Faculty Lounge Follies

Nate Winchester sends along a fun article from Breitbart, comparing Obama to Woodrow Wilson.  It’s worth a read on a lot of levels, not least as a reminder of just how fuckin’ old the new hotness of Progressivism actually is.  Spare a moment of  pity for all those poor college kids, whose $40,000 per year “education” has convinced them Bernie Sanders’s “party like it’s 1909” platform is a radical new innovation.

It’s also worth noting, as the Breitbart piece really doesn’t, how much the farcical nature of Obama’s secondhand Wilsonianism represents the decay of American academic life.  Let’s hop in the wayback machine and set course for the middle of the 19th century….

Woodrow Wilson was born in 1856, just as what you might call “liberal imperialism” was just cranking up.  Educated opinion on the darker races was undergoing a seismic shift.  In British India, for example, the 1857 Mutiny led to the Government of India Act of 1858, replacing the East India Company’s old smash-and-grab system with the Indian Civil Service.  In attitude, if not in practice, the British ran the post-Mutiny Raj like a vast social uplift scheme — the goal, as Macaulay put it, was to transform the people of the Subcontinent into “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

The problem with this, of course, is that it makes the Empire not just pointless, but evil.  When India becomes macro-Britain, what possible justification can the Queen have for retaining the jewel in her crown?* But that would only be a problem several generations down the line.  For the time being, the pukka sahibs of the ICS could enjoy all the lifestyle benefits of imperialism, and the preening goodfeelz of helping the congenitally helpless.

American “Progressive” attitudes towards blacks worked the same way.  Woodrow Wilson regarded blacks as inferior.  That is to say, he had the typical attitude of his time and class.  Instead of benevolent imperialism, though, American Progressives looked to socialism for their salvation.  Just as the ICS would eventually produce a race of Indian Englishmen, so the benevolent managerialism of guys like Wilson would eventually produce white Negroes… but in the meantime, before that blessed day arrived, one didn’t have to interact with those people as anything but a benefits-dispensing demigod.  It’s self-serving, of course — and it’s worth noting that Soviet propaganda harped on Jim Crow as an inevitable effect of capitalism from the beginning — but it’s not self-contradictory.  Self-defeating, sure…. but not logically impossible, and in the meantime one could make quite a nice living as a court intellectual to the mission civilisatrice.

Modern intellectual discourse on race, though, is painfully unpossible.  Whereas guys like Wilson could — in theory, at least — imagine a time when there would be only one big multi-hued White race, modern academics face a contradiction from the get-go.  As anyone who has spent five minutes on the internet knows, our “Progressives” believe — simultaneously — that

  • there is no such thing as race, and
  • race is the only thing that matters.

And thus the gruesome farce of Rachel Dolezal, where the race-is-just-a-social-construction-Left tied itself in knots explaining how race is not, and can never be, a social construction when a pasty-white honky chick “primarily of Czech, German and Swedish origin,” as the good Lefties at Wikipedia put it, socially constructs herself as a Negress for fun and profit.

I want to repeat this:  You will never, ever get a job in academia — even in the hard sciences — if you do not subscribe to the orthodoxy that race is a social construction.  Simultaneously, the fastest way to become an unperson on campus is to wonder why, if that’s the case, African-American Studies departments exist, except maybe as training grounds for the Rachel Dolezals of the future.  You must, in other words, be able to grok this:

pathanthroIt’s not a challenge most of us can rise to, and it takes many, many years in grad school to keep your head from exploding.**

That‘s the milieu in which President Obama spent his formative years.  Wilson, for all his faults, didn’t believe a manifest impossibility; Obama started with an obvious contradiction and just kept digging.  As Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire, and other badthinkers have argued in detail, Obama’s struggle with His “blackness” has been the organizing motif of his life.  Like his fellow hustlers Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright, et al, he can’t pour milk on his corn flakes without noting that milk is white.

All of which explains, I think, Obama’s otherwise baffling policies on…. well, on just about everything.  Just as Wilsonianism only makes sense if you assume that Wilson really was that naive thanks to a lifetime’s cloistering in academia, so Obama’s lunatic grab bag of self-contradictory nonsense falls into place if you accept that, thanks to his academic training, he really can take both sides of an argument.  He organizes his whole day around sticking it to Whitey, yet spends all his mental capital arguing, Macaulay-style, that he’s really uplifting us for our own benefit.



*Which is the problem with Macaulay’s baby, the Whig Interpretation of History, in general.  Indeed it’s the basic problem of all social uplift schemes, Karl Marx’s most definitely included — what happens to the uplift bureaucracy when they finally complete their mission?  Given a choice between the end of poverty and continued employment as poverty-eradicators, it’s only human for most people to choose the latter… which is of course why the vanguard of the proletariat never gets around to laying down its privileges. And, of course, Karl Marx was a vicious critic of Whig History in general and Macaulay in particular.  As everyone but leftists knows, we don’t hate people who are radically different from us; we save our hottest ire for people who share all our basic assumptions, but run them in a sliiiiiiiightly different direction.

** Hey, maybe that explains the characteristic liberal smirk?  It’s not that they’re self-righteous assholes puffed up from being educated way past their hat size — well, it’s not just that — but rather, that’s the only way to hold their face muscles to keep their brains from leaking out their ears.

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