Bonfire of the Humanities

We sporadically talk a good bit about education here. It’s important, we care, and all, but it’s also a supremely frustrating area, although I’m convinced that going back to the basics would be a start. But that also begs a question, which set of basics? The trivium from the middle ages? the MacGuffey Reader from our history?, the “See Spot run” books that I grew up with? something else? Does it matter? I don’t completely know. I think a lot is probably inherited or absorbed very young. Reading to your kids undoubtedly helps for literature, but I had an

I think a lot is probably inherited or absorbed very young. Reading to your kids undoubtedly helps for literature, but I had an inbuilt drive to do things with my hands, and Tonka trucks are very educational, but I also had a built in sense of scale, a 1/64 Ertl tractor just wouldn’t work with the big 1/16 ones. Others, I noted, even then, didn’t have this. Why? I have no idea, but to this day, it’s something that bugs me.

Basic physics seems inbuilt as well. I can look at things and roughly compute the forces required to do thus and so. But maybe this is just all growing up when and where I did, with my parents. Hard to say, isn’t it? But how do we (or should we) pass along this sort of knowledge.

In any case, I’m pretty sure this method won’t work. Ryan Hammill wrote for The Federalist yesterday about a Harvard Professor and his asinine letter to The Wall Street Journal.

Anybody wondering how the study of the humanities arrived at its current, depressing state need only read the words of its practitioners. In a recent letter to The Wall Street Journal, James Simpson, the chair of Harvard’s Department of English, unveils the supreme and lamentable logic that now governs the field.

Simpson writes in response to a March 31 op-ed from Heather Mac Donald, wherein Mac Donald discussed the new “marginalization requirement” in Harvard’s English department. All English majors must now take a course covering authors “marginalized for historical reasons.” Mac Donald posed the question (the title of her piece), “Does Harvard consider Oscar Wilde ‘marginalized’?”

After all, she says, “‘Heteronormativity’ may have made his [Wilde’s] final years miserable, but it had no effect on the boundless success of his plays.” Mac Donald, God bless her, rehearses many of the familiar arguments against classroom identity politics: it gives students yet another excuse to ignore classics of which they are already ignorant; given their historically disproportionate access to education, it’s only common sense that “Dead, White Males” predominate; and race or sex of the author ought not to count for or against a truly sublime piece of literature.

If You Really Believe This, Act On It

These are good and familiar arguments, and they should continue to be made. But Simpson’s letter in reply on April 8 makes the exchange particularly edifying for readers concerned for the classics. Simpson tries to play the middle-of-the-road civility card. He calls Mac Donald’s op-ed “intelligent” but “mean-minded.” At first, he seems to concede: “Nothing could be more depressing than to see a literature curriculum determined by identity politics with dutiful representation from the required range of underrepresented groups.”

While the thought displeases me, I could find a few more depressing things. In fact, so can Simpson! “Nothing, that is, except a literature curriculum that betrayed the fundamental function of literature and other art forms, which is to hear the voices repressed by official forms of a given culture.” I find this claim nearly as depressing as Simpson claims the hypothetical literature curriculum depresses him.

With this sentence, Simpson supplies the asinine creed for the modern study of the humanities. The purpose of art, he says, is to “hear the voices repressed by official forms of a given culture.” That’s not a side benefit. It’s not an occasional consequence of studying art. It’s the whole point.

Do read it all, it’s excellent.

But the main thrust is, and it’s accurate, is that this fool of a professor, and many like him, has politicized everything. To some point that’s always true, reading about the Spartans at Thermopylae is unlikely to make one revere physical cowards. But a lot of literature is read, not because of political purpose, but for many other reasons, amongst them the sheer beauty of the language.

It’s rather sad to see people killing the goose that lays their own golden eggs, isn’t it? (And yes, that too is a literary allusion!) But it wouldn’t matter all that much if he wasn’t also damaging our society, perhaps beyond repair.

Blood and Earth

Steve Berman wrote an article for yesterday’s Resurgent. I think he makes quite a valid point. Here’s some of what he said:

[…] Europeans are very much into discussing Trump, and generally trolling any American who doesn’t display sufficient venom and hatred of him. I’ve been criticized by American liberals in the same way, and of course by Trump Kool-Aid drinkers who think I must have carried a Hillary sign because I recognized the factual negatives of a Trump presidency.

But, short of a nuclear war, which is only barely more perceptible inside the realm of fathomability, Trump represents little more than a blip on the slope produced by the American political equation. But someone like Marine Le Pen represents a much greater threat to Europe than Trump does to America.

