YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

October 10, 2015

Is there life after birth? State’s rights and controlling our children

“Halloween 2013” by unidcolor (Deviant Art)

I have come to suspect that the current fights over “local control” versus “Big Government” are greatly about controlling the education of our children (seen as an extension of constructing the curriculum).

State’s rights used to be code for the defense of slavery both before and after the Civil War. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/States%27_rights).

What I am about to argue will offend many conservatives, perhaps less so Independents. I’m sorry, but we are talking about not only the emancipation of women, but about self-determination in our children, and the current imperative to defend “the family” against all allegedly disintegrating influences, whether these be (liberal) feminism, or enforcing national education standards, both hotly contested by some Rightist factions.

What do children want and need from parents? In no particular order:

  1. Safety. I have stated before that if parents are not willing to stay together, despite the fading of romantic love, they should not have children. [update: owing to reader feedback and recent research in parenting, divorce in some cases may be beneficial to children; of more relevance are the parenting skills of the single parent]. I have never heard of an instance where children did not blame themselves for parental discord, let alone separation and divorce (though this is rarely admitted). I have already expressed my opposition to divorce here: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/16/thought-crimes/. A true confession: my own parents divorced when I was nineteen years old, and I never got over it. The world was never experienced as safe for me after that, and I made a lot of hasty decisions that I have come to regret in recent years. Obviously, there are cases where divorce is absolutely necessary, but be prepared to take the consequences if you have children. As one respondent to my blog wrote, strong, emotionally honest communication is desirable at every stage of life. (If only we knew when we are entirely honest with respect to our emotions.)
  2. The careful management of each stage of child development. It used to be acknowledged that the early years of childhood are “the magic years.” Why do grownups persist in such irrationalism, inventing magical escapes into apocalyptic fantasies or beliefs in various monsters?  (The fight between science and religion cannot be conciliated unless the religion in question favors empiricism and a realistic view of what is (dogmatically) called “human nature.”)
  3. Talking about “evil” as an independent force in the universe fortifies demoralization and escapism. I.e., we will always be too weak to overcome such diabolical forces. That way lies authoritarianism of every variety. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/06/21/apocalypse-and-the-escape-artist/.)
  4. A realistic appraisal of the differences between men and women, including the strengths of each gender. No one who has had boys AND girls will doubt this truism. (See https://clarespark.com/2014/06/14/is-the-us-feminized-a-fathers-day-blog/)
  5. Children model their parents’ behavior. If we want to raise political awareness in our children, the parents’ involvement in the world beyond the home is crucial. This is how elites reproduce themselves, by frank talk. The more sophisticated elites talk about sharp differences with competing ideas about social organization with empathy and historically grounded understanding. This is probably the hardest thing to accomplish of all my categories of ideal parental conduct, for it possibly entails both affirmation and rejection of our own parents’ foibles and accomplishments.

If this sounds utopian to most readers, it is, but then the great historian Frank E. Manuel once alleged that the utopian element is a part of the human personality. At least the blog sets out what I take away from my own experience in families. There never was nor will there be a “golden age” with no conflict, but we can imagine alternatives… or can’t we?

The Golden Age, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530

The Golden Age, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530

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March 9, 2015

Did racial theory take off in medieval Spain: Benzion Netanyahu’s big book

Moshe Maimon "Marranos" 1892

Moshe Maimon “Marranos” 1892

It is unbelievable to me that in the race-obsessed press and liberal academy, few have bothered to trace the origins of racial theory, let alone how such theory as racial struggle supplanted class interest or class struggle as the engine of history, to the point where “economic determinism” or “materialism” are discarded as wayward, hellish “Jewish” inventions.

During the last two weeks, I have been absorbed in reading Bibi Netanyahu’s father’s big book on the origins of the Spanish Inquisition, a tome that was subjected to furious, dismissive reviews when it was first published in 1995 , though it is obviously a masterpiece of scholarly detective work. Indeed, it was presented to Pope Francis by Bibi in 2013. See this brief account here: http://tabletmag.com/scroll/154767/why-netanyahu-gave-pope-francis-his-fathers-history-of-the-spanish-inquisition. The author correctly states that the Inquisition was not owing to papal interference but was political and secular in its origin.

