Playing the Indian Card

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Music

Day 6:

Putting Those White Males in Their Place

Blake, Africa and America supporting Europe.

Another example of the anti-white racism in our current culture
came down the pike the other day: “White authors are still writing racist books because white critics won’t call them out.” I get these regularly on Facebook. I tend to respond here rather than on Facebook, because otherwise I lose my “liberal” friends. It is not easy in academics not to be left-leaning.

Most obviously: it discusses racism in literature as only a problem of white male authors. What could be more racist than such an assertion?

“Racism in literature,” it begins, “manifests itself in myriad ways: characters whose personalities are reduced to their accents, cultural dress or foods;...”

Further on, it says that much of the problem of racism is that books are too often judged solely on literary merit (God forbid), instead of political considerations. But a case of a character who is distinguished only by his accent or dress or food is not racism. It is simply bad writing.

Does the author know what good writing is? Isn’t she supposed here to be an authority on it? She is identified as “an award-winning essayist, journalist, and literary critic” Or have the humanities discarded all such considerations now?

She goes on: her second example of endemic racism is “brown or black characters ‘rescued’ by white saviors...”

No doubt this happens in some stories. It is not easy, offhand, to think of an example. Robinson Crusoe, I suppose, published in 1719. But the complaint drips with irony. Has the author never heard of the literary character called “the magic negro”? It’s been a big deal in literary thinking recently. The common plot device is not to have the black character rescued by a white one, but the white one rescued by a black or brown one. The Green Mile, Gunga Din, Pocahontas, The Last of the Mohicans, the story of the first Thanksgiving, The Shining, Peter Pan, the Krishna cycle, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and so on.

By this logic, these are all racist stories. But with the target being whites.

One wonders if the author has actually done much reading.

Another common example of racism: “... the ‘surprising’ friendship between a white character and a character of color...”

So showing a white character as not being racist is itself—racist.

“or, a white character’s journey to a ‘foreign’ or ‘third world’ country in search of ‘enlightenment.’”

Someone sure likes scare quotes.

Granted, this is a pretty common motif: the pilgrimage. Aside from Chaucer, it is pretty central to the image of Jerusalem in the Bible, or Mecca in the Quran. Or, in Taoism, the mythical islands to the East. Still, one would have thought this implied a positive, not a negative, attitude towards Jerusalem or Mecca, of said foreign country, as, say, possessing the real spiritual truth. It seems that, the instant a white mentions anything or anyone non-white, even with the highest praise, he is racist.

So are non-white authors equally racist if they mention anything white? Wouldn’t their writing in English, in the first place, count as cultural appropriation?

“The western or white gaze is unimaginative, misrepresentative [sic], and often harmful.”

Imagine substituting “the Chinese or Oriental gaze,” “the black or African gaze,” or “the female gaze” there. Sound good?

“As Pooja Makhijani writes in her review of Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend: ‘We Americans erase layers of oppression by foisting our own frameworks, which reflect the specificity of our culture and history, on others.’ ‘The end result,’ says Lee, ‘is the reflexive default to ‘the western gaze.’”

Note the name of that author: Kwan. Our reviewer does not say it, but he is Singaporean Chinese. However, rather than concluding that racism is found in all races, both this article and the review to which it refers bizarrely blame Kwan’s supposed racism on Americans and the British. This is racism in both directions: in scapegoating white Europeans, and in infantilizing Asians. It supposes even a successful non-white author like Kwan is incapable of thinking for himself.

The poor dears. In the end, on this assumption, it was a darned good thing for their own sake that the British and Americans were there to take care of them for a few decades.

And they must have done very good job of it, if their influence is still so absolute generations after they left. Why, doesn’t that make a powerful argument for cultural superiority of some kind?

And why isn’t Kwan the guilty party, for “cultural appropriation,” for being so deeply influenced?

“Most book critics are white, and very often white and male,” Khakpour says. “Often those white males are not themselves very well-versed in issues of race, ethnicity, xenophobia, cultural appropriation etc. They are simply trained in reading books by white men, for white men, about white men.” … “Then there’s the reality that it’s much harder to recognize a problem you’ve never experienced. “

Odd, then, that most of the offending authors she cites, along with almost all of the critics, are either not white or not male. How did that happen—in a piece supposedly about white authors and white critics?

But never mind. There is a bigger logical problem here: if it is true that white males cannot have any insight into the lived experience of women or those with darker skins, it must be equally true that women and people of darker skins have no insight into the lived experience of whites or males. Who is the expert here? On what basis? Racial superiority?

Later, the author so much as says that white males “are simply not qualified to comment” on issues of race.

“Poverty enlightenment, a popular theme in narratives about white people traveling to brown or black countries, is similarly problematic when looked at through an anti-colonialist lens. ...”

The unfortunate reality is that, if a book portrays someone going to a “brown” or “black” country, said character is likely to see poverty. Is the author supposed to falsify this, or simply avoid setting any stories in “brown” or “black” countries? How would either of these options be less “racist”?

“Soniah Kamal, in a review of the [sic] Julie Feldon’s Karma Gone Bad (a memoir that proudly evinces its colonialist gaze in the title), notes that the author ‘sees beauty in the world after meeting a slum family, interacting with an orphan girl, and seeing a little barefoot errand boy. Does Feldon experience the same beauty when witnessing poverty in the US?’”

Ironically, the book the reviewer immediately goes on to criticise is a cheerfully comic novel about --- poverty in the US.

Then there’s Nell Zink’s 2015 novel Mislaid. Critics deemed it “infallibly irreverent,” “profoundly irreverent,” “a high comedy of racial identity,” or a “backwards route to examining oppression.”

So is the problem with seeing some kind of blessedness in poverty? If so, our author has just declared Jesus Christ racist. Has she never read the Beatitudes? It’s kind of hard to make much of Western civ as a whole without knowledge of the Bible.

“Mislaid harkens to blackface and slavery, when whites stripped Africans of their identities and forced them to assume their surnames.”

Okay, so maybe she was not a history major. But let’s set the record straight. Blackface might count these days as “cultural appropriation,” but it was obviously a sign of the general popularity of black culture. People would pay more money to watch if the performers pretended they were black. This popularity of black musical culture, after all, continues today. Is it racist to buy Mariah Carey records? The blackface minstrel shows were often banned in the South before the Civil War on the assumption that they were abolitionist.

Nor were Africans ever forced to take “white” surnames. Yes, they were required to take surnames. This was not about racism; it was a practical need in a complex society. Africans did not have surnames. When the slaves were freed, black Americans got to choose whatever surname they wanted. Nobody imposed a name on them: they were simply asked. Most of them chose “white” sounding names. Again, is the assumption that non-whites are incapable of thinking for themselves? And why is this not cultural appropriation?

