A result of the abolition of culture through commercialism, ideology and modern understandings of justice and rationality is that people get deprived of worthwhile ideals of conduct. From the standpoint of the New York Times and the weblog Gene Expression, it therefore appears that the choices for young people are (1) nerdishness, which is identification with the authority of reason and thus rejection of sociality and style, and (2) stylized social self-assertion that mostly seems to involve jockishness and imitation of lower-class black culture.
A forced choice like that is enough to drive you to suicide, or into a monastery, or something. Is that the best we can do? What’s wrong with an understanding of reason that goes beyond utility, or of society and beauty that is open to the transcendent? What’s wrong with a way of life that combines intelligence and grace, that is, in fact, civilized? The sociologist cited by the NYT struck me as remarkably stupid about the issues she’s spent 12 years studying. According to the Times, she
sees something to admire here. In declining to appropriate African-American youth culture, thereby ‘refusing to exercise the racial privilege upon which white youth cultures are founded,’ she writes, nerds may even be viewed as ‘traitors to whiteness’ … On the other hand, the code of conspicuous intellectualism in the nerd cliques Bucholtz observed may shut out ‘black students who chose not to openly display their abilities.’
So there’s no such thing as intrinsic value, in ways of life or anything else. Inclusion and equality are the only cultural issues that matter, so the point of scholarship is the invention of weird theories about such things. If A imitates B that’s an exercise of A’s privilege with respect to B. To refuse to imitate is treason. Such things are what we have come to expect from our Newspaper of Record.