Dear Intelligent American,
The kiddies with matriculating aspirations are heading back to college, and it seems they might merit our national concern. Yep: A new Gallup survey finds the future big debtors are rife with worry, stress, and even loneliness.
Maybe it ain’t all college’s fault, eh? How about assigning some blame to our gain-of-function virus friend and all those lockdown protocols (word on the street is that mask-fanciers are beginning to feel their oats again) that sucker-punched society?
By the way, worry, stress, and loneliness aren’t exclusive to the quad and the campus center, a point made profoundly in Mr. Oliver Anthony’s tuneful analysis (you’ll not find much boolah boolah rhythms in it) about life south-of-Richmond in 2023.
That hit has prompted the usual suspects to round themselves up at their keyboards, in order to bash, slash, smash, and trash the tune and its author. No one should be surprised by the venom of the intellectual goon squads.
If You Can Count to 14, What Follows Will Be Your Happy Place!
1. At the aforementioned The College Fix, its great editor, Jennifer Kabbany, reports on the free-speech bomb dropped on Cornell University. From the beginning of the article:
One of the most active and relentless alumni free speech groups in the nation—the Cornell Free Speech Alliance—this week dropped a figurative free speech-bomb on its alma mater, publishing a calling for sweeping policy changes on campus.
The reported its email listserv reaches “over 50,000 Cornellians,” mostly alumni, and it has an active leadership board that refuses to accept Cornell’s public-facing claims of supporting free speech, academic freedom and intellectual diversity.
The alliance’s report 20 policy changes, including adding free speech training to freshman orientation, implementing the famous free speech Chicago Principles, eliminating DEI course requirements, removing its anonymous bias reporting system, and providing students robust due process.
The group, which includes some faculty and students, wants campus leadership to also state “words are not physical violence,” and make viewpoint diversity a “prominent objective.”
2. At The Atlantic, Reihan Salam wonders aloud if “progressive elitism” is a spent force. From the essay:
And that leads us to why Ivy League eliteness may have peaked.
If progressive elitism has allowed selective universities to reconcile moralistic progressivism with the elitism that is the source of their desirability, what happens when Ivy League admissions officers’ power to reshape social norms is no longer undergirded by an appeal to racial justice? Since the Supreme Court’s Students for Fair Admissions decision curtailed racial preferences, legacy preferences have come under vigorous attack, not least from the Biden administration, which has launched a civil-rights investigation into Harvard’s use of the practice. Amherst College abandoned legacy admissions in October 2021, and Wesleyan University announced this July that it would follow suit. If Shamus Khan is right, although the symbolic value of an elite education for less advantaged students might persist beyond the end of legacy admissions, its value as a source of social and cultural capital will be greatly diminished.
This in turn could create an opening for a different set of higher-education institutions committed to a different set of values—perhaps even a revival of the midcentury vision of elite institutions that would promote social mobility while instilling patriotism and a sense of civic obligation.
That, at least, seems to be the impetus behind a slew of new higher-education initiatives in red and purple states, where many voters, policy makers, and philanthropists are wary of Ivy League progressivism. The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, a public research university that has seen surging enrollment in recent years, is pioneering an approach to civics that welcomes debate and encourages a deep understanding of the nation’s founding principles. In Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee is creating a similar institute, which aims to inculcate an “informed patriotism,” through the state university system.
3. China or Bust: At National Review, the editors assess the depths of Red China’s economic malaise. From the editorial:
While the rest of the world is worried about inflation and too much consumer spending, China is worried about deflation and too little. While most central banks are raising interest rates, China’s is lowering them. While the West is, slowly but surely, recovering to pre-pandemic levels, China is falling further behind.
Numerous Chinese economic schemes are failing. The export-led development model that China had used in the past has been falling apart, and factory activity is contracting. The government-backed steel industry hasn’t been profitable for over a year, and forecasts don’t show things turning around any time soon. Chinese banks are making roughly the same amount of loans as they did during the global financial crisis, which demonstrates that the central bank’s efforts to juice borrowing aren’t working.
The Chinese housing market is caught in a deflationary cycle. Buyers expect prices to fall, so they aren’t buying, which causes prices to fall more, etc. China’s largest property developer is on the brink of default, and its sales are down 34 percent since last year. There has also been an increase in wealthy Chinese purchasing homes in other countries, suggesting they could be hedging for a worse economic future.
