Books of Color

You would think that the late-night show comedians would find all sorts of fodder for comedy in the ongoing campaign to cancel anything and everything that might possibly be the slightest bit offensive, especially such silliness as putting warnings on the Muppet Show and canceling six Dr. Seuss books, but you would be wrong. According to this recent article at the blog Hollywood in Toto, the comedians didn’t find the cancellations worth making fun of. Instead, they mocked those silly conservatives who just don’t see the necessity of eliminating every vestige of racism from our culture and who imagine there is really some sort of cancel culture going on.

It goes without saying that today’s late night comics won’t mock the new Biden administration.

They’ve made it crystal clear their shows are progressive propaganda first and foremost. Speaking “truth to power” comes in a distant second. Some nights it ranks dead last.

When you wait nearly a year to call out a corrupt governor, that’s all the proof you need.

These comedians still could, in theory, pay attention to the culture wars attacking beloved institutions. Take Disney+ inexplicably slapping warning labels on classic episodes of “The Muppets.” Just this week the Dr. Seuss estate decided to stop publishing six of the author’s works because a very select few believe they contain racist imagery.

That’s despite Dr. Seuss’s own stepdaughter swearing he didn’t have a racist bone in his body.

Enter Stephen Colbert.

The far-left “Late Show” host chortled about the Dr. Seuss cancellation, ignoring the decades of joy his books have given children across the globe.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

“It’s a responsible move on their part … they recognize the impact of these images on readers, especially kids,” he said. What impact? Kids have read these books for decades without any impact save giggles and hugs from their parents.

So Colbert is firmly on the side of the cancellers and the censors. I guess he is less a comedian than a propagandist. That might be why he is not very funny. Comedy, by its nature, tends to be subversive. Authoritarian comedy is seldom very funny.

But it is this next part that made me stop and think.

He then cued up Fox News clips to mock anyone calling this another “Cancel Culture” moment.

If you’re worried your books shelves just got a bit duller, he advised, why not add tomes written by authors of color to cushion the blow?

“It’s fun to read books written after the ’40s,” he said with a twinkle.

Authors of color? What kind of an idiot selects books based on the color of the author? All last month, during Black History Month, Amazon kept offering me suggestions for Black authors I might be interested in, I wasn’t the slightest bit interested. My reasons for choosing a book to read simply do not include the race of the author. For nonfiction, I want a book about a subject I am interested in learning about and I want the author to present the information clearly and interestingly. For fiction, I want an interesting and entertaining story with characters I can relate to. I do not see how, in either case, the race or nationality of the writer matters at all. I could not possibly say how many of the books I own were written by authors of color. I would have to pull down each book from the shelf and look to see if there is a picture of the author on the cover to get an idea. I am not that interested.

As for the comment about books written since the 1940s, well many of my favorite authors, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, George Orwell, wrote their best works during the 1940s, and most of the greatest books ever written were written decades and centuries ago. I am not sure if there have been all that many books that have been written in recent years that can compare with the great classics, certainly, none that have, as yet, stood the test of time. If the censors and the wokescolds have their way there won’t be any books worth reading at all.

So, what kind of a person chooses books based on the color of the author? Maybe the sort of person who buys Books by the Foot. The sort of superficial person who is not so interested in the ideas contained in books as much as impressing people by seeming to read the correct books. Why else would someone care about the race or color of the author, than to demonstrate that they are woke or politically correct in their reading and thinking? Maybe the sort of person that becomes a late-night propagandist.

As for me, I am going to keep on reading the books I want to read and am going to ignore the suggestions from Amazon and Stephen Colbert that I should read authors because of their color because, unlike the people on the left, I am not a racist.

Only Women Can Give Birth

George Orwell once allegedly said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. Orwell does not appear to have said that, but the quote is apt in our own time of LBGTIDK inspired deceit and madness. I am afraid that I am going to tell certain biological truths in this post as a response to this bit of insanity from the United Kingdom. whether I am going to commit a revolutionary act is not clear, but I am sure that some would regard the statement of basic biological facts as being transphobic, anti-LGBT, or bigoted.

First, the relevant article, concerning a birth coach who was fired for the high crime of stating only women can have babies, from Venus Valley, a feminist web magazine, which I don’t think is satire.

It all started in the UK, where a birthing coach was forced to resign after she said that only women could give birth, but how on earth did it get to this?

Her name is Lynsey McCarthy-Calvert, and she is a mother of four as well as a former Doula UK birth coach. She said that a small number of activists opposed her statement and then pressured her company to punish her too!

She is a non-medical companion that supports people who have given birth and she says that her company “ostracised” her over the pressure of being politically correct.

