Showing posts with label rhetoric. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rhetoric. Show all posts

Friday, March 25, 2011

The pleasures of reaction

The master aphorist Don Colacho says: "We reactionaries provide idiots the pleasure of feeling like daring avant-garde thinkers."

Perhaps he speaks of progressive critics who think they are on a march to enlightenment. They leave backwards thinkers behind.

Or perhaps he speaks of his admirers who quote him profusely and deem themselves to be part of a rising cognoscenti. 

The entire set of aphorisms is worth reading. The Anglosphere owes a debt to the translator Stephen, who has considerably boosted the reputation of this insightful Colombian.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When 'pro-choice' is anti-abortion

Noting Tony Campolo's comments at the Democrats for Life Town Hall concerning the number of Americans divided between the pro-life and pro-choice camps, we noted:
some of the “pro-choice” people referenced by Campolo don’t approve of legalized abortion in most cases, while some of the pro-lifers make exceptions of their own.

A new Knights of Columbus survey backs this contention.

CNA reports:
Only 15 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents favored unrestricted abortion throughout a pregnancy. About 43 percent of pro-choice respondents said abortion should be restricted to the first trimester and 23 percent would restrict abortion only to cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life was in danger.

Significantly, CNA says, only 15 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents favored unrestricted abortion throughout a pregnancy, the status quo under Roe v. Wade. Among the overall population, only eight percent favored that position.

(Unfortunately, the Knights' survey does not examine whether self-described pro-life people have views more consistent with the label they choose for themselves. This is an intelligence failure which leaves weaknesses unexamined.)

When 23 percent of self-described pro-choice voters sound like compromising Republicans, it is clear that the anti-abortion coalition is not as broad as it could be.

Early pro-life leaders likely chose their label in an attempt to set a positive, non-adversarial tone like that perceived in the label "anti-abortion." Perhaps the word choice was meant to distinguish them from the "wrong kind" of abortion opponents, especially the violent ones portrayed on "Law & Order."

This move of rhetorical self-satisfaction has drawbacks, as when people begin to think of "pro-life" as outré. Ask such a person "How pro-life are you?" and they could respond very equivocally as they distance themselves from stereotypes. Ask such a person "How anti-abortion are you?" and you might get a concrete answer on which to base a discussion.

The abortion debate is being obscured by its labels. Pro-life candidates and their publicists need to remind the electorate how radical Roe v. Wade is and how conflicted the pro-choice side is.

When a vigorous pro-life candidate describes his consistent stand in his campaign literature, he must do more than consider his acceptability to his base. Rather, he must propose actual legal reform.

Failed Colorado Senate candidate Pete Coors' 2004 political position paper is an exemplar of the tendency merely to signal support.

"I have a fundamental belief in the sanctity of human life. I am opposed to abortion," Coors explains there.

That was his entire statement on the issue.

Not very helpful. Its lack of explanation even fosters doubt about whether the man is only "personally opposed" and therefore not interested in political action on the issue.

In his present campaign, Sen. McCain only describes Roe as a "flawed decision," without explaining the flaws for the reader's benefit.

What is needed in these position statements is a minimal effort at voter education and coalition building. A candidate should add something like this:
Roe v. Wade was a bad decision. Did you know Roe v. Wade and related Supreme Court decisions legalize almost all abortions throughout all nine months of a woman's pregnancy? This is a case where the court is out of touch with America.

More than sixty percent of Americans, many of whom consider themselves pro-choice, favor allowing abortions no more often than in cases of rape, incest, and a danger to the mother's life. Another 24 percent favor banning abortions performed later than the first trimester of pregnancy.

If I am elected and Roe is overturned, I pledge to work to bring our laws and the outliers of the American medical profession into line with our standards for protecting human life in its earliest months. While I personally believe abortion should be prohibited in all but the most extreme cases, I will gladly reach out to those who believe otherwise to enact anti-abortion legislation that 84 percent of Americans would favor.

The eight percent of people who favor the Roe status quo have been allowed to misrepresent the national consensus for too long. May the truth come out.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Blather of the Non-committed

It's such a vulgar compulsion that some people have--of making a great show of their ambivalence on a given subject. That is, of broadcasting this ambivalence of itself, and there's an end of it. They do not do so in order to resolve anything; just to make it clear to the world that there's something that they're fuzzy on, that it's somehow very personal, and that they have mustered the courage to ... well, to not stare it in the face.

