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Showing posts from November 14, 2021

The American creepshow

  A merica creeps me out. Hark: even in the complaint, hear the native woodnotes wild. “Creep” – the b-side of the American aesthetic. Creeps and creepiness, our politicians, our lynchers old and young, our gothic. D.H. Lawrence, who fought the fight against gentility, was still its prisoner when he wrote, deducting from Squire Cooper’s tales, that the American hero was hard, isolate, a killer. The American hero is indeed a killer, but of the most self-pitying, the most incel kind. He can’t wipe out a high school class with Dad and Mom’s semiautomatic rifle without shedding a tear over his own victimhood. He can’t lynch a black man (either robed in the classic white sheet or in the blue uniform) without “protecting his family” or his 2 nd amendment right to maximum creepiness. His counterparts ride the airwaves and chair congressional committees, win elections as Senators and Presidents, and exude creepiness, annexing politics towards that final goal. That we take that creepiness as

American anti-intellectualism

  The United States, it is often said, is an anti-intellectual country. Okay, I admit “often said” is a weasel phrase, which intends to exculpate the author from doing any research. So doing a little research, one can go to, for instance, Richard Hofstader’s classic “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life”. Hofstadter writes that he wrote the book in the 1950s, when it seemed that the Eisenhower presidency was all about actively knocking about “so called intellectuals going around showing how wrong everybody was who disagrees with them” – to quote Eisenhower himself. Hofstadter does a thorough job of searching out American intellectuals, going back to the Puritan clergy. Of course, he has a more sociological sense of the intellectual, and through that lens can see that far from being an era of disrespect for the intellectual, the Eisenhower fifties enshrined the intellectual as “expert” with far more influence and money than, perhaps, at any time since the scribe-dominated days of

perspectivalism: a small defense

  No discussion of perspectivism should neglect Blakes’ couplet: “How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense World of Delight, clos'd by your senses five?” Delight is a special word for Blake. Delight, etymologically, comes from the Latin for charm or entice, delectare , and is related to delicious. A false cousin is the French word délit, meaning fault or sin, and coming from delictum – a relationship that Blake might have liked. In a famous couplet found in Auguries of Innocence, Blake writes: “Some are born to Sweet Delight/Some are born to Endless Night.” The verb “born” may make this seem a matter of temperament – for which Blake had a healthy respect – but the larger meaning is birth into society, where the determinants are class, sex (gender) and race. The birds, for Blake, are always delighted – except when they are caged. Another verse from Auguries of Innocence claims “the Robin Redbreast in a Cage/Puts all Heaven in a rage”. Blake wa

Keep the dogs hungry - Western policy in the Middle East

  In spite of the delusions of the Stay in Afghanistan crowd - whose heartfelt solidarity with the women of Afghanistan does not seem to have caused them any lack of sleep - the policy of the Western states in the Middle East is exploitative and heavily tilted towards exemplary slaughter, such as the slaughter in Baghuz that the NYT is headlining today. Here's a little Sunday history regardin g the background of the great "nations of the free world" policy in Oman. For the history minded. “Keep the dogs hungry and they will follow you.” That, according to journalist Chris Kutschera, was the motto of Sultan Said bin Taimur, who ruled Oman and Muscat, as it was called, from 1932 to 1970. . “There were, in all Oman and Dhofar, three primary schools and not a single secondary school. Students who wanted to pursue their studies had to leave their country illegally and start a long life of exile in the Persian Gulf or Kuwait. It was forbidden to build new houses, or to repair t