Monday, May 26, 2008
Dead Old White Guys
A female author, a middle aged woman who claims to have been the victim of discrimination, and who waves a feminist flag with bitterness and bile, made numerous statements about diversity and feminism. Yes, the corporate world is dominated by white males over the age of forty. Yes, the United States government is also dominated by males. I do not for a moment dispute these statements. I consider myself a feminist and believe in equality and work toward it each day.
However...one comment this woman made troubled me enormously. I come back now to address it. She said, in her typical vitriolic way: "Thank God the curriculum in schools has changed. We have more women writers being studied, as well as African American authors and authors from other minorities. We are no longer being forced to study the work of dead old white men."
Dead Old White Men. Sounds like a blues song, doesn't it? Maybe the opening of an advertisement for the likes of Viagra or some male enhancement product.
My issue here is that a culture stands on the shoulders of those who came before. Surely there is a way to appreciate these earlier artists and pioneers without throwing those people under the wheels of the bus. Do we forsake Shakespeare? Yeats? Poe? Hardy? Dickens? Lewis? Does Mark Twain no longer have value?
What about the ideas of Rousseau, Locke, or Hobbs? Maybe we don't read the original any longer, but their ideas have helped ferment a revolution and brought forth a constitution which is a living document that has thus far lasted at least two hundred years.
I know this woman author is a sensationalist. But her flippant comment is one to consider. Cultures change. The work of contemporaries is important. Vital. In our culture we should also acknowledge the contributions and ideas of those outside our culture, from other pasts from other countries.
However, failure to pay attention to our past, to create and maintain a shared culture, is a disservice to our children and to future generations.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 9:52 AM