Sometimes, the order in which ideas present themselves to you is more important than their individual coherence or importance. Occasionally, the most trivial and unrelated things can serve as stepping stones to a entirely new vista, a new perception of an old, unsolved puzzle. I’ve tried for a few months now to complete my Cultural Insanity series on the dangerous evolutionary dead end that is the progressive, secular humanistic, socialist left. I had put up three posts that were quite well received (I, II and III) in July and August. I was on a roll. But as I approached the last post in the series I stalled.
I realized I had never really got beyond finding innovative ways of explaining how wrong and developmentally immature they are. When I started putting that last post together, the one in which I would put the coup-de-grace on the left by uncovering and laying out the underlying flaw in their philosophy and rational, I could not complete the series. The deep underlying flaw kept receding from my grasp. I knew most of the important pieces of the puzzle:
But somehow I couldn’t make it all work together. I felt it right there but I couldn’t lay my hand on it. I felt like a badger trying to dig a rabbit out of is burrow. The more I dug for it the deeper it withdrew until, exhausted, I took a step back and paused. Now, thanks to a series of serendipitously found items in the newspaper, I’ve come to kind of a breakthrough. I have been able to go beyond ridicule to a new level of understanding.
1. Moral relativism (ethical bankruptcy)
2. Omerta code (political correctness) about certain words (Islamofascism, Negro, oriental, black, etc…, and whole subject areas (Muslim intolerance and xenophobia, the moral and ideological bankruptcy of communism as a political system
3. A suicidal inability to see and advocate for one’s own best interest
4. Emotional volatility
5. Victim worship
6. Unwillingness to discuss or even read or listen to ideas with which they disagree
7. Tendency to “go ad hominem” (indulge in personal attacks) on anyone who disagrees with them
6. Refusal to be friends (or even associate) with conservatives “shunning”
9. Cynicism toward traditional values
10. A trenchant dislike, mistrust and lack of respect for our parental culture that bears an uncanny similarity to the resentment and disrespect that most adolescents and young adults in our culture show toward their own parents.
My insight began to come together a week ago Sunday. It was a faily innocuous letter to the editor in The Boston Globe that got me started. The letter was in response to a very good article that Jeff Jacoby had written about “The Islamist War on Women”. The letter, written by Amy Senier bore the title, Women mistreated in the West, Too. I’ll reprint it here:
IN APRIL 2007, a man broke into the apartment of a Columbia University graduate student, tied her up, and taped her mouth shut. He proceeded to rape and sodomize her for 19 hours, stopping only to slit her eyelids and burn her with hot water and bleach. According to the Department of Justice, 115,010 women were raped in the United States in 2005. Americans have even joined the war against women in Iraq: Four US soldiers gang-raped and murdered a 14-year-old girl in June 2006.
None of this is meant to excuse the horrible events relayed by Jeff Jacoby. It does, however, indicate that no single culture holds a monopoly on the "subjugation of women" or that such incidents are "unthinkable by Western standards," as Jacoby suggests.
Okaaaay- so, according to Ms Senier, because she can name two terrible things that happened in unrelated contexts somewhere within western civilization, we are supposed to become demoralized and drop our ethical objection to the way the great majority of Islam treats women. Anyone who wasn't educated in our leftist schools under ungraded pass/fail rules has got to bet revolted by this. But, I’m going to restrain myself here and I ask you to do the same.
We could vent our frustration on this pathetic attempt to distract our attention so that I could Fiske the shear stupidity out of it line by insipid line but why waste the time? I could point out the moral relativism and ethical bankruptcy- there can be no such equivalency between a culture in which government and religious leaders clearly and openly advocate the beating and murder of women, the routine beating of wives, marital rape, flogging and murder of rape victims and near universal female genital mutilation with our culture in which protection of women is a high ideal, rape and violence are prosecuted vigilantly and punished by the government (the U.S. Department of Justice even has an Office for the protection of women) and decried by religious leaders. No I am looking beyond that to the obvious and hitherto unanswerable question. I see a way to go beyond beating up on the Amy Seniers of the world in an effort to understand them and figure out how to open a hailing frequency to the Good Ship Moonbat in which she is so clearly orbiting the planet WTF? I’ll leave it at this: when I read the idea in print that there is some sort of equivalence (or any degree of comparability!) between the condition of women in Islam and that of women in western society, I am forced to assume there is something other than pure logic, moral clarity and clear judgment at work in the mind of the writer. Let’s leave it at that for the time being.
