Dissecting Fault Lines: Chapters 10-11

This is the final post in the series examining Voddie Baucham’s Fault Lines. The first three posts are here, here, and here.

Chapters 10 and 11 round out this book. They focus on how we, as Christians, can and should respond to the error being propagated in our respective churches and relationships. Baucham doesn’t really offer an solutions to the problem of the coming war in the church, because he doesn’t think it can be avoided. What he offers instead is a way to think as we move forward.

Chapter 10: Restoration and Mitigation

Chapter 10 is informative in overlapping ways. It starts by stating what I said above. Namely, that there is a war on Christianity, and that many well meaning believers are being duped into fighting for the wrong side. Their loving nature and desire for justice is inducing them to accept premises that are firstly, not true, and more importantly, at odds with Biblical truth.

This chapter lays out the nature of the battles we face as well as the weapons with which we need to fight. Baucham graciously explains his reasoning for calling out ministries and ministers by name. He is clear that he dearly loves these people, but that he is unambiguously at war with the “ideology which with they have identified with to one degree of another”.

He follows this with a clear explanation of the problems with BLM. Among the issues he takes are that Black Lives Matter is:

  1. An openly pagan, Marxist-Leninist organization
  2. An openly feminist, Pro-LGTBQIA+ organization
  3. Openly anti-male and anti-family

He goes on to explain the importance of Christians confronting the lies and holding to the truth, no matter the cost. One of the things I have always appreciated about Bro. Baucham’s teaching is his refusal to equivocate. He makes it clear where he stands on page 223:

The facts about Black Lives Matter are not in dispute. The organization is Marxist, revolutionary, feminist, misandrist, pro-LGBTQIA+, pro-abortion, and anti-family, with roots in the occult. It is unacceptable for Christians to partner with, celebrate, identify with, or promote this organization. And that includes being bullied or pressured into using the phrase “black lives matter.”

When I say this, people always ask, “Are you saying that black lives don’t matter?” Allow me to respond.

He does respond, quite masterfully, beginning with making it clear that he rejects the premise of the question. Asking the question of a black person is about the most ridiculous thing any person can ask, and I say this from experience. Baucham continues:

I am a Christian. I believe that all men are made in the image of God. Therefore, I most certainly believe that the lives of people matter regardless of how much or how little melanin is in their skin.

In other words, all lives matter! I know that’s been deemed offensive, but it’s true. Recently, Andrew Klavan said something worth remembering. This is roughly paraphrased, but I thought it was insightful in ways that I haven’t yet heard in these discussions, and like most of you, I have heard quite a lot this past year. Klavan (father of the recently featured Spencer Klavan) noted:

There is no such thing as a black life. A person’s life is not black; their skin is. A person’s life is not white; their skin is.

It goes without saying that this applies to all of the people- made in the image of God- of various hues with varied amounts of melanin in their skin. It astonishes me how, in a country filled with citizens from so many ethnic backgrounds, we get stuck speaking of these issues in black and white. The occasional obligatory nod is offered to so-called “people of color”, but this usually happens only when there is political leverage to be gained from it.

Chapter 11: Solid Ground

Chapter 11, the shortest of the chapters, aims to reiterate what Christians believe about repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. It reminds us that Scripture is sufficient to help us navigate these waters and that love for the brethren doesn’t mean abdicating our responsibility to stand for the truth.

If there is one thing Baucham makes clear in this book, it’s that he has chosen his side. He is on the Lord’s side, regardless of what this public stand may cost him. It is admirable,and to be emulated.

The book also includes two appendices. One is the text of The Dallas Statement, which Bro. Baucham co-authored in 2018 with John MacAruthur and other noted ministers in reaction to the swelling tide of critical social justice sweeping into the church. You can find the entire statement here.

The second appendix is the critical theory resolution as passed by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2019.

This is an important book which I am glad to see climbing best seller’s lists. Christians need to be vigilant during this time, and Fault Lines offers us the education and tools needed to so just that.

5 out of 5 stars.

Friday Faves: Truths Likely to be Walked Back.

