Ivy League Blues

Picture-704In old photographs, you might catch a glimpse of something great. They’d almost certainly have to be in black and white, or maybe sepia. Young men, uniformly white, mostly Anglo-Saxon or from monied, Germanic families, with oiled hair and if there is to be any facial hair found among them, it would be in the form of one or two well-trimmed mustaches. In some photographs, they might be wearing suits, in others, sports blazers. This was the era that gave America’s old institutions their gravitas, their ability to invoke a quiet sense of awe in everyday people. This was the era that made names like Yale, Cornell, and the Columbia School of Journalism glow with angelic light.

To some people, these names still mean something. But in the minds of many Americans, the light is getting dimmer, the glitter not sparkling quite as brightly as before. The Anglo-Saxons are out, and the Chinese are in. Patriotism is considered kitsch among today’s elite, unless of course it’s Chinese patriotism — the Chinese are free to take America’s research and technology back home with them, with no tangible gain to America, and the intelligentsia remain curiously silent about it. Indians are also in, and their patriotism is cheered from all corners because of their independence from Britain. Jews are in, too, and their holocaust narrative is spoon-fed to our children like a bitter tonic of guilt and caution. It’s a sad, slow realization that dawns on earnest thinkers: the institutions that were once quintessentially American are not American anymore.

The American aristocracy slit its own throat somewhere along the line. The bowtie, the cocktail party, and the Mid-Atlantic accent are gone and along with them went Harvard, the New York Times, and Detroit’s automobile industry.

Just look for one moment at that once vaunted prize, the Pulitzer, doled out each year by the Columbia School of Journalism. Its recipients have included figures like Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, John Updike, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway. Say what you will about these men, I’m personally not much of a fan of Williams and Sandburg, but at least they all had talent. At least they had style and wit and a certain knack for the written word. There’s a lesser known prize for music, one that still carries the name of Pulitzer, and it has been won by respected composers like Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber, and now, we can add to that list, the name of one stocky, excitable Negro, Kendrick Lamar. The album that won him the prize is very cogently named, DAMN.

I find the expletive very accurately sums up my thoughts on the album, much like how the expletive very accurately sums up my thoughts about stubbing my toe in the dark or banging my head against a cabinet door. There’s something awful about the sprawling lyrics, the disjointed samples of songs that others wrote, and the utter pretentiousness of the whole thing. It’s like a prolonged car wreck with none of the acute soul searching that comes after the collision. There’s so much art still being made in this world. None of it is to be found among Lamar’s work.

The lyrics don’t need to be presented at length.

I’ll prolly die anonymous, I’ll prolly die with promises
I’ll prolly die walkin’ back home from the candy house
I’ll prolly die because these colors are standin’ out
I’ll prolly die because I ain’t know Demarcus was snitchin’
I’ll prolly die at these house parties, fuckin’ with bitches
I’ll prolly die from witnesses leavin’ me falsed accused
I’ll prolly die from thinkin’ that me and your hood was cool
Or maybe die from pressin’ the line, actin’ too extra
Or maybe die because these smokers are more than desperate

The lyrics continue on like this for about 100,000 more lines. It’s like the Illiad of bad lyrics. There was a time when art was supposed to have some art to it. There was a time when cleverness counted for something. But I can’t criticize Lamar too much, because he’s just an angry Negro doing angry Negro things. Columbia, however, I can’t spare at all.

The institutions that once kept America’s upper echelons stocked with thinkers, innovators, and artists have done something bizarre. Instead of humbly accepting their role as the movers and shakers of America, they have decided that America, at least America as we know it, has to die. And so now they have brought in the Chinese, the Indians, the Jews, and the Negroes riding their coattails to the top, and in the process, they are tainting the glow of their own halos. The American mestizo, the Negro, and the working-class white couldn’t care less about the Ivy League. The Chinese and Indians are going to scuttle off back to their own mother countries. The Jews always have Israel as a backup plan. Without the adoration of middle-class whites, these institutes have nothing. America is starting to look more like a political dinosaur, a historical novelty like the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the USSR.

At this point, the inevitable question has to be asked — well, so what? A lot of Americans might be inclined to think that if the American aristocracy has died and now the Ivy League is joining it, so much the better. I can’t help but see this as a very shortsighted opinion. All nations need elites, and if there are no clear watering holes around which the elites can gather to wine and dine one another, then the nation is headed straight to its demise. It’s with a very heavy heart I admit that America needs the Ivy League more than the Ivy League needs America.

So as we watch Columbia make a fool of itself over Kendrick Lamar, as we watch the New York Times peddle in flagrant yellow journalism, as we watch Harvard look the other way over dubious Chinese credentials so that they can pocket the cash from Beijing’s nouveau riche, as we watch the warm glow of respect that once hung over the Ivy League get dimmer and colder, we must admit that inevitably the Ivy League is dying. And it’s taking America down with it.

