When you’ve got nothing on your mind…
And there’s not much focus:
When you’ve got nothing on your mind…
And there’s not much focus:
Not what you were expecting? I’ll put some more up later.
A Postcard From The Volcano
Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;
And that in autumn, when the grapes
Made sharp air sharper by their smell
These had a being, breathing frost;
And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt
At what we saw. The spring clouds blow
Above the shuttered mansion-house,
Beyond our gate and the windy sky
Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion’s look
And what we said of it became
A part of what it is . . . Children,
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,
Will say of the mansion that it seems
As if he that lived there left behind
A spirit storming in blank walls,
A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.
Dear Reader, let’s say the following is mostly true: ‘In lieu of religious belief; the orienting structure which Christianity provides, most people in the West will replace faith with something else.’
Portions of this debate are as old as the Enlightenment, (much older, really) with regard to the natural sciences, born out of what was once natural philosophy.
Depending on what’s true and what is known, an additional question looms: Who ought to be in charge?
As many readers know, I’ve been looking at liberal and secular humanist leadership, finding much rot and confusion (modern conservative movements are hardly models of principled health and organization, Dear Reader).
Whether or not the proposition of the first sentence above can be empirically proven as emergent behavior, rooted in biology, at the level of basic individual consciousness, I believe to be another matter. I’m not expecting the growing fields of neuroscience and evolutionary biology to answer all questions as to deepest human problems.
As to bearing the weight of faith, true-belief and social organization, (how to live, what to do), such fields as evolutionary biology and neuroscience seem woefully inadequate; subject to ad hoc departments of ethics and groupthink (enforcers of the emergent, and often ideologically rooted, norms).
I will say I think neuroscience may be analogous to where internal medicine was right before the x-ray. It’s going to do a lot of us, a lot of good, a lot of the time.
Furthermore, I’m also of the mind that wrestling with one’s own heart, and works of creative genius, is what a good humanities education was supposed to be doing before the field drifted into the postmodern morass.
A lot of good art, poetry and music can elevate our base impulses into appreciation of the beautiful, the good, and what’s true.
I also expect a lot of modern leadership to claim the arts and sciences as credentials, and reasons to trust their leadership, freezing-out political enemies. I’m looking at a lot of the new moralizing busybodies, nitwits and ad-hoc ethicisists with skepticism.
Endless pursuit of (S)elf, the individual isolated and alone, drifting along currents of Romantic–>Modern–>Postmodern conceptualizations, has made for a kind of mystic gnosticism. Modern, feelings-first primitivism is drifting fast into something like a new religion.
Additionally, something I’m calling Neo-Romantic Collectivism, or Romantic Primitivism, generally tends to drive much behavior I see in Seattle (as if you care and as if you were planning a move):
‘If we all give ourselves to collectivist principles by sticking it to the (M)an, everyone will be made equal. The trains and buses will run on time. Gaia will be happy.’
We already know the modern ideologies promise a new telos (end-point) to (M)an’s affairs, politicizing private life into the public sphere, often as a badge of righteous honor.
As Roger Scruton continually pointed out, a basic organizing principle of the ‘conserve first’ mindset, with all its drawbacks, brings more mid and long-term stability: ‘What if our existing institutions are already representations of who/what we are?’
I’m not sure having to pass through Schopenhauer’s looking-glass is necessary, nor on through Nietzsche’s Will-to-Power, but it helps understand where a lot of people are coming from.
Long-story short: There are many people pursuing something like tenets of faith, rule-following punishment, and a commitment to thoughtless conformity during these times.
But we pretty much already knew this to be true, if that opening statement is mostly true.
What are you doing?
Douglas Murray at the Spectator checks out Portland: ‘My Week With The Baying Antifa Mob.‘
Christopher Rufo from his site: ‘The New Segregation’
What can I say about the current Seattle political leadership and much institutional authority, other than I don’t agree, and usually find it hard to muster respect?
Deep problems of human nature, the hard problems of creating and maintaining legitmate moral and political authority, tend to elude such people and ideas. ‘The Man’ is always holding somebody down, and liberation is always next.
Ocasionally I hear a word I might recognize, like ‘budget’ or ‘Amazon,’ but it’s soon drowned out by angry cries.
In my experience, if there is a predominant culture in Seattle, it’s one of counter-culture anti-establishmentarianism (whatever they’re for, I’m/we’re against, man). Publicly, it seems the kinds of sentiment that taxpaying, respectable sorts can safely gather around is a protest sign at the Church Of High Protest (coming to a sidewalk near you).
