Fiddler on the Hot Tin Roof

Fiddler on the Hot Tin Roof (The Media Minstrels)

            The fact that persons of Jewish descent dominate the culture-producing industries, both high and low, is the result of historical happenstance alone. Any other inference is not merely Anti-Semitic, it is suggestive of the very ressentiment that is once again building its political franchise. This ‘undergrowth’, as the narrator to the mostly excellent documentary The Architecture of Doom refers to it in its closing moments, is no longer simply underfoot, to the side, or creeping along unseen beneath a cultured canopy. That Jesus was himself Jewish, or at the least, was perceived as such whatever his paternal pedigree, should not have provided the Anti-Semite with an apical ancestor. But Jewish colleagues have told me that they still overhear, or are even told to their faces, that ‘The Jews killed Jesus’ and so on. Doubtless a personal retribution on the part of a few well-placed priests, the crucifixion hangs itself up on another kind of cross; one that is political through and through. The sandal has been on the other foot ever since. For ideally, being well-placed in a culture means having culture in the first place.

            Due to European property laws, as Marx and Engels pointed out in On the Jewish Question, the diaspora was funneled into service sector trades, including all those associated with accoutrement and requiring consistent and trans-national trade networks, such as jewelry, precious metals, and financing. It should be recalled that the first significant loan in history occurred when the Black Prince borrowed heavily in order to back a war, with the agreement that this debt would be repaid with interest. Needless to say, it was not. What were a group of Italian Jews with not even a militia in their employ going to do about it? By the nineteenth century, people of Jewish descent had become the leading indicators of a globalizing culture that would move from Mendelssohn to Mahler and from Marx to Freud. But at the very moment that ‘the Jews’ seemed to populate the corridors of culture, since, once again, they were barred from politics – mimicking the earlier division of labor between landed luxury and mere luxury items – there arose against this presence, both artistic and intellectual which appeared from above, a vicious counterpoint from below.

            In the Reich’s propaganda, the culture critic is singled out. This was easiest road, the lane of least resistance, for the critic produces in the criticized nothing other than a resentment. Shaw expressed it most famously, and most concisely, showing the critic to be nothing more than a eunuch beside the lovers’ bed. Akin to those who teach, those who can’t do, criticize. Indeed, I have encountered such criticism, resentful in itself, and have found myself saying, ‘write your own book, my friend,’ knowing full well that they were incapable of even that. The priests in the temple, driven from it by some neo-Hebrew and seemingly self-appointed messiah, are the truer apex of this jilted genealogy. Certainly, they got their revenge, but just as certainly, the history of Anti-Semitism, in its Euro-American context at least, begins there. And thus, and thence it is the culture critic who is the one who ‘passes his arrogant judgments’, and represents a wider ethnic group or ‘race’ who is devoid of ‘the very organ of culture’. Yet this could be said, and was said, of anyone who was a critic, Jew or non-Jew alike. The Reich focused nothing more, and nothing other, than an already present resentment, lensing it into an authentic ressentiment. Ironically, it was the artist who was first to heed this new politics, the intrusion of which into his absolutely apolitical, or even anti-political, realm, supposedly transcendent of anything petty at all, was uncommonly resented and rejected heretofore.

            The artist and the intellectual, the scientist and the lawyer, and above all others, so to speak, the physician, flocked to the NSDAP. Doctors as a profession boasted the highest party-member rates, partly due to the new regime’s promotion of eugenics, but also due to the clear-cutting of all Jewish medical professionals. The fact that many prominent members of the culture-producing sectors were of Jewish descent was simply an outcome of their heritage being prevented from pursuing other vocations was somehow lost. Of course, if any specific social group is targeted as being fit only for this or that, they will, over time, excel at it. They will, over time, develop networks internal which favor their in-group participation in a more longitudinal manner. The Nazis were adept at rewriting Germanic history into myth, but Hitler himself had more personal reasons for doing the same with his own biography. Perhaps it was so, that when he took in a performance of Rienzi in 1904, this was the ‘beginning of it all’, but surely it was three years later, with the rejection letter from the Vienna School of Art that set his resentment in motion. How many other art schools were there in Europe at the time? If one was 21st on the list of the very best, where only the top 20 are invited, one would think one would with some clearance actually get into a number of others. This fact too, was lost.

            Even so, it is not entirely fair to say that once those of Jewish descent were purged from cultural production only the mediocre remained. Otto Dix, an anti-Nazi expressionist, is a shining counter-example, one of the great artists of the interwar period and as ‘Aryan’ as they came. And even Hitler himself was a competent limner and a well-studied architect. But his real genius lay in graphic design. To this day, no symbology widens the eyes as does the suite of media bearing the half-twisted swastika; banners, flags, uniforms, standards, letterhead and many others. A whole-souled acolyte of Wagner, whose own anti-Semitism is well-known if potentially equivocal – in its singling out of Jewishness as an instance of the wider problem of ethnicity as a regression, for instance – Hitler became his own impresario. For the German of culture, it was clear that while those who were Jewish had indeed contributed mightily to European dominance, it was equally transparent that Gentiles could carry the torch without their help. Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Bruckner, Goethe, Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger; well, yes, we’ve got some game after all.

            And thus today? The same fomenting fulminations are afoot as were present in the 1920s, this time in the United States and not so much in Germany. The same resentment building itself into a movement of political ressentiment, the same mistrust of government and its minions, the same disdain and mockery of those who create in the arts, the same ignorance of literature and of philosophy – ‘only God knows the truth of things’, that is, their God – and this reiterative refrain begins in the 1980s. Yet we must ask, and at this very moment, is not the same blithe and sometimes even blatant sense of the blasé evident in how those of Jewish descent who do dominate the modern mass media in all of its lower cultural forms, as well as the now much-less targeted high culture, as well a reprise of the same attitude and self-perception present in the bygone Berlin and Vienna sets? Seinfeld defending Israel at Duke? Convocation from an elite culture-producing space, its design and entire look mindful of nothing other than a smallish party rally, with not the king but rather the court jester presiding, cuts a rather febrile figure to my mind. A mimicry and a mockery at once, such events result in some Lovecraftian hybrid, a ‘thing that should not be’.

            Beyond the specific spaces, behind the publisher’s closed doors, within the select circles of Kultur if not the heated tin roof of society itself, the coming victims of Holocaust II await their less chosen fates. And yet this is the happenstance of history repeating itself, without grace and outside of a wider Zeitgeist. People of Jewish descent know, more than any of the rest of us, that there is no Zionist conspiracy. It would then seem prudent if they did not continue to give the impression that there were.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 59 books in ethics, education, religion, aesthetics, social theory and health, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Donate your Brain to Pseudo-Science!

Donate Your Brain to Pseudo-Science! (a tax-free way to lose your mind)

            It is always less taxing not to think. The unthinking person can still take action in the world. The mundane sphere presents few opportunities for thought in any case, so one need not generally bother with it at all. We only need learn to use our technology, in the same manner as we have already, most of us, learned to apply norms and act according to the mores of the day. We do not, in either case, need to know the ins and outs, in any great or grave detail, of either Techne or Hexis. For the one, this is the job of the natural sciences, for the other, those social. The German translator of J.S. Mill’s System of Logic bequeathed to the discourse the lasting if unquiet distinction between ‘Natur’ and ‘Geist’ in providing the prefixes for Mill’s original sense of ‘natural’ and ‘moral’. Mills used the term ‘moral’ in his ‘moral sciences’ in the same way as Durkheim would later state that there was no other ‘moral order than society’. The Naturwissenshaften are seemingly straightforward, the Geisteswissenschaften seemingly less so.The first center around objects and phenomena that can be measured, even if in high energy physics such numbers can conflict and that there is an ‘observer effect’ at work. There is no object or posited force in the cosmos that escapes its own order, and this order is non-moral as well as non-moralizing.