The elder Netanyahu argued that racial theory in the form of antisemitism may be said to have originated in late medieval Spain as an attempt by envious “Old Christians” to drive ‘crypto-Jews’ (i.e., the “New Christians” or conversos) out of their positions as tax farmers, tax collectors, state administrative offices, the professions, and artisan crafts. The same competitiveness and animus, drawing from the antisemitism of the Patristic Church Fathers that labeled all ‘deicide’ Jews evil by nature, would not only explain the expulsion and expropriation of the Jews from Spain in 1492, but would account for the application of racial theory in Nazi Germany.

Neo-Nazi "Hidden Heritage"

Neo-Nazi “Hidden Heritage”

It is very hard to pin down the origins of racial theory. The earliest reference I could find ended up as an endnote in my Melville book, citing John Block Friedman, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1981): The Attic sensibility was viewed by medieval (Aristotelian) Catholics as moderate, disciplined and balanced, while its monstrous antitheses represented “emotion, redundance, and formal disorder”; monstrosity was correlated with “the enigmatic, the inflated and the grandiose.”  The hot, deserted antipodes were linked to the vaguely situated Ethiopia, and found at the most extreme distances from the Greek center of the world; its perverse inhabitants had feet turned backwards and walked upside down; i.e., they were out of reach of the Christian gospel. [my footnote ends here] This is not inconsistent with the Netanyahu thesis, though it draws upon Pliny the Elder, (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_History_(Pliny).

Google race theory, and you will find references to Linnaeus and his conception of speciation, and everyone notes the popularity of “scientific racism” in the 19th century. George L. Mosse’s widely read book Toward The Final Solution is ably summarized here: http://www.nationalismproject.org/books/bookrevs/toward.htm (Briefly, Mosse sees racism as originating in the Enlightenment and in Pietism. He did not look for the material and ideological origins of racial theory in late Medieval Spain, though he is generally grouped with the “cultural Marxists.”)

This is what I take away from Benzion Netanyahu’s major contribution to scholarship: while advocates of “the Judeo-Christian heritage” minimize the degree of leftover antisemitism of the most virulent kind, Bibi’s father (writing from the meritocratic Right) spared no sensibilities in his search for truth. Although Netanyahu thought he was setting the stage for Hitler’s deployment of racial theory in Nazi propaganda, I draw a second lesson from his work, perhaps more relevant today.

Just as the New Christians (or Marranos) imagined themselves safe from persecution after their conversion to the dominant culture, today’s Democrats and other leftists of Jewish descent imagine that they are integrated into the political class as friends and equals. In many cases they probably are, but who can see into the heart of another?

The “assimilated” may be living in a fool’s paradise. Are the Inquisitions finished for good? What about the debate over Israel and rising antisemitism in Europe and America? Who is teaching our children about the precise content of antisemitism, past and present? Who is teaching them about the anarchy, constant warfare, and sadistic horrors of the Middle Ages, or the progress achieved by the humanitarians of modernity?

Goya, "Tribunal...." 1812-1819

Goya, “Tribunal….” 1812-1819

March 13, 2014

What is cultural relativism?

culturalrelativism2Briefly, cultural relativism does NOT mean that there are no impermissible human actions—sex and violence for instance, but that different cultures have ethical systems that make sense to them, given their state of material development and the belief systems that sustain them.  Cultural relativism exists in tension with human rights and ethical universalism. The Left uses that contradiction to trash the “bourgeois” notion of human rights advanced by ethical systems as diverse as the Catholic Church and freethinking. (Multiculturalism, a form of relativism, does not acknowledge this contradiction, but imagines different cultures united without conflict as in this illustration. This is the dream world of Wilsonian internationalism and today’s multiculturalism or rooted cosmopolitanism.)

