I’ve been reading around in another 600-page book. So many significant or even just pleasant books seem to be that length!
Such thicknissism could be accused of the intent to induce shock in bibliophilically different or graphically literate humans. For many college students, these conditions could then require trauma counselling. After all, what’s more traumatizing: knowing that a conservative is physically on campus right now in person armed with inhumane monster thoughts actually tested on live targets — human minds! — or being assigned a thick book to read?
There is an alternative.
I mean there’s an alternative to thick books on campus, not people disagreeing with you, especially people who rigorously think and politely articulate their thoughts while you, in contrast, keep busy on social media. But why not? You know you’re right. You reassure yourself of that every day! And all your friends do the same for you. And you reciprocate. And that’s so post-confrontationally and inclusively nice.
Meanwhile, what’s the college solution? Don’t acquire books in college! Or, hey, don’t even read them. That’s a growing trend in academic illiteracy and dormitory bilbiophobia on campus these days. Deans, faculty, and bookstore managers have noticed it.
Meanwhile, the alternative to being disagreed with also saves money by not having disagreeable people on campus. You don’t need extra security then to protect yourself from harmful thoughts. Besides, only appropriate people should be permitted the freedom of speech. And books should be thin and quick and always correct. Why should you have to spend your time in college reading through something thick which might be wrong? In North Korea, all the books are correct. And they’re undoubtedly short so the people may more productively labor for the advancement of the people and the expectation of eating every day. Remember Mao’s little Red Book in every people’s pocket? Think of it as the Gideon Bible of the communist end time. If you didn’t have your copy on you, or if you did but it wasn’t well thumbed, it was end time for you!
I was recently reading around in the above-mentioned thick handbook on classical music when I turned to Fauré. Alas, Fauré received only the briefest listing under “Other 20th Century Composers.” Indeed, he received only one rather abbreviated paragraph. Groves sure does spoil a reader in musical love! And while Fauré got only a paragraph, Hindemith got a whole little chapter of his own.
That didn’t surprise me as much as it did the author, Ian Swafford.
The paradigm of 20th century post-romantic music was an impoverished and resentful reaction to Rachmaninoff and all such big romanticism. It was a hatred for great music that had been sustained by a rich economy and its world confidence. “Melodies!? Emotions!? Beauty!? Bah! That’s bourgeois!!!” This post-WWI paradigm of anti-happiness was crafted for Americans at Juilliard or some such adjunct place of central reputation. It elevated Hindemith to the pantheon of the great. On the merits of Hindemith’s music, that’s really amazing. And that’s even considering the pantheon of such 20th century music looks like an old gracious bombed-out building in which chunks and traces of greatness can be found, and, with excavation, the occasional work of energetic excellence.
The trinity in that impoverished pantheon of musical wreckage consisted of Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Bartok. As Swafford notes, that sacred trinity of the post-modern orthodoxy — a trinity to be agnostically doubted in composition classes at the risk of career doom — was once a quartet. The fourth was Hindemith. But even Swafford doesn’t attempt to justify the re-divination of Hindemith. Indeed, Swafford is hard-pressed to list much of anything that isn’t “Gebrauschsmusik.” By that stolid word, Hindemith meant solid training music for faceless students in drab post-war buildings. Indeed, Hindemith’s music should be called “Liebeslosmusik.” In another twenty years, Swafford or his incarnation of music consciousness will reduce Hindemith to a paragraph, and the next incarnation might not even mention Hindemith. Not in a pleasant 600-page bourgeois handbook! Rutter will have replaced Hindemith. And who knows, Fauré might get his chapter.
What amazed me most about Fauré’s paragraph wasn’t Swafford’s observation that Fauré is respected in France foremost for his songs. That might be true. What surprised me was the assertive observation of fact that Fauré’s output consists mostly of songs, which are short, and small piano pieces, which are short. I’ve played through many of the latter. But Swafford makes no mention of the great and characteristic body of chamber works by Fauré, especially those with piano. These pieces are so very Fauré in the way his piano music almost never is. Borodin is like that. Maybe a half dozen pieces of a large output are “Borodin.” But those half dozen pieces are so distinctive as to merit the accolades and appellations of greatness. The reason is simple. You know “Borodin” immediately — and you’re delighted. For example, in the indifferent “Petite Suite” for piano, the “Intermezzo” is Borodin deep within in the very first measure. And then how much we wish we could have more of him!