            It is strikingly different with the social sciences or human sciences. Not only is the object the same as the subject – we are studying ourselves, which only could not give someone like Durkheim pause because of his very French nonchalance regarding other like conditions; ‘religion is society worshipping itself’, he famously declared in 1912, and so why not have a science dedicated to studying society itself? – that object is both moral and indeed moralizing, and all the more so today it appears. Mill recognized this with a typical rationality, including understanding that because the moral sciences centered around humanity, they must not only include women by definition but also that women should be doing the research as well as men. Harriet Martineau, the first person to write a social science methods book and also the first female fieldworker, was an associate of Mill’s, amongst a number of other high profile early woman scientists. And though the inventor of positivism, Auguste Comte, coined the term sociology, Martineau was the first actual sociologist. One might suggest at this juncture that anti-moralizing is still moralizing, but there it is. For built right into the very idea of self-study is the destabilizing presence of the ‘spirit’ or Geist.

            The career of the human sciences was, over the past two centuries or so, often held up by the sense that it could not in fact be scientific at all, a view some hold even today. One could be forgiven for simply replying, ‘well if it didn’t trouble Weber, it shouldn’t trouble us’, but there is more to it than such a nod to authoritative analytics. And the critique of the human sciences was not a one-way street, with just natural scientists disdaining their ‘softer’ cousins. From within the ranks of the moral analysts a bevy of hortatory criticism emanated, with the likes of Ian Jarvie, Edmund Leach, Malinowski and Kroeber as well the founder of behaviorism, John Watson and most famously his student, B.F. Skinner, weighing in on how ‘backward’ were their respective fields, ‘mystical’, and even counting ‘magical thinking’ as a kind of object. Pitirim Sorokin, in his Fads and Foibles in Modern Sociology and Related Sciences (1956) – of which I own a signed and dedicated first edition, no less, speaking of fetishizing the object – dismantles the hocus-pocus of both the critiqued and the critics alike. Closer to our own day, the Weber scholar and philosopher of science Stanislaw Andreski, in his Social Science as Sorcery, (1972), makes no hoary bones about declaring much of the Geisteswissenschaften to be generally fit only for a museum, and some of their contents even to be non-existent.

            Even so, it can be also be said that this back and forth is part of a healthy scientific discourse, a necessary dynamic so that the wheat and chaff of investigation and interpretation can be separated and contrasted with one another. And the sciences ‘proper’ too were not without their like critics, most notably, Thomas Kuhn and later on, Bruno Latour, whose argument, if ever actually understood by the anti-science crowd, would with great irony be quite devastating. So, while there has clearly been an ever-present element of both sciences natural and social which is given to epistemological slippage, the critical discussion coming from within these discourses has generally been enough to identify the problematic feature. But not always.

            Eugenics remains the most egregious example of a study that everyone across the board for some sixty years thought was science. It was not limited regionally, like Lysenkoism, it was not practiced only by applied specialists, such as anthropometry, and it was not associated with any specific politics of the day, which ultimately was its most insidious and dangerous ruse. We have to remind ourselves that the Reich was merely an extension, in its policies and practices, of what everyone thought at the time and long leading up to that time. This aside from Anti-Semitism itself, which was ubiquitous. Eugenics was the source of this sensitivity made sensibility, bigotry turned into science and thus made ‘objective’ by it. There is a eugenics institute to this day, though privately funded only, and sociobiologists, who skirt the very boundary of a form of self-hatred as human beings, still top the best-seller lists from time to time. The idea that superiority, especially that in ‘intelligence’, can be accounted for by ethnicity, gender, or other structural variables dies hard due to the very sense that we are yet in ignorance of the ultimate workings of human consciousness.

            All of this takes us directly back to the original puzzle which confronted Mill: how does one design a logic in which subject and object are essentially the same thing? What kind of epistemology is viable for such a condition? Science is not only a demythology but also very much a deontology, which suggests that any essence of thinghood as the natural sciences explain it has nothing of Being in it at all, and thus can be ‘reduced’ to its relevant quanta. We have encountered little enough in our nascent study of the cosmos to suggest otherwise. But from the first, the social scientist comes up against nothing less than a fully-fledged ontology, living and breathing, professing its soul to itself and anyone else who might be willing to, perhaps naively, listen. How does one study something ‘like that’ at all? Attacked from all sides, with philosophers joining scientists in deriding the student of humanity – the first engaged in protecting its interpretative territory, the second its good name – it would seem that the very idea of the social sciences itself was a non-starter. But due to the exiguity of the object, as well as the simple fascination of any thinking being reflecting upon itself as well as the problem, not of ‘other minds’ or the Other per se, but rather in getting along with the other, the human sciences have, in fits and starts, nevertheless flourished. Economics, that hard-hearted ‘dismal science’ which is not about nature at all, remains high in the human saddle, and its micro counterpart, psychology, is the analytic space from which all of the ‘bleeding-heart’, if mostly equally dismal, public policies emanate. Geography reminds us that we still live in and on a world, and anthropology and sociology have gifted that same world to all of the newly fashionable ‘studies’ that, for the Thomas Huxleys of the day, strain the definitions of both science and discourse alike.

            The conflict about what is and what is not pseudo-science is thus never a town and gown affair. The physicist nods his head to the chemist but that’s all he does, the biologist shakes his head at the psychologist, the economist sniffs at the sociologist, the anthropologist wrings her hands at cultural studies and yet nursing, and the philosopher turns away from all of it in a piece. That anti-scientism targets its apparent opposite tells us of a home truth as well; that some scientists take their work for a kind of modernist and rationalist religion. And yet the political situation does not admit any easy egress, for if the scientist explicates her vocation along lines Weberian let alone from the perspective of a Latour, then all might as well be lost, for once the regressive anti-science person gets a hold of the presence of both historical and epistemological relativism within science itself, its very existence can be called into question. To be absolutely objective insofar as one can, science truly is ‘a candle in the dark’, as Sagan described it. It is only a tool, subject to human error, but it remains the best we have. The anti-scientist does not only disbelieve in this sensibility, he also feels that science is itself a fraud; that there is, in a word, no difference between science and pseudo-science.

            This fundamental opposition to all of the sciences, be they of nature or of humanity, cannot be eroded by rational argument. Even the most direct evidence to the senses is dismissed – witness the malingering doubt regarding climate change – simply because the source is itself invalidated: ‘Science says what? Well, that’s obviously wrong, immoral, ungodly, secularist, sacrilegious.’ I do not think that most scientists understand the scope and depth of the opposition ranged against their trade and its discourses. Trained to accept both authoritative argument and sensate evidence, learned in mathematics and the details of technologies, the scientist imagines that she is only an adept within a universal suffrage of thinking. But in fact, most people have no idea how science works or even why it exists. This is another reason why febrile persons from within the academic discourses have of late suggested that there can be ‘indigenous science’ or epistemology, or that different cultures have ‘different’ sciences. No and no. This is the truer pseudo-science. Science itself is a formal discourse which studies in a systematic manner the patterns and structures of nature and culture. It is neither Hexis nor Praxis. The Greeks invented it, and no one else even came close. For all other cultures, for whatever local or historical reason, remained ensconced in their tradition; their cosmogonies may be beautiful but they are nevertheless mythical. And even if our shared Jamesian consciousness is separated from the infinite ‘by only the filmiest of screens’, it will fall to science alone to discover and explain just how this is so. That is, if it still exists.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 59 books in ethics, education, religion, social theory, aesthetics and health, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary ‘moral sciences’ for over two decades.

Valkyrie Eleison

Valkyrie Eleison (The Ultimate Narcissism)

But slight are they, unworthy a word;

still whole are my limbs and trustily knit.

