I cannot read Marxists — or, why I do not mourn Gabriel García Márquez’s passing

Karl MarxI was so naive when I went to Cal. I didn’t realize that, in my history and English classes, the material we read was either created in the first instance by Marxists or, if it predated Marxists, was first run through a Marxist analytical filter either before or immediately after we read it.  All I knew was that I thought the material was nonsensical and, because of their adulatory prosing about it, that my professors were idiots.

It says a lot about the quality of education at Cal that, simply by parroting the teachers’ stupidity back to them, I managed to graduate from Cal Magna Cum Laude.  I even still have my little Phi Beta Kappa key hanging from a nail on the wall in my office. I offer these snippets of academic accomplishment not to boast, but to denigrate both the material used and the quality of teaching at Cal. My academic accomplishments are an embarrassing symbol of Cal’s deficiencies as an educational institution. To the extent I consider myself an educated person, I attribute that to my being an autodidact, hungry for knowledge, not to being a high level graduate of one of the world’s top universities.

Law school, at least, had the virtue of being nothing more than a fancy trade school. I had decent professors, wonderful peers, and enjoyed myself there. I managed for the most part to avoid indoctrination. Interestingly, in a setting in which I actually had to learn stuff and think, as opposed to just parroting back cant, I was a good, solid graduate, rather than a top one. My sub-stellar performance also resulted from the fact that I was quite ill during part of my time there, which proved to be a drag on my GPA.  (And yes, my ego demands that caveat.)

When I left law school, I vowed never to go back to a formal education system, a promise I’ve kept to this day. I find it exhausting merely to attend Open Houses at my kids very fine public schools. I have to fight against the urge to run out screaming when I hear the nice teachers lecture the nice parents about the topics and methodology they use when lecturing our nice kids during the school day. As the old hippie would say, “That’s not my scene, man.”

A sport of natureAlthough I vowed never to return to school, I have been in a variety of book clubs over the years, purely for social reasons. All of them have been run by nice young or middle-aged women who trust in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and high-end fashion magazines to tell them what they ought to read. That’s how I ended up having to read two authors I’d successfully avoided during my formal education:  Gabriel García Márquez and Nadine Gordimer.

To say that I loathed the Márquez and Gordimer books is to speak in delicate understatement. I hated their writing style; I hated their topics; I hated their values — I hated everything from cover to cover. As my well-intentioned friends struggled to find meaning in the books, I kept saying that the books were poorly written, boring, and unreasonable, and that their principles and conclusions were wrong.

I did not say back then that Márquez and Gordimer were Marxist because, back in the 1980s, I did not know that they were. In any event, as a nicely indoctrinated party-line Democrat, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to criticize anything on that particular ground.

I just knew that I hated reading these much-lauded books in exactly the same way I hated reading Supreme Court opinions (this was back in the late 1980s) by the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. I knew that I ought to admire Marshall and Stevens and Brennan, and that I should hate Rehnquist and Burger, but the fact was that the former group wrote complex, unintelligible, illogical opinions, whereas the latter (as well as all other conservative justices but for the flopsy, wobbly Sandra Day O’Connor) wrote tight, well-reasoned, easy to follow opinions.  I eventually concluded that, because Marxism doesn’t work in the real world, any writing advancing Marxist principles must be muddled, vague, and unreasonable to hide that fact.

Now Márquez is dead and, while an individual’s death must always be a tragedy for his family and close friends, I feel no sense of loss. Instead, I agree entirely with the DiploMad, who has no problem speaking ill of the Marxist dead:

Love in the time of CholeraIn other good news, this time in Latin America, the Nobel-prize winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez is dead.

One of the great phonies and bootlickers of leftist dictators has passed from the scene. Those who love freedom can only be grateful.