Politically, this tends to harden around a progressive and very Left-Of-Center raft of actors and policies, and in my experience, when this culture is not openly socialist, it’s unsustainably utopian.
Out of this protean, reactionary counter-culture, one can find a fair amount of individual freedom, personal kindnesses and tolerance, especially when resolving to the individual level (you know, people talking with people). I’m grateful for each kindness.
Mid-to long- term, however, as someone interested in which kinds of ideas and people come to positions of authority and consequence, it’s insane.
As I see things, CHOP was a physical manifestation and congealment of these many ideas floating in the ether. Unfortunately, these ideas go all the way to the top. As predicted, this has ceded the public square and private property to anarchists, criminals with guns, and radical sorts of all kinds costing citizens’ time and money and security.
Someone’s got to pick up the tab, and it will be the many people managing their lives competently, usually without glorifying mental illness, childish resentment and anti-fascist liberation; desperately seeking meaning aginst ‘the oppressor’, wrapped within the warm blanket of ideology, condoning violence if necessary.
If this sounds a little harsh, that’s because, at this point, there are always choices.
Choosing to isolate such people and ideas sounds like a pretty good choice.
Past Seattle links:
The closest corollary I can think of are the actions of still Evergreen State University President, George Bridges, wedded to activist logic, alternately sabotaging institutional authority and responsibility while supporting bigotry, revenge, and violence in the ideological utopia to come.
When it came to a lot of postmodern nonsense, ‘art’ activism and specious claims to knowledge and truth vs. personal integrity, academic honesty and much better claims to knowledge and truth, guess who won?:
Socialists publicly pushing green causes have been more rare out in public in the U.S., but there have been more lately, conflating political ideology and failed theories of (H)istory with ‘science.’ Socialists also apply their ideological beliefs onto conceptions of Nature and keep doing what they tend to do best: Political organization and appeals to sentiment.
A poster from Seattle a little while back:
There’s more than a little anti-corporate, anti-industrial activism that often finds expression within environmental movements. This activism can make its way into laws, and forms a major plank in the Democratic party platform nationally.
Whatever your thoughts on the natural world and conservation, I think it’s fair to say that from cartoons to schools to movies, there’s also been remarkable popular success in making environmental activism mainstream conventional wisdom; easy, cool and fun to join.
Interesting read here.
As found in a yard, on Capital Hill, in Seattle:
I’m not sure the intellectual provenance of such ideas, nor even if they form any kind of coherent doctrine, but they strike me as a melange of Christian principles, liberal idealism and radical activist causes.
I still don’t see the greatest threats to political liberty coming from the political right at the moment:
“7. What is meant by enthusiasm. This I take to be properly enthusiasm, which, though founded neither on reason nor divine revelation, but rising from the conceits of a warmed or overweening brain, works yet, where it once gets footing, more powerfully on the persuasions and actions of men than either of those two, or both together: men being most forwardly obedient to the impulses they receive from themselves; and the whole man is sure to act more vigorously where the whole man is carried by a natural motion. For strong conceit, like a new principle, carries all easily with it, when got above common sense, and freed from all restraint of reason and check of reflection, it is heightened into a divine authority, in concurrence with our own temper and inclination.”
Via David Thompson: The incomparable Ms. Organ…
Christopher Rufo’s also in Seattle, pushing back against the Left-radicals taking over the public square. Oh yes, they would do violence against you. Oh no, you will not believe the lunatic ideas and people running Seattle, condoning the violence.
New Discourses is worth checking out, as well as ‘Cynical Theories: How Activism Made Everything About Race, Gender & Identity-and Why This Harms Everybody.’
-Review of Cynical Theories found at Quillette, and a discussion with James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian and Coleman Hughes.
Radical activism acts like a cult, with all the doom and gloom, faulty epistemologies, and true-belief found in cults.
Act now and act smaller. Don’t wait until it comes for you through your local officials.
A newly forming technocracy will bake unstable ideological foundations into place, pushing reasonable minds aside:
“Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality.”
Check out the late Denis Dutton mixing aesthetics, philosophy and evolutionary theory.
Judith Butler Wants To Reshape Our Rage (your rage isn’t even your own at The New Yorker, these days, it belongs to the collective).
Martha Nussbaum on Judith Butler: ‘The Professor Of Parody‘
‘These developments owe much to the recent prominence of French postmodernist thought. Many young feminists, whatever their concrete affiliations with this or that French thinker, have been influenced by the extremely French idea that the intellectual does politics by speaking seditiously, and that this is a significant type of political action. Many have also derived from the writings of Michel Foucault (rightly or wrongly) the fatalistic idea that we are prisoners of an all-enveloping structure of power, and that real-life reform movements usually end up serving power in new and insidious ways. Such feminists therefore find comfort in the idea that the subversive use of words is still available to feminist intellectuals. Deprived of the hope of larger or more lasting changes, we can still perform our resistance by the reworking of verbal categories, and thus, at the margins, of the selves who are constituted by them.’
