The Henry Higgins Syndrome And Me

“An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him!  The moment he talks he makes some other  Englishman despise him!”

—Alan J. Lerner, writing for Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” in the song, “Why Can’t The English Teach Their Children How To Speak?”

Today’s latest “Let’s hate the President!” item from the news media was the leaked news that Trump can’t stand how AG Jeff Sessions speaks. Politico reported yesterday that Trump has griped “to aides and lawmakers”  “that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the President on television — in part because he ‘talks like he has marbles in his mouth.’”

As usual, the fact that some un-named source says something doesn’t make it true, or, for that matter, legitimate to reports as news, by hey, it’s Donald Trump, so fairness, ethical journalism and professionalism are suspended, right? If you hate the man, here’s more non-substantive, unproven stuff to believe and complain about on line, and if your business is to try to define and encourage standards of societal and workplace ethics, here’s one more chance to be vilified on Facebook as a “Trump supporter” by pointing out that it is wrong for anyone to be subjected to hearsay snipe attacks like that.

In this case, however, there is another factor. There are a lot of speech habits and styles that I have a visceral dislike of too. Some I can defend, some are just a matter of taste, regional influences and upbringing, and some are genuine impediments to my treating people fairly.

Here’s one that my Facebook friends will love, for example: the way Donald Trump talks drives me crazy. His repetitive vocabulary–every thing is “great,” “strong,” “weak,” “stupid,” “smart,” “sad” or “tough; everyone is a “loser,” a “moron” “out of control,” or “dangerous”–signals “uneducated simpleton” to me. I’ve read all of the scholarly examinations of Trumps communications style and why it is effective, and I understand the theories. They are probably right. Where I come from, however, size, precision and variety of vocabulary is deemed a reliable way of gauging intellectual capacity.

President Trump is far from the first or only President whose speaking skills and habits triggered biases. Lyndon Johnson’s slow drawl sounded insincere to my ear. Jimmy Carter’s speech patterns and accent were annoying and sanctimonious. Ford’s dead monotone was like finger-nails on a blackboard to me. Both Bushes were such artificial public speakers that I came to hate listening to them. When it comes to public speakers, I resent anyone who keeps using amateurish and unpleasant speaking habits, because I know that they can be easily fixed. The same is true of trial lawyers, and anyone who has to communicate for a living. If you are willing to work, if you care about your listeners at all, you can address all but the most physiologically embedded speaking problems. To me, as someone who has coached speakers professionally (and been coached as well), the bad habits of speakers like Johnson, Carter and the Bushes–don’t get me started on the losers like McCain, Dole, and Hillary—just tell me that they don’t care. They are lazy and arrogant. They could be better communicators, which means they could be better at their jobs. They aren’t willing to put in the effort.

Many speaking habits of women especially irritate me, and I have to fight the reflex impulse to think worse of them based on their speech alone.. Strident styles, like Elizabeth Warren. Women who speak in their head voices, rather than placing the sound properly in their chest. Breathy speakers. One of the worst habits is “vocal fry,” which I am either hearing more often, or becoming less tolerant of.

Then, of course, there are the class, regional, racial, ethnic and educational variations that Rex Harrison was talk-singing about. Using “ain’t” or the wrong version of “to be”  (“He don’t…”) create instant bias for me. So are thick accents that an attentive English-speaker can’t understand easily: yes, I get testy at a fast food drive-through when a McDonald’s employee speaks so fast and with such a heavy accent that she is incomprehensible. Some of my annoyance is justifiable: if communicating with the public is part of your job, then do it right. Some is, I know, intolerance, impatience, and unfair.

I was raised by and grew up with almost exclusively people who spoke clear, articulate, standard English. If I were not, as Henry says, I might be selling flowers too. We all have biases; biases are unavoidable. They make us stupid, and often make us bigoted, mean and intolerant. Speech biases cause us to jump to unfair and unjustified conclusions. This is my confession: I have the Henry Higgins Syndrome.

I’m aware of it, I’m working on it, and I’m trying to minimize its effect on how I assess people.  That’s all any of us can do.

That, and learn to speak better, dammit!

38 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, Race, U.S. Society, Workplace

38 responses to “The Henry Higgins Syndrome And Me

  1. JutGory

    Jack:

    If it makes you feel better, I read this.

    Comment forthcoming….

    -Jut

  2. Another Mike

    You hit too many of my hot-buttons… maybe a later comment.
    Except– of all places, I learned about speaking, communicating ideas, etc in Drill Sergeant School, USArmy, 1968. And fast-food clerks, filtered through those tinny speakers are unbearable.

  3. DaveL

    I’ve met several people who made me wish I could buy them a bucket of nouns for Christmas. My sister-in-law is one of them. The guy? Which guy? The guy with the thing? Who was at that place?

  4. Gamereg

    I’ve read that “ain’t” is a perfectly legitimate contraction for “am not”. Therefore, “I ain’t going to do that” is correct, while “you ain’t going to do that” is not.

    • Zanshin

      Well, there is this song,
      Ain’t she sweet
      Well see her walking down that street

      For instane, here an excellent cover by the Beatles:

  5. Author Richard Wright was labeled a degenerate bourgeois intellectual for sounding “like a book” to his communist comrades in Detroit in the 30’s. Apparently speaking well then was an issue as it signaled “ideological factionalism” and “class collaborationist attitudes.” I guess there’s just no pleasing some people.

