Friday, April 01, 2016

to laugh or to cry?

I can't stand Marx, Marxism, or Marxist "critique." It's all garbage, as far as I'm concerned. Same goes for the bigwigs in postmodernist and poststructuralist thought: they can all burn in hell. Those old French farts have done more to set philosophy back than any number of heterodox thinkers before the postmodern era.

PoMo thinking has infiltrated deep, deep into American academe, its roots and rhizomes weaving like a metastatic cancer into humanities departments everywhere, miraculously leaving most of the hard sciences untouched (probably because science requires constant, disciplined contact with reality, and if there's anything true about postmodernism, it's that it lacks discipline, constancy, and reality). Much of the nonsense we're seeing, these days, regarding so-called "crybullies" and their repressive, stultifying campus agendas—the need for "safe spaces," the horror at pro-Trump chalk graffiti, the totalitarian desire to stamp out free speech, etc.—is built upon the foundation of PoMo thought and its inevitably West-blaming, self-hating, privilege-denouncing leftist bias.

Which makes this old news (only recently linked) all the more sad and hilarious:

...some Berkeley students are mad about a class that is just plain othering the living heck out of them. From a piece they wrote for the Daily Californian:

We are calling for an occupation of syllabi in the social sciences and humanities. This call to action was instigated by our experience last semester as students in an upper-division course on classical social theory. Grades were based primarily on multiple-choice quizzes on assigned readings. The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color.

I would question calling either Marx or Foucault a philosopher, but the point is that these students (who, ideologically speaking, stand upon the shoulders of these dead white men) are turning against their spiritual forefathers like Kronos overthrowing Ouranos or Zeus overthrowing Kronos. Before he was overthrown, Kronos devoured most of his own children, except for Zeus. Greek mythology provides an excellent template for understanding what has been happening in American academe over the past few decades; as American conservatives have long joked, the left eats its own.

That's exactly what's been happening on US college campuses for the past couple of decades: political correctness has made everyone into a thought-criminal. Right-leaning students and faculty have gone into hiding, and Democrat-voters have turned against fellow Democrat-voters, as was seen recently in yet another sad-but-hilarious encounter at San Francisco State University,* where a black female campus staffer accosted—and arguably assaulted—a dreadlocked white male student because she felt the white student had improperly appropriated an aspect of her culture. (One commenter snarkily noted the missed irony that the black staffer was speaking English.) Not that long ago, both the white student and the black staffer would have stood shoulder-to-shoulder as fellow liberals in defense of some cause. Now, though... it's Greek mythology come to life.

With American academe having become a parody of itself, any desire I might have to go for a doctorate and teach college courses has been draining fast. Students from all over the world still flock to US institutions because those institutions were, at least, committed to the notion of a good education, but with everything these days being hemmed in by ideology—political correctness, identity politics, you name it—the value of an American-university education has plummeted. Soon enough, the prestige of professors will plummet, too. Just give it time.

*Does anyone know whether this was staged? Mr. White Dreadlocks seems more like a bad actor than someone being genuinely pummeled for his choice of hairstyle. Note, too, that the issue in the video is cultural appropriation. Appropriation has become a bad word over the past few years (this might possibly trace back to the victimology preached by people like Edward Said), but I used the term positively in this post.

ADDENDUM: has posted an article about this incident, and the author's conclusion is that the incident was not staged.



Charles said...

The video does look a little suspicious.

Also, I'm not going to dive into the cesspool of comments, but I wonder if anyone called out the staffer for her gross generalization of an entire continent. I'm talking about when she kept asking, "Where is Egypt?" I mean, never mind that Mr. White Dreadlocks is accepting her flawed premise that you can only adopt a hairstyle if your race has some historical claim to it. What he should have done is questioned that premise rather than try to argue from it.

But that's not my point. My point is that he was right. Where is Egypt? It's in Africa, of course. But it also happens to be in a part of Africa whose residents have historically belonged to the Hamitic and Semitic ethnic groups--both of which are considered Caucasian. Roughly speaking, the black ethnic groups of Africa come from the sub-Saharan regions. Even if MWD was wrong to argue from her premise, he should have followed up with this.

If this was, in fact, staged, then the students who put it together are idiots.

Kevin Kim said...

I didn't realize Hamitics and Semitics (good ol' Ham and Shem) were considered Caucasian. That's news to me, and I'll file that away for future reference. Thanks.

Back in freshman year of college, I witnessed an inside-the-dorm argument about whether Italians should be considered white. I can see why the argument occurred: historically speaking, southern Italians are definitely swarthier while northern Italians tend to be lighter-complected, with more Teutonic facial bone structure.

Charles said...

Well, as you know, "race" is a very slippery thing. Trying to concretely define race is like trying to nail a worm to a door.

Kevin Kim said...

I agree, but tell that to the HBD (human biodiversity) crowd, which preaches the gospel of concrete racial differentiation.

Charles said...

HBD sounds like some sort of deadly disease...

Malcolm Pollack said...

Hi Kevin, Charles,

I've just read an excellent book on how postmodernism and critical theory have infiltrated and subverted all of our cultural institutions, It's called The Devil's Pleasure Palace, by Michael Walsh. It's very good, though not encouraging.

As for race, that there aren't sharp edges between population groups, especially where there's been a lot of mixing, doesn't mean there aren't races. The existence of ligers doesn't mean there aren't lions and tigers, and we unproblematically discuss the Atlantic and Pacific oceans without worrying too much about the Drake Passage. (See also the example of grey-backed gulls and herring gulls, here.) And even in Italy, where there has of course been mixing for millennia, it isn't particularly hard to distinguish the fair Northerners from the darker Southerners (and not only by appearance).

If I were to fill a room with an assortment of Finns, Dinkas, Yanomamo, Australian Aboriginals, Gujarati, and Han Chinese, I expect that any person on Earth could sort them out in very little time, with perfect accuracy. That's pretty concrete.

As for HBD sounding like a deadly disease: at the risk of seeming humorless (but staying squarely on topic) I'll go one further, and assert that it is the crypto-religious denial of HBD by the postmodernist West that is the deadly disease here.

Charles said...


I just wanted to point out that I never said that there are no races, or distinct ethnic groups--my argument was based on the presumption that ethnic groups are valid categories. But I also live in Korea, where people still talk of "pure races," so I'm a little sensitive to how things aren't always black and white. It's unfortunate, but often the recognition of different ethnic groups goes hand in hand with one ethnic group claiming superiority over another. But just because I think the application of general categories in specific situations can get messy doesn't mean I think that the categories themselves have no validity.

Malcolm Pollack said...


Understood. Fair points all round.