Leftism is Conspicuous Consumption

Via David Thompson, an excellent introduction to the reticulated nonsense on stilts that is graduate school:

I quickly learned that…many of my professors valued paradoxical and obscure arguments. And I got pretty good at making them. In an essay on Wallace Stevens, I concluded by asserting, “If everything is nothing, then that nothingness is everything. For poetry to encompass one, it encompasses the other. When Stevens’s mind of winter descends into the inescapable nothingness of his subjectivity, he has claimed for himself the totality of everything.” I don’t know what this means. But I wrote it and I was rewarded for it.

Every minute I spent in grad school, I wondered: Do professors really believe this shit?  I’m not talking anything so bourgeois as “the truth,” comrades; I’m talking about, do they really believe that the string of words “the inescapable nothingness of his subjectivity” means something?

If so, then they’re the worst teachers on the planet, as “the inescapable nothingness of his subjectivity” is gibberish to me, and I work here!  If it means something, I surely would’ve heard it by now….?

But if it doesn’t mean anything, then what’s the point?  Graduate school is not undertaken on a whim.  It’s long, it’s hard — well, ok, it’s time-consuming — and it’s expensive, in both real money and opportunity cost.  If the point is just to lob increasingly jargonated gibberish at each other, there are plenty of atheist discussion boards and PUA forums that will serve.  Y’all can trust me on this: Nobody — nobody — really understands Lacan, Derrida, Althusser, or the rest of the Froggy Incomprehensibles.  Nobody really understands Wallace Stevens either, for that matter.  That’s because there’s nothing to understand.  They are, as T.S. Eliot — no mean purveyor of gibberish himself — once put it, the hollow men:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Only after leaving grad school did I grasp it: The point of this stuff is conspicuous consumption.  All Leftism is.

We all know the Left has been bankrupt, in all senses but monetary, since the Sixties.  Everyone they once pretended to care about — the working class, the Negroes (as they then were), women, the handicapped, prisoners, the mentally ill — have proved, on closer inspection, to be repulsive.  Read any Leftist blog or Twitter feed for five minutes; the hate for everyone and everything outside of the author’s little slice of intersectional genderfluid heaven just drips off the screen.  As I’ve said here before, there are only two options when the souls you’ve set out to save turn your stomach: You can embrace the toilet, or aestheticize it.  Old-school Commies went with door #1, which is why old-school Commies acted like drunk longshoremen and looked like them, too:


Behind door #2, though, life is good.  The inhabitants generally aren’t much more attractive  — Emma Goldman up there actually looks pretty good compared to a typical Wymyn’s Studies prof — but the environment can’t be beat.  Nowhere is life cleaner, easier, safer, and whiter than the faculty ghetto in an upscale college town.  But… Isn’t this the very life that grubby bourgeois wannabes strive for?  There’s no sense in renovating a charming little four-bed, three-and-a-half bath Colonial in a good school district if your next door neighbor is something gauche, like a software engineer or a plumber, i.e. the rude mechanicals you’re ideologically supposed to love, but actually loathe for their apelike attachment to things like guns, NASCAR, and Jesus.

Hence the jargonized marxoblather.  Your plumber may lead a material existence little different from your own — he might even drive a slightly nicer car, and none of his fixtures leak — but he has to work for it, the poor dumb bastard.  With his hands.  He simply doesn’t have the free time to plow through the prose of a Certified Genius of Colour like Homi Bhabha:

If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.

This is virtue-signaling of the highest order.  Not only does it say “I am an enlightened being who knows what ‘enunciatory modality’ means,” it says, furthermore, “I am the kind of person who deals with enunciatory modalities daily.  Anybody can unclog a toilet; it takes long years of very expensive training to learn to write a sentence where you can’t even identify the fucking main verb on the first read-through.”

Seen as conspicuous consumption, all the PoMo Left’s attitudes make sense.  They love trannies, for instance, because they — the trannies — are so elaborately, baroquely useless.  If I had the kind of time and money to burn that this organism (eye bleach warning!) must have in order to maintain its fantasy existence, I’d be well on my way to owning a pro football team.  And so on down the line: The “wingless golden-skinned dragonkin” who got James Damore fired care more about fucking pronouns in a single day than I’ve cared about anything, collectively, in my entire life.  Time is the most precious commodity of all; an ocean of gold won’t buy you a single second more.  Spending all that time worrying about intersectionality tells the world that you’re incalculably rich, without having anything so vulgar as bling to wave around.

