Saturday, September 12, 2015

stuff for the weekend (i.e. links) a general theme of rich white women writers, ruminating on class disparity, second wave feminism, and the curation of childhood by status-conscious adults

Lawrence Krauss at the New York declares "All Scientistis Should Be Militant Atheists"

from the same magazine, The War on Sugar, which may be the newest dietary scapegoat for American failures to embrace a balanced diet and exercise lifestyle.

Even though Mark Driscoll once tweeted "No one ever made a monument to a critic." D. G. Hart over at Old Life is observing that it's the anniversary of the birth of famous critic H. L. Menkcen today. So, of course, Hart has blogged a little bit about it here.

Thanks to the friends at Mockingbird, here's "The decline of play in pre-schools and the rise of sensory issues".
Like many other American parents, I had an obsession: academic success for my child. Only, I was going about it completely wrong. Yes, my daughter would later go on to test above average with her academic skills, but she was missing important life skills. Skills that should have been in place and nurtured during the preschool years. My wake-up call was when the preschool teacher came up to me and said, “Your daughter is doing well academically. In fact, I’d say she exceeds expectations in these areas. But she is having trouble with basic social skills like sharing and taking turns.” Not only that, but my daughter was also having trouble controlling her emotions, developed anxiety and sensory issues, and had trouble simply playing by herself!

Lo and behold, there's also this piece over at Jacobin "The Privitization of Childhood", with a subtitle "Childhood has become a period of high-stakes preparation for life in a stratified economy." Of course, it's Jacobin. :)  And as with a Doug Wilson post from time to time it's not possible for there to be an article in Jacobin not framed in terms of class warfare.

Through the consciousness-raising of second-wave feminism, the joys and struggles of parenting have been brought from the privacy of the home into the fore of public life with eager irreverence.

The young children of the wealthy are increasingly diverse portfolios of applications to private schools, enrichment classes, play dates, and nanny shares. These little Einsteins go on to attend prestigious high schools and Ivy League colleges. But it starts in preschool.

A whole culture has risen around the cultivation of the child into a successful adult, equipped for the global economy. Its language is English plus Spanish or Mandarin; its literature is the mommy blog.
Working-class children, on the other hand, are objects of suspicion defined by what is perceived, within the economic superstructure, as a lack — of high-enough test scores, of self-confidence, or the inclination and facility to self-regulate behavior.

Childhood is now a curated experience for the rich, and a desperate challenge full of lotteries and high stakes for the middle-class and working-class families who aspire toward upward mobility. But it is not a particularly pleasurable one anymore. [emphasis added]

and it might come with sensory integration issues now, in some cases.

This in term, reminds me of Hanna Rosin's "The Patriarchy" is Not to Blame for Your Juice Cleanse.
I am a rich white lady. So are the people responding to me. Rich white ladies are generally the ones who bother with feminist showdowns. We rich white ladies get very worked up about our own can-we-have-it-all concerns: how hard it is to make it to the top, how much harder it is to do that and raise a family. These are real problems that affect real power dynamics. But they are only urgent to a small percentage of people. And for the most part, they tend to blind us to the vast changes happening in the rest of the country.

Rosin took some time to observe that the women who seemed most likely to complain about the patriarchy via website writing had the socio-economic luxury to do so.  And, of course this is something she's written quite a bit since the Mancession. Paradoxically the women least able to abide the notion that patriarchy as it has appeared in feminist discourse has been on decline have not been working class women "in the college, professional class" Slate.
But most of the resistance to the idea that men have ceased to be the dominant sex has come from women—not from working-class women, who seem to find what I’m describing painfully familiar, if not totally obvious, but from women in the college, professional class. ...

... as I sat through the conference, I realized that the study of inequality has an occupational hazard: After decades of looking for certain patterns, they may become all you can see. The phenomenon reminds me of the famous study in which researchers asked subjects viewing a video clip to count how many times basketball players wearing a certain color shirt passed a ball. A giant gorilla walked across the screen in the course of the video, but many subjects failed to see it, so focused were they on the patterns they’d been instructed to watch. 

Rich white women with progressive sympathies who are curating the childhoods of their offspring may feel a great deal of perfectionist pressure but the extent to which they are victims of the patriarchy ... well ... compared to all the people who never finished high school or went to college people who live in New york and/or write for Slate can look like fat cats in the big city.  Rosin pointing this out did not necessitate her being considered a traitor to feminism.

Then again Joan Didion, absolutely no one's idea of a feminist, has been writing over the last decade or so about things like politics.  Back to the New Yorker, Louis Menand has written about Didion's shifts on politics and class over the decades.  Didion famously wrote that by 1970ish the rhetoric and ideals of what has been dubbed second wave feminism treated the drudgeries of married life as if it were imprisonment and that the drudgery of married life was held in contrast to fantasies of self-realization Didion regarded, literally, as juvenile.  Didion declared that the women's movement had ceased being a cause and had become a symptom.  So it's fun this weekend to cycle through a Jacobinian observation that childhood has become a status game of affluent parents curating the experiences of their children for participation in future economic life.

Menand describes Didion as coming around to rejecting the pioneer/wagon train mythology of California in favor of a story in which California has come to exist through federal subsidization.

After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.

Big business had always run California. First, there were the ranches, then the corporate agribusinesses, and then, after the Second World War, the aeronautics industry, Boeing and Douglas, Lockheed and Rockwell. Defense contracts and government-funded infrastructure kept these businesses flush. Everyone else was a pawn in the game, living in a fantasy of hardy individualism and cheering on economic growth that benefitted only a few.

