Friday, July 20, 2018

Why I Could Never Be an Appeals Court Judge

Two Republican United States Senators have just torpedoed the nomination of Ryan Bounds to the US Court of Appeals. They don't like something Bounds wrote 25 years ago as a student at Stanford University:
“During my years in our Multicultural Garden of Eden,” he wrote, “I have often marveled at the odd strategies that some of the more strident racial factions of the student body employ in their attempts to ‘heighten consciousness,’ ‘build tolerance,’ ‘promote diversity’ and otherwise convince us to partake of that fruit which promises to open our eyes to a PC version of the knowledge of good and evil. I am mystified because these tactics seem always to contribute more to restricting consciousness, aggravating intolerance and pigeonholing cultural identities than many a Nazi bookburning.”
Oh no! Bounds accused lefties of being Nazis! As a kid! Twenty-five years ago! Whoever heard of such a thing! I can't believe he wrote that! Why everybody knows that it is a crime against humanity to write such a thing. But it is OK to accuse anyone to the right of lovely Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of being a Nazi.

But really, we all know that there is one crime that cannot be forgiven, and that is the crime of telling the truth to the ruling class.

I mean: I write things like that every day! But then I can afford to, because I am not running for anything, and I am not hoping to get preferment to some black robed sinecure. So I can afford to tell the truth as I see it.

But to get back to Ryan Bounds. This guy wrote this truthful analysis of the utter folly of left-wing politics -- not to mention its vile reign of terror -- twenty-five years ago when he was a student at university. For this he is to be denied entrance to the Holy of Holies, a seat on the United States Court of Appeals? Come on Tim Scott and Marco Rubio! Surely you have more serious things to do than punish a guy for telling the truth 25 years ago! How about punishing someone for something true that he wrote last year!

Or maybe Scott and Rubio are playing Senate politics and paying back some other senator for meddling with some pet project of theirs. I hope there is some such good political payback reason for this.

If there is one thing this nation needs to do it is to banish the vile racism and divisions of identity politics, and to utterly demoralize and demonize the vile culture of "activism" that now reigns supreme in our universities. The frightening thing is that it is clear that the kids are doing this because they are being carefully taught to do so.

Indeed, given the apparent utter ignorance of the lovely Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about basic economics -- this from a Boston University BA graduate in Economics and International Relations -- it is clear what is going on in the university. Nothing. Except activism studies. Yes, apparently Ocasio-Cortez was active in student politics while at BU. And I imagine didn't have much time for economics, supply-and-demand, market prices and all that stuff.

This is surprising to me, because I once knew a Good Little Girl that went back to school to get an MBA and was flabbergasted by her economics courses. She had no idea! But apparently economics courses left absolutely no trace on Ocasio-Cortez. Does that mean that BU students can avoid capitalist economics and merely take courses in Marxist or Democratic-Socialist economics? Or does it mean that Ocasio-Cortez was a minority student active in activism on campus and that any grade lower than B+ was evidence of instructor racism? Or does it mean that Ocasio-Cortez is as dumb as a post and forgot  everything she learned the second after the final exam?

Yeah, what is going on at the university? If Ryan Bounds was writing about "strident racial factions of the student body" 25 years ago, what, do you suppose, is  going on today?

Well, we know.  The attitude of university administration to left-wing student activism clearly demonstrates that the university is right there with the activist  students and their non-negotiable demands and their mostly peaceful protests.

And there is only one way to stop it. To take away their money. That is what bureaucrats and time-servers understand.

Because here is the bigger problem, as told by Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, also known as Harry Lee (his first language was English).
In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion.
Or, to put it in a different way, on my maxim that politics is division, in a single-race society politicians divide people by class or religion or ethnic origin as used to be the case in the United States. In a multi-racial society politicians divide people by race and religion. QED.

The thing is, in the United States for the last century, the politicians were clearly dividing people by ethnicity and religion. Thus, if you read the history of presidential elections you find authors talking about the Irish vote, the Catholic vote. Or in Miami the Cuban vote. Now we talk about the black vote, the Latino vote, and the white working-class vote. Nothing has changed.

The other approach to politics, that Donald Trump has used, is to divide the electorate by loyalty to America, as in Make America Great Again. This is a transparent tactic to appeal to ordinary people that don't have any fancy ideas about activism and driving Priuses and saving the planet, and utterly to be deplored and banished from polite society.

