THE RATIONAL ANIMAL WALK: We've been insulting The Others for a very long time!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2018

We seem to be blind to this fact:
What did we see on our autumn vacation? To the tune of The Baby Elephant Walk, let's start with an irony which was scattered through Saturday's New York Times.

On the op-ed page, Bret Stephens gloomily said that American liberalism had "pierced its own tongue" (had shot itself in the foot) as November's elections approach.

Stephens, a conservative NeverTrumper, has been rooting for a blue tidal wave as a reproach to Trump. In his column, he listed various ways in which, or so he said, American liberalism has recently made that outcome less likely.

He didn't skip the Kavanaugh hearings. Stephens included these remarks (about "American liberalism"):
STEPHENS (10/13/18): It [shot itself in the foot] when The New Yorker violated normal journalistic standards by reporting Deborah Ramirez’s uncorroborated allegation against Kavanaugh, and much of the rest of the media gave credence to Julie Swetnick’s lurid one. The pile-on wound up doing more to stiffen Republican spines against an apparent witch hunt than it did to weaken their resolve in the face of Blasey’s powerful accusation.

It [shot itself in the foot] when Susan Collins and other female Republicans who supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation were denounced as “gender traitors” in an eye-opening op-ed in this newspaper. Approximately 30 million women voted for Trump in 2016, and many of them (along with at least a few Clinton supporters) surely felt just as Collins did. Are they all “traitors,” too?
Stephens had a decent point about the treatment of the Ramirez and Swetnick claims. That said, the denunciation of all those "gender traitors" takes us to the front page of that same day's Times, where Matt Flegenheimer offered a somewhat peculiar analysis piece.

According to Flegenheimer, many liberals are wondering if we've been "going high" too often and too long. ("When they go low, we go high," Michelle Obama famously said and prescribed.)

Have we liberals been "going high" too long? It amazed us to think that anyone really believes that we've actually "gone high" at all.

Consider a piece from the next day's Sunday Review. After that, we'll return to Saturday's Times.

On the front page of the Sunday Review, the Times' editor on gender issues, Susan Chira, examined a major mystery. How in the world could any woman ever have voted for Donald J. Trump? How could women have sided with the Kavanaugh nomination?

How could any woman have taken these stances? As she started, Chira seemed to strike a sensible pose. She too cited the recent claim about "gender traitors:":
CHIRA (10/14/18): What are those women thinking?

The ones who cheered President Trump’s mockery of Christine Blasey Ford at a rally in Mississippi, tweeted #HimToo in support of their sons who might one day be, in their eyes, unfairly accused of assault?

On the left, they’re being reviled as gender traitors, depicted as betraying the sisterhood and acting against their own best interests. The Democrats’ hope for a blue wave rests on female voters coming out to register their displeasure with the president’s party. Women will be acting as a political force.

But women don’t automatically ally with other women, as Senator Susan Collins’s vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court demonstrated. Sisterhood doesn’t override partisanship or deeply held moral views. Victims of sexual harassment didn’t all believe Christine Blasey Ford. Women don’t act as one.

The question is why so many people are still surprised that they don’t, even after the election of 2016.
"Women don’t act as one," Chira sensibly noted. She then struck another sensible pose. In effect, she wondered why so many of us clueless liberals are still surprised by this blindingly obvious fact.

What makes us liberals so clueless? Whatever the answer may be, we thought of Flegenheimer's front page report as Chira turned to the associate professors to explain the evil and the craziness of The Others—of the women who refuse to react and vote in the ways we liberals are nice enough to prescribe.

Have we liberals been going too high all these years? When Chira turned to Associate Professor Cassese, a flood of name-calling ensued, with Cassese and Associate Professor Barnes giving us several new bombs to drop on the heads of our neighbors.

Apparently, it's no longer enough to denounce The Others, including Other women, as mere "sexists." Thanks to the high-minded work of the associate professors, we now understand that some of these women are "benevolent sexists" while most are "hostile sexists."

That said, everyone has to be some kind of sexist! It's one of the ways we go high!

(Amusingly, Chira writes this at one point: "No one is saying that being a Republican woman means being a sexist." She doesn't seem to realize that that is precisely the impression that she, and her associate professors, are conveying in her piece.)

We liberals! Even as we imagine ourselves going high, we love to drop our many bombs on the heads of our various neighbors. We've been doing it for a very long time. Consider the Loudon Wainwright piece which appeared in Saturday's New York Times.

