Culture and Chaos, linking for thinking

There is no redemption from the original sin of being white. Not much for being male, either.

I happen to be reading (and misunderstanding my way through) Matthew ARnold’s Culture and Anarchy right now, so stumbling over this article on culture and cultural critics was serendipitous.
“Matthew Arnold, a poet-essayist like Dr Johnson, was perhaps the first modern cultural critic in English. In Culture and Anarchy he defined the key word as “being a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world”; he felt the fragility of civilisation, and sweepingly labelled the British middle classes Philistines and the aristocrats Barbarians. In the corpus of Victorian poetry his  “Dover Beach” seems arrestingly modern. In fact the lines “And we are here as on a darkling plain . . . Where ignorant armies clash by night” could have been written yesterday. In this gloomy lyric, written about 60 years before the First World War, he was facing the religious, philosophical and cultural uncertainties of Europe.

Nonetheless, as a hard-working writer and inspector of schools, he embodied “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”. He was remarkable for the extent of his reading across the cultures of Europe, the depth of his perceptions, his engagement with society, and the eloquence of his expression. He felt that the poet had a special insight into the heart of a civilisation. Do any contemporary poets feel the same? Or do we now turn for this to novelists? Is it possible that we are not sure where the heart of our civilisation is? It was he, incidentally, who inaugurated with the scientist T.H. Huxley the “two cultures” debate in its modern form.”

Elsewhere I have recently written (though perhaps in a post-dated post) on how culture even determines the things you notice. What I notice Arnold saying about culture most often, is that its purpose is “to diffuse sweetness and light, to make reason and the will of God prevail.”

Our culture has been harping on privilege lately to the point that it’s a tired, hackneyed, tattered slur that even some on the left are tired of;
In the privilege hierarchy, white privilege — the economic, political, cultural and safety benefits accruing to those displaying the simple trait of whiteness — is first among unequals, though privilege is also identified and decried based on gender, education, sexual orientation, class, wealth and able-bodiedness. “Check your privilege” and “Your privilege is showing” are by now nearly cliched attacks against those deemed insufficiently aware of accidental blessings. And those lowest on the privilege hierarchy are somehow more virtuous, thanks to what Bovy calls liberals’ “fetishization of powerlessness.”

The Academy’s Assault on Academic Diversity– read the comments on this one as well. Incidentally, The Bell Curve doesn’t say what he thinks it said.

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