The Enlightenment

Downward To Darkness: Friday Poem From A Reader-Wallace Stevens’ ‘Sunday Morning’

A return to Nature?  To origins of faith?  To a simple freedom in a wild land, and new understandings, with death in view? To visions of Romantic Primitivism becoming modern?:

VII

Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.

Wallace Stevens

Full poem here.

Read it aloud, for God’s sake, as the meaning lies in the experience of saying.

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

Thanks: Includes anecdotes involving Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and logical positivism, John Maynard Keynes, and a funny one with Winston Churchill; talk about being near the center of 20th-century intellectual life…

On this site, see: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Berlin puts forth a liberal political philosophy and value pluralism which hones in on one of the greatest dangers to liberty:  Thinking that there is, in fact, one rational plan and end to human affairs, of which some men have knowledge and towards which all men should be directed:

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

Wednesday Quotation-Voltaire

“He is a hard man who is only just, and a sad one who is only wise.”

-Voltaire

From The de Blasio Files: Red, Green and Rosenberg

Via The NY Post:

Sometimes, even convicted Soviet spies get their due simply for caring about the ‘community’ a little too much, passing atomic secrets to the Soviets, after having met at the Young Communist League.

‘Three council members joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in issuing two proclamations lauding Rosenberg, a Lower East Side resident, for “demonstrating great bravery” in leading a 1935 strike against the National New York Packing and Supply Co., where she worked as a clerk.’

Wikipedia page here.

On the same day as honoring Ethel Rosenberg, the NYC City Council passed a new ‘greener NYC’ resolution at the ominously named ‘Green City Force,’ which surprise, dear reader, is a city government-funded activist group trying to get young and disadvantaged youth thinking the right thoughts and doing the right things:

“The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is excited to initiate school based environmental learning, through our Living Classroom program, with public schools in the Rockaways.  We are certain we can activate our young people to become active stewards of their environment through the support of a Greener NYC,” said John Cruz, Program Director, Rockaway Waterfront Alliance.’

You don’t necessarily need science when you’ve got political power + ideology + money + influence, and a new green package for many of the same dusty thoughts.

And for God’s sake don’t be too up-front about the loose ends and logical inconsistencies of your ideological and moral commitments, especially near that taxpayer money-pot.

Instead, focus on empowering tomorrow through ‘community betterment,’ solving poverty, the latest green-shirt youth programs while throwing in some ‘latest science’ talk.

It’ll all work out in the end.

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.

and:

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

Solidarity!

***Thanks to a friend, I nominate this SNL skit for an appropriate de Blasio nickname.

Here in Seattle, what started out as earth-saving eco-communitarianism is now up to fines, penalties, and eventual control and enforcement of those same idealistic, semi-utopian organizing principles that drew people in:

You must obey!

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

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’

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

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’

Josh Barro At Business Insider: ‘Dear New Yorkers: Here’s Why Your Rent Is So Ridiculously High’

Some Links-Oil In L.A., British Conservatism And Possibly Independent Scotland

Maybe you didn’t know L.A. is a big oil-town?: From the Atlantic Photo-‘The Urban Oil Fields Of Los Angeles

Some of those oil derricks have been thoughtfully hidden…

As to thematic exposition and aesthetic, that ‘feel’ for L.A. often aimed for in film noir, in the detective genre, as a character itself; Michael Mann touches on this this in his movie “Collateral,” set very specifically in L.A at night:

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Some thoughts from Roger Scruton on how he sees British conservatism, as a defense of the local against the claims of universal Enlightenment ideals, a defense of tradition, the practical and real as opposed to the ideal and utopian:

‘If we look at the big issues facing us today – the EU, mass immigration, the union, Islamic extremism, the environment – we will surely see that the Conservative view rightly identifies what is now at stake: namely the survival of our way of life. Conservatives are not very good at articulating the point, and left-liberal censorship intimidates those who attempt to do so. But it is a fault in the socialist and liberal ideas that they can be so easily articulated – a proof that they avoid the real, hard philosophical task, which is that of seeing civil society as it is, and recognising that it is easier to destroy good things in the name of an ideal than to maintain them as a reality.’