The Weinsteins discuss how reasonable people committed to progressive social and political causes, both biologists, got driven out of a public university dedicated to similar progressive social and political causes.
A longer, thoughtful, detailed piece.
One notes it’s not progressive nor even ‘mainstream’ publications offering a platform for the Weinsteins to speak-out at the moment, partially due to what I consider the Brockman effect (sugar caves):
Wouldn’t a ‘canoe meeting’ qualify as ‘cultural appropriation?’:
‘And then came the canoe. First, senior administrators were called by name, invited to walk down to the stage, and to step into a large and imaginary canoe. Then, everyone in the room was invited to come aboard, en masse. Finally, everyone walked in a line, as if in a canoe, out of the building together, on a fantastical voyage toward campus equity. An Indian drum beat and the recorded sound of crashing surf were in the background.’
Who needs the arts, science, social science when you’ve got righteous certainty, ideology, and grievance on your side?
Interesting read here.
Francis Fukuyama and his influential essay are mentioned, as well as Immanuel Kant, Marx, and Isaiah Berlin.
‘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.’
Related On This Site: Perhaps after Kant’s transcendental idealism, Chomsky really does believe that morality, like Chomsky’s innatist theory of language, is universal and furthermore hard-wired into the brain. This could possibly lead to a political philosophy of either universalism or nihilism (a central postmodern problem), or at least his retreat into anarchism or anarcho-syndicalism away from such idealism. There’s little to no room for the individual in such a vision. Perhaps Chomsky has never seen life, liberty and property and the individual except from such a vantage point: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge…
What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”
A reader points out that I’ve put forth no real arguments…: The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?
Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal
Perhaps Chomsky and Strauss both flirted with Zionism, but they were very different thinkers:…From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’…From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”
Angelo Codevilla at The American Mind: ‘Revolution 2020
A fairly dark, populist prediction:
‘Between the 1930s and the early 21st century, the centralization of administrative power in this class’s hands did much to transform the American republic established in 1776-89 into an oligarchy.’
If we are coming apart, who’s putting us back together? : Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss…Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People
Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’
The anti-intellectual’s intellectual: Repost-Via Youtube: Eric Hoffer-’The Passionate State Of Mind’…
Christopher Rufo podcast on part of what’s up in Seattle and Portland (from Seattle):
Alas, it’s Seattle.
The price of ‘integrating’ radicals who believe very little in any legitimate authority usually means buying off those radicals (playing the politics game very well) with public monies and shiny new programs.
It’s better to think of radicals as cult members, really. True-beliving, intolerant, crazed cult members, unable to live a world with different experiences from their own, nor differences of thought, opinion and behavior.
Originally, King County was named after William R. King, who was elected as Vice President, but did not serve due to ill-health (tuberculosis). He also owned a plantation.
I’m pretty sure erasing history is a signpost on the road to civic failure, regardless of the quality of the past.
Oh, there will be rules-New liberty away from Hobbes…rule-following punishers?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…
I remember an overwhelming sense of shock and surprise, then disgust and resignation, as former mayor Paul Schell, attacked and hit in the face with a five-pound megaphone by a black activist, reacted more or less as follows:
‘Garrett, 56, removed his spectacles and hung his head in court as the verdict was read. But outside the courtroom, as he was mobbed by television cameras, he remained as defiant as ever.
“This was a European, colonial, settler, terrorist jury,” he said. “This issue was lock a black man up, lock a black man up. It wasn’t a jury of my peers. I couldn’t care less what they say.”
Schell didn’t attend the announcement.
“I guess I would say that I’m happy that it’s over; this is closure,” Schell said from his office at a Seattle architectural firm.
“I do want to get on with my life, and this is a step in that direction. While I have no anger toward Omari — none, it’s more sadness — I think people have to be held responsible for their actions. So I think the jury did the right thing.”
Don’t want to upset those constituents, even the ones who break your orbital bone!
The closest corollary I can think of are the actions of current Evergreen State University President, George Bridges, wedded to activist logic, alternately sabotaging institutional authority and responsibility while supporting bigotry, revenge, and violence in the ideological utopia to come:
More from Michael Totten on his then trip to Vietnam:
‘Vietnam’s one-party state, despite being much more relaxed than it used to be, still spends hours each day broadcasting bullshit into everyone’s ears whether they like it or not. I couldn’t help laughing at the absurdity.’
