Repost-A Quick Post On Brasilia

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Oscar Niemeyer, the man behind Brasilia, passed away some years back.

In the video above, Robert Hughes, sometimes fierce critic of modernism, stirs up controversy and I imagine took some pleasure in criticizing the utopian ideal of a city designed from high above, according to Niemeyer’s rational plan, and peopled by bureaucrats. Sometimes he’s a little over the top.

From a previous commenter on this site:

‘Brasilia is a great city, if you like decentralization and lack of culture! The planner based his entire strategy around the use of the car, disconnecting residential areas from commercial and making no allowance for walkability. He also provided no affordable housing, which forced many workers to set up favelas, or slums, outside the city.

The design of the buildings and landscapes is bare and void of the Brazilian history and culture. It lacks color, vibrancy, and community.

And the best part of all is that they clearcut thousands of acres of tropical forest to implement this chunk of sprawling, white-washed concrete!’

As for me, I find myself favorable to criticism of the political philosophy behind such planning and am worried at how many find it amenable nowadays. Yet, clearly there’s beauty in Brasilia’s design and it’s a feat of engineering to have built it in three years immediately after the fall of a military dictatorship. Some people might not mind living there.

Perhaps there are similarities with Buzludzha, at least with respect to political organizing principles, and what’s emerged from some quarters of Europe since the Enlightenment. Buzludzha’s 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.

One theme of this blog is how many people throughout the liberal Western world, knowingly and unknowingly, can be quite illiberal and quite comfortable with some very illiberal consequences of those ideas in action.

The Atlantic Monthly has more on Brasilia, see: “A Vision In Concrete

Related On This Site: No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’…Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Repost-A Few Links From Around The Time Fidel Castro Died

A few years ago now…

Many folks have explained why Communist revolutions begin in violence and end in such misery, and why so many followers cling to these doctrines with a sort of religious fervor, selectively blind hope, and continued loyalty.

Or at least some folks held their ground and documented the mess:

Robert Conquest At The Hoover Institution: ‘When Goodness Won’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

Michael Moynihan takes a look at how some in the Western media and in positions of influence have handled the death of what [was] essentially, a brutal dictator:

Still Stuck On Castro:

‘The preceding days have demonstrated that information peddled by Castro’s legion of academic and celebrity apologists has deeply penetrated the mainstream media consciousness, with credulous reporting sundry revolutionary “successes” of the regime: not so good on free speech, but oh-so-enviable on health care and education.’

and:

‘And how does Reuters describe Castro? After 50 years of brutal one-party rule, to apply the appellation “dictator” seems a rather contentious issue: “Vilified by opponents as a totalitarian dictator, Castro is admired in many Third World nations for standing up to the United States and providing free education and health care.” And again, we return to education and health care.’

Democratic socialism, and social democracy, are often just the distance some folks have migrated from their previous ideological commitments (tolerating market reforms and ‘neo-liberal’ economic policy out of necessity, not necessarily a change of heart nor mind).

For others it may be the distance they’ve unconsciously drifted towards such ideas more recently.

For other brave souls, it may be the distance required to stick one’s fingers into the political breezes which blow over the floor of the EU, in order to ‘stay engaged’:

Remember, this [was] the non-elected President of the EU Commission.

Michael Totten relays an anecdote here:

‘He told me about what happened at his sister’s elementary school a few years after Castro took over.

“Do you want ice cream and dulces (sweets),” his sister’s teacher, a staunch Fidelista, asked the class.

“Yes!” the kids said.

“Okay, then,” she said. “Put your hands together, bow your heads, and pray to God that he brings you ice cream and dulces.”

Nothing happened, of course. God did not did not provide the children with ice cream or dulces.

“Now,” the teacher said. “Put your hands together and pray to Fidel that the Revolution gives you ice cream and sweets.”

The kids closed their eyes and bowed their heads. They prayed to Fidel Castro. And when the kids raised their heads and opened their eyes, ice cream and dulces had miraculously appeared on the teacher’s desk.’

