Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Losing Face, Cosmetically

Barely a day goes by without someone whining about how we are not expressing our feelings. We even have government-produced ads on television advising us all to get in touch with our emotions.

It is a pathetic enterprise, reeking with pathos, and we must count it within the constant effort to feminize the culture. Women are far more in touch with their feelings than are men. They feel more empathy. When you ask a woman how she feels, she will easily tell you far more than you wished to know. When you ask a man how he feels, he will look at you blankly, as though you are speaking a foreign language.

When it comes to expressing emotion, we have numerous tools at our disposal. Among the most important-- facial expressions. In fact, when we meet someone face to face-- increasingly a rarity-- we read their emotions by unconsciously mimicking their facial expressions. Then we figure out whether they are mad, sad, glad or bad.

This assumes that they have facial expressions. Increasingly, women, especially, have chosen to numb their faces, to reduce or eliminate their ability to communicate via facial expressions. Thus, they adopt a wrinkle-free, line-free ageless countenance. And they wonder why they are having trouble communicating. They even complain about the lack of emotion in their interlocutors.

Of course, these women want to look younger than they are. They are often competing for men against younger women, so why not a little subterfuge.

Of course, facial lines and wrinkles often bespeak good character, maturity and experience. Strangely, many older women do not want to show off their good character, maturity and experience. Exception given for today’s Queen of England.

A more important point concerns deception. Does a Botoxed face bespeak deception, or is merely a cosmetic enhancement?

A Botoxed face makes manifest the pretense that the person is much younger than she is in reality. I use the female pronoun here because precious few males undergo such treatment. 

And yes, I am fully aware that our current president has had a great deal of work done on his face. If that was the worst thing we could say about him, the world would be a better place.

But then again, a Botoxed face might attain a different extreme, and become unrecognizable. One aspect of human communication involves knowing with whom you are talking. In principle, this occurs when you are talking to someone face to face. If you are not recognizable, or if there is doubt about who you are, communication will become more difficult.

Looking your best is not the same as looking like someone else. Social beings are recognizable by their face, more than by the expression of emotion. Expressing emotion does not identify you. Being mad, sad, glad or bad does not say who you are. Your face does.

The risk with cosmetic treatment is that you become unrecognizable and therefore, as the expression goes, you will have lost face. That means that you become a pariah, someone who does not belong in polite society.

Anyway, it gets worse. It’s one thing for women of a certain age, good feminists that they are, to want to shave a few years off their appearance, especially if they are unattached. They might not recognize that they can no longer connect with other people. They will find solace in the fact that Botox does wear off in a matter of months.

But now, a new phenomenon has reared its head. Cosmetic surgery for younger women, presumably to give them features that are notably considered to be sexually desirable. 

Olivia Petter has the story in the British newspaper, the Independent:

Take a look at the faces around you. Notice anything? The shapes of people’s eyes all tilting up in the same way towards their hairline? Pouts that pucker up with perfect uniformity? Cheekbones that protrude almost violently through the skin? Perhaps you don’t notice any of these things, in which case you’re already too far gone. But if you do? Well, it’s only a matter of time until you become indoctrinated. Because in 2024 beauty is a homogenous ideal, one that none of us can escape from.

I do not accept the clunky phrase, “homogenous ideal” but the trend suggests that young women are very insecure, to the point where they do not believe that they can attract men without looking like some vulgar simulacrum of a celebrity. One feels some considerable sympathy for women who have learned to think this way.

Of course, the larger issue is whether this absurd habit is more erotic or more aesthetic. Is it about sex or is it about beauty? Assuming that you can distinguish the two? 

Surely, it is about deception, though I hasten to remark that if a young woman is erotically unappealing with one face she is just as likely to be erotically unappealing when she puts on a mask. Unless of course, she is up for sale.

More importantly, as Petter points out, young women end up looking the same. They lose the characteristics that allow them to be identified, to have face in the world. Her article bears the title: “Are we all going to have the same face.”

One suspects that the gremlins who edit the newspaper decided that they needed to make the phrase gender neutral. In truth, the problem most involves women, not men.

