Plus je regarde TV5 plus j’ai de questions a poser. TV5 c’est la télévision francophone. Je me demande souvent dans quelle mesure TV5 est un reflet fidèle de la télévison française à proprement parler. La question s’impose à moi car on peut pas suivre une émission de TV5 plus de dix minutes sans y entendre une grosse connerie. La semaine dernière, j’y ai appris que de nouvelles études démontraient bien que la recrudescence des ouragans, des cyclones et des séismes était liée au réchauffement global! Hier, dans une épisode de “Que sera demain?” la jolie voix féminine lisant le commentaire d’un documentaire sur le Niger m’apprenait que 90% de sa population y est “islamiste” (pour: “islamique”, ou simplement: “musulmane”). Auparavant, il y a de cela six mois, les informations de TV5 m’avisaient de ce que le cougar nord-américain était “extinct”. Cette triste nouvelle m’avait beaucoup étonné car les cougars pullulent dans ma région de Californie-Nord. Voir mon histoire (en Francais) sur ce blog: “http://factsmatter.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/les-pumas-de-becon-les-bruyeres/”.
Monthly Archives: November 2011
Mass movements, grass-root movements, invariably act as revealers of important societal matters that are seldom discussed. Frequently, that which is revealed has nothing to do with the movement’s declarations or with its goals. The publicity the media has given to the “Occupy” movement of the second half of 2011, and the revulsion conservative commentators have expressed against it, have shown one big thing: Americans don’t understand what colleges and universities do to or for young people. Curiously, the misapprehensions of members of the Occupy movement and those of their conservative critics often match closely. Any number of 25-year old have been displayed on television lamenting that there were not jobs corresponding to their particular degree. At the same time, talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, an aggressively proud college dropout, reviled movement members for choosing stupid, useless majors that could not possibly procure them work.
The laments and the reviling are based on the same fallacy. I will explain what the fallacy is presently but, first, my credentials to address the topic: I taught at the university level for thirty years of which 24 were in the Management department of a business school. I am a sociologist by trade, with a PhD from a good university. I have several years of experience in business, including as an occasional employer of young people. Early in my life as an illegal immigrant I had a large number of bad jobs.
Here is the fallacy: Contrary to what appears now to be a widespread perception or impression, with some very important exceptions, an undergraduate degree, a BA or a BS, do not prepare one for a particular career, for a particular field of endeavor. First the exceptions: Most or all engineering degrees, any degree in nursing, bachelors in Accounting, for sure, and possibly in Finance. I think that’s it.
Now the blinding truth. Graduating with a given major often requires only a handful of courses in or connected to the major. Often this is only five or six courses out of more than forty college courses. In most schools, there is no requirement at all that the student do more than pass the required major-related required courses. Grade inflation being what it is, this means that the student may know no more, or even know less, than the average well-informed person with no such major under his belt. The best students may master the basic technical vocabulary of the relevant field, perhaps twenty terms in all. It’s also fairly common for the best students in a given major to be aware of the canonical tests in their chosen field. So, a major in Sociology (like me) would know something of Max Weber, of Karl Marx, and perhaps of Durkheim. The average Sociology major thinks Weber is a barbecue. The very best departments also expose their good students to some of the important tools of their discipline. This exposure does not imply fluency in those techniques at all, only recognition. Finally, to my knowledge, undergraduate students who major in a normal academic discipline are not able to read its scholarly periodicals nor are they expected to be. This means that whatever little they know in the field upon graduating will soon have become obsolete.
It follows from this shallow journey that satisfying the requirements of a major does not imply a particular competence pertaining to any business field or industrial activity. A degree in Biology does not qualify one to do biological work except perhaps for the Federal Government, as a park ranger, and then only after passing a qualifying exam. Similarly, a major in Marketing does not mean that the holder can “do marketing” for a company (except insofar as marketing includes sales). The completion of a Theater major will not give your daughter a part even in a local production and a Communications major corresponds to no slot in any newspaper. (In fact, I would bet that there are more communications majors graduating every year than there are positions in all media together.) As a former teacher of Management, I assure you that that major certainly does not make one a manager. And a Psychology major almost always implies only a young woman with identity issues. Even the undemanding field of education requires that its workers take additional courses beyond their major. Undergraduate studies – with the exceptions above – do not supply occupational competence. This requires an advanced degree.