Fauré’s quintets, quartets, and trios are amongst my most cherished pieces of music. At the funeral home where my father made his last public appearance, I arranged for these sweet and poignant pieces to play profoundly in the background during the entire event with their proud and soothing pathos.
And now, even as the luxury of the first theme of Op. 115 flows through my mind — a work written with such depth of texture but in such a transparent score! — let’s continue with our present subjects. So many of them would be traumatic except for an esprit of spirit. Indeed, the human condition is ridiculously lamentable when lived without joy. Even my dreams require a sense of humor in the morning to survive the buildings and the bookstores and the all the pathetic affections.
You compare the public’s reaction to the kneeling footballers with various illegal uses of the American flag. You find a predominant public outrage at the former, but not the latter. Whereupon you throw the inconsistency flag.
Let’s review that play.
As in the good old days of football — Remember them? Last year! — we’ll go under the hood and see reality for ourselves rather than sending it to New York. Anyone who follows sports that are only reviewable there now knows just how slow New York can be. Indeed, ever since New York cultivated its civic ruination in the ’60s and ’70s in the name of freedom and openness, everyone knows just how slow New York can be when it comes to seeing the obvious.
A brief review of a few dates will prove illuminating.
First, in 1916, by presidential proclamation, Woodrow Wilson pronounced Flag Day upon the nation.
I’d long assumed that the intrusion of Washington into the civic matter of the American flag occurred in 1917. But being off by one year in a subject of the centuries isn’t bad. Even better, the year 1916 perfectly accords with a date in my Republic. I claim there that Wilson introduced “democracy” then as the taxonomic category of the government of the Republic. He did this as a war word. In other words, it was a false but fruitful maneuver. For a statesman, that could satisfy. For a scholar, that would traumatize. I’m not sure that Wilson was either a statesman or a scholar. But the Fourteen Points, though, are a great piece of geopolitical assertion. Therefore, don’t believe what the English say about them. The Limeys are just carping at the frightful mightiness of their naughty offspring. Regardless, we may assume that Wilson’s famous pulpit smile — think of his good news: no European war for Americans! — wasn’t effected by the small matter of a prevarication which he believed in.
As a scholarly aside, it’s well known that De Tocqueville’s 1831 book is entitled Democracy in America. Democracy. He did this to encourage the best French — as if Robespierre weren’t encouragement enough! And Walt Whitman in the 19th century sang his a cappella opera — “O me America” — with a leitmotif of democracy. Democracy. Finally, in the 1880s under deep cover as a conceptual “Progressive,” Woodrow Wilson started inveigling — or, as in demotic dramatizations smuggling — the name of democracy into the republican vocabulary of America. Democracy. The last point is presently the only possible modification to The Republic that has arisen to date.
With those few significant exceptions, democracy in the Republic is an American war word of the 20th century.
And clearly 1916 is a war date. The readiness marches were already energetically afoot in America. And they starred none other than Woodrow Wilson in the pace position.
Second, in 1946, Flag Day received the mandate of federal law. As a war date for WWII, that’s late. But it’s just in time for the Cold War.
Third, the National Flag Code was first formulated by a number of fraternal war organizations and other civic groups in 1923. That’s obviously a bit late for WWI. But it appears right in time for the Red Scare. Or was it a scare? Was the USSR really just a nervous worry for unprogressive plutocrats? Boo! And were Harry “Dexter” White and Alger Hiss really patriots dressed in witch drag for a political Halloween? And the Rosenbergs were innocent, right?
The political prophylaxis of the Flag Code was accompanied by the forcible expulsion of hundreds and even thousands of non-citizen immigrants in America who were revolutionary anarchists non grata along with other unwelcome trouble makers and unproductive malcontents.
They were returned to the places from which they came.
And they were seen no more.
Later the FBI turned its attention the Communist Party USA. It, too, soon wasn’t seen much thereafter, and that despite all its Soviet subsidies.
Fourth, and best of all for my present observation, the National Flag Code became law in 1942. The Pacific fleet was still leaching its reeking naval oil into beautiful Pearl Harbor — and our sailors’ ghastly blood.
