“The fund-raiser drew hundreds of attendees, including many of the city’s political elite, allowing for the awkward collision of the Democratic powers-that-be and the strident, anti-establishment rhetoric of some of the event’s speech-makers. Chris Shelton, a vice president with the Communication Workers of America, urged the attendees noshing on brie cheese to join a “revolution” against the “bankers, billionaire and brokers of Wall Street.”—Lulzy news story in the Observer
Jonathan Chait, 12 Years a Slave, and redemption narratives
Ever watch the ending of “The Wild Bunch” and think, ‘suppressing Kronstadt or the Vendee was probably even more fun’? At the end of “Braveheart,” did you think, ‘Whatever the history says, William Wallace being a neoconfederate, he should have been castrated, flayed, and kept alive until a confession is extracted, because structural Anglophobia is real and these messages need to be reinforced.’ I think Jonathan Chait has:
I understand it not merely as the greatest film about slavery ever made, as it has been widely hailed, but a film more broadly about race. Its sublimated themes, as I understand them, identify the core social and political fissures that define the American racial divide to this day. To identify 12 Years a Slave as merely a story about slavery is to miss what makes race the furious and often pathological subtext of American politics in the Obama era.
He goes on to dissect a column by longtime Washington Times editorialist-turned-Alabama congressional candidate Quin Hillyer, whom he doesn’t think is racist (Hillyer worked against David Duke) but he thinks repeats a lot of racially charged tropes about Obama.
White supremacy, to Chait as with most similarly-minded liberals, is a pervasive, subtle and miasmatic “residue,” (his word) embedded in all sorts of nondeliberate and subconscious contexts. And to the degree that it can be interrogated and rooted out, I’m all for that.
But I think Chait would admit that the vast majority of art that attempts to tackle race is extraordinarily self-conscious about it. As evidence, witness the changes to the original Solomon Northup story, and the previous screenplay, both of which are more or less the same, just far shorter on the brutal violence:
12 Years A Slave is a remake. What’s more, the original television film was directed by the celebrated Gordon Parks. Why no one seems to remember this is a mystery to me, yet all too typical of what I’ll call media amnesia. It first aired on PBS in 1984 as Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, reached a wider audience the following year when it was repeated as an installment of American Playhouse, and made its video debut under the title Half Slave, Half Free.
Steve Sailer digs up a portion of Northup’s ghostwritten memoir that undercuts the portrayal in this year’s movie of Northup as a bourgeois pillar of the community:
"Though always in comfortable circumstances, we had not prospered. The society and associations at that world-renowned watering place (Saratoga, the home of American horseracing), were not calculated to preserve the simple habits of industry and economy to which I had been accustomed, but, on the contrary, to substitute others in their stead, tending to shiftlessness and extravagance.”
In McQueen’s often baffling movie, this upper-middle-class family man suddenly decides to run off to join the circus with two fast-talking white men without even leaving a note for his wife. While dining in an elegant Washington, DC restaurant with his new friends, he suddenly takes ill (perhaps from being slipped a Mickey Finn) and wakes up in chains.
I saw the movie and enjoyed it, but it’s full of distortions like this: Solomon Northup speaks like Cicero, all slaveowners are Calvin Candie sadists, and so forth. The best one can say is that it’s a very, very pious take on Northup’s memoir.
Consider Chait’s outsized praise in comparison to the suspicious, if not outright hostilecoverage of “Copperhead” — a view Alyssa Rosenberg helpfully summed up before she even saw the movie. (My interview with the screenwriter and director here.)
What explains the suspicion, if Rosenberg and Chait agree that “Copperhead” is not a racist film?
To sympathize with Ron Maxwell’s subjects, and to be skeptical of the pious mythmaking of “12 Years a Slave,” is to violate the egalitarian dogma to which Chait subscribes. Race is part of it, but it’s not the only part.
It’s as if they want a chance to (re)play the part of emancipators.
Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johson had that honor - but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.
I then inquired whether Alexander Solzhenitsyn was living there. “I have never heard the name,” she said, “but there’s a man with a beard living in the garage over there,” pointing to the outbuilding across the property. Hmmm, we thought. A beard. Could it be him?
We thanked the maid and set out across the snow-covered lawn to the garage. More imported building materials and a cement mixer littered the driveway. I approached the door and knocked a few times. When no one responded, I called out “Alexander Isayevich?”. A pause of a few seconds ensued, then came a piercing voice, none too inviting, “Kto eto?” (“Who’s there?”) I replied that we were foreign journalists from Moscow who had come to congratulate him on his Nobel Prize.
