Friday, February 28, 2014

Making Harvard a propaganda factory—UPDATED

Sandra Y. L. Korn, '14, progressivist Borg.
(Image source WND)
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Sandra Y. L. Korn, a Harvard senior double-majoring in history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality (I heard you mutter, “Uh-oh”). In a Harvard Crimson post ironically titled “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom”, Korn has just advocated that Harvard remove itself from serious consideration as a center of academic research and become a generator of progressivist propaganda.

Not in so many words, of course. Her proposal, like Jonathan Swift’s, is modest:

… [The] liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?
Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

In a way, Korn’s argument is refreshing in its near-honesty. We already bias our research output by our funding and publication decisions, is the essence of her reasoning. We already have student activism to make sure conflicting positions are unwelcome here. Why be subtle about suppressing political heresies? Why not make it overt by writing it officially into school policy? I’m only surprised she didn’t suggest “academic justice” be written into Harvard’s hiring, retention and tenure standards.

Which makes me wonder: what are her grades in her history of science courses?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

“Who am I to judge?”

The fateful post-WYD conference. (Photo: CNS)
Okay, let’s take it from the top: The Catholic Church exists to preserve and teach the revelation Jesus gave to his disciples during his earthly ministry. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you …. (Matthew 28:19-20)”

That means the Catholic Church does not exist to teach whatever fashionable notions its members want to embrace today, even though Jesus’ earthly mission took place almost 2,000 years ago. Theological inferences and deductions are permissible; doctrine can grow and develop; discipline may change to a degree to better teach the faith according to the culture and the times. But where doctrine is settled and dogma defined, no change is admissible because it would functionally “change” (i.e. distort) the revelation.

Semper Ecclesia reformanda: “The Church is always to be reformed.” However, there’s authentic reform, and then there’s mere innovation. C. S. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man, described the difference between the authentic reformer and the innovator most memorably: “It is the difference between a man who says to us: ‘You like your vegetables moderately fresh; why not grow your own and have them perfectly fresh?’ and a man who says, ‘Throw away that loaf and try eating bricks and centipedes instead.’”

It should be no surprise that the Church doesn’t adopt all the “reforms” many Westerners think it should. And it should be no surprise that the Church’s sexual teachings haven’t changed. However, some people still manage to cough up shock and outrage that Pope Francis’ out-of-context quote, “Who am I to judge?”, didn’t completely undo 2,000 years’ worth of moral dogma.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The broken gate

There’s kind of a time warp in Facebook Land. On any given day, this strange phenomenon can cough up posts, videos and memes originally uploaded as long as seven or eight years ago. In Facebook Land, the Chuck-Norris-is-tough meme can never truly die.

Thus it was that I didn’t see the RantLifestyle article by Michael Peckerar, “The Girls You Marry vs. the Girls You Hook Up With”, until almost a month had passed since it was published. And not until I read Peckerar’s article did I know about the RantChic article by Regina Phalange, “Men You Marry vs. Men You Bang” to which Peckerar’s article is either a complement or a response. When a man uses an obscenity to describe sex, he’s crude and boorish; when a woman does so, she’s edgy and tough.

I played around with both articles on Monday, hoping to extend them into a commentary on role expectations and the standards of a good spouse. One thing I'd noticed was that, despite the provocative title of her piece, at only one point does Phalange suggest that a man from what we could call the “reject pile” might be good for a one-nighter or “friendship with benefits”; in the other seven categories, we’re almost forced to wonder why any woman would consider sleeping with such a loser, let alone marrying him. By contrast, on several points Peckerar leaves us no doubt that there are women a straight man should want to sleep with ... but not necessarily espouse.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Romance, self-sacrifice and St. Valentine

Sancte Valentine, ora pro nobis.
Post originally published February 14, 2012.

I fail miserably at romance. I’m like the guy in Billy Joel’s song, “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”: sometimes I get so tense, I’ll say or do something that completely spoils the moment … usually, it’s a joke. 

So if I were to write a post telling men how to win women’s hearts, I would be putting myself in a false position. I don’t even have the excuse of being a priest; a priest could at least form some conclusions from what he hears in confessions and spiritual counseling. In fact, I’m convinced that even Dr. Phil is making educated guesses when it comes to women. 

(“What do women want?” asked Freud in despair … to which cartoonist Mimi Pond replied, “Shoes.” Thanks, Mimi. Big help.)

It’s especially difficult to write about romantic love when, in one sense, both “love” and “romance” have lost meaning in the post-modern world. Saint Valentine, his day stripped of its sanctity in the name of secular commerce, now presides over a semi-ritualized gift-giving that drips the same sappy sentimentality with which American marketing saturates every major holiday. Where is the passion, the adventure, the hypergolic mix of eros and agapē? At the same time, why bother with the jewelry and the chocolates when you can just as easily get laid on Groundhog’s Day as Valentine’s Day?