Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Christopher Lebron Interviewed at 3AM.
This strand of perfectionism, as I interpret it goes something like this: there is no offense in saying that there are people who not only do some things better than others but that some people are better than others more generally; the real offense to my mind is when we are complacent about that fact or possibility, thus the person who can be better qua human potential, refuses to tax his or her own capacities, or – and this is actually important for my own brand of egalitarianism – those who are more advantageously positioned in this way withhold the resources (capaciously conceived) for others to more fully develop their skills. (I admit, little support for this last condition can be found in Nietzsche, but can be found in Mill.) I think some will find my position odd because on the one hand it affirms a position that most find inherently aristocratic but then tries to retrofit an egalitarian ideal over it. How does that work? I suppose it depends on an empirical hypothesis that could prove to be confused but in the absence of such proof I am supposing that each of us possesses a certain kind of genius to be better than merely competent moral agents.
Perfectionism is mannerism, a rigorous formality, propriety as opposed to logic, eliding contradictions out of fear. The language in the two paragraphs below is tied up in knots, the author craving attention, approval and respect, and then dismissing it.
LeBrun in the Boston Review
On any given sunny afternoon, or appropriately dusky early evening, when the air seems filled with possibility and release, you can hear me coming a block away. Depending on your socio-cultural background you might not like what you hear. See, my car has thirteen speakers, two of which are subwoofers, and I get a great deal of gratification playing my rap music loud. I won’t reproduce any lyrics here, but suffice it to say, my preferred urban poets don’t always say very ‘respectable’ things. I often get side-eye from the police (playing my music the way I do is practically an open invitation to law enforcement to harass me), and from time to time white mothers and fathers clutch their sons’ and daughters’ hands a bit more tightly as I approach, leaning my lean, smirking my smirk (not at them, mind you).

I’m also the guy with a PhD from M.I.T and a faculty position at Yale. I’ve written a book that has won an important award in my field of political theory, I’ve published academic articles in good journals, and I’ve written for the New York Times as well as Boston Review. This despite having been on welfare, having collected unemployment, having been raised mostly poor, by a father without a high school education and a mother who never set foot in a university. I was the first in my entire extended family to get a four-year degree, much less a PhD, much less a PhD from the likes of M.I.T. Despite the fact that I’ve accomplished and produced more than many white counterparts, I’ve got to work hard to get what they tend to acquire with relative ease, which I do.
A portrait attributed to Bronzino in the Frick Collection is a characteristic specimen of the second phase of mannerism, which. is the very style of the Counter Reformation. It sets in almost precisely with the beginning of the Council of Trent and outlasts it only by a few decades. Now things were settled,but freedom of life and thought, happiness, and even beauty had to be sacrificed on the altar of the dogma, now firmly reestablished but oppressive and tyrannical as long as its rule was still threatened - and the same was true of morals and customs (Spanish dress; Tasso). Thus such a portrait has in common with the Raphael portrait that the figure is again quiet and full of composure; but it differs from it in that the carriage and expression are emphatically uneasy and unhappy. While in the Raphael portraits the self-restriction revealed a complete freedom and and self-sufficient harmony, it reveals here a constrained reserve deliberately secluding itself from the outer world. It is as though the life of these people had gone frozen, or hides itself behind a motionless mask, melancholy and cool, shy and supercilious at the same time.
Lebron is a "philosopher", interviewed at one of Leiter's favorite sites, a fan of Nietzsche's reactionary elitism, and exhibiting all the traits of Leiter's new favorite terms, ressentiment and reaction formation.  In his case it's the anger of Norman Podhoretz and Clarence Thomas, the anger of the striving insecure petit-bourgeois, the moralizing outsider who wants in just so he can say "fuck you" to his new peers and be a snob at the same time. Leiter himself like a character out of Philip Roth; maybe they all are.

As an outsider who had no way in Lebron might have gone for radicalism or religious fundamentalism, other versions of mannerist overdeterminism.  But times have changed and he's chosen the imperatives of elite academia, as Coates has found a home in the American press.

Lebron is responding to Randall Kennedy.
My parents inculcated in me and my two siblings a particular sense of racial kinship: in our dealings with the white world, we were encouraged to think of ourselves as ambassadors of blackness. Our achievements would advance the race, and our failures would hinder it. The fulfillment of our racial obligations required that we speak well, dress suitably, and mind our manners.

...They never suggested that these circumstances were just; to the contrary, they resented them and abhorred the prejudice and discrimination that littered with dangerous booby traps the pathways trod by their beloved children. They believed, however, that one had to face reality with clear eyes in order to fashion responses with any hope of success. They were under no illusion that strict adherence to their protocols would immunize us completely against the ravages of negrophobia; they knew that racism targeted “good” blacks too. But they reasoned that their strictures would at least improve our chances of surviving and thriving.

...Ta-Nehisi Coates, perhaps the most influential young commentator on contemporary race relations, has called the appeal to respectability one of the “most disreputable traditions in American politics”
"Booker T and W.E.B"the phrase I remember from childhood.  Everyone above is craving respect in the American mainstream, but at the same time they want to feel intellectually and morally superior. Coates just won a MacArthur grant.

Let's hear it for Jewish comedians

To explain what I don't want to: Drake identifies as Jewish. His mother's in the video. And of course popular culture is full of images and demonstrations of ressentiment, the anger of the powerless: the Panthers and the JDL, Farrakhan and Kahane The JDL and NWA. True fascism begins and ends as a pose. But Leiter who has power and identifies with power, mocks the anger of the weak.

Irony is the glory of slaves. I should make it into a tag.

The other question Leiter won't address is the role of reaction formation in sexuality.  Following the usual definition both drag queens and gay bashers are demonstrating self-disgust at the fact of their homosexual desires.

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