And I would say that anyone with the least bit of education and evolvement should utterly condemn Trumpian divisive politics and completely eliminate from judicial preferment anyone that so much as whispers support for such racist sexist homophobia. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Of Course Trump Has "a Distorted Vision"

Yesterday I dispatched Steven Pinker and his Enlightenment Now for not realizing that his "reason" is a religion, or more exactly that science and wealth and long life are just artifacts and ways of looking at and understanding the world; they are not the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

Today I am taking on conservative icon Roger Scruton, who takes to The New York Times to disparage Donald Trump. Let us let him have his say.
Conservative thinkers have on the whole praised the free market, but they do not think that market values are the only values there are. Their primary concern is with the aspects of society in which markets have little or no part to play: education, culture, religion, marriage and the family... [things that] cannot be bought and sold: things like love, loyalty, art and knowledge, which are not means to an end but ends in themselves.
Well, yes. Which is another way of saying with John C. Wright that politics [and the market economy] is downstream from culture is downstream from religion. But Trump is not a true vessel of conservatism, writes Scruton.
About such things it is fair to say that Mr. Trump has at best only a distorted vision. He is a product of the cultural decline that is rapidly consigning our artistic and philosophical inheritance to oblivion. And perhaps the principal reason for doubting Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials is that being a creation of social media, he has lost the sense that there is a civilization out there that stands above his deals and his tweets in a posture of disinterested judgment.
Well, bless my soul. Imagine! Trump is but a ordinary mortal, and does not have the magic answer that will bring "education, culture, religion, marriage and the family" into perfect harmony with our "artistic and philosophical" traditions.

But, in fact, on the testimony of Steve Bannon, Trump is consciously trying to move away from the technocratic market-only globalist vision towards some kind of populist nationalism that thinks about the actual cultural context of the people rather than the intellectual conceits of the ruling class. Here is Bannon (he really spanks the interviewer: gotta love it):

But here is my beef with Scruton, that Trump "is a product of the cultural decline that is rapidly consigning our artistic and philosophical inheritance to oblivion."

No doubt, Rog. But the fact is that the conservative heirs of Edmund Burke have singularly failed to provide the Trumps of the world with a bullet list on which to raise our "artistic and philosophical inheritance" back up to the level of a Goethe and a Beethoven, and then to raise it to greater heights still. We got Obama and his "fundamental transformation" because conservatives don't have a better idea that inspires  the best and brightest to leave progressivism and its echoing graveyards in droves and aspire to something higher and better.

The worst we can say about Trump is that he is a little Dutch boy with a finger in the dyke, trying to hold back the progressive flood. But he is just a politician, albeit a politician that "[keeps] your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you." Which means he is downstream from culture, which is already there and over which he has no control and which right now is in the hands of his political enemies. And that is to say nothing about religion.

See, the fundamental thing about our age is that it is an Axial Age in which new religions are aborning, just like the Axial Age of three thousand years ago. What do you think the SJWs are doing? What do you think the left has been all about? These are the rude and crude attempts to find a new religion, a meaning of life, the universe, and everything, or in Scruton's argot, rebuilding an "artistic and philosophical" tradition on the ashes of the old good-and-evil one that Nietzsche declared was dead over a century ago. And naturally, there is quite a lot of witch-hunting and naming and shaming as people get a little too enthusiastic for the New Truth.

As you know my view, on my Three Peoples theory, is that the religions of the People of the Subordinate Self and the People of the Responsible Self are fine. The problem is the religion of the People of the Creative Self, the people who are in Nietzsche's phrase trying to figure out what religion looks like "Beyond Good and Evil." Not surprisingly 97.2% of their efforts have been bloody failures, consigning hundreds of millions to death and devastation as is normal when people are trying to develop something new.

So what Trump is saying is that you globalists and progressives can get on with your glorious plans for a new religion, but not on our dime. We want to live in our nation states with our welfare states, and our families and jobs and children. Come back when you have something real. And it better be better than your Communism, your Socialism, your Nazism, your Stalinism, your Maoism, your Castroism, your Bolivarism, your globalism, oh, and your Obamism.

Just saying.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

People Don't Want to be Enlightened, They Just Want to Believe

I read a review of Steven Pinker's latest, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress on NRO, and realized that I ought to read the book. The reason? That Pinker went out after religion.

