Wednesday, 2/10/16

  1. The Mission of the University
  2. #SB50
  3. Social Glue
  4. “Very Late Capitalism”
  5. Moneychangers in the Temple
  6. Reich Feels the Bern

1

I’ve been disturbed by the silencing of dissent from the right on campuses, regardless of how responsibly that dissent is expressed. That’s just so patently counterproductive to the purpose of education, it can’t continue.

Unless, that is, you have a different idea of the meaning of the university. I’d hope this is a hoax, but it makes some sense of what we’ve been seeing:

What [Jonathan] Haidt is complaining about appears to be the emerging of a victor in the battle between the two campus subcultures identified by John Searle in his “The mission of the university: Intellectual discovery or social transformation?“. And it’s seems (to the better, I say) to be the so-called “postmodern” faction. To quote Jerry L. Martin’s “The university as an agent of social transformation: The postmodern argument considered” (Journal: Academic Questions · Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 55-72, 1993):

Therefore, the aim of higher education should be not the pursuit of truth, which is both an illusion and an instrument of oppression, but social transformation—changing ideas, symbols, and institutions from tools of racist, sexist, capitalist, imperialist hegemony to instruments of empowerment for women, minorities, the poor, and the Third World. (p. 61)

We are seeing Progress in action as one age (the “modern”) gives way to a newer one (the “postmodern”). Of course, some people are unhappy at being left behind by progress, like so many others in history; and like all those other groups, they will become ever more marginal, and ultimately disappear.

[D]efenders of the “pursuit of truth” like Haidt are … defenders of hegemonic oppression, and so rightly opposed by the present Academy.

(Rod Dreher’s reader PomoProf, emphasis added) The Jonathan Haidt interview PomoProf refers to is here. Haidt appears to have come from the Left to about the place I’ve reached coming from the Right.

If the Social Justice Warriors are really taking over campuses, then it becomes even more important to pick your college well, with your ear close to the ground.

 2

I don’t usually watch football, and I’m developing feelings about it similar to those I have about boxing: both cause brain damage in an unacceptably high proportion of participants. But I watched Superbowl 50, and two days later realize that I feel bad for Cam Newton, whose rumored talents were one of the reasons I tuned in.

He didn’t get a chance to show those talents. Instead, he got beaten up badly by Denver’s defense and, unaccustomed to such humiliation, basically gave up even pursuing the ball after his second fumble! Then it turned out that he had no memorized lines for the press and acted like a kid who’s not used to a humiliating loss — which probably is what he is.

I hit the mute button at halftime to take care of some other business, so I missed the problem with the sound system. But I was in the room to take note when Beyoncé came out. It may be a mark of our time that there’s more furor about what she apparently was singing or saying about police and/or a spate of black shootings by police than that she was dressed like a dominatrix and dancing like she wanted a $20 bill slipped in her garter.

That’s what “family fare” has become in American 2016.

3

What he’s saying is that individualism and consumerism are the only things that keep us from flying apart as a society. Is that going to be enough? What happens when the rising tide fails to float all (or most) boats? That’s what we’re starting to see now.

Serious question: what unites us as Americans? To what are we loyal, beyond our immediate self-interest? It’s not the Christian religion, or any religion. Is it to the principles of the Constitution? That seems quite abstract, in the end. What happens when people come to believe (rightly or wrongly) that the system is set up to prevent people like them from succeeding, or even to punish them?

The “Clinton Machine” is the Democratic version of the Machine. The Republicans are no different. The Democrats pretend that they care about the economic situation of non-elites who vote for them, and Republicans pretend that they care about the social concerns of non-elites who vote for them. What happens when people realize that it’s not true?

There may not be any realistic alternative at the ballot box, at least not now. But at least we shouldn’t deceive ourselves about what’s happening.

(Rod Dreher responding to R.R. Reno) The first two paragraphs echo a long-time concern of mine in almost exactly my own terms. This strikes me as a legitimately Big Question.

4

Sanders … talks a great deal about how much wealth is controlled by the one percent, or the one tenth of one percent, compared to the rest. He talks about how much students go into debt to attend college, in an era when a college education is as necessary as a high school diploma was fifty years ago.

And now, there really are very few U.S. Steels. The wealth of the one tenth of one percent is now concentrated in the financial industry. The money of the middle class has been redistributed upwards to Wall Street. No one calls it the “productive sector,” even ironically. Wall Street pays for the political campaigns, and pays for the politicians. It pays for Hillary Clinton. Sanders’s message is as simple as that. And there is a great deal of truth in it.

(Scott McConnell, Sanders and Trump in Very Late Capitalism)

5

[W]ine merchants and all manner of men could conduct profane (as in: not sacred) business inside the cathedrals because religion was at the center of medieval life. In the 21st century, insurance salesmen can sup in the nave of the Peterborough cathedral because religion is so far from the center of contemporary life.

(Rod Dreher)

6

At this stage of life (at least 2/3 over, and probably more than 2/3), I’m aware of a need to focus on first things. So I decided not to buy Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism even though wealth and income disparities in the U.S. are huge and growing and even though Reich has a claim to being the #1 Master of the intersection of politics and economics. Saving capitalism isn’t close to my first priority. Even avoiding the pitchforks should the oppressed see me as oppressor when they rise up (as they will if a fix isn’t found) is not in my top ten priorities.

Reich appears to be a Bernie Sanders supporter, by the way. He’s at least a defender of Bernie against a lot of naysaying.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.