It’s not just Le Pen. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza (officially “Coalition of the Radical Left”) party; Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders, whose PVV party controls 13 percent of the Dutch House of Representatives and 12 percent of the Dutch Senate;  Turkish President-cum-dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Britain’s Brexit vote all represent a swing toward European nationalism. […]

In social liberalism, all the EU nations (Turkey having stalled their joining) share the same cultural liberalism and moral relativism. The term “conservative” in Europe has quite a different meaning than it does in America.

What we’re seeing in Europe is actually dangerous. I’m no fan of one-world government globalism, or some utopian panacea to produce Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité forever. But forgive me for pointing out that Europeans, untethered from the requirements of entwined interests, tend to pursue extremely self-interested courses, regardless of the political philosophy or structure of state government applied to each nation.

In other words, Napoleon, Mussolini, Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas II, Stalin, and Hitler were all woven from the same loom, if not cut from the same cloth. Nationalism, socialism, national socialism, communism, monarchy, or the Jacobins–take your pick. They all inexorably fell to the same result: war, death, conquest, and the conquered.

He’s got a pretty good point here. If I was a Frenchman, I would vote for Le Pen, because as I said on another site yesterday, policies don’t matter all that much when survival is at stake, and I think that is where France is.

You all know that I detest the EU, to my eyes it’s little more than a German Zollverein, a customs union, tending toward Das Vierte Reich, but that’s my view.

But the EU program got underway initially to curb European nationalism. That nationalism has often been toxic as well. It’s often called ‘blood and soil nationalism’. And it has a nasty habit of getting completely out of hand. Frankly, in some ways, Le Pen doesn’t sound all that different from Mussolini and bears watching. But the EU has gone bad and needs destroying before it destroys the West.

One place where I disagree with Steve is where he lumps the UK in with Europe. To me, that just doesn’t hold up. From what I’ve seen of Britain, although that Gott mit uns (like the Kaiser’s) sort of patriotism does exist, as it does in the US, theirs is more like ours, holding their ideals aloft, rather than their land and blood.

And that is the difference with America, our patriotism, while very pronounced, isn’t about the land, or the people. It’s about the idea, often expressed as ‘The City on the Hill’. Traditionally, we go out into the world to fight evil, hoping we are on the Lord’s side, not claiming he is on ours. Therefore, it is not really dangerous in geopolitical terms, if people stay in their own country and leave their neighbors alone, they have little to fear from the US.


A couple shorts:

It was reported that several ISIS fighters, in Iraq (I think) were killed by feral boars. Well, if you ever hunted feral boars, it’s not hard to believe. I mention it mostly because Ace won the day with his phrase, “They got attacked by ‘armored bacon’. That is a most felicitous phrase.

Also, Nordstroms, who are again quietly carrying Ivanka Trump’s designs have also unveiled a pair of jeans (for $425.00) that have been presoiled with fake dirt.

That man wins one internet! Mike Rowe wasn’t impressed, either.

 

Finally, a Rational Foreign Policy

So, are you having trouble figuring out Trump’s foreign policy? Yeah, it’s different than we are used to. Bookworm had an article the other day, that made a fair amount of sense.

When the Great War (now known as World War I) erupted in 1914, dragging Europe from the pinnacle of civilization into an abyss of mindless killing, President Woodrow Wilson was resolute: America would not enter into this foreign war.

Americans themselves had no desire to be drawn into the war, although the country quickly divided into camps supporting the two sides in the battle. Those supporting England, France, Belgium, and Russia (the Allies) only slightly outnumbered the huge German-American population that put its moral weight behind Germany, Austro-Hungary, and a few other central European nations (the Central Powers).

Traditional American foreign policy there, essentially none of our business, root for the side that you like, and do business with all comers. Book notices and she’s right, the Allies bought an awful lot more stuff than the Germans and bought a lot of it on borrowed American money. It got to the point that the Allies losing would likely have caused a depression in the US. (So did the Allies winning eventually, in 1921, but Coolidge’s policies were so good, that it was a blip, except, maybe for farmers.)

That more than anything else is what forced America into the war, it was decidedly in the American interest for Britain and France to win. It’s not unique in American history, either, the British blockade of Napoleonic France is one of the causes of the War of 1812. In both cases, there were other reasons as well, but these stand out. Don’t forget, we had a little quasi-war with France earlier, again cause by interference in trade. For that matter, if Lincoln hadn’t had a cool head on his shoulders, things like the CSS Alabama could have drawn Britain into the Civil War.