If we do, none of us will have face. We will all have lost face. We might be exquisitely and irresistibly attractive but we will have more than a few problems making our way in the world. A false face will not do you very much good in the marketplace.

Looking like you are wearing a mask will not serve the same purpose. Masking your features makes you look like you are hiding something.

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Monday, April 29, 2024

An Israeli Profile in Courage

Tis a puzzlement. How did America’s great institutions of higher learning become infested with leftist agitators who hate higher learning?

Writing in the Atlantic George Packer traces the origin of today’s student protest movements to the Vietnam Era. Then, students occupied the office of Columbia University’s president, making non-negotiable demands and insisting on the overthrow of academic authority.

Packer does not mention that the student radicals of the 1960s had a very specific reason for wanting to end the Vietnam War. They did not want to fight. They did not see anything worth fighting for. They thought that Communism was the future-- it was preordained-- and that it was futile to stand in the way of history.

Students rebels considered themselves to be idealistic peace lovers. People in other parts of the country believed that they were cowards. The moral taint that hung over the Vietnam protesters suggested that they were less idealistic and more chickenshit.

One recalls that Winston Churchill once opined that the only thing that was worse than losing a war was refusing to fight.

So, a generation of presumptive cowards was faced with a daunting task. How to erase the presumption of cowardice. The group decided to take over the American mind, to undermine the value system that defined martial culture, and to teach students that those who rebelled against authority were courageous while those who defended American values were involved in a criminal enterprise that had succeeded in exploiting of non-white peoples. 

Rather than embrace the moral taint of cowardice, the opponents of the Vietnam War declared that they would be willing to fight, but only not for America. They would fight injustice. They would fight oppression. Remember the song: Street Fighting Man. They draw a line at America. They would not defend a criminal enterprise.

If you believe that this is recent history, recall the words of Susan Sontag, uttered during the Vietnam Era:

America was founded on a genocide, on the unquestioned assumption of the right of white Europeans to exterminate a resident, technologically backward, colored population in order to take over the continent.

Or else, this:

The white race is the cancer of human history.

There is nothing new under the sun. People do not quote Sontag any more, but they believe that the meaning of America lies in slavery. They believe that the white race is a cancer and that America was founded in a genocide.

Again, these hysterical minions are creating a new world, where they are courageous and where those who fought to defend America or who worked to build America are criminal conspirators.

So, children go off to college and learn the lessons of twentieth century anti-Americanism. They learn lessons that glorify their anti-war parents and disparage those who fought and died for America. That is, they learn how to think like totalitarian leftists.

They might, Ross Douthat remarks, study some of the classics, but once they arrive at the twentieth century, it’s all leftist propaganda:

But then comes the 20th century, and suddenly the ambit narrows to progressive preoccupations and only those preoccupations: anticolonialism, sex and gender, antiracism, climate. Frantz Fanon and Michel Foucault. Barbara Fields and the Combahee River Collective. Meditations on the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how climate change is “colonial déjà vu.”

To understand the world before 1900, Columbia students read a range of texts and authors that are important to understanding America and the West in their entirety — Greek and Roman, religious and secular, capitalist and Marxist.

To engage with the contemporary world, the world they are being prepared to influence and lead, they read texts that are only really important to understanding the perspective of the contemporary left.

These students are being recruited into the vanguard of the revolution. They are going to fight the good fight against capitalism and patriarchy. 

A minimal understanding of history would have told them that the central conflict in the twentieth century, between capitalism and communism, has been resolved. It would have taught them that communism lost, but not before killing tens of millions of people, most often by starvation.

No one with a brain still believes in the hopes peddled by communism. And yet, American students are told that they ought to be engaged in permanent protest against a criminal enterprise like America. They are not allowed to feel any patriotic stirrings over America’s victories in wars, in world wars and in the cold war.

Given the world that the left is trying to produce, Israel is now a reproach. A pro-American nation, where people are proud of what they built, where citizens are willing to fight to defend their land-- this refutes all of the most sacred beliefs of the American academy.

