From American Digest:
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Some time ago I suggested that New York is a city of free thinkers all of whom think exactly the same thing. The most recent presidential election proved my point. There is less diversity of opinion on Manhattan Island than there is in Manhattan, Kansas. Better yet, the margin of electoral victory in Clinton-loving New York far exceeded the margin of electoral victory in Trump-loving West Virginia. And New Yorkers think that they are much, much smarter than the rubes in West Virginia.
New Yorkers are twisting their minds into knots because they do not understand what happened to “their” country. They ought to have noticed that their favorite sources of information, led by The New York Times have been feeding them predigested propaganda, little of which is designed to inform and most of which is designed to tell them what to think. It provides them with just enough skewed facts to make the accepted beliefs plausible. I will not rehash the issue, but in the aftermath of the election Times media critic Jim Rutenberg apologized to his readers for the appallingly bad job the newspaper had been doing. Of course, when it comes to the media, there is a marketplace, and media organs like the Times are barely surviving.
Anyway, New York’s intellectual guardian class cannot enforce its will by the exercise of raw power. It can punish people by marginalizing them, by ensuring that they not be invited to the right cocktail parties, and even, at times by stifling their careers. One suspects that the work of brainwashing and indoctrination began earlier in a place where a guardian class did its work by exercising power over children’s lives and livelihoods.
American institutions of higher and lower education seem, to the eye of John Boyers, to be functioning through social coercion, but in truth they exercise power with the grading pencil. They determine where you can go to college and graduate school. A student who has not escaped to the STEM world will be judged negatively (and ruthlessly) for any deviation from politically correct thinking. A child who defies the brainwashed legions who are controlling academia will end up with bad grades. At the same time, those students who buy into the prevailing ideological dogmas will have been deprived of an education, will have been taught how not to think. In some sense it’s more serious, because such a cohort cannot be expected to lead a great nation to a great future.
Aside from this minor point, Boyers’ article about how the American academy produces groupthink is excellent. He notes that in places like Middlebury College the politics of hysteria have taken hold. Anyone who would dare hold a dissenting opinion has been put on notice. Your job, your career, your future, even your life will be attacked if you hold the wrong opinion. We are obviously dealing with an inquisitional atmosphere where witch hunts are the order of the day. If these grand and petty inquisitors feel threatened by certain political figures, this does not feel like a very bad thing.
Boyers points out that liberal academics insist that they embrace diversity of opinion. This means that they are either deluded or are self-righteous hypocrites… or both:
… the Middlebury incident doesn’t begin to reveal the depth or virulence of the opposition to robust discussion within the American professoriate, where many self-described liberals continue to believe that they remain committed to "difference" and debate, even as they countenance a full-scale assault on diversity of outlook and opinion.
Boyers offers up a passage from John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” noting that all academics agree with its every word:
Of course we understand that "the tyranny of the majority" must be guarded against — even when it is our majority. Of course we understand that "the peculiar evil of silencing"— or attempting to silence — "the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing … posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: If wrong, they lose … the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."
What can be more obvious than that? Of course we understand that there is danger in abiding uncritically with the views of one’s own "party" or "sect" or "class." Who among us doesn’t know that even ostensibly enlightened views cannot entitle us to think of those views, or of those who hold them, as "infallible"?
And of course, these principles are discarded when liberal academics are facing ideas that they define as “heretical,” that is, inherently dangerous. One notes, because one does not want to miss the point, that these card-carrying atheists have managed to dig up some of the long buried horrors of Western civilization:
Thus a great many contemporary liberals subscribe to the belief — however loath they may be to acknowledge it — that certain ideas are "heretical" or "divisive" and that those who dare to articulate them must be, in one way or another, cast out. The burning desire to paint a scarlet letter on the breast of those who fail to observe the officially sanctioned view of things has taken possession of many ostensibly liberal people in academe, which has tended more and more in recent years to resemble what the Yale English professor David Bromwich calls "a church held together by the hunt for heresies."
How is it all enforced?
While dissentient views are today not always "absolutely" interdicted, and we do not hear of persons who are imprisoned for espousing incorrect views, we do routinely observe that "active and inquiring intellects" are cast out of the community of the righteous by their colleagues and formally "investigated" by witch-hunting faculty committees and threatened with the loss of their jobs.
