Repost-Please Don’t Join A F**kin’ Cult-Some Gathered Links And Stray Thoughts

Technology can affect each of us personally and intimately; vast distances suddenly bridged and scaled downwards. Endless distractions.

How to live and what to do? Family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, people in the academy; some people are handling this change better than others, personally and professionally.

High rates of technological change are likely a leading cause for our institutional chaos right now; the political extremes dominating discourse, the shifting middle, the more visibly grubby political class members ascendance and the social media mobbing.

From where I stand, it seems some on the religious and political right suggest withdrawal from the public square entirely.

It seems many on the ideological Left are thinking the same (back to the Commune), despite a longer, rather successful march through many institutions and likely being overstretched at the moment (the dark web cometh).

I figure if you know how to value that which matters most, you’ll navigate alright. Don’t forget to do right by those you love, and those who love you: Work, effort, and sacrifice. Take a look at the stars when you can. Keep learning. Take it easy, sometimes.

And don’t join a f**kin’ cult!

-Nxivm is pronounced ‘Nexium,’ which sounds prettly classy (the purple pill) and legit (like something carved at Caesar’s Palace parking lot) : The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment

-Is Nxivm lower on the rung of ‘bad ideas’ than Heaven’s Gate (a steaming pile of scripture, New Age lunacy, weird sexual abnegation and half-baked astronomy..):

-Lawrence Wright on his book-Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & The Prison Of Belief.

Dorothy Thompson speculates who would go Nazi in a room full of people at a dinner party.

‘Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes–you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success–they would all go Nazi in a crisis.’

Power through discipline! Strengthen your will!

Intellectuals running things…who joins mass movements?

Ross Douthat discussing ‘Bad Religion:

‘…what is the idea of universal human rights if not a metaphysical principle? Can you find universal human rights under a microscope?

===============

As previously posted:

Part 10 of a discussion between Douthat and Will Saletan here.

Natural law, Christian theology and metaphysics meet liberalism, gay rights, and a more rights-based definitions of liberty. Saletan and Douthat are discussing Douthat’s new book Bad Religion and having a back and forth.

Douthat puts forth the following:

‘Indeed, it’s completely obvious that absent the Christian faith, there would be no liberalism at all. No ideal of universal human rights without Jesus’ radical upending of social hierarchies (including his death alongside common criminals on the cross). No separation of church and state without the gospels’ “render unto Caesar” and St. Augustine’s two cities. No liberal confidence about the march of historical progress without the Judeo-Christian interpretation of history as an unfolding story rather than an endlessly repeating wheel’

Perhaps modern American liberalism can claim other roots for itself. Here’s a quote from Leo Strauss, who has influenced American conservative thought heavily:

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.”

And another quote on Strauss, which seems more compelling to me:

“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.”

I’m more interested in the many people who are claiming that more freedom is necessary to reach a liberal ideal as they go about extending it to another group of people. They aren’t just asking for a little more freedom, for as we humans do, they are striving to make their ideal the highest thing around, as well as a source for the laws, and a way to organize people and a path to political power and influence. That seems to be part of the deal, but rarely discussed and I think should be open for debate a la Strauss. Christianity certainly has a lot of experience in that realm.

Related On This Site: While politically Left, Slate used to be a bit edgy, thoughtful, occasionally more of a haven for artists, writers, creative thinkers and iconoclasts (Christopher Hitchens was a good example). At least Saletan thinks pretty deeply From Slate: William Saletan’s ‘White Men Can’t Jump’

Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Nussbaum argues that relgion shouldn’t be a source for the moral laws From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum…More on Strauss as I’m skeptical of his hermeticism and his strong reaction to Nietzsche and some things he may have missed about the Anglo tradition: From Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’From The Selected Writings By And About George Anastaplo: ‘Reason and Revelation: On Leo Strauss’

Where Shall Meaning Be Found? Some People Are Deeply Concerned With Your Pop, Funk & Soul Interests

The more one starts digging around at foundations, the trickier it gets.  It’s good to seek-out different opinions, and often knowlegeable opinions, to augment our vital pop-music discussions.  The future of the Nation may be at stake!

NY Times/Vox contributing USC musicologist, Nate Sloan, instructs a meaning-starved nation, turning its lonely eyes to him, that the Jonas Brothers have opened a ‘musical wormhole’ back to a funkier time.

Ah, the NY Times.

A piney backwoods, black-preaching, soul-screeching musical legend ran his band hard and got results. A real innovator.

Rick Beato, musician, music producer and potential Youtube purist, says no, the Jonas Brothers use quantized drum machines, so while syncopated and seemingly funky, like so much recorded music for the past twenty or twenty-five years, the feel is lost.  It’s all digitized.

Real music is real people in real time, speeding up and slowing down, often intuitively, in response to other real people in the band and out in the audience.  There are better standards.

You have to be there, man, or at least listen to Clyde Stubblefield recorded as he played.

What’s going on with all the attempts at meaning and all this ‘explanation,’ almost if saying something ‘performatively’ will make it true?:  Have you noticed how so many of the writers are talking about writing, and the comedians about comedy, and the cartoonists about cartoons?

