Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Random observations

I happened to catch part of Larry Mantle's Air Talk on KPCC yesterday. I heard Mantle's interview with Juan Williams about Williams' book, Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It , and I listened to the beginning of Mantle's segment on what he called the Pope's "semi-apology" for offending Muslims.

The interview with Williams was very interesting. Williams evidently identifies quite passionately with Bill Cosby's now-famous remarks about the dysfunctional culture of inner city black communities. He deplores current cultural depictions of African-Americans, which are, according to Williams, preoccupied with rappers and athletes, and which are embraced by disadvantaged black communities to their detriment. I was reminded of Bill Cosby's own top-rated television show, which self-consciously presented an African-American family as the "all-American" family -- and it was funny and warm, to boot. But Cosby's show was popular in the waning days of television's appeal to a "common culture," and I wonder how much the loss of a common culture (which Terry Teachout has noted) has contributed to the debasement of roles for African-Americans in popular culture.

Williams also laments the seeming rejection, in African-American culture, of the idea of "starting from the bottom." I would add that the devaluing of the dignity of menial work -- accompanied by an increasingly popular notion that some kinds of work are for "chumps" and deserve little respect -- seems to be characteristic of the culture in general. The consequences of that cultural devaluation of hard, "menial," low-paying labor fall more heavily, obviously, on the communities who have the most to gain from a work ethic that honors such labor.

I was struck, finally, by the way that Williams un-self-consciously recapitulated the Dan Quayle argument against the glorification of single motherhood -- without, of course, ever mentioning Dan Quayle. It's remarkable to me how Quayle's point has become a truism even among many liberals and progressives (or at least among those who read the studies) while Quayle himself has remained the genial buffoon who couldn't spell potato.

The segment on the Pope was only remarkable for the way that the show's host, Larry Mantle, seemed to place blame for the entire controversy, including the violent reactions to the Pope's words, squarely on the Pope's shoulders. Mantle's second guest, Robert Blair Kaiser, even suggested that in the future the Pope "had better keep his mouth shut" about Islam. Gotcha, Mr. Kaiser. People had better watch what they say, right?

Mantle's first guest, John Allen, did offer a nice quip about the controversy; he characterized it as "German theology meets the sound bite culture." Ironically, of course, Allen had to present his insight as a sound bite.


Blogger stewdog said...

I've known Lloyd Bentson. I've met Lloyd Bentson. Mr. Williams, your no Lloyd Bentson. . . (thank God).
I've heard Williams interviewed on that book, but it was in a more forgiving setting. . either Hugh or Laura.

September 20, 2006 2:14 PM  

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