May 30, 2019

"What’s done is done," "What will be will be" — these "tautophrases" "preserve and burnish the established order."

"When God informs Moses, 'I am that I am,' he is telling the prophet, 'Look, get off my back, I’m God.'... 'Boys will be boys' and 'A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do' excuse mischief and usually worse, reinforcing the dominant masculine code....  'You do you is the ultimate self-­referential slogan for the ultimate self-­referential presidency,' [a Wall Street Journal writer 'fumed.'] 'It’s the Be yourself piety of our age turned into a political license by Mr. Obama to do as he pleases.' According to The Journal, Obama’s millennial affectations and his age-­inappropriate preening provide context for the rise of ISIS, our crummy foreign policy, immigration amnesty’s wrong turn. 'You do you,' taken to its extreme, provides justification for every global bad actor.... Might as well do you. Perform the impersonation of your best self. Maybe you’ll get it right this time."

From a 2015 column in the NYT "How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture" by Colson Whitehead. I'm reading this because I've been studying the phrase "You do you," and I am only just now noticing that he's the author of a novel I happened to write about yesterday, "Underground Railroad."

ADDED: At English Language and Usage, back in 2015, they discussed that NYT column, and somebody wrote:

The full phrase this originated from is "do you and I'll do me". Another variation is "do you - cuz I'mma do me". The oldest reference to the phrase that I could find is from the song Do You by Funkmaster Flex (featuring DMX), from the album Volume IV, released on December 5, 2000.

This could be a variation of the phrase "do your thing", which has been in use for at least a century.
A century of "do your thing"? I though that was quintessentially 1960s. Oh, wait. I've been here before. It goes back to Ralph Waldo Emerson. From "Self-Reliance":
The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you, is, that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the Government or against or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers,—under all these screens, I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. And of course, so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your thing, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blind-man's-buff is this game of conformity.
I blogged about that back in January 2018, a propos of Melania Trump's "Be best" slogan.

54 comments:

Dave Begley said...

Hindsight is 20/20.

Play the ball where it lies.

No Monday morning quarterbacking.

Rob said...

For context, remember "Let Reagan be Reagan."?

rhhardin said...

They're not tautologies. The first appearance is taken broadly and the second is taken narrowly. They're saying the first deserves the same value as the second.

Bill Peschel said...

"You do you" is also an insult on the order of "bless your heart."

When someone is throwing an emotion shitfit and is unwilling to face the facts of the matter. The only thing you can do to defuse the situation and move on with your life is to say, "well, you do you."

Nonapod said...

I've always read You do you as "I really don't care what you do. As long as it doesn't affect me, do whatever you want." It's sort of like spelling out that you're not responsible for another's actions.

rehajm said...

Tautologies are tautological.

Daniel Jackson said...

"When God informs Moses, 'I am that I am,' he is telling the prophet, 'Look, get off my back, I’m God.'"

This is not what the text means at all (in Hebrew). How shabby to blame the narcissist revolution on God. In fact, the very idea of using this to justify outrageous behaviors and interaction is so, well, narcissistic.

Whatever.

rehajm said...

"You do you" is also an insult on the order of "bless your heart."

Yes. Obama and the other cool kids use it to disparage. It's a Your behavior is wrong says everyone and you're both too dumb to change or recognize that I'm insulting you. The self assured smirk is optional though is rarely reserved.

SDaly said...

If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the Government or against or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers,—under all these screens, I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are.... But do your thing, and I shall know you.

Emerson thought very highly of himself to suppose that other men should act so that Emerson could detect the precise men they were.

This sentiment screams the central principle of Thelema (enunciated in the beginning of the 20th Century (with roots running back to the Middle Ages) and is now the unrecognized religion of the West): "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."

SDaly said...

It's funny, I did a search for "Thelema" on Althouse, and found that it has been mentioned 4 times, twice by me, and twice by traditionalguy.

JPS said...

A friend of mine detests the phrase, "It is what it is." I think it's occasionally useful, though I don't use it much. The statement may be trivially true, but the speaker's acknowledging It may not be.

Lucid-Ideas said...

"I am that I am"

His interpretation is completely wrong, at least as I understand it theologically.

God is saying - as you've probably heard before - that he is beginning and end, alpha and omega, all that is, has been and will be.