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11 thoughts on “Leftism is Conspicuous Consumption

  1. Anonymous White Male

    It has always amused me that liberals, well, all human beings really, follow the rule of the Emperor’s New Clothes. For America, the Emperor’s New Clothes usually came from Europe. America has only been post-agrarian for a relatively short period of time. Farmers are noted for their pragmatic common sense. Europe was America’s big brother and America always watched what Europe did and emulated it. Understandably. Whether it was art, music, philosophy, or science, America had to have the next new thing. This was fine, until the late 19th century. Music became structured noise. Philosophy became more and more abstract and the Germans created philosophical treatises that were judged, not by how insightful they were, but by the word count. By the 20th century, art began to be about who could be the most shocking. Finally, science began to become a priesthood, a priesthood that could be bought with awards and grant money. However, the Emperor’s New Clothes finally jumped the shark with the French in the mid-20th century. Not surprising, since the French were, if nothing else, vain and considered themselves the source of all that is avant-garde. The rest of the world accepted this perception and made pilgrimage to the City of Lights to marinade in the French experience. Women took French in school because it was the language of “romance”. Is there a more feminine language than French? Maybe, but feminine languages are like females. Irrational, and not based in reality. You can almost trace the death of masculinity in France to the same time that the French went from the “Grande Armée” to “Don’t shoot! I surrender!”

    But, is there really anything more ridiculous than Sartre, Camus, Foucault, and Lacan, to name a handful of French “intellectuals”? This “intellectual” solipsism was adopted by French cinema, which gave us one movie more tedious than the previous one. Movies where conversations are supposed to be enlightened, but where the quiet moments were supposed to explain the pathetic characters based on their facial expressions and invisible thoughts. In other words, like all “performance art”, the audience does all the work and decides what the presentation really means. Fortunately, the day of French influence on culture is over. No one really pays attention to what the French think anymore. And France is one of the 4 major suicidal European players that are submitting to their own conquest. Unfortunately, they had already infected the world with their ennui and self-absorption. Hopefully, Western Civilization will find their balls again and begin to say, “Hey, the Emperor is naked!”

  2. RRW


    You are in fine form today. I wish that I could build upon your observations, but all I can summon is “Amen”.

  3. Al from da Nort

    Very interesting insight. Happened right before my eyes, little by little, but I never saw it clearly until you mentioned it. It passes my test of an actually useful social science theory: Before it is laid out nobody could articulate it clearly. Afterwards, everybody knew it all along because it was so obvious.

    As a closely related example, IIRC, there was a pre-PC sociology book called something like The Preindustrial City which, possibly unknowingly, clearly articulated why the 3rd world was the 3rd world and why it’s likely to stay that way. Specifically, the author cited lots of cross-cultural instances that had in common the absolute abhorrence that the elite and the aspiring minuscule middle class of non-European civilized cultures had for any sort of work that actually could bring industrialization and prosperity simply because to do so involved trade or manual effort. They would rather starve as a government clerk than ever be so degraded as to have dirt under their fingernails by starting a factory. They would go to absurd lengths, particularly in old China (foot binding, foot long fingernails, floor sweeping robes, etc., to demonstrate that they couldn’t *possibly* do any manual work, ever. This had the effect of warehousing the ‘talented fraction’ in useless occupations for reasons of prestige.

    And so to look at present academia like that suddenly makes all the sense in the world. It’s all about maintaining Mandarin status and not much else.

    Ah, but the steppe tribes are gathering on the other side of the Great Wall.

  4. thor47

    That ” ruse of reality ” paragraph is why I never could return to college and study English Lit or philosophy. After hearing/reading something like that, it took all I could do not say comment in a discussion, ” Sound like bull. . .t to me. “

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  6. Windy Wilson

    In May 1914 Charles M. Russell, the famous Montana cowboy artist, was in England to sell his paintings and take in some European art. He wrote to a friend back in Montana that he went to a futurist show and saw a painting that “Looked like an enlarged slice of spoilt summer sausig (sic) The museum docent said (according to Russell) “This is not the disintegration of simultaneousness, but dynamic dynamism.”, which has about as much relation to real meaning as David Thompson’s excerpt above.
    Academic gibberish has an old, if not respected history. and it seems to have started in Europe, where the newly rich American captains of industry sent their sons and daughters, because ‘” they do things better there.”

    1. Windy Wilson

      Also, there’s the phenomenon of professors saying they never had to work a day in their lives, and the appearance in the 1970’s of books such as “This Beats Working For a Living”, and “Never at a Loss for an Opinion”, both by “Professor X”

      1. Severian Post author

        The thing is, legitimate academic work — yes, even in the Humanities — IS hard. It’s hour after hour, week after week, month after month in the archives, and most days you don’t get anything but eyestrain and an oxycontin-level crick in your neck. So, to make tenure, you could do all that….

        …or you could just make up some MOPE horseshit, deck it out in $20 words, and roll that way.

    2. Severian Post author

      Yeah, it’s been going on for at least a century. I forget the names, but both an “artist” and a “poet” were invented in the 1920s to make fun of this gibberish (I think TS Eliot got sucked in by the “poet”).

      In my proudly philistine opinion, all nonrepresentational art is crap. If it doesn’t look like what it looks like, it’s a con.

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