Israelis are showing what it means to have courage. They have not bowed down to Biden and Blinken. They know that they did not deserve October 7.

If they had simply accepted the atrocities of October 7 they would have been showing that they believed the horrors to be just punishment for their white supremacist conspiracy. They would have accepted that they had accomplished nothing during the past decades, and that whatever successes they garnered were built on oppression and exploitation.

Israel did not think this way. And yet, if theirs is a profile in courage what does that make those who have rallied to Hamas, imagining that committing atrocities should be rewarded and that the cowards who raped and mutilated women and children were heroes fighting oppression.

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Sunday, April 28, 2024

What Was Courtly Love?

It used to be called courtly love. Now it’s a felony.

Courtly love was a medieval practice. It grew up in Southern Europe, and eventually morphed into what we call courtship. That is, courtship leading to marriage. 

Keep in mind, for most of human history and certainly for people in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, marriages were arranged. 

When marriage was arranged, adultery was more easily tolerated. Having mistresses, concubines and courtesans was the norm. But then, with the advent of courtly love women entered the adultery game.

When men rode off to fight the crusades, they left their homes and properties to their wives. Said wives, being fully empowered, used their newfound freedom to seduce the young males who remained behind. They were too young to fight the crusades but were not too young to fall in love.

These newly empowered women invented courtly love, an erotic seduction ritual whereby a young male, generally teenaged, would perform a series of ordeals in order to win the favors of his beloved, a woman that he often called his Lord. 

These young men kept chronicles of their exploits in a genre of romantic poetry. They were called troubadours. Today we call them guitar heroes.

Courtly love was frankly adulterous. Yet, by the terms of the contract the two lovers never consummated their passion. They showed the truth of their love by sleeping in the same bed and not touching each other.

Assuming that you believe what they said. Some scholars have pointed out that the courtly lovers, especially the male troubadours, had a serious incentive to deny any carnal knowledge. If they had admitted to consummation they would have been risking their lives.

So, nowadays we are seeing a rash of incidents where older married female teachers have seduced boys of high school age and have been caught in the act. Some of them have been imprisoned.

One remarks that the other side of the equation, male teachers seducing female high school students seems less prevalent, perhaps because it is more obviously criminal.

The tabloid press happily reports all of the cases, for the obvious reason, that the women in question are good looking. If you were a seventeen year old male who was the object of the affections of a comely twenty-seven year old, tell me that you would have turned her down.

Obviously, age does matter here. If the boy in question is closer to twelve, evidently the calculus changes considerably.

As it happens, psycho therapist Stacy Kaiser specializes in the field. She calls these women sexual predators, which is less gracious than calling them courtly lovers. Said women are now considered to be rapists. They are occasionally spending their days in prison. 

Kaiser is appalled that we do not understand how deranged these women are and how much they are damaging the teenage males in their charge. 

True enough, some of the boys in question suffer emotionally from their encounters. One does not, from Kaiser’s account, know why this is the case. It might be that they feel responsible when their teachers get caught and get convicted and get imprisoned. It could be that they are told that they must be feeling very badly for having had sex with an attractive teacher. 

At the least, we must recognize that adolescent boys are far more likely to take such actions in their stride than are teenage girls. Obviously, Kaiser, good feminist that she must be, considers that such seductions are always bad and even criminal.

You do not have to have lived too long to understand that men and women do not react the same way to sexual encounters. Evidently, this disparity counters feminist ideology which states that men and women are precisely the same, but no one with a brain really believes it.

One might read Donald Symons’ book The Evolution of Human Sexuality to gain a minimal understanding of the differences between male and female sexuality.

Anyway, Kaiser goes all moralistic on these women, whom she, purportedly a professional, holds in contempt:

Crippled by their insecurities, these perpetrators seek relationships that enable them to manipulate others – giving them a sensation of control that they otherwise are incapable of achieving in their everyday lives.

The two women I counseled were utterly remorseless over their actions. Their only regret was not being able to continue their relationships.