At one time, Wainwright was married to the late Kate McGarrigle. In our view, she and her sister, Anna McGarrigle, performed as the most wickedly funny feminist writers of all time.

They also performed as lovers of life and of living things. As we read Saturday's Times, we were struck by one selection in Wainwright's list of his "top ten protest songs:"
WAINWRIGHT (10/13/18): “Little Boxes:" In 1963, Pete Seeger had a folk hit with this Malvina Reynolds composition. It’s nursery-rhyme-like melody offers a tinkly condemnation of what used to be called middle-class conformity. Tom Lehrer considered it “the most sanctimonious song ever written,” but I like it. Kate and Anna McGarrigle recorded a fine French version, “Petites BoĆ®tes,” in 2001.
Say it isn't so! Our favorite duo recorded Little Boxes?

Little Boxes wasn't a classic "protest song." That said, it was, and is, a classic "liberal superiority" song.

It satirized an every-house-the-same housing development in Daly City, California, just south of San Francisco. Rather quickly, the lyrics offer this uplifting assessment of our friends and neighbors:
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there's doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.
Those Others! They were all made out of ticky-tacky and they all looked just the same!

This song was written in 1962. Already, we liberals were "going high" through popular lyrics like these.

True story! Two years earlier, at the age of 12, we had stayed in one of those little, fog-smothered houses in Daly City with our aunt and uncle as our family looked for a house after moving to California.

Were our aunt and our uncle, and our younger cousin, all made out of ticky-tacky too? In fairness, they hadn't gone to the university, so maybe they weren't included in this very typical high liberal "insult song."

(Just a guess. There weren't a lot of doctors, lawyers and business executives living in that modest, fog-smothered development. Those little boxes were very small. Did we mention that they were fog-smothered?)

We liberals! We've been insulting our lessers, The Others, for a very long time (and in an assortment of ways). But to the tune of The Baby Elephant Walk, we rational animals Over Here seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that we routinely do this.

We can see the dumb things The Others do. We can't seem to see the things we frequently do Over Here.

That said, The Others are able to hear the various things we say! To the tune of The Rational Animal Walk, this is one of the obvious ways we've managed to create our current debased situation.

What did we do on our autumn vacation? We also listened to NPR's Krista Tippett, whose sensibility we've admired for years.

Tippett's new episode was called Relationship Across Rupture. To the tune of The Potentially Educable Liberal Walk, let's start there tomorrow.

Also this: Wainwright wrote The Swimming Song. The McGarrigles perform it here.

A mission of national import!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2018

No fish today:
We're off on a mission of national import. We'll have no fish today.

We expect to post tomorrow or Monday. We return to full service on Tuesday.

BREAKING: What did Capito, Scott and Rubio think?

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2018

You saw no journalist ask:
Is it true, what sacred Aristotle is frequently said to have said? Can his paraphrased statement be true:

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?"

In fairness, it's hard to know what Aristotle meant by whatever it is he said. For all his greatness, he never learned English, and he lived at a different time and in a different place.

This means that even his most storied statements are subject to the vagaries of translation and to the misunderstandings endemic to cultural difference.

Sometimes, Aristotle made mistakes, as in his controversial statement about what all matter is made of. In this instance, we may not know what he actually meant by whatever it is he said. but we do know how the famous remark has been taken, at least in the western world.

Man [sic] is the rational animal! We humans have found a hundred ways to distinguish ourselves from the lesser animals, who either lack consciousness, or lack a soul, or just aren't as smart as we are.

The idea that we humans are "the rational animal" is part of this sweeping self-affirmation—though it increasingly seems that, in imagining ourselves this way, we're "seeing ourselves from afar."

Are we humans the rational animal? If we might borrow from NAME WITHHELD, in a sense, but not as such! What kind of animal are we really? We would suggest these ideas:
Homo sapiens, observed in the wild:
Man [sic] is the animal which divides itself into groups.
Man [sic] is the animal which invents and repeats tribal script.
How we love to do these things! Consider this morning's newspapers.

In this morning's Washington Post, Christine Emba complains about these all-too-human impulses. She discusses our love of tribal script in terms of thE recent academic hoax in which deliberately silly papers got published, and in terms of the recent fight over Christine Blasey Ford's charge against Brett Kavanaugh.

