Philosophy

Fun With Camille Paglia

Earlier this month, when some highly educated matron or other had to reach for her smelling salts upon hearing “Under My Thumb” whilst shopping for groceries (the Trader Joe’s manager who refrained from saying “Lady, I’ve heard that song so many times in the last month I don’t even notice it anymore. All possibility of enjoyment of it has been systematically driven from me. I couldn’t care any less if you held a gun to my head. Now, are you gonna put that second package of gluten-free wheat germ back, or are you going to vacate the ’12 Items or Less’ aisle?” deserves a raise), I got a fillip of the familiar. Lester Bangs used to write about what the “woman’s libbers” were going to do to Jagger every time he toured, but I recalled something from Camille Paglia in particular, dealing with how “Under My Thumb” began her conflict with respectable feminism.

To wit:

This was where I realized — this was 1969 — boy, I was bounced fast, right out of the movement. And I had this huge argument. Because I said you cannot apply a political agenda to art. When it comes to art, we have to make other distinctions. We had this huge fight about the song “Under My Thumb.” I said it was a great song, not only a great song but I said it was a work of art. And these feminists of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band went into a rage, surrounded me, practically spat in my face, literally my back to the wall. They’re screaming in my face: “Art? Art? Nothing that demeans women can be art!” There it is. There it is! Right from the start. The fascism of the contemporary women’s movement.

This is from a transcript of a lecture she gave at M.I.T. in september of 1991. I read it as part of her first anthology Sex, Art and American Culture, which is a good companion piece to Sexual Personae. It contains what I believe to be Paglia’s initial cir-de-coeur “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf.” This was published in Arion in 1991 and although it reviews two contemporary books before unleashing hell at post-structuralism, I believe it entirely relevant today, based on what I recall of college in the mid-to-late 90′s and grad school four years ago. She pulls no punches with Derrida, Lacan (“The French fog machine”), or especially Foucault, whom she finds guilty of being a boring, snide poseur, full of facile wordplay and bereft of learning. An appropriate passage:

Foucault is the high-concept pusher and deal-maker of the cocaine decades. His big squishy pink-marshmallow word is “power”, which neither he nor his followers fully understand. It caroms around picking up lint and dog hair but is no substitute for political analysis. Foucault’s ignorance of prehistory and ancient history, based in the development and articulation of cultures and legal codes, makes his discussions of power otiose. He never asks how power is gained or lost, justly administered or abused. He does not show how efficient procedures get overformalized, entrenched, calcified, then shattered and reformed. He has no familiarity with theories of social or biological hierarchies, such as the “pecking order” universally observed in farmyards and schoolyards. Because, in the faddish French way, he ridiculously denies personality exists, he cannot assess the impact of strong personalities on events nor can he, like Weber, catalog types of authority or prestige.

She goes on like this, sticking shaft after shaft in the old dead fart until it starts to look like the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. But that line about picking up lint and dog hair is giggling genius. Post-modernism and post-structuralism are nothing more than the Sophists laughing at us from beyond the grave of their cultures. The whole goddamn thing is so brainless, a bot can do it.

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

Deconstruction is Almost A Thing…

…at least according to this apparently famous 1993 essay by Chip Morningstar, linked from Ace. He pretty much covers the steps of writing like Judith Butler in order to inflate your ideas, such as they are. It’s all great fun and the disciples of Derrida deserve every bit of trivialization.

However, he says there’s a tiny tiny point.

The quality of the actual analysis of various literary works varies tremendously and must be judged on a case-by-case basis, but I find most of it highly questionable. Buried in the muck, however, are a set of important and interesting ideas: that in reading a work it is illuminating to consider the contrast between what is said and what is not said, between what is explicit and what is assumed, and that popular notions of truth and value depend to a disturbingly high degree on the reader’s credulity and willingness to accept the text’s own claims as to its validity.

Which would be fine if they could end the pretense that they’re doing something new, instead of something that’s been going on since the Greek Sophists (in fairness, Stanley Fish explicitly calls himself a modern sophist). Everything in Gorgias is a question of the validity of language, and the relationship of speech to reality. We get it: language is imprecise and carries assumptions.

Hey, how’d this get here.

One supposes that this is cyclical in nature: at a certain level, you have to start tearing language apart in order to say something that hasn’t been repeated a thousand million times. Of course, when you can have a web site randomly create a po-mo essay, it’s harder to claim that such musing are the result of towering intellects struggling with truth. But then again, since the author is “dead”, these randomly generated essays can have whatever meaning the interpreters assign to them. Jeff Goldstein, call your office.

 

“Planning is the Kiss of Death to Entrepreneurship”

Via Protein Wisdom.

I seem to recall a saying that “the poor need nothing but the spur of their poverty.” That’s not precisely true, but the poor know what they need better than anyone else trying to help them. Collective responses to poverty create massive instituions but do not give the poor what they truly need, which is a chance to unleash what they can do.

Now, true, not all of the poor will be entrepreneurs. Some will be willing to serve entrepreneurs for a paycheck. All the same, empowering the entrepreneurs among the poor will create opportunities for the rest.