  6. dragin_dragon

    Lyndon Johnson actually had a Texas accent…which he exacerbated when he was speaking in public. I have a Texas accent, which I can exacerbate at will and I would bet slickwilly has one as well. For Johnson to make his worse, deeper and consequently less understandable was, in my opinion, ham acting. On the other hand, being hard of hearing, people who speak a mile-a-minute are virtually impossible for me to understand. I have a dear friend who is from Chicago and I have to constantly ask her to repeat what she has said.

  7. Frank Stephens

    While anonymous sources are SOMETIMES key to unlocking a big and important story, unnamed informants can also be the road to an ethical swamp, as we witness daily in what passes for American journalism. It seems in today’s journalistic swamp anonymous sources rule the day.

    The SPJ Code of Ethics contains two pointed statements on anonymous sources:

    1. Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.

    and secondly:

    2. Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.

    The wisdom of using anonymous sources has been the subject of an ongoing debate in journalism for years, but the practice has grown substantially with President Trump’s election win.

  8. Chris Marschner_

    Jack, I agree with your assessment that if your job requires you to communicate you should work to improve that skill. That can be said for any skill used for employment.

    I am less willing to use a persons vocabulary as a proxy for intellect. I will agree that their is a high level of confidence in the corollation between education and vocabulary but a person’s level of intellect is of questionable validity when corollated with education as is evidenced by the many with advanced degrees simply parroting talking points of their favorite purveyor of propoganda. Many of these folks string together their own versions of word salads to show us peons how smart they are.

    In many of my writings for classes I was taking I was criticized often for using too many polysyllabic words and too long sentences and to adapt my writing for a 9th grade level so my writing would be more understandable to more people. I have, over time reduced my penchant for sesquapedelia but not the length of my sentences.

    I think it is fair to say that Trump got similar advice. Trump speaks much the way his audience speaks. It is how he connects with them so for that audience his speech pathology is effective. I would prefer that his communication style was more elevated but he won using this style so how can I argue against it. I can say that over time his railing against those who are promoting “the witch hunt” will become tiresome to all but his most ardent supporters. Nonetheless, he is a marketer who knows that superlatives are easily consumed and digested by the vast majority of the population.

    His vocabulary may be limited to the use of grand superlatives but that no different than the opposition that rely on their set of adjectives; racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynist, etc. In both cases there is no nuance in the messaging.

    • Chris Marschner_

      2nd pg should be there not their.

    • As I said, I recognize that it’s a bias on my part. On the other hand, complex thoughts require words to describe and define them. A low level vocabulary is a serious handicap to critical reasoning.

      • Zanshin

        True . . . but never underestimate the importance of swimology!

      • Chris Marschner_

        Agreed. However, we have only seen Trump the marketer. How many if us have listened to him in one on one conversations on serious topics.

        The closest we have come to that is during debates, but again the debates are about convincing more people to side with you; thus it is marketing.

        Trumpspeak tells us more about ourselves than what it tells of his command of the language.

        A day or two ago you reported a poll that said most Americans could not name one Supreme Court Justice. That tells me a great deal about the level of intellect of his audience; by audience I mean the public at large irrespective of ideology.

    • Zanshin

      Chris wrote,

      “In many of my writings for classes I was taking I was criticized often for using too many polysyllabic words and too long sentences and to adapt my writing for a 9th grade level so my writing would be more understandable to more people.”

      The problem with many too long sentences is that they are too short.

      Case in point, if you expand your sentence with “I was admonished” (see resulting sentence below) it would be long but not too short.

      “In many of my writings for classes I was taking I was criticized often for using too many polysyllabic words and too long sentences and I was admonished to adapt my writing for a 9th grade level so my writing would be more understandable to more people.”

  9. Mr. Marshall-

    You complain about President Johnson’s drawl and President Carter’s accent, as well as others who you say are lazy, arrogant, and don’t care. But for me the tell is your complaint, “Many speaking habits of women especially irritate me, and I have to fight the reflex impulse to think worse of them based on their speech alone..Strident styles, like Elizabeth Warren. Women who speak in their head voices, rather than placing the sound properly in their chest. Breathy speakers.”

    Do you also call men strident? Or like many others, do you reserve this criticism almost exclusively for women? Is problem Ms. Warren’s style of speech or is the real problem the content of her speech, the passion of her speech, or the the fact that she is a woman who has dared to speak her mind in the first place?

    There are many people who stridently proclaim their ignorance but there are far fewer people who use evidence and logic to stridently (your description) speak truth to power. Neither Ms. Warren nor anyone I know are perfect but I find great eloquence in the power of her integrity and analyses, i.e., in the way she thinks and speaks. Do you think that Bernie Sanders is passionate or do you think that he is strident about the concentration of wealth and the corruption of politics? Or is his Brooklyn accent a convenient excuse to dismiss the goals he shares with Ms. Warren?

    Our President is Donald Trump. His aides and apologists (as of this moment) include the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity, Ted Cruz, and Kellyanne Conway. I think that any one of them can qualify for the medals podium at the Strident Olympics. But what is worse than people who are strident? People who are strident LIARS are much worse.