She said:

“I am angry and sad …I was effectively ostracised for saying I am a woman and so are my clients.”

“I have been very disappointed by Doula UK’s response. The leadership is paralyzed by not wanting to upset transgender rights activists. They have fallen over themselves to acquiesce to their demands.”

The margarine brand, called Flora, refused to advertise on Mumsnet after the website was said to be transphobic for having a wide range of views on transgender issues.

The makers of Always sanitary towels got rod of the female “Venus” symbol from the packaging after they got complaints from transgender men.

The fall out with Doula UK started after Cancer Research UK dropped the word ‘women’ from its smear test campaign, instead of saying screening was:

“…relevant for everyone aged 25-64 with a cervix”

So in response to this Mrs. McCarthy-Calvert then posted a picture on Facebook of a negligee-clad woman somersaulting, underwater, with these words:

‘I am not a “cervix owner” I am not a “menstruator” I am not a “feeling”. I am not defined by wearing a dress and lipstick. I am a woman: an adult human female.’

Then she added below it:

“Women birth all the people, make up half the population, but less than a third of the seats in the House of Commons are occupied by us.”

These statements, which would not be at all controversial, or even remarkable just ten years ago, are now completely beyond the pale. Mrs. McCarthy-Calvert has committed a revolutionary act of truth-telling.

Then it seems that her words provoked a group of about 20 individuals, also known as “trans-activists”, they wrote to the company saying that she had “clearly” breeched the company’s inclusive guidelines.

In the letter they wrote, they claimed McCarthy-Calvert was guilty of making several “trans-exclusionary comments” which included, of course, her description of being an “adult human female.”

Doula UK proceeded to straight away withdraw Mrs. McCarthy-Calvert as a spokesperson and, after a four-month dragged out an investigation, its board of directors decided:

“[The post] does breach Doula UK’s guidelines”

They said:

“We are proud to say that we seek to listen to the lived experience of marginalized groups and make changes – including changes to the language we use – if we believe it is necessary to make the Doula UK community more welcoming and supportive”

Here are the facts. Human beings, like nearly all complex organisms on the Planet Earth, are divided into two, and only two, genders. There are indeed a small number of people who have some medical condition, or genetic defect, which renders a certain gender ambiguity, but such conditions are pathologies and not the norm. It is also true that some individuals believe that they are, or ought to be, the gender opposite of their biological gender. These people, who are generally called transgendered, may be sincere in their feelings that they are “really” the opposite of their biological sex, but their feelings, however strong and sincere, do not change physical reality, even if they have pharmacological and surgical techniques applied to themselves to change their physical appearance to resemble the opposite sex.

The two genders into which human beings are divided are male and female. Each gender plays a separate and distinct role in reproduction. The female produces the ova or egg, and in mammals carries the fertilized egg in the uterus until it is born. The male produces the sperm which fertilizes the egg. Only women can become pregnant and give birth to children. Only men can beget children. This is a simple biological fact. It may be a laudable goal to be more welcoming and supportive of marginalized people, but not at the expense of denying the truth. Truth is a higher value than compassion and ought not to be compromised simply because some people might feel uncomfortable.

However, I am not convinced that the goal is in fact laudable. This is not so much an LGBT issue as a matter of how we define reality. Those people who insist that gender is a matter of personal feelings are stating that reality is defined not by any sort of objective facts but by subjective feelings, backed by the threat of punishment for those who dissent.  If a pregnant woman who feels that she is really a man can be considered a pregnant man, then there may be no distortions of facts and logic that we cannot be coerced into conceding. The implications here are truly Orwellian.

In George Orwell’s 1984, one of the central tenets of INGSOC, the ideology of the Party that rules Oceania is that there is no such thing as objective reality. Reality is what the Party says it is. If the Party says that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia when it was at war with Eurasia last week, or that the chocolate ration has been raised when it has really been lowered, they are not lying. Oceania really has always been at war with Eastasia and the chocolate ration really has been raised, because the Party said so. If you happen to remember otherwise, you are in the wrong, and you had better get your thinking straightened out, or else the Thought Police will straighten it for you. In the end, the protagonist Winston Smith reflected, the Party was going to declare that 2+2=5, with torture and execution in store for anyone who insisted that 2+2=4.

If we can be intimidated into saying that men can become pregnant, how long before we are forced to believe that 2+2=5?

The Timely, Relevant Handmaid’s Tale

Hulu has begun airing a series based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the critics are falling all over themselves in proclaiming how timely and relevant the program is in Trump’s America.

