What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Orwell’s Depressing Ongoing Relevance

In Orwell’s novel 1984, in chapters 2 and 3 of part Three, during the interrogation and dialogue between Winston Smith and O’Brien (sadly, I could mine these sections of the novel for posts here the rest of my life); O'Brien asks Winston if, in his opinion, the past has real existence and, saying that Winston is no metaphysician, he continues by affirming that:

until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects where the past is still happening?

Winston replies in the negative and O’Brien questions him “then where does the past exist, if at all?”

The dialogue continues: “In records. It is written down.”

O’Brien: “In records. And - ?”

“In the mind. In human memories.”

“In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?”

“But how can you stop people remembering things? [...] It is involuntarily. It is outside oneself. How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!”


Now with that background out of the way, I present this story from New Haven, Connecticut – no additional commentary from me is needed, with the exception of the sentence I bolded and underlined:

How Dishwasher Corey Menafee Smashed Racism at Yale—Literally

Lizzie Crocker, The Daily Beast

When a Yale University staffer shattered a stained-glass panel featuring slaves in the university’s Calhoun residential college, he wasn’t intentionally showing solidarity with student activists.

Corey Menafee, a dishwasher in Calhoun College’s dining hall—named after John C. Calhoun, the bigoted 19th century-statesman and Yale alumnus—was simply sick of seeing the “racist, very degrading” image every day, he told the New Haven Independent.

So, on June 13, he took matters into his own hands and smashed the glass with a broomstick. He has since apologized to the university and resigned from his job.

But several student activists have praised Menafee, arguing that if anyone should apologize it’s the university.

“Yale should pay his legal fees to compensate for the emotional distress their images evoke,” Austin Strayhorn, an upcoming sophomore at Yale, told The Daily Beast. “Imagine being reminded of your oppression day after day. He did what many of us have wanted to do but never had the courage to do.”

Brea Baker, a recent graduate (’16) and former president of the university’s NAACP chapter, echoed Strayhorn’s sentiments in an email to The Daily Beast.

“First and foremost, Yale must apologize to Corey Menafee and black workers who come in daily and are subject to such a hostile work environment,” she wrote. “What he did was a form of decolonizing Yale and his bravery must be commended.”

Menafee’s destructive act of defiance came two months after the university announced its decision to retain the name of Calhoun College, defying some 1,500 current and former students.

“Removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it,” Yale President Peter Salovey said in a statement at the time. Student activists like Strayton and Baker were enraged.

“Students of color and our allies have been bleeding in front of Yale for YEARS,” Baker wrote in her email. “This year specifically we have very clearly expressed the very real psychological impacts of being forced to grapple with such symbols and images in such public spaces as dining halls and residential spaces.”

Responding to fervent student protests, the university in January removed three portraits of Calhoun from residential spaces, including one that hung in the dining hall.

In April, President Salovey announced an initiative to review the university’s history with regard to slavery, tasking the newly formed Committee on Art in Public Spaces to assess a series of contentious stained-glass panels and other art on campus, including the panel depicting slaves carrying cotton that Menafee later smashed.

Salovey also said the university was abolishing the “Master” title for residential faculty supervisors.

The Committee recommended in June that several stained-glass panels be removed and “conserved for future study and a possible contextual exhibition, and replaced with tinted glass for the time being,” the university said in a statement provided to The Daily Beast. “An artist specializing in stained glass will be commissioned to design new windows, with input from the Yale community, including students, on what should replace them.”

The Committee only arrived at this decision after Menafee took a broomstick to the image, expediting the process.

Another “suite of panels depicting aspects of John Calhoun’s life” is slated to be removed, the university said in a statement.

Regarding Menafee: "The university worked with his union to resolve this as compassionately as possible," the statement reads. Yale has requested that the State’s Attorney not press charges against Menafee, and the university is not seeking legal restitution.

In 1992, students successfully petitioned for the removal of a stained-glass panel featuring a shackled slave at Calhoun’s feet. The panel that Menafee shattered is believed to have been the only remaining visible reference to slavery at Calhoun College.

In an email to the community last week, Head of Calhoun College Julia Adams formally announced that the dining hall would be renamed in honor of Roosevelt Thompson, an alumnus who graduated from Yale in 1984. She also confirmed that other stained-glass panels referencing Calhoun’s legacy would be replaced.

Strayhorn told The Daily Beast he was pleased that Menafee is not being charged by the university, and that the steps the university has taken in deference to minority students are “good but not permanent solutions.”

When asked if the university’s response to student demands’ and the shattered panel incident were satisfactory, Baker was less forgiving.

“These are not panels depicting images of Calhoun’s life so much as they are panels depicting the exploitation and genocide of an entire group of people—a group of people I might add whose descendants are now educated here,” she wrote in an email. “Calhoun’s life was devoted to maintaining difference, inferiority/superiority binaries, and the breaking of black bodies. Any images depicting these facets of his life in an informal setting are promoting that.”

Comments (6)

I am no metaphysician either but I sympathize with David Stove that questions of this sort indicate a confusion in thought.

Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects where the past is still happening?

And speaking of iconoclasm generally, is it not to be applauded when statues of a Stalin or a Saddam come down? and more controversially, when Protestants vandalized Catholic shrines and Christians pagan shrines?


You ask if we should applaud when statues of Stalin or Saddam come down -- I say generally yes; but they tended to erect lots of statues because they were meglomaniacs who liked to see themselves everywhere. Would I tear down every single statue of Saddam or Stalin to erase their memory from the public? I don't think I would -- I think it serves a useful function to remind people of their power-hungry mania and lust for glory to leave a couple of statues around.