Gloria Estefan offers a window into Cuban culture, music, honor, and immigration as it mixes with American culture.

As previously posted:

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Christopher Hitchens took a helicopter ride with Sean Penn, and that tracksuit-wearing strongman of the people, Hugo Chavez-Hugo Boss:

It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

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The End Of History? –Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Related On This Site: What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

Repost-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal-The Persistence Of Ideology

Interesting read.

Francis Fukuyama and his influential essay are mentioned, as well as Immanuel Kant, Marx, and Isaiah Berlin.

Ideas matter, obviously, and the piece attempts to re-contextualize many ideological struggles which keep shaping our day-to-day lives (I have it on good intel that the guys down at the docks say ‘quotidian struggles’).

Dalrymple:

‘Who, then, are ideologists? They are people needy of purpose in life, not in a mundane sense (earning enough to eat or to pay the mortgage, for example) but in the sense of transcendence of the personal, of reassurance that there is something more to existence than existence itself. The desire for transcendence does not occur to many people struggling for a livelihood. Avoiding material failure gives quite sufficient meaning to their lives. By contrast, ideologists have few fears about finding their daily bread. Their difficulty with life is less concrete. Their security gives them the leisure, their education the need, and no doubt their temperament the inclination, to find something above and beyond the flux of daily life.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site:

-Fukuyama’s Marxist/Hegelian influence and the re-purposed Christian metaphysics and Statism found within much German Idealism:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…Fred Siegel On The German Influence And Kelley Ross On Some Of Roger Scruton’s Thinking

-Are we really progressing…can we be more clear about means and ends? Via Youtube-Samuel Huntington On ‘The Clash Of Civilizations’Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Sunday Quotation: From Jonathan Bennett On Kant…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper By George Walsh: The Objectivist Attack On Kant…From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant

-The Englightenment/Romantic tension…the horror of rationalist systems which claimed knowledge of man’s ends, but also a defense of both positive and negative liberties-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

***Why so many Britons on this site? (J.S. Mill, Isaiah Berlin by way of Riga, Michael Oakeshott, Roger Scruton, Bryan Magee, Theodore Dalrymple, John Gray etc.?)

I don’t know all the reasons, but there’s definitely an Anglophilia at work, our division by a common language, and perhaps an overall ideological predilection towards an Anglo-sphere alliance.  I think there is mutual benefit, security and leverage to be had in working for a more closely united English-speaking ‘liberal’ world order.   There are many sacrifices and risks, dangers and blind-spots, too.

Many of these writers/thinkers have had to face a more institutional and entrenched Left.  They can know intimately whereof they speak.

It’s easy to feel vaguely good about our relationship, but let’s not forget moments like these:

washingtonburns.jpg

This is a depiction (thanks to impiousdigest.com) of British troops burning the White House.

Racial Preferences, Communist Chic, And On Habits Becoming Character-Watch Out For Yourselves

A huge problem I see is that many knowledge claims used to describe and inspire institutional change fail to adequately understand and describe the institutions we have, let alone the deeper problems of Nature, human nature, and authority.

A lot of our insititutional arrangements are up for renewal, undergoing serious stress tests; open to much scrutiny.

There are and will be marginalized people, of course, and they will often organize into groups, full of complex individuals, competing factions, and conflicting aims.  Typically, the reaction to a particular injustice or grievance (removal of direct harm and fear of direct loss) tend to be the strongest motivators.

Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Making The Right Move On Racial Preferences

It’s hard to hear true things about ourselves, because they hurt, but the hurt is often the only way any one of us gets better.  This is best done by family, friends and loved ones, in supportive environments.

Many people saying true things at/about us don’t have our best interests at heart, but some of those things may still be true.

‘Preferences are not the most effective way to create diverse classrooms; raising the academic competitiveness of minority students is. That will happen only when the education establishment and the media stop concealing the problem.’