The Handmaid’s Tale, for those fortunate enough not to have encountered it, is a dystopian novel set in the “Republic of Gilead”, a future North American nation in which Christian fundamentalists have seized power. Naturally women are horribly oppressed in Gilead, since that is what Christian fundamentalists most like to do. Women are chattel who are forbidden to work outside the home or to have bank accounts. There is an epidemic of infertility caused by environmental pollution and those women who are still fertile are pressed into service as “handmaids” compelled to give birth to women incapable of having their own children. As you can see, The Handmaid’s Tale is timely and relevant, for women living in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. Since Trump hardly ran on a platform of disenfranchising women, the novel is probably not particularly relevant to the experiences of American women, whatever Atwood and her fans might believe.

An everyday sight in Trump’s America

The purpose of dystopian literature, and science fiction in general, is not to predict the future but to highlight circumstances and emerging trends in the present. If it had been Margaret Atwood’s intention to highlight the oppression of women in the Middle East by portraying a similar situation in a more familiar context, much as George Orwell highlighted Stalinist tyranny by placing it in the more familiar context of England, than her effort would be laudable. That is not what she was trying to do. By her own account, she was trying to show what the “religious right” intended to do to women when they gained power. The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, at a time when the Moral Majority seemed to be on the ascendant, so it might have been timely and relevant then; except that not a single prominent figure on the “religious right” was proposing anything at all like the subjugation of women in the book. If treating women like chattel had been on the agenda of the Christian Coalition, I doubt very much if it would have had any influence on politics at all. And again, Trump is hardly a fundamentalist Christian, nor did he campaign on reducing women to brood stock as part of his program to Make America Great Again.

This is where The Handmaid’s Tale falls short as a dystopia. A dystopia works by pointing out the most extreme consequences of existing trends. The resulting vision need not be especially realistic. This is science fiction after all. However it ought to ring true. The setting of a dystopian work ought to at least seem possible, based on things already happening

As a man of the left, George Orwell knew from personal experience the totalitarian tendencies of most left wing movements. He knew what he was writing about when he wrote 1984. He was able to make the setting of his novel match the real life circumstances of totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union under Stalin and Nazi Germany. He believed, with good reason, that Britain was heading towards a totalitarian socialist state. We may not currently be living in Big Brother’s Oceania, but in an age of mass surveillance and bigger, unaccountable bureaucracies, we should certainly be aware of the possibilities.

Aldrous Huxley had considered very carefully the possible changes that advancing technology might bring to society. His Brave New World is a study of how advances in contraception, cloning (though the word hadn’t been coined at the time) might change family life. If we can design each person according to plan would we design different people for different jobs? What would the concept of equality mean if some people are designed before birth to be the leaders while others to be workers? Huxley also explored the implications of freedom of thought in a world in which thoughts are conditioned by persuasion techniques far more advanced than the crude advertising and propaganda of our time. You might not need the Thought Police if every thought in every head is put there by years of conditioning. It is possible that something like Brave New World might really be in our future, perhaps closer than we might imagine.

In contrast, Margaret Atwood knew nothing about the goals and aspirations of conservative Christians when she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale and there is no sign that she has bothered to learn anything about them in all the years since. Her vision is one that simply does not match the reality. No prominent Christian leader of any sect or denomination has come out in favor of disenfranchising women. Christianity is not the religion that teaches that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s. Historically, women have generally had a higher status in the Christian West than in any other civilization. It is true that women have often been discriminated against and patronized in the West, but women have rarely been treated as chattel or worse to the extent they have in East Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, and especially the Islamic world. It is in the Christian West that the idea that women ought to be treated as actual human beings, and even protected arose. Only in the West could anything like feminism come to be.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a fantasy. I think it is poorly written, but that is just my opinion. Perhaps others may think it a classic. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about the literary quality of the work, but please don’t insult my intelligence by saying it is in any way timely or relevant to contemporary America.

Sign of the Times

1984-1140031
Coming True? (Photo credit: beachblogger42)

 

According to the Washington Examiner, sales of 1984 have increased dramatically recently.

 

Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” are up 69 percent on Amazon, according to a list on the website.

The book marked its 60th anniversary on June 6 amid a flurry of real-world news stories on secret government surveillance.

Amazon lists the paperback version of the sci-fi classic as the 19th biggest book on its Movers and Shakers list. The current sales rank is 110.

The list identifies the biggest gainers in sales rank compared to 24 hours ago.

Update: As of 3:22 p.m. EDT, sales of Orwell’s “1984” are up 91 percent on the Amazon Movers and Shakers list.

 

I guess that George Orwell’s dark vision of a totalitarian government that watches its citizen’s every move doesn’t seem like fiction anymore. Incidentally, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged has also been making record sales for the past several years, for the same reason.

 

Interesting times we’re living in.