It’s good to start off your day with a little propaganda, comrade.
I occasionally visit Left Bank Books here in Seattle, and gaze out upon the river of ideology floating by: Worker’s Rights handbooks, oppressed victimhood guides, queer-theory radicalism, Gramsci, Chomsky, and Adorno. Perhaps in some small way, as Totten may have experienced in North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam, seeing so much in one place can crystallize one’s thoughts.
A lot of the lesser streams in the mainstream media can make more sense after these little visits: The current progressive activism, red and pink populism, feminism and more radical feminism, environmentalism and radical environmentalism, excessive and ideological egalitarians and communal types, gray ponytails, fringe radical individualists and anarchists….and on and on.
For all the talk of China, it’s important not to forget how recent the Great Leap Forward was, and why many in the Western media still seem attracted to the authoritarian imposition of high-speed rail and economic Statism found there.
Such affinity for top-down impulses isn’t so liberal, really.
I’m guessing if some people get their way, after the erosion of much that keeps us free and responsible, and after some radically individual and anarchic void were actually to be created, it wouldn’t be the secular liberal moralists, humanists, lost-in-the-wood liberals and bien-pensants which would necessarily fill it.
For all that, I’m thinking a continued danger in the U.S is still just European and Californian cultural drift: Bureaucracy and bloat. A larded-up, over-promising, under-delivering group of techno and bureau-crats regenerating from a privileged class up-top, and a base that’s always in need of saving according to their lights.
Feel free to highlight my ignorance.
***Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by over the years, and so as the blog bends with the times, I try never to break with principle.
Even if you don’t comment or email, it’s appreciated.
On This Site See: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …The End Of History?: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’
‘I was struck by the parallels between the furious debates among artists in the early years of the revolution and those that raged during the Depression about the “correct” way to paint and the role of art in society—the assumption being that an indubitably correct answer was there to be found, as if there could not be many mansions in art, as if appreciation of one style automatically precluded admiration for another. The debates were highly ideological: in the Russian case, about what activity truly served the revolution and the proletariat (itself an abstraction, very different from workers’ actual lives); and in the American case, about what activity was truly American.’
To be flippant, as previously posted on this site: A little piece I like to call ‘Stalin’s Fingers’ in Seattle. Comic and graphic art may be taking up some of the muscularity of socialist realism and public-works solidarity.
You might have noticed those tiles already look a little drab and dated, even though construction only finished a few years ago.
The above mural is part of the new Capitol Hill light-rail station on Broadway.
More here on the piece (apologies to all comic/graphic artists ahead of time, for not portraying your craft with as much fidelity as it probably deserves).
Our muraliste is a comic/graphic artist tapped to make signs and symbols for all the Community:
Get it? They’re hands, and they’re…well…you know.
As for People’s Republic of The Northwest Territories, there’s that Diego Rivera-esque mural in Kane Hall at the University Of Washington…multi-ethnic laborers of the world uniting for the common good.
Moving along, also from The City Journal: Mayor De Bolshevik:
‘In a wide-ranging and candid interview with New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio casually noted that the “way our legal system is structured to favor private property” provokes his “anger, which is visceral.”
De Blasio likely places certain ideals (‘community,’ equality, and cooled revolutionary spirit) above private property, free enterprise, and individual liberty, even as he’s collecting the wealth from the successes of NYC finance, trade, property taxes, and tourism.
You asked for it, New York:
As posted, from the NY Times on the mayor:
‘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.
‘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’
Some, of course, will benefit, but at what cost?
Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’…Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’...The Irish were a mess: William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’
Politicians and politics likely won’t deliver you from human nature, nor fulfill your dreams in the way you want: anarchy probably won’t either: Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’
A bit of a fortress, done in the bright colors of the Spanish coast? A bit of the surreal? A bit of the Maghreb? A bit of Escher?
As previously posted, of the land artists, Richard Serra seems quite substantial:, unlike land art, people actually live in the building above.
‘Land art, earthworks (coined by Robert Smithson), or Earth art is an art movement in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked.’
We visited a Richard Serra piece in Seattle this past weekend, entitled Wake.
Click through for a Serra-released photo of four metal pillar-forms aligned in the deserts of Qatar, designed to inevitably rust. The piece has a slight ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘ feel, but that could just be me.
Check out Hyperallergic’s visit to ‘Shift,’ a series of concrete forms he left in an Ontario field.
Here’s Serra discussing a piece of his at 21 West Gagosian, or a densely-packed, carefully measured series of metal forms in a room. What does the viewer experience in this space?:
Related On This Site:A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public
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’
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’…