    Years ago, I had an internship in London. I witnessed a linear relationship between one’s ability to speak the Queen’s English and one’s place in the organization chart at almost every company. I have found however that speaking ability is not the same as wisdom. Margaret Thatcher could speak much more intelligently than “The Great Communicator”, Ronald Reagan, yet both pursued similar economic policies of deregulation and union-busting that have concentrated wealth and power in both countries. “Dubya” sounded almost as dumb as Tony Blair sounded smart yet both men LIED and started a war which has yet to end. The Yalie who sounds illiterate and the Oxford alumnus who does not are both war criminals who are directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    As for ethics and unnamed sources, you are correct that we should should all be careful about anonymous allegations if only because the Trump White House makes almost anything seem credible. But the title and subject of the Politico Story you cite is “Trump personally lobbying GOP senators to flip on Sessions.” Despite Trump’s many tweets and recorded statements on the subject, do you dispute this claim as hearsay? Do you think that the specific detail about Sessions’ southern accent changes the FACT that Trump is incensed that Sessions will not fire Mueller and seeks someone more compliant? If not, then I believe the only snipe attack here is from you. Did you miss Trump’s performance with Putin in Helsinki or Trump’s attacks on our economic and military alliances? I suggest you look into it.

    Stop kicking sand with whataboutery. Surely a man interested in ethics can appreciate that substance trumps style. Pun intended.

    PS – I do not have a website and I this site would not allow me to post without a url so I provided the url for this page.

    • !. Check the comment rules. This qualifies as a partisan rant, I usually don’t post them.
      2. Learn to read. The post was about bias, and how I have to work to overcome a bias against people’s character and message based only on inept speaking styles….like Hillary or Warren.
      3. I would find Warren’s views disingenuous and incompetent if she was as pleasant to listen to as Tony Bennett. But that was not relevant.
      4. I’m a professional stage director and a public speaking coach. Women sabotage their success with toxic speaking styles. Low voices sound better than high ones—that’s why most announcers are male. A biological reality, but one that can be overcome, as can a strident speaking style. Ted Kennedy also had an obnoxious strident style. It isn’t just women, but it’s a special trap for women.
      5. I suggest that you actually check read the blog before you tell me what to “look into,” asshole.
      6. A URK is not required, just a name and email. Right again!

      • Mr. Marshall-

        Like you, I also struggle not to dismiss what someone says because of how they say it. You may think otherwise but I did read your post, both the text and the subtext. I agree that this post is all about bias and I called you on your bias against women and your dog whistle “strident women”. You may think that low voices may sound better than high ones but I suspect that if most people shared your opinion there would be far fewer female artists in all musical genres. Just because you and I both like Tony Bennett does not mean there is an objective standard about “pleasant listening” that is shared by all listeners. I respect that you see Warren and Kennedy differently than I do. However, I think that any discussion of strident speaking styles per se should also include some Republican speakers because neither party has a monopoly on this problem. I continue to believe that when you criticize mostly liberal politicians for poor speaking styles, you betray a concern that is less about style than it is about viewpoint.

        The meeting in Helsinki was a watershed moment for me as serious as 9/11. All American presidents since the end of WWII have been able prevent nuclear war without savagely attacking American institutions or proclaiming unquestioning acceptance of a dictator’s statements. The meeting in Helsinki was preceded by a NATO summit where Trump attacked and insulted some of our closest allies. The entire world witnessed this unprecedented performance by an American president. I know that you do not share my view of this issue and I am struggling to understand what you and other Trump supporters see that I do not. I am absolutely sincere in this quest.

        I did not know that you were also a stage director and public speaking coach when I posted. I only knew what you had written at the top of your About page, specifically

        ”My name is Jack Marshall. I’m an ethicist, which means I make my living teaching, consulting, speaking and writing about ethics, and a lawyer, and the president of ProEthics, Ltd.”

        But your writing on this blog seems to be all about politics and much less about ethics. Advocacy for a specific political viewpoint is not the same as writing about ethics. Other people’s opinions are not unethical simply because you do not agree with them. My suggestion that you look into the meeting in Helsinki was snarky and patronizing and I own it. I also own that my comment and viewpoint are partisan. But you cannot dismiss my writing as a rant when you hurl unsubstantiated invective as in this title:

        “Late Verdict On The Helsinki Press Conference Freak-Out: I’m Convinced. It’s Just More Unethical, Double-Standard, Anti-Trump, “Resistance” And News Media Coup-Fodder, Only Noisier And Dumber Than Usual”

        As a lawyer, you know that the assertion “I’m Convinced” followed by a string of current buzzwords does not satisfy the burden of proof for anyone other than yourself and people who already agree with you. I also believe that a professional ethicist could be just as partisan but much more careful and thorough in refuting his opponents than your post on this conference. Your label “partisan rant” does not disprove any point that I made. I may BE an asshole but calling me one is intemperate and discredits you as an ethicist.

        For the record, I also read your Comment Policies page before my first post. I followed directions and provided my real name. I believe that I was civil. I have tried to be thoughtful. Please do not rush to criticize me out of hand. I have never had a WordPress, Twitter, or Facebook account. Without an account on any of these platforms, the software for this site required me to provide a URL for my own website which I also do not have. Thus I pasted to URL for this page into the third field below my email address and name. Without this last step your site would not accept my post. This was my experience of your site portal and your dismissal “Right Again” is dead wrong on this specific issue. Look at your site as it appears to users, not from your login as the administrator.

        My goal is not to insult you or to prove ideological points. I claim no monopoly on truth. Because you both support President Trump and describe yourself to be a professional ethicist, I would like to understand what you see that I do not. I am worried about the country we share and I am trying however clumsily to understand viewpoints different than my own.

