The American Dirt Controversy

For those who live under a rock (or overseas, which is more likely), a lady called Jeanine Cummins received an astronomical advance for a novel about suuuuuuffering immigrants escaping from a scaaaaaary Mexican drug cartel into the US where, for some inexplicable reason, the cartel will be unable to reach them. Cummins is a white lady, so she got eviscerated for cultural appropriation.

And… I’m not on Cummins’s side here. Obviously, it’s a shame she received threats. I’m opposed to that. But I understand those who (verbally) attack the novel.

Look, if Cummins had a scintilla of talent, even of the most primitive sort, this would be a different conversation. But she doesn’t.

Cummins isn’t selling a work of art or even a work of entertainment.

She’s selling a feeling.

Her readers want to feel that they are good, woke people who read good, woke novels, care about appropriately woke causes, and are appropriately contrite when encountering suffering minorities.

But Cummins can’t sell them this product.

Because she’s not a suffering minority.

It’s like giving a dollar to a street person and discovering that he’s richer than you and is dressing up poor for fun. So disappointing!

The whole point is to condescend to somebody who’s below you. And Cummins is a white lady, just like you, but richer. It’s got to be aggravating! What’s the point of slogging through a whole book when there’s nobody to slobber over pityingly? The characters? They are not even real!

If you go to a resort in Cancun, you want to buy your souvenirs from a real Mexican person. And if a real Mexican artisan selling his ancestrally indigenous tchotchkes turns out to be Jack from Vermont in a culturally appropriated sombrero you’ll feel duped, won’t you?

So that’s how Cummins’s readers feel.

And even the folks who were never going to read the book have a cause for anger. If you can’t be sure that the sob stories about the horrific suffering Americans inflict everywhere are authentic and their authors can be duly condescended to and patronized, then life loses all meaning!

Yes, writers should be able to write about any characters from any background and blah blah Tolstoy something something. I’m a literary critic, I know all this stuff.

But what Cummins does is writing in the most mechanical sense only.

Her real profession is a purveyor of political experiences.

And in that job, she’s clearly a fraud.

Real Class Division

The saddest thing isn’t that this got published but that there are people who are taking this crap seriously:

I have normal people in my blogroll who are treating this piece completely seriously. There is a global health emergency. People have died and keep dying. And there are still so many folks who can’t see this as anything other than an opportunity to exhibit their wokesterism. I won’t link because I’m so disappointed but Libby Anne’s blog is awash in self-congratulating posturing over this article.

I feel that the only real class division at this point is between the folks who see this article and think, “yes, that’s so true!” and those who see it and think, “this is completely crazy.”

The Birth of Woke Corporatism

I just came across a really interesting discussion in Caldwell’s book of how the woke corporatism was born.

One of the first instances where it manifested itself was the MLK Day. Obviously, MLK himself wouldn’t have been super happy about suddenly being such a great favorite of the corporate crowd but who cares. The richest, greediest bastards suddenly discovered that they could obviate any criticism by spouting a bunch of woke slogans. And that’s the essence of woke corporatism. It’s why the most disgusting people in the world constantly lecture those whom they oppress about justice, equality, and anti-racism. That’s why the ultra-rich honestly feel victimized by struggling folks of modest means.

Instead of Religion and Politics

People have lost religion and transferred many of its functions to politics. That really messed up politics by turning it into a form of idolatry.

Then people have lost politics. They transferred many of its functions to social media. If this sounds crazy, just ask them. They will sincerely say that hashtagging on Twitter or posting pictures of shampoo on Instagram is their contribution to politics.

As a result, we have no religion and no politics. Instead, we’ve got crowds of idolaters on social media who live to recreate the Salem Witch Trials every day.

I recently had a chance to mention the concept of surveillance capitalism to these idolaters, and the reaction was really like if I’d spit on the Koran in front of a Muslim.

Problems with Caldwell

Caldwell’s book has a really interesting, provocative argument at its core. But the author dilutes his argument to a maddening degree by his insistence on transmitting “the spirit of the times” for every decade he describes. He does that by listing, in minutest detail, every TV show, every brand of somewhat popular products, and every song on the top charts.

When making a point about the displacement of typewriters by computers, he lists every single brand of typewriter that existed in 1982. The frankly pretty obvious point about the unexpected rise of computer technology is illustrated by an inane anecdote about Isaac Asimov praising Radio Shack decades ago.

Maybe I find this so annoying because I’m listening to the book on Audible instead of reading. But it bugs me to have to suffer through endless cultural trivia to get to the good stuff. For instance, there is a brief mention of how Reagan massively indebted the US economy in total contradiction to his declared belief in small government. I’d much rather see that point developed than hear about the most popular shades of stripes on ties in the 1980s (for real, that’s in the book).

By the way, it’s not just Caldwell. Almost all authors in this genre seem to write to an audience that must have emigrated from the most remote village in Guatemala yesterday.

Leftover Breakfast and a Quote

Eggs, carrots, asparagus, a big of shaved parmesan, and some of my leftover fish jelly after I’d eaten all the fish out of it. Mine is an honest-ass fish jelly, with not a speck of gelatin in it. There are some mini slices of Latvian bread on the side.

As for the quote, what do you think about “globalization is the process of internationalizing the division of labor”? It’s from Caldwell, not me.