Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We're not sexist;
just discriminating.

Brilliant book. In case we never said that before.

MASTERPIECE OR FAKE? We've registered our disappointment and disapproval of Camille Paglia before. Not because we think she's a mediocrity, but because we know she can do better than she did, for example, here.

Truth is, she's a national treasure. Her book Sexual Personae was stunningly innovative, insightful, detailed, and illuminating. Everyone who cares about art, culture, and civilization should read it. Even though she used the word 'chthonic' too much. What she did in this monumental work was describe the enormous creativity and power of male mentality in creating civilization, art, and religion in the first place. And I refuse to make Lesbian jokes. In my opinion -- and that matters to some of you or it doesn't -- she's one of the great intellects of our age. Everything you think about the history of civilization will be changed by a reading of her book.

And then, of course, she became a celebrity. Essays and pontifications about Madonna, etc. Predictably tedious pronouncements about politics. Enough to make one tired. BUT. If I had to pick one woman celebrity to talk to it would be Camille Paglia. Her column in Salon today is proof. She's ninety five percent on the mark in what she says, and the five percent that's not is what I think we all desperately need to understand about the Obama cult. Bear in mind that I'm quoting one of the only things in her remarkably candid Q&A piece that I have a problem with, but I do have a problem with it. Here it is:

Dear Camille,

I am amazed at the easy pass you still give the Obama administration. You continue to excuse his blunders and misses as the result of a lack of experience and bad advisors.

Many of Obama's policies have been a scary continuation of the worst ideas of the last year of the Bush administration, while undoing some of the few things they got right.

You have been hitting that note about the need to shake up his staff for quite a while. Yet isn't it true that people tend to surround themselves with like minds? You said recently that "I am hopeful that he will rid himself soon of these simplistic anti-American clichés." Has it occurred to you that maybe that is just who he is and the people he surrounds himself with are just a reflection of himself?

I see Obama and his presidency as the crowning of the ideas of that northeastern liberal aristocracy you so much criticize. He appears to me as a cliché of all their pathologies, and yet you seem infatuated with him. You continually praise his speech and demeanor while to me it seems like a mask for his lack of substance. I find him to be a man of an oversized ego, with a messianic complex and a cult-like following, which would not be so scary if he didn't wear the media as his own personal lap dog.

As a person born and raised in Latin America who studies history as a hobby, I can't help but see President Obama as the closest thing we have had in this country to the long line of populist leaders who have been the scourge of Latin America for decades and sent many of us here into exile. He is not a Chavez-like figure who uses vulgarity and threats as a weapon but a more sophisticated version of a young Peron.

Hermes Diaz


Yes, ever since week one of the Obama administration, I have been doggedly calling for heads to roll. As months of crass ineptitude drag on, however, the blacklist of those who should be tagged for the guillotine gets longer and longer. The most recent fiasco, of course, was sending the president of the United States on a humiliating fool's errand to beg for the Olympics as a Chicago boondoggle. I cheered when splendiferous Rio de Janeiro rightfully got the gig.

You are correct to argue that the cluster of appointees around a person in power reflects his or her belief system and modus operandi. However, it is a mark of leadership to recognize the need for professional evolution beyond an old comfort zone. Obama is approaching a turning point which will define his political future, if he has one. He is surrounded by some mighty small potatoes who need shoveling into the dumpster. The petty provincials need to go, and far more sophisticated and world-savvy analysts must urgently be brought on board.

Opponents of Obama are perplexed by the disconnect in polling between Americans' rejection of Obama's policies and his personal popularity. Count me among those who are very critical of many of Obama's actions or evasions but who continue to like him and to believe in his potential as a world leader. It's true he has accomplished nothing thus far and did not remotely deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, a gift carrying a terrible curse. The Nobel should have been the crown of Obama's career and not the butt of jokes. Yet the award has tangible significance insofar as Obama has endorsed the humanistic (if unrealistic) dream of a world without nuclear weapons. The lion may never lie down with the lamb, but politics will always be mired in seething, selfish squalor unless idealistic leaders appeal to our higher nature. [boldface added]

It's unfair to Paglia to pinion her on this one point exclusively (yeah, read the whole thing, seriously; you'll love most of it...) but it's the one vital point.

I actually have a theory about Paglia's blind spot, and I'm interested in what the rest of you think about how that might relate to all the other dupes in the American intelligentsia.

It's clear that Paglia's bias is toward art, performance, and symbolism. That's why she shares our own unabashed admiration for William Blake. I believe she's so infatuated with Obama as a symbol, indeed his esthetically perfect manifestation as a symbol of messianic African-American resurrection, that she can't bear to let go of her artistic vision of him even though the rest of her senses and brains are telling her he's a (pun intended) bust.

What's interesting is how many of her own criteria Obama violates. He's not a man's man, which she routinely calls for in her commentary on the popular culture. There's no standard she's ever offered that would classify Obama as 'educated.' He's a lawyer. Ugh. His taste in art is polluted, shallow, and political. His wife is a dimwit slug who leans heavily and chthonically (yeah!) on her husband. By Paglia's own standards, Obama is a pussy-whipped nonentity, which she usually has no patience with. In fact, her allegiance to him belongs to the realm of the chthonic (we're actually starting to get into this), that swamp of femaleness which has tended throughout history to swallow reason in favor of emotional urges which routinely drown civilization in irrational tides of instinct.

The swamp is where most of the media are wallowing. Can you smell it? And what does that tell us about the state of our nation? [Discuss.]

On the whole we think it's nice that Camille Paglia is still a woman. Some things are eternal. But we also think a person of her intellectual heft should be able to back off for the necessary instant of recognition and see that Obama is not a symbol but a very poor and ill-equipped president of the United States -- at a time when we need a competent president of the United States.

Enough. Here's a YouTube video of an American superstar we share Paglia's enthusiasm for (referenced movingly in her post), even though everyone has mostly forgotten her. We love Jean Seberg. She did the French the way Obama can only wish he could do the French...

C'est la guerre. That's French for "screw all the fruity Euro-trash." Or something.

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