Wednesday, October 14, 2015

In Defense of Thoreau

I often target Brown University graduates as becoming hired philosophy thugs, Think Tank spin doctors, Idea Mercenaries, propagandists drinking mocha latte Gelato shakes at 2 am, putting a fixed wheel bicycle in their Ford Explorer and driving to a park to go riding and ponder how to cast doubt on Climate Change. I know the type, schooled in flim flam, buying low and selling high, "invest in income property" was their class slogan. Those lawyers who are still defending the asbestos and cigarette industry all came from Brown. Ask a Brown law school graduate if Lead paint is harmful and they will calmly say, "The studies are inconclusive at this point, your honor, and though we are sympathetic to the victims we ask this suit be dismissed for lack of evidence." I think Brown Law students are required to memorize that response like baseball players learn to stay back on a curveball. Brown Law students are the perfect storm of a godless, pragmatic culture devoid of reflection and lacking ethics, but who score 1580 on the SAT. I usually target the Ivy League schools because I think all of the Enron criminals were graduates of Ivy League. Check out the really devious Wall Street thieves and you will find they all learned their skills in the Ivy League colleges. And these crooks end up being the Ivy League's biggest promotion tool. Look, we created financial magicians! One of the greatest monsters of the modern times is Alan Greenspan, and yes, he went to Colombia. The engineers of the Trillion dollar bailout scam were Ivy League to the core. It takes smart people to engineer the economic collapse of a nation in order to accumulate more property and wealth, and Ivy League colleges have been producing these types for 200 years. First you have to engineer a baffling economic system and then you have to exploit the loopholes you hid in the schematic. Milton Friedman, architect of passive proxy fascism that decimated Central and South America, went to Rutgers, so I guess he didn't apply to Brown, but everyone else who does appallingly horrific white class financial crime is either a Brown grad or a close approximate. Henry Paulson went to Dartmouth and Harvard, worked for Goldman Sacks, became Secretary of the Treasury and then gave away $1 trillion to the banks he helped destroy. He's not in jail, in case you are wondering. I could go on, but if there are any real research journalists out there who want to study why Ivy League colleges are failing to pass on any ethical guidelines to their graduates, be my guest. (Yes, there are some alumni Brown can be proud of. Of course there are. Don't pay any attention to me.)

So, it wasn't much of a shock when I read a slanderous hate piece titled "Pond Scum" about Henry David Thoreau (who was an Ivy League Grad) and learned the author is a graduate of Brown named Kathryn . She delighted herself with an iconoclastic lashing even Thoreau would think was overboard. I get that the younger generation must shit all over the heroes of their fathers, but my suspicion at the bottom of it all is that attacking pseudo-icons like Thoreau is simply easy money for Schulz. Who is going to defend Thoreau? Who gives a shit about Thoreau? Hipsters? Is there one fucking hipster in all of San Francisco who can point to Walden Pond on a map? No. Those stoned idiots can barely point to Colorado or the Grand Canyon. They will never point to Concord, Mass. Half of them were born in Mexico so why would they care about the birthplace of the American Revolution? So, since that is the intended audience of this overwritten piece of shit essay of vitriol against Thoreau, it's merely fluff. It's an easy essay to write, like playing the villain in a Bond movie, or saying you don't think Citizen Kane is a good movie. Sure, play the Devil's Advocate and your pub crawl buddies will drool over themselves, barely paying attention to you as they text one another dirty jokes on their smart phones. Again, this is the product of Brown University Journalism department. If you are going to pick on someone, make sure they are dead and basically forgotten. Make sure there are no consequences to your work. Fluff sells. Hipsters like fluff.
A living turtle much like the turtle Thoreau donated to the Harvard zoology museum.
Schulz's wordy essay points out all the tired contradictions that have pointed out a hundred times before about Thoreau. He's like the Golom of America, a creature we have created in order to either hate because it's unpopular or defend for the wrong reasons.