I recall a period when leftists commonly attacked “imperialism” for destroying native “communities”—no matter how backward and horrifically sexist these pre-scientific/pre-capitalist cultures were. It was also the case that some Enlightenment freethinkers (Diderot for example), imagined that “primitive” cultures were free from the instinctual repression that they attributed to the West and its strict religions. (I have written about the fantastic nature of primitives earlier on this website: see https://clarespark.com/2013/04/16/blogs-on-anarchismpunkprimitivism/.)

Or, some European leftists imagined that native Africans lived in untroubled harmony with Nature: the late Roger Garaudy for example. This was yet another common idealization of the primitive, following Rousseau or the multitudes who celebrated noble savages as a critique of surplus repression in their families of origin. The Melville Revival was partly motivated by his first two novels–the best sellers Typee and Omoo.

Turn now to Andrew Klavan’s booklet The Crisis in the Arts: Why the Left Owns the Culture and How Conservatives can Begin To Take it Back (David Horowitz Freedom Center, 2014). Klavan, a  crime fiction novelist, wants “conservatives” to open up a new front in the culture wars, by leaving off their censorious ways, and exploring the inner lives of humans, as if human nature has been the same no matter what stage of development a particular society may be in. The irony is that Klavan is addressing religious persons, either Catholics or evangelical Protestants, many of whom have been complaining about hypersexuality and violence in the media, and in popular or high culture in general. He wants their money to support Klavan-approved artists, and he wants them to create “conservative” art—art that would disseminate a new, conservatively constructed conscience, thence to rule the world, as Shelley advised in one of his most Romantic moments. Klavan also appeals to the late activist Andrew Breitbart, claiming that this was Breitbart’s hope before he died at the age of 43.

But Klavan is deeply unaware of art history, literary history, the history of popular culture, and of the marketplace of ideas that he presumably wants to extend to include his monolithic notion of conservatism (as if there were not deeply conservative trends in culture already). First, he imagines that there is something called the Left, monolithic and unified, that is currently in control of both high and popular culture. Take popular culture for instance: as a watchful consumer of both high and pop culture, I am struck by its populism, not its Leninism. The working class is not depicted as the vanguard of communist revolution, but as worthy of our compassion and respect, just as it is. Moreover, pop culture celebrates the tastes of the Common Man and Common Woman: for spectacle, for glitter, suspicion of hanky-panky in high places, and for shows of military force and physical virtuosity.

Such shows as Law and Order resemble other socially responsible capitalist productions, taking their marching orders from those institutions attacking irresponsible rich people (often Jews), whose instinctual excesses will, unchecked, instigate revolts from below. (For detailed blogs analyzing television programming see https://clarespark.com/2012/03/16/index-to-blogs-on-popular-tv-shows/.)

hornedhunk

To conclude, Klavan is still living in a magical world of mystery and simplicity, where there are no troublesome clashing world views, where families can be depicted as always happy and unified, where soldiers come home without PTSD or missing limbs, and where women would rather leave the workplace and go back home to the kitchen and multiple pregnancies. He means well; he wants an art that is so powerful it will defeat the big bad Left, to reinstitute a culture of conscience that never co-existed with the libertarian values that he simultaneously champions in this confusing booklet.

culturalrelativism1

You can stop reading here, or go on with an endnote to my book on the Melville Revival, along with some statements by powerful figures in the history of Western civilization; they deal with monsters and monstrous ideas. Monsters are one target of Klavan’s wrath, when he is in his conscience-instructing mood (as opposed to the libertarian mood):

An endnote from Hunting Captain Ahab: See John Block Friedman, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981), 35, 47-49, 53. The Attic sensibility was viewed by medieval (Aristotelian) Catholics as moderate, disciplined and balanced, while its monstrous antitheses represented “emotion, redundance, and formal disorder”; monstrosity was correlated with “the enigmatic, the inflated and the grandiose.” The hot, deserted antipodes were linked to the vaguely situated Ethiopia, and found at the most extreme distances from the Greek center of the world; its perverse inhabitants had feet turned backwards and walked upside down; i.e., they were out of reach of the Christian gospel.