How do my cynical statements stack up against the belief that college graduates make more money over a lifetime than others? This is a complicated issued that was well reviewed in the Nov. 19-20 2011 of the Wall Street Journal (Bialik, Carl. “College Does Pay off But It’s No a Free Ride.”) To make a long story short, the figure of an extra cool million dollars over a lifetime is a naive exaggeration and misinterpretation of raw facts. Yet, there is little doubt that the acquisition of a college degree, on the average, corresponds to several extra hundreds of thousands in a lifetime. So, the question remains, what is being financially rewarded there if not occupational competence?
Obtaining a college degree is a sort of obstacle course against oneself, against one’s inner child. It requires a degree of perseverance, the realization that it’s important to get up in the morning, some attention to events – tests – scheduled by others in disregard of one’s internal clock, the obligation to perform – to some extent- in tasks one would not chose freely. (They are called “assignments.”). Every major also requires that one get one’s drinking under control. Finally, earning a degree, any degree, in any major, imposes the ability to retain, at least for a short time, material one finds boring. In other words, a college degree is a sort of certificate of adult middle-classness. There are also some fringe benefits. College graduates often but not always, have read more books than high-school graduates, frequently four or five, sometimes ten. Although the level of literacy is low among college graduates in general, there is a fair chance it’s higher in your average college graduate than in the average high-school graduate.
The best college graduates, those with high GPAs (3.0 GPA, minimum although in many schools, the cut-off point would be nearer 3.5) even develop a critical sense. I was rendered so pessimistic by my experience in an expensive university, by my exposure to the bottomless ignorance, to the perverse credulousness of undergraduates that I keep losing track of this fact: Yet, good college graduates, with any major, are liable to be more critical than others. I am not sure about the source of this miracle. It’s a mystery how my politically correct, conformist former colleagues manage this small miracle, or if they have anything to do with it at all. Yet, every so often by happenstance, I bump into an intelligent, well-read person who did not go to college. Almost every time, I find quickly that this autodidact is incapable of absorbing, even of considering, important troves of knowledge that are beyond common sense. One brilliant man whom I knew well could never accept the logic of statistical sampling. He believed that representing a large number by a small number had to involve fraud. Similarly, many self-taught bright people are closed to the logic of natural selection. Although my evidence is completely subjective, the conclusion is inescapable: In some cases, a college education opens mental doors that nothing else opens. Smart people who did not go to college appear to be stuck cognitively in the seventeenth century. In addition, they often seem to me to be uncommonly stubborn. (That’s another story.)
These few but important virtues are what employers, especially large corporations buy. They use the college degree as a basis for the bet that recruits are trainable because they have middle-class values, or sort of do. They make the further bet that a few college graduates possess enough criticality to be able to make small decisions on behalf of the organization. So, with the exceptions named above, a college major nearly never directly confers any skills that draw remuneration. By contrast, there are many non-college courses of training that do exactly that and with a high degree of certainty. Those would include such things as certificate courses for dental hygienist and plumbing apprenticeships, both of which require less time and cost less than the pursuit of any college major. Interestingly neither of these well-paid occupations seems to make one a middle-class person forever the way a college degree with the lowest possible GPA seems to do.
And then, of course, if you have the personality of a Steve Jobs or of a Bill Gates or of any number of entrepreneurs you probably should not go to college for long.
Addendum on 11/25/11: I often say that writing is thinking. So, I thought about the topics of this essay during Thanksgiving. I realized that if I were again an employer of young people, I would in fact pay attention to majors. I would look at majors not because of what they would tell me about graduates’ competences but because of what they might tell me about their character and about their imagination. The handful of Classics (Greek and/or Latin) BAs and the more numerous Philosophy majors would be high on any list of mine. English majors I would also consider on the off chance that they had learned how to write a little and because writing is thinking; see above. I would also look briefly at foreign language majors with no family background in the relevant language. I mean Spanish majors without immigrant parents or grandparents from Latin America. To those, I would give a one-sentence on-the-spot test. 98% would flunk; I would think seriously of hiring the 2% who didn’t.
