britain to exit the European Union. As of yesterday, it looks like France’s next president will be an anti-immigrant center rightist, Francois Fillon. And, of course, the anti-immigrant candidate in the United States won the presidential election over the candidate who wanted to govern like Angela Merkel.

It took some time, but Merkel has finally come to her senses.

The London Express has the story:

The beleaguered Chancellor said authorities would significantly step up the rate of forced returns as she battles to arrest an alarming slump in her popularity which has fuelled a surge in support for the far-right.

Mrs Merkel, whose decision to roll out the red carpet to migrants from across Africa and the Middle East spectacularly backfired, has taken an increasingly tough tone on immigration in recent months.

And in her toughest rhetoric yet the German leader told MPs from her party this week: ”The most important thing in the coming months is repatriation, repatriation and once more, repatriation.”

The stance marks an astonishing U-turn from the once pro-refugee Chancellor, who has been widely pilloried by critics at home and abroad for her decision to throw open Germany’s borders to millions of migrants.

The article continues:

Speaking at a conference of conservative MPs in Neumünster yesterday evening the Chancellor revealed that she expects 100,000 migrants to leave Germany this year, of which a third will be forcibly removed.

And employing a tough new form of rhetoric, she warned local regions to deport all migrants whose asylum applications are rejected, using force if necessary.

Why Exercise?

Consider this a public service. Time Magazine (via Maggie’sFarm) recently offered a long article on the benefits of exercise. You knew all about it already, I am sure, but there’s no harm in looking at some of the most recent research. Whatever it takes to get you off the couch….

A couple of salient passages from Time:

Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain for the better, but it’s an area of active research. So far, they’ve found that exercise improves blood flow to the brain, feeding the growth of new blood vessels and even new brain cells, courtesy of the protein BDNF, short for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF triggers the growth of new neurons and helps repair and protect brain cells from degeneration. “I always tell people that exercise is regenerative medicine–restoring and repairing and basically fixing things that are broken,” Bamman says.

Repairs like this throughout the body may be the reason exercise has been shown to extend life span by as much as five years. A small new study suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may slow down the aging of cells. As humans get older and their cells divide over and over again, their telomeres–the protective caps on the end of chromosomes–get shorter. To see how exercise affects telomeres, researchers took a muscle biopsy and blood samples from 10 healthy people before and after a 45-minute ride on a stationary bicycle. They found that exercise increased levels of a molecule that protects telomeres, ultimately slowing how quickly they shorten over time. Exercise, then, appears to slow aging at the cellular level.

And also, reflecting advice that I like to give to everyone:

Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician who runs a sports-medicine fellowship at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, has prescribed exercise to his patients since the early 1990s in hopes of doling out less medication. “It really worked amazingly, particularly in my very sickest patients,” he says. “If I could get them to do it on a regular basis–even just walking, anything that got their heart rate up a bit–I would see dramatic improvements in their chronic disease, not to mention all of these other things like depression, anxiety, mood and energy levels.”

Older people, too, can benefit from strenuous exercise. Until now, all the recommendations for increasing bone density have included low-repetition, high-weight types of training, says Jinger Gottschall, associate professor of kinesiology at Penn State University. “But this just isn’t feasible for a lot of people. You can’t picture your grandma going in and doing that.” Luckily for Grandma, Gottschall’s team found that lifting lighter weights for more reps improves bone density in key parts of the body, making it a good alternative to heavy lifting.

It’s becoming evident that nearly everyone–young, old, pregnant, ill–benefits from exercise.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

When Orange Is Not the New Black

It doesn’t happen very often that I find redeeming social value in a column by Nicholas Kristof, but today is one of those days.

Recently, Kristof travelled to Oklahoma to research the mass incarceration of females. Of course, he begins by inveighing against all mass incarceration, but since everyone knows that young males commit far more crimes than do young females, we can easily defend the mass incarceration of males in terms of the concomitant reduction in crime. With female prisoners, the same is probably not the case.

If we decide to release more male criminals from prison we are very likely to see an increase in the crime rate. If we decide to release more female criminals from prison the chances are good that we will not. Besides, if we do the latter, more children will have mothers present in the home.

Of course, a television series called Orange is the New Black has glamorized and even eroticized life in a woman’s prison. The show makes prison life seem cool and hot, though with an occasional instance of violence.

Inexplicably, Kristof does not mention the television show. But, he also does not mention the fact that his argument rests on a yawning division of the sexes.