But Wilson wasn’t about to go to war for American trade. Wilson was a lot of things, almost none of them good.

Faced with an unspeakable reason for entering the war, Wilson instead came up with a high-flown moral doctrine justifying America’s entry into the war. And so the Wilson doctrine was born (emphasis mine):

We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretence about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Which is essentially lovely…bullshit. We went into the Great War for perfectly good reasons, but England wasn’t all that much more democratic than Imperial Germany. It became so, of course, but much of that was the result of the war.

Biggest trouble was that Wilson believed it, and because he did, he got shunted aside at the peace conference after the armistice, and very little of his program happened, and what did, was the parts that would lead to trouble, like the Balkans.

And as Book says, almost every war we’ve stumbled into in the last century, except World War II, has been because we have believed this myth, that we were fighting to make ‘the world safe for democracy’. And World War II, itself, was likely caused because of the vindictive treaty that ended the Great War, where Wilson was shunted to the side, even if he was the representative of the most powerful country there. It’s been true, all the way to Iraq II.

Obama held a different belief, almost a mirror image. As near as I can tell he saw his mission to make the world safe from America. He’s a true believer in the revisionist school, that the US (and the UK) have never done anything that was good for anybody but themselves. Well, we’ve disproved that plenty, but that is what they’re still teaching in the schools.

But what is Trump’s principle? I think it’s the traditional 19th-century American foreign policy, updated for the times. He’s not likely to go about regime-changing without really good cause, nor does he believe, I suspect, in the stupid ‘Pottery Barn Rule’. No more Iraqs are likely.

But he’s not afraid to use the military, as we saw in Syria when somebody does something that threatens America. And yes, chemical weapons do threaten America, especially in a country overrun with every sort of Islamic terrorist there is. The same is true for North Korea, threatening to nuke the US, or our allies, is enough to get you in trouble, and Trump doesn’t appear to pull his punches.

The key thing for America, as it is for Britain, as it has been since Good Queen Bess was on the throne, is freedom of the seas. We are trading nations, and these are our highways, and if they keep it up, sooner or later the PRC is going to run afoul of that, but they are smarter than the average bear, so maybe they’ll figure it out. See also my Sea Lines of Communication.

In short, Trump’s foreign policy looks very much like traditional American (and British) foreign policy, not looking for trouble, but it’s unwise to poke lions and eagles, you just might get hurt.

Unpredictability, and Stability

My friend, Dan Miller over A Sclerotic Goes to War notes that

Kim Jong-un has been deemed “crazy” because he is unpredictable. Trump is far from crazy, but can be unpredictable when he wants to be. China does not know what Trump might do about North Korean nukes and missiles, and that is a good thing.

It is, in fact, a very good thing. The article continues

NBC News is reporting that the possible moves include not only assassinating Kim Jong-un, but moving nukes back into South Korea for the first time since the end of the cold war.

The National Security Council has presented President Trump with options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program — including putting American nukes in South Korea or killing dictator Kim Jong-un, multiple top-ranking intelligence and military officials told NBC News.

Both scenarios are part of an accelerated review of North Korea policy prepared in advance of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.

The White House hopes the Chinese will do more to influence Pyongyang through diplomacy and enhanced sanctions. But if that fails, and North Korea continues its development of nuclear weapons, there are other options on the table that would significantly alter U.S. policy.

Well, that’s a couple of options we wouldn’t have heard in the last eight years, when as that article states Obama’s policy was to, “speak softly and never even pick up the stick”.

According to The Washington Examiner, The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said

Chinese President Xi Jinping has agreed to boost cooperation with the U.S. on trying to persuade North Korea to abandon its pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday.

In an off-camera briefing with reporters on the second and final day of President Trump’s summit with his Chinese counterpart, Tillerson said the two leaders recognized the imminent threat North Korea poses and agreed to respond accordingly.

That’s a good thing, as we talked about a bit last week. But you know, I know, even your crazy Aunt Madge knows, the Chinese don’t give any more of a damn about the crazy little man/boy and his Norks than they did last week. What’s changed? Their perception of what Uncle Sam may do about it. Specifically that we might actually do something.

Putting Nukes back in South Korea has to give them nightmares of the same magnitude that the Sovs putting them in Cuba did us a couple of generations ago. China has always wanted buffer areas. That why they came in against us in the Korean War, and they had telegraphed that they would. That is why we didn’t approach their border in Vietnam. It’s also why the western Europeans were so desirous of expanding NATO eastwards.

