Academic VORP Continued: Commenters on Parade!

Image result for old time baseball player
His VORP is thankfully irrelevant, as Johnny Evers has been dead for over 70 years. Modern ball boys outweigh him at his peak. Hell, modern bats probably do as well.

The thoughtful comments to this line of thought from a month and a half ago were so good and worthy of further discussion, I have been meaning (for looking at two months now!) to do a post to talk about them. Here we go:

Richard A.:

I have long thought that this is why the notion of “overpopulation” is so prevalent among academics. Since we naturally assume that everyone else is like us, what other conclusion can one come to when one makes an appraisal of his life and realizes that the value of what he consumes is vastly greater than the value of what he produces?

I have generalized a parallel idea: that those who think it their jobs to direct the lives of little people think there are too many people once they run out of ideas on tasks to assign to us.

Here’s Woodrow Wilson, often quoted here, summarizing Our Betters’ view of our value, in a speech to a graduating class of – teachers!: “We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” Who is the ‘we’ in this picture? Who is deciding which difficult manual tasks are needed?

Wilson, nearly a caricature of the blue-blooded racist pig, is attempting to get the future teachers he is addressing to identify with him and his buddies. He will succeed: everybody wants to be a part of the team, and teacher’s colleges are set up by design to select those least willing to oppose the decisions of their leaders. Further, as Machiavelli pointed out in The Prince, when the time comes for dirty deeds, a prince needn’t worry about finding people to do them – courtesans are legion, and are desperate to find ways of ingratiating themselves to the prince. These are the people Bolt was referring to in A Man For All Seasons: “… those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they are jackals with sharp teeth & I’m their tiger” (Cromwell was just better at it than most; think rather of Richard Rich as portrayed in the movie) Packaging it up as ‘helping the children’ makes the pill go down easier.

In a world such as this, where success is measures in team membership and advancement achieved by the usual activities of courtesans, uneasy sleeps the head that wears the mortar board. On the one hand, you got the professor job, so you are a winner! On the other, nipping at your heels are scads of people who could do your job as well as you can. Since projection is the go-to psychological defence of the well-educated, you conclude, not that your job is not very valuable and your position tenuous, but rather that there are just too many darn people! Delicious.

Hard to find an academic now who honestly believes his role is to maintain the ideals of Western Civilization.

I was thrilled to hear a commencement speaker at TAC spell out exactly that: that the Great Books and Catholic education the students received was to prepare them to defend Western Civilization and Christendom.

The exploding heads and subsequent clean-up at a ‘normal’ college if anyone were to say anything like that is beautiful to contemplate.

Charles Pergiel contributed:

I suspect if we start cutting professors salaries we will soon end up paying nothing at all because there is always some wise guy willing to do it for less. And then colleges will start going the way of newspapers. College’s biggest value is in maintaining the ideals of Western Civilization, and that might require paying professors real money.

I think in some ways the burgeoning opportunities for adjuncts and graduate teaching assistants is running exactly that experiment. In the old days, when 10% or so of people went to college, instead of the 50%+ we have now, and the scions of the rich were overrepresented in that 10%, AND colleges required few expensive labs AND admin was a fraction the size of teaching staff, AND government make-work programs hadn’t yet created professorships in Studies and related fields, THEN not only could the much smaller number of professors be counted on to, for example, know Greek, Latin, History, Logic, etc., but they could receive comparatively fabulous salaries and get tenure. Now? Just as the professors who actually knew something were outnumbered by those who merely parrot the party line starting about 30-40 years ago, professors who need the money will be replaced by those who don’t.

Something I’ve not written much about here is how low salaries can be used to limit jobs to the ‘right’ kind of people. The wrong kind of people need to make a living, because A. they are not independently wealthy; and B. they want to have something approximating a normal life. Low paying/high prestige jobs end up going to people who either A. are independently wealthy, and thus more likely to be on Team Woodrow already; or B. people who have little or no desire to live an approximately normal life.

