The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Rise of Historical Revisionism in the West…
…The Fall of Tiger and the Resurrection of Golf…
…and Other Contemporary Absurdities…
NOTE TO THE READER: In the first installment of Priceton.org, we promised only rarely to be topical. Sometimes the absurdity of current events makes it impossible to keep that promise…
Spokesmen for the American and Canadian governments have stressed again that the Karzai administration’s first task must be to clean up corruption in Afghanistan. With senate seats for sale in Chicago, the federal sponsorship scandal, the E-health and gun registry fiascoes, shouldn’t the first task be to clean up corruption at home?
Overheard at a bar while watching the final round of the tournament from which Tiger had to withdraw. (Ed. note: Not subscribing to cable, I’m sometimes forced to frequent bars.):
Golf Fan 1: It’s Sunday. Where’s Tiger?
Golf Fan 2: Didn’t you hear, Tiger withdrew. He hit a tree.
Golf Fan 1: Tiger’s always hitting trees. His ball usually bounces right back out into the middle of the fairway. What’s his problem?
2: No, you don’t understand. He was driving.
1: So? Driving is the worst part of his game. Don’t we always see Tiger on the tee yelling and pointing left or right to the fore-caddies down the fairway? What a whiner.
2: He was driving his Escalade. Didn’t even make it out of the driveway into the road.
1: Tiger’s got to stop trying to cut those doglegs. And he should give up those new-fangled balls and go back to Titleist.
The Tiger saga is unremarkable in confirming the debased sexual mores of the rich and famous. What is astounding is the improvident moronism of people like Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Tiger in thinking that no one will ever find about their affairs. Did Tiger really believe that the world would obey his demand for “privacy” just because he demanded it?
One notes the rather promiscuous manner in which that noun has been used of late. When the Supreme Court of the United States declared a woman’s “right” to abort her child under the “privacy” protections of the Constitution, one should have realized that the concept had become so stretched and mutilated as to lose all meaning. Today, everybody is indignant about the violation of his or her “right to privacy”, including the parents of Balloon Boy.
Perhaps the sentient public has finally grown impatient with the heartfelt pleas for privacy of morally adolescent celebrities. The rank hypocrisy of their imprecations is beginning to show. The sainted Princess Diana was constantly remonstrating about the invasion of her privacy, to which her cultists even attributed her death; but Diana hardly cared about privacy when she was ostentatiously jet-setting around the world to promote her pet political causes. Nor did Tiger, when he shilled for banks, car companies, or manufacturers of personal hygiene products. Tiger has earned hundreds of millions of dollars by making his public image universally familiar. Some weeks, I see Tiger’s face more often that that of my closest friend. If only the celebrity class would stop invading my privacy.
As usual, the diviners in the media have affected to mine in this mole hill some deeper sociological significance. Some (like the editors of the National Post) have inferred from the disparity of responses to Tiger’s sexual “transgressions” (“poor Elin; poor children”) from those of his fellow philanderer and golfer Bill Clinton just a few years ago (“everybody does it”; “it’s a private family matter”; “nothing to do with the presidency”) the reawakening of a traditional moral consciousness. I doubt it. In this season of Christian renovatio, my hopes are more modest. They are for the partial renewal of the game of golf.
Before Tiger’s Advent, professional golf was still played by gentlemen. In an era when hockey players regularly express their boyish joie de vivre in bench-clearing brawls; baseball players spit and scratch interminably, and their managers and umpires perform complex pas de deux while foaming at the mouth and thrusting their necks out like chickens; when football players execute Olympic-length gymnastics routines in the end-zone after scoring three-yard touch-downs; when basketball players, after routine lay-ups, suspend themselves theatrically from the nets in imitation of the arboreal species from which the human animal is descended; in short, in an era in which the trained seals in all other major sports were making asses of themselves—to further mix the animal metaphor–, professional golfers were still persevering through a psychologically punishing ordeal with relative sobriety, equanimity, and grace.
Tiger’s club-throwing trantrums, Job-like stares heavenward (after “mis”-hitting long irons fifteen feet from the stick, or failing to hole out forty-footers), and exultant fist-pumps (in celebration of putts that dropped from ten), have changed all that. Now golf is a “sport” like all the others. Professional golfers whine melodramatically, pay tribute to their own greatness in triumphal exhibitions, and perform before galleries that more and more resemble the Philistine mobs of the soccer pitch.
