Identity Politics

A Few Saturday Links-War, War Photography & Domestic Politics: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Michael Totten at World Affairs: ‘No, the Syrian Kurds Are Not Terrorists

There are Kurdish Communist militias, but there are still many reasons for America to promote Kurdish interests.  Additionally, there are reasons to help stamp out ISIS and navigate the other players in the region as well…leaving the Kurds to their own fate.  I think this helps explain current American policy in the region:

‘Whatever you think of the “libertarian socialism” of Syrian Kurdistan, it’s not even in the same time zone as the medieval totalitarianism of ISIS, the secular nationalist tyranny of Assad’s Arab Socialist Baath Party regime in Damascus or the Putin-esque rule of the neo-Ottoman Erdogan.

Turkey can call the Kurds terrorists all they want, but that will not make them so.’

Meanwhile, an increasingly authoritarian, populist, Islamic Erdogan has launched a campaign into Syria to battle with Kurdish forces:

and:

As previously posted:

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Two Sunday Links-Turkey, The Kurds, And Affirmative Consent

Domestic Politics And The Tendency People Have To Seek Transcendence And Naked Self-Interest At The Very Same Time:

Beware offering thoughtful critique of the sacred ‘-Isms’ these days (feminism, environmentalism, racism, sexism), even if it’s just pointing out other ways of thinking about injustice.  God forbid should you hold a conservative position on any matter. Problems come with identity politics and political idealism, after all, just as they do with religious belief and certainty and fixed conservative positions.  Generally, such criticism is not welcomed among radically activated and/or ambitious individuals.

If someone doesn’t recognize the moral legitimacy of the rules governing an institution they claim is oppressing them, maybe you want to ask which rules they recognize as morally legitimate before they go end-up controlling the institution?

Civility and a boring politics aren’t desireable for many, for various reasons, especially those people bringing presumed moral goods for everybody through radical change and radical liberation.

It might be useful to try and hold a mirror to many ambitious people in high towers and positions of authority in addition to one’s Self; a perplexing exercise during a time of The Self and a rather compromised politics of celebrity.

There are a lot of decent people out there, and a lot of good in people, of course, away from the madding crowd.

The Church Of Holy Modern Human Progress Shall Be Built!

The Old Catholic Church Shall Soon Be Rebuilt!

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

That’s attributed to Eric Hoffer, here.

On that note, Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) takes a look at war photographers to highlight an underlying truth:  Where there’s courage there is also cowardice. Where there’s moral concern there’s also boredom and self-preservation.

Everyone’s got a pet peeve (what this blog is for, really), but honest self-reflection can be much harder (to come by):

‘That people may love what they hate—or say that they hate—is illustrated in extreme form by war photographers. If you asked war photographers why they risk their lives to take pictures of the most terrible conflicts (rather than, say, of the beauties of nature), they would say that it is to inform or alert the world in the hope of bringing those conflicts to an end. But this is far from the whole truth, psychologically speaking; and as a person who has indulged in a little civil-war tourism myself, I can avow to the fact that there is nothing like a sense of danger for solving, at least temporarily, whatever little troubles are agitating one’s soul. When there might be an ambush round every corner, the minor fluctuations of one’s emotional state are of little concern.’

What Are You Doing With The Arts & Humanities? There’s Been A Lot Of Bad Stewardship

I suspect a lot of wisdom can be found throughout ‘Western Civ 101’ about the problems of the human heart, human nature and political power.

Apparently, though, such wisdom is being lost on a lot of people these days.  I humbly submit such people should not merely think their ideas will become more justified, their hearts more pure, simply by organizing coalitions with the purpose of gaining political power.

As previously posted:

Ira Stoll here.

‘There was a wonderful article by an editor at the magazine, Mary Norris, about commas. Wonderful, that is, until this passage, “That was during the Reagan Administration, when many of us suspected that Reagan had some form of dementia, but no one could do anything about it. The country was running on automatic.”

Such politicization can make for bad stewardship of the arts, certainly.

Perhaps New Yorker features are increasingly flogged to maintain readership in a competitive marketplace, or are being put to use for other purposes, like reaffirming political ideology and identities to signal the right beliefs and in-group/out-group loyalties.  Many of the liberal pieties can be found on display at the New Yorker.

Unsolicited advice for The New Yorker: Build a wall around your political stable, don’t bet too much on current trends and politicians, and keep other spaces free for the genuinely ‘avant-garde,’ the strange and beautiful, and biting satire when it shows-up.