We can't say that we agree with all of Emba's assessments. In this passage, it seems to us that a category error may be lurking::
EMBA (10/11/12): In the battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, two tribes organized around closely held identities that relied on narrow preoccupations (liberals: “Believe women!”; conservatives: “Roe v. Wade!”). The dysfunction that followed was the result of straining to buttress those positions rather than seeking an actual common good—which is what, so I’ve heard, politics is actually for.
In this passage, Emba criticizes liberals for tilting toward an emerging tribal dogma which basically doesn't make sense. (Stating the obvious, there is no category of people who should be believed in every instance. Just consider Kathleen Willey, who pundits hailed as incredibly credible when she first appeared.)

Somewhat fuzzily, Emba pairs this emerging dogma with conservatives' devotion to a certain position regarding abortion. We're conventionally pro-choice ourselves, but strong adherence to a position on an issue would seem to differ from the adoption of an irrational dogma.

In that passage, we thought Emba was perhaps a bit unfair to conservatives. In this passage, she seems to tilt things the other way:
EMBA: [In the case of the academic hoax], supposedly rigorous journals on the left proved all too willing to accept any nonsense that aligned with their obsessions. Meanwhile, the researchers, attacking from the right, were willing to act unethically to get their “point” across. The end result? No truth gathered, no new knowledge shared. An exercise in cynicism rather than creation, sowing doubt about the academic enterprise in an era when truth and education are already under attack.
Emba assumes the hoaxers came "from the right," a claim they seem to dispute. She then says they acted unethically, and she says that, for this reason, no learning emerged from their work.

This strikes us as wrong in several ways. Regarding the hoax, we'd say a lot of knowledge emerged, as you can see from reading the first half of Emba's column!

We don't agree with elements of Emba's analysis, but we think she's squarely on target in her major point. She's describing our failed human nature, in which we tend to divide ourselves, in unhelpful, invidious ways, into unreasoning, warring tribes.

Do we humans really do such things? It's easy to see The Others when they engage in such conduct! If you want to see our own liberal tribe behaving this way, we'll suggest that you read an op-ed column in today's New York Times.

Online, the headlines say this:
Maybe Girls Will Save Us
They’ve eclipsed boys in political participation and shown incredible moral clarity.
That headline strikes us as amazingly dumb, and as deeply unwise in the political sense. But dear God! How we humans love love love to split ourselves into Us and Them, often on fairly narrow statistical distinctions drawn from certain selected studies.

Girls aren't going to save us! That said, if girls or any other group ever planned to do any such thing, they should have started in early 1992, when the New York Times launched a 26-year journalistic war with the first of its front-page Whitewater hoax reports.

Girls aren't going to save us! As long as we keep dividing ourselves in invidious ways, neither will anyone else.

It's also true that no particular group of people can always be believed. Meanwhile, we liberals are making The Others mad when we adopt such invidious attitudes and such dull-witted tribal beliefs.

In the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation, the New York Times "asked women across the country to tell us how they were reacting." For background, see yesterday's report.

The Times received 40,000 reactions. On some basis which went unexplained, the newspaper published eleven.

On a statistical basis, those eleven published reactions are representative of nothing. That said, we were struck by the several reactions in which women complained about the way our liberal tribe divides us up, in invidious ways, on the basis of gender and race and region and age and anything else we can find.

We'd have to say that those women have a point. Consider the way our corporate hacks behaved on corporate cable.

Again and again and again and again, our own tribe's corporate hacks on our own "corporate liberal" TV complained about the "old white men" who supported Kavanaugh in spite of Blasey Ford's accusation.

They also wondered about how Collins and Murkowski would be voting. They asked about this again and again and again and again. After that, they asked about it again, then they asked about it some more.

Members of our extremely prehuman tribe knew how to snark and complain about "old white men." They never asked about Senator Scott, a 53-year old Republican man who is socially defined as black. They never asked about Senators Rubio and Cruz, who are defined as Hispanic (each is 47).

They never asked about Senators Capito, Ernst, Hyde-Smith and Fischer, four other Republican women (average age: 59.5). They never asked about Senator Sasse (age 46), who spends a lot of time defining himself as a type of free-thinking free thinker.

All those Republican senators voted for confirmation. What did they think about Blasey Ford's claims? We never saw anyone ask!

Did they think Blasey Ford was lying? Did they think she was mistaken in the statement she advanced with 100 percent certainty? Did they think the march of time meant that her charge didn't matter even if true?

What exactly did they think? Nobody ever asked!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we humans just aren't very sharp. We've extremely good at praising ourselves and our own select groups, less skilled at everything else.

As we finish today's deep thoughts, let's add to our earlier definitions:

"Man" is the animal which divides into groups and plays it dumb all the way down!

Still coming: What did The Others actually think concerning Blasey Ford?