OK, I said to myself: so what is Pinker's religion? Fortunately, he answers the question on the first page of the book, by answering a question put to him by a young woman: "Why should I live?" Says he:
In the very act of asking that question, you are seeking reasons for your convictions, and so you are committed to reason as the means to discover and justify what is important to you. And there are so many reasons to live!
And the reasons? The "potential to flourish" and the "sense of sympathy." So,
[Y]ou have the responsibility to provide for others what you expect for yourself... life, health, knowledge, freedom, abundance, safety, beauty, and peace. History shows that when we sympathize with others and apply our ingenuity to improving the human condition, we can make progress in doing so, and you can help to continue that progress.
So, using Cathy Newman dialectics, what he is saying that if you have convictions around notions like flourishing and sympathy, then the reasons for your convictions are that they make a better world for you and everyone else.

This uses the word "reason" in its original pre-Greek sense, as a rationalization of your convictions. Yeah, Stevie, reason wasn't invented back in the Enlightenment with dear old Kant and his "Perpetual Peace: a Philosophical Sketch." Reason is an integral part of all religion, pal. That's why we sneer today at Catholic theologians back in the day arguing about how many angels you can fit on the head of a pin. Or why the Jewish Torah typically features on each page a few verses in large type surrounded by tons of rabbinical argumentative commentary in small type.

So, I get it. Steven Pinker believes in basic human flourishing. So do I. He believes in "sympathy," or what we might call social animals. So do I.

So the difference between him and me is that I believe that my convictions, my sense of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, is my religion. And he does not. Because, I suppose, he imagines himself above all that.

He is wrong, of course. He is wrong because nobody knows the meaning of life, the universe, and everything -- if it has a meaning. But we humans cannot live without an answer to the question: "why should I live," and that answer, always and everywhere, is provided by religion.

To answer the religious question, some people immerse themselves in books, or go off into a wilderness to meditate, or "go into isolation" with Nietzsche's Zarathustra. But most people get their religion prepackaged from a church or a sect; they prefer it that way. Steven Pinker seems to want the prepackaged religion of the Kants and similar folk who wrote in the mid-to-late 18th century. And for him that has nothing to do with "the 19th-century Romantic belief in mystical forces, laws, dialectics, struggles, unfoldings, destinies, ages of man, and evolutionary forces that propel mankind ever upwards towards utopia."

OK. So the Romantics were half-crazed. But their basic religion was that Reason and Enlightenment could not be the whole story: it did not exhaust the possibilities of the meaning of life, the universe and everything. There had to be something else. But what is that "something else?" That's a good question, Senator.

The point is that nothing is carved in stone -- except what Jung carved in stone at his lakeside retreat at Bollingen -- and all our convictions that we protect with a bodyguard of reason are probably wrong, at least in part.

For instance, Pinker clearly thinks that material progress is a good thing, provided we protect against environmental damage, blah, blah, blah, because it promotes "life, health, knowledge, freedom, abundance, safety, beauty, and peace." And little children get to live, and people are not enslaved and women are not patriarched etc.

But the environmentalists correctly point out that this cannot go on forever. They tell us that we will run out of fossil fuels. And they are right, except it won't be next week. Or that we will "climate change" the Earth and destroy the planet. And they may be right. But it won't happen for a century or so, whatever the fake models tell us. Meanwhile, let us wive and thrive and survive, for tomorrow we die.

Here is something even more dreadful. I read years ago someone who said that the human use of energy, increasing at about 3 percent per year, will eventually exhaust all the energy in the universe --  in a few thousand years. Why, because 1.03**3000 equals 3 times 10**38, or 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Which is quite a lot. See, on the notion of entropy, we are stealing energy from other folk -- the animals we eat, the crops we grow, the fossil fuels we mine, the nuclear energy we generate. And it will all come to an end some day. If our notion of entropy is correct.

You can see that the scientists' notion of entropy has a lot in common with religious notions of the End of the World, Armageddon, and the Millennium.

Steven Pinker's answer to that good little girl is correct, as far as it goes. Wiving, thriving, surviving. Good idea. Social cooperation with other humans. Good idea. But, it might all turn out to be a dreadful mistake some time in the future. What he proposes, in my view, is a pretty decent religious testament, based on what we know today about life, the universe, and everything, only he lacks the intelligence and wisdom to realize that his "reason" is really religion. The missing link in his religious testament is that we do not know what we will know in the future. What we learn in the future may make us completely change our minds about what constitutes the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. And that may be too late for some people. Or all people. Or everything on the planet.