Where the rubber meets the road for me is that as the superpower sheriff, America must have guidelines. If you do something, and using chemical weapons is one of those things, America will act. But you will not know what America will do, it might call on the UN to sanction you, it might destroy an airfield or two, then again, it might take your country apart, and arrange a meeting with your god for you. You have no need to know what the sheriff will do. You just need to know that he will do something, and so it is in your best interest to not call attention to yourself by doing things that Sheriff Sam has said are not acceptable behavior. If you don’t, he’ll mostly leave you alone.

I also noticed that almost everybody thought that the Syrian strike was a good idea, except the usual suspects.

via Did the Syria strike push China toward action on North Korea? |

And speaking of the usual suspects, the headlines from Iranian FARS News (more or less official) are interesting.

* ‘Emergency’ Protests across US Demand ‘Hands off Syria’

* Swedish Medical Associations Says White Helmets Murdered Kids for Fake Gas Attack Videos

* Syrian Army Chief Visits Airbase Hit by US Missiles before Resumption of Operation

* Anti-War Group Protests against US Strike in Syria

* Russia: US Fails to Prove Existence of Chemical Weapons at Syrian Airfield

* Top Iranian, Russian Security Officials Discuss US Missile Strike on Syria

* Hezbollah Condemns US Blatant, Foolish Attack on Syria

* Russian Ground Force to Take Part in Anti-Terrorism Operation in Syria’s Hama

* Blustering Toward Armageddon: How Trump Is Upsetting China While Antagonizing Russia

* Top Iranian, Russian Security Officials Discuss US Missile Strike on Syria

* Arab Analyst: US Attack against Syria Not to Topple Assad

* Syrian Fighter Jets Restart Combat Flights over Terrorists’ Centers from Shayrat Airbase in Homs

Sounds a bit hysterical to me, and I suspect if they challenge another US vessel in international waters, it will get worse.

Sometimes we can be like Ransom Stoddard and bring our lawbooks, but sometimes we simply have to be Tom Doniphan, using the old ways to advance civilization. The key is doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. It’s also very helpful to keep the cards close to our chest so that only we know what we are going to do.

Welcoming Britannia Home

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, …

And so it is done, and the hard work of making the Mission Statement true begins.

Last Tuesday, 28 March 2017, Prime Minister Teresa May signed the letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, giving notice that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union within two years. It’s been a contentious debate since the people were asked. They said pretty clearly, “Let’s get out of here.” After the fall of the Prime Minister who promised and held that referendum, a court case that would have done the sue-happy United States proud, and enabling legislation passed by both houses of Parliament, with the Queen’s consent, the UK has decided to regain its independence.

Many of us here, and in the UK saw the analogy as we came up to the referendum, between the American Revolution, and Brexit, both bore very heavily indeed on the sovereignty of the people. It is a true analogy. But it will also hold in the days, weeks, months, and yes, years to come. Invoking Article 50, like our Declaration is a mission statement. It says we will be our own nation.

We fought a war against the most powerful empire in the world for seven long years, to make it so. The UK may not have it quite that hard, but it will be hard. There are forces, especially in Scotland, that wish to dismember the Union. They control Holyrood, at the moment, although their incompetence at governing is becoming legend, thus they use devolution as a smoke screen to remain in power, as they hurt the people, especially the poor. Personally, I think their time has come, and gone. The Scots are canny people, they can see through this wisp of smoke, and as they said a couple years ago, England and Scotland are better together.

Europe will try to browbeat Britain, of course. Thing is, that’s all they really have. The EU is a crumbling house of cards, with centripetal forces all over Europe trying to tear it asunder. In truth in large measure, it has become a Deutsches Zollverein, as Germany becomes more and more dominant in it. Along, of course, with the autocratic, corrupt bureaucracy in Brussels.

It is, in fact, and partly because of the Union itself, the only market in the world that is not growing. The United Kingdom has very much indeed to offer the world, once it is no longer stifled by Europe. This is, after all, the people that taught Americans to be Americans. Almost all that we are, and believe, comes directly to us from British history. From the power of trade, and the necessity of freedom of the seas, to the evil of slavery, this was our school marm. We learned well, we hope Britain has remembered the lessons, as well.

