This explains everything. (See particularly 2.57 in and following.)
This explains everything. (See particularly 2.57 in and following.)
Novelists often make subtler political scientists than do the political scientists themselves, perhaps because a competent novelist nourishes himself on his observation of human actuality whereas the political scientist is typically the subscriber to some party-orthodoxy or the proponent of someone’s special-interest agenda. The names of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Joseph Conrad come to mind, as men of keen political perception. Dostoevsky’s Devils (1872) and Conrad’s Nostromo (1904) retain their value as brilliant forecast-analyses of Twentieth Century political radicalism and its destructive application in revolutionary activity. Both men had an uncanny sense of what lay ahead. In a sense, their prophetic power exceeds, say, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s or George Orwell’s, as both of those men had the benefit of looking back on what had already happened. Competent novelists are necessarily also anthropologists, interested supremely in reporting human facts as they see them and in making their way to essential structures of human nature, communal existence, and the cultural tradition. The tenured political-science professors strive mightily to avoid those cases where facts contradict doctrine, while the genuine novelists relish both the paradox of human nature and the tragicomic accent of the historical chronicle. A novelist after all can only be true to himself by exercising a rigorous objectivity.
I. Such a percipient connoisseur of structural irony and the law of opposite results is the native Trinidadian, of Indian ancestry, and longtime naturalized Briton, V. S. Naipaul (born 1932; knighted 1990), whose Nobel Prize (2001) came at the last possible moment, after which, the Prize Committee’s politicization being complete, no dissenter from the reigning orthodoxy – about race, the market, the West, or modernity – would receive its honor. Naipaul had diagnosed the spiritual paralysis of the West in that morbidity’s emergent phase; he foresaw, in fact, in the chaos of decolonization in the 1960s, much of what afflicts western society at large forty years later. The title of The Mimic Men (1967), a key entry in Naipaul’s development of his novelistic oeuvre, suggests how important mimesis, or imitativeness, is to the author’s view of humanity. Few people, as Naipaul sees it, manage to escape the trap of letting others define their identity; rather, most people meekly assimilate to a few ready made stereotypes, the range of which diminishes in the age of mass communication and the “consumer lifestyle.” Modern people moreover tend swiftly to assume the indignation of the resentful; they tend just as swiftly to imitate the posturing of self-described victims. The Mimic Men’s narrator, Ranjit “Ralph” Kripalsingh, usually just “Singh,” who stems from the Hindu Diaspora in the British West Indies, uses the bland term “placidity” to describe how he has often yielded to base impulses contrary to his conscience.
Reading a book of evangelical theology this afternoon, I realized that there are a few reliable ways we can be sure that an author is a liberal weenie, and that the text he has written is therefore ideologically driven, ergo tendentious (whether witly or not), and probably wrong in its arguments. It is very simple, at least in books of theology. We can be sure that an author is a weenie if:
If furthermore there is ever in a writer about ancient texts anything like environmentalism or feminism, egalitarianism or communism, relativism or nominalism, we can be sure that he has read them anachronistically, and therefore wrongly. We can, in short, be pretty sure that he is a hopeless idiot, and what is worse, not even therefore much useful to his sinister god.
What can we take from this? That we should never, ever, ever in a million years commit any such howlers.
Probably I have missed a few. I welcome correction of any such omissions.
Dear Representative Pelosi:
My wife and I are stalwart Democrats seeking advice. We are planning an elaborate summer tour of several nations, some of them transatlantic, and we would like to know the correct order in which we should visit those nations. Here are some questions that we hope you can answer. –
Supposing that we planned a visit to London, should we list that on our itinerary as a trip to Britain or a trip to England? In either case, if we wished also to visit Edinburgh, in Scotland, would we need to visit either Britain or England first?
If we listed our London and Edinburgh destinations as the United Kingdom rather than Britain, England, or Scotland, would we need to visit Serbia, Slovenia, or Ukraine first? And does the Byelo in Byelorussia count, or is it the same, by your reckoning, as Russia? Again, how should we count Abkhazia, were we to visit there? Is it subsumed alphabetically by Georgia?
When visiting Finland, should we list it as Suomi, as Finns call their nation, and touch base Somalia first?
In what order might we correctly visit the different places called Georgia?
Finally, on a related topic, which bathrooms should we use when visiting the autonomous region of Trans-Dniester?
We are sincerely yours,
Mr. and Mrs. Qwerty
Of possible interest to Orthosphereans, my essay concerning Sex, Movies & Traditionalism on Mars has appeared at Angel Millar’s invariably edifying People of Shambhala website. The essay concerns independent Minnesota-based filmmaker Christopher Mihm, whose Saint Euphoria Studios has found a niche – and an audience – in the production of low-budget black-and-white retro-pastiches resembling the B-grade science fiction and horror movies of the 1950s. I argue in Sex, Movies & Traditionalism on Mars that Mihm’s Cave Women on Mars (2008) is a cryptically non-politically correct film that employs a studied rhythm of low-comic japes and serious storytelling to argue for sexual dimorphism, with all its attendant and historically understood differences, as the basis of social life, expressing itself most essentially in the formation of the customary family, with its aim of bringing procreation under morality.
