Many proposed Enlightenment universal truths, truths used to make moral claims, and truths often used to guide modern institutions and political movements (and a lot secular global humanism besides) come into conflict with local, religious, traditional, patriotic and national truths, a conflict which can be witnessed in much current political debate here in America.
I think Dalrymple is leveraging such a gap to highlight the downside realities of Muslim immigration to Europe:
‘When I learned of the provenance of the Manchester bomber, namely that he was the son of Libyan refugees, I asked myself a question that is now almost disallowable, even in the privacy of one’s own mind: whether any authority, in granting them asylum in Britain, asked whether it was in the national interest to do so. In all probability, the answer is no. The officials concerned probably thought only that they were applying a universal rule, or pseudo-universal rule, that in the name of humanity all political refugees (as Salman Abedi’s parents were) have an automatic right of asylum. And if they, the officials, were to be criticised, they would no doubt reply that there were a thousand, or five thousand, refugees for every suicide bomber, and that therefore the admission of Salman Abedi’s parents was a risk that had, on humanitarian grounds, to be taken.’
A student suggests (with the necessary caveat of having the proper politics) that point of entry to Shakespeare really shouldn’t be solidarity around current political ideals, especially solidarity as advocated by professors:
‘Students I spoke with after class appreciated the “relevance” of the lecture, noting how the election had revitalized the otherwise inaccessible works of Shakespeare. It’s been over 7 months since Trump was elected, yet my professors show no signs of putting their political digressions on hold. The spread of this phenomenon to subjects like Literature and English reflects a troubling trend: the growing partisanship of higher education.’
It’s hard to see how playing fast and loose with much of the humanities curriculum these past generations, while simultaneously inviting much political idealism, activism and radicalism to settle into academies won’t also invite a subsequent political response by those who don’t share in the ideals (if it’s got ‘studies’ after it…).
If you’re going to gather around political ideals, don’t be surprised when you’ve carved up the world into a series of political fiefdoms.
If it’s any consolation-I discovered similar trends occurring about twenty years ago: The vague notion there had actually been, and should be, a canon, along with much overt and covert political idealism uniting people in the academy.
But, I also found a lot to absorb, experience and hold dear.
It can be a bitter pill to swallow realizing how much shallowness, group-think and moral cowardice there is in a place dedicated to the pursuit of truth and wisdom, especially regarding radical ideologies, but that’s not all there is.
Try and leave things a little better than you found them.
Via a reader (begins at min 23:00). Some insights on Ukraine from someone with family on both sides on the ground. There are some decent insights relative to mainstream sources.
As previously mentioned, the United States, under Obama particularly, but for the last fifteen years, has removed much of its footprint from the Middle-East, Afghanistan, and now even Europe. Domestically, U.S. political leadership has calcified, becoming brittle and old, while (from my perspective) new factions of deeper, further New, New Left and New Right are forming outside of a weakened mainstream. We’ll see how bad the weakened institutions get and who comes into authority, and with what ideas (worst case is the Platonic map I’ve been using…). Public sentiment cleaves much closer to nihilism/existentialism in the postmodern soup, these days. Anarchy and libertarianism, from my point of view, are finding much wider audiences.
The ‘economics-first’ Euro-zone (primarily a German/French alliance) has been counting on old treaties and American leadership. All while buying gas and trading with the folks in charge of Russia. There also seems be the same ideological true-belief found in the gears of liberal techno-bureaucratic institutions everywhere (liberals and radical Leftists are often in conflict, even while working against their traditional/religious/conservative enemies). Keep an eye on energy policy, green-belief and inflation (what leaders do vs. what they say) as well as gas prices here at home.
As for the media these days, new technology, and the Boomers/Gen-X/Millenials management issues, I like the idea that people tend to fight more and more over less and less, and the less there appears to be. I often imagine to whom I would look if I were coming of age in such a chaotic environment. Dear Reader, I do worry about many over-promised, under-delivered youth dealing with such institutional failures and realignments. This requires me having hope in the basic soundness (body/mind/judgment/character) of younger folks I know, rather than trust in ‘systems’.
As for information, it might be better to just aim for basic online survey courses (with who knows how high an error rate) over ‘public-opinion experts’ and public education if you’re an average Joe. The two major parties and public discourse have devolved into vindictive finger-pointing.
I’d advise picking-up a book or two and find the better sources if you’re so inclined.
