Oblivio notes that he's lived in 42 different houses or apartments in his life. That seems like rather a lot. I did a rough count, and I can think of 21 different places. You?
We've been having our fun with the reactionary moral degenerate, Leon Kass, so I thought it was time to offer at least a short post on why he's so wrong.
First, Kass is dead wrong on the facts. The crucial premise of his courtship article is in the lines he quotes from Ogden Nash.
Hogamus higamus, men are polygamous; higamus hogamus, women monogamous.
Much as I love Nash, he's no biologist (not that Kass would have any use for him if he were). Women aren't "naturally" monogamous, any more than men. You can tell that Kass is either stupid or dishonest (and I'm not even being snarky: those are the choices) when he follows up the Nash line with this gloss:
To make naturally polygamous men accept the conventional institution of monogamous marriage has been the work of centuries of Western civilization, with social sanctions, backed by religious teachings and authority, as major instruments of the transformation, and with female modesty as the crucial civilizing device.
My god. The structures constructed to make men accept monogamy are a rice-paper teepee compared to the Egyptian Pyramids in which women's sexuality has been entombed. But, to Kass, women's sexuality, and the barbaric prohibitions on it, are invisible.
Second, Kass makes what you might call an authoritarian mistake: he conflates structure and ritual with character. (Authoritarian because it's the kind of thinking that lets people believe that if they can make others behave a certain way, then those people will be better for it--it's preparatory to coercion.) Not everything Kass says along these lines is worthless (you're welcome).
... faculty could legitimate the importance of courtship and marriage by offering courses on the subject, aimed at making the students more thoughtful about their own life-shaping choices. Even better, they could teach without ideological or methodological preoccupations the world's great literature, elevating the longings and refining the sensibilities of their students and furnishing their souls with numerous examples of lives seriously led and loves faithfully followed. Religious institutions could provide earlier and better instruction for adolescents on the meaning of sex and marriage...
These are fine things to advocate, but not, as Kass does, as part of a "resoration" of bygone customs like courtship. "Just think," you might imagine an old swami saying, "if we could get these deracinated young Americans to learn yoga, what a restoration of spirituality it would be." Well, no. via Listen Missy
"I feel like it's this secret thing that people who don't do yoga don't know about," she says. "Yoga is all about becoming more in touch with your body, but on some level, all that really means is becoming more in touch with your sexual organs. Basically, you're doing sexercises. It takes about six months to understand what they're talking about when they say ï¿½Lift the pelvic floor,' but once I did, it made my sex life 100 percent better."
And speaking for the men:
"I can keep it harder way longer than I used to," says Garvey Rich, 38, an eight-year yoga practitioner and co-producer of the Better Sex series. "I can have mini-orgasms and then keep going, and when I actually come, it's bigger and more full-bodied, a really good one all over."
There's no such thing as "restoration;" we can only try to ensure that what new arrangements arise are informed by the lives and desires of people who know how to think about them, and how to choose among them. The easy outward signs--married, covers his mouth when he yawns, courted for six months before marriage and sex--tell us very little and guarantee nothing about a relationship. There are people in all kinds of relationships who are good; they're honest, and act with empathy, and can express love. They, and their children (whether they be "bastards" or not) are the ones who make the world livable. By all means, let's try to teach people how to understand and express themselves. But spare us the pernicious longing for the coercive customs it's taken so long to defeat.
I have little to add to discussion of the Madrid bombings, but I wanted to acknowledge them here, to extend my sympathies to the families of those killed, and to express my wish that those responsible are caught, made to suffer, and killed.
UPDATE: I poked around his site for a bit, and, in all seriousness, Joe Decker takes some beautiful photographs.
Cady Wells took the demanding one:
Just a few years ago, giving up my job would have seemed unthinkable. All of my energy had been focused on getting into academe. Not only was I successful, but I truly loved my work. It's just the amount of work together with the institutional and local climate that left me overworked and unhappy.
The other path, trod by David Lester:
I went to the first graduation ceremony at the college in 1973, but I have never attended one since. I have not attended a faculty meeting since 1972. I found that I liked my colleagues much better if I did not listen to their silly comments in such meetings. I rarely go to division meetings (I belong to the college's division of social and behavioral sciences), but I do try to make most meetings of the psychology program.
I used to lunch with colleagues, but I found that their continual complaints about the administration and the students soured my attitude toward the college. I switched to lunching with students for a while (faculty members and students share the same cafeteria at my college), and some became good friends of my wife's and mine. (Our annual Super Bowl party rotates between our house and that of one of my students and her husband.)
