Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Unsolicited Opinion and Tapeworms

Hey!  It’s time for your weekly dose of depression!  What, you thought the economy was the real story?  Or Afghanistan?  No, friends, the real story these days is the death of virtue, and that is the story I tell.

From New York, we have the amusing case of Professor Scott Galloway of NYU’s Business School.  Galloway has the irritating habit of maintaining standards, of demanding excellence from his students, of knowing personally what it takes to succeed in life.

So a student showed up an hour late to his first class and, in accordance with his If-you’re-more-than-15-minutes-late-don’t-bother-rule, he kicked the student out.  Oh, Professor Galloway, did you expect this incident to go away without the obligatory whining and sniveling?  You are a teacher aren’t you?  Presumably you have met people in their twenties.  The student’s email explanation:

As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency.

I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.

To be clear, this little incident is making the web rounds because Galloway’s response to this email is a spectacular smackdown.  What is actually newsworthy, however, are the assumptions by which Student X lives and dies:

(1) The most important criterion for making choices is “What I like most.”

(2) It is inconceivable that I, as a paying customer, should be denied my right to “try before I buy,” regardless of circumstance.

(3) Being unaware of the rules exempts me from being punished for breaking them.

(4) My unsolicited opinions and feedback are always valuable.

Good Lord, this generation is simply beyond parody.

Next, we have the charming story of Angie the Anti-Theist, who is live-tweeting her abortion.  Maybe I should let her tell you about it:

Angie wants to de-mystify the abortion process, remove the shame, stuff like that.  Let you know that it’s okay, anyone can do it.  In case you’re wondering, this is the New Courage:

Angie Jackson is the first person that I know of who has live-tweeted her abortion on Twitter — if I am incorrect about that, smart Frisky readers, please correct me in the comments — and I think it’s brave of her to share something that will make her a bulls-eye for anti-choice activists. Obviously, people who are against abortion are criticizing Jackson on Twitter and on her blog, calling her a “killer” and all those things. It takes a certain toughness to not allow oneself to feel judged by strangers and a certain magnanimousness to want to help other people even while being judged. 

Brave, Tough, magnanimous.  Angie the Anti-Theist is a Byronic hero, carrying the torch of self-expression into digital frontiers.  This is how she tells it on her blog:

This is not a child; this is a squatter which could potentially become a child. Or kill me. Maybe even both. None of those are outcomes I'm frankly interested in.

This may sound... cold? At the moment, it's hard to care what anyone else thinks. I know this is the right thing to do in this circumstance, and I won't be regretting this later. I love my son & I'm glad I have him. When I was pregnant before, I *felt* like I was carrying a baby, the little boy I had always wanted. Right now I feel like I have a tapeworm or some kind of horrible infection. Maybe the hormones aren't working right yet or maybe I'm practical.

I honestly don’t even have the heart to snark this.  I was originally going to highlight the selfishness, the navel-gazing, and the obscene diction, but I can’t.  This isn’t funny; it’s sad.  Here’s a woman who was brought up in a fundamentalist cult, who escaped, and who turned to atheism-by-way-of-American-consumerist-hedonism to deal with the psychological fallout.  Angie’s story is just another gaping wound on the body of a dying America.  Her anger, her dysfunction, her deep insecurity cheaply masked as bravado—these are the symptoms of a pervasive cultural evil, a sickness unto death, an eschatological despair.  Ours is a universe where all the lights go out, where suffering knows nothing but elongation followed by brutal, Darwinian extinction, and, with not even the possibility of fashioning a satisfying response, our last flailing impulse is to make certain we film every last detail of the flaming wreckage in high definition and distribute the unedited director’s cut on YouTube.  This is a cultural suicide in need of violent expurgation, or, to put it more acutely, sacrifice.

Dear Universe, please accept this little tapeworm.  It seems like it’s all we have to offer.


Both stories ultimately via Instapundit.


  1. And now for my unsolicited opinion...

    I don't really see the gloom-and-doom of your last paragraph in this abortion story. Angie certainly is an attention whore, but so is everyone on the internet. That chick that cooked everyday and blogged about it, and now it's a movie? Attention whore.

    Otherwise, she's just a girl getting an abortion. Her IUD failed, she doesn't want another kid, for personal as well as health reasons, which is a pretty legitimate situation to get an abortion, by many peoples standards.

    I say Angies main sins are being crass (referring to the fetus as a tapeworm was in bad taste) and being an attention whore, and she will get duly smacked-down in the media (and blogs) for both.

  2. JJ: I could care less about her attention whore-ness. I am even emotionally blunted enough to be basically unmoved by her decision to get an abortion (what atheist wouldn't?). Hell, I don't think abortion is some dire sin against the universe.

    Am I ultimately anti-choice? Yes. I think Christians ought to preserve, nourish, and promote life at every level. What troubles me about Angie is that hers is not a story to be pitied in our culture, but one elevated to the level of the heroic.

    I mean, wow. This is what heroes are in the digital age? Someone who courageously does whatever she wants and bravely annuls all undesirable consequences? Someone who summons her deep reservoir of character in order to...go with her basest impulses?

    Pardon me, but I've always felt the designation "hero" belonged to that narrow class of self-sacrificing individuals who restrained their baser nature in accordance with the needs of the created order.

    Like, here are some suggestions for Angie.

    (1) Abandon single motherhood. I understand that relationships don't always work out. But maybe, in the interests of your son, you should try to find an upstanding, responsible, caring man to be your child's step-father. So what if he doesn't "ignite your passions" or whatever. Or if that's really important, try to find someone who can.

    (2) Disregard, or massively de-prioritize, your feelings. Angie, hormones are a powerful thing. They cause both men and women to experience an array of feelings. Get over it. Do not make life-altering decisions solely on the basis of ephemeral impulses.

    (3) Take seriously the judgment and opinions of others. Part of virtue is recognizing your obligation to the social fabric of society. The hero's lot is primarily one of service. This is why it takes courage to be one. Courage is willing and executing actions that will probably result in negative consequences for you. ["Negative consequences" as in, eg, shouldering a lifetime of responsibility and other-directed care as opposed to being flamed for two weeks over the internet.] The hero is mindful of a duty to many that trumps the duty to self-regard. Only in the context of a highly-developed social network can the hero clearly perceive what that duty really is. This is precisely because our minds are tricksome, and we are more likely to deceive ourselves than know what is actually required.

    (4) Fulfill a calling that is higher than yourself. Heroes live and die for something. In classical Greek literature, that traditional pagan motive is glory. So, eg, Hector fights Achilles for two reasons (1) his social duty requires a defense of his liege lord; (2) win or lose, his name and deeds will be preserved forever. In Christian terms, this is about the basest motivation for heroism you can find, but it is infinitely better than post-modern bourgeois hedonism. Seriously, don't believe in God, Angie, I don't care, but at least pretend to be aiming for transcendence, you know?

    Angie's case overwhelms me with sadness because she is exactly what you should expect in the post-Christian world. Our light has gone out; we have nothing to live for except ourselves, and not even "ourselves" in a mature, modern, ontologically consistent sense, but "ourselves" as fleeting meatbags comprised of flitting, unpredictable, and, most importantly, transitory desires.

    Angie didn't want the baby on Tuesday, but next Thursday she might feel differently. There are no regrets, however, only an accumulation of data points or lessons to be taken into account the next time she has an unplanned pregnancy.