Thursday, August 31, 2017

What We Lost When We Lost Chivalry

Another scene from everyday life in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn. While Faith Moore was playing with her son in a playground, a man tried to steal her diaper bag.

Here is what happened:

A couple weeks ago some guy tried to steal my diaper bag at the playground. I just happened to look up and there he was, nonchalantly walking out of the park with my bag on his shoulder. I was already running after him yelling, “Hey! That’s my bag!” before it occurred to me that perhaps I shouldn’t be threatening an unknown man who’s clearly a criminal. Especially while holding my son on my hip.

I didn’t think, though, and I confronted him and, actually, I got the bag back. But as I turned around and met the startled faces of the other moms and dads at the playground who’d watched the whole thing go down, it occurred to me that not a single man had come to my aid. There were plenty of dads at the playground that day. Some who even spoke to me afterward, wondering how I’d gotten the guy to give my bag back. But no one had seen a woman in peril and stepped in.

Because this is Brooklyn and because men have been trained not to defend women—this is a world occupied only be feminists—not one man stood up to defend a young mother, holding a toddler, running after a thug.

Moore reflects that, had she been thinking more clearly, she might not have been quite so brave. On the other hand, the scene took place in public, and the presence of multiple witnesses have always restrained those of a more criminal bent.

Upon reflection, she asks herself what we lost when we threw away chivalry. You recall—or perhaps you do not—that second wave feminism declared that courtship and chivalry had been invented to make women feel weak and to keep them off the battlefield. Thus, courtship was banned. Chivalrous gestures were interpreted as misogynist bigotry.

Moore reflects on the meaning of those gestures. She points to the simple fact that men are significantly stronger than women. It’s a fact. It’s reality.  In that context chivalrous gestures mean something. Her analysis is  on point:

But, the things is, those “little gestures” aren’t just to make us “feel special.” They’re to let us know we’re safe. They’re the things a man does to tell us that, even though he’s twice our size, and twice as strong (because biology made him that way), he won’t hurt us. He pulls out our chair, or pays for our meal, or opens the door for us, not because we don’t know how to pull out chairs, open doors, or pay for things, but because it shows us that he’ll be using his superior strength to care for us, not kill us. And that if someone comes along who seems like he does want to kill us (or steal our bag), he’ll use his superior strength to make sure that other guy takes a hike.

Because I know that, even though a woman and a man are equally capable of becoming, say, brain surgeons, they aren’t equally capable of punching some guy in the head. And I also know that, because men and women are different, the kind of interplay that comes from a man taking care of a woman by protecting her physically, and a woman taking care of a man by protecting him emotionally is desirable to both.

So, though it strikes fear into a mother’s heart to say it, when my son is grown, if he sees a man threatening a woman (no matter how frizzy her hair, and defiant her gaze) I hope he’ll come to her aid. And when he goes on those first, awkward dates he’ll know (because I taught him) to pull out that chair, open that door, and pick up the tab. And if any girl tells him he’s being offensive and insists on going dutch? Well, she’s just not the right girl for him.

Yes, indeed.


Some ideas are so stupid that one does best to ignore them. Among them the newly minted sin of cultural appropriation.  Apparently, campus radicals are up in arms over the notion that a member of the hegemonic white culture might rent, borrow or steal some artefact of an apparently less successful culture.

Appropriation is theft. And theft is bad. Bari Weiss takes the anti-appropriationists to task:

The logic of those casting the stones goes something like this: Stealing is bad. It’s especially terrible when those doing the stealing are “rich” — as in, they come from a dominant racial, religious, cultural or ethnic group — and those they are stealing from are “poor.”

Few of us doubt that stealing is wrong, especially from the poor. But the accusation of “cultural appropriation” is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism — the mixing of different thoughts, religions, cultures and ethnicities that often ends up creating entirely new ones. In other words: the most natural process in a melting-pot country like ours.

This also implies that anyone who does not belong to the white ruling class is bitterly clinging to their culture. That is, they are hanging on to the culture of their ancestors. This will inoculate them against the tendency to adopt aspects of the ruling culture. Does this sound like ancestor worship to you? It sounds like it to me.

Of course, the point of the exercise is not to prevent white people from eating pasta and pizza. The real point is to rationalize and to justify a failure to assimilate, a failure to adopt Anglo-Saxon culture. 

Weiss reminds us that we have always stolen from other cultures. When we see something that works better we adopt it. She might have added—but she didn’t—that when China set about trying to feed its people in the late 1970s, it rejected the Communism that it had previously appropriated from continental Europe and replaced it with the free enterprise system that it appropriated from the Anglosphere. And, of course, the Chinese adopted it to to China. That is, they introduced free enterprise without liberal democracy. Are we to consider that a crime? How stupid can you get?

Weiss concludes:

The point is that everything great and iconic about this country comes when seemingly disparate parts are blended in revelatory ways. That merging simply doesn’t happen in places where people are separated by race and ethnicity and class. And it’s not only what makes American culture so rich, but it is also a big part of the reason America is so successful. When we see a good idea, we steal it; when we have a good idea, the rest of the world is welcome to it as well.

These days our mongrel culture is at risk of being erased by an increasingly strident left, which is careering us toward a wan existence in which we are all forced to remain in the ethnic and racial lanes assigned to us by accident of our birth. Hoop earrings are verboten, as are certain kinds of button-down shirtsYoga is dangerous. So are burritos and eyeliner.

Wherefore Evergreen State College?

Apparently, not all publicity is good publicity. We recall the events that roiled the Evergreen State College Campus last spring.

The College Fix explains what happened:

First they [progressive students] cornered white biology Professor Bret Weinstein and shouted him down over his choice not leave campus during a “Day of Absence,” in which white students and employees were asked to stay off campus for the day. The aggressive actions against the professor forced him to hold class off campus at a nearby park.

