‘But as to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at legnth utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expense and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging England.’
I’ll take this in a certain direction. From my high-school days, ‘The Wave’:
Intellectuals running things…:
And a quotation:
“The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals. They preferred endeavoring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally. The only case in which the higher ground has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief:…”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007), 8-9.
‘Albert Speer (1905–1981) was born in Mannheim, Germany, the son and grandson of architects. Pushed by his father to study architecture, he studied first in Karlsruhe, then Munich, but he only became serious after he transferred to Berlin. There he applied to study with Hans Poelzig, the brilliant expressionist architect of Weimar Germany, who rejected Speer as an inferior draftsman. Disappointed, he turned to the man who was Poelzig’s polar opposite, Heinrich Tessenow, a reform-minded architect with a love of simple, clear volumes and neoclassical clarity—the ultimate basis of Nazi architecture. Speer, who all his life knew how to ingratiate himself, sufficiently impressed Tessenow to become his teaching assistant.’
From the looks of it, there’s some serious neo-classicism going on; deep Greco-Roman influence. The thing likely would have been built if it weren’t for WWII:
So, what about neo-classicism mixed with ‘technocratic utopianism,’ or the rather suspicious desire to centrally plan, control, and organize everyone’s lives on the way the Glorious Future?:
Robert Hughes saw echoes of this technocratic modern utopianism in Albany, New York. It really may not be that far from Mussolini to the bland bureaucratic corporatism found elsewhere in the West:
‘…classicism with a pastry-cutter,’
And as for the fascists having:
‘…a jackboot in either camp, one in the myth of ancient Rome, one in the vision of a technocratic future.‘
‘The real feat achieved by Gropius and his cohorts was to have recognized and exposed the sociopolitical and moral power of architecture and design. They wanted to exert “effective influence” on “general conditions,” fashion a more just world and turn all of this into a “vital concern of the entire people.”‘
I’m always a little skeptical of such grand visions. Utopianism runs deep.
What if there was a Wisconsin motor court/supper club with global ambitions? What if you fused a local motel with the U.N. internationalist style, you ask?
After taking the photo tour, I remain convinced that ‘The Gobbler’ exists in its own realm of awesome badness. Such a shag-covered, abandoned love-child of the late 60′s and early 70′s is challenging just what I thought I knew about American culture.
Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism. From the banner of his blog:
‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’
In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage. Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos. You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.
Fukuyama has some disagreement with Huntington’s later “The Clash Of Civilizations” argument as too narrow and confining, and I think in the long run, worries that it despite its prescience it could lead us into trouble:
“Sam, in my view, underrated the universalism of the appeal of living in modern, free societies with accountable governments. His argument rests heavily on the view that modernization and Westernization are two completely separate processes, something which I rather doubt.”
“The gloomy picture he paints of a world riven by cultural conflict is one favored by the Islamists and Russian nationalists, but is less helpful in explaining contemporary China or India, or indeed in explaining the motives of people in the Muslim world or Russia who are not Islamists or nationalists.“
Fukuyama argues that Hungtington came of age when modernism was dominant. He also seems to take issue with the epistemological foundations of this largely social-science driven and philosophical worldview that has drastically shaped the last century and a half:
“Modernization theory had its origins in the works of late nineteenth century European social theorists like Henry Maine, Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Max Weber.”
“…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”
We’re still importing a lot of our ideas from the failures and triumphs of Europe…and not just the Anglo tradition. Fukuyama thinks Huntington was quite at the center of those ideas, and an American vision.
Something of how the homing bee at dusk Seems to inquire, perplexed, how there can be No flowers here, not even withered stalks of flowers, Conjures a garden where no garden is And trellises too frail almost to bear The memory of a rose, much less a rose. Great oaks more monumentally great oaks now Than ever when the living rose was new Cast shade that is the more completely shade Upon a hose of broken windows merely And empty nests up under broken eaves No damask any more prevents the moon, But it unravels, peeling from a wall, Red roses within roses within roses.
‘They had reached the bus stop. There was no bus in sight and Julian, his hands still jammed in his pockets and his head thrust forward, scowled down the empty street. The frustration of having to wait on the bus as well as ride on it began to creep up his neck like a hot hand. The presence of his mother was borne in upon him as she gave a pained sigh. He looked at her bleakly. She was holding herself very erect under the preposterous hat, wearing it like a banner of her imaginary dignity. There was in him an evil urge to break her spirit. He suddenly unloosened his tie and pulled it off and put it in his pocket’
Nelson, composing his expression under the shadow of his hat brim, watched him with a mixture of fatigue and suspicion, but as the train glided past them and disappeared like a frightened serpent into the woods, even his face lightened and he muttered, “I’m glad I’ve went once, but I’ll never go back again!”
