On the Absurdity of “Gender Multiplicity”

Cogar leat, as the Irish used to say: “a whisper with you.” If gender is now to be considered mere cultural conditioning (like the preference for trousers or a kilt) rather than biological hardwiring, then why are we as a culture expected to tolerate all genders? I can put on a tie if it offends the group into which I seek acceptance for me to have an open collar. Why, then, should we not expect people to desist from, say, transgender behavior if it isn’t part of our broader culture? People eat stray cats and dogs in some parts of the world, but we don’t. If your puppy wanders off and ends up on my table, do you have a right to be upset with me? I should think so, in the context of the culture that we’re supposed to share! Do you have a right to sit in a restaurant without having to listen to people all around you slurp, burp, and smack their lips? Inasmuch as our cultural context disapproves of such behavior, I should say, “Yes, absolutely!”

So why should I be expected to tolerate without a whimper the teaching to my children of promiscuous sexual practices or a complete comfort with homosexual marriage? To the extent that the educational establishment has ever been able to construct a rational case for imposing such a curriculum upon us, it has done so on the assumption that sexual behaviors are dictates of nature rather than free choices—and that persecuting someone for being attracted to the same gender is as unfair as persecution of redheads or people of short stature. (Personally, I would strongly contest that restricting the definition of marriage constitutes persecution, any more than the limited opportunities for employment as jockeys indicate a persecution of six-footers… but let that pass for now.)

If the new doctrine of the educational elite has now abandoned that moral premise (i.e., that our sexual habits are in fact forced upon us by an irresistible genetic program), then why should we any longer be required to be lectured and schooled in matters of taste and preference? If you as a teacher insist that my child not only be allowed to belch, but that he accept that behavior in others and even wag his finger at me if I show disapproval, then you’re not teaching “diversity” or “tolerance”: you’re imposing one set of cultural values—your own—upon another culture that rejects them. You are manifesting an intolerance of my culture and demanding that my divergent ways fall into lockstep behind yours. You’re not just a dictator: you’re a pious hypocrite.

For the record, I believe that a very few people probably have, indeed, been dealt a bad hand by Mother Nature and cannot relate to the opposite sex in a manner that will give them access to the joys and comforts of family life. I regard them with commiseration, for Mother Nature has shortchanged most of us in one way or another. As old Seneca says, Nulli attigit impune nasci: “No one has entered this life without some shortcoming.”

I’m just as convinced, however, that the vast majority of people who are wrestling with their sexuality today are refugees from the sexual revolution that has raged since I was young. Heterosexual dating has grown so carnivorous that many flee the opposite sex; and as for family, our “Where’s mine?” culture of egocentrism as so undermined the ethic of self-sacrifice that only bad examples of conjugal life and bad experiences with it seem to surround us.

From some elevated perch in the high towers crowning the impenetrable citadels of politics and education, a few perverted and corrupt minds are smiling at all this and devising new ways to promote it. The fragmentation of gender into a million pieces, as a mere “cultural construct”, is one of those ways. The more we are uprooted from the significant relationships natural to human beings, the more we become putty in their squalid, ambitious hands.

 

He Who Forges Lies About a Knave Is Himself a Lying Knave

I need to make a short “razoo” (as my grandfather would have said: ancient Texan for Italian razzia) to another state very shortly. The place where I always stay is sure to have that pompous, sanctimonious, snarky monument to journalistic anomia, Chris Cuomo, blaring away on CNN in the breakfast room; so I’m packing my ear plugs, and I will either get early dibs on the far table shielded from the TV by a corner or else graze parapatetically in the lobby.

I absolutely can’t stand Cuomo. The last time I stayed at this venue, he drove me from the dining room fuming like an overheated waffle iron. I can’t detect a tinge of equitability in how he covers news. And the rest of CNN isn’t much better. The other day I stared in disbelief as, toggling off of Netflix, I discovered some reporter hot on the trail of an “incident” involving Trump’s thrusting another head of state to the ground. The video showed one man placing his hand gently on the other’s shoulder and sliding past him in a crowded room—but the audio described…

Well, something like newly elected Representative Gianforte of Montana’s decking, choking, and pummeling of a reporter. If you or I had behaved like this in public, we’d not only spend the night in jail (and, upon adjudication, probably stay there the next ninety days), but we’d also see our professional and communal reputation permanently ruined. Here CNN has a legitimate case of newsworthy molestation; and, since Gianforte is a Republican (unlike former Florida Representative Alan Grayson, whose pathological bullying was constantly airbrushed from national headlines), his outburst is being covered around the clock.

Yet Gianforte has now been elected to the US House of Reps. Perhaps even more vexatious, the list of luminaries in the right-wing commentariat who have defended him and/or impugned Mr. Jacobs (the reporter) in knee-jerk reaction to CNN’s feeding frenzy includes Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Dinesh D’Souza, and Brent Bozell, the last three of whom can lay a credible claim to being something more than showmen (though they might not appreciate the word “intellectual”).