As big business goes, Menand advises against framing debates over intellectual property in terms of philosophical arguments. It's not really a battle for artists getting compensated for their work so much as a battle between two types of industries
At bottom, the argument about copyright is not really a philosophical argument. It’s a battle between interest groups. Baldwin points this out—although, like everyone who takes a position on copyright, he also thinks that his is the philosophically defensible one. In the copyright wars, there are many sets of opposing stakeholders. Much litigation involves corporate entities, which have the financial resources to pursue cases through the courts. In these copyright battles, the main antagonists are the businesses that own copyrighted goods and the businesses that don’t.

Let’s call the first type of business Hollywood and the second type Silicon Valley. Hollywood, along with the music industry and the publishing industry, which are the other major analog-era corporate interests, makes money by producing and distributing content. Silicon Valley makes money by aggregating other people’s content. Hollywood fears pirates; Silicon Valley fears paywalls. Silicon Valley accuses Hollywood of “monopoly” and “artificial scarcity,” and talks about the democracy of the Internet. Hollywood accuses Silicon Valley of “free riding” and “contributory infringement, ” and talks about protecting the dignity of the artist. But each side is only trying to defend its business model. [emphasis added]

Freelancers versus salaried content creators is another interest-group antagonism. Most of the people who are critical of the length of copyright protection today are academics. (Patry is an exception, but he’s the senior copyright counsel at Google.) This is probably not unrelated to the fact that academics have almost no financial stake in copyright. The research and writing they do is part of their job as employees of universities, or as the recipients of external, usually taxpayer supported grants. They don’t depend on sales to survive.

Freelancers, on the other hand, are unhappy with what they regard as the erosion of their right to control copying, which they see, for example, in the legally sanctioned practice of posting “snippets” on sites like Amazon, iTunes, and Google Books. Musicians and other artists tend to regard the Internet as a place where anything goes, an ungovernable Barbary Coast. On the Web, the general rule—known as a “take-down notice”—is that you can post almost anything as long as you take it down when the rights holder complains. No harm, no foul. There are some technical preconditions that the poster has to meet to earn the protection, but this does not seem to freelancers to be a very effective way to discourage copying.
Put that way, it's never been about philosophy as financial interests.  Or as Jonathan Haidt's axiom puts it, the decision based on an intuition comes first and the rationalizations purporting to be compelling and coherent philosophical arguments come later. The way Menand presents the situation there aren't, and even can't be, "good guys" here. When the side that owns the copyrights seems to monopolize and the side that innovates distribution seeks to gain control of access there's not a team out for "the little guy".  Maybe you've seen people writing about how Apple's incentive and end-game is to get people to keep buying hardware. So long as they've done that what they pay in artist royalties is something to think about later. Not even the best-staged publicity gambit of a Taylor Swift will change that.

If Hanna Rosin still wonders how well-off white women who make their livings as writers in New York can see themselves as victims of patriarchy ... someone at the Atlantic recently wrote ...


Per their discipline, the sociologists offer structural explanations for why college students are addressing conflicts within the framework of “microaggressions.” Victimhood culture “arose because of the rise of social conditions conducive to it,” they argue, “and if it prevails it will be because those conditions have prevailed.”  

Those social conditions include the following:

  • Self-help in the form of dueling or fighting is not an option.
  • “The availability of social superiors—especially hierarchical superiors such as legal or private administrators—is conducive to reliance on third parties.”
  • Campaigns aimed at winning over the support of third parties are likeliest to occur in atomized environments, like college campuses, where one cannot rely on members of a family, tribe or clan to automatically take one’s side in a dispute.
  • Since third-parties are likeliest to intervene in disputes that they regard as relatively serious, and disputes where one group is perceived as dominating another are considered serious by virtue of their aggregate relevance to millions of people, victimhood culture is likeliest to arise in settings where there is some diversity and inequality, but whose members are almost equal, since “a morality that privileges equality and condemns oppression is most likely to arise precisely in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality.”  
This interesting theory offers a lot of fodder for reflection––indeed, it is broader in scope and more nuanced in its particulars than I’ve been able to convey in this article, and interested readers should read Jonathan Haidt’s treatment for more detail.

I ponder microaggressions as “a form of social control in which the aggrieved collect and publicize accounts of intercollective offenses, making the case that relatively minor slights are part of a larger pattern of injustice and that those who suffer them are socially marginalized and deserving of sympathy,” I certainly see their emergence on college campuses, but I wonder about other possible iterations.

For example, the emergence of “the blogosphere” in the early aughts––something I participated in to some extent–– was rife with examples of conservative, progressive, and libertarian bloggers calling attention to minor slights against their respective ideological groups by mainstream media outlets. In “Fisking” the MSM, the aggrieved seized on these slights, often exaggerating them in the process; tried to garner the support of third parties (an ombudsman, the public at large); cast themselves as victims of unfair treatment; and demonized adversaries.

While exploring the last decade and half of blogosphere activity as part of the emergence of a culture of victimhood could be a fascinating project to blog about there's other stuff a person can do over a weekend.

So, anyway, there's some links for the weekend. There's some musical review stuff I hope to get to in the next few days since there's a new album of music by Ferdinand Rebay out through Eudora Records which I've been listening to in the last week and a half, sonatas for violin and guitar and a sonata for viola and guitar.

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