From The Mouths Of Babes…Cultural Poison

A recent question to Phillip Galanes, the advice columnist whose “Social Q’s” feature for the New York Times has frequently sparked Ethics Alarms essays, was fraught with larger significance.

A mother said that her 12-year-old daughter had a a sticker on her water bottle quoting Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” The girl’s friend told her that  systemic racism made that statement false for many Americans, so the sticker was racist. The daughter then peeled off the sticker. “What’s a mother to do?” was the gist of the inquirer’s appeal.

Gallanes didn’t, but he might have started by telling the mother to explain to her child the meaning of “racism.” How can a statement that doesn’t reference race in any way be racist? Indeed, that particular quote, which stands for the proposition that all humans, in this society at least, are imbued with the gift of autonomy and personal responsibility, is the opposite of racism. The daughter’s friend, in contrast, is espousing a theory that white people can accomplish things that other races cannot. Now that’s racist.

He also should have advised her mother that it is incumbent upon her, as a parent, to gird her child against the corrupting forces of ideological indoctrination. The friend’s message is cultural poison for non-white minorities, democracy, and civilization. It is designed to not only justify failure, hopelessness, inertia, anger and racial division, but also to weaponize it for political gain, and to achieve power guaranteeing a permanent and crippling victim mentality to large demographic groups.   It is the wedge of choice  used by the political Left for decades,to ensure fealty by minority voters with the concomitant result, some say a deliberate one, of ensuring that such groups remain dependent on government largess forever.

As a parent, I would want to know where the friend got her un-American ideas, and I would take steps to find out. If this came from from her family, I would forcefully request that the parents stop injecting their biases into my child’s consciousness. If the indoctrination came from the school, that would trigger a greater confrontation.

I would also explain to my child that children, including her friends, are by nature imperfect analysts of reality, including history, and that she should develop the courage to resist efforts to change her opinions based on nothing more than a peer’s doctrinaire assertions. The job of training children to be able to counter such assertions with their own arguments can never begin too early, and the inquiring mom obviously had neglected her duty. Dr. Seuss’s ditty should be the beginning of an inquiry, not the end of it. As an  instinctive educator, Theodore Giesel certainly knew that.

The more I consider what the 12-year-old heard from her pal, the more angry and fearful I become. No American child should be taught to believe that anyone, given the advantages of this nation’s rights, history and traditions, is unable to achieve his or her aspirations because of systemic obstacles. Nobody is guaranteed success or happiness, and the roads to either are not equally smooth for all. Nonetheless, all Americans have a road to travel, the duty to get as far as possible, the option, if necessary, of improving the road, and the burden of accepting responsibility for how far they get.

12 thoughts on “From The Mouths Of Babes…Cultural Poison

  1. Again, the continued and evidently intractable chaos of the black underclass in America has driven the academy crazy. The problems of the black underclass can’t be of their own making. They have to be caused by something else. This is unprecedented. Did the discrimination suffered by the Irish and Italians and Jews cause them to complain about systemic racism (or even invent the term)? No, they said, screw you and went to work, sent their kids to school, saved money, bought houses and lived the American dream. All of which takes time and effort. And a generation or two or three.

  2. It makes me angry that she heard it from a peer. In other words, another 12-year old girl is using phrasing like Systemic Racism to knock down an aspirational thought.

    And, after all, Dr. Suess was a racist, too…

  3. There’s about a 6% chance that the letter-writer was a prankster.

    “You have brains in your head…”
    “Systematic racism made that statement false for many African Americans…”

    It’s a long shot but I hope I’m right. A preteen kid taking offense at a sticker and using the phrase “systematic racism” is scary but just barely plausible. Of course, they should have said “people of color” instead of the more exclusionary “African American” so maybe the kid’s friend needs a wokeness check too.

    • I think it’s plausible, Isaac. My then eleven year old grand daughter told me she was worried about Trump because he would destroy the environment. She was in fifth or sixth grade. So somebody at her school had been very steadily feeding her and her mates a steady diet of lefty scare-ism.

      • It is the duty of both parents and teachers to teach children to respect and trust elected leaders. They have plenty of time to get disillusioned later, when they actually know something.

  4. A mother said that her 12-year-old daughter had a a sticker on her water bottle quoting Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” The girl’s friend told her that systemic racism made that statement false for many Americans, so the sticker was racist. The daughter then peeled off the sticker. “What’s a mother to do?” was the gist of the inquirer’s appeal.

    It is interesting to examine this event. It is I think just one of an almost infinite number of lies and distortions dressed up to be a truth. Even in a situation of the most abject and unfair racism, and even in some ways as a result of it, one can still steer oneself. Limitations are in no sense the end of creativity. The issue is self-agency.

    Now, even a human with all the advantages and privileges, if that person lacks self-motivation and agency, will make nothing of those advantages. So, if the focus is on what you do not have, and how not having what you have not is established as a stumbling block, this shows a strange form of self-agency but one that is self-defeating.

    But the purpose of the friend’s thwarting of optimistic self-actualization must be looked at as well. She will likely hold herself back from steering her feet where she chooses because of a misplaced solidarity with those who believe they cannot do the same. The purpose is to induce self-curtailment. It is a psychological ploy, or perhaps a ‘destructive meme’ that floats around like an insect with a venomous stinger. It is not really a thought but it is more a feeling. For think about it: if the Dr Suess saying was on a black child’s water bottle, would anyone take issue with it? But does it not stand to reason that an average black child is in far better conditions than say a corresponding black child in impoverished Africa?

