‘Urban Anthropology’-A Tweet And Some Links

It’s hard to get everything right, in fact, humility and wisdom recognize you must already have some things wrong.  So, which things?

Better to spend more time thinking such thoughts, though what gets one’s blood up enough to write, even, alas, blog posts, is pettier stuff.

Meanwhile, in the Valley of Self, onward ride the avant-garde, merging the arts with rather naked political ideology:

The other day, on the subway, I observed an American male in contemporary business-casual costume. The color of his trousers was richly nondescript.

Urban anthropology and woke cultural criticism is a burgeoning field.  All you have to do is start putting people into identity categories, good and evil, oppressed and oppressor, and you too can get published in the New Yorker.

Better be in a favored identity category, regardless of your talents.

Zoe Satchel is searching for Self through ideological and group membership, environmental awareness, and inward-looking re-affirmation within communities of identity.  She is a leading popularizer, writer and communicator.

She can take these games up to 11 (this is very serious business, and she is very real):

Ralph Lauren logo here.

Just as many old-guard institutional members of the liberal arts and humanities were overrun by the radical, righteous ideologues of their day, many companies and regular citizens, sooner or later, deal with the consequences.

Politics, ‘culture,’ the arts, and the social sciences are attracting many people who already have a core set of beliefs, ideas and assumptions, and the totalizing true-believers often have undue influence amongst them.

Maybe the popular ‘narrative’ of the 60’s being about personal freedom and individual Self-expression has helped lead to many of the current political and institutional failures, though many rates of change have increased dramatically, often much faster than our insitutions, traditions and laws.

It’s often seemed to me like we were living off the grain in the storehouse.  But that may or may not be true.

As posted, here is an interesting piece of a larger puzzle:


Subject: ‘Is England Still Influencing America?’ on Hitchens’ book ‘Blood, Class, & Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies‘ when Hitchens’ was pushing the idea that ’empire’ was the primary transmission, apparently due to his ideological commitments at the time. America must have seemed a classless paradise with institutions well-functioning and ripe to achieve justice and equality for the whole world…for some folks in the Generation of ’68.

*Includes the Firing Line opening theme of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (those damned Germans influencing us) followed by a Michael Kinsley introduction (founding editor of Slate, which has since gone more progressive under current management).

Adam Kirsch At The National Interest On Lionel Trilling

Trilling’s Tutelage:’

‘Then came the 1960s. Through this decade Trilling walked an exquisitely fine line. He dined at the White House with John and Jackie Kennedy. His very name was associated with the word liberal, and that was the problem in the sixties. Trilling was the kind of centrist Cold War liberal against whom the decade’s radicals defined themselves. It was Trilling’s peculiar destiny to protect and defend the novels and poetry of the Victorians, among others, in the Age of Aquarius. When the Columbia campus rose up in protest in the spring of 1968, Trilling symbolized the liberal old guard’

As posted:

‘Contemporary liberalism does not depreciate emotion in the abstract, and in the abstract it sets great store by variousness and possibility. Yet, as is true of any other human entity, the conscious and the unconscious life of liberalism are not always in accord. So far as liberalism is active and positive, so far, that is, as it moves toward organization, it tends to select the emotions and qualities that are most susceptible of organization. As it carries out its active and positive ends it unconsciously limits its view of the world to what it can deal with, and it unconsciously tends to develop theories and principles, particularly in relation to the nature of the human mind, that justify its limitation.’

Trilling, Lionel. The Liberal Imagination: Essays On Literature And Society. The Viking Press: New York, 1950. (preface xiii).

Trilling and Nabokov at last!:

Other odds and ends:

Oliver Traldi at Quillete reviews Mark Lilla- ‘The Once And Future Liberal: After Identity Politics

‘Lilla’s own explanation of his liberalism, given by the book’s structure, is that politics is liberal by definition.


‘Lilla clearly thinks he is making a pragmatic case, but he does not engage with any empirical political science; no numbers of any kind—polls, turnout, what have you—appear in the book.’

Another view of the 60’s and Yale: Repost-A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

Martha Nussbaum had a rather profound take via this review of ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

Nicholas C Burbules on her book:

“Between these two lines of attack, she believes, the university must articulate a conception of itself that defends the standards of reason, while remaining open to new points of view; that preserves the intellectual traditions and canons that define U.S. culture, while consciously broadening the curriculum to expose students to traditions which diverge from their own and which, in their difference, may confront students with an awareness of their own parochialism; that remain respectful and tolerant of many points of view without lapsing into relativism; and in short, that manages to prepare students simultaneously to be citizens of U.S. society, and cosmopolitans, “citizens of the world.’