Making the rounds this week is the news that Columbia University (yes, that Columbia University), is hosting six separate commencement ceremonies. They will be segregated by race, sexuality, and income level as the students self-identify.

Columbia University is offering virtual ceremonies for Native American, “LGBTQIA+,” Asian, “Latinx,” black, and “First-generation and/or low income” students over the last week of April, described as “Multicultural Graduation Ceremonies.”

They cover graduates of Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, General Studies and Barnard College, its sibling women’s college. Students must register by March 21 to get their “multicultural graduation gift,” such as stoles, tassels and pins, and by March 31 to be listed as participants.

The virtual segregated ceremonies do not replace ceremonies for the whole Ivy League university and its individual schools, but rather provide “a more intimate setting for students and guests to gather, incorporate meaningful cultural traditions and celebrate the specific contributions and achievements of their communities,” the page says.

This reduction of our humanity to its basest characteristics, those things often out of our control to do anything about, offends me. My Christian belief in God’s ability to confer on us a glorious, more transcendent identity in which to live recoils at this nonsense, until I remember that the identity I hold most important and precious is not one that most people are willing to embrace. Humans like regressing to the mean, even as we give lip service to desiring to “be all that we can be”. But I digress.

As I thought about this insanity, I remembered that there was a time when people with a bit of notoriety would speak unpalatable truths. They were even caught on camera telling these truths! Two in particular are Morgan Freeman, who referred to the idea of Black History month as “ridiculous” for valid reasons, and Denzel Washington, who also told some inconvenient truths about some of the roots of “historical disparities”. The first video is a minute long. The second is 10 minutes.

I may be wrong, but if I had to wager, I can almost guarantee you that by now, Morgan Freeman has walked back some. if not all of this. It is a few years old, after all. Our entertainment royalty can barely stand a little push back against anything they say, especially when it’s true.

Demzel might hold his own on some of this, but who knows?

Happy Friday.

 

The Bolshevik Reboot Comes for Dr. Seuss

The grand march towards a utopian society of perfect diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging has uncovered another transgressor of the progressive, postmodern catechism. It is none other than beloved children’s author Theodor Gesiel, more famously known as Dr. Seuss. From CNBC:

Six Dr. Seuss books — including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.

The other books affected are “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”

As it happens, despite having read tens of Dr. Seuss books , I don’t ever recall reading one of the six listed here. I’m sorely tempted to buy them, but my bibliophile budget is already accounted for.

While I want to appreciate (no, I don’t)  the proactive attempts by the Seuss Enterprise group to purge the library of books that may be genuinely offensive, I have a problem with this move. I actually have several problems with it,  but this is my primary contention:

Once you open the door of credibility to any assertion that Dr. Seuss was racially insensitive, which in 2021 is tantamount to grand wizardry in the KKK, you give a house key to the racial witch hunters of our day. There is no absolution being offered for good people who just happened to be born in 1904, a time when everyone’s attitudes were offensive when compared to post modern norms, including many black people’s attitudes. To do this is to paint with a broad, hard-bristled brush, and Dr. Seuss deserves better than that.

Wasn’t it just a short time ago, I mean in real time not Internet time, that the Obama’s were praising Dr. Seuss? Was not even the Cat in the Hat a guest in the Obama white house just a few short years ago? Why, yes. Yes, he was!

I’m not exactly sure who all these super sensitive, thin-skinned minorities are. Who are these people, simpletons who can’t discern between and appreciate generational divides, changing mores, and the reality that people who were born in 1904 are necessarily different from people born in 1984?

But if you are among them, I am very happy not to know you.

And stop picking on Dr. Seuss. My 25-year-old daughters learned their letter sounds from Dr. Seuss’s ABC. That’s a memory I’d not have tarnished by your stupidity.

Word Nerd Wednesday: Dipsomania

Disclaimer: While I am for the most part, a teetotaler with a few rare exceptions, I do not view drinking a glass of wine as a moral or Christian offense. Nevertheless, the wine mom trend has given me pause about the current state of American motherhood.

