NMAAHC & The Pendulum

I was recently amused to learn that Washington D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has taken it upon themselves to define ‘whiteness. My first thought was, surprisingly, from the leftist parlance: cultural appropriation. My next thought: Please tell me no Anglo-Saxon-themed museum has responded to this by defining ‘blackness.’ Yet, however ill-conceived or ill-fated this attempt to define may prove, my knee-jerk reaction to it was ultimately unbefitting of the attempt’s gravity. Like individuals in Sherlock’s presence, a great deal of useful information can be extrapolated from them, despite the fact that it is not the information they hoped to convey.

Perhaps the most visceral part of the definition, a graphic titled ‘Aspects and Assumptions of White Culture in the United States,’ has very recently been removed. Thankfully, I had a suspicion that this might occur, so I saved it in order to reproduce it here under Fair Use. You may find it at the end of this post.

To summarize that graphic, it defines the main aspects of whiteness as: individualism, the nuclear family, the Scientific Method, Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian/European culture, Protestant work ethic, and (paraphrasing to condense) capitalist ambition/competition.

Despite the fact that there is nothing controversial or surprising within these aspects, I found myself having to re-read them several times. After all, I was not reading a web page by a white supremacist group–this was produced by an organization rather the opposite (one hopes, anyway). So why, when I was expecting to be chastised or at least criticized for my ‘whiteness,’ was I being complimented at every turn? I considered and quickly ruled out that I was being patronized. No, the authors are quite sincere. The plain fact of it is that the NMAAHC meant for me to feel critiqued by these aspects. To them, these aspects are insults. Cue Led Zeppelin’s ‘Communication Breakdown.’

Rather than laud any of these aspects–seeing as how they have already been so thoroughly explained and defended in Tarnas’s Passion of the Western Mind, Pontynen and Miller’s Western Culture at the American Crossroads, and (less intellectually but more viscerally) in the cultural triptych formed by the King James Bible, the Complete Shakespeare, and the Lives of Plutarch–I would like to briefly dwell on their opposite or alternative. I would render this list as: collectivist, unscientific, anti-work and/or anti-goal-oriented, pagan, socialistic, no emphasis on the value of time in accordance with its finite nature (RIP supply & demand), group AKA mob or vigilante ‘justice,’ and devoid of logico-literary-communication.

Now, perhaps it is just me, but when I stare at the list of anti-‘whiteness’ aspects we’ve just constructed, it seems to me that we have merely described the Bronze Age. Now, I have nothing against that Age objectively. Subjectively I would only return to it kicking and screaming. But objectively I suppose I’m glad it happened, what with the linearity of time. I’m not going to dwell on this Bronze Age issue much more, because I don’t want to strawman the NMAAHC by pretending they are calling for the opposite of their ‘whiteness.’ Certainly they are not, because by their own definition of ‘whiteness,’ American museums themselves are arguably a product of ‘whiteness’, and thus they as an institution would have to disband in order to accomplish their own strawman-goal. Since they have not, we may assume that is not their goal (unless they are blatant hypocrites).

None-the-less, the fact remains that they are either:

  • passive-aggressively critiquing the aspects of ‘whiteness’ without providing viable alternatives
  • or, implying the alternatives to ‘whiteness’ by defining ‘whiteness’ and leaving one to imagine its opposites as we just have.

In the first case, they would effectively be those pseudo-revolutionaries who know how to destroy with no intention or ingenuity to create afterwards. In the second case, they would be akin to what I can only render as Rousseauian primitivists–viewing the Bronze Age as more romantic than the USA’s present situation, while lacking the character to voluntarily abandon their present situation ala the Amish, or Chris McCandless, or immigration to another country closer to their ideal. I will go no further in psychoanalyzing them, since it is impossible to narrow down which option is more likely from afar.

Besides, these two possibilities are roughly comparable in the following sense. The first is like a petulant child that breaks but cannot fix; the second is like a petulant child that dreams but will not do. Both, in adults, are states of spiritual dwarfism, reeking of the resentment that Nietzsche lampooned as:

You preachers of equality, the tyrannomania of impotence clamors thus out of you for equality: your most secret ambitions to be tyrants thus shroud themselves in words of virtue.

Actually, pagan Nietzsche perhaps doesn’t go far enough. I believe there is another quote more consistent with the latent resentfulness herein, when one considers the absolute havoc that would portend a Bronze Age-ified United States:

So farewel Hope, and with Hope farewel Fear,

Farewel Remorse: all Good to me is lost;

Evil be thou my Good…

That, of course, is Milton’s Lucifer speaking.

It dawns on me that this is probably why the political pendulum is never static for long. The Rightwing in power becomes a trite broken record, fretting over how to endlessly Conserve values when those values have no valid threats. The Leftwing, on the other hand, develops a moral panic or maladaptive perfectionism that ultimately eats itself, because Progress’ing eventually becomes the sole value, even when it calls for Progress’ing away from crucial victories already attained. Thus those who wholly depend upon and exist by virtue of, say, free markets or scientific methodology or Justice Systems (Hobbes’ Leviathan?), come to feel very clever indeed when critiquing those things as though they can do better, without having demonstrated even the slightest evidence that they can in fact do so. This is perhaps, as the Brits say, on the tin, since ‘Critical Theory’ suggests the pitiable state of being a critic

Critic. n.

A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.

-Bierce, Devil’s Dictionary

In parting, I would like to concede the following.

1. I do not believe that the presence of melanin or lack-thereof can actually/literally/Objectively be assigned any metaphysical quality. In other words, in the same way that I do not believe a black Labrador has ‘blackness’ beyond the fact that it is colored black, or that a white Labrador has ‘whiteness’ beyond that fact that it is colored white, I do not believe that much of anything is conveyed by the coloration of human beings beyond the utility of ‘look at that white guy over there’ or ‘look at that black guy over there.’

