You should read it, maybe twice, if you want to gain some perspective about what is really happening in our culture. It is beyond left and right. And it is likely that you are aware of this as a problem existing in other people rather than yourself.
Personal expression as a moral virtue has become an unquestionable absolute. It is driving the bus. To suggest that it might not be a virtue is blasphemy. It rages against any other idea or obligation- historical, political, biological, familial, or religious. While it promises fulfillment it will leave a trail of broken promises that are an opportunity to speak about a better way.
I am not a Catholic but have appreciated some of the observations I find at “First Things.” The author of this article, “If Women Ran The World,” eloquently describes some of the most destructive elements of feminism today. And she does it by sharing their own words. The whole article is worth reading.
From time to time when I comment on feminist ideas, someone reminds me that that the particular view in question doesn’t represent all feminists. Fair enough. But there are too many permutations for me to keep it straight. So I won’t dare suggest that this represents all feminists.
Here is what is clear to me. First, many of the most prominent feminist voices in journalism and politics today (like the one quoted below) represent destructive ideas that do not represent mainstream thinking. Second, they do not represent the ideas of feminists from a previous age. They wanted respect and equality. They condemned the bad behavior of men in a specific way. But they didn’t want to imitate it.
Elizabeth Scalia quotes a significant feminist voice:
“Writing for The Atlantic in September of 2012, Hanna Rosin argued that the “hookup culture” so prevalent on college campuses and in the lives of young adults is “an engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.” She wrote:
‘To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.’
In other words, women have succeeded in becoming the men they hated.”
Art always bows to some greater ideology. There is no such thing as neutral art. It always conveys a message. Most often it is a servant of the strongest principles within a culture. This brief article reviews research to show how the Nazi propaganda machine slowly took over the Berlin orchestra to reinforce ideas of German National Socialism. The author is clear that the foundations for this were laid many years before. Yet hearing about the actual events is both fascinating and chilling.
This process started with understanding the power of music as a cultural force. Then Goebbels “annexed” the Berlin orchestra in the same way that Germany annexed land during the war. But it started when members of the orchestra were willing to sell their autonomy and their souls for more money and other cultural benefits. After that, they were owned by the Nazis.
This kind of research is delightful stuff for history nerds like me. And the great question of history is always, “what does this mean for us today?” I think at present most people are associating fascism with Trump in the US. But to be honest, when I read this, I thought much more about the music and entertainment business in America as supporting the Left. In our country, one of the great weaknesses of the conservative movement has been second rate art. But within Hollywood there is a group-think that preaches leftist (rather than liberal) ideas. Think I am exaggerating? Just listen to the speeches at the Oscar’s. Add to this the recent censorship that is happening on University Campuses in the name of having “safe spaces” in the name of avoiding hate speech, and you can see that the Left has a much tighter grip on these cultural expressions.
In any case we need to be aware that culture-makers are trying to recruit us (and at times enslave us) for their view of the world. This is an inescapable reality for good or bad. Dictators who want to hijack culture will always move toward this source of power and it is in the best interest of free people to be aware of the greater agenda. I think the ideal situation is a culture of arts that is both free and reinforces important virtues.
Some tidbits from the article:
“The alchemy of the transformation began with a gradual relinquishment of autonomy, especially stark in Berlin. The Berlin Philharmonic, nationalized into a state-owned company in January 1934 under Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda, began to perform in the old Philharmonie on Bernburger Straße under an immense swastika. It was now expected to render service to “the German cause.” (Even Goebbels did not speak of “Nazi music” but of “German music.”) Goebbels, who began to call it “my orchestra,” increased its subsidies and its musicians’ salaries and personally signed letters of exemption from military service for its members. Goebbels also lavishly funded a movie about the orchestra (released in late 1944), which Trümpi calls “the most expensive advertising campaign ever undertaken on behalf of the Berlin Philharmonic.”
“After the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria in March 1938, things were even worse in Vienna, which liked to think of itself as the “music city” par excellence. Trümpi, the first historian granted full access to the Vienna Philharmonic archives, reports that a blacklist compiled in 1938 named 11 Jewish orchestra members, and ten more who were married to Jewish women. After the Anschluss, an annexation as much cultural as territorial, all were either forced into retirement or dismissed. Seven of them would be murdered in the Holocaust. Close to half of the philharmonic’s remaining musicians joined the Nazi Party.”