For further context:

Here’s one senior New Yorker editor, Hendrik Hertzberg, discussing years ago how to abolish the Electoral College, arrive at a National Vote (to better serve the People, of course) and enact ‘democratic change.’

This strikes me as in-line with much Left and Left-liberal majoritarian populism. activism and softly (ultimately hard) radical change.

He has knowledge, of course, regarding what the People (will, should?) want, and why eroding such checks will lead towards more victims enfranchised voters and the ‘good’ society.

Perhaps some of the publishing decisions at the New Yorker make a little more sense…

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As previously posted-A breath of fresh air from George Packer at the New Yorker: ‘Mute Button:

‘The problem with free speech is that it’s hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance. But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts, you forget how to think them—how to think freely at all—and ideas perish at conception. Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy had more to fear than most of us, but they lived and died as free men.’

Maybe this kind of moral courage will make a comeback…

As for free speech and public sentiment, perhaps we’ll see where a new speech beachhead lies as the tide recedes from the powerful pull of an activist moon.

The problem with ‘brownstone activism’ may be the material itself:

‘Brownstone is a word used both to refer to a type of building material and structures built or sheathed in it. While it is most closely associated with the Eastern United States, this material was at one point used all over the world in construction, particularly in upper class regions. A distinctive architectural style using brownstone is very familiar to many residents of industrialized nations. Its popularity as a building material waned when builders began to realize that it weathered poorly, and that other materials might be more suitable.’

Soft, crumbly, loosely aggregated, weathers poorly…

Christopher Hitchens at Slate: Yale Surrenders

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Repost-Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

***Whom do you trust for discussions of the arts and culture, and would you just rather publications be up front about their ideological bents and loyalties?

Repost-Quotation Sent By A Reader-Jacques Barzun

***About that first quote, someone probably pulled it from a quotation site, and it’s provenance is disputed (thanks to twitter follower Leo Wong).  Because I haven’t been able to track its source either, I’ll treat it as either invalid or false unless or until I hear otherwise.

I own this one, so, going forward, I’m only going to pull quotes from what I’m reading and with proper citation.

Thanks for the heads up, and apologies.

‘Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred.’

Thanks to a reader, more on Barzun here.

I read ‘From Dawn To Decadence‘ not long after it came out.

As posted, Barzun at The American Scholar-‘The Cradle Of Modernism‘:

‘For yet another cause of unhappiness was the encroachment of machine industry and its attendant uglification of town and country. The Romanticists had sung in an agrarian civilization; towns were for handiwork and commerce. Industry brought in not factories only, and railroads, but also the city — slums, crowds, a new type of filth, and shoddy goods, commonly known as “cheap and nasty.” And when free public schools were forced on the nation by the needs of industry, a further curse was added: the daily paper, also cheap.’

Via C-SPAN-The Historical Context Of Allan Bloom…From Humanities: Why Nabokov’s ‘Speak, Memory’ Still Speaks To Us

How Deep Is Your Identity? Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg On Immigration

Virginia Postrel at Bloomberg: ‘Pro Immigration? Then Support All Who Came Here

Postrel:

‘As I wrote long ago, “Americans care, of course, about their economic interests. But they care first about their identities. … If voters feel personally attacked — because they are Latinos, or working women, or housewives, or evangelical Christians, or gays — they will bolt the party that serves their economic interests.” Or, given the opportunity, back a presidential candidate who promises to blow it up.’

I worry about the lifestylization of politics in America, which I see as eroding the distance between private and public, civility and coarseness, respect and its lack.  Such niceties do a lot more work than we realize.

Merely seeing individuals as members of voting blocs and identity groups misses crucial pieces of a larger puzzle, and also much of who and what we are.

As I see it, if the ideal uniting a group of people in common cause demands immediate action and/or allegiance to a group, expecting politics to become another means to an end, then we shouldn’t be surprised when people start drawing lines, making friends and enemies, and fighting over who belongs to which group under which ideal, and fighting over politics.

—————

That said, I agree with Postrel on the worn-out ideas and worn-out views from many traditional pulpits and parapets throughout the country.  Apparently, the higher you go into the lofty heights of opinion and influence, the thinner the air.

As a conservatarian on immigration (the people here first should be able to decide which kinds of rules will govern who come later through debate, politics, and legislation), I think we’ve gotten away from many simple, constitutional and civic basics from grade-school on, and it shows all throughout our lives.

