Real empathy

Ann Althouse is sarcastic about trans-female athletes:

Today, the pressure to be empathetic toward transgenders is so great that I believe women, known for our empathy and our desire to appear compassionate, will let go of competitive sports and return to the inclinations that dominated back in the days when I went to high school. It’s a trade-off, a trade-off between the potential for athletic victory and the feeling of being kind and inclusive. The latter is something quite valuable and within the reach of all women. The former is a dream, and it’s only a dream for an elite few among women.

I find her reasoning sarcastically oversubtle as well as specious.

True empathy would not involve women giving up on sports, just giving up on winning (which she does mention). More women should enter sports to ensure the transgenders can boost their self esteem and have a legal way to seriously injure real women in the MMA. That’s how women can be most empathetic, and such self-effacement is easily within the reach of even more women than currently play sports.

After all, without women, who are the female impersonators going to defeat?

Update: 3:20PM.

I finished this post and then read a few comments at Althouse, where she resists admitting sarcasm. If that is accurate, here’s exactly what Althouse supposes women will forgo, and that is very, very sad:

Phoenix Falling

Joaquin Phoenix is a sanctimonious ingrate.

“We’re talking,” said Joaquin Phoenix as he accepted his Best Actor award for “Joker,” “about the fight against the belief, one nation, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity. I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview, the belief that we’re the center of the universe.”

We may be talking, but not coherently.

What’s with the conflation of nations, beliefs, races, genders and species, aside from the fact they’re all nouns? And, I’m not sure where “impunity” figures into it.

For simplicity, let’s just examine “species.” For millions of years every species has been ready to kill every other species. We’re the only species to have done anything about that, and not just for our own. In fact, we’re the only species who can muster any angst about other species.

You can argue that we can do a better job (as we continually have) of maintaining a pleasant and safe environment – but we can do that precisely because we’ve exploited the natural world. We have not done so with impunity. We have suffered immensely.

Mr. Phoenix’ disdain for humanity is exceeded only by the natural world’s indifference to humanity. His worldview might profit from reviewing the history of, oh, subsistence farming – an occupation to which the envirostatists and eliminationists would have us return. Call it equality of outcome for all species.

Contra Mr. Phoenix, we should celebrate our success in moderating the natural world. That’s actually what the Oscars are about. His very profession is unimaginable without the wealth we wrested from nature. He wouldn’t be collecting an award for his existentially trivial efforts in the universe he proposes. He’d have been eaten, died of malaria, or starved to death.

The universe is apathetic toward us, but we are still close enough to its center to electronically transmit, into the comfortable homes of millions of people with nothing better to do; a ceremony staged by an industry that wouldn’t exist without the immense labor and intelligence of millions of human creators and consumers. A ceremony, moreover, to hand out trinkets celebrating expertise in make-believe; in a bright, climate controlled theater filled with healthy, wealthy humans; in a city unimaginable a century ago; in a world where environmental improvements go hand in hand with accumulation of wealth; and where poverty and hunger are well on the way to elimination.

Mr. Phoenix stood on the shoulders of billions of human creators in order to tell us we aren’t doing it perfectly. Have him get back to me when he’s got coronaviruses singing Kumbaya.

Tom Lehrer had a point

“Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down.”
-Tom Lehrer, Harvard Graduate & Professor – lyrics to “Wernher Von Braun”

One person’s rockets are another person’s incoming.

Are you wondering about an answer to “How can [insert name of Progressive] possibly say [insert outrageous statement]?!”?

Well, they were groomed for (or are exclusively informed by) elitehood under the ivory towers* of Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, Vassar, Evergreen, Michigan, Radcliffe, etc., etc.. They’ve succumbed to, as Tolstoy said, “not only the pride of intellect, but the stupidity of intellect. And, above all, … the dishonesty of intellect.” They know they know enough to best conduct everyone’s affairs.

They were sufficiently awake in class to note Socrates’ dictum that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” They are sufficiently woke to think that applies only to the lives of others. They are stuffed with pride more than sufficient unto imagining themselves the only qualified examiners. As in Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns,” they lack awareness of their lack of awareness.