What does it look like when a university ceases to be an institution of higher learning and gives itself over to a totalizing process where all courses— especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences— must produce minds that are connected by thinking the same thoughts and believing the same beliefs:
In the university it looks like a place in which all constituencies have been mobilized for the same end, in which every activity is to be monitored to ensure that everyone is "on board." Do courses in all departments reflect the commitment of the institution to raise "awareness" about all of the approved hot-button topics? If not, something must be done. Are all incoming freshmen assigned a suitably pointed, heavily ideological summer-reading text that tells them what they should be primarily concerned about as they enter? Check. Does the college calendar feature carefully orchestrated consciousness-raising sessions led by "human resources" specialists trained to facilitate "dialogues" leading where everyone must agree they ought to lead? Check. Is every member of the community primed to invoke the customary terms — "privilege," "power," "hostile," "unsafe" — no matter how incidental or spurious they seem in a given context? Essential.
It’s controlling and coercive. In such a world all academic material is judged by its ability to advance the ideological agenda. There is no right or wrong except as it affirms the value of the dogmatic beliefs. Your task, whether you like it or not, is to persuade your guardian masters that you are a true believer and that nothing can shake your belief.
It’s not just students minds that must be occupied and controlled. Thought leaders on campus have made it their mission to police the minds of their colleagues. You might have thought that tenure would protect professors from such harassment. You were wrong. What is happening on campus looks, feels and appears to use the tactics that were afoot with witch hunts and inquisitions.
The desire to cleanse the campus of dissident voices has become something of a mission. Shaming, scapegoating, and periodic ritual exorcisms are a prime feature of campus life. A distinguished scholar at my own college writes in an open email letter to the faculty that when colleagues who are "different" (in his case, nonwhite, nonstraight, nonmale) speak to us we are compelled not merely to listen but to "validate their experiences." When we meet at a faculty reception a week or so later and he asks what I think of his letter, I tell him I admire his willingness to share his thoughts but have been puzzling over the word "compelled" and the expression "validate their experiences." Does he mean thereby to suggest that if we have doubts or misgivings about what a colleague has said to us, we should keep our mouths firmly shut? Exactly, replies my earnest, right-minded colleague.
As for the theological roots of these efforts, Boyers explains:
In the early 1950s, Isaiah Berlin identified what he called "a common assumption" informing the work of Enlightenment thinkers: "that the answers to all of the great questions must of necessity agree with one another." This "doctrine," Berlin argued, "stems from older theological roots," and refuses to accept any suggestion that we must learn to live with irresolvable conflicts. The consequence? John Gray calls it "a monistic philosophy that opened the way to new forms of tyranny."
Do you see that it’s a form of tyranny?
The word "tyranny" is perhaps just a bit extravagant as a description of tendencies at work in the contemporary academy, and yet, when we speak of the attempt to create a total culture, dedicated to promoting a perfect consensus, we may well feel that we are confronting a real and present danger. The danger that context and complexity will count for nothing when texts or speech acts become triggers for witch hunts, and that wit and irony will be regarded as deplorable deviations from standard protocol. "Tyrants always want language and literature that is easily understood," Theodor Haecker observes.
Posted by Stuart Schneiderman at 7:10 AM
Saturday, March 25, 2017
If there’s any consolation, the story comes to us from Great Britain, from the BBC. A television documentary entitled: “Young, Trans and Looking for Love” has discovered the brutal reality: when a young boy who thinks he is a girl goes out to try to pick up boys, he quickly discovers that when a boy learns that the boy who thinks he is a girl has boy parts he ceases to manifest any romantic interest.
Apparently, it never crosses anyone’s mind that these boys who think they are girls might try to pick up gay guys. I am confident that a gay male will not be put off by their boy parts.
There you have it. Problem solved. Sort of….
The producers of the documentary are puzzled. How does it happen in our enlightened age that these lotharios refuse to accept these boys who think they are girls for whoever they think they are? How dare they care about anatomy or even chromosomes?
The Mirror reports:
Claire has also begun making social media diaries of her transition, sharing her experiences with transgender teens across the world.