[From Chapter Five of HCA:]

For Thomas Hobbes (1651), curiosity was not an aid to reason, but an indomitable passion of the mind that could overpower and displace the less troublesome pleasures of food and sex:

Desire to know why, and how, <is> CURIOSITY; such as is in no living creature but Man; so that Man is distinguished, not onely by his reason; but also by this singular Passion from other Animals; in whom the appetite of food, and other pleasures of Sense, by praedominance, take away the care of knowing causes; which is a Lust of the mind, that by a perseverance of delight in the continuall and indefatigable generation of Knowledge, exceedeth the short vehemence of any carnall Pleasure.”[i]

In 1659 “Committees of the Good Old Cause” were virtuous vampires: “This Dragon it was and a monstrous Beast,/ With fourty or fifty heads at least,/ And still as this Dragon drank down Blood/ Those heads would wag and cry “good-good-good!”[ii] Not surprisingly, the same tumescent Heads exasperated Dryden in Absalom and Achitophel:

The Jews, a Headstrong, Moody, Murm’ring race,

As ever tri’d the’extent and stretch of grace;

God’s pampered People, whom, debauch’d with ease,

No King could govern, nor no God could please;

(God they had tri’d of every shape and size,

That God-smiths would produce, or Priests devise:)

These Adam-wits, too fortunately free,

Began to dream they wanted liberty;

And when no rule, no president was found

Of men, by Laws less circumscrib’d and bound,

They led their wild desires to Woods and Caves,

And thought that all but Savages were Slaves.[i]


NOTES to book excerpts


[i] 6. Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651, Part I, Chapter 6, 26. Do Melville’s rebel senses refer only to repressed sexuality, or are they the necessary stimulus to thought, reflection, and the perilous search for “why” and “how”?

[ii] 7. “Sir Eglamor and the Dragon, How General George Monck slew a most Cruell Dragon, Feb.11, 1659,” Rump: or an Exact Collection of the Choycest Poems and Songs Relating to the Late Times (London, 1662), 371-2.

[iii]  8. Quoted in Cicely V. Wedgwood, Politics and Poetry Under the Stuarts (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1960), 165-166. Dryden’s fears have not been quieted in her commentary: “Leaving aside this sidelong shot at current political theories about noble savages, this is the statement of a man who remembers the excesses of the sects and disorders of the Civil War, who sees how fatally easy it is to kindle into flame a ‘Headstrong, Moody, Murm’ring race’–a one-sided but not untrue description of the seventeenth-century English–and who knows how difficult it will be to put out the flame once kindled?” Her obituary (NYT, 3/11/97) credits her with “vivid narratives [that] told the story of Britain with the common man in mind.” A fellow at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies, 1953-68, Dame Veronica was born in 1910 to Sir Ralph Wedgwood, a baronet and former head of British Railways, and was great-great granddaughter to Josiah Wedgwood (identified here as a potter).

June 21, 2013

Apocalyptic landscapes and the escape artist

Pierre Massine's Apocalypse

Pierre Massine’s Apocalypse

Here is a sampling of prior blogs on the subject of apocalypse as irrationalist insistence on inevitable decadence.

https://clarespark.com/2009/11/17/melencolia-i-and-the-apocalypse-1938/

https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/

https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/

https://clarespark.com/2009/11/19/the-scary-city-lamprecht-becker-lynd/

https://clarespark.com/2011/04/03/progressives-the-luxury-debate-and-decadence/ (read this first)

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/

https://clarespark.com/2013/03/22/traditionalists-on-the-culture-front/

https://clarespark.com/2014/06/25/penny-dreadfuls-sinister-significance/

Commentary: All parents are aware that toddlers go through years of fearing “monsters.”  Many sleep problems are associated with such imagos (images instigated by angry parents of either gender, or fighting in front of children, or images gleaned from mass media and some religions).