Granted, Zink’s novel, although the central characters are in fact poor whites, could be interpreted as being really about black poverty in the US. When Zink complained there were no favourable portrayals of “US” poverty, perhaps she meant to exclude blacks as not being American. Nothing racist about that, right? But even so, if she is right, that there are few books or novels these days about poor whites, does that really suggest a preference for white people? Or does it rather suggest that the folks who write, edit, publish or read books don’t give a damn about poor whites? Or cannot see them sympathetically?

It is perhaps to easy to laugh, to see this as ridiculous. Nevertheless, the ugly fact remains that I received this article because I belong to a—more accurately, THE-- worldwide association or professional editors. This was sent out there as recommended.

Note then that, worldwide, nobody gets a book conventionally published without it going through a professional editor. One of these folks.

The same is true of entry to the professions, or to higher study. You don’t get to write books, either, without going through an academy where just this sort of thing is de rigeur.

Not just the overwhelmingly dominant viewpoint—a viewpoint that is largely enforced, and any dissent from which is likely to be punished.

Our system has become both stupid and systemically racist and sexist. Worldwide.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Music

Day 5...

Solving the "Indian Problem"

Canada’s native peoples, Indians and Inuit, have not been oppressed. They have not had their land stolen. That is part of the legend of the Noble Savage, not the real history.

Nevertheless, anyone can see that the current situation of Canadian Indians is not good. Right?

“The Assembly of First Nations reports that a young person on a reserve is more likely to end up in jail than to graduate from high school. Suicide rates are five times higher than for young non-aboriginal Canadians.” (Don Tapscott, “A Homegrown Solution to First Nations Poverty,” Toronto Star, Mon., Nov. 4, 2013). In Quebec, according to the government authorities, “the death rate among Aboriginal children is triple the death rate among non-Aboriginal children,” diabetes is two or three times more common, aboriginal children are three to five times more likely to experience poverty, neglect, and abandonment, nearly half of families are single-parent, one out of four adults is unemployed, and rates of tuberculosis are high” (AFNQL, 2007; Réseau de recherche en santé des populations du Québec, 2008; Health Canada, 2003; FNQLHSSC, 2006). None of this sounds good. In her recent book The New Trail of Tears, Naomi Schaefer Riley gives similar statistics from the US: “Involvement in gang activity is more prevalent among Native Americans than it is among Latinos and African Americans. Native American women report being raped two and half times as often as the national average. The rate of child abuse among Native Americans is twice as high as the national average” (NY: Encounter Books, 2016, location 89, Kindle version). As of 2006, median income for aboriginals was 30% lower than for other Canadians (Daniel Wilson and David Macdonald, “The Income Gap Between Aboriginal Peoples and the Rest of Canada,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2010, p. 3).

But wait. Is it really true of Indians generally? Remember, a good portion of Canadians actually have Indian blood. They are your neighbours. They might be you. They are not showing up in those figures. So far as any of the rest of us can tell, they are us. They are folded in the statistics for non-aboriginal Canadians, and doing far better, it seems, on average, than those who still self-identify as Indians.

In other words, Indians are not doing poorly. They are, in world terms, doing very well. Those who are doing poorly are those who have failed to integrate; who cling to the old ways, the reserves, and the romantic idea of being a people apart.

The real problem is failure to integrate.

Self-identified “Metis”--half-integrated--do significantly better than Indians or Inuit on almost any measure, while Indians and Inuit, with widely differing cultures and genetic makeups, do almost the same. Identifying with a failed culture is a failing strategy. Obviously.

And the solution is obvious, simple--and profoundly politically incorrect.

Even for the segregated aboriginal remnant, the poverty problem, at least, may be exaggerated. The figures we see are actually properly taken as on top of whatever their traditional way of life might bring in. A traditional way of life, with their freedom from hunting or fishing regulations, still entirely viable for most residents of remote reserves. None of that—everything they would have had before the white men came, and more—is shown here. Anything derived from hunting, gathering, or fishing is simply excluded from their income figures, because no money changed hands. “Aboriginal people in rural communities and on reserve have non-monetary sources of income that are not captured in the census, such as food from gardening/farming and hunting/trapping. For example, the value of a moose — which would provide an average of 150 kilograms of usable meat — cannot be estimated in dollars because governments made selling wild game meat illegal.” “Information on this point is limited. However, a study of the Mitchikabibikok Inik (Algonquins of Barriere Lake) is informative. The study, conducted in the early1990s, found that ... in a given year, the land provided the community with 60,000 kgs of edible meat (780 kgs per household and 130 kgs per person). On average each household harvested meat at a value of $6,623. Families burned an average of 10.5 face cords of wood, which gives a fuel value of $4,800. In addition, non-meat resources from the bush added at least $845 per household. The estimated value of goods taken by the Algonquin economy was $575,245 a year from the land base” (Wilson and Macdonald, p. 12).

It is hard to be sure, but it seems entirely possible that, adding this to the official tally, aboriginal people on reserve are actually doing as well as or even better than anyone else. And this does not yet factor in free housing, free schools, free college, tax breaks, and free medical care.

This certainly does not yet mean that all is jolly. We are still apparently left with appalling levels of single parenthood, child abuse and neglect, youth suicide, crime, diabetes and tuberculosis. It still sounds hellish to be a young Canadian aboriginal.

Nevertheless, this strongly suggests that the solution is not shovelling in more money. Even on the ground at the individual level, there seems to be enough money. Even letting alone the vast sums that seem to disappear on the way there.

And how can merely being poor by itself hold a people back for a dozen generations? Most immigrants to Canada in the last two centuries arrived desperately poor. The Irish of the famine, the Jews of Eastern Europe, the Scots of the Highland clearances, the Poles, the Ukrainians—and yet their descendents now are mostly doing quite well, thank you.

What’s the difference?

Surely it is obvious.

It is certainly not, despite the prevalent Noble Savage myth, that traditional Indian culture has been insufficiently nurtured or respected or hugged or protected. Everyone loves Indian culture. Absolutely nothing has been done in this country, until the recent misguided dogma of multiculturalism, to officially preserve traditional Jewish or Irish or Lebanese traditions. Yet these groups have survived the terrible cultural trauma well enough.

While the Jews or the Irish have, in all that is not essential to their identity and their conscience, tended to assimilate, more or less everything we have done “for” the Indians and other aboriginal groups has tended to preserve their difference from the mainstream. Beginning with the determination, in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, to deal with them always as corporate entities, not as individuals.

And why did we deliberately do something so perverse? Blame the myth of the Noble Savage, of the innocent Indian Eden, as influential in 1763 as it remains today. Indians were in the end not full humans with free will and capable of safely making their own responsible decisions. They had, therefore, to be patronized and protected by the Great White Father or Mother. The upshot was, they had no rights as individuals.

