The current political banter frequently seems to make about as much sense as the ol’ Abbot & Costello “Who’s on first” routine: confusing, but not nearly as funny. (I know, my age is showing.) If you can spare 6m29s, you should find Ingraham and Coulter’s recent assessment of the current state of GOP candidate musical chairs refreshing. I’ve not been a great fan of Ann Coulter, often a bit too glib for my druthers, but she’s spot on when it comes to pointing out where ‘contenders’ are falling short:
Even if the economy were to fix itself overnight, we’d still face sincere cultural challenges.
It’s not the vulgarity or the crassness or even the grunting moronic ugliness, but something more basic: the absence of tenderness. A song such as “It Had To Be You” or “The Way You Look Tonight” presupposes certain courtship rituals. If a society no longer has those, it’s not surprising that it can no longer produce songs to embody them: After all, a great love ballad is, to a certain extent, aspirational; you hope to have a love worthy of such a song. A number like “Carry Out” is enough to make you question whether the fundamental things really do apply as time goes by.
Yet one of the curious features of a hypersexualized society is that it becomes paradoxically sexless and joyless. Guys who confidently bellow along with Enrique’s “F**king You” no longer quite know how to ask a girl for a chocolate malt at the soda fountain. It’s hardly surprising that, as Miss Ingraham reports, the formerly fringe activity of computer dating has now gone mainstream on an industrial scale. And, even then, as a couple of young ladies happened to mention to me after various recent encounters through Match.com and the like, an alarming number of chaps would rather see you naked on their iPhones Anthony Weiner–style than actually get you naked in their bachelor pads. I was reminded of The Children Of Men, set in an infertile world, in which P.D. James’s characters, liberated from procreation, increasingly find sex too much trouble.
I’m reminded of what Roger Kimball had to say some time back:
The New Criterion
The treason of the intellectuals & “The Undoing of Thought”
by Roger Kimball
When hatred of culture becomes itself a part of culture, the life of the mind loses all meaning.
—Alain Finkielkraut,The Undoing of Thought
Today we are trying to spread knowledge everywhere. Who knows if in centuries to come there will not be universities for re-establishing our former ignorance?
—Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
In 1927, the French essayist Julien Benda published his famous attack on the intellectual corruption of the age, La Trahison des clercs. I said “famous,” but perhaps “once famous” would have been more accurate. For today, in the United States anyway, only the title of the book, not its argument, enjoys much currency. “La trahison des clercs”: it is one of those memorable phrases that bristles with hints and associations without stating anything definite. Benda tells us that he uses the term “clerc” in “the medieval sense,” i.e., to mean “scribe,” someone we would now call a member of the intelligentsia. Academics and journalists, pundits, moralists, and pontificators of all varieties are in this sense clercs. The English translation, The Treason of the Intellectuals, sums it up neatly.
The “treason” in question was the betrayal by the “clerks” of their vocation as intellectuals. From the time of the pre-Socratics, intellectuals, considered in their role as intellectuals, had been a breed apart. In Benda’s terms, they were understood to be “all those whose activity essentially is not the pursuit of practical aims, all those who seek their joy in the practice of an art or a science or a metaphysical speculation, in short in the possession of non-material advantages.” Thanks to such men, Benda wrote, “humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honored good. This contradiction was an honor to the human species, and formed the rift whereby civilization slipped into the world.”
Is that rift closing?
We haven’t really been “liberated.” Rather, America, along with the rest of Western society, has been corrupted. This is the true fruit of the “progressive” movement. Freedom isn’t license. Legality and morality are not merely two sides of the same coin. We now render only unto Caesar, and America can no longer be considered so exceptional.
What do any of the presidential aspirants have to say about how we’re going to fix that?