Next, students accused the university’s administration of racism during a contentious meeting, during which they yelled at and belittled President George Bridges. At this meeting, some white students were told to stand in the back of the room because of the color of their skin. The progressive student protesters also issued a string of demands to combat the alleged racism on campus, most of which the university agreed to implement at an unknown fiscal cost.

The college was also shut for multiple days in early June because of threats it received. Student vigilantes even took to patrolling campus with bats. Later reports about the school revealed that radicalism and anarchy had been pushed at Evergreen State College since at least 2008.

The consequences echo what happened at the University of Missouri. Student enrollment fell. The university faced a budget shortfall.  Employees were laid off. Now if only alumni stop contributing. It’s the only way to stop the madness.

The College Fix reports:

Administrators at The Evergreen State College have announced that the embattled school faces a massive $2.1 million budget shortfall due in part to a drop in enrollment, and the institution has already handed out some temporary layoff notices as officials grapple with balancing the books.

In an Aug. 28 memo to the campus community titled “Enrollment and Budget Update,” officials report that fall 2017-18 registration is down about 5 percent, from 3,922 students to 3,713. But the problem is nearly all of the students they lost are nonresidents, who traditionally pay a much higher tuition to attend, officials explained in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The College Fix.

Combined with a shortfall in funding from state coffers to shoulder a mandatory cost-of-living salary increase and a rise in the general cost of operations, and the school must find a way to resolve a $2.1 million shortfall for the fiscal year that began July 1, according to the memo.

In the end these antics diminish the value of everyone's degree. Good job, radicals. Good job, weak-kneed administrators.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Low Fat Diets Are Bad for Your Health

Regardless of whether you accept the science, these stories have an undeniable entertainment value. Today’s story comes to us from Canada. Researchers there have discovered that low fat diets will hasten your demise.

Yes, indeed. High carb, low fat diets are not good for your health. If you eat less fat you will not live longer; you will live shorter.No news yet on whether the low fat diet makes you more eligible for entry to Heaven.

Considering its proponents’ religious fervor, it will certainly amuse you to find out that less fat means less life. One has been told, over and over again, by serious nutritionists, that a healthy diet contains less fat. Perhaps it produces a spiritual experience, but it does not improve your health.

Anyway, the Daily Mail (who else?) reports the news, presented at a conference of heart specialists:

Low-fat diets could increase the risk of an early death, a major study has found.

A global study of 135,000 people reveals that people who eat the least fat have the highest mortality rates.

The findings, presented at the world's largest heart conference, challenge decades of dietary advice which have focused on persuading people to cut fat.

The Canadian research team, who published their study in the respected Lancet medical journal, said fat may actually have a protective effect on human health.

They found people with the lowest fat intake were 23 per cent more likely to die young.

The scientists said people should instead cut back on carbohydrates – the potatoes, bread, pasta and rice which UK health authorities say should be at the centre of a healthy diet.

It turns out that the human body needs to consume a certain amount of fatty foods. Who would have imagined such a thing? When you are lusting after some short ribs your body is telling you that it is fat deprived.

The Daily Mail continues:

But researcher Dr Mahshid Dehghan of McMaster University, speaking at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona, said: 'For decades, dietary guidelines have focused on reducing total fat and saturated fatty acid.'

But she added: 'The body needs fat. It carries vitamins, it provides essential acids, it has a role in the body.

'When you reduce fat to very low levels, you're affecting these important minerals.'

This does not mean that you should limit your diet to bacon and Big Macs. It does mean that the best diet is a balanced diet. Again, who would have guessed:

She stressed that people should not eat unlimited fat – and if people actually hit the British guidance of getting 35 per cent of energy from fat, they will give themselves the best health.

But she said the focus on 'low-fat' dieting – a drive supported by UK authorities - means people often go below this level.

And when people try to cut fat they replace it in the diet with carbohydrates and sugar, increasing their heart risk.

Obviously, it is good to consume a certain quantity of carbohydrates and sugars, but using them as fat replacements will cause you to die young. It’s today’s good news.

Glorifying a Transgender Traitor

Howls of outrage greeted President Trump’s pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. After all, Arpaio was overzealously pursuing suspected illegal immigrants, and we cannot have that. It smacks of bigotry, and the ultimate sin, these days, is bigotry.

Trump’s detractors declared that the president was condoning bigotry. The emphasized that no one had ever done anything worse in the history of the Republic. Some of us noted that President Obama had commuted the sentence of a traitor named Bradley or Chelsea Manning and had done the same for a convicted terrorist and murderer named Oscar Lopez Rivera.

Did anyone say that Obama had thereby aligned himself with treason and terrorism? Of course not. The Messiah does no wrong. Didn’t you know that?

As James Kirchick writes in The New York Times, now that transgenderism is the cause du jour among left thinking media types, Chelsea or Bradley Manning is a hero or a heroine. No one cares what he did. No one cares how many people died because of what he did. No one cares about espionage or treason. What really matter is that Manning is helping America to overcome its habit of seeing beings with XY chromosomes as males.

The more you detach people from rational thought and from using reality as a reference the easier it is to control their minds using propaganda.

Of course, trangenderism is a belief. Many consider it a delusional belief. By glamorizing and glorifying someone like Manning, the media and the radical left is getting itself into the business of producing more transgender children. Keep in mind, our elites now accept that a five-year-old child can choose his or her own gender. Not only does this mean that everyone will be forced to address him or her by whatever pronouns he or she chooses. It also means that he or she will be shot up with puberty blocking hormones before he or she has reached an age of adult consent. At that point, changing her mind—which happens to around three fourths of the children who declare themselves transgender—will be out of the medical question.