        • Ross Glazier wrote: “Because you both support President Trump and describe yourself to be a professional ethicist, I would like to understand what you see that I do not. I am worried about the country we share and I am trying however clumsily to understand viewpoints different than my own.”

          It is understandable that you might equate Jack’s position as ‘support’ when, in fact, it is not. But you’d have to research many many previous posts on the topic of the Trump presidency to understand his position. If he appears to ‘support’ Trump, it is actually that he is defending him against an irrational and emotional-hysterical mob-reaction which, according to Jack’s view, is destructive to democratic process. Therefor, Trump may be a bad person and an inferior president, but the actions and manipulations of the opposition reveal genuinely destructive attitudes and actions that will prove far more negative to the health of the US nation. That is my understanding of Jack’s position in a nut-shell.

          As per the usual, in my own case, I am less interested in the *surface* of things and much more interested in the *inner dimensions*. I am curious about, and also suspicious of, your declaration of ‘trying however clumsily to understand viewpoints different than my own’. I praise you simply for stating it this way, yet I am aware that many people, and often, when they say such things — it sounds nice! — really are gathering information with which to bolster their own pre-formed ideas and opinions. In other words, some people will *listen* to you only if they are rather sure that they can *refute* you. But when you do not show yourself as easily refutable, then their openness to *listening* quickly changes.

          I also have been trying to get to the bottom of ‘what Trump means’ in the sense of what he *represents*. I suppose I would say *psychologically* and for the nation as a whole. I say this because it seems to me that when we observe the present, we observe astounding theatrics! There is nothing, or little, that is happening that can be said to be *substantial* — it is all the same as it has ever been politically, economically, in terms of production and distribution — but *the soul of the Nation* is in a highly disturbed state. Wouldn’t you agree? It’s as though a strange fever has infected the Nation and everyone is reacting to it according to their *disposition* (I was going to say their humour in the Medieval sense).

          I am inclined to think that Noam Chomsky is on the mark, at least in the domain of his concerns, when he says that the theatrics of Trump and the Trump presidency conceal what is really going on. What is really going on, according to Chomsky, is a dismantling of certain social policies and *gains* as the democrats might say, as dedicated Republican interests work to reestablish the policies that serve US business and the class that, to put it popularly, ‘owns America’. It could be as simple as that. While the Trump Drama is performed, as it were, it is what is going on in the background that is noteworthy and important. I guess I am of the rather cynical belief that ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose‘. And yet try to find someone who can describe, without political bias, ‘what really is going on’ in the United States! I do not think you could find that person if you looked among *the complicit*; that is, those invested in the System. Therefor, to get to the truth, or a truth, requires a viewpoint from outside of the system itself. Who has it? Who can provide it? It is a complex hermeneutical question! To understand The Present requires an interpreter! There is no way round this. But who can do it? Hint: No one who writes on this Blog! No one who writes anywhere! Why? Why is this? That is a question that requires and answer, yet the answer also depends on *where one stands*; that is, one’s level of complicity.

          As to the rather raw and dangerous social sentiments that are boiling up to the surface, now that is an interesting question! But it occurs to me that it is a hot-potato too hot to handle. To understand Trump on one level one must, in fact, gain a background in crude popular movements, usually regionally-based, whose ideas in our present are seen as backward, regressive, mean-spirited, non-‘democratic’ or anti-‘democratic’ (in quotes because the notion of ‘democracy’ in America is a false-idea), as well as contrary to the political anthropology enforced in our present. Trump represents, in my view, a certain portion of America which has not been sufficiently either constructed nor ‘reconstructed’. And this faction within the political body, more unconsciously than consciously, is in rebellion against the national, and also the global, powers that seek to mold it. What that means is a population that exists to be molded.

          Not ‘democracy’ as this has very little to do with democracy, but rather social engineering of a sort that is so radical, so powerful, so ‘necessary’, that it might not be able to be stopped. It is so foundational to the operation of The System. Social engineering: intelligence agencies and military planners, powerful economic forces of rulership and control, industrial and manufacturing interests, employing the techniques and technologies of social and political control in order to ‘steer’ culture into ends that they have devised through careful planning. It is essentially the American business model’.

          The great plainte of the present — what comes through the media-system itself, that devious spider! — is that things are careening to ‘fascism’. Soon, it will be *Poland* and *Hungary* for poor America! Oddly, when one studies the American populism, this is not completely incorrect. But one really does have to make the effort to study these popular movements. The Klan, American nativism generally, certainly Anti-Catholicism, the popular movements against the war policies and the neo-imperial adventures of the US ruling classes; and the function, shall I say, of rather crude and non-sophisticated religious narratives (Christian mostly, but also some that are somewhat close to Nietzschean viewpoints), that are common among ‘the people’ and which define how they see the larger world surrounding them. Our present, in my view, is another octave of the Interwar Period (20s-30s) and for this reason the ironical-realistic term Weimerica has to be looked at, understood. If you really want to *see* how *these people* see their world, you really have to abandon prejudice! (For example David Duke, Louis Beam, and many many others: more American than Apple Pie).

          So much! So complex! So ideological! All of it requires a ‘free mind’ and a roving intellect. I guess I am the only one who will be able to carry it forward… 😉

          • Dear Alizia Tyler,

            Thank you for your long and thoughtful response to my comments. I have taken time to consider what you have written and to avoid responding in haste.