4. More NR: Dominic Pino questions Elizabeth Currid-Halkett about her book deep-diving into rural life, The Overlooked Americans. From the interview:
Now, I don’t wanna say that there’s not truth that parts of rural America are suffering. There are parts of rural America are suffering. I’m a regional and urban planner by trade, and I study and teach economic development. So for me, the problem is these are just too general. Even the kind of divide of urban and rural doesn’t make any sense. I mean, Akron, Ohio, and Manhattan: They’re like totally different universes in the same way that coastal New England and the heart of Appalachia are totally different. And so this idea of an impoverished rural country—it was actually unfair to the places that are impoverished because that’s where we will not then target policy and economic development that we should. But it also then stokes this fire, this kind of idea of urban and rural being at odds with one another.
So what I found when I looked generally and then I cut it up by region was that on the whole, rural America has low unemployment, lower in many places than in urban America. They across the board tend to have greater home ownership. Median income is a little less, but we’re dealing with like $9,000–$10,000, which, say if you live in like, Cambridge, Massachusetts versus living in like, coastal New England, or you’re living in Philadelphia versus rural Pennsylvania, that $10,000 doesn’t really get you very far in a major city. And so by that measure, income was also fairly on par.
So this economic data was telling the story that rural America wasn’t on the whole a place where people were really actually being left behind. Their quality of life was actually largely pretty good. And again, I do caveat this. I mean, I’m not inured to the fact that parts of the South are in huge trouble. I think that is absolutely the case, but it’s just, it’s too much of a blanket statement.
5. At Minding the Campus, Tony Vets presses the need to push back against arrogance and rebuild public trust in the sciences. From the reflection:
Over the past three years, the general public has been inundated with appeals to “Trust the science.” In spite of this, many have grown increasingly distrustful of both science and scientists. It is the height of hypocrisy to expect people to put their blind faith in scientific authority—for that is what “trust the science” amounts to—especially when science itself is based on a rejection of authority. Far from demanding that the public submit to science, the good scientist can rebuild the public’s trust by humbly welcoming criticism, debate, and disagreement.
Steeped in the rationalism of Descartes and the empiricism of Locke, scientific knowledge is the product of reasoning and experimentation, not revelation. In fact, according to Carl Sagan, perhaps the most renowned scientist of the latter half of the twentieth century, one of the greatest commandments of science is to mistrust arguments based on authority. . . .
Good science is rooted in skepticism, even skepticism of its own findings. Good science has a healthy distrust of itself. This is because all human knowledge, which includes scientific knowledge, is imperfect. Sagan wrote, “The history of science – by far the most successful claim to knowledge accessible to humans – teaches that the most we can hope for is successive improvement in our understanding, learning from our mistakes, an asymptotic approach to the Universe, but with the proviso that absolute certainty will always elude us.” Even Albert Einstein, arguably the world’s greatest scientist, said, “In our great mystery story there are no problems wholly solved and settled for all time.” Thus, even the best of scientific knowledge should be considered provisional, and any exhortation to “trust the science” should at least be followed with the disclaimer, “until we learn more.”
6. At Law & Liberty, Sam Gregg makes the case for free trade. From the essay:
In the 1990s, much of the argument for trade liberalization became associated with widespread hopes for a more harmonious world following Communism’s demise in Eastern Europe. Yes, appeals to national interest were made. The fact that it took 15 years of multilateral negotiations and two years of specific Beijing-Washington talks before China was admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) underscores how much such interests were in play. Nonetheless, much of the speechifying by political leaders had a perpetual peace tone to it. Nor was it hard to find American policymakers arguing that economic liberalization would help spark political liberalization abroad.
In the Cold War’s aftermath, such sentiments were understandable. But we’re not living in the warm afterglow of America’s victory over the USSR anymore. American domestic politics have changed dramatically, as have international relations. China, for example, has become more authoritarian, less market-orientated in its domestic economic policies, even less transparent about the true state of Chinese businesses and the economy, and more aggressive in its dealings with other nations.
These melancholy facts do not mean that inching America towards ever freer trade is a forlorn exercise. But it does mean making an explicitly realist case for free trade ever more imperative. And by “explicitly realist,” I mean free traders focusing their arguments unabashedly upon the benefits that trade liberalization brings to Americans and America.
7. At The Free Press, Julia Duin will not curse the darkness. From the piece:
Since 2001, the Tucson-based DarkSky organization, also known as DarkSky International, has led a movement to create places all over the planet where there’s little to no light pollution. In 2021, the Prineville Reservoir State Park became Oregon’s first state park to get a coveted International Dark Sky Park designation.