It makes complete sense that today's religion for educated people like Steven Pinker is different from the religion of chaps like Martin Luther half a millennium ago, and Luther's religion is different from the religions put together in the Axial Age three thousand years ago, and the Axial Age religions are different from the religion of the Greeks of the Iliad camping on the shore before the city of Troy. When we develop new knowledge then we change our religion.

I believe that Steven Pinker is a man stuck in the past, still infatuated with the religion of the Enlightenment and its superstitions while I have grown out of that benighted age, having read as much as I could of people that have lived since the Enlightenment and have produced credible critiques of the religion of the Enlightenment.

And what I have concluded with my infallible reason and intellect is that we need a religion for chaps like Steven Pinker that includes as a central doctrine a sense of compassion and understanding for all the folk that aren't quite as intelligent and creative as Steven Pinker.

Because, of course, I am right and he is wrong. And these are my reasons...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Left's Errors: The Programs

Do you know that today, July 17, 2018, is the centennial of the killing of the Russian Czar and his family. Marking the occasion , Seth Barron writes,
Studying the years that led to that savage night, it’s hard not to want to shout across time at the last Romanov, to wake him from his walking stupor. His feckless rule was marked by indecision and half-steps at political reform, the necessity of which was obvious to everyone. Sergei Witte, the brilliant diplomat and reformer who engineered Russia’s first constitution, warned Nicholas in 1905 that “Russia has outgrown its existing governmental forms. . . . You must give the people their constitution; otherwise, they will wrest one away.”
Well, yes. Of Course the Czar should have known. But it is in the nature of late-stage dynasties that they don't have a clue. Come to think of it, it is characteristic of mature capitalistic corporations that they never quite get around and Do Something to avoid decline and bankruptcy. This week, Hello Sears. My whole series on the Left's Errors is really about this, about the late-stage welfare state cluelessly going on its way even though "everyone knows" that things just can't go on like this.

Starting over a century ago, the left has been engaged on a project to fundamentally transform western society, from responsibility and liberty to equality, justice, emancipation and liberation. But the means to do that is always politics and government despite the abysmal record of politics and government down the ages in securing anything except death and domination.

Now the meaning of life, the universe and everything, for me, is to illuminate the errors of the left with every breath of my body, on the principle that everything about the left is a lie, including "and" and "the."

Above all, for me, is the truth that the left's agenda always creates roadblocks on the road to the middle class. I believe that the #1 agenda item for the modern world is to help people leaving the farm to learn the culture of the city, and this is profoundly difficult. The city requires us to cast off our culture that trusts only the kindred and learn to trust anyone that is trustworthy. It teaches us to cast off old feudal subordination and subordinate ourselves to the market economy and its prices. It teaches us stop trusting feudal lords to keep us safe and be individually responsible for our safety and welfare.

Yet everything our government does teaches people the opposite.

Social Security is a program that takes money from workers to give a retirement income to seniors. Instead we want to teach workers to save for their own retirement, and retire when they can afford it. But what about people that can't support themselves through no fault of their own? Well, for them there is family, then the charitable beneficence of billionaires, and then, perhaps, the enforced contribution of taxpayers as a last resort. But remember, everything that taxpayers contribute basically lets family off the hook.

Medicare is a program that takes money mostly from high income earners to give to seniors for lifetime health care. Is that a good idea, or would it be better to let the high-income earners keep more of their own money to create new jobs for working Americans? Speaking as a senior, it is nice to have the taxpayers pick up the tab for me. But should they? I mean, anyone that has raised their children to adulthood is not exactly a crucial part of the economy that must be kept healthy, wealthy and wise. Seniors like me are going to end up dying of something, whether a heart attack in our sixties or a combination of physical and mental disorders twenty years later. The point is: how much are the kids prepared to put up? Or billionaires? And what level of care is just? Heroic care? Or palliative care? Or the level of care for which the senior is willing to pay for out of his own savings? If I had my druthers there would be a range of options available to seniors that would allow them to determine just how much health care is enough -- for them.

Medicaid is a health care program for the poor. Yet we find, from the Oregon experiment, that Medicaid does not provide better outcomes than no provision. I'm all in favor of health care for the poor, but I'd would rather contribute to it voluntarily than through the political process.

Public Schools is the program that lets government educate our children in government child-custodial facilities. Do you think it is a good thing for government functionaries to do this job? Or do you think that it provides a way for the government to indoctrinate our children against us? And what about the moral welfare of mothers who would be much better employed educating each others' children than letting government lifers -- "our teachers" -- do the job.