Kirchick reminds us of precisely what Manning did:

When Ms. Manning transmitted 750,000 secret military records and State Department cables to WikiLeaks in 2010, she not only jeopardized continuing missions and disrupted American diplomacy. She also put an untold number of innocent people’s lives in danger.

What was the result? What happened when Manning put the records in the hands of Julian Assange?

Kirchick tells us:

According to The New Yorker, when the United States tried to locate “hundreds” of Afghans named in the documents and move them to safety, “many could not be found, or were in environments too dangerous to reach.” When pressed by a journalist about the possibility of redacting the names of Afghans who cooperated with the United States military, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, reportedly replied: “Well, they’re informants. So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.”

For having betrayed her country, Manning was made into a hero. What does that say about the patriotism of those who are worshipping her?

Kirchick explains:

Yet from the moment United States military prosecutors charged Ms. Manning with violating the Espionage Act in 2010, progressives have hailed her as a folk hero. She became an even more sympathetic figure when, shortly after her sentencing three years later, she announced she was transgender and wished to be known as Chelsea. The day of her discharge from prison this May following a commutation of her sentence by President Barack Obama, Laura Poitras, the activist filmmaker who assisted Edward Snowden in his leak of highly classified information, announced she would produce a film about Ms. Manning titled “XY Chelsea.” Amnesty International — an organization ostensibly committed to freeing political prisoners, not those who assist their jailers — gushed that “people power can triumph over injustice.”

At the least, let’s not call it patriotism.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Should We Restore Bourgeois Hegemony?

Campus Red Guards and Brown Shirts are out in force to punish Law Professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander. You see, the two professors wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer calling for a return to 1950s bourgeois culture and a rejection of today’s multicultural mishmosh.

By their lights, America’s cultural elites, the academic and media class that tells everyone what to think, has produced a nation that is largely dysfunctional, unable to compete in the modern world.

Wax and Alexander count the ways:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

What caused this problem? America’s bourgeois culture was replaced by a culture grounded in the values of the Vietnam counterculture. Bourgeois culture promoted certain values. Wax and Alexander explain:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

To which we feel obliged to add that our nation was also following the same script during World War II. At that time, we fielded a military that defeated fascism and Nazism. The culture that reigned during and after Vietnam has no such accomplishments to its credit. People who despise bourgeois hegemony because they want to fight fascism should remember who really did defeat fascism.

Were there problems? Wax and Alexander answer that, of course there were. And yet, during the 1950s America dealt with its problems constructively. It did not feel the need to destroy the nation in order to validate grievances.

They write:

Was everything perfect during the period of bourgeois cultural hegemony? Of course not. There was racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism. However, steady improvements for women and minorities were underway even when bourgeois norms reigned. Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite: The loss of bourgeois habits seriously impeded the progress of disadvantaged groups. That trend also accelerated the destructive consequences of the growing welfare state, which, by taking over financial support of families, reduced the need for two parents. A strong pro-marriage norm might have blunted this effect. Instead, the number of single parents grew astronomically, producing children more prone to academic failure, addiction, idleness, crime, and poverty.

Disadvantaged groups failed to progress after Vietnam. Under the aegis of the intellectual elites, the cultural fabric of America was shredded... to the point that there was nothing worth integrating into. Fragmented into warring tribes, the culture could not impart values that could produce success. 

The breakdown was produced by Vietnam and by the counterculture it spawned:

A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.

And those adults with influence over the culture, for a variety of reasons, abandoned their role as advocates for respectability, civility, and adult values. As a consequence, the counterculture made great headway, particularly among the chattering classes — academics, writers, artists, actors, and journalists — who relished liberation from conventional constraints and turned condemning America and reviewing its crimes into a class marker of virtue and sophistication.

Thus we arrived at multiculturalism, a misguided attempt to allow everyone to have equal self-esteem. You can imagine that today's culture warriors are especially offended to read Wax and Alexander make the all-too-obvious point that all cultures are not created equal:

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

Yet, some American precincts have not embraced the deviant cultural practices advanced under the heading of multicultural diversity. In some corners of America, people still live as they did:

Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation.

Wax and Alexander call on our academic and media elites to abandon their preening acceptance of multiculturalism and to restore bourgeois hegemony:

But restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.

Of course, Wax and Alexander have been denounced as racists for trafficking in hate speech. For the record, hate speech is speech you hate because you do not know how to engage it. Why do they not know how to engage it? Because today’s bien-pensant leftist academic intellectuals are mentally challenged.  Keep in mind, name calling is the first recourse of the feeble minded.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Coming Crisis

A few discouraging words from Niall Ferguson today.

Regardless of who is president of the United States, the crisis is coming. The networked world born in Silicon Valley was supposed to create a “global community” of netizens, just as the Reformation was supposed to create a priesthood of all believers — in both cases the result was polarization, and spiraling conflict. People have never been more closely connected than they are today; and yet people have never been so estranged from one another — fractured bitterly along sectarian lines, racial lines, generational lines and all the other lines fetishized in the ugly name of “inter-sectionality.” If the Internet is the world’s town square, it increasingly resembles Tahrir Square shortly before the military crackdown. Anyone who wants to take umbrage at anything shrieks “hate speech!” — the modern term for heresy.

And also:

So yes: the world probably is slouching toward a grave systemic crisis. That crisis is already manifesting itself in mass online hysteria, rampant cyberwarfare, and accelerating nuclear proliferation. Nostalgia for Harry Truman and disdain for Donald Trump are understandable at such a time. But let’s not forget what happened three years after Marshall announced his scheme for European reconstruction. The same administration that gave us the Marshall Plan also gave us the Korean War.

Have a nice day!

Celebrating Negative Thinking

Television producer Elan Gale has a Instagram account, called Unspirational. In it he offers some aphorisms that are designed to promote negative thinking. His new book is called: You're Not That Great... But Neither Is Anyone Else. 

