June 2007 Archives
June 2, 2007
I'd like to beg the indulgence of the reader for a few moments. I'd like to request that you, gentle reader, imagine a fine little parish church, Catholic or Orthodox, with a vibrant and devout community of parishoners who have sacrificed appreciably for that church as an expression of their fidelity to Christ, one another, and their Faith. Imagine, further, that because of their sacrificial devotion, their church and parish hall are not merely exemplary as ecclesiastical facilities, but immaculately maintained - and situated in a geographically desirable location.
June 3, 2007
America's Strategy of Openness
Professor Bacevich, to whom I referred in a recent entry, is the author of a fine volume detailing the continuities of American foreign policy over the course of the past century. That strategy of openness has been structured around the imperatives of economic growth and expansion, on the assumption that the construction of an integrated global order will ensure not only the economic preeminence of the United States, but her geopolitical preeminence. Thoughtful minds will grasp the element of presumption, even hubris, in this; but the strategy has assumed greater importance in recent decades as American culture has been attenuated by the aftershocks of the cultural revolutions of the Sixties, mass immigration, and what Daniel Bell once termed the cultural contradictions of capitalism. Professor Bacevich explains:
Jeff makes an important observation before he gives the citation from the always insightful Prof. Bacevich. Jeff writes:
That strategy of openness has been structured around the imperatives of economic growth and expansion, on the assumption that the construction of an integrated global order will ensure not only the economic preeminence of the United States, but her geopolitical preeminence.
It is interesting that Jeff should bring up this discussion of a "strategy of openness," since Fareed Zakaria has come out this week with an affirmation of key elements of that strategy as the appropriate post-Bush strategy for the United States. In other words, the policy establishment will continue business as usual, minus the glaring incompetence of management. This has the feel, as all paeans to "open society" have, of whistling past the graveyard.
The Consolations of Nihilism
I'd thought I was done with him for the present, but I'm afraid I must resurrect the spirit of Samuel Johnson one more time. It is not the consequence of an obsession, but an obligation imposed by coincidence. He has been the victim of an insult and needs defending. I'm here to return the vituperation in kind, to heap calumny, shall we say, on the calumniators. It's dirty work, but somebody's got to do it. To make a short story long, here's how it happened.
June 4, 2007
Nietzsche and Conservatism
Red State editor and blogger Pejman Yousefzadeh is currently on board at Right Reason as a guest-blogger, contributing a series of pieces sketching the lineaments of a rapproachment between conservatism and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche's philosophy, long tarred by association with the horrors of German National Socialism, and rejected by most conservatives on account of its advocacy of militant irreligion and its status as a resource for postmodernists and nihilists, such as this fool, may, he argues, contain rich potentialities for conservative thought.
An Evocation of the Age - What Have We Become, Part II
In an earlier thread, in which I sought to challenge some of the presumptions and delusions of the economistic modes of analysis that too often shape public policy, a reader commented that mass immigration is the greatest issue confronting the Western world today. It is incontrovertible that immigration is one of the most salient of all the momentous questions that confront us; whether we are considering the disruption of the social fabric, the alteration of the economic patterns and relationships that prevail in our country, the devolution of our political culture, or the immigration-driven presence among us of devotees of the jihad, immigration is implicated in all of these developments. But it seems to me somewhat precipitous to pronounce that immigration is foremost among these issues, in the sense that doing so might be placing proverbial carts before proverbial horses. Rather, or so it seems to me upon reflection, immigration is an element - a critical and integral element, nonetheless - of a broader historical tendency, a tendency often presented to us under the aspects of inevitability and progress. We might even look through the historicism with which we are often confronted, seeing in it merely the masquerade of a doctrine of fate, of the totality to which all of the particulars of our societies are to be sacrificed.
“Hurrah for Texas!”
“We are driving them, sir!” [Union General Winfield S.] Hancock called proudly to the staff man. “Tell General Meade we are driving them beautifully.”