Hoping on finding a boyfriend, she reveals that she doesn't like telling people the truth and is desperate for an operation.
She says: "In a lot of ways, I don't like telling a guy. Once I tell him all respect goes out of the window.
"Straight guys just can't get over you having the male parts.
"Once I've had or get the surgery, I think it will change a lot for me because right now if I meet a straight guy and he doesn't know - we can't get physical if I don't tell him.
"And then if he finds out, things just get so complicated, I can't even begin to explain."
Are these young people born that way or are they being induced to choose to believe they are transgendered. The medical profession in the US, for example, approves fully of this mass delusion. Of course, there are still a few recalcitrant outliers who think it’s all a delusion, but they are being drowned out… in the name of scientific fact. Link here.
But, the medical profession has failed to explain to Claire that no surgery can turn male genitalia into female genitalia. Surgeons can produce a reasonable facsimile, but they cannot produce the real thing. I will spare you the details. Of course, other aspects of female anatomy will obviously be lacking. All the hormones in the world are not going to cause him to grow a uterus and ovaries.
Of course, the BBC presents this all as something akin to growing pains. And yet, despite what the cowed medical professionals think, we are still dealing with … a belief. People who could not bring themselves to believe in God, are happy to believe that a child is whatever gender he or she chooses to be. People who proclaim their allegiance to science imagine that some people have been given the wrong bodies and are really members of the opposite sex.
No one seems to care that these young people have XY chromosomes and that this is unalterable. As Camille Paglia famously said, this is a sign of cultural collapse.
Worse yet, when the media presents this as just another lifestyle choice it risks manipulating children into believing that they are transgendered. If it’s all about belief, it is possible to manipulate belief. A boy who finds that he is attracted to boys might very well think that he may choose between being gay or being transgendered. The media and the medical profession has given him an option: to mutilate himself and to allow his body to be invaded by hormones... without anyone really knowing the long term effects of said treatments. One does well to consult Ethan Watters’ book: Crazy Like Us… which tells us about media induced psycho epidemics.
If a boy lives in Iran, apparently the nation leading the world in gender reassignment surgery, he has a very good reason to choose to be transgendered. If he announces that he is gay he will be hanged.
How much of this condition is being produced by the media frenzy that presents it as just another way to correct God’s mistake? The great proponents of political correctness and equal rights ought to ask themselves how much responsibility they bear for producing new cases of transgenderism.
Posted by Stuart Schneiderman at 7:23 AM
Will there be socialized medicine in our future? Who knows? As of now it seems more likely than not.
Faced with the difficult choice between opining on the debacle of Ryancare or was it Trumpcare, I prefer to offer yet another example from the wondrous British National Health System. You know, the one that looks to be coming closer by the day.
As we all know, and in despite of what Paul Krugman thinks, the NHS rations health care. If we want universal, high quality, affordable health care, the trouble, as a wise man once said, is that you can only have two. So, choose which two you prefer and you can have them: if it’s universal and high quality it will be unaffordable. If it’s affordable it will be low quality universal or high quality non-universal. Pick your poison. Just don't think that you can have it all.
Anyway, over in England, where they even ration bariatric surgery for the morbidly obese, the word now is that if you want to jump to the front of the line for such surgery you need to become even more obese. Yes, indeed, the NHS rationing system promotes ill health… because that’s the way to get treatment when treatment is rationed.
The Daily Mail has the compelling story. One notes with some chagrin that the DM uses the utterly and totally incorrect term: "fat people." Of course, we deplore the use of such language, though we are comforted that it is gender neutered.
Anyway, the Daily Mail reports:
Rationing of surgery to treat clinically obese people means that some need to become 'super-obese' before they are allowed a weight loss operation, a new report suggests.
Some regions in England are demanding that patients must have a body mass index score of over 50 before they qualify for bariatric surgery.
Health experts are concerned that the message sent to obese patients is to get fatter so they can access surgery.
Those who have a BMI [Body Mass Index] score of over 30 are classed as obese, while those who surpass a 50 reading are clinically classed as super-obese.
The new report from the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society and the Royal College of Surgeons is based on Freedom of Information requests to all clinical commissioning groups across England.
