Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reflections on an Essay

An excerpt from a memoir of the 1970’s by Gary McDonald, now up at the New Pop Lit website here, is about the sexual liberation of that era as much as it about the anti-war protest described at its beginning. At that, it’s about tthe sexual liberation of men—something seldom touched upon with the proliferation of Women’s Studies programs.

Noteworthy about the memoir is its frankness. McDonald isn’t presenting an idealized version of himself. Transparently present are the raging hormones of himself—and of both sexes—often taking precedence over politics. As would be expected among college students in their late teens and early twenties.

Sexual attraction between men and women is the something missing among the uptight p.c. political radicals of now. The very idea of it may be unwanted among that crowd—could itself be a truly radical act. At least in the academy now. 

The current ethos among the intellectual Left is a kind of unreal puritanism. Desires are carefully regulated—especially male desires—where once they were channeled. This includes forbidden desires for goods and ego. Men must tread carefully in the alternate universe of the university, lest they offend someone.

One sees inevitable reactions to this mindset. The election of Donald Trump, walking embodiment of male ego, appetite, and political incorrectness, was one such reaction.

Former Democrat Trump isn’t a true conservative. The sharpest reactions against political correctness are from extremists whose ideas and behavior are anything but conservative.

Many of the alt-right’s leading figures, for instance, are young, and gay or bisexual. Some are professed Satanists. They’re invariably well-educated, are the creation of the academic Left and its doctrine of Identity Politics. The alt-right embraces Identity Politics, but with a twist.

The most extreme reaction to the ongoing feminization of the West is coming from radical Islamicists. (See ISIS.) Their behavior consists of total indulgence in the male appetite, with brutally negative consequences for all others.

****

America’s p.c. Left circa 2017 is full of contradictions. They embrace multiculturalism and disdain the West, yet the equalities they espouse are strictly the product of the West. I was reminded of this while rereading parts of the Somerset Maugham novel The Moon and Sixpence, whose chief character Charles Strickland is based on painter Paul Gaugin. Toward the end of the novel, Strickland encounters the uninhibited, “liberated” world of Tahiti—liberated, and as a result, completely sexist.

“I shall beat you,” Strickland tells a prospective mate.

“How else should I know you loved me?” she answers.

Civilization domesticates the male. Gaugin/”Strickland” flees from it.

****

One can’t ignore nature. One can’t put men into too strict of a box, or some will break out of it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Independent Artist

van gogh painter on road to tarascon

Among the many crimes of the Nazis against mankind was the destruction of Vincent van Gogh’s most poignant paintings, “The Painter on the Road to Tarascon.” Few works of art so well convey the determination of the independent artist who follows, against all obstacles and hardships, a unique vision.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Truth About Elite Universities

UNIVERSITIES AS ISLANDS OF WEALTH

Seeing the world as it is means viewing it without preconceptions but with a fresh eye. As if seeing it for the first time.

When you apply this attitude to elite universities across the country, you discover they’re not at all what they represent themselves to be—places of social justice and equality. They’re in fact among the most hierarchical institutions in America, along with the Roman Catholic Church and the military, except without similar truth-in-advertising.

When you look at universities objectively you notice something even more curious—that they exist as protected islands of wealth amid the bleakness of the rest of the country.

Plenty of examples abound. Yale, the campus a secure fortress against the poverty of New Haven. Columbia in New York City, whose campus spreads ever more each year, chasing residents out of their neighborhoods. Princeton, a bucolic Gothic-spired dreamland safely nestled between Philadelphia and New York City. The University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, which I lived near for a year. Throughout much of the rest of the city is extreme poverty—including blocks away from campus—but the privileged on campus are untouched. Or the University of Michigan, whose base of Ann Arbor has a downtown business district overflowing with affluence—far more thriving and valuable than downtown Detroit a mere thirty minutes away.

When you step back and look at them, these environments are like spots on the landscape which suck up wealth. The inhabitants are almost invariably (not 100%) from affluent backgrounds. This applies most to foreign students, who come from the wealthiest families in their home country, whether that country be France or Nigeria or China or India. (These students just as arrogant as the American-born variety.)

The students may protest against police—but they themselves are well-protected by a strong local police presence combined with the university’s own private police force. Outrages which take place blocks away from campus must not be allowed inside the ring of security! The students, after all, are the elite.

The islands are always building and expanding. Continual building programs; new halls, research labs, ultramodern student housing, administration complexes, constant construction, as if the islands have no other way to expend their excess funds. Anyway, it’s an indication the universities HAVE excess funds, a lot of it. The flow of wealth and improvement is always one way. These places only get richer, year by year; day by day.

Where does all the money come from?

First, the tuition is too high. In part, “What the market will bear” philosophy. If there aren’t enough wealthy parents to send Binky and Brett to school at the particular institution, there are other wealthy parents overseas who can pay, whether Chinese Communist overlords or Mideast oil sheiks or leftovers from European aristocracies. Other students have to go into enormous debt to meet the high tuition rates.