Dare I point out, consulting with two patients does not offer anything more than anecdotal evidence. And, dare I mention, the concept that Kaiser introduces, “control” is positively meaningless. Psycho therapists overuse the word and have reduced it to so much blather.

Understand this. When courtly love began in medieval Europe marriages were arranged. They began their seductions because they had been abandoned by their husbands, often for years on end.

We ought to notice that the older, more experienced women involved in courtly love were functioning as teachers for younger less experienced boys. As though that is a crime. 

Arranged marriage continued until the Protestant Reformation and Puritanism. Then, for Martin Luther and his followers, marriages were considered to be expressions of love. Once that was the case, as you see with the scarlet letter, people were far less tolerant of adultery. 

The change took place, I will posit, because Luther and his followers had been excommunicated. Thus, they were no longer required to remain celebate, but they lacked social standing, wealth or prestige. Thus, the bases for most marriages were precluded and they fell back on a default position-- romantic love. Previously, romantic love was relegated to adulterous relationships.

As for teacher-student relationships, one should not ignore the simple possibility that the women in question find it exciting to teach boys how to have sex. And they might find it exciting to transgress, to do something that is somewhat forbidden.

Besides, didn’t feminism teach them that they should never compromise their sexuality and that they should express it openly and fully.

Dare we mention that we do not have enough material from enough cases to know how these women’s husbands were treating them. Surely, that has some importance here.

In her Daily Mail article psycho therapist Stacy Kaiser continues to express her contempt for these women:

The women I counseled told me that they felt 'real connections' with the boys they targeted.

Some offenders claim to 'fall in love' with their victims and even purport to be 'dating' them.

That's nothing more than delusional thinking - a way to justify breaking the law and traumatizing a vulnerable person.

An adult cannot have a meaningful or mature relationship with a minor, as children and teens do not have fully developed brains - and victims are influenced by fear, coercion and deceit.

Obviously, this is not delusional thinking, though Kaiser does not seem to know what the word means. Any serious study of female sexuality will explain that when a woman has carnal relations she feels connected and she feels that there is an emotional component. Such is not always the case for the males in question.

One is impressed by Kaiser’s ability to attribute the most sordid and pathetic motives to the boys in question. I will not share the head shots of the women in question, but if you find the Daily Mail article and examine them, you might not think that this is all about fear, coercion and deceit.

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Saturday, April 27, 2024

Saturday Miscellany

First, it took them far too long, but the Biden administration has joined with other world leaders in calling for Hamas to release the hostages they have been holding for some 6 months now.

The Daily Mail has the story:

President Joe Biden joined leaders from 17 other countries on Thursday in calling on Hamas to release all the hostages being held in Gaza.

All of the countries have citizens being held hostage by Hamas. In addition to demanding their release, the leaders call for an 'immediate and prolong ceasefire.'

'We call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas and Gaza, now for over 200 days,' the leaders say. 'They include our citizens. The fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, who are protected under international law, is of international concern.'

'We emphasize that the deal on the table to release the hostages would bring an immediate and prolonged ceasefire in Gaza, that would facilitate a surge of additional necessary humanitarian assistance to be delivered throughout Gaza, and lead to the credible end of hostilities.'

As of early April, 133 hostages remained in captivity in the Gaza Strip.

Surely, these dumbass world leaders did not really believe that Hamas really wanted a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance. As long as these leaders were trashing the Israelis, Hamas concluded that they were winning and that Joe Biden had their back.

Second, you remember the pier that we are building in Southern Gaza, the better to facilitate the transport of humanitarian assistance for the human shields held by Hamas.

Well, Ryan Saavedra has reported that Hamas has greeted the construction with a round of artillery shells:

Palestinian terrorists fired mortar shells at a pier that is being constructed by U.S. forces to bring aid into Gaza The mortar attack occurred as United Nations officials were touring the site with Israeli troops on the coast of central Gaza, the IDF says in response to a query on the incident. The IDF says the UN officials were rushed to a shelter by troops amid the attack. A Hamas official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the militant group will resist any foreign military presence involved with the port project.