Welfare is the notion that government rather than family, church, and charities should provide relief for the poor. After five centuries of government relief for the poor (starting, for Anglo Saxons, with the Elizabethan Poor Law) I think that the results are in. It is a terrible idea that demoralizes the poor, distorts the labor market, and enrages the taxpayers.

Economic Regulation is the idea that credentialed experts are better at filing down the rough corners of the market economy than prices, the need for corporations to maintain the goodwill of their customers, and the operation of the legal system. The science on this was settled with the theory of "regulatory capture" advanced by economist George Stigler. But for some reason the usual suspects have not yet lost their love for power and privilege.

Racial Preferences arises out of the natural tendency of all ruling classes to reward their supporters. In its cruder applications, government favors its supposedly helpless "little darlings" over the unlabeled Other. But of course, in any governmental enterprise it is natural to hire and reward your supporters rather than the best people for the job. This is because government is not in the business of satisfying the consumers and staying in business but winning elections, rewarding its supporters and keeping congressional appropriators on-side.

My point is that almost everything government does makes things worse. And yet nothing changes.

This is very dangerous because we are in late-stage dynasty where the rulers know that something must be done, but, like the Czar of All the Russias, just can't buckle down and figure what to do. What they do know is that Trump is the wrong man for the job.

The least we can do is talk down government programs every chance we get. Because you never know when a renegade will be elected president and proceed to cut the grass in the meadow.

Monday, July 16, 2018

One of These Victim Groups is Not Like the Others

The whole program of the Left focuses on the notion of victims. Looky here! Here are victims being marginalized and victimized by an unjust system! Everyone to the barricades!

I bring you four classes of victims. But one class is not like the other. Can you tell, before the end of the article?

Back at the end of the feudal era and the beginning of the 16th century, according to Karl Marx,
A mass of free proletarians was hurled on the labour market by the breaking-up of the bands of feudal retainers, who, as Sir James Steuart well says, “everywhere uselessly filled house and castle.” Although the royal power, itself a product of bourgeois development, in its strife after absolute sovereignty forcibly hastened on the dissolution of these bands of retainers, it was by no means the sole cause of it. In insolent conflict with king and parliament, the great feudal lords created an incomparably larger proletariat by the forcible driving of the peasantry from the land, to which the latter had the same feudal right as the lord himself, and by the usurpation of the common lands.
Whaddya mean: "same feudal right," Chuck?

See, what happened is that the Tudor kings in Britain disarmed the private armies of the nobles. And so the nobles decided they didn't need no stinkin' peasants hanging around on the off-chance they might be needed as soldiers in a private war.

Poor helpless victims. And permanent outrage from the Left.

Then in the early 19th century, according to Marxist Eric Hobsbawn and George Rudé in Captain Swing -- when there were three classes in agricultural England, the nobles, the independent farmers, and the wage-earning agricultural laborers -- the farmers stopped hiring laborers. The new threshing machines meant that the farmers didn't need laborers trimming hedges for most of the year so that there would be enough labor at harvest time. So they dumped their laborers. You can get a modern view of things down on the farm at the time from the recent movie of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. The farm laborers rioted and destroyed threshing machines in the Captain Swing riots of 1830. Yay!

More helpless victims. And permanent outrage from the Left.

Then, of course, we have the famous prophecy from Marx about how the capitalists and the bourgeoisie would "immiserate" the workers in the same way as the feudal lords exploited the peasants in the feudal era.

More helpless victims. And permanent outrage from the Left

Then, starting in the 1960s, the capitalists in America started to move industrial production from the United States to other parts of the world. This meant that the great white working class that had won decent wages and benefits with the help of the left found that the good old days were over. By 2016, The Washington Post reported, the white working class in the United States was "dying of despair."

More helpless victims. And raspberries from the Left.

Because, in 1971, Archie Bunker, white working class personified, was a racist sexist bigot. Yeah! Serves him right!

But why? Why did the Left abandon the white working class, sons and daughters of the "free proletarians," the "agricultural laborers," and the working stiffs of the 1930s?

Well, the simple answer is that the Left had moved on. It would now advocate and peacefully protest for women and minorities and gays and transgenders and illegal immigrants and the homeless and Muslims.

This is what I call the "little darlings" problem.

Mothers! Don't let your daughters grow up to become the "little darlings" of the ruling class!