“There is the recognition of darkness as a valuable resource,” Ruskin Hartley, CEO of DarkSky, told me last month. “The world is getting brighter. Light pollution is growing by 10 percent a year. The brightening of the night sky is one of the most profound changes to the environment we’ve seen.”
Left unsaid in my discussions with him—and others—is the hard-to-express sentiment that a certain quality of life is at stake when one is unable to see a sky brimming with stars. From the Psalms to the Magi to Shakespearean sonnets, human experience has been intertwined with the firmament for thousands of years. The DarkSky website points out that Vincent van Gogh’s famous The Starry Night was painted in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, in 1889; but today, the Milky Way can no longer be seen from that location (perhaps due to light pollution from nearby Avignon).
8. At Public Discourse, Felix James Miller makes the quite-serious case for summer camp. From the commentary:
While people have contended with the wilderness since European settlers first arrived in North America, it took until the mid-nineteenth century for camping to become a widely recognized pastime in the United States. Americans like William “Adirondack” Murray and Horace Kephart helped popularize camping. Murray’s 1869 book Adventures in the Wilderness; or, Camp-Life in the Adirondacks was particularly influential, helping inspire the modern conservation movement, the construction of over 200 grandiose camping grounds in the Adirondacks, and thousands of lifelong campers (at the time called “Murray’s fools” by some). While early American camping in the untamed wilderness was more limited to adults, Murray’s followers were part of a shift that helped initiate more children into the practice.
Englishmen like Thomas Hughes and Charles Kingsley had as much of a role in this change as Americans did. Hughes and Kingsley helped popularize a movement known as “muscular Christianity,” which reached its height with the election of Theodore Roosevelt as president of the United States. Adherents believed that much of modern Christianity misapplied St. Paul’s chastisement of the body. While the flesh can certainly lead man to sin, the body is a gift from God that can be used to glorify Him. They went further, arguing that an unhealthy neglect of one’s body is, if not itself sinful, certainly a cause of temptation.
Muscular Christians argued that modernity, with its bustling cities and loud machines, was preventing young people from cultivating healthy relationships with God, and that it had physically softened young people, especially young men. They were thus becoming not just physically weaker, but also less resilient and more liable to moral corruption. The muscular Christians’ antidote to this weakening was to push young men to nature, where they could cultivate physical strength through exercise, sports, and other outdoor activities.
9. Tempus Fugit: At Plough Quarterly, Zena Hitz gets busy with thoughts on what to do with time . . . if we were not so busy. From the piece:
We may not know what in the soup of our desires matters most to us. Often we discover it in times of trial or crisis: a difficult choice at work, a family member in a hospital bed—in other words, when we face sickness, poverty, or moral compromise.
What would happen if we tried to organize our lives around merely instrumental pursuits? We are not likely to order our lives around grocery shopping or paying taxes. But what about earning money? If I pack my swim bag, put on shoes, get my keys, and drive my car to the pool, only to find it closed, my goal of swimming is frustrated, and my string of actions is in vain. Suppose the pool is open and I get to swim: Why do I do it? I swim for the sake of health. I want to be healthy so I can work. I work for the sake of money. And the money is for the sake of food, drink, housing, recreation, and exercise—all of which make it possible for me to work.
I have described a life of utter futility. If I work for the sake of money, spending money on basic necessities, and if my life is organized around working, my life is a pointless spiral of work for the sake of work. It is like buying ice cream, immediately selling it for cash, and then spending the proceeds on ice cream (which one sells once again, and so on). It is just as tragic as working for money and getting crushed by a falling anvil on the way to cash the paycheck. For this reason Aristotle argued that there must be some activity or activities beyond work—leisure, for the sake of which we work and without which our work is in vain. Leisure is not merely recreation, which we might undertake for the sake of work—to relax or rest before beginning to labor anew. It is an activity or set of activities that could count as the culmination of all our endeavors. For Aristotle, only contemplation could be ultimately satisfying in this way: the activity of seeing and understanding and savoring the world as it is.
10. At The Spectator, Genevieve Gaunt reviews a book about the plight of insomnia, and the beauty that can be found in the affliction. From the piece:
Darrieussecq is best known for her surreal novel Pig Tales (1996), but Sleepless is an account of her search for a cure to insomnia and the solace she finds in discovering writers such as Franz Kafka (“the patron saint of insomnia”), Marcel Proust, Georges Perec, Sylvia Plath, Susan Sontag, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mahmoud Darwish, Haruki Murakami, Aimé Césaire, Jorge Luis Borges and Tchicaya U Tam’si have all suffered from sans sommeil.
