The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary


Generations of Impotence, or, Everything is Jake, Part I

My old man did not think much of writers; he had known too many of them.  He did not like what little he had seen of Hemingway and regarded his obsession with virility as unmanly.  He used to say, of a certain type of tuft-hunting spongers that they were the sort who called Hemingway “Papa.”  Hemingway, at least as a younger man, must have had few illusions about himself and his generation, and his first and best novel, The Sun Also Rises is an American’s Good-bye to All That, to manhood as well as civilization. In the novel poor Jake...


Ideology and Unfaith, Part III: Conclusion

The wealth of information and the power of prejudice would make it more difficult, though hardly impossible, to trace the degeneration of the United States from the limited republic of Adams and Jefferson to the imperial plutocracy of Lincoln and Grant to the national socialism of Franklin Roosevelt and his successors to our own miserable and degraded condition today, when conservatives have abandoned even the fig leaves of law that used to protect us, in theory at least, from our rulers in Washington.  Is there a single moral, social, economic, constitutional, or even environmental principle that would deter people like….Feel...


Wednesday’s Child: What People Know

We had snow in Palermo for the first time in fifty years, and the young barman in a truck stop where I go for coffee whenever Signor Baldo, my provider of choice, is indisposed, finally spoke to me of something other than the weather. “You’re Russian,” he said, because that’s what I’d told him the day before. Then, in a confidential tone, as though imparting some lifesaving news, he continued:  “In Russia, you beat Hitler.”  I often wonder about what the average man knows.  Reading Russian viewer comments on YouTube the other evening, after watching some stupid police drama, I...


The Problem With Movies

Not too long ago I would have seen two or three of the five movies up for best picture at the Academy Awards, and heard something about the others. This year, as in most recent years, I haven’t seen any of the nominees, now inflated to eight, although I do recognize a couple from ads or the minor controversies they started in our PC-obsessed so-called culture. I also used to go to one or two movies a month. But I stopped doing that maybe 15 years ago. It isn’t that I watch them on TV now; I don’t even have...


Wednesday’s Child: The Last Elephant

What’s next, a thoughtful reader was asking in reply to my musings last week, a ban on cotton?  Well, since toilet paper had been put forward the week before last as a candidate for the ban, I suppose cotton is not that far afield, but I would argue that books is something we need to look at more urgently.  And not just new books, either.  The burning of libraries, private as well as public, would surely send a powerful signal to paper producers all over the world to stop despoiling our natural habitat, at the same time providing vegan workshops...


Ideology: Unreason, Antifaith, Part Two

When people vote their pocketbooks, as they often do, they are giving some color to Marx’s more down-to-earth definition of ideology as a set of ideas concocted to advance the interests of a social class.  The creed of classical liberalism—low taxes, free trade, individual liberty–is the ideology of the well-to-do bourgeoisie, while socialism is the ideology of those who expect to be dependent upon government largesse: schoolteachers, promiscuous young women, and the politicians and public servants, who have so nobly given up brilliant careers in the private sector because they wished to serve the people.  No one claims the ideal...


Ideology: Unreason and Anti-Faith, Part One

What the GOP needs, “Conservatives” tell us, is a sharper ideological focus that will give greater prominence to the vast reservoir of “Conservative”  “ideas.”  If only the “Conservatives” were simply joking, if only they were entirely cynical about the war of words between the two parties, one might have some hope for a restoration of political sanity in this poor country.


Abortion Issue Would Win Minorities for Republicans

Several conservative commentators have noted how the Mainstream Media have given more attention to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appearing in blackface in college yearbook three decades ago than to his proposal to allow infanticide. It also was creepy how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo led cheering legislators as they passed a radical abortion law, which reminded me of Pandemonium in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”: A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round As one great Furnace flam’d, yet from those flames No light, but rather darkness visible Serv’d onely to discover sights of woe, Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And...


Wednesday’s Child: The Smoking Gun

“If you want to become an optimist and really understand life,” thought Chekhov, “stop believing the things that are said or written about it and just try seeing it for yourself.”  As I’m down with the ‘flu, and all I’m seeing at the moment are the wooden posts and canopy of my Chinese opium bed, it’s a little difficult to understand just how optimism has wormed its way into that sentence. In the morning my near and dear crowd around the bed like bearded worthies in Rembrandt’s anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, reproaching me for past crimes against health...