Despite what the propagandists would have you believe, men and women are not the same. In part, at least, America has gone down the road toward the mass incarceration of females because certain ideologues have insisted that men and women receive equal treatment in all matters, great and small, good and bad.

America leads most of the world in incarcerating females because contemporary feminism insists on equality.

Kristof describes the scene, in which orange is not quite as fashionable as the television show makes it appear:

The women’s wing of the jail here exhales sadness. The inmates, wearing identical orange uniforms, ache as they undergo withdrawal from drugs, as they eye one another suspiciously, and as they while away the days stripped of freedom, dignity, privacy and, most painful of all, their children.

Apparently, our mania with equality has caused us to ignore the fact that mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. And this has been costly:

The United States has recently come to its senses and begun dialing back on the number of male prisoners. But we have continued to increase the number of women behind bars; two-thirds of women in state prisons are there for nonviolent offenses. America now incarcerates eight times as many women as in 1980, and only Thailand seems to imprison women at a higher rate.

As for the difference between the sexes, Kristof renders it here:

I wouldn’t argue that mass female incarceration is worse than mass male incarceration — they’re both counterproductive — but the imprisonment of women has heartbreaking collateral damage, because women are disproportionately likely to be primary caregivers, and 60 percent of American women in state prisons have children under 18.

Then there is the question of responsibility. How many women criminals were doing it to please a man or were doing it because they were accompanying a man? And how many of them suffered sexual abuse or were addicted to licit and illicit substances:

In fact, the women should evoke sympathy; even more than male prisoners, they have been through the wringer.

A quarter of women in state prisons reported having been sexually abused as children, one 1999 Justice Department study found. A different study found that 43 percent of women in jails that were examined had serious mental health problems, and 82 percent had drug or alcohol problems.

Take the example of a woman named Rabbit:

Like many female felons, Rabbit seems to have gotten in trouble because of a boyfriend who manipulated her into committing crimes.

“He always put me in the position of doing the dirty work,” Rabbit said, speaking of a boyfriend who used to choke and beat her when he wasn’t coercing her to commit crimes. She says they committed robberies and other offenses, sometimes she at his behest; he ended up with a sentence of four years probation and she faced a possible sentence of 26 years in prison.

You’ve come a long way, baby! Our society’s failure to distinguish between men and women, our obsession with thinking that women are just as strong and just as prone to criminality as men has produced this problem.

You might think that these women deserve what they got and that they are responsible adults. Yet, while a young male criminal is more likely to reoffend and to endanger society, I seriously doubt that the same danger would be present if we got over the tendency to incarcerate women en masse.

Should You Live in the Moment?

The psycho world has a problem. For today, we’ll call it totalistic thinking.

Any time psychiatry discovers a new medication, psychiatrists suddenly discover that everyone is suffering from whatever the medication is supposed to treat.

When they discovered lithium, a medication that is very helpful in some cases, the profession, as a man (or woman) rose up to declare that everyone was bipolar and that everyone should be taking the new miracle drug. The same happened with Valium and even Thorazine. Most recently, psychiatrists were so thrilled to have a better treatment for depression that they decided to give Prozac and other designer drugs to everyone. After all, wasn’t everyone suffering from some form of depression.

One famous psychiatrist even claimed that Prozac was going to make you into someone else. He did not say exactly who that would be, but when you believe that a pill can solve all your problems—by giving you someone else’s problems, perhaps—then why would you bother to work on solving them yourself.

No one much mentions it but all of these totalistic approaches to mental health and happiness are relieving you of the dire necessity of having to do any real work.

The habit of totalistic thinking also extends to many of the simple-minded concepts that therapists have been peddling. One, about which I have had much to say, is Empathy. If you have a problem with your relationships or with your career or with your children, serious therapists will tell you to take two Empathy and call them in the morning.

And, of course, there is the other recent panacea: positive thinking. Again, there is virtue in balanced thinking-- that means, not just thinking in terms of the worst—but the notion that positive thinking will solve all your problems is far too mindless to be useful. Again, it is totalizing.

You can always learn a new form of mental gymnastics and feel better about yourself. No one is opposed to it. And yet, positive thinking is a waste of time if you cannot figure out how to deal with your problems, how to manage your relationships and how to conduct your life.

Life is not a state of mind. To imagine that rejiggering your state of mind will make you healthy, wealthy and happy is buy into a fairy tale. It derives from the aberrant notion that your mind creates reality. And it is probably derived from the experience of prayer. At least, those who pray do not believe in the omnipotence of their own minds. And they belong to communities, thus socializing the activity. Unless you are an angel, you are a social being, not a disembodied mind.