Everyday life requires me to make decisions about many topics. In most cases, I have either a superficial understanding of the issue or no understanding at all. Yet, I manage and I have always managed, somehow.
The problem of my ignorance becomes even more acute when it comes to making the simplest of political decisions such as choosing to support a candidate against all other choices. To decide who I want to be President of the United States, I would have to know a great deal about arcane details of the political process, macro-economics, foreign policy, and the conditions in a dozen countries, at least.
Even today, when the Internet has made much knowledge enormously more accessible than it was only a few short years ago, those tasks are daunting. For one thing, there is the issue of specialized language, jargon one must tackle in every field of knowledge. Why, I don’t even know the language of the insurance companies on which my safety and my health rely!
And then, in addition, I would have to know a great deal about each candidate who wants me to give him or her a determining influence on my happiness and on the future of the country I love.
Obviously, the requirements are too much for me to satisfy, not a little bit too much, but vastly too much. Fortunately, there are valid shortcuts:
I can test the declarations of politicians the way I test the statements of car mechanics. In both case, I apply the rotten apple test. Here is how it goes:
If a politician states anything at all under his or her own power, not in response to a question, not upon being forced or manipulated into it by someone else, then the politician is completely liable for the reasonableness, and especially for the veracity of the statement.
So, I distinguish between Gov. Palin’s famous stumble when she was ambushed by Kathy Couric with a question on the “Bush Doctrine,” on the one hand, from false statements a politician might spontaneously make to support his or her position, on the other hand. Often, I don’t even care to differentiate between a lie and a display of ignorance, or a startling lack of criticality. In all these case alike, if a politician choses to assert something and it turns out to be false, that’s a rotten apple. That single act causes me to consider everything else he might assert as so many potentially rotten apples. I tell myself that life is short and we have better thing to do than sort through the assertions of persons seeking political office who should know better.
Congressman Ron Paul volunteered in one of the Republican candidate debates that the US armed forces spend ” $20 billions” (Billions) on air conditioning in Afghanistan and in Iraq. I think the figure is preposterous on its face. Small thing but it shows that Mr Paul is not serious.
This is, in short, how I know what I know. I use a primitive method but, at least, it’s doable. What do you do? You might ask yourselves even if you don’t particularly want to confess.
There is a Part 2 to this judgment rule. How a politician, or his entourage respond after his or her false statement is pointed out also matters The “how” tells you a whole lot about the honesty you may expect from that person in office and also about his/her intelligence. Finally, it tells you almost as much as you want to know about capacity for fixing damage. Of course, I think that’s the single most important quality in the holder of an important political office..
For the past couple of weeks, a politically conscious younger man and I have had serious discussions about libertarianism on this blog. What makes the discussion possibly interesting is that the other guy – who calls himself CrackpotCrackshot or CarckshotCrackpot – and I have similar positions on most issues and subscribe to similar analyses about societies’ springs. He and I differ mostly on the role of the United States in the world, with an emphasis on military action. Thus our discussion is not the usual bloodbath between enemies who have nothing in common and who shout past each other.
Most of the recent part of this discussion comes in the form of “Comment” under the short essay entitled: “Well Done, Mr. Obama!”
The First Amendment specifies that “Congress” shall make no law interfering with the right of citizens “peaceably to assemble.” The Bill of Rights of the State of New York contains no such provision. I have no legal training but I deplore admitting that it sounds to me as if the city police of New York faces no constitutional impediment when it orders the “Occupy” movement to stop camping on that private park where they have been for weeks.
I deplore this reading of the law because I believe, by instinct, and possibly by a common misreading of the Constitution, that the right of all and any Americans to assemble is central, absolute and all too often stepped on by local authorities and by petty tyrants. All too often, I see locally or, indirectly, everywhere through the national press, the nuisances crowds create used to interfere radically with what I take to be the right of assembly.
