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
“Higher education is not about knowledge or skills,” says Upstate Consolation University Executive Deputy Chancellor of the Committee on Investor Communications Marl Flaybiter from behind the large mahogany desk in his office overlooking West Campus’s scenic Green Parking Lot; “no – higher education is about respect.” A few years ago, on being appointed to his incumbency, Flaybiter began noticing how little respect graduating degree-holders from UCU were receiving when they entered the job market and presented their credentials to prospective employers. While escorting potential investors around Uppchoock-on-the-Lake, the small, northerly city where his institution is located, Flaybiter observed that many of the service personnel in the local coffee bars and chain restaurants were recent UCU graduates.
Flaybiter counts off the many types of prestigious UCU-granted degrees held by these disrespectfully under-employed new alumni: “At least three of those kids – bright kids – had come out of our Social Justice and Sustainability Programs; five or six had bachelor’s or bachelorette’s degrees in Women’s Studies, and others came from Adventure Education, Puppet Arts, Safe Space Organizing, Slut-March Planning, and Critical White-Privilege Sciences.” Flaybiter pauses to shake his head sorrowfully. “I just couldn’t bear to see those kids – I mean, those young people – so shamefully disrespected by having to work as baristas, cashiers, waiters, and waitresses while living in their parents’ basements and going to work in their pajamas.” As Flaybiter sees it, “The mismatch between the education and the job is, well, a tragedy, not just for the kids, and not just for the pajamas, but for the community.”
Chaos, as Hesiod puts it, “was the first thing that came to be.” In a three-generation struggle, Zeus at last succeeded in imposing civilized order on the chaotic substrate of the cosmos. Chaos, for Hesiod, might be first, but order is last; and order is infinitely preferable to Chaos. In Hesiod’s story, after Zeus settles matters with the violent Titans (the Jotuns of Scandinavian myth), he must face one more challenge in the arousal of Typhon or Python, the Chaos-Monster. In Hesiod’s vision of things, Chaos always lies in wait to erupt on order and subvert it. Order is a struggle. Chaos is the lapse back into what is easiest and most primitive. So too in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the Several States of America, order is a latter imposition on Chaos, but Chaos lurks in its lair, ready to squirm out again and mess up the just apportionment of the civilized dispensation. Thus, as the Drudge Report rehearses, “Agitators Plot Inauguration Chaos.” What else would they plot? After all, their motto is, “It is forbidden to forbid.” That is to say, order is forbidden; Chaos is mandated – and the Law is the enemy of the crowd. Drudge quotes a Daily Caller story as follows: “On the day of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration protesters are planning an anti-capitalist march, road blockades and disruptions to inauguration balls…
As the Left’s second reality collapses, the Lefties still believe that they can dig themselves out of the sinkhole of their abysmal expectations. The Left being a purely collectivist entity, it responds to every crisis, as to this crisis, by amassing itself in crowds. As Gustave Le Bon remarked in his study of The Crowd (1895), crowd-behavior is de-individuated, non-conscientious, and essentially religious or sacrificial. An individual who might, left to his own soul-searching, renounce such things as morality-renunciation and participating in hatred-inducing activities, will find relief from his qualms in the degree to which he congregates with others, whose collective massiveness assuages his guilt-pangs. Once a nucleus of moral self-betrayers has gathered in close proximity, conscientiousness, which is individual, no longer impedes the impulse to action. Guilt is distributed. The subject, forfeiting his subjectivity, may do as he wills, however basely he wills, without the smart of any remorse. The religiosity of the crowd is primitive religiosity, of course. It wants to feel Karl Marx’s revolutionary Blutrausch in the spectacle of immolation, even if external social strictures prevent the immolation from being real but rather confine it to being only symbolic. (Policemen murdered in ambushes are actual victims; men of European ancestry pilloried by female multiculturalists at “White Privilege” seminars are symbolic victims, who are permitted walk away with their humiliated lives.)