That is part of why, I would argue, we are fascinated with pagan antiquities -- the Pharaohs of Egypt were in their own day also tyrants and obsessed with their glorious legacy.

As for desecrating religious shrines I cannot agree that it is ever wise or called for among Christian brothers -- destroying a temple of child sacrifice is obviously different; but even in that situation, there might be good educational and historical reasons for preserving pagan temples. We keep the Aztec pyramids intact and I think we are right to do so.

I've written about this topic before and one of the best pieces on this subject is the classic essay/speech "Shall Cromwell Have a Statue?" by the former Union soldier Charles Francis Adams (who was arguing that General Lee deserved a statue in the U.S.

In the context of the Yale stained glass window, it matters, I think, whether the window memorialized the (former) reality of slavery and subjugation with approval, with a perspective that amounted to saying "this situation was a good and worthy state of affairs and we should remember that", or whether the window memorializes the reality with a perspective of "this is what this man Calhoun stood for: slavery". The former takes a stand of approval ABOUT slavery, the latter does not.

You will note that in the entire article refrains from giving us that information, about which way it depicts Calhoun. It does tell us that some blacks, when they viewed it, FELT the degradation and racism as a projection of Calhoun's perspective through time onto them now. But not one word of the article can be used to establish that what they felt is reasonable, because the message is IN the window. Does the piece of artwork actually intend to project Calhoun's perspective forward in time, or is it actually designed to historically remember it as a part of history? We don't know, not from the article.

Why is that? Is it an oversight by the author? No, not hardly. It is not an oversight, because in the liberal mantra it doesn't matter. In the liberal mantra, what the viewer FEELS is all that matters. If someone feels degraded by it, then it is A Bad Thing. It simply doesn't matter if someone else feels uplifted, or enlightened, or educated, or any of a thousand other feelings: if someone in the special victim classes society has set up feels bad, THAT feeling is all the reality that matters about it.

I recall a Catholic school that had a Gospel saying carved into the lintel above the door, borrowing from Christ telling the apostles to let the children to come to Him. The latin for "let" can be "permiteo", and of the English translations allowable for "permiteo", we get both "let" and "suffer". So the phrase carved into the lintel was "Suffer the children to come to me".

Pretty simple, nice and sweet a sentiment, and all is good with the world, right? Well, not necessarily. Some of the children read it with commas: Suffer, children, to come to me. Now, one might propose (given the Catholic view of suffering) that this too would be a valid thing to say, but it isn't what the carving - or the Gospel - actually said. And there were, among those who read it with the imagined commas, some who were upset by the sentiment. If that were today (instead of many years ago), their feeling about it - regardless of the utterly imaginary aspect of the commas - would be all that is needed to force the school to apologize and be forced to remove it. Much more so if they were victim-group children (and it would matter very little that the message at which they take offence has nothing to do with their victim-group status).

Same thing when at the DC council meeting, a budget expert used the word "niggardly". One of the (black) members of the Council had never heard the word used, and mistook it for a quite different word, and ABSOLUTELY BLEW HIS TOP. The budget expert was forced to apologize (and almost lost his job), because of the Council member's hurt feelings, regardless of the fact that the hurt feelings were based wholly on his own mistake: Feelings of victim groups are "facts", and they can trump other all other facts.

If they had removed the window _without_ the demand from the liberal students, couldn't it have been argued that they were trying to _hide_ the association between the school's founding father and slavery? One can't exactly have it both ways in logic: The school must feel a great deal of guilt over this aspect of its history, and at the same time we must erase the very memory of this aspect of its history.

But then, leftists were never known for being strong on logical consistency. It's really all about power.

Thanks to affirmative racism, we now have students at Yale who cannot read, write, or count--they would not have been promoted to 4th grade in Calhoun's day, let alone graduated from 8th grade.

"When asked if the university’s response to student demands’ and the shattered panel incident were satisfactory, Baker was less forgiving.

“These are not panels depicting images of Calhoun’s life so much as they are panels depicting the exploitation and genocide of an entire group of people—a group of people I might add whose descendants are now educated here,” she wrote in an email. “Calhoun’s life was devoted to maintaining difference, inferiority/superiority binaries, and the breaking of black bodies."

It is obvious that she has no idea what the word genocide means. If the "entire group" was killed off, they could not have "descendants now being educated here." Dead persons cannot have descendants, by definition. [She proves Negroes are not being educated at Yale, but they most certainly are there.]

She also knows nothing about John Calhoun, probably the only both original and profound philosopher in political theory ever born in the USA.

The statement that Calhoun was "devoted to the breaking of black bodies proves she is insane as well as ignorant. Why would he want to do that? Broken bodies can't work in the fields or factories. So then farmers and artisans would have had either to hire free workers or to buy new slaves. In either case, by "breaking their bodies," they would have lost the money they had paid for the broken workers.

Every day, I am more and more convinced that we should have retained Strict Segregation. How do I on other Americans benefit from the billions of public funds going to students at Yale, who know nothing and want never to know anything.


The genocide comment got a mental chuckle out of me as well. As for Calhoun, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about his political philosophy. I'm more partial to the Founders and Lincoln.

We also will have to agree to disagree on "Strict Segregation." As for public funds and higher education -- reforms would be welcome and I certainly agree we subsidize too many kids who don't belong in college getting their degrees in nonsense subjects.

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