Lee was there in the clearing, doing all he could to stiffen what little was left of Hill’s resistance, and so had Longstreet himself been there, momentarily at least, when the blue assault was launched. He came riding up just before sunrise, a mile or two in advance of his column, the head of which had reached Parker’s Store by then, and Hill’s chief of staff crossed the Tapp farmyard to welcome him as he turned off the road. “Ah, General, we have been looking for you since 12 o’clock last night. We expect to be attacked at any moment, and are not in any shape to resist.” Unaccustomed to being reproached by unstrung colonels, however valid their anxiety, Old Peter looked sternly down at him. “My troops are not up,” he said. “I’ve ridden ahead —” At this point the sudden clatter of Hancock’s attack erupted out in the brush, and Longstreet, without waiting to learn more of what had happened, whirled his horse and galloped back to hurry his two divisions forward. So Lee at least knew that the First Corps would soon be up. His problem, after sending his adjutant to order the wagon train prepared for withdrawal, was to hang on till these reinforcements got there, probably within the hour, to shore up Hill’s fast-crumbling line. Presently, though, this began to look like more than he could manage; Wilcox and Heth, overlapped on both flanks, gave ground rapidly before a solid mass of attackers, and skulkers began to drift rearward across the clearing, singly and in groups, some of them turning to fire from time to time to their pursuers, while others seemed only intent on escape. Their number increased, until finally Lee saw a whole brigade in full retreat. Moreover, this was not just any brigade; it was Brigadier General Samuel McGowan’s brigade of South Carolinians, Wilcox’s best and one of the finest in the army.
June 5, 2007
Why I Read Nietzsche
The suggestion that conservatives, and even religious conservatives, might find something of value in the writings of that prophet of the death of God, Nietzsche, seems to have been poorly received. It may not be possible to help this, but it might be of some value to explain why one conservative, even reactionary, soul found some berries amidst the briers of Nietzsche.
If I had to offer a one-sentence explanation of why I ever bothered to read Nietzsche, it would be the following: I read Nietzsche because I was raised as a low-church evangelical Protestant.
June 6, 2007
Instrumental Reason and Leisure
Andrei Navrozov, European editor of Chronicles, and a literary stylist of occasionally daunting, yet always exquisitely aesthetic prose, has a new essay up at Taki's entitled The Right to Shirk. I would commit a grave injustice were I to attempt a summarization of one of Navrozov's pieces, so perhaps the following excerpt should suffice as an appetizer:
The Content of Our (Leaders') Character (and Portfolios)
One of the defining characteristics of the age is the slow, seemingly inexorable extrusion of elites and establishments from the societies they purportedly represent and 'serve' - if so quaint and republican a term can even be applied to their work in office. While it is fashionable among conservatives to ridicule John Edward's declarations that we are becoming two Americas, and while Edward's understanding of the emerging divisions among us is surely simplistic, conservatives are mistaken to make such quick resort to mockery and scorn. Disdain may be a sign of unassailable loftiness, of a position that cannot be challenged; it can also be a sign of exhaustion and intellectual torpor, a failure to see beyond the poverty of an expression to the reality to which, however inadequately, it points.
Patriotisms: true and false
The following constitutes a collaborative work of WWwtW Contributors Paul J Cella and Jeff Martin. It makes no claim of dogmatic finality, but rather comprises an early entry into what we believe should be a carefully examined field of inquiry.
American public life wants for a serious examination of Patriotism. The irony is that patriotism is one of those elusive human things, which not only resist rigorous examination, but also diminish in the face of it. That is, patriotism in its true sense has some difficulty yielding a precise dialectical account of itself, and may be enervated by the attempt to force such an accounting. To drag something like patriotism before the bar of strict rationalism, even that High Rationalism which submits — as much of today’s rationalism does not — to the authority of truth, is to run the risk of enfeebling it. In short, patriotism does not suffer well the ministrations of the dialectician.
In our judgment, however, the pressing need in this case outweighs this potential cost. For nothing is more certain than that many of the ideas on patriotism in circulation today are grave and debilitating errors.
June 7, 2007
The Sublime and the Ridiculous
Recommended reading A) for profit and B) for very lowbrow fun. First, for profit:
Dante's Divine Comedy, John D. Sinclair's translation. I've just completed the last canto of the Paradiso in this edition and was confirmed in the estimate I formed more than twelve years ago that it is a very readable, helpful edition and to be highly recommended for the student new to the Comedia, as I was then and still am.