If but half so well as my arm

shield and spear had availed me,

ne’er from foe had I fled;

  • Wagner, The Valkyries, Act one, Scene one

            Of late, with visions of the human apocalypse a major theme in entertainment fiction, the mystery of our collective end made commodity and just in time, the wealthy among us seek to transcend their destinies by constructing heavily fortified villas in remote places, staffed by select groups of trusted friends and what-have-you, to be driven around – touring the wasteland which they believe to be our future – in equally adept vehicles, armored, with six wheels and powered by, well, whatever rapidly dwindling fuel supplies remain. Corporations which actually build these latter-day Babelian monsters report more business than they can handle, not that they are sorrowful in the least. For the bottom line of the dread-mongers trade is the ecstasy of an ejaculation of blood.

            It is a central tenet of Calvinism to imagine that if one is materially successful in this world, that it should be taken as sign of one’s elect status in the then novel Protestant soteriological doctrine. Salvation was always a mystery to this point. One did not know, and could not know, who was to be saved and who was to be damned. Now that the wealthy can save themselves, so they think, their investment in a bedamned future severs any Gordian knot traditionally associated with the divine mystery. And this not only in Christian belief but also in numerous Pre-Christian cultures, including those Nordic. The Valkyries, the choosers of the slain in battle and thus also, by definition, choosing those who will live to fight another day, are famously celebrated in the Wagnerian epic Ring Cycle. One of the most gripping scenes in film history has their ‘Ride’, from Act III of Die Walküre, providing the soundtrack for a vicious helicopter gunship attack in Apocalypse Now! (1979). But none of this has any relevance beyond the framework of the conflict between the happenstance of death in human life and the human aspiration to live on in its face.

            Whirligig Valkyries or no, death, sudden and irretrievable, is the daily potential lot of anyone who lives. What the wealthy have decided, in their flight before this essential condition, is that they will build for themselves an impenetrable shield against not death per se, since even after the end of the world they too will still die, likely alone and starving in their obscure castles, but rather against chance itself. So it is not the idea that one has attempted to cheat death that is so despicable about their actions, but rather that they believe themselves to be worthy of life alone, outside of death; that they are superior to the rest of us simply because of the ‘signage’ of their logistical capacities, their entrepreneurial genius, their work ethic, their dumb luck, their inheritances, their elite marriage circles or any combination aforementioned. Instead of channeling their wealth and skills back into the world which gave them their fluky birth, in order to help save the species from itself, they, with a calculation both patent and precise, turn their backs on we lower forms of life. In interview, their contractors – who of course do not name their clients, some of whom are celebrities after all – say that these people seek escape not even from disaster of whatever type, but from other human beings. This is what they actually state as the reason for hiring such shadow-builders. The wealthy elites are quite aware of our resentment towards them, quite understanding of the dynamics of capital, and quite shy about fully trusting governments and their policing forces to ensure the longitudinal protection of their wealth. They not only build redoubts, they assuage their own recurring doubts by also contracting private militia, ex-military retirees turned post-imperial soldiers of fortune. Call their cliques night watchmen on amphetamines, perhaps. Will these trusty, if well-paid, dogs also benefit from being housed inside the structures they must risk their lives, supposedly, to protect?

            The entire enterprise would be laughable if it were not the case that these elites see the world-joke being placed squarely upon us. Their utter lack of conscience, social or ethical or yet historical, places they themselves in the role of the court jester; observant, unwilling to commit, saying the things no others can say, for which of the rest of us would not choose as they have done, if we could only do so? But in fact, there are those whose concern is with the authentic human future, whose care is for the species-essence and for their human fellow. The idea of the apocalypse makes for thrilling fiction, apparently, but only the most cynical sociopath wills its reality. Even a Putin does not will it, and seeks to avoid it by bluff and bluster as well as by old-fashioned hammer-and-tongs combat over which the truer Valkyries still range. The sociopaths, including both the mock-Christian evangelist who sloughs off the responsibility for the ‘end times’ on an unwilling deity, as well as the neurotic and self-absorbed celebrity or entrepreneur, who feels strongly that the rest of us can really well go to hell, are fortunately few in number and tend not to seek political office. Even so, their presence constitutes an undergrowth of amorality that any sane society would shun. We have, in our ardor for fantasy both epic, as in that religious, and vulgar, as in that capitalist, indeed created this elite ourselves, and thus must bear the burden of its deepening legacy.

            For those elites who do not seek egress from the responsibility they share with all those who live today, we might ask that they engage in their own capitalist combat and take out the companies whose leadership promotes self-seeking evil; whose directors hide themselves away from the too-public eye; whose founders imagine themselves immortal at our expense. Can one think that a Warren Buffet or a Bill Gates has a Wolf’s Lair awaiting their last call? A William Shatner, a Patrick Stewart? Perhaps we do not know, in any real sense, the famous and the celebrated. But what we do know is that increasing numbers of lesser lights are becoming more and more obsessed, not about the survival of the species, but rather about merely their own, paltry shadow-sylphs, half-souled dwarves whose only comfort is to live again within the penumbra of personhood, dwelling in a world made the darker by their narcissistic madness.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 59 books in ethics, education, health, religion, social theory and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Two Types of Freedom

Two Types of Freedom: Academic and Civil

            Often confused, mainly due to the coincidence of youth matriculating from an unfree state to the relative freedom of new adulthood, academic freedom and civil liberty appear to blend into one another because the young person, in their daily rounds and as a newly freed and fully human being under the law, now steps onto campus and now steps off. This motion, normative, expected, and quotidian, gives the impression of being seamless and consistent. But all experienced adults understand that social context, when consorting with human freedom in general, is of the utmost. Every organization has its intake and internal rules. If one does not wish to conform to them, one should not join in the first place. Yet it is understandable as well, with some little perspective of years, that anyone who has been essentially unfree for the first seventeen years of their life would mistake a sudden and seemingly complete opening up of the space of general freedom in their nascent social being as the all in all. Following directly from this, the ability to speak one’s mind, no matter the issue or context at hand also appears to be a new reality and that by definition.

            The actual reality is, however, that the institutional unfreedom of childhood and youth is simply loosened, not loosed. Freedom can only be had within society, as Berger notes, even though for human beings, this also means that the social order has itself, and within it, also by a more adept self-definition, the seeds of its own revolution. In short, all enduring social change comes from within. The young person, who is abruptly an outsider on two fronts – one, and gladly so, forever graduated from the unfreedom of chattel-like status in and around eighteen years of age; and two, suddenly and not by choice, someone who is looking at the adult world from the outside in, and this for a few more years perhaps – has difficulty grasping that the simplest entrance into this second world, and the one that each of us spends the rest of his life inside, is to learn the new rules of conduct and how they both open themselves onto basic freedoms whilst limiting others. The political fashions of the day serve mostly as an exercise in self-expression which is at best annoying and irrelevant and at worst a satire or parody of authentic freedom. These early experiments in a generalized freedom inevitably come up against certain limits imposed by the adult organizations, such as universities and governments, corporations and benevolent societies. Their push and pull constitutes a rite of passage for youth-into-adulthood and should not be given much credit otherwise.

            But let us, before continuing, first define the two major types of freedom which are at stake and which, because of their close contiguity in the societal life course as well as the coursing of social life, become easily conflated at first glance.

            1. Academic Freedom: this is a technical and professional denotation only relevant to conduct on campus and in the scholarly discourses as published and expressed in other vocational or guild-like settings, such as conferences or virtual pedagogic spaces etc. It adheres only when a student or a faculty member seeks to make a discursive statement about whatever it is in which they have an intellectual interest. A ‘discourse’ is simply the conversation, historical and theoretical, that surrounds a topic, a subject or object, a question, or an idea. Anthropology has a specific discourse, feminism another, economics a third, and so on. That they run into one another, sometimes in a salutary and sometimes in a conflicting manner, is nothing to shy away from, but is rather that which gives continued life to the conversation of humankind and its sense of what our collective brain-trust is capable. Thus, the ‘conflict of interpretations’ to borrow from Ricoeur, is the life-blood of thought itself. Academic freedom means that within each discourse, a student or professional is free to state their case as best they can, mustering this or that line of argument and evidence as the case may allow, and this is all that it means.

