Tag: Tocqueville

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The American Zeal for Punching Up

 

Red-blooded, real Americans are sick of America’s elites punching down on them. Authentic American politics, like authentic American comedy, roots for the underdog and punches up, not down. The problem with today’s elites is their down is up and their up is down: Our elites believe they’re signaling their superior virtue by “punching up” when they ridicule heartland America, but of course what they’re really doing is using their privileged social status to punch down on heartland America instead. Or that’s how it seems to many of us. For those unfamiliar with this punchy lingo, comedian Ben Schwartz explains,

“Punching up” and “punching down” are relatively new pop-political terms, often found not far from words like “mansplaining,” “problematic,” and “trolling.”

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Beauty, Power, Babbling, and Tocquevillian Sex Ed

 

“He drinks because of you.” Even knowing now what I didn’t know then, the claim stinks of false blame, though youth and beauty are said to have great power over those who admire them. Young I was. But beautiful? Not really, I thought. A great many budding young women are kept far too busy frantically scrambling to keep the less-beautiful parts of puberty from turning their bodies into an embarrassment to take the extra step of deliberately using their bodies to gain power over others. Some girls absolutely are Machiavellian little minxes equipped to use “sexiness” to manipulate others before they’re even old enough to drive. Other girls are as absolutely not: these latter are innocents in a society that still claims (however implausibly) to value innocence. And of course, gals come in all stages in between.

Toddlers are innocent. Toddlers are hilarious – and destructive – because they haven’t yet figured out their own agency. Our own toddler likes nothing better than to make something “happen” – but he has little idea what, or why. He’s more powerful than he knows, which adds to the havoc. Much innocence comes from simply not knowing yet what the hell you’re doing. While babies’ innocence of basic motor coordination, language, literacy, and social skills is cute, it’s not inherently valuable. Indeed, the quicker children outgrow that kind of innocence, the better. But we do value youngsters’ sexual innocence. We also value young adults’ sexual agency. Puberty is sexual toddlerhood, only we’d really rather not have our teens exploring the world with their genitals the way toddlers do with their mouths. Fortunately, children are, at least in theory, quite grown up in other ways by the time puberty hits; in theory, able to apply lessons they’ve learned about their agency in other spheres to sexual agency; in theory, able to use reason to assert their sexual agency while maintaining their sexual innocence. In practice, though, developing sexual agency while maintaining innocence is tricky, especially absent wise counsel.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. America and Marvel, Part V: Genres and Their Reflection on American Society

 

I will close this series with two brief explanations of how genre itself involves reflections on American society. I have recently been working on horror movies, so that is one of my examples. American horror comes down to two versions of an attack on progress. One is Christian — Hitchcock did it, his many imitators since John Carpenter do it, and endless others. These stories try to put together the universal and the particular in this way. They start with a social setting that is very broad and designed to show what’s happening with American freedom. They then move on to an individual story of the emergence of evil. How crazily implausible evil has become, and how maddening, therefore, is supposed to teach the audience that they didn’t see evil in the setting. The unwillingness of good respectable middle-class Americans to see the evil in their hearts, and therefore in their society, leads them to countenance or even provoke monstrous things.

The tragic poet in this case resorts to these shocking things rightly called horror on the assumption that nothing else will even get a hearing. This is also what David Lynch wants to teach Americans; or Neil LaBute. These are very sophisticated movie-makers, but they are basically Christian moralists. They mean to remind Americans that you can stop believing in God, but you can’t stop believing in evil. Instead of providence, you get God’s wrath.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. America and Marvel, Part IV: Show Business and the Marvel Identity

 

Let us now see how all this emerges from show business. The box office seems to be growing exclusively on the strength of pricier tickets, as fewer people go to the movies. Fewer movies are made every year, counting movies with any kind of broad release — not 4,000 theaters, but say more than 500. The number of studios and the number of sources for stories are also decreasing. In the business, the idea is called intellectual property. In that sense, a minuscule oligarchy sells what a massive democracy wants to buy. The view of America you get at the movies is concentrating, ignoring more and more of the country. So, let us look at what we buy or, rather, buy into, while only really renting.

Today, cinema is dominated by three genres:

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. America and Marvel, Part III: The Role of Cinema

 

I will start with some eminently questionable remarks. Let us start from the place of cinema in American life. Americans are notorious for the great gap their society leaves open in-between personal, private experiences, particular to each one and interesting mostly to himself — and public debates or public discourse, which is dominated by abstractions.

Tocqueville famously said Americans are uniquely given to general ideas — whenever doubt should arise about anything, a principle will be stated with god-like certainty. What lies in-between the abstract or universal and the personal or particular is judgment. Judgment, in both common senses of the word, is frowned upon in America. Obviously, moral judgment is frowned upon because it is a form of discrimination and the ground and mode of discrimination — it also odors of inequality, as he who judges necessarily sets himself the superior of he whom he judges. But judgment offends not merely equality — it also offends independence, or individualism.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. America and Marvel, Part II: Reflections of and on Society

 

A few days ago, I talked to my associate Prof. Harmon who raised a fundamental question by way of a preposition. This is not as rare an occurrence as you might think. He asked whether I meant to speak of American cinema as a reflection of American society or a reflection on it. As I said, the movies are our human way of seeing what we’re like, as humans. But what does that mean more clearly?

