Tweedjackets unite

That the world has changed radically, in the few days since I was a child, is not generally accepted. Nor is it frequently denied. Both statements are always true; nor do they contradict each other. That the world is very large, but also very small, came to my attention soon after I set out in it. That I could not control it, became evident soon after. It will be large and small on its own terms, and often when I least expect it. In many other respects, the world is just like that. One thinks one is used to it. One never is.

For among the world’s tricks is the capacity of a chameleon, to change colours, and fade into its local environment. Unless, as recently, there is a cold spell, and rather than change colours it falls out of trees. Certain octopuses can change both shape and colour, and don’t climb trees in the first place. If one trusts YouTube videos, which I am disinclined to do, they disappear entirely. Then instantly reappear.

Yale is a college in Connecticut, which seems to have expanded into a university. It was founded about three centuries ago, which makes it fairly old by non-Spanish American standards. Congregationalists started it up. It now admits students who are not Congregationalists — indeed, I wonder if there are any Congregationalists left. At some point in my youth I admired its art history department, even when I became suspicious of art history as a discipline.

It was George Bernard Shaw who observed that (we) Americans were unique — in having passed from savagery to decadence without an intervening period of civilization. I wouldn’t say that of the Yale that grew famous. Once upon a time, its savagery was devoted to defending Greek and Latin as features of American life. There were people who would pay to send their children there, even after the invention of sociology.

They still do, but for reasons that are “evolving.” While it is true that the “Ivy League” schools still attract many smart students, they specialize in parents with money. Yale, like Harvard, is prejudiced against Orientals, but even the crème de la crème get in, for enough marks and cash. Other races are, overall, subsidized, but not only by the American taxpayer. Yale, for instance, seems to own much of New England, though given their political obsessions, the return on their $30 billion of equity might be shrinking. Still, they remain filthy stinking rich, and have the connexions to regularly supply their own country and several others with élite figures, and win lots of prizes. The Yalies’ snobbery and arrogance are legendary.

I mentioned art history, which caught my attention because their department is in the news. According to its own current inmates, it is too “straight, white, and male.” Actually it isn’t. Women, I noticed, took over art history a while back; and provided that you are not white or Chinese, the force is with you. But more fundamentally, the administrators have decided that the school exudes the Western Canon of High Culture and, in the interest of self-repudiation, this must end. Their (immensely respected) survey course will be the first to go.

Let me applaud, albeit with donkey cheers. My own view is that “art history” overvalues my grandpa’s rosy view of the Renaissance, and is too self-consciously “modern.”

Yet I do not think the administrators propose to devote more resources to the T’ang and Sung, nor to our own neglected mediaeval heritage. Their priority, in statements, is purely destructive. Skin pigmentation, which has seldom counted for anything in art, is their new guiding light, and absurd “theories” of cultural hegemony are now, in union terms, working to rule.

The background against which Yale is operating is itself changing hue, however. Nothing in its present backdrop can last. Will the chameleon turn back? Can it do so as quickly as an octopus?

High cultural values tend to reassert themselves, where people of intelligence are present; but what if they are, as it were, being bred out of the gene pool?

In that case, we’ll have stunned chameleons, falling out of trees.