To be fair, the Bible says that you shall know people by their deeds. And that means, whatever your state of mind, people will know you by what you do, by what they can see and what they can take as an objective fact. Don’t use prayer or mindfulness as an excuse for doing nothing.

This morning in the New York Times we read that the latest greatest psycho panacea is: living in the present, often called mindfulness. Again, to be fair there is nothing wrong with meditation. A yoga class can certainly be mentally and physically beneficial. If you can take a deep breath, slow down and smell the coffee you will benefit.

Unfortunately, what Ruth Whippman calls “the spiritual industrial complex” has proclaimed that mindfulness is all you need. Again, totalizing thinking. It means that you should learn to live totally in the present. Whippman is correct to argue that this is a mistake.

As I have said before, if you do not learn from the past and never plan for the future, happiness, contentment and success will be elusive.

Whippman asks what mindfulness can do for her while she is standing at the kitchen sink:

According to the practice’s thought leaders, in order to maximize our happiness, we should refuse to succumb to domestic autopilot and instead be fully “in” the present moment, engaging completely with every clump of oatmeal and decomposing particle of scrambled egg. Mindfulness is supposed to be a defense against the pressures of modern life, but it’s starting to feel suspiciously like it’s actually adding to them. It’s a special circle of self-improvement hell, striving not just for a Pinterest-worthy home, but a Pinterest-worthy mind.

One might say that someone who is thinking about mindfulness while washing dishes is not in the moment.

For my part, I believe that “domestic autopilot” is clearly preferable. No one focuses on every action he is taking. If he did he would never get through the day. He would get completely bogged down. Besides, is it not best, to take an example, to scrub the pots on autopilot while using one’s mental faculties for reflections on more important matters? It’s not about being or not being in the moment. It’s about making the most efficient use of one’s mental capacities.

For my part, I’ll take autopilot every time. It’s like having routines. They are more economical. Besides, Confucius would have approved.

Whippman continues that what makes life interesting and engaging, not to say meaningful, is context-- the context of your actions, the way they fit with other actions, the way they involve you with other people in your world. Context connects you with other people. Context relieves you of the sense that you are alone.

She writes:

What differentiates humans from animals is exactly this ability to step mentally outside of whatever is happening to us right now, and to assign it context and significance.

Let’s say that you are playing a game of chess. Does it make any sense to stop thinking about the future, to stop planning several moves ahead? If you do you will be taking yourself out of the game. And you will undoubtedly lose. The same, incidentally, applies to the game of life.

Whippman adds that the totalizing minds of the psycho world have so thoroughly convinced themselves that mindfulness will cure all of your ills that they assume that when you are suffering, it must mean that you have failed to be mindful.

She writes:

But still, the advice to be more mindful often contains a hefty scoop of moralizing smugness, a kind of “moment-shaming” for the distractible, like a stern teacher scolding us for failing to concentrate in class. The implication is that by neglecting to live in the moment we are ungrateful and unspontaneous, we are wasting our lives, and therefore if we are unhappy, we really have only ourselves to blame.

Will the irony never cease. Think about it, “moralizing smugness” from the people who insist that you not be judgmental.

Finally, Whippman suggests that the new mania about mindfulness is really a way to police thoughts. Unfortunately, it is not hard to see that the therapy world is filled with people who are in the business precisely because they want to police your thoughts. And, because they want to reform your thoughts. Robert Jay Lifton wrote a seminal work on it several decades ago. It was called Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. For the record, thought reform is a euphemism for brainwashing.

In Whippman’s words:

This judgmental tone is part of a long history of self-help-based cultural thought policing. At its worst, the positive-thinking movement deftly rebranded actual problems as “problematic thoughts.” Now mindfulness has taken its place as the focus of our appetite for inner self-improvement. Where once problems ranging from bad marriages and work stress to poverty and race discrimination were routinely dismissed as a failure to “think positive,” now our preferred solution to life’s complex and entrenched problems is to instruct the distressed to be more mindful.

Funnily enough, if you live totally in the moment, how will you ever put together a plan to deal with any problem? You will be frozen in mental amber, lacking a face and a name, incapable of taking action, wondering why the world is passing you by. I promise you, mindfulness only stops time for a moment.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

How Not to Run a Political Campaign... and to Win

Last night Chris Matthews devoted his television show to one question: How did Donald Trump win the presidency while breaking all the rules of political campaigning?

Yes, I recognize that many of you would rather be waterboarded than to watch Chris Matthews. If that is your case, you can tell yourself that I watched it so that you don’t have to. Thank me.