William Faulkner’s ‘A Rose For Emily‘ read aloud
And on real and imagined houses, from a Northern poet who vacationed in Florida:
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.
I’m pretty sure human nature hasn’t changed all that much, nor have our founding documents.
Some of what seems to have changed is public sentiment around which many people are gathering. Certain ideals are helping to define and describe the type of society such folks would like to live in, with consequences for all of us through law and public policy (interpreting the Constitution).
I know and have known people living in rural areas, hunting as a part of family and generations’ long tradition (yes, there are always a few nutballs and losers). I’ve witnessed careful duty and patient instruction (as well as drunken and foolish behavior in the woods). I’ve witnessed people who own guns as a pleasurable pastime placing them within nature, almost sacredly so.
Valuable survival skills, lots of time spent and knowledge gathered outdoors, and a respect for living creatures are not uncommon.
I also know and have known some inner-city folks, decent, honorable people (living amidst a lot of family and civic breakdown), law-abiding and reasonable people (dealing with much violent and dangerous adolescent gang and criminal behavior as well as crap policing). Many such folks have trouble seeing guns as a pleasurable pastime, which strikes me as not unreasonable, given their experiences.
A different, but no less valuable, set of survival skills can be found; lots of time spent and knowledge gathered within a city within nature, and where a respect for people and moral decency are not uncommon.
‘The singular purpose of the Second Amendment, they argued, was to arm militias, not individuals. For some reason, they contend, the Second Amendment, unlike most of the Bill of Rights, actually empowered the government rather than the individual. Any other interpretation was an antiquated and destructive reading of the past. But history has never backed up this contention — not then, and not now.’
The public debate is still a mess, and I believe this short-changes us all.
I still don’t trust those with authority to oversee a society with guns anymore than I trust those with authority to oversee a society without guns. Your ambition and knowledge has limits, and so does mine.
Merely defaulting to the authority such ideals would produce (by influencing real courts or appealing to abstract concepts in the ideal society to come) strikes me as a failure of the moral imagination.
More broadly, so you get a better picture of my thinking, dear Reader, I also don’t trust peace idealists to properly manage the instincts and reasons we humans go to war. Bad maps, in my opinion, tend to lead to worse handling of the terrain.
“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”
On that note, an interesting thought from Carlo Lancelotti:
At some point people will have to face the question: What makes a human population a SOCIETY?
Commerce certainly does not.
Nor does the state, for that matter.
Yet the the 90% of political discourse in my lifetime has been about the correct relationship between them.
Partly, this is why I harbor unresolved doubts regarding the anarchic foundations of libertarianism, and mission creep. If individuals, keeping their promises and not doing violence, form the basic unit of modern civilization, than does it follow that some sort of equilibrium will be achieved? I’m not sure this kind of anti-establishmentarian, decentralized authority vision of a civilization is practicable.
I remain skeptical, but this may say more about me than libertarianism, or that some libertarian principles lead to a kind of ‘economic-union first’ politics, upon which the European Union is arguably failing.
Any thoughts and comments are welcome. What have I gotten wrong?
Some years ago, now, Walter Russell Mead was arguing that the blue progressive social model was unsustainable (I suppose the red would be too, to some extent, on this view). The government can’t prop up what has been lost with unsustainable spending and a vastly increased Federal project. Mead thought we needed a new liberalism since the old had diffused itself upon the loss of manufacturing, private sector jobs and globalization.
It would seem Donald Trump disagrees about the role of the coal and oil industries, manufacturing, and what globalization means for an American worker he sees himself representing as President (peeling off many working folks, and some ‘minorities’ from the excesses of identity politics with economic growth populism).
Mead finishes with:
‘We’ve wasted too many years arguing over how to retrieve the irretrievable; can we please now get on with the actual business of this great, liberal, unapologetically forward-looking nation.’
Perhaps more liberal attitudes are becoming more prevalent in American society, or at least perhaps there is a waning of religious conservatism and Christianity in the public square.
I’m having trouble imagining how traditional belief will get along with the products of (R)eason, rationalism, materialism, determinism and atheism under some kind of big-tent (L)iberal project.
Strange bedfellows, anyways. This would seem especially so amongst progressive true-believers and practitioners of radical identity politics, which seem to be in a shorter-term decline, but mid- to longer-term advance.
Charles Kesler took at look at how he thought Obama might have understood himself back before the election of 2012.
That is to say, Kesler envisions a liberal tradition bubbling-up during the administrations of Woodrow Wilson to FDR, LBJ through Obama.