Whenever this happens, it disturbs me that many of my fellow conservatives seem to buy the authorities’ reasoning. Here, locally, in Santa Cruz, the reasons local power gives to begin dismantling the “Occupy” encampment are fire risk and public health. The way I understand it, this does not make moral sense to me. I don’t like the “Occupy” crowd, I have expressed why in previous postings (Woman’s Mind; The Mysteries of “Occupy;” the Libertarian Side of the Movement; Syrians, posted Oct 27th 2011 – “Update on “Occupy Wall Street, and Santa Cruz….”, Obama Won the Western GOP Debate” posted October 19th 2011 – “Occupy Wall Street; Don’t Attack Grandma: The New Class Struggle” posted October 14th)
But my dislikes have nothing to do with my understanding of the guarantees under which we live. Or they should have nothing to do with this understanding.
I am not against repression but we live in a legal tradition that predates the American Constitution by centuries. In that tradition, one can only be punished for specific acts that have to be pre-defined as specifically illegal. “You annoy me” does not count!
it seems to me. And there can be no collective punishment under that tradition.
Accordingly, “Occupy “ demonstrators can be cited individually for littering in a manner that creates a fire hazard. They can be cited for urinating and for defecating in public places. They can be cited for making loud noises. For all I care, they can be cited for spitting on the sidewalk.
They should not be forced by the threat of legalized violence to stop exercising what I think is their right of free assembly. The argument that the relevant government entity does “not have the resources” to stop them individually from acting in a disgusting manner is especially objectionable. It’s objectionable because it plays on good people’ sense of decency to cause them to forget or to put to sleep their ideal of constitutional government.
A society of law is not only for my friends and for people I approve of. Right?
Update:11/16/11: I read in the Wall Street Journal today that the owner of the Manhattan park from which the protestors were evicted requested the eviction. That changes everything about that particular situation, of course. It does not invalidate my constitutional musings.
I have been inactive. Some catching up to do. I will go straight to the Italian situation because I don’t see it addressed in the media with anything resembling insight based on good information. I am it by default.
It’s human nature I suppose to want simple solutions to complex problems and easy solutions to hard problems. Italy is out of the swamp and therefore, the Euro is saved and therefore, the sterco is not going to hit the fan on this side of the Atlantic. Reason: Old bad boy Silvio Berlusconi resigned. Not much analysis, not much going below the surface by the American press. I have to do their elementary work for them.
First, I suspect there is a monstrous confusion in the minds of many in the media between the accounts of Italy, the state, the Italian republic on the one hand, and the figures pertaining to the Italian economy, on the other hand. The Italian economy comprises a few highly visible major corporations such as Fiat and myriads of small businesses.
The Italian Republic is in debt. The Italian economy is doing well. It’s on the healthy side of economies of developed countries. It’s a lot better than Japan’s for instance. It’s also true that, as elsewhere in Europe, the budget of the state is large relative to the national economy. My bet is that it is smaller than say, in France, or in Sweden, or even in Germany, because the black economy in Italy is so large. The Italian government is just not able to get its grubby little hands on much of what’s generated within Italy. Nevertheless, it’s true that the government budget and the private sector economy influence each other in Italy, as they do elsewhere. That’s not excuse to confuse the one with the other. My wife and I influence each other. It does no mean that we are one and the same. (For one thing, she is both attractive and intelligent.)
Berlusconi did not accumulate the large sovereign debt of the Italian Republic. The debt goes back a long way, some say to the aftermath of WWII. Successive governments just left it alone or they contributed to it.
Technical note: There have been about sixty of those governments. Italy is a parliamentary republic where the head of the largest party that can gather a majority in parliament is automatically head of government. Under that system, there may be many different “governments” with much the same people, the same members of government but in different groupings. Thus the large number of Italian “governments” does not imply that same degree of instability it would in other countries. Moreover, transitions from one government to another are always impeccably peaceful in Italy. It’s a democratic country, period!
Berlusconi had become unpopular with many Italians, of course. That is in large part because of his theatrically amorous peccadilloes, some of them technically illegal. Yet, Berlusconi gave Italy about ten years of political stability, more than any other political figure before him. He was far from being overwhelmingly rejected by the Italian people. He kept his mandate for the better part of ten years. In Italy, as in all developed democracies, that isn’t possible without the assent of the female part of the electorate, by the way. It’s no absurd to speculate that he hit a chord as a showman, in that part of politics that is show business. “He acts like a buffoon but he is our buffoon. He reminds me of my uncle, of my father, of my brother, of me, if only I were braver.”