Here are a few aphorisms, from the Daily Mail:

Life hacks for the modern world: Sometimes it pays to be strategic 

The best things in life are not free after all, and will actually set you back a pretty penny 

Note to the judgmental, let's just get as far away from you as possible 

Never mind 'dance like nobody's watching', think about all those calories you're missing out on 

Bigotry, Inc.

In the midst of the great national debate over Confederate statues, Alabama native Charles Barkley declared that, growing up around such statues, he never noticed them. He advised African-Americans to get to work and stop committing crimes.

Naturally, he was quickly denounced as a white supremacist.

The American left is becoming dumb and dumber. It is running a pogrom to cleanse the culture of everything it finds offensive. We will end up living in a world with only one permitted book: The Little Red Book of the sayings of Chairman Mao.

As for those who want to ask where the pogrom will go next, the answer is simple. After finishing off all the statues and grammatically correct pronouns, pogromistas will go after people. In the sense of: human beings. Twas always thus....

The current obsession with bigotry is really about Barack Obama. We had our first African-American president and the nation’s media—with one conspicuous exception—declared him to have been the Messiah. Thus, everything he did was the best that had ever been done. Obama made no mistakes. He made no errors. He was not just the best and the brightest. He was the greatest. If you don't think so, you are a bigot. No one was allowed to criticize the Messiah, lest they be taxed with racism. Thus, no one spoke ill of Obama.

It was unfair and condescending, but Heaven help you if you disagreed.

Now, to the shock and dismay of the cognoscenti, the American people roundly rejected the Democratic Party at the ballot box. And, as though to stick a finger in the eye of the mainstream media, they elected someone who, by their moral calculus, resembles the Antichrist. Just as Obama could do no wrong, Trump, in the eyes of the media, can do no right.

If journalists want to be respected, they should begin by respecting themselves. That does not just mean reporting fairly about the Trump administration, but also reporting fairly about the Obama administration.

Worse yet, and to the chagrin of Nicholas Kristof, the Trump administration is rolling back the Obama legacy. When Obama transformed the nation via executive order, no one noticed that governing by executive fiat bespoke despotism. And none of those who were cheering from the peanut gallery noticed that these orders could easily be revoked and rendered null, by another executive.

The notion that media idolaters might lose their religion and their god-- seeing that he had feet of clay-- was too much to bear. They launched a cultural revolution, roughly as Chairman Mao did, in order to cover up their leader’s failures, but especially to shift the blame for his failures on everyone else. The fault was not with Obama. If his administration failed, the fault lay with systemic, endemic American racism.

Today, for example, we have been informed that the Democratic mayor of Houston told its residents not to evacuate while the Republican governor of Texas told them to do so. Naturally, supporters of the mayor are now out claiming that he was totally right. We know that he will never admit to error.

I promise you, in time, the media will blame the Houston catastrophe on Donald Trump. They will announce that it is God’s way of showing that Trump has lost the Mandate of Heaven. If you thought that these secularists did not believe in God, you were wrong.

Is that clear now?

Today, Shelby Steele explains the liberal con over racism. While racism still exists, Steele says, it is no longer the systemically enforced policy that it once was. The problems the African-Americans face today are less about racism and more about what Charles Barkley said: work harder, get an education and stop committing crimes. If the African-American community has lost those values, the fault might reside more with their leaders and less with racism.

Besides, did we not read in the New York Times that decades worth of affirmative action programs in American universities have done nothing to solve racial disparities. In fact, minorities are more underrepresented in colleges than they used to be. The fault lies with family structure and community values. Now, as you know, Asian American students are overrepresented—perhaps because they have Tiger Moms. Or perhaps it's because of their white privilege.

Steele opens his column:

It used to be that racism meant the actual enforcement of bigotry—the routine implementation of racial inequality everywhere in public and private life. Racism was a tyranny and an oppression that dehumanized—animalized—the “other.” 

He adds:

Today Americans know that active racism is no longer the greatest barrier to black and minority advancement. Since the 1960s other pathologies, even if originally generated by racism, have supplanted it. White racism did not shoot more than 4,000 people last year in Chicago. To the contrary, America for decades now—with much genuine remorse—has been recoiling from the practice of racism and has gained a firm intolerance for what it once indulged.

In the late 1960s, however, racism became recast as a sin, the worst of all social evils. For the most part people rejected racism. That did not stop the anti-racism warriors. Those who were fighting racism claimed that they possessed the ultimate virtue. Their word could not be questioned or challenged. They were fighting the ultimate evil, so any means were justified.

Steele writes:

What makes racism so sweet? Today it empowers. Racism was once just racism, a terrible bigotry that people nevertheless learned to live with, if not as a necessary evil then as an inevitable one. But the civil-rights movement, along with independence movements around the world, changed that. The ’60s recast racism in the national consciousness as an incontrovertible sin, the very worst of all social evils.

How does one rid one’s nation and one’s psyche of sin? By paying off a debt. Americans are guilty. White Americans are the most guilty. Those who practiced institutional racism they are now obliged to accept their punishment, to flagellate themselves, and to pay reparations to those who suffered:

Thus, redemption—paying off the nation’s sins—became the moral imperative of a new political and cultural liberalism. 

And yet, if you tell a community that everyone owes them a living, what incentive do they have to go out and work?

The war against racism gave liberals a sense of moral superiority. It defined their moral identity, even if their personal behavior left a great deal to be desired:

This liberalism always projects moral idealisms (integration, social justice, diversity, inclusion, etc.) that have the ring of redemption. What is political correctness, if not essentially redemptive speech? Soon liberalism had become a cultural identity that offered Americans a way to think of themselves as decent people. To be liberal was to be good.