Third, on the campus front of the war against terrorism, we learn that the president of Columbia University has a rather sketchy academic publication history:

Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak reports:

Nemat Shafik - @Columbia Prez only has 1 well-cited publication in her life, in Oxford Econ Papers 1994. This paper is lifted almost entirely from a 1992 report coauthored with consultant not credited in the publication. This is wholesale intellectual theft, not subtle plagiarism.

Reminds you of Claudine Gay, doesn’t it.

Fourth, on this score I have hardly been derelict. As it happens, the more America’s great academic institutions become war zones, the more America’s corporate chieftains and hedge fund tycoons are ceasing to recruit from them.

These young people are destroying the value of their diplomas. Apparently, they are not as smart as we thought they were.

The New York Post has the story:

The violent, antisemitic protests at some of the nation’s elite colleges has forced top corporate recruiters to assess the quality of the education dispensed at these places — and whether they should look elsewhere for job candidates, the Post has learned.

Activist investor Daniel Loeb, a Columbia University graduate, has begun to reconsider whether to focus offering jobs at his hedge fund to fellow alums and other Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, Penn amid their tepid responses to the protests on their campuses, he told The Post.

The anti-Israel protests now at Columbia, and throughout some of the country’s once revered, top-tiered universities are tarnishing degrees from these places, these people say.

At issue: Can schools that rationalize non-stop protests while allowing course curriculum that imbibes students with a leftist interpretations of world events be trusted to produce quality job candidates?

The re-evaluation of the elite-school degree comes amid a broader crackdown on strident political dissent in the office environment. 

Now, recruiters say, many that haven’t tapped down on violent protesters or moved their curriculum away from “woke” core courses are paying the price in terms of the perceived diminished value of the degrees they are handing out when students begin to look for jobs.

Now, that Ivy League degree is going to become an impediment.

Fifth, I have occasionally remarked that the bloom is coming off the feminist rose. Women are asking themselves whether feminism really helped them.

Now, Petronella Wyatt-- formerly the girlfriend of one Boris Johnson-- asks the hard question in the Telegraph:

Where, for instance, does it [feminism] leave women like me, when we have reached the age of 54, as I have, and find ourselves both single and childless? Hugging the collected works of Proust, or engaging in furtive sojourns to the pub that bring remembrances of things pissed? One in 10 British women in their 50s have never married and live alone, which is neither pleasant nor healthy. 

Wyatt identifies the problem:

Feminism made the error of telling us to behave and think like men. This error was a grave one, and women like myself are paying for it, like gamblers in a casino that has been fixed. We are not men, and in living the single life, with its casual encounters, we play for much higher stakes and have more to lose. I wish I had not been taught to throw the dice so high. Even Shakespeare’s princes needed someone to look after them in their old age.

Sixth, Louis Gerstner, formerly of IBM, argues that a budding corporate executive cannot learn how to manage when he is working remotely. For those who have not been following my numerous expressions of doubt about the value of remote work, here is another better informed opinion, from the Wall Street Journal:

The class of employees for whom working in a solitary setting is highly detrimental is people who aspire to lead or manage others in an academic, nonprofit, governmental or business institution. One learns how to manage and lead principally by watching others demonstrate how—or how not—to do so.

He continues:

Another skill you can’t learn sitting at home is motivating others to reach for success. Leadership involves getting people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t. This requires articulating and continually reinforcing an external purpose and a visceral sense of teamwork. It isn’t a cold digital process; it is a human and at times personal connection with all the members of your team. It manifests itself in immediate and constructive feedback. None of us are born with these skills, nor are we conditioned or trained to do them well. Watching others who have successfully developed this leadership capacity is, in my mind, the singular way to learn it. There are, of course, many other skills that are learned “on the job” principally by watching others demonstrate them. We also learn a lot by failure—not only our own but that of others.

Seventh, large numbers of Americans believe that illegal migration is a major problem. More and more of them support the idea of mass deportation.

David Strom reports:

Axios commissioned a Harris poll and discovered something unsurprising, even if the establishment was shocked. 