“Statistically speaking, boys now lag behind girls on every single academic measure; they also get in trouble and drop out of school much more frequently than girls. There are fewer boys in college than girls, and far more lost 20-something boys than 20-something girls.”
This article is a helpful intro on how our education system is failing our boys. In many ways normal boy behavior is considered at best an inconvenience, and at worst a disorder to be treated. This is important stuff, and if you would like to explore this more check out the book “Boys Adrift” by family practice MD and psychologist Leonard Sax.
You need to read this if you have little boys.
Our current system is not helping boys succeed, it is holding them back. And this in spite of the ongoing myth of oppressed girls in the academic environment.
The folks at the Harvard Business Review point out the natural ways that employees punish unethical behavior-often through social means like walking away from an unethical person or leaving the room when someone enters. Basically this means that when we know someone is a cheater, it is so distasteful that we don’t even want to be around them. But there is an exception, and it is revealing.
When we are willing to tolerate or overlook really bad behavior there is always a reason. Often it is because we are benefitting in some way. It may be financial, social, career advancement, etc. But the reason is revealing. If there is real evil in your circumstances and you are unwilling to take a stand against it, you can learn something important about character. The reason you won’t take a stand may reveal what you value most.
Here is something from the article:
“Unethical high-performing employees, however, appear to receive a free pass for their unethical behaviors. These people may be unethical, but they get the job done, and enhance the organization’s short-term profitability along the way.
“This is the case even in organizations that on the whole are considered highly ethical. In our third study, we took into account the organization’s ethical environment and still found the same pattern of results. Irrespective of the extent to which the organization prioritizes ethics, unethical high-performing employees still had better working relationships with their peers and were less socially rejected than their unethical low-performing counterparts. There’s something about being a high performer that appears to mask concerns related to immorality.”
It is common to look on other cultures, and especially past generations with some disdain. This is almost a requirement for anyone who thinks of themselves as a “modern” person. We see their flaws so clearly, and congratulate ourselves for our clear vision in areas where they were so blind. How could they have missed it?
But to a thoughtful observer, this experience should be a little terrifying. What if I am not so very different from those barbarians? What if history repeats itself? What if my children will have the same critical thoughts about me that I have about my parents and grandparents? What if my own bias makes me blind to my own moral failings? And above all, what if God sees it all very clearly? Then what?
This was the argument of the Apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 2. He said, “you who condemn another do you not condemn yourself?” It is too easy to limit the idea of condemnation to moralists. Our generation readily condemns those guilty of greed, racism, environmental irresponsibility, sexism, etc. And we do this most readily when looking at past generations. But when we make these kinds of judgments we are unwittingly conceding that there is a standard that transcends generations and cultures. That there is a standard that is not relative, and that applies even when we don’t see it or know it. And when we are honest, we will have to admit that this law stands over us as well.
CS Lewis ruminated on this 75 years ago:
“If, then, you are ever tempted to think that we modern Western Europeans cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane—if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground—ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty of cruel ages because they excelled in courage or chastity. You will see at once that this is an impossibility. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling how our softness, worldliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God.”
Here is a great (and brief) article on the importance of failure in developing character, growing businesses, and helping people have a good life. It turns out that trying to spare people (ourselves, our children, our employees, etc) from experiencing the pain of failure is bad in the long run. Why? We can’t gain deep wisdom without the process of learning from our failures. This is a list from the article at Forbes.com of ways to help people fail in a way that is positive for them and the organization.
“Here are some ways to increase employees’ comfort with the risk of failure, and to be resilient when it happens:
Share past stories of struggle. Everyone’s been there.
Practice recovery so people aren’t paralyzed by failure. When I was coaching sports, we didn’t just diagram plays. We always developed a Plan B. That’s why great organizations scenario-plan. It helps people think of struggle as part of the process.
Help people around you think like long-term investors in their own ideas and their own careers. The aim shouldn’t be to try to have one uninterrupted string of successes, but rather to have a portfolio of some winners and, yes, some losers.
If someone is struggling, your job is to figure out how to get them on the right path. The real job of a manager is to help people learn from failure and move forward.
