Friday, February 26, 2010
When universities allow the Muslim Students Association, a.k.a. The Muslim Brotherhood to dominate public speaking, should Jewish students leave?
However, not a dime should be donated to universities that permit the terminally self-righteous to rule. The more serious question is when are we going to start organizing people to demand our governments penalize state-funded universities in the pocketbook when they permit the kind of intellectual vandalism that has happened at the University of California Irvine and many other schools in Canada and the USA.
The link takes you to a trailer for a new film discussing the surrender of Canadian and American college campuses to the Global Intifada. It might interest readers to see a little of what is going on at places like York University. However, if the trailer is any guide, the film seems to be only apologizing for Israel, saying essentially "it's not such a bad place, and these lunatics shutting up speech on campus can't distinguish between legitimate criticism and demonization of Israel." Unfortunately, I see no sign the film seeks to analyze the Global Intifada for what it is, for the hateful, nihilistic-Utopian, destructive, deluded, racist, supremacist, Islamic-leftist ideology that it is. Nor does it seem to explain why university administrations allow these destroyers of free speech and thought to remain on campus.
The trailer basically says "those pro-Palestinian people may have a legitimate beef but they don't express it fairly or decently", as if it's somehow possible to distinguish a legitimate Palestinian leadership or program from the core Arab-Islamic refusal to recognize the legitimacy of any Jewish state or political movement in "Dar al-Islam", the refusal that has shaped the conflict and the fate of "the Palestinians" since even before the modern state of Israel was founded. In other words, the film does not admit that we must choose between Islamic or Judeo-Christian views on the nature of God and man, and the legitimacy of nation-states, when it comes to deliberating on the question of Israel. It shirks the difficult question that offends the half-baked totalitarian ideology of multiculturalism that gains power by not allowing its subjects to make the necessary choice. We are told we cannot just look at the different fruits of different world views and choose the better.
So, to use the language of Eric Voegelin, the film does not seem comfortable challenging much of the global left as taking on the form of a Gnostic resentment of the actual, historically-evolved, order of human existence. One senses that if it weren't for the Global Intifada the filmmakers and the Jewish professors they interview would romanticize leftist history, notwithstanding the many tens of millions murdered by the left's Gnostic political religions in the twentieth century. The trials of secular Jews to find their place in the world continue... Meanwhile, our universities are being taken over by those who think they have the only "solution" to the infuriating Jewish question. And, as our previous post shows, the universities are caving in to the totalitarian forces shouting down and physically threatening anyone who would defend Jewish national existence. Who's next?
Thursday, February 25, 2010
On Monday morning, York University informed Imagine With Us campus partners Christians United for Israel (CUFI) that the university was cancelling the event due to the fact that Imagine With Us did not meet their requirements. York had required that the organizers include a formidable police and campus security presence paid for by the organizers, a list of all attendees in advance, a minute-by-minute synopsis of all speakers’ talking points and a ban on public advertising of the event at York and on satellite campuses.Welcome to Egypt. York is now a place where you're either thug or dhimmi - no other way is known to the administration. This of course is not the first implicitly antisemitic decision of the York administration when it comes to defending, or not, the free speech of public defenders of Israel. No one should mistake this place (or respect its degrees) as a genuine provider of education. Boycott! (HT: Catfur)
York University has said that the requirements were demanded of the event organizers due to the participation of individuals who they claim invite the animus of anti-Israel campus agitators.
In an interview with the Jewish Tribune, Rob Kilfoyle, director of security at York, confirmed the event had been cancelled and stated that the need for security at events is determined on a case-by-case basis and that the participation of speakers such as Dimant and Pipes was the cause of the stringent requirements. When asked why similar demands were not made of the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week events, Kilfoyle stated that even though the organizers of those events will not be paying for their own security – as the university had demanded of Imagine With Us – York will be there “to monitor the activities.”
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
On pages 279-80 we find Slezkine illustrating this development with a passage from the Jewish writer Lev Kopelev, then still, in the 1930s, a true believer in the Commmunist system:
The young Lev Kopelev had not been alone in being impressed by Stalin's "We do not want to be beaten" speech. "It was then that I, a convinced internationalist, a Soviet patriot, and a representative of the newly formed multinational Soviety people, began to feel an acute sense of hurt and injustice on behalf of Russia, Russian history, and the Russian word."The "Soviet Count" Ignatiev? This line shocked me as in my limited knowledge of Russian history I had always associated the Ignatiev family solely with the Czarist regime (and indeed they became refugees from the Bolsheviks which is why today the "Soviet Count's" great grandson, Michael Ignatieff, has been able to grasp for power as the unelected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada).I was very pleased with this new turn in political propaganda and historical research, this decisive rejection of national nihilism. The party confirmed and affirmed what I had felt since childhood and became conscious of in my youth.
Such concepts as the "Motherland," "patriotism," the "people," and "national" were being restored. And I mean restored - because previously they had been toppled, overthrown....
I enjoyed the films about Peter the Great, Alexander Nevsky, and Suvorov; I liked the patriotic poems by Simonov, the books by E. Tarle and the "Soviet Count," Ignatiev; I reconciled myself to the return of officers' ranks and epaulets.
I have seen on occasion Canadian bloggers with an anti-Michael Ignatieff agenda pointing out that Michael's great grandfather, the Count Ignatiev, was the Czar's Minister of the Interior at the start of the violent pogroms in 1881, which some historians believe he tacitly encouraged, and the man who headed the introduction of the May Laws which aimed to limit Jewish settlement in rural areas while at the same time limiting Jewish access to higher education in the urban centres. This was the start of the period of the three great Jewish migrations away from their former homes in the Russian empire's Pale of Settlement - to the Americas, to Israel, and to the cities of the Russian (and later Soviet) empire, the last being the focal point of Slezkine's book.
