October 7, 2018

Equality in language only

After writing this yesterday morning, I took Heidi and John to the nursery, where I was putting in a shift. The staff told me I could get off early to go to Vanja’s last-day-of-school even if I wanted, so I took Heidi and John with me and went to the church a few blocks away where it was taking place. Compared to the last-day assemblies of my own school days, which had taken place in a chapel with hymns and a priest in full garb in an atmosphere that was starched and solemn, the last thing we had to endure before the summer, which seemed to us to be ready and waiting outside, Vanja’s last day was like something from a different world. … It was like an audition for American Idol. The priest spoke about how important it was to be joyful, he told them fame and fortune didn’t matter and that everyone was equal. There was no mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible. After the sermon, which lasted all of five minutes, the pupils who had stood out most during the year were called forward. They received diplomas. Some for their fantastic grades, some for their fantastic personal qualities, which, judging by what was said, consisted of taking responsibility for others and caring. … After we got back to the nursery and I was busy filling the dishwasher and wiping the kitchen counter, the nursery head asked me how the even had gone. I said it was like being in the United States. That I’d never seen anything as Americanized before. The best students singing and performing for the others, diplomas awarded to those who had stood out. And the absurd sermon given by the priest, who said everyone was equal, while everything that was going on around him said the opposite, with some students singled out as being more valuable than others and put on display in all their glory. …

Equality was the supreme principle, and one of the consequences was that expressions of the singularly Swedish were seen as exclusive and discriminatory, for which reason they were shunned. … It was this same ideology, hostile to all difference, that could not accept categories of male and female, he and she. Since han and hun are denotative of gender, it was suggested a new pronoun, hen, be used to cover both. The ideal human being was a gender-neutral hen whose foremost task in life was to avoid oppressing any religion or culture by preferring their own. Such total self-obliteration, aggressive in its insistence on leveling out, though in its own view tolerant, was a phenomenon of the cultural middle class, that segment of the population which controlled the media, the schools, and other major institutions of society … . But what did this ideology of equality actually entail? A recent study said that differences between pupils in Swedish schools had never been greater than they are now. The gap between the ablest children, for whom the future is bright, and the least able, whose futures lie outside the zones of influence and wealth, is widening year by year. The trend in the study is clear indeed: the strongest pupils are those from Swedish backgrounds, the weakest are from immigrant backgrounds. While we might be concerned not to offend people from other nations and other cultures, going so far as to eliminate everything Swedish, this happens only in the symbolic world, the world of flags and anthems, whereas in the real world everyone who does not belong to the Swedish middle class, which is hostile to all difference, is kept down and excluded … . … Equality in Sweden is confined to the middle class, they alone are becoming more equal; elsewhere the only equality is in the language, managed by the same middle class. In Sweden something happening in language is much worse than something happening in reality. An instance of one moral code applying in language and another in reality used to be called a double standard. This was what was going on at Vanja’s last-day-of-school event; the ideal of everyone being equal, and fame and wealth being unimportant, applied in the language of the priest, whereas the reality surround that ideology said the opposite: the most important thing is to be rich and famous. Every child there harbored that dream, it was in the air. And the more I see of it, this self-blind and self-satisfied ideology of quality, believing as it does that the conclusion it has reached is universal and true and must therefore govern us all – although in fact it is valid only to a small class of the privileged few, as if they comprised some little island of decency in an ocean of commercialism and social inequality – the more the significance of my life’s struggle diminishes … . … Oh, how then, for crying out loud, can we make the lives we live an expression of life, rather than the expression of ideology?

My Struggle (Min Kamp), Book 6, by Karl Ove Knausgård, translated by Martin Aitken

October 6, 2018

Viewpoints

This week’s The Commons, out of Brattleboro, Vermont, dedicates its “Voices” section to “The Supreme Court Hearings and the Trauma of Sexual Assault”, asking “What do the Kavanaugh hearings say about our politics and how our society treats survivors who have suffered in silence?”