Liberals became the high priests of a new religion, a cult where they were empowered to grant absolution from sins:

Here we see redemptive liberalism’s great ingenuity: It seized proprietorship over innocence itself. It took on the power to grant or deny moral legitimacy across society. Liberals were free of the past while conservatives longed to resurrect it, bigotry and all. What else could “Make America Great Again” mean? In this way redemptive liberalism reshaped the moral culture of the entire Western world with sweeping idealisms like “diversity,” which are as common today in Europe as in America.

Racism, Steele continues, empowers liberals. In part, politically, but also culturally:

The liberal identity must have racism, lest it lose innocence and the power it conveys.

Are we getting over this moral tyranny? Steele suggests that we are reaching “race fatigue,” and that it’s time to turn toward policies that might actually achieve what liberals promised:

But today there are signs of what I have called race fatigue. People are becoming openly cynical toward the left’s moral muscling with racism. Add to this liberalism’s monumental failure to come even close to realizing any of its beautiful idealisms, and the makings of a new conservative mandate become clearer. As idealism was the left’s political edge, shouldn’t realism now be the right’s? Reality as the informing vision—and no more wrestling with innocence.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Making Freud Undead

In what must be the most comprehensive review of Frederick Crews’ new book on Freud—Freud: The Making of an IllusionLouis Menand tries to explain why Freud still survives.

In truth, Menand is trying to bring Freud back from the dead. If Crews was trying to drive a stake through Freud’s cold dead heart, Menand wants to salvage what he can from one of the twentieth century’s greatest “confidence tricks.” We owe the phrase to Oxford biologist and Nobel laureate Peter Medawar.

Of course, Menand teaches literature—at Harvard—so his interest in psychoanalysis is primarily literary. He suggests that literature professors wanted in on the game, but the easier interpretation is that Freud’s writings are literature pretending to be science. They are, as I have said, overpriced storytelling. Literature professors—like yours truly—were drawn to Freud’s imaginative faculties, not to his pretense to be doing science. By now, no serious thinker really believes that Freud was a scientist.

We must clarify some of Menand’s misrepresentations. He mentions that when Freud left Vienna for London after the Anschluss, he left his four sisters behind. They all died in the Holocaust. Menand does not mention that Freud could have taken a couple of them with him, but preferred to use the exit visas for his dogs.

A detail, perhaps, but a telling detail, especially since Crews was trying to show that Freud was not God. Worse yet, Freud was not even a decent human being. Being an indecent human does not make you godlike.

Menand also offers this strange sentence:

A product of Mitteleuropa, once centered in cities like Vienna, Berlin, Budapest, and Moscow, psychoanalysis was thus improbably transformed into a largely Anglo-American medical and cultural phenomenon. 

Inexplicably, Menand ignore the fact that psychoanalysis has thrived and prospered in countries like France and Argentina. If you want to explain how Freudian theories are surviving you must say something about the places where they are alive and well. But then, you would need to explain why Freudianism is so congenial to Roman Catholic cultures. That means that true-believing Freudians have taken up the Catholic side of the Middle European culture wars between Protestantism and Catholicism.

Menand fails to do this, so his theorizing loses the name of reason. He is doing what Freudian theory does: ignoring any facts that might disprove it. Karl Popper made this point seven decades ago. It’s about time that serious thinkers grasped it.

Menand is correct to note, with Crews, that Freudian analysis bears a very close resemblance to literary studies. Taking an obscure text and trying to suss out hidden meanings… you could be doing dream analysis or literary studies.

He does not notice that in Freud’s time these techniques were more closely aligned with Biblical exegesis and that searching after what people really, really want, or really, really believe derives from witch hunts and inquisitions. The notion that potential heretics are hiding their true beliefs drove the inquisitors. None of it had anything to do with science.

For the record, Freud certainly knew of the inquisitor’s manual: the Malleus Maleficarum. Even the most cursory glance at that fifteenth century work tells us that witches were hunted because of their negative effect on male sexuality. The Malleus Maleficarum is a book about how certain kinds of women canse male sexual dysfunction... and how to cure it. Sound familiar?

So, Freud took up a venerable religious tradition, secularized it and pretended that it was science. If you think about it, what inquisitor would not have thrilled to the notion that he could discover scientifically what people really, really believed.

Literature professors were not drawn by Freud’s pretense to be doing science. Psychiatrists were. And yet, in time, the bloom faded and people discovered that psychoanalysis had nothing to do with science. It was also clinically ineffective. True enough, as Menand and Tanya Luhrmann remark, it was better than lobotomy and many of the available medical treatments. Because it did no ostensible harm. 

Menand explains the Crews argument:

Psychoanalysis had already been discredited as a medical science, Crews wrote; what researchers were now revealing was that Freud himself was possibly a charlatan—an opportunistic self-dramatizer who deliberately misrepresented the scientific bona fides of his theories. 

Freud fell out of favor because medical treatments proved to be far more effective than psychoanalysis. Freud’s dangerous method was done in by medication:

Studies suggesting that psychoanalysis had a low cure rate had been around for a while. But the realization that depression and anxiety can be regulated by medication made a mode of therapy whose treatment times reached into the hundreds of billable hours seem, at a minimum, inefficient, and, at worst, a scam.

Among those who argued this point Jacques Lacan… the most influential Freudian since Freud. Menand does not mention him. If he had wanted to show how and why Freud has survived, ignoring the influence of Lacan is irresponsible.

Instead, Menand argues that modern psychoanalysis has broken free of Freud by discarding the absurdities in his theory. Again, this point is subject to dispute.

True, a group of American physicians and psychologists tried to make Freud’s theory and made it more palatable. Did they understand the theory? They did not. If you put a group of physicians in a room to ponder metaphysics, theology, epistemology and rhetoric, they will not come up with anything of real consequence. 