The essay also explores the question whether, in a politically correct environment, it might nowadays only be possible to articulate traditional insights, in public, by indirection. Mihm’s film-festival audiences are undoubtedly liberal, and it appears that he has found a formula for making his dissentient points subliminally and covertly.
A press-release from the Office of the President at Upstate Consolation University contains an announcement that beginning in the fall semester, a new graduate program, the first of its kind in North America, will offer a master’s degree in Studies Studies. In the announcement, UCU President Chloe Alexandra Brainepanne expresses her enthusiasm for the new Studies Studies Program, funds for which became available when the Academic Senate passed a measure eliminating all literature courses in the English Department, which will henceforth dedicate itself entirely to Freshman Remedial Writing and Advanced Internet Media Appreciation. Several former English faculty members will transfer to Studies Studies, while the rest have been indefinitely furloughed.
It is a well-known implication of Darwinian evolutionary theory that one thousand monkeys, furnished with as many word-processing devices, and ensconced both gratis and in perpetuum in a mid-priced traveler’s hotel such as the Marriott Suites, would, by their inveterate although quite random keyboard activity, eventually produce either –
1. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; or –
2. The generic mission-statement of any graduate-level “studies” program at any state-supported consolation-university in North America.
I place my bet on Atlas Shrugged, but in my circle of intimate friends, to whose wisdom I defer, the majority of opinion favors the generic mission-statement. A consolation-university, by the way, is any state-supported, doctorate-granting institution of higher education that is not, for example, Ann Arbor or Berkeley. Let us say that Michigan State and UC Irvine are paradigms of the consolation-university. (Not that I hold any brief for Ann Arbor or Berkeley. My consolation-university was UCLA.)
Modern people say: “Everything is changing all the time.” They apparently believe it.
A guest of The Orthosphere made this error recently in one of the threads on atheism by claiming that language “is changing all the time.”
Languages indeed change, but it appears that they change abruptly rather than gradually and that the hiatuses between such changes tend to be long. On good evidence, for example, Anglo-Saxon was a stable language for at least five hundred years and maybe as much as a thousand years. The events of 1066 AD destabilized Anglo-Saxon, which, in the course of the next hundred years, fused with Norman French to create the Anglo-Norman tongue, which reached its perfection in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Modern English speakers can understand very little of Anglo-Saxon, but they can grasp eighty-five or ninety per cent of Chaucer’s verse. Chaucer wrote in the Fourteenth Century, which means that English has been quite stable for some seven or eight centuries.
Similarly, Thirteenth-Century French is comprehensible, with some effort, to Modern French speakers, who, however, might well be baffled by the Latin precursor-language.
Michael Shermer at Reason writes that mankind is being uplifted by a “moral Flynn effect”–not only are we much smarter than our ancestors; we are also much more moral, and the smarter among us are the most moral of all. Of course, one’s opinion of this thesis will depend on whether one agrees or disagrees with the moral novelties of recent decades. I’ll leave the critique of the writer’s biases and unwarranted assumptions to readers who feel they’re not getting enough practice at that sort of thing, limiting myself to a quibble over language. I would say that the trend he describes is not so much men becoming more moral as men becoming more docile. The very intelligent, I am willing to concede, are a very docile bunch, inclined neither to violent crime nor to questioning the reigning liberal dogmas, these being Shermer’s two measures of moral advance. Docility is usually a good thing–heaven forbid I speak disparagingly of it!–but it is not quite the same thing as morality, a potentially wilder attribute.
What I’d really like to talk about is an interesting claim that comes up in the essay. Shermer proposes an explanation for the connection between intelligence and morality: intelligence helps us understand the perspective of others, which makes us treat them better. Thus, the more intelligent of us have broader sympathies, and as the Flynn effect raises the general IQ, society as a whole becomes more compassionate and just. Here we have an empirical claim that can stand apart from the ethical commitments of the writer. One might even make this claim while remaining ambivalent on the moral value of perspective-shifting. Traditionally, justice was seen as the “view from nowhere”; just sampling the different perspectives couldn’t reveal which one is right. Compassion can be misdirected. Failure to punish can be a defect of justice. The more sympathetic party is not always the one in the right.
In fact, I doubt we are getting better at perspective-shifting. My observations all go the other way. It seems to me that modern men are uniquely lacking in the ability to assume other peoples’ perspectives, and in fact that they have gotten noticeably worse at it over the course of my own lifetime.
You see? What’s wrong with your life is that you are not selfish enough. What’s wrong with your life is that you accept human relationships which do not benefit you. What’s wrong with your life is that you are not sufficiently entertained. What’s wrong with your life is that you are too reticent to pursue good feelings. Plus, you’ll feel better after you fill those hooks with new clothes.
Women seem to really, really hate one another.