David Clemens has a very worthwhile essay posted on the importance of the Liberal Arts. Many of the subjects that our current elites have studied are about how things happen or how humans behave. The Liberal Arts, OTOH, are not about how humans behave but about how to be human. This lack of background in the humanities among so many TechnoProgressives has impaired their understanding of what it means to be free.
A free person can make stupid choices. He can have it all and throw it away. But, just as for Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man, that may be his only way of showing himself that he is a human being and not a piano key pushed by fate. Think of Elvis or any number of promising people who crashed and burned.
Mr. Clemens uses the recent political ad campaign about Julia to make his point.
This is why selling the Julia concept frightens me. She doesn’t yearn to be free, like a human; she yearns to be kept. Julia embraces the piano key life that the president offers, and like W. H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen, she will act and behave predictably, she will choose and think correctly.
A perennial question that divides the political left and right is this: what sort of beings are we? Do we have an immutable, perhaps transcendent, nature that will surrender everything utopia for autonomy, agency, and freedom (Elvis)? Or is there no inherent nature, and humans are just socially constructed, plastic, seeking nothing but safety and a reliable sense of well-being (Julia)? Political Science, Psychology, and Anthropology cannot answer that question, and the sciences can only measure what is measurable. The liberal arts and humanities, however, insist that we are like Elvis, and that those who trade liberty for comfort always live to regret it.
Read the whole thing.
I’ve probably read too many of the wrong kind of books. That must explain the uneasy feeling I had with the Life of Julia slide show that the President’s reelection campaign has put up on the Internet.
For some reason the story of Julia being cared for by the beneficent State reminded me of two other characters. Winston Smith and O’Brien.
OTOH, some people have been reminded of other characters. Brian, for instance. Dr. Helen Smith wonders about a possible man in Julia’s life—Fred, who might be the father of her son. And of course, the Twitter feed #Julia has been active:
#Julia is a #composite of all the ways @BarackObama would like to buy the women’s vote.
— Stephen Green (@VodkaPundit)
Perhaps the creepiest, skin-crawling propaganda ever produced for an American political campaign barackobama.com/life-of-julia
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog)
UPDATE—Ed Morrissey provides editorial correction to the Obama campaign’s narrative of Julia’s life and has links to other interesting commentary.
UPDATE 2—The Life of Julie
UPDATE 3—Yid With Lid has the story according to Julia’s son.