These days, I eat in my office and check the sports news online. For many years, I had my name removed from the faculty e-mail list so that I had no awareness of what activities were taking place at the college -- I missed the president's Christmas party on several occasions because of that -- nor what issues were making the faculty and staff members angry. Now I have had myself placed back on the e-mail list, but I direct all collegewide messages to a folder that I rarely peruse.
Ogged notes, correctly, that Lester's rebellions are pretty tame. I'm kind of on the old guy's side on this one. Yes, he's a free rider, but at least he's not one of those colleagues who makes the meetings so horrible.
You should go here now in order to make the acquaintance of Mr Nice. Trust me: it's worth the trip.
They have no empathy with average Americans. These family members from 9-11 that are on this political witch hunt, the Democratic Party, the presidential campaign leaders, Kerry, all these people, all the Democratic leadership, media, have no clue how they come across to real people.
Yes, real people love when tragedy is politicized, and are outraged when victim's families complain. Keep talking, Rush. You're doing us a favor.
And I know, I know, the sanctity of victimhood is intensely annoying-- but it's there, and there's not much to be done about it, save for not making an ass of oneself in response.
Finally, my parents told me if I got a 3.0 G.P.A. or higher on my report card, they'd buy me any car I wanted, within reason.
I looked out the window and saw a brand new EXT parked in front of the restaurant.
The first time I drove up to the school, about 25 girls came running out to look at it. "That is so cool," they cried. "We hate you!" It was like a dream come true.
So here's where I shred my credibility with you guys. But as a public service, I just went through Kass' piece and produced the following paragraph-by-paragraph (almost) summary. The argument meanders, and takes many important points as proven without evidence, but it's not such a crazy view. [talk about faint praise] Basically, Kass believes that marriage has a natural end/telos and that modern norms undermine the proper, teleological understanding of marriage. Also, he's bummed out about it. See if you agree:
A shorter Kass, with 100% less Doestoyevsky:
--We're all concerned with sex/marriage/children, but what about that which precedes sex and marriage: the structure of courtship?
--The very word -- "courtship" -- sounds old-timey. Does this even exist as a concept any more?
--It wasn't always like this, guys
--Indeed, it's rarely been like this in human history!
--I think a the new (lack of ) norms of courtship make kids sad.
--Dating sucks, singles bars suck, serial monogamy sucks
--Now I'm getting depressed: I want to see these swell kids in happy marriages!
--Not feeling too optimistic about it frankly
--The culture doesn't sufficiently support lasting relationships, and in certain ways undermines them
--The sexual revolution looks like the major player here.
--You know what guys are like, "why buy the cow when the milk is free"
--The pill is the technology that enables this attitude
--Sex education? We need marriage education!
--Sex education? We need love education!
--And the boomers – they're no help, selfish divocees the lot of them.
--Divorce – that's gonna shatter a kid, make him/her chary of commitment
--Risk averse people cohabitate as a "rent to own" plan. This isn't the same thing as marriage, and doesn't seem in line with the kind of marriage we want to see. Also, since I'm writing in the Public Interest, I can slip in a fun Passover joke!
--Ok, brief interlude while I knock feminism. Love isn't about power relationships, and Catherine MacKinnon is stupid
--Also feminism makes men sissies! (gentler version: feminism can undermine important gender roles)
--I'm not saying women shouldn't go to college
--But college is all pre-professional now: career, career, career
--And putting career before family will screw up marriage, and this is a greater burden on women
--independence: a double-edged sword
--Back to the main argument. So, what's marriage about anyway? It's not a contract, you can't define it yourself, it has an inherent telos: procreation!
--also, marriage is about growing up
--so you can see why an adolescent pleasure-seeking society will screw up marriage
--summing up now: marriage is in trouble.
--Individualism is to blame!
--Francis Bacon predicted it: the progress of science simultaneously advances hedonism!
--Science also undermines teleology! Thus, it undermines a teleological understanding of marriage!
--Science undermines biblical prohibitions!
--And even without science, men are pigs
--Gender roles, biblical morality made men less swinish
--But now men everywhere are acting like pigs, dumping wives and acquiring harems, from Jack Welch to 50 cent!
--Ok, now summing up: courtship is in trouble, and some say "good riddance"
--But they're wrong, people are miserable because courtship isn't working
--sex isn't like hunger
--sex is transformative, defining! Safe Sex, tell it to Othello!
--again with the teleology: purpose of marriage = procreation, not pleasure
--and marriage is part of a flourishing human life
--older forms of courtship got the teleology right, and prepared/trained people for it
--today, not so much
--are there promising signs? We can desperately grasp at some – like Jane Austen! She's all the rage!
--Ok, I admit it's hopeless. Maybe you should send your kids to Hillsdale
--It's not your fault, parents alone are helpless, they need institutional support (bonus points for reference to "deracinated and cosmopolitan universities." Interestingly enough, this would once have been recognized as a stock anti-semitic phrase, but clearly that's not Kass' intent. Telling rhetorical slip showing the affinities between neoconservatism and older, less tolerable forms of American conservatism? You be the judge!)