Counter-Enlightenment publicists mobilize such childhood fears (reinforced in popular culture and political propaganda) to influence public opinion in directions that are statist, even protofascist.  For instance, “progressive” schools introduce such terrifying subjects as the monstrosities of the Holocaust or of slavery before students have the emotional equipment to deal with them as events in the past, or to evaluate the claims that their effects linger in the present. Is it any wonder that teen-agers lap up horror movies featuring vampires and zombies, movies that may trivialize real life horrors or in the knowable past and predictable future? These kids are easy marks for movie and television producers who would have them live in a world populated by monsters–monsters who disappear when the lights go on; these and other propagandists denigrate the science and technology that will enable youngsters to navigate, with realism, all grown-up controversies.

My argument: it is impossible to have rational political debate on controversial subjects such as environmentalism or immigration reform in this infantilized atmosphere. What is increasingly clear to me is that the forces of reaction have the upper hand in popular culture. Have we turned into a nation of escape artists—escaping the responsibilities of citizenship through socially-induced regression? How convenient it is for the morally and politically lazy to pronounce that we are doomed.  Both liberals and conservatives should think through their own views on progress before they inflict their possible pessimism and depression on the young.

Here is an example of how a liberal publication criticizes apocalyptic thinking in order to argue for political action to halt man-made climate change. We need a more comprehensive critique of apocalyptic thinking than The Atlantic  offers us here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/04/how-apocalyptic-thinking-prevents-us-from-taking-political-action/255758/.

Oil refinery as The End

Oil refinery as The End

March 14, 2012

History as trauma

Bruce Bartlett

This blog started out as a meditation on Bruce Bartlett’s Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). (For a conversation between the author and Clarence Page, see http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/204475-1.] A better discussion is here: http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1494. Glenn C. Loury, professor of economics at Brown University is a far sharper partner to Bartlett, and enunciates the same take on elite micromanagement of racial politics in the universities as the views advanced on my website. For a graduation speech that explicates Loury’s view of “identity” see http://today.brown.edu/articles/2008/09/loury.)

Bruce Bartlett has been a widely read policy adviser to the Republican Party; he says that he has libertarian leanings; he seems to have switched to the Democratic Party recently. But in the very last words of his history of the close ties of the Democratic Party with white supremacist doctrines, he writes “The purpose of this book is to encourage Republicans to compete for the black vote and at the same time show blacks why they should be receptive if Republicans should ask for a hearing. Blacks deserve better than being pawns in the political game. It is very much in their interest to be players. But that won’t happen unless they are willing to loosen the ties that bind them almost exclusively to the Democratic Party, the party to which their greatest oppressors belonged (p. 194).

This blog attempts to complicate Bartlett’s proposed outreach to black Americans by the Republican Party with some thoughts gleaned from another book that I have been reading: Robert C. Scaer, M.D., The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease, second ed. (Routledge, 2007). Dr. Scaer, a neurologist, lays out a materialist explanation for psychogenic illnesses that stem from earlier traumas, such as military combat, assault, rape, incest, spousal abuse, lack of mother-child bonding, child abuse, torture, messy divorces, and other stressors that may be re-enacted even when the traumatized individual suffers from mild shocks, such as whiplash. Scaer does not mention the teaching of history as one possible source of trauma, but I have observed in my own grandchildren that when such horrors as chattel slavery in the American South are taught at an inappropriately early age, the student may be terrified to the point of trauma; s/he can find no safe place to hide from the predator, especially when leftists proclaim that white supremacy will endure until there is a violent overthrow of the status quo. And the same may be said of other events in U.S. and world history: the destruction of indigenous peoples, or the mass death that was enabled by mechanized warfare, starting with the American Civil War. And of course, the teaching of the Holocaust is another potentially traumatizing practice. Add to these gothic moments, the impending destruction of the environment advanced by deep ecologists.