Edward Michael George speaks against the lazy mind whose literal devotion to the principle "truth lies in the mean" generates nothing more than self-expression and indifference.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Commonweal Doesn't Get the Joke

Diogenes recently dolloped more cynicism upon the Jesuits' magazine America:

America Magazine is editorially enraptured by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The son of a Presbyterian minister, Brown seems guided by a moral vision that sees it as the government's duty to help the less fortunate.

Translation: he's pro-abortion.

A writer at the Commonweal blog sniffs: "You'll notice that none of the editorial's 253 words endorses Brown's views on abortion." That rather misses the joke. The elevated language conceals a significant lapse in Mr. Brown's duties towards the less fortunate. The praise given to such public figures is as uniform as it is ubiquitous, which makes the "translation" all the more biting.

Commonweal blogger Grant Gallicho seems obtuse to this shade, preferring to blast Diogenes as a bitter tendentious commentator. But this little joke can function in all sorts of other contexts where diplomatic happy talk overshadows the real crimes in which prominent men are complicit. Just imagine the potential for a quote praising to the heavens some Republican, followed by the line

"Translation: he's pro-torture."

This satire blindness seems uncharacteristic of Commonweal. They like Stephen Colbert, don't they?

More discouraging is their attempts to unmask the pseudonym. They claim the CWNews scribe is Paul Mankowski, SJ. While the pseudonym can mask all sorts of unmerited asperities, of which Diogenes has sometimes been guilty, how else other than pseudonymously could a cleric talk frankly without soiling the dignity of his office and his ministry?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Francis Beckwith on Secular Reason

Francis Beckwith, professor and Right Reason blogger, lectured at CU-Boulder to a surprisingly large Friday night audience. His speech, "Bioethics and the Pluralist Game," examined the failings of some of the commonplace arguments used to shut down ethical and legal objections to secular liberal policies. Though his inaugurating speech was more academic than the typical undergradate could handle, it bodes well for the new lecture series sponsored by the St. Thomas Aquinas Institute.

Beckwith's arguments were solid, and I particularly enjoyed his analysis of the oft-claimed need for political reasoning to be secular:

[Robert] Audi offers another principle that may be employed, the "secular reason requirement." It goes like this: one has a prima facie obligation not to advocate or support any law or public policy that restricts conduct unless one has and is willing to offer adequate secular reasons for advocacy or support.

...this principle requires, without argument, that the citizen's reason be secular. But "secular" is not a relevant property of a reason that is offered in support of a conclusion that an advocate is advancing. For instance, the terms "true, false, plausible, implausible" are adjectives that we apply to reasons to test the property relevant to its purpose as part of an argument. A property is characteristic had by something. So for example one can say "the dog is brown," which means the dog has the property of brownness. However, if one were to say "the set of all even numbers is brown," one would be saying nonsense. Numerical sense cannot have the property of color.

But reasons, like dogs or numerical sets, are things that can only have certain types of properties. Just as a dog cannot have the property of a rational number, and a numerical set cannot have the property of "blue," "valid," or "tall," a reason cannot be secular. For "secular," like "tall," "fast," "stinky," or "sexy," has no bearing on the quality of the reason one may offer in an argument to advance a particular public policy or point of view.

Suppose one believes the conclusion that unjust killing is morally wrong, and offers two reasons for it. The first reason is "the Bible prohibits unjust killing," and the second reason is "the philosopher Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative prohibits unjust killing." Most people would call the first a religious reason and the second a secular reason, because the first contains the name of a religious book, the Bible, and the second contains a non-religious principle, the Categorical Imperative. But how do the terms religious and secular add or subtract to our assessment of the quality of the reasoning?

If one, for example, has good reason to reject the authority of the Bible, then that good reason about the nature of the Bible is the good reason for rejecting that reason. On the other hand, if one has good reasons to believe the Bible is a better guide to moral philosophy than Kant's Categorical Imperative, in that case one ought to conclude that the first is a better reason than the second.