            2. Civil Freedom: this is a much more general phrase connoting the interplay between the law, mores, custom, tradition, and the individual agency which we, in North America, so dearly prize. It frames the ‘open space of the public’, wherein the Agora-like conversation of the day, of the hour, of the moment, as well as that perennial, may take place unadulterated by the ulterior motives of specific institutions. It may seem that it is in this space where everyone becomes her own Socratic presence, but it is well to remember that just because any single institution or organization cannot, or should not be allowed to, adjudicate the content and rhetoric of this shared space, this in turn means that the entire set of oft-competing institutional suasions is very much present. It is by the check and balance of social institutions and their confrontation with personal sensibilities and individuated agency that civil freedom exists. In a word, our general social freedom is framed by the actual work of all of the aspects of society to which we belong; it is not, repeat, not the same thing as an idealized human freedom. Its very name should caution us to this regard: it is a freedom which is civil and must remain so.

            Understood as discrete, it should simply be a matter of committing to memory and thence to practice, for young people, the difference between the two. More than this, one can now recognize that neither academic nor civil freedom approaches the abstraction of freedom ‘itself’ or in general. The former is solely about discourse and ideas, the latter about playing a cultural game which has within it the always-already of social change within its loosened harness. To overstate one’s case within the Offentlichkeit is to betray its collective trust. To claim that one is solely within the truth of things in a world of competing truth-claims, is to sabotage its historical force. This is what university students, for one instance, are currently engaged in, no matter what ‘side’ they have chosen to demonstrate for or against. What is lost in these mise-en-scene is the very freedom they imagine they are expressing.

            This is so not due to topic or ‘issue’ – in the same way, academic freedom may be gutted by a zealotry which is in itself value-neutral; it can adhere to any discursive topic and at any time, pending wider influences – but rather to the manner of enacting one’s claims about such. There are, proverbially, multiple sides to every ‘story’, and even within our own biographies, we can never be utterly certain of our own intents, and with failing memories over time, even our own actions once committed. The worlding of the world is also not entirely known to us in the moment. It often takes a while for things to ‘play out’, to see the effects of our actions in the present. For the young person, all action seems to account for itself in the now, but anyone with a little life experience knows that this is hardly ever the case. This ‘now’ is an artefact of a consumer anti-culture which seeks to compel us to satisfy immediate need and greed, and is thus an interloper with regard to the political conversation which must be present to animate any culture, no matter how sophisticated or simple it may be. But for the newly adult person, schooled only in the now of consumption, trained only to react to a stimulus, market or otherwise, and to never either prevent or at the least consider, freedom takes on the mantle only of a commodity, however ‘priceless’ it is said to be. Generationally, it is certainly necessary that young people test the limits of their respective social bonds, for this is an important way in which we older adults may gain a larger perspective and thus join our younger peers in initiating this or that change. At the same time, what is authentic to generational interplay must at some point upshift itself into a true ‘confrontation with the tradition’, something each of us, no matter how aged and experienced, remain a part of until we finally part ways with human life itself.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 59 books in ethics, education, social theory, religion, aesthetics and health, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

The Newly Invisible Man

The Newly Invisible Man (a personalist statement, 3)

            ‘We don’t need to listen to white men’. So declaimed a ‘Feminist’ leader from Quebec in reaction to another Feminist author’s caution that such persons were suffering and indeed might, because of their collective resentment at recently becoming invisible, in turn make all others suffer. Putin is a white man after all, as is Trump. The Taliban are at least male, and so we are perhaps to believe that they are ‘acting white’ in their evil behavior. While it is the case that there are a number of genres of Feminist sensibilities, in all cases wherein thinking drops off and gives way to bigotry, what in fact we have encountered is a form of fascism. To borrow the economist Tom Hazlett’s jarring, if apt, neologism, what we have run into in these cases in not Feminism, but rather Feminazism.

            Feminazism and its axis of ignorance, mainly to be found on university campuses and centered in departments of English and also Gender Studies, but as well in NGOs and some NPOs abroad, is not Feminism at all, but rather, and more simply, a form of unthought that has taken on the guise of a discourse and thus the masque of a faux praxis. It is the estranged sibling of the Reich, and in its social vision, the ideal state is merely an obverse mimicry of its namesake, and not at all an inversion let alone a parallax. And though it has yet to be formally elected, it is nonetheless real enough. I can testify to its reality because I live in a Feminazi State. In it, I am invisible, and unlike the villain in the famous Wells novel, who was feared because he now had the power to do anything he wanted – perhaps much like white men actually seemed to have during my favorite author’s lifetime – the reality is that if you actually are invisible, you can’t in fact do anything at all.

            To my knowledge, I am the most prolific scholarly writer of Generation X. No one else within that demographic has the breadth and depth of study I have brought to my work, and no one else also writes revolutionary epic fiction let alone in addition writes for digital media. And for that matter, who else has shared intimacies with both Dorothy Smith, one of the great feminist social scientists of our day, as well as Tiffany Justice, a co-founder of Moms for Liberty? My almost 60 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, social theory, health and religion amongst other areas can certainly speak for themselves, that is, if they too were not cloaked by a miasmatic vapor of vapid chiasm. In these terms I have but one living peer, the conservative thinker and baby boomer Roger Scruton, someone Feminazis certainly hate. He and I have few points of agreement in our thought, but I too am a Wagner fan and I do admire a writer who can not only do philosophy – even if without Freud – but as well novels and to top it off, also pen libretti of all things. So how is it that an apparently generational talent such as myself is unemployable? Could that have occurred in any other time but our own? Perhaps it is the vocation, as luminaries such as Georg Simmel came to have a full-time job only late in life, and Gregory Bateson never did. A philosopher is never quite of his own time alone, as David Hume, another self-employed fellow, and Friedrich Nietzsche, another early retirement, can readily attest. But invisibility truly implies a lack of presence in all spaces, and that not merely as a thinker but indeed as a person.

            No media will publish my essays or opinion pieces. No political party responds to my offers of policy help. No employer of any stripe hires me. No NPO desires me to volunteer on their behalf. No ‘respected press’ will publish my novels. No school responds to my invitations to take advantage of my presence as a veteran educator and pedagogic theorist with a nominal but international reputation, in their ‘catchment areas’; not for teaching the human sciences or the history of thought or creative writing or even helping college-bound students polish their own writing so that they do not fail out of the ‘big high school’ after a fleeting fashion; no none of that, thank you. The only journalist who will even speak with me, the insightfully dogged Barbara Kay, patiently awaits a story. But in fact I have none. My story is the story of European culture writ small, or better, made small by a pressing ignorance and bigotry that seems to have engulfed our entire society overnight. From whence did such a cataclysm come?

            The brilliant political sociologist, Barrington Moore Jr., another white guy, summed our stupor succinctly: ‘No Bourgeois, no democracy’. The middle classes in liberal democracies have shrunk significantly over the past four decades. The vast majority of these once thriving denizens of modernity have fallen into classes below. This movement can only foster in them a deep resentment which, added to the historical weight of those left out, upshifts itself into a true ressentiment. It is this ‘malicious existential envy’, as Max Scheler, another white guy, analyzed it, which lies at the heart of fascism’s sense that cultural elites are to blame for social inequities and inequalities the both. It is the driving force behind the so-called ‘populist’ politics; really, a form of neo-fascism and an expression of the sheer frustration of becoming invisible en masse. Opportunistic politicians are a dime a dozen in this vein, and most have utterly no social class relationship to the franchise they so shamelessly court. They themselves are elites who have been mocked by their peers, as Trump had been for decades, and thus also seek a kind of revenge – this time, a more personal one – against all those whose arrogance has prompted a turning away from our shared cultural heritage. And so what a cataclysm indeed! Uncultured unthinking masses moving to unseat social elites who post-war have themselves shrugged off the very culture and thought which both created the modern world and at once preserved the entire history of human consciousness. Such false elites deserve their fate, surely, but what rather of the real deal?

