Can’t You Just Make The Trains Run On Time?

Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The Soviet Way

‘Increasingly in our daily lives we find ourselves in analogous situations, especially if we have the misfortune to work for bureaucracies, whether governmental, quasi-governmental, supposedly independent, or commercial. We must not only keep silent about propositions that we find not only false but ridiculous, but assent to them, to show willingness and demonstrate that we are (to use a vile modern locution, redolent of a tyranny exercised over us) on message. The message must never be of our own devising, or indeed attributable to anyone in particular. It must be absurd and unassailable at the same time.’

Wit, irony, satire, skepticism and independence of mind can be problematic: Many activists have doctrinal interests, motivating and organizing political ideals within which solidarity, identity, friendship and life’s purpose can be found.  Like all forms of belief (gathered around the doctrines), most people aren’t satisfied most of the time, so seeking influence within political institutions, universities, and various other cultural pulpits are required to bring about the ideal world to come.

‘Conversations’ must be had to spread the gospels of social justice, equality, and ideal, harmonious societies.  Protests must express the will of ‘the People’. The poorest, most wretched, most unjustly treated victims (genuine and less genuine) must be held up as proof of systemic injustice and championed as allies in the fight against oppression.

If you, dear reader, can’t be made to properly understand the truth and knowledge the activist offers; the profound suffering and injustice of the world of which you are a part (and which can be made whole through activism), you will continue as the heathen you are: Unjust, falsely conscious, selfish, polluting, and privileged (racist, sexist, classist etc.)

From Rolling Stone a while back, on Mayor Bill de Blasio of NYC, who was recently re-elected:

‘After attending graduate school at Columbia University, where he studied Latin American politics, de Blasio took a job as a political organizer at the Quixote Center, a social-justice organization rooted in radical Catholic liberation theology, and later engaged in protests designed to raise awareness about U.S. foreign policy. “I’m a big believer in street theater,” he says.’

Ah, well.

 

From a Thomas Sowell piece, the Legacy Of Eric Hoffer:

‘Hoffer said: “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: “A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding,” Hoffer said. “When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”

What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause — the “true believer,” who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.’

 

 

The Categorical Imperative And Some Links On Saudi Arabia and Iran

Via Edward Feser via BBC Radio 4–Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason…

Kantian metaphysics can lead to problems in the public square, or at least something of an aesthetic retreat, by individuals, from the public square.  Part of the Anglo-talent for governance has roots in the Humean empiricism Kant was to synthesize within his own platform, and I’d argue this empiricism is culturally much deeper within the Anglo-sphere.  There is often more deference to the uniqueness of each of our experiences and the uniqueness each that case can bring within common-law jurisprudence.

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Inside every Iranian is a Western peace activist waiting to get out…Via Mick Hartley via The National-Iran’s long-cherished Tehran to Beirut land-bridge moves closer to reality.

From Intelligence Squared: Two people on either side debating whether ‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Is A Failure‘ (some rather unsurprising anti-Trump sentiment is expressed by the panelists at the outset, to some applause by the audience in NYC).

What just happened in Saudi Arabia?  Adam Garfinkle: ‘The 1002nd Arabian Night?

‘Contrary to what the vast majority of Americans seem to think, Saudi Arabia is not a traditional Muslim country. Saudi Arabia is an attenuated neo-fundamentalist country from having been taken over, by force of arms in the early 20th century, by a “revitalization movement”—to use Anthony F.C. Wallace’s classic 1956 description of the type. The Wahhabi movement’

and:

The Trump Administration, just possibly, had one sensible idea in foreign policy: stop playing footsie with the Iranians and organize the Sunnis to confront the real threat—creeping Iranian imperial recidivism—and to whack ISIS at the same time. But having a decent idea and knowing how to make it happen are two different things. The Saudis did not whack ISIS; if any locals did, it was the Kurds, and look where their efforts have got them.

And more broadly: It’s quite possible to bring the problems of other parts of the world into your own neighborhood along with the people you are bringing in.  This can, and and unfortunately, sometimes does, include the worst elements.

Right now, service members and special forces are acting in your name as a U.S. citizen abroad, and local and federal law enforcement officials here at home, and there are many good reasons why.

When we focus on these harsh truths and bear some of the burden they carry, the conversations about freedom and responsibility tend to go better.

Wahhabism in the Balkans?:

With whom can we do business against these worst elements?

and

Previously on this site: Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

Two Poems Leading You Towards Your Inevitable Death-Take Solace In November!

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare

—-

A Postcard From The Volcano

Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;

And that in autumn, when the grapes
Made sharp air sharper by their smell
These had a being, breathing frost;

And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt

At what we saw. The spring clouds blow
Above the shuttered mansion-house,
Beyond our gate and the windy sky

Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion’s look
And what we said of it became

A part of what it is . . . Children,
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,

Will say of the mansion that it seems
As if he that lived there left behind
A spirit storming in blank walls,

A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.