So, my defense is two fold. First, essays like Schulz's are bullshit, flim flam from a fucked up University Grad who is too young to be slandering people she knows nothing about. She doesn't even point out that Thoreau's name is pronounced THOR-oh. The accent is on the first vowel. Maybe The New Yorker has sunk to hiring fluff writers with fancy vocabulary and trendy targets, but that doesn't mean she's being sincere. The whole point of her essay is to slander a dead person, long dead, and question why anyone admires him. Well, she doesn't interview a single person who admires Thoreau. In fact, she gives no evidence at all that anyone admires him. That's a big oversight for a thesis that depends on contradiction something. And the simple reason she didn't provide any evidence that Thoreau is admired is because NO ONE ADMIRES HIM. Schulz's piece is subtitled, "Why do We Love Thoreau?" yet she does not provide a single example of someone who loves Thoreau. She writes that the book Walden is "A Classic". Is it? I know lots of people write that it is a classic, but that doesn't make it a classic. I went to the Thoreau appreciation week in Concord. Yeah, me and about 23 other people, most of whom were there for the free tea. 23 PEOPLE OUT OF 300 MILLION AMERICANS. More people love Charles Manson! Do you see what I'm saying? Devout admirers of Thoreau are as rare as a Hybrid car in the Lehman Brothers parking garage, but skin deep fan boys are a dime a dozen. So, of course Schulz fails to find one devotee to interview. She merely manufactures her essay purely from her own template of East Coast hate, with some quotes from older essays and some quotes from other dead authors to prove she can read too. Brown University shines again! Does she put one admirer of Thoreau on the stand and question their beliefs and allow them to respond? No, because she never found one. She assumes that because Thoreau is a known individual with a Wikipedia page and a few books in public domain that he is admired. What a crock of shit. Kids reading his essay against slavery in high school admire him like they 'admire' J.D. Salinger. They don't care about Thoreau. They are merely doing the assignment that the teacher gave them. So does Schulz interview one teacher who assigns Thoreau essays to his class? No, because that would require some work that is far beyond the scope of the fluff journalism that Schulz has mastered*. The teacher would simply say Thoreau is a good choice because he has an interesting story that keeps kids from falling asleep. They don't admire him, they are using him to combat fatigue. It's either Thoreau or Martin Luther King and we can't study both. West Coast students have never heard of Thoreau because they read essays by Cesar Chavez, whom they also don't admire. Schulz is far too casual with her assessment of admiration. For me, it takes more than a bumper sticker or a few lame quotes, or even the existence of a book on a shelf to demonstrate admiration.
Yeah, let's pick on this guy. What an asshole!

I looked up a previous employer of Schulz called Grist. It's an "environmental" website and at first I wondered why a tree hugging hippie was slandering Thoreau. Then I visited the site and realized it is a pure Hipster Generation bullshit website. Total click bait lacking any substance at all. This is where Brown University stoner journalists go to die, they end up writing for Grist and patting themselves on the back that maybe in 20 years they will pay off their student loans, because Grist makes no money. That's why Schulz left to work for The New Yorker. They make no money because they write articles like, "Are Vegetarians Secretly Eating Meat When Drunk?" Fluff! The website should be called "Chaff". Some assholes asked 20 stoned college kids a question about food they eat when drunk, and turned it into a 'research poll'...and that poll becomes the subject of a fluff piece of Grist. Why? How reliable is a stoned person talking about what they eat when drunk? This has zero substance. The age of the Internet has borne some poison fruit and I would put Grist in this category, along with many many "news media outlets" that serve up thousands of fluff pieces about their special interest. There's no advertising so they are probably paid through lobbyist Think Tank funding, in this case from Left Wingers. The NRA gun zealots get paid by their tribe, and the hippies get paid by their tribe. Both are abysmal, vapid, lurid, ponderous. There is simply not enough room on Earth for middling writers who don't have any experience living, haven't given anything any thought, don't know anything, and don't know how to research serious topics. Luckily there is plenty of room on the Internet for their horrible and self-absorbed essays. So they fluff their own opinions up like a chicken getting out of the bathtub until it appears they had something to say. But I am not fooled. These writers have nothing to say. They would have to live and die and live again before they could write something interesting to me. They merely learned how to stretch a headline onto 1500 words because maybe one of those 1500 words will be one you are searching for and you might click on their babbling piece and they might earn some $5 bonus per click if someone reads their piece. Hell, I might be buying someone dinner by linking to that shit, but I have to do it to prove a point. Anyway, this is where Schulz is coming from and it is where she belongs. She learned how to flim flam at Brown University and Grist taught her to master the art of saying nothing elegantly. Now she's a coworker of the ultimate fluff writer, Malcolm Gladwell, who originally went into advertising before moving onto a career advertising his own opinion. Great! Her statement that Thoreau lacked humor, coming from someone as dour as Schulz is pitiful misdirection; Thoreau is like Mark Twain compared to Schulz and Gladwell. The fact Grist was focused on the Environment was absolutely irrelevant to Schulz and all the staff writers there. She took that job because it was stepping stone and maybe the ExxonMobil propaganda newsletter didn't offer her enough money. She didn't care about recycling any more than she cared about the rain forest or Walt Whitman. Her air travel schedule is busier than the Dali Lama's. She burns through more jet fuel than Donald Trump. A Grist essay on global warming was academic to Schulz, a business decision, a bean to count. This is the nature of an Ivy League Thought Mercenary. She learned the lesson in Brown well, trade up, keep moving, take no prisoners. Never reflect, never contemplate, never pause, never transcend. Move your cheese. Why she is picking on Thoreau is topic I want to end with.

