Literature lessons for the terminally overreaching….

Well, the game is up- Thers (in the comments) has identified and applied the context of my (now somewhat famous) dart hurled at Jeff Goldstein over at Protein Wisdom. I will let Thers take if from here for a bit:

I enjoyed how the bright young sophisticate Jeff Goldstein mocked your use of “totally boss” words — and missed the Heart of Darkness reference.

Poor Joseph Conrad. His reputation is in the toliet now that Jeff has so wittily “dissed” him.

So, yes. The context of my “Shorter Jeff Goldstein: ‘Exterminate the brutes!‘” is that it was a reference to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, as it was the final line of Kurtz’s report to the “International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs.” Apparently, the dart sailed over its target’s head. Granted, I left out the word “all” accidently, but I hope the more erudite among us can forgive me for this small crime. Perhaps this is what confused poor Jeffrey.

From Charles Lawson, writing in Salon in 2004, a bit more about Heart of Darkness and its disturbing relevance to the current situation:

The intelligence official’s quote about “our heart of darkness” is eerily apt. For Iraq is beginning to look disturbingly like the situation in Joseph Conrad’s 1902 classic. In that novel, if you remember, Kurtz, the main character, goes to Africa in order to bring light and illumination to the Dark Continent. “By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,” Kurtz postulates. One of his cohorts affirms, “Each station should be … a beacon on the road towards better things, a center of trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing.” Conrad informs us, “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.” Kurtz’s idealism was so infectious that he was entrusted by the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs to write a document recording his observations. The report begins optimistically: The conquest of the earth is redeemed by the ideal — doing good, carrying the torch of piety and progress, bringing civilization to people whose skin is a different color.

Light and illumination, liberation from savagery for the dark continent, have morphed into instilling stability in the Middle East. Instead of ivory, it’s oil. And instead of humanity and instruction, it’s another cycle of violence. Bodies are everywhere — just as they are in Conrad’s story — most of them belonging to the people whose country has been invaded.
Granted, when Conrad published his novel in 1902, most readers did not interpret the text as we do today, as a condemnation of colonialism, but rather as a warning: “Look out, Whitey, or you may regress to the savagery of the black continent.” They were comfortable with their assumptions of superiority and absolutely certain that what they were doing was right, if not ordained by their faith. It was simply that Kurtz had gone a little too far, fallen into the alleged depravity of the people whose lives he was supposed to improve. At the conclusion of the manuscript intended for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, Kurtz appended four words: “Exterminate all the brutes.”

So…. for an intellectual, Mr. Goldstein seems to be missing a bit of his required reading. Maybe it wasn’t “totally boss” enough for him in high school.

Je pense, il pète plus haut que son cul.

Another example of the failure of America’s private schools….

27 Comments

  1. I’m sure that the brilliant Monsieur Goldstein’s missing of that reference was a due to his lack of familiarity with any writings that might inflame his white guilt. Be sure that if you had quoted from ‘Mein Kampf’ or ‘Atlas Shrugged’ he’d totally get it instead of making oddly homoerotic references to howard zinn’s erection.

  2. I haven’t read the book in some years, but so what? Why invoke Conrad, and in particular that book, in this context? What was your point? That’s the real issue here, isn’t it?

    Presumably, you meant to recall the irony of Kurtz’ original mission and juxtapose it with what he had become as a result of it (a man who had fallen prey to his baser instincts, much like his “subjects”) — which, when mentioned in the context of a criticism of my post, seems to suggest you are equating me with Kurtz. My idealism about spreading democracy, your allusion suggests, has turned me into one who wishes to call for genocide and racist dehumanization of the enemy who was once the object of my hopes to reform. In short, I have become the savage that I hoped to tame. Close enough? Different from my summary of your summary?

    Personally, I would have found a reference to the Man in the Big Yellow Hat more interesting, but why on earth would you regard my failure to consider that you might be quoting Kurtz a vindication of what was a ludicrous analogy to begin with? (It briefly passed through my mind, I’ll admit, that you were alluding to something from Wells’ The Time Machine, but I have better things to do than try to guess whether people I don’t know are trying their hands at literary allusion, particularly when the word “exterminate” and the invocation of “brutishness” had been directed at me so often in the last few days outside of any reference to Conrad to make it clear that not everyone who was using the term was trying to show off their ability to ape Conrad).