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The Economist (which I think of as neo-liberal, a neo-liberalism against which Scruton distinguishes his conservatism above):

A podcast on that Scottish independence vote, which had markets spooked.  A pretty big deal if it happens.

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘The Ironies Of A Palestinian State’

Full piece here.

Worth a read:

‘This traditional mélange of authority relationships masquerading as a modern state, as it were, were bound to confound Westerners, Americans in particular. Most Americans think their forms of government and the civic habits that go with them are universal in character. As far as the average person is concerned, they somehow just fell out of the sky one day in the 17th or 18th century, and we are so lucky to have been chosen to receive the tablets first. (We broke them in civil war and so had to have a second set carved out.) That average person also believes that people are essentially the same in all places and ages and that they’ll come around to our liberal democratic “best practice”—for we and the world all together of course are progressing, that being the faith of the thinly veiled “secular” eschatology of the Enlightenment.’

Garfinkle points out that should the Palestinians get their own state at some point, the record of stable Muslim states isn’t looking so hot. It may be better than the current status quo, but in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring,’ its best to take a more sober view of what’s possible.

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Despite the Palestinian condition, I’m guessing the aspirations of unity under Islam as opposed to national identity for all the family/group/tribal loyalties throughout the Muslim World creates deep chasms.  Desert nomads can live in pre-modern material conditions, for example, but also for large majorities throughout the Muslim world, our Western concepts of individual liberty and functioning democratic and constitutional Republican States are often worlds away.

History is long while ethnic, linguistic and religious differences abound. Islam as a unifying force, despite its many strengths, hasn’t undergone anything like an Enlightenment as many understand it in the West, which has produced the Westphalian, Weberian, and State models which those in the West have exported and at times, imposed. Islam’s transcendental claims are absolute, and submission of the will in faith a requirement, which only adds to the confusion.

In such a light, the grievances and resentments of Muslims living under genuine Western colonial and imperial activity, but usually under their own military autocrats, competing factions and dynasties along with their own contradictions, ancient divisions and hatreds, and in some cases, pathologies, can be understood a little better.

From such depths, modernity itself could be seen as an imposition. The appeal to drive the infidel from the Arabian peninsula, to be in control of something, and the desire to return the Muslim world to an to Islamic, pre-modern utopia for which its universals are the true universals finds a lot of sentiment. The problem is, this program is also pursued by trained and murderous ideologues, the radical Islamists with whom we are essentially at war.

These are battle-hardened fighters, many of whom have guerilla skills and not much else.

Sometimes, you’re dealing with such ideologues, thugs and ahistorical holy warriors that it’s not hard to spot them.  Recruiting kids is usually a tell.

From a reader:

It’s interesting to get reports from the ground.  Vice embedded with some ISIS now just IS (Islamic State) people in Iraq.  The connection with Syria is pretty obvious:

How are they similar to other groups with Western-style, fascistic elements like Shining Path in Peru (Maoist revolutionaries), and how are they similar to the Islamic revolutionaries in 1979 Iran?

How are they different?

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Tell me what I’m getting wrong.  Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Via Youtube: ‘Roger Scruton On Islam And The West’

Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin?Update And Repost-Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’

Statism abroad, statism at home: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Locke’s Evolutionary History Of Politics’

Full post here.

‘A similar ambiguity is that while Locke says that the state of nature is a state of peace rather than a state of war, and thus disagrees with Hobbes, Locke also says that the state of nature easily becomes a state of war that induces people to establish government to enforce peace, which agrees with Hobbes (ST, 19, 123).  Here is where the Straussians see Locke’s Hobbesianism as his secret teaching.

But this assumption that this shows some complicated rhetorical strategy of secret writing becomes less plausible if one looks at the anthropological reports about America that Locke was studying.’

Well referenced and worth a read.

Here’s a quote from Locke:

If a man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to nobody, why will he part with his freedom?  Why will he give up this empire, and subject humself to the dominion and control of any other power?  To which ’tis obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others.  For all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very insecure.  This makes him willing to quit this condition, which however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and ’tis not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unity for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.

*Locke, John.  Two Treatises Of Government.  London: Everyman, J.M. Dent, Orion Publishing House.  1993.

Related On This Site: .A Few Quotations: Leo Strauss On John LockeFrom Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’Some Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce..

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