The Dartmouth Observer
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
And as for Capitalism (the latest in a series of pieces on this article)
You just have to read the entire thing by one Rebecca Solnit, author of "River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West":
When Sitting Bull toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West circus, he gave his earnings to the street urchins he met, appalled that a society that could produce such wealth could permit such poverty. He commented that white men were good at production but bad at distribution, a criticism of capitalism that's still trenchant. In the wealthiest society the world has ever seen, education, health care and housing are deteriorating into speculative commodities out of reach for many, and the "economic recovery" — of what? for whom? — is jobless. Capitalism and democracy are sometimes equated, but you only have to look at the Bush administration, with its passion for unfettered corporate privilege and loathing for civil liberties and public participation, to get over that fairy tale. Happily, it's not overrated everywhere; Latin Americans are looking for more humane models, from Argentines' surviving the collapse of their model neoliberal economy by creating community alternatives to Bolivians' ousting a president who tried to sell off the nation's natural gas, to the landless people's movement in Brazil.
The Showalter Criticism could be said to apply here as well: Ms. Solnit, befuddled by primitivism, displays a "remoteness from the world of difficult, flawed, risky, but necessary decision-making." She should read this page on Johan Norberg's website, and then his recent book.
Or she could move to France, where the sort of "more humane" model she yearns after resulted in the death of nearly 15,000 people last August.
Peter Singer on America
Is America overrated? Princeton (there seems to be a trend here; see previous post) bioethicist Singer certainly thinks so (he probably thinks the same about humans and human life):
What Americans overrate most is — America. They imagine that they live in the most democratic nation on earth, but in the United States, to a far greater extent than in many other democracies, electorates are shamelessly gerrymandered, the voting system squeezes out minor parties, Wyoming has as many senators as California, and money gives the rich a wildly disproportionate share of power and influence.
Americans think they are the freest people on earth, but the president keeps American citizens in detention for nearly two years without even allowing them to talk to a lawyer, let alone putting them on trial. And no one in America has the freedom of the Dutch to choose how they die, should they become incurably ill.
Americans also favor "American pre-eminence" — the Hobbesian view that the United States ought to rule the world, simply because it has the military muscle to do so.
Is Singer not aware of his Princeton colleague Elaine Showalter's criticism of public intellectuals as "[remote] from the world of difficult, flawed, risky, but necessary decision-making"?
And is America overrated...or underrated?
(By the way, Singer was born on exactly the same day as George W. Bush - July 6, 1946. That's one more famous person whose birthday I share.)
Some other overrated and underrated ideas according to the NYT intelligentsia
Overrated: Public Intellectuals, America, Straussianism, Capitalism
Underrated: Legacy Admissions, Thomas Jefferson, the Women's Movement, Honesty
Elaine Showalter's paragraph on Public Intellectuals is a bit confused. I agree with her that the term tends to be applied to those "who take an exclusively oppositional stance to political policies in general, and American foreign policy in particular" (such as her Princeton colleague Cornel West, for instance, or the late Edward Said). And I agree also that the public intellectuals' "remoteness from the world of difficult, flawed, risky, but necessary decision-making...makes their critical posture seem self-indulgent despite its virtue." But I disagree that bloggers just "complain" and "find fault," while the "real intellectual might try to solve problems." Andrew Sullivan is trying to resolve the problem of gay marriage through intellectual means, for example. Even those who aren't supporting specific social causes as Sullivan is contribute to the problem-solving process, part of which is to identify that problem in the first place. Blogs do that.
One also might ask: how does Prof. Showalter regard herself? She's a well-known, "pragmatic and contemporary" feminist critic, who's written on "American Idol and the search for identity" in The American Prospect, reviewed Hillary Clinton's Living History in The Guardian, and commented on journalists' views of their roles after 9/11, also in The Guardian. Oh, and what about her advice to George Bush (scroll down) on the occasion of his recent trip to London:
First, do no harm. Your state visit to the UK is risky, unpopular and awkward enough. Many Americans will be nervously peeking at the TV news from between our tightly crossed fingers and praying that you don't utterly disgrace us. Don't go all folksy and Texan, thanking Tony Blair for his friendship. He has enough to deal with already in the Labour party without receiving any more public kisses of political death from you. Don't interrupt when someone is asking you a question. Try not to puke on the Queen.
