I set up this blog in 2006. After only a few scattershot postings, for a variety of reasons it lay fallow for several months, and I ended up taking the whole thing down. Now I’m attempting to prop it up again.
I approach “Cultural Slagheap” as a sort of open letter written for my own jollies, as well as the enjoyment of my friends—who are of a multitude of political, religious, racial, and other sundry backgrounds—and, of course, whoever else happens to stop by. I teach American literature and cultural studies for a living. The springboard thoughts expressed here will usually, but not always, be triggered by my current rootings-around in books, movies, and music. Comments, from the erudite and thought-provoking to the berserk and horrifically spelled, are welcome.
Just so we know where we all stand, however, and in case you’ve happened to wander in from the interwebs just to get out of the rain, here are some thoughts that will generally guide the content and tenor of these postings:
1. Comments, as I state above, are welcome. I dig nothing more than the free exchange of ideas, and would happily make this a dialogue, offering responses to comments in subsequent posts.
2. That said, anyone attempting to enter public discourse whose facts are in egregious error, whose loudly-voiced opinions are consistently uninformed, whose statements exhibit little or no understanding of what is genuinely meant by the word “argument,” who substitutes condescension and ad hominem attack for reason and evidence, who responds to civility with rudeness, or who behaves as if the mere difference of opinion constitutes a personal insult, will here receive the public skewering and deep embarrassment such silliness deserves.
3. If you believe that only a formal education gives a person the ability to think and to reason, and the subsequent right to enter public debate, you and I are in disagreement, and you may not like what you read here.
4. If, conversely, you believe all formally educated people to be elitist snobs, whose erudition and complexity of expression reveal them to be out of touch with the genuine concerns and straightforward language of reg’lar, everyday folks, you should probably consider fucking off too.
5. The opinions offered here are written by an adult and will occasionally be expressed using “adult language,” and are therefore not suitable for the immature of any age. I should probably have said that first. Whoops.
6. I am an atheist, and therefore have zero stake in debates regarding religious faith except where they affect the quality of my (1) life, (2) liberty, or (3) pursuit of happiness. However, I was raised in a Christian family (both immediate and extended), whose faith is a result of years of doctrinal study and open conversation. I come to discussions of religion thus armed to the gunwales.
7. Though I’m an atheist, I’m not anti-religion, and I’m certainly not anti-religious faith in others. I am anti-ignorance, anti-stupidity, anti-hypocrisy, anti-loutishness, anti-resistance-to-considering-other-viewpoints, and anti-intolerance.
8. As I get older, I become more and more convinced that I follow only one fairly consistent ethical principle: Generally speaking, where Person A attempts to limit Person B’s liberty in order to force Person B’s behavior to align with Person A’s moral code, Person A is an asshole. Like all principles it’s not infallible, but it’s usually reliable.
9. A culture that values and listens to the diversity of opinions and beliefs within it will be the stronger for that quality. A culture whose educational and governmental institutions encourage such empathy will appeal to, and help to cultivate, the better natures of its citizenry.
10. However, the determination to remain self-centered, ignorant, xenophobic, and brick-stupid, which manifests itself throughout human history, will resist all outside attempts at improvement. In the final analysis, the development of knowledge, empathy, and wisdom are the responsibility of the individual. They cannot be forced from without.
11. Addendum to number 10: Institutional education gives you an opportunity to learn, nothing more. Take a rock from a pond where it’s been sitting in water for decades, crack it open, and you’ll see it’s as dry as a bone in the middle. A person can spend years in school, surrounded by opportunities to become educated, and still walk out as dumb as a speed bump.
12. My personal morality tap-dances wildly back and forth along the high-wire strung between asceticism and hedonism. Not that you needed or wanted to know that, but in certain cases it might provide context for specific posts.
Okay. That’s the lay of the land, troops. Happy reading, and feel free to join in.
Next time, we go a-hunting for the needles of thoughtfulness among the haystacks of the xmas manger.