p.j. o'rourke, jesuits & whitemaleness

march, 1994
> > Who or what is p. j. o'rourke? >

humorist originally of the national lampoon now with books out. he has written 'modern manners' and 'parliament of whores'. he has the brand of humor that speaks wtih the haughty grace of people who are invited onto battleships on maneuvers in the persian gulf to crack jokes with the ship's commander about superior american firepower. the next day he cracks jokes at a dinner party in manhattan about how rediculous and insignificant are those opposed to the effort, and besides their ties are out of style. but i exaggerate somewhat.

i think of orourke in the company of characters invented by national lampoon about white men who play with their privilege as a colossal joke on the rest of the world and cmpliment themselves on their realism and/or doofiness at the same time.

i think of films such as 'fletch' and 'ghostbusters' in which the chevy chase (what a name!) dan ackroyd/h.ramis plays the role of someone who saves people while at the same time being geeks. in reality of course, these men are (or had been) immensely popular and wealthy. 'caddyshack' bill murray. the idea of white men cracking wise annoys me for some reason. i suppose it's because of my belief in the jesuits.

anyway you have got to read o'rourke to get a flavor of what im talking about. what he is saying is essntially is that you and i could be any one of these rich and powerful guys - the whole situation is a joke so we may as well laugh about it. he pokes fun but is threatening in no way to the corruption he facetiously exposes. it's like the ugly truth about the journalist mclaughlin. he's in it for the money and the power and at the end of the show they all laugh and smile.

pick up 'modern manners' and read it with your critical glasses on. it's sold everywhere.

Thank you for the enlightening. As to "belief in the jesuits" (by the way, shouldn't you capitalize? As in Catholics, Jews, Moslems, the Pope, etc?) what do you mean? I agree that they exist (or, at least, I believe they do); but what do they have to do with comedians?

I hope I am not bothering you; but English is not one of my first languages, and your style is quite obscure for me.

Thank you in advance for any useful answer.

No problem. I use that particular style in discussions in Computer Mediated Communications for specific purposes as regards my interests in identity, hip hop aesthetics, and alternative pedagogy. It also allows me to type a great deal faster so that I don't lose my train of thought.

I had four years of Jesuit education at the secondary school level - college preparatory. This was one of the top ranked schools in the nation. What had been particularly captivating about the experience was that in the late 1970s the revolutionary black political movements had been pretty much dispersed and there was a great deal of faith within sections of the black community of the prospects of 'crossover'. Much of the attitudes about racial progress in the US stem from that breif period when Jimmy Carter was President. For me personally, the ethic of Christianity as practiced by the activist liberal Jesuits became a predominating moral force, displacing for a time previous Black Nationalist and Black Arts forces in my life. My critical dialog of the corrupting influences which hurt black people was changed in light of the fact that I was now among the most privileged of white men (this was an all boys' school) and was learning the ways and means they were instructed to become societal leaders. Still I distinguidhed the Jesuit brand of moral authority and privilege from that of traditional east coast WASP elites. Indeed the very Catholicism of the Jesuits, their Irish associations and the liberal bent of Los Angeles was quite real and gave me much perspective on a heretofore more monolithic picture of 'the Man'. So I never viewed myself as selling out to 'the Man' as much as having an inside track to those who were expected to be moral, intellectual fighters for social justice. And although I never thought there would be any great 'rainbow coalition' in this new generation, there was some real faith gathered in the moral capacity of whites to criticize whites and for blacks and chicanos to be a leading part of that process.

All of this was tempered of course by my realtime experiences with the ingrained racism and haughty authority of liberal whites who see their benevolent leadership and embracing of blacks and latinos as demonstrable proof of their morality. But the important piece in all this vis a vis O'Rourke et al, is that these Catholics took themselves and sin very seriously. Life was not a game for them and social justice was not whining for them. Corruption was not to be tolerated and joked about and privilege implied great responsibility. It was naive of me to believe that America's leadership had any such devotion, but it was also incumbent upon me to force the issue. This, to me seems to be the Jesuit's lesson. That with the appropriate tools that this could be done. Moreover that powerful, individual (white) men, such as themselves (and soon you too my darksinned friend) are the agents behind everything that happens here on earth (in America). All sins will be judged, and in the meantime we Jesuits gather evidence.

To investigate and plumb the depths of the affairs of powerful white men's crimes against the people for public exposure was the privilege and responsibility of moral Jesuits and righteous black men whose aims were social justice. To know and make jokes about the entire charade of irresponsible white skin privilege was the slacker, National Lampoon, Harvard snob, P.J. O'Rourke and company pasttime. There is more than a little bit of Irish and black resentment in that moral posturing, no doubt. But to see and know first hand how white boys in the same school and grade as I moved to social contexts to assert superiority when they were morally or academically outwitted was a lesson once learned never forgotten.

So the question of whitemaleness as I raise it is precisely what I diagram above. How exactly to white males question or investigate their whiteness except as to defend themselves as they have been doing by and large for the past 2 or 3 years? This being a secular state, despite much fundamentalist politicking to the contrary, very few non-Jewish white males bring the question of identity into such distinction. At least, in the interest of anti-racist praxis, I do not percieve that they do, and I beleive the African-American community at large does not percieve that they do adequately. The reason white males are such an easy target is that they seem unwilling to distinguish themselves or even admit their attraction to whitemaleness. To them it seems almost an essential, unquestionable fact. Which is an idea deeply rooted in racialist thinking. It's a trap, but they cannot seem to escape whereas African-American mobility in identity is legend.

White males in America will remain targets because they created the boxes that people of color are identifying themselves out of. That leaves white males with what? The great fight is to rearrange, and white males have been caught short. I beleive the process is inevitable. The legal history is unflinchingly clear in the hands of scholars such as Patricia J. Williams and Hon. Leon Higgenbottom. The desire of 'minorities' to have their opportunity to lead this country remains undiminished. What will the white males do if they are morally outwitted? Perhaps they will make nervous jokes.