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Clean Streets, USA

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Imagine a hellish landscape. Think of Detroit. Picture the hollow, flaking buildings with graffiti scrawled over them and weeds growing through the pavement. Picture the needles, the crack pipes, the spent shell casings. Picture the thousands of smashed out windows. No, this isn’t a television ad to make you feel sorry for inner-city black children. The black community can blame itself for Detroit. The point I’m trying to make is that when a sensible man thinks of good government, he does not think of Detroit.

He might think of other places, of course. He might think of stately Corinthian pillars or the mirrors of Versailles. If he were feeling especially ironic he might think of Capitol Hill. For a more exotic twist, he might imagine the old emperors of China and their silk banners and seasonal palaces. Whatever he imagines, suffice it to say, he won’t be thinking of a place with crackheads mooching outside of a liquor store.

Good government is rooted in authority, and authority is rooted in good imagery.

This isn’t just a pet theory of mine; there’s science behind this. In a 1982 paper, two sociologists named Wilson and Kelling published what has come to be called the “broken windows” theory of criminology. If an abandoned building at the end of the block has a broken window that doesn’t get repaired, it can invite more broken windows. The shattered glass in turn invites the local graffito to spray his girlfriend’s name over the wall. She’ll have three other children with three other men after he gets thrown in prison, but he’s too young and far too dumb to know that. The gathered graffiti invites squatters. The squatters inevitably draw in the prostitutes, the crack fiends, the gang wars. As the dominoes fall, one small sign of decay invites a dozen others, not just by attracting the kind of people who are comfortable with disorder, but by driving out those who are inclined to be orderly.

Normally I don’t pay much attention to sociologists. I’d probably rather listen to sheep bleat. But unlike most theories dreamed up by nasally professors, the broken windows theory has been put into practice and worked.

In 1993, New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed an acolyte of Kelling, a man named William J. Bratton, to serve as police commissioner. Together the two men knuckled down on public drunkenness, graffiti, fare dodging, illegal nightclubs, and panhandling. They went after everything New York had become famous for. As it turned out, the new policy was strikingly effective: not just petty crime, but all crime in New York City declined for more than ten years.

This has ruffled the undies of more than one soy boy commentator. At first glance, a leftist ought to love the broken windows theory because it appears to make men powerless. Men seem to be mere products of their environment; the more broken windows, the more innocent black men who could have been brain surgeons will get thrown in jail. One of the most common dogmas of the left is their pig-headed belief that men are born a blank slate, a tabula rasa, and so if a man is evil, it’s due to his circumstances. So why isn’t the left fawning over the brain child of Wilson and Kelling?

The first reason is one that I mentioned already. The theory does not stipulate that the drafty windows and dilapidated buildings lead to crime; it could just as easily be assumed that those who are criminally inclined will be attracted to such places. It’s the pollen that lures the bees, or the jewel that unmasks the thief, so to speak.

The second reason is that the theory vindicates norms that the scruffy-headed, free-bleeding left would rather not see vindicated. Graffiti, like those tattoos on the neck of your local Whole Foods cashier, is not just another form of cultural expression: it’s a sign of a disorderly mind, the kind of mind that brings about social degradation. The squeegee man on the corner isn’t just trying to make ends meet, he’s most likely a crackhead looking for a quick fix. The woman snorting coke in a nightclub bathroom probably ought to be settling down with a man, having kids, and tucking them in at that hour of the night. The theory makes it clear that communities work best with traditional values, not the kind of values pushed by mewing social justice warriors. Family, church, country clubs, fresh-cut lawns, open windows and unlocked doors — the stuff dreams are made of.

The last reason is that Rudy Giuliani was a Republican. The left hates it when the other side does well because, to the ideologue, his struggle with us has to be all-or-nothing.

Needless to say, a battalion of Sterns and Bergs, doctrinaire professors, and know-nothing journalists have started firing their howitzers at the broken windows theory. It’s racist, of course, like all things these days, because it affects black neighborhoods more than white ones. It’s elitist. It’s bigoted. It’s Hitler. One of their more humorous claims is that cracking down on petty crimes works briefly and then results in a defiant upsurge in convictions for those crimes later.

Singapore canes people for spitting excessively on the street, and to date it has not reported any spates of defiant saliva chuckers. Getting hit by a rattan cane hurts, after all. Nor has Pyeongyang had to arrest too many people for loitering. The few who do are never heard from again. That puts a real damper on the idea of standing on the corner with a squeegee. No, strict laws, strictly enforced don’t lead to sudden and mysterious spikes in crime. That’s more likely to be seen with laissez-faire law enforcement.

Anyway, what is it about the broken windows theory that’s so captivating? It’s not because I care about New York, you could stake your life on that. It’s not because I have any interest in cleaning up black neighborhoods, either. I think it fascinates me because it exemplifies a principle so fundamental to human nature that people tend to overlook it; at least, modern people, raised in the social justice milieu of the post-fascist West. The people of the past were not quite as confused on this matter. Authority, if it is to be an authority at all, must respect itself as an authority.

The West is struggling with this simple truth. A police station with flaking paint and prostitutes milling around outside is a station that sends one message to the world: we do not believe in ourselves. Parents who ask their children how they should be punished say one thing: we do not believe in ourselves. A neighborhood that never sweeps up shattered beer bottles and never mends potholes: no belief.

