Storm Front

To the editor:
This is a fantastic article on a complex topic [Nicole Gelinas, “Storm-Proofing the Economy,” Autumn 2008]. Kudos to Ms. Gelinas. I hope Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Geithner give her a call.

David Doney
Chicago, IL

All That Cook

To the editor:
John McWhorter’s latest contribution [“The Ghost in Your iPod,” Autumn 2008] is one of the finest bits of writing on American music history that I’ve ever encountered. I’ve traced individual songs (such as “Body and Soul”) through their life cycles and am an avid reader of liner notes and a devotee of the Smithsonian Collection of classic jazz. And I had never heard of Will Marion Cook. Thank you for publishing this. It fills a void in my understanding. I had always thought that ragtime and stage pianists and singers whose names are largely forgotten gave rise to the American music we most prize, but now there is a figure who fleshes it out for me. Where’s PBS?

Steve Gilchrist
York, PA

To the editor:
I have written about and taught courses on popular music for a number of years and saw references to Cook often, but no one has gone into this much depth about his role in turn-of-the-century theater and music. My thanks to Mr. McWhorter for a long-overdue, beautifully researched, and perceptive essay.

Tim Scheurer
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Shawnee State University
Portsmouth, OH

Stoic No More

To the editor:
Theodore Dalrymple mourns the death of civil Britain [“The Quivering Upper Lip,” Autumn 2008]. Let him blame Margaret Thatcher. She convinced the British that there is no society, but only self and family. And she broke that artificial collectivity, the union. For the middle class, she offered the war of all against all in business and the stock market. So why be surprised that the British lack social cohesion, disdain the conventions of good manners, and live for the pleasures of the moment, such as those are?

Michael Feld
Vancouver, British Columbia

To the editor:
I am fortunate in remembering the England that Dr. Dalrymple describes, and have wondered when it changed. A symbolic date that occurred to me was the day the Beatles received the Order of the British Empire and several people sent their medals back in outrage.

I’d like to add two considerations. First, my daughter and her family still live in England, in the Cotswolds, and I have found her generation (those now in their late thirties and educated) to be quite wonderful, though I don’t share all their views and find some of their flattened-down accents deplorable. But on the whole, they are both more knowledgeable about the world and more charitable than we were at their age. Second, when I was on a research trip in Germany a few years ago, I was surprised and delighted to find the spirit of the England Dr. Dalrymple laments alive and well in that once-battered country. People were courteous, efficient, and kind, and on the whole they took pleasure in simple things. I’ve gotten a sense from films like The Lives of Others that the decadence of the Fassbinder/Honecker era in Germany—always more intense and deliberately evil than in loutish but cheerful Britain—may be over.

The sixties destroyed much of the compact of civility; and then came Margaret Thatcher, whom I have always suspected of having looked at Hogarth prints and saying to herself, “Where did all that raw energy go? Let’s let that genie out of the bottle again.” The result was a generation of riches and the destruction of more civility. But as a character in a Charles Morgan novel remarked: “Athens didn’t die; she came up again in the Renaissance.” There is always hope.

Roger Cuin
near Cordes, France

To the editor:
One must never forget that Kitchener (I cannot bring myself to acknowledge him as Lord of the Realm) invented the concentration camps in the Boer War that Hitler later copied. The estimates vary, but about 25,000 Boers, mostly women and children, died in these camps. Naturally, the British government awarded Kitchener handsomely. I am English, by the way.

Andrew Taylor
London, England

Theodore Dalrymple responds:
I agree in part with Mr. Feld. Mrs. Thatcher’s legacy, in my opinion, was deeply ambiguous (though her destruction of the unions was self-evidently necessary in the Britain of that time). She increased a consumerist attitude to life, thinking that the British population was still the one she had known in her youth, with virtues such as thrift, honesty, modesty, and so forth. She was mistaken. Its virtues had been sapped by long years of statist entitlement, which she did nothing to reduce. A combination of consumerism and statist entitlement is not attractive.

Like Mr. Cuin, I am not completely without hope. I do not believe, though, that Mrs. Thatcher ever thought that Hogarth prints like Gin Lane were in any way admirable.

Mr. Taylor is wrong about the British having invented the concentration camp. The Spanish used such camps in the war of Cuban independence before the Boer War. The comparison with Hitler is not merely wrong, but silly. What Mr. Taylor writes has no logical connection with what I wrote. Its silliness, however, is not untypical of what passes as thought these days in England.

Survival of the Dimmest

To the editor:
Whew! What a grim scene you describe [Kay Hymowitz, “Love in the Time of Darwinism,” Autumn 2008]. As a 71-year-old woman, I remember dating in the 1950s as both painful and joyous—with definite rules of behavior that all females knew were for their own protection against pregnancy and disease. How many of us who championed equal opportunity realized that it would somehow open the door for women to act like men and mess up a method for finding a suitable mate and lifelong happiness? What happened to women’s instincts or good coaching by mothers, aunts, and sisters?

Margaret McCarthy
Libertyville, IL

To the editor:
Good Lord, she gets it, and isn’t condescending or in denial about it. Has the worm finally turned? Can we get some sense back into family law, custody law, and so forth? Will we finally have a real dialogue about men and women and modern society? Probably not, but given the vitriol the “feminist” establishment tends to spew today, I salute Ms. Hymowitz for having the sheer guts to write this. Let us know how Gloria Steinem and the rest of the fake “strong, independent women” crowd treats you.

Chris Dinote
State College, PA

To the editor:
I’m sorry. I don’t share the author’s views. I loved being single, didn’t marry until I was 36, and am 42 now. My stepdaughter’s friends in college are lovely young people. Everyone seems, in general, happier and more open than they were when I was young. It’s a good world.

Anne Broshar
San Francisco, CA

To the editor:
While you may be correct that hardcore jerks are a minority of the men out there dating, I suspect that the whole culture has shifted in favor of the alpha jerks. After all, men are highly status-conscious; if the jerks are visibly winning, then the nice guys will tend to make themselves over into jerks if at all possible.

William Krebs
Santa Rosa, CA

Learning Off Campus

To the editor:
I am a retired college professor of chemistry and biochemistry. After 33 years of teaching at a small, private liberal arts college in Ohio, I have little doubt that our current economic and cultural realities have led to an unfortunate transformation of higher education [Victor Davis Hanson, “The Humanities Move Off Campus,” Autumn 2008]. It has, over the years, become vocational education. Given the necessity for absorbing factual matter and training in professional techniques, there appears to be little room for immersion in generalized critical thought, learning our own and other languages, developing rhetorical expression, and writing clear and cogent expository prose.

Science and engineering students are most certainly not alone in these respects; the education deficit extends across the board. The passing of what was considered liberal education 40 or 50 years ago in the U.S. is truly lamentable—and our cultural and political lives have suffered immeasurably for it.

Francis Scalzi
Scottsdale, AZ

To the editor:
For centuries, higher education assumed that the student was already familiar with the classics long before he reached the university level—at age six or seven or thereabouts. The idea of beginning the study of elementary Greek or Latin as a college freshman is absurd. It’s too late by then.

That educational world is gone now, of course, yet classical study is alive and well. The students who take these courses today are the same ones who would have done so during the last 500 years, and who will continue to do so 500 years from now. They are very few in number—but they always were.

Tony Donovan
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia


To the editor:
Isn’t the true death of reparations [Walter Olson, “Reparations, R.I.P.,” Autumn 2008] represented by our newly elected black president? It’s getting harder and harder to argue institutionalized racism.

Elizabeth Fullerton
New York, NY


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