When I was recently reacquainted with this week’s word, I decided its pleasant linguistics, combined with the current motherhood zeitgeist, made it a worthy WNW installment.

Dipsomania: An uncontrollable craving for alcoholic liquors

Dipsomania among moms is now one big meme; laughed off as harmless fun or a lifesaving coping mechanism. Raising children in the context of a society with few to no community bonds and little social support means many mothers are stretched thin, a problem that we need to earnestly address. And it can’t be properly improved with Internet “communities”.

Instead, we’re told that a glass -or two, or three- of wine supposedly takes the edge off. From the Atlantic piece:

Moms who enjoy wine certainly existed before the internet, but it’s the internet that catapulted the wine mom to meme stardom. In the mid-2010s, the phrase was popularized as it became commonplace for moms to joke online about drinking wine to cope with the stresses of motherhood: Self-identifying wine moms began to poke fun at themselves in viral videos, blog posts, and memes. “The most expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to drink,” goes a particularly ubiquitous meme. “Wine is to moms what duct tape is to dads. It fixes everything,” says another. “Motherhood—powered by love, fueled by coffee, sustained by wine.”

I’ve been thinking a bit about dipsomania as the increase in drinking among moms of all social, economic, and religious categories has increased.

What do you guys make of the wine mom trend?

Dostoyevsky: Atheism–> Socialism–>The Tower of Babel

I am savoring my journey through Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. It’s not a story to rush through. Even if I wasn’t a slow reader to begin with, this is a thoughtful book that deserves a measure of contemplation as you go through it. The story is rich, compelling, and complex and I’m only through the first one-third of it. For this week’s Friday Fave I decided to share a quote from the beginning of the book. Despite having read it a week ago, it repeatedly floats back to the top of my consciousness at regular intervals. I’d love it if any of you find it intriguing enough to weigh in and share your perceptions. Here, the author introduces the beliefs and lifestyle of Aloysha, the youngest of the Karamazov brothers:
As soon as he reflected seriously he was convinced of the existence of God and immortality, and at once he instinctively said to himself: “I want to live for immortality and I will accept no compromise.” In the same way, if he had decided that God and immortality did not exist, he would at once have become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism is not merely the labour question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism to-day, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth but to set up heaven on earth. Aloysha would have found it strange and impossible to go on living as before.
The question occurs to me again and again: how often do we, having ostensibly reached some profound conclusion about the nature of life, continue to go on living as before?This beautiful quote about the trajectory of Aloysha’s resolve resonates with me. I am reminded of a much less eloquent quote that is, as far as I am aware, unattributed:
We live what we believe. Everything else is just talk.

Word Nerd Wednesday: Meaningful Education

homeschool

Which child is REALLY more likely to be playing outside?

Education is a hot topic this week in large part because, despite the fact that we all esteem its importance, there’s little consensus on what it means to be truly educated. This is true even among those who dedicate their lives to dispersing and pursuing education. A compelling example of this emerged this week when Harvard Magazine ran what can only be described as a hit piece on homeschooling.

In what was at best stunning ignorance or at worse knowing deception, they outlined what they titled “the risks of homeschooling”. Several assertions were made:

Elizabeth Bartholet, Wasserstein public interest professor of law and faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, sees risks for children—and society—in homeschooling, and recommends a presumptive ban on the practice. Homeschooling, she says, not only violates children’s right to a “meaningful education” and their right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.

The phrase “meaningful education” is what initially caught my attention and inspired this post. Before we explore that angle, however, I thought it worth highlighting the government’s own numbers concerning child abuse statistics; specifically the level of child abuse in the state-run school systems, where at least 90% of all American children receive educational instruction:

As of September 2017, the United States Department of Justice was still relying on research from before 2004 that showed “… school employee sexual misconduct, the sexual abuse and misconduct of K–12 students by school employees, is estimated to affect 10% of our nation’s students” (p. 1).[10] The actual percent might have been higher in 2004 and it might have been even higher in 2017 but data have not been available to determine this. Furthermore, these data do not include the physical or psychological abuse of students by school personnel. The authors gave the following finding to the Department of Justice:

Thus, despite clear policies and laws requiring reporting and potential legal consequences for failing to do so, only an estimated 5% of school employee sexual misconduct incidents known to school employees are reported to law enforcement or child welfare personnel, … A 1994 study in New York State found that only 1% of the 225 cases superintendents disclosed to researchers were reported to law enforcement or child welfare and resulted in license revocation … (p. 5)

That is to say, an extremely small portion of sexual misconduct acts by school personnel that are known by school personnel are ever reported to the proper government authorities. Who are these school personnel offenders? “Offenders include all types of school employees, such as teachers, school psychologists, coaches, [bus drivers,] principals, and superintendents” (Grant et al., 2017, p. 2).

In other words, mandating that children report each day to a government-run school is hardly a panacea against abuse. Children are hardly safer at school, especially if you factor in the abuseof all kinds inflicted on students by each other. Additionally, many children who go to school also experience undetected abuse at home. The facts do not support Ms. Bartholet’s assertion. She would be hard-pressed to defend her argument of abuse prevention as a valid reason to “presumptively ban” homeschooling.

Leaving aside the canard of abuse, I wondered about this meaningful education to which children have a right that is presumably denied when parents opt to home educate.

She views the absence of regulations ensuring that homeschooled children receive a meaningful education equivalent to that required in public schools as a threat to U.S. democracy. “From the beginning of compulsory education in this country, we have thought of the government as having some right to educate children so that they become active, productive participants in the larger society,” she says. This involves in part giving children the knowledge to eventually get jobs and support themselves. “But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” she says, noting that European countries such as Germany ban homeschooling entirely and that countries such as France require home visits and annual tests. [emphasis added]

Aha! Finally, we get to the crux of the words meaningful education, where a meaningful education is defined as one where a student is properly indoctrinated with introduced to ideas, philosophies, and perspectives that may diverge from those of their families and faith tradition. Without daily rebuttal’s to the traditional values of their parents, the students’ education is not meaningful.

This position makes a lot of assumptions, chief among them as presented in the article is that all homeschoolers are white conservative Christians. Ms. Bartholet is so determined to stick it to “those people” that she completely ignores the growing contingent of secular and minority homeschool families, including religious minorities.

At the risk of offending, I have to wonder how anyone can observe the increasing ignorance and banality surrounding us and conclude that mass government education definitively provides a meaningful education, including any real understanding of democracy or what it means to tolerate others’ viewpoints.

The irony is palpable in this denunciation of homeschooling, and the timing of this article and the upcoming anti-homeschool conference (itinerary here) couldn’t be worse. In fact, a public educator wrote a thoughtful rebuttal. He writes:

 

Most parents of public school children who are now confined to home-based learning are also balancing careers and do not have the time, energy, or ability to engage like their homeschooling counterparts. Still, the effort to find best practices and effective strategies would benefit at a time like this from a cooperative partnership between the two entities (public school and homeschool).

Unfortunately, no such relationship exists, thanks to years of an entrenched opposition to homeschooling among the educational establishment that has consistently sought to undermine parental rights while exaggerating the authority of the state.

How bad has it gotten? Even now, as the future of public education has been thrown into uncertainty amid a global pandemic, not a humble recognition of its limitations, but a seething condescension towards the backward rubes continues to define our academic elite.

For proof of that fact, look no further than this ridiculous cover for Harvard Magazine’s recent issue.

The whole thing reads like a parody:

  • Home is a prison (with bars on the windows, no less!), but mandated, compulsory public schools are liberating.
  • Religious bias on full display as the Bible forms one of the prison walls.
  • Condescension not in short supply with “arithmetic” intentionally misspelled to mock the average Joes out there “teachin’ ‘em up.”
  • The missed irony of government-education types picturing a captive child at home…in the midst of a lockdown ordered by, you guess it, the government.
  • A subtitle so lacking in self-awareness: “Elizabeth Bartholet highlights risks when parents have 24/7 authoritarian control over their children.”
  • A bizarre, yet not-so-subtle suggestion that homeschool children aren’t allowed out to play.