The left and right are split most clearly in their level of self-confidence. The right-wing is authority that recognizes its own importance and also its responsibilities. The left-wing is a nagging, impetuous doubt of authority. It’s always the same ethic, reimagined and reinterpreted for the times, but ultimately the same: the haves versus the have-nots. The aristocrat, the have, stomps his shiny boots on the peasant, the have-not. The white man takes his whip to the black man. The straight man oppresses the non-conforming genderless she-whale. Historically, this theory is all smoke and mirrors but it makes for good theater.

The left-wing must doubt all authority, even its own. If one of these have-not groups were to seize power the clockwork would spin mechanically to the next target. If a black nationalist party murdered or frightened away every last white man in South Africa, the left would immediately begin with the rich-black versus poor-black dichotomy. Or maybe dark-blacks versus light-blacks. If the blubbery she-whales took over at Yale the various forms of gender non-conforming people would turn on each other, like those with blue hair versus those with braids. It never ends. It never relents. Liberalism is the politics of disharmony.

And if the problem is always the same, the solution is the same, too. Egalitarianism, the great cudgel of the left, is always there to break up good order and harmony. Pull back the silk screen that the left uses to shield their ideas and you find nothing but knives and chains.

The liberal longs for pacifism. But he’ll never campaign to disarm your enemies, he just wants to disarm you. The liberal longs for racial justice. But he’ll bend every law in the book on behalf of his preferred color. The liberal longs for worker’s rights. But he’ll trample the employer’s property rights for a few pennies’ worth of compensation. The liberal longs for gender equality. But he’ll never admit that women are miserable without families and they certainly won’t be opening any peanut butter jars.

The liberal agenda is the cold kiss of the void. His pacifism leaves you vulnerable to invaders. His sense of justice overturns law. His economics is the economics of robbery. His gender equality is the death knell of the family. If you think this is hyperbole, if you think I’m being unreasonable or unfair to the left, just look at Detroit. Or any major American city today.

It’s the same illness, the same medicine, and the same quack doctor rushing there to treat it. What chance does America stand when this is the same disease that leveled Rome, carved up the British Empire, and murdered the Romanovs?

I can’t answer that question. But I can begin to see a solution, dimly, somewhere out there in the misty regions of history.

Maybe it’s time to set aside our apologies and guilt. Maybe it’s time to start cleaning up our streets again.

Sunday Thoughts (2018.03.11)

China doesn’t like to play fair. It’s just not in the Chinese genome to be more generous to outsiders than to themselves. They thumb their noses at Western copyright law. For years they’ve been stealing American software, rebranding it with an elegant Chinese ideogram, and then promptly dismissing all of America’s complaints about the matter. They levy harsh tariffs on outside steel. Their banking and insurance conglomerates are tightly regulated and foreigners aren’t allowed into these industries. Why bother condemning them? Maybe China has realized a truth that we in the West need to be reminded of: the state’s responsibility is to its people and their welfare. It has no reason to bend over backwards for outsiders. It’s amusing to watch the free trade globalists lecture China about fluid borders and special economic zones while China politely disregards that nonsense and carries on with its own self-serving agenda. In the end, I’m glad that “free trade” is slowly drifting back to where it belongs on the political spectrum: the left and its pie-in-the-sky idealism.

Sunday Thoughts (2018.02.11)

A dead land, a horse with dust in its eyes, the lean look of a man desperate to survive. If it were put on film it would probably be directed by John Ford. Like a lot of kids, I scoffed at Westerns. To a child raised with time-traveling robots and ghost-busting wise crackers, honky-tonk culture seemed too kitschy to be taken seriously. The hats seemed as silly as those bar room brawls where the actors stood waiting to be decked in the jaw or have a bottle of moonshine cracked over their heads. It was not until I was much older and discovered films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Unforgiven that I realized what the genre was capable of achieving. It strikes me as being quite sad that the whole cult of the American West has been lost in our culture.

And then slowly it occurred to me that this rejection wasn’t entirely accidental. The media had long turned men like John Wayne into the stereotype of a clueless old codger, the father figure who was too stiff and too white to ever understand the modern world. Clint Eastwood, although much cooler, was used mostly for parody. The Western simply couldn’t survive; the new media could never let the aesthetic continue on. It was too white, too masculine, and too unapologetic. The cowboy was the white, American hero and his values were the values of the white, American male: self-reliance, grit, enterprise, and everything else the left despises. Our culture went from cowboys to ghetto rats and basketball narcissists. Perhaps someday analysts will look back and conclude that the death of the Western was the beginning of the end for white America.

Sunday Thoughts (2018.01.14)

The worst part about the Allies winning the Second World War is that it caused our culture to mistake a military victory for an ideological victory. We have forgotten that the war was a triumph of the sword, of one combined army breaking the back of another, and that it was not a triumph of liberalism over nationalism. In fact, time has been quite kind to nationalism, while liberalism has started to look more and more like a clown with awkward shoes and devilish makeup.