Lacan argued that American physicians had butchered the theory. And thus, that it befell him to show how it all fit together. This meant that you cannot add and subtract different parts of the theory without destroying it. One might say that Freudian theory was like the predicate calculus: if you start tinkering with the axioms, the edifice will crumble.

Menand says that Freud has now become a poet of the mind. In that he is certainly correct:

For many years, even as writers were discarding the more patently absurd elements of his theory—penis envy, or the death drive—they continued to pay homage to Freud’s unblinking insight into the human condition. That persona helped Freud to evolve, in the popular imagination, from a scientist into a kind of poet of the mind. And the thing about poets is that they cannot be refuted. No one asks of “Paradise Lost”: But is it true? Freud and his concepts, now converted into metaphors, joined the legion of the undead.

But then, in order to drag Freud back from his grave, Menand offers up his own notion: that Freudian theory was science. Say what? He just told us of the studies that have showed that psychoanalysis was not science. Thus, his assertion is wrong:

The principal reason psychoanalysis triumphed over alternative theories and was taken up in fields outside medicine, like literary criticism, is that it presented its findings as inductive. Freudian theory was not a magic-lantern show, an imaginative projection that provided us with powerful metaphors for understanding the human condition. It was not “Paradise Lost”; it was science, a conceptual system wholly derived from clinical experience.

Freud insisted that psychoanalysis derived wholly from clinical experience. He was lying. The theory was not inductive. It did not care about facts. It dismissed fact in favor of desire when Freud abandoned the seduction theory. As for the notion that literary theorists took up with psychoanalysis because it was science--that too is ridiculous. 

So, Menand offers a weak defense of Freud:

It can be useful to be made to realize that your feelings about people you love are actually ambivalent, or that you were being aggressive when you thought you were only being extremely polite. Of course, you shouldn’t have to work your way through your castration anxiety to get there.

Actually, castration anxiety in Freudian theory corresponds to guilt over sins of word, thought and deed. And Freud’s version of symbolic castration corresponds to the penance that any sinner must do to overcome his guilt. If you discard the theoretical foundation of the theory you end up with psychobabble.

Obviously, Crews’s book is well worth your attention. I also recommend my own book, The Last Psychoanalyst. Had Menand paid it any attention, he would have avoided his most egregious errors.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Jeff Dunetz to the Rabbis

Jeff Dunetz reports that a coalition of American rabbis is going to boycott an annual conference call with President Trump:

On Wednesday, a coalition of major rabbinical groups announced it will not hold an annual conference call with the president because of how Donald Trump responded to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month. The rabbinical groups — which include the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. The groups represent the Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist movements of Judaism.

He sent them an open letter, mildly suggesting that their attitude toward Trump’s predecessor was fawning and obsequious. After all, half of Trump’s family is Jewish. Most of Obama’s best friends were anti-Semites. It does not take too many smarts to see the point.

Dunetz wrote to the  rabbis:

In the eight years before Trump took office, America had the most anti-Semitic President since FDR, but the Rabbis of the Conservative Movement was silent, most probably because like Reform Jewry, Conservative Judaism tends to worship the Golden Calf of liberal politics. The letter and action made in your names shows your Antisemitism to be of the Johnny-come-lately variety. You are trashing Trump for political purposes only.

What is also upsetting is that while the Rabbinical Assembly never cared about anti-Semitism spewing forth from the White House before a week ago Tuesday….

There was nothing from the Rabbis of the Rabbinical Assembly when Obama surrounded himself with anti-Semites such as Chas Freemen, Zbigniew Brzezinski, or General McPeak who all spread the anti-Semitic stereotype that Jews control the U.S. Government, or that he used Al Sharpton (who incited two different anti-Semitic pogroms in NY City)  as an unofficial advisor.  You said nothing when Obama gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to anti-Semites such as  Bishop Tutu who said, “Jews Think They Own God” and to Mary Robinson who ran the Anti-Semitic Darfur conference on Human Rights, Toni Morrison who resurrected the Anti-Semitic Blood liable to against Israeli Jews, and Rev. Joseph Lowery who preached the anti-Semitic canard that the “powerful Jewish lobby.” It didn’t seem to matter to the Rabbis of Conservative Judaism when Barack Obama said he supported the anti-Semitic Occupy Wall Street movement.

And, also:

Maybe the Rabbinical Assembly lost its internet access because they didn’t object when in a straight cash deal the Presbyterian Church sold land they owned in Jerusalem to Israeli Jews and Obama objected. The American president declared in so many words that Jerusalem should be Judenrein.

When Muslim terrorists attacked the Kosher Supermarket in Paris as Jews on a Friday as Jews were making their purchases for Shabbos Dinner, White House Spox Josh Earnest, and State Department Spox Jen Psaki each refused to recognize that it was an attack on Jews, prompting AP’s great State Department correspondent Matt Lee to ask Psaki, “Yeah, but if a guy goes into a kosher market and starts shooting it up, you don’t – he’s not looking for Buddhists is he?” Maybe the Rabbinical Assembly thought the WERE looking for Buddhists because there was no publicly issued, angry letter to the President.

And Dunetz did not even mention the Iran nuclear deal-- giving the world's leading proponent of anti-Semitism access to nuclear weapons that they want to drop of Tel Aviv-- the funneling of money to Hamas and Hezbollah through Iran, the support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt… and so on.

How to Be Nicer

Today’s letter writer, “Trying to Be Nicer” asks Lori Gottlieb for help in overcoming a bad habit. Already, it’s a step in the right direction. 

Thinking of mental health problems in terms of habits is far more constructive then thinking of them as expressions of unresolved mental conflicts. Many people have wasted a great deal of time trying to figure out what their bad habits are trying to say. They have forgotten the basic lesson, derived from Aristotle, that habits are not really saying anything. Or better, that knowing what they are trying to express will do nothing to change them. Got that: nothing!