At the same time, the poor unlucky Indians owed it to the Noble Savage myth to be forever declining and dying out, never doing well. If this could not be accomplished by any natural means, the vested interests of the bureaucrats given the job of looking after them dictated that they must not ever succeed at anything on their own.

The residential schools did not, as commonly charged, exist or act to assimilate them. The very notion of a separate Indian school system, as opposed to having them attend the regular schools with everyone else, was apartheid, and calculated, surely, to preserve their separate identity. Far from “taking the Indian out of the man,” according to Claire Hutchings, “[f]ollowing the ideas of Sifton and others like him, the academic goals of these schools were ‘dumbed down.’ As Campbell Scott stated at the time, they didn’t want students that were ‘made too smart for the Indian villages’: ‘To this end the curriculum in residential schools has been simplified and the practical instruction given is such as may be immediately of use to the pupil when he returns to the reserve after leaving school.’” (Claire Hutchings, “Canada’s First Nations: A Legacy of Institutional Racism,” Once an Indian, always an Indian.

Were this not enough, for many years, on their own initiative and without any legal warrant, the bureaucrats of Indian Affairs prohibited natives from even leaving their reserves without a permit. Assimilation was the last thing they were promoting.

Nor did the missionaries, counter to the standard madcap accusation, practice the imagined “cultural imperialism” or “cultural genocide.” As serious Christians, they inevitably considered themselves “in the world but not of it”; they felt no special allegiance to the majority culture, which was, after all, the kingdom of this world. Most often, for all that they also disapproved of elements of Indian culture, they saw themselves as a bulwark for the native people against the mainstream’s evils. Even had they been driven by sheer self-interest, as some of them no doubt might have been, self-interest was to keep the Indians apart. This magnified their own importance and influence, with both the Indians and the government, as mediators, advisers, and interpreters. Jesuits are not dumb.

Even more, it has always been in the raw self-interest of bureaucrats of the Department of Indian Affairs, its predecessors, heirs, and successors, to keep the Indians a separate and distinct group. If they ever ceased to be so, all such bureaucrats would lose their lovely jobs, after all. As well as all their power. If you want a problem fixed, the worst thing to do is to form a government department to do it. “Many of those charged with fixing the problem are too busy profiting by it” explains Frank Busch (“Is This the Solution to Native Poverty?” Huffington Post Canada, 08/13/2013).

And, of course, there was not going to be any pushback from the band leaders, ever. Preserving Indian segregation was always also utterly in their self-interest. Governments dealing always and only directly with them, and not with Indian individuals, increased and still increases their personal wealth and power. They are feudal lords. Are they going to overturn their own regime?

The general population has, in turn, always considered all this reasonable, and has never raised the uproar that they ought, because it all meshes so well with the Noble Savage archetype. Of course, Indians must not ever be given individual responsibility. That would ruin their innocence. They must be taken care of, like the lovely children they are. They, and their idyllic culture, must be protected from civilization; civilization is dirty and evil. And they are of course not supposed to be doing well, now surrounded by it. They are supposed to be poor, disconsolate, depressed, and nostalgic for a perfect but irretrievably lost past: our collective childhood.

An impossible expectation for any poor Indian to fulfill. Apart from external considerations, many aboriginals have probably, within their own psyche, in the darkness of their mights, influenced as much as the rest of us by popular culture, been trapped by this double bind. If they succeed, if they are happy in the world, if they do anything by and for themselves, if they try to make things better, they have betrayed their imagined heritage. They have let everyone down.

And their only alternative, again sadly, is ironically to walk away from their aboriginal heritage in toto, to forget they were ever Indian. Because being Indian now means by definition being lost in the modern world. By seeking to artificially preserve an artificial Indian culture, we are killing both Indians and real Indian culture.

The urgent need, in sum, is to deny the glamour of the familiar stage-Indianness. It is a simple truth, a simply reality, that traditional Indian culture and social organization as a structural whole is not viable in the modern world, or at least, is vastly inferior in what it can offer in comparison to the mainstream. It was barely viable for most individuals in its heyday. Elements of it, certainly, are useful and admirable. But it should go without saying that such elements have mostly already been integrated into the mainstream culture. People given their own head are unlikely to reject what is useful. Any useful Indian traditions that oddly have not yet would naturally be so, left alone, with general integration, over time. Like Italian pizza, or German hamburgers and hot dogs, or African rock and roll.

Accordingly, the only possible outcome of artificially seeking to preserve Indian culture by outside intervention is to keep Indians and even Indian culture down.

Governments should no longer deal with band councils, but with Indians as individuals. Indians as individuals should be granted full equality before the law, and should not have to deal directly with governments in any manner that other Canadians do not. Government is not their friend. Even without malice, government is by its nature massively inefficient and unresponsive. From this fact has come most of the real suffering of aboriginals since the signing of the original “government-to-government” treaties.

Reserves should be broken up and the land divided among band members. Should they then choose to set up a band as a voluntary organization, great. Let it work to preserve traditional Indian culture, too, if that is what they want. But that should be no business of government. Indians ought as Canadian citizens to have the same right to free association as all the rest of us.

Indianness as a legal status must be abolished. By it’s very existence, it preserves the idea of two different classes of citizenship. This is anathema to the universal doctrine of human rights. Many Indians may suppose that this is against their sheer self-interest: that legally, they are currently given a superior status, and a lot of free stuff. This is superficially true, but in the long run, false. The proof is in the statistics already quoted: those who persist in their Indian status are simply and plainly not doing as well over time as those who do not.

Some have argued that the sheer absence of private property on reserves explains the general despair, disorder, and disrepair found there. Communist societies have failed world wide. Why should we expect any different on James Bay? How can we, in conscience, force some of our citizens, on purely racial grounds, to live in a Third World situation in the midst of our freedom and prosperity?

Indeed, all the problems reported of native people seem to be worse on reserves: “for example,” Riley says in The New Trail of Tears, “an estimated one out of every four girls and one out of every six boys in Indian country is molested before the age of 18…. Violent crime on the country’s 310 reservations is on average about 2.5 times as high as the national average” (op cit, location 89).

Nor is the absence of private property the only problem on reserve. It is also, and perhaps inevitably, given the resultant weakening of the individual, a little haven of totalitarianism.

The traditional Indian social structure is, in its petty way, always totalitarian: to paraphrase Mussolini, everything within the band, everything for the band, nothing outside the band, nothing against the band. Without property of their own, without rule of law, all individuals were utterly dependent on the band. Yes, matters were commonly decided by “consensus.” That sounds good at first hearing. It is often contrasted glowingly with our own insistence on majority rule. It seems to suggest everyone was nice to each other and got along, that everyone’s view was heard and accommodated. But what it actually means is that there is no room for any sustained or principled dissent. Those who did not support or otherwise disturbed the general “consensus” could be driven out or killed. Nobody got to do their own thing. It was the consensus of the choir in Lord of the Flies. If everything must be done by consensus, no dissent can ever be tolerated.