    Why you are so proud to have posted a literary allusion and have me react to it by not patting you on the head for trying to let Conrad, taken out of context (I don’t for a moment buy the strained parallels drawn by Lawson) do your work for you, is beyond me.

    But I suppose it’s because you aren’t used to getting many readers. Oh well, you are clearly my intellectual superior. Doubtful I could ever get a literary allusion by you.

    So. SMOKE ‘EM WHILE YOU GOT ‘EM, STUD!

  3. Gosh, sparky, you sure are defensive when someone questions your intellect. Next time we’ll just call you a fag. I’m sure you won’t get all confused and riled up then.

  4. I haven’t read the book in some years, but so what?

    As the reconquistas say, “Claro.”

    Why invoke Conrad, and in particular that book, in this context?

    Because it’s apt?

    What was your point? That’s the real issue here, isn’t it?

    For me, perhaps that’s the real issue. For you, it seems to be rubbing that stinging spot on your ego where someone (who you apparently feel is your intellectual inferior) hit you with your own punch.

    Presumably, you meant to recall the irony of Kurtz’ original mission and juxtapose it with what he had become as a result of it (a man who had fallen prey to his baser instincts, much like his “subjects”) — which, when mentioned in the context of a criticism of my post, seems to suggest you are equating me with Kurtz.

    Nice try, Mr. Goldstein, but you’re going to have to go back to remedial Reading for Comprehension Classes. In this analogy, you, sir, would be a member of the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs. Perhaps if you had risked chipping a nail by enlisting in the armed services, you might have gotten to be Kurtz. But probably not.

    My idealism about spreading democracy,

    aheh. Democracy does not fall from the bellies of high-altitude bombers. Ask the Khmer Rouge about that one. Your writing about the Islamofascistboogieman hordes beating at the gates illustrates that your “idealism” is actually fear in a nice, white… robe… or hood….

    your allusion suggests, has turned me into one who wishes to call for genocide and racist dehumanization of the enemy who was once the object of my hopes to reform.

    As I have said in the past, if the hood fits….

    In short, I have become the savage that I hoped to tame. Close enough?

    Once again, sir, you snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. No. You have become a parody of yourself. That’s the implicit claim here. The rest is just details.

    Different from my summary of your summary?

    see above.

    Personally, I would have found a reference to the Man in the Big Yellow Hat more interesting,

    I guess that’s easier than… what was it….?

    relying on “hermeneutics, intentionalism, and historiographical theory—which invested heavily in analyses of linguistic assumptions, particularly how they are formed, the impact they have on identity formation

    I smoked pot in grad school, too. But I shut up about it as soon as I got my Masters.

    but why on earth would you regard my failure to consider that you might be quoting Kurtz a vindication of what was a ludicrous analogy to begin with?

    I’m sorry, were you talking to me? Or Shelby Steele and his theory of ‘White Guilt’?

    (It briefly passed through my mind, I’ll admit, that you were alluding to something from Wells’ The Time Machine, but I have better things to do than try to guess whether people I don’t know are trying their hands at literary allusion, particularly when the word “exterminate” and the invocation of “brutishness” had been directed at me so often in the last few days outside of any reference to Conrad to make it clear that not everyone who was using the term was trying to show off their ability to ape Conrad).

    I wasn’t aping Conrad, oh Man in the Big Yellow Hat, I was quoting him. And he was talking to you, whether you choose to admit it or not. The gist, if I take it correctly, of Heart of Darkness is that if you set out to ostensibly “civilise” the “savages” you have already set out on the wrong foot, as your presumption of cultural superiority without context of their cultural history is a fool’s errand. Additionally, all of this “civilising” was just window dressing for exploiting the ivory trade. There’s an allegory here. Can’t quite put my finger on it… but I think there’s some stuff in Iraq that we actually wanted more than we actually cared about “democratization”…. what was it?

    Why you are so proud to have posted a literary allusion and have me react to it by not patting you on the head for trying to let Conrad, taken out of context (I don’t for a moment buy the strained parallels drawn by Lawson) do your work for you, is beyond me.

    OH, yeah! IT WAS OIL…. Almost forgot for a moment.