That's because, as I have written in the past, the fate of little darling taken up by the ruling class and groomed as their supporters is that supporters of the ruling class end up like soldiers in Napoleon's army on the retreat from Moscow in 1812.

Same as the fate of the mistress of a wealthy scion. Or the working class girl in Rotherham, England.

The ruling class, any ruling class, needs bodies to fill the rank and file of its armies -- or its voting rolls. But the exigencies of power politics are not cast in stone for all time. Sometimes the path to power involves bread and circuses for the Roman mob. Sometimes it involves throwing good wages and benefits at newly enfranchised industrial workers. Sometimes it involves hyping up racial feelings and animosities between whites and blacks in the United States. Plus ça change.

And when the music changes, the former little darlings of the ruling class are thrown out in the garbage. As the song says:
She was poor, but she was honest
Though she came from 'umble stock
And an honest heart was beating
Underneath her tattered frock
The chorus goes like this:
It's the same the whole world over
It's the poor what gets the blame
It's the Left what gets the pleasure
Ain't it all a bloomin' shame?
Oh dear, I couldn't help myself.

OK. So now President Trump has taken up the cause of the white working class, left by the side of the road like Napoleon's soldiers in 1812 or Hitler's soldiers in 1945.

But, you mothers, Nothing Has Changed! Donald Trump has cunningly understood that there was a whole class of voters out there that neither party was mobilizing. And fortunately his Democratic opponent in 2016 Ivre de Chardonnay and her crack campaign staff didn't see what was happening. But Nothing Has Changed! The day will come when your daughters get sacrificed to political expediency just like the peasants, the laborers, the white working class and whoever is next for the chopping block. There is only one way to go. Keep your eye on the donut, and not upon the hole. Always be watching the winds of change and make sure that you and your family never get caught upon a lee shore.

E.g. my family's history. Father born in Russia. Got out in 1918 just in time. My mother, born in Japan. Got out in 1940, just in time. Me, born in India. Got out in 1948 right after independence.

Today, I and my descendants are right here in the good old US and A. But I don't believe nothing that  no politician says. There may come a time -- there will come a time -- when a chap like me and my descendants need to move on. Again.

For the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is really very simple. 
Wive and thrive and survive.
That is all.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Ruling Class and Art

I am in Philadelphia over the weekend and I am doing the culture thing, including the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, which has been a cultural presence in downtown Philly since 1805.

Naturally the Academy has exhibition space, that nods to all the current cultural trends in the Arts. But there is also a corner of the exhibition space with portraits of the Founders. There are a couple of portraits of George Washington, and a huge painting of William Penn and his treaty with the Indians.

And over in a corner is this little gem, "Colonialism and its Legacies."

Ah yes,  the "Colonial Gallery" with "portraits that celebrated wealthy white colonial elites" and "highlighting their class status." Then we get down to business. The narrative thread of "global trade" and the "traumas" it inflicted.
That thread also connects these images to the long history of traumas wrought by colonizers on the communities they controlled, though those darker histories often lie hidden behind myths and mahogany furniture.
Yes, and one of the portraits in the Colonial Gallery is of the richest slave trader in America. But you will be glad to know this.
Contemporary artists, on view in conversation with these works from from hundreds of years ago, challenge us to unravel these threads, to consider the legacy of empire, slavery, and colonialism in the 21st century.
Not quite, kiddo. The right narrative would be that "We have selected contemporary artists that we believe best challenge the white patriarchal narrative of the colonial era and throw a proper light on the crimes of the fathers."

There is a delicious, mindless conceit in the art world, indeed in liberal world in general, that "we" have attained to a higher, nobler truth that the money-grubbing, slave-holding, racist, sexist elite of olden times.

In fact, then and now, the art world is the mouthpiece of the ruling class. If yesterday artists painted portraits of plump, benevolent slave traders today they paint patronizing pictures of a diverse America or worse, patronizingly patronize artists from diverse communities, pick them out of the crowd and make their name for them.

If yesterday the ruling class built marble monuments to the Founding Fathers, today it builds Holocaust and African American Museums. Because that is the story it wants to tell us, and we'd all better know what is good for us.

But it is all, then and now, mere ruling class propaganda, representing the ruling class, then and now, as benevolent and wise rulers always concerned with bending the arc of history towards justice.

Here is what I think.