Well, I guess pre-empting problems is a step towards solving them.
Take that, Monotheism!
Classicist Mary Lefkowitz, writing in an NYT article on the most overrated and underrated ideas of 2003:
In their most extreme forms, monotheistic religions are deeply intolerant. If there is only one right way of doing things, every other way is wrong. If we are good, others are evil. By contrast, the ancient Greeks and Romans welcomed new gods into their pantheon and worshiped them alongside the old. They had no crusades or jihads. The Roman authorities threw Christians to the lions because they mistook the early Christians' intolerance for seditiousness. They did not seek to kill them because they rejected the Christians' God.
(Lefkowitz, as I recall, was a prominent member of the Classics establishment to oppose Black Athena.)
A very Happy New Year to everyone!
Meantime, here are ten predictions for 2004, in no particular order:
1) The Return of the King wins Best Picture.
2) Sean Astin wins Best Supporting Actor.
3) Dartmouth surprises me in a positive way with their choice of Commencement speaker.
4) Saddam talks and talks - and spills the beans on WMDs, Iraq's ties with terrorists, etc., to the embarassment of many.
5) Saddam is tried by the Iraqi people and summarily executed.
6) Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 are not delayed.
7) The coming winter isn't as cold as the last one. (Please, let this be so!)
8) Spain surprise everyone by winning Euro 2004, defeating France in the final in Lisbon.
9) Bush wins re-election against Dean, but narrowly.
10) Democracy in Iraq begins to take shape, slowly but surely.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Musing on the Capture of Sadaam
I have been reading through the archives of newspapers that I stopped reading around Thanksgiving and have finally come to Haaretz, the leftist Israeli newspaper. An interesting article appeared on 16 Decemeber 2003 regarding the American capture of Sadaam.
In this article, the author forwards three propositions, all of which I think should be commented on by the larger reading public: 1. The US depicition of the humbled dictator was humiliating for the Arab, 2. the Arab elites, while most likely ageeing with the prevalent emotion on the Arab street--disappointment--, issued noncontrovesial or irrelevant opinions in an effort to avoid commentary, and 3. the caputure provides new oppurtunity for Washington-Tehran diplomacy.
The first proposition was interesting. Among the members in my coed fraternity, there was jubilation (and even some laughing at the beard) and some "I wonder what this means in the larger context of the war." The notes of sadness came from the House-alum email list regarding the upcoming election: "Sauron (Bush) grows stronger. It will be hard to defeat him in the next election." My own thoughts were: "Well, they have Sadaam. What will be the next move?" I do not believe that anyone suggested that this may be humiliating for the Arab population at large. Comments?
The second proposition is unsuprising. Given the number of the unelected/ autocratic regimes in the Middle East, why would the current elites celebrate the capture of the most obstinate member of their obsidian clan? According to this Israeli newspaper, the Arab street viewed Sadaam as a freedom fighter who resisted American power. (I believe that 'attempted to resist' would be the better term.) If this information is true, then who should try Sadaam? I am reluctant to hand him over to an international court who will use the sensationalism behind the event to legitimize its authority. An American or British court will never be seen as fair. An Arab court would not hear the Israeli charges against him. This a very complicated subject. Thoughts?
As two parting notes, it saddens me that the body count ranges from 7900-9700 and I shall address the questions raised vis a vis my earlier post soon.
Return of the King: notable scenes [SPOILERS]
- Smeagol, pre-Gollum, right at the start. Completely unexpected, and therefore all the more satisfying.
- Merry giving Pippin the last packet of pipeweed just before Pippin rides off with Gandalf to Minas Tirith. It's not in the book, but I thought it was a very nice touch on Peter Jackson's part. This scene was meant I think to complement what happens later on when Sam gives up his drink to Frodo just before they ascend Orodruin.
- The lighting of the braziers, which gave Jackson the opportunity to indulge in some spectacular shots of snowcapped mountain tops. Howard Shore's score at this point is really quite majestic.
- Shelob. Since when did spiders have stingers on their abdomens like wasps? Who cares? Shelob was the most frightening monster in all three movies, and I can't wait to see how Weta put her together.