A Man May Never Have Too Many Books

A writer quickly moves from one project to another, and I have one suited for these troubled times.

I am fascinated, and long have been, by the dynamics of revolution, ever since first tasting the heady brews of Pareto and de Tocqueville. A while back, I wrote an essay, which some of you may have read on my now-defunct Essays page, called “The Right of Revolution,” comparing justifications for revolt as understood by The Bible, The Declaration of Independence,  The Communist Manifesto, and Aristotle. It’s not a bad essay, but it needs fleshing out.

So my new goal is to turn this slim essay into a proper book, which will of course necessitate some more reading:

  1. Two Treatises on Government by Locke
  2. Leviathan by Hobbes
  3. As much of Das Kapital as I can stand
  4. The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution by de Tocqueville
  5. Anything by Pareto I can get. (there doesn’t seem to be a Kindle edition of his political writings. Opportunity knocks!)

I am the sort of nerd who delights in such things. I think some “Happy Birthday to Me” presents are in order.

By the way, there’s a books already out!

Politics and the Eloquence Fallacy

Neo-Neocon penned a refutation on Friday (h/t: Ace) of the notion, oft fulsomely asserted in the 2008 campaign, that eloquence is a substitute for competence:

Wordsmiths fancy they could govern quite well, if only they cared to. Neither the skills nor the knowledge base of oration or of writing—especially fiction, although it’s also true of writing in general—are readily transferable to forming and implementing policy, although they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Did Anderson ever watch a tape of Truman giving a speech? He makes McCain look like Churchill. Truman was not good at oration—but he is now thought of as having been a good president although his popularity, like Bush’s, was very low when he left office. Perhaps the latter fact is an indication that good speechmaking is helpful for selling one’s policies and bad speechmaking handicaps a president who is involved in a complex and difficult war, such as the Korean or the Iraq wars.

Reality is reality; words are words. No logical path connects the two. Being able to discuss with reverent rapture the virtues of the ’68 Mustang Shelby does not begin to equip you to repair one. Knowing how to explain what McClellan his opportunity for a glorious victory at Antietam does not enable you to command an army. And being able to excite the voters does not equate to being able to govern them.

I do not broach a new idea (there are very few such things). The ancient Greeks hashed this business out centuries before Christ. The Sophists were well aware of the gulf between words and truth. Some of them, like Gorgias, stated so bluntly, and drew the ire of Socrates for their trouble. And some goodly fellow just published a tome of Gorgias’ extent works, so that people can read about the vast difference between what can be spoken and what is true.

See what I did there?

How Many Rapes Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?: Feminism in Its Decadent Phase

Ace has a nice good long post (which are always the best posts at Ace) on the staggering inanity of deciding that this:

is sexual assault. His response, appropriately, is to troll the trollers:

Many movements or eras — most, probably — enter a decadent phase at some point. I don’t know of a textbook definition of a decadent phase, but my off-the-cuff attempt is this:

a period marked by extremely minor variations on art or thought that has gone before, of recycling, of re-using old tropes rather than creating new ideas;

a period marked not by accumulation or creation of capital, whether monetary capital or capital of another kind, such as intellectual or influential or philosophical, but instead marked by the use/spending of previously acquired capital without replenishing same;

a period of sloth, whether sloth in intellect or sloth in industriousness, and a concomitant lowering of standards so that what little new work is done can be credited as good, important, or noble, albeit by a greatly reduced standard;

It is one thing to argue that a woman can and must enjoy the same public rights as a man, to vote, to engage in business, to work in trades and corporations, to pursue scholarly research. It is another to go around naming as rape or assault things which meet no known definition of these terms.

Rape is, as feminists tell us, and act of violence. In order for violence to be violence, it must be well, violent. Surprise is not violence. Spontaneity is not violence. Violence requires that harm should occur. No harm, no foul.

Claiming “sexual assault” is not “rape” as some do, doesn’t save the classification. Sexual Assault serves as the misdemeanor to Rape’s felony. It’s a way of making a rape accusation without actual rape occurring (or, dealing with a sexual crime other than rape). The nature of the accusation is the same. And an assault, to be an assault, requires violence, and violence requires harm. This did not happen.

Obviously, under normal circumstances a man who went about kissing random women on the street, without their consentwould find himself in trouble. But there are circumstances, certain exponentially joyful occasions, when such activities are seen as a natural irruption of said joy. It takes a particular kind of inhuman joylessness to insist upon malicious intent, absent any evidence, and in the face of the actual woman’s remembrance of the event.

And that’s the point. This is not the attempt to rescue an give voice to a silent victim. The “victim” in this case is studiously ignored, encased in a bubble of “rape culture” so that nothing she says needs be given any credence. The point is for we, the Modern, to invent New and Exciting Understandings, Attack Archaic Formulations, Provoke Significant Dialogue. It is a parlor game for parlor stakes, which exists to prick the vanity of its participants, and no other reason. What was actually going on in Times Square on V-J Day matters not at all; what matters is how We Conceptualize it According to Our Own Dogma.

Which is what you do when you’ve run out of ideas.

“Carnophallocentrism!”