The current generation of youth is poisoned by discontentment and resentment and vitriol, but they are also generic. They must shit on Thoreau just like I mocked Disco, even though Disco is still more popular than Concord hermits. Thoreau is an easy target, like Hitler or Nixon. He's quasi-iconic, misunderstood, like Che Guevara and the writer can skip over tons of introductory research because the subject comes prepackaged in the reader's mind. I'm certain the environment means nothing to the modern young urban generation, but the topic of the environment is very important. The environment is important for their photos and they like to talk about going camping in Yosemite or white water rafting, or zip lining through the cloud forest. Fucking useless hipsters. These are good topics to discuss on facebook, but the actual significance is completely over their heads, as remote to their lives as NASCAR is remote to a community of Nicaraguan dairy farmers. But Nicaraguan dairy farmers don't write essays about NASCAR, because that would be presumptuous. Oh, but a Hipster in New York City will write all day long about nature. What a joke! What nature? The park where joggers get raped? Is that nature? Ants moving rubber trees requires reflection and serious contemplation and that is not possible for the modern smart phone generation so they merely have enough coherence and acuity to realize the environment is a topic to discuss and argue about like the price of silk or saffron. It's en vogue, but they have only a passing grasp of Thoreau and his work, like equating Ian McKellen with Gandalf. Thoreau is partly to blame since he sincerely didn't care about explaining or promoting himself. Schulz probably recognizes this hypocritical shallowness in her companions but not in herself, so she set out to slander someone whom others were praising for the wrong reasons and with casual flippancy. Modern journalism is meant to antagonize without any substantial consequence, so I see this piece, Pond Scum, as a perfectly grotesque and shallow essay, lacking any evidence of the main thesis, directed at stoned, uneducated hipsters who don't even know why they are praising someone but will thoroughly enjoy arguing with one another over the validity of Schulz's fluff piece.  The piece and the audience belong together. It's a new low in journalism, narcissistic, pointless, selfish, badly constructed, fluff, aimed at people who don't deserve any attention. Gross.

As for defending Thoreau, I now think this piece doesn't even warrant a response about Thoreau himself, because the motives are so poisonous. Go watch a tree grow and get back to me in 5 years and maybe we will have something to discuss. I've done the hard work in observation and contemplation; have you, Mr. Youtube? I wrote a screenplay based on Thoreau's life, for what it's worth, and would be happy to represent the Pro-Thoreau faction so conspicuously absent from Schulz's Anti-Thoreau screed. I guess a search for Thoreau zealots didn't turn up my blog. I might even give some insight on Transcendentalism, Thoreau's guiding philosophic principle, which Schulz never investigates. Essays like hers makes me think my screenplay should be produced but it also demonstrates why it will never be produced. I wrote the screenplay with profit in mind and the Hollywood rabbit hole it led me down is another story but it did teach me one thing: 150 years after Thoreau died people still don't understand him because they fear the change that comprehension might bring. I don't admire Thoreau as much as I identify with him. He could see in 1845 the chain of events that would lead to an entire generation being uninformed and arguing over mis-categorized icons in a digital universe whilst having idle conversations about something totally unrelated in person. Schulz thinks Thoreau was being grandiose, but she actually proves his point on many fronts; she is the enemy he feared a nation that lacks contemplation would produce. And he knew that such a lifestyle was more than desperate; it was dishonest and unenlightened, shallow, inauthentic, unexplored, unexamined, and invalid...also inevitable. 

He wrote that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Thoreau was wrong about one thing: they aren't quiet. Schulz does a great job of loudly appearing to be enlightened, but in the end she exposes her twisted roots failed to inspire her to ponder and contemplate the art of living. She merely learned how to pretend to see shapes in the clouds.
I went to the woods...

Stephen Hawking said that, "the human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate size planet, orbiting round a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a billion galaxies" Thoreau was content with being pond scum, he did not contradict that statement; he merely wanted to explore the exact nature of living as chemical pond scum, for his own edification, which is antithetical to a Brown graduate. Someone pursued a goal that was not only unprofitable, but had no profit motive at all? Yes, such people exist and they are generally reviled by Capitalist mercenaries and their minions. That transcendent peak was an ambitious enough goal for one life and Thoreau managed to write a few words on the topic of intentional living. Anything else you want to read into Thoreau's remarks is purely your own psychological baggage revealing your own feeble motives. Yes, he was superior, and he really wouldn't care what you thought about him, but he was kind enough to lend me some of his disdain to help me write this essay.

*This is a totally unfair accusation because Schulz actually is a skilled interviewer and researcher. But she wants to pick on Thoreau so I'll take some cheap shots too.
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