- The giant battering ram, or Grond as it is called in the book ("The Siege of Gondor" chapter): Great engines crawled across the field; and in the midst was a huge ram, great as a forest-tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old. Great beasts drew it, orcs surrounded it, and behind walked mountain-trolls to wield it.
- Pippin and Merry charging forward to attack in the climactic battle, only to get overtaken by their longer-limbed compatriots. In the book, Merry isn't actually there because of the injuries he sustained in stabbing the Nazgul, but that absence would be inexplicable in the movie.
- The guests at Aragorn's coronation bowing down before the four hobbits, a scene marked by the triumphant return of Shore's hobbit theme from the first movie.
- Seeing Bilbo again, and to have him ask Frodo about his old ring. This is from the book, and I'm glad they put it in: although in the book, it is clear that Bilbo in his old age has forgotten about what the ring was, while in the movie, it isn't clear as to whether Bilbo knows about the ring's true nature at all (he wasn't at the Council of Elrond in the movie).
- The Grey Havens scene, which is made all the more poignant by the fact that Pippin, Merry, and Sam don't know, or at least are reluctant to acknowledge, that Frodo must leave Middle Earth (not so in the book).
More commentary to follow, once I've finished Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment.
Monday, December 22, 2003
Allow me to destroy the patriarchy
At today's modern college, professors at each of the various academic departments, for the most part, spend their days teaching their disciplines and doing research in their fields. Some may or may not compare or inform their research with knowledge of other disciplines. Academia is certainly an animal of specialization, so I'm willing to believe most do not.
So it is with this in mind that I post on something that bothered me as an undegrad and continues to strike me as curious. I only took one women's studies course--and even that was more of a history of feminism(s)--but I feel that with only a cursory examination of feminist literature, campus postings, and over-heard or read feminist critiques of society, it is somewhat common for contemporary feminists to argue that we live in a patriarchy; much of the political and social oppression of women is/was caused by this patriarchy, and that the patriarchy infects everything: government, science, pop culture, etc. Almost anything in history or produced anytime before even 1980 is suspect because of the patriarchy which dominated everything everywhere. As an aside, I feel like one runs into this thing all the time in combination with multiculturalism: our constitution is bunk because it was written by rich, old, white men. Any smidgen of a baby can be tossed out with all of this tainted bath water. But let me focus more on feminism's patriarchy.
In ancient Rome, there was most certainly a patriarchy. The Pater Familias possessed the power of pater potestas. His wife, daughters, sons, were all essentially under his total legal jurisdiction/authority. Women needed permission to marry and they could stay under their father's authority or go under the authority of their husband's father. A son became truly independent only after his father died. This patriarchy was absolute. (Notice, however that the patriarchy included sons even into adulthood and the families of their sons). I doubt that feminists are really arguing that the patriarchy existing today is like the one in Rome, though maybe they feel that 19th and 18th century America might have come close. I suspect the patriarchy they cite is probably more insidious than that, since my reading of american law is that women are de jure social and political equals with men. Yet, certainly there are de facto inequalities, so is patriarchy the culprit.
To be honest, it strikes me as something of a conspiracy theory. Are men meeting in closed doors somewhere ensuring that women are kept out? Yes, men still dominant the boardrooms of American corporations. Yes, today men on average still earn more than women. But are these inequalities caused by the intentions of men or a more covert social disease working against most people's better intentions. Enter the patriarchy. But which patriarchy are feminsts fighting against? The former or the latter? Do they bother to make that distinction? Do they believe there currently exists one, the other or both?
Frankly, I don't really believe that men overtly conspire against women today, which leaves only the shadowy patriarchy. The one just beneath the surface of pop culture, law, etc. This patriarchy draws from the wellspring of the ancient one and so I've heard some suggest that we must remake the world since everything is tainted. But is the patriarchy really to blame for the inequalities of gender?
There is another very powerful pressure out there on this earth among the living and the dead often cited as directly causal: natural selection, sexual selection, and their by-product sexual dimorphism. Most of us learn about these ideas and then apply them to the "natural world" alone. But what of their implications for human civilizations far, far in the past? What about their implications for our society today? Granted even suggesting that some part of the "patriarchy" out there is driven by sexual selection and sexual dimorphism smacks of "nature vs. nurture." But is anyone out there in biology, sociology or women's studies even asking the question?