The door burst open and we were transfixed by this little man with a magnificent head of reddish hair that spread down his face into a bushy beard. He gave us the once over with his beady blue eyes. We recognized him immediately from photographs as the author of a series of literary masterpieces, all banned in Russia. When he was satisfied in his own mind that we were not KGB operatives in disguise, he confirmed his identity.
Solzhenitsyn spoke rapidly, like a man with a lot on his mind, in a strange, high-pitched voice. I started by asking him for his reaction to being selected for the Nobel (probably some inane question such as “How does it feel?”). He avoided the question, perhaps dreading headlines around the world that might make his situation even more difficult.
He replied that he regretted he could not invite us into his humble quarters because he was a guest himself in the apartment owned by Rostropovich. It seemed like a poor excuse to turn us away but we understood the real reason.
We could see inside that he was housed in a partially completed apartment being constructed inside the garage. The danger that this represented for Rostropovich — harboring an outspoken critic of the regime — was not lost upon us. Both of these men were heroic figures willing to risk their liberty, perhaps their lives, to speak out for human rights in Russia. Since 1966, when a show trial sentenced two writers to hard labor in the gulag, most Soviet intellectuals had kept their liberal views to themselves.
The conversation that followed was brief and to the point. Solzhenitsyn confirmed that he knew about the prize but felt he could not comment on it because his host was away.
“Sensitive types can, of course, have a dark side of self-indulgence and evasion of responsibility — and if you doubt that, try reading a biography of E.E. Cummings. On the other hand, his Romanticism saved him from several of the intellectual mistakes of the age. Just as his generation was falling for the Soviet Union, Cummings visited the place and saw straight through it. And the only thing he loathed more than Communism was the belief-now known as scientism-that the supreme kind of knowledge comes from scientific measurement. It was for others to show why this is bad science and worse philosophy. Cummings just launched himself against it, armed with love, gratitude and sheer contempt. As far as he was concerned, a flower in springtime, a kiss, a newborn child are each intrinsically more valuable and interesting than every scientific investigation put together.”—Daniel Hitchens, “Both Ancient and Avant-Garde”
Moldbug’s latest quotes a really good piece of Letters on a Regicide Peace:
In other words, their will is the law, not only at home, but as to the concerns of every nation. Who has made that law but the Regicide Republick itself, whose laws, like those of the Medes and Persians, they cannot alter or abrogate, or even so much as take into consideration? Without the least ceremony or compliment, they have sent out of the world whole sets of laws and lawgivers. They have swept away the very constitutions under which the Legislatures acted, and the Laws were made. Even the fundamental sacred Rights of Man they have not scrupled to profane. They have set this holy code at naught with ignominy and scorn. Thus they treat all their domestic laws and constitutions, and even what they had considered as a Law of Nature; but whatever they have put their seal on for the purposes of their ambition, and the ruin of their neighbours, this alone is invulnerable, impassible, immortal. Assuming to be masters of every thing human and divine, here, and here alone, it seems they are limited, “cooped and cabined in”; and this omnipotent legislature finds itself wholly without the power of exercising its favourite attribute, the love of peace. In other words, they are powerful to usurp, impotent to restore; and equally by their power and their impotence they aggrandize themselves, and weaken and impoverish you and all other nations.
…the price of a book is not calculated according to the amount of ink used in its production. For example, a Lulu book of blank pages costs an artist as much to produce as a book filled with text or large photographs. Furthermore, as the number of pages increases, the price of each page decreases. A book containing the maximum number of pages printed entirely in black ink therefore results in the lowest cost and maximum value for the artist. Combining these two features, buyers of The Black Book can do so with the guarantee that they are getting the best possible value for their money.
The more numerous the rational harmonies are which are present to the mind, the more sensible movements will be going on there to give immediate delight; for the perception or expectation of an ulterior good is a present good also. Accordingly nothing can so well call forth or sustain attention as what has a complex structure relating it to many complex interests. A work woven out of precious threads has a deep pertinence and glory; the artist who creates it does not need to surrender his practical and moral sense in order to indulge his imagination.