In that sense, God is doing God, and making sure Moses knows it when Moses asks. Apparently a bush that burns yet is not consumed wasn't enough...

EDH said...

I was always taught "you do you, you go blind".

Fernandistein said...

"How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture"

Your belief that you can perfectly capture anything, Mr. Encephalized Ape, is sorta funny.

eddie willers said...

I can't tell you who to sock it to.

Swede said...

Well ain't that a bitch.

YoungHegelian said...

When God informs Moses, 'I am that I am,' he is telling the prophet, 'Look, get off my back, I’m God.'.

I'm so glad Colson Whitehead writes cultural interest stories for the NYT & not Biblical exegesis.

Roger Sweeny said...

"do you - cuz I'mma do me"

Am I the only one who thinks this refers to self-pleasuring?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I've always take the "do" in you do you to mean "have sexual relations with". As such, you do you means "go fuck yourself".

Usually an appropriate sentiment.

Lyssa said...

I heard on the Lexicon Valley podcast (which, BTW, I think Althouse would really enjoy) recently that the phrase “be yourself” used to mean something more like “steady yourself” or “cool down” I the early 20th century, and it’s current meaning came much later.

rehajm said...

Am I the only one who thinks this refers to self-pleasuring?

No. So do EDH and Ignorance is Bliss...

Rosa Marie Yoder said...

Yeah, what Daniel Jackson said at 1:48, and reiterated by others.

Roy Jacobsen said...

When God informs Moses, 'I am that I am,' he is telling the prophet, 'Look, get off my back, I’m God.'.

Yet another example of why one does not rely on the NYT to explain theology.

Better to rely on someone like . . . John Piper: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/i-am-who-i-am

Otto said...

That dead Bible will be around long after Waldo is forgotten.

rehajm said...

Nike's rejection of the slogan Just Do Me is one of the best decisions in sports marketing history, topped only by the rejection of Show us your Dicks! by the Dick's Sporting Goods chain.

rcocean said...

My hat's off to anyone who can read Emerson and get something out of it. I've read several of his books, and everything is forgotten one second after I put it down. I just don't get him. I feel the same about Henry James.

Even that little paragraph Althouse quoted. I read it three times, and still can't remember anything except "Do your own thing".

Quayle said...

I morn the age where "You do you" is esteemed as a deep foundational truth.

Leads me to ask, "Are you suggesting that Charles Manson was just keeping it real?"

sean said...

The sixties expression was "Do your own thing," which is a little different from Emerson. Emerson was saying, "Do what expresses your true nature, and I will know you." The sixties kids were saying, "Do what you enjoy, and don't worry about other people."

Bilwick said...

"Narcissism," like "greed," has become one of what Tom Wolfe called "vacuum words," i.e., words pretty much emptied of any real meaning so that you can give the word whatever meaning you want to give it. Most people would agree that a certain amount of self-esteem and self-care is healthy, and even necessary to survival; but one man's rational self-esteem and self-care becomes another man's "narcissism."

Anthony said...

Best Do Your Thing ever. 20 minutes of pure awesome.

richlb said...

"It is what it is" happens to be a favorite of mine.

Mark said...

"When God informs Moses, 'I am that I am,' he is telling the prophet, 'Look, get off my back, I’m God.'

No. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

madAsHell said...

"It is what it is" happens to be a favorite of mine.

Well....STOP it, Captain Obvious!!

Tommy Duncan said...

“I am what I am, and that's all that I am.”

― Popeye

buwaya said...

"Emerson thought very highly of himself"

Yes, he did.

"My hat's off to anyone who can read Emerson and get something out of it.'

My hat (a Basque boina/txapela) stays on. You can keep Emerson.

SDaly said...

It's your thing
Do what you wanna do
I can't tell you
Who to sock it to

It's your thing
Do what you wanna do now
I can't tell you
Who to sock it to

If you want me to love you, maybe I will
I need you woman, it ain't no big deal
You need love now, just as bad as I do
Make's me no difference now, who you give your thing to

It's your thing (It's your thing)
Do what you wanna do
I can't tell you
Who to sock it to


Ah, the romance of the late 1960's!

narciso said...

isn't that the wiccan philosophy, it takes work to be as ignorant as colson, a ny times review best seller, If memory serves,

R.J. Chatt said...