Take your time, Tiger. Take your time.
For the past fifty years or so, the Progressive Axis has enjoyed (to use one of its buzzwords) complete cultural and moral hegemony. Their Orwellian word for it is “diversity”, denoting a “rainbow”, “mosaic”, or “kaleidoscope” (depending upon which cliché you prefer) of leftist political movements and identity groups, each endowed with fully accredited victim status, and all subscribing to the same view of the world. All of the major institutions of Western society–government, organized labour, the media, the arts-and-culture community, the schools—are now Potemkin villages of diversity, beneath whose polychromatic facades lurks a dull and absolute uniformity of thought.
In the collective wisdom of these institutions, every important epistemological, social, and moral question is now “settled”: the relativity of good and evil, the indeterminacy of truth, gay rights, the need for affirmative action, the “right” of women to abortion, the inevitability of pre-marital sex, and of course the “science” of global warming. Those very estates that ought by definition to be neutral (government) or forums of critical scrutiny and debate (the media; the universities) are the most zealous cheerleaders and enforcers of progressive orthodoxy.
In the previous century, the Soviet Comintern (like every other vanguard of totalitarian orthodoxy), realized that to prepare the way for the advent of New Soviet Man, and to ensure his compliance with revolutionary dogma, it was necessary to rewrite, diabolize, or abolish the past. It’s now been twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Evil Empire. Soviet apparachiks are no longer publishing their ham-fisted revisions of history, in which they relentlessly inveighed against the crimes of pre-revolutionary European Man—”Capitalist Oppressor of the Poor”, “Racist Oppressor of Minorities”, “Patriarchal Exploiter of Women”, “Imperialistic Conqueror of Indigenous Peoples”, “Perpetrator of Genocide”, “Superstitious Religionist”, and so on. Even at the time, neither the writers nor the official Party avatars of these crude anti-Western caricatures—and certainly not the captive Soviet peoples—ever believed in their historical veracity. (Behind the Iron Curtain, everyone recognized that they more aptly described the historical record and ambitions of International Communism.)
It was only the intellectual elites in the West who took the Comintern’s anti-Western propaganda seriously. And it is only they who continue to do so. In school textbooks, government pamphlets and public service announcements, and the popular analyses of the news media, the history of the West is a catena of atrocities, its moral and religious institutions and traditions, miasmal swamps of narrow-mindedness, inhumanity, and injustice.
Since the Sixties, high schools have managed to obliviate the past to a degree the propagandists of Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot never dreamed of. The minds of graduating students are almost perfect historical tabulae rasae, except for the limited number of facts that they “know” with certainty. Whether or not they can name a single Greek philosopher, they “know” that the Greeks were a slave-society, and that the Greek patriarchy denied women an education and the vote; these, they know, are the only important facts to know about the Greeks, and the knowledge of them vitiates the entire Greek cultural achievement. (Any other historical details they might have learned were furnished by their teachers as merely ancillary to the demonstration of the main ideological lesson.)
And the sorts of things they know about the ancient Greeks, they also know about European Christendom (forced mass conversions; the Crusades; the Inquisition, and other periodic persecutions and burnings of heretics at the stake; the Salem witch hunt; congenital anti-Semitism); about the unfortunate discovery of the New World (wholesale genocide of pacific and enlightened indigenous civilizations through armed conquest and the deliberate propagation of disease); about the European colonial empires (sustained by racism, the slave trade, and the plundering of resources); about the history of America (robber baron capitalism; slavery, and racism, again).
Only a fool would deny the existence of these unfortunate chapters in the history of the West, of course; but they are practically the only chapters students currently read. Like everything else, the purpose of history is to enhance their self-esteem: it provides the sinister backdrop against which their own benign and enlightened modern image shines forth.
Someone ought to write a non-revised history of the world. I know they exist already (mostly pre-1960’s, a few written thereafter). I recognize also that it is impossible to defeat the Great Beast of Public Opinion, once it has reached a consensus that confers upon the mass mind the illusion of moral superiority. But samizdat at least offers a little solace to the small community of deniers, and the hope that the wall of propaganda might some day come down in the West.