2. Insomuch as one disagrees with #1, I consider one to be bigoted, regardless of what coloration they are pretending to elaborate upon.

3. However, insomuch as the NMAAHC’s description of ‘whiteness’ could be accurate if they were correct–I would admittedly be proud to have or be that ‘whiteness.’

4. Yet, seeing as how this ‘whiteness’ is obviously a metaphysical construct separate from mere unalterable coloration, one must concede that these are qualities any person could potentially possess, meaning it is a matter of character rather than ‘race,’ and thus should not be called ‘whiteness’ (unless one wishes to reference the Biblical use of whiteness as symbolic of innocence and/or redemption).

5. Insomuch as the NMAAHC has made any person whom is not ‘racially’ white feel that they are disqualified or less qualified to achieve the aforementioned characteristics of ‘whiteness,’ I consider them to be a net negative upon humanity that ought to cry themselves to sleep each night in shame.

6. This recent collective resurgence of racial obsession is just a byproduct of the economic ruination caused by the coronavirus lockdown. Per historical norms, the lower classes are beginning to blame and scapegoat one another for the ruin brought upon them by their upperclass overlords. Insomuch as anyone perpetuates this blame-game, I find it stunning and regrettable that you were the quickest sperm.

whiteculture_info_1

Artist-Over-Art and Becoming What One Despises

Carlos Greaves’ recent McSweeney’s piece (which satirizes authors writing novels about contemporary communities they do not belong to) is one for the history books. Within it he manages to straddle the very delicate balance of espousing an opinion the political left-wing, particularly the Twitter left-wing, would wholeheartedly agree with, without coming off as a triggered snowflake exposed to right-wing lampooning. He does this with blatant, self-aware strawman-ing (watching Desperate Housewives as sufficient research) and by sharing the satirical ire among the intended authors and their effete publishers and reviewers (Ricky Martin and Antonio Banderas as the sycophantic critics of the dubious novel). While I doubt Mark Twain would endorse Greaves’ message, I suspect he would acknowledge its fine craftsmanship.

Without intending to kill the enjoyable catharsis of comedy by over-analysis, one can’t help but take the piece a bit literally since it comes so close on the heels of the American Dirt debacle, wherein authors have arguably called for the censorship of another author on identity-politic grounds. The offender is a “white Latina” who apparently isn’t Latina enough to write a novel about Mexico. Whether there are actual, factual inaccuracies in the book that add to the validity of these criticisms, I do not know. But I do know that I utterly detest what this phenomenon represents on a grander scale: Artist-Over-Art.

“Blind” submission processes exist for a reason–good art is good art regardless of who made it. If Hitler painted a decent architectural scene, that painting remains decent no matter how indecent the man. This is one of the many ‘unwritten rules’ of Western civilization that postmodernists (or Marxists-about-Starbucks, as I call them) would like to do away with, for it is impossible to enforce equality within any unconstrained–and thus Darwinian–space. Their argument, of course, is that inequality has been enforced by historic socio-cultural racio-religious norms, and thus that they are merely attempting to restore an equitable balance by subverting oppressive tradition. My casual reply to this is basically that I do not consider a Harrison Bergereon reality to be more desirable than a Hunger Games reality–and indeed, it seems to me that a Hunger Games has greater potential to cause unintentionally noble outcomes. And with ever-increasing numbers of presses and literary agents feeling the need to stipulate who they want to publish more-so than what they want to publish, it appears that they are well on the way to dethroning the identity-impartiality of artistic creation. Social justice, it seems, is not blind.

I suspect this outcome will be most pleasing until an ethno-state decides to appropriate it–then will there be much weeping and gnashing of teeth as the ‘antifascists’ realize that they were the ones to renew a core tenant of fascistic speech restriction. In the developed world’s smug self-satisfaction, we have utterly forgotten a crucial realization born of World War 2: whether the man with the gun is wearing the Deathshead and calls you a filthy Jew, or is wearing the Hammer-and-Sickle and calls you a filthy capitalist, he is still going to shoot you. Or, perhaps we have not forgotten it; perhaps we only care which side of the gun we are on.

I also find it odd that many of the masons who are busy paving this road to hell continue to delight in calling others Uncle Tom’s. I am afraid that the historical social-cultural racio-religious origins of that expression are from Harriet Beecher Stowe–a white woman writing about African Americans. So, per your own insistence that persons who are not from a particular community may not write about a particular community, kindly invent your own invective. Mrs Stowe isn’t the only casualty to the feminist authorship cause either: Pearl S Buck’s wonderful The Good Earth has got to go, seeing as she wasn’t Chinese. And we can’t just pick on the ladies, either. Where did that Frenchman get off critiquing Americans, anyway? There goes Democracy in America. In fact, the entire genre of travel literature can be done away with. Cya, Marco Polo. Julius Caesar contribute to our understanding of Gaul? Please! Come to think of it, we better just start burning books to be safe.

Despite these and many more unintended consequences, I don’t think I would be nearly so irked by these social justice fixations if their proselytizers seemed just a tad more genuine. Surely that’s the key to being a successful extremist or fundamentalist; you at least have to come across as consistent and committed. Think Che Guevera. While Fidel hammed it up in the 5-star hotels, he was off to the next jungle. But these callousless hands clutched about Apple products, likely shaking from their ever-burgeoning collection of antidepressants? Why, I wouldn’t follow them into a Chuck E Cheese, much less a battlefield. Unfortunately, it is those very hands that are going to start determining elections in the near future. Voyeurs who breath the air of the real world without ever having dipped a pinky within it are soon to control it. The meek shall inherit the Earth indeed; but unfortunately it seems they are not meek about letting institutions do their dirty work for them.