That is an introduction to an essay I highly recommend at Claremont Review of Books:
Pride and Prejudice at Harvard
An essay and reminiscence.
by Mark Helprin

The essay is a devastating critique of, or perhaps lament for, American higher education – with Harvard vignettes as examples – written so reasonably that your more discriminating (if we dare use that word) left wing acquaintances may profit in spite of themselves.

Helprin’s essay is a finely polished jewel and a joy to read if only for the prose. In it, you will detect reasons for Trump’s appeal, and why he thrives in the face of elite criticism, though there’s none of that mentioned.

It is long. You may regret it is not longer.

There is enough wicked tongue-in-cheek humor, for example:

“This criticism of Harvard found eager repetition among smarting students at smaller, less prestigious colleges, such as Yale, for whom Harvard had been the unrequited first choice.”

…that I wondered if the names following were Wodehousian caricatures,

“F. Skiddy von Stade, who brought his polo ponies; Outerbridge Horsey, of the many generations of Outerbridge Horseys; and of course Stanislaus von Moos.”

They are all real people.

A slice you may find has some familiarity today:

“It is remarkable how such true believers can leverage a community that lacks awareness, conviction, and fighting courage. A well-known Communist tactic is to place a small group of agents both at the four corners and scattered near the center of a large meeting. Reacting simultaneously either to propose or oppose, they can carry the more passive participants with them by creating the illusion of consensus. As the Vietnam War and urban unrest destabilized the ’60s, posing urgent questions one after another and, like the sea beyond a dyke, exerting constant pressure against the figurative walls of the university, leftist true believers took control of Harvard’s soft, privileged center. Pacific by nature, academics are ill-suited to Leninist political combat, and though they cannot be blamed for shying from it, they should be held to account for becoming its converts and agents.

Where were those in authority with the spine to stand up to the fascistic tactics now the everyday province of so many academic institutions? Many on the faculty were veterans of the Second World War. Others were refugees from totalitarianism. They were as brave and eloquent as necessary, but vastly outnumbered by the generation they had sired. William Alfred, my tutor in junior year, said to me, sadly, “It’s different now: they run in packs.” They did, and the elders had begun to fade away.”

Those veteran and refugee elders have faded away. It’s too late to hold them accountable. They failed to transmit a sense of the values of Western Civilization: propery rights, free inquiry, freedom of conscience – the very things they fought to preserve and fled tyranny to enjoy.

That was really their only job. Perhaps they saw the values they failed to teach as so obvious as not to need explication.

One more excerpt, to tie it to my introduction:

A persistent mistake of human nature is to attribute power, wealth, and fame to the workings of high intellect, when as often as not in an aristocracy they are merely inherited, and in a democracy they accrue to those who can please the lowest common denominator. Especially in a conformist environment, the appearance of intelligence can be simulated by adherence to orthodoxies in political belief and how one lives, and the adoption of mandated styles of speaking and argumentation. Thanks to the approximately 4 zillion public-radio call signs, it is almost impossible to escape the astoundingly mannered and self-conscious way of speaking that I call NPR- or Ivy-speak, which, like a self-basting chicken, continuously bathes itself in its wonderful reasonableness. A good example of this is Barack Obama, who, even if he doesn’t know the difference between a subjective and objective pronoun and thinks it is possible to lead from behind, walks the walk and talks the talk in a spectacular victory (for some) of style over substance. Intellectuals would rather be caught dead than failing to pirouette their intelligence or admitting that they don’t know or haven’t read something. At a cocktail party, refer to Durkstein’s Adductive Paradox and see how no one will ask what it is, even though it isn’t. The greatest proof of this lies in the vast tundras of modern academic prose, in which with unintentional hilarity, if one may borrow sentence structure from Winston Churchill, never have so many over-credentialed idiots attempted to conceal such utter nonsense behind so much anaesthetizing jargon.

*An ivory tower is a safe space, away from the cares of the world. It is also hard to imagine a pithier phallocentric, white-privileged microagression just waiting to become banned speech.

Nancy and the Chamber of Deplorers

This – Gertrude Himmelfarb & the Enlightenment – is a recommended read. I was vaguely aware of Himmelfarb, but have never read her. Based on this article, I will be correcting that.