Second, the American taxpayer subsidizes these places in a number of ways. They’re tax shelters for hyperwealthy donors. Many of the not-quite-as-privileged students are government subsidized via grants and scholarships. Loans to students are government backed. If the schools are public/state universities, they’re subsidized by taxpayers directly.

A layer removed is the enormous investment made into universities by government agencies. The CIA and the Defense Department have long had a symbiotic relationship with elite universities. This is a topic that once was looked into by writers, but not lately. Research on new weapons systems, or cyber technology, or genetic engineering, you name it, the U.S. government utilizes universities as Research and Development facilities—which means they pump billions if not trillions into them to get from them what they need.

Private business such as new technology startups—or more established corporations—also enter into generous partnerships with universities.

Which means there’s nothing independent about the contemporary university. They’re an arm of the government and a partner with business. They’re part of what is really one vast system; one unthinking institutional beast with many arms and legs.

BUBBLES

Such are the bubbles the top universities have become that their privileged students are able to imagine themselves social justice warriors, even though they live in the most UNegalitarian of environments. They care, you see. About the outrages they see on their TV screens or smartphones pumped at them by establishment media. Or about the workers serving them in their college cafeterias, or cleaning their classrooms and dormitories. Not that they want to switch places with the workers. They just want to know those who serve them are paid properly. Not by them, but by the same money tree which funds the rest of the operation.

The students have to believe in social justice, as an institutional necessity, because then they’ll support more efforts to solve the ills of society, which means ever more institutions, programs, apparatchiks, bureaucracies. Which means the money just has to keep flowing.

This may be why college towns like Ann Arbor are among the most segregated places, by class, in America; among the most affluent; and at the same time the most liberal in ideology. It’s not a contradiction if you think about it.

THE BERNIE PLAN

This is where the Bernie Sanders plan for free tuition (an apt plan from a long-time professional student, before he became a professional politician) goes off the rails. It shows the Bern as a Leftist strictly of the Pseudo kind. You’d end up with the 70% of Americans who don’t receive a college degree even further subsidizing higher education than they do already—including ultra-privileged places like Stanford and the Ivy League. It’d mean even more money flowing indirectly into the wealth islands; even less fiscal discipline and financial accountability from school administrations. More defense research, perhaps. More technology for the NSA. More building programs. More expanding into urban neighborhoods. Higher administration salaries. More chic high-priced campus restaurants and clothing shops to properly cater to burgeoning high-priced tastes. (The inevitable end result of all gentrification—beer and burger prices double overnight.)

University folks truly will have found a neverending money tree.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Winter Reading

O. Henry and Ernest Hemingway were two very different kinds of writers. One wrote in a populist style, the other a modernist one. They did happen to write two similar stories, whose similarities only enhance their difference in style.

Both stories are about a person dangerously sick in bed in the bad winter weather season. Apt reading at the moment when we’ve been hit with a nationwide blizzard. When it’s a perfect time of year to remain indoors, cozy and snug, reading.

O. Henry’s story is one of his masterpieces, “The Last Leaf.” It’s set in Greenwich Village bohemia not long after the turn of the century. The lead characters, Sue and Johnsy, are a pair of young starving artists, both women. Transparently a couple. They remind me of young DIY artists of now. If they were around today they’d be creating zines.

Johnsy becomes sick with pneumonia, and loses her will to live.

In Hemingway’s short tale, “A Day’s Wait,” the bedridden person is a young boy, nine years old, being taken care of and worried over by his father.

You’d have to read both stories to recognize the similarities in plot. Both have endings which are something of a surprise—each in ways that are a reflection of the author’s worldview and literary style.

As in so many of his stories, O. Henry buries a Christian message at the bottom of his story. In this instance, the theme of sacrifice. There’s a sense of an overarching universe at play, not exactly karmic, but a place where goodness is rewarded by changed outcomes.

Hemingway’s worldview, like his writing style, is starker than O. Henry’s. His a more hard-edged, matter-of-fact view of reality, but not without sympathy and emotion—and a profound understanding of people and life.

Both stories have a kick. The contrast makes them worth reading together. Either is worth reading by itself as a winter weather story.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Contradictions of the Pseudo-Left

ABOUT THE AMERICAN PSEUDO-LEFT

1.) Most of their leaders are superwealthy capitalists, such as George Soros, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, and Arianna Huffington.

2.) They don’t realize that the idea of the all-powerful administrative state stems not from Marx, but Bismarck.

3.) They’re ostensibly against caste and hierarchy, yet eager to put themselves at the top of that hierarchy via degrees from Ivy League universities.

4.) They don’t want industry in America, and so have rejected the industrial working class.