Non-band-members, including those driven out, could be seen as less than human; they had no rights. There was no structure or organization or generally accepted legal or even moral code (such as an ethical religion) that could restrain band actions.

Indian culture, or the band structure, also commonly suppressed the family. It might, after all, otherwise be a separate source of authority, allegiance, or power. Indian children often did not know who their father was—which is why descent was commonly reckoned through the mother. Any older male vaguely or theoretically related might be considered “father.” Families often lived communally, for example in longhouses. Marriages tended to be impermanent, polygamy common, and divorce trivial.

As an obvious result, family ties were weak. No one male was naturally inclined to take any special responsibility for any one child. Kids tended largely to be left to fend for themselves.

It takes a village to neglect a child.

This was not obviously great for child welfare. It is notable that most of the problems we see among Indians and on reserves seem to be problems of youth and of the family: child abuse, lack of educational attainment, disappearance of young females, teenage suicide, juvenile crime, youth suicide, alcoholism, substance abuse, and so forth and so on.

Encouraging traditional Indian culture and band identity must needs exacerbate this, given that it tends to devalue the family. Yes, one might argue that the residential schools did too—but only in the same sense that orphanages do. Which is what many of them eventually became.

This by itself is bad enough—but shovelling more free money into the band and to Indians makes it all worse. When we refuse to allow Indians to make any decisions for themselves, when we infantilize them, this is especially difficult for men, who are naturally most inclined to rugged independence and who are traditionally the family protectors and providers. No wonder they tend towards escape through alcohol or otherwise. A reliance on welfare removes the husband and father from any obvious family role. Given no purpose in the family or in life, and told in literal terms that he is not responsible for the children, why try anything? Why not just go out and get drunk? Why not sex with any woman who consents? Or, for that matter, doesn’t--given that he has so frustratingly little to offer. With no financial power, how else maintain his family position, should he hang around, but physical force?

Granted, a good man should rise above all that. But why make it so hard?

Much of this is a problem shared with the poor in Canada everywhere; it is hard to see any real fix without fixing welfare generally. But it is several steps worse for Indian men: their families often don’t need them, for example, for housing or to pay for college. Everyone gets everything laid on, by government and the band. They are all just being paid for being Indian. Indian men are systematically humiliated.

The proposal for a guaranteed annual income, not lost or all clawed back if work is found, could help. In the meantime, getting Indians off reserves and into areas where jobs might plausibly be seems a self-evident first step.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Music

Christmas, day 4:

Trump the Bully

That ought to work.

Here is yet another nasty piece about Donald Trump in the media, referring to him as the “bully-in-chief.” And here’s another. Here and everywhere, Trump is being called a bully.

He is not.

This ought to serve as a warning to us all. “Bullying” as a concept is being misappropriated. It is being used to bully.

This is possible because the concept of “bullying” starts out be ing pretty vague. This makes it terribly useful to those who would use it to push others around. It can be redefined more or less at will to target anyone you want to kick around. It’s even better in this regard than “sexual harassment.”

On what basis is Trump a bully? I would think being the aggressor was a sine qua non. Otherwise, it can be the one who stands up for himself or others when attacked by a bully, who is charged with bullying.

Yet this, worryingly, seems to be missing from many definitions.

Merriam-Webster: “a blustering browbeating person; especially: one habitually cruel to others who are weaker”

Trump as he is shown on Pixabay.

Oxford: “A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.”

By this definition, Roosevelt or Churchill were bullies. After all, they were demonstrably stronger in the end than Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. And they were certainly mean to them. Police are by this definition also bullies when they arrest a suspect; the state is bullying when they bring a criminal to trial. Anyone who wins a fight is, ipso facto, the bully.

Moreover, we have commonly seen the premise that there are systemic “imbalances of power” misused to discriminate already. If anyone who fights someone who is weaker is a bully, then, given the “fact” of male or privilege, any time there is a conflict between black and white, or male and female, the man or the white can be charged with “bullying,” regardless of the actual circumstances.

Not great; especially when such a definition gets put into law. The concept of a disparity in power being definitive is then an open invitation to use the law against groups already suffering discrimination. That is just the way it seems to be being used already: descriptions of bullying commonly refer to race, sexual orientation, and disability, as if this were part of the definition. Hitler would have happily pointed out that Jews had, on average, greater wealth and social power than Aryan Germans. Stalin would have said the same of the kulaks, or the Young Turks of the Armenians.

So much for equal protection under the law.

Picture of Churchill the bully favoured by Nazi propaganda. 

Proposed legislation and other initiatives in Canada to prevent “bullying” in schools always presupposes that only students can bully, never teachers or the school administration. This is absurd even on the basis of a supposed power differential: so kids are always more powerful than adults?

No; what will actually happen is that the charge of “bullying” will always be used by those in power against those lacking power. It will, in other words, always be used to bully, never to prevent bullying.

Some definitions suggest that bullying has to do with violence. That fits the materialist preoccupations of the age. But it surely does not, as the charge is commonly used. Trump, unlike the police or Roosevelt, is clearly not violent.

So it has to do then with his insulting language? Indeed, Singal specifically calls Trump a bully for “constantly launching attacks— many of them rather offensive— against both his political rivals and members of the media he believes have treated him unfairly.” Insults? Attacks? You mean like calling someone a “sociopath,” accusing them, despite being married to an immigrant, of “dog whistle xenophobia,” accusing them without evidence of abusing their wife, calling them a “ham-faced, race-baiting, woman-hating monster,” accusing them without evidence of “violent misogyny,” again without evidence of “gaslighting the entire world,” referring to their wife as a “kidnap victim” in their marriage, referring to her as a “piece of ass,” a “fibreglass mannequin” whose “body is available to inspect at the click of a button,” saying they have a “thug’s understanding” of consent, and want to “violently screw the world”? Glad we have that cleared up.

Yet Trump is not guilty of anything like this, unlike his detractors. Not only do they obviously go much further than he ever has, in calling people ugly or “low energy” or “fat” or “little.” (Ouch?) He also seems scrupulous in only doing so if he has himself been attacked. No sucker punches, no drive-bys. Only the honour of a duelist. He was notably nice to Ted Cruz, for example, until Cruz began to attack him. And even after people have been nasty, Trump seems to be magnanimous once they stop: notice his recent overtures to Mitt Romney, or Paul Ryan. Note the appointment of Ben Carson as HUD Secretary.

By contrast, cowardly leftist commentators like the present poison penners cannot plausibly claim that Trump has attacked them first.