Now I understand there is some difference of opinion about the antisemitic intent of Count Ignatiev's policies. Some would see them as anti-Jewish only to the extent they were a way of trying to keep peace and order among an antisemitic peasantry and thus actually to protect Jews from pogroms. But, as I also understand it, the more dominant line of interpretation from Western historians is less sympathetic to the Count.
So it is not surprising to me that the politically-calculating Michael Ignatieff makes very little of his Russian ancestry in public. But that the Soviets rehabilitated the memory of Count Ignatiev when they sought to promote Russian nationalism in the 1930s was news to me. I have done a little Googling today and have not yet found more information on this phenomenon. Perhaps the sources in English on the internet will prove too limited for a relatively small historical concern. But I did find an interesting portrait of Michael Ignatieff in a 2008 paper by Valery Tishkov that is discussing, among other things, the worldwide Russian diaspora as an aspect of Russian influence and power in today's global village. Tishkov writes:
If one were to exclude from the total number of historical emigrants from Russia and their descendants all those who are completely assimilated and cannot speak Russian—all those who consider themselves to be French, Argentine, Mexican, or Jordanian and have no sense of connection to Russia—even so the number of “overseas countrymen” would remain large and difficult to define through objective” traits. Membership in a diaspora depends upon self-identity and reflects emotional choice.So one wonders what Valery Tishkov would make of Michael Ignatieff's current siding with the enemies of Israel lodged in Canada's so-called "Rights and Democracy" agency/bureaucracy. Are his Russian roots showing, or perhaps his aristocratic prejudices? Or is this "Englishman" just being pulled around by the prejudices of the party that allowed him to become their unelected leader? Many have wondered, just what is this latest version of the Counts Ignatieff. In any case, let us rest easy for the moment, knowing that when Canada plays Russia, it's safe to cheer for Iggy.
Here is a personal example. I was acquainted with the late George Ignatieff, the famous Canadian diplomat and rector of Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He not only considered himself Canadian but, precisely, a “Russian– Canadian” (which was what Nikita Khrushchev had taken him to be when they met at the UN and when Ignatieff went to the USSR in 1955 as part of the official Canadian delegation). There is no question that Count Ignatieff should be considered to be part of the Russian diaspora.
Almost 20 years later I met his son, Michael Ignatieff, a well known journalist and writer, who did not know a single word of Russian, and considered himself part of the Canadian diaspora in England, stating that, “For me, being a Canadian,” he said, “is simply one of those privileges that I received as a birth-right.” To categorize the younger Ignatieff as a member of the Russian diaspora would have been an obvious usurpation of his right to choose how to live his own life. In 1987 he wrote a marvelous book called The Russian Album, about his journey to a childhood to which he could no longer return and his connections to family heirlooms.
For a reader in Russia the book is a historical and cultural document created by a member of the Russian diaspora despite the fact that Michael himself would not grant this. However, during a meeting with him in his bohemian apartment in old London in January 1997, he did not look like a representative of the Russian diaspora, unlike his father, whom I had seen in Toronto.
However, Michael wrote the following curious words about him: “At the same time he always kept himself apart from the Russian emigration, with its fractional intrigues and antediluvian politics. When I was a child he always seemed more Canadian than Russian to me. Even today he remains a more patriotic and sentimental Canadian than I am myself. For him Canada was the country that gave him a new life.” In London Michael told me that he was first of all an Englishman because his mother was English.
However, in 2006, when he decided to run for prime minister of Canada as a Liberal Party candidate, he emphasized his “Canadianness” as his sole and unquestioned identity. Which of the two Ignatieffs was part of the diaspora, and which of them belonged to the “Russian world?” There is no clear answer. Identity drift of an individual or a group can be situational and, in any event, dynamic. A great deal depends upon instrumental (or personal) calculations and also on the economic and political influences of the country of exodus and that of emigration.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Reflecting on the state-subsidized art, largely concerned with observations on the communications technology revolutions of recent decades, yet none of whose concepts struck me as greatly revelatory, and thinking about this technically-ingenious monster whose name seems to address the "carbon crisis", the warm-mongering of which governments and their desire for control over more and more of society have been a large part, I came across this passage from Alexis de Tocqueville's, Democracy in America
I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.
I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.
I saw that I hung my hat on a lost oil pump made art. Energy from yesteryear now immortalised in an abandoned parking lot. A faded hat, a barren gas pump, a dying day.
I saw the sun going down on a funeral chapel, casting a dark shadow in the deep-cut stone.
The former Central Business district of the city is now a mile-long stretch of derelict buildings and storefronts for marijuana sellers, pawnbrokers, convenience stores selling crack pipes under the counter, and an endless variety of "social agencies" for mental patients and drug addicts and those who just gave up and decided to live downtown in the midst of the mess of it all. Former office buildings that became skidroad hotels finally became abandoned, high hopes and grandiosity regal in name only.
No point to complain. The game goes on, and some win and some lose and most sit back and watch.
During this Olympic season in the city some have made themselves into political statements, pitching tents in empty lots in the former business district; and some have made statements about those statements.
Some are upset that the former Woodwards building, a famous landmark in the city, was "gentrified," claiming that such is a reflection of the distortion of capitalism in the city on "the poor." I think it's kind of pretty, myself.
But some see it as distortion. What do I know? I'm a tourist here.
I just try to get along.
If the sticker on the abandoned wicket window says "Do Not Smoke ANYTHING Here," I just cast my gaze upward and pay no attention to what's happening in front of my eyes. It's my life, and D is for Dag.
America is beating Canada at hockey. Life goes on, and tomorrow things might change. I figure much of the game depends on how I want to see things. It's in our own hands, I think so.
A day dies, a night begins; the sun sets and out comes the moon. Life goes on, a game for the living. I kind of like it. This is often enough a good city to like it in.
So, till next time, good-night to you, dear reader, for now, from Vancouver, Canada.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
A) Ray Bradbury
B) Isaac Asimov
C) Jules Verne
D) Erich Fromm
The answer can be heard below, secreted within this week’s Radio Memories.
