- Fierce anti-intellectual speaks
- Eradicate ugliness and stupidity
- Wasting the biggest mike in the world
- On not “getting it”
- The disconnect boggles the mind
The ideological narrowness of mainstream commercial magazines is one of the deep, deep frustrations of my life. We have a thriving conservative intelligentsia in this country; it includes many (in fact most) of the smartest people I’ve ever met. (Think about Norman Podhoretz, George Will, Bill Bennett, Donald Kagan—radically different sorts of thinker, all four strikingly brilliant. There are a few dozen more even at this exalted level.) It’s a pleasure and a high honor to be part of America’s conservative culture. But the Left hears nothing we say: nothing. Nothing. Most have shrugged this off; only a few of us care. Because I teach at Yale and, more important, because I belong to the art world & have since birth, I can’t help caring—and sometimes being outraged, sometimes just grief-stricken. What a damned mess we’ve made of intellectual life in this absurdly wealthy, lucky, blessed nation.
I’ve written & argued in Germany that (for example) computers & social nets ought to be treated like bars or strip joints: not acceptable for children. (At least we ought to consider treating them that way.) I don’t like the idea of legal restrictions. But I might urge that we get computers out of schools until our children are able to read & write half decently—at least as decently as they used to during the middle two-thirds of the 20th Century.
The best scientists aren’t the dedicated drudges who have no other interests. The best take after Newton, Einstein and tens of thousands of lesser lights in their devotion to science andother things too. As a scientist handing out advice on the study of science, something I do as a college teacher, one of my main messages is that you can’t be an educated human being on the basis of science alone; another main message is that, sometimes, you can’t even be a scientist or technologist on the basis of science alone.
Letting toxic partisanship heal. Everyone knows that we live in politically superheated times; partisanship feels more bitter and more personal than it ever has in my lifetime.
There are many reasons, but here is one: we all know that faith in the Judeo-Christian religions is dramatically weaker than it used to be. But human beings are religious animals, and most will find an alternative if the conventional choices are gone.
The readiest replacement nowadays for lost traditional religion is political ideology. But a citizen with faith in a political position, instead of rational belief, is a potential disaster for democracy. A religious believer can rarely be argued out of his faith in any ordinary conversational give-and-take. His personality is more likely to be wrapped up with his religion than with any mere political program. When a person’s religion is attacked, he’s more likely to take it personally and dislike (or even hate) the attacker than he is in the case of mere political attacks or arguments. Thus, the collapse of traditional religion within important parts of the population is one cause of our increasingly poisoned politics.
Artificial Intelligence is going nowhere until we have mastered Artificial Emotion. AI will continue to solve particular, set problems brilliantly, as it has been doing with slowly-increasing prowess since the 1950s, but AI software won’t show a glimmer of originality or creativity, which are essential to the very idea of thought, until it can simulate emotion as accurately as it does other mental phenomena.
We think with emotions as well as ideas.
But remember: David Gelertner should not become Donald Trump’s science adviser because he is “fiercely anti-intellectual.” Thus saith the Washington Post — in a headline, no less.
Oh, yeah: one more.
[On the Cultural Revolution of the past 50 years] the growing importance of education schools and of journalism schools were three of the most important aspects of this big change. The transformation of journalism from a battered-hat group of rough-speaking, hard-drinking, widely-admired “ordinary guys” who were thought to be mostly conservatives to penetrating, opinionated intellectuals who are mainly liberal is a major story in itself.
Let me use an analogy. I am involved in the restoration of an old home that for more than 100 years served as the rectory of a Catholic parish in Nova Scotia. One of the first things we did was to tear out carpeting that had gotten dingy and moldy. Beneath lay plywood and linoleum. And underneath that?
We found in most of the rooms oak and maple floors … The craftsmanship was impressive, the execution precise. Other floors had large planks of seasoned hemlock, which absorbs moisture from the air and grows tougher from it. The hemlock is as old as the home’s foundation.
This kind of plywood covers beauty everywhere in today’s churches. You are not only walking on it. You are looking at plywood on the walls, hearing plywood from the pulpit, and singing plywood instead of hymns.
Today, the word of God is proclaimed in translations that have all the charm and wonder of a corporate memorandum. Must ordinary people be fed the drab and insipid? The politically correct—another thing thrust upon people by their ecclesiastical betters—is always ugly. Get rid of it, period, no excuses, no exceptions. What Christ hath spoken well, let man not paraphrase. Let grace in the word be one humble way in which we show our desire and our gratitude for the grace of God.
(Antony Esolen, Free Our Churches From the Ugly and Stupid)
CPAC, in its famous Milo invitation, was trying to be inclusive and trying to be cool. Inclusive is good, especially toward those who’ve been told, or concluded on their own, that they’re not all that welcome. But you can’t include those who speak sweetly of child sexual abuse. You don’t want them in your tent. As for trying to be cool, conservatives are not cool, that’s what’s cool about them. It’s their job to be serious, thoughtful, mature in their judgment—mature, period. It was excellent, however, on Thursday to see Dan Schneider, the ACU’s executive director, do what the president should have done long ago and go after the so-called alt-right, scoring them as racist, anti-Semitic whack-jobs: “This group,” he said, “they are not us. The alt-right ain’t right at all.”
Well done, mature grown-up. That was cool.
An odd thing about the president—and this has contributed to the general lostness of Washington—is that he doesn’t perform a primary and obvious function of presidents, which is to argue for things. You make a decision, unveil a program, and make a case for its excellence. The other side then argues back. In the ensuing back-and-forth, voters get the contours of what’s being proposed.
This president doesn’t argue, he only announces. He asserts. Previous presidents in their early speeches were always making the case for a certain advancement. Not to do so is a waste of the biggest mic in the world.
Preface and caveat: I remain a misfit in either major party, and no longer consider myself a member of either. I didn’t see Trump winning. I can figure out what happened to put him in the White House, but only intellectually and with the help of some full-time political thinkers who are actually insightful rather than mere partisan hacks; I cannot get myself into an empathic mode — call it visceral — where I would vote for a guy with such a horrific potential for “downside.” I am, in the present world order, content to be misfit and oddball. My Avatar is St. Anthony the Great, who said “A time is coming when men … see someone who is not mad [and] attack him saying ‘You are mad; you are not like us.'”
That said, I cannot think of an issue on which elite opinion, as typified by the NYT and WaPo editorial pages and the outgoing Obama administration, so differs from the American mainstream as that of gender. I think that the Trump Administration’s rescission of the Obama DOE’s insistence on transgender students being allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice will be tremendously popular in the heartland.
They’re popular with me, not from malice toward those who experience gender dysphoria, but for sympathy and empathy with girls who don’t want to expose their naked locker room bodies promiscuously to people with penises — and the parents who agree. The far lesser evil is sufferers from gender dysphoria having to accept that it’s not normal and that their lives are going to be a bit separate sometimes because their feelings do not align with objective reality.
I’m not making an argumentum ad populum, but gender is a topic on which ratiocination, starting with bad premises and legal precedents, seems to have taken the elites, also, to a point somewhere outside reality — to a point of madness, where “You are mad; you are not like us” becomes an Op-Ed titled The White House’s thoughtless, cruel and sad rollback of transgender rights.
My Fair City has momentarily back-burnered news of the murder of two early teens nearby in favor of the news that someone bought the winning $435 million Powerball ticket at a local gas station.
Concurrently, one of our State Representatives writes a Letter to the Editor warning of a scam:
Recently, I received a call from Washington, D.C., with a fantastic offer. One catch, I would have to send money to be eligible for the deal.
Darn right it sounds familiar. Eerily.
* * * * *
“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)