The most amazing thing about this is that all of these educated professionals can’t seem to figure out that if anyone is demonstrating a narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant view of the world that exists outside their own rigid dogma and antiquated methodology, it isn’t the homeschoolers.

He’s right. It isn’t, but as usual, rigid ideologues -of any stripe- are nearly incapable of true introspection and objectivity for the good of others or society as a whole. Even the best interests of children must bow in subjection to control and political power.

And that’s too bad, because education, meaningful education, isn’t about any of that.

 

 

 

 

In Other’s Words: Truth and Tone are often strange bedfellows.

When people are overly concerned with tone or are sensitive to the tone police, fewer people will be willing to speak hard truth. Joshua Gibbs examines the surge in accusations of “tone deafness”. You should really read the entire piece, Tone Deaf: Our Favorite New Pretentious Complaint. An  excerpt:

Modern men care very deeply about tone. Such concern goes hand-in-hand with our endless thirst for flattery.

In a prior age, “tone” was a minor concern of rhetoric teachers, but that’s it. No one grumbles about “tone” in the works of Homer or Virgil. No one carps about “tone” in the Divine Comedy. The writers of the Old Testament are curiously silent about tone— imagine Moses writing, “said God sullenly.”  Or, imagine Luther hearing out Eck’s arguments at Worms and opening his rebuttal with, “Well, I’m sure Mr. Eck made some fine points, but honestly, I couldn’t discern them due to the unfortunate shrillness of his tone,” at which point the Keystone Cops would show up in court, led by the fearless but foppish Capt. Winsome. Really, tone became an obsession when dilletantes took over, which is exactly why internet arguments cannot take two steps forward without someone clutching his pearls and making a scene about his opponent’s tone. If you would speak to the master while he sits on his social media throne, you must bow thrice before opening your mouth.

I am not suggesting that everyone who has ever been accused of tone deafness is innocent altogether, but I would say that tone deafness is a peevish, self-important thing with which to charge anyone. What we call “tone deaf” might be arrogance, hubris, or vanity— but if that’s what the tone deaf man is really guilty of, then we ought to have the guts to define his vice in more precise terms. Really, “tone deaf” just means “not zeitgeisty enough.” It means “not on the right side of history”— if we take “history” to mean nothing more than “how we have felt for the last 48 hours.” As sojourners on this earth and citizens of another World, Christianity is always going to be tone deaf.

What he said.

 

 

Ship of Fools

ship of fools

Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution, by Tucker Carlson. Hardcover edition published in 2018, 256 pages.

There’s this feeling I get when someone writes what I am thinking. When they are able to say it and somehow hit all the nuances that I wish I could fill in, but am not quite sure how, and when they seem to just *get it*, even if imperfectly, such a writer is a kindred spirit. That describes Tucker Carlson’s Ship of Fools.

In a political climate that is so contentious and within which everyone seems to be stuck in a foolishly binary perspective, I find political conversations very frustrating. When I converse with sincere, well-meaning people who, in their zeal to help the poor, view the left as the least-best option, I cringe. I don’t cringe for the reasons you might assume. No, I cringe because I know that when you scratch the surface of things and watch what politicians do rather than what they say, you quickly realize that the left’s talking points are a mere window covering for a party as beholden to big business as the rabid, pro-corporate, so-called capitalists on the right.

In other words, there is no savior in Washington, D.C.  They are almost all -regardless of the party affiliation- looking out for their own interests. This is the case Tucker Carlson lays out beautifully in Ship of Fools. I should add here that he isn’t asserting, and neither am I, that there are no good people with good intentions in politics. However, among those who wield the most power, they are very few and far between, and even those soon get swallowed up in the zeitgeist, unable to affect the change they had hoped.

