Friday links! Cultural decadence edition

Motley Crue in the Decade of Decadence era

Motley Crue in the Decade of Decadence era

Thanks to history (753 BC—1992 AD), we know that cultures rise and fall. Ancient Rome, for example, lasted about 1100 years, and some of those years were better than others. In his classic treatise on the decline of the Roman empire, Gibbon observes that foreign wars made the army more powerful than the rest of the state, whose administrators became corrupt as, among the ordinary people, “bizarreness masqueraded as creativity.” Fortunately for us, that’s not happening to America. Foreign wars have made heroes of everyone connected to our military, and our public servants would never put money ahead of the duties of their offices. As long as we can stamp out Tim & Eric Awesome Show: Great Job!, we should be fine. Today is Friday, and America has achieved in a mere 250 years what took Rome a millennium. Won’t you bask in the twilight of empire with me?

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Dear class of 2015

College

College

The University of Montana will hold it’s commencement this weekend, sending the class of 2015 out into the world and away from my parking space. For the next three months, Missoula will be that most magical of places: a college town in summer. It’s paradise for me, but for the class of 2015 it is the grim nightmare of adulthood. Fortunately, I have bestowed the benefits of my advanced age upon them in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. The time for learning things has ended; now is the time for knowing things. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Policy problem: Should we stop Luis Lang from going blind?

Luis Lang of Charlotte refused to buy health insurance and is now going blind. Photo by Ann Doss Helms

Luis Lang of Charlotte refused to buy insurance and is now going blind. Photo by Ann Doss Helms

Luis Lang has a detached retina and bleeding in his eyes due to complications from diabetes. He needs a series of expensive injections and eye surgery, or he will go blind. A critic of President Obama, he refused to buy health insurance until late February, when he incurred $9,000 in emergency room bills. That’s when he tried to buy a policy through his state’s exchange and learned that he’d missed the 2015 deadline. He and his wife blame Obama and Democrats for passing a flawed, confusing bill. “[My husband] should be at the front of the line, because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues,” his wife told the Charlotte Observer. “We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.” First of all, I am sorry for Lang’s health problems, which are scary and bad. Also, he appears to be kind of an asshole. But does that mean we should let him go blind?

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In possible overstatement, Time calls dad bod a “sexist atrocity”

A gender-neutral atrocity

A gender-neutral atrocity

My brother sent me this blog post from Time, in which Brian Moylan argues that the concept of the dad bod “continues to reinforce inequality about what is acceptable for men and women.” As you have no good reason to know, a dad bod is when you are kind of fat but not really. The term comes from this 500-word humorous essay by McKenzie Pearson, a sophomore at Clemson University. Pearson writes:

“The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.”

She goes on to enumerate reasons women like a dad bod, including looking pretty my comparison. Annie Dillard it ain’t; Pearson’s essay is lighthearted and relentlessly slight, which might explain why it went viral. It might also be because it feeds the internet outrage machine. Six weeks after Pearson published her essay, Quartz declares that “the viral dad bod phenomenon is male privilege masquerading as empowerment.”

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College students not prepared to think about Israel, apparently

A campus protest against Israeli checkpoints in occupied Palestine

A campus protest against Israeli checkpoints in occupied Palestine

I defy you to find the original in his published work, but Howard Zinn famously paraphrased Camus as saying that in history, “it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” Certainly, this principle has guided academia. Virtually all of the humanities are taught within the framework of historical injustices. We decry the liberal arts major for not knowing much, but he knows about oppression and the system of values it determines. He knows not to be on the side of the executioners. But what happens when two historically oppressed groups come into conflict? One becomes an executioner, and the other suffers oppression of the same kind as latinos in the United States. So runs the logic of the campus debate on divestment from Israel, which the Times reports is breaking the historic coalition between Jews and other minorities.

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