Overplaying its hand, as always, CNN wants to maintain that Trump essentially committed the assault—that Gianforte was only his surrogate… which is preposterously absurd, and would be emotionally disturbing even in an early adolescent. (“Mom, it was that Wally who made me steal the PlayStation. I wouldn’t have done it, but I see him cheating on homework all the time.”) I didn’t vote for Trump (or his opponent), precisely because his reactions remind me so much of an early adolescent’s, and a certain amount of this misery has been drawn down upon him by his own buffoonery. But he hasn’t tackled anybody since his highly staged, burlesque drubbing of Vince McMahon on Smackdown.

Speaking of right-wing punditry… I’m really, really, REALLY sick of Limbaugh and Hannity referring to people who made my electoral decision as establishment-Republicans who think they’re better than the working class. Trump’s entire business life has been a long tale of playing insider’s games, and his political philosophy (insofar as he has any) is every bit as paternalistic and nanny-statist as Bill Gates’ or Warren Buffit’s. This kind of “with us or against us” analysis has all the finesse and discrimination of the mob’s decision to murder Cinna the poet after Caesar’s death because one of the conspirators was named Cinna.

But again, accusing Trump of dealing out body slams to foreign heads of state as he navigates through a crowded room is just as idiotic—or attributing to him the blows that fell from another man’s fists. Such idiocy is routine in the mainstream press, and it’s also international. Peter Helmes wrote at his site, Die Deutschen Konservativen, last month of a mainstream German news story titled, “Ferguson Three Years After the Unrest—The Fight Against Racism in Trump-Land.” I wouldn’t even let such tendentious garbage as that title leak into a blog entry (quite ignoring the minor detail that, as Helmes stresses, Trump was building hotels three years ago).

And as brutal and appalling as Gianforte’s assault on a journalist was, where have we seen any story on mainstream news chronicling California professor of philosophy Eric Clanton’s assault with a deadly weapon (a padlock attached to the end of a chain) upon the heads of three Trump supporters—young students all—at Diablo Valley College? The date was April 15. Well over a month ago now. Guess we’re not going to hear Chris Cuomo covering that one.

I’m getting sooo very sick of all of this! I don’t write about politics in this space, and I’m not doing so now. I’m writing about how ashamed I feel to be a human being lately. May I please submit an official Species Change Form to the appropriate authorities for immediate consideration?

Publishing: The Grandest and Vilest of Occupations

As I prepare to put my association with The Center for Literate Values to bed, after a seventeen-year struggle to make it grow, I’m greatly relieved… but also saddened. A lot of stuff in my life seems to be getting bundled off into memory’s attic at just this time. My son is done with college and busy with a full-time job at a location almost a thousand miles away. Who knows when I’ll see him again? I can’t wait to sell this old house and move into a new one built much more to our taste… but my boy grew up here, and every inch of the property stirs its own recollections. I’m about to begin my professional swan song as an educator, and it’s high time for me to bug out before I have to do everything online in semi-robotic fashion… but I had a few successes as a teacher, and I won’t be having any of those after next April.

The Center—and its quarterly journal Praesidium—shared much with my frustrating academic career. I thought we could reach a critical mass of people and help to keep a taste for classic literature alive; but we were forced to wage this war through a website for financial reasons, and people who surf websites generally don’t care about the proper interpretation of Virgil or Ariosto. It often seemed that I was fighting the spread of kudzu across my lawn by whipping new tendrils with vines of kudzu.

I continue to write and translate, and I know now that I can’t stop. But I also know by now that none of the conventional outlets for “success” is open to the likes of me. My translation of three medieval Celtic romances isn’t riddled with neo-Marxism, feminism, or Gay/Queer Theory, but rather juxtaposes the threesome from the point of view of comparative mythology and Christian allegorizing. Try getting that published at a university press today! A novel I wrote last summer represents through fantasy an eternal punishment for wicked deeds, its vision founded in an “absolutist” (what stupid words we’re forced to use now!) vision of good and evil. Try getting some money and press lined up for that from the “creative” community!

In fact, publishers rarely accept anything in any genre nowadays from someone not previously published and successfully marketed (the same old Catch 22 as, “We can’t give you this job unless you have experience”). Now, if your last name were Clinton or Trump or Kardashian and you were willing to tell all—in broken fifth-grade prose—about the intimate workings of certain households, the rule would be waived. Otherwise, publishers want proof that you can make money. The days of a thoughtful editorial board reading over, heatedly discussing, and taking a chance on an offbeat submission probably died somewhere in the Seventies.

