08 December, 2007

One Night in Viv

Perceptive visitors to Princeton will have noticed that Senator Frist has donated an enormous student center to the University and named it after himself. At first I held the obvious and usual opinion that the name was but a harmless expression of the vainglory that few (if any) great men are without. But I now wonder if Dr. Frist may not have sought to accentuate the hypocrisy of the little Tilghmanistas who spout contemporary ‘liberal’ platitudes condemning conservative white males while reclining leisurely, amid multifarious amenities, in the houses that such males built and maintain.

Anyway, perhaps the most popular section of Frist is Café Vivian. I lack the modern passion for piped musak, so I ordinarily avoid the Café, stopping in only for a quick Chai here, a Chocolate Chunk Cookie there. But he who is not afraid to have his spirit crushed and heart broken may learn much about this generation in such a place, so yesterday evening I cast fear aside and boldly had my French mistress, Marie-Anne, wheel me into ‘Viv’. Marie-Anne went off to see a movie (and do God knows what else) with the pair of unhinged minxes she calls best friends, leaving me free to sit in the corner for many hours, watching and listening.

There was, as I expected, much to inspire rage and depression. I will no doubt have occasion to speak of many of these dread matters in the future, but at the moment I will only make two observations.

1)I have always preferred to call myself an Extremely Reformed Jew, rather than a ‘Christian’, because giving faith in Christ a categorically new name suggests that the apostles et. al. were involved in some sort of crudely revolutionary activity, rather than urging a rational and organic development of the faith of their Fathers. It was my privilege, as a precocious youngster, to meet Lord Beaconsfield in person and put forth my nascent political and religious theories, with which he wholeheartedly agreed. For this reason I maintain that I have been given a charism by the greatest Judeo-Christian since St. Paul. All this is merely to say that I have nothing against the beni Israel, with whom I feel far more religious and human solidarity than with that great horde of ‘Christians’ who worship Mary or with the hairy irrationalists of the East.

Yet I cannot help being disturbed by the totalizing influence of the Ashkenazi ‘persona’ on intellectual young gentiles. Self-deprecation, irony and debonair neurosis are fine things in their place, but surely they cannot be the only elements of entertaining and intelligent interaction. It was alarming that all the non-vapid conversations on which I eavesdropped (3-4% approx.) were conducted in this Woody Allenian mode, which easily and often lapsed into a mere smug, cynical egoism. Here for the first (and I hope last) time I will modify a term borrowed from Dr. Cornel West: We may call the near-universal perception that humorous intellectuality must conform to some 'Jewish' model the ‘Jewish Normative Gaze’. Nor am I just speculating when I say that this reflects a cultural aspiration to ‘Jewishness’ as these young people perceive it, for they frequently express this aspiration explicitly, saying such things as “I really wish I were Jewish.” etc.

For centuries the Children of Light have had to use intellect and humor as means of survival. They can be authentically wry and skeptical; they can slyly editorialize from the margins with real perspicacity. But it is almost obscene for these pampered young Protestants to wear hard-earned Jewish irony like a fashionable coat; in them it is based on no inherited wisdom, but merely post-Christian nihilism. It is time that we relearn to appreciate and aspire to other modes of charming brilliance, namely the modes of charming brilliance historically shown by talented members of the unself-conscious, cultural and religious majority. The majestic self-confidence, expansive extroversion, clarity of thought, certainty of judgment and elegant precision of speech shown by men like Dr. Johnson is priceless in its own way and quite worthy of emulation.

2)Of all the many ungodly fashions of recent times, this new craze for ‘leggings’ must be one of the most destructive. I looked on with disgusted despair as the daughters of respectable families, apparently unaware that they were effectively naked from the waist down, stood waiting for coffee with catatonic stares. The sons of respectable families also wore catatonic stares, as would any normal male beholding such a sight.

I grant you that I am no longer the youngest of men, but even in my testosterone-addled prime (as a young, unmarried Legionnaire) I would have found such flagrancy frightening. But not so with our sexually entitled young ‘men’, for whom anything less than visual third-base would be considered prudishness. The young women of today are no doubt feeling the collective pressure of their friends’ and potential paramours’ expectations when they paste on those glorified stockings: shall we perhaps speak of a Pimpish Normative Gaze? Ach, these young things are so insecure, impressionable and flighty they are damn near intolerable. I would get rid of Marie-Anne if I did not think i) that a mistress is an essential accessory for a man of my social standing, and ii)that my influence is, however slowly, doing her some good.

Eventually, I could no longer bear the musak, the inane conversations and the unrelenting indecent exposure. I called Marie-Anne to come and get me and she showed up with those two little devils. All three were visibly drunk and the short one was wearing leggings. I sighed, bit my tongue and stoically wheeled my way towards the Hummer.

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