Although there are 5 “Viewpoints”, 1 regular column, and 3 letters, only one viewpoint is presented, however. There is no questioning of the assumptions behind their theme. For example, maybe the Supreme Court hearing had nothing at all to do with the trauma of sexual assault except in the minds of those forcing the issue in to derail it. And maybe that’s what speaks more about our politics and how our society treats survivors, such as cynically using them to achieve a political end – or mere campaign event – that has nothing to do with actually helping victims of sexual assault.

Of course, in this atmosphere, who would dare to raise such views, such a voice, and incur the wrath of the whipped-up mob?

October 2, 2018

Paul Krugman defends his privilege

Gary Taustine comments in reply to Paul Krugman’s opinion piece “The Angry White Male Caucus: Trumpism is all about the fear of losing traditional privilege”:

Dear Paul,

Have you ever considered, even for a moment, that the white folks who voted for Trump are not scared of losing the fictional “privilege” of which you speak, but rather, sick and tired of being told they’re privileged as they struggle to make ends meet?

Perhaps your own wealth and privilege make you feel guilty and uncomfortable, so you’d rather ascribe your charmed life to race instead of facing the fact that you, personally, are one of the few truly privileged people in this country.

From your ivory towers you and your fellow leftist one percenters haphazardly label everyone who disagrees with you as small-minded bigots, terrified of losing advantages they’ve never known and entitlements they’ve never enjoyed, and you wonder why you lost the election.

Here in Manhattan, where a MAGA hat is a 100 percent reliable form of birth control for men, I’m sure most everyone agrees with you, but that’s the danger of living in an echo chamber. Venture outside of your bubble and you’ll find that you’re part of a jaded, uninformed minority whose views of the working class are as ignorant as they are offensive.

This is not an issue of race; the only color of privilege in America is green, and the interests of the truly privileged one percent on both sides of the aisle are well served by suggesting their advantages are enjoyed by all 62 percent of Americans lacking melanin. If they didn't pit races against one another, eventually everyone might recognize the real enemy.

Some Dude replied:

@Gary Taustine
You sound better aligned with Bernie Sanders than with Trump. How do you figure that the poster man-child for upper class greed is going to help the working class? That defies even pretzel logic.

And Gary Taustine:

@Some Dude

I'm no socialist, I'm an independent capitalist, and I don't think Trump cares any more about the working class than Rian Johnson cares about Star Wars fans, but I know that the trade deals Trump has been shredding rewarded huge corporations with massive profits for outsourcing jobs. I also know that his tax cuts greatly benefit the super-wealthy while adding to the deficit, but they help those who really needed some relief as well, and the corporate cuts have resulted in historically low unemployment.

So when I see one side rewarding the wealthy while exporting jobs and the other rewarding the wealthy while creating jobs, logic dictates going with the latter.

September 29, 2018

Memories and Stories | Cuimhní agus Scéalta

Our memories are our stories. We can construct them in the spirit of vengeance or forgiveness.

Is ár scéalta ár gcuimhní, a bhfuil iad a tógáil i ndíoltas nó i ndíolghadh.

September 8, 2018

Unhinged

From Karli Thompson, Democracy for America, 7 September:

URGENT: Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski need to hear from you IMMEDIATELY about Kavanaugh's dishonesty on Roe v. Wade. Will you take a minute to make an emergency call to their offices now?

An email leaked to the New York Times yesterday confirmed what we already suspected: Brett Kavanaugh lied when he told Susan Collins that he believes Roe v. Wade is settled law.

Not only that, but during questioning yesterday, he referred to birth control medication as "abortion-inducing drugs" -- a construction used by the far right to demonize birth control and pave the way for severe restrictions on a woman's right to regulate her own body. ...

A vote for Kavanaugh is a vote to strip women of their bodily autonomy. Period. ...

From Zephyr Teachout, 7 September:

At last night's final debate, one of our opponents took the personal and petty attacks to a new level. He took a page out of the Republican playbook and used a gendered attack against Zephyr — calling her "unhinged."

Why? Because Zephyr correctly pointed out that he voted with Wall Street lobbyists to roll back key provisions of Dodd-Frank. ...