In the meantime, in tens of thousands of small plants, of small businesses, Italians were doing what Italians have always done. They worked long hours and hard, – unlike the French, for example -and creatively. And again, Berlusconi did not accumulate the public debt of his country and neither, did his generation of Italians, by and large. And unlike the case in France and in this country, for example, he national debt is mostly held domestically. Those creditors who will use it without delicateness know that they will sink their neighbors, their brothers, their children.
Those who dislike Berlusconi, those who think he gave Italy a bad name, are largely those who failed for most of ten years in taking away his majority in parliament. The fact is that when Berlusconi resigned yesterday, he was still the leader of a democratic majority of Italians. If he had achieved that majority and if he had kept it through illegal maneuvers, the problem should have been fixed in the courts. Italy has an independent judicial system. No ambitious prosecutor found the material to indict him on proper government grounds. They had to be content with “rape” charges about a 17 and1/ year-old prostitute who never misses a chance to say publicly how much she likes him.
As elsewhere, we find in Italy a class of distinguished, refined people who have read maybe ten or twenty books in their lives and who deplore in the end the workings of democratic political institutions and the results they produce, all in the name of higher values. Does this sound familiar or what?
The Italian debt crisis is not over, nor is that of the Euro. The chicken is coming to roost. The richer European countries lived for thirty years or more higher on the hog than their economies allowed. Many kind of knew it but forbade themselves a straight look at what they were doing and at what they were doing to their children. (That would include my own French brother.)
And here is a political proposition no one else in the whole world dares say aloud: Different European countries’ capacity for self correction is not evenly distributed. The popular impression is right; the stereotypes are largely correct: The closer to the Mediterranean, the greater the capacity for self-delusion in this respect, as in others. The Finns and the Estonians are not Greeks. They will do what needs to be done, count on it. And here is the Delacroix Rule of Olive Oil and Self-Delusion. You can use it in constructing your international investment policies, as short-hand for deeper political analysis:
“The cheaper the olive oil in the salad, the greater the probability that the population is in denial about national economics.”
In 1944, the Nazis were well on their way to starving to death my father and my mother. My mother was breastfeeding me so, indirectly, they were beginning to starve me too. Mind you, the French were among the best treated by the Nazi beast. The people of other occupied countries mostly had it worse. That summer, tens of thousands of American soldiers, armed to the teeth, riding in thousands of trucks, accompanied by myriads of tanks, scattering food rations like pennies, liberated me. Excuse me if I like American military might! I just hope I am not witnessing the end of the pax americana through indecision, bad faith, lack of intellectual courage.
Thank you veterans.
Le Figaro annonce, a propos d’un sursis d’execution d’un condamne a mort au Texas: “La Justice americaine….” Non, non, non. C’est la Justice de l’etat du Texas. La Justice americaine est tres restreinte. C’est etonnant comme, apres deux-cent cinquante ans, les Francais ne comprennent toujours pas le federalisme americain. A mon avis, c’est parceque les correspondanst des media francais aux EU ne sortent jamais de Mahattan et ne connaissent que peu ou mal l’Anglais.
Desole pour les accents. Y en a pas!
Many good documentaries are made in French, or by French artists, or by French organizations. A recent one is “The March of the Penguins.” One very good French documentary series on television is called “Thalassa.” It’s named after the Greek goddess of the sea. Thalassa, the TV series, began in 1975, pretty much in the existing format. In those thirty-five years, miraculously, it has lost none of its attractiveness and none of its freshness. The weekly show lasts two hours and it does not seem too long. People who can’t watch it when it plays usually record it for late viewing, as one would do with a favorite crime series.
All of Thalassa’s episodes are loosely connected to the sea, to the world’s oceans. I discovered on Thalassa years ago that in one small part of France, children fish by hanging baited hooks from the keels of little home-made sailboats attached to their wrist by a long line. The boats travel a while under sail power with their dangling hooks, catching fish or not. The children then retrieve the boats by pulling on the line attached to their wrists. Frankly, I don’t care much whether theirs is an effective fishing method. I am just charmed by its ingenuity and by its poetry. A recent Thalassa show featured the “Circus of Samoa” that travels by ferry from Pacific island to Pacific island. The series is justly beloved. It has hundreds of thousands of faithful, hundreds of thousands that trust it implicitly because it has not disappointed in the course of its many years. It’s important for the rest of this story that I create in your minds the impression that Thalassa is a respected show with no fluff. I continue to want to convince you reader that don’t beat up on kindergartners and that I don’t trip on old ladies, ever!