Americans support mass deportations of illegal aliens. I suspect they would support mass deportations of some legal aliens who express anti-American views as well, come to think of it. 

Eighth, Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia used to be the top ranked high school in the nation. Then, the grandees who run the place decided that it needed more diversity and inclusion. They decided to dispense with the test driven admissions criteria, thus reducing the number of Asian students. The result, from Number 1 to Number 14.

The Coalition for TJ; Fighting for Merit reports:

TJ for the first time dropped out of the top 10 of the US News list of top US high schools, falling from being number 1 2020-2022, to 5 in 2023, to now 14 in 2024 as its college readiness score and state test assessment scores fell dramatically.

Ninth, it could not have happened to a nicer guy. Adam Schiff parked his car in a garage in San Francisco. When he left it unattended, thieves broke in and stole his suitcase. 

Kevin Fagan has the story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Hello to the city, goodbye to your luggage. That was Senatorial candidate Adam Schiff’s rude introduction to San Francisco’s vexing reputation for car burglaries Thursday when thieves swiped the bags from his car while it sat in a downtown parking garage.

The heist meant the Democratic congressman got stuck at a fancy dinner party in his shirt sleeves and a hiking vest while everyone else sat in suits. Not quite the look the man from Burbank was aiming for as he rose to thank powerhouse attorney Joe Cotchett for his support in his bid to replace the late Dianne Feinstein in the U.S. Senate.

“I guess it’s ‘Welcome to San Francisco,’ ” Cotchett’s press agent Lee Houskeeper, who was at the dinner, remarked dryly.

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Friday, April 26, 2024

A Culture of Grievance

Nothing is quite as self-defeating as grievance culture. That is, defining yourself in terms of your grievances. That is, of all the bad things other people have done to you.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni has written a book making the argument against grievance culture. And Pamela Paul offers a commentary around a rather simple concept: just because you have been wronged does not make you right.

Nicely stated.

One should add two points that Paul overlooks. 

First, you gain access to your grievances by introspecting. A grievance culture seems to be an outgrowth of therapy culture. Thereby you define yourself through the traumas that you have suffered. You may have noticed that trauma is all the rage these days. Everyone has one or two; and everyone knows how to overcome them.

Second, grievance culture defies meritocracy. If you define your social value in terms of trauma, you are not defining yourself in terms of your successes. You are complaining about failure. And you are blaming someone else for your failings. One of the best ways to pile failure on failure is to blame someone else for your failures.

Paul explains how pervasive grievance culture is:

If you’re on the left, you have been oppressed, denied, marginalized, silenced, erased, pained, underrepresented, underresourced, traumatized, harmed and hurt. If you’re on the right, you’ve been ignored, overlooked, demeaned, underestimated, shouted down, maligned, caricatured and despised; in Trumpspeak: wronged and betrayed.

One understands that a New York Times columnist must trash people on both the left and the right.

Paul suggests that Bruni sees the therapy culture aspect of it all. And he also sees that introspection is self-defeating, therapeutically, because it removes people from social commerce, and makes them self-importantly self-involved.

Tending to our respective fiefs, Bruni writes, is “to privilege the private over the public, to gaze inward rather than outward, and that’s not a great facilitator of common cause, common ground, compromise.”

Paul suggests that our search for offense teaches us to practice endless stewing-- I would have preferred a better term:

The compulsion to find offense everywhere leaves us endlessly stewing. Whatever your politics, it assumes and feeds a narrative that stretches expansively from the acutely personal to the grandly political — from me and mine to you and the other, from us vs. them to good vs. evil. And as Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff warned in their book, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” the calculus is that if you’re hurt or upset, your feelings must be validated. 

And yet, the more we define ourselves by membership in an oppressed group, the more we will find ourselves competing with other members of other oppressed groups. 

The thought is certainly useful, especially as it shows the futility of defining different people by different forms of subjugation, leaving them to compete against each other to see who is the most oppressed.

Paul writes:

Who is more oppressed, an older disabled white veteran or a young gay Latino man? A transgender woman who lived for five decades as a man or a 16-year-old girl? What does it mean that vying for the top position involves proving how hard off and vulnerable you are?

