Friday, March 19, 2010

Brooklyn Existentialism: Voices from the Stoop

By Arthur DiClementi and Nino Langiulli, 220 pages, Fidelity Press.

Brooklyn Existentialism offers an alternative, traditional outlook on life that opposes the current Culture of Death. DiClementi and Langiulli examine the background philosophy to much current practice in education and psychology that we hear on a daily basis, such as role playing in counseling. They see this as opposing the notion of the truth and the formation of a solid individual identity.

While the social sciences have offered many insights about humans and society, DiClementi and Langiulli argue that traditional wisdom, based on religion, family, and simple hard work, offers a much more humane, workable, and straightforward path.

The authors examine the post-World War II Frankfurt School of social scientists, who led the culture wars against the Church in Europe. One member, Wilhelm Reich, advocated the use of sex to pry people away from the Church and traditional Western wisdom. Sex was “the best instrument to use for social control and revolution,” Reich wrote. DiClementi and Langiulli conclude: “Feed their vices and control their lives. This is the deepest meaning of pornography.”

American social scientists, such as Alfred Kinsey, also used sexuality. He tried to make normal the sex lives of prostitutes, pedophiles, prisoners, and other sexually-confused people. He used research on these groups to make judgments about the sexuality of wider society.

Many of the common anti-Catholic “gotchas” come from these thinkers. One Frankfurter, Theodore Adorno, believed that fascism was the result of Catholicism, which has become a persistent belief in Western countries. Yet another persistent belief propagated by social scientists was that the Church opposes science, as supposedly proved by the trial of Galileo. Yet DiClementi and Langiulli argue:

“The circumstances of the trial are more often exaggerated than retold accurately in order to create the popular belief that science stands for truth and knowledge whereas faith stands for superstition and credulity.”

Brooklyn Existentialism challenges educational theory, calling it ideological manipulation: “The cultural battle lines are drawn at the school house door. Bad ideas assault the pursuit of the common good in the guise of innovative reform.” They note that much of the rhetoric surrounding liberty is really nonsense.

DiClementi and Langiulli are unapologetically pro tradition because of the West's historic search for the truth. The results of multiculturalism, which leaves students ignorant of this Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian heritage, results in moral chaos:

“Cut off from this tradition, students are set adrift – on a sea of cultural relativism – a worldview that encourages them to satisfy their immediate desires and explore their narrow interests while dismissing the development of character, responsibility, and intelligence. Propaganda and indoctrination replace education.”

Instead of spending the book examining the high-falutin' philosophy of these theorists, the authors make practical connections to their Brooklyn neighborhood and therefore to everyday living. They condemn the current vulgarity and lack of manners, and see its roots in the philosophy of individualism and the need to accomplish great things in life. The result, when people don't know their limitations, is bitterness and a sense of victimhood. DiClementi and Langiulli offer a sense of tradition, family, and community instead.

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