I also share the view that "I am that I am" refers to God as pure Being, "Is-ness." The rest of us come and go, the rest of everything in creation, known and unknown, comes and goes. God doesn't change.

Doesn't surprise me that someone at the NYT is hostile and clueless about religion and an atheist. That's the Left these days. Pathetic.

Otto said...

You may think that " you do what you want to do" of the 60s is a sign of rugged individualism but it was a sign of cowardice. The boys of that era where scared shit of being drafted and going off to Vietnam. You see the draft was standard procedure in those days, the standard way of life for young men.You conformed to the rules and served when called. Not with these pampered (spock babies), gutless kids ( iam talking about the ones who dodged the draft illegally). So they came up with the bullshit that " I do my own thing" . The real rugged kid was the one who did his duty,conformed to the rules and served, not the punks who fled to Canada and did their thing.
The real rugged individual is the one that goes to work every day, mows his lawn, and worries about the welfare of his family - the deplorables.

mikee said...

The important thing about "You do you," is that the person saying it is abdicating all responsibility for the maintenance of standards of behavior by the person being addressed.

The exact opposite of this statement would be Dirty Harry's statement, "Make my day."
I'd suggest not doing so, if Harry ever says this to you.

Marc said...

Not to be too too pedantic (just pedantic enough!):

In Hebrew there is no present tense of the verb 'to be' which of course leads to all sorts of poetical sounding pronouncements. ['The guy is red' and 'The red guy'] can be translated exactly the same.

The literal translation of what God says is "I will be what I will be".

Or maybe "imma be like imma be"

stever said...

Ok Obama, you do you and HRC whom you silenced by making her SOS, will toss your fecklessness into the trash heap. We got Trump and our betters in the media can't hide their bias. Good job Mr. Mom Jeans

Fernandistein said...

cutting your lawn

I like to have two or three margaritas and smoke some hash before cutting the lawn because then I know that lawn is getting what's coming to it. That's as an individual, of course, not as a former taxpayer and honey-producing member of the hive.

Henry said...

One reason to excuse mischief is to avoid compulsion.

One of the great benefits of fatalism -- what will be will be -- is that it avoids the lie of certainty.

Our current established order does not believe in mischief or fate. It believes in certainty and embraces compulsion as its consequence.

The Irish poet Padraig O Tuama writes:

"[Reconciliation] is an exercise in the art of compromise, and compromise, for many, is like death. But death happens anyway."

Fernandistein said...

The Gospel According to Popeye

"And you didn’t even realize that Popeye the Sailor Man was a believer, did you?

Popeye’s verse—I’m assuming his life verse, went like this:

“I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.”

I’m sure you recognize this as a slightly, uh, personalized form of 1 Corinthians 15:10a, which reads, 'But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.'

This verse has been popping into my head a lot recently."

traditionalguy said...

I will be what I will be sounds like in independent mind. If that mind also wrote the scriptures they must bend towards valuing freedom. Yet the Law of Moses can cause a submissiveness bondage that only the New Covenant can set men free from.

Thank a God for picking the intellectual Saul, later named Paul, to clear it up.

Marcus Aurelius said...

"He who will not governed by the rudder, will be governed by the rock."
attributed to anon

gilbar said...

don't forget the most important!

When Frodo asks Goldberry just who Tom Bombadil is, she responds simply by saying "He is"

traditionalguy said...

Mrs Gump told Forrest, “ stupid is as stupid does.” That about sums it up.

D 2 said...

Once upon a time, it was: It is what it is.
But then, somebody said: It depends on what the meaning of is, is.
And some people were ok with that.
And that was that.

Ambrose said...

Que sera sera

SDaly said...

Fernandistein,

I was thinking about Popeye’s tag line, while offline. Glad to see someone else noticed its relevance

Narr said...

Doesn't the wicked wiccan mantra (Thelema?) begin "And it harm no-one, do what thou wilt [etc whatever]"? Might be a later interpolation, or I'm more confused than usual . . .

Guess who got a lot out of Emerson.

Narr
Rhymes with preachy

stutefish said...

The literal translation of what God says is "I will be what I will be".

"People don't think I be like I is, but I do."