TTBN explains her problem:

I’m a 23-year-old woman with some bad habits that I need to learn how to undo. I am critical, demanding, judgmental, and eager to correct people on technicalities. I have a hard time being proved wrong or considering alternate viewpoints. I’m emotionally withholding, cold, distant, and don’t open up. I’m rigid and have a hard time changing plans. I’m jabby. I was the kid who corrected the teacher and said, “Well, ACTUALLY …” constantly.

Everyone I’ve dated and many of my friends have told me this. I do it the most to people I’m closest with, but I’ve done it to tons of people in my life.

Stuff pops out of her mouth. It’s almost an automatic mechanism. But it is interesting as a reflection on a major philosophical issue: do we think before we speak or does stuff just pop out of our mouths? Does a mental act precede the physical act? If the first is true, then we are going to end up fighting our inner demons and struggling with our speech. If the latter, it is far more difficult to step back and reflect. My own view, following Wittgenstein and TTBN, is that stuff pops out of our mouths.

In her words:

I’ll say something and then immediately realize how awful it sounded. That’s growth, because in the past I wouldn’t have realized how hurtful it was … yet realizing isn’t the same as changing, and I still said it.

It is not surprising that TTBN suffers from social anxiety and has difficulty connecting with other people.

It’s odd because I also have social anxiety and often feel lonely. Going off of that, you’d think I’d be kinder to the people I do have in my life, and yet somehow, I’m not.

I want to be kind and warm with the people I love. And I want it to come from an intuitive, relaxed place. I don’t know how to get there from here.

Gottlieb’s first response is on point and on the money. She explains that insight is basically useless:

As I read through your letter, TTBN, one of my favorite maxims came to mind: “Insight is the booby prize of therapy.” Meaning, you can have all the insight in the world, but if you don’t change out in the world, the insight is worthless. This seems to be the crux of your dilemma, too: I know what I do, but I keep doing it anyway.

One would have been even happier if Gottlieb had not tried to explain why TTBN has the problem. That is, offering up several dollops of insight. We, however, understand that concocting a narrative that explains it in terms of childhood traumas or developmental glitches will not solve the problem.

Like most therapists, Gottlieb offers some insight into the problem. It’s a bad habit that many therapists have. They think that there is some value in asking why this happens. There is not. Actually, it lures patients into thinking that once they understand why they have the problem it will dissipate. When it does not, they become demoralized. Not a good therapeutic result.

To her credit Gottlieb also offers some ideas about how to change habits. They come from Marsha Linehan, a much admired therapist from Washington who developed a highly useful cognitive approach to borderline personality disorders.

Gottlieb explains:

So now that you have the “what” and the “why” — the insight — how do you move forward? You practice. From birth, our brains are making connections, forming circuits that function automatically in response to triggers and are activated by our fears. When your brain gets the signal that somebody might come close to you — even if that person is a virtual stranger — the circuit that gets activated makes you create distance through the various behaviors you describe.

But you can disrupt the circuit, first by noticing the behaviors afterward (as you’ve begun doing), then by noticing as they happen (taking a breath in that pause of recognition will interrupt the circuit). At first, you may still say or do what the circuit has long been programmed for, but every time you interrupt the circuit you start to rewire your brain. It happens gradually, like a painstaking internal renovation. And when the rewiring is complete, you won’t have to consciously go through this process.

The circuit will travel along a different pathway, one that doesn’t signal danger. What feels foreign to you now will eventually feel natural. And you’ll invite people in from, as you say, “an intuitive, relaxed place.”

I have no problem with this. If it works, all the better. Since it aims at changing a bad habit, it is clearly pointing in the right direction.

And yet, as Aristotle pointed out, the only real way to overcome a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. If TTBN wants to be nicer to people, she might consider being nicer to people.

She can follow the recommendations of Jennifer Trew and Lynn Alden, research psychologists in British Columbia, and make a habit doing good deeds, making nice gestures toward other people. This means, getting a cup of coffee for an office mate. Sending a link to an article that might be of interest. Helping someone carry a heavy bag of groceries. Trew and Alden want you to think in terms of small courtesies, the kind that reprogram the brain to think of what you can do that is nice for someone else. It is more effective than tormenting yourself over the rude and obnoxious remarks you made.

Trew and Alden showed that this habit countered social anxiety, perhaps because it made other people less threatening and perhaps because they were more likely to reciprocate. Also, you find yourself thinking and planning before you act... when you have the luxury of doing so.

Besides, even if this method is not a panacea for social anxiety, what harm could you do to start thinking of ways you can reach out and be nice to someone?

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Pregnant Sailor Problem

We have it on the authority of no less than Joe Biden. At the last West Point commencement ceremony, then Vice-President Biden declared that having more women in the armed forces would make us stronger and more powerful.

Everyone knows it’s an illusion, but it’s political kryptonite to say so. The result: we have more women on Navy ships and their presence—or, should I say, absences—surely undermines combat readiness and group cohesion. You see, these female sailors have a tendency to get pregnant while on duty. Once that happens, they can no longer deploy. They are sent back to base.

During the first Gulf War many female sailors got pregnant on the way to the Gulf. It was surely a sign of their strength and fortitude, their lust for a fight. Isn’t it interesting that a woman can be relieved of duty for an excuse that does not make her look cowardly?

Anyway, the Z man blog has the details about the current situation (via Maggie’s Farm):

Currently, 16% of deployed females aboard ship are pregnant. You cannot serve on a Navy vessel while pregnant so it means these females are reassigned to shore duty. Overall, females in the Navy are 50% more likely to be reassigned to land duty than males, so it is not just pregnancy. It is biological reality.