            It is one thing to live in a time of the world regression. Economics, demographics, politics and other broad and anonymous social forces ebb and flow. But to also live in a time of cultural regress, wherein ethnic, gender and other parochial loyalties trump any perennial suggestion that thinking is what makes us human in the first place is another matter. And that these are in fact the same times, our collective present, makes invisible any and all who seek reflective reason. No one who desires to be visible can in turn make another invisible, as all fashionable ‘identity’ movements do. No one who wishes to count for something can in turn make another uncounted or indeed uncountable. It is not merely that our social world would not exist without the history of thought, without art, without science, all thus far emanating from white males almost exclusively – including such like Kant, Kierkegaard, Tchaikovsky, Foucault et al; are the gay fellows of this DWEMic emic also to be discounted? – but our very humanity itself. And what did all these white guys do in order to attain their fullest humanity on our behalves? The very opposite of heeding their narrow birthright. They climbed the highest known cultural peaks in their own day with the sole purpose of leaping off them. Only by doing this do we transcend our all-too-visible bigotries; only through this leap of faithless faith do we become as Gods on earth.

            G.V. Loewen is, for better or for worse, as he has been described in this well-meaning caveat.

La Crème de la Crematoria

La Crème de la Crematoria (The Shoah must not go on)

            “Follies seem these thoughts to others, and to philosophy, in truth, they are so.” Said Rienzi; “but all my life long, omen and type and shadow have linked themselves to action and event: and the atmosphere of other men hath not been mine. Life itself is a riddle, why should riddles amaze us?” (Bulwer Lytton, 1840:364).

            In the darker humors of a post-Pythonesque imagination, Malibu Barbie is supplanted by Klaus. One can envisage a MAD-TV sketch, with a Margot Robbie lookalike donning Hugo Boss’s menacing red and black, belting out ‘Under the Double Eagle’ with Ken as they pop-top tour the streets of Lyons. Now Robbie is herself no Nazi, of course, but a good actor should be able to play almost any role. And Mattel’s ubiquitous doll is, after all, ‘very Aryan’, to borrow from Chaplin. She’s a tall lanky blue-eyed blond who epitomizes the ideal whiteness of commercially defined glamor. That the somewhat sartorial film ambushes various clichés which abound in the toy itself is a rather different attempt at a demythology than say, Bruno Ganz’s stellar portrayal of the great dictator in ‘Downfall’. There, we must agree with Ganz’s own assessment, which shocked and dismayed his Jewish friends and colleagues, which can be summed as: ‘I feel I now more truly understand Hitler; I know why he did the things he did, and indeed, my overwhelming reaction to him is one of pity, sympathy and a sense of the tragic.’. But ‘Barbie’ rests its case on popular fiction, and that directed to children to boot. ‘Downfall’ is a dramatization of historical events, as related intimately by Hitler’s personal secretary. It is a memoir writ large, and thus accesses an aspect of the authentically historical. ‘Barbie’ is also a memoir of sorts, but one recessing anything historical into the timeless space of childhood play.

            If only Hitler’s own imagination had remained in that same space. If only he had viewed Rienzi at the tender age of fifteen, and shrugged it off as a reasonable allegory of the political confrontation between the people and the elites, discarding any sense that Wagner – or Lytton for that matter – were somehow in the know about what actually occurred during the republican period of the Roman Empire. Instead, he himself relates that ‘this is where it all began’. Much later, he declares, with his usual rhetorical unction, that, ‘our state is that which rests upon the people’s deep sense of the irrational, and thus it is art which must lead society, and to which we must bend our collective will.’ I am both translating and paraphrasing here, but you get the idea. What he meant was, of course, not the ‘irrational’, but rather the non-rational, as in those feelings and beliefs associated with a religion. He was aware that people were moved more by their hearts than their minds, and as well, that those same non-rational hearts suffered in a way that the rational mind cannot. The Reich arose from such misery, and then trebled its misery by projecting it around the globe, where it resonates to this day.

            In its propaganda, in its diaries, and in its policies, one encounters the leitmotif of ressentiment above all others. This is the same emotion – malicious existential envy – that is the source of the neo-conservative movement and its evangelical vanguard. This is the emotion which Trump has tapped into and channeled, though he as an individual likely feels little of it. Yes, he has been consistently mocked, by none other than Jewish entertainers for the most part, such as David Letterman. Hitler felt himself to be cheated out of a position at the Vienna school of art by the majority Jewish entrance committee, and the fact that the painter Oskar Kokoschka was the 20th and final successful applicant of 1908 and Hitler came in 21st could not have helped. Kokoschka much later suggested in interview that if their positions had been reversed, ‘he would have gone on to become a mediocre painter and I a benign dictator.’ Perhaps not quite benign, as he once created a life-size BDSM doll of Alma Mahler after she had dumped him. But my point is simply this: ressentiment is widespread in any society that markets heavily unattainable ideals, and then also appears to limit certain people’s access to the very resources that would foster gaining such ideals. The phenomenologist Max Scheler is owed the greatest debt in analyzing this dangerous condition, first understood more fully by Nietzsche. The neo-conservatives are those who, in general, have been marginalized by modernity and by modernism, and have, since about 1980, reacted to this growing erosion of their beliefs and individual rights by adopting a chopped-down version of personhood set into a mockery of Christian ethics. In this simplistic sensibility, they have attained a strength of numbers which is politically formidable. If all of the nuances of both Burkean conservatism and authentic Christianity had been maintained, such numbers and their apparent agreement would not have been possible.

            What this means for the rest of us is that we must make a choice between a regression into the same kind of social motion that animated the NSDAP and got them elected, and the usual gang of idiots, to make a second nod to MAD, who populate the corridors of power in so-called liberal democracies. These latter may be incompetent and irresponsible but they are not generally dangerous, so the choice seems clear enough. All the while, those who are most at risk, arguably people of Jewish descent and Black Americans, must together continue their uneasy partnership purveying low-culture (over the) counter-propaganda. If there is even a hint that the entertainment industry has an ethnic-enclave gatekeeping mechanism about it, then it is surely one of utter desperation, even outright fear. The Goyim must be kept distracted, made to laugh, to swoon, to sentimentalize their otherwise barbaric and cruel passions, and in spite of a Black leader’s epithet regarding New York and the case of Bernhard Goetz, amongst many other tensions, these two social groups, through sports and fiction, feel compelled to continue to concoct what is essentially a minstrel’s dire duet.

