[Publisher’s note: Today (Tuesday, 12 October) is the “traditional” Columbus Day, honoring the man traditionally credited with the “discovery” of the Americas. An error long taught correctly, but like Confederate statues and battle flags, and Christmas, an annual opportunity to beat the drums of political correctness and other tools of enemies of liberty. Hence this commentary.]
The enemies of liberty are exerting a seemingly ever-increasing effort to wipe out more and more personal liberty. A key part of that seems to be an effort to erase history. As a result, we find more and more examples of extreme accusations and actions. Among their tactics? Reach back decades (or even centuries) to condemn actions and ideas which are (in modern politically-correct thought) wrong. Evil. Racist, Sexist. Promoting white supremacy and bigotry. And not just condemn (which we must understand that many actions DO deserve), but erase them from memory. Not just the memory of the general public, but the memory of the supposed guardians of civilization and culture.
The result is likely to again demonstrate George Santayana’s famous observation:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense by George Santayana
Consider the recent firing of a renowned (and liberal) conductor and professor at the University of Michigan. The reason for her cancellation? She showed her college class the classic 1965 cinema adaption of Shakespeare’s Othello. Why? Because Sir Laurence Olivier, an incredible actor, wore “black face” (dark makeup) to attempt to portray the title character as he was in Shakespeare’s original play. A Moor. (Note: NOT a “black” man or “negro”: Moors were usually Berbers, a Semitic and not Hamitic nationality) as portrayed by Shakespeare in a play written around 1603 from an earlier story.
Why did she do this dastardly deed? She wanted to show an example of how a work transitions from novel to play to movie. And (until recently, at least) Olivier’s performance has been seen as masterful and the 1965 version of the classic tale of conflict, treachery, betrayal, and murder as a prime example of the genre of Shakespearean drama. And Othello was viewed as a literary work ABOUT racism, not a RACIST literary work. A view increasingly condemned and canceled.
Think about this. The success of this little skirmish is how many different buttons it pushes:
- The composer is cancelled: no true social justice warrior, bureaucrat or politician seeking the adulation of the masses will ever use her, anything she wrote, or probably (“nits make lice”) any of her proteges.
- The integrity of anyone in her professional or academic circles is now to be questioned and usually rejected. After all, why did THEY not denounce her? Why did it have to be a lowly student?
- The University administration has a big black mark, and the administrators, faculty senate, departments, boards, and everyone else will now hew even more closely to the woke party line to demonstrate their agonizing shame over this incident.
- Sir Lawrence Olivier’s reputation is stained forever, and anyone who dares speak favorably of him or any of his roles or work is ripe for cancellation, or at least chastisement. And by association, so is that of anyone who ever worked with him. (I realize that this is often going to be a case of the “left” eating its own. What’s new?)
- In the same manner, there is yet another reason to attack and cancel another key “dead white man” for daring to write negatively of a “black man” as a tragic hero. Shakespeare is already condemned by many in the woke crowd for being a product of his times and nation. This strengthens their argument.
- Academics and any person whose profession and income depends on public approval and the approval (or just acceptance) of the elite are placed on notice – ANY attempt to step out of bounds will be an excuse for vicious attack on them with the most awful of epithets: racist. More and more will therefore fall in line, and join the growing ranks of social justice warriors instantly springing to action over a single misplaced word or action which can be made to seem evil in the eyes of the culture warriors.
It is of course just one example of the nasty but insane nature of society today. Especially the academic sector. Just as we see the “left” eat their own over any opinion NOT deemed radical enough about sex (“gender”), sexuality, any deviations from the party line on the most minute of differences, and proof of orthodoxy back to at least kindergarten! (For example, toleration is not enough: there MUST be enthusiastic endorsement. CONSTANT endorsement.)
But do not worry. It will get more extreme. Be prepared.