Before I offer a couple of quotes, a brief outline of what I liked and didn’t like about the book. I’m a big fan of the bad news first approach to these things, so I’ll start with the problematic aspects of the book, in my own opinion:

  • The tone often reminded me of Carlson’s televised monologues; so much so that I am convinced that several parts I vividly recall hearing from him before. Given that I don’t watch his show (or any news networks outside of youtube snippets) that’s problematic.
  • There wasn’t enough tilling of new ground. There was very little here that I wasn’t already aware of. To be fair, I’m more informed than your average American, but I would suspect that is the case with a fair number of Carlson’s readers.
  • No source notes. When you put forth as many claims on the work and positions of as many people as Carlson does here, you need to have tens of pages of footnotes and sources to back it up. Again, because of my familiarity with much of what is written here, I am comfortable with the veracity of his claims, but a book such as this one needs to provide sources for the sake of its own integrity.

What I liked about this book:

  • This isn’t a “progressives bad”, “conservatives good” type of book. Carlson rightly acknowledges that there is more than enough blame on both sides of the imaginary aisle for the current political and economic predicament this country finds herself in.
  • The dissecting of the sacred pillars of the political classes, both left and right.
  • The populism angle speaks to me. As much as I abhor the notion of socialism as a political and economic order, I’m not overly enamored with the fake crony capitalism of the right or the market-as-king, pie-in-the-sky notions of libertarians either. I do believe that there is a third way, but because it doesn’t serve the interests of our present oligarchy it is often dismissed.
  • Carlson’s witty, biting humor and gifted storytelling keep his book moving forward.

Enough about what I think. Here are a few salient quotes from Ship of Fools. On the unholy alliance between the left, who supposedly care about the downtrodden, and big businesses like Apple and Amazon, who routinely and grossly mistreat their poor, foreign workers (love those iPhones though!):

All pretty grim. Yet when was the last time you heard a politician decry Apple’s treatment of workers, let alone introduce legislation intended to address it? When was the last time a group of socially conscious hipsters from Brooklyn protested outside the home of Apple CEO Tim Cook?

Never, of course. That’s because Apple, like virtually other big employer in American life, has purchased indulgences from the church of cultural liberalism. Apple has a gay CEO with fashionable social views. The company issues statements about green energy and has generous domestic partner benefits. Apple publicly protested the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The company is progressive in ways that matter in Brooklyn. That’s enough to stop any conversation about working conditions in Foxconn factories.

On the foolishness of foreign wars began by Republican presidents and then perpetuated and often expanded by their liberal successors:

The first is that war is destructive. It kills people. War flattens cities, hobble economies, topple civilizations, and upend ancient ways of doing things; often forever. In war, children always die.

None of this is hidden knowledge- nobody would deny that war destroys- but it’s easy to forget it anyway. Look up any speech by a political leader rushing his country into conflict and you’ll notice how nonspecific the descriptions are. It’s always a battle for something abstract, like freedom of sovereignty. If politicians acknowledge that soldiers will be killed at all, it’s only to extol their bravery and highlight the sheer glory of the endeavor. In speeches, war is never a bloody slog where eighteen-year-old boys get castrated by landmines, blasted apart by grenades, or pointlessly massacred in friendly-fire accidents, though that’s exactly what it is. p.91

Tackling everything from the foolishness of modern feminism and identity politics with several detours highlighting the utter silliness of editorial and political personalities such as the hawkish Bill Kristol and the utterly banal Ta-Nehisi Coates, Carlson does a good job cutting through the bull. He invites the reader to look at the evidence rather than get swept up in talking points and media propaganda. One need only scratch the surface to see that there are no heroes to be found in our current political system.

The irony here is that like him or loathe him, the only genuine political actor in the current paradigm, the only person who is generally a “what you see is what you get” operator, is Donald Trump.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

 

The Slow Destruction of Fantasy Fiction.

I’m not a huge fan of fantasy fiction, as I’ve explained here before, but the state of things in all corners of the publishing world interests me. They interest me not only as an aspiring writer but also as a lover of classic literature. I previously expressed my concern about the recent trend of denigrating older books. Most of the increasing animosity directed toward those books is due to their alleged racial and cultural insensitivity, a problem you’d think might be all but eliminated with those publishing in our postmodern, politically correct zeitgeist.