You end up with the Oppression Olympics:

Instead, as one undergraduate noted in the Harvard Political Review, “In pitting subjugated groups against one another, the Oppression Olympics not only reduce the store of resources to which groups and movements have access, but also breed intersectional bitterness that facilitates further injustice.” Rewarding a victim-centric worldview, which we do from the classroom to the workplace to our political institutions, only sows more divisiveness and fatalism. It seems to satisfy no one, and people are more outraged than ever. 

The end result is a society defined in terms of competing grievances, where no one is held to account for dereliction and where no one believes that he can, of his own volition, overcome his problems:

The acrimony has only intensified in the past few years. The battlefield keeps widening. What begins as a threat often descends into protests, riots and physical violence. It’s difficult for anyone to wade through all of this without feeling wronged in one way or another. But it wrongs us all. And if we continue to mistake grievance for righteousness, we only set ourselves up for more of the same.

So, we should be wanting to see a return to meritocracy. We should rid the world of DEI initiatives. And we should stop complaining about everything. That means, we should overcome the bad habit we have learned from therapy culture.

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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Columbia's Tiananmen Square

Naturally and rationally, the visions of student encampments at Columbia and other universities bring to mind the now distant memory of what happened in Tiananmen Square some three and a half decades ago.

In April of 1989 students occupied Tiananmen Square to commemorate the death of Communist Party Secretary Hu Yaobang. An important leader in the reform movement at the time, he favored a more democratic China.

At roughly the time when Francis Fukuyama trotted out his neo-Hegelian eschatology and declared that liberal democracy would inevitably prevail, the student protesters in Tiananmen insisted that it come about, sooner and not later. They were not satisfied with Deng’s reforms, which involved free enterprise and privatization. They wanted democratic elections, freedom of speech and a free press.

Of course, Fukuyama believed that liberal democracy included capitalism and free enterprise. The Chinese begged to disagree.

Playing itself out in Tiananmen Square was one of the most important theoretical questions of our time. Can you have capitalism without liberal democracy? Will the one necessarily lead to the other?

Some members of the Politburo, led by Premier Zhao Ziyang sympathized with the students. And yet, after a month of deliberative debate China’s leaders decided that the student protesters more closely resembled the Red Guards, not the revelers of Woodstock. 

China had undergone severe turmoil during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution-- in large part because it was a children’s crusade, and because the children in question had no self-control or discipline. 

Now, flash forward to Columbia University. Is it fair to ask whether the students encamped in the Columbia University quad, along with students at other universities were more like the Red Guards or more like party goers at Woodstock.

Strangely, they were not even trying to hide their truth. They have been saying that they are more like Hamas, a group the murdered, massacred and raped Israelis. They have assaulted and harassed Jewish students on campus, to the point where the university president recommended that Jewish students stay off campus-- she could not guarantee their safety.

Islamic terrorism has much in common with the Red Guards. The Red Guards murdered more than a million people, but they did not throw babies into ovens. They did however end up eating their teachers-- in the literally cannibalistic way. 

We might say that the leaders of universities like Columbia are congenitally weak. And yet, when you see the student protesters in open defiance of the president’s authority you should conclude that these young people have no respect for authority. Perhaps this is the fault of an older generation that rejects authority, and even denounces anything that resembles authoritarian government, but the truth remains, the chaos in the Columbia quad or outside of NYU manifests a rank refusal to respect adult authority.

As for how the situation unfolded in 1989, consider this. When a twenty-one year old student named Wuer Kaixi-- an ethnic Uigher-- appeared on television in dialogue with Premier Li Peng, he harangued and taunted the leader, causing him to lose some considerable face. 

It was a miscalculation, assuming that it had been calculated at all. Wuer was saying: you are not in charge; we are in charge. What are you going to do about it?

Outside of the square,the breakdown in the respect for authority caused the social fabric to disintegrate. Many Chinese were sympathetic toward the students. Troops that were stationed around Beijing, the troops that would normally have been used to quell the demonstration, had already declared that if such orders were given they would refuse them. In more pedestrian terms, they were in mutiny.