Some Friday Ukraine Links

Fareed Zakaria at The Washington Post: ‘Why (this time) Obama Must Lead:

Obama is still likely leaning on Russia for an exit out of AfPak, and as some kind of East Of Center geopolitical ‘ally’ for leverage in dealing with Damascus and Tehran as part of his global vision (empirical results may vary). He’s probably still aiming for that one-world thing.

I’d call Zakaria’s piece a likely liberal centrist/populist call to action with detailed consideration of the strategic realities:

‘Unlike many of the tragic ethnic and civil wars that have bubbled up over the past three decades, this one involves a great global power, Russia, and thus can and will have far-reaching consequences. And it involves a great global principle: whether national boundaries can be changed by brute force. If it becomes acceptable to do so, what will happen in Asia, where there are dozens of contested boundaries — and several great powers that want to remake them?

Obama must rally the world, push the Europeans and negotiate with the Russians. In this crisis, the United States truly is the indispensable nation.’

Andrew Wood at The American Interest: ‘Crying ‘Fascist’ On Ukraine

“Fascist” has indeed become a crude political insult, and the term can be used to cover states ranging from Peron’s Argentina to Nazi Germany. But the charge of fascism carries a particular force in the formerly Soviet space. World War II is the one sacral achievement that must not be questioned in Russia. To suggest that there are those in power in Ukraine who attack its accomplishments or indeed seek to reverse them is to plug into anger. Hence its value as a weapon to the Kremlin’

This reminds me of Christopher Hitchens passionately denying the ‘fascism’ charge, while often uncannily sniffing it out and confronting it (Hitchens interviews The Metzger White Nationalists).

Of course, I was hoping we in America could resist having only a bunch of military-right, ethnic-nationalists with fascistic tendencies on one side, and Socialist fascists on the other.  We’re not anywhere near that, I hope.

John Kerry threatens ‘serious steps‘ if Russia makes further movements into Crimea, violating both the sovereignty of Ukraine and international law.  No unified ‘international’ response seems forthcoming.

Repost-Frank Furedi At Spiked Via The A & L Daily: ‘The Truth About Tolerance’

Full piece here.

Although Ramadan’s book is presented as a spiritual meditation on the problems of existence, it is actually an eclectic mixture of current intellectual prejudices and old-fashioned appeals to revelation and dogma’


“It is precisely because Ramadan is unsympathetic to the idea of individual autonomy and moral independence that he can casually dismiss tolerance as the intellectual charity of the powerful. Tolerance is anything but charity.”

Because, Furedi argues, there is no acceptance of the idea of critical judgement in Ramadan’s embrace of Western multiculturalism.

Obviously, I can see danger in many Muslims’ claims to faith (at times an unyielding moral absolutism) mixed with only an acceptance of the West’s moral relativism.  I would also point out that to an American, smaller European economies, more stratified societies, and greater cultural homogeneity can lead to less space in Europe than America for immigrants (and we are facing a current round of homegrown terrorists, however low the percentage, the consequences are very high).

One step beyond Ramadan, on this view, might be a Muslim thinker accepting a definition of tolerance that includes critical judgment and more classical liberalism.  I would also point out such a definition would likely require greater inclusion of Muslims into European societies as well, if integration is in fact the goal.

Ayan Hirsi Ali’s rejection of the European Left and flirtation with the right (where a narrow nationalism combined with racial identity lurks in darker corners) could be instructive as a possible, but perhaps not necessary, path.  She has also been very vocally anti-Islam as a faith entirely.

Perhaps there a few ways around the current stalemate in the Middle-East with our military involved in protracted nation-building in order to achieve security aims.  Perhaps I haven’t come up with any.

Also On This Site: Just when I go out on a limbFrom Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’.  Christopher Hitchens is an equal-opportunity socialist/post-socialist critic of all of religions’ claims to faith, and perhaps, like Hirsi Ali, shared a swing to the right (from that confused Left) that could lead to some moral problems.  Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Free speech (used both well and unwell) meets offended  and violent Muslims: Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’ From Foreign Policy: ‘Germany’s Age Of Anxiety’

Why hobble our economy, if it’s so important to integrating new arrivals?: Via The A & L Daily-Interview With Christopher Caldwell At Spiegel OnlineTheodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain

Leon Wieseltier At The New Republic: ‘A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher’

Full piece here.

