Items of Interest, Weird America Edition
Jacob Savage, The Vanishing. “Museum boards now diversify by getting Jews to resign. A well-respected Jewish curator at the Guggenheim is purged after she puts on a Basquiat show. At the Art Institute of Chicago, even the nice Jewish lady volunteers are terminated for having the wrong ethnic background. There’s an entire cottage industry of summer programs and fellowships and postdocs that are now off-limits to Jews.”, Nationalism and the Decline of English Studies. “It is precisely because English has reduced literary texts to mere instruments of power and treated the canon as little more than a ‘tragedy,’ as professor Menon puts it, that students have come to view politics as more important than English. This is the bed that English studies has made for itself, but there is almost no awareness of this in the piece other than a passing reference to how ‘some’ believe that ‘humanities scholarship’ has become too focused on the ‘patriarchy’ instead of the pleasure of reading.”, (In)sensitivity Readers. “By sanitizing the past, we cut ourselves off from our history. We steal from ourselves the ability to apprehend that different circumstances might call for different moral priorities. It blinds us to the ways that the human race, in all its marvelous cultural iterations, can adapt to the world, and can balance the trade-offs of one virtue against another. It deludes us into thinking that we now are what we always have been, and that we will always be what we are now.”, Coffee With Expatriates. “We got to talking about how weird America looks from afar, with American cultural obsessions. She said — and I’ve heard a version of this from several Americans I’ve met in the two years I’ve lived in Budapest off and on — that being away from the US since around the beginning of the Great Awokening has been a startling experience. Though her opinions on most cultural matters were conventionally center-left when she left America, she now finds herself moved to the Right — though she hasn’t really moved at all.”
Jacob Howland, College of the Future. “In brief, a crisis of illiberalism engulfs American higher education. Wherever the free exchange of ideas is discouraged, wherever intellectual pluralism is suppressed, the pursuit of truth is crippled and thought deformed. But it’s not just students who are shortchanged. Life in general becomes more solitary, impoverished, and brutish. These are symptoms of incipient societal osteoporosis, which, in the worst case, culminates in fractures of the civilizational backbone.”
David Brooks, The Power of Art in a Political Age. “The normal thing to say about such experiences is that you’ve lost yourself in a book or song — lost track of space and time. But it’s more accurate to say that a piece of art has quieted the self-conscious ego voice that is normally yapping away within. A piece of art has served as a portal to a deeper realm of the mind. It has opened up that hidden, semiconscious kingdom within us from which emotions emerge, where our moral sentiments are found — those instant, aesthetic-like reactions that cause us to feel disgust in the presence of cruelty and admiration in the presence of generosity.”
Russell Jacoby, A Climate of Fear. “The free speech skeptics might want to read up on the history of abolitionism. In 1860, Frederick Douglass participated in a meeting of abolitionists in Boston. A mob of anti-abolitionists stormed the hall and silenced the gathering. When Douglass finally gave his prepared remarks, he included some thoughts on free speech. He found the excuse that the meeting in crisis-ridden Boston was ‘ill-timed’ unconvincing: ‘Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.’”
Ryan McMaken, Secession Is Inevitable. War to Prevent It Is Optional. “Yet not even Diocletian’s dictatorship could ultimately prevent the secession of the western regions of the empire. (Justinian’s later attempts at reunifying Italy with the empire failed as well, and only brought enormous and unnecessary death and destruction.) Secession and disintegration have always been inevitable for large diverse states. The Romans were not immune. The Americans are not immune.”
Jordan T. Cash, Neil Peart: Lyricist of Democratic Greatness. “In recognizing the potential conflict between liberty and equality, Peart reflects on the observations made by Alexis de Tocqueville on the limits democratic societies place on individuals’ capacity to achieve greatness.”
Malloy Owen, From Frankfurt to Fox: The Strange Career of Critical Theory. “The critical theorists are full of scorn for the conservative activists who have adopted the term as a scare word. But some of them may also feel a certain unease over the development of industrial-scale diversity training like that practiced by ‘whiteness studies’ scholar Robin DiAngelo. Are PowerPoints telling Goldman Sachs employees how racist they are really opening the way to ‘a state of civilization…in which human needs are fulfilled in such a manner and to such an extent that surplus-repression can be eliminated,’ to quote Herbert Marcuse’s utopian vision?”
Out now: Spencer Klavan, How to Save the West: Ancient Wisdom for 5 Modern Crises.
R.I.P. Wayne Shorter.
Earworm: Animals as Leaders, CAFO.
On now: “Pat Adams: Large Paintings,” at Alexandre Gallery through April 22.
It may be impossible to imagine that track as catchy, but one of the hazards of listening to prog is that extremely complicated hooks can get stuck in your head, like that exquisite two-handed tapping riff at 1:11 by Tosin Abasi.
My current earworm is Edda Moser as Mozart's Queen of the Night (the video is a bit primitive, but the singing more than makes up for it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFJiczQZwhY
As for the vanishing Jews, part of the problem is that it is "validated" (and protected) by current sociopolitical fashion, and another part is that (liberal) Jews have long been very fashion-conscious and fashion-observant, so they are conditioned to stay that way. I am not Jewish, but even before wokeness became a thing, my perception was that Jews were averse to going against the prevailing grain, presumably to avoid being excluded and marginalized as they were historically.