Reading about these “champions of fatigue” gives the distinct impression that to sleep soundly is terribly bourgeois. As Roland Barthes said: “Insomnia is classier than sleep. Only the tragic hero is an insomniac.” The aging Immanuel Kant was “an insomniac, besieged by ghosts” and once cried out: “Don’t switch the light off, Célèste . . . There’s a big fat woman in the room . . . a horrible big fat woman in black.”
In the quest for alleviation, Darrieussecq has tried it all—gravity blankets, the Alexander Technique, yoga nidra, cranial osteopathy, drinking alcohol and not drinking alcohol—to no avail. She is candid about her battle with wine and how it became her mandragora: “I had lost the freedom not to drink.” She uses literary medicine—“I’ve tried metaphors”—and real medicine: “I booze on benzodiazepines.” Pills work, but attack her short-term memory, echoing Proust, who complained that sleeping pills “make holes in my brain.”
11. At Providence Magazine, James Rowell contemplates a Shoulda Just War—Tibet’s defense against Red China’s 1950 invasion—and the absence of support for the tiny nation. From the piece:
The elephant in the room is that no one wants to leap into a ground war with China, the most populous nation on Earth, either today or seventy-three years ago. This is one reason that the war should not have been fought, it defies the sense of proportionality in terms of lives lost to lives saved. Another, that it had a viable chance of success, was a concern expressed by Nehru and rejected. Imagine, for a preposterous moment, had the war been waged, how it might have driven Communist China and the Soviet Union together, and thereby dramatically altered the Cold War’s trajectory. Some fights ought not to be picked because of tangible repercussions.
Yet anyone familiar with the plight of the Dalai Lama, and the impact of the Chinese annexation of Tibet, cannot help but be sympathetic. What could have been done, in hindsight, if neither non-violence nor just war were plausible options? . . . Over 1.2 million Tibetans are believed to have died because of war, famine, and occupation. Was there a just way to avoid this?
The Dalai Lama’s second-eldest brother, Gyalo Thondup, become involved with the CIA in resisting China and sought refuge with Chiang Kai Shek. That the Dalai Lama’s own brother approved of more forceful resistance to China is not well known but must have been a constant source of concern for Tenzin Gyatso. The Tibetan people weren’t aided because their plight fell into the cracks between effective non-violent and just-war strategies. We know on the one hand that an absurd sense of bravado would involve us in every just war, and further that it is political callousness never to fight one. If we must pick and choose our just war according to how well it aligns with national means and interest, this may well be a prudent realism at work. It is also a humbling lesson that we need to find ever more innovative solutions to promoting justice.
12. At KTVZ News 21 in Bend, OR, Noah Chast tells of a La Pine high-schooler who organized a successful “Pickleball 4 Patriots” tournament to raise funds for veterans in need. From the article:
Last year, 17-year-old Keaton Kalmbach had a vision to put together a pickleball tournament while helping a good cause.
This year, it not only went smoothly, but he raised well more than his goal.
Kalmbach, a La Pine High School junior, is the head organizer of the first ever Pickleball for Patriots event.
“Our goal was $5,000, but ended up raising $6,258 to help veterans in need,” Kalmbach said.
The teen was inspired to help others from his family’s mission trips to other countries.
“I've been outside the US multiple times, and I realize how fortunate we are as Americans to live in this beautiful state and beautiful nation,” Kalmbach said.
Lucky 13. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley “Double B” Birzer tells of a youthful wrong-way train journey in Morocco, and a religious conversion that followed it. From the reflection:
At one point in the increasingly crowded train compartment, one of the men became extremely aggressive (I was still doing my best, trying to stay occupied and inconspicuous as I read an Agatha Christie novel) and started tearing apart my backpack (a huge Kelty that I carried all over that year abroad). When I physically tried to stop him—worried that I didn’t know the laws and might be thought guilty of assault—the door to our compartment flew open and an impeccable Moroccan gentleman, dressed in an all-white suit, entered, and he and the would-be thief began yelling at each other in Arabic.
After a few bewildering moments of shouting, the white-suited man said to me in flawless English, “You, young man, are in great danger. You have no reason to trust me, but you must. Grab your things and jump off this train. Now.” I have no idea how rational I was at that point, but I followed his advice. The train, as it happened, stopped at that moment in the middle of nothing but sand dunes. I got out, and the train moved on. There, I stood alone in a sandy and windy world, devoid of water, trees, or anything that seemed to be alive. As I couldn’t help but wonder what madness had overcome me, a train moving the right direction emerged over the dunes and stopped. I boarded, and I was able to make my way back to Rabat, then to Gibraltar, and, then, of course, to Spain, France, Switzerland, and Austria.