In Bartlett’s book, his notion of reparations suggests free college scholarships to the descendants of slaves, but he does not consider teaching the dubious origin of race theory itself as a strategy. I remind  the reader of my blogs that “race” is a social construction, not an objective fact. Race thinking is filled with nonsense such as the “one-drop” rule for blackness. We are all in the same species, whatever the variation in physical characteristics. What racists do is to claim that “race,” a collective category, predicts mental and emotional characteristics, usually within a hierarchy. Who turns out to be the top dog depends on the group constructing the hierarchy. For a German Romantic’s view of the hierarchy see https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/. Obviously, a Chinese or Japanese nationalist would have a different arrangement of the hierarchy of races, as would Pan-African nationalists such as James Cone (https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/).   If you watch the dialogue between Glenn C. Loury and Bruce Bartlett, cited above, you will hear Loury criticize the notion of race as such.

Glenn C. Loury

I don’t look to ultra-social conservatives in the Republican Party to consider trauma or to deploy any other toolbox that smells like neo-Freudianism, for such believers are not worldly, in contrast to Dr. Scaer and other mental health professionals. Indeed, as fundamentalists, these denizens of the far Right are not in history at all, for this world is but the prelude to a better one, and disasters are part of God’s plan. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.) It is no accident that the impetus for education reform through school choice is emanating from within the Democratic Party (though Milton Friedman suggested it long ago), with little encouragement from social conservatives demanding local control and the choice of a religious education. For public schools are a scary site that could alienate the child of the ultra-conservative from the family of origin. What all of us need to do, whether we are of the [modernized] Center Right, or Independents or Liberals, is to think of the curriculum as a mine field when we attempt to teach the dark side of human history. I could have entitled this blog “Freezing fear in the classroom.” We may be traumatizing and re-traumatizing our children, not willfully, but as a side effect of our ignorance of the effect of the emotions on physical health; an ignorance that subsequently diminishes our capacity to be rational actors in a representative republic. In our attempts to educate the young are we teaching learned helplessness? For the youngster cannot change the awful past we transmit with the best of intentions.

Perhaps the current vogue for vampires, zombies, and other terrifying monsters (e.g. wolverines as illustrated), is a defense mechanism by adolescents and pre-teens and even younger children; i.e., identifying with the cruel individuals and events that they can never master in their own real lives. But this is a defense only, and does not get us closer to releasing the terrors that remain locked within the psyche, and that might be among the potential cause(s) for auto-immune diseases. Lest anyone be discouraged by this blog: Dr. Scaer argues that medicine is still in its infancy. It is a great advance in human history that we are learning so much about the physiology of stress, as opposed to relying upon supernatural explanations for the ups and downs of living. Perhaps one strategy to mitigate learned helplessness (not within the scope of Scaer’s book)  is to relate through education and through popular and high culture how both inviduals and groups have banded together to overcome threats to survival. Call such tactics a promising form of preventive medicine. For part 2 of this essay, see https://clarespark.com/2012/03/18/history-as-trauma-2-rosebud-version/.

February 13, 2012

Whitney’s spectacular demise

Whitney with snakylocks

I have written many blogs complaining about primitivism, racism, and the decline of American civilization. (see https://clarespark.com/2010/04/08/racism-modernity-modernism/.) I am so disturbed by the mindless media frenzy following Whitney Houston’s not-so-sudden death on Feb.11, 2012, that I am incapable of more than an outline.

1. The main lesson for everyone: don’t mix alcohol with xanax or other sedatives. If you need anti-anxiety drugs, beware of addiction and read the warning label.

2. Her deterioration became a spectacle; where were her friends and physicians?

3. The Grammies celebrate a drug culture common to the music industry and its fans; the latest casualties appear to have died from mixing booze with anti-anxiety drugs. Before that, cocaine was understood to be factored into the cost of hip pop music record production.