People don’t simply open up borders, workplaces and economies, they open up their eyes, minds, and hearts over a longer period of time when united by common ideals, beliefs, principles and shared sacrifices (civic duties, Constitutional understanding, becoming an American and all the freedoms/responsibilities that come with being an American).

I believe these shared bonds will allow us to better ride the waves of rapid technological change, global economic and labor market pressures (immigration included), and the potential necessary and unnecessary conflicts that will arise going forward between competing interests (nations included).

We’ve got to sail the ship smart.  There’s work to be done.

Let me know if you disagree.

 

Repost-Gathered Over The Years: Some Quotes On Multiculturalism

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Salman Rushdie at about minute 57:00:  ‘This idea of separate treatment for separate cultures…I think essentially if we follow that to its conclusion…destroys our ability to have a really moral framework for society.’

From Theodore Dalrymple:

‘The doctrine of multiculturalism arose, at least in Holland, as a response to the immigration influx, believed initially to be temporary. The original purpose of multiculturalism was to preserve the culture of European “guest workers” so that when they returned home, having completed their labor contracts, they would not feel dislocated by their time away. The doctrine became a shibboleth of the Left, a useful tool of cultural dismantlement, only after family reunion in the name of humanitarianism became normal policy during the 1960s and the guest workers transformed into permanent residents.’

Full interview here with Simon Blackburn.

“Nigel: Has relativism had its day as an influential philosophical position?

Simon: No – and I don’t think it should ever die. The danger is that it gets replaced by some kind of complacent dogmatism, which is at least equally unhealthy. The Greek sceptics thought that confronting a plurality of perspectives is the beginning of wisdom, and I think they were right. It is certainly the beginning of historiography and anthropology, and if we think, for instance, of the Copernican revolution, of self-conscious science. The trick is to benefit from an imaginative awareness of diversity, without falling into a kind of “anything goes” wishy-washy nihilism or scepticism….”

Click through for some of Eugene Volokh’s thoughts. He finishes with the following:

It’s a mistake, I think, to condemn multiculturalism in general, just as it’s a mistake to praise multiculturalism in general. Rather, we should think about which forms of toleration, accommodation, and embrace of differing cultural values and behaviors are good for America — in the light of American legal and social traditions — and which are bad.

Here’s a quote from a previous post, at the request of a friend:

“As Strauss understood it, the principle of liberal democracy in the natural freedom and equality of all human beings, and the bond of liberal society is a universal morality that links human beings regardless of religion. Liberalism understands religion to be a primary source of divisiveness in society, but it also regards liberty of religious worship to be a fundamental expression of the autonomy of the individual. To safeguard religion and to safeguard society from conflicts over religion, liberalism pushes religion to the private sphere where it is protected by law. The liberal state also strictly prohibits public laws that discriminate on the basis of religion. What the liberal state cannot do without ceasing to be liberal is to use the law to root out and entirely eliminate discrimination, religious and otherwise, on the part of private individuals and groups.”

A matter of deep debate.

See Also On This Site:  Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie

Also On This Site:  Morality away from a transcendent God, but back toward Hume through the cognitive sciences?: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

Repost-From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon BlackburnFrom The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal

Q & A with Mark Lilla via The Chronicle of Higher Ed:

‘They’re too obsessed with identity. There’s a subtle distinction. Diversity as a social goal and aim of social reform is an excellent thing. But identity politics today isn’t about group belonging; it’s about personal identity.’

Taking a stand against identity politics at Columbia must take some courage, for cries of ‘Heretic!’ can be heard over rooftops maintained by the Office of the Physical Plant.

On that note, revisiting Martha Nussbaum on Judith Butler might be instructive.

For my part, someone called me a Postmodern Conservative the other day, and I’d just like to say that there are many identities juxtaposed at the intersectionality of bodies in space. Dominant narratives, meta-narratives, and counter-narratives serve to liber…

Merry Christmas!

In the drunk tank…!

Some previous links on this site for your intellectual (dis)pleasure:

-The Sokal hoax…Alan Sokal has apparently been busy ruminating since his paper, and Simon Blackburn, a Cambridge philosophy professor, reviews his ruminations.

-A quote from Leo Strauss’ Wikipedia page:  From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes:

“Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism. The first was a “brutal” nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Marxist regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type – the “gentle” nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies – was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic”permissive egalitarianism”, which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.’