The truth is that mere sensation or mere emotion is an indignity to a mature human being. When we eat, we demand a pleasant vista, flowers, or conversation, and failing these we take refuge in a newspaper. The monks, knowing that men should not feed silently like stalled oxen, appointed some one to read aloud in the refectory; and the Fathers, obeying the same civilised instinct, had contrived in their theology intelligible points of attachment for religious emotion. A refined mind finds as little happiness in love without friendship as in sensuality without love; it may succumb to both, but it accepts neither. What is true of mere sensibility is no less true of mere fancy. The Arabian Nights—futile enough in any case—would be absolutely intolerable if they contained no Oriental manners, no human passions, and no convinced epicureanism behind their miracles and their tattle. Any absolute work of art which serves no further purpose than to stimulate an emotion has about it a certain luxurious and visionary taint. We leave it with a blank mind, and a pang bubbles up from the very fountain of pleasures. Art, so long as it needs to be a dream, will never cease to prove a disappointment. Its facile cruelty, its narcotic abstraction, can never sweeten the evils we return to at home; it can liberate half the mind only by leaving the other half in abeyance. In the mere artist, too, there is always something that falls short of the gentleman and that defeats the man.
“For the people. And truly I desire their Liberty and Freedom as much as any Body whomsoever. But I must tell you, That their Liberty and Freedom, consists in having of Government; those Laws, by which their Life and their gods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that, I mean, that you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves.”—King Charles, in his speech before being executed at Whitehall, 1648
“It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This [Northern conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance: The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy ,from having nothing to whip.”—Robert Lewis Dabney (source)
He answered all my questions slowly and seriously. He said that it would be a mistake for the United States and Britain to lift economic sanctions against the Rhodesian regime (that was a rumor at the time). He quietly called a government offer for the guerrillas to lay down their weapons, “ridiculous.” Speaking of weapons, he mentioned that his particular faction had been getting them from the Chinese but had hopes of switching to Moscow as a supplier. “We can only request, as we have been requesting all along,” he said disarmingly, holding his palms up. “They haven’t said no, but they have not yet said yes either.”
As the interview seemed to be drawing to a close — he was looking frequently at his watch — I couldn’t repress that unsatisfying feeling that I had won a headline but hadn’t really learned anything about the man himself. He was expressionless. His voice hadn’t risen. His small eyes hadn’t broken through the mask of placid assurance and even, it seemed, remote indifference. Surely there must be a key to unlock this enigma.
“So,” I said. “What is it exactly that attracts you to T. S. Eliot?”
He gave me a blank look and stood up.
“You know,” I added, “‘The Waste Land.’”
For the first time incomprehension crossed his features, maybe even a flash of irritation.
I persisted. “April is the cruelest month …Eliot. The poet. You know.”
As he ushered me to the door, his bewilderment seemed to turn to anger.
There is a hawk that is picking the birds out of our sky, She killed the pigeons of peace and security, She has taken honesty and confidence from nations and men, She is hunting the lonely heron of liberty. She loads the arts with nonsense, she is very cunning Science with dreams and the state with powers to catch them at last. Nothing will escape her at last, flying nor running. This is the hawk that picks out the star’s eyes. This is the only hunter that will ever catch the wild swan; The prey she will take last is the wild white swan of the beauty of things. Then she will be alone, pure destruction, achieved and supreme, Empty darkness under the death-tent wings. She will build a nest of the swan’s bones and hatch a new brood, Hang new heavens with new birds, all be renewed.
Evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev has a new article in Nature published this Wednesday that everybody’s talking about, because it posits an ancestral link between Amerindians and Northern Europeans. The Mal’ta boy, the subject of the study, was excavated in eastern Siberia in the early half of the 20th century and sat in storage since then. From the NYT:
… the boy’s DNA matches that of Western Europeans, showing that during the last Ice Age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously supposed. Though none of the Mal’ta boy’s skin or hair survives, his genes suggest he would have had brown hair, brown eyes and freckled skin.
The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion — about 25 percent — of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.
The gist is that there was a population that ranged from France deep into Siberia, one that accounts for part of the ancestry of Europeans (especially to the north and east) and also part of the ancestry of Amerindians. I’ve talked about this earlier.
The way in which this seems to have happened in Europe is rather interesting: first you have the old Mesolithic hunters. They are then largely replaced by farmers from the Levant, some settling the southern coast of Europe and others moving up along the Danube - genetically similar to modern Sardinians. A new wave [Indo-Europeans, surely] mostly replaces those farmers, and this new wave has a fair amount of ancestry from a group very similar to those original Mesolithic hunters. So the amount of Mesolithic hunter ancestry among Europeans first goes way down and then goes up again.