Every Sunday we recharge our sense of wonder by tuning in to the days before television, a time when listeners orchestrated a world within their imagination, through listening to the lost art of radio drama… the theater of the mind.
The imaginative medium of radio drama did not outlive the arrival of the visual medium of television, a competitor which ironically left very little to the imagination. The twilight of dramatic radio saw much creativity and experimentation, a final act celebrating all that made the older medium different from the technological upstart that displaced it in the hearts and homes of families across North America.
As interest in television grew, interest dwindled in preserving the past accomplishments of the medium it displaced. Therefore much of radio’s early artistic legacy was consumed in self-destructive cleansings of closets, cupboards and backroom shelves, program archives forsaken by the networks that were now looking to the idiot box for their futures, and fortunes.
This week’s offering is from the 1955-58 series Biography In Sound. It tantalizes us to imagine the cultural treasures we have probably lost, and how close we came to losing far more than we did.
Our episode today was originally broadcast back on Tuesday December 4th, 1956, and is entitled “A Ticket To The Moon”.
Biography In Sound was not, strictly speaking, radio drama. It was instead, as suggested by the series’ title, a weekly biography undertaken on a particular person or, less frequently, a particular subject. This episode engages listeners in a stimulating biography of science-fiction, through such tour guides as prolific authors Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, pioneering publisher (and author in his own right) John W. Campbell, filmmaker George Pal, scientists like Willy Ley, and shaper of fandom Forrest J. Ackerman.
Their ideas on the distinctions between science fiction and fantasy, how they saw science-fiction influencing their time, and their predictions on where that influence might lead us, make for fascinating, thought-provoking listening to our modern ears today.
Consider the following quote as a teaser, from forementioned SF pioneer John W. Campbell:
“Our language… you might say our language lacks a word. We have the word ‘impossible’, but we need to differentiate between two sorts of things. The impossible is that which, by definition, can never be done. We need another word: unpossible, that which can’t be done just yet. At the present time it is unpossible to buy a ticket to Mars. That does not mean that it is impossible; eventually that can be done.”
While many episodes of Biography In Sound have survived (for our previous visit with this remarkable series, go here, to listen to their inspiring program devoted to theatrical legend George M. Cohan), there are nevertheless quite a few holes in the series multi-year run.
What insights, observations, revelations, did we lose, in those missing episodes... and in the uncountable hours of radio programming in general that has been consigned to oblivion?
What treasures are we taking for granted today, that are destined to be lost in their turn? Destined, perhaps, due to a lack of imagination, a lessening in our ability to wonder about the future, and the unpossible...
Previous 2010 Radio Memories posts:
For a list of our 2009 Radio Memories listings, go here.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Notice the little dig they try to get in at Vancouver's expense, in the following transcribed excerpt:
[0:28] British reporterette: "What's happened to his head? I'm sure that's what everyone is asking at home."
British reporter: "Yes, I don't know. That's the simple answer."
British reporterette: "It looks like he's walked into a door, doesn't he! [laughs] Yeah, I'm sure that's one of the questions that the networks will be asking."
British reporter: "He's been up in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, and was the face of the administration there, so whether there was some accident on what little ice there's been up in Vancouver, we don't know. But no doubt as a result of this appearance, we will get an opportunity to ask his spokespeople, what the cause of that is."
British reporterette: [giggles]
I'd make a snide comment of my own, but the weather is so beautiful today, I'm instead going to take advantage of the "little ice there's been up in Vancouver", debate which sweater I should wear as I go for a walk under yet another cloudless sky, bask in the warm sunshine and buy a hotdog from the friendly couple on the corner.
[Hat Tip to this morning's episode of my favorite Minnesota radio show, the First Team of the Patriot's Northern Alliance Radio Network]
Friday, February 19, 2010
Here's a video of us cleaning German glocks gesundheit!
Having said that, I should be honest and confess that part of me, nevertheless, is having a wonderful time.
If you are a people-watcher, that is, someone who loves parking himself on a park bench in order to enjoy the parade of personalities that strolls by, you will find the Olympics as a city-wide art gallery, an endless exposition on the art of being human.
There are so many fascinating vignettes playing themselves out everywhere you look, so many riveting scenes to study, and absorb, so many fun tableaus that reveal all the little quirks and bemusements that are such a part of the contradiction of folly and glory involved in living a human life.
There is so much change occurring to such a wide range of people, placed in so many new situations, that surely there is drama and conflict enough for any novelist to find material for a dozen stories, for a painter to fill a hundred canvases.
It's the small things that stick out in my mind. I will definitely remember the sight of lifeguards at city streetcorners, barking advice into loudspeakers for the sake of tourists drowning in confusion.The mecca for people-watchers these days must be the barrier surrounding the Olympic Flame; whether they know what awaits them or not, everyone arrives with a hopeful look, which melts away once in view of the controversial barrier. How do they handle their disappointment? Some put on a brave face and make the best of it, clowning around with theatrical poses making it look like they are themselves holding the flame high atop the scenic Burrard Inlet. Others complain to anyone within earshot, and one guy left without taking a single photo, he was so disillusioned.
People tend to pause and wonder: what would I have done here, to resolve the contradictory needs of security and access. Eavesdropping on the resulting conversations, the bystander will be feasted to an endlessly varied series of opinions and counter-proposals; it's too bad the event planners didn't start a blog, or other interactive outreach effort ahead of time, to let the public get all these ideas on the record much earlier, so that many of the better suggestions coming from the common sense of the common man could have been included within the smaller number of ideas that a small number of "official" minds had on the boards.