4. (On The Grammies) From 1960s-70s light shows to the current sports-inflected pop culture world, there is barely a gap. Only the technology, athleticism, and virtuosity have advanced. The audience remains high and hypnotized by flashing lights and gaudy colors and glitter, including the clothes worn by black and brown performers of both sexes. Barbaric ornament is in, republican simplicity is out and associated with Victorian battle-axes who marched for abolition, then temperance, then urban uplift of fallen women.

5. With respect to culture, the South won the Civil War and later these organic conservatives may  have stopped the civil rights movement cold by its condemnation of [New England] “puritanism,” supposedly the force behind the mechanized slaughter and the materialistic, divisive culture that followed the conflict. The mystical white Left and counter-culture helped out by separating black culture from an integrated American history. They also shook their booties (sp?) and went primitive. 19th century blackface minstrel shows, once considered racist, are now celebrated by some folklorists as populist and satirical.

6. The plundering, vicious, modernizing “North” of the 1860s, in some cases, may return as monsters and vampires in popular films and comics of today.* Universities call for conferences on this mysterious phenomenon, while ignoring the growing public expression of antisemitism. Some cool black entrepreneurs (starting with Spike Lee?) blame Jewish money managers for stealing the money earned by superstars in the music industry.  Part of the Southern patrician legacy is responsible for this complaint, for New England=fanatical abolitionist=puritan killjoy=Sherman’s march through Georgia=predatory Yankee- Jewish commerce/filthy lucre, now famously controlling all of mass media and destroying all “communities.”

7. Whitney Houston will always be good because she sang the national anthem better than anybody, also (Dolly Parton’s) “I Will Always Love You,” attaching unconditional love to objects of dubious worth to herself, i.e. “bad boy” Bobby Brown and her entourage. The blending of the demonic with art-making is an old Romantic tic that should be recognized and condemned.  See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/16/good-jews-bad-jews-and-wandering-jews/. The same with sadomasochism, no longer a symptom to be identified and treated, or, more judgmentally, as a perversion, but an acceptable, even fashionable form of sexuality. Even a cursory examination of this culture will find a fountain of misogyny and hatred of moral mothers–the mothers who replaced male authority in the teaching of religion and other “civilizing” functions after patriarchs left the household for work in offices, factories, etc.

8. I am horrified by those doctors and hangers-on who not only failed to help Whitney Houston, but by those in the tabloids who have profited from her spectacular public deterioration. Equally, I am disappointed by those activists who oppose public health measures or the teaching of human biology/hygiene at the earliest possible age in our schools.

9. [Added 2-14-12] I have not mentioned the cost of celebrity; the loss of  privacy; the pressure to perform in order to support others; the internal pressure not to lose skill and/or fire; the fear of aging; performance anxiety. This goes for opera singers and all public performers who impersonate others. Who was Whitney Houston impersonating? What was her relationship with her singer mother? Did she adhere to the myth of the tragic mulatto? How did she respond to her own motherhood?  Journalists invested in the reproduction of “celebrity” will not ask these very obvious questions, for the answers would shorten the distance between audience and performer, and would raise the troubling issue of race and stardom. [Added 2-17-12: I wrote this blog a week ago. I saw the funeral service. Nowhere in all the media coverage has there been the mention of a strong, nurturing father in her family of origin. Presumably Clive Davis tried to fill that function, but why the silence about her biological father, John Russell Houston, Jr. (d. 2003)? Thanks to my daughter Jennifer Loeb Chocron for pointing this out to me.]

*Monsters and vampires are not limited to the rampaging “North”, but may represent “the return of the repressed,” i.e., images of forbidden rage against authoritarian, abusive/negligent parents or other illegitimate authority.

Recommended reading. Daniel Aaron, The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War (N.Y.: Knopf, 1973). This pathbreaking book in American Studies faulted most American authors as mostly  patricians unable to share in the experience of ordinary soldiers, and who also ignored the centrality of slaves and free blacks in their fiction and poetry.  Those who did best were Melville, Whitman, De Forest, Bierce, Mark Twain, and Faulkner. Highly readable and beautifully written.

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