All of these national governmental measures concerning the flag were war measures. They were implemented, first, for the two World Wars, and, then, for the Cold War.
These wars have since been finished.
Furthermore, without taking into account actual costs — first the current war costs, and then the historical long costs — these are wars in which the United States was a victor. Indeed, by 1991, America was the sole victor of the 20th century. Insofar as that’s meant to be a statement of magnitude, I don’t wish my remarks construed so as to exclude Australia, Canada, and New Zealand from the effort. And along with England — or Britain for the Scots — they played the great game at ending the Cold War inflation.
As symbolic speech, the national use of the flag was a war word — or a whole vocabulary of public speech. But now that these wars are over, the war-mandated legal regimentations of the American flag, as with any war word, should be put away.
However, this isn’t to be anticipated.
It’s much easier to pass a law than to repeal it, especially when the law is patriotic. The Supreme Court refuses to order “In God We trust” removed from American coins and currency. The original Congressional mandates of the motto were also war measures: for the Civil War, our coins; and for the Cold War, our currency. Imagine the political ruckus that’s be caused by reversing that unconstitutional establishment-of-religion legislation under our deity-free Constitution — legislation illegally prescribing a national deity. It isn’t a cost that most politicians, including Supreme Court justices, are willing to incur. Some irritants aren’t worth the cure. All humans with their ridiculous but superlative bare skin know this. And the same is true of the sensitive skin of the Republic.
Therefore a repeal of the National Flag Code isn’t to be expected, either.
But it isn’t necessary.
As you illustrated so well with your list of current “misuses” of the flag, the American people have taken to using their flag — their flag, not Washington’s — as they see fit. And given the temper of the times, no federal enforcement officers are arresting citizens because they’re wearing stars and stripes on their swimsuits.
Bravo for a republican people in their civil society who enforce the will of their decision by enacting it. By such means did Americans acquire independence. By such means do Americans cherish their liberty. And by such means do Americans grow it.
And now, let’s quickly cross borders briefly to a fraternal country. I’m fond of a scene in a Bond — James Bond — movie in which Bond, after a typical comic book adventure, leaps from a plane, opens his chute, and — voila! — it’s a giant British flag! I trust that such patriotic fun piqued even the pride of the Queen. Or is watching a Bond movie lese majesty for a majesty? But that’d be silly in Britain. Bond is the spiritual incarnation of Drake: the game-playing patriotic pirate roué.
And now onto your latest post.
I’m so glad you didn’t require trauma counselling after reading my last post. So many broad-minded students these days — students totally open to diversity — do just that. Of course, they’re not actually open to diversity. Diversity means irreconcilability of world views: of tastes, opinions, beliefs, judgements, and loves. And that’s due to their fundamental differences, not their disputational cussedness. But instead of recognizing the world’s irreconcilability and celebrating it, these students form a closed circle around a dogma named “Diversity” in which diversity is homogenized or stifled. And as one they chant and sing the praises of the one.
Meanwhile, the cheerful, forthright, and open discussion of a difficult topic induced in you a similar state of mind: cheerful, forthright, and open. Or, at least, it induced the latter two. But once you internalize the oblivion of everything — whatever then might universally remain if anything — there’s reason every day for cheer. Aquinas seems to have figured this out, but only late in his life. And then it was probably just the flash of a tumor he saw and the sweet scent of an aura he intoxicatingly inhaled, not the light of an insight and its clear fresh air.
With such an attitude — with a face of cheerful fortitude — humans should publically address as much of the human condition as possible, a condition both universal to the entirety of the species, and particular to the many differentiations of man: age, sex, nationality, class, and historical address.
I’ll now address a half dozen points in your post.
1. I’m somewhat confused by your classification of classes in America.
Of course America isn’t a classless society. America was never meant to be classless. Classlessness only occurs in anarchist fantasies, and in communist comic books published by central ministries of totalitarian truth states. Anyone who disagrees in such states that these democratic realms aren’t classless quickly gets classified by the nomenklatura as an enemy of the state to be “corrected” with correct thought — if not with more permanent correction. And then the classless accord continues. I could imagine the Soviet Union or a clone of it using the word “diverse” to the same effect as “classless.”