Later on in the same day, when we drove my sister-in-law to the airport, I found an abandoned copy of the New York Times Book Review. I took it home with me because there was a review that caught my eye. The book was MODERNISM The Lure of Heresy From Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond. By Peter Gay. The review was written by Lee Siegel. I’ll be the first to admit that am not in touch with the fine points and minute distinctions of “cultural history” as it is practiced by messieurs Gay and Siegel but I found many of Siegel’s meditations on Gay book to be very evocative and, in fact, directly related to the letter I had read in The Globe that morning.
The Lure of Heresy, indeed! What could motivate the kind of amoral, twisting of logic that would lead a woman to try to excuse the horrors that are pandemic for the women of Islam by slandering the culture in which a major metropolitan newspaper would print her scurrilous letter. What was she even trying to say? Her point as she stated it was that “no culture has a monopoly on the subjugation of women” as if the two heinous instances of violence that she cites damns a whole civilization in the same way that Shari’a law and its subjugation of women darkens life in the Arab world.
A quick Google of Amy Senier yields plenty of evidence that she is no ordinary idiot. Assuming that the Globe letter writer is this well-traveled, highly educated idiot, she is a heretic indeed. She is, a smart young woman, who has had prestigious academic training and some very interesting life experience and has still managed to keep her heretical dislike of her own culture intact. I used to be disheartened by this kind of thing. Here is a young woman who has had all of the advantages of our enlightened culture, a young woman who in most Islamic families would have been (because I am certain she does not have a fraction of the courage or common sense of a Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish or Wafa Sultan) beaten into submission, deprived of her clitoris in a primitive, bloody and violent way, married off to the wealthiest old man her parents could arrange and confined to the back rooms of his house to spend her time hoping that he doesn’t tire of her to the degree that he gets rid of her in any of the devious and cruel ways that include beating to death for some imagined infraction of decorum and summary divorce and expulsion from the house. And I am left wondering why, when she reads an article in the newspaper, the facts of which she takes no issue with, does she take the time and effort to write a letter the sole point of which is to sling muck on her own culture? It is not a point, it is nothing but a sneer. No one asked her to comment. She went out of her way to do this. But it is half-baked heresy- more of a sort of intellectual Alzheimer’s disease where you forget everything except to sneer.
One paragraph in Siegel’s review of Gay’s book stood out for me. It made me realize why I was so attracted to the review- It had always been my impression that it was the modernists who, looking down their noses at everyday life and the struggles of everyday people, elevated the neuroses and phobias of the individual to political issues. It was modernism, with its amused and dismissive air, that found a way to make the half-baked intellectual poseurs, the Amy Seniers of the world, feel that unless they were always “resisting” tradition, convention and ethical values, that they were not “intellectual”. This paragraph seems to encapsulate the hypocrisy of it all.
“As for Gay’s Parisian modernist “outsiders,” if the French provided the most extreme assaults on Western rationality — Rimbaud’s “disorientation of the senses,” André Breton’s celebration of primal instincts stored in the unconscious, André Gide’s enthusiasm for the “motiveless” crime, Antonin Artaud’s “Theater of Cruelty,” Maurice Blanchot’s declaration of the death of the author — the reason was simple. It was not that French conditions kept creating figures resembling Baudelaire, about whom Gay histrionically writes that he was “an outcast aware of his loneliness” — though, as Gay admits, Baudelaire lived at the center of Parisian cultural energy. In France, civilization is invincible and eternal. Its immutable stability makes opposition to it all the more cheerfully ferocious. You can hurl the most incredible rhetorical and intellectual violence against French custom and convention and still have time for some conversation in the cafe, un peu de vin, a delicious dinner and, of course, l’amour. And in the morning, you extricate yourself from such sophisticated coddling — the result of centuries of art and artifice — and rush back to the theoretical barricades.”