Maybe that fence will bring one good change to the world: a clearer appreciation of the perils of total top-down planning.I have no love for the Olympic Games, but I admit that a small part of me will be sad when the last tourist leaves after the last ceremony, and we go back to the less-crowded, emptier streets of old, giving us our Seawall back... as gorgeous as the view of the mountains may be, it pales in fascination to the feelings invoked by the view of a bubbling sea of humanity.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
In the time before television, it was radio, and the dearly departed art form of radio drama, "The Theater Of The Mind", that held the public's affection. For the last year we've tried to pause every Sunday to tune in on old broadcasts from this older time, to reflect on the lessons these old shows may contain, hoping to hear stories with messages that can be of service to us, today.
"[O]ne must experience great sorrow before one can have great happiness"...
This is the theme explored in this week's program, an episode from a dramatic series that could never work as a television show, shaped as it was for fulfillment through the mind's eye of its audience: the historical biography series called Mr President.
The show's introduction was gently re-written each of its 6 seasons, between 1947 and 1953; I think the 1949 season offered the most wonderful description of the series' concept:
"The biography of responsibility".
Each week a little-known episode in the life of an American President would be dramatized, but the actual name of the President would be withheld from the audience until the final act (often the final words of the final act), inviting the audience to guess at the President's identity, in a fun test of the listener's knowledge of history.
We played an episode of the Mr President series last November, and I admit it was pretty easy to figure out the unnamed President in that one; this week's romantic example, also from 1948, will be much, much harder to guess correctly, I assure you..!
I hope it can bring some measure of comfort to those for whom Valentine's Day brings as much pain as it does joy to others around them. We can all use some reassurance that love lost can be found anew, in different form; that no matter how much things change, some things never change, and among these remains the continuing chance for renewed embrace of something bigger than ourselves, the ongoing opportunity to build a relationship, one soul healing another, each finding new reasons to live... and to love.
Previous 2010 Radio Memories posts:
For a list of our 2009 Radio Memories listings, go here.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I've spent a little time watching Vancouver Olympic fever and I'm sure I will have something to write before long about the morality of this grand festival. But my mind remains unfocussed. So a few impressions... Downtown, the streets are bathed in Canadian red, with the accessory of choice, as pushed by the people and the powers that be, being red mittens with white maple leaves.
So popular is this item that they have even begun to outfit the summer athletes, like Harry Jerome.
Call me queer; but what, with all the national obsession with mittens and "going for gold", I couldn't help but think of Archibald Lampan's classic Canadian poem, In November:
With loitering step and quiet eye,
Beneath the low November sky,
I wandered in the woods, and found
A clearing, where the broken ground
Was scattered with black stumps and briers,
And the old wreck of forest fires.
It was a bleak and sandy spot,
And, all about, the vacant plot,
Was peopled and inhabited
By scores of mulleins long since dead.
A silent and forsaken brood
In that mute opening of the wood,
So shrivelled and so thin they were,
So gray, so haggard, and austere,
Not plants at all they seemed to me,
But rather some spare company
Of hermit folk, who long ago,
Wandering in bodies to and fro,
Had chanced upon this lonely way,
And rested thus, till death one day
Surprised them at their compline prayer,
And left them standing lifeless there.
There was no sound about the wood
Save the wind's secret stir. I stood
Among the mullein-stalks as still
As if myself had grown to be
One of their sombre company,
A body without wish or will
And as I stood, quite suddenly,
Down from a furrow in the sky
The sun shone out a little space
Across that silent sober place,
Over the sand heaps and brown sod,
The mulleins and dead goldenrod,
And passed beyond the thickets gray,
And lit the fallen leaves that lay,
Level and deep within the wood,
A rustling yellow multitude.
And all around me the thin light,
So sere, so melancholy bright,
Fell like the half-reflected gleam
Or shadow of some former dream;
A moment's golden reverie
Poured out on every plant and tree
A semblance of weird joy, or less,
A sort of spectral happiness;
And I, too, standing idly there,
With muffled hands in the chill air,
Felt the warm glow about my feet,
And shuddering betwixt cold and heat,
Drew my thoughts closer, like a cloak,
While something in my blood awoke,
A nameless and unnatural cheer,
A pleasure secret and austere.
Meanwhile, in the quiet neighbourhoods of the city, life as art goes on...
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Should we call ourselves "conservatives", or those who seek the "authenticity of openness to transcendence", a.k.a. "openness to existence"?
Anyway, this is a commercial instinct we can't afford to follow. As Thomas Bertonneau notes in his latest Brussels Journal essay on Voegelin, there is a vocabulary developed by Voegelin - in his discussion of modern Gnosticism - that is particularly suited to discussing the political pathologies of our times. This is another rich piece from Professor Bertonneau, but one thing I will point out here is its discussion of Voegelin's caution to his friends not to call him a "conservative", a title he feared for its assertion of some false equivalence with the low religious world view of the "liberals":
The term “liberal,” like the term “change,” lends itself rather more to mendacious abuse than to just employment, especially when adopted as a label by the Left, which likes to hide its havoc-making program of transforming the un-transformable beneath the “L-word’s” ointment-like blandness. That the term “liberal” had long since devolved into something meaningless or misleading struck Voegelin already in the 1960s as a hindrance to transparent discourse.Before continuing with Bertonneau, I'll just point out that another way of saying this may be that what today goes by the name of "liberalism" is not itself a complete or satisfactory religion to the degree it cannot articulate a coherent, transcendent, purpose; rather it is, as Bertonneau say, a vehemently apocalyptic religion that relies on introducing ever-more alien and destructive ideas into Western society as a way of asserting its superiority according to the key doctrine of "tolerance", the supposed guarantor of liberalism's moral superiority. As Bertonneau says, "liberalism" is really an agenda of destruction. But, he argues, this should not give license to those of us opposed to modern "liberalism" to call ourselves conservative, as if there were a neat symmetry between the two:
When we examine the present scene in the United States, we discover just this conceit in the rhetoric of the sitting Democrat-dominated federal government. Vehement commitment to “progress” (“change we can believe in,” as Obama’s electoral slogan put it) differs hardly at all, perhaps only in a few small degrees, from vehement commitment to “permanent revolution,” quite as Leon Trotsky understood when he revived [Charles] Comte’s coinage in his new Bolshevik context. Voegelin writes: “The radical revolutionary must make the revolution into a permanent condition… for as soon as a plateau of stabilization is permitted, the revolution is over.”
if those who stand in opposition to the radicals were not adequately described as conservatives, as Voegelin strongly implies is the case, how then would one describe them? Or how, in this connection, is one to describe the current “Red-Blue” division in American politics?But, Bertonneau argues, these leaps in being are rare events, historically, and do not justify the "progressive" ideology.