This is, alas, a blog in the land of Substack (and whatever’s next). You’ve been warned.
‘The truth was, as Arnold Hauser had gone to great pains to demonstrate in The Social History of Art, the intelligentsia have always had contempt for the realistic novel—a form that wallows so enthusiastically in the dirt of everyday life and the dirty secrets of class envy and that, still worse, is so easily understood and obviously relished by the mob, i.e., the middle class. In Victorian England, the intelligentsia regarded Dickens as “the author of the uneducated, undiscriminating public.” It required a chasm of time—eighty years, in fact—to separate his work from its vulgar milieu so that Dickens might be canonized in British literary circles. The intelligentsia have always preferred more refined forms of fiction, such as that longtime French intellectual favorite, the psychological novel.‘
Let’s not get too French: Theodore Dalrymple on prostitution during COVID19:
‘The spokeswoman for the Union of Sex Workers in France, Anaïs de Lenclos (a pseudonym, one wonders?), eloquently pointed out the difficulties that prostitutes, male and female, now face.
That sounds pretty French.
In fact, let’s go to Charles Baudelaire, live on the street:
Behold the sweet evening, friend of the criminal; It comes like an accomplice, stealthily; the sky Closes slowly like an immense alcove, And impatient man turns into a beast of prey. O evening, kind evening, desired by him Whose arms can say, without lying: “Today We labored!” — It is the evening that comforts Those minds that are consumed by a savage sorrow, The obstinate scholar whose head bends with fatigue And the bowed laborer who returns to his bed.
Meanwhile in the atmosphere malefic demons Awaken sluggishly, like businessmen, And take flight, bumping against porch roofs and shutters. Among the gas flames worried by the wind Prostitution catches alight in the streets; Like an ant-hill she lets her workers out; Everywhere she blazes a secret path, Like an enemy who plans a surprise attack; She moves in the heart of the city of mire Like a worm that steals from Man what he eats. Here and there one hears food sizzle in the kitchens, The theaters yell, the orchestras moan;
The gambling dens, where games of chance delight, Fill up with whores and cardsharps, their accomplices; The burglars, who know neither respite nor mercy, Are soon going to begin their work, they also, And quietly force open cash-boxes and doors To enjoy life awhile and dress their mistresses.
Meditate, O my soul, in this solemn moment, And close your ears to this uproar; It is now that the pains of the sick grow sharper! Somber Night grabs them by the throat; they reach the end Of their destinies and go to the common pit; The hospitals are filled with their sighs. — More than one Will come no more to get his fragrant soup By the fireside, in the evening, with a loved one.
However, most of them have never known The sweetness of a home, have never lived!
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
Shelby Steele weaves Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary‘ into his insights about the world, coming to realize the Black Panthers in North Africa..had problems:
How (B)lack should you become when reality intrudes, and reality doesn’t have much good to say?
Which are the rules all of us should follow when it comes to right and wrong?
‘The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a “poetic truth.” Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: “America is a racist nation”; “the immigration debate is driven by racism”; “Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon.” And we say, “Yes, of course,” lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason.’
‘There were eccentric characters in the hotel. The Paris slums are a gathering-place for eccentric people—people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent. Poverty frees them from ordinary standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work. Some of the lodgers in our hotel lived lives that were curious beyond words.’
I have my doubts all will be made well, in human affairs, by simply including the oldest profession within the latest politico-moral doctrines.
Someone tell the French ladies of the night: Technology has made it possible for people to sell the lowest and highest of things online. There might be…options. Let’s expect the same old problems, however, in new venues (a few moments of beauty, grace and kindness but mostly pimps, drug abuse, robbery, extortion etc).
There’s absolutely nothing funny about Telly Savalas playing Kojak as reported by Norm MacDonald to Jerry Seinfeld, shattering naive fictions in solving a T.V. crime-drama:
On French problems of liberte: Theodore Dalrymple on Michel Houellebecq here:
‘Houellebecq has been accused of being a nihilist and cynic, but far from that, his work is an extended protest against nihilism and cynicism. It is true that he offers no solution to the problem, but it is not the purpose of novels, but rather of tracts, to offer solutions to such problems. For him to tell his readers to take up basket-weaving or some such as the answer to existential emptiness would in fact be an instance of that very existential emptiness.’
