RIP Jorie Blair Long

Jorie Blair Long:   2 March 1926—1 September 2017

Jorie Blair Long:
2 March 1926—1 September 2017

My mother died today, at the age of 91. I want to say a bit about her life.

She was born in what to outside eyes would have looked like circumstances of privilege: her parents were affluent (her father was Deputy Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago) and could afford to travel to destinations far less accessible in the 1930s than they are today (Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, Australia, New Zealand). But her childhood was harrowing, dominated by a physically abusive older brother (who literally tried three times to kill her, by his own later admission) and emotionally abusive parents who treated her more like a “poor relation” than like a member of the family.

Despite her consistent A’s in schoolwork, her parents told her she was mentally deficient, nicknaming her “non compos mentis.” Her father was willing to pay for only two years of college for her, as this was all he thought girls needed. (He would happily have paid the full four years for her brother, had he been willing to go.) On her father’s deathbed, when he was no longer able to communicate, her mother stole her inheritance by literally forcing his hand to make an X on a new will, thus leaving my mother penniless and dependent.

My grandmother kept my mother at home for years as essentially a servant, convincing her that she was not competent to survive on her own. (She came to identify with the heroine of Now, Voyager.) Finally, at age 30, my mother gathered the courage to escape, driving to Los Angeles in a mix of fear, guilt, and elation. My mother soon found secretarial work and was able to support herself perfectly well. She also learned to fly an airplane.

In a few years she met and married the man who would become my father. Sadly, while on a business trip in Latin America he died in a plane crash, while I was still a baby. My mother was left to raise me on her own, which meant years of difficult financial struggle for her; at one point most of our possessions were sold for debt.

My mother was determined to raise me in as different a manner as possible from the way she had been raised. She treated me almost as an adult – discussing serious matters with me, and never censoring my reading. She also encouraged my intellectual interests; I couldn’t have been much more than five when she pasted the words “Cogito ergo sum” on my bathroom mirror and explained to me what they meant. It was around the same age that we debated the question whether everything that has a beginning has to have an ending: I said no, she said yes; I pointed to the series of numbers from zero to infinity, and she countered by telling me about the negative numbers.

My mother also taught me the importance of independence and thinking for oneself; I’m sure she’s a large part of the reason I became first a libertarian, and then a dissident within libertarianism.

Now that she’s gone, there’s no one – or no one I’m in touch with, anyway – who remembers me when I was a child. It feels strange.

While I was earning my graduate degree at Cornell, my mother was working there as an administrative assistant and taking courses on the side. Eventually she applied to become a full-time student, finishing her final two years of college and graduating at the age of 65. So there, granddad.

In the years since, the one thing my mother most wanted was to have a home – by which she meant a place large enough to have all her papers and letters unpacked and out, so that she could use them to write her memoirs. My greatest regret is that I was never able to provide this for her. I hope eventually to make up for this in part by writing some sort of biography of her, drawing on her papers plus whatever I can remember of her stories. I’m glad that I was at least able to provide her with comfort and companionship in her final years, and that while she was still able to travel I could take her on several trips to Europe.

She was a wonderful person, and a wonderful mother. She deserved better from life than she got. Farewell, dearest Mother. I miss you.


All That Fighting, All That Snow

Charlize Theron

I just got back from seeing Atomic Blonde, which was a lot of fun (especially for those of us who came of age in the 80s). But it really made me sad once again that Charlize Theron never got her wish to play Dagny Taggart, because she would have been perfect.

But hey, when Daniel Craig finally stops teasing and finally gives up playing Bond, Theron could totally replace him.


Alt-White Charlottesville

This piece is useful for noting a) the success of private boycotts, direct action, etc., against the Charlottesville racists, as well as b) the shocking revelation that racists are also sexists.

Note also white nationalists’ fondness for the slogan “Blood and Soil.” Who knew?


No Alliance With Nazis

The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville today is attempting to promote a mass movement in which, inter alia, libertarians are supposed to make common cause with neo-Nazis.

If you’re a libertarian who’s not down with this, please consider signing the statement here:

https://libertyagainstfascism.wordpress.com


Kulturkampf

Some quick comments on Jeff Deist’s latest:

[W]hile libertarians enthusiastically embrace markets, they have for decades made the disastrous mistake of appearing hostile to family, to religion, to tradition, to culture, and to civic or social institution[s] – in other words, hostile to civil society itself.

This is a dubious package-deal. Many libertarians have been hostile to religion (often for good reason). Hostility to family per se is not terribly common (leaving aside Molyneux), though hostility to family-based oppression is. As for tradition, libertarians – like everybody else – embrace some traditions and reject others.

But the real howler is the alleged hostility to “culture, and … civic or social institutions.” Where are there any examples or evidence of this?

[I]t is reasonable to believe that a more libertarian society would be less libertine and more culturally conservative – for the simple reason that as the state shrinks in importance and power, the long-suppressed institutions of civil society grow in importance and power. And in a more libertarian society, it’s harder to impose the costs of one’s lifestyle choices on others.

As I see it, this gets things precisely backwards. States impose uniformity; civil society, freed of state control, caters to diversity. It’s true, to be sure, that a libertarian society makes it “harder to impose the costs of one’s lifestyle choices on others” – but what is cultural conservatism if not a massive attempt to impose the costs of lifestyle choices on others? (On this point, see my critique of Rothbard on patriarchy here.)

If any evidence is needed of the dangers of cultural conservatism, notice that Deist feels moved to invoke an actual Nazi slogan in his closing paragraph:

In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.

In response to this, I can’t help thinking of these lines from C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle:

And all the Calormenes banged the flats of their swords on their shields and shouted, “Tash! Tash! The great god Tash! Inexorable Tash!” (There was no nonsense about “Tashlan” now.)

So end all attempts to combine liberty with its opposite.


CFP: Alabama Philosophical Society 2017

Owing to a time- and energy-consuming family medical crisis, I’m about two months late in announcing this – the submission deadline’s just over a week away.

But anyway, this year’s APS will be September 29-30 in Pensacola; submission deadline is August 1st. Note also the undergrad essay contest (Alabama students only), which pays $100 plus one night’s stay at the conference hotel.

More info here.

Alas, I won’t be able to attend this year. Hoping for next year.


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