Voegelin’s answer to such questions involves his identification of the radical-revolutionary mentality with Gnosticism, that is, with baroque, reality-denying doctrines, sprung from acute anxiety about existence, that bespeak the cause in the fashion of an unquestionable Koranic pronouncement, deviation from which constitutes a punishable offense. (Think: political correctness.) The opposite of Leftwing doctrinaire-ism, as we might call it, is not, however, some antithetical second doctrinaire-ism, equally baroque and locked in Manichaean agon with the first; it is what, in Voegelin’s discourse of the 1950s and 60s, goes by the name, among variants, of openness to existence. The Montreal lecture, “In Search of the Ground,” later appearing as an essay, offers one of the clearest expressions in Voegelin’s massive authorship of this concept.
An element in existence to which the mature individual maintains his “openness” is the cumulus of historic “differentiations in consciousness,” Voegelin’s term from Order and History. The phrase is not obscure: it refers to the fact that the prevailing knowledge of the world in any given cultural continuum – that of the West, for example – sometimes deepens and becomes richer through an individual insight; a “Leap in Being” can happen, as in Western thought when it jumped from mythic to philosophic ideas of existence.
what else, pray tell, is revealed in the assumption, lying at the basis of all radical political action, that a society, which also possesses a nature and is limited in its malleability by that nature, can be changed? This is not to assert that there is no discernible history of social development or that any given society continues to exist only insofar as it refuses to permit any internal alteration whatsoever. People tend, however, to exaggerate the extent of change.By coincidence, Gil Bailie has just posted a couple of quotations that provide another way of articulating this kind of argument. Under the heading, "More on the real counter culture", Bailie first quotes Philip Rieff:
I would argue, for example, that the abolition of slavery in the United States, while it abruptly and positively altered the condition of the ex-slaves, altered the larger society hardly at all, since only a tiny minority had ever owned human chattels; nor later on did the repeal of “Jim Crow” make much of a difference for the larger society even though it altered social conditions somewhat for American blacks in Democrat-dominated regions of the nation where anti-black feeling ran high.
In a slightly different way, Voegelin cites the case of Utah, when it petitioned for admission to the Union. The Union stipulated its condition: Membership in the federal polity or polygamy, one or the other for the Mormons, not both. The larger society would not assimilate change of that sort or the precedent it would set.
The limits of change for any society are much smaller than liberal or radical or Gnostic zeal ever admits. To be reconcilable with the society, such change as occurs must reflect a spontaneous consensus, because coercive change, as I have already argued, is tantamount only to annihilation. In the Eighth Century BC, Hellenic society was happy with the symbolism of the “intra-cosmic gods” and the world they implied; by the Fourth Century AD, Mediterranean humanity, by a long-gestating like-mindedness, found the old “intra-cosmic gods” no longer convincing or meaningful and began to reorient itself, either through Alexandrian Judaism and its offshoots, or through Neo-Platonism, or through Gospel Christianity to the later-emerging transcendent Divinity.
As country custom and as household ritual and as semi-comic superstition, the “intra-cosmic gods” lived on and they survive, attenuated in their potency, even to this day. As the image of divinity, wistfully, they perished, a new image replacing them that offered to its recipients a richer understanding of existence. That image, representing the discovery of a new depth in reality, has stood in place in the West for two thousand years.
It follows that sensible people should behave with extraordinary circumspection where it concerns cavalier, wishful, or resentful programs of “change” because, as Voegelin so poignantly shows in his essays, radical “change” based on passions is definitely not the “progress” that it claims itself to be: It is not the “Leap in Being” but the frightened, dangerous opposite – a lapse into primitive thinking and myth.
Opposition to “change” for the sake of change, and to “change” as goalless indefinite regress, which is what the vaunted “progress” really is, will likely take the name of Conservatism, the very label that Voegelin wanted not to descend on him as the sign of his political identity. Voegelin knew that words, like ideas, have consequences. Under this admonition, a number of cautionary remarks can be made about the word “Conservatism” and what it implies. For one thing, as soon as one posits Conservatism, one has created an inevitable verbal artifact – Conservatism versus Liberalism – that is structurally Manichaean. This should give us pause. Manichaean, dualistic structures are a characteristic Gnostic appurtenance, which philosophers should avoid.
I recall here my earlier argument that the opposition to ideological doctrine cannot be another ideological doctrine, for that would be ideological rivalry without meaning rather than engagement in debate for the sake of truth. It would be other than the dignified quest, as, to use Voegelin’s essay-title, “In Search of the Ground.”
What the organized Right-leaning opposition to the Party of Destruction does is, finally, more important than what it calls itself even though words have meanings and usages signify something. I am encouraged, slightly, by the way in which spontaneous demonstrations of popular ire against overweening big-government schemes – like “bailouts” and socialized medical insurance – have surprised and actually checked the dictatorial bullying of the Obama regime. When an amateur journalist-reporter, FOX News Channel’s Glenn Beck, publicized the curriculum vitae and words of Obama adviser Van Jones, a nutty Marxist-racialist, it led to the first departure-under-outside-pressure of an Obama appointee. It is a sign of the times that actual investigative reporting is now done by someone like Beck, who previously was little other than a radio-comedian whose main shtick consisted in making prank telephone calls to predictably dimwitted people in a recurring feature called “Jeopretardy.”