These groups have now taken to lobbying for an end to the rationing. Which is surely a good idea. And yet, unless the government of Great Britain has limitless funds, when it stops rationing in one place it will soon be rationing somewhere else.
Posted by Stuart Schneiderman at 6:05 AM
Friday, March 24, 2017
Vindication is sweet. Often have I counseled a no-drama approach to the workplace. And to everyday life too. I have often suggested that it is better to see life as a game than as a drama. It's better to see yourself as a player than as a thespian.
Now, a study from the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology has demonstrated that I was correct. It tells us that it is best not to complain and not to dramatize issues that arise in the workplace. Instead of complaining you should show what the authors call sportsmanship. Yes, indeed.
Their abstract tells the story; with apologies for quoting academese:
We explicitly focused on good sportsmanship or abstaining from unnecessary complaints and criticism as a possible moderator of the effects of daily negative work events on daily work engagement and positive affect.
We tested this possibility with a 3-day diary study among 112 employees. As expected, we found that daily negative events lowered daily engagement and momentary positive affect for two consecutive days. However, this effect only held on days that people exhibited low sportsmanship. For days that people exhibited high sportsmanship, there were no significant effects. Creating a resource rich work environment that enhances individuals’ sportsmanship behaviour can help to minimize the unfavourable impact of daily negative events.
Negative work events are inevitable. How you handle them is not. If you follow the lame advice offered by the denizens of the therapy culture you will feel compelled to confront the person who offended you or even the person who did not do his job very. You might want to vent your deepest feelings, because you have been told that bottling them up will give you cancer. And you might even choose to lean in, the better to show them how tough and strong and assertive you are. The research suggests that such is a bad approach. It is posturing, not gamesmanship.
You should not see yourself as a human monad trying to regulate the pressure of your emotional gasses but as a team member whose goal should be to advance the best interests of the team.
Alex Fradera explains the research in the Research Digest of the British Psychological Society:
But when sportsmanship was high – meaning that participants hadn’t complained, escalated minor issues, or stewed over things too much – bad events, even if rated as severe, didn’t impact mood or work engagement, that day or the next. Demeroutia and Cropanzano think there may be two reasons for this. Firstly, revisiting the event gives it a second wind, further reinforcing the association between it and the normally transient negative emotions that were initially provoked, turning a bad experience into That Bad Experience. Secondly, if complaints are poorly expressed or directed at the wrong person, they can exacerbate the situation, and that’s all too possible when you are still caught up in a drama.
As for a better alternative when problems need to be solved, Fradera offers this advice, from the research:
When a problem keeps manifesting in an organisation or relationship you need to resolve it, and that begins by putting it into words. But purposeless complaining can just as easily be a way to avoid moving on, the out-loud version of mental rumination keeping us in its undertow. Demeroutia and Cropanzano point to more constructive methods like expressive writing, which have an evidence base showing success in making sense of negative experience. This form of reflection, or attentive conversation focused on straightening out a knotty problem, are vastly preferred to unconstructive venting.
Negotiate your differences. Don't dramatize them. The first can solve a problem. The second cannot. One is amused to note that the out-loud version of mental rumination corresponds well to what used to be called Freudian free association.
The moral of the story comes from director Lee Daniels. In his words: “Stop complaining.” “Do your work.”
Posted by Stuart Schneiderman at 7:12 AM
The authors of the report do not consider the effect it’s having on American education, but an influx of poor uneducated non-English speaking immigrant children is surely not improving anyone’s academic prospects.
When we were discussing the gang rape of a fourteen year old in Rockville High School we raised the question of what happens to a child’s education when too many classmates do not speak English. How much learning can take place? How much classroom time is consumed by the need to discipline children who do not understand what is being said?
Steven Camerota has analyzed the statistics. He has discovered that the number of immigrant children has exploded over the past years. Surely this poses a problem.
He writes in the Daily Signal:
We find that nationally, nearly one in four students in public schools is now from an immigrant household (legal or illegal). The number of children from immigrant households in schools is now so high in some areas that it raises profound questions about assimilation.
What’s more, immigration has added enormously to the number of students who are in poverty or speak a foreign language.
All of this has occurred with little debate over the capacity of our schools to educate and integrate these students into our culture.
