Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The moral courage of Brave Sir Rod and The Last Man

I touched on this post in a comment exchange with Pik, below, but I think another commenter exchange deserves its own post for showcasing a moral cowardice so profoundly congenital that it's become completely transparent to its utterly obtuse host.

In the post Help! Help! They’re Not Being Oppressed!, Rod tells us that the PEN writer's group is being a bunch of ninnies for feeling chilled from writing because of the NSA, concluding:

Please. Such self-important drama. I could be wrong here, but I think that anything not written by a contemporary American writer because he is afraid of the NSA is not something society will suffer from not having. If fear of the NSA prevents, say, Alice Walker from bloviating about cultural politics, well, that’s a point in the NSA’s favor.

Besides which, if you are so afraid of the NSA that you don’t write a book or give a speech on something that matters to you as a writer, the most useful thing someone can say to you is: Nut up.

An important (because it's in all caps, bolded) UPDATE tasks us to go that extra intellectual distance that Dreher has made his hallmark and wonder

UPDATE: In fact, if you think about it, who is more at risk of having her writing career damaged by something she was written: an American writer who publishes a book or article highly critical of the US national security establishment, or an American writer who publishes a book or article highly critical of gay rights, or progressive feminist and racial orthodoxies? Would your career be more in danger as a writer for defending Edward Snowden, or Pope Benedict XVI?

Commenter Andy, however, takes issue and points out

The comparison in your UPDATE: is complete nonsense. Nobody was asserting that writers were afraid that the NSA would hurt their careers. They are afraid of the NSA period. So it’s irrelevant to start with.

It’s also apples and oranges. On one hand we have a government leveraging their authority to do something (what isn’t exactly clear; just spy on the writer extra hard i guess) because they are upset by what someone has written. On the other hand you have a writer not being successful because they write things that are very unpopular. How are those the same?

Writing in favor of traditional subjugation of women, gays, and minorities isn’t bad for your career becuase of some conspiracy. It’s bad for your career because it grosses out an extremely large number of people. You are smart enough to see which way the wind is blowing. I can respect you for spitting into it anyway on principal, but whining about it is just pathetic.

But, uh-oh, Andy...checkmate! Rod thinks he has him here and crawls up belly to belly inside his comment sweater to confront him face to face:

[NFR: "Traditional subjugation," eh? You make my point for me: it is far riskier for a writer to take positions opposed to the progressive cultural orthodoxies of the institutions -- academic, media, publishing, etc. -- that she depends on for her livelihood than it would be to oppose the government. That you imagine the only threat to one's livelihood and creative freedom coming from the government is pretty naive. -- RD]

The threat to one's livelihood and creative freedom. From the progressive cultural orthodoxies. Of, like, the publishing marketplace.

But, ummm...

Isn't the whole point of having principles, particularly those religious moral principles Dreher so frequently and ostentatiously reminds us make up his very being one of being rooted in and guided by something more stern and demanding of the self than the sugar snacks of mere convenience, expediency, and the sense of entitlement to the sort of easy life comforts Earl Butz once vulgarly characterized as "loose shoes, tight pussy, and a warm place to shit" in the racist remark that got him fired way back when?

One really has to wonder what a founding Christian martyr, even an early run-of-the-mill follower would make of the NFR above:

Roddus Tummius: "That you imagine the only threat to one's livelihood and creative freedom coming from the Romans is pretty naive, Petra. What do you really expect a wannabe Christian scribe like me to do about the progressive cultural orthodoxies of the Parchment Guild? Do you really expect me to risk being reduced to begging for scraps of stringy aged goat instead of dining on young Spring lamb as I am accustomed?"

If one really has and holds to principles rather than to lifestyle expediencies and really has and holds to the moral courage to speak up and out for them, one does so without regard for whatever relative discomforts or other hazards might be the price of doing so. Period. If not, one is trading in the public square in cheap brass plate, not in the gold so valorously but falsely advertised.

Sorry, Rod. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no cultural or vocational welfare "set-aside" for principle - anyone's principles - of the sort you implicitly seek. Either one is a man of principle and one sneers (even understandingly) when one hears someone whining that standing up for one's principles might involve discomfort, even hardship - or one is simply something else entirely. Can't be both, much as anyone might want to.

But, huh. What could this loose shoes, non-principled something else Rod is actually embodying turn out to be?

Oh, I know! I know! I knew this NFR reminded me of something I'd heard somewhere before.


Lo! I show you the Last Man.

"What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?" -- so asks the Last Man, and blinks.

The earth has become small, and on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest.

"We have discovered happiness" -- say the Last Men, and they blink.

They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one's neighbor and rubs against him; for one needs warmth.

Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or men!

A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end for a pleasant death.

One still works, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.

One no longer becomes poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wants to rule? Who still wants to obey? Both are too burdensome.

No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wants the same; everyone is the same: he who feels differently goes voluntarily into the madhouse.

"Formerly all the world was insane," -- say the subtlest of them, and they blink.

They are clever and know all that has happened: so there is no end to their derision. People still quarrel, but are soon reconciled -- otherwise it upsets their stomachs.

They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.

"We have discovered happiness," -- say the Last Men, and they blink.

Nut up, Rod.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Do you have a Miss Piggy?

Awesome Blues Brothers mall chase reenactment.

Hat tip goes to the G-File for providing this link.