Far from being offended, currently one of the most offensive words in the political jargon, by the silently mouthed “That is not true” – uttered by Supreme Court Justice Alito when President Obama gratuitously insulted the court during his State of the Union Address – I take heart in it because Obama’s disrespect was rooted in a falsehood and Robert’s quiet but visible contradiction was rooted in truth. There should be a good deal more clear articulation of the fact that the deconstructors of society have doctrines, false doctrines galore, and that we, by contrast, have an interest in truth, to the objectivity of which we remain open.
Cultic doctrines kill freedom; they demand its immolation in the sacrificial flames of their causes. Truth and free will – truth and freedom – by contrast require and nourish one another. We must vigorously remind our friends and neighbors of these facts.
Here we now see, with startling clarity, how little our established political distinctions between left and right, conservative and radical, revolutionary and reactionary, matter nowadays. Rather, any remaking of political distinctions will have to ask, first, whether there is in fact a discipline of inwardness, a mobilization for fresh renunciations of instinct; or whether there is only the discipline of outwardness, a mobilizing for fresh satisfactions of instinct. Such a distinction will divide contemporary men and movements more accurately; then we shall find fashionable liberals and fascists on the same side, where they really belong.And then he quotes Hans Urs von Balthasar:
The road to authenticity demands the renunciation of immediacy -- that is, it demands ascesis. No great life can reach maturity without ‘great sacrifice’.And finally, if you are not yet clear on what is being attacked in this post, and you want a concrete example, take a look at Barry Rubin's latest on the "education" his son is receiving:
The teacher told the fourth grade class in the midst of the greatest snow storm in Washington DC history: "Just because it's snowing doesn't mean that there isn't global warming. All scientists agree that there's global warming."Indeed, there is nothing "liberal" about modern liberalism; so perhaps we should question those who would take up the mantle of conservatism.
My son raised his hand and said: "That's impossible. Not all scientists agree."
"Ok," said the teacher, "I meant to say that the majority of scientists agree."
Is there man-made global warming? I have no idea whatsoever, lacking the expertise to make such a judgment. But I do know this isn't the way to teach kids about the scientific method. Rather, it is the way to train them always to yield to peer pressure, that dreaded syndrome supposed to lead young people to drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Or, as summed up comically by the character Yossarian in Catch-22, "Just because everyone thinks that way how could I think anything different?"
Indeed, the teacher didn't have to say anything at all, since no child had claimed the heavy snowfall was proof that there was no global warming. They had already spent around three full sessions pounding home the idea that there wasn't any question that global warming is a huge problem on which trillions of dollars must be spent. Presumably, the class was convinced already.
Rather, the attitude evined is that they must be made to believe in this and even the possibility of any doubt existing had to be squelched. And to ensure this the teacher told a lie, which was only retracted because there was one student there who had the knowledge and courage to question it.
This kind of "everyone agrees" argument is the stuff of indoctrination, not learning. The teacher could have spoken about how data is collected, experiments are made, hypotheses are questioned, and out of that debate--if it goes on long enough and all the facts line up--comes a consensus truth which is itself subject to further testing and constant examination.
But that isn't how most schools teach today. Rather they say--in an approach sounding like the worst "progressive" stereotype of a traditional "America is always right" old school system--This is the truth. Everyone says so. Shut up and believe it.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Somehow, I think what follows is also relevant to understanding our offendedness in an age without much of a sacralized social order, i.e. an age of relatively free job, residential, and status markets where people fear no one knows his place, or where ordinary human respect for (un)acknowledged differences is lacking. And so instead of the formal offensiveness of past eras where signs of disrespect of rank and status were clear, along with the penalties for such offenses, we witness a not uncommon unwillingness to live in freedom, and hence a confused, hysterical offendedness, sign of an age that is perhaps clamoring for some way back to some kind of resacralized order (via Diana West):
As Paul Belien writes, in response to the monetary crisis racking Europe, and to Obama's snub of the latest EUtopia leaders' festival:
Messrs. Van Rompuy, Barroso and Zapatero all want to be the first to shake Mr. Obama’s hand and receive the deep bow which the American President is in the habit of making to foreign leaders. Because of the embarrassing intra-European squabble about who should have the honor, Obama has declined the invitation until the Europeans have figured out which of them is the most important.In an age of "multiculti" bureaucratic empires, one is ultimately offended by a lack of self-rule, even if one no longer wants the responsibilities and hardships of self-rule and just wishes a safe sinecure and pension be granted from on high, as befits one's offended status. Alas, I fear most will continue to be offended by imperial reality.
Obama’s decision has come as an unexpected blow to the European leadership. It has upset them so much that they are considering postponing the summit to the autumn. Meanwhile, they have begun quarreling about who is to blame for the present debacle. The Europeans generally agree that the vainglorious Zapatero is mostly to blame, but others are damaged more. “The Spanish have made a mess of the summit but Van Rompuy and the post-Lisbon EU institutions will carry the can in the long term. The squabbling has damaged the EU in the eyes of the most powerful nation in the world,” a senior EU official said.
Although Obama’s snub hurts Europe’s pride, the euro’s monetary problems are far more serious. They not only affect Europe’s finances and economy, but may also tear down the political EU framework. When the European Commission placed Athens under EU supervision last week, Greece was almost bankrupt. Brussels has forced the Greek government to present a plan to drastically reduce its budget deficit from 13% to 3% by the end of 2012. The plan will cost the Greeks blood, sweat and tears. It includes a freeze on civil service wages and the postponement of the retirement age. Brussels has invoked new EU powers under Article 121 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allow it to reshape the structure of Greece’s pensions, healthcare, labor market and private commerce.