As recently as 1980, just seven percent of public school students were from immigrant households, compared to 23 percent today.
High-immigration states have seen even more dramatic increases: eight percent to 35 percent in Nevada, 11 percent to 34 percent in New Jersey, and 10 percent to 31 percent in Texas. Even in states that are not traditional immigrant destinations, such as Minnesota, Alaska, and Kansas, one in seven students are now from an immigrant household.
How well will these children be able to assimilate? Not very well, if at all. The issue is statistical. The higher the concentration of immigrant children in one area the more likely the community will retain the customs and the language of the old country.
On the one side, it is something of a saving grace that immigrant children live together. This means that there are fewer places like Rockville where a third of the students do not speak English and where students speak over a dozen different languages. (One notes, in passing, that this cacophonous Tower of Babel fulfills the great multicultural wish.) And yet, if immigrant communities are more homogeneous their children are less likely to assimilate. We are not at the point that Europe has reached with Muslim no-go zones in major cities-- we are a much larger nation-- but still the problem is there.
Immigrant households are very concentrated: Just 700 of the nation’s 2,351 Public Use Micro Areas account for two-thirds of students from immigrant households, but only one-third of the total public school enrollment.
There are many Public Use Micro Areas in which the overwhelming majority of students are from immigrant households—for example, 93 percent of students in North Central Hialeah City, Florida are from immigrant households, as are 91 percent in the Jackson Heights and North Corona parts of New York City, 85 percent in the Westpark Tollway neighborhood of Houston, and 78 percent in Annandale, Virginia.
As for the use of English in the home, the numbers look like this:
Immigration has also added enormously to the population of students who speak a foreign language. In 2015, nearly one in five students in the country spoke a language other than English at home.
As the old saying goes: Houston, we have a problem! We all know that this problem will cause more and more parents to withdraw their children from the public schools. Otherwise they would be sacrificing their children to the gods of multiculturalism.
Posted by Stuart Schneiderman at 6:13 AM
Thursday, March 23, 2017
I am not going to strain your mercy today so I will not share Ask Polly’s thoughts about her newest letter writer. You know already that, whatever the woman’s problems, Polly is going to share some irrelevant and uninteresting information about her own life , then to tell the woman to feel her feelings.
As might be expected, women who write to Polly are often whiners. Today’s letter writer is different, because she has a wee bit of perspective on her habit of complaining about her good life. She dubs herself: “Whiny McWhinerson.” I am not sure why she had to tack a “son” on to it, but she gets extra credit for her self-deprecating humor.
In any case, Whiny McWhinerson is seriously upset about the lack of justice in the world. She is not going to storm the barricades and burn down the White House. She is not going to protest for women’s rights behind a leader who thinks that women have it great in Saudi Arabia and she is not going on strike behind a female terrorist who was convicted of murdering Jews.
Whiny’s problem is not really about her life. It is about her ex-boyfriend’s life. You see, Whiny has it pretty good. She has the baby she wanted, she has a wonderful boyfriend and she lives in a nice house, etc. She is not sick and she is not crazy. She has it pretty good. She says nothing about wanting or not wanting to be married, so we will ignore that question.
In this luminous paragraph Whiny describes her ex and recounts in some details the horrors he subjected her to. Gruesome does not begin to do it justice:
I sometimes feel consumed with thoughts about my narcissistic ex-boyfriend. I by no means want to get back together with him, as he is a glistening turd of a human being. He treated me like shit for the three years we were together, like straight-up emotional abuse. He was often very cruel to me, and there were times when I feared him. He would criticize my every move, refuse to pick up his phone for days on end, humiliate me in front of our friends, blame any- and everything on me … the works. He had no empathy, and I’m certain he has some kind of personality disorder. When he eventually dumped me after three exhausting years, I was devastated.
But, Whiny recovered:
A year later, I met my current boyfriend, who is a lovely, kind, and loyal person. I got my happy ending, however cheesy that may sound. So why am I not … happier?
You will readily agree that Whiny has a way with images. Think of it—better yet, try not to think of it—a relationship between a glistening turd and a piece of shit. It sounds like an assholistic relationship.