    I don’t need you to pat me on the head, Jeff. You’re not that tall, anyway. And your not “buy[ing]” Lawson’s analogy doesn’t mean it’s not a bargain at any price.

    But I suppose it’s because you aren’t used to getting many readers.

    Translation: Well, you’ve clearly won this round, Batman…. let’s go to the sitemeter dickmeasuring tool….

    Oh well, you are clearly my intellectual superior.

    I bet you say that to all the girls.

    Doubtful I could ever get a literary allusion by you.

    That’s because I have read EVERY BOOK EVER WRITTEN! AND THAT WAS CLEARLY THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE!

    So. SMOKE ‘EM WHILE YOU GOT ‘EM, STUD!

    Oh, oh! Cultural allusion!! Hang on, I know this one! Um, Reverend Horton Heat, 1991! Full-length LP on SubPop Records….

    Whoops, that’s “Smoke ’em *IF* You Got ’em.” Which, coincidentally, is the thing your platoon sergeant often says after “At Ease!” but before “Dis-MISSED!” Y’know, in the Army. You must know that from your days in the 82nd Chairborne….

  5. Ewwwwww. It smells like piousness and wounded sanctimony in here now. Go back to your hole, Goldstein. There may not be as many readers here as there are back at yours, but we’re ALL smarter than you.

  6. Why invoke Conrad, and in particular that book, in this context? What was your point? That’s the real issue here, isn’t it?

    Actually, the real issue is that it’s an allusion you would fail to comprehend because you are completely unable to see yourself as anything but the carrier of the White Man’s Burden to impart civilization and democracy unto the savages of the world. You are a petty, frightened Kurtz. You are the brutality and the ideological blindness of the true believer. You defend Steele and Steele defends Kurtz and for what he stands. Is that simple enough or should I spell it out in single-syllable words?

    My idealism about spreading democracy, your allusion suggests, has turned me into one who wishes to call for genocide and racist dehumanization of the enemy who was once the object of my hopes to reform.

    You support bringing more brutality and less restraint to a war full of brutality and ferocity. You support tactics that have already engendered hatred in those who might have otherwise supported us and, seeing as we’re not “winning” you suggest upping the ante.

    Like Santayana said “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.”

    What is your aim and how could it be achieved by simply “taking the gloves off?” Only if your aim is complete dominance of the Iraq people in the style of Saddam or genocide could your point make any since. QED, sir.

    It’s not your idealism that has turned you to supporting genocide, it’s the historical blindness you show such pride it. The snivelling fear you display in your discussions of “the other.” I think Patrick’s wrong on one thing, you’re not Kurtz and you never would have been Kurtz, you’re a pathetic insurance broker back in dreary old England, tabulating ivory sales and returns on captured slaves, all the while bothering your bosses about the bottom line and demanding more efficiency. You aren’t simply idealistic, you’re incapable of any kind of empathy or consideration for anyone who isn’t you or capable of aiding you in any meaningful way. Thus, you are a perfect model of a modern imperalist.

    In short, I have become the savage that I hoped to tame. Close enough? Different from my summary of your summary?

    Your whole problem is that you can’t muster the intellect to look past the simplistic manichean outlook of “savage vs. civilized.” As long as you see the “other” as savage, you will fail to consider them as human beings and support brutality against them justified by whatever ideology you’ve floated into at the time. And, when there’s not ideology to justify it, you’ll simply shrug your shoulders and make up an economic excuse.

    but why on earth would you regard my failure to consider that you might be quoting Kurtz a vindication of what was a ludicrous analogy to begin with?

    Because Shelby Steele’s article lamenting “white guilt” and your defense of said essay indicate your utter failure in grokking the message Conrad was trying to impart upon all of us. Patrick’s quote was there to sum up the similarities between you and those that would quote Steele’s article to justify any brutality in the name of power.

    You can stamp your feet at your own little treehouse all you want, but it’s not going to change the fact that he’s right.

  7. […] I think Jeff Goldstein is getting a little upset that we won’t come over to his back-slapping, cock-sucking, self-referential circle jerk. I mean, why else would he take the time to come on over and lob some verbiage at Patrick? […]

  8. nobody

    To me, Goldstein is prety much equivalent to Rush Limbaugh. By that I mean: Even if everything he said was true, and even if he were the God’s gift to intelligensia he thinks he is, and even if I agreed with all his politics, he would still be just a totally despicable, pathetic, pompous asshole.

