Weekend reading recommendations
Some articles that illustrate important changes in our world.
Excepts appear below for these:
- “The war on terror is the real women’s issue“, Mark Steyn, Macleans, 9 January 2006 — Brief excerpt, setup for the following article. Men behaving like alarmed cattle.
- “Excusing the men who ran away“, Mark Steyn, Macleans, 5 March 2009 — “The new film ‘Polytechnique’ sidesteps the old norm of ‘women and children first’.”
- “Stupid, feckless, greedy: that’s you, that is“, Brendan O’Neill, Spiked, 16 March 2009 – “Spiked reports from the premiere of The Age of Stupid, a cretinous film that unwittingly exposes the elitism and dodgy science of the green lobby.”
Worth reading, but no excerpts given:
- “Obama’s Czars Breed Chain-of-Command Confusion“, Cindy Skrzycki, Bloomberg, 17 March 2009 — Amateur-night organization, with up to 11 white house aids knighted at “czars” — sowing confusion among the already over-managed Executive agencies.
- “On War #293: The Price of Bad Tactics“, William Lind, Defense and the National Interest, 23 February 2009 We do airstrikes that don’t work because our infantry tactics are bad.
- “The problem with not having kids“, Mark Steyn, Macleans, 24 February 2009 — “Saving the planet for the next generation by not having a next generation is a bad idea.”
- “Fear of Reese Witherspoon Look-Alikes on the Pill“, Brad Delong (Prof Economics at Berkeley), posted at his blog, 16 march 2009 — No matter what foolish things Charles Freeman said, nothing matches this!
- The Exiled Online reports on the Mexican Drug War — I have no idea as to the accuracy of these reports, but they are more vivid than the prose of Stratfor and the mainstream media.
Of special interest: “Does Policy Endanger Female Soldiers?“, CBS News, 18 March 2008 — “Female Troops Face Threat Of Sexual Abuse By Comrades As use of ’Moral Waivers’ by Army and Marines Increase.” For the significance of this, see my post 28 Articles: a guide to a successful insurgency against America (7 May 2007).
(1) “The war on terror is the real women’s issue“, Mark Steyn, Macleans, 9 January 2006 — Brief excerpt, setup for the following article. Excerpt:
Thus, every December 6, our own unmanned Dominion lowers its flags to half-mast and tries to saddle Canadian manhood in general with the blame for the Montreal massacre — the 14 women murdered by Marc Lepine, born Gamil Gharbi, the son of an Algerian Muslim wife-beater, though you wouldn’t know that from the press coverage. Yet the defining image of contemporary Canadian maleness is not M Lepine/Gharbi but the professors and the men in that classroom, who, ordered to leave by the lone gunman, meekly did so, and abandoned their female classmates to their fate — an act of abdication that would have been unthinkable in almost any other culture throughout human history. The “men” stood outside in the corridor and, even as they heard the first shots, they did nothing. And, when it was over and Gharbi walked out of the room and past them, they still did nothing. Whatever its other defects, Canadian manhood does not suffer from an excess of testosterone.
(2) “Excusing the men who ran away“, Mark Steyn, Macleans, 5 march 2009 — “The new film ‘Polytechnique’ sidesteps the old norm of ‘women and children first’.”
And yet, despite his artfulness, he can’t quite pull it off. He focuses his efforts on two composite students, Valérie (Karine Vanasse) and Jean-François (Sébastien Huberdeau). They’re sitting next to each other at the back of the class when the killer walks in and barks the two most important words in the movie: “Séparez-vous!” This is the hinge moment in the story, the point that determines whether the killer’s scenario will play out as intended, or whether it will be disrupted: drama turns on choices because choice reveals character.
But, when the man with the gun issues his instructions, every single male in the room meekly obeys him and troops out, and we are invited to identify with Jean-François because unlike the rest, who shuffle for the exit as if for a fire drill, he alone glances back and makes momentary eye contact with Valérie. Oh, the humanity!
And then, like everyone else, he leaves the room.
“I wanted to absolve the men,” Villeneuve said. “Society condemned them. People were really tough on them. But they were 20 years old . . . It was as if an alien had landed.”