            I am writing under my real name, not an alias. I challenged Mr. Marshall because I am sincere in my desire to understand his position. I concede that I know nothing about Mr. Marshall other than his resume in the “About” section of this blog and the very few of his posts that I have read. In other words, I concede that I am ignorant about Mr. Marshall. However, from what I have read just in his post on the press conference in Helsinki, I cannot agree with your summary of his position on Mr. Trump.

            I agree with the idea that appearances and reality are not necessarily the same. I also agree with your description that “the soul of the Nation is in a highly disturbed state.” And I do not dismiss criticism of capitalism or democracy either in theory or as practiced in America. I disagree, however, with your cynicism “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” I believe that things are NOT the same right now. I also partially disagree with your characterization of Chomsky; the Trump administration IS dismantling past policies but they are NOT concealing their work, only attempting to distract our attention. Mr. Trump and his staff are very open about undoing everything from the EPA to the NATO alliance.

            You write, “To understand The Present requires an interpreter! There is no way round this.” The Google Dictionary lists understanding as a synonym of interpretation (1). Your statement is a tautology if only because each of us is the interpreter for our own understanding. You also write, “to get to the truth, or a truth, requires a viewpoint from outside of the system itself.” Centuries in the future, such a person will probably exist. However at this time we know, “President Trump told Lesley Stahl he bashes [the] press ‘to demean you and discredit you so … no one will believe’ negative stories about him (2).” Even the most biased partisan can understand this statement whether or not they concede this fact.

            Yes, current events are complicated and people with power conceal many things from the public at large. And yes, each of us has biases that contribute to motivated reasoning and that filter our perceptions – you, me, Mr. Marshall – all of us. But I believe that reality is neither as complicated nor as concealed as you claim it to be. I do not believe that a privileged, neutral, omniscient position is possible or necessary. In Hans Christian Andersen’s story, a child can see the truth about the emperor’s clothes. You can dismiss me as a simpleton but I do not think that any sophisticated meta analysis is necessary to see the harm and danger of Mr. Trump’s horrible policies. Separately, I also think that no such meta analysis is necessary to see the harm and danger of Mrs. Clinton’s paid speeches for Goldman Sachs. No one has a monopoly on truth or virtue. Not everything is completely obscure or inaccessible for people who choose to look and to think.

            You compare America now with Germany between the two world wars. I think that your comparison has merit. There is something absolutely pathetic about people in privileged and technologically advanced nations blaming their problems on others. WWI began when Germany invaded France and Belgium in August 1914. Refugees at our southern border are fleeing violence in Central America. The United States funded right-wing death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua that directly contributed to the violence these refugees are fleeing. Our history of causing trouble in Mexico is much longer. And narcotics would not arrive from Mexico or anywhere else without a robust American demand for narcotics.

            Then in Germany as now in America, a leader went looking for scapegoats. Then as now relatively few people knew members of the top 1% in their nation, the oligarchs with great wealth and power. Then as now many more people knew members of the urban upper-middle class, citizens with incomes above their own. Like others before them, the Republicans have used scapegoats to unite the working poor with the oligarchs and against the urban upper-middle class. Clearly, calling some voters “a basket of deplorables” was not a good strategy for breaking this alliance. Who are the people in America today who less privileged white voters resent and distrust? Who are the “Libtards” who are the targets of so much Republican wrath? Who are the primary readers of that most vile of “Fake News” outlets, the New York Times?

            As for American populism and nativism, I grew up in a Jewish family in Indianapolis, Indiana, the headquarters of the KKK for part of the 20th century. Paraphrasing your claim, “David Duke, Louis Beam, and many many others [are as] American [as] Apple Pie.” I believe however that your instruction to abandon prejudice is more appropriately directed at Messrs. Duke and Beam instead of those who study them. And I am choosing to read your closing statement, “All of it requires a ‘free mind’ and a roving intellect. I guess I am the only one who will be able to carry it forward…“ as irony.

            Yours sincerely,

            Ross Glazier
            Los Angeles, California

            Notes:

            1)https://www.google.com/search?q=interpretation&rlz=1CAASUK_enUS761US761&oq=interpretation&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i65j69i60l3j0.5131j1j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

            2)https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/22/trump-told-lesley-stahl-he-bashes-press-to-discredit-negative-stories.html

            • Thanks for your response. A couple of things:

              I said “All of it requires a ‘free mind’ and a roving intellect. I guess I am the only one who will be able to carry it forward…“ because I am of the opinion that though many things can be known, I am not sure if the *stories* we receive, and perhaps those we create and tell to ourselves, are really truthful. They reflect truths, but they are not the ‘whole truth’. I perceive that we live within a complex ‘system of lies’ and I speculate that when systems of lies become too complex there might not be a way to break through to a clear sense of *what really is happening*. There is also the problem of when systems become so large, and complex, so interwoven and entwined, that their workings cannot be well understood. In that situation we deal in the best efforts of interpretation yet interpretation is impossible. One must interpret, yet one really cannot manage it. One’s interpretations are partial.

              I should have said: “To arrive at understanding requires an Interpreter” (or interpretation), and though this seems obvious, I think it is important to place emphasis on the act of interpretation. I think that we are offered a kind of pre-digested ‘interpretation’ — maybe I can say that The System offers this and seeks to convince us — but that to get behind the scenes, or to see more truthfully — requires special hermeneutical skills. I know that sounds like a too-fancy way to put it, yet I think it true.