During Obama’s fourth-wave liberalism, then, there there were visible ‘postmodern’ strands and Civil Rights strands. There were blessedly more evolutionary anti-history Hegelian historicist strands over revolutionary Marxist strands.
‘We Are The Change We’ve Been Waiting For‘ may be preferable to ‘Peace, Bread & Land.‘
Personally, I still think we’re on a longer trend-line towards more Continental problems, but, frankly, there’s high variability in such a prediction.
On Mead’s thinking, libertarians who point out the lessons of Hayek’s ‘The Road to Serfdom‘, and Straussian conservatives who follow Strauss‘ end run around nihilism/moral relativism, and the three crises of modernity, may not be necessary. We’ve not arrived at these particular problems of Continental Europe.
‘The first time I visited New York, between 40 and 50 years ago, it was a place of ill repute, at least among foreigners. Rumor and report made the city sound like a low-intensity war zone, and you would find yourself regaled with advice on how to stay safe there, un-mugged and un-shot.’
‘Just under a half-century later, the level of civility in the two cities has switched: New York now feels safer than London.’
It was the really pretty girls, and the tall, ambitious guys, among my cohort, who made made their way to Manhattan.
Touring the city, I was shown a dream, gazing down from Midtown; a forest of skyscrapers on a clamorous loading-dock. I saw people easily dead within a week, and people trying to write their names in marble or maybe a concrete cornerstone.
We all have ambitions.
The recently deceased Clive James (England via Australia) visited New York in the 1980’s for his Postcards series. He seems very worried about getting mugged a second time.
Everybody knows you take a classy, beautiful lady on a classy movie date, down in Times Square:
I don’t know about all these Brits roaming around.
Here’s Sting singing his classic ‘British Guy In The Five Boroughs’
In fact, what people with a longer history can teach us about history is that people might forgive, but they rarely forget:
Ambitious Southern Gentleman makes his way to New York and gets hip to The Arts & Journalism, fact and fiction:
You’ll likely need an energy source (not necessarily our star, the warping effects of other massive bodies will do) and tens, if not hundreds, of millions of years to sustain an environment conducive to life. You’ll likely need lots of protection from cosmic rays and short-wave radiation as some kind of shield. If your planet, moon and/or body doesn’t possess an atmosphere, and is too small to maintain an electro-magnetic dynamo like Earth, then sub-surface water under a protective shell might be enough.
On the recent findings of at least 1/17 observational days of water plumes near the surface of the Jovian moon, Europa:
‘They used a spectrograph at the Keck Observatory that measures the chemical composition of planetary atmospheres through the infrared light they emit or absorb. Molecules such as water emit specific frequencies of infrared light as they interact with solar radiation.’
‘Paganini and his team reported in the journal Nature Astronomy on November 18 that they detected enough water releasing from Europa (5,202 pounds, or 2,360 kilograms, per second) to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool within minutes. Yet, the scientists also found that the water appears infrequently, at least in amounts large enough to detect from Earth, said Paganini: “For me, the interesting thing about this work is not only the first direct detection of water above Europa, but also the lack thereof within the limits of our detection method.’
This is potentially good news for the upcoming Europa clipper mission. Otherwise, how are you going to get at all that water beneath an icy shell at least 10-15 miles thick?
‘From its orbit of Jupiter, Europa Clipper will sail close by the moon in rapid, low-altitude flybys. If plumes are indeed spewing vapor from Europa’s ocean or subsurface lakes, Europa Clipper could sample the frozen liquid and dust particles. The mission team is gearing up now to look at potential orbital paths, and the new research will play into those discussions.
“If plumes exist, and we can directly sample what’s coming from the interior of Europa, then we can more easily get at whether Europa has the ingredients for life,” Pappalardo said. “That’s what the mission is after. That’s the big picture.”
Aren’t you getting a little excited at the prospect?:
Monticello. Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-F8-1046
My two cents:
As have done many universities, one by one, many mainstream American publications have taken the logic of social activism on board. Whether as feature or undercard, a certain percentage of the institution’s resources become devoted to negotiations between activists (soft and hard radicals) and points centerward.
Shared claims to knowledge, along with shared political ideals, compel many moderate liberals to unify around blaming any political/social/moral oppostion, even while taking upon the challenge of internal dialog with radicals.
Anti-fascists, of course, derive primary meaning in life from joining an anonymous mob dedicated to driving evil fascists from the public sphere. In my opinion, they deserve the violent embrace of the incredibly small number of actual neo-Nazis and fascists they publicly and continually invoke.