A recent Thalassa feature described at length the plight of the Pacific archipelago of Kiribati. It’s a republic with a population of about 100,000. It used to be a significant exporter of phosphates but its guano (bird shit) deposit is all but gone. Now, it has almost no resources except coconuts, easy shore fishing for the home platter, and the leasing of fishing rights to foreign vessels. The republic’s mainresource is actually foreign aid.
At the heart of the Thalassa story is the fact that most of the coral islands of Kiribati lie low to very low above the water, above sea level. (Wikipedia says 12 feet on average).
The Thalassa documentary showed how, with the tide and the right wind (the wrong wind), the center part of a village was flooded in one night. The piece displayed burly fathers and uncles transporting schoolchildren on their backs in the morning across the flooded village center so they would not “wet their uniforms” on the way to school. Another part of the show gave voice to a small farmer (a horticulturist) complaining that salt water was suffusing his field from below killing coconut trees and making growing anything difficult.
Thalassa discussed and illustrated at great length the Kiribati President’s unusually decisive and vigorous response to his country’s worsening situation. The President has simply decided to evacuate the whole population to other countries and to close down his republic outright. Already, he has succeeded in convincing a number of young people to expatriate themselves permanently. The reason he gave on screen for taking such striking measures is simple: In a short time, the Kiribati islands are going to be all completely underwater.
Thalassa has its own take on the damage, the existing damage, the damage that has already taken place. The show squarely and exclusively blames global warming, of course. No one noticed at Thalassa or, in France apparently, that the sea level had not risen even fractions of inches in living memory. No one commented that the ocean level was the same in New York harbor, in South Australia, indeed anywhere on the lengthy French coast, as it was in 1900. Not a single person made the perspicacious comment that all of the world’s oceans form only one single ocean. Except for temporary sloshing, including tides, this single ocean’s level pretty much has to be the same everywhere.
Next time I am in my bath, I am going to look carefully to discover if the water at the foot of the tub is higher than the water level near my head. Or the bath water near my right elbow higher than the water near my left elbow.
Thalassa’s story is one of collective insanity. It takes place in a nation where the very idea of rationality was first codified, in a country that produced a large proportion of the world’s first scientists. Creeping mental misery!
PS Thalassa could have tried to argue that “climate change” is creating tides with greater amplitude than tides used to have. That would have been at least a plausible scenario supporting the images it had shown of sea water temporarily creeping over land. That explanation would also have had the merit of being verifiable because we possess tide records of the Pacific going back about 200 years. Thalassa made no attempt to formulate the argument in this comprehensible manner.
Incidentally, there does not appear to be any scientific authority to support its president’s notion that the Kiribati Republic islands will ever be submerged by the ocean. The UN Intergovernmental Consortium on Climate Change’s worst case scenario is for about a three-foot rise in sea level by 2100. That’s not even close to the Kiribati’s president’s allegations. And the ICCC has illustrated itself several times through its fallaciously exaggerated predictions. It’s only me but I would ask who might profit if this large archipelago became free of human beings.
Mindlessness has no motherland. It appears to be equally at home everywhere. There are few country differences when comes to ignorance and to dearth of criticality. Fools are their own nation!
Once in my academic career, I was blackballed from a job I wanted in an outfit where I was wanted. The blackballer was a woman. What happened is that the relevant department voted to offer me a job with a unanimous vote but one. The one voting against derived her disproportionate power from the fact that she was the only female in the department. The department spokesman told me clearly that his colleagues did not want to ignore the single female vote. The blackballer never explained her vote except by saying that my presence would make her “uncomfortable.” (If she had ever said anything else, academia being what it is, it would have come back to me for sure.)