Even academic publishers now require a curriculum vitae (what normal people call a résumé) to be submitted with the manuscript. The reason given for the request is completely disingenuous in an age when you can research “Halifax McGarnicle” instantly on your smartphone and see if he’s all he claims to be. No, the purpose of that somewhat creepy requirement is to ensure that the University of Deadwater Press doesn’t say “no” to Professor Gastropod, the world’s leading expert on gay behavior among narwhals.

I’m more and more attracted, then, to the idea of publishing my own stuff as cheap PDF and EPUB downloads—and the stuff of others who are equally sick of the publishing racket. We would do well to make a few dollars’ profit, but we would perhaps reach worthy audiences. And the investment would be virtually nil, unlike the notorious shakedowns operated by vanity presses, whose architects never report your sales to you honestly (as I know from bitter experience). One of the things I need to find out is if software exists to inform collaborators instantly and automatically of sales—for I would hate asking authors to rely strictly on my integrity.  I’ve known outfits whose marketers do this, and then bristle indignantly if you raise a question. Even if you set a trap and catch them in specific breaches of faith, what are you going to do—pay a lawyer to recover the ten bucks you’ve been cheated out of?  How do you prove that it’s more?

The “information for prospective authors” on my site would read something like this:

Aspiring authors are encouraged to submit their work for processing in inexpensive downloads, for which they may set their own price and for whose sale they will receive 100 percent reimbursement. The objective of this system is to draw potential buyers to a site where they may view works reflecting tastes and values similar to those of the author whom they originally came to seek; so your contribution is assessed in shoppers drawn to visit, not in pennies scooped off your sales.

I hope it works. I’m running out of ideas for saving literacy—and out of years on earth to give them a try.

Does It Matter Who’s Truthful When All Action Is Corrupt?

Have you heard why Megan Kelly really left FOX News? Or why Christina of HGTV’s Flip or Flop really split from her husband, or why the same station’s Joanna Gaines is in hot water for arriving late on the set of Fixer Upper? It’s the same reason in all three cases, according to certain stories that pulse along the side-panel of your screen: they were all so busy marketing the same company’s beauty secrets that the bonanza of prosperity distracted them from their boring day jobs.

This isn’t quite the same level of aggressive, in-your-face duplicity that characterized (for instance) the History Channel’s idiotic “mockumentaries” about mermaids, megalodons, and Sasquatches… but the kinship is of a first-cousin order. “Fake news” is now so embedded in our cultural consciousness that we have apparently given up being outraged by it. “Kim Jong Un just nuked a small Pacific island… and the only survivors were using Apollo Sun Tan Lotion (improved formula)!” We swallow the b.s. with scarcely a grimace. The most worrisome problem is that, should the chubby child of Dearest Friend indeed decide to vaporize an entire populace, we would already have been rehearsed in passing over the news and looking for the next thrill.

“The Boy That Cried Wolf” Syndrome has deeply infected us. I don’t even know if most of my freshmen would recognize the folkloric reference… but I do know that they’re convinced, almost to a boy or girl (or whatever lies between), that human beings are causing a disastrous climate change. Chemistry and biology majors cite data to me that I can’t dispute, since their fields extend far beyond my intellectual reach. So maybe they’re right. But then a celebrated academic appears on national television and claims that carbon dioxide is a more lethal toxin than sarin gas. Even a chemistry-challenged numbskull like me knows the difference between monoxide and dioxide—yet our guru was apparently conflating the two. Could his ilk have been among the teachers of my freshmen?

I don’t like cars. Never have. I probably walk more in a week than most atmospheric scientists do in a year—and I don’t consume jet fuel flying to conferences that might have been held on Skype. Reducing car traffic is fine by me. Why, however, can we not address the problem by scrapping our special-interest-fueled zoning laws and oppressive regulations that prevent people from running shops out of their homes? Why is the “green” solution always more government intrusion into our personal lives? And why are the insane windmills that now deface much of the Southwest a step forward when the effort of constructing, transporting, and rigging their blades requires more energy than they are likely to restore in a century of steady gales?

I will postulate, for the sake of argument, that the science behind climate change is compelling: then why are the measures that we take in consequence so patently ineffective and mired in sordid political boondoggle?

On this issue as on so many others, I don’t know who’s telling the truth, and I don’t think I’m capable of knowing—not in the earthly time I have left. I know this much, however. On one side I see lies proliferating as part of popular cultural and consumerist marketing; on another I see our elected “saviors” getting sleek and fat as specially targeted problems only worsen; and on yet another I see campus culture shutting down free speech with thuggery and shouting down open debate in fanatical zeal. Maybe the wolf is really coming this time… but when the watchdog is a hungry Bengal tiger, maybe I’d rather have the wolf.