That’s Thomas Nagel’s (wikipedia) new book ‘Mind And Cosmos.

Some drama at the link:

‘For the bargain-basement atheism of our day, it is not enough that there be no God: there must be only matter. Now Nagel’s new book fulfills his old warning. A mob is indeed forming, a mob of materialists, of free-thinking inquisitors.’

The New Republic is generally center-left.

Edward Feser has been reviewing Nagel’s book and the response to it in a series of posts.  Recommended.

Link from a friend, a response to Nagel: What’s it like to be a human, (instead of a bat?)

Recently, British thinker Alain De Botton floated the idea of building an ‘atheist temple’ in the heart of London.  He recommends combing through religious practices for useful organizing principles in response to the New Atheists.  You can read more about it here, which includes a radio interview/podcast.

A postmodernist temple without the materialist core?  The Rothko chapel, in Houston, Texas:

Addition:  Paul Rahe has more, and wonders at Steven Pinker’s suspicion of the religious to impede science, as though all sorts of utopians, ideologues, and the closed-minded everywhere aren’t really friends of free inquiry.

Related On This Site:  From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Jonathan Haidt’s Darwinian Conservatism’…Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Does evo psy have aspirations in creating a sort of secular morality…or non-religious moral and philosophical structure that leads to materialism?  Steven Pinker has adopted a rather libertarian set of statistics on lower levels of violence  Steven Pinker From The New Republic: The Stupidity Of DignitySimon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Hitchens kept looking at the world through the materialist lens of history, and joined the New Atheists: Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

David Sloan Wilson At The Huffington Post: Atheism As a Stealth Religion…Don’t immanentize the eschaton!: From The NY Times: ‘Atheists Sue to Block Display of Cross-Shaped Beam in 9/11 Museum’

Brian Stewart At The American Interest: ‘The Boy From Bombay’

Full piece here.

We have strong and vigorous free speech laws and traditions in the U.S., and as we see in Europe, radical, marginalized imams and multiculturalists can make strange bedfellows, potentially backing themselves into worse problems.

What are some lessons to be taken from Salman Rushdie’s fatwa?  This case still offers food for thought in our need to combat the rise of Islamism on the cultural front (the military and security fronts have altered our society in many ways):

‘The “cancer of cultural relativism” infecting the West has recast the defense of liberty as a “liberal inquisition.” There is such a thing as secular religion, but secularism is not one of them. Any suggestion of moral equivalence between “Enlightenment fundamentalism” and the other sort is repugnant. Intense devotion to free expression has no resemblance to reactionary Islam.’

Where can common interest be found?:

‘In “For Rushdie”, one hundred Arab and Muslim intellectuals expressed solidarity with their beleaguered comrade. Among their number was Antoine Sfeir, the great Lebanese historian, who declared, “We will never say it enough: to attack the Islamists, to denounce their actions and their lies, is not to attack Islam. To attack the Islamists is, on the contrary, to defend the Muslims themselves, the first though not the only victims of the Islamists.” And yet, much of the Right had been too dull to spot the exemplary cause that Rushdie’s case presented, while much of the Left failed to recognize an enemy in a blood-drenched cleric halfway around the world.’

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie by Nrbelex.

Photo found here by Nrbelex

Related On This Site: A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea…as a more entrenched radical British Left and Muslim immigration don’t mix too well: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’

Tariq Ramadan speaks both multiculturalese and the language of Muslim Brotherhood, and ironically it’s the 68er and socialist who stands for neither religious belief nor multiculturalism confronts him Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

When you add it all up, it’s a lot From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…  Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’… More From Spiegel Online After The Westergaard Attacks Via A & L Daily: ‘The West Is Choked By Fear’

See Also:  If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie here.  Via The A & L Daily-Interview With Christopher Caldwell At Spiegel Online Ayan Hirsi Ali is a Muslim immigrant to Europe, who seems quite populist and anti-Islam…is this a potential track for immigrants if they are integrated better?:  Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

It’s a big assumption to make: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Repost: Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’


Hitchens was both a serious anti-theist (a former-ish Trotskyite Socialist, “God Is Not Great“) as he charted a course out of those ways, as well as quite anti-leftist (supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).