I’m not much of a feminist nor a Main Line (Philadelphia) liberal myself:
Martha Nussbaum writes:
“Spitzer’s offense was an offense against his family. It was not an offense against the public. If he broke any laws, these are laws that never should have existed and that have been repudiated by sensible nations.”
You tossed a blanket from the bed You lay upon your back, and waited; You dozed, and watched the night revealing The thousand sordid images Of which your soul was constituted; They flickered against the ceiling. And when all the world came back And the light crept up between the shutters And you heard the sparrows in the gutters, You had such a vision of the street As the street hardly understands; Sitting along the bed’s edge, where You curled the papers from your hair, Or clasped the yellow soles of feet In the palms of both soiled hands.
The world will stain you, and it is a fallen, modern world, rendered profoundly and exquisitely.
Through my indirect experience, most of the people who serve are called. Honor, duty and sacrifice figure heavily. Smashing things, adventure, skill-development and money tend to be important variables, too. Over time, money and stability become more important, as they do for anyone aging up, or through, an institution. Few of us spend time imagining waking up every morning, with thirteen intricate steps to put on a prosthetic, seeing what the day holds.
That’s where our duty comes in, as fellow citizens, to make the losses more bearable.
From where I stand: Yes, the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, NPR, and most major media outlets are in a process of negotiation/conflict with elements of a radical and activist Left. Some will follow the logic towards Good/Evil with their own countrymen, in a pose of childish and irrational rebellion (utopia always better to any reality). Others will settle into some kind of protagonism/antagonism with new authority; major Tech companies having to make and enforce rules, in relation with many lawmakers.
If you didn’t solve the problems of authority/hierarchy, totalizing and authority-beholden types beneath your Ideals, well…you haven’t solved those problems.
You’ve probably noticed this, too-Deeper and emergent Western thinking, along humanistic lines, is becoming more dominant: Conceptualizing the main purposes of war as advancing humanistic ideals (War vs Peace, (G)lobal (M)an vs the (I)nhumane) motivates much American institutional authority and leadership. No institution has avoided the rising waters of presumed freedom, diversity and inclusion, pushed often by liberation activists (making the personal political). I’m not sure of all the deeper currents and reasons, but this seems pretty unstable.
To be a ‘Kennedy Liberal’, Nationalistic and proud, has begun to emit a curious odor, a moral stench in the culture-at-large (as long ago has anything Christian, traditional, patriotic, and proud).
Perhaps it’s true: Today’s liberal idealist might well find himself where yesterday’s ‘neo-conservative’ found himself, willing to underwrite the Western project, with American military force if necessary, to vindicate highest ideals.
This blog’s thinking: The cultural revolution of the 60’s is a more consequential beast than most Boomer’s and Gen X’ers have realized. We’ve pretty much all of us internalized elements of these ideas, doing with them as we will.
If you are joining the armed services, for reasons of honor, duty, and sacrifice, you’d probably do okay to think about these elements of American leadership and political authority.
Robert Kaplan makes the argument that geography and history are destiny in Pakistan’s case:
‘Pakistan encompasses the frontier of the subcontinent, a region that even the British were unable to incorporate into their bureaucracy, running it instead as a military fiefdom, making deals with the tribes. Thus, Pakistan did not inherit the stabilizing civilian institutions that India did. Winston Churchill’s first book as a young man, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, wonderfully captures the challenges facing colonial border troops in British India. As the young author then concluded, the only way to function in this part of the world is through “a system of gradual advance, of political intrigue among the tribes, of subsidies and small expeditions.’
‘The term AfPak itself, popularized by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke, indicates two failed states — otherwise, they would share a strong border and would not have to be conjoined in one word. Let me provide the real meaning of AfPak, as defined by geography and history: It is a rump Islamic greater Punjab — the tip of the demographic spear of the Indian subcontinent toward which all trade routes between southern Central Asia and the Indus Valley are drawn — exerting its power over Pashtunistan and Baluchistan, just as Punjab has since time immemorial.’