At the same time, I should note in passing that, although America isn’t classless, I’m not aware of any country in which the barriers between identifiable but unemphasized classes are so permeable. In America it’s easy to make money and rise. And it’s easy to lose money and sink. In America, it’s not who you are but what you’re doing that dominates your identity. In America, your future plans are your prologue to today.
Nonetheless, the two main classes you refer to aren’t on my American social maps, or any atlas I own of American anthropology.
First, you refer to an upper class.
There’s no upper class in America.
There’s a middle class in America.
And that’s the highest class.
In my book, I explain why the name “middle class” remains apt and appropriate even after the expulsion of the upper class — the aristocrats — from America. (See The Republic, Ch. 1)
In fact, what most people call the upper class in America is only that portion of the middle class whose income consigns them to the upper tax brackets. That isn’t a different class. That’s part of the middle class that’s making more money. True, the rich are rich. But they’re rich middle class folk. After all, who says the middle class is incommensurable with wealth? Not Karl Marx! And look at Zuckerberg. Aristocrats don’t wear black underwear in public and discuss their wives’ miscarriages with the masses.
As for a lower class, I don’t know what that is, either. In the previous couple of centuries, a working class was characterized and which consisted especially of factory workers. Service workers would be included as well now in that classification. In contrast, farmers often have a classification of their own, especially in America where so many own their own land — whereas factory employees don’t own their factories. Of course, the name “working class” is ideologically socialist. It means that the lean exploited workers do all the work, and the parasitic bourgeoisie leisurely exploit them in bellied vests and bloated frocks.
Since then, the disappearance of tens of millions of industrial jobs in America has diminished the conceptual presence of the working class in America. Can you hear the absence of big strikes almost every day in the news? National lead-story work stoppages are rarities today. But the economic and social groupings of the working class still exist.
Meanwhile, I don’t think you’re actually including your historically extended family in something called a “lower” class — though you seem to be. That characterization doesn’t accommodate citizens who productively work and civically maintain themselves and their families.
As an American category, a “lower class” would include people who are permanently mired in motivational incapacitation or social deviation, or both. Such conditions produce personal and civic dysfunctions which are dispositional, economic, and occupational. That clearly doesn’t describe your father and your father’s fathers.
In short, I find that America has a great middle class — its foremost class. And America has a working class, and its farmers. And America has an underclass.
That the United States doesn’t presently have an upper class — an aristocracy — doesn’t mean that one might not appear. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries — the “gilded age” — a great concentration of new industrial wealth induced some people to affect a superior class status. Their domestic results can be archaeologically toured today in the mansions in Newport. I’m especially impressed by the Vanderbilt’s little place called “The Breakers.” Indeed, the family referred to it as “the cottage.” After the contempt of ’20s, the socialism of the ’30s, and the patriotic togetherness of the ’40s, I’d assumed that America’s neo-aristocratic project was as much over as was its brief foray into imperialism. But, as Marx would say, follow the money — that’s what history does! A great new resurgence of entrepreneurial wealth — especially from electronics and their applications — has produced the wherewithal for another attempted new aristocracy. Thus one summer at Cape May I ran into a snob. A snob! Really! And I’d thought that snobs had become extinct. Especially after the ’60s. My amazement at coming face to face with a living snob was no less wonderful than when Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer and Prof. J. L. B. Smith came face to face with their first coelacanth. The coelacanth was an extinct primitive fish known to science only in fossils. Well, this lady was a primitive living fossil. A paleontologist should ask her someday if she’d donate herself — body and spirit — to science when she dies to be stuffed and mounted. Of course, she already was stuffed full. But she didn’t look much mounted.
2. You morbidly attribute three adverse traits to your immediate ancestors, traits you seem to study with the amazed separation of an advanced anthropologist. Well, I, too, have practiced forensic family anthropology.
Your three supposedly class-unique traits are intellectual minimalism, bad taste, and world incuriosity.
But, in fact, you might be describing most Americans most of the time. Intellectual minimalism and bad taste are certainly applicable to the majority of Americans. And world incuriosity is probably equally applicable. But a dearth of world wonder is now disguised by web surfing. And yet most of what’s now surfed was previously found in freaks shows at the circus, or was heard from fishmongers’ wives. Phones are more global in their gossip. But their uses remain mostly local in their cultivation of world personality. Technology can assist your soul, but it can’t create it.
