More on Dr Seuss

Can you guess what part of this image is getting the book cancelled?

Oh, Americans. Please, please come to your senses soon. The world needs you not to be completely insane.

35 thoughts on “More on Dr Seuss

    1. Yes, it’s the Chinese guy. Eating with chopsticks is not racist. At least if you are Chinese. But making a picture of people eating with chopsticks is.

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  1. Claiming that Chinese men eat with sticks supports Othering stereotypes.
    However, eating with sticks as a WASP American is a cultural appropriation. 🙂

    Also, the men in black suits in the upper Left corner remind me of FSU representations of black (but not Black) capitalists.
    Two of those men even look as fat as a Soviet version.
    Therefore, I propose to ban this commie-Zeus book. 🙂 🙂

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      1. I loved the idea behind “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose” by Dr. Seuss.
        It’s very suitable for today’s EU and US.

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  2. Amelia Earhart.
    The people standing on her airplane.
    The men in uniform.
    The tubas.
    The giraffes.
    The flags.

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  3. I see more blatant racism here: an Indian man is riding an elephant.

    Wait, I’ve got it at last: all characters are both male and, most importantly, white, even the ones who are supposed to look Chinese and Indian. It’s literally erasing (the color of) non-Western characters.

    Now, seriously… in today’s books for kids, other races would’ve been presented more realistically and imo it’s a good thing. Of course, it’s not good enough reason to ban Seuss’s books imo.

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      1. // Is there such a thing as a good enough reason to ban books? Should there be?

        Well, I wouldn’t sell antisemitic or Nazi-era kids books.
        Or today’s al qaeda kids’ books (am sure they exist).

        Banning = Amazon not selling it.

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        1. The problem is that it is a slippery slope. Once you allow for book banning, where is it going to end? Who decides? Is Bible/Quran/Torah next on the list for their objectionable content? Perhaps it is better to err on the side of not banning anything, but rather inform people about the objectionable content and let them decide what they want to read.

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          1. Exactly. For some mysterious reason, the supporters of book bans never conceive of the possibility that they will be banned next. They always imagine themselves as those who banned and never as those who are banned.

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    1. It was rather difficult to give gradations of skin color in the four-color printing process in use at the time for books that were intended for children. It was more common when those books were designed but bright, simplistic colors predominate in books for children both for developmental and cost reasons to this day. I have hundreds of children’s books and keeping the cost of publishing and therefore retail down by limiting the color range is a real issue even now. It certainly would not have made sense for them to make an issue out of properly matching skin colors to ethnicity at the time, particularly in an illustration style which is a deliberate imitation of printed comics. FWIW, there is no shading in any of the colors used and no “white” person is paper white like the printing is either.
      It does look like they have made an attempt at using facial features as a substitute for color to indicate ethnicity rather than drawing everyone in a uniform style (again, using stereotypical features that children of the time period and probable largest market share) might have recognized) but I’m sure that someone would find that offensive too.
      I do appreciate the advances in illustration and technology that allow for beautiful books of all kinds to be readily available.

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  4. OT Soviet question: Do you know what (more specifically how bad) generational differences were in the USSR when it became totalitarian?
    A piece here and a piece there over the last few days have me wondering how much cancel culture is fueled by millenial rage over the boomers crashing the economy and taking away their future in 2008….
    Sure, it’s being weaponized and used by others but the generational anger seems real and well-founded…
    If I were a millenial I can imagine being happy to set large bush fires to large swathes of the existing cultural framework. Part of me realizes that isn’t optimal but what has been done to young people is a crime in desperate need of punishment…

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    1. // Do you know what (more specifically how bad) generational differences were in the USSR when it became totalitarian?

      Reminded me of a short story (full text at the link) taking place during Red/White clashes.
      Didn’t know that ‘The Birthmark’ was Sholokhov’s first story which appeared when he was nineteen.

      // BIRTHMARK by Mikhail Sholokhov
      Sholokhov’s first published story (1924) tells of the clash between a young Red commander and a wizened old anti-Soviet leader of a band of marauding Cossacks. An unexpected connection between the two results in death and tragedy, to the delight of the carrion birds.

      http://www.sovlit.net/birthmark/

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    2. Cliff, you are 100% correct here. There is serious angst and despair among the younger generations. You can clearly see that in the increasing number of suicides, depression, and a plethora of other mental health issues that afflict them. And this was before the pandemic.

      I think the root of the problem is, as you allude to, a lack of a clear vision for the future. It’s insanely difficult to obtain a good paying job, owning a house is almost out of the questions, the feminists have turned us against each other, etc.

      Happy content people in good and healthy relationships don’t turn to this idiotic dead-end of an ideology.

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      1. Honestly, if they find it so hard to succeed in this society where it’s actually quite easy, what about those of us who grew up in the bandit 90s in the post-USSR? Or all of the people growing up not in this incredible opulence with all problems solved by default but in really sucky societies?

        Honestly, if this is insanely difficult, what do we call the situation in the rest of the world? I experienced a 1,500% overnight inflation when I was growing up but if anybody around me referred to that as insanely difficult… We’d laugh.

        Might this be at the root of the problem? Complete lack of resilience and an expectation of zero hardship or unpleasantness?