Here in America, we have freedom of speech.  Some people will believe and say unwise, foolish and dangerous things as a result.  Some, for example, will merely taunt religious and political leaders without substantive criticism, while others will use humor and reasoned discourse to level pointed and profound criticism against them (and anyone, who in their profession of ideas, would seek to implement those ideas).   This freedom of speech (including the mockery and steady stream of anti-Christian imagery that has resulted) is a vital component of our political freedom.

In the above video, Younis is claiming that we put a limit to that freedom in order to achieve dialogue and “strategic discourse” with the Muslim world (I assume like Obama might believe this to help address the reasons our militiary has deployed in two questionable wars to root out a small but violent group of people, who, in the name of Islam, killed 3,000 Americans on American soil).  As the argument goes:  Our quarrel is not with Islam, but a small group of people acting in the name of Islam, who would represent a dead-end interpretation of their own religion and historical events.  Al-Qaeda would like nothing more than a religious war, for that would validate their own ideology.  We should tread lightly, and more intelligently and respectfully. As regards freedom of speech, citizens of Western countries who would act mockingly, disparagingly, or critically of the religious beliefs of Muslims must be held to a higher standard to prevent the kinds of conflict already taking place on this view.

Yet, as Hitchens points out, the elephant in the room is the fact that some Muslims and Muslim leaders actually kill, or threaten to kill, anyone who engages in such activity.

What are the limits of freedom of speech?  Do you have an obligation to protect our troops?  to stand up for cartoonists threatened with death?  to recognize the loss of Iraqi life (addition: morally…diplomatically…in order to make better policy)?

Addition:  An emailer suggests it is only on the back of extreme multiculturalism and diversity and on the European Left and the far American Left that such ideas get any traction.  Muslims are a small minority in the U.S., and they have to earn, over generations of following the laws and demographic representation, a seat in our legislatures and in the public mind.  As for now, the U.S. is pursuing its security interests through military force and diplomacy to protect itself against Al-Qaeda in the Muslim world…this is the problem to be either solved or gotten through and has political, diplomatic, military as well as cultural dimensions.   Education…stronger economies…and more representative governments are developments the West would like to see, but as for my part I believe belongs to the will of Muslims.

Another Addition:  A signed defense of free speech by American and Canadian Muslims

Also On This Site:  Ebrahim Moosa At Bloggingheads Discusses Islamic Reform

Many libertarians stand firm on freedom of speech:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra LevantFrom Reason: ‘Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Headbutted During Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale SurrendersYale concluded that the risk of violence and the potential consequences that stemmed from their decision to publish a scholarly work about the Mohammed cartoons (reprinting those cartoons) was not worth the risk.

Hirsi Ali has her own agenda, and will use the political right in Europe to frame the debate (and she’s on a personal mission against Islam), but notice non-Muslims are not the ones threatening her with death: Tunku Varadarajan Reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Nomad’ At The Daily BeastRepost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’

Full piece here.

Hitchens finishes with:

‘Future Awlakis should have their day in court, however much we may have to grit our teeth, because the plain text of two constitutional amendments requires it, and because it might whisper to quite a large watching audience that America takes its ideals seriously, and politely expects its fortunate citizens to do the same.’

Related On This Site:  From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’

Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’

The Hitchens factor, and a vigorous defense of free speech: From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’

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Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘A Test Of Tolerance’

Full piece here.

Well, I think there is question of religious liberty, but there’s also a question of politics, and expanding the lens of equality within our ideas that would have benefits and drawbacks.  As Hitchens points out:

“But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind.”

…’Let us by all means make the “Ground Zero” debate a test of tolerance. But this will be a one-way street unless it is to be a test of Muslim tolerance as well .’

A reasonable suggestion.  There are clearly political and ideological gains for those that advocate living up to our ideals of tolerance and equality, and those advocates clearly aren’t addressing all the concerns that reasonable people can have surrounding the matter.

Also On This Site:  Ebrahim Moosa At Bloggingheads Discusses Islamic Reform

Hirsi Ali has her own agenda, and will use the political right in Europe to frame the debate (and she’s on a personal mission against Islam), but notice non-Muslims are notthe ones threatening her with death:  Tunku Varadarajan Reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Nomad’ At The Daily BeastRepost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Fareed Zakaria points out that terrorism and the Pakistani state have a close relationship: Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life

What happens when a Canadian imam uses the Canadian Human Rights Commission of Alberta to get as much mileage as he can out of his own absolutist and illiberal tendencies…we don’t need that here:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant

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