Wallace Stevens

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

Thanks: Includes anecdotes involving Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and logical positivism, John Maynard Keynes, and a funny one with Winston Churchill; talk about being near the center of 20th-century intellectual life…

On this site, see: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Berlin puts forth a liberal political philosophy and value pluralism which hones in on one of the greatest dangers to liberty:  Thinking that there is fact one rational plan and end to human affairs, of which some men have knowledge and towards which all men should be directed:

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

Spectacles, Donald Trump And Rifts On The Right

For some, Trump operates as a clever and ambitious used-car salesman, with some victories under his belt, but a used-car salesman nonetheless. He will ultimately be unable to deliver on many of his promises without making too many short-term gains at the expense of long-term freedoms, principle, character and knowledge.  Such a man has been summoned by the times, and may not be the worst we see yet.

To other conservative-minded folks, he may be a cruder, politically personalizing populist, yes, but he stands-up for their economic and personal interests, making all the right people uncomfortable in all the right ways by openly waving the flag and focusing on national sovereignty and economic growth (identity politickers, one-worlders, progressives, the media, political and Hollywood elites, liberal political idealists as well as many establishment Republicans and RINO’s are properly either driven into irrational frenzy or made irrelevant).

Jonah Goldberg defends his vision of conservatism as a vocal anti-Trumper here (I suspect it is somewhat personal), towards the end of his podcast ‘The Remnant.’  In it, he explains why he resists the incomplete, and what he sees as incorrect, ‘neo-conservative‘ label (for him neo-conservatives bring the terminology, analysis and methods of the social sciences into conservatism while using them against Communist, Socialist, Marxist and other collectivist, rationalist enterprises).

He envisions paleo-cons as part of a more recent movement, pro-Trumpers as potentially misguided, and his platform of freer-market, more Hayekian conservatism as just as well-established and valid, or perhaps more valid than other competing visions.

It’s true that although no one individual nor faction likely possesses all of the truth, most individuals and factions believe they do, especially under the pressures of politics, opinion and influence.  Political coalitions can bring such disparate groups together for awhile.

One major rift seems to be this:

Free Trade vs Economic Nationalism

If you’re for open markets and free-trade, you likely don’t see too much long-term viability in trade-protectionism (union Left nor protectionist Right), because the forces at work are as relentless as they are transformative. There is little choice but to ride the waves of innovation, global competition and mobile labor, as the goal is to keep creating win-win scenarios, and keep building newer, better opportunities which engage people at their core talents and ambitions.

It is inefficient, backwards-thinking, and even perhaps politically dangerous, to react to the same waves by paying some people to keep rearranging the chairs inefficiently and creating incentives to use our political system for their personal and factional gains.  The open-market approach doesn’t tend to make for ‘compassionate’ politics when people are hurting (deeply), but its best case seems to be that it can make for a politics of moral decency and local involvement by embracing this role, engaging a lot of who we are as people, not just what we do in the marketplace.

On the other hand, economic nationalism can also be a unifying force; a large island of possible agreement and common interest in a rapidly changing political and economic American landscape.  This is much of what Donald Trump responded to in speech after speech as he toured the country (he also appealed to simply not being Hillary, attacking his opponent as he was attacked).  The demographics are changing, and The Civil Rights movement, along with the extension of Civil Rights logic to more and more minority groups and individuals has continued apace, leading to much social transformation.

Freedoms have been extended to even those once legally denied such freedoms, and some people are finding themselves with different views, and different understanding of relationships they once held, even with their neighbors.  I think it’s also true to say that many people driving these changes are also having to answer for some consequences of their ideals and behavior in action.  Many radicals seek to change laws they call illegitimate, just as they often seek to control the institutions and lawmaking process they consider illegitimate, just as they seek to make their own laws based on universal claims, to rectify past injustices, and often not recognize opponents as anything but illegitimate (or evil). There is a lot of dependence, decadence, resentment and lack of freedom among many activists and radicals claiming freedom for all, despite the truths they have to tell.

How does economic nationalism fit it?  I think Trump’s focus on jobs and border walls does, in fact, call some people from allegiance to their individual ‘class,’ ‘race’ and ‘gender’ categories to different purpose (away from identity politics and towards getting a job and serving the country).  But I don’t think the appeal is that broad.

Economic nationalism also crystallizes a return to a promised pre-existing order, and I think it’s fair to say it certainly does give voice to people being tired of called rubes, racists and misogynists.

———–

Whatever your political stripes, then, I know I’m seeing a profound mistrust of most established institutions, authority and claims to authority right now.  The extremes have often come to the middle, and the middle seems harder to find.

***As for the Democratic party, there is just as big a rift of populist, activist, and socially democratic progressivism within the base against older, establishment hawkish and more economically conservative establishmentarianism.  The center seems sufficiently Left enough to have trouble winning working people back (though I could be wrong).

Here’s Trump giving a campaign speech in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania in October 2016 which has traditionally been a coal town, and is now trying to attract more and newer industries (Pennsylvania has traditionally been..traditional, with hard-work, patriotism and public service being profoundly important to most).

A lot of people went for Trump:

 

Saturday Poem-William Carlos Williams

Design for November

Let confusion be the design
and all my thoughts go,
swallowed by desire: recess
from promises in
the November of your arms.
Release from the rose: broken
reeds, strawpale,
through which, from easy
branches that mock the blood
a few leaves fall. There
the mind is cradled,
stripped also and returned
to the ground, a trivial
and momentary clatter. Sleep
and be brought down, and so
condone the world, eased of
the jagged sky and all
its petty imageries, flying
birds, its fogs and windy
phalanxes . . .

–William Carlos Williams