Nevertheless, Matthews asked a legitimate question. He pointed out that Trump broke all of the rules of political decorum. He offended and insulted just about everyone he could offend and insult. He was boorish and obnoxious. When called out on his bad behavior he doubled down on it. He did not just get away with it. He won.

Matthews was intrigued, and so should we all be.

One panelist suggested that Trump (and Hillary) were so repugnant that they persuaded large numbers of people not to go to the polls. This increased the importance of Trump’s supporters, who turned out in droves. They had no problem with the bad behavior. They took sustenance from the locker room humor.

Had I been called on to offer an opinion on the subject, I would have said something like this. In a time of political correctness, in a time when the dogmas of multiculturalism are being proselytized and enforced throughout the academy and the media, anyone who continues to observe the rules of propriety looks like he has been cowed into submission.

Trump’s antics worked because we are being oppressed by a cultural tyranny. In such an atmosphere, where people are being lectured and hectored by the great minds of the media, where college students are forced to accept the dogmas of political correctness lest they fail their courses, courtesy and civility start looking like subservience.

Normally, you would want to combat the ambient tyranny by setting an example of good behavior. When good behavior looks like submission someone has to go on the attack. That someone must be immune to the contempt of the cognoscenti and illiterati. He must not show the least sign of remorse or shame.

In a time when people are being publicly humiliated for saying the wrong thing about any protected group (or is it, faction) so you have to show yourself as impervious to humiliation.

The Age of Obama has given us an unprecedented level of mind control. The idolaters who have invested in the president believe that they can make his presidency a rousing success by forcing everyone to say that it was a rousing success. If you do not say so, you are a bigot.

Moe and more, we are being told what to think and how to think it. Newspapers no longer report the news. They tell us what to think. Because there is only one correct way to think. If you think anything else you will never again be invited to a Manhattan dinner party. Sit-coms no longer present vaguely humorous dramas. They preach the gospel of diversity.

Many people have suffered for as much. If your child was not accepted into his preferred college because he was a white male, you might feel that you have been subjected to reverse discrimination. If you say so, you are a racist.

If you and a woman you met at a party are both so drunk that you do not know what you are doing, and have carnal relations, you are a rapist. Whatever she said or did not say; whatever she did or did not do. It doesn't matter. She did not know what she was doing, and so, you are a rapist.

Thanks to a bureaucratic edict from the Obama justice department, you have no right to due process in the administrative proceedings that might expel you from college and brand you a sexual predator.

If the woman wrote you a text the next day telling you that she had the time of her life, it does not count. She was hung over. You are a rapist.

If you look at a woman at work the wrong way or make a vulgar remark about her, you can get sued, get fired and see your life destroyed. Normally, you  would never do such a thing. You were brought up to be a gentleman and to respect women. You do so automatically. Unfortunately, the codes of courteous behavior have already been denounced as sexist oppression, so... what do you do?

You also know that you are risking your life and your livelihood if you step across a line that might only have appeared because something you said made someone feel bad. In the new world of political correctness we no longer have objective standards for behavior. We have a tyranny of hurt feelings.

But, if you behave with the utmost of decorum, but live in an environment where every man is a potential sexual harasser or rapist, your good behavior will be seen as submission to the matriarchy.

You might not say it out loud, but when Donald Trump goes beyond the pale with a vulgar remark, you think that it’s about time that someone stood up to the feminist matriarchy. It is not because you are especially vulgar, or because you think it acceptable to speak of anyone is such terms. You have effectively had it up to here by the thought police and are happy that someone is trashing them.

Obviously, it mattered that the vulgarian Trump was running against Hillary Clinton. Everyone knew that when Hillary’s husband was accused of sexual harassment and rape, she stood up for him. She defended him to the death. Everyone knew that feminist hypocrites had given Bill Clinton a pass.

This meant that Hillary and her feminist cohorts had no standing to attack Donald Trump for mistreating women. Yelling sexism seemed more like a way to manipulate the minds of female voters than a way to stand up for women’s dignity.

And let us not forget the obvious. Had they been given a choice most men would largely have preferred to be married to Melania Trump than to Hillary Clinton. The media will tell you that it is sexist abuse for a man to marry a woman many years his junior—even though the laws of human biology tell us otherwise. The same media will cheer on a woman who marries a man who is decades younger than she, biology be damned.

As I have mentioned, many women, more than expected, did not respect Hillary Clinton and would not have wanted her marriage. It may be sexist to want to have a wife or to want to be a wife. In truth, it is no longer permissible to say so in public.