June 9, 2007
U.S. Sharia Watch II--Muslim ceremonial foot basins at U. of M.
This time I put the entry up first at Right Reason. We'll see what our commentators there make of it. This stuff is getting close to home!
June 11, 2007
What Does It For You?
Back on May 9, Michael of the 2 Blowhards kindly linked to this site. I happened to notice that his post from the previous day was entitled "Chesterton's Orthodoxy", about his experience of reading that wonderful book. Mr. Blowhard is not a Christian, so the review seemed far more generous, and even insightful in places, than I would have expected. If he also got some things wrong, that's not my concern here. What interested me was his claim that he delves into Judeo-Christian stuff every so often, not out of a desire to be convinced of its truth, but out of sheer curiosity.
June 12, 2007
Living in the past.
Cobbett was not merely a wrong-headed fellow with a knack of saying the right word about the wrong thing. Cobbett was not merely an angry and antiquated old farmer who thought the country must be going to the dogs because the whole world was not given up to the cows. Cobbett was not merely a man with a lot of nonsensical notions that could be exploded by political economy; a man looking to turn England into an Eden that should grow nothing but Cobbett's Corn. What he saw was not an Eden that cannot exist but rather an Inferno that can exist, and even that does exist. What he saw was the perishing of the whole English power of self-support, the growth of cities that drain and dry up the countryside, the growth of dense dependent populations incapable of finding their own food, the toppling triumph of machines over men, the sprawling omnipotence of financiers over patriots, the herding of humanity in nomadic masses whose very homes are homeless, the terrible necessity of peace and the terrible probability of war, all the loading up of our little island like a sinking ship; the wealth that may mean famine and the culture that may mean despair; the bread of Midas and the sword of Damocles. In a word, he saw what we see, but he saw it when it was not there. And some cannot see it — even when it is there.
June 13, 2007
Affirmative Action for Immigrants?
Ward Connerly's American Civil Rights Institute has released an "open letter" pointing out that "under existing laws and policies, the majority of immigrants coming to America will automatically be eligible for race preferences and privileges not provided to the great majority of Americans" and arguing that "any legislation addressing immigration should make explicit that while immigrants and their descendants should be afforded the right to compete fairly and freely in every aspect of American life, they should receive no special benefit on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin."
June 14, 2007
So it looks as though, having first fitfully embraced the Jihad by means of democracy, Palestine will consummate this union by simple brute force. Hamas, a forthright agent of the Jihad, is swiftly conquering Gaza, dispossessing the nationalist organization Fatah; and in a kind of microcosm of Western impotence, we see Nationalism, a thing basically understood by the West, overthrown by Religion, a thing made mysterious to by our folly of forgetfulness — overthrown first by Westerns mechanisms such as elections and other democratic forms, and then by means of Western technology. We have before us, in short, Democracy and Progress.
Western impotence, my friends, is something that in my judgment amounts to simply a fact we have to confront. By that I mean merely this: the Jihad is older and deeper than most of us realized at first, and even today many influential people are still in a position of the most brassbound and reactionary denial about it. The Jihad will not soon be changed or defeated, much less broken and discredited, by any craft we here possess. We cannot introduce Permanent Revolution into the strange ferment of piety and radicalism in the Dar al-Islam: and expect to profit from the consequences of that toxic brew. We can hardly predict those consequences, much less exploit them toward a just peace.
June 17, 2007
Against Liberal Internationalism
What is genuine liberal internationalism? It is neither a naïve idealism that ignores the realities of power nor a crude realism that ignores the power of ideals. ~Michael Lind
Oh, well, that clears things up nicely. There is a little more substance to it. Lind goes on to say:
Enduring international peace is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition for liberal democracy. Why? In a world of recurring great-power conflicts or widespread anarchy, concerns about security may force even liberal democracies to sacrifice their freedoms to the imperatives of self-defense. This is what Woodrow Wilson meant when he said that the United States and its allies must make the world "safe for democracy." A world safe for democracy need not be a democratic world. It need only be a world in which democracies like the United States are not forced by recurrent world wars to turn themselves into armed camps.