Lately, however,  it seems that even progressive authors are falling prey to the increasingly broad swath of culturally inappropriate or racially triggering offenses. It’s gotten so bad that even fantasy fiction, which by definition isn’t concerned with realistic portrayals of events and people, is being routed by the political correctness brigade. The result is that many authors are having to postpone the releases of their books to make edits of appeasement lest they offend the masses of people who were never going to read their books anyway. From The Spectator’s Even Fantasy Fiction is Now Offensive:

It was Lionel Shriver who saw the writing on the wall. Giving a keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival three years ago in which she decried the scourge of modern identity politics, Shriver observed that the dogma of ‘cultural appropriation’ —which demands no less than complete racial segregation in the arts — had not yet wrapped its osseous fingers around the publishing industry. But, she warned: ‘This same sensibility is coming to a bookstore near you.’ Reader, it has come.

Indeed it has, and the outrage isn’t being directed solely at authors of European descent, as many people might automatically assume and sadly, be perfectly okay with. Oh, no. This is an equally opportunity scourging:

Next month a young, Asian-American author called Amélie Wen Zhao was due to celebrate the publication of her debut novel Blood Heir, the first in a three-part fantasy series for which Zhao was reportedly paid a six-figure sum by Delacorte Press, a children’s imprint of Penguin Random House. Set in the Russian-inspired ‘Cyrillian Empire’, Blood Heir tells the story of a magic-wielding princess who is forced to flee her kingdom following her father’s murder. ‘In a world where the princess is the monster, oppression is blind to skin colour, and good and evil exist in shades of grey… comes a dark Anastasia retelling,’ blurbed the publishers.

Can you spot the problem here? It’ll all be clear in just a minute:

Before the manuscript had even reached the presses, however, a furore erupted when Zhao, a 26-year-old banker born in Paris and raised in Beijing, was accused of racism. Armed with merely the blurb and a handful of excerpts from the book, her critics — many of them fellow authors, editors and bloggers in the Young Adult genre (known as YA) — repeatedly tore into Zhao on sites such as Twitter and Goodreads, outraged by, among other things, the novel’s depiction of indentured labour. For despite Blood Heir’s Slavic setting, her detractors assumed the plot was inspired by American slavery and thus something Zhao had no business writing about because she is not black. In a tirade that might surprise students of Russian antiquity, one critic reportedly raged: ‘[R]acist ass writers, like Amélie Wen Zhao, […] literally take Black narratives and force it into Russia when that shit NEVER happened in history.’

I was tempted to leave aside the minor detail that slavery was actually a thing in Russia right up until the mid-late 19th Century, but it occurs to me that it would be a grave mistake to do so.More:

One prominent writer even claimed the very premise of a fictional world in which ‘oppression is blind to skin colour’ was racist and joined others in pillorying Zhao for creating — and then killing — a ‘black’ character in the novel. No matter that the only discernible evidence for the character’s ethnicity was a vague description of dark curls and ‘bronze’ skin. Another YA author, Ellen Oh, who joined in the fray by piously tweeting ‘colourblindness is extremely tone deaf. Learn from this and do better’, was herself forced to issue an apology after being castigated for using the phrase ‘tone deaf’, a turn of events that would be comical were it not so preposterous.

Stabbed by her own pitchfork. It is both comical and preposterous in my opinion. The utter ignorance of the woke brigade is the issue here. The fact that people so ignorant are wielding the  the power to influence and impact an industry which should be -at its heart- driven by educated people with literary and historical knowledge does not bode well for the future of publishing, literature, and literacy.

One wonders when peak absurdity will intersect with a plurality of people willing to display the courage to declare that enough is enough.

 

 

 

 

Culture Counts

culture counts book

Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged,  kindle edition, by Sir Roger Scruton. Originally published in 2007. 120 print pages.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by the recently departed Sir Roger Scruton, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I was expecting to find ideas that I’ve read in any number of Scruton’s essays over the years; simply expanded and better fleshed out. What I found here was partly that, but also an opportunity to think more deeply about the importance of culture and beauty on us as individuals, and on the generations left behind when we are gone.