            It is not a stretch to imagine another Shoah. Hamas and Hezbollah have neither the firepower nor the allies to construct it, but the American neo-conservatives very much do. And for the same reasons that Hitler was enormously popular, seen as a savior, not unlike the recently fetishized Trump, all those who suffer from the ignominy of ressentiment are capable of any act. Scheler makes it clear by distinguishing resentment, which gives way to simple envy, from its more extreme sibling. Resentment tells me I should be like her, have what she has, youth, beauty, admiration, wealth, or what-have-you. But ressentiment tells me that I should be her, which implies that she herself should be dead and I have replaced her with myself. In all those breasts which have been sidelined by science, by art, by education, and by the economy, malicious existential envy rages, and rages on. And it is the arrogance of cultural – though not necessarily actually cultured – elites which performs the final straw on such a social stage. A common plaintiff of Goebbels’s films is that ‘the Jews’ have ‘passed their arrogant judgments’ upon art and life alike. Art history itself is not at issue. Even the long-suffering Red Army shrugged it off, sending some 200 Hitler Youth fighters back home to their surviving parents and their leader, a professor of art history, back to his academic position, after their ludicrous attempt at defending the Olympic stadium in Berlin. But the neo-conservatives, unlike the Nazis, have interest in neither art nor culture. Imagine then, in a yet darker humor, a sheer simple madness this time and not the great Al Jaffee’s crew, a Reich in which there is no art, no culture, and no thought. For after all, no less than Heidegger himself, arguably the world’s greatest living thinker, was invited to become state philosopher, a posting he toyed with for several months before wisely turning it down. Richard Strauss, one of the world’s two greatest living composers, became the Reich’s arts director. For all of their ressentiment, the Nazis still knew who was good.

            Not so this reprise movement. There is not the faintest sign or signage that culture of any sort is present in its minions. Michelangelo’s ‘David’ is naked, my blushes. Judy Blume talks teen sex, how disgusting. And uh, no Margaret, I’m actually dead, remember? Quit your bitching and leave me in peace. Give me the Nazis any day of the year, one is tempted to say. They not only celebrated the naked form – well, if you looked like Margot Robbie at least – they avidly listened to Bruckner. They disdained swing music, as do I. Of course, their ‘taste’ in such things was incorrectly sourced in the idea of authorship. The big bands were often helmed by Jewish musicians, and after all, Mahler himself was born a Jew. Speaking of Gustav this time and not his wife, Mahler gave the Nazis conniptions, with many listening to him discreetly, since they loved his art but publicly had to hate his person. And while I wouldn’t have turned the Tchaikovsky Museum into a motorcycle repair shop, as the SS did whilst temporarily in the neighborhood, I do think Bruckner is the superior composer, as did they. It is sage to recall Putin’s recent comment about there being ‘no gays in Russia’. Maybe not now, but then there was Peter Ilyich. To extend our satire, the SS may have been taken aback to know that Tchaikovsky might well have admired men on motorbikes.

            All of this would be anathema to the neo-cons, and thus none, including any sense of humor, would be present in the Fourth Reich. Let’s not fool ourselves into hoping that such desires shall pass, and without a fight. Ressentiment is present in all of us. Our hearts feel its minor fuel each time we are denied something we had been promised, that we knew we had earned, that we are owed by another, by a social institution, by government, or perhaps even by life itself. And though it may be true that ‘deserves got nothing to do with it’, our basic will to that very life can conflate chance and destiny, belief and opinion, even fact and fiction. When it does, go look in the mirror and tell yourself that you would never, ever, be a death camp guard.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 58 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, health and social theory, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

The Universe and the University

The Universe and the University (an educational epitaph)

            How to say this delicately? The North American university system as it stands should be shut down. Akin to Gibbon’s late Roman Empire, it has rotted from within, thus making itself easy prey for its enemies without. Institutions, as well as empires, come and go, as do even the Gods, so in the broader historical view, perhaps we should not shed but one tear for the university’s own passing. But the viewpoint emanating from the outside is not the fuller truth of the matter, and cannot be so. I find it remarkable enough that someone like Governor De Santis’ experience of two top-ten campuses should have generated the precise same language of criticism as I myself, a quarter-century veteran of university teaching, two decades of that as professor, and five years as chair of a department in a liberal arts college of an R1 university, should also state; in a word, that ‘professors are smugly arrogant, reign uncontested, have no interest in the rest of the world and those who live in it, and hypocritically claim such an interest bereft of conscience’. I would add, ‘and contribute almost nothing to that world’s self-understanding’. Now it is surely the case that De Santis, who studied law in the Ivy League, would have encountered faculty somewhat stiffer than the usual fare, but even so, his general points stand. Yet he is an outsider, and while such a perspective has some merit in terms of how an institution faces its public, it can only identify effects, not causes. Let me now do the latter.

            Discourse is ever-changing. Its object is truth, its subject, human consciousness. Between the two, it is a case of seldom the twain shall meet. Unlike East and West, which over time can, with political will, at least come to a mutual understanding, truth is aloof to human perception as it is itself accustomed to seeing the universe. We are both the students and the study, the observers and the observed, the hermeneuts and the text, the analyst and the analysand. To our present knowledge, this is unique in the cosmos. That we are, as Sagan reminded us, the ‘local eyes and ears’ of such, tells also of our provincialism. But as if human life were not hard enough, the fashionable vendors of discourse have unremittingly narrowed its gaze, sabotaged its witness, shuttered its observation. One might have argued that the university has seen several watershed moments wherein its suite of subjects has been irrevocably transformed, and for the betterment of our quest for truth. The 18th century stands out as not only the coming of age of modernity discursively, wherein both empiricism and rationalism finally and bodily replaced the residuum of mysticism lingering, indeed malingering, in the Ivory Tower, but as well, as the historical moment when the university’s denizens began to turn their work for public purpose and toward the greater good.

            For some quarter millennium this has been the touchstone of the best of the academy: research in the public interest, but that defined objectively, and not ideologically. But over the past quarter century, the perception that academic discourses have faltered in this wider mission due to their source material being biased has shifted the political ground upon which both funding and networks may be built. And this perception has not come from the world as a whole – for it is the same science which bequeaths to us medical miracle and evolution, engineering marvel and the unconscious life, and in principle gifts such insights to all – but rather from those who simply have not been present in the university, have not done the work to be so, have not the literacy to do so. Yes, the university, as with all formal forms of education, began narrowly, with only wealthy white male Gentiles afoot. The gradual expansion of these systems, beginning around 1830 or so, has of late admitted what we take to be the best from all quarters. In so doing, however, the necessary standards of literacy, of historical consciousness, of factual knowledge and of discursive perspective, have been either truncated or entirely shelved.

            And these standards have been debased across the board. It is not, as perhaps some reactionaries claim, that the sudden and inexplicable presence of non-white, non-binary persons has sullied the right-thinking waters of solid scholarship, but in fact that this very scholarship has first self-sabotaged. The vast majority of illiterate academics remain white and binary; they’re just dimwitted and lazy to boot. And this sorry state can happen to anyone, including myself, and in the most unexpected of contexts. Though one of the world’s leading living hermeneutic scholars, it took me no less than 38 years to figure out what the lyrics of Yes’s ‘Does it Really Happen?’ (1980) and this not even an oft-murky Jon Anderson offering, and a full 40 to realize that Toto’s ‘Africa’, (1983), with its perplexing music video, was simply about colonialism; the jaunty pop song version of Joseph Conrad. Trivial, you might suggest, and generally I would agree. But the principal, in which the very best of us can be led astray, can misrecognize ourselves, can self-sabotage in our personal or our discursive quest for truth or at the least, truths, remains sound. And it is the university, from the inside out, which has thence become so ‘open-minded’ that its proverbially cliché brain has fallen out.

            And indeed for all to see. The resignation of two of the world’s foremost administrators is a case in point. Claudine Gay and I graduated in the same year, and yet she eventually became the president of the number one ranked school, whereas I became mere chair within the c. #333rd ranked school. My blushes, Watson. Is she the author of nigh-on 60 books? Did she pen a new theory of anxiety, a new understanding of place and landscape, a phenomenology of aesthetics, a vast and soul-destroying defence of the so-called ‘anti-humanism’, several volumes in ethics, a three volume study of the phenomenology of time as history, and nearing six essay collections, not to mention a 5500 page demythology of Western Metaphysics, and a page-turner to boot, with all such works bereft of plagiarism? Did she work for 15 years in the field with a variety of marginal fellow human beings and their communities who harbored irrational and disdained beliefs as if their lives depended upon it? Did she help educate and transform the lives of the very most marginal students in what is her own country? Thought not.