But again, how do the properties of "religious" and "secular" affect such a judgement? At the end of the day, reasons are weak, strong, true, or false, but "religious" and "secular" are not relevant properties when assessing the qualities of reasons a person may offer as part of her argument.

In practice, this requirement of secular reason functions as a hindrance for properly understanding the bioethical issues addressed and the positions held by Christian citizens.

To label an argument "religious" or "secular" is not to speak the language of logic but the language of anthropology or sociology. This tactic, widespread and often unconscious in use, tries to change the topic of the discussion from the argument itself to the category of person who is making the argument.

When this rhetorical shift takes place in jurisprudence, it suggests an implicit assumption that a certain type of people is in charge. Arguments are judged not on their merits but on whether they cater to this ruling type. The need to justify the rule of the secular tribe doubtless partially motivates the fervid insistence that the United States is a secular state.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

If You Want to Send a Message...

I've blogged many, many times about how the language of 'giving a sense of' and 'sending a message' makes sensations and emotions more important than the acts and realities that cause them, and how alienating this actually is to our emotional psychologies themselves. It reinforces a permanent remove from your own actions, putting you into an essentially ironic relationship with your own life and self.
-James Poulos

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Religious faith is always personal, but it’s never private. It always has social consequences, or it isn’t real. And this is why any definition of “tolerance” that tries to turn religious faith into a private idiosyncrasy, or a set of personal opinions that we can have at home but that we need to be quiet about in public, is doomed to fail.


I think the word tolerance itself is a kind of problem. Tolerance comes from the Latin words tolerare, which means to bear or sustain, and tollere, which means to lift up. It implies bearing other people and their beliefs the way we bear a burden or a really nasty migraine headache. It’s a negative. And it’s not a Christian virtue.
-Archbishop Charles Chaput, On the Square

I am particularly partial to that last paragraph, for it backs my side of a cheerful argument I have had with my pastor. The first selection touches on an important distinction.

One of the severest mistakes of modern political life is to equate everything public with the governmental. Public works, public office, public goods, all connote opposition between the private and the governmental, rather than make distinctions between varieties of public life. The same failure goes for the word social; witness "social work" and high school "social studies." Even the fading industry of publicity in the Old Media has been a de facto secular institutions.

Perhaps this secularization is a side-effect of no single religious confession having numerical dominance. In our base quantitative age the public is assumed to be the most general, which means the most non-confessional is the true public. That this enables the chirping sectaries of secularism is yet another unhappy accident.

At times, one will find remnants of the public life in the liturgy of the church: public professions of faith, or public vows in a marriage ceremony, or public sinners who ought not present themselves to receive communion. Yet these uses of the word are almost vestigal in their current relation to the Public. The word "Liturgy" itself does not mean the "people's work," as the poor catechist's saw would have it. but--in a curious parallel to modern phraseology--it instead means a public work or service. Would that the Divine Liturgy were again more Public!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ever-present Qualia as an Object of Study

Try sitting outdoors in a natural landscape for half an hour. After quieting yourself and becoming as receptive as possible to the surrounding world, consider this: Is there any content here beside the purely qualitative? From the sky and the distant hill to the grass, pine needles, or soil beneath your feet, do you not have to say, “The world I am experiencing simply is its qualities”? How many of us, during years or decades of creative work, will put such a problem to ourselves in this direct, observational, scientifically sanctioned way, as opposed to thinking about the problem in our studies or laboratories, with our thought mediated by a vast network of mental abstractions?

Now try subtracting from the content of your observation everything qualitative. In the case of the tree over there, remove the green of the foliage, the gray of the bark, the smell of sap, the rustling of leaves in the breeze, the felt hardness of the trunk...and what do you have left? Nothing at all. You do not even have geometric form, since without light and color there is no visible form, and without the different qualities of touch there is no felt form. Form is not something independent that we proceed to flesh out with qualities; it subsists in nothing but the qualities themselves.

-Steve Talbott, The Language of Nature

Talbott's piece is a defense of qualities against the all-quantifying intellectual devices of popular scientific inquiry. Though I have ceased to practice with zeal the wordplay of the amateur philosopher, I've long wondered how such a hard distinction between qualities and quantities endures. The quantifiable shares that very quality, after all.