--maybe we could pay women to marry early and delay their careers. It'd be like the GI bill, except totally different in purpose and execution.
--No, we need a revolution in mores!
--I don't see it happening. Bummer.
While we're on the subject, here's more delightful prose from Leon Kass:
In polite society, at the beginning of this century, our grandfathers came a-calling and a-wooing at the homes of our grandmothers, under conditions set by the woman, operating from strength on her own turf.
It's like a collosal game of 'risk,' only dressed up as Edith Wharton.
A generation later, courting couples began to go out on "dates," in public and increasingly on the man's terms, given that he had the income to pay for dinner and dancing. To be sure, some people "played the field," and, in the pre-war years, dating on college campuses became a matter more of proving popularity than of proving suitability for marriage.
You must be a football coach, my dear Mr Kass, the way you got me playin' the field. I for one am beginning to worry that bioethics policy is set by someone whose ideal social rituals come from Stover at Yale.
But I digress: the real problem is
the general erosion of shame and awe regarding sexual matters
Are you getting the idea that sex with Leon Kass is a lot of fun? Keep in mind, though, that
Whether we know it or not, when we are sexually active we are voting with our genitalia for our own demise.
I am so using that line at the next APA. There's really nothing I can say about this piece-- it's simply breathtaking. Next up: Leon Kass's opposition to refrigerated food and antibiotics.
What makes this all slightly higher-stakes is the fact that he's not just Andy Rooney, he's on the NBAC. Thanks for holding up that research, Leon, much appreciated. At least the big decisions are being made by
well-trained, well-informed ethicists and physicians mediocre, long-irrelevant, non-practicing scientists.
Now I'm curious: what would he think if I rammed a stick up his ass and pissed on his face?
Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone --a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive.
I fear I may by this remark lose the sympathy of many readers, people who will condescendingly regard as quaint or even priggish the view that eating in the street is for dogs. Modern America's rising tide of informality has already washed out many long-standing traditions -- their reasons long before forgotten -- that served well to regulate the boundary between public and private; and in many quarters complete shamelessness is treated as proof of genuine liberation from the allegedly arbitrary constraints of manners. To cite one small example: yawning with uncovered mouth. Not just the uneducated rustic but children of the cultural elite are now regularly seen yawning openly in public (not so much brazenly or forgetfully as indifferently and "naturally"), unaware that it is an embarrassment to human self-command to be caught in the grip of involuntary bodily movements (like sneezing, belching, and hiccuping and even the involuntary bodily display of embarrassment itself, blushing). But eating on the street -- even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat -- displays in fact precisely such lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. Hunger must be sated now; it cannot wait. Though the walking street eater still moves in the direction of his vision, he shows himself as a being led by his appetites. Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. Eating on the run does not even allow the human way of enjoying one's food, for it is more like simple fueling; it is hard to savor or even to know what one is eating when the main point is to hurriedly fill the belly, now running on empty. This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if WE feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior."
That's Leon Kass, nicely described by Slate as a "silly ass." Listen, I'm with him on the yawning, belching, etc. I am a prig about those things, and Kass's explanation for their offensiveness is a good one. But eating in public? No. You cannot, without revealing your own moral idiocy, condemn people for doing things they're compelled to do, things that they would rather not do.
Let's sit down to a nice meal sweetheart.
No thanks, I think I'll just slap some meat on this bread and take off down the street.
Motherfucker. Of course eating on the street displays a lack of self-control; there's a term for precisely this kind of lack: having to work for a living. Don't fall for Kass's sanctimonious shit: he thinks working people are like animals--in fact, they're just different enough from animals to qualify for moral censure. Of course, it's fine for people with sufficient leisure to condemn those without it, and it's fine to condemn people to die from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, just as long as no one eats without utensils.
"He visited brave people."
This Howard Stern clip about George Bush is well worth the download.
Kevin Drum is going pro. He's signed on as a blogger with the Washington Monthly. Anyone who reads Kevin's site regularly already knows that he's richly deserving. Congratulations and all the best to him.
Frank Rich is fantastic when he's angry, and he's deeply pissed about Mel Gibson. Wouldn't you know it-- where there's collosal idiocy, there's a certain Fox:
Bill O'Reilly was not so circumspect when he returned to this same theme last week, asking an editor from Variety why Mr. Gibson has taken so much heat for his film. After beating around the burning bush for a while, Mr. O'Reilly said: "I'm asking this question respectfully. Is it because that the major media in Hollywood and a lot of the secular press is controlled by Jewish people?"