Book Notes: Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement

I know somebody who is a Trump supporter. That person is so closeted at work that it’s painful to watch. If she were a lesbian terrified that people will find out about her personal life, it would be horrible. Outside of the inane and deeply neoliberal rhetoric of choice, there’s no justification for why political closeting is OK while the sexual isn’t.

Forget Trump supporters. There’s a million perfectly innocent things even I keep silent about at work. Because of fear. And it’s so many people who have either schooled themselves to accept the brainwashing or are keeping quiet out of fear.

Surely, that’s not ok.

A woman writes a book that is deeply sympathetic to Mexican migrants and ends up getting death threats. Not from the MAGA crowd. From the anti-MAGA crowd. This is getting really really nuts.

Caldwell’s book is about how we got to this place. Why did the strongest freedom of speech protections in history turn into dust? Why is the intellectual environment starting to resemble the USSR in 1979?

A poet had a drunken spat with a girlfriend years ago. Last week, his published poetry gets erased over that ancient spat and he’s accused by the publishers of a respectable literary journal of being a Russian spy. For absolutely no reason. Dude got zero connections to Russia. But it’s fashionable to destroy people’s careers by accusing them of being Russian spies, so why not?

Folks, I can list these stories non-stop for a week without sleep breaks. And it’s getting worse. Somebody needs to talk about what the fuck is going on. Caldwell is trying to talk about it. We can nitpick his argument but at least he’s trying to figure it out. Anybody got a better explanation, I’m ready to hear it.

What Caldwell is saying is that we are ultimately screwed. You shred the Constitution for a very very VERY good cause. And then you do it again for an even better cause. And then again and again for some OK causes. And then you somehow find yourself in a place where you are constantly scared and apologizing. Or scaring others into constantly apologizing, which is worse.

But here’s the thing. Yes, Caldwell is right. First Amendment, any amendment, the Constitution itself, that’s all gone. There will be no legal recourse against the creeping insanity. The solution will not come from any document. It will come from people realizing that this isn’t working.

This will take time, unfortunately. This whole shiny-eyed generation of earnest SJW Twittertwats who are “like literally devastated” by imaginary Nazis needs to grow up, procreate, and drive their kids nuts with all this brainwashing.

Those kids are our only real hope.

Let’s pray the kids are buggered all the way backwards and all over again with “diversity is our strength, black and brown bodies, these are like literal Nazis, gender-fluid reeducation,” and all that crap. Nobody raises more cynical, ideology-resistant, cold bastards of kids than wide-eyed, fanatical snowflakes. And if the kids get really screwed, like in really, really screwed, the rot stays away for at least 4 generations.

It’s our best, time-tested, truly Soviet recipe, and we paid for it dearly.

Imperfect Machine

I started writing this article on December 15. Obviously, I had been thinking about it intensely for a long time but the actual writing started on December 15. Since then, I have written almost 10,000 words and used 40 theoretical sources. (It’s my theoretical introduction).

The writing period included Christmas, New Year’s, a trip to Seattle, the start of the new semester, and introducing first major changes and then formatting into another article on a completely different topic. So obviously I didn’t work on it every day. I’m not a fucking robot.

But I still wrote 10,000 words of good, clean text. In less than two months.

The only purpose of this post is to make myself feel less guilty for not having finished the article yet. It’s ironic that part of the article is about how people always feel extremely guilty for not being perfect productivity machines. And then I finish writing for the day and go feel guilty for not being a perfect productivity machine.

I’m aware of the paradox but awareness isn’t helping.

White Euphoria

Almost at the end of Caldwell’s book, there’s this really great part where he explains that what we call “white guilt” is actually white euphoria.

The eagerness constantly to discuss your ‘inherited power to oppress’ is so strong because the activity gives pleasure. People enjoy repeating the words “white supremacy” because this gives them an illusion of supremacy. Of course, they realize it’s an icky feeling, so they project it onto imaginary evildoers. But the whole point is to keep saying the words. Because it feels so good. (To them, obviously. Not to me. I find the whole thing really distasteful.)

Dangerous Caldwell

I listen to Caldwell’s book on Audible in my car. I haven’t seen the contents page or chapter title.

So yesterday I climb into my car after work and turn on the Audible before closing the car door. As my Jewish luck would have it, right at that moment a sub-chapter titled [the word that is the n-word but not the blanked out word. The actual word. Got it?]

So imagine me, on campus, getting into a car, and suddenly a yell of “N——–!” coming out of my car. I was sure that the Bias Response Team that prowls the campus looking for transgressions would pounce within seconds.

I don’t know what Caldwell is thinking. People can get fired for that kind of thing. I mean, that’s his whole point but it’s not ok to make it. Which, again, is his whole point.

My only conclusion is: you, Americans, are completely messed up about race and you mess with everybody’s brain because you can afford to impose your weird obsessions on everybody. I have students who come across the [perfectly acceptable] word “negro” in a Spanish text and they stop because it scares them.