Talbott goes on to emphasize the epistemological priority of qualia:

Objects changing their positions in space may give us certain mathematically describable relationships, but so, too, can points on a piece of graph paper. No one takes these points to be exerting a physical force upon each other. Neither could we think of planets as exerting a force upon each other unless we had an independent concept of force. As the graph paper illustrates, the mathematical relationships alone do not give us such a concept. Think about it all you wish, but a force is something real in the world, and you will never find a concept for it except through your own experience of the world.

Or as another quotation puts it, "You use the word 'force' and, when queried, you define it by law, field, and vector; but what you really have in mind is the force you feel in commanding your muscles." Science piggybacks upon metaphors analogically understood.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Leftists Against Diversity

Via A&L Daily comes a polemic against the happy talk of diversitarianism. Walter Benn Michaels' The Trouble With Diversity apparently examines how racial concerns have overshadowed economic ones among the progressive set:

But as Mr. Michaels notes in his sharply argued polemic The Trouble with Diversity, that tends to be the very point of the jargon of diversity: It allows us not to talk about the increasingly rigid partition of our society along class lines. For as we enthusiastically fine-tune our sensibilities about how cultural or racial groupings can best be spoken about or symbolized, most social goods in our country—health care, affordable housing and higher education, income support, a living wage—drift further and further out of reach for many ordinary Americans. This is far from accidental, Mr. Michaels says; the marketing of cultural diversity as a social desideratum has crowded out any clear understanding—especially on the left end of the political spectrum—of how class privilege operates in America today.

Examples abound, but Mr. Michaels correctly focuses on the fetishizing of racial difference—a tic shared among partisans of every ideological persuasion—as the key factor in the flight from a class-based politics. Mr. Michaels doesn’t deny the persistence of racism, but notes that it’s been significantly downgraded: "Racism has been privatized," he writes, "converted from a political position into a personal failing." And Americans romance nothing quite so ardently as remedies for a personal failing: The mandate to appreciate the anodyne ideal of "cultural diversity"—itself a labored euphemism for the defeat of structural racism—"gives us a vision of difference without equality," since all cultures in this view of things are equally worthy of respect. And this central reverie, Mr. Michaels argues, means that "the political commitment to equality involves not creating it (by, say, redistributing wealth) but just insisting that it’s already there."


In reality, of course, the whole notion of encouraging economic diversity is farcical: A sane view of social justice involves decreasing the number of poor people, and hence reducing economic diversity. "Indeed," Mr. Michaels writes, "since economic diversity is just another name for economic inequality, it’s hard to see why we would want to promote it."

During my college years, I always felt the superficiality in the ever-present encomia to diversity. My aloofness from the celebrations derived in part from my disdain for its collapse of particular ethnicity into a vague racial "Whiteness." I also chafed at the unsubtle religiously-blind secularism of diversity-boosters.

In hindsight, the absence of complaint about economic divisions becomes more notable. Most everyone on a college campus, the maintenance staff excepted, is a part of or well on their way to becoming part of the professional class, and the poorer students are too busy working multiple jobs to seek attention. Perhaps a latent meritocratic disdain for the uncredentialed, the feeling of being above the herd in the "top twenty percent" of the educated, affects even the most sensitive activist souls.

However great the ineptitude of progressive economic policy, diverse platitudes hinder it from the dignity of popular consideration, not to mention refutation.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Against Mock-Stoic Muggers

Many of the people who are angry at or even hate Mr. Bush have very good reasons, and they are not making arguments for anger but are making impassioned arguments against an abominable and awful administration. If those arguments put off many “moderates” and the like, it is because our political culture has almost certainly become too pathetically nice and has been completely sapped of the kind of vigour that once made politics the sort of rough-and-tumble affair in which decent men would not have wanted women to participate because of its harshness.