You are also thinking to yourself: why did she allow it to go on for three years? Admittedly, she was crushed by being dumped, but-- Heaven help us—why did she not do the dumping? If he was as bad as she thought, what was she waiting around for—a metamorphosis that would turn him from a glistening turd into a prince?
If it was as bad as she says—I do not doubt her word—and she stuck around for three years, refusing to disengage, what was she thinking? She does not tell us, so we will not speculate.
Anyway, Whiny is completely unhappy to see that her glistening turd of an ex-boyfriend has moved on and is doing very, very well, indeed. Alchemy has turned him into a golden boy.
My ex has a new girlfriend, and they seem to be in love. Whenever I run into him (we have the same circle of friends), he goes out of his way to convince me that he’s redeemed himself and his life is an assembly of highlights. Today, when I checked his Instagram (ugh … I know, I know), I saw he bought a huge house with her. He is a film director and makes shitloads of money. He flies business class all over the world. When I saw the picture of their house, my heart sank, and it is NOT because I am still attracted to him or wish I were in his girlfriend’s shoes. It’s not even jealousy (I think). I’ve mulled it over, and I’m pretty sure my question is this: Why does this complete and utter shit-stain get to have everything after the way he treated me?
Of course, if he treated her so badly why did she not dump him? As for the transmogrification of a glistening turd into a “shit-stain” it seems clear that Whiny is trying to tell us something about someone’s bathroom habits or sexual predilections. But we will not indulge in further coprophilic speculations.
Anyway, his newfound success feels to Whiny like a cosmic injustice. She is beginning to doubt God or Zeus or whomever:
I know I’m not God or Zeus or whatever and I don’t get to say who gets to have what, but COME. ON. I’m certainly not a saint and have made my share of mistakes. But I think I can say that I’m a good and sincere person who has always tried to do right by the people around me. I’ve never hurt someone deliberately or been cruel like he has. And now it feels like that all means nothing. Like there’s no point in trying to do and be “good.” I know this must seem very childish, like I’m on the floor throwing a temper tantrum right now and whining “It’s not faaaaiiiir.” I know nothing in life is fucking fair. I see bad things happen to far better people than me every day. And there are FAR, FAR worse problems to have. My thought process is probably flawed in that I think in terms of: good person + hard work = “success,” love, happiness … whatever. I know life isn’t a candy machine, in which you put a coin and get out what you want. I know all that. Then why do I feel so shitty?
In a world defined by her conception of justice, her ex-boyfriend would be suffering the guilt of the damned. He would not be a famous director—when did it happen that film directors became paragons of propriety?—but a grunt pushing around klieg lights on a movie set. He would have no money and would certainly not make more money than her new boyfriend, father of her child. Yes, I understand that she says nothing about comparing the two men, but still, the question does arise.
As for why she feels so shitty… maybe she misses the anal sex?
Of course, I did not really mean that. One notes a couple of salient points. First, that she has told us nothing about what attracted her to her ex. She has made the relationship seem like it belonged in the fifth circle of Dante’s Inferno and then tells us that she did not have the courage or the gumption or the good moral sense to debark from it. One suspects that there was something good about it. Otherwise she is making herself look like the perfect victim and an utter fool.
Nonetheless the question remains intriguing. Allow me a speculation. If she imagines that X was involved in a very bad and abusive relationships with her shittiness but has found a warm loving relationship with another woman, she might conclude that she was part of the problem. If she recalls him being a mediocre aspiring filmmaker when he was with her, what other conclusion could she draw from his current great success and his “shitload” of money?
Naturally, Polly does not have a clue. So, I will tell you. She seems clearly to be questioning whether the problem was not him, but was her. Did she manage to bring out his worst? Did she provoke it? Did he need a different kind of woman to be happy and loving and caring? Did a different woman provide what he needed from a woman, something that she, good social justice warrior, did not or could not or did not know how to provide?
This makes it sound as though she might be blaming herself. And yet, she has only provided one side of what was happening between them, so we are reduced to speculation. For all we know the Strurm und Drang excited her and turned her on. If she understood clearly that she did not deserved to be mistreated and had done nothing to provoke it, why did she stay?
Posted by Stuart Schneiderman at 6:14 AM