Friday, April 06, 2007

Pushed out of the box 

Many of you probably read James Taranto's Best of the Web, and yesterday's edition included the story of a student, Jenny Ballantine, who had asked a question of the Edwardses during their townhall campaign stop at the University of New Hampshire. She asked a question of the would-be first couple asking for the president to "give me something" because she is afraid she might have been "just dumped in this world for no particular reason whatsoever." The story had been covered initially by Rush Limbaugh, who yesterday had Ms. Ballantine on as a guest. The exchange begins rather dully, but Rush is a great interviewer and gets to the heart of the matter. (This is a little long, but you need to read the context of what I am emphasizing.)
RUSH. ... In the first place, you were not dumped in the world for no particular reason. You have every legitimate reason to be here, as does anybody else. You weren't dumped. There is no mystery why you're here. Those of us who have life, it's a God-given gift, and we only get one, and it is to be maximized and enjoyed and however you choose to pursue it: hard work, combined with pleasure, but this business about when I saw that you mentioned "a world full of hate and prejudice and racism and so forth..."

JENNY BALLANTINE: It's really unfortunate. It's just unfortunate. I know that that's the world that we live in, and that's what's going on right now. It's just really unfortunate.

RUSH: Well, it always has, though. There's always going to be racism. There's always going to be prejudice. There's always going to be bad guys. There are always going to be enemies. There are always going to be reprobates.

JENNY BALLANTINE: There's always going to be war, too, and I understand the reason for war. I actually enjoyed Machiavelli, The Prince, very much so, and I really appreciate his philosophies, and that's what a lot of people use when they engage in war and the aftermath of it, and I respect war, and I understand why there is a need for it, and I understand why there's a need to push for democracy, and I understand the gap that occurred and happened -- the widening gap I should say -- with discrimination and so forth. It's all very interesting.

RUSH: But it's not. See, there is no widening gap of discrimination. It's getting better. See, your historical perspective as with most people, most people began the day you were born. You're 22 years old. You're going to have to really study because history education is pretty inept in this country, particularly in high school, but the discrimination that existed in this country in the forties and fifties, even before, is far, far worse. So much progress has been made in all this! Racism is far less than it was. Prejudice --

JENNY BALLANTINE: Maybe it's because of the multicultural theory class I'm taking right now. (laughs) I think --

RUSH: Well, you're exactly right. You are. Way to go. The multicultural curricula is designed to get you feeling full of chaos and --


RUSH: -- tumult over the unfairness and the injustice of the country, because the teachers -- the people that believe in it -- want that exact thing to happen in your mind.

JENNY BALLANTINE: I hope my professor is not listening to this, but I've always... This is how I feel. She says, "Think outside the box." However, it's "thinking outside the box" on her terms, on her perspective, and the books that we're reading that we're engaged in, it's just full of, as you say, chaos, and it's just full of all these, you know, "This happened and this happened! Oh, God," and it's just like, "Okay, we've addressed that. Why don't we start establishing legislation or whatever else, the Senate, to start working or progress or why don't we go ahead and state what the progress has been since we're just such a screwed-up nation back in the forties and fifties?" I just don't understand the literature that we've been reading, and it's just been frustrating -- and I'm not the only one who feels that way in my class and it's just been really different.
As Rush might say, STOP THE TAPE!!! Notice three key elements in that exchange. First, Ms. Ballantine's lack of historical perspective. There is little understanding of how different the racism of today is when compared to the racism of the 1940s and 1950s. Second, her belief that there should be legislation to fix that. As Thomas Sowell points out, it's government that created the segregated bus that Rosa Parks challenged. Jim Crow was a law. A government powerful enough to enforce equality is powerful enough to enforce inequality, and we all know that power corrupts.

But most importantly is this: I hope my professor is not listening to this, but ... She says, "Think outside the box." However, it's "thinking outside the box" on her terms, on her perspective, and the books that we're reading that we're engaged in, it's just full of, as you say, chaos. Rush points out that this is something that the professor is creating to engage her in the professor's desired actions:
RUSH: ... The United States is the greatest nation, the greatest civilization of free people ever to walk the planet. Now, of course we've had problems, but we are not inherently racist or bigoted or sexist or homophobic or any of that. We have the finest people in the world.

JENNY BALLANTINE: Something that's learned, yeah.

RUSH: No, it is something that's taught to you. It's something that people have been trying to stuff in your skull full of mush and get you to believe this. There's a certain cadre, a certain group of people that want you distrusting your own country. They want you suspecting it. You have more opportunity as a human being here. All you have to do, Jenny, is find out what it is you love, and 22 is not too old for that. You're thinking. I know you're self-absorbed right now, you're self-focused, and you're looking at yourself at 22 and you're thinking, "My gosh, I'm a failure! I'm not going anywhere." You haven't even begun to crack the egg! You've barely hatched yet. All you need to do is find out what it is you really love, whatever that is -- and don't let anybody talk you out of it, and when you find out what that is, talk to people who have done it and who have succeeded at it, and let them mentor on you or motivate you. Don't talk to people that tell you, "You can't do it," or, "It's not for you," or what have you. You know, learn all this stuff that you're learning. Keep an open mind, Understand that everybody teaching you something, including every history book, has an agenda, and don't think that you're an idiot. Don't think that you're not bright. You're capable of learning anything! Whatever you do, don't run around and think that what you think is wrong, or what you think is incorrect.
That's the answer. She wants something because the people teaching her have told her both that she is not "thinking critically," meaning, she hasn't filtered her thoughts through their prism of seeing everything she has as a product of white privilege, that she has earned nothing, she is worth nothing. And when her country tells her she is entitled to the fruits of her own labor they say the country is advancing her privilege and that she doesn't deserve it. So she goes to beg for something from the Edwardses because she hopes they can do for her what she's told she DOES NOT DESERVE to do for herself. They want her to deny her own opportunities for success. Yet humans have an innate sense of what is right, and a natural inclination to truck, barter and exchange. They want to produce for themselves because it feels right. Thus they must be told repeatedly to "think outside the box" by people who do not respect the box, for within the box these teachers see their own failure, their own lack of power, their own lack of control.

"The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap. " -- Ayn Rand. Substitute "academic" or "intellectual" for "leader", and you have the problem of Jenny Ballantine.

UPDATE: Taranto notes this conversation (I took the liberty of sending him this post) and concludes:

The ideologies of "self-esteem" and "multiculturalism" are two sides of the same nihilistic coin. "Self-esteem" devalues achievement and responsibility, which are the sources of genuine self-respect. And "multiculturalism" it is merely a pose of opposition to one's own culture; it entails no real regard for different cultures.

We were too hasty to mock Jenny Ballantine yesterday. What seemed a show of self-absorption was really a sincere if clumsy attempt by a confused young woman to connect with the real world. Three cheers to Rush Limbaugh for helping her along the way.

Absolutely so, and three cheers also for Taranto's recognition of the dangers of the "self-esteem" ideology.