Radical chic becomes Communist chic? The logic was always there, but the drift tends to be slow: Today’s low buy-in grievance and attention-getting activism become tomorrow’s deeper beliefs and voting blocs.

Institutional weakness can lead to the rise of bad ideas, not just suggestions for improvement:

As I see the world, if the logic used to guide any group becomes radical and revolutionary, seeking to destroy all institutions of ‘the oppressor,’ or perhaps remaking the world through visions of collectivist utopianism full of perfectible human beings, then we’ve all got problems.

These are generally very inefficient and costly ways to address problems, and generally they lead to horrific outcomes.

There will always be closed-mindedness and narrow-thinking within academic and political institutions, as well as some nepotism and favoritism, because that’s what each one of us is:  Closed-minded at times, potentially conflicted within our hearts and often conflicted in our heads between old and new ideas, profound truths and passing trends.  I suspect each of us should easily be able to recall a time we’ve been wrong, hilariously misinformed, or subtly transformed by the people and ideas around us.

If thoughts become actions, and actions become habits, and habits become character, there’s really no effective way to incentivize individuals from the outside through collective and group identity; through political projects and bureaucratic committee, without incredible costs, downsides and dangers.

Idealists usually invite you to join in their idealism, not the consequences of their idealism.

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Slight Update And Repost-From The New Criterion: Theodore Dalrymple Reviews Ta-Nehisi Coates ‘Between The World And Me’

Thursday Quotation-Michael Oakeshott

‘The emergence of the morality of the ‘anti-individual,’ a morality, namely, not of ‘liberty’ and ‘self-determination,’ but of ‘equality’ and ‘solidarity’ is, of course, difficult to discern; but it is already clearly visible in the seventeenth century.  The obscurity of its beginnings is due in part to the fact that its vocabulary was at first that of the morality of the defunct communal order; and there can be little doubt that it derived strength and plausibility from its deceptive affinity to that morality.  But it was, in fact, a new morality, generated in opposititon to the hegemony of individuality and calling for the establishment of a new condition of human circumstance reflecting the aspirations of the ‘anti-individual.’

Oakeshott, Michael. Rationalism In Politics“. Rationalism In Politics And Other Essays. Liberty Fund, 1991. Print. (Pg 374-375).

Bouts Of Barely Useful Idiocy-Some Links

Via Mick Hartley:

‘No great surprise that Argentina cancelled their friendly against Israel’

As for the Argentinian regime, such shenanigans may be representative of its basic corruption, dysfunction, and an alignment against U.S. and Israeli interests.  Global politicking.

Geo-political trade-winds can blow, and political leaders can suck.

Via Mick Hartley via Forward:  ‘Take It From A British Jew: Anti-Zionism Leads To Anti-Semitism.Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism…Repost-Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’ Protests Within Iran, Donald Trump, And Visions Of Political Order-A Few Links And Thoughts

Via Twitter, Venezuela is still in tatters:

Good actor, but political moron, Sean Penn, has been in a helicopter with dynamic Bolivarian Bonapartist Hugo Chavez.

If you had to count up the radically chic useful idiots here in the U.S., you might get 15% of the vote?:

As posted, from the NY Times on the current mayor of New York City:

‘Bill de Blasio, then 26, went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.

and:

‘His activism did not stop. In the cramped Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, where he volunteered, Mr. de Blasio learned to cause a stir. He and a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists attempted to bring attention to a Central American cause that, after the Sandinistas lost power in a 1990 election, was fading from public view. “The Nicaraguan struggle is our struggle,” said a poster designed by the group’

One More Revolution.

Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) on ‘The Second-Worst Poet In English:’

As for Cumberland Clark’s poetry:

‘It is wonderfully, gloriously, hilariously awful’

As for getting right what an entire intellectual class, given to bouts of useful idiocy, still often gets wrong:

‘He was aware of the terror, the mass executions, the famine, the wanton destruction, the lying propaganda, the tyranny, and the universal spying that Bolshevism instituted from the first.’