Champion failure that turns to innovation. Find examples where ordinary failure has led to extraordinary opportunity.
Encourage failing fast. Sometimes we recognize that something is failing, and our instinct tells us to push harder to make it succeed. Knowing when to pull the plug is always difficult but is necessary.”
One of the deepest diseases of human nature is lying. And I am talking about something far more subtle and destructive than bearing false witness to a teacher or police officer in order to get out of trouble. One of the darkest elements of broken humanity is to lie about who we are. To create a false identity and then try to maintain it. The need to hide our pain and sin behind a mask of smiles and virtue.
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word for a person that wears a mask. It originates with the Greek theater, where actors wore masks to disguise not only their identity but even the sound of their voices. A hypocrite is a kind of actor that pretends to be someone they are not. Traditionally this concept has been reserved for people pretending to be moral, for example religious people, public leaders, or politicians. But the concept is broader than preaching abstinence while practicing indulgence. It includes those of us who stay in character once we have left the stage. The hypocrite is essentially an imposter. We are disgusted to find out that people we respect because of their public persona are actually using their image to cover up a life of corruption and debauchery.
Well, it appears that what was once reserved for politicians and the religious is now a growing temptation for the masses. Perhaps it was there all along. But social media has provided a window into the ubiquity of human deceit. This article in the New York Post discusses growing darkness that lies beneath the surface in social media. The author cites some extreme examples, but anyone with a Facebook account understands this. We are subject to two related temptations: To lie about our own life while believing and comparing ourselves to the lies that our friends are telling. This is no joke.
Maureen Callahan, the author of the article in the NY Post cites an example of Zilla van den Born. “Last year, she uploaded a monthlong series of photos taken on her travels in Southeast Asia — scuba diving, praying in a Buddhist temple, sampling local cuisine — then revealed those images were all the work of Photoshop. She had hidden in her apartment the entire time, duping even friends and family.”
Wow, how bad does life have to be to want to do this? For those of us old enough to remember the ancient world of 10 years ago, all of this is pretty frightening.
Technology is the great magnifier. It has the potential to draw out and magnify the dark side of human nature. And can do this by several magnitudes, all while maintaining the filtered image of a smile.
Here are a few important parts of the article. The whole thing is worth reading and very important.:
‘Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Houston, has spearheaded a similar study [concerning social media].“The idea came to me when my little sister, who was 16, wasn’t invited to a school dance,” Steers, 38, tells The Post. “She told me about logging on to Facebook the very next day and seeing all these pictures of her friends at the dance, and that actually made her feel worse than not being invited.”
“Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms” was co-authored with two other social psychologists and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology last year. Steers cited the work of social psychologist Leon Festinger, who, in 1954, came up with “social comparison theory,” the idea that we measure ourselves in relation to others’ failures and successes.’
Again Callahan writes,
‘Then there are those who aggressively seek out admiration and envy. Google “GoPro proposal” and you’ll get 428,000 hits — people who planned and recorded the moment they got engaged, then uploaded it for global consumption. Some couples live-stream it. Others stage-manage the “set,” then hire professional photographers to capture the moment.
“The engagement thing is so creepy,” says Chelsea Fagan, 26, whose website, The Financial Diet, covers the impact of social media on young women. “There’s this weird arms race now where everything has to be a moment, no matter how private. We always get a lot of responses with weddings and engagements — women spend a lot of money to look ‘Pinterest perfect.’ ”
It’s not just weddings or special events, though. Social-media users spend exorbitant amounts to look like their daily, everyday lives are spent eating the finest food, wearing the most on-trend designs, living a stylish, well-appointed life — no problems.’ (emphasis added)
Salon recently published an article titled, “I’m a pedophile, but not a monster” by Todd Nickerson. The article is disturbing to me on various levels. It suggests that we are defined by our desires, indeed that we need to surrender and accept an identity formed by our appetites. It ignores the reality that some desires are evil, even if they are built-in. Further, it also avoids discussion of whether our desires can be changed. And it pretends that it is possible (and healthy- the word they used is “virtuous”) to avoid having sexual contact with children yet maintain an active fantasy life regarding them. But, considering that we have busted the dam of almost all sexual restraint in the last 40 years, I am not surprised to read it.