Deep in the German weeds…it’s all just nothing, man, and nothing needs to change:

Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities, via a lot of German philosophical idealism:

“In the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”

Keep politics (and business) out of academia, when you can?-Repost-Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’

-Just read for its own sake, man, it doesn’t need an endpoint, because art’s pretty useful and useless: Why Should You Get A Liberal Education? From The ASAN Institute Via Vimeo: ‘Michael Oakeshott’s Cold War Liberalism 1’

-Tim Kavanaugh at Reason: Every Man A Derrida

Ross Douthat From His Blog At The NY Times: ‘The Democrats’ Identity Politics Problem’

Full post here.

On the topic of race:

‘This kind of ethnic/racial patronage is hardly a new thing in our politics, and it doesn’t make today’s liberals the “real” racists, or prove that President Obama is actually some kind of post-colonial score-settler, as the Michael Moores of right-wing identity politics are wont to claim. But it does means that when it comes to exploiting America’s ethnic divisions to mobilize key constituencies, today’s Democratic Party sins as much as it is sinned against.’

Keep in mind Douthat is writing at the NY Times during an election season which has arguably the furthest Left president in recent memory facing a terrible economy.  This same president has promoted members of the old Civil Rights apparatus to some of the highest reaches of government.  Patronage is a word that comes to mind.  The moral arguments used against slavery in big-State progressivism become weapons, and as is the case in politics, such weapons will be used to protect any advantage, or perceived advantage.

In this blog’s opinion, the NY Times will likely continue on a journey which has rendered it particularly ideologically narrow.  I think many people at the Times are right to lament to loss of ‘objectivity’ in journalism, the importance of editors, fact-checking and shoe-leather reporting.  Yet, they’ve had a big hand in their own undoing.  It’s difficult to trust the Times’ coverage of finance, politics and foreign affairs which shares a newsroom with knee-jerk support for feminist causes, global warming, identity politics and those sad stragglers echoing the rise of New Left, the Occupy movement.

To break up Douthat’s paragraph for emphasis:

‘And it means that the Democrats’ struggle to reach Klein’s “plain old white insurance salesman” and the Republicans’ struggle to reach Hispanics and African-Americans are in some sense mirror images of one another. They’re both a consequence of party leaders taking the path of least resistance on racially-charged issues, and they’re both reminders of the hard truth that the more racially diverse America of the future could easily become, and remain, a more polarized society as well.’

A great nation deserves great racial politics, and great journalists to deliver racial politics.

Related On This Site:  God and continental philosophy…regulated markets and progressive liberation theology?: Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’

William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Still reliving the 60′s?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

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More On Identity Politics From Volokh: ‘On A Bus In Kiev’

Full post here.

I don’t have much to say about a Harvard 3L student who expressed in an email that she has doubts about the intelligence of blacks on a genetic level (what did she say exactly, and who leaked it?), and has now had a personal email exposed for all to see, and could suffer potential career implications.  I suspect there are many people who think and have thought the same.  Personally, I don’t think the argument holds up (though I think there are obviously genetic differences between groups of people, skin color and susceptibility to certain diseases being two).

But instead of having that debate out in the open, it will stay pushed down if the dean of the law school’s response is any indication:

‘We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice. The circulation of one student’s comment does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of this community.’

It looks like Minow is taking a particularly narrow view of intellectual pursuit.  My guess is that does potentially reflect the views of some members of the school (we know of at least one).

In addition, one could take the political angle, and argue that Minow is using the terms ‘community’ and ‘social justice’ to placate certain people who might be reading her communication;  for these are words used to indicate a certain politically left fellow-feeling.  This is damage control.

I also suspect it’s motivated by guilt, a guilt based on the knowledge that many black students are often socially and culturally at a disadvantage when competing at Harvard Law.

Addition:  A friend suggests that the real target of grievance here is not even excessive relativism nor backing our way into ideas with such obvious internal contradictions (e.g the intolerance of those who preach tolerance), but simply the growing progressive political platform that benefits from it, and the mixing of such idealism with politics, and the ideas of class, gender, anti-and sub-nationalism, protest and identity politics that become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Also On This Site:  Revisiting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Race and IQ: Malcolm Gladwell On The Flynn EffectFrom Slate: William Saletan’s ‘White Men Can’t Jump’

This is law school, where analysis, and critical thinking are key…the humanities have arguably become grounds for all manner of race and identity politics, and desperate attempts to serve some direct social purpose:   Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To JudgmentMartha Nussbaum saw this coming a while ago, but is her platform broad enough to define liberal education?From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

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