So it is with Amy, she feels free to hurl her rhetorical and intellectual violence and still get her education at the Fletcher School at the same time. Her churlish hypocrisy costs her nothing. In fact at the Fletcher School she is rewarded for it.
Now I was getting the feeling that there was a handle on the problem that I could grasp. I went to bed pondering that apparent contradiction- It has always been the disaffected but spoiled intellectuals who have led the attack on their own civilization but, as Seigel points out, the phenomenon is in inverse proportion to their perceived ability to actually change or harm that civilization. Like the
Then, the next day, Wretchard at Belmont Club posted a pastiche about open secrets that really got me thinking.
His post asked the question, “Why does common knowledge remain unacknowledged within an organization?”- a question with obvious implications for political correctness. At one point in the article, he introduces the term “undiscussable” as explained in the blog Unfolding Leadership. The term is yet another way to talk about political correctness. Here is the definition of undiscussible from Unfolding Leadership:
“An undiscussable is a work-related problem that people hesitate to address with those who can do something about it. It isn't that people don't talk about undiscussables. They talk about them frequently -- in the hallways and parking lots, bathrooms and across the cubicles. But it isn't with the person or the people most often associated with the issues.”
Wretchard begins his post with some tantalizing information about the past week’s fatal incident at the San Francisco Zoo. It seems to be that three young men were taunting the Tigers from out side their outdoor exhibit area and were attacked by one of the tigers that was somehow able to get across the moat and up the wall. Wretchard cites a San Francisco Chronicle article that tells a disturbing story about zoo officials having known about the inadequacy of the tiger enclosure for over forty years.
The story told by David Rentz in a post on his blog is all too believable. Rentz relates how, as a high school student in 1959, he was invited by Carey Baldwin, the director of the zoo, to help him verify if “we have a problem with a tiger”. Here is a snip:
“I forget the tiger's name but Mr. Baldwin had been told by one of the zookeepers that the tiger might be able to escape by jumping across the moat and onto the flowerbed between the public guard rail and the moat. We got a large piece of meat and tied it to a long bamboo pole and approached the tiger enclosure. We were at the other end of the bamboo pole--about 15 ft away from the meat. Mr. Baldwin held the pole at the edge of our side of the moat. Once the tiger saw it, he literally flew across the moat from his position on the other side, grabbed the meat, and sprung back to the grotto all in one graceful movement. It happened so quickly that it was hard to believe what we had seen.”
It struck me then and there that there is something compulsive and risky (an analog of gambling, perhaps) in the secretive behavior of the zoo management and staff. Here is what I see happening. Carey Baldwin was (presumably) tipped off by a zoo keeper who “just happened” to know that the tiger “might” be able to jump out of the enclosure. Keep in mind that Baldwin is the guy in charge, the zoo director. He addresses this potentially explosive problem by choosing to involve only David Rentz, a high school student, someone from outside the organization who is impressionable and controllable. He took Rentz, and went to tempt the tiger with meat He was acting on a tantalizing rumor and he was behaving like a man on a secret tryst. When the experiment worked and the tiger, big as life, bounded across the moat and up into the open in all its menacing, predatory majesty and all it did was to snatch the meat and leap back down into its “enclosure” the instantaneous fear and then relief must have given Baldwin (and Rentz) a gigantic “rush”- a kind of “peak experience” of primeval power. Rentz, the eye witness, says, “It happened so quickly that it was hard to believe what we had seen. It scared the hell out of me. It scared the hell out of both of us.”
But then it was over. Like the “high” a gambler gets from risking his last chip and then winning a huge payoff or the “rush” that a skier gets from challenging a steep slope, the exhilaration of merely surviving the encounter must have been both stimulating and arousing. It suddenly struck me that this is the part that is most hidden, and most tantalizing. That secret thrill, that feeling of being in the grip of fear and emerging into safety, mastery and a kind of omnipotence is one of the most compelling feelings in human experience. There is a whole field of inquiry in Psychological research that studies how risk taking behavior fosters addiction. The desire to take risks dangerous enough to cause that feeling is as personal and private as sexuality. For some it might be a winter ascent of a mountain for others it could be making an obscene gesture as the President of the United States.