‘When Hill came to Yale in 1992 — his wife, senior lecturer Norma Thompson, was a professor in the political science department — he already had a decorated record of foreign service. After graduating from Brown University and completing his graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, he worked foreign service postings in Switzerland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Vietnam. Among other positions, he served as a policy advisor at the State Department, an advisor for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, political counselor for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, executive aide to Secretary of State George Shultz and an advisor to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 1992-1996 Secretary-General of the United Nations‘
It’s Yale, so I wonder with whom he’ll be replaced:
As to who’s minding our institutions, and where the logic has led: If you start in radical resentment and a rejection of legitimate authority, you cultivate radical resentment and a rejection of legitimate authority:
What’s advertised on the box isn’t what’s inside the box:
‘The initial training session is titled “Managing Bias.” The intent is to teach “participants…how biases affect their actions and impact others when left unchecked, including creating unhealthy work environments and reinforcing unjust practices.” Again, this may sound reasonable, until it becomes apparent that, to the academic left, nonconforming opinions are usually due to bias.‘
Strolling along, Avital Ronell, professor of German and Comparative Literature at NYU, invites you for a walk in the park, for whom 10 minutes of profound explication can never be enough:
I’m guessing that in the past, and maybe still in the present, some Nimrods find both the Catholic Church and/or the Priesthood of Impenetrable Jargon attractive life options.
‘In September 2017, New York University launched a Title IX investigation into Avital Ronell, an internationally acclaimed professor who had been accused of sexual harassment by her former graduate student, Nimrod Reitman.’
Roger Scruton suggests that the co-opting of university philosophy and literature departments by similar postmodern schools of thought (post-ish Marxist) does a disservice to young people interested in both philosophy and literature:
On that note, it doesn’t matter so much if ideas are true, or falsifiable, but rather if they can be held with conviction, made into policy, and acted upon in the world. People are going to do politics, whether you like it or not. It’s a basic human activity.
I’d argue that the decline of religion along with the intellectual currents in many academies have conspired to produce enough space for the following in our politics: Morally righteous people interested in how you should live your life. People who are deeply anti-religious and narrowly ideological.
‘Hou[e]llebecq has been accused of being a nihilist and cynic, but far from that, his work is an extended protest against nihilism and cynicism. It is true that he offers no solution to the problem, but it is not the purpose of novels, but rather of tracts, to offer solutions to such problems. For him to tell his readers to take up basket-weaving or some such as the answer to existential emptiness would in fact be an instance of that very existential emptiness.’
Here’s a brief Houellebecq interview on Tocqueville (I too was bored when I first read Tocqueville, but I hadn’t realized how deep and accurate so many of his observations were):
As previously posted:
Interview sent in by a reader with Houellebecq on his ‘Soumission,’ which, in his fictional world, imagined a soon-to-be Muslim candidate defeating a French nationalist candidate, followed by an ultimate submission of French society to Islamic law and political leadership.
Interesting discussion at the link (including a deflation of (R)acism as critical theory).
‘But now you’re asking words to mean something they don’t. Racism is simply when you don’t like somebody because he belongs to another race, because he hasn’t got the same color skin that you do, or the same features, et cetera. You can’t stretch the word to give it some higher meaning.’
On some of Houellebecq’s thinking behind the creative work:
‘Yes. It has to happen sometime and it might as well be now. In this sense, too, I am a Comtean. We are in what he calls the metaphysical stage, which began in the Middle Ages and whose whole point was to destroy the phase that preceded it. In itself, it can produce nothing, just emptiness and unhappiness. So yes, I am hostile to Enlightenment philosophy, I need to make that perfectly clear. ‘
Whoa, at least he’s relatively up front about that.
Isn’t it possible to reject Houellebecq’s modernity-is-dead worldview AND also put the universal claims of progressive, collectivist, ideological, postmodern, multicultural feminist discontents into their proper perspective? Perhaps without suggesting the end of the modern world and some presumed next stage to be reached?
And as for discussions of art: Is the book worth a read?
From the comments:
‘Those of you regarding e.g. feminism as somehow an antidote to the patriarchal impulses in enlightenment thinking or Islam, or in broader terms postmodern political and social movements as offering a ‘third way’, something totally new and immune from this dynamic of competitive decay and decline, forget the fact that these movements are themselves the most recent outgrowths of the emancipative instinct, one of the core features deeply rooted in Western thought ever since the renaissance, as Barzun described. As an Asian living in the West myself, I have to tell you that this instinct is simply not present as a core element in other civilisations, and is indeed distinctive about the West. That Japan and Korea, and for that matter every non-western nation, modernised without a countercultural ‘values’ rebellion is indicative in this regard. The west is going to be without allies as it goes with a whimper.
