Words to remember

"Never doubt in the darkness what you believed in the light."

Monday, May 5, 2008

An Epiphany

I have discovered my purpose in life. It is not perhaps as lofty as I would've liked, and probably doesn't come with any cool hats to wear, or even a catchy title, but it is nevertheless of singular importance in this day and age. I shall be:


It does have a certain ring to it?

This has always been a phrase which has grated on me. Perhaps one of the foremost reasons for this is that the person saying it is frequently the son or daughter of someone who shall one day be a dead, white guy. Which tends to make the category, well, a little dissonant. Furthermore, however, as a category- it sucks. Completely, totally, utterly. It is, in fact, one of the most intellectually stupid ideas that modernism has excreted, and it's laid some pretty rank stuff.

For one thing, it is typically a signal phrase trumpeted by proponents of "diversity". It is somewhat shocking, then, that they are so utterly quick to generalize. Take any two of those generally called "dead white guys", and generally you will find two wildly different perspectives on just about everything, unless you've already assumed room temperature. Plato's a dead white guy; so too, is Aristotle, and yet you have a great difference of opinion between them. Augustine and Aquinas- same thing. Take a look at Alexis de Tocqueville and Thomas Jefferson. Hell, about the only thing any of these have in common is that they're dead, and were white. But no, because they're white, they must have all thought pretty much the same thing. They must've wanted to keep Black Guy down, or keep White Woman barefoot and pregnant, or keep Dumb-as-Mud Prole miserable and poor. What a terrible crock! What injustice. What shocking intellectual dishonesty. Say what you will about the validity of their conclusions, but do not give voice to the lie that they're all the same.

The second part is that the very attitude contributes to the notion that one's contribution matters not so much as the position from which it is made. That is to say, diversity of thought and ideas is subordinated to the diversity of the authors. Plato is thrown aside in so much of contemporary education not because there's no value to the theory of forms, or because he's an intellectual elitist, or anything like that, but because he's not black, or Asian, or a woman, or trans-gender, or what-not. Evidently, these men have nothing to say to us because they don't "look like" what some canny political strategist decided we do, or should "look like". Oh, and putting Plato in blackface won't cut it, either.

Dear Lord, I'm terrible.

What I say next would probably get me in a lot of trouble. So naturally, it's that much more fun. But when I look at the books I have read by the politically correct authors, what I have noticed is a marked paucity of thematic originality. Almost uniformly, these books focus their attacks upon racism, colonialism/imperialism, sexism, or some kind of sexual normative ethic, usually cast as oppression of homosexuals/bisexuals or excessive puritanism (which is a funny term, in a way, because in looking at the primary records of the Puritans, they were an incredibly horny lot. No, I'm serious, they were very close about their escapades, but what they lacked in unconventionality, they made up for in frequency). Perhaps the fault lies in the selection of works: it is not so much that these authors only talk about those themes, but that the ones selecting them as legenda have chosen them because they speak about those themes. This is a rather interesting line of thought. It's also possible that larger thematic discussions in these books are ignored in favor of emphasizing those particular themes. This is also an interesting thing to look at. But what remains is the fact that in the study of literature and history, those few issues are dominating the scene.

Are we the better for this? Is the process of humanization harmed? I think it's clear that this is the case. So much of those thematic discussions rely upon a presumption of permanence. So to the authors, racism will be as much a problem 1000 years from now as it is now. This works out well for them; by only publishing about racism, they are doing well to ensure that it's what people will be talking about. That's the advantage to holding the microphone, of course. But let's look at how this has played out over history: Plato has had a huge impact in the last few thousand years. Aristotle perhaps even more so. While it's true that not all of their ideas are sound (Plato's eugenics and Aristotle's view of slavery are two things which we rightly find abhorrent), the fact remains that theirs are still works which raise a lot of questions and propose a lot of fascinating and compelling ideas, which no amount of discussion has yet yielded a permanent solution.

What'll be left, then, in a millennium? We shall have effectively removed any notion of a canon, dismissed any discussion of universal themes or shared truths of human existence as being the product of a colonial attempt to control and manipulate Black Guy/Little Guy/White Woman/Black Woman, and we'll have literature which will talk about how races used to hate and fear other races long after it has ceased to be a problem. Oh well. By that time, the only form of culture will likely be promulgated through a screen which provides instant entertainment and mindless sense experience, and people will be too stupid to see why that's so horrid. Blah.

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