To focus this idea, am I and other men driven to out-compete each other (and by default other women in the workplace) so that I may be more appealing to potential female mates, presumably so that I may successfully reproduce? Did our ancient civilization forbears who subjected their women to a patriarchy out-duel competing civilizations which gave women equal footing? Why are women so seemingly obsessed with shoes? Although we think pretty highly of ourselves as organisms and are willing to believe that we can will ourselves beyond our primordial drives, but can we do that as collective human populations?
Until we get more of a academic challenge to the patriarchy thesis, I don't buy it.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Kramer on Saddam
That infamous picture of Rumsfeld shaking Saddam's hand is bound to surface sooner or later, and will probably be accompanied by claims that "Saddam is America's creation, ergo America is responsible for Saddam's crimes, ergo America has to be tried alongside Saddam." An incorrect judgment, argues Martin Kramer in his latest Sandstorm entry (complete with said picture). Concludes Kramer:
The decision that left Saddam in power in 1991 was a monumental failure, and one that history has already judged severely. But at least credit those who did organize an expedition and an armada in 2003, and who did their duty despite the criticism of feckless "allies" and the absence of "international legitimacy." Some of those who launched this expedition were party to the previous mistake and the earlier failure. By their actions this year, they have balanced the book - and then some.
And if we want to blame other nations for "creating" Saddam, why not indict the French and the Russians as well? Daniel Drezner raised this point some time ago.
Return of the King: first thoughts
I'm overwhelmed: can't think of another movie that had me so moved, so often. I could barely get out of my seat at the end of it. Am going to see it again tomorrow. In the meanwhile, I'm reading the book - again.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
For those of you who care, Fall term grades are now up.
Gimli: "I am for dead-white-male culture!"
John Rhys-Davies says:
"What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is, and what a jewel it is… The abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world."
(Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the link. Oh, and congrats to LGF for being awarded Wizbang's Best Overall Blog Award.)
Wagner and Tolkien
The New Yorker's Alex Ross on Wagner's Ring, Tolkien's Rings, Howard Shore's brilliant score [follow this link to preview Shore's Return of the King soundtrack], and why the movies may be better than the books:
The books tell a fantastic story in a familiar style, but the movies transcend the apparent limitations of their medium in the same way that Wagner transcended the limitations of opera. They revive the art of Romantic wonder; they manufacture the sublime.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
I'm seeing it tomorrow, and will have my thoughts posted shortly after.
But I already know that I'll like it - nay, I already know that the movie's end will have me in emotional distress.
Ben Richards, Andrew Sullivan, and Free Dartmouth
Andrew Sullivan has nominated this post on Free Dartmouth for a Galloway Award (for "the most strained and mealy-mouthed statements from the devastated press and anti-war politicians and activists following the capture of Saddam"). Emmett Hogan on Dartlog was responsible for notifying Sullivan about Richards - who, if you search the DND, does not appear to exist. The closest match is a "Matthew B. Richards '05," whose middle name does not appear to be Ben.
Some additional points: 1) "Ben Richards," at this point, has not followed up to his original post, nor has he said anything in the Comments. 2) A quick Google search reveals one previous Free Dartmouth post by "Ben Richards," the subject of which is Jonathan Chait's Bush-hating. "Richards" titles his post "Jonathan Chait speaks the truth!"
Free Dartmouth administrators should identify this guy as quickly as possible: NOT because of what he said, but simply because it's not a good idea to have on your blog someone whom no one knows, who may not even be a Dartmouth student or alum, or who may be using a nom de plume.
Actually Liberating Minorities
All should read Karsten Barde’s Recognition: The New Anti-Racism in the DFP. I would like to weigh in on some of his claims more charitably that ChienWen has. I feel that CW has missed the point, and in doing so, obscured and unnecessarily mocked Karsten’s argument. Feedback welcome.