Undisscussables in organizations (or politically incorrect ideas and words in public discourse) it is probably safe to assume, are indicators that there is some sort of addictive behavior on the part of members of that group that deems these secrets ideas and words “dangerous” to the very core. They are often not just avoided and denied but are stigmatized and execrated. There is often a kind of pseudo-sexual arousal associated with them, a dark, forbidden, omerta.
Rentz’s statement, “It happened so quickly that it was hard to believe what we had seen.” is very evocative. It was a recognition that they had indulged in a kind of insanity in which, knowing that there was at least a real possibility that they were going to come face to face with a tiger, they took no measures to protect themselves against that eventuality. They had arranged no backup with firearms, tranquilizer darts or nets nearby, made no provision for their own safety. They were, in short, indulging in a game of exceedingly high stakes.
The fact that that particular tiger jumped up so quickly and effortlessly was proof that it could repeat the feat at anytime. Moreover it was an indication that more than one of the tigers might be capable of doing it. The fact that the vulnerability had already existed for years and would continue to do so only enhanced the random nature of the threat. This is the very definition of a random reinforcement situation. We know that the combination of random reinforcement, with thrill seeking and risk taking is the perfect scenario for creating a Compulsive Gambling problem.
Amy Senier’s behavior now had new substance for me. Political correctness is risky behavior too- a real kind of gambling. It is a two-fold gamble. First, like the snotty adolescent, who tries to push her parents to the absolute limit of their tolerance and patience, she is daring us to do a justified and detailed refutation (with punishment?) of her ideas and purpose. At another level though, the more powerful stimulant must be that she (and those like her) realize that the “outsiders that they so blithely and blindly ally themselves with are a real and present danger.
Like the tiger in the enclosure, the Islamists would kill or subjugate the likes of Amy Senier first should the west ever become weakened to the point that they could take over. She must understand, even if its only subconsciously, that the Islamist Shari’a regiemes she is so anxious to equate with us find her an affront and a heresy of the most basic kind. So her spiciest thrill must be from taunting the tiger of Shari’a law with her support from the safety of America. It is gambling in the sense that she can do her best to help the progressive movement to demoralize and degrade the spirit of the west, all the while betting that her protections and security will remain intact.
Just as taunting the tiger was an arousing sport for those three young men in San Francisco, Amy must get a smutty little thrill from hurling her insults at our culture and running back to the Fletcher school where she sucks at the teat of Pell Grants and all the other benefits of this culture- the culture which she that she accuses of subjugating women. I think of this and I recall the many times I have observed the sickly, mischevious smiles and disconnected gaze of leftists and progressives as they made their prevaricating and hurtful arguments against the moral basis of our society and I finally understand how they can behave that way. It is not really about ideas and culture for them, it is about their own feelings of boredom, ennui and anomie.
These common knowledge undiscussables remain unacknowledged because as in all addictions truth is always the first casualty of addictive behavior. The thrill of being able to “express” rhetorical and intellectual violence without punishment or consequences relieves the dullness of everyday life and makes a life of study without passion to learn, meaningless jobs and empty, post-modern, politically correct personal relationships bearable. Nothing can be allowed to interfere with it. This is an addictive state; if you look back at the ten “pieces of the puzzle listed above, they have a great deal in common with the lists of “warning signs” of alchoholism and drug addiction published by different advocacy groups. Maybe we should stop wondering why so many otherwise intelligent people in the west cannot seem to recognize the threat posed by Caliphate Islam and begin working on ways to break the cycle of random reinforcement and lethal threat that keeps them in that addictive state and renders them incapable of breaking it themselves.
We must make them see that political correctness and moral relativism are bad gambles. They keep us from thinking clearly about the real dangers with which we are faced. They are, in the long term, Unilateral Cultural Disarmament. There is a fine line between legitimate and constructive self-criticism and Cultural Suicide by addiction to it. Seeming non-sequitors like “no culture has a monopoly on subjugation of women” undermines the ability to discriminate between right and wrong. It is one more attempt to cripple our defense against the evil that is Caliphate Islam.