The almost universal anti-intellectualism of Americans — a contempt as robust as it is complacent — was notoriously apparent to travelers in the past. The only thing that changed it was WWII. Before then, there were very few scientists in America. And they were generally held in comic contempt as impractical eggheads. Then scientists produced the atomic bomb. Suddenly scientists were popularly cultivated with awed obeisance. And their ranks soared at colleges and universities with government subsidization and commercial funding for rocket technologies.
Meanwhile, philosophers in America produced no nuclear bombs. But why should we? I’m quite satisfied that my books are bombshells. As for rockets, philosophers have long since possessed launch vehicles for outer space and enemy nations: our minds.
To give you an idea of the “rural” anti-intellectualism of America, consider Princeton University or, as it was known then, the University of New Jersey. When Woodrow Wilson graduated from that institution, it had an enrollment of 475 students. When he later returned as a professor, the enrollment had been flogged to rise to an astonishing 650 students!
Were you to strip away the popularity of science now endemically lip-synced in America — which doesn’t mean it’s understood — you’d find that most Americans are as the Europeans previously found them: eager for more money and pleased to be complacent. By happiness most Americans mean enviable wealth and today’s entertainment.
3. You refer to Americans who are “stuck in poverty purgatory.” I agree they’re in purgatory, but not that they’re in poverty.
The national news from all directions incessantly cites the same statistics, week after week, year after year. A stubbornly set percentage of Americans — 15%, 16%, 18% — are living in poverty.
And Americans everywhere wag their heads in shameful wonder. How can one-sixth of the citizens of the wealthiest country in the world be living in poverty! Answer from the Republicans: Big government. Answer from the Democrats: Big wealth.
And then there are the facts.
After all the various state and federal transfers and subsidizations are included as income, virtually no one is living in poverty in America unless they make a hobby of it. This isn’t the Dust Bowl! But think of all the sad and incessant news stories of all the children who go to bed hungry in America. Really? Amidst a low-income obesity epidemic? If you can’t afford food for your children, it will be given to you by the government. If any child actually goes to bed hungry, that’s because his or her parents got sidetracked on the way home from the store to engage in self-destructive and probably illegal activities.
However, I agree with your characterization of “purgatory.” To be permanently maintained in a rudimentary economic suspension is as oppressive to the vital spirits of human life as to be a carcass sustained on life support in a hospital.
4. I’m somewhat at a loss to know what you mean by the current underclass’s “cultural stagnation.” And it’s a stagnation you attribute to Republicans. If there’s a stagnation of culture as opposed to a starvation of body, I’d attribute it to a systemic welfare IV the scheduled weening from which is death. Two thousand years ago, Rome evolved a permanent underclass which the state then sustained with a permanent modicum of comfort. That crime-ridden unproductive parasitic class lasted as long as the Roman Empire. The problem of an endemic class of unhappy humans was only solved by the dissolution of the West and the virtual evacuation of Rome.
Five hundred years of permanent underclassicism is indeed cause for an attribution of purgatory!
5. To revert to an illustration of what defective categories can do to astute thinking, you say that the upper class has “an overwhelming bias toward cosmopolitan culture” and that the lower class has “a bias toward rural culture.”
First, why “bias”? Why not “preference”? It’s a free country, isn’t it? Or are most peoples’ “preferences” unconscious cultural acquisitions over which they have little discretion because they choose not to assert themselves with the alert discretion of their conscious and willful individuality? Well, that’s their choice then, isn’t it? For even if they choose by default not to choose, they’ve chosen. If you don’t override the default option on your life, that’s your fault.
Second, besides the taxonomic class lapse here, you’ve engaged in other typical elisions.
For example, your logic is a useful psychological error. You’ve set up a neat bifurcation. In this case it’s the antipode of your family background — the rural — and the direction you’ve been heading yourself: the cosmopolitan.
Such a simple bifurcation is psychologically very useful in terms of motivation: “us” versus “them,” or even “me” versus “everything”! Superme!
Been there, done it.