Under such a depressing worldview, hope is provided for by religion and mysticism, a return to medievalism. It is sad, because the West will truly die as it numbs its own most deeply embedded instincts in the process of conversion, but the mysticism is a form of hope for the masses, who never particularly cared for high ideals anyway.
Houellebecq seems to channel Spengler, who hardly anybody reads nowadays. But that such an interesting thinker is hardly glanced at today is an indictment of us, not of him.’
Also, from the comments. Hubristic, but there’s something to deflated nihilism:
‘This is why I love French writers and thinkers. Fascinating to read even if they are always wrong.’
As much as I’m hoping for a break-up of Islamist ideology, I suppose I’m hoping for some light into these dark, post-Enlightenment corners as well. Something other than the existential void and the ideas and ideologies which so often rush in.
I have to give Hollebecq credit, too, for as he points out, the major religions have been dealing with questions of purpose, suffering, telos, why, what, when, and the stuff human nature for a lot longer time.
Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues“
Robert Hughes, Australian and often fierce critic of modernism and post-modernism.
***I should add that Werner Herzog’s ‘Into The Abyss‘ was worth my time. Herzog is probably not a proponent of the death penalty, but I thought he left me to decide what I thought, and he didn’t flinch from the crime, the tragedy and the loss.
‘We now have Russia and Turkey involved in two proxy wars in the region: Syria and Libya. While we have serious issues with Turkish “adventurism” on the part of President Erdoğan in both theaters, the bottom line remains: Russia presents a threat to the United States across a variety of fronts; Turkey is a key NATO ally.’
‘America’s alliance-level relations were formed in the context of the Cold War with Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. These contacts and programs have been successful and should not be dismantled or downgraded, but redesigned.’
Let’s not forget Nagorno-Karabakh.
Vice magazine: Totally woke, painfully edgy and ideologically captured at home, still some decent guerilla journalism in the hot-spots.
I have a nagging suspicion that within certain social sciences and fields of study, people are self-selecting for shared ideals. The discipline itself trains a method which can transcend such dynamics, but it becomes the air many breathe and the water many drink.
The subtle, subconscious way in which we are all influenced by others through our senses, language, behavior and thought drifts towards those shared ideals. In-group and out-group dynamics soon form, and heretics, disbelievers, or skeptics learn to keep quiet or join a tiny minority.
In the case of radical ‘-Ismologists,’ whole epistemologies are woven out of whole cloth, in a web of true-enough-sounding-bullshit, the heretics, disbelievers and skeptics are punished.
Many progressive knowledge claims involve the assumption that (H)istory can be known from one vantage point, and because this is true, the telos of (M)an is known or can be known, and ought to be reached through political activism any day now.
And now for something mostly different. As posted:
Gurri offered an interesting take on matters socio-cultural:
‘The dilemma is that this present is defined by a radical distrust of the institutions of industrial society, and of the elites that control them, and of their statements and descriptions of reality. The conference organizers got our predicament right. At every level of contemporary social and political life, we are stuck in the muck of a profound crisis of authority.’
‘One remembers Weber’s epitaph for the Protestant Ethic, as he contemplated a devitalised bourgeoisie spiritlessly tending the petrified mechanism their ancestors had raised. Adapted, without apology, it might also be used to depict that petrified Utopia of the New Ruling classes of the East.
There’s a popular narrative that drug companies have stolen the soul of psychiatry. That they’ve reduced everything to chemical imbalances. The people who talk about this usually go on to argue that the true causes of mental illness are capitalism and racism. Have doctors forgotten that the real solution isn’t a pill, but structural change that challenges the systems of exploitation and domination that create suffering in the first place?
No. Nobody has forgotten that. Because the third thing you notice at the American Psychiatric Association meeting is that everyone is very, very woke.
“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis. Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure. In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup. In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest. Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.
Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides. Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world. This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”
Lawrence Wright discussed his long years reporting on Islamic terrorism (he spent some time in Egypt in his youth) at the Philadelphia Free Library. It might offer some insight.
As to Twitter, this is my semi-functional theory:
–The platform selects for loud ignorance. Twitter has a significant visual component, with some textual elements, and limited characters. Around any topic, a few nodes (popular accounts) will cluster across a larger distribution. For most users, it ain’t really a place to converse, nor think too much, but rather to gain new information through the aggregation function performed by these popular nodes (especially in the political sphere).