As it turned out, I had only one compartment companion on the entire route across Europe. He was an elderly man, a former German Nazi who had since converted to Catholicism. Much to my surprise (given my own disposition toward quiet, isolated rides in which I could immerse myself in a book), he told me all about his life, his conversion, and his faith. Far from annoying me, I found the man utterly fascinating and truly wise. Indeed, he reminded me of my maternal grandfather (who had passed away a half-decade earlier), the most dignified man I’ve ever known.
Thirty years to the month later, I still am not sure exactly what happened on that train in Morocco.
BONUS: At The Wall Street Journal, Amanda Foreman concedes that no American barbeque restaurant gets Michelin love, but doesn’t hoot-give. From the piece:
The American barbecue—cooking meat with an indirect flame at low temperature over seasoned wood or charcoal—is a centuries-old tradition. (Using the term for any kind of outdoor grilling came much later.) Like America itself, it is a cultural hybrid. Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean and the Americas would place a whole animal carcass on a wooden platform several feet above a fire and let the smoke do the cooking. The first Spanish arrivals were fascinated by the technique, and translated a native word for the platform as “barbacoa.”
The Europeans began to barbecue pigs and cattle, non-native animals that easily adapted to the New World. Another important culinary contribution—using a ground trench instead of a raised platform—may have been spread by African slaves. The 18th century African abolitionist Olaudah Equiano described seeing the Miskito of Honduras, a mixed community of Indians and Africans, barbecue an alligator: “Their manner of roasting is by digging a hole in the earth, and filling it with wood, which they burn to coal, and then they lay sticks across, on which they set the meat.”
European basting techniques also played a role. The most popular recipes for barbecue sauce reflect historic patterns of immigration to the U.S.: British colonists used a simple concoction of vinegar and spices, French émigrés insisted on butter, and German settlers preferred their native mustard. In the American West, two New World ingredients, tomatoes and molasses, formed the basis of many sauces. The type of meat became another regional difference: pork was more plentiful in the South, beef in the West.
For the Good of the Cause
Uno. On September 7th, Jeremy Beer hosts another AmPhil must-attend “Scotch Talk,” this one focused on grant writing and foundation fundraising. Joining him in the wisdom-sharing on these matters of great importance to nonprofit aficionados will be Iain Bernhoft and Stephanie D’Anselmi, who will discuss how to write polished and compelling grant proposals, woo foundation officers, and plenty more. So get your favorite tumbler, drop in a few ice cubes, pour a sweet liquid—whether the fruit of the barley or that made while the moon shines—and join the conversation. But to do that, you’ll need to register, which can be done right here.
Due. And now allow us to remind you about the forthcoming Center for Civil Society conference—“Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society.” It takes place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. You had best get complete information, which you can find right here, because you are indeed coming, by golly!
Tre. Another reminder, this from Philanthropy Daily, where Jonathan Hannah tells of the 2024 AmPhil Fundraising Fellowship. From the piece:
The AmPhil Fundraising Fellowship is a nine-month leadership program where fellows will learn the history of philanthropy in American civil society, explore contemporary issues related to fundraising, and complete a personal project enabling them to bring value to their nonprofit organization.
Fellows will meet virtually on a monthly basis to discuss readings, workshop ideas, and examine the vocation of fundraising. Fellows will also have special access to AmPhil’s online educational opportunities, including our In the Trenches master classes, and will be invited to our annual Givers, Doers, & Thinkers Conference, which will take place in Southern California in October of 2024.
Interested? If so, you’ll find complete information here.
Quattro. You heard it here first: AmPhil is hosting an “In the Trenches” Master Class on Thursday, October 12th (via Zoom, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern), on “Integrating Direct Mail and Digital Outreach,” and if you have a scintilla to do with nonprofit fundraising and don’t attend, well, you’d better have a pretty darned good excuse, because this session will be a goldmine of wisdom. Get your pick and shovel and sign up—easily done right here.
Department of Bad Jokes
Q: Where do you learn to make a banana split?
A: Sundae school.
A dear old friend, a truly great American, James Lane Buckley, passed away last week. Yours Truly remembered him at National Review, here. So did many others. You will find links to NR’s tribute collection here. Jim was a holy man—but even holy men need our prayers that they rest in God’s peace. Oremus.
May We Be Prepared for the Fateful Hour at Its Coming,
Jack Fowler, who is little prepared for anything but the reception of emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.