About Me

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Armchair theorist, poet, and occasional IT manager, Sascha B. is equipped with a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas, and is not afraid to use it. His work has been published by the University Press of America, Edwin Mellen Press, University of Texas Press, and a variety of small journals nationwide. He is also the proprietor and baker for 3141 Pie, of which you should eat many.

The Deal

I stopped blogging in 2013, when life overtook me. My father became ill and died shortly thereafter, and my mother was left with increasing dementia. I became the primary caregiver, and now orchestrate my mother's care and our family estate.

Now, I am coming up for air again.

Looking for the next book to read. All suggestions welcome.

My reading list is over here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Failure Of Our Culture

So I've just digested the somewhat rant-like screed Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, by Chris Hedges. It's a book that requires dissection, for its excellent premise as well as for its execrable presentation and support. But I'll save that for another day, after I've given it a bit more time to settle in (and for the antidote of reasoned inquiry to have time to work my brain back to a semblance of calm).

One issue Hedges addresses though is the bizarre thread of self-esteem in American culture; this strange idea that no matter what our skills, or our abilities, or our talents, or our mental capacity, that gosh darn it we're better than everybody else, and we can do anything, be anything, achieve anything.

Nota Bene: This is not true.

In the news today, two items that are associated with this somewhat schizoid train of thought: first, a WSJ op-ed by Peggy Noonan, which dissects, grills, and tosses away the last vestiges of whatever sham Sarah Palin might have still held up for the gullible, the incurious, and the asinine. Her key point (for my thinking today)?:
"For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they're perfect in every way. It's yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy."
This is not about humility, or any other pretense: it is about being aware of what you know and what you don't, and being able to rationally identify your limits in order to achieve a measure of success and, with any luck, to grow beyond those limits through learning and experience. But without setting them first, how can we ever expect to surpass them?

Following on Noonan's heels, we have this piece from CNN discussing what anyone who has either purchased women's clothes, seen a fashion model, or spoken to a woman in the last two decades who wears anything other than sweat pants and flip flops already knows: as Americans have increased in girth, clothing sellers have altered the sizes accordingly. What would have been a size 8 in 1990 is now a size 10 or 12; what we used to call a size 2 is now a size "0;" and what we used to call fat we now call "average."

The desire for (and complicity by industries like fashion) to allow and encourage the cognitive dissonance between what is true and what we wish to be true is, in many ways, what brought us Sarah Palin. And what is threatening to destroy our nation's ability to reason---and govern---effectively.