Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog Day

[Photo: Our Last Aspiring National Politican, captured in photo at the moment when charges against him were dropped.]

North Carolina's fresh new Governor must have grander political ambitions. Why else would Pat McCrory appear on William Bennett's radio show so soon after taking office. What possible business of North Carolina is being served by our governor pontificating on the place of philosophical inquiry, much less "gender studies," in the public university system of our state.
Nevermind the odd fact that Mr. McCrory was talking with the most financially successful trained philosopher in the United States, or that said philosopher, Mr. Bennett, once published a book on "virtue" and then was revealed to be a compulsive gambler in his private life.

Mr. McCrory said, on Mr. Bennett's show, that he thought state funding of universities should be based not on the number of students enrolled, but on the job placement rate of the university after graduation. He said, moreover, that since he knew of no jobs in "gender studies" or "philosophy," these areas of studies should be reserved for expensive private institutions. Moreover, he complained that the university system was "in the hands" of an "educational elite."

Here's the link to this part of the story:

Meanwhile, in the real world, a couple of weeks back our Dish subscription gave us a weekend of free HBO, which included Lena Dunham's "Girls," the entire first season as it turned out, plus the first episode of season 2. I accidentally watched one episode, then DVR'd the rest, and I'm working through them. That same weekend we also watched Ms Dunham receive two awards for her work on the show. This isn't particularly a serious review of "Girls," even from a geezer of 70 who used to build chimneys. Some episodes I like more than others. Every episode I've seen contains at least some delightful, wry humor and insight. The show seems to me to be honest, and very "real." Ms Dunham, ditto. She's trying to talk and show real women (and men) in their '20s, at the start of adulthood, in a particular place (New York City). There are things in the show that might remind one of "Seinfeld," and I think Ms Dunham is in a way "doing" a distaff and updated Woody Allen. Like Mr. Allen, she is able to play characters she writes, to direct, to be much more than what she acts, yet to inhabit her characters. As with Mr. Allen, we are all lucky that Ms Dunham gives her talent to us. She blesses our culture.

And, obviously, "Girls" is in some ways a course in "gender studies," and probably goes down a lot easier than a treatise by Andrea Dworkin, even if more academic feminist thought might well inform a viewing of "Girls," and surely informs Ms Dunham's creative process. At the same time, and blessedly perhaps, "Girls" is not directed by Goddard.

So then we come in the cavalcade of days to this bit of right-wing confetti regarding "Girls," which I stumbled on via Roy Edroso:
Edroso highlights Kurt Schlichter's money shot as is his wont, and the metaphor is apt: Think of Sex and the City, except Sarah Jessica Parker has doubled her weight, dresses like a potato sack and fancies herself the voice of some undefined generation. Edroso also quotes Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator, on the grain of sand under his shell:

It is exactly that America that sent Tyrone Woods to fight Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi so that Lena Dunham can sit at peace in Brooklyn with her tattoo and her sleeveless T-shirt and her wink-wink on-camera pratlings about first-times. So that Amanda Marcotte can play with her race cards at Slate.

Edroso's whole post is worth reading, including the copious comment section:

Not to be missed, the commentor's remark that perhaps Schlicter hopes for an HBO series called "Boys," and the further comment that perhaps he'd be happier at YouPorn, where all the girls are quiet, because their mouths are always full of things other than words.

All of which is of course addressed more or less directly in various episodes of "Girls," had these right-wing chuckleheads bothered to do more watching and less meat-grinding. The episode where Lena's character goes home for the weekend and endures a one-night-stand is not only real, but instructive. Her vapid partner could have written either of the columns Edroso cites.

Which brings us back around to our new Governor I think. For the American Right, of which Mr. McCrory yearns to become a new fresh face, gender studies begin and end with internal vaginal probes as a prerequisite of any considered abortion. In their brave new world, academic inquiry will be reserved for a tiny minority, the "educational elite." What they say or think or do doesn't matter much, because they are always a tiny minority. Just keep them away from the kids, who should be funneled into specific jobs, and nevermind if large blocs of such specific jobs get whisked away to the 3rd world at the behest of an industrial policy that can never be tampered with by the likes of the jobholders themselves, or a government that represents them.