Scruton makes a strong case for understanding the importance of knowledge as something to be passed on. That this understanding is of greater value than our modern, ravenous appetite for increasing bits of random information. Anyone who has engaged in an online discussion can relate to being bombarded with links providing “pertinent” information offered solely for the purpose of winning an argument. Once the point is made, further opportunity for understanding is discarded in favor of the checkmate. There’s the pretense of knowledge where none truly exists.

It is sometimes said that we now live in a “knowledge economy,” and that “information technology” has vastly increased the extent and accessibility of human knowledge. Both claims are false. “Information technology” simply means the use of digital algorithms in the transference of messages. The “information” that is processed is not information about anything, nor does it have its equivalent in knowledge.

Scruton noted that this way of being and living leaves little margin for passing along true, practical knowledge that will be of value to our progeny :

it is true of practical knowledge, too, that we educate people in order to conserve it, and if we ever lose sight of this truth, then we are sure to lose what practical knowledge we have.

The true purpose of education, Scruton asserts, and I agree with him, is to transfer the kind of knowledge that isn’t acquired by a few clicks of the mouse. But first, he notes, we have to do away with the silly idea that education exists solely for the benefit of the student:

I emphasized that we make a mistake in believing that education exists primarily to benefit its recipient. I suggested, rather, that the goal of education is to preserve our communal store of knowledge, and to keep open the channels through which we can call on it when we need to.

This is a very hard sell in the postmodern West, which doesn’t even pretend to preserve the tension and delicate balance between individual liberty and the common good. We have gone so far that we absolve ourselves and our own children from any sense of familial duty. The idea that education is bigger than its recipients is gone.

At the core of all this, Scruton’s focus is defending the necessity of teaching the canon of high Western culture against those who are part of the current culture of repudiation. The culture of repudiation seeks to discount the value of classical Western culture as elitist at best and racist at worst. This repudiation is apparent in nearly every postmodern art form.

One of the things Scruton did here, which I was not expecting, was to give an appropriate nod to the originality and value of musical genres such as jazz. He doesn’t hold them in the same category as Mozart, of course, but he does acknowledge their value when compared to the popular music of today. He offered a theory on the connection between the downward trajectory of musical culture and what it tells us about the cultural zeitgeist of today.

Pop music, which presents the idealized adolescent as the center of a collective ceremony, is an attempt to bend music to this new condition—the condition of a stagnant crowd, standing always on the brink of adulthood, but never passing across to it. It shows youth as the goal and fulfillment of human life, rather than a transitional phase which must be cast off once the business of social reproduction calls. For many young people, therefore, it constitutes an obstacle to the acquisition of a musical culture.

I can relate to this. Despite having fully embraced my adult life and all of the responsibility which it entails, I still feel a certain nostalgia for the popular hits and R&B music of the 1980s and 1990s. There is a sense in which much of the music of my adolescent and young adult years serve as a sort of soundtrack of my life. When I listen to those songs today, however, rather than simply being caught up in the catchy beat, I am incredulous of the vapidity in the lyrics and that I’d never noticed them before. Scruton also notes that the perpetual adolescence induced through popular music and culture, in general, undergirds an ever-present attempt to de-contextualize important rites of passage. He uses, for example, one result of the sexual revolution:

The ritual transition from the virgin to the married state has all but disappeared, and with it the “lyrical” experience of sex, as a yearning for another and higher state of membership, to which the hard-won consent of society is a necessary precondition.

Scruton didn’t only see the assault on Western culture as an assault from within due to the cult of adolescence and the repudiation of tradition, but also from without via multiculturalism, including the increasing encroachment of Islamic culture in Europe. As an Englishman, Scruton was especially attuned to those happenings in his home country.

There are myriad topics to explore in Culture Counts, far more than I can summarize here. Even if you don’t agree with Scruton on all counts, he at least raised pertinent questions that have been mostly ignored in this generation which purports to know better than all of our ancestors who have gone before.

Time will tell, I suppose.

4 out of 5 stars.