K:It, to be perfectly clear, is that moment of recognition when someone with whom we've never quite been able to identify becomes a friend, or a potential friend, or simply someone else caught in a moment of honesty and vulnerability….To hear just what happens in the classroom: people of color frequently have their intelligence questioned in classroom settings, are spoken to in condescending or patronizing ways, and are expected to be representatives of their race, facing one question after another about 'the African-American perspective,' for example. Liberal students can be especially guilty of seeing students of color as specimens to be studied, interrogated, and the like.
1. Being a ‘non-embedded’ minority* on Dartmouth campus is an interesting experience. I aspire to be an individual self-defined and to see people that I meet as an individual person irrespective of their circumstantial locators, often identified as the race, class, and gender axis. (I would also throw national origin, sexuality, and religious beliefs in as being equally important structural conditions that shape and define the identity of any individual.) Even though I can observe that the conditions enumerated in the previous sentence affect and shape identity, I am firmly convinced, for philosophical and, more importantly, religious reasons that all persons are fundamentally the same; the rest is merely circumstantial.
While I have found that my religio-philosophical beliefs are most likely the correct ones, there is something to be said for the more popular view that people are not fundamentally the same and to treat them that way is to disrespect their individuality and to ignore their identity. In that narrative, of fundamental difference rather than essential similarity, I, while John, am still an ethnic and religious minority; I must be engaged as such.
As a minority then—and I take a role here that I often avoid—I can only agree with Karsten’s statement: “people of color…are spoken to in condescending or patronizing ways, and are expected to be representatives of their race, facing one question after another about 'the African-American perspective,' for example. Liberal students can be especially guilty of seeing students of color as specimens to be studied, interrogated, and the like.” And while ChienWen’s suggestion of “[focusing] on the subject matter” would solve the problems in the classroom, I think that CW has uncharitably overlooked the main thrust of Karsten’s argument: that the classroom at Dartmouth is emblematic of the larger problem of minorities-as-a-community and their place in the American social discourse.
It is more problematic that this would be the case because it is the liberals who are as much a part of the problem as the reactionary bigots and the conservatives. Bigots substitute hate for discourse. Since no one is defending them, I needn’t deprogram their line of thinking. Conservatives, I believe, are afraid of admitting that minorities actually exist as minorities—and maybe even as communities. As each minority moves into the American ensemble and the fabled nation of immigrants becomes an actual nation of immigrants, conservatives will find that their Waspy consensus and elite will begin to break. (And if you question my accusation of a waspy consensus let me remind you that the last presidential election, and the upcoming one too, have been contests between men of the families of the old elite. I would just like to note that I am not lamenting the fact that the elite are still involved, rather, that their ubiquitous involvement arousing so little comment.)
Liberals are very welcoming of the minorities on the surface. Liberals want a representative assortment of diversity-- Justice Thomas rightly calls it window-dressing and aesthic balancing-- but fear the loss of privilege, power and social hegemony that true pluralism would create. Minorities who play the perfect gentlemen, who tell about their ‘cultural experience’, who enrich a privilege education by breaking the monotony of white have played their part and are rewarded with the deceptively warm liberal embrace, and if they play nice, may be allowed into the elite. (I always imagine the Christmas tree sitting in the middle of the snow-covered green. Multi-colored and bejeweled, it sits isolated for aesthitic purposes in a field of white.) While liberals often make noises about the populace (supporting gay marriage, housing projects for the poor, affirmative action for the less fortunate), when it comes to social equality only the most radical of the progressive want the hordes and masses to join the ranks. Like the conservatives, liberals want a few good men to represent the marginal groups, for their conscience’s sake, in the elite that they themselves will always define and control.
Other not-so-syrupy-sweet expressions of minority idenity, whether it be the fanatical zeal of a fundamentalists, the ululating of a gaggle of drag queens, the flamboyancy of some ethnic expression or, if you will excuse the term, good ole-fashion genderfucking makes liberals ‘uncomfortable’ and should be hidden away. Liberals are fine when there is a sufficient mass of a minority; it is when “someone with whom we've never quite been able to identify” attempts to engage the world directly as a individual that the tensions become unsavory. “Should I make this joke given there is a black person in the room?” “I hope this lesbian doesn’t embarrass me.” It’s the tight smiles of liberal colleagues and acquaintances who aren’t really sure where to begin a conversation with me-- this large black guy arrayed (usually) in a collared-shirt buttoned all the way to top with a distinctive manner of speaking and either an excessively grim and serious face or a loud, easy laughter—that really bother me. Interaction should not be a painful artifice of “it’s ok- I’m vitually normal.” I prefer the old-fashion bigots; I know where I stand with them
K: As a generation, we are extraordinarily well versed at the language of political correctness, but too many of us are clueless when it comes to engaging with, negotiating, or understanding difference—and more broadly, disagreement.