But you know, the British, especially the English do have form on this, as well. Almost 500 years ago King Henry VIII turned his back on Europe, broke with Rome, founded the Royal Navy and started the adventure that led to the modern world. That was the point where the die was cast, that the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Modern India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and many more would happen. It all dates to that day, 3 November 1534, when Parliament declared that Henry was “the only supreme head on Earth of the Church of England” and that the English crown shall enjoy “all honours, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity.”

That was the day that made 4 July 1776 possible, and I think it possible that 4 July 1776 made possible 28 March 2017. Such are the ways of history. People who have tasted freedom find it good, and are not amused when others try to take it away from them.

And now it is time for us to support the cousins, as they have supported us. Not because we owe it to them, but because we owe it to ourselves. And you know, I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t profitable to us and our economy, as well.

We are very pleased indeed that the United Kingdom will again “ have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.” Although we would be remiss not to remind them that it is a very rough road, and that they will need to do as our founders did.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Welcome home, Britannia.

In Denial about Islam

This is written by William Kirkpatrick, in Crisis Magazine. He’s right, of course, about Europe, but it’s no different here, really. Perhaps Trump understands, but not many others seem to. They seemingly will continue to play the old games in the old way, until we’re all either dead or Muslim. Here are some excerpts.

Rival gangs battle in the streets and set fire to cars. Uncovered women are considered fair game. Molotov cocktails are hurled at police stations.

Syria? No, Sweden. For a long time, Sweden has been importing Middle Eastern immigrants into its small nation, and now it is experiencing many of the problems of the Middle East. The same thing is happening in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, and England.

It’s often said that we in America just have to look at history to understand the fate that may be in store for us. But it’s no longer necessary to consult history books. All you have to do is look at what’s happening right now on the other side of the Atlantic.

In Germany during the first six months of 2016, migrants committed 142,000 crimes. But since the data only includes crimes that have been solved, the actual number of migrant crimes is likely far higher. In many parts of the country, police say they are unable to maintain law and order. More than 20,000 purses are snatched each year in Hamburg, and gangs of migrant youth have taken control of parts of the Jungfernsteig, a prestigious boulevard. The situation is much the same in Bremen, Berlin, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, and Stuttgart. All over Germany, migrant gangs and roving bands of migrant youth operate with near impunity. […]

Unless the French, the Germans, and the Swedes resist at some point soon, they, along with other European states, will someday be Islamic states. Europe is in the midst of a massive historical change, the significance of which rivals the fall of the Roman Empire. What we are witnessing is the gradual but inexorable substitution of one civilization for another.[…]

Of all the factors contributing to Islam’s hostile takeover of Europe, perhaps the most important is denial. If you deny the reality of Islamization, you can’t effectively resist it. The reality is that Europe is in a life and death struggle, but the denialists insist that it’s just business as usual. They assure us that terror has nothing to do with Islam (so don’t worry), that immigration is just cultural enrichment (it’s good for you), and that there are no no-go-zones (but it’s best to avoid them).

In Europe it’s not only the leaders who are in denial. The average citizen is expected to go along with the delusion. If he doesn’t, he can face arrest, prosecution, fines, and even jail time. In the Netherlands, individuals who post Facebook comments critical of Islam or immigration can expect a visit from the police. In Germany, citizens who express “xenophobic” views on social media risk having their children taken away. Meanwhile, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has ordered the British Press not to report when terrorists are Muslims. […]

Once again, the main problem is denial. The reason that the denialists cling to their denial is that they live in the past. European denialists live mentally in the post-war years. They must prove to themselves that Europe has abandoned its anti-Semitic ways. And for some insane reason, they have decided that the way to make up for Europe’s past sins is to welcome the “new Jews” (Muslims) into their midst. In short, they have made a colossal error and since it’s not easy to admit that you rank with history’s greatest blunderers, they must continue to maintain that the disaster unfolding around them is nothing more than a rough patch on the road to the multicultural Promised Land.

via In Denial about Islam – Crisis Magazine Emphasis mine, and read the whole thing.

Yeah, all that.

Lincoln said this, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present… As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” True then, true now. But so many, especially on the left, have forgotten nothing and learned nothing, not since well before the fall of the Soviet Union. And since we barely teach history anymore (eminent exceptions gratefully noted) they have in addition learned nothing about how our civilization has overcome these problems, in fact, this exact problem, before. When did you learn about the Battle of Viena? How about the Battle of Lepanto? Maybe the Battle of Tours?

Exactly the same thing, the west, against Islam, in Europe. We won those, so now they try a different way. and so far they are winning.

Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan had it right, “The time, they are a’changing.”

But will the change favor the west or Islam? That’s for us to decide.

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