This means that just about every ship in the fleet has a readiness problem, due to the lack of trained personnel. The Navy has a rule requiring every ship to be at least 25% female, so that means vessels cannot be deployed, because of the shortage of female sailors who are not pregnant. This 25% rule was just implemented. That’s why the pregnancy rates have gone up. It also means the rising pregnancy problem did not result in a reevaluation of the policy. Instead it was met with a new effort to prove that biology is not real.

Who made up the rule about 25% female? Was it the Obama administration? If it was just implemented, either the current bosses of the Defense Dept. made it up or they have not had the courage to change it. 

At a time when sailors in the Pacific fleet keep getting killed by accident, it is time to re-evaluate the politically correct rules that are undermining group cohesion and combat readiness. If sailors work as a team, what happens when a few members are sent home for reasons of pregnancy?

What Kind of Woman Is She?

A woman who dubs herself Stuck writes to Ask Polly. She has a problem that seems mostly to involve reputation. She hooked up with a guy at work and he did not merely walk away from her. He told their colleagues about it. This makes him somewhat less than human and far less than a gentleman.

It’s about reputation, about how other people see her. And it’s also about an important question women ask themselves: What kind of woman am I? Because if she is hooking up with a guy just for fun she is probably not being the kind of woman she wants to be. If other people see her or visualize her in a demeaning light, as a woman who does not respect herself, she has a problem.

Here are some excerpts from Stuck’s letter:

I’m one year out of college and recently got out of an emotionally abusive three-year relationship. Through therapy, I’ve realized that I was never in love with my ex-boyfriend: He came into my life at a point where I was very lonely, depressed, and aimless, and we quickly became co-dependent. 

You know that Polly is going to tell Stuck to find another therapist, but, seeing what therapy gave her on the first go round, you have to wonder. She spent three years in an abusive relationship. She was stuck in it. She did not know how to get out of it… and her dimwitted therapist told her that she was not really in love. In truth, she had no judgment, could not understand what was happening and probably failed to take the advice of friends and family. She stuck with it because she thought he would change, because she thought he would make her, as the saying goes, an honest woman. It did not happen and she wisely walked away. Whatever you think, it’s not about love. Far too many women are in love and stick with bad relationships because they think that their love will cure their boyfriends.

Anyway, short time after she broke up with her abusive lover, she hooked up with a guy friend at work. Here is what happened:

About a month after the breakup, I drunkenly hooked up with my guy friend from work. He had been flirting with me for months, to the point where others in our group of work friends had commented on it. He texted me the next day saying he wanted to hang out, that we had a nice thing going and that we should “figure out what we are” before telling anyone at work. I thought he was being a little intense, but thought I liked him and it was all positive, so went with it. I then left for a weeklong work trip, and when we met up when I got back, he came all the way to my house to tell me that he thought we were a bad idea, that he was just going to mess it up, that he didn’t want to be a rebound but that I was a “boyfriend” girl and he couldn’t be that either, and that things had “gotten weird” (never mind that I wasn’t even in the country that week!).

We have no idea about what happened in the interval between their hookup and her return from vacation. In a strange way, this man was telling her that she was not a tramp and that he felt badly about treating her like some drunken hookup. I suspect that this is the easiest way of letting a woman down-- especially if she is someone you see every day.. It is somewhat flattering, if you like to be flattered while being dumped. Obviously, he is not painting himself in a very gentlemanly light.

In order to help her to get over him, he hooks up with someone else and announces it to the world. He apparently also announces to his co-workers that he had already hooked up with Stuck.

He slept with someone else five days later and came into lunch covered in bite marks and recounted the tale (I was in a meeting), which a nosy co-worker was delighted to relay to me while “checking to see if I was okay,” since this guy had “taken advantage of someone so vulnerable.” This upset me way more than I thought it would, mostly because I realized I was being discussed by my co-workers in a way that made me feel that they thought I was pathetic.

Covered in bit marks. Was he hooking up with a sand fly? Either he has his own special kinks or his hookup loved him so much that she wanted to brand him.

Anyway, it’s all about reputation. And about a man who could not keep his mouth shut and who has subjected Stuck to embarrassment and perhaps even humiliation. Doubtless, the young man spoke ill of Stuck, the better to explain why he had dumped her.

Stuck is not too happy about it all. Her work friend hookup tells her to stop being dramatic.

I’ve done nothing dramatic, unless you count being upset with his presence and telling the nosy co-worker I was mad that he had clearly been talking about the situation to other colleagues and had probably relayed false information.

Why does she care about him? Because she had sex with him. Perhaps it’s the oxytocin talking. Perhaps she believes that if she has a relationship with him it will redeem her reputation. But, she has learned, probably from therapy, how to punish herself by chastising herself:

It’s been about a month since all this happened. Honestly, it’s sent me into a bit of a spiral. I can’t stop wondering how this happened, and why I still care about an objectively shitty, selfish, patronizing person who’s rejected me despite barely knowing me. It’s made my inner dialogue intensely self-critical (about my body, abilities, social skills, everything). I’m feeling unhinged. 

As for what Stuck should do, Polly has a good approach. If only she did not lard it all over by whining about feeling her feelings and finding a therapist.

Faced with the task of offering concrete advice and counsel for Stuck, Polly does well:

But from this moment forward, you have to make exactly zero sounds about him to anyone at work. That means don’t acknowledge him. Do not engage. Do not speak his name. If anyone asks you about him, you literally chuckle. You say NOTHING.

As I said, it’s good advice. It’s good because, as we have pointed out in relation to other cases, it offers this woman something that she can do to deal with the situation. Polly is telling Stuck to shun the man, to ignore his presence, to refuse to pronounce his name, to refuse to even discuss him.

Clearly, the man treated her badly. He compounded his bad treatment by telling everyone else about it, and by trying to humiliate her in front of her co-workers. In return, and to right her floundering ship, she needs but to return the favor, to shun him, to pretend that he does not exist. Because, for intents and purposes, he doesn't.