Obviously, even by this lower standard that Lind sets for Wilson's foreign policy, it was nonetheless a magnificent failure, as the rest of the 20th century was to show. That will never dim the faith of the true followers in the wisdom of Woodrow's vision. Behold:
A world of many, mostly small and nonaggressive nation-states will be less dangerous than one of a few empires battling to carve up the world.
One wants to ask: less dangerous to whom? Everyone? Citizens of the great powers? Citizens of the small states? Who knows? Arguably, the age of a few great world empires was better, in terms of the prevention of armed conflict, for large swathes of Africa and Asia than the last century has been. For Europe, the disappearance of their empires has brought two generations of peace and prosperity (under the admittedly artificial conditions of the Cold War and U.S. protection). For Americans, it has been a decidedly mixed picture.
Happy Fathers' Day!
A happy Fathers' Day to the dads out there, especially...
--my husband, Tim,
--my dad, Henry W. of Chicago (who won't be able to read this, because he doesn't have a computer, but I had to mention him)
--my fellow bloggers at WWWtW who are dads, and
--Todd, our kind host.
Great fathers are part of what's right with the world. Thanks, guys!
June 18, 2007
Muslim Foot Basin Update--ACLU says, "No Problem!"
Shocka! The ACLU has expressly stated that it will not sue the University of Michigan over its installation of Muslim foot basins in public restrooms with public dollars. I note that the present talking points seem not to include what (as I posted on Right Reason) my state representative told me: that the "foot washing stations" were not going to be installed with public dollars. Perhaps that story wouldn't fly because the money is coming out of the university's general fund. The new version of the excuse is that they aren't really religious. These guys should get their spin straight.
June 22, 2007
American Religiousity - A Fragment
My own preferred explanation - which is doubtless a small part of the pantomime - is theological rather than sociological: Christianity has thrived in the United States by adapting its theology to the habits and mores of the American people, in a way that religion in Europe hasn't managed to do. America is an Emersonian country, and its religious innovators have invented an Emersonian form of Christianity - which some might suggest isn't Christianity at all, of course - that's nicely tailored to the broader culture in which it swims. Call it gnosticism, or Moral Therapeutic Deism, or just plain Americanism - it means Elaine Pagels and Karen Armstrong for highbrow audiences and T.D. Jakes and Joyce Meyer for the masses, and it works.
June 24, 2007
For this Sunday...
...something I posted long ago at another place, but which I feel compelled to re-read from time to time, and this is one of those times. I can't say why, exactly, though to the movements of the soul no 'time' should be out of season. It's called
Her Great Cost: Margaret More says goodbye
June 25, 2007
On Not Accepting the World
While we at WWWtW do not agree about everything, one thing we do agree about is the legitimacy and even the importance of being countercultural in various ways. As a home schooler, I believe that one of the most important ways of being countercultural is in quite literally not accepting some of the conditions the world places upon us.
I realize that this "not accepting the world" phrase is vague, and there's probably no way around that, but let me give you an example of what I mean:
June 28, 2007
One small victory for democracy
Well, they did it. I thought the fight was all over on Tuesday.
I'm ashamed to say that I wasn't among those shutting down the Capitol Hill switchboard in the past twenty-four hours, but my sincerest thanks to all of you who were.
That'll teach me to be a defeatist. Tours wasn't won by defeatism. Thanks, grassroots!
June 29, 2007
The First Term Of An Idaafa Cannot Have Tanween
What does this mean? First, let's consider idaafa. Idaafa is a construction that expresses the possessive relationship between two nouns in Arabic. The other day I likened it to the German genitive, and the more I learn about idaafa, the more I think that this is a very good analogy. It is a very useful way to understand this idea, at least for those who have studied German. For example, das Buch des Vaters is a genitive construction in German. Arabic will have the exact same construction with kitab-u al-waalidi. Like anything in a German genitive construction, the idaafa must take genitive case endings. Tanween, meanwhile, is the concept of doubling the last vowel in a word. To have the nominative indefinite, you double the damma, which is equivalent to our short 'u', but if you have the tanween al-fatha (this phrase is itself idaafa) you double the fatha (equivalent to a short 'a'). This has the effect of making the noun accusative, and you cannot have a random accusative floating around in a genitive construction. At least, that's what I've managed to understand so far. Now admit it--you really wanted to know that.