Nowadays we have the ludicrous Speaker of the House having photo-ops of children holding the Speaker’s gavel and the President talking about how much he cares about this or that suffering group. The endless appeals to bipartisanship, the constant flow of saccharine rhetoric and the nauseatingly cheerful ranks of professional politicians tell me that our political culture is so far from being flooded with anger that it isn’t even funny. For those who, like Mr. Wood, think we live in an age of considerable political anger and fear its culturally destructive effects, I will point them to the bizarre enthusiasm for Barack Obama, who always offers the sickening “let’s bring people together” pap and embodies the tiresome ”I understand your valid concerns” style of disingenuous politicking. [...] Personally, I regard this treacly, meaningless kind of political appeal as a far more serious threat to the quality of our political discourse than legions of bitter Kossacks shouting themselves hoarse with contempt for the GOP. The Kossacks and the like may not have much to say, but they do say something. Politicians operating in the Obama style have nothing to say and actually seem proud that they deal in such empty banter.
Daniel Larison

On occasion I wonder what Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil's Dictionary, would deride in modern life were he expanding his lexicon today. My favored entry for "extremist" runs:

"Extremist: a person disdained by major political and media figures."

Prompted by the above attack on mock-stoic muggers, I invent another entry:

"Angry Man: Person whose face cannot display an airbrushed smile for the television cameras."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Globalizing Commercial Hyperbole

Zenbei ga naita -- literally, "the entire United States wept." [The phrase] means nothing important.

One might be moved to wonder how the above expression could possibly take on such an unrelated meaning. After checking the blogs, your reporter came up with this explanation: When many U.S. films open in Japan, they are accompanied by posters claiming that American viewers were moved to tears. But the such films have little emotional impact on viewers here. So Japanese filmgoers have learned, apparently, to disregard such promotional claims as largely meaningless.
via Language Log

Friday, June 30, 2006

Cross-Cultural Convergence at Work

Darwin's theory has been proven wrong even by science back in the 1960's, so why they are still teaching a bogus theory in public schools is ridiculous. That means they do not want our children to know the truth. There is a book called Forbidden Archeology which has recorded thousands of artifacts and bones that show advanced human life even millions of years ago. (Way more advanced than we are today) And monkeys were still the same monkeys we have today. If you need proof then I suggest you get the book.

Mouth-breathing theocratic Christian fundamentalist?

No, proselytizing Hindu mystic!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Students said they were offended when Mansfield said the only gentlemen left were either gay or conservative.

"If I was a gay man I'd be offended," said Rebecca Goetz, a fourth year graduate student in history who attended the speech as a guest of an Eliot undergraduate.
Harvey Mansfield Decries Harvard's Sex Scene

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mean People Win

It is a severe fact that one cannot take clear stands on many critical issues without expressing contempt for "the deeply held convictions of others with whom [one] disagree[s]." The proper attitude toward a person or position one regards as contemptuous of, say, human life, is contempt--which need not preclude pity, fear, and even compassion. Anything less indicates one does not really take the matter seriously. It is always the fitting implication and sign of honesty in even the most "civil" disputes that the disputants are clearly antagonists whose differences cannot be reconciled or infinitely deferred without there being a winner and a loser.
-Gassalasca Jape

"...the old religion did not beatify men unless they were replete with worldly glory: army commanders, for instance, and rulers of republics. Our religion has glorified humble and contemplative men, rather than men of action. It has assigned as man's highest good humility, abnegation, and contempt for mundane things, whereas the other identified it with magnanimity, bodily strength, and everything else that conduces to make men very bold. And if our religion demands that in you there be strength, what it asks for is strength to suffer rather than strength to do bold things. This pattern of life, therefore, appears to have made the world weak, and to have handed it over as a prey to the wicked, who run it successfully and securely since they are well aware that the geniality of men, with paradise for their goal, consider how best to bear, rather than how best to avenge, their injuries. But, though it looks as if the world were to become effeminate and as if heaven were powerless, this undoubtedly is due rather to the pusillanimity of those who have interpreted our religion in terms of laissez-faire, not in terms of virtu.
-Machiavelli, The Discourses

Too often, "meanness" doesn't mean cruelty, it simply means disturbing the things which need disturbing. Generally, these things are part of the self-satisfied status quo ranging in level from the individual ego to global society. The status quo itself required and still requires meanness to maintain itself, only this cover is forgotten beneath a veneer of virtue at those times when it is not deliberately ignored. Cynical to say, those who admonish and rebuke malfeasance on the part of politicians, entertainers, journalists, and clergy, are too easily silenced by distracting admonitions that the critic care more for his inner state before correcting other people who themselves care little for self-criticism. The would-be critic's soul is never perfect enough for his opinion to be reckoned worthy of consideration, and so his self-examination is never-ending and therefore nigh indistinguishable from self-absorption.

