Compared to What?

When leftists attack the history of the United States they point to the expansion of the European settlers in the new world and decry the dislocation that fell upon the Native Americans and they point to the black Africans that were swept up in the slave trade and suffered years of bondage.  And they even point to the role of women as domestic chattel without the right to vote or own property of their own and had to endure the hard work and limited opportunities as wives and mothers.  Finally, they’ll indict our ancestors because they criminalized and stigmatized homosexuals.  The Left will hammer away and condemn the American project as racist, genocidal, misogynistic, homophobic and a host of other slurs.

But I always remember that the Left are relativists.  They don’t believe in absolutes.  So, I am always ready to ask, “We are all these terrible things relative to what?  Compared to what?  Name a society that existed before Enlightenment Europe that was less racist, less misogynistic, less homophobic and less unjust.  And any that came after, show how they don’t derive their policies from the Enlightenment Europeans.”

They can’t do it.  You’ll be met with either silence or absurd lies that don’t stand up to historical examination.  All of the policies that the Left embraces exist because the English or the Americans have allowed them to exist.  The English were the first to abolish slavery.  They eliminated it from their vast empire.  We followed their lead.  Americans gave the vote to emancipated black slaves.  The Americans gave women the vote and the whole world followed suit.  Americans have decriminalized and practically sanctified every form of deviant sexual behavior short of bestiality and pedophilia and that was well in advance of some of the third world societies that the Left is always defending like the Arab countries.  In fact, many of these Muslim nations still have the death penalty by cruel methods to punish homosexuals.

So, when the Left is busy denouncing historical figures and Europeans in general for the sins of not being current with the latest fashion in queer political grievances I can’t help but laugh at the fact that at any other time and place they would be squatting around a mud hut filled with vermin and disease, eating food that was rotting where it sat while their leaders plotted the next raid against their neighboring tribe with the intent of capturing, torturing and killing all of the men and raping and enslaving the women as a grand adventure to enhance their status as the greatest tribe in their crap-hole corner of the jungle or desert or prairie that they inhabited.

You can search across Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas and you will find that the history of mankind is a history of war, slavery and domination of the weaker by the stronger.  To dare to indict the actions and the motives of the Europeans that built the current world civilization because they didn’t anticipate a future where their pampered descendants and those of their former enemies would condemn their relatively enlightened behavior is outrageously illogical and laughably stupid.

So, when the Left comes after Robert E. Lee and even Thomas Jefferson, I say who would you put forth from the same time period in say Sudan or the Congo or any other non-European place that was more enlightened than they were with respect to slavery?  Who was around at the time of Columbus who wouldn’t have been eager to conquer new lands for his king?  Surely not the Aztecs.  They would have slaughtered every stranger they could lay their hands on and cut their hearts out of their bodies on their bloody altars.  How would the transgender HR representative at Google like to demand that its pronouns be honored by the Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran.  I suspect he would find himself being hurled off a ten-story building for his trouble.

So, when a Leftist tells you how evil America is, ask him, “Compared to What?”

How Do I Decide What Not to Review?

Perhaps the only good thing about being a social outcast in your own culture is that you can pick and choose what you build your inner culture out of without having to worry if you’re doing it wrong.  And that’s because you’re already wrong by the definition of the dominant culture so you can’t be more wrong for leaving something out.  For instance, I like old movies.  But I’m not a big fan of musicals.  So even though I’m told that old Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly movies are supposed to be great I don’t see it that way.  Sure, I don’t have anything against these movies but if I’m picking my top 100 movies the only musical might be “The Wizard of Oz.”  So, whereas I won’t complain if someone wants to see some musicals from the 30s and 40s, if someone tells me that West Side Story is a great American classic, I assume we are not going to see eye to eye on most things.

So, I’m going to use my own preferences rather than whatever nonsense gave us such ridiculous things as ballet, Jackson Pollack, performance art and the Beat Poets.  I was discussing film with an old friend and we got on the topic of “Citizen Kane” and he noted that numerous critics have maintained over the years that it is the best motion picture of all time.  And that got me thinking, I don’t think Citizen Kane is even good.  It’s loaded with dysfunction, depression and annoying characters that descend into a world where life has no meaning and isn’t worth living.  And that got me thinking.  The world view that finds Citizen Kane exemplary is a distorted one that is a symptom of the problems we’re facing now.  A philosophy that sees no meaning in life, that denies the existence of good and evil always devolves into nihilism.  And when people with that philosophy create art, no matter how technically adept they are the product always celebrates death as the only reality.  And the effect such a message has on viewers is corrosive.

A distinction can be drawn between a message that is unhappy and one that is nihilistic.  There are plenty of books and films and works of art that are sad but uplifting.  After all death is an inevitable part of life and death brings great sadness to most of us.  And there are a multitude of unhappy things that happen every day in the world.  But life correctly understood is the triumph of the human spirit over all these challenges.  So portraying unhappiness and tragedy isn’t the problem.  The fault with the modernist world view is the mentality that finds no value in human life at all.  Happiness and unhappiness are equally meaningless and the only activity they pursue is to stave off boredom by portraying things that outrage the chumps who still believe in things.  And because every outrage eventually becomes dulled by familiarity each new outrage has to be more extreme and more diseased.

And so, this is the point.  Just because something is fifty or a hundred years old doesn’t mean it’s a “classic.”  And something made tomorrow can possess the qualities that make it exemplary.  The quality is either there or it isn’t and it doesn’t require a college degree in art criticism to recognize it.  All you have to do is see whether the point of view of the book or the movie says that normal life has meaning or not.  It’s as simple as that.