“The hard left, which knows that Democrats are about as neoliberal as the GOP, lives in a nonsense world in which puppet-wielding protesters shape policy, or would if only they built more and bigger puppets.”—Daniel McCarthy
“And they want me to defend religion, and they want me to give them ‘proofs’. I just won’t do it. It only confirms them in their scepticism. Because nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defence.”—The Reverend John Ames, in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004)
Williamsburg Virginia did this in 1912, prompting the best Richmond Times Dispatch editorial of all time: “Tuesday was election day in Williamsburg but nobody remembered it. The clerk forgot to wake the electoral board, the electoral board could not arouse itself long enough to have the ballots printed, the candidates forgot they were running, the voters forgot they were alive.”
"In going after Golden Dawn, prosecutors must distinguish between criminal violence, which is unacceptable in a democratic system, and ideology, which Greece has promised to respect, in all its occasionally disheartening variety.
The Greek state’s ability to do that is open to question. Certainly it is serious about proving Golden Dawn a criminal organisation. The National Intelligence Service has been tapping party members’ phones for years, and its recordings include several made around the time of last month’s murder. Leaked wiretap evidence is alleged to link prominent members to pimping, protection rackets and money laundering.”
Of course a lot — but not all — of these investigations, which include house-to-house searches, don’t turn up anything and the alleged GD members are left with next to no legal recourse after that. There are also a number of what seem like outright inventions, like the whole thing about Golden Dawn MPs slaughtering lambs as practice for people. Eight MPs are under investigation, some for legitimate reasons, some not; that’s almost half of their representation the Greek parliament. Christos Pappas, for example, is not under suspicion of having committed any crime, he’s currently detained for being a “deputy of a criminal organization.”
Here’s the problem: According to polling a majority of the country considers GD a criminal organization, and a bare majority supports the crackdown. But about 30 percent don’t think GD is a criminal organization, and about seven percent still support it. It’s hard to see how this sort of heavy-handed crackdown on the basis of ideology rather than actions won’t bolster the Golden Dawn’s support. Put another way, Killah P wanted to “Kill the Past,” and was killed himself. We should hope Greece doesn’t make the same mistake. (Speaking of which, all accounts point to his death being a soccer fight gone horribly wrong, not some kind of neo-Nazi hit job, as the press would have it.)
From Willmoore Kendall’s “Equality: Commitment or Ideal?”:
The commitment involved in our dedication to an overriding purpose is, so to speak,hereditary. Each generation of Americans hands the commitments along, if I may put it so, to the next generation, which can repudiate or modify it only by the same kind of solemn act—but let me, as I repeat that phrase “solemn act,” now emphasize it in a way that I have not done before—by the same kind of solemn act by which the commitment became our commitment to begin with; in the absence of such a solemn act, the commitment, lying as it does at the heart of our political tradition, runs with the American land, as does the obligation, an obligation that is simultaneously collective and individual, to do something about the commitment, to forward the overriding purpose, to make sacrifices for it and, when that becomes necessary, to die for it. The alternative—as Lincoln appears to have seen it—is to say that the meaning of America is that it has no meaning, that those who have shed blood in our wars, or given unselfishly of their time and energies in order to be about the nation’s business, shall indeed have done so “in vain.” So far, I say, with Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address; but not, I hasten to add, one step further; for the remaining two of our four propositions are, from the standpoint of the American political tradition, heretical, and the moment is long overdue, for exposing them as what they are, namely, heresies and, worse still, heresies decked out in precisely the kind of plausible and apparently innocuous rhetoric that enables heresies to pass themselves off as restatements of the truths that they distort, and caricature, and so degrade and deny.
Let us look first at Heresy Number One: “Fourscore and seven years ago our fore-fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation….” Now: Lincoln speaks in 1863; fourscore and seven years ago translates— from Biblical language into plain English— into the number 87. Subtract 87 from 1863—we do not know how many of the audience at Gettysburg could do simple arithmetic in their heads, but we may be sure Lincoln could—subtract 87 from 1863 and what you get, of course, is 1776, that is, the date of the Declaration of Independence, and what you end up with is the proposition: The founding fathers did their work in the year 1776; the “new nation” the United States of America was established through the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence—to which, accordingly, we must look if we would understand the origins and thus the meaning of our political experience as a single people, organized for action in history and capable of defining its appointed role in history; and—for we must, with heads appropriately bowed, follow the logic where it leads us—the Declaration of Independence suddenly acquires (and remember: we do not use this term lightly, we Americans) constitutional status, suddenly becomes a document—the document—to which we properly turn in order to learn what our commitments are. That, if I may put it so without seeming flippant, is what the Man says.