The format rewards brevity, pith, and some wit, but also cashes in on selling the idea of influence. It’s quite a cesspool, really, and I usually feel like I’m pissing into the wind; the rewards probably not worth the costs unless one just uses Twitter as a distribution network of one’s own.
Furthermore, the most popular accounts don’t necessarily seem to be the most knowledgeable, thoughtful, nor accurate and truthful (they could be, I suppose), but rather the nodes who use the platorm most effectively, efficiently dominating information distribution; coalescing the public sentiment surrounding their topic.
You get what you pay for, I suppose.
–The biases of Twitter creators and curatorslean towards loud activist ignorance: In my experience as a user, I don’t know how firmly activist beliefs are held amongst actual designers and programmers at the top, but ideological capture is likely significant, especially in the administrative and bureaucratic functions.
Thus, some top-end design and aggregation, across all those different topics, pools of sentiment and individual users, is done by people who probably share a particular blend of Left-leaning moral, political and ideological views (creating special rules for special users like trans).
As previously and often posted on Silicon Valley ignorance:
“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’
‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘
‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘
And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”
Armenia is one of the oldest Christian nations going, sitting in a region surrounded by non-Christian nations.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan were later additions to the U.S.S.R, and are now independent nations once again (Moscow still being a natural power center). The two have been disputing a region to which both claim ownership, Nagorno-Karabakh.
‘Nagorno-Karabakh is a majority ethnic Armenian enclave entirely within the borders of Azerbaijan, which broke away in a war that started amid the fracturing of the Soviet Union in 1991. With backing from Armenia, the ethnic Armenians who predominate in the territory have run their own affairs, despite the territory being internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.‘
The Turks to the West, if you’ll recall, comitted a genocide against the Armenians this past century, and are now aligning with the Azeris in their renewed bid to reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh, sometimes attacking civilian populations. Escalation is likely.
‘Ankara appears to be betting that the Azerbaijanis can overcome entrenched Armenian defenders in the mountainous region before the Armenians can persuade Russia and Armenia’s Western friends to force an end to the conflict. The Armenians, especially the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, have a well-deserved reputation as tough fighters. But without outside help, the odds are not in their favor. Azerbaijan has about four times the gross domestic product of Armenia and three times the population, and Azerbaijan has invested heavily in its armed forces since a military and political collapse forced it to accept a cease-fire in 1994.’
If you accept some realist foreign policy assumptions (no friends, only allies) then the closest Moscow and Washington D.C. have been in the past few decades is on the issue of Islamic terrorism:
‘The conflict challenges Russia in perhaps the single most sensitive place on its frontiers: the South Caucasus. The Kremlin wants good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Its nightmare scenario is conflict in the southern Caucasus that spreads into Russia, where the Chechens are not the only Muslim ethnic minority who chafe under Moscow’s rule.‘
Other involved players include Tehran and Paris (showing some support for the Armenian cause).
‘If Obama and Kerry had not spent so much time and treasure on the ill-advised Iran nuclear deal, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia would not be so worried about a potential nuclear-armed Iran. (See my article from earlier this month, Saudi Arabia and China nuclear cooperation – is Riyadh seeking nukes?)‘
‘This summer, word came that Keith Christiansen, perhaps the single most distinguished curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, was beset by the mob. His tort? Commenting via his Instagram account on a drawing of the French archaeologist Alexandre Lenoir. Lenoir devoted himself to saving French monuments from the all-consuming maw of the French Revolution. “How many great works of art have been lost to the desire to rid ourselves of a past of which we don’t approve[?],” Christiansen wrote.‘
Just looking for contrary thinkers around here, standing against the prevailing winds, where tides of moral sentiment push into bays, inlets and swamps.
Edward Feser discusses the work of Paul Feyerabend, and the view that some people are turning the sciences into a kind of religion.
‘First: science as an institution, and liberalism as its house philosophy, have taken over the role that the Church and its theology played in medieval society.
Second: the case for this takeover rests on the purported superiority of the methods and results of science, but crumbles on close inspection.
Third: when consistently applied, the most powerful expression of the liberal idea—John Stuart Mill’s defense of free speech in On Liberty—tells against rather than in favor of the hegemony of scientism. Let’s consider these themes in turn.‘
As for me, I’m still sympathetic to the following.
‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’