From Ben Jealous, Democracy for America, 8 September:

On Thursday night, at his rally in Montana, Donald Trump finally did it -- he attacked me personally:

"In Maryland, the Democrat candidate for governor wants to give illegal aliens free college tuition, courtesy of the American taxpayer. Come on in, free college!"

He attacked my plan to extend tuition-free community college to all Maryland residents, including DREAMers. And he attacked it with the same hateful language he always uses -- rhetoric meant to divide us. ...

[[[[ ]]]]

Almost all of such e-mails from these and other campaigns have this tone of desperate import and apocalyptic battle. Granted, they are to people who have already expressed support for the causes, or at least the people and organizations promulgating them, but frankly, they should be a complete turn-off to anyone who has any self-respect.

The first example about Kavanaugh is a baldfaced lie. Twenty years ago, Kavanaugh wrote, as legal vetter of an opinion piece in support of one of Bush's appeals court nominees, that the statement “It is widely accepted by legal scholars across the board that Roe v. Wade and its progeny are the settled law of the land” may not be accurate. He did not say that he himself does not accept it as such. And he told Collins that he does.

Similarly, regarding his reference to "abortion-inducing drugs": In the case in question he recognized that the general requirement of the ACA to provide contraception included, indeed, "abortion-inducing drugs" (such as RU-486), which some religious groups could not accept. He also stated in the same opinion "that the government has a compelling interest in facilitating access to contraception for the employees of these religious organizations".

Regarding the second example, I have not seen or even read about the debate in question, but in fact, Dodd-Frank protected potential home-owners only by severely limiting their access to credit. Instead of facilitating families to buy homes on fair terms, Dodd-Frank turned the market over to landlord/investors. The "rollback" that was made was actually good, raising the threshold of assets for a bank to be subject to the severe restrictions of Dodd-Frank. To criticize voting for that change simply because "Wall Street lobbyists" supported it does seem rather unhinged. And it is certainly unhinged to think the adjective is "gendered". Omarosa Manigault Newman's book Unhinged is just one major example of the term's frequent use in reference to Trump.

Finally, Ben Jealous: You weren't attacked personally. Your plan to provide free community college to illegal aliens was. And it was not done with hateful language, but simply mocked on its face.

Almost all "rhetoric meant to divide us" is coming from the Democrats like this. They mischaracterize, lie, and hide behind identity politics in an obvious inability to defend their own policies or honestly criticize policies they oppose. Anything that some of them might have to offer is getting overwhelmed by their continuing derangement over Trump's election. And as long as that dominates (persecution of Trump is in fact Teachout's primary campaign promise), they can not overcome their implicit disdain for voters.

(I am sure that fundraising e-mails from other campaigns are just as bad — I get only these "progressive" ones because I donated to Bernie Sanders's primary campaign. And they rather underscore that they aren't actually very progressive, but little more than politics as usual.)

August 27, 2018

An Mhaighdean Óg

Dá mbeidh’ áitreabh agam féin
No gabháltas a’s réim,
Caoirigh breágh’ bána
Ar árd-chnoc no sléibh,
Sláinte agus méin
Agus grádh ceart d’á réir,
Bheidhinn-se ’s mo ghrádh geal
Go sáimh ann san tsaéghal.

Tá maighdean óg ’san tír
’S is réaltan eólais í,
Grian bhreágh ar bórd í
A’s togha de na mnáibh,
A cum fada breágh
’S a cúilín crathach bán
’S gach alt léi ar lúth-chrith
Ó búcla go brághaid.

Dá mbeidhinn-se ’s mo rún
Ar choill ag buain cnó
No ar thaoibh lisín aoibhinn
’S gan dídionn orrainn acht ceó,
Bheidheadh mo chroidhe-se d’á bhreóghadh
Le díogras d’á póig
’S gur b’é grádh ceart do chlaoidh mé
’S do fhíor-sgair mo shnódh.

Dá mbéidhinn-se ’s mo ghrádh
Ar thaoibh chnuic no báin
’S gan feóirling ann ár bpóca
Ná lón chum na slighe,
Bheidh’ mo shúil-se le Críost
Le ár ndóthaint gan mhoill
A’s go dtógfadh mo stór geal
An brón so de m’ chroidhe.