You dare not speak such truth amongst adherents!:

I forthwith shall consult with my own dynamic, courageous fatherly leader, for all of life’s problems:

The Conservatarian Curve-Some Reasons To Remain Skeptical Of ‘Culture’ And Cultural Criticism Of A Certain Kind

Roger Sandall’s book:  ‘The Culture Cult:  Designer Tribalism And Other Essays‘ here.

A follow-up essay here springing from a discussion: ‘The Culture Cult revisited’

Sandall:

‘But in the year 2000, with Fascism and Communism both discredited, why, I wondered, were so many turning back toward Rousseau? What was the attraction of romantic primitivism? How had ethnic culture become a beau ideal? Cities certainly have their problems, but why did New Yorkers see tribal societies as exemplary and tribespeople as paragons of social virtue?’

If you do manage to develop a bedrock of secular humanism in civil society (subject to that society’s particular traditions and history), won’t that society still have need of its own myths?

Even though Fascism and Communism have been discredited in theory and in practice, adherents remain (look no further than most American academies).

Sandall notes the Popperian elements discussed as from ‘The Open Society And Its Enemies‘, which as a theory, stretches deep into human nature and the West’s Greek traditions.

Is Popper’s ‘critical rationalism’ some of what we’re seeing from the intellectual dark-webbers, or at least many bright people pushing against the fascistic elements found within many far-Left movements, just those movements endorse and feed a far-right, identitarian and ideological response?:

‘…the people and institutions of the open society that Popper envisioned would be imbued with the same critical spirit that marks natural science, an attitude which Popper called critical rationalism. This openness to analysis and questioning was expected to foster social and political progress as well as to provide a political context that would allow the sciences to flourish.’

Sandall again on Popper:

‘His 1945 The Open Society and Its Enemies started out from the contrast between closed autarkic Sparta and free-trading protean Athens, and used it to illuminate the conflict between Fascism and Communism on the one hand, and Western democracy on the other.’

but…:

‘Is an ‘open society’ also supposed to be an ‘open polity’ with open borders? Médecins sans Frontières is all very well: but states cannot be run on such lines. Popper’s is a theory of society, not a theory of the state—and it seems to me that his book offers no clear account of the wider political preconditions that enable ‘open societies’ to both flourish and defend themselves.’

So, how did Sandall see the idea of ‘culture’ having its orgins?:

‘But at a higher philosophical level, and starting out in England, it owed more to the energetic publicising of Herder’s ideas by the Oxford celebrity Sir Isaiah Berlin — ideas of irresistible appeal to the post-Marxist and post-religious liberal mind.’

Open borders and open societies?  A desire a ‘culture’ has to forge and solidify its own identity?

Kelley Ross (open border libertarian last I checked) responds to a correspondent on 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.

‘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.

Back to Sandall:

‘Then something happened: the English word “culture” in the sense employed by Matthew Arnold in his 1869 Culture and Anarchy got both anthropologized and Germanised — and anthropological culture was the opposite of all that. It meant little more in fact than a social system.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

A rather tangled web indeed…

Further entanglements on this site, possibly related:

Tom Wolfe on Max Weber on one conspicuous use of art in the ‘modern’ world:

‘…aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…

From Edward Feser: ‘Jackson on Popper on materialism

‘Popper’s World 3 is in some respects reminiscent of Plato’s realm of the Forms, but differs in that Popper takes World 3 to be something man-made.  As I noted in the earlier post just linked to, this makes his positon at least somewhat comparable the Aristotelian realist (as opposed to Platonic realist) view that universals are abstracted by the mind from the concrete objects that instantiate them rather than pre-existing such abstraction.’

Quite a comment thread over there…

Popper:

“…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.”

Related On This Site:Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism…

Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Miles Burnyeat On Plato’Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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?’

Fred Siegel On The German Influence And Kelley Ross On Some Of Roger Scruton’s Thinking