I will speak ill of the dead. It is hard to exaggerate the damage that GGM has done to the image of Latin America and Latin Americans, portraying the region and the people as some sort of quasi-magical place, a place filled with ethereal, mystical beings without logic, common sense, and ordinary human emotions and foibles. For all his “magical realist” vision, he could not or would not see, for example, the horrors brought to Cuba and Cubans by the Castro brothers. On the contrary, he had an enormous house in Havana provided by the regime, with servants and cars at his beck-and-call, and a ready chummy access to the bloodstained brothers and their rule of terror. He convinced generations of gringo academic Latin American “specialists” that the region could not be understood in conventional terms; that supply-and-demand economics did not work there; and that ordinary people did not want individual liberty and political democracy. He helped perpetrate and perpetuate a horrid stereotype of Latin America, one in which the atrocities of leftist regimes could be ignored because the region operated on another level of consciousness, one beyond our poor powers to comprehend. Good riddance to this poseur and his unreadable sentences! An enemy of freedom is gone.

Hear! Hear! Yes! Absolutely. The DiploMad is correct in every respect. I knew then that I couldn’t stand Márquez’s loopy, unhinged prose, nor his loopy, unhinged ideas. Thirty years later, I not only understand the problem (Marxism), I have the pleasure of reading someone who gets it and states it better than I ever could.

VDH diagnoses the structural problems that have killed American higher education

UC-Berkeley_CampusWithout exception, all of the structural flaws VDH identifies in America’s higher education were already problems when I was at Berkeley, and they explain why I hated my experience at Berkeley so much.  The only difference is that, back in the day, when I attended lectures given by bored tenured professors reading off of their yellowed notes, and had my actual classes taught by underpaid teaching assistants, some of whom had only a glancing relationship with spoken English, I wasn’t burdening myself with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.  I left Cal with $4,600 in debt.  It was a large sum, but still proportional to what I could expect to earn with a generic liberal arts degree from a major university.

By the way, I said “killed” for a reason.  Those institutions are still standing, and hundreds of thousands of kids are applying to them, but the fact is that they’re rotting corpses that no longer educate, they indoctrinate.

Berkeley — the un-America

I found Berkeley a desperately unpleasant place when I attended University there in the late 70s/early 80s.  It shocks me to realize that, unaware of it though I was, those were the good years.  In a report filled with photos and text, Zombie walks us through the depths to which Berkeley has sunk.  And I’m not going to excuse the City from this kind of thing on the ground that the protesters were just a small percentage of the whole population.  Keep in mind that it was the general population that elected the City Council that started this whole thing in the first place.

I also want to add here that it’s too facile just to say, “Well, that’s Berkeley.  It’s always been a nutty place.”  While it’s true that Berkeley’s always been nutty, there is a unique quality to this nuttiness and others should take note.  This is not just a collection of eccentrics.  This is the stripped down mask of the left — take the vague anti-Capitalist, anti-American, anti-military, anti-democracy, anti-Israel, racist (er, identity politics) rhetoric that permeates the soft Left, distill it to its essence, and this is what remains.   Without Obama’s warm fuzzies, and Hillary’s soccer Mom platitudes, these are the underlying faces of their core beliefs.  And you should definitely not forget these pictures come November.

One more thing about Berkeley:  it was not always so.  Growing up, my next door neighbor was an absolutely lovely maiden lady (when that idea still existed) who came from an old San Francisco family.  She had been born and raised in San Francisco, and used to entertain me with harrowing tales of the ’06 quake, when you could go into the yard of their home (miraculously preserved but for a collapsed chimney) and read a newspaper at night by the flames destroying the City.  She also told me about attending Berkeley around 1913 or 1914.

When I commuted to Berkeley decades later, I battled my way through City traffic, battled my way through freeway traffic, battled my way to Berkeley traffic, and parked in neighborhoods so scary the campus cops were barred from escorting students there because of safety concerns.

When my neighbor commuted to Berkeley, she took a streetcar to the ferry.  Once on the ferry, she and her friends (no doubt in lovely flowered hats), always treated themselves to tea and fresh pastries.  After they docked at Berkeley, a horse drawn carriage would be waiting to drive them to the center of campus.  She always looked back on those years as a remarkably civilized time and bemoaned what the hippies had done to her once lovely alma mater.