              I admit to being quite confused about what the meaning of the 2 European wars is. Or really what I mean is how to interpret them. They were completely devastating to Europe. Growing up in the same background as you (but in Venezuela), and having then rejected Judaism, and then become critical of it, and then become anti-Zionist when before it was inconceivable to be anything but pro-Zionist, has opened me up to *discourses*, shall we say, that are not very favorable of Jewish objectives. And I have read a great deal of them, and quite closely. I believe that there is a sound critical position — definitely of Zionism — but also, likely, of post-emancipation Judaism. (Hilaire Belloc might be my preferred middle-of-the-road Jewish critical position). I am not sure that Judaism is really sound and helpful to European aims, to be frank. So, I am not closed to the arguments of the so-called anti-semites. I know, its strange. Obviously, there is a resurgence of the questioning of Jewish motives (cf Kevin McDonald ‘The Culture of Critique’). Just saying what I have said is literally beyond the pale of acceptable and thinkable thought. But I really said very little, and nothing unreasonable. (But I do recognize, and fear, ‘rabid’ forms of Judenhass).

              If any part of this, or some part of it, is true, it might prove my point that ‘interpretation’ is essential, and difficult. But that it is impossible to arrive at a thorough interpretation when there are so many forces that seek to control how interpretation is undertaken and what the result of it will be.

              But I believe that reality is neither as complicated nor as concealed as you claim it to be.

              Yes, but you are speaking to specific points that you feel can be clarified. There, I agree with you. But in a larger scope I have a sense that might indeed be. And sorry to get too grandiose but *reality* (existence, being, meaning) are not at all simple.

              Also, I have mixed ideas and feelings about ‘nativism’ and even those manifestations that, in our present, are considered ‘horrid’. What this means is that I have read the ‘nativists’ (Beam and Duke for example) and I find their vision of things, in certain senses, more in accord with ‘the original spirit of America’. It is later liberal ideas, and certain forms of modernism, that have painted nativism as a pure negative. But I have tried to understand that, originally, the idea of separated, sovereign regions was the idea on which the Republic was founded. Not as a Nation with one will, one ideology. I became opposed to ‘social engineering’, even in my interpretation of the North’s invasion of the South, and this (again) is a rather contrarian position to take.

              You compare America now with Germany between the two world wars. I think that your comparison has merit.

              Except that, again, I have come out in defence of ‘reactionary’ movements. Definitely of those Interwar movements that opposed Communism and the disease of Marxism. I admit to being a partisan, for example, of Poland and Hungary, if only in a general way. Something must arise to confront (what I call) the hyper-liberalism of the present. My ideas are not very well formed though. But in essence I am in-pro of *European regeneration*.

              Therefor (I suppose I might say ‘therefor’) I look upon Donald Trump with a great deal of suspicion. I think the demographic that looks to him, or would hope in him, some sort of guide or leader (or herald?) is likely mistaken. How could he serve anything but the business class of America? (Sorry to put it in such vulgar terms). There is, to my mind, something truly perverse in Trump’s open support/service to Israel. This looks really really bad from any angle and makes it seem that Israel controls and directs American policies. This will not bode well.

              In order to understand Jack’s position you will have to research it. It is more complex and more nuanced than you can know. I won’t try to paraphrase it. Unfortunately, I don’t think the search function on this Blog works at all well. I have tried.

              Finally, I suggest that we are definitely in a crisis of interpretation! This should be obvious just in the interpretations that I have offered here.

              • Alizia Tyler-

                I said that your comparison of America now and Germany between the wars had merit. In response you wrote, “Except that, again, I have come out in defence of ‘reactionary’ movements.” Which reactionary movements do you mean? The Nazi Party? The Final Solution?

                I have also rejected religious belief as well as religious nationalism. But unlike you, I am aware that my personal beliefs would have been irrelevant under the Nuremberg Racial Laws. I am guessing (but do not know) that it was lucky for your family that Venezuela was one of the few places that accepted Jews fleeing the Nazis.

                You also write “I am not sure that Judaism is really sound and helpful to European aims, to be frank.” I am not sure what “European Aims” are but thank you for proffering your opinion about them with regard to Judaism. But then you add “So, I am not closed to the arguments of the so-called anti-semites. I know, its [sic] strange.” The result of all of your “close reading” to be sure.

                You do not need to respond because we are done. Jesus H. Christ, woman! You creep me out!

                Ross Glazier

                • We may be done, or you may be done with me, but none of the issues brought out here are *done*. Far wiser to pay attention.

                  Instead of disengaging, you should focus your attention. Yet I do want to say this: No one on this blog shares my views nor my concerns. I have been allowed to express my ideas and views here, but I know, even better than you for example! that my ideas are radical in many senses. They operate against, and in certain senses undermine, ‘conventional narratives’ (what I call ‘the structure of lies that understructure our present’) They are ideas sound though, and if they were not I would have to revise them. In other words, I can defend everything I say and all that I think.

                  You demonstrate I think precisely what I mean to get at when I say “All of it requires a ‘free mind’ and a roving intellect. I guess I am the only one who will be able to carry it forward…“ You see now that it was not (completely) ironical! You have shown that, for whatever reasons (understandable reasons I will say, given your background), you will shut down a conversation, an exchange of views, rather than pursue it. In this you show how the various *stories* we have been told, and which we tell ourselves, and which uphold our worldview, function! Our very *self* is constructed on the stories we tell, and so interwoven that it is painful to disentangle one from the other!