Yes, personal reform is both an obvious prerequisite and a continuing process for any man. Yes, Machiavelli's claim to vengeance is neither his nor ours, but the Lord's.

Nonetheless the personal failings self-examination reveals cannot always counsel inaction in the face of wrongdoing. Indeed, an examination of conscience can indicate that one is timid when one should be courageous; that one is hectored into silence when one should be bellowing vituperations upon self-serving moralist poseurs. It is indeed a deformed sense of prudence which advises only reasons for inaction while being deaf to reasons for action. Inaction itself can be a moral failing in need of correction: it was once recognized as Sloth, a sinful habit to be purged by just and true action towards real good.

May the counsels of Sloth be silenced in all good men's hearts.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Atheist Poetics, or the Lack Thereof

"They want us to believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead, but then tell us it is blasphemy to suggest that he had done something prosaic like engage in an affair or have offspring."
-American Atheists

Friday, February 03, 2006

"It Hurts" is not an Argument

"I guess I just want to remind them that people every single day embrace varying kinds of sacrifice—slow or fast, honored or humiliating—and if you want anything resembling a functioning culture (let alone a Catholic one) you need people who can say that ‘it hurts’ isn’t an argument. Every functioning culture relies on a core of people who can accept that life, or God, or whatever they believe in, will ask them to do things they would never have believed possible; and they do them. Every day. Policemen and policemen’s wives; soldiers and soldiers’ husbands; saints and martyrs; pregnant women in desperate circumstances; everyone who suffers and whose suffering would be eased by just a little wrong action, just a small palliative sin."
-Eve Tushnet

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Every Applicant a Galileo Makes Every Department Dull

First Things takes on the Perpetual Revolution in the academic Humanities:

Benton is hardly the first person to lament the fact that contemporary academic culture has been impoverished by its capitulation to the cult of academic celebrity. But he goes further than that, taking aim at the fallacy undergirding the cult: our obsession with “individual genius.” The very idea that the Ph.D. dissertation ought to be an “original contribution to knowledge,” a precept that was already well entrenched when William James wrote against it a century ago, has helped to feed this romantic fallacy. But, as Benton shows, the fallacy has metastasized into something downright ludicrous. In a job interview for an entry-level position at a second-tier state university, Benton was asked how his scholarly work might “redraw the boundaries of the profession.” To his credit, he was unable to manufacture a glib and confident answer to such a breathtakingly stupid question, and was too modest to put himself forward as the next Derrida. And instantly, he says, “I could feel the temperature of the room drop as if I had just stepped into a meat locker.” The interview was over.

In retrospect, one might have wanted Benton to respond, “If this ‘profession’ is so fragile and unstable as to have its boundaries redrawn by any freshly minted Ph.D. to come down the pike, who would want to be a part of it? And just who do you people think you are? Would interviewers for an entry-level job in, say, physics, at Mega State U. in Oshkosh ask each applicant how their work would comprehensively reorder our understanding of the physical universe?” Such impertinent questions would not have gotten him the job, but he could at least have gotten some truth-telling satisfaction out of the encounter.

Like Henry James, Chesterton noted a similar habit long ago:

But the man we see every day -- the worker in Mr. Gradgrind's factory, the little clerk in Mr. Gradgrind's office -- he is too mentally worried to believe in freedom. He is kept quiet with revolutionary literature. He is calmed and kept in his place by a constant succession of wild philosophies. He is a Marxian one day, a Nietzscheite the next day, a Superman (probably) the next day; and a slave every day. The only thing that remains after all the philosophies is the factory. The only man who gains by all the philosophies is Gradgrind. It would be worth his while to keep his commercial helotry supplied with sceptical literature. And now I come to think of it, of course, Gradgrind is famous for giving libraries. He shows his sense. All modern books are on his side. As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realized, or even partly realized. The modern young man will never change his environment; for he will always change his mind.