Gender studies? It's a fainting couch affair. Gawd knows the wimmens don't need to be a-thinkin' about any of that stuff. The Southern Baptist Church is the official state church of North Carolina. There they have decreed, some ten years on, that indeed a wife is to submit to her husband. Here in NC the placement of a constitutional "gay marriage ban" on our ballot helped insure Mr. McCrory's victory, and the achievement of total Republican control of our Legislature. Here we're well on the way to a special voter ID requirement, and some of our legislators have bristled at the idea that such requirements are racist and discriminatory to the elderly and to young people. (See, e.g., ) Ms Dunham has said that she won't consider marriage until there is legal same sex marriage in the United States. That moral logic is both obvious and inescapable. The only counter is to ban thinking about such things. Defunding is of course just such a ban.

McCrory, according to the News and Observer story cited above, is already backing away to some degree from his statements on Bennett's show. This is just more conservative methodoogy. In our fragmented and confusing media jungle, it is frequently possible to take all sides of any given position, and frequently that's exactly what politicians manage to do. At the very worst, there's always the fallback position: well, Democrats do it too.

The sun's bright and the sky's very blue around here. The trees cast dark shadows across the ground. Hopefully there will be a few more weeks of winter.


Sunday Update: It's possible, of course, that Mr. McCrory is actually dead serious, and that he's offering us something he views as a personal insight, after a considerable time as a successful adult. If so, I'd submit that this side of the coin is far more disturbing. Because what he's suggesting, in implication, is a rigid class system based almost entirely on money. In McCrory's revamped education system, the wealthy get to study the underpinnings of life, the presumptions and presuppositions that exist under every facet of human existence. No doubt such insights may serve these elites well as they travel their paths of managerial splendor. Perhaps in a perfect world these elites will even be insightful in the moral sphere, managing their charges, the poor blinded working class, with love and a true concern for their puny fates. This was exactly the fantasy which slaveholders in the South entertained, particularly at church and at the family dinner table. Some of McCrory's Republican ilk are actually giving speeches, at least in certain circles, on the topic of slavery as a not-so-bad institution, and David Bossie, the elite lawyer who won the Citizens United case, has published briefs arguing that Brown V. Board is actually unconstitutional when applied to Federal Law (hat tip to Charles Pierce):

Such a fantasy has its limitations, I'm afraid. For one thing, here's a real cross-section of life, if you want to look at it:

Seems very little of these folks' lives is about the structure Mr McCrory imagines, or even the lack of it, and Great Britain has a lot more class structure than we do here in America. Seems like what all those folks depicted as they paddle down the river of life could use is insight. Insight doesn't necessarily make you money though it certainly can. Insight helps you understand things better. In McCrory's whipping boy example, "gender studies," one might find a deeper understanding of the constant advertising storm we're all immersed in. For example. Or one might perceive more clearly various office dynamics in which one finds oneself--whatever one's gender. Or one might notice certain threads of continuity in the daily Limbovian rants one might well listen to, or see in the way we structure our jobs certain themes. The curious hysteria quite a few on the Right are currently exhibiting with regard to the "women in combat" issue might well become clearer. If Mr. McCrory is actually serious, what he's saying to his fellow citizens is, basically, "shut up and swing that hammer."

Mr. McCrory's suggestion that the central purpose of public higher education is simply job placement has, in fact, a rather Soviet ring to it. It reveals, more than anything, his Republican underpinnings. Republicans do not believe in democracy, which when applied simply to life means that each person gets as much chance at his own personal fulfillment as is possible. Republicans do not want to run on their actual beliefs, or to reveal them to the public. Mr. McCrory, for example, said nothing at all during his campaign about such drastic "reforms" in higher public education. But then he must believe he is one of the elite.

North Carolina is in for a dark time I'm afraid. Mr. McCrory has at his back a fully Republican Legislature.

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