The woman was not a stranger. She had received her doctorate from the same university as I. Our times there had overlapped although I was senior to her in every respect. We had had numerous interactions, all cordial and courteous. We were not friends but I had several opportunities to give her help on professional matters. Each time at her request.. The last time I had seen the woman before she blackballed me had been a year earlier. On that occasion, she had said goodbye to me by kissing me on both cheeks. (She had kissed me, not the reverse.) Incidentally, there was no way of not knowing that I was married.
The woman was fairly intelligent and professionally competent. (Years later, her academic accomplishments confirm this judgment.) She was also less attractive than average. I mean that I would not have engaged in sexual commerce with her unless she had been the last woman on earth. And even then… . I am sure this detail has nothing to do with my story, of course. You know as much as I do. What do you think?
Post-script: Several people have asked me what’s the point of this story. I am flabbergasted but here it is: I suffered a serious career handicap, my children were deprived of several years of economic prosperity during the crucial years when they could and should have been in private schools because I refrained from behavior that many would identify as “sexual harassment.” I mean propositioning a colleague or, at least, acting flirty with her. Am I posing as a victim deserving of reparation? No, I am just reminding you of the obvious: Down on the ground, things are not simple in the area of non-sexual sex relations. And also: It’s not only men who are sex beasts and when they are not, they often pay for this lacuna. I will stop right here before I am accused of bragging, of course.
Herman Cain, the GOP candidate who both speaks the conservative talk and is good-looking is the subject of accusations of sexual harassment. It was bound to happen sooner or later because Democrats, the only authorized party of oppressed minorities, cannot allow a successful member of the largest oppressed minority to give the lie to their lies. The particular nature of the attack was also predictable. Liberals are not sophisticated by and large. Plus, half of the Democratic Party used to be in the Jim Crow South. There are collective memories: Black men in general have a trouble controlling their sexual urges; it’s a well-known fact.
Do I think there were sexual harassment complaints against Herman Cain when he was a powerful, highly visible official of an association? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were. I would be surprised instead if there were a single man corresponding to that description anywhere, anytime in the past thirty years against whom there were no such complaints at all. They go with the territory. Create new grounds to blackmail and there will be more blackmailers.
Do I think he did it? Yes, I do. I mean by this that Herman Cain almost certainly engaged repeatedly in behavior that someone somewhere would call sexual harassment. And since juries can be fickle, unpredictable, it’s rational (although detestable) for companies to settle. It’s especially tempting if they can settle on the cheap: $10,000 is “five figures.” I also mean something you all already know about sexual harassment but that you may have forgotten because of the pounding of dozens of years of political correctness.
First things first: Do I think it’s a good idea for people in positions of responsibility to have sexual congress with their subordinates? My answer is a clear “No,” and this, for several organizational reasons I need not go into here. However, worse things have happened and worse things happen every day, including in the work place. And the old cliché of sex for advancement and even worse, of sex for continued employment, are far from contemporary reality as I see it. Much greater forces are at play.
Power, the suspicion of power, the slightest whiff of the most minimal kind of power, are aphrodisiac to many women. I am tempted to say, “ to all women” but some smart aleck would be sure to point out that I have not known all women and that neither have I formal proof. Sure enough and sure enough. Females of all ages are drawn to power or to what they imagine is power like night butterflies to a reading lamp. It goes without saying for example that women students develop crushes on their male professors; it goes without saying that some women are bound to act on their crushes to some extent. That’s not all and professors have some real power after a fashion. Every thin-assed male teaching assistant also has had the experience. Note that schools would not bother to make rules against what does not happen or against what happens but rarely. And, incidentally, in more relaxed times, there were no such rules. And the principle of full disclosure forces me to admit that it’s how I met my wife: She will readily testify that she seduced me shamelessly that she hounded me until I had no escape route left.
The general rule that applies here is that female human beings actively seek a mate during a relatively narrow time window in their lives. There are no organized hunts and, in our latitudes, there are few arranged marriages. Unavoidably, young women are left to their own devices to find mates wherever they are. As it happens, in our fairly civilized societies, men are just about everywhere, in the schools and in work places as well as in bars and in sports venues. Picking men up at work is normal, expected; it would be a little demographic disaster if it did not happen.
