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May 22, 2021

Nurturing the Good [KT]

Men are never more awake to the good in the world

than when they are furiously awake

to the evil in the world.

G.K. Chesterton

Hmmmm. Last week in the comments, there was some discussion of 'Critical Race Theory' as 'Critical Rage Theory'. Proponents of 'Critical Rage Theory' think they are fighting evil. Are they awake to the good in the world?

One of our Gardening Thread favorites, Don in Kansas, quoted another of our favorites, Assistant Village Idiot, on this point:

Critical Race Theory, and Critical Theory in general doesn't have any art I can think of. Not poetry, not music, theater, film, painting, sculpture, nor literature. It may just be that I am not up on such things. I don't think it is mere recency, as both have been around for years, nor is it a bias from unfair comparisons from centuries ago. I am not asking that it produce an equivalent to the high Renaissance. Existentialism is also recent but does not suffer from the same lack. There is plenty of interesting theater, poetry, and literature from them, and I think only a little stretch of the concept brings in the visual arts including film....

This is a major red flag for the intellectual foundation of a philosophy, that artists in no medium can bring forth anything of interest. The heart of artistic expression is transposition, of reframing or new understanding of one concept and making it manifest in another. If you can find nothing to transpose, it means there is nothing there.

A fascinating point! In the video below, Ami Horowitz interviews a leader of the CHAZ movement who suggests that what comes next after they unravel the system cannot be predicted. The only thing that can be predicted is that the unraveling will "fuel the black minds and black bodies" that will create a new world. I guess that is when the artists will magically appear.

What kind of person was G.K. Chesterton thinking about when he wrote the statement at the top of the post? Have we become complacent about losses of "good in the world?"

This week, Don wrote about The Decline and Fall of the English Department.

Fifty years ago, a university couldn't call itself "Tier One" unless it had a renowned English department. No more: Abysmal enrollment numbers in the humanities at such universities prove the irrelevance of literary study. My colleagues around the country bemoan the decline, but they blame the wrong things. English did not fall because a bunch of conservatives trashed the humanities as a den of political correctness. It didn't fall because it lost funding or because business leaders promoted STEM fields. It fell because the dominant schools of thought stopped speaking about the truth of literature. Once the professors could no longer insist, "You absolutely must read Dryden, Pope, and Swift--they are the essence of wit and discernment"; when they lost the confidence to say that nothing reveals the social complexity of the colonial situation better than Nostromo; if they couldn't assure anyone that Hawthorne's sentences showed the American language in its most exquisite form, they lost the competition for majors. Students stopped caring about literature because the professors stopped believing in its promises of revelation and delight.

This post quotes from a piece in First Things that goes into detail about a time when criticism in English Literature was a focus of university funding. Truth, Reading, Decadence:

With thousands of young teachers and graduate students quoting them, the top figures of the sixties could easily believe that the precise meaning of "A gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine" was a pressing question for a large audience. They trusted in the rightness of their conclusions and contended against the wrongness of others', and thousands of graduate students and tens of thousands of undergraduates proved that the world cared. Criticism was a battle over the truth of Paradise Lost and all the other canonical works. Younger scholars felt the stakes keenly: Get it right, or be wrong--and unworthy.

It was in this environment of material abundance that the French invasion occurred. The legendary conference on structuralism at Johns Hopkins in October 1966 under the title "The Languages of Criticism & the Sciences of Man" could only have happened in a field in high-growth mode. Funding came from the Ford Foundation, and the host was the Humanities Center, which had been founded at Hopkins that very year. Without the money used to create the theory journals mentioned above, the subsequent importation of deconstruction, French feminism, and the rest would have proceeded much more slowly. Only if a department had healthy undergraduate enrollments and graduate school applications, along with expectations of generous outside funding, could it afford to bring in European VIPs, as Hopkins did Derrida a few years after the conference, and SUNY-Buffalo did Michel Foucault in 1970-72.

We have a general idea of where this all led. Do you remember this old piece from Iowahawk about college profs moving to caves?

Cambridge, MA - Two years ago this month, Alan Lowenstein, associate professor of philosophy at Harvard University, came to a fateful conclusion. "I suddenly realized that the oppression of western technology extended to my own life," he explained. "That's when I got rid of my computer, threw away my Brooks Brothers suits, changed my name to Grok and moved into a cave."

A passionate critic of Euro-American "linear thought," Grok is one of a growing number of college professors around the nation who have relocated to caves, mud huts and makeshift sweat lodges to demonstrate their disdain for western culture and technology. For Grok, 44, the move to a cave was a natural step in his intellectual progression.

"My dissertation at Columbia synthesized the seminal works of Jacques Lacan, Derrida, and Michel Foucault," says Grok, referring to the influential French deconstructionist philosophers. "I was able to prove, conclusively, that conclusiveness is not conclusive . .

When he earned tenure in 1991, Grok decided to broaden his philosophical research. "I realized that deconstructing literature was overly limiting. It was clear that other fields of inquiry could benefit from deconstruction."

It was then that Grok published a series of influential articles in which he deconstructed the sciences. "I initially showed that the so-called 'scientific method,' so treasured by the self-appointed high priests of science, was nothing but a bizarre ritual of the industrialist phallocracy," said Grok. "From there, it was a short intellectual leap to disprove the reality of the periodic tables, gravity and algebra."

Which brings us to today, when Bill Gates is funding ethnocentric math courses in Oregon, in which students are not expected to get the right answer. Wonder if this makes the students who go through these courses prime candidates for tech jobs?

Incidentally, why are we just now learning that Foucault molested little North African children in a graveyard?

But there are others besides the Critical Theorists and Postmodernists in this cultural morass. Back in 2015, Daniel Greenfield pegged The Elite in The Closing of the Liberal Mind.

The American liberal is dead from the neck up. A member of the elite, he rules, but has no talent for it. Like the Bolsheviks, he is adept at blaming others for everything and at manufacturing simple slogans. And like them he thinks only in terms of power, control and leverage, without understanding why his intellectual predecessors spent so much building up the institutional influence that he casually squanders by destroying the credibility of journalism, public service and academia.

Generational degradation has robbed him of any sense of time. He is always living in the present, which also seems to him to be the future. The past to him is a treasure trove of eccentricities. And he cannot conceive of any future that supersedes his way of life. Patience, like objectivity, is a foreign notion to him. Nothing can wait for tomorrow or ten years from now. Everything must come about right now. Battles are won, but wars are lost. The liberal hare races ahead into the post-everything future, never considering that in the long-term, it is the slow conservative tortoise that wins the race.

We can hope. What do you think? How do you nurture the good in your life? Since the universities, in general, have become destructive, what alternative cultural resources do you recommend?


Hope you have a good weekend.

This is the Thread before the Gardening Thread.

Serving your mid-day open thread needs

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