                  I try to communicate a rather simple idea: In our present, right now, there are springs of movements that are beginning — idea movements, interpretation movements — that challenge the Postwar Narratives. I suggest that even if you completely stand with those *narratives*, and even if your self has been constructed on them, that you pay attention to a) what is going on and try to understand it better, and b) also consider the soundness of (many, but not all) of the ideas and views expressed by those struggling to interpret their world, or themselves in the world.

                  If you are the same Ross Glazier who has written against rigid religious doctrine and rigid religious ritual, with a certain emphasis on a critique of both in Judaism (‘Jewish Circumcision: A Symptom of Larger Problems’) you will — possibly — be able to understand the base of my criticism and, simultaneously, what propelled me to accept and align myself with Christianity. Become a Christian that is. I have to say ‘Greco-Christianity’ because this is the precise point where Judea meets Greece and the foundation-stone of Occidental civilization. Were you to see that, and understand it better, you would not have to show puzzlement about ‘European Aims’.

                  I suggest a better understanding of a critical position of Judaism and what is called ‘the Jewish revolutionary spirit’, and that you counter-pose it with the following:

                  “Since the European Enlightenment, Jewish men and women such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Rosalind Franklin, Jonas Salk, and Barbara Tuchman have made enormous contributions to modern civilization.”

                  Whether you believe it or not, or like it or not, there are sound and intellectual arguments which carefully enunciate a counter-Judaic viewpoint. And when I said “I am not closed to the arguments of the so-called anti-semites”, I mean to say that I have read their arguments and views *closely* as I said and as a result understand them better. I read both friend and foe, if you will allow me to put it this way.

                  Jewish history is looooonnnggggg and it is by no means over and done. When I read ‘The Destruction of European Jews’ (Raul Hillberg) what I noticed was an ‘anatomy of an expulsion’ gone, shall I say, very wrong. The German social body decided, and chose, to sever away from itself the *infiltrating* Jewish element which threatened to overtake it.

                  The expulsion was an attempt by the Euro-Gentile social body to rid itself of an element it had determined was not operating in its favor. Seen in this way, this expulsion was non-different from about 90 other such expulsions! though it was certainly more severe and entirely *modern*. You might imagine that my ‘clinical historical view’ is outrageous in itself and that no one should reduce such events, dryly, to what I just communicated in a short paragraph. I would not blame you for questioning where I really stand. But what I say is that throughout long Jewish history there is always a repeat of the same general pattern.

                  Which reactionary movements do you mean? The Nazi Party? The Final Solution?

                  The study of the Interwar period has revealed to me that there were many thinkers, philosophers, and religious, who attempted, shall we say, to *cobble together* a defence against the onslaught of powerful Marxian-based thrust which, at that time, had its headquarters in the Russian East. Their attempts to articulate a sound counter-position arose out of desperation and existential threat. Myself, I have turned back to these writers and thinkers in order to gain a ground that, permit me to say, that I can live on. I look back to Europe and as I say to Greco-Christian ideas 1) in order to understand Europe and 2) to postulate what *European Renovation* is and can be. Europe is under assault.

                  I have also rejected religious belief as well as religious nationalism. But unlike you, I am aware that my personal beliefs would have been irrelevant under the Nuremberg Racial Laws. I am guessing (but do not know) that it was lucky for your family that Venezuela was one of the few places that accepted Jews fleeing the Nazis.

                  No, you have rejected Judaism! (That is, if you are the same Ross Glazier whose essay I referred to). And one of its more ugly deformations, Islam. If you understand this better you will understand (in my view in any case) why the turn to Greco-Christianty and service to its goals and ideals is the logical next step.

                  I am happy to know that you have some platform in the rejection of Zionism. But admit that it is a terribly difficult problem.
                  _______________

                  PS: Did you really have to include that insulting [sic] when I forgot to include the apostrophe? What was gained? 🙂

        • That’s your second purely political post. You come close to getting yourself dinged by the factually and demonstrably wrong “support President Trump” statement. My position on Trump as a leader and as a human being are a matter of record going back many years. He’s unethical, and I believe that character is an essential quality of leadership, and he lacks other essential abilities as well. I support, in the sense of according them the basic respect their office requires, deserves and demands, all Presidents, and the refusal of Democrats o grant this President his Constitutional due is an ethics breach and a dangerous one. That assessment has nothing to do with politics. Nothing. Nor did my accurate, if strong, denouncement of the hysterical misrepresentation of the President’s comments at Helsinki.

          Women’s voices did not evolve originally for mass communication. I know that the delusions of the fact-defying ideological Left require constant denial, but facts aren’t political. I wasn’t talking about singers (the reference to Bennett was to pleasantness to the ear, and I just as easily could have used a canary, whereupon you presumably would have said “there are female birds who sound nice too”), but speakers. I have spent much of my career mentoring young women sabotaging themselves by giggling, using “up-tones” and vocal fry, and sounding like Valley Girls when they need to be respected. One of the major reasons women are under-represented in many professions is the fact I cited: natural male speaking patterns are more effective than typical female speaking patterns. I chose two Democratic women randomly…I also named four Republican Presidents whose speaking styles I found equally annoying. The content of their speech was irrelevant. Same with Warren and Hillary. Republican Susan Collins has one of the most annoying speaking styles on Earth, but she isn’t strident. I’d listen to Warren any day rather than have to endure Collins for 5 minutes.