So why is Trump the bully, and Laurie Penny is not?

Singal, in turn, gives his own “expert” advice to the other Republican candidates: “if I were advising the Republican Party I’d say to the other candidates, ‘You guys, together, should be shooting Trump down,’”

That is, they should gang up on him.

So how is it that Trump is a bully, but ganging up is not bullying? “Bullying Canada” lists, as one of the “four most common forms of bullying,” “keeping certain people out of a group.” This goes rather further than that.

It could hardly be clearer that the charge of “bullying” can be used, and is currently being used, to suppress dissent and keep the peasants down.

The key to Trump’s popularity is in fact that he has had the guts to resist being bullied. Two words: “political correctness.” The Republican rank and file grew fed up with candidates who insisted on remaining polite and being steamrolled by the biased media and the forces of political correctness who would shout them down. Political correctness has been and remains an endemic form of bullying that has infested our culture: speech codes, “hate speech” tribunals, “microaggressions,” sexual harassment kangaroo courts, the open browbeating and scapegoating of whites, males, heterosexuals, Christians, and the “cisgendered”: real instances of bullying, in the proper sense, both endemic and severe in its consequences. They are unprovoked, they are persistent, and their intent is to intimidate and control.

Trump had the stomach, the self-confidence, and the financial means to stand up and say “Hell no.”

That made him a champion for all the bullied masses.

The bullies, of course, are having none of this.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Music

On the second day of Christmas ...



There has been some controversy among Leonard Cohen fans about the Christmas version of Hallelujah I posted here a few days ago, sung by an autistic Irish girl. There were noisy objections that the song had been subverted by being recast as a Christmas carol, with correspondingly altered lyrics. I grant that it is odd to try to top a Cohen lyric. But one fellow writes on the Cohen fan site,

“after all it is a song about FemDom, bondage, domination and (hush) SEX. ‘She tied you to her kitchen chair, she broke your crown she cut your hair and from your lips she drew a Hallelujah’..... ‘I remember when I moved in you, the holy dove was moving too and every breath we took was Hallelujah. ?..’ .. about as far removed from a Christmas carol as it gets.”

Actually, no. Are we so out of touch with our Western cultural heritage that Biblical allusions are no longer recognized?

Perhaps that is the secret of Cohen’s success. As he once observed of his popularity in Norway, “maybe they like me because they can’t understand the words.” Would he be so popular if everyone understood his religious commitments? Other poets have fallen out of popular favour for as much. The late great TS Eliot, for example; not to mention Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan. It does not do to let them know you’re not on Satan’s side.

But it is also striking how those who think Cohen is writing about sex think of themselves as the true cognoscenti, and look down on those who suggest otherwise.

“It seems that MANY of us, who apparently have the intellectual acumen to ‘understand’ the lyrics,” one member of this sophomore squad writes, “are thinking the same thing. What are these people thinking?? It's sad, discouraging, and in a real way, terrifying. What has become of literacy?“

What indeed?

But then, a lot of people took Freud seriously too.

Also striking is how this class of readers seem offended at the existence of Christianity. “to change his lyrics into something about a baby boy that's come to save us all.. is pretty twisted,” writes the original complainant. How dare these filthy Christians lay their hands on it?

No, the quoted lines are not about female domination or bondage. These are Biblical references. Is the Bible about sex, then?

Do I really need to explain? Perhaps I do. The lines, “She tied you to a kitchen chair/
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair” might sound to some like kinky sex, but they are more clearly about Samson and Delilah.

Samson and Delilah have wild abandoned sex.

4 Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”
7 Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
8 Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. 9 With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”
11 He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.
13 Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”
He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric 14 and tightened it with the pin.
Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.
15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.
17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.”

Not exactly glorifying sex either, is it? His lust was Samson’s downfall.

Moreover, if it were about bondage, why a kitchen, and not a bedroom, chair? There seems to be an allusion to the idiom “tied to his wife’s apron strings.” Which fits the Samson story.

The other line cited above as clearly sexual is “I remember when I moved in you, the holy dove was moving too and every breath we took was Hallelujah.?..”

Under what circumstances, even bondage or female domination, does the sex act involve a “holy dove”?

Indeed, in some early version of the lyrics, that line reads “Holy Ghost.” In other words, it appears to refer to the Annunciation. Nothing to do with Christmas?

Mary and the holy dove have wild, abandoned sex

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36

Of course, one might argue that what is depicted cannot be the Annunciation, because the man is speaking. Mary was a woman. But in Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, God is both male and female. And the sex act is commonly used as an image of inspiration. Inspiration: literally, drawing in breath. “Every breath we drew was Hallelujah.”

Granted that there are sexual allusions here. But sexual love is used as a metaphor for the divine love throughout the Western tradition: in, for example, St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila. The Dark Night of the Soul:

O guiding dark of night!
O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
Lover and loved one moved in unison.

And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own,
Breathing an air from redolent cedars blown.

That is explicitly not about sex.

It is also clearly there in the Bible: the Song of Songs.

Song of Songs

My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of En-gedi. Ah, you are beautiful, my love; ah, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely.

I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens. As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his intention toward me was love. Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am faint with love. O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me!

Your lips distill nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon. A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed. Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices– a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden that its fragrance may be wafted abroad. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits….

Nope, not about sex.

And it is central to the Jewish mystical tradition, the Kabbalah. One can assume that Cohen, descended from celebrated Rabbinical scholars, knew this tradition well enough. He is clearly relying on it when he addresses God as both father and lover in the song “Lover, Lover, Lover”:

I asked my father,
I said, "Father change my name."
The one I'm using now it's covered up
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame.
Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me,
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

He said, "I locked you in this body,
I meant it as a kind of trial.
You can use it for a weapon,
or to make some woman smile."

Traditionally, in Judaism, the study of Kabbalah is restricted only to older scholars steeped in holiness, “who will be sure to study it in the spirit of holiness in which it was written.” This is at least partly because “the sometimes explicit sexual imagery used in Kabbalah... could focus the student’s mind unnecessarily on sexuality. Instead of divesting this imagery from its physical sense and understanding it abstractly, the student may become preoccupied with thoughts about sex itself, which could be debasing or even lead to illicit lusts, or worse” (Kabbalah Online).

The reception of Cohen’s work here illustrates the concern. Another writer suggests that “we can all agree” that the chorus of “Hallelujah!” refers to the moment of orgasm. As with Hermann Hesse, another widely misunderstood spiritual writer, is it wise to put this stuff out there, deeply valuable to some, but also so badly misleading some others? Do they end up, as the old Rabbis feared, leading some down the primrose path to that other place?

I guess it is proper enough; because Jesus did exactly the same:

9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, 
‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’

Let he who has ears to hear, hear.