Dá mbéidhinn-se ’s mo ghrádh
Cois taoide no tráigh
’S gan aon neach beó ’nn ár dtimchioll
An oidhche fhada, ’s lá,
Do bhéidhinn-se ag cómhrádh
Le Neilidh an chúil bháin
Is liom-sa ’budh h-aoibhinn
Bheith ag coímhdeacht mo ghrádh.

 

If I had a home of my own
Or a holding and position,
Fine white sheep
On a high hill or mountain,
Health in body and mind
And love in turn,
Myself and my bright love
Would live there peacefully.

There is a young maiden in the land
And she is a star of knowledge,
A splendid sun at table
And a pick among women,
Her long lovely form
And her waving fair hair
And her every joint aquiver with life
From buckles to breast.

If myself and my sweetheart
Were gathering nuts in the wood
Or beside a pleasant little rath
And nothing sheltering us but mist,
My heart would be sick
With passion for her kiss,
Such love would destroy me
And scatter my composure.

If myself and my love
Were beside hill or moor,
No farthing in our pocket,
No food for the way,
My hope would be with Christ
For our provision soon
And that my bright treasure
Would take this sorrow from my heart.

If myself and my love
Were beside tide or strand
With no one alive around,
The long night and a day
I would be talking
With Nelly of the fair hair,
My own pleasure won
To be with my love.

from Abhráin Grádh Chúige Connacht, Douglas Hyde (1893);
revised translation by Eric Rosenbloom (2018)

Tune by Eric Rosenbloom:

Dá dTéidhinn-se Siar

Dá dtéidhinn-se siar is aniar ni thiucfainn,
Air an g-cnoc do b’áirde is air a sheasfainn,
’S í an chraobh chúmhartha is túisge bhainfinn
’Gus ’s é mo ghrádh féin ar luaithe leanfainn.

Tá mo chroidhe chomh dubh le áirne,
Ná le gual dubh dhoighfidhe i g-ceartaidh,
Le bonn bróige air hállaidhibh bána,
’S tá lionndubh mór os cionn mo gháire.

Tá mo chroidhe-se brúighte briste,
Mar leac-oidhre air uachtar uisge,
Mar bheidh’ cnuasach cnó léist a mbriste,
Ná maighdean óg léis a pósta.

Tá mo ghhrádh-s’ air dhath na sméara,
’S air dhath na súgh-craobh, lá breágh gréine,
Air dhath na bhfraochóg budh duibhe an tsléibhe,
’Gus is minic bhí ceann dubh air chollainn glégil.

Is mithid damh-s’ an baile seó fhágbháil,
Is geur an chloch ’gus is fuar an láib ann,
Is ann a fuaireas guth gan éadáil,
Agus focal trom ó lucht an bhiodáin.

Fuagraim an grádh, is mairg do thug é
Do mhac na mná úd, ariamh nár thuig é,
Mo chroidhe ann mo lár gur fhágbhuidh sé dubh é,
’S ni fheicim air an tsráid ná i n-áit air bith é.

 

Were it me going west, from the west I’d not return—
On the highest hill, there I’d stand,
And the first fragrant branch I’d pick,
My own love that I’d quickly follow.

My heart is as black as sloe,
As black coal burned in a forge,
As bootsoles dirtying white floors,
And a deep melancholy over my smile.

My heart indeed is bruised and broken,
Like an ice-sheet on water,
Like gathered nuts are after cracking,
As a young maid after marrying.

My love the color of blackberries,
The color of raspberries a fine sunny day,
The color of black mountain heath-berries—
There was often a black head on a pure body.

It’s time for myself to leave this town,
Where the stone is hard and the mud is cold,
Where there is song without profit,
And a heavy word from the chattering mob.

I warn of love, and woe to who gave it
To yon woman’s son, who never understood it,
My heart in my stomach, where he left it black,
And I don’t see him on the street or anyplace at all.

from Abhráin Grádh Chúige Connacht, Douglas Hyde (1893);
revised translation by Eric Rosenbloom (2018)

can be sung to the tune of “Scarborough Fair”