Part of this can be explained by explosive growth in technology and a relatively open marketplace of ideas.  There’s just a lot of stuff out there.

Some good advice I’ve received in dealing with all this potential knowledge; to help protect your valuable time:  Learn something and keep learning.  Go pretty far in at least one field or area.  If you aren’t learning new things you aren’t doing it right. Even if you are a bit of a loner, or relatively deep, keep your family, friends, and professional and personal development active.  Have many irons in many fires so no single loss becomes catastrophic.

Other problems possibly afoot: There sure is a lot of talk about the person and not the person’s achievements.  There sure is a lot of focus on celebrities and so many of them famous just for being famous. There are all these media outlets are presuming to tell you how to understand the world, even though they can’t even pay reporters to get basic facts.

Everyone gets a trophy!

Some of these problems, I think, are related to what I’ll call the ‘postmodern’ problem, and I’ve been digging around at it for a while.  This blog is still trying to work towards a definition of modernism:

Interesting piece here.

‘Like many scholars of modernism, I’m often asked two questions: What is modernism? And why is modernist studies, it seems, all the rage right now? I don’t have a good, succinct answer to either question — and I’ve no doubt frustrated plenty of friends because of that — but the reasons why I don’t are pretty telling.’

From the comments:

‘The most useful definition of modernist fiction I’ve encountered comes from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction. He says modernist fiction tends to “foreground epistemological questions” such as “How can I interpret the world I’m part of? What is there to be known?Who knows it? What are the limits of that knowledge?” In contrast, postmodernist fiction tends to “foreground ontological questions” such as “What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there and how are they constituted? What happens when…boundaries between worlds are violated?’

As previously posted:

Repost-‘Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?’

Land Art Links Along A With A Quite Modernist W.S. Merwin Poem

William Logan At The New Criterion: ‘Pound’s Metro’…Monday Poem: ‘A Pact’ By Ezra Pound

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism.  Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism–>Wherever We’re Heading Now

Maybe it all started with Beethoven:  Everyone’s a (S)elf.

I’d argue that this ‘postmodern’ problem also likely bleeds out into other causes, and abstract ideas, like the Climate.

Media issues: Aside from the knowledge problems faced by all of us (oh, how little we know), but especially the knowledge and truth problems faced by people peddling information and influence or writing for money, there are other challenges.  There are problems of looking to political and ideological beliefs to define one’s (S)elf.  The showcasing of activist concerns and the consultation of ‘experts’ has become the glue of much academic, media and bureaucratic life.

To my eyes, the below is not necessarily the sign of a healthy movement, nor a movement properly grounded in the pursuits of knowledge and truth.  Some people are desperate to be a part of something, to have a righteous cause in common (one more protest), and to hate enemies if they must.

There’s actual binary logic, and systems of computation, models of the world, using data input channels to re-create and hopefully predict the world.  Sometimes when you think you know something, as you close-in on a higher level of resolution, the model can simply give way.  Christopher Essex discusses ‘Believing In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, And Climate Models.’

This stuff is complicated, but it’s a lot like the music discussion above.

It seems obvious that some climate radicalism has hardened into an idealism guiding much establishment conventional wisdom, producing an enormous gravy-train of special interests, regulations and questionable incentives. At present, it would seem a vast majority of people busy scribbling for media outlets believe in climate change as much as they believe in anything.

But merely believing in something, having a guiding ideal and becoming politically active around that ideal, may not actually enough to actually be grounded in knowledge and truth. 

Beneath the political idealists, in fact, are still many radicals, utopians and crazies (though, admittedly, some pretty damned good gospel improv):

As previously posted: Bathe in the bathos of a warming world:

A reader sends a link to a SF Gate review of poet Jorie Graham’s ‘Sea Change:

‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelm- ing the planet.’

and:

‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’

Oh boy.

What are these poems being asked to do?

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.

Some Links-A Response To Chomsky’s Universal Grammar, Getting Inked, And Ideas About Obama’s Legacy

Paul Ibbotson & Michael Tomasello at Scientific American: ‘Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory Of Language Learning:’

‘But evidence has overtaken Chomsky’s theory, which has been inching toward a slow death for years. It is dying so slowly because, as physicist Max Planck once noted, older scholars tend to hang on to the old ways: “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”

Worth a read.

As posted:  Caitlin Flanagan reviews Tom Wolfe’s new book ‘The Kingdom Of Speech.‘ Jerry Coyne, ecologist, writing in the Washington Post, was not impressed:

“Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

—————-

Theodore Dalrymple takes a reactionary position to tattoos in ‘Exposing Shallowness.

‘What is striking about these “tattoo narratives” (as the author calls them) is their vacuous egoism. The interlocutors speak, and appear to think, in pure psychobabble, that debased and vague confessional language that allows people to imagine they are baring their souls when in fact they are exposing their shallowness’

My Curmudgeonly Tattoo TheoryIt used to be like carving a lover’s name into a tree (go ahead you anti-photosynthesist), except on your arm. Or maybe you were in prison or hanging in a gang.  Maybe you were in the armed services and went through some stuff together and made it out the other side.