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        1. This is very relative. Younger Americans are definitely worse off than their parents. Compared to Eastern Europeans, its hardly even on the same level.

          The problem is that it used to be incredibly easy to achieve the so called “American Dream” of owning a house, a car, and having a family. The working class, in particular, used to be much better off.

          “Complete lack of resilience and an expectation of zero hardship or unpleasantness?”

          Oh yeah, definitely this too. It’s something I have been thinking for a very long time and I have seen in my personal life. So-called helicopter over protective parents have given rise to a generation of people without coping skills looking for a protective parent figure to keep them safe all the time. This is why there is such a push to make college campuses seem like “home” and administrators be the “parent” to protect them from anything negative. These people are now fully grown and we’re seeing the result.
          However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s much harder for them than it was for their parents, which I guess results in a perfect storm of sorts.

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          1. Man, I got here quite recently but how much easier can it possibly be than it is now? I agree about the hardship of the working class but they aren’t the ones canceling Dr Seuss, you know? It’s the coddled class who does it. My explanation is that they are simply bored. They want to feel important and heroic but life is so easy that they invent imaginary oppressions.

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            1. You’re well above average in many respects, especially intellectually. Unfortunately, I think the average
              American out there is really not that smart nor capable enough to really be at the top of things today. The difference is that before, these not so smart people found it much easier to lead successful lives than they do today. Nowadays, there definitely is not just a wealth divide, but an intellectual divide that keeps on growing.

              ” They want to feel important and heroic but life is so easy that they invent imaginary oppressions.”

              I’m sure there is an element of this too. However, the point remains that seeing a regression in the standards of living and purchasing power are making a lot of people grumpy as well.

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            2. “Unfortunately, I think the average American out there is really not that smart nor capable enough to really be at the top of things today.”

              Wow! You do realize how arrogant and parochial this makes you sound… yes?

              “have me wondering how much cancel culture is fueled by millenial rage over the boomers crashing the economy and taking away their future in 2008…”

              Generations have neither collective consciousness nor the will to act in concert. Pretending they do is designed to distract us from paying attention to real social cleavages.

              “Yes, it’s the Chinese guy. Eating with chopsticks is not racist. At least if you are Chinese. But making a picture of people eating with chopsticks is.”

              Well put. But the folks who whip themselves in a lather about this sort of thing are either intellectually incapable of distinguishing between racism, ethnocentrism, and garden variety boorish stupidity or they’re willful and wicked liars. Artistic license is similarly far, far beyond their ken.

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        2. I do have hopes, though, that the pandemic will change things for the better. I’m already seeing a bit of an improvement. Students look more alert, they reach out for opportunities more. This is a generation where they can’t be bothered to fill out a one-page form to get a $500 award, so maybe a bit of hardship will be educational.

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    3. I don’t know, I look at my students, and they couldn’t care less about all this stuff. The most rabid people on campus are in their 50s. Scary, scary people.

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  5. “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose” is as anti-communist as it comes. I thought I was reading something into it, yet it’s not only me. Look at this meaning and think what those people would want to do to Seuss’s books, had they concentrated on the story:

    “The story explores the limits of hospitality and sharing. Neil Reynolds had discussed it as a parable of immigration issues and the social welfare state. … Henry Cribbs makes a similar point, considering whether “Thidwick” is a case of squatter’s rights.”

    The summary is here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thidwick_the_Big-Hearted_Moose

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    1. Sounds like Теремок. Which was created long before immigration and welfare were invented. This is a plot that has existed in folk tales for at least a thousand years. What people choose to read into it today says a lot about them but not much about the original plot.

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        1. Seriously, it’s a plot explored in dozens of folk tales in different folk traditions.

          It’s like those people who read Curious George and assume that the monkey has to stand for a black person. The problem isn’t with the monkey.

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            1. Tbh, when I saw a Hebrew edition of Moliere’s “The Miser,” I was reminded of antisemitic stereotypes.

              That miser was not Jewish (checked again right now), but after reading more than enough literature – including by non-Israeli Jewish authors – presenting Jews in this light, I have become sensitive.

              I am against the tsunami of woke censoring in US. However, encountering numerous negative representations of their ethnicity or religion does leave a mark on kids. Before immigrating to Israel, literature I encountered in Russian presented Jews as victims (Heavy Sand), inferior (Taras Bulba, Ivanhoe) or both (Shalom Aleichem).

              What is your personal take on classics such as ‘Ivanhoe’ or ‘Taras Bulba’? Would you take the initiative and offer Klara to read them? Or let her read whatever she wants, but not bring her (formerly) famous books with truly problematic portrayals?

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              1. I read Ivanhoe so long ago that I don’t remember anything other than that it was very boring. But it would be absolutely amazing and a dream come true if she becomes the kind of reader who can tackle this kind of arcane and difficult reading. I don’t care what it portrays if she becomes one of a few hundred teenagers on the planet capable of such an intellectual feat.

                As for the larger point, engaging with works of art that can wound you is crucial for the development of human subjectivity. But neoliberalism doesn’t like that subjectivity, which is why art that makes you feel anything but the satisfaction of a pleased consumer is being banned.

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      1. It’s racist because it’s a product of its time. This is the familiar problem of holding historical art to modern standards.

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