          This is not a political blog, and if there are a large number of topics from the world of politics, it is because politics often produces more ethical dilemmas that other spheres, and because the current assault on the Constitution, the President and the institutions of democracy by the news media and the resistance/progressive/Democratic collective is the most consequential, mass unethical conduct this country has been subjected to since slavery. I would take exactly the same position if the parties were reversed. It is an existential ethics challenge, and I would be negligent not to write about it.

          And I don’t “describe myself’ as a professional ethicist. I am a professional ethicist. That’s my profession, occupation, passion, area of expertise (among others) and my full-time job. That’s how I support my family. I have a well-documented lack of patience with commenters who come on here and impugn my integrity and mission. Stick to issues, ethics and the rules, and all will be well.

  10. Other Bill

    I suspect lazy speech is currently deemed just fine because correct speech is a bourgeois, reactionary luxury which can’t be indulged because these are not ordinary times and the emergency will continue until everyone is equal and social justice has been enforced.

    It’s the same old thing. If people won’t make an effort to measure up to a beneficial standard, lower the standard and enshrine and elevate the substandard behavior. Brilliant.

    • Chris Marschner_

      OB
      I agree 100%. I suppose my privilege lies with being born to two teachers; mom was an English teacher and dad taught History. My brothers and I were inculcated with the desire to understand the world around us, how we developed as a people, and how to communicate using proper English.

      Standards have been lowered to ensure student success in the classroom. The result of this lowering of standards is that far too many fail to understand the nuances contained in any communication beyond ” see Spot run”. My mother absolutely abhored whole language pedagogy. The holistic approach forgives errors in grammar, banishes punctuation if it lowers grades, and permits words that do not even exist anywhere but on the street. I won’t even go into the push to incorporate Ebonics into the curriculum.

      Henry Higgins may have been snob but he showed how proper English with quality enunciation can move people up socially and financially.

      • Other Bill

        Yes, an opportunity squandered, isn’t it. It’s fun speaking correctly. A great way to build self esteem. Ironic.

        • At least 50% of Trumps problems and controversies would not exist if he communicated clearly.
          He also wouldn’t have been elected…

          • Other Bill

            You never know, he may be a communication genius. Political consultants will probably be urging their clients to speak in word clouds. If a Ph.D had come up with Trump’s speaking style, he’d be the most sought after guy in D.C. Clearly, reading expensive focus group tested pablum/blather isn’t working these days.

          • Chris Marschner_

            Again, I agree.

          • Don’t most successful politicians essentially word their ideas vaguely enough for often differing sets of voters to come together under his or her banner?

            The only difference is that Trump’s method of vaguely worded ideas is like a wildly swinging sledgehammer, while well practiced politicians are more akin to feathers gently blowing in the breeze…?

  11. Other Bill

    My favorite My Fair Lady song:

  12. In my youth, I traveled our nation, and western Canada, and was exposed to a wide variety of accents and speaking styles. It was a game to trade regional sayings with like minded customers as we worked. Phrases such as ‘More than you can shake a stick at,’ Might could,’ ‘Fixin to,’ and the ever cryptic ‘Stooped to rise, and rose in a squat’ all confounded folks from the coasts, and Canada could not understand certain concepts at all.

    So I get regional and class based biases, judging people by how they speak. This is a tool, given certain situations. For instance, I used to play poker fairly regularly. A smart player speaks little early in the game, while strangers are feeling each other out. If there was an over educated cretin at the table, he (they were usually ‘he,’ for some reason) would out himself within the first hour. Ego will out, after all. The Texan drawl that DD mentions above became a tactical tool. The elitist would assume I was an uneducated bumpkin, fit to be fleeced, and several judicious losses on my part would lead to overconfidence on his. It was very satisfactory to take such a person’s money.

    As a result of all my experience, I have learned to NOT lean too much on suppositions based upon how a stranger speaks and comports themselves. The manipulator can become the manipulated far too easily.

    Reminds me of an old joke (stop me if you have heard this one):

    The yankee city slicker was driving to a wedding, which for some unfathomable reason was being held in a (to his mind) God-forsaken region of the deep South. Along the way, he stopped for gas at a general store in a small rural town, miles from anything he would consider ‘civilization.’

    While stretching his legs and grabbing snacks, he noticed a cat drinking milk from a dish next on the floor next to the cash register. Upon closer examination, he realized that the dish was a rare Versace Medusa, and worth several thousand dollars.

    He addresses the store owner, who was also the clerk: “Nice cat. Is she good at catching mice?
    Owner: “She does her bit.”
    Slicker: “I have been looking for a good cat for my barn (of course, he has no barn, living in a posh upscale apartment building) and I wonder if she is for sale?

    “Wouldn’t want to part with a good mouser, they are hard to come by…”

    “How about $20?”

    “Well, mice do a fair bit of damage in a store like this, and I would lose more than that while getting a new cat.”

    “I really like the color of her coat and eyes: how about $50?”

    “I reckon’ not.”

    Feeling the deal slipping away, the slicker goes all in: “How about $150, cash money?”

    The store owner scratches his head, and said “Well, if you really need a cat…”

    The city slicker quickly lays the cash on the counter, and the store owner pockets it just as quickly. As the yankee kneels down to pick up the cat he says: “Since she is used to this old dish, I will just take it as well.” to which the store owner says “Nope. The deal is for the cat alone.”

    His ruse having failed, the dejected city slicker takes his soon-to-be abandoned cat to his car and leaves. A bystander asks “What is so important about that dish?” The store owner says “I don’t know, but in the past month I’ve sold 5 cats.”

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