A question for the readership: How do y’all feel about this?
[Some Social Justice Rabbit confirming that she’s never read a seminal figure in her own putative field]
The political angle is obvious — as Wright points out, SJWs don’t create; they can only destroy. SJW “fiction” is just a giant mad lib — all the gay black differently-abled Hobbits gamboling through the Shire in search of the One True Hillary 2016 Campaign Button. The intellectual side is obvious, too — since they’ve limited themselves to only Goodthinkers with at least three Diversity boxes checked, they’re abysmally ignorant of 99.9998% of everything that has been done, thought, and said in the whole of human history.
But what about y’all, dear readers? What’s your opinion on “the classics”?
I have to make a confession: I don’t really read “the classics” either. As I am not a professional fiction writer, nor a Fan (Tru-, Wrong-, or otherwise), I find it sufficient, for cultural literacy purposes, to have heard of Jack Vance and possess a reasonable idea of what he’s about. If I’m in the market for a sci-fi book, I’m likelier to pick up one of his greatest hits than anything written in the last 30 years, but that’s true with just about any figure in any field (if it has been hyped in the last three decades, it is undoubtedly SJW tripe). But I don’t feel like an ignoramus because I haven’t read The Dying Earth cover to cover.*
And this extends even to things like philosophy. When I was in grad school, the hardcore kids all read Foucault and Lacan and Baudrillard and whatnot. In French. And they actually read Foucault — his original books, cover to cover. I just don’t see the point of this. For one, you can read him, if you must, in English. But you mustn’t. That is, there are a million Foucault for Dummies books out there that will give you everything you need to know, for all practical purposes.
Unless you’re a professional philosopher, engaging him on an arcane technical point of philosophy, I just don’t see the need to read him cover-to-cover at all.
The only quasi-exception is classic literature — much better to read Shakespeare than to read about him. But even here, a little judicious browsing is sufficient. Read a few of Donne’s sonnets, and you’ve got the Metaphysical Poets. Slog through a few lines of Essay on Man and you’ve got the Augustan Age. A little Rousseau will give you the Enlightenment in all its smug, smarmy, bloodthirsty glory, and a few of the Lyrical Ballads will give you everything you need to know about Romanticism. Read more of whatever appeals to you, but for pete’s sake don’t plow through The Collected Works of _____ because “it’s good for you.”
I think this is where a lot of conservatives go off the rails. Since all the rabbits can do is Disqualify, they immediately throw their five degrees in your face and start spouting jargon. But that’s actually all it is — jargon. Here’s a simple test: Can you explain what you mean without the jargon? Doctors, for instance, have a nearly impenetrable professional lingo, but they can tell you what they mean in plain English easily enough. A myocardial infarction is a heart attack; your distal phalanges are those little bones at the ends of your hands and feet. It’s easier to say “distal phalanges” than “those little bones at the ends of your hands and feet,” and that’s why docs use the term. But a term like “patriarchy,” now… what on earth does that mean? Heteronormative? Cisgender? To unpack “cisgender,” you need to know both “cis-” and “gender.” To unpack those, you have to start by assuming that the world really works the way the Wymyn’s Studies harpies say it does.
Any jargon that can’t be explained without reference to other jargon is just question-begging.
These days, a liberal-arts education is little more than learning how to spout the proper jargon. And that’s why you don’t really need “the classics.” Foucault is just a wannabe-Nietzsche who liked rough gay sex. Feminists are wannabe-Lenins whose only argument is “because vagina.” The only response you need to any of them is “I hear your buzzwords, and I disagree; the world doesn’t work like that.” And you’ll know, because you’ve read Marx for Dummies and Nietzsche for Dummies and you’ve seen the tiny grain of actual thought inside the lumpy, turd-colored pearl of SJW jargon.
There’s absolutely no shame, in other words, in not having read Aristotle’s Politics or The Critique of Pure Reason cover to cover. A) They haven’t either, and B) you’ve read the For Dummies version, which is more than they’ve done, and you actually know what you’re talking about. And if conservatives try to browbeat you for not having read The Collected Works of Hayek or whatever, well, the same rules apply. The chances are much higher that a conservative actually has read whatever he’s citing — we read; they don’t — but the principle remains the same. If you can’t summarize whichever idea of Hayek’s you’re trying to introduce into the debate in your own words, then the problem is you, you poseur.
That’s my take, anyway. What do y’all think?
*For the record, I actually did take a crack at The Dying Earth, which was four stories set in that world in an omnibus edition. I can see why people like it, but it’s not for me.