In the Age of Obama the nation’s laws were violated with impunity by the administration. At that point, respect for the law begins to look like a sign of weakness.

If you, through your representatives, reject the idea of amnesty for illegal immigrants, and if the president decides that his own version of the constitution allows him, in the absence of congressional action, to grant them permission to stay in the country, you are not allowed to object, lest you be considered a bigot.

If you say that illegal immigrants are here illegally, you are a bigot. Because, they would all be legal if you, by executive fiat, said that they were legal. If you are in college and you call them illegal aliens you will flunk out.

Of course, you are no longer allowed to go on many college campuses to defend Israel. If you do, you will be shouted down and prevented from speaking. You will—if you are named Caroline Glick—have your invitation withdrawn. If you do not sign on to the Palestinian cause you are a bigot.

The tyranny of political correctness manifests itself in discussions about race. If blacks and other minorities commit a vastly disproportionate number of crimes you are not allowed to say so. You must say that the problem is white police officers.

If certain segments of the black community declare war on white policemen and if more and more of said policemen are gunned down by blacks, you are not allowed to say who committed the crimes.

And then there is sexism and misogyny. If you believe that men and women are different, that they have different capacities for doing different jobs, you are a bigot. If you suggest that gender has a biological basis and is not just a social construct, you are a bigot.

If you do not accept that the most important question for women’s health is how not to procreate you are a bigot. If you have noticed that more women are having more problems getting pregnant when they want to, you are also a bigot.

In a world ruled by ideology, biology, and its handmaiden, reality do not count. You might well believe that the meaning of marriage involves procreation and you might accept that until a dozen years ago all human marriages have been between a man and a woman. You might be open minded about the subject of same-sex marriage and accept that the nation is trying a social experiment, whereby people of the same gender be allowed to marry each other.

It’s not good enough. You are forced to believe that throughout the entirety of human history all human communities have defined marriage as existing between a man and a woman because of their homophobia. If you believe that a human institution is universal because it has something to do with the way babies are made you will be dismissed as a bigot. If you believe that one sexual act is granted greater value because the future of your genes, your family line and your community depends on it, you will be called a homophobic bigot.

And, of course, the final straw, for many citizens came with the issue of transgendered restrooms. The media elites and the great minds of our society declared that Bruce Jenner was no longer Bruce Jenner, that he had magically transformed himself into a 6 foot 2 inch Caitlyn Jenner—with a male anatomy.

If you don’t think that Caitlyn is a woman, you are a bigot. You need some thought reform. To facilitate the process every magazine cover has been throwing the image of Caitlyn in your face. Talking heads on television will declare in all seriousness that they are happy for Caitlyn because she can now be whoever she thinks she is. They will tell you to send her gift certificates for Victoria’s Secret.

Given this saturation coverage of transgenderism, more and more children are deciding that they were born into the wrong body. Did it ever cross your mind that they are suffering the influence of the ambient culture, and that the pervasive media affection for the transgendered is going to convince more children and even adults that they were born into the wrong body? Do you think this is a good thing?

Keep in mind transgenderism has no biological basis. It is merely a belief. And yet, in a cultural soup where people believe that gender is merely a social construct, why not think that you can change your gender by changing your mind?

Now that the media has set itself the task of manufacturing transgendered children, the legal system has in some cases decided that it is acceptable to give these children hormone injections that will stop the normal process of puberty. Anyone who fails to see this as child abuse is morally derelict.

Our enlightened guardians and philosopher kings believe so strongly in the powers of their mind that they find reality to be offensive.

American people are being forced to believe that their common sense, based on an observation of reality, is wrong. Dividing the society into males and females, and making this division depend on biology is bigotry against the four dozen different genders. Do you think that every one of these different genders deserves its own restroom?

Americans are now being told that their teenage daughters have to suffer the presence of biological males in their locker rooms because the great minds of our culture had decided that gender is a state of mind.

In the Age of Obama the hurt feelings of the aggrieved have become the ultimate standard of moral rectitude. The average person’s sense of reality has had to yield to the master minds of political correctness.

People understand that democratic deliberation only works if both participants are willing to accept the verdict of reality, the verdict of what works, the verdict of what the evidence shows. If you tell people that the subjective feelings of certain groups must be the deciding factor you are legislating mind control.

In such an age, being polite and courteous looks to most people like acquiescence. Under the circumstances doubling down on rudeness, giving the thought police your middle finger, seems to many people to be the only way to end the tyranny.

Ergo, behaviors and language that would have doomed any other political candidate worked for Donald Trump.