Monday, January 02, 2006

"Fascism" in the Nomenklatura Sovietskaya

Sometime around 1931-1932 the usage of the term "National Socialist" was forbidden in Soviet Russia, presumably on Stalin's orders. (this is an important topic that researchers reading Russian might usefully pursue, verify, and complete.) After that date, Russian references to Hitler or to National Socialists or to the Third Reich was always to "Fascists" or "Hitlerites." In western Europe and in the United States this terminology was instantly and eagerly adopted by many journalists and political commentators and even political thinkers and historians--wrongly so. It was the only permissible term employed by all Communists, regimes as well as intellectuals, in the Soviet-dominated nations of Eastern Europe.

Stalin had good reasons to insist upon this kind of terminology. National, instead of "international" socialism was more and more applicable to Stalin's Russia in the 1930s, whence it was best to avoid the usage of such a term. At the same time the overall application of "Fascism" to all right-wing and strongly anti-Communist parties and phenomena was very useful for international Communist and left-wing rhetoric and practice.

-John Lukacs, Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred p. 117

Friday, December 30, 2005

Borges on Argentine Literary Disputes

I disliked what Martin Fierro[a journal] stood for, which was the French idea that literature is being continually renewed--that Adam is reborn every morning, and also for the idea that, since Paris has literary cliques that wallowed in publicity and bickering, we should be up to date and do the same. One result of this was that a sham literary feud was cooked up in Buenos Aires--that between Florida and Bodeo. Florida represented Downtown and Bodeo the proletariat. I'd have preferred to be in the Bodeo group, since I was writing about the old Northside and slums, sadness, and sunsets. But I was informed by one of the two conspirators that I was already one of the Florida warriors and that it was too late for me to change. The whole thing was just a put-up job. Some writers belonged to both groups. This sham is now taken into serious consideration by "credulous universities." But it was partly publicity, partly a boyish prank.

-Jorge Luis Borges
"An Autobiographical Essay"
The Aleph and Other Stories

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Yet Another Sex Article

I am getting very sick of "sex talk." Too much theory, not enough practice! St. Paul's admonition "let some things never be spoken of among you" provides a convenient excuse for opting out of the always mildly salacious discussions frequenting the topic.

I suppose such talk is necessary, after all, and I think the Touchstone article by R. V. Young, The Gay Invention is quite useful, concisely covering the linguistic and conceptual history of homosexuality.

A few extracts and commentary:

St. Thomas thus points out that while even simple fornication is “against properly human nature, of which the act of generation is ordered to the appropriate education of children,” sodomy is “against the nature of every animal” because it is not aimed at generation at all.

This finally makes the "against nature" description of such acts make sense. The rationale also applies both against a contracepted act of fornication and a contracepted marital act. Perhaps this means the contemporary adulation of homosexuality is linked on a very deep level to the wide acceptance of contraception, because even married people no longer aim at begetting children in the consumation of their married life. Elsewhere Thomas decribes self-abuse as a sin sometimes called the sin of effeminacy, further revealing a possible deep consistency behind the course the pornoculture is taking.

But in our consequentialist age, who wants to argue against distributing contraceptives to kiddies or the HIV positive because contracepted acts are inherently sodomitical and that unprotected fornication is a "less grave" mortal sin than the "protected" kind? I'd be tempted to make such an argument just to shock. However, the newly-found reverence for sodomy is better explained if one thinks that mainstream America has itself been practicing sodomy even in the marriage bed.

Lest one think this too radical, it has been reported that Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, advised Paul VI that the reasoning behind the condemnation of sodomy collapses upon declaring contraceptives compatible with Christian marriage.

Another conclusion: it seems a contracepted marital act cannot consumate a marriage.

A further point of interest from the article:

The first edition of the OED (1933) lists sporadic usages of “gender” for “sex” from the fourteenth through the nineteenth centuries, but notes that such usage is “now only jocular.” The second edition (1989) adds this to the entry: “In mod. (esp. feminist) use a euphemism for the sex of a human being, often intended to emphasize the social and cultural, as opposed to the biological, distinctions between the sexes.”

Though there is a way of thinking in merely biological categories that should be avoided, the flight from the biological is getting really ridiculous right now, especially with the advent of transhumanist nutjobs.