I first began to understand this feature of modern employment when, around age 30, I attended a talk by a retired US ambassador and State Department lifer at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Prior to the 1960s, those overseas embassy jobs tended strongly to go to the sons of the wealthy – just the thing to introduce Skippy to politics and broaden his horizons. For the entry-level positions, the salaries were very low, too low for any but the independently wealthy or ascetically fanatical to accept. Thus, normal people, a man who aspired to a wife, home, and family, for example, simply could not take these jobs. They were securely reserved to the rich and their dedicated courtesans. Just as they should be, from the Woodrow Club’s point of view.

Similarly, journalism – a title, like ‘educator,’ that seems to have been made up to provide more gravity to a fundamentally simple and personal occupation – is peopled largely by folks willing to be woefully underpaid, with the same result: a startling uniformity of opinion on just about everything. (That there’s never been much money in telling the truth is hardly a relevant fact for the would-be next Cronkite.) Journalists, appalled that relatively normal people are willing to do their presumed job for them for free, want desperately to recast their role into some sort of public servants, to be subsidized for our own good.

Like professors, say.

Finally, Brandon Watson checks in:

It’s obviously not something talked about a lot with non-academics, but when academics get together and talk, it sometimes comes up explicitly. While there are exceptions, a lot of fields have been glutted for a time right now, and it’s hard to give a reason, other than luck of timing, why they have a tenure-track position and someone else is an adjunct — all the ones who are honest will admit that they know at least one person less well off in position but more talented than they are.

And the whole thing is worse because academia is a reputational field — everything depends on your reputation, and so anything that could possibly threaten that is a threat to your career. But at the same time, there’s really not much you can do to build reputation without being able to get your hands on a lot of money. It’s why science faculty spend endless time writing grant proposals and humanities faculty are always desperate for another conference on a faddish topic (excuse me, thriving topic of research).

Always informative to hear from someone on the inside. Thanks.

I like the term ‘reputational field’ as well as the observation that gaining a good reputation is outside the direct control of the academic himself. All he can do is pitch hard for grant money, write ever more outlandish papers, and perform ever more ‘challenging’ and ‘subversive’ studies. Nobody is gaining a reputation by authoring a paper based on the idea that Shakespeare was really good, or that the use of proper English is an aid to communication, or that progress is intermittent, uncertain and in any event hard to define; nobody is cutting to the front of the line because their study showed hard work and discipline are more important than skin color in success today, or that girls are just different from boys, (those last two, on the contrary, will get you hate-mobbed out of a job). No: to gain the reputation that gets you ahead you must write papers claiming there is no biological difference between the sexes, that 6’5″ 350 lbs left tackles who move like ballerinas and can bench press a Buick are all men because something something oppressive hegemony. Or similar.

A reputational field where gaining a reputation is largely outside the power of the individual will be ruled by intrigue. It is a courtesan environment, where knowing who is in power and what they want is the real key to success. Being merely talented but not playing the game just makes you a road bump on somebody else’s career path.

We Don’t Know the Future

Image result for crystal ballI might add that we don’t know the past, either. The future, however, is categorically unknownable until it ceases to be the future, while the past is at least in theory knowable to some extent…

But I digress.

The Greeks loved their oracles, or at least consulted them a lot. They’d trapse on down to Delphi, offering in hand, even though just about every story and myth about such future-tellers is a cautionary tale. The Oracle, it seems, is correct, just never in the way the people to whom the prediction is given could ever figure out or use – until it’s not the future anymore.

And that’s the lighter side of things.

Image result for belloq opens the ark

People who claimed to tell the future were held in low esteem, to put it mildly, in both the Old and New Testaments, unless they spoke from God (and woe to those who claim to speak for God when they don’t!).  Fortune tellers and necromancers (who were most often doing the same thing – looking into the future), among others, were lumped in with child sacrificers, and put under the ban, for one thing because they were so often the same people. For the pagans, the entrails of animals were good enough for day to day use, but divining the future when a kingdom was on the line often required a human sacrifice.

I fear things haven’t changed all that much. Just as the human penchants for slavery and rape reassert themselves as the strictures of Christianity fade, the sort of witchcraft that commits abominations and horrors because they are abominations and horrors is bound to reassert itself as well. Practitioners sense (correctly) that only unnatural, horrendous offerings can recruit and appease the forces that might grant their desires.