The song begins with a clear religious reference—a reference so unambiguous that it is willful to understand the song in other than a religious sense. Those who still insist on doing so have surely chosen their own path:

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord

So this song is sung in the spirit of the psalms. It is a prayer. Not incidentally, King David and the Psalms are strongly associated in the Jewish tradition with the Shekhinah, the visible and audible presence of God, which is conceived as feminine.

Granted, the next line seems not to be addressed to God: “But you don’t really care for music, do ya?” So who is “you”?

It is, the next verse suggests, King David-presumably as the type of the mortal human seeking a relationship with God.

“Your faith was strong but you needed proof”

The song then refers to the story of David and Bathsheba.

Bathsheba receives David's letter

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

No, Cohen did not see a neighbour bathing on their roof from his room in the Chelsea hotel.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant.’”

Again, not a glorification of sex. David’s great sin. He then had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed to cover up his crime.

The secularist interpreters mock those who have “Hallelujah!” played at their funerals, as has become common: “..quite a strange song, especially for a funeral, but some men have no taste at all..”

However, the idea of the “secret chord” in the first line seems to be a reference to Sullivan and Proctor’s famous composition, “The Lost Chord,” which was in fact written as a funeral piece. Nothing strange about it, then. The reference seems clearer when you notice that the opening lines of Cohen’s song are sung over a keyboard riff.

The Lost Chord

Seated one day at the organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys. 
I know not what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen. 
It flooded the crimson twilight,
Like the close of an angel's psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm. 
It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life. 
It linked all perplexèd meanings
Into one perfect peace,
And trembled away into silence
As if it were loth to cease. 
I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ,
And entered into mine. 
It may be that death's bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,
It may be that only in Heav'n
I shall hear that grand Amen.

The connection with the present song seems obvious. “That great Amen”? That “Hallelujah”? Cohen as songwriter and poet would of course know the prior piece. It is introduced at the very beginning of the composition as a part of its setting.

As in Sullivan and Proctor’s song, so in the Bible, David’s music is presented as a cure for “pain and sorrow”--Saul’s melancholia.

David sings Solly Wolly Doodle all the day.

23Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

Hence, too, Cohen’s song.

“It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah”

Surely “the minor fall, the major lift” refers on one level to sin and redemption. Hence to King David’s great sin, of having Uriah killed to take his wife, Bathsheba, which nevertheless God forgave him for. Hence Samson’s sin of telling Delilah his secret weakness, from which nevertheless he was finally redeemed in pulling down the Philistine temple. In other words, sin is part of the framework of redemption. It is only when we are “baffled” that the divine light gets in.

In the case of both figures, Samson and David, the specific sin was lust. So, yes, in this sense the song is about lust—but as an instance of sin.

“There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah”

Light is the common image of the Shekhinah, the Divine Presence, in Kabbalah. It is also the spirit that inspires prophecy; and the psalms. Cohen is saying that poetry and music, all human inspiration, are expressions of the divine. At the same time, he is making the point often made by the creative that inspiration comes through pain and failure. So does redemption. The two are the one thing.

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch

Yes, these lines too are about physical sex, but again, as a failure. It is represented as a false alternative, a substitute for the reality of love. God, you may recall, is love. Eros is a bogus substitute for agape.

Cohen recorded a second version of the song with different lyrics, less clearly spiritual in nature. Among the new words:

“Baby, I've been here before.
I know this room, I've walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew ya.”

This sets the situation: the end of some romantic relationship. With the implication that this is a repeated experience—something inevitable. “Man is in love and loves what vanishes.” If you love anything in the physical realm, you are necessarily setting yourself up for loss.

But he might also still be speaking to the feminine aspect of God. It is then the repeating story of the human-divine relationship, of always falling back into sin.

Paris, 1941. Nazi selfie

Yeah I've seen your flag on the marble arch,
But listen, love is not some kind of victory march,
No it's a cold and it's a very broken Hallelujah.

This seems another criticism of Eros as false love. Purely sexual love is love as a victory of one ego over another—the use of another as an object. It is like the love of a gourmand for a steak—is he really concerned with the welfare of the cow?

Any love that is purely sexual is purely selfish; although, of course, love can also be purely selfish without being sexual, and love can be both sexual and unselfish. True love is a denial of self. “He must grow greater, and I must grow less.”

The reference to a marble arch representing victory might summon images of the Nazis marching through the Arc de Triomphe during Word War II. That would surely have resonance for a Jew. But an even stronger resonance might be the Arch of Titus in Rome, the original model for the Arc in Paris and for other victory arches throughout Europe. Which, not incidentally, commemorates the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple.

Relief from Arch of Titus: Romans parading their booty from the Second Temple

Purely selfish love is the defeat of God’s people.

There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below,
Ah but now you never show it to me, do ya?

Snigger. He’s obviously talking about a woman’s vagina, right?

“’Going on below’ refers to the most earthly of things: sexual arousal. This lyric explains how the speaker no longer has intimate access to his lover, and more crassly, her sex.” – Genius lyrics.

Well, plausibly, but really only when she is standing upright. Which means, not in the context of sex, doesn’t it? Who has sex standing or sitting up? Maybe if tied to a kitchen chair? And what really “goes on” in a vagina outside of sex? Urination? Menstruation?

Bit of a stretch to make it sexual.

“Below” in human terms more plausibly means “below the surface.” That is, sharing her feelings and her true thoughts. The problem is diagnosed as a relationship without real sharing, which is to say, the sharing of thoughts and emotions. As opposed to bodily fluids.

An even more plausible explanation, it seems to me, is that the singer is indeed here again addressing God. He is getting no answers in his prayer life. Hence “below” would have an easy and obvious meaning: this physical, mortal world. Note that Kabbalah conceives of the created world as a matter of “shells,” concealing the divine glory below their surface. Evil hardens the shells; virtue exposes the light through their cracks.

The singer, like David, is expressing his bafflement.

Maybe there's a god above,
But all I've ever seemed to learn from love
Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya.

Aha! Cohen is expressing doubt about the very existence of God!

Maybe. Or maybe he is speaking idiomatically, as we might say, “maybe Cohen is a great poet, but he can’t make a decent liver sandwich.” That is, not really expressing doubt that God exists, or that Cohen is a great poet, but asking “Why is it that...” You know, the problem of evil thing. You may have heard of it. And, at the same time, for the comment to make sense with the next line, you must accept the reference “God is love.” That suggests, in turn, that any references here to love are ultimately references to God.

And Cohen is giving his answer to the problem of evil: it is our own failing, in that we love selfishly. Or rather, we are selfish instead of loving.

He concludes:

Even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Note that: yet again, he reprises, this song is a prayer to the Lord.

Could it really be much clearer?