            But it is unfair to point to any single person. Gay is an allegorical figure, not a villain. She is the anti-Sophia of the contemporary university. Her downfall says nothing about her résumé or even her humanity, but rather everything about an institution which is quite content to let its figureheads take that same fall upon its behalf. One can only hope that all those fans of De Santis and like political figureheads are shrewder than all of that, and will not be themselves content with mere symbolic damage. In the interim, the university subsists on life-support, graciously given by a wider world which knows little of its charity’s truer nature. Remember, I am, in my own allegorical form, the worst foe of society, public enemy number one, for that is what a critical philosopher must be. I am a child of the Enlightenment, a bastard child of the anti-Enlightenment, a staunch defender of the liberal arts, a proponent of the most radical of questions, a scourge of all that is sacred, and I, I am saying this: shut down the universities, replace them with professional and applied science technical schools; nursing not Cultural Studies, engineering not English Literature, policy analysis not Kulturkritik. Just one campus per region for the scant few who desire to seriously study philosophy and related discourses, for 90 percent of the current student bodies have no will to learn much of anything, but rather to engage opportunistic and irresponsible ‘teachers’ to lead their youthful and irrational chants. Shut down the universities, open up the universe.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 58 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, social theory and health, as well as fiction, he was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

On the Ubiquity of Child Pornography

On the Ubiquity of Child Pornography (a Christmas Day gift for a ‘naughty’ society)

            In the burlesque of passion, ‘naughty’ is nice. In the grotesque of desire, ‘naughty’ is simply nasty. If pornography is more deeply and precisely defined as the narrowing of one’s humanity through objectification, suppression and the sabotage of agency, child pornography appears ubiquitous in our society. Its sexual aspect is but one instance of the confluence of these three forces, and in no way should an ethical understanding of pornography be limited to an examination of what is in fact a mere skewed symptom. For sexuality in itself is an essential part of the human experience, and from a very early age, as Freud and many others have correctly demonstrated. By reducing our inhumanity as directed upon others to what is indeed an authenticity of being only compounds the evil, which is itself in turn sourced in ressentiment. It is inevitable that an adult will feel a compulsion to absorb the wider childhood of which he was himself robbed when a child; whether this theft is repeated against his own children or those utterly unknown to him. This repetition of a criminal act may be witnessed in a myriad of examples hailing from a variety of sectors in today’s society, and specifically in its institutional cultures, wherein objectification, suppression and the denial of human agency and will occurs together and in a calculated manner.

            Private schools emblazon public transit with rows of smiling uniformed girls, well-behaved and no doubt well-disciplined and yet apparently so happy to be forced into the same clothing and the same personality as their desk-bound neighbors who, before being crammed into such places by parents eager to both dispense with their care and ensure that their wealth stay in strictly monitored courtship circles, were complete strangers to them. No matter, as all will shortly become the same thing, and this thinghood is of the utmost: not a person, but a set of objectified roles; dutiful child, chaste daughter, model student, submissive spouse et al. That the ‘schoolgirl’ is an altogether perennially popular staple of the porn industry tells all: it has borrowed from the stilted life of the child the sexualized thinghood already utterly present within its pleats and tights. Just as art mimics the very highest of and in life itself, so does porn mimic the very lowest.

            Such schools spend much space on their respective websites outlining with a salacious delicacy their uniforms, including ‘modesty shorts’ for girls. At once this official apparel, from which there may be no deviation whatsoever pending punishment – much anticipated by the adults involved, and the very reason why uniform codes are so picayune in the first place – suppresses any hint of natural sexuality by objectifying youthful charm in a lockstep repetition, not unlike ballet or team sports, two other parental favorites, in which youth appear as part nymph part storm-trooper. Such schools rely on supportive and presumably equally neo-fascist families for ‘discipline’, also reiterative, and in even more authoritarian circles, often still of the physical variety. And yet the malingering presence of corporal punishment in some political regions is completely consistent with other aspects of the suppression and objectification of the child, for it is nothing other than surrogate sex.

            The child and the youth become the institutional playthings of adults, chaste yet charming chattel, objects and not persons. Their human rights are denied them, their own nascent wills crushed, their narrowed paths set before them and predefined as the same road to ressentiment. In this dynamic, the relations of an alienated subsistence are reproduced. The child will become the avid consumer, the beleaguered producer, entertained by a sullen mean-spiritedness. They will watch television ads wherein even a teenager’s first kiss is denied by mocking parents, and these latter will chuckle to themselves and glance over with menace at their own adolescent children. We’re not selling you a vehicle, but rather a warning. Those who script such ad campaigns are pornographers, the companies which contract them porn merchants. Buy their products and support child pornography, but that is what you desire above all else. For the truncated adulthood of our mass culture only moves us when we can enact violence, either symbolic or physical or both, upon others. Children are the safest mark, for other adults will generally fight back or have friends who will fight for them. But the uniformed disciplined loveless child is the perfect daughter, the perfect son. And to have one or the other makes you the perfect parent.

            We can also rely upon far more than the schools and the laws to support our perfection. All that is sold to children fosters within them an auto-pornography. Shop anywhere, and though you may be of any age group, you are forced to listen to the voices of insipidly ten-year-old sounding pop stars who, in highly sexualized whispers or ululations, sing of youthful desire alone. This the basest most perverse version of any possible Reich, for at least the Nazis had good taste in music. In all else regarding our children, we mirror many of their own desires. The Orwellian character of general child pornography is certainly also indisputable. The children’s athletic apparel designed to provide a source of endless voyeurism for audiences; the television ratings for the competitions that reveal much or most of young women always the most popular attractions. Those few with acrobatic skills and perfect hebephilic figures have graduated from the sexual school uniform to that of theatrical sporting performances, in the process having also been unsurprisingly regressed from a mere pupil to a circus animal.

            Children are mocked in entertainment scripts intended for adults, while youths are often violently suppressed and yet objectified, seen as a threat to society but at the same time as being the original source of desire, resented mightily and yet relentlessly pursued, just as we orient ourselves to our own lost youth. And it matters not whether the scriptwriters are simply good old Nazi or fashionable Feminazi; compare ‘Bosch’ with ‘Scott and Bailey’, for instance. In both, teens are berated, threatened with violence, cast as the source of social problems or the bane of parental existences. And these are but two of the more egregious offerings out of hundreds and in all genres. And by contrast, scripts directed at youth themselves are in their vast majority pure fantasy, stating to young people that in order for them to have an agency at all, they must dwell alone in the worldcraft of our adult imagination, formulaic and utterly reactionary as it is. The creators of such fantasies are child pornographers, the young actors sex industry starlets, and the parents who approve of their viewing do so with the low cunning of a holocaust architect. Objectification, suppression, denial of agency: the trinity for the mass murder of all that children authentically embody.

            Children who play with one another unencumbered by social role device, who create their own worldcraft bereft of the constant and ubiquitous harping of corporate CGI campaigns, and youths who love one another far outside of parental control and oversight, and who explore their shared world wide-eyed with one another far beyond the panting grunt of the molester’s narrow gaze, these are the experiences authentic to the young human being and which we, as those older and supposedly so much wiser, need to nurture in every child. One stares round in vain for such contexts wherein this utmost task is even attempted, let alone accomplished. And if the apparently enchanted premodernity hung its collective hat upon revelation, we today, disenchanted and modern are compelled to consider revolution as the advent of human freedom. But in murdering our young, we avoid the confrontation with our own culture’s self-imposed slavery. We prefer pornography to authenticity, child porn to mature intimacy. In that, we impale ourselves. But to suffer this same fate upon a child is to move from simple ethical error to evil, as patent and as vacant as are our own embittered hearts.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 58 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, health and social theory, as well as fiction. He was professor if the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

The Wokeness Monster

The Wokeness Monster (Lives in a lake near you).