I think that ruling classes, then and now, are mostly idiots. Obviously, because they are rulers, they believe in the beneficence of political power. But political power to do what? Tame the frontier? Enable, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Right the wrongs of the workers? Celebrate the diversity of our communities while being careful to avoid cultural appropriation? Teach us about the sins of slavery? Make American Great Again?

I  think that the important thing to know is that nobody knows what they are doing. Five hundred years ago Europeans began sailing and trading and dominating all over the world. As a Chinese Christian put it, if you were on the receiving end of this, you kept wondering: is it the guns? The  science? The political ideas?  Christianity? Who knew?

But was there any white European grand plan to conquer the world?  Not at all, or at least, not much.

Then, a century ago and more, some people got the idea of transforming the world  to a new vision of  brotherhood, socialism, guided by an avant-garde elite.  More recently our  political and business  elites have coalesced around a vision of globalism --  under their continuing benevolent hegemony.

But the truth is that any regime, political or economic, picks winners and losers, and the losers don't like it. I mean really don't like it. And really, in advance, nobody knows what will happen, what the result of any political or economic regime will be, just as nobody knows, in advance, which businesses will succeed and which will fail.

For instance, the socialist experiment of the last century, the product of the best minds and the best and the brightest, has been a monstrous and tragic failure. Yet the fumbling and bumbling of business innovators, from slave traders to tech start-up wizards, has produced the most astonishing increase in human welfare ever. Is there really any notion of what went right, and what went wrong, and why? Are there majestic narratives in all the world's art galleries examining what happened and why? Not really.

What we have, and what we have always had, are ruling class apologists spinning facile narratives. At one time we celebrated mahogany furniture. Now we celebrate bike lanes.

The only thing we know for sure is that it is all rubbish.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Women and Agency

Back in the bad old days of the patriarchy, you may remember, women were notoriously lacking in agency. In the Victorian Era (which seems to have extended mysteriously beyond the boundaries of realm of the Queen and Empress of that name) women were put on pedestals and were worshiped as goddesses. But not allowed to have a bank account. Or something.

Now, of course, with women fully liberated, they are insisting on protection from microaggression and demanding safe spaces from "hate."

The consequence is that little Bari Weiss of Squirrel Hill and The New York Times can tell media sensation Jordan B. Peterson that she just doesn't go along with his Jungian association of women with Chaos. Well, I suppose that if you have been protected in safe spaces all your life, it would be easy to think that.

But Bari Weiss should read The Summer Wives, the latest by my daughter Beatriz Williams. There she will find plenty of female agency and also plenty of women and Chaos. Where you been all this time, Bari? And don't worry. In this tale of sex and class and murder, you get high-class women and Chaos and low-class women and Chaos. And cross-class women and Chaos too, I dare say.

Now, just in case you haven't quite got with the program, the main character in Summer Wives complains at one point about the problem of men writing most of the movie scripts: their women are unconvincing because men just don't get women. That is supposed to be a clue, Bari, that in this book, we are going to run the gamut of womanly behavior from the sweet innocence of virginal youth, to the ruthless use of sex by a woman to take a man away from a step-sister, to the usual thing of women not talking to each other for years at a time.

Did you see that that US Navy destroyer that collided with a container ship featured two women officers on duty that night that were not talking to each other?

I think the point here is that women are different than men. Their agency is a different kind of agency than the typical warrior agency of men, and it is not as visible. And, of course, women's agency is inextricable from that curious aspect of women's lives: the children that they bear and birth and raise.

In our age activist women and their supporters reduce the agency of women down to women and careers. Are enough women represented in certain professions, in corporate hierarchies, and in politics? And are women heroes in movies kicking ass like men heroes?

But this is to miss the point entirely.

The whole  point of  life, the universe, and everything is not who gets to be CEO or President. The whole point is who gets to create posterity. Babies, and stuff.

And that is why it is a monstrous perversion that the be all and end all of educated and evolved womanly politics appears to be abortion, as we see in the current mob politics around the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Put it this way. In the author not on the back flap of The Summer Wives Beatriz Williams notes that
She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry.

Ah yes. Laundry. A lot of energy, down the ages, has been devoted to off-loading the hum-drum chores of life onto servants, or, in our own time, onto baby sitters and government child-custodial facilities.

But that is odd, for what is more important in life than making the dinner, washing the clothes, and raising the children?

Why do we spend so much of our lives and agency figuring out ways not to do the basics?

And why is it that the philosophers have devoted so little of their incandescent wisdom to this important topic?

That feels like the topic for a novel.