“The envisaged correction of the deficit is feasible but subject to risks,” says EU Commission President Barroso – an understatement. The Commission fears a backlash from the Greek unions, who might organize strikes and bring down the Greek government. Trade unions in other countries are nervous, too. They warn that it is unacceptable that the European Commission intervenes in setting national wages.
The EU’s Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia declared that the Greek targets will be enforced strongly and that, if necessary, even more draconian measures will be taken. “Every time we see or perceive slippages, we will ask for additional measures to correct these slippages. Never before have we established so detailed and tough a system of surveillance,” Almunia said. He has demanded quarterly updates on progress towards reduction targets, as well as a first report on 16 March. “This is the first time,” he said, “we have established such an intense and quasi-permanent system of monitoring.”
As Belien has been writing, we will soon have the chance to learn whether it is possible to bind people politically by first binding them to a common monetary policy. The EU project aims to force further political integration by first making the member nations conform to the demands of a common currency and monetary policy whose pricing of currency/debt serves some nations and regions better than others. But where there is not the common political will, can a common currency and policy detached from national self-rule succeed? There is some reason to doubt it. Anthropologically, the political unit, and not the economic one, comes first: a political binding must be prior to any reasonably peaceful economic distribution; the latter depends for its ethical license on the former. But this is not to forget that maybe the Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. have largely given up on the values of national self-rule and will be dragged, with only a little kicking and screaming, into a new imperial political order by their EU "brothers and sisters". The little ones' acceptance of harsh economic terms will be the sign of their political surrender to Brussels. And that will offend me. Tough!
Monday, February 08, 2010
As Gil Bailie notes a propos of the Geert Wilders trial (now postponed for several months, as the court perhaps waits to see if Wilders might not be assasinated first) and free speech:
As René Girard argues, the real struggle in our world is not between violence and peace; it is between violence and truth. All attempts to avoid the former by silencing the latter will end in catastrophe.
I'm trying to decide whether it's worth juxtaposing something I just came across, the reaction to some "Jewish"/Anarchist violence in Russia/Ukraine in 1879:
Grigorrii Goldenberg, the assassin of Governor-General Kropotkin, was not so fortunate. He was transporting back some of the dynamite from Odessa, having learned of its location during another chance meeting with Kibalchich, when he raised the attention of some railroad porters who reported him to the police. They were waiting for him at Elisavetgrad Station down the line. He tried to run but was surrounded. He pulled out his pistol, cocked it and threatened to shoot, but numerous men from a crowd of waiting passengers jumped him and disarmed him. The policemen actually had to rescue him from a beating at the hands of the crowd when someone labeled him a "terrorist." They confiscated from him his suitcase, finding in it a pood (36 pounds) of dynamite.Now that's how you deal with terrorists. But when it comes to those who terrorize Jews, the world seems to have forgotten. Those who would try to appease the Islamic mob will reap the whirlwind.
Arnn is no doubt right in attacking the nihilism prevalent in today's academy. But is a return to Platonic conceptions of truth - the kind of truth that is constructed through free debate over the meaning of abstract metaphysical concepts (e.g. the good, the beautiful, the true) - possible after postmodernism has deconstructed such meanings or concepts in order to argue that metaphysical "truths" are merely the projections of social power, of the elitist debate and its will to power?
I think Arnn eventually deconstructs his own argument in his concluding thoughts where he hails the American Constitution - a document that owes as much if not more to the Judeo-Christian revelation as to the Greco-Roman - not so much for some metaphysical or philosophical truth inherent in it - the kind of truth that could be stated as some eternally true principle - but more simply for its recognition of the nature of human (covenantal) freedom and for its setting up of rules by which the various branches of government can interact in order to allow our multi-dimensional human freedom to interact, to discover and rule itself.
Arnn argues in response to a question (at 47.30):
The purpose of a college is not diversity, it's truth.... the words university and diversity don't work together, it's stupid... how do you get to the truth... we believe the Constitution of the US is the greatest instrument of government ever written... progressivism is a terrible and dangerous thingIt's a good polemic, but how could we know it's good (or bad, if you must)? We know it if we've had the considered experience that can make sense of what no amount of abstract spinning of concepts like "unity" and "diversity" to young people alone will allow any youngster to appreciate, the kind of experience that allows us to intuit the fundamental unity from which all human diversity has evolved.
The problem with the postmodern deconstruction of abstract philosophical truths is that the deconstructors must forget what the Platonic philosopher kings must also forget - the originary revelatory experiences by which our intuitions of an ultimate human truth were first grasped. It is true that that originary experience cannot be articulated by any one person as a complete and all-satisfying vision of the truth. The mere fact that he is saying it, and not us, is alone enough, in our eyes, for it to fail the inevitable test of truth, since truth is always tested by the faculties of human resentment (a resentment that stems form the fact that he has a different role in the revelatory event than the rest of us).
But what we should not deny is the shared experience of the event by which we have to choose whether to love or resent the event's leader(s) and what s/he offers us. We may disagree with his/her philsophical account of the event, but we can only do so as we share in some experience of the revelatory event itself. It is a commonplace to point out that the postmodern assertion that there is no truth is itself an assertion of truth. Indeed, we cannot escape from the ultimate truth that human beings cannot but direct themselves towards some conception of the "true" and "good". Even the nihilist cannot be a complete nihilist for he has to defend his nihilism as true. Even the Satanist has to convince himself that the Satanic is a higher truth. Even the Gnostic has to convince himself that he is more "progressive" in the face of inevitable change.
And why is that? Ultimately, no strictly Platonic debate is going to provide a satisfactory answer to today's young people made cynical by any claim on authority. I believe only a (generative) anthropological debate focussed on the nature of our experience of shared events can take us further into understanding why man cannot but attempt to justify himself before some "higher" presence, the presence that centres any shared scene of human consciousness. Yes, we do indeed "construct" our truths, each in his way; but these constructions are not some arbitrary will to power, some conspiracy of the elite or of the mob. They are the unpredictable, uncontrollable outcome of human interaction in specific, very real, events.
