In his review of SHEL, the group and the album, Robert Gotcher mentioned that their second album "is not nearly as good. They seem to have lost some of the innocence from the first album." I was reminded of this review, which I wrote ten years ago, of the first album by a group called Au Revoir Simone. The group consists of three young women (not quite so young now, obviously). The album is called Verses of Comfort, Assurance, and Salvation.
... this is a girlish album, and I mean that as a compliment: it’s sweet, though not the least bit sugary, and full of hope and longing, as young girls ought to be, rather than prematurely jaded and embittered by having given themselves too soon and too often to the unworthy. There are some indications here that they may have started down that road. This male listener who’s undoubtedly more than old enough to be their father feels protective toward them, gets a welcome touch of emotional springtime from their music, and hopes they don’t eventually give us Verses of Sarcasm, Anger, and Depression.
I haven't heard any of their subsequent work so I don't know how things have turned out for them. But what I was thinking of in those remarks, and what I speculate might be in evidence in SHEL's second album, is a phenomenon I've often noticed: more young women seem to be more disillusioned, often bitter and angry, than was the case not just when I was young but when I was middle-aged. And the more they seem to have embraced the sexual revolution the more angry they seem. I can't support that as anything more than a personal observation, and maybe it's a mistaken impression, but it certainly seems that way. I've noticed it since my own generation reached its late twenties or so, actually.
Though now that I think about it I believe the impression that the phenomenon is growing comes more from the media than from real life. I mean young women in the media talking about themselves and their friends, and those are predominantly feminist, and feminists are generally angry, so maybe that's all it is.
It looks to me in fact as if at least as many young men are pretty unhappy, too. The war between the sexes seems more like a war than it once did. The sexual revolution has given people a lot of pleasure, but I can't see that it's made them any happier. When I think of my parents' generation, people born in the 1920s, marrying and having children in the '40s and '50s, I don't see an idyllic world, but neither do I see the misery that's now held to be typical of the time.
Maybe the epitaph of late American civilization will be "They had a lot of fun, but they weren't very happy."
I've been thinking about the totalitarian propensities of contemporary liberalism (please insert standard clarification about classical liberalism etc. etc.), something which I've written about here before and which we've discussed. Whether what we now call liberalism in this country could ever become truly totalitarian--I mean thoroughly and violently repressive, in the way of fascism and communism--I'm not sure. If we include the entire left, there certainly are elements that would seem to be quite willing to use violence, and there certainly are elements which clearly want to enforce very rigid ideological conformity.
But most dedicated liberals are nice people who don't condone or even dream about using violence (although I wonder if that's changing). And they're not big fans of the little fanatics who are in the news regularly for their attempts to shout down any and all opposing views. What they are, I think, is best described by the word devout. They have a religion to which they are passionately devoted, and as with any devotees, they want everyone to share their faith, and for everything around them to reflect it.
There are some excellent examples of the syndrome in this piece by Kevin Williamson: progressivism, he says, is totalitarian
...in the sense that it assumes that there is no life outside of politics, that there is no separate sphere of private life, and that church, family, art, and much else properly resides within that sphere.
Maybe a better word than totalitarianism would be totalism. (I didn't invent the word but it doesn't seem to have been used this way.) The liberal faith is, for its adherents, so very and obviously right, so clearly the path toward a far better life for everyone, that it should permeate everything, just as Christianity permeated medieval Europe. If the goal is an ever-nearer approach to global utopia which requires unity for its achievement, then every person who isn't with the program is not just a lost soul but an obstacle to everyone else's salvation.
And it should certainly be very important to personal relationships. I've seen at least two instances in print of liberals openly expressing a desire for segregation on the basis of politics, though of course they didn't use the word. I can't remember where I read one of them, possibly in the local paper when we still subscribed. It was about a small college town--Oxford, Mississippi, I think--which has a strong literary culture, and of course literary people tend to be liberal in politics, and to assume that all literary people are. And someone talking about how wonderful her neighborhood was said: "It's a street where everybody is a Democrat." That was striking to me. I have no idea at all what the politics of my neighbors are (except for the one house whose lawn sprouted a Trump sign late in the last campaign), and I don't care, and I won't care unless they badger me about it.
The other was in The Atlantic, and thanks to their online archive I can tell you exactly when it appeared and what it said. It was in the December 2013 issue, and the title of the piece is "Do Democrats Make Better Neighbors?". To my thinking anyone who even asks a question like that has thereby indicated that he is much too obsessed with politics. The writer describes his own neighborhood:
But in the past 10 years, the neighborhood has regained much of its leafy, prosperous sheen, drawing families and young people alike. Hobart Street, where I live, celebrates this newfound identity with an annual block party featuring bouncy houses as well as drag queens. Residents kick off a parade by reciting: “I pledge allegiance to Hobart Street Northwest … gay or straight, woman or man, all are welcome on Hobart Street—except for Republicans.”
Substitute some other group for Republican in that and see how it sounds. I give the author credit for at least noting that it might be a problem.
Something astonishing from the Washington Post: they take seriously the claims of an obscure Christian minister in a Florida town that he has detected demonic activity. This is normally the kind of thing that the Post and any other sophisticated news organization would sneer at if it happened to come to their notice. Why does this guy get a sympathetic hearing? Oh, I see: these demons are pro-Trump.
I don't think news media like the Post are even capable of seeing how partisan they are, and how much it distorts their reporting. As everybody knows, I guess, the Obama administration issued a requirement that all schools that receive federal funding must allow students to use whatever restroom they want, depending on what gender they wish to claim. Trump has said that he will rescind that rule. The Post's headline on a story about that:
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ROLLS BACK PROTECTIONS FOR TRANSGENDER STUDENTS
Never any hint that much of the objection to the rule came from concerns that girls would not be protected. It's really quite remarkable how the concerns of and for girls and women instantly became silly when a newer and apparently more victim-y victim class came into the picture. Worse than silly--intolerant and very bad, as David French says.
Pope Francis was widely misquoted last week. You probably saw the headlines, usually something like "Pope Says Better to Be An Atheist Than a Hypocritical Christian." That sentiment was in fact expressed in his talk, but it was attributed to those who are scandalized by hypocritical Christians:
And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others. How many times have we heard--all of us, around the neighbourhood and elsewhere--"but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist."
That sort of bad witness seems more important than ever, with the culture at large tending more and more toward hostility to Christians. The talk, of which you can read more here, contains some strong words useful as we begin Lent:
It would be good for all of us, each one of us, today, to consider if there is something of a double life within us, of appearing just, of seeming to be good believers, good Catholics, but underneath doing something else; if there is something of a double life…
Well, I really didn't intend to talk so much about our collapsing culture this week. Here's something that's not collapsing: the right leg of this Canadian goose. (That's the name of the species. I cannot actually verify that the goose has ever been a resident of Canada.) Not a very good picture, but good enough for you to see that it's standing on one leg. It stood that way for at least five minutes or so while I tried to get close enough to get a picture without scaring it away. How is that even possible? The bird probably weighs at least ten pounds, and most of that weight is, as you can see, hanging in the air unsupported while the unsupportee gazes at the water.