Well said, Karsten. I think the solution is deceptively simple: learn from everyone. Put thought and effort into your opinions and politely seek others views to accumulate more information to reformulate a stronger and more defensible position. And remember, above all, you could be wrong and may make a mistake or say something inadvertently offensive. It’s fine as long as you are collecting information to have actual opinions.
We're not so naïve as to imagine that conversations about race are easy or sufficient solutions to powerfully entrenched systems of racial (and other) difference. Especially when these are systems so many would overlook, wish away, or normalize by reference to human nature and history.
There is something to be said about hierarchy and ‘privilege’, as we like to call it these days. Focusing excessively on who has the power and money I think materializes a problem, which is socio-psychological. Power, money and privilege aren’t what the battle is—or should be—about. The battle is about acceptance and assimilation. As long as the discourse is the privilege groups who socially interact with the marginal groups from one end of the totem pole to the other and not as equals the suppressive order will continue to exist. Whiteness, both liberal and conservative, needs blackness to exist; straights need gays; the socially acceptable gays need queens and dykes to remain acceptable; acceptably religious people need fundamentalists, etc. The struggle that I wage on campus is one for true assimilation. I don’t want to live my life as that black guy; I want to be John as I define it. The difference is between me being accepted as who I want to be (even if it is an identity that meshes nicely with the norm) and me being tolerated because I play an important role in someone else’s social vision. I fight so that the norm can expand and be defined by the variations. The outsider, the ‘other’, changes as well as the insider and, as Kristeva argues in Strangers To Ourselves, a hybrid culture is born from the interaction of the particularities of the two.
*That is a minority who doesn’t feel a strong attachment to his ‘group.’
Monday, December 15, 2003
Daniel Pipes on Saddam's capture
"Saddam's capture will not much effect the insurgency in Iraq, which draws its inspiration mostly from militant Islam, not a desire to return a thug to power. The major effect of his capture will be to cause many Iraqis to breathe more easily and believe that they really have left the totalitarian past behind."
Read the whole post (which is quite short) here.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Saddam and the French
Saddam reacts to being asked difficult questions:
Mr. Rubaie said: "One thing which is very important is that this man had with him underground when they arrested him two AK-47's and did not shoot one bullet. I told him, `You keep on saying that you are a brave man and a proud Arab.' I said, `When they arrested you why didn't you shoot one bullet? You are a coward.'
"And he started to use very colorful language. Basically, he used all his French."
Free Dartmouth responds
Ben Richards writes: "Terrible news: Saddam is captured. The chicken hawks will gain in power now."
Ben, you're a moral pygmy. That's putting it kindly. (Even Howard Dean sees the situation in the right light.)
Whither the insurgency?
Josh Chafetz believes that the capture of Saddam
is basically the death knell for the opposition. With Saddam gone, the locals should be less afraid of turning the guerillas in -- there was clearly fear among many that Saddam would return to power and punish those who had aided the coalition. Saddam's capture will also make it harder for the guerillas to recruit any new members, and at least some current members may well decide to give up and try to blend back into civilian life. Finally, today's pictures of Saddam looking pathetic are not likely to win his cause any converts.
Yes - true, true - but what about the Islamist as opposed to Baathist opposition?
Update: Jed Babbin writes on NRO that the capture may transform "a brewing ethnic civil war to one of Iraq and the Coalition against external forces."
The anti-war left reacts. Tim Blair has the goods. Can't say I'm surprised. (Check out the money quote in this previous post of mine.)
Eagerly awaiting Free Dartmouth's response...
Update: oh, and Dartlog, surely you've got something better to talk about than, erh, VP-RX and hockey results.
This piece in The Economist seems particularly worth reading right now.