A slice:

Some historians have been led … to claim that at different stages of his life there were two different Edmund Burkes, one liberal and the other conservative. Himmelfarb disagreed. She argued that his views were always consistent with the ideas about moral virtue that permeated the whole of the British Enlightenment. Indeed, Burke took this philosophy a step further by making the “sentiments, manners, and moral opinion” of the people the basis not only of social relations but also of politics.

I think this relates to the difficulty some people have in admitting that Donald Trump has been, so far, a successful President: He started, or at least accelerated, an erosion of “sentiments, manners, and moral opinion.”

This is a defensible proposition. I’ve written extensively on my discomfort with Trump’s bombast and crudity. I’ve come to see it as essential to his success, especially given the antics of his opposition. I’ve also learned to appreciate that many of the off-key things he says are jokes. Like any joke, they’re funny because they typically afflict the elite, and the punch line is unexpected. Especially from POTUS.

In that regard, he’s done us the favor of reducing reverence for the person of the President. The President should not be regarded with the awe the media was wont to promote for Obama. We hire the President, something Presidents often forget. Trump is narcissistic, but no more so than Obama. And probably less so: Trump can be self-deprecating. Something imaginable from Obama only as a humble brag.

Anyway, two things about “He started it!”

One, don’t be so sure. The post-modernists, neo-Marxists, race-baiters, grievance mongers, climate hysterics, agenda feminists, science denying transgenderists, et. al. – ideologues of a feather – were forthrightly blabbering their disdain for ‘deviates’ from their authoritarian agenda for decades before Trump was born.

Trump, with provocations mild in comparison (Who has he called Hitler?), has done us the favor of causing them to reveal the monumental level of disgust they harbor for Enlightenment values. The mask of compassion has slipped.

Two, “He started it,” isn’t an excuse you accept from your children; and no more extenuates Nancy Pelosi’s stationery abuse last night than it does Hillary’s “deplorables” gaffe, nor Maxine Water’s lifetime-achievement-award-worthy contributions to coarsening our quality of discourse while lowering our collective IQ. We need not belabor Adam Schiff’s perfidy.

Hillary directly helped enable Rashida Tlaib, AOC, and Ilhan Omar; and Pelosi is now taking her cues from that mess of pottage.

This officious disregard is nothing new…

Apart from the different philosophical status they assigned to reason and virtue, the one issue where the contrast between the British and French Enlightenments was sharpest was in their attitudes to the lower orders. This is a distinction that has reverberated through politics ever since. The radical heirs of the Jacobin tradition have always insisted that it is they who speak for the wretched of the earth. In eighteenth-century France, they claimed to speak for the people and the general will. In the nineteenth century, they said they represented the working classes against their capitalist exploiters. In our own time, they have claimed to be on the side of blacks, women, gays, indigenes, refugees, and anyone else they define as the victims of discrimination and oppression. Himmelfarb’s study demonstrates what a façade these claims actually are.

The French philosophes thought the social classes were divided by the chasm not only of poverty but, more crucially, of superstition and ignorance. They despised the lower orders because they were in thrall to Christianity. The editor of the Encyclopédie, Denis Diderot, declared that the common people had no role in the Age of Reason: “The general mass of men are not so made that they can either promote or understand this forward march of the human spirit.” Indeed, “the common people are incredibly stupid,” he said, and were little more than animals: “too idiotic—bestial—too miserable, and too busy” to enlighten themselves. Voltaire agreed. The lower orders lacked the intellect required to reason and so must be left to wallow in superstition. They could be controlled and pacified only by the sanctions and strictures of religion which, Voltaire proclaimed, “must be destroyed among respectable people and left to the canaille large and small, for whom it was made.”

See anything you recognize?

EUtopia Lost

Well worth 50 minutes. (32 to Q&A, but worth watching those too.)

A ringing, hopeful, and needed defense of Enlightenment values. Brexit is but the framework. This speech at Hillsdale is cast in a defense of individual rights and free trade. Excellent and amusing speaker.

Peterson fans will find echoes of his themes of individual responsibility and meta-narratives tied to political events in ways he almost never mentions.

“Lessons from Brexit” – Daniel Hannan at Hillsdale.
70,500 views
Jun 11, 2017

If you enjoyed that, this is a worthwhile followup.