We Are Doomed, Chapter 973

  1. The Return of the Mercenary
  2. Queering agriculture
  3. Milton Lives! (No, not John)


After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s most profound legacy could be that it set the world order back to the Middle Ages.

While this is a slight exaggeration, a recent examination by Sean McFate, a former Army paratrooper who later served in Africa working for Dyncorp International and is now an associate professor at the National Defense University, suggests that the Pentagon’s dependence on contractors to help wage its wars has unleashed a new era of warfare in which a multitude of freshly founded private military companies are meeting the demand of an exploding global market for conflict.

“Now that the United States has opened the Pandora’s Box of mercenarianism,” McFate writes in The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What they Mean for World Order, “private warriors of all stripes are coming out of the shadows to engage in for-profit warfare.”

(Kelly Vlahos, A Blackwater World Order)

Interesting additional note: Blackwater renamed itself, for a while, “Xe,” before becoming Academi. “Xe” is a neologistic pronoun for referring to someone of intermediate or ineffable gender.


Not that there was anything all that wrong with setting the clock back to the Middle Ages, mind you.

They didn’t know, for instance, that soybeans are genderqueer, and that this is a vital addition to the study of agriculture:

So why queer agriculture?  This seems like an odd question but becomes more obvious with research and analysis. This talk highlights vital ways queering and trans-ing ideas and practices of agriculture are necessary for more sustainable, sovereign, and equitable food systems for the creatures and systems involved in systemic reproductions that feed humans and other creatures. Since agriculture is literally the backbone of economics, politics, and “civilized” life as we know it, and the manipulation of reproduction and sexuality are a foundation of agriculture, it is absolutely crucial queer and transgender studies begin to deal more seriously with the subject of agriculture. This talk highlights the normative ways that popular culture, food activism, and government regulations have framed sustainable food systems in the United States. By focusing on popular culture representations and government legislation since 9/11, it will become clearer how the growing popularity of sustainable food is laden with anthroheterocentric assumptions of the “good life” coupled with idealized images and ideas of the American farm, and gender, radicalized  and normative standards of health, family, and nation.

Genderqueer soybeans as part of the literal backbone of our communal life (it must be true; someone at Berkley said it) just about depressed the hell out of me for what it says about the state of education. Rod Dreher:

Seriously, though, it’s “absolutely crucial” that gay studies assault agriculture? Really? Are we going to have to live through Gay Lysenkoism now?

Mac Donald says that “people outside the academy still do not grasp that such discourse doesn’t represent some eccentric backwater within the university—it lies at the very core of today’s humanities.” More:

The current political debate about how to make college more affordable proceeds in blind ignorance of the actual content of college courses. University presidents are expert at presenting a reassuring, normal face to the outside world, pretending that their institutions are all about practical knowledge creation and the elevation of students’ future earnings (the latter function an improper goal for the university in any case). What needs to be understood is that the people running the humanities today are no longer the guardians of our culture, but its nemesis.

Unfortunately, that rang true. I’ve been defending the humanities for decades and decades, and it turns out that the schools of liberal arts may be the most corrupt and transgressive in our ginormous corporate multiversities – and that “conservative” politicians, by trying (they say) to make our Universities more useful are driving humanities to nonsense like, well, gay soybeans.

Dreher really got on a roll on that whole humanities topic Friday, continuing the gay soybean blog to blame Bobby Jindal for gutting Louisiana Universities. They he devoted a separate long blog to How Bobby Jindal Wrecked Louisiana. For instance. LSU is facing a state budget cut of more than 40 percent to its operating budget.

Scott Walker, too, is feeding the Left Liberal beast precisely through hard-headed bean-counting in education:

Experts, foundations, administrators, and bureaucrats are all about reducing higher education to the acquisition of competencies relevant to the twenty-first-century global competitive marketplace. So the study of the humanities has to be justified now through the “measurable outcome” of critical thinking or effective communication, competencies that have nothing in particular do with the actual content of history or philosophy. Among the competencies typically is diversity, which is about the kind of multiculturalism that detaches students from special concern for their own culture and its moral and intellectual claims for truth and virtue.

So it turns out that dissing liberal education in the sense of the love of truth and virtue for their own sake serves the forces that the governor opposes. He would deprive students of access to the books and music, the theology and philosophy, and so forth that might allow them to gain a critical distance from the fashionable claims of sophisticated intellectuals these days.

It really does fall to us conservatives who appreciate and support the humanities to stand up to people like Gov. Walker. They mean well, but what they don’t understand is that it is difficult to impossible to quantify the value of learning in the humanities. You can’t map virtue on a spreadsheet, and you can’t do a pie chart to demonstrate why it helps the bottom line to learn the best that humanity has thought, written, composed, painted, and so forth. As Lawler avers, the wisdom embedded in the humanities, as traditionally understood (read: not “Queering John Locke,” “Post-Colonial Narratives in Lady Gaga,” etc.), offer the only firm standpoint from which to defend the human person against the Leviathan of Washington, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley.

“Difficult to impossible to quantify the value of learning in the humanities.” Well, then, to hell with them, huh?

The reader NS, an Ivy League humanist, delivers the coup de grace, concluding:

So, I say, carry on Gov. Jindal and Walker and defund the humanities. Gut them. Let the anti-humanists destroy one another.

Only then can we rebuild.

Might there be a glimmer of hope, for those who want to study and promote the humanities, to attend or endow private liberal arts colleges like Wabash, Wheaton, Calvin and Gordon?

UPDATE: Add University of Dallas to that list, per Dreher again (on Saturday).


Moving beyond The Soybean Named “Xe,” maybe Jindal and Walker are channelling their inner Friedman:

With its rising costs, higher education is widely viewed as strictly a “private” good, meaning a benefit more to the student than to the public. Given this viewpoint, the student is seen as more of a consumer than a scholar. This notion is discouraging and far from what our founding fathers, particularly Jefferson, had in mind for education in America. Jefferson described the goals of education as:

To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business; To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts, in writing; To improve by reading, his morals and faculties; To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either; To know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor and judgment; And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed. To instruct the mass of our citizens in these, their rights, interests and duties … are the objects of education. — Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia

The benefits of education are multifold. As Jefferson implied, even the personal benefits of literacy and problem solving can impact someone’s greater community. If every citizen is aware of their personal and moral convictions, they can act not only with passion but with the confidence and knowledge of what they are doing has the potential to impact those around them. The crux of innovation is citizens who challenge our systems to be better, and it is through education that the movers and shakers of each generation are created.

(Megan Lechner, Higher Education and Civic Engagement)

Note the consumer vs. scholar trope in the first paragraph. This very much is a libertarian-leaning, Chicago-school-of-economics type view.

I believe it was Milton Friedman, the famous University of Chicago economist, who asked rhetorically why a cabbie should be forced through taxes to support the education of the elite who will out-earn the cabbie by many multiples. Whoever it was, I was stupid enough to cheer him.

If Jefferson’s right, we have our answer, don’t we?

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.