Keep in mind, Deng Xiaoping was among the leading targets of the Cultural Revolution. Mao had declared him to be the number 2 capitalist roader. At the time of Tiananmen Deng was called the Supreme Leader, but the only title he had was as Chairman of the Military Commission. 

The Tiananmen Square demonstrations bore some semblance to the Cultural Revolution. China’s leaders had survived the first one and were not going to allow a second one to start.

Premier Zhao Ziyang argued the student position in Politburo deliberations, and eventually walked down to the Square to tell the students that they had lost the debate. 

The leadership decided that it needed to make a show of force, to make clear that they were in charge. It was an assertion of authority, one that was no longer subject to debate. The students who had refused to go home were run down by tanks and shot down by snipers. It was a decidedly ugly scene. No one knows how many died. 

It looked like repression. Journalist Nicholas Kristof declared that the regime would necessarily be overthrown, because repression always leads to rebellion. 

Strangely, they were all wrong. The government continued its reform program and continues it to this day.

Anyway, we are not proposing that the forces of law and order suppress the student protests violently. We are far too civilized for that. And yet, someone needs to take charge of the situation on America’s college campuses. And those who are disrupting education in order to defend Hamas should be punished.

Of course, the issue in China was: who was in charge? Was anyone in charge? Evidently, the tanks and snipers offered one answer to the question.

As for Columbia University, evidently no one is really in charge. The university president did call in the police to clear out the quad, but once that bit of theatre was over, the demonstrators returned and took up residence in places they were told not to take up residence. Evidently, her words were not backed up by any consequential action, so she evidently was not in charge.

The larger issue is quite simple: should certain institutions of higher learning be saved? Many people, mostly from the conservative right, have long inveighed against what is being taught at these institutions. But, has the rot so thoroughly infested them that they have become irretrievable?  

Liel Liebowitz suggested in the City Journal that the institutions are lost. He was implying that parents should begin a national boycott of these universities and send their children (and their money) to non-Ivy League colleges and universities:

It’s time we approached our elite universities not as critical institutions that we must repair but as national security threats that we must address forcefully. The message out of Columbia this week is that there’s nothing left on campus but fanatics awash in foreign funds, and fawned over by a faculty that long ago lost its decency, its courage, and its reason. Let’s waste no more time trying to reform the unreformable. Let’s hold the violent zealots accountable, and then get to work building new institutions worthy of our children.

If you are more inclined to promote reform, you might be happy to see these universities break their ties to Middle Eastern countries who have been funding Muslim and Arab Study programs, places where anti-Semitism has been allowed to fester. The leaders of such institutions cannot assert their authority if they allow student demonstrators to align themselves with Hamas and to call for the death of Jews.

Jonathan Pizludny makes that case in the City Journal:

In effect, U.S. campuses have been importing anti-Semitic propaganda for almost 50 years. As the New York Times reported in 1978, “Oil wealth from the Middle East is starting to flow onto college and university campuses throughout the country, bringing a bonanza of endowed chairs and new programs.” That initial flood of money—and specific concerns about gifts to Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies—led to the establishment of foreign gift-reporting requirements in 1986. To this day, Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires universities to report foreign gifts above $250,000.

Unfortunately, weak enforcement by the Department of Education allowed many universities to ignore the requirement. That changed in 2019, when Secretary Betsy DeVos initiated noncompliance investigations at several top schools. In 2023 congressional testimony, Paul Moore, chief investigative council at the Department of Education during the Trump administration, described the sea change that followed: “enhanced enforcement . . . produced dramatic results,” including the “disclosure of more than $6.5 billion in previously undisclosed foreign gifts and contributions.” The Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), which analyzed the updated disclosures for 2014–19, found that over $2.7 billion in gifts came from Qatari sources, $1.2 billion from Chinese entities, and over $1 billion originated in Saudi Arabia.

The issue is the assertion of authority. We have rendered the notion retrograde and no one respects authority any more. It is time for a reckoning on America’s college campuses.

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