And the event cannot be controlled by any powerful will, if it is to be significant to more than the lone fantasist. It is the shared event, its truth in unpredictable shared experience, that is variously represented in never-ending debates over truth and significance. We cannot deny truth because we cannot deny the centrality of the shared event/scene of consciousness, even though the nature of a concrete event is not such as to guarantee the sufficiency of abstract philosophical accounts of the truth. And that, ultimately, is why constitutionalism is something worthy of protection and fertilization: constitutionalism, with its origin in the divine covenant of monotheism, is the means by which we maximize our production and representation of the significant events by which we come, individually and as a whole, to know and to rule ourselves.
There is a truth, a truth much more profound than anyone's will to power, but no single account can exhaust or complete our knowledge of it. The "progressive" might say as much, but in his attacks on the Constitution as a mere tool of elite power he betrays his bad faith, which he hopes to cover up by promising us some new and improved Constitution. He is at heart a conspiracy nut, however "nuanced" his accounting of the conspiracy. Easy for me to say... but how do you know his account of the possibilities of human freedom under some new and improved constitution freed from the present elitist conspiracy is in fact less free than my accounting of covenantal freedom? You will know by your experiences of events, by looking at those who would turn means to the service of "progressive" ends, and by looking at those who say our means are our "ends". You will know by your experience of those who rely largely on scapegoating the present regime in order to assert their own alternative legitimacy, and by looking at those who rely on pointing to their own and everyone's fallibilities as reason for a better division or distribution of authority.
Change is inevitable; but does that give anyone a license to try and control it in the mere name of "democracy", "the people", "we won"? Or does it give license only to a truly constitutional, shared, divided, freedom?
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
January 31, 2010I think such cowardly forms of "political" protest, which amount to an attack on an entire nation and all its people and athletes regardless of their politics - as if they have no right to exist - requires a response. So I say to fellow Vancouverites, if you can find an Israeli flag to wear, do so for the next few weeks. Here's what I have; say hi if you see me on the streets:
(JTA) -- Two Israeli flags that were part of an Olympic display in Vancouver were removed after being defaced.
The Israeli flags were covered in paint with the words "Free Palestine" written on them, the Vancouver Sun reported Sunday. They were removed last month.
The display on the streets of the city features 450 international flags from 80 countries.
Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 12. Israel is sending three athletes.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
What is one to make of this but that it shows an obvious desire on the part of the judges to keep things as quiet and short as possible. Once again we see that the "liberal" elites ruling the West simply cannot both defend their dogmatic positions on multiculturalism and "hate speech" without trying to shut up people who point out some of the deep problems with their ideology. And no problem is greater than the question of whether Islam, as it exists today in Europe, is compatible with European liberal democracy.
Diana West notes that it is not just the Dutch judges who don't want to hear too much about Islam, it is also the global media. One might have thought that when the government of a Western state puts on trial the Parliamentary leader of the party currently highest in the polls, this would be big news to those who supposedly pride themselves in chronicling and commenting on the ways of liberal democracy. Apparently not:
If anyone is puzzled as to why there is so little MSM coverage of this trial that is in the shameful and historic tradition of the trial of Galileo, the reason is unspoken, possibly unconscious media cowardice and embarassment: cowardice driven by the chilling effect of the experience of Kurt Westergaard and other critics of Islam under permanent death threat; and embarassment driven by intense discomfort with frank discussion of the gross incompatibility of basic Islamic beliefs with Western society.This reminded me of Paul Berman's conclusion to his celebrated 2007 New Republic essay on Tariq Ramadan:
In other words, this code of silence is the code of dhimmitude.
The [Salman] Rushdies of today find themselves under criticism, compared unfavorably in the press with the Islamist philosopher [Tariq Ramadan] who writes prefaces for the collected fatwas of Sheik al-Qaradawi, the theologian of the human bomb. Today the menace to society is declared to be Hirsi Ali and people of similar minds, of whom there are quite a few: John Stuart Mill's Muslim admirers, who are said to be just as fanatical as the fanatics. During the Rushdie affair, courage was saluted. Today it is likened to fascism [by the lefist establishment].
How did this happen? The equanimity on the part of some well-known intellectuals and journalists in the face of Islamist death threats so numerous as to constitute a campaign; the equanimity in regard to stoning women to death; the journalistic inability even to acknowledge that women's rights have been at stake in the debates over Islamism; the inability to recall the problems faced by Muslim women in European hospitals; the inability to acknowledge how large has been the role of a revived anti-Semitism; the striking number of errors of understanding and even of fact that have entered into the journalistic presentations of Tariq Ramadan and his ideas; the refusal to discuss with any frankness the role of Ramadan's family over the years; the accidental endorsement in the Guardian of the great-uncle who finds something admirable in the September 11 attacks--what can possibly account for this string of bumbles, timidities, gaffes, omissions, miscomprehensions, and slanders?
Two developments account for it. The first development is the unimaginable rise of Islamism since the time of the Rushdie fatwa. The second is terrorism.
As for Geert Wilders, he apparently is not amused to be tried by judges who apparently suffer in fear of what they might hear and have to judge. Gates of Vienna reports Wilders' comments:
“This court is apparently not interested in the truth. I cannot conclude anything but that the court does not award me a fair trial,” Geert Wilders said after the court in Amsterdam rejected fifteen of the eighteen witnesses chosen by him.The time is come when we all have to decide whether to shut up or face down our fear of the left-terrorist alliance.
“I have no respect for this,” Wilders added. He pointed out that in a typical criminal case there are often dozens of witnesses heard. He believes that his case, which he calls a matter of great principle, would also deserve that. Otherwise he cannot prove that he has spoken the truth with the statements that led to his prosecution.
As usual, Walker provides a great roundup of Geert Wilders news.