The ghoulish love of late term abortion springs to mind. For the first few decades, abortionists were shy of the sunlight – few and rare, right? – but now we have them pointing out on Twitter, with an eye roll, that late term babies don’t scream because step one is slitting their throats. You can’t even hope to shame them. Theirs are jealous gods.

I mention this here because abortion advocates claim to know the future: life will be so much better for the mother and death better for the baby than would be the case if the baby got born. When one suggests that life is better than death, things work out unexpectedly to the good as often as the bad, that nothing is fated and at any rate no one can know how things will work out in the future, the ground shifts to RIGHTS. (And shifts somewhere else once you push back on rights – but that’s another topic.)

Even within the constraining context of Christian morality and belief, this human desire to know the future is treated with great caution. We are told not to worry about tomorrow, for this day has problems enough, and that even though we are promised a glorious life beyond our understanding, the exact time and manner are not ours to know. Be prudent, of course, and live a Christian life, but don’t waste any time worrying about the Apocalypse or even where tomorrow’s bread is coming from. There’s no place for fortune telling in a simple, holy life focused on doing the right thing right now.

I think even Hegel’s somewhat surprising restraint when addressing the future unfolding of the Spirit, his insistence that we cannot know what the future syntheses will be but must live with what the Spirit is unfolding now, manifests his proper Christian reticence about the future.

Marx shed this reticence along with any other shreds of functional daily Christianity in Hegel, and proposed that he, Marx, was the great prophet, and saw a vision of the inevitable future, the Workers’ Paradise that awaits all those who believe. The only virtue is faith in Marx alone; the only sin failure to believe. (1)

Capital-H History, Marxists’ god who shall never be called a god (but woe to any who get on this jealous deity’s Wrong Side!) demands his sacrifices as well. Lenin must murder his thousands and Stalin and Mao their millions, or else the promised Future won’t come! Che must murder his unarmed men, women and children, as must Pol Pot. Yet the gods of wealth are not yet appeased! So Antifa mentions the millions more that need to be killed to bring about the glorious future.

And so on. Blood is the price of knowing the future. The demons we invoke and feed can fulfill their promises, but only after the fashion of the Greek myths: you’ll get what was foretold, but it won’t be what you want and the price will be far too high.

Well, that got grim fast. On a slightly lighter note – slightly – many racists (2) arguments about who should or should not be allowed to immigrate. One of many things wrong with these arguments is that those making them also claim to know the future: they claim that one very narrow, cherry-picked set of history proves that certain races should not be allowed to immigrate to the US, because members of such races are not capable of becoming good American citizens.

There’s a certain circularity to the argument: American is defined as at least partially a genetic trait, national in the original meaning the term, and not a cultural or political term. If so, then it would of course be true that no one other than someone of English descent such as were found in the original colonies could possibly be an American.

The historical pedant in me wants to know: is that Celtic Brits? All 5 nations, including those in Brittany? Danish English? Roman? Saxon? French? Assuming Hilaire Belloc would qualify, exactly how much really truly English, however defined, do you have to be? How much other stuff is allowed to pollute it?

Personally, as a 1/2 Czech Slav 1/2 mutt including some Cherokee (right out, correct?) and low-life Scotch, and as the father of children who are about 3/8th Irish and 1/8 Jewish, I and my family aren’t passing any meaningful genetic American test. I am loath to think we’re not as good Americans as anyone else.

The less cherry-picked history of America contains at least two bits that blow this all up: first, the social troubles in this country caused by elitist snobs who believe it their duty to control us peons is entirely the product of the descendents of exactly those pure (ish) English colonists. Our blue blooded nobility uses people of other races and cultures as convenient sticks – but the ideas are all theirs. A case can be made that, if we want an America populated by citizens who love her, a home of the brave and land of the free, and were going to throw anybody out or exclude anybody (note: I’m not in favor of this), the people we’d get rid of FIRST would be the lily-white faculties at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and their ilk and the blue-bloods running the banks and the government, and their herd of sycophants and courtiers. For starters. I don’t know if many of us little people would cause much trouble without their ‘leadership’ and instigation.