            If you go down to the woods today, you’ll be in for a big surprise: there’s nothing there. The remaining trees arc majestically in the breeze, their canopy verdant with both life and limb, the deer skittish at our presence, the bear blithe, the wolf skeptical, the cougar only half-interested, being a cat after all. But in a nearby lake, something untoward doth lurk. Only ever peripherally glimpsed, its form a mere parallax to reality, yet fully imagined as real, this monster dwells in a vanity of self-deprecation as much as in the absence of a mature being resolute.

            Wait a minute! Hold it right there. Did you just say, ‘the remaining trees’? What kind of woker-than-woke statement is that? Are you some kind of tree-hugging wolf-kissing Subaru-driving hippyesque liberal? I’m quitting here then. No, I really am; I’m walking, just watch me! Mom’s meter-less taxi awaits my pilot. Oh, okay then, continue.

            Though it is the case that the sardonic co-opting of the ungrammatical term ‘Woke’ – originally referring to a kind of enlightened state of political being kindred with the other awakenings haling from American religious history – by its critics represents something mean-spirited and lazy, I am going to suggest that in fact it is those who are so labeled who have done much more lasting damage to not merely the idiom but far worse, to the idea of enlightenment itself. For the followers of this fashionable flaneur are the Wokeness monster.

            The lynchpin of this sensibility is that one’s social location creates one’s perception. The genesis of this idea may be found in Vico’s ‘New Science’, of 1725, and it was given its most modern formulation in Marx and Engels’ ‘The German Ideology’, of 1846, in which the now legendary statement ‘consciousness is itself a social product’ may be seen as key. It is important to recall that this book was not published until 1932, as its authors could not find a publisher who would take it on. Daily, I feel their pain. And for me, aside from my books’ contents, the fact that I am manifestly not ‘Woke’ scares the fastidiously fashionable presses away. No, according to this locational position, I am nothing other than a middle-aged professional white straight Euro-male, and thus have absolutely nothing of merit to say to anyone. In short, I am not a person.

            It is this depersonalization that an over-reliance on social location brings to the human being which sabotages both ethics abroad and conscience at home. The idea that selfhood should only be composed of the happenstance confluence of social variables is indeed a patent evil in the face of existential integrity. For the self is what is gained when such chance factors are overcome, and not at all the outcome of their continued presence. We, as human beings, are more than the sum of our parts. Our consciousness has evolved to be that Gestalt, a melody, and not a mere series of notes. Similarly, our culture too has evolved to be a harmony, and not a random collection of sounds and of late, mere noises.

            To adhere to the sense that all you are and all you ever can be is dictated in some deterministic fashion by external structures and normative strictures is not only to do fatal disservice to one’s own humanity, worse, it is to frame the other as dehumanized. And this in spite of the apparent grave concern such framers have for ‘the other’ and even ‘otherness’! Yet this is precisely what the followers of ‘Woke’ take pride in doing; self-sabotage and the sabotage of the Self. The former might be forgivable if one is an addict, has a serious mental illness, or was abused as a child, and then only for oneself. The latter has no pinion, no remediating quality, no possible heuristic, damaged and aborted as these other concernful cases are. It has only the juvenile legerdemain of the one who lingers enthralled to what by the original definition of Woke is the very opposite of enlightenment and awareness. I would go so far to say that given this; such a sensibility is more of a malingering than anything else. It represents in many cases perhaps a knowing avoidance of personhood.

            Why would one desire to remain a mere thing in the world of things? To deny the very essence of what one is as a member of the human species? I will suggest here that it is simply due to the reality of a world which now asks of each of us to become more than what we have ever been before; more mature, more responsible, more quick-witted, more conscientious, more aware, and that for many, and that for especially the young, this demand of the world as it is, is so scary as to be unimaginable. And thus, to be Woke in today’s sense is to be fearful of one’s own authentic being and far more fatal, to give over the fate of the future to each and every limit that has made the human past such a present burden.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 58 books in ethics, education, health, social theory and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Possible Inauthenticities in the Transgendered Phenomenon

Possible Inauthenticities in the Transgendered Phenomenon

            In the cases I have come across through professional ethics consulting with families and youth, there are present three kinds of discrepancies from institutionally and commercially normative family forms; that is, those possessing two different but dominant gendered parents who have mutually come to terms with the birth gender of their children. They are:

            1. Single parent families: here, the child has adopted the gender of the absent or missing parent and if their sex at birth contradicts that of the one who has been so adopted, a transgendered child results.

            2. Conflict between parents who desire a different sexed child: here, the child internalizes this conflict and reproduces it in himself or herself, generating a transgendered selfhood in the effort to please both parents.

            3. Conflict within one or another parent whose own desires regarding their sexual identity do not match worldly outcomes regarding the child’s sex at birth: in such cases, the child becomes accustomed to performing as if they were the gender counter to their physiological sex, also constructing a transgendered identity for themselves.

            Often subconsciously, parents interact with their children as if the latter were simply smaller projections of themselves. If conflict is present beyond that inevitably associated with basic socialization processes – there is no culture that does not possess this more demographically based conflict; some cultures negotiate it with more compassion and gentleness than do others – also, in my sense, a pathological presence, the phenomenon of transgenderedness is understood by the child, once again, subconsciously, as the only possible response to the context around them. I must please both parents, I must take on the role of the absent parent, I must assuage my parent’s self-doubts.

            In each permutation, ethical interaction is scarce. In general, speaking as a philosopher, I would suggest that any time one’s actions are bereft of ethical reflection, inauthenticity, perhaps at best, is the result. My case observations have, in turn, suggested to me that parents overly and overtly concerned with normative gender boundaries can also produce transgenderism in their children, thereby generating a fourth category, slightly different from the three listed above. Here, by contrast, the conflict within the adult is transferred to the child who reacts not to assuage or please their parent but to instead defy them and thus also to deny the projection itself. These cases were also more challenging to resolve, as the adults involved were in patent denial that they were defending gender norms against their own self-doubts regarding them.

            The inauthenticity of transgenderism is a function of it being not only epiphenomenal to sources of conflict which orbit round self-conscious agrarian-based societal norms regarding gender roles and performances – that is, these conflicts are not personal but rather historical in scope – but as well, they represent avoidance of conflict in general; decoys constructed by the child who is either too young to understand the authentic conflict in the family, or later on, too anemic in character to confront such conflict which has by then become their own.

            As such, it is easier to understand why the gay subculture has been tepid in its support for transgenderism. They are utterly different phenomena in both source and result. For gay people, transgenderism might well seem to be reactionary, as it, in every case, seeks to shore up dominant gender models and roleplaying, and thus is nothing radical at all, let alone revolutionary. Thus, transgenderism has been misunderstood both by its critics as well as by its adherents. In sum, it is essentially a coping mechanism that is both inauthentic to modern selfhood – it seeks to cover over the conflict that is both necessary to distinguish the self from others as well as provide a bandage for the pathological conceptions of parents who have unethically allowed their desires to overtake their ideals – and an entanglement of one’s very being in the face of its essential mortality and condition of its happenstance birth.

            Though gender as a performance, however indirectly related to biological sex and to human sexuality in general, may be a ludic form which should not be evaluated as pathological in itself, that which is sourced in conflicts which are pathological should not be encouraged, but rather resolved at the point of departure. I suggest here that transgenderism is, in general, just such a negative form, and as such, must be gently retouched to the point that the victim in these cases, the child, is not further alienated by other social forces which are thence to be encountered at an interpersonal level.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 57 books in ethics, education, health, social theory and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades and has consulted for families and youth for three years.