5.) Their only remaining connection to the working class is via union leaders, who are, fittingly, bureaucrats—apparatchiks—not workers.

6.) Their chief concern isn’t class, but gender and race. Which sometimes results in strange permutations. For instance, children of the 1% in China or India, now studying in America, are considered by the Pseudo-Left to be “oppressed.” Poor whites whose parents and grandparents worked in dungeon-like steel mills and coal mines are designated by the Pseudo-Left as “privileged.”

7.) The Pseudo-Left aren’t Marxists so much as pre-civilization Nietzscheans. Man—or Superman—as the center of the universe. And so they believe climate is created not by the sun, upon which all life is 100% dependent, but man. Which is 100% narcissism.

8.) The Pseudo-Left vision of America:

A.) Half the population not working, but dependent upon the state.

B.) A large army of administrative government bureaucrats processing that dependency.

C.) Most of the rest of the population working low value-added service jobs at McDonald’s or WalMart, albeit with a high minimum wage.

D.) A certain percentage of subservient non-English-speaking illegal immigrants needed as low-cost gardeners and nannies for the elites.

E.) The Elite—the Pseudo-Left—at the top of the hierarchy guiding things.

***

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shock Marketing

HOW DONALD TRUMP WON

I like to think I spotted early on what Donald Trump was up to from a marketing standpoint. I’d followed a similar strategy—on a vastly smaller scale—when I was running the Underground Literary Alliance ten-to-fifteen years ago. The idea was to use shock tactics—outrageous stunts and statements—designed to create instant buzz. To have everyone in a targeted area (for us, New York City) talking about us, generating free media coverage in the process.

What’s indisputable is that Donald J. Trump has confounded the experts, taking on first in the primaries Jeb Bush and the Bush family machine, which outspent him ten-to-one. Then the massively funded Clinton machine in the general election, along with 95% of establishment media, and much of the establishments of both major U.S. political parties. Trump won with a relatively small, cost-effective organization.

What’s indisputable is that Donald J. Trump has studied marketing, messaging, PR, branding et.al. his entire life. Is it possible he was five steps ahead of the crowd all the time? That, contrary to the media image of Trump as a buffoon, he knows exactly what he’s doing?

I’ve engaged in old-fashioned P.T. Barnum American ballyhoo myself, and saw Trump from the beginning as THE master of hype and promotion. I put those thoughts into an ebook I wrote this past May:

Trump and the Populist Revolt 

THE OVERREACTORS

Those who dismiss Donald J. Trump, a cosmopolitan New Yorker, as insane, Hitler, racist, boob etc. aren’t even trying to understand what happened in the election. They’re emotion run amok. Much of their reaction was caused by Trump’s deliberately polarizing tactics, as I explained six months ago in my ebook. The overreactors will be the last ones of course to figure it out.

The Underground Literary Alliance faced overreactors to our street theater and promises to clean up rampant corruption in the literary world. Whatever we said or did was magnified 100 times over, until we were depicted, even in major articles in credible publications like The Believer, as raving revolutionary lunatics, or even “terrorists.” Our provocative actions were a bit too successful. When opponents actually met us, they were stunned at how normal, even civil, we were in person. They remarked on the discrepancy, but never figured out what we were doing.

FLAT SCREEN THINKING

Which leads us to the conclusion that this nation’s best and brightest are in fact not very sharp. The inevitable question: Why not?

I attribute it to what I call Flat Screen Thinking. Millennials in particular are raised looking at flat surfaces—on their televisions, computers, and smartphones. The world become two-dimensional. Never do they question what’s behind the surface. As they read chiefly only those sources they already agree with, which follow the acceptable politically correct line, they never question the truth of their own beliefs and premises.

The media creates distorted narratives at will—then believes rigidly in their own narratives as if they were religious doctrine. They’re true believers in their cause—not intellectuals.

The educational system hasn’t trained them to study other sides of a question—to look at ideas three-dimensionally. Our schools today, including elite universities (especially elite universities!) are little more than indoctrination factories.

The protestors and rioters in cities like Portland fear Donald Trump. I fear them—because I recognize them as evidence of a pre-totalitarian mindset created in our educational system, in the colleges and high schools. Young people intolerant of disagreement now raging wildly at evidence of that disagreement.

THE EXPERTS

What’s indisputable about Campaign 2016 is that the designated experts in think tanks, the universities and the media were indisputably wrong—wrong every step of the way.

Which brings us to a final question: Why would anyone today listen to anything these people have to say?

*******

Upcoming at this blog: Examining America’s Pseudo-Left.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Poetry Now!

Poetic things are happening! More to follow. Read our report, "Poetry Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" in which we comment on Sylvia Plath, Bob Dylan, Liverpool, and much more.

Included in the report is a link to our thoroughly scientific analysis of the National Book Award finalists in the poetry category.

All-in-all, a discussion not to be missed.