Second, the Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians and so on were hated just as much – you can look it up – as the current least favored. And, in most cases, there was some basis to it, just like there’s some basis to fearing immigrants from the Middle East and Africa. Some mobsters and IRA members did, in fact, make it over here, and did and do in fact break a lot of laws and cause a lot of evil.

But, just like the nice North African Muslim ladies who help my wife care for her mom, and the Muslim taxi drivers I get a ride to the airport from once in a while, most of the Irish, Germans, Jews, etc., did in fact want to be Americans and obey the laws and fit in. In the cases where there are problems, it’s because they don’t want to obey the laws and fit in – and that is reason to exclude them.

Side note: I don’t expect your average Muslim to be any clearer on the long-term implications of their faith than the average Christian. They may embrace a world-conquering, infidel-slaying eschaton with all the vigor and clarity with which the typical Christians accepts the admonition to die to ourselves or not commit adultery in our hearts. I don’t know.  If they did live in anticipation of annihilating America and imposing Sharia law, that would be a reason to not let them in. I don’t think it possible to make a blanket call against entire classes of people. Would probably help the average Mohammed and Zahra if we could keep the looney Imams out, however.

To sum up: too many variables are in play to convincingly make the claim that America is for some mythical genetic Americans. Too many counter examples exist of good Americans of non-English and non-white extraction for such arguments to carry any weight. Too many things are wrong with this country right now that have little if anything to do with racial origins to think that some sort of purity is going to solve them.

We don’t know the future. We can’t say that not letting people in or expelling people from this or that group or place is going to solve anything. The certain doom being preached by so-called race realists isn’t certain. Not only is it a fantasy to imagine anything like an English America, it distracts from the more pressing problems of an amoral and narcissistic America – the product of exactly those ‘real’ Americans were supposed to want to purify the nation for.

  1. It fell to Lenin (as discussed here and in the preceding sections) and Gramsci to restore, via the usual Marxist twisted infernal parody of Christianity, the notion that we know not the hour, that there were steps that needed to be taken between the oppressive now and the happy eschaton.
  2. Please note that I’m using ‘racist’ here as an actual carrier of meaning, not just a swear word, to describe people who make non-trivial distinctions between people based solely on race.

 

Plans, Backlog, Reality: The Blogging Life

Yesterday, took a few minutes to look over my Drafts file for this blog. 50 items. Took a literary weed-whacker to it, and ended up with – 40.

Sheesh.

And, I often start stuff in Word as well, to be copied over when finished. Haven’t looked at those – at least another half dozen, I’d guess. Got to do that sometimes.

Some of the purged items were stuff I must have had some ideas for, had typed a couple sentences, no doubt thinking they were sufficient to capture the essence, to remind me of what I was thinking – but, didn’t work. Had no idea upon reading the sentence or two what it was that I thought was important enough to blog about that those sentences were meant to suggest. Oh, well, out they went.

A couple items were ideas I’d changed my mind on – I’d written far enough to realize I’m wrong (amazing, isn’t is? but it happens once in a while) or that there was no way to say what I was thinking that would come off as non-stupid – perhaps because what I was trying to say was stupid, but I’ll entertain other options, if any.

A couple were just titles, or just a single phrase – nope, no hope of recalling what those were about, out they went.

What’s left is largely Part II, or 3 or something of series I’ve started. I get these dander-upping ideas, usually around Wrong Thinking that has appeared on the internet that Needs Correction, and I can’t possibly say it in a single blog post, so I start and call it Part 1, then maybe get to part 2 or so, then maybe a shiny object moves into view, or my dander self-settles somewhat, and – well, that’s how you end up with 40+ drafts.

We will here conclude this fascinating – fascinating, I tell you! – post with a little update:

Set Hegel aside (a little goes a long way – it’s like *work* to read that stuff!) to read Awake in the Night Land by John C Wright, because that’s fun. Will have a review shortly.

If the Dismal Science is your cup of tea, there are a couple posts on economics, in a couple different series I’ve started, that are close, that I hope (ha!) to finish up soon.