In my political course, we studied the motivations for faction formation in human affairs. The problem with convenient bifurcations is that they might not be representative of the actual factions in play. For example, you might tacitly rely on someone who’s not against you. If they’re not against you, then they’re in favor of you! Later, you discover that they were a third, or a fourth, or a fifth factional interest that had little interest in either the first or second faction of your neat and convenient bifurcation. And your reliance on them to aid you in some critical moment turned out to be just the dope hope of a daydream. David Horowitz enjoyed this lugubrious experience. And the withdrawal pains were all his fault, a fact he required a couple of decades of political personal introspection and innermost soul searching to discern. (See his Radical Son.)
I’m sure you’ll recall from The Federalist that the United States consists of a number a regionalized interest factions: economic factions, religion factions, cultural factions. Despite a century of extensive national homogenization driven by both national corporations and a national government, these factors of multiplicity remain most operative.
More interesting is your assumption that there’s a difference in America between “rural” and “cosmopolitan” culture. When a large portion of Americans were farmers as opposed to town-dwellers, that distinction was credible. And it was a common subject for mutual recrimination and broad mirth. Nor is this new. Consider the ancient fable of the town and country mice.
But several things have changed since then.
First, less than 2% of Americans are farmers.
Second, even the remaining farmer are now connected to the information grid of America in real time with cell phones, computers, and satellite TV. This simultaneous national commonality was already getting established with radio in the 1920s, and TV in the 1950s. Everyone got the same broadcast of the same national content at the same time. Now everything is simultaneous. Except Broadway. You still have to go to Broadway to see Broadway. But I understand that Broadway is for tourists just like bull fighting in Spain now is.
Third, I’m not aware that you live on a farm. I believe you live in a pleasant if quiet town located at the famously acclaimed confluence of the Susquehanna where Priestly and Da Ponte lived, and where the Wordsworths longed to go in beauty. It is a place I’ve often visited.
That’s not rural.
Most importantly in all this, you’re assuming that the people in the cities — the cosmopolitans — have a cosmopolitan sensibility. They’re big city. They’re cosmopolitan. They’re sophisticated. Their minds are gentle and their spirits are immense.
They’re not like your forefathers.
Au contraire, bitte.
As an astute observer of reality, you must already have significantly sampled American humanity.
Most Americans aren’t interested in what were once called the fine arts. Indeed, the category itself has been deaccessioned. “Fine” implies a “higher” sense of “taste” enjoyed by a “higher” class of “better” people over the “rude” crafts of the “lower” class. Socialism and democracy solve that problem, by God! And so does mass capitalism, by Marx!
I’m sure that any number of surveys will show you what a very small percentage of Americans — 2% or 3% — cultivate and indulge a taste for painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, drama, literature, film, classical music, cuisine, and any other arts of elevated sensibility. Can you hear how obsolete that last phrase and its two components even now sound? That’s because so few people cultivate them with public pride.
Consider Mill for a moment.
Mill was a soft socialist. But he understood the hazards of democracy. Whether most people have bad taste because of their intrinsic personal nature or because of a lack of social education, to run a culture on the basis of the popular majority would mean the triumph of pushpin over poetry — Mill’s famous phrase — or reality TV over taste to update it for our times.
In other words, you may move to the metropolis. But you’ll be mighty surprised if you think most people residing there have cosmopolitan tastes.
They’re just big city hicks.
I’ve been told by academics themselves, when they hear of my interests in music, that the typical American academic gets serious about music by listening to jazz. And then there’s all the other times. Needless to say, I’ve confirmed this sensibility with my own auditory experience. But I remain dumb-founded nonetheless. Right now, in the background I’m hearing Dvořák’s 5th Symphony. That was the work the young Dvořák submitted in a competition of which Brahms was one of the judges. Brahms recognized Dvořák’s classical abilities. And Dvořák won. Brahms then became his mentor, securing him, amongst other things, access to his publisher. Dvořák was soon famous instead of poor. That’s a significant lifestyle upgrade!
And just before the Dvořák, I heard a piece that sounded like a close clone of Faure’s chamber works. Almost more Fauré! Ahh! It was the “Phantasie Quartet” in f# minor by Frank Bridge. Groves says that it’s in the Brahms-Stanford mode. So much for the frogophobic Anglo ear!