“Reflections of society” involves the obvious meaning of imitation. What you see on the screen is what the movie-makers saw looking around — America. But this could mean two different things, being that no movie can reflect America as a whole. American movie-makers might offer Americans the images they think will please them — they see what Americans approve, and are governed in their works by that experience. This would mean cinema is a kind of flattery; a barely concealed form of self-congratulation. Every theater-going experience is really an awards ceremony in disguise. There is more than a little truth to that. Do people leave the theaters of this great notion in a soul-searching mood, somewhat chastened by the experience, or rather smug, and even self-important?

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. America and Marvel, Part I: Introduction

 

At first, this series may seem strange to you. All I can say by way of preparatory remarks is that cinema properly understood is the self-understanding of a society. It comprises individual taste, popular phenomena, prestige, and also great achievements. It is at once all-American and almost universally opposed in America. Cinema is part of civilization — it is an attempt to think through and therefore to educate Americans about what it means to be a human being. But it retains elements of barbarism — a surprising fondness for images, let’s say.

Cinema is remarkably democratic in that it shows us the bodies of human beings whom we instantly recognize, with all the moral and intellectual consequences that follow from that knowledge. But it is also aristocratic, in that it privileges stories which are impressive by reason of being unusual — we generally look for great beauty, great power, or great achievements in stories. Or at any rate, cinema inevitably produces celebrities, the most obvious form of inequality in America.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF#8: Movies, Poetry, America, and Marvel

 

Hello, Ricochet! It is my pleasure to share my first public lecture on American cinema and society. I’ll start with thanks to my friends Tom Harmon and Matt Peterson, professors at John Paul the Great Catholic University–and, of course, to the university. And to the kids who did the audio-video work with precious little help from me. They’re too young I think for me to buy them a beer, but if they play their cards right… I’ll soon publish the written lecture, which is somewhat different, just in case not everyone wants to watch…

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A friend reads this journal, which I have not seen advertised on Ricochet, so let me do the honors. I would describe it as Straussian patriotism. Strauss was the one man who restored political philosophy in academia–including your Founders & Lincoln. Professors at Hillsdale–indeed, the man who runs the place–are students of students of Strauss. (In that […]

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. A Jewish Atheist for a More Christian America

 

shutterstock_222016312A few years ago I got sucked into a LinkedIn college alumni chat group where political discussions were going on. For the most part, the participants were smart, articulate adults, not college students, all of whom, moreover, had endured the famously rigorous classical core curriculum of our alma mater. Nonetheless, in due course, every Media Matters talking point and lunatic piece of campus-Marxist SJW nonsense was trotted out one by one and presented as revealed truth requiring no further proof. These debates — which were heated but civil by Internet standards — went on for close to two years before they finally succumbed to a combination of acrimony and the meddling and censorship of the university’s busybody apparatchiks who ran the thing. Apparently, people don’t like to have their core beliefs about the world subjected to critical scrutiny and found wanting. No minds were changed. It was, on the whole, a depressing experience.

Anyone who has ever engaged in political debate must at some point have come to the conclusion that such arguments are pointless. In the long history of political debate, from the Athenian assembly to the lamentable farce that is the so-called World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, no fully-formed adult human has ever walked away from the experience a convert to the opposing position. When conversions do happen, as with Irving Kristol or David Mamet, they are the result not of rational inquiry, but of protracted mugging by reality. You can’t reason a man out of something he wasn’t reasoned into, and politics, like religion, falls into the category of things whose core precepts are not susceptible to rational interrogation.

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In these latter days, I ask myself on occasion what is the last religion of mankind. We live in a world, increasingly, when, as the philosopher says, one can do whatever one wants in the bed–except smoke. I mean, tobacco. Who is the prophet & what is the prophecy? This is not easy to answer, because […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Only four things are certain since social progress began: Dogs will eat to excess; pigs will enjoy being unclean; people will play with fire; & GOP politicians will do the Philistine song & dance for the national audience, making sure no one suspects that their presidential-looking bodies harbor souls moved by the greatest enterprises known to mankind. It’s a […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Has everyone already read this? Mr. Mark Judge is trying to say a few things about a problem one does not much read about: Men committing suicide. This is called male suicide & I think I alone am bothered by that. I think the piece is a failure on every level. It’s hard even to understand how […]

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If I decided to follow in the footsteps of my brothers & go see the almost-chosen people inhabiting America, & then purloin a pack of cigarettes, I am advised, the police would be involved, & given my stiff-neckedness, I would end up visiting the correctional facilities afforded by your great nation–this is after all, not […]

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Americans seem to live with the illusion that love is a good thing. This is because democrats do not read books. In English, the great writer is Shakespeare, than whom no greater can be imagined. One cannot read the love stories in Shakespeare without coming to three basic insights: First, love leads to civil war […]

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