Cinco de Mayo/Yom Hashoah

  1. Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe
  2. Technogenic Autism
  3. More Homeless Than Evern
  4. The Honey Boo Boo of politics
  5. Remember Bart Stupak
  6. Our Despicable National Administration
  7. Burke vs. Trump

1

Monday, late, I began reading Jeffrey Hart’s Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe. Learning of it may have been the best thing to come from reading Victoria.

I find the Hart book surprisingly difficult to read, but only because I’ve become habituated to the internet-length attention span. It’s not rocket science that’s beyond me, but it’s rather is about Western history’s Athens vs. Jerusalem tensions — something too important not for me to approach as remedial learning.

The difficulty focusing is scary to recognize, though I’ve read warnings of what the internet and our pocket devices are doing to us.

Not entirely coincidentally, though the connection is not worth telling, I found another book I’m looking forward to reading along the same lines: Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness & Beauty (Classical Education Guide).

2

Speaking of short attention spans, a most sobering longer read from the May First Things:

[C]onsider the testimony of the faculty at a reputable middle school where [Sherry] Turkle is called in as a consultant. The teachers tell Turkle that their students don’t make eye contact or read body language, have trouble listening, and don’t seem interested in each other, all markers of autism spectrum disorder. Like much younger children, they engage in parallel play, usually on their phones. Like autistic savants, they can call up endless information on their phones, but have no larger context or overarching narrative in which to situate it. Students are so caught up in their phones, one teacher says, “they don’t know how to pay attention to class or to themselves or to another person or to look in each other’s eyes and see what is going on.” Another says uneasily, “It is as though they all have some signs of being on an Asperger’s spectrum. But that’s impossible. We are talking about a schoolwide problem.”

Can technology cause Asperger’s, or symptoms that resemble those of genetically caused autism spectrum disorder? …

It is becoming almost a cliché in our culture: the preoccupied, distracted parent and the frustrated, disheartened child, unable to compete successfully with his parent’s computer or phone. Well over a century ago, in his novel Bleak House, Charles Dickens played this situation for laughs. In a chapter called “Telescopic Philanthropy,” Mrs. Jellyby endlessly dictates letters about the natives of Borrioboola-Gha in Africa, while her house is a shambles around her and her children falling down stairs.

Today we have many Mrs. Jellybys, fixated on remote sites, but the effect on their children is not comic. In a Barnes and Noble bookstore recently, a young child, in a voice loud enough to be heard throughout the store, kept saying, “Daddy! This is a triceratops. He has three big horns. . . . Daddy! This is a stegosaurus. He has a spikey tail. . . . Daddy!” For as long as I was in the store, the agonizing litany continued. Again and again, the strong-willed child tried to force her father’s attention, while her father, as I observed when I went to the children’s section to see, sat in a chair a few feet from his daughter, his legs spread and his whole upper body bent over the glowing screen of his phone.

… If we think of technology addiction as a young person’s problem, Turkle’s book reminds us that it was an older generation that first fell under technology’s spell. At the middle school Turkle visits, as at many other schools across the country, it is the grown-ups who decide to give every child a computer and deliver all course content electronically, meaning that they require their students to work from the very medium that distracts them, a decision the grown-ups are unwilling to reverse, even as they lament its consequences.

The overall arc of the story is not captured by theses quotes. My Evernote clip of it has an uncommonly high number of tags, including some new ones, never used before. But the technology angle is what haunts me most.

3

Tuesday’s Indiana election, which all but clinched a Trump nomination, leaves me feeling even more politically homeless than I felt before.

The professional wordsmiths continue cranking out their palaver, almost none of which is remotely convincing. I guess I can’t fault them for trying to “solve” the problem of Trump intellectually, but I’m moving from that Athens analysis to a Jerusalem “how then shall we live?” Life only makes sense backward but must be lived forward. And “If you are the sort of conservative who has given up political hope for this country, the Trumpening goes down much easier than it might otherwise.” (Rod Dreher, italics added)

My brother is lauding the sobriety of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, while Mrs. Tipsy and I both consider Libertarian votes for POTUS in the Fall general election.

Why Libertarian? Because only Libertarianism (of the currently viable options) seems capable of recognizing that in a free society, the strong presumption should favor non-government actors, even if they are “public accommodations,” being left alone and allowed to hang out with and serve whom they wish and refuse to hang out with and serve whom they do not wish. Note that I said “strong presumption,” not “absolute rule.”

This would indiscernibly alter facts on the ground beyond the current contested topic of compelled fêting of same-sex marriages, but it would ease my mind considerably to know that cranks and eccentrics who prefer quirky principles over absolute maximum gross income are free to be cranky and eccentric. I don’t think the government has any legitimate interest in eradicating cranky and quirky discrimination (if you can even call it that instead of discernment) that does no more than hurt a prospective customer’s feelings without any substantial economic impact generally – as is the case with the bakers, florists and photographers who demur from lending their artistry to same-sex weddings. They, no less than the wannabe customers, have dignity at stake.

4

Of Trump:

He’s the Honey Boo Boo of politics, and we’re the same America who made her cultural phenomenon.

Thomas Bailey, friend-of-a-friend on Facebook.

5

I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s not so much her as the Party.

It remains the case that most Republicans are merely nominal in opposition to abortion and (if it survives the platform committee even nominally) same-sex marriage. But the Democrats are sincerely and ardently in the tank on those and every other key social issue.

Remember Bart Stupak? He was sincerely pro-life, but his party rolled him.

Until a national Democrat can truly be a cultural conservative, I can’t vote for any imaginable Democrat above the local level.

6

Think about this: if your state does not allow biological men who assert that they are women to use the women’s room if they choose to, your state stands to lose all federal education monies, by order of this despicable national government …

The violation, the unspeakable arrogance. Holding schoolchildren hostage to this perverse generation’s ideal of civil rights. Five years ago if you had said such an edict would come down from Washington, most people would not have believed it. Yet here we are.

Today the federal government says that states cannot forbid men from using the women’s room, and vice versa. Tomorrow it will mandate this in the public schools. And it will by no means stop there, not with this bunch, and certainly not with Hillary Clinton in the White House. It’s going to be one damn thing after another.

We no longer have a culture. We have chaos. And the people will accept it, because we have exchanged the culture we had for chaos, and we call it freedom.

(Rod Dreher)

7

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. – Edmund Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, 1791

Wow, Lyin’ Ted Cruz really went wacko today. Made all sorts of crazy charges. Can’t function under pressure – not very presidential. Sad! – Donald J. Trump, Twitter, May 3, 2016

(Sardonic Ex Curia, introducing a longer essay)

* * * * *

“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.