Meanwhile, the rest of us get dragged, to some extent, into framing civilizational norms, rules and expected behavior by semi-incoherent anarchic radicals willing to do violence.
This blog rejects the notion that the civilizational norms, rules and expected behavior should be driven by far-Left radicals and their doppelgangers.
Just as should have been done by many old-liberal guards in the 1960’s, or should be done now by many professionals, politicos, and mainstream publishers, the totalitarian radicals should be pushed from institutional influence and polite society.
I have my doubts about Donald Trump, and the fracturing of conservative coalitions into warring factions under his leadership, and the conditions which have made his election possible.
From where I stand, though, I have even more doubts about liberal and Left coalitions fracturing into an anarchic violent base, Democratic Socialism (one more perfectly equal majoritarian election/uprising should do it), and the neo-liberal and high-liberal secular humanist elite above them.
There’s a lot of failure to go around, and reasons for hope.
Without a stronger moral core, will liberalism necessarily corrode into the soft tyranny of an ever-expanding State?
Since the 60’s, and with a lot of postmodern nihilism making advances in our society, is a liberal politics of consent possible given the dangers of cultivating a kind of majoritarian politics: Dirty, easily corrupt, with everyone fighting for a piece of the pie?
As an example, Civil Rights activists showed moral courage and high idealism, to be sure, but we’ve also seen a devolution of the Civil Rights crowd into squabbling factions, many of whom seem more interested in money, self-promotion, influence, and political power.
The 60’s protest model, too, washed over our universities, demanding freedom against injustice, but it has since devolved into a kind of politically correct farce, with comically illiberal and intolerant people claiming they seek liberty and tolerance for all in the name of similar ideals.
Who are they to decide what’s best for everyone? How ‘liberal’ were they ever, really?
Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:
‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.
Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘
and about providing a core to liberalism:
‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’
And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:
‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘
Are libertarians the true classical liberals? Much closer to our founding fathers?
‘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.’
‘Huntington blames pliant politicians and intellectual elites who uphold diversity as the new prime American value, largely because of their misguided guilt toward victims of alleged oppression. So they encourage multiculturalism over a more traditional American identity, he says, and they embrace free trade and porous borders despite the public’s protectionist preferences. It is an uncanny preview of the battles of 2016. Denouncing multiculturalism as “anti-European civilization,” Huntington calls for a renewed nationalism devoted to preserving and enhancing “those qualities that have defined America since its founding.”
And now, without further ado:
The following is absolutely, 100% true: Dale Lonagan is back in the news, and the usual ‘Cult Leader or Visionary of The Modern Age?’ rumors have resurfaced. I thought I’d add some color to this barely sketched tale of peace and progress (how did The Human Pagoda come to be)?
The backstory (indoor gamin): Dale Lonagan is the illegitimate child of an international bureaucrat and the climate change journalist sent to cover him. Like so many orphans, Dale’s early life is one of hardship. He was abandoned and neglected, but fortunately for humanity, he was cast adrift within the bosom of collective progress.
The lad learned to survive within the corridors of diffuse economic and unelected bureaucratic power, selling stolen hand-soap at the bathrooms and cafeterias of 405 E. 42nd St.
‘O Global child, brilliant and wild, Earth calls before the Fall‘
Vincent van Gogh [Public domain]
For years, the boy knew only the touch of linoleum and cold marble, drifting off to sleep to the soft sursurrations of motions passing the floor. How such bureaucratese might have nested in his brain is anyone’s guess, but I once heard him recite nineteen climate resolutions consecutively from memory.
***How the outside world may have looked to a young wharf child, peering out from within The International Style:
‘I’d just grab the gallon bags off a the truck at the loading docks. The 10 gallons were bigger than my head. I’d stash ’em alongside my bed (a bed made of shredded U.N. resolutions). I slept myself the world.’
Enter Marine Stroop-Gruyere, Ambassador Minister Undersecretary for the Culture Of Peace. This committed global citizen noticed a young boy darting and wrapping himself awkwardly within a row of global flags.
He wore no socks, nor shoes, and the flags seemed to keep him warm.
After months of debates within her own heart and mind, she took action. She coaxed the young savage from a translator’s booth with morsels of locally sourced honey graham crackers sold for $13.99 a package. She took young Dale to her bosom. Stroop-Gruyere enrolled Dale in the United Nations Tour Guide Program.
After some months, Dale blossomed, soon becoming the youngest ‘Ambassador to The Public‘ in the history of the institution.
Year after year, watching the gavels lift and drop, seeing the commmittees come and go, a long view developed within this growing visionary leader’s heart and mind. Dale began to see that his thoughts, words and actions could make a difference.