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Advent Music

Korea, Summer, 1951: A Canadian Who Did Not Survive Remembers

August in Asia is hotter than death;
Christ, that a cold rain could fall!
Like the rains that I knew where the jackpines grew
In Canada, when I was small.

Every rock, every brick, is as hot as a wick,
And wickedly ripples the air;
If I could I would go where the sweet Chinooks blow,
For I know of no night fevers there.

I don't that much mind that I die here or there;
When you're dead, you're just dead, as a rule.
But please don't cremate me, deep-freeze me in state--
Damn Sam McGee, let me die cool.
-- Stephen K. Roney

Monday, December 19, 2016

Faithless Electors

A lot of people on the right are getting irate about the talk of some members of the Electoral College refusing to vote for Trump; and especially about the video put out by a few actors advocating this.

Why? This is exactly what the Electoral College is there for. Would they rather go with straight popular vote? Clinton won the popular vote.

The initiative is unlikely to work. And it would be a bad thing, I believe,  if it did work. Too many people would feel cheated. On the whole, it would almost surely be less disruptive at this point to let Trump become president. But even if it did succeed,  it would not mean Clinton would become president. Almost certainly, the majority of electors being Republican, they would choose another Republican. Or the selection would be thrown to the Republican house.

Dumb idea, but no skin off the Republicans' nose.

Post Truth


It is bizarre to see so many on the Left now accusing Donald Trump of a “post truth” attitude. And as if this is some new and terrible thing.

That is and was the "post-modern turn": that truth is subjective, that there is no absolute or objective truth, that truth is "socially constructed." As PBS sums it up, "Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality."

Lies no longer exist once you embrace postmodernism.

Rely on “impartial fact-checkers” to guard against “fake news”? Not going to work, once the journalism profession itself has embraced postmodernism. If truth is relative, neither facts, nor mathematics, nor logic, settle anything. Some feminists now argue that mathematics, science, and logic are "tools of the patriarchy." Ethics is now subject to "cultural relativism" rather than appeal to any first principles like Kant’s categorical imperative. As Marcuse wrote, “moral commands and prohibitions are no longer relevant." Postmodernism explicitly rejects scientific truth.

Derrida" self-proclaimed Marxist, denounced "logocentrism."

Where did all this come from? Certainly, it was not Trump’s innovation, It has been the core teaching of the New Left for the past sixty or more years. It is from Marcuse and the Frankfurt School. Marcuse's ideal society was, wrote Kołakowski, “to be ruled despotically by an enlightened group [who] have realized in themselves the unity of Logos and Eros, and thrown off the vexatious authority of logic, mathematics, and the empirical sciences.” Marcuse, it turn, was heavily influenced here by Heidegger, who was influenced by Nietzsche.

"Even the ears have walls," they wrote on the walls during the Paris uprising. From this font, for example, feminism comes, along with the newer emphasis on “gender rights”: the idea that “male” and “female” are purely social constructs. Scientific facts like chromosomes and human anatomy are now irrelevant.

Having pushed this idea for a good fifty or sixty years, it is funny to hear some on the left now complain that Donald Trump is supposedly embracing it. It is laughable to hear them suddenly troubled by “fake news,” when “fake news” has become the stock in trade of the establishment press.

Not that he is. As far as I can tell, he has not, as have the members of the New Left, ever expressly reserved the right to make up his own truths. You say he sometimes says things that are not true? And you assert this is a new thing for politicians?

How’s that one for a made-up truth?


Perhaps it is not hypocrisy. If you follow the wonderland logic of postmodernism and the New Left, that truth is whatever I want it to be, then I guess it follows that anyone who disagrees with me is either lying or simply denying reality. Any news I do not like is, by definition, “fake.” There can be no question here of others having equal rights. Unless I choose to allow it. There is left only one way, of course, to settle disputes: might makes right. Whoever is in power gets to do as they like.

You will note that Heidegger embraced the Nazis in their day, who in turn embraced Nietzsche. There is an obvious sympathy of attitudes.

Still, the accusation seems pretty ironic. Because a big part of Trump's appeal to his many supporters is that, unlike the usual politicians, he tells it straight. He speaks the truth.

One example is his taunt of Clinton, or Obama, to just once call Islamic terrorism Islamic terrorism. Or how about hearing the Democratic candidates all publicly disown the statement that "all lives matter"? Trump took the flak for saying, sensibly, that he reserved the right to challenge the election results if they looked bogus. He could have taken the easy political path of insisting he would not, like Hillary Clinton. Who then, of course, when she lost, challenged the election results.

Political correctness, itself a part of the New Left/postmodernist turn, at its base holds that saying a thing is so matters more than whether it is so.

That is a good definition of lying.

The revolt against political correctness has been the very core of Trump's appeal.

Advent Music

Sunday, December 18, 2016

That Crazy Ben Carson

As each new Trump cabinet pick was announced, all the red flags went up from the left saying they were alarming and completely unqualified.

In the case of Ben Carson, they dredged up this article from when he announced his presidential candidacy way back a couple of years ago.

Titled "13 Ridiculous Things Ben Carson Actually Believes," it lists "13 arguments that Carson has made during his political career":

Women who get abortions are like slaveholders
On NBC’s Meet the Press in October, Carson compared women who terminate their unwanted pregnancies to slaveowners who “thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave.”

Carson is wrong. Abortion is objectively worse than slavery. Slaves were allowed their most basic right, the right to life.

Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery 
Back in 2013, when Carson was still gaining recognition in the Republican Party, he said in a speech that “Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”
Carson is exaggerating here. Agreed. But does it really represent a "belief" of his, or is it just a case of hyperbole for rhetorical effect?
‘Hitler’ could happen in the U.S. today 
In September, he said at a campaign event that a Nazi-like force could come to power in the United States.
So when Carson said it a year ago, it was "ridiculous." Yet left wingers are saying it all over the place now.

Jews could have prevented the Holocaust if they had guns 
In an interview with CNN in October, Carson blamed the Holocaust on the fact that Nazis took guns away from the Jewish people. “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson said. “There’s a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first.”
Carson is obviously right; it's common sense, and something Jews have been saying since at least the days of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Not, as the headline falsely implies, that having guns would necessarily have prevented the Holocaust, but, as Carson actually said, the odds of the Nazi program succeeding or being worth pursuing would have been greatly diminished.

College campuses should be monitored for liberal political speech 
On Glenn Beck’s radio program in October, Carson advocated for the censorship of “extreme political bias” on college campuses, saying the Department of Education should “monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.”
Again, Carson is obviously right. But the headline lies. He did not call for censorship, nor for campuses to be monitored for liberal political speech, but for the suppression of free speech. He was calling for the opposite of what the headline claims. Up is not down, and black is not white.