Women proposition men in the workplace all the time. Much of the propositioning, or most, I would guess, takes non-verbal forms: a flash of this and a flash of that, swinging and swaying, and a great deal of eyelashes work. It’s not necessary to be a powerful man to be the target of such attempts; it helps to be handsome but it’s not strictly necessary. After all, almost all men with a steady job and no grave substance abuse problem marry, some several times. A good many with no job and obvious substance abuse issues also marry.
The non-verbal nature of most of female seductiveness naturally gives rise to ambiguity and to a fair number of mistakes. First, all men are no equally adept at deciphering signals (as every woman knows); second, this is an alcohol society and the use of alcohol makes not one more clear-headed or more timid; third, the fact is that some women are honestly not completely aware of the signals they are sending. Here is an anecdote: Once, when I was well past forty, a freshman student wanted to discuss something with me after class. There were several students gathered around my desk wanting to do the same. When her turn came, the young girl began to move forward in my direction. She kept moving, round chest first, until I had to take several steps backward to avoid physical contact. I would have liked to believe then, I would like to believe now, that she was consciously trying to seduce me. However, it’s pretty obvious that she would not have made such an attempt at ten AM, in the presence of several fellow-students, and mostly girls to boot.
Now that I have jogged your memory and your consciousness, please re-create the scene for Herman Cain circa 1997: a tall, imposing, athletic-looking, powerful man with a gift of gab. (I am assuming he did not develop that aptitude recently.) Is it possible that he was the target of the provocative moves of women in his outfit? Is it possible he was not but wrongly thought he was? And if you answer “yes” to the second question, how much exactly do you expect men to resolve ambiguity by themselves? Is it possible he made unprovoked allusive remarks to some female employees who were not in a receptive mood. I have two responses to the last question: 1 Why would he when he was probably surrounded by willing women? 2 What if he did?
Even if he did and even if it was a clear violation of policy, how should that be a concern of mine, of my wife, in our search for a president who will push for the kind of America we want? This is an America in deep economic trouble, and in dangerous decline in the world, an America where the problem of sexual harassment should be way down our list.
But some will object that he was married. I don’t know if he was, but he was, I still don’t care. It would have been an issue between his wife and him. I don’t care about my political leaders’ adultery unless it is connected with their violating the law. Two kinds of legal violation that come to mind are lying under oath in a judicial proceeding and using campaign donations to maintain a mistress. Incidentally, I understand that adultery is a matter of concern for the religiously inclined. I have no quarrel with them on this and it should be clear that I never speak for them.
Political correctness is a tool used by the Left to undermine and cloud our thought process. Through repetition, what should be one of many options comes to represent reality itself. Political correctness is one of the worst forms of tyranny because those it oppresses often don’t realize that it’s becoming part of them. Fortunately, every so often, an event transpires in the media that yanks us back to genuine reality. Below is one.
About two weeks ago, a female high-school teacher received four years for a variety of transgressions. The chief of these was rape. She had been convicted of having sex with four of her male students. Again, she received four years. You know that some violent rapists get less. This sort of grotesque event occurs as a result of the success of rabid liberals at influencing legislatures and even courts toward the wholly irrational. It occurs because reasonable people don’t talk loudly enough, not by a long shot. There is more to the story.
At the beginning of the sentencing part of the trial, a victim’s mother demanded to be heard. Since the teacher had already been convicted, the woman’s only purpose was to try and influence the judge toward a more severe sentence. The woman sobbed violently about how the teacher had ruined her son’s life and her own. She even came very close to blaming the teacher for her husband’s throat cancer. The victim was absent from court. He is a freshman in college which would make him eighteen or possibly seventeen. How much would you bet that Mom couldn’t force him to come to court and ridicule himself and lie through his teeth? The only suffering he incurred was that he wasn’t able to brag freely to his friends about his conquest. I know that would have nearly killed me at 18. When I become aware of this kind of event I wonder how this society could have become so insane in such a short time.
Well, Professor Delacroix: Do you mean that teachers should have sex with their students? I would say that mostly not, that in most cases it’s counter-pedagogical.
And do you think male high-school teachers should have sex with female students? I do not. Sex is much more consequential for young women than for young men. Much more. It’s one of those many cases where:
What’s sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.
And, not my fault, not my decision. It’s Mother Nature’s decision. You have to be functionally stupid not to keep this in mind. And Mother Nature is a real bitch!