Why “Gender Studies” Is the Enemy of Women

Without a guiding principle of common humanity, all of the “minority studies” prosecuted on campuses around the nation can only substitute one kind of bigotry for another. Unless we have a coherent, transcending, and immutable value—a moral idea—from which to moor our conviction that disparaging certain classes of people is wrong, the oppressed can only rise up to become the oppressors in a closed circle of insane activity.

This is my conclusion after wading through a semester’s worth of papers infected by feminist ideology. Have women been largely deprived of a voice in the past? They, among others, have tended to be silenced: yes. Should we therefore not study the literature of the past? How much of the tree should we cut away—because any well-trained feminist will tell you that the muted only began to raise their shouts volubly in the Seventies and Eighties of the last century. So no texts should be studied, then, which precede those decades? Or do we study eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts composed only by women? The pickings will be slim, if the feminist claim is correct that few women in the past were allowed to publish, or even to write. We could dig up personal artifacts like diaries and private letters; should we replace Racine, Swift, Goethe, Balzac, Hawthorne, and all the other males with volumes of retrieved billets doux and missives from sister to sister?

Or maybe we should rewrite the male classics so that they no longer offend our newly developed sensibilities… or maybe we should teach them with constant whistle-blowing and lecturing about infractions during lengthy time-outs. Of course, we must not assume that there is anything other than “the gender issue” in these or any other texts that is worth discussing. All the other “values” claptrap”… mere propaganda designed to dull young minds to the subjugation being worked upon the under-class: mere spin to secure the “patriarchy” in its position on top of the socio-political dog-pile.

But if it is wrong for human beings to behave like scavenging jackals, nipping and scratching for first bite at the carcass, then why is it wrong? Why shouldn’t the strong overpower the weak? Why should we be outraged that men have oppressed women, or the majority the minority? Isn’t that nature’s law? And when feminists try to make us trash our male authors and recreate a canon full of female authors, aren’t they just trumping with the guilt card to get what they want—aren’t they just playing the fox’s part rather than the wolf’s in the fable?

The only possible protest against such cynicism is that, no, human beings are not mere animals—that right and wrong do exist independently of cultural conditioning, and that using raw physical power to seal up a soul silently inside a frail body is culpable brutality. The acquisition and appreciation of such higher values would be excellent reasons for reading literature. But if three are no such values—if all literature is only propaganda—then there can also be no cause for any man to feel obligated to extend equal rights to women, or for any tyrant to care about the feelings of his miserable subjects.

The more college literature programs draw us away from seeking basic human values in time-honored texts, the more they condition us to a decadent world where might makes right. The more teachers of literature insist that combing through the pages of the past in search only of “gender relevancy” is what literary specialists do, the more they ensure that gender inequality will come roaring back with a vengeance—inequality, and every other kind of barbarism. To shout above the shouters is to promote a degenerate culture of mindless screaming.

More on Freedom of Speech

Continuing my last remarks about free speech… say that you write the very worst kind of blog post. Say that you ask your readers, “Where are the twenty-first century Harmodius and Aristogeiton who will assassinate Obama… or Trump… or Smith… or Jones?” My God, you’re encouraging the assassination of a U.S. president! You must be apprehended immediately and locked away until your teeth fall out!

Why? Is the assumption that someone will undertake an assassination through reading your words who would otherwise never have thought of it? What kind of condescending, intrusive, prurient, censorious, holier-than-thou Gestapo tyro believes that we average Joes function that way? “Me read stuff say to go shoot Trump. Unh. Where me go get gun? Unh.” If the only thing standing between any public figure and a bullet is the censor’s power to excise the word “bullet” from public discourse, then the public figure had better never remove his bullet-proof vest—because the word isn’t really needed to stir the thought.

What makes people go violent isn’t the suggestion that they do so. In fact, suggesting an extreme act to people who are already riled up may very well be a good way to make them cool down. “I said that I wanted to punch him in the face… not behead him in front of his children.” Forcing speakers and writers to shut up about certain ideas can confer martyr status upon them and mystique upon their idiot notions. It also makes the extreme seem like a distinct possibility. If you say before an audience, “Aliens landed in my back yard last night and told me that you are in their pay to betray the human race,” everyone around you would start laughing… unless, that is, I jumped up and roared, “Shut up! How dare you! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Once I take an insane notion seriously, it no longer seems so insane to others.

Besides, if I were in law enforcement, I would want the wacko to keep writing so that I could see what bottom-feeders rose to the surface to make comments on his posts. I might even employ an agent to pose as the wacko. Once people start volunteering themselves to be assassins, my job of surveillance becomes much easier, and the world turns into a rather less dangerous place.

I’m far more worried, frankly, about the types who think that we consume and act upon suggestions the way a cow consumes grass and turns it to patties. They have a profound contempt for us as fellow citizens and as human beings, those speech-police. What would they not do to us in order to “protect” us?