    There is another level here as well, as anyone can see. It is more subtle but it is there. ‘Systematic racism’ is a reference to a System, and thus to a collective. There is an appeal to accept the distortion that it is appropriate or good to live within a collective, and one geared to ‘justice & equality’. And what ‘collective’ is being referred to? Well, the Nation of America. This was not how it was supposed to be. One was supposed to identify with one’s region, one’s county and even one’s township. But the whole idea of ‘American nation’ and a government, allied with Media-systems, that establishes a ‘national’ identification should be questioned at the very least. The reference to ‘systemic racism’ is hooked into the idea that in this nation there should be no such thing and everyone should be ‘equal’. Therefore the notion hinges into a supports a collectivist mind-set. Surely some level of identification with one’s collective is crucial and necessary. But these weird ideas, these clever lies dressed up as profound truths, they are complex statements with ideological content that must be exposed.

    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

    There are implicit distortions in this statement that can be exposed. Because — to be truthful — not everyone even wishes to have ‘brains’. If ‘brain’ means ‘consciousness’ and self-awareness, and those produce a person who *sees clearly*, it is guaranteed that such seeing will not produce well-being but rather angst. So, if we really could begin to dismantle the complex structures of lies that surround us, and in which we are anchored, I am uncertain what that ‘brainy’ person would think and do. No, in fact we live within systems which discourage consciousness and self-awareness. So, one could then refer to a mass-collectivist psychology where hedonism and the lure of satisfactions is used as a means for people to self-defeat brainy consciousness.

    So little girl: Do you really have ‘brains in your head’? You might want to start from a position, an assertion, that you are really rather brain-less. You see, this notion that everyone is automatically ’empowered’ simply in-and-of-themselves, is a kind of operative mis-truth. Again, this notion of ‘female empowerment’ hinges into bizarre collectivist declarations which are very popular and semi-communistic.

    One could then also proceed to examine ‘choice’ in the sense of the direction one chooses. Because if you think you have a brain (a conscious steering-mechanism) but really you do not, then when you boldly choose some ‘direction’ you may not really be making a conscious choice, but rather one determined by social convention and the ‘image’ that is presented to one in advertising, in the Media, et cetera.

    • Aliza, if one chooses to remain without any self awareness that too is a road to be taken.

      Choice, specifically good choices, means to interpret the chaos and distortions in such a manner that creates the greates long term value for you. That requires a brain. The illusury distortions one sees is merely the interpretation of same through experience and choices the individual makes themselves.

      The whole point is you can choose to be led or you can make your own decisions based on critical thinking.

      • You must have understood by now that I notice, very strongly, an incapacity to think freely. You also know that I see the generality of ‘American culture’ as nearly thoroughly under a régime of thinking which makes it next to impossible to make clear & honest statements about reality. When one speaks, one can only employ prefabricated perceptual terms: those that are deemed appropriate and within accepted and legal limits.

        So, if ‘critical thinking’ is possible and necessary, it seems to me that the first order of business is actually to get to it. However, this is not in any sense of the word easy. Why? Let’s begin to make statements about that and see what comes of it . . .

        I will start by saying that we exist in and cannot avoid being affected by a media-political industrial-intellectual complex that inverts reality into what I will call the falsereal.

        To begin to see this is to begin to deconstruct the edifice, which is a sort of miasma, or a psychic determining power, that enforces itself into the perceptual structure. Everywhere we look — movie, TeeVee, and in conversation- and opinion-fora — we can see people under the thrall of this determining power.

        If we begin to ask: What upholds this? one will first have had to arrive at the clarified perception that it is so.

        It is in many different ways easier to remain within outside of the awareness I refer to. It is far easier, if you really think about it, to remain within established parameters and yet to imagine that one is engaging in real ‘critical thinking’.

        Shall I believe in you, Chris? If I asked you to make one true statement about the present — in the sense that we talk about it here everyday, and to which we direct criticism — could you do it? Could you make statements that would indicate a path to clarifying understanding? How would you speak, and what would you say?

        When you really put it into highlight — or boldface as the case may be! — it could be made rather biting & powerful. Or, it remains a mere convention of speech by the powerless and those with very little determining power.

        You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

        [And essentially I am interested in these questions from the philosophical angle].

  5. As a parent, I would want to know where the friend got her un-American ideas, and I would take steps to find out. If this came from from her family, I would forcefully request that the parents stop injecting their biases into my child’s consciousness. If the indoctrination came from the school, that would trigger a greater confrontation.

    Couldn’t help but think of this scene:

  6. The victim culture promoted by the American left poisoning our culture and our children.

    You know, this strikes me as outright bullying and race-shaming. It suggests that all white people should be ashamed of their color (or lack thereof), and are required to tread on eggshells lest any positive message offend someone who isn’t white.

    As an adult, I really don’t care if people try to shame me and appeal to mob justice. In fact, I embrace the hate. It allows me to berate the perpetrators as woke race-obsessed idiots unworthy of American citizenship.

    But children do not deserve this kind of assault and its concomitant appeal to mob authority. Since I have no children, I’m not qualified to comment on what I would or would not do, but I most certainly can say that Jack’s prescription sounds rational and effective.

  7. The advice was even more maddening. Instead of advising the parent to defend her child, the columnist tells her to read some book that chronicles some author’s bad experienced as well as discuss past invidious discrimination. This gives advice and consent to the victim mentality. It assumes the worst about the country, the girl and her position in white privilege, and the Warremism that the cards are stacked against the complainant.

    jvb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.