Now, let me not compound Lincoln’s acts of heresy with, on my own part, an act of impiety: July 4th, 1776 is a sacred moment in the history of the English-speaking people on this side of the Atlantic; let us celebrate it, in the future as in the past, with firecrackers, oratory, and libations. It is, moreover, a sacred moment because it is the day on which the Declaration of Independence was signed; let us continue, in the future as in the past, to quote from the Declaration of Independence, to publish it in our anthologies—or even, though few of us have ever done that, to sit down now and then and actually read it, if only to find out what it says. More: let us not hesitate, if and when that becomes necessary for our self-understanding as a people, to seize upon a delicate and well-threaded needle to embroider it, it and the events surrounding it, with a bit of myth, since nothing is more beneficent in the life of a nation than the myths that drive home the truths and aspirations that it embodies. But that, as a moment’s reflection will convince you, is not what Lincoln did in that opening phrase at Gettysburg; what he did, rather, was to falsify the facts of history, and to do so in a way that precisely confuses our self-understanding as a people. The facts, as it happens, are extremely simple and, moreover, well-known to all of us save as we fall under the spell of Lincoln’s rhetoric: The Declaration of Independence, as signed at Philadelphia, declared the independence of “the thirteen United States of America”—the independence not of a nation but of a baker’s dozen of new sovereignties; “united” to be sure, but not as Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire, or even England and Wales were united, but united rather in a loose confederation that each of the thirteen states was free, and clearly understood to be free, to go along with or not to go along with. (Tom Paine, to be sure, will soon initiate, in The Crisis, the falsification that Lincoln will attempt to nail down, once and for all, at Gettysburg, by speaking of the Confederation as if itwere a nation; nor is it necessary to my position to deny either (a) that there were men present at Philadelphia who were already thinking in national not confederational terms, or (b) that the language of the Declaration includes, here and there, a phrase intended to give those men hope and encouragement, or (c) that the Declaration was “conceived in liberty,” which indeed it was.) The Declaration was, in short, just what its plain language shows it to be, namely: a notice served on the government of Great Britain that thirteen of the English colonies were dissolving the political bonds that had hitherto connected them with Great Britain, that, as I put it a moment ago, they—not it, but they—were henceforth going to governthemselves, and not be governed, or rather misgoverned, from faraway London. The Declaration is not only not a constitution, that is, a solemn act by which a people, having identified itself as a single people,constitutes itself as a nation; it does not, even by remote implication, pretend to be a constitution. What it does, if I may repeat myself once again, is to bring into being the state of affairs in which, eleven long years later, our founding fathers were to initiate the series of steps by which we were to bring ourselves forth—not, if you please, be brought forth—as a nation. To ask or claim more than that for it is, I contend, an act ofpolitical heresy, compounded by an act of impiety toward the nation’s true founding fathers, who were the men who wrote, and submitted for ratification by the American people, the Philadelphia Constitution. The Gettysburg Address should begin with the words: “Three score and sixteen years ago “(Nobody, incidentally, knew that better than the Lincoln of the “House Divided,” who had spoken repeatedly of the need—mark the words—the need, there in the mid-nineteenth century, for a “new act of founding” which would transcend the work of the actual founding fathers and return the nation to its first principle [that is, the principles Lincoln sees in the Declaration). For Lincoln, that is to say, the founding fathers were the heretics, responsible, in Eric Voegelin’s phrase, for a derailment of the American experience. Nor does Lincoln leave us in any doubt as to the identity of the founding father of the “new act of founding.”)
Also don’t miss Chris Morgan on Edward Everett’s “Greatest Opening Act,” over at Biopsy.
Where did all these campus 'living wage' campaigns come from?
The Progressive Labor Movement (later Party) was the first to advocate for the idea. Bob Leonhardt, an organizer, explains it all here. There’s a lot of jargon in there, mostly because of the strategic debates raging at the time; working with trade unions, assimilating in the working class, and so forth, but the excoriation of the Weathermen and Guardian newspaper (different from the one in the UK) is interesting.
Progressive Labor still maintains a website, but their staunch Leninism, out of favor even among the counterculture, comes off as even more stilted and strange today. Witness this statement of solidarity from Haiti, “if not for the bosses’ borders we too would be on the front lines at CUNY.”
We had one of these at William and Mary, mostly modeled after the one at UVA, which was far more successful because it actually had meaningful worker input. W&M’s organizers, clearly more interested in burnishing their activist bona fides, occupied the president’s office for a day or so with a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter (there was an attempt to get pizza to the beseiged occupiers via a rope to the second floor, but it was unsuccessful).