Now, the ‘transgressive’ and forbidden aspect of tattoos has become quite predictable:  Go ahead, Mom!

Of course, your face, your body, your eyes will all announce what you’ve been up to lately and where you’ve been…to some extent.

In a similar vein, Ross Douthat argued that even though organized religion is on the decline, people still need all the stuff it can provide, they just find it elsewhere.

People can come to believe in secular ideals as though they provided transcendent purpose (addition: or at least imbue those ideals with a faith people reserve for that which is presumed universally true):

‘…what is the idea of universal human rights if not a metaphysical principle?  Can you find universal human rights under a microscope?

—————

An 11:00 video on what may remain of Obama’s legacy via The Future Of Capitalism, from a generally Right-Of-Center perspective.

From The LA Review Of Books-‘Death By Prefix? The Paradoxical Life Of Modernist Studies’

Full piece here.

What is modernism, exactly?

This blog is still trying to work towards a definition:

‘Like many scholars of modernism, I’m often asked two questions: What is modernism? And why is modernist studies, it seems, all the rage right now? I don’t have a good, succinct answer to either question — and I’ve no doubt frustrated plenty of friends because of that — but the reasons why I don’t are pretty telling.’

From the comments:

‘The most useful definition of modernist fiction I’ve encountered comes from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction. He says modernist fiction tends to “foreground epistemological questions” such as “How can I interpret the world I’m part of? What is there to be known?Who knows it? What are the limits of that knowledge?” In contrast, postmodernist fiction tends to “foreground ontological questions” such as “What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there and how are they constituted? What happens when…boundaries between worlds are violated?’


As previously posted:

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

Repost-‘Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?’

Land Art Links Along A With A Quite Modernist W.S. Merwin Poem

William Logan At The New Criterion: ‘Pound’s Metro’…Monday Poem: ‘A Pact’ By Ezra Pound

Of some note:

James Lileks responds to an Atlantic piece

‘There is no morality in art. There is morality in religion; there are philosophical objectives embedded in politics. The two are intertwined in a society and reflected in its art. When you sever art from its cultural moorings and make “newness” the overriding criterion by which the merits of a work are judged, then anything is possible. This results in crap. Not always’

James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, the Bauhaus, the imagists, the futurists etc.  Some of those influences have morphed into post-modernism or where such currents have flowed and keep flowing.

Lileks’ take:

‘The primary urge of the revolutionary and the modernist and the adolescent: impatience.’

So, do we aim for maturity?  Reverence?  Good old Longfellow?

Food for thought.  Science, technology, mathematics are doing quite fine, and moving ahead, but what about the humanities?

Hipster Romanticism?-From The Atlantic Photo: ‘Adventures Of A Serial Trespasser’

Photos here.

Isn’t ‘urban exploration’ a bit ruin-pornish?

The individual travels along with small groups, trespassing through cityscapes and abandoned buildings as though they were archeological ruins.  Breaking the law or possibly breaking the law is part of the appeal.

Perhaps such folks are traveling as well through their own imaginations, romanticizing themselves as transgressive outsiders, taking the idea of archeology as fixed knowledge and applying it to their own present as though it were a mythic, imaginative quest, where some camaraderie, historical meaning and beauty are to be found.

A video explanation:

————————-

Naturally, one impulse expressed here is the desire for group membership and meaning. Like kids who’ve found something new and cool to do, some recognition is desired from others or from society at large, even if it’s negative.  There’s a vagabond-hipster feel to much of this, and it’s easy to imagine listening to an indie-music-montage with the latest stop-motion technology or documentarianism when one looks at the photos.

Readers will know I tend to think some of this is a sign of a newer, more anarchic/nihilistic individualism and subsequent collectivism in our culture that is partially, but not wholly, a product of the 1960’s.

One theme of this blog is how this process of increased nihilistic individualism merges with a search for meaning, group membership and identity in our culture,  as in the above.  This can increase the desire for collective solutions to problems, which can cast increased upward pressure on old boomer/nationalistic liberalism and liberalism in general.

At the very least, we end-up rehashing the battles of the 60’s in perpetuity.  Liberalism follows the logic and incentives it’s helped to create.

James Fallows at the Atlantic, former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, is now exploring the wonders of post-hippie settlers in Vermont to stay relevant to a new generation of readers:  Vermont Report:  Shaping The Soul Of A School.

I didn’t know schools had souls.

Don’t you want to live in Austin, or Boulder, or Portland, or Williamsburg (not colonial, addition: yes, there’s sarcasm here )?

NPR looks at hipsterism while their guiding ideals have helped create hipsters through all that boomer’s 60’s activism.  One challenge is mixing the Lawrence Welk crowd while staying relevant with the hipsters they’ve helped create.

Related On This Site:What about the victims of crime, not all this romanticization of criminals?:  Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’.

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…  Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Institutionalized Leftism in the Arts:  From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’