Since we've been talking about Chomsky lately
Check out this review of his latest book. Money quote: "Not the least of the casualties of the Iraq war is the death of anti-fascism." And it's from a Guardian reviewer too! (Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for the link.)
So, Mr. Hussein...
What can you tell us about this?
Friday, December 12, 2003
"Iraqi mass graves don't justify war"
So says one Mark Gery, an "Iraqi Analyst from the Orange County Peace Coalition and a member of The Education For Peace in Iraq Center, Washington DC," in this piece. Writes Gery,
What government in the world would refrain from using all necessary means to quell a violent uprising of this kind? No one denies that the regime's response was swift and merciless, or that many innocents were caught up in the retaliation and destruction. But if blame is assigned, shouldn't it start with the instigators of the carnage along with the foreign government who misled them about the forces they were going up against and yet egged them on?
So, in other words, the Bush administration was responsible for the mass graves, as were the Kurds and Shias who rose up against the Baathists - but not Saddam. No, he was just laying down the law.
And I thought that the anti-war movement couldn't sink any further. (Thanks to Little Green Footballs.)
It appears that Pejman Yousefzadeh has had an email exchange with the great Chomsky himself over the latter's (ridiculous) recent remarks about the dearth of anti-Semitism in the West, and is mulling over whether or not to publish the details of that exchange on his blog. Chomsky has apparently not consented to having those emails published verbatim, but Pejman is wondering if he can just go ahead and say something about the exchange. Now why would Chomsky, a leading public intellectual, not want his views to be published in full on a popular blog? Is there something about those views that he doesn't want the public to know?
I say respect Chomsky, but go ahead and talk about the exchange. I for one can't wait to read about how Chomsky tried to worm his way out of this one.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
The Latest DFP
Several comments on Karsten Barde's "Recognition: The New Anti-Racism":
So too do well-meaning professors, in an attempt to be inclusive, engage in a form of tokenism that can further perpetuate stereotype and discourage future participation from other students of color who see through the charade. One step toward better relations in the classroom would be the recruitment and retention of more faculty of color. Minority faces at the chalkboard are role models for students of color, and they play an equally important role in reshaping the racial imaginations of white students.
How ironic that Karsten says just before this about people being spoken to in "condescending or patronizing ways." This statement of his is hugely condescending - and wrongheaded as well. It assumes that minorities should look to minority faculty for guidance. It implies that minority faculty are more valuable for their minority status than for their scholarship and teaching ability. Worst of all, it proposes to reeducate "white" students by "reshaping" their "racial imaginations" - whatever that means - into something more in line with multicultural ideology. Replace "white" with "black" (a useful exercise whenever you're dealing with multiculturalists) and the sinister implications of the phrase become much clearer.
If professors want to avoid "tokenism," then they should treat everyone in their class as individuals, and stop trying to be "inclusive." Focus on the subject matter, and no one will ever think the class is a "charade."
It isn't our fault we were brought up in a PC world, but liberals and progressives have been all too reluctant to challenge this trend, allowing conservatives to lead the charge (winning adherents and shaping the dialogue) on an issue that is neither naturally left nor right.
Ah, honesty - almost. Karsten's semi-right that liberals and progressives have been "all too reluctant" to challenge the trend of political correctness. What he doesn't go on to say is that said leftists have been overwhelmingly responsible for institutionalizing PC. See FIRE's website for the details. It is someone's fault, after all.
In particular, we are learning that the point is not to make 'perpetrators' feel guilty, but to provide relief for the offended person or group, and then—the sooner the better—encourage dialogue about the situation.
Again, this is the wrong approach. Being able to cope with feeling offended without having to seek "relief" is a very, very useful ability to have once one steps out of Dartmouth and into the real world. It builds character, so to speak. It is also a waste of time and energy to obsess about what are in nearly all cases bad attempts at humor. Rise above the situation by ignoring it and getting on with the more important things in college life. If, according to Karsten, I am a "reactionary" for proposing this "laissez-faire attitude," so be it.
We're not so naïve as to imagine that conversations about race are easy or sufficient solutions to powerfully entrenched systems of racial (and other) difference. Especially when these are systems so many would overlook, wish away, or normalize by reference to human nature and history.