  9. Beel

    The “smoke em if you got em” line also gets referenced in the most apt John Prine song about falling into the bottomless lake, which I think Prine recorded in the early ’80s. Iraq certainly does have a bottomless lake kinda feel.

  10. spencer

    Hey, he saw “Apocalypse Now,” and that’s just as good as having read the book, right?

    Right?

  11. Jeff Goldstein preens himself incessantly on his mastery of critical linguistic and historiographical theory, etc., throwing it in the face of anyone who points out that he is, in fact, talking crap. Heart of Darkness is not a particularly obscure book, and the line is indeed famous, at least among the people with the kind of education Goldstein likes to flaunt. Just saying.

    His attempt at a joke with the reference to the Man in the Yellow Hat is also… interesting. The original Curious George is kind of twisted, actually, as I discovered when I tried to read it to my son. White man goes to jungle, captures monkey, brings him home, monkey causes all sorts of trouble because he’s uncivilized. The right of said white man to do this kind of awful thing is taken as a given, and all the blame for the trouble is placed on the monkey — and not on the idiot who brought a monkey home and expected it to act just like him.

    It is indeed exactly like Heart of Darkness, only with a happy sort of a twist…

    Anyway, anyone who had really thought about Conrad’s book could have easily predicted what the hubris of the Iraqi adventure would create: a disaster…

  12. J.B. Books

    Jeff Goldstein: “But I suppose it’s because you aren’t used to getting many readers.”

    Jeff calls the folks who visit his blog “readers”.

  13. Karen

    I thought it was interesting that Goldstein mis-cited the Curious George man as the Man in the Big Yellow Hat, as opposed to, simply, the Man in the Yellow Hat.

    I guess he really is obsessed with size.

  14. ahem

    While I think that the more exact analogy might be to Conrad’s Nostromo, a book that isn’t read as often, since it isn’t short enough to fit easily into the undergrad syllabus, it’s hilarious to see Paste-Eater Boy huffing on fumes rather than admit his ignorance.

    I also note this. It wasn’t as if Paste-Eater wasn’t given a hint in his own farking comments section.

  15. Checkers

    Patrick’s evisceration of Goldstein upthread is priceless. Methinks you won’t be seeing ol’ Jiff around here anytime soon.

  16. Knemon

    “Democracy does not fall from the bellies of high-altitude bombers. Ask the Khmer Rouge about that one.”

    Well, I just happen to have Pol Pot right here.

    “This man knows nothing of how we came to power. I don’t know how he got a job teaching anything … to anyone!”

  17. Pol Pot teaches?

    I thought he was dead.

    I mean, to say that five years of high altitude bombing of Cambodia didn’t contribute to the rise of the Khmer Rouge would be a little revisionist, I think.

    Your opinion may vary, but perhaps you’re on crack,

  18. I don’t know where you got the impression that I teach, Knemon. I am certified to teach, but I am an IT consultant.

    That dart didn’t sail over my head…

    it passed somewhere far to the right of me.

  19. Poor Wiggum

    Well, I just happen to have Pol Pot right here.

    Annie Hall, 1977.

    I won’t miss a reference again if it kills me, but wooo, they’re sure coming fast and furious now.

  20. Knemon

    Yeah. Not like Woody Allen (or Conrad, for that matter) can help us much where we’re headed.

    “You goddam pointy head. Wait til Wallace gets here. He’ll kick your ass all over the street with Conrad.”

    Catch *that* one.

  21. Knemon

    You were crowing about slipping the Conrad by Goldstein. (Which *was* deft. Props.)

    I chucked an Annie Hall, which Wiggum caught. So I had to go a little more recherche.

  22. […] So, there’s a possibility that some of what we are seeing, I suppose, is Israel, having noticed that the US was making noises like maybe we were ready to fold, is ready to force us to play the hand as they have dealt it. At the risk of being pelted with rocks and garbage for saying it, it would not surprise me if there was a corresponding shift in the rhetoric of the conflict, essentially tearing a page from the Shelby Steele script as we have discussed here in the past… […]

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