Breitbart ran an article challenging Salon, and suggesting that its soft stance on pedohiles is part of a larger, and growing problem from the political left. I have to wonder, Is this really a trend? Or is this an example of a few loons in a larger group. I am not sure, because I have a number of liberal friends that I know would oppose this. But reading the Salon article and not hearing a torrent of outrage from the left does make me wonder. Here is one article, (that comes from a left leaning author) that not only expresses concern over the article, but suggests that the folks on the left have a double standard on this issue. They are merciless when prominent conservatives are revealed as pedophiles, but supportive or silent when the same thing happens with their own team.
Milo Yiannopoulos writes in Breitbart:
“Pedophilia itself is of course not confined to one side of the political spectrum. But defending it does seem to be. Pro-pedophile activism continues to surface on the Left in a way that it simply doesn’t on the Right. Salonis one of the worst offenders: the left-wing website runs sympathetic features on pedophilia with alarming regularity…” (emphasis added)
“Horrifyingly, there are signs of a new pedophile acceptance movement forming on the Left. Just as Allen West warned, the gay rights movement is being used as a template. First comes the argument that pedophiles are just “born that way,” absolving them of any moral responsibility for their desires. Then comes the argument that pedophiles are just normal people, like the rest of us, but somehow impoverished or victimised by their own condition.
“Inevitably, our society’s current ostracisation of pedophiles will be portrayed as an injustice: an oppression from which pedophiles must be liberated, or for which they deserve our sympathy. And woe to the oppressors! Quietly, in progressive columns and academies around the world, progressives are losing their footing and sliding down that slippery slope. Publications like Salon are abetting the turpitude.” (see the original article for important links)
Is this assessment true? I am not sure, but the reporting does connect the dots on several hunches for me. Without a doubt this is the trajectory of a society that insists that morality is culturally relative, and views any rules limiting sexual expression as the source of our problems.
Wow… I want to read this book. Here are a few quotes from a review in the Irish Times. My first time at this website though I do have some Irish ancestry… In this book, an aged Nobel Laureate and thoughtful critic mourns the state of our culture. He is not a Christian preacher, but according to the reviewer, his anger makes him sound like one at times. Is it possible for us to appreciate the speed of decay in our own generation?
He suggests that while we may not be living in the worst of times, we are living in the stupidest….
“It’s not easy, however, to be orderly on such an all-encompassing and sensitive subject as the way we live now. On some aspects, such as the art business, Vargas Llosa practically foams at the mouth. The art world is “rotten to the core”, a world in which artists cynically contrive “cheap stunts”. Stars like Damien Hirst are purveyors of “con-tricks”, and their “boring, farcical and bleak” productions are aided by “half-witted critics”.
“We have abandoned the former minority culture, which was truth-seeking, profound, quiet and subtle, in favour of mainstream or mass entertainment, which has to be accessible – and how brave if foolhardy of anyone these days to cast aspersions on accessibility – as well as sensation-loving and frivolous.
“Value-free, this kind of culture is essentially valueless.
“Vargas Llosa adopts a name for this age of ours coined by the French Marxist theorist Guy Debord. We live in the Society of the Spectacle. A name that recalls the bread and circuses offered to a debased populace in the declining Roman empire. Exploited by the blind forces of rampant consumerism, we are reduced to being spectators of our own lives rather than actors in them.
“Our sensibilities, indeed our very humanity, is blunted by those who traditionally saw their role as the guardians of it.
“The intellectuals, the supine media, the political class have abandoned substance and discrimination and with treacherous enthusiasm adopted the idea of the image as truth. The liberal revolution of the 1960s, especially the events of 1968 in France, and French theorists such as Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard come in for a lot of invective. They have turned culture into “an obscurantist game for self-regarding academics and intellectuals who have turned their backs on society”.
“Meanwhile the masses exist, docile and passive, in a world of appearances, reduced to no more than the audience in a kind of tawdry theatre where scenes shift from violence to inanity before our bored and brutalised gaze. Rock stars are given more credence than politicians, comedians are the new philosophers. Lifestyle merchants such as cooks and gardeners are revered as writers once were. It’s a sad and hopeless devolution from what we used to have and used to be.” (emphasis mine)