The Left believes itself to be historically inevitable. The Left vehemently execrates anyone who denies its fundamental premise that it is historically inevitable. To the Left, people who think otherwise than that the Left is historically inevitable are not thinking at all: Such people are ignorant, boorish, and very likely incapable of thinking – or, as the Left has long called it, “critical thinking.” (I note in passing that the phrase “critical thinking,” like the phrase “social justice,” conforms to the Leftist linguistic pattern of taking an ordinary and perfectly well-understood noun and obliterating its standard meaning by the prefixation to it of a modifier which is actually a negation.) Leftist “critical thinking” forecast the outcome of the 2016 presidential election many months in advance. The election would go “inevitably” to That Woman. The fix was in and the fix was cosmic or perhaps ontological. Nothing could un-fix it, right? However, the “inevitable” outcome failed to manifest itself. For the Left, this constituted a cognitive, but more importantly an emotional, catastrophe, the equivalent of Krakatoa suddenly erupting in San Francisco Bay and spoiling everyone’s fun at the Gay Pride Parade. The Left has always lived in a second reality, but now events had shaken that second reality to its phantasmal foundation, and the whole illusory structure began to collapse.
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.
Richard Cocks and I joined our friend Dick Fader earlier today to see Star Trek Beyond in the local Oswego cinema. Richard and I are longtime inveterate Star Trek fans and Fader, as we call him, if not quite a fan, is at least an interested party who knows the history of the franchise. The management screened Star Trek Beyond in the big auditorium, nowadays equipped with roomy lounge chairs, but in tilting them into a reclining position the movie-goer risks taking a nap. It is a temptation to which I never yield.
A peculiarity of popular culture, which is also commercial culture, is that it dislikes competing with its own earlier iterations. Commercial culture therefore tends to be dismissive or even hostile in respect of its past, emphasizing its ever-renewed, up-to-date, and often cloyingly topical relevance, as its chief sales point. This state of affairs means that the consumers of popular culture, while they are aficionados of genre, often know little about the history of genre, what we might call the archive. Science fiction – which established its market in mass-circulation “pulp” magazines in the 1930s, and then prolonged its appeal in the form of the mass-circulation paperback in the 1950s – offers a case in point. One has only to compare Amazing Stories, Astounding, and Planet Stories, whose heyday was the 1930s and 40s, with the magazines that succeeded them during the Eisenhower presidency and into the 1960s: Galaxy, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the revamped Astounding that now called itself, perhaps a bit pretentiously, Analogue. The pulps were bulky in format, with three-color covers depicting space-dreadnaughts in combat, bug-eyed monsters assaulting human beings, and buxom women breasting the cosmos in metallic vacuum-proof bikinis. The “slicks” responded to a changing market, or to a changing and sometimes rather snooty notion of propriety, by shrinking themselves down to digest size and offering visually a more austere internal appearance. The magazine covers became solemn, satirical, or abstract, but as a rule they avoided sensationalism, and occasionally they bade fair, as in Ed Emshwiller’s many fine covers for Galaxy, to be artistic.
The pulps filled their pages with scientifically insouciant forays into interplanetary space, Suetonius-like pseudo-histories of galactic empires, and extraterrestrial hero-sagas that might well be described under the formula of Beowulf on Mars. The slicks, by contrast, bound their contributors to the rule of plausibility and preferred them to submit material that eschewed the motifs of grand invention and hero-quest in order to focus on sociological trends and dystopian speculation. When the mass-market science-fiction paperback appeared in the early 1950s, it mainly republished material that had originally appeared in the older periodical venues, but by the mid-1960s the character of the content had altered. Whereas the Ace paperback list corresponded largely to the pulps, the Ballantine, Avon, and Signet lists corresponded largely to the slicks. The slick disposition considered itself as representative of positive progress beyond the pulps in the direction of intellectual sophistication, political sagacity, and aesthetic refinement. Historians of the genre mainly endorse that self-evaluation. But is it so?
Even when they suffered from hasty writing, the pulp stories displayed a myth-like vitality and a powerful moral, if not exactly ethical, impulse that to some degree went missing from the genre about the time that the hyperbolically Romantic Planet Stories ceased publication in 1952, and when Galaxy and Analogue rose to the forefront of the genre. This longstanding suspicion – that the naïve phase of science fiction, superseded by the sophisticated phase right down to the present, often excelled its successor-phase in richness of imagery and narrative muscularity – has recently found happy confirmation in the entrepreneurial intuition of Gregory Luce, a well-known broadcaster on San Francisco area radio and television. Luce’s Oregon-based, web-mediated publishing enterprise, Armchair Fiction, in cooperation with online megastore Amazon’s publish-on-demand service, has undertaken since 2011 to return to print lost items of genre fiction, mainly science fiction, from the mid-Twentieth Century that have been out of print and hard to find for decades. The result is an enormous boon for fans and students of Pulp-Era stories of planetary adventure. That there is a market for such things is also, in its modest way, a sign that cultural amnesia, while prevalent, is not total.