I’ve got this Population Math thing that’s been rattling around in my head for a couple years now that needs to be written. Was recently motivated to work on it when a relative, with one of those ‘this should shut him up!’ deliveries, stated that the fact that the population had doubled in less than 30 years is something we should be worried about. While there are a couple good answers to that, the one to start with is just math and logic: unless you want to start gassing millions, it will take 3 or 4 generations for changes in birth rate to work their way through the gross population totals – because people now days commonly live 70 – 80 years, long enough for their replacement-rate children to produce replacement-rate children of their own, and maybe even for those replacement-rate grandchildren to produce their replacements as well. So, if everybody simultaneously decided that, as a whole, they would produce at replacement rate, it would be about 60 – 80 years before the total population would peak, during which time the total population might well quadruple – because people keep insisting on living. So, we’re heading for the peak in around 40 years, because around 40 years ago the idea that 0, 1 or 2 children is the most desirable number became very widespread worldwide. After which the most likely thing is for the population to start falling, because, as Tacitus put it, the appeal of childlessness is great.

Anyway, got charts and graphs in mind. Don’t know if any people are interested in being convinced. Will take – wait for it – several posts to cover.

Aaaaand – working on another essay and a couple short stories for publication, for all values of ‘working on’ that equal ‘thinking I should maybe write some more’.

In short, I’m never emptying the queue, I need to wake up and smell the hot brewed beverage.

Follow-Up: Childlessness, Population, Killing Grandma

Creative Minority Report linked to The Daily Beast which linked to Newsweek on an article on voluntary childlessness, which we recently discussed here (phew!).  Couple things:

Consider contemporary Japan, which after decades of economic stagnation has become the most aged big country on the planet. Since 1990 the world’s third-largest economy has had more people over 65 than under 15; by 2050 it’s projected there will be more people over 80 than under 15. More than one in three Japanese women, predicts sociologist Mika Toyota, will never marry or have children (childbearing outside of marriage is still relatively rare in Japan and other wealthy Asian countries).

The results haven’t been pretty. In some places in Japan, particularly in the countryside, there are already too few working adults remaining to take care of the elderly, and kodokushi, or “lonely death,” among the aged, the unmarried, and the childless, is on the rise. Long a model of frugality, the demographically declining nation now has by far the high-income world’s highest rate of public indebtedness as spending on the elderly has shot past what the state can extract from its remaining productive workers. Last month, the nation’s new finance minister, Taro Aso, outright said that the elderly should be given grace to “hurry up and die.” This situation will not be made better by a desexualized younger Japanese generation: one in three young men ages 16 to 19 express “no interest” in sex—and that may be a good thing, given that 60 percent of young women of the same age share their indifference.

Wow. Some people seem to truly believe that the obvious ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’ of overpopulation is to have fewer children. Nope. The obvious solution is to kill people off.  Population is effected as much by the death rate as the birth rate, and that persistently low and falling death rate is the real problem, as long as it’s somebody else’s death. You start with the easy targets – the unborn, the elderly, the sickly, the crippled, anyone whose ‘quality of life’ offends us.  The elderly in particular, who are to be  ‘given grace to “hurry up and die”’, will soon, like well before 2050, be required to have the grace to hurry up and die in order to cease to inconvenience their childless grandchildren. Then, since ‘enough people’ is an idea dogged in its resistance to being defined, you move on to those who would be better off dead, including those who don’t get with the program, whatever the program of the day is, such as the people who are so morally and intellectually deficient as to disagree with me.

And this behavior will be defined as ‘altruistic’ and ‘compassionate’.

Hadn’t really considered the possibility that  a portion of the population above the 10% or so that I’ve heard is typical would just loose interest in sex. But, upon reflection, sex without any attachment or consequences does stand to loose its appeal. Is it possible that romance (and children!) is not just an add-on to good sex, but is in fact essential for long term enjoyment?

What a concept.

Another thought that’s been rattling around the wide, open spaces inside my skull: a life that would be ruined by children isn’t much of a life to begin with. Ya know?

Perfect children, whose parent(s) had them only because they could afford Gap clothes and Harvard tuition, and had room in their successful, fulfilling lives to schedule an appropriate amount of quality time for them – the existence of these children otherwise would have been an affront to all that is right and good.

Continue reading “Follow-Up: Childlessness, Population, Killing Grandma”