But as white and non-white students begin to recognize discrimination and alienation equally clearly and urgently, and men and women both start to realize the ugliness of so much social conditioning about sexuality, we know that we have made some progress.
Ah yes: no such article would be complete without mentioning "powerfully entrenched systems of racial (and other) difference." I'd very much like to hear those systems described in more detail at a future date. Otherwise, speaking from personal experience, I just don't buy their existence. But of course, since they are so "powerfully entrenched," they can't really be systematically (hah!) and clearly defined, just hinted at, right? Furthermore, if they really are so deeply-embedded within culture, what hope do we have of purging them? (And who cares if they really exist, so long as they give some people causes to fight for?)
I'm hugely unsympathetic towards pieces like these. They are, with only a few exceptions, not well-written: they rely on buzzwords and catchphrases to evoke an atmosphere of goodwill, but furnish those thought-cliches with very few details. In this particular case, Karsten's point would appear to be that recognizing "our fellow students and their own lived experiences" is important. How perfectly banal - and dare I say it, typical.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Two great pieces on FrontPage Magazine today: the first, which David Horowitz calls "the most disturbing that we at frontpagemag.com have ever published," concerns Republican Grover Norquist's involvement, via his own Islamic Institute, with radical Islamism. The expose comes from Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan defense official, and it can (and should) be read here.
The second is a FrontPage symposium on the anti-war movement, featuring Greg Yardley, Michelle Goldberg, John Fonte, and Pat Caddell. Particularly interesting is Fonte's idea of "post-Americanism" (sounds a lot like post-modernism): citizenship "based not on individual rights but on group rights, not on the American Constitution but an international law and transnational law." Is this a challenge to Fukuyama's thesis? Is it desirable (Fonte doesn't think so, of course)? I'll let the IR/Political Theory people take it away...
Monday, December 08, 2003
A few facts...
that may interest only me:
Rams CB Aeneas Williams declined an academic scholarship to Dartmouth to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother at Southern University.
Can anyone imagine how good Dartmouth football from 1987-90 would have been if Williams, a definite HOF-er, had attended school? And what has happened to football recruiting since the brief, probably illegal, resurgence of Dartmouth football in the late '80s that brought in players like Fiedler and four Ivy championships ('90-'92 and '96)?
More Williams-related trivia: his brother's name is Achilles.
Sunday, December 07, 2003
Received an email today called "IVY FILM FESTIVAL SUBMISSIONS" from someone at Brown. It was unremarkable except for this sentence :
Brown University is a leading Ivy League institution with a distinctive and talented student body and a rigorously liberal curriculum.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Chomsky on Anti-Semitism
Scarcely exists in the West nowadays, says he. Pejman Yousefzadeh takes on this ridiculous claim here. Further links here, here, here, and here. (Thanks to Instapundit.)
Thursday, December 04, 2003
"I'm not a racist, but..."
...But John was just getting started. These people are not Africans, he insisted. They are African-Americans. The whole "Africa" thing is a charade; racial separatism and identity politics are tearing this country apart; people have to realize that if they live in this country, no matter how they got here, they are Americans first, and something-Americans second.
...Would he remember the seminar as the class in which his right to free speech and debate was trampled by politically correct groupthink?
The full deal here.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
A great many Dartmouth students - upperclassmen even - either don't know how to make effective presentations, or else can't be bothered. I say this having taken three presentation-intensive classes this term, all of which featured seniors or juniors doing the following:
1) Going beyond the time limit, thereby depriving others of their opportunity to present. When the professor says 10 minutes with 10 minutes for questions, so that three people can go within the hour, don't take 25 minutes to say your stuff. Rehearse your presentation before hand and time it. Doesn't take that much effort.
2) Not speaking clearly, sending everyone except the professor to sleep. You are not chatting with a close friend. Speak with conviction, in a clear voice, and neither too quickly or too slowly. Don't mumble. Do your utmost not to pepper your sentences with annoying Americanisms ("like"). Write out your speech if you have to (I always do) - just don't recite it.
3) Not structuring one's presentation. It may be all clear in your head, but we can't read your mind. Like an argument on paper, your presentation must flow logically from point to point. Have an outline, and write it on the board, or prepare handouts. Don't improvise unless you're supremely confident of pulling it off.
Take some advice from this guy.