But it’s always as if an alien had landed. When another Canadian director, James Cameron, filmed Titanic, what most titillated him were the alleged betrayals of convention. It’s supposed to be “women and children first,” but he was obsessed with toffs cutting in line, cowardly men elbowing the womenfolk out of the way and scrambling for the lifeboats, etc. In fact, all the historical evidence is that the evacuation was very orderly. In reality, First Officer William Murdoch threw deck chairs down to passengers drowning in the water to give them something to cling to, and then he went down with the ship-the dull, decent thing, all very British, with no fuss. In Cameron’s movie, Murdoch takes a bribe and murders a third-class passenger. (The director subsequently apologized to the first officer’s hometown in Scotland and offered 5,000 pounds toward a memorial. Gee, thanks.) Pace Cameron, the male passengers gave their lives for the women, and would never have considered doing otherwise.
“An alien landed” on the deck of a luxury liner-and men had barely an hour to kiss their wives goodbye, watch them clamber into the lifeboats and sail off without them. The social norm of “women and children first” held up under pressure.
At the École Polytechnique, there was no social norm. And in practical terms it’s easier for a Hollywood opportunist like Cameron to trash the memory of William Murdoch than for a Quebec filmmaker to impose redeeming qualities on a plot where none exist. In Polytechnique, all but one of the “men” walk out of that classroom and out of the story. Only Jean-François acts, after a fashion. He hears the shots . . . and rushes back to save the girl he’s sweet on? No, he does the responsible Canadian thing: he runs down nine miles of windowless corridor to the security man on duty and tells him all hell’s broken loose. So the security guard rushes back to tackle the nut? No, he too does the responsible Canadian thing: he calls the police. More passivity. Polytechnique’s aesthetic is strangely oppressive-not just the “male lead” who can’t lead, but a short film with huge amounts of gunfire yet no adrenalin.
… I prefer the word passivity-a terrible, corrosive, enervating passivity. Even if I’m wetting my panties, it’s better to have the social norm of the Titanic and fail to live up to it than to have the social norm of the Polytechnique and sink with it. M Villeneuve dedicates his film not just to the 14 women who died that day but also to Sarto Blais, a young man at the Polytechnique who hanged himself eight months later. Consciously or not, the director understands what the heart of this story is: not the choice of one man, deformed and freakish, but the choice of all the others, the nice and normal ones. He shows us the men walking out twice-first, in real time, as it were; later, Rashômon-style, from the point of view of the women, in the final moments of their lives.
If M Villeneuve can’t quite face the implications of what he shows us, we at least have an answer to Mme Bazzo’s question: you can’t make art out of such a world. Whether you can even make life out of it for long will be an interesting question for Quebec, Canada and beyond in the years ahead.
(3) “Stupid, feckless, greedy: that’s you, that is“, Brendan O’Neill, Spiked, 16 march 2009 – “Spiked reports from the premiere of The Age of Stupid, a cretinous film that unwittingly exposes the elitism and dodgy science of the green lobby.” Excerpt:
Imagine a film in which an Asian businessman who spoke loftily of ‘eradicating poverty’ was cast as the villain, while an insufferably middle-class wind-turbine developer from Cornwall was held up as the hero.
Imagine a film in which the audience was encouraged to giggle at the sight of the wealthy Asian using a red carpet to board his plane – ha ha, who do these foreigners think they are! – and was then cajoled into crying when the wind-turbine developer phoned his mum to break the news that Bedford Council refused him permission to build 10 new windmills. Imagine a film which played so promiscuously fast and loose with the ‘scientific facts’ that it strongly implied that the Asian businessman’s penchant for flying was responsible for fatal rainstorms in Mumbai, and that Bedford Council’s rejection of our heroic wind-turbine developer’s planning application led to Bedford’s ‘worst ever floods’ in 2007.
No one would make such a morally warped film, right? Wrong. All of the above comes from The Age of Stupid, a half-documentary, half-‘peril porn’ hybrid, which has been hailed by commentators as ‘the most powerful piece of cultural discourse on climate change ever produced’, but which left this reviewer feeling more than a little nauseous at its solar-powered, carbon-lite premiere in London yesterday.
Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.