Muslims should be disqualified from the presidency 
During an interview on Meet the Press in September, Carson now infamously said that a Muslim could not become the president of the United States. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Another lying headline. Carson was saying that he would not vote for or support a Muslim for president. He would presumably say the same about a Democrat. Does that mean he believes Democrats should be disqualified from the presidency?

It is reasonable, too, to argue that Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy. It does not, for example, recognize the separation of church and state. A Muslim president would be duty bound, by his religion, to impose its religious obligations and law on the nation.

There’s a war on ‘what’s inside of women’ 
During a campaign stop this summer, Carson denied the argument used to describe the Republican Party’s policies that restrict women’s rights. 
“There is no war on women,” he said. “There may be a war on what’s inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country.”
Carson is of course right. There is no war on women in the US, or anywhere else. To deny this propagandistic lie is "ridiculous"? Where's their body count?

Being gay is a choice because prison turns people gay 
Carson said in a CNN interview in March that homosexuality is a choice, citing people who “go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay” as proof. He later attempted to apologize for the remarks in which he addressed those who were offended, but reinforced his belief that sexual orientation is chosen.
I wonder--what is the precise difference between "apologizing" and "attempting to apologize"? It does rather seem like the attempt is the thing itself.

In the original interview, Andrew Cuomo first asked Carson whether gays "have control over their sexuality." Which of course they, like everyone else, do. Otherwise, how could we prosecute for rape? Carson had every reason to think Cuomo was then speaking of "being gay" in this sense: of indulging in acts of gay sex. So Carson was just saying what is obvious.

Even so, later that same afternoon, he withdrew the comment as possibly misleading, and clarified, properly, that the jury was out on how much of homosexuality as a predisposition is genetic, and how much a matter of choice. To avoid any misunderstanding.

But how come we are all now free to choose even our own gender--except homosexuals?

There’s no such thing as a war crime 
Carson also said earlier this year that the U.S. should not hesitate to send troops to defeat the Islamic State and should not fear prosecution for any of its actions abroad. In the Fox News interview, he suggested that the military should not be subject to any war crimes law. 
“If you’re gonna have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war,” he said. “Other than that, we have to win.”
Another bit of fake news. Carson did not mention war crimes. What he said was, "Our military needs to know that they’re not gonna be prosecuted when they come back, because somebody has said 'You did something that was politically incorrect.' There is no such thing as a politically correct war. We need to grow up, we need to mature. If you’re gonna have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war. Other than that, we have to win. Our life depends on it."

Are international laws of war, things like banning genocide or torture, simply a matter of "political correctness"? The author may believe so, but he has no business ascribing that opinion to Carson. Granted, his saying "no rules" was incorrect if taken literally, but it was clearly a matter of hyperbole to underline a point.

Is this wrong? Hyperbole is commonly used by Jesus in the New Testament. Not a bad moral guide. Maybe these folks ought to read it some time.

Obama is depressing the economy to keep people on welfare 
After appearing on The View last year and saying that Americans have become dependent on welfare, Carson elaborated on Fox News. “Do you think that people who are on welfare want to be on welfare?” Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked him. 
“I think some people have that as a way of life,” Carson responded, later adding that “perhaps some of the things that are going on right now which could be easily remedied are not being remedied in order to keep the economy depressed because there would be no appetite for many of the social programs if people were doing well.”
Carson's response to Kelly is reasonable. We may fairly debate how widespread the problem is; but surely it is not sane to claim that nobody is ever on welfare voluntarily. It is also a fair point that bureaucrats in social services ultimately have a vested interest in keeping the economy, and their "clients," doing relatively poorly. Why would it be wrong to point this out? It seems just as unreasonable, or at least terminally naive, to insist, without evidence or argument, that a deliberate hobbling of the economy for political purposes or personal self interest never happens. Two words: trade unions. Not to mention anti-trust laws. Is that two words, or three?

Obama signed immigration reform to bring in government-dependent voters 
After speaking out about welfare, Carson said in an interview months later that Obama’s executive action on immigration was part of a “nefarious agenda” to bring new voters into the United States who will be dependent on government. 
“Is he just trying to instead of get out the vote, bring in the vote?” former Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth asked Carson. “Is this all designed to have new voters — despite the fact he claims they’re not going to get citizenship — is the long-term goal to bring in a new class of voters dependent on government?”
“Of course it is,” Carson replied.
Recent immigrants are a block vote in the US, Canada and the UK, and they tend to vote for the left. (Special interest politics--their natural allegiances tend still to be to their own ethnic group, not to their new home). We have good reason therefore to fear that leftist parties may be inclined to pump up the immigrant flow not for the best interests of the country, but the best interests of their party and political future. It is a strategy that has been employed more or less openly by Labour in Britain, the Liberals in Canada, and the Democrats in the US. Surely we all know this? 

Congress should be able to remove judges for voting for marriage equality 
In an interview with a conservative radio host earlier this year, Carson said it was “unconstitutional” that judges have ruled in favor of equality despite statewide ballot initiatives that resulted in different outcomes. Carson said that when federal judges make rulings like this, “our Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them.”

I thought that Carson was mistaken here, but it seems he may be right. I found a paper lamenting that this power to dismiss judges was never used: Of course, the issue is not, as stated, "equality"--that begs the question--but a constitutional right to gay marriage.

Anarchy could cancel the 2016 election 
Carson warned in an interview in 2014 that if we “continue down this pathway that we are going down,” referring to “this pathway where everything is framed in a political sense and our representatives are not working for the people, they’re working for their party,” then the anarchy could lead to the 2016 election being called off. He claimed that the growing national debt, ISIS and the then-Democratic controlled U.S. Senate’s refusal to consider legislation passed by the Republican House of Representatives all pointed toward the idea that the country is headed toward anarchy.
You could argue, I suppose, that the election was not actually called off. But surely Carson has been provenright here. He said this two years ago. Look at how bad things have gotten since, with people in the streets protesting the results of the election, claiming the election was hacked, that "fake news" falsified the vote, that the electoral college must be abolished, that the electoral college must, on the other hand, overturn the results of the vote, and so forth. It hasn't come to anarchy or to dictatorship yet, but that is surely the road the US is jogging down. After all, if we cannot accept that elections decide things, and cannot agree on what is objective truth, if everything is relative, what can settle anything, but naked force?

And speaking of accepting the existence of objective truth, and the rules of fair play, and the risk of anarchy or dictatorship otherwise, why is it that left wing spokespeople so consistently, as here, either misrepresent the views of the right, or anathematize them, both without addressing the arguments?

Why can they not tolerate open discussion?

This is not the view naturally held by anyone who is confident they can win the argument.

The left considers open discussion of the issues a threat. This means they hold at least one common view that they know in their heart is untenable.

I think, in the end, it starts with a scarlet "a" and rhymes with Tim Hortion.