What Is Wrong Here?

Duly Noted

Those that peruse numerous news sources run into reports that cannot be true, should not be true, but that are, nevertheless, true. In time, a bouquet accumulates to be shared with those that can laugh even if it hurts.

1. The “EU is ready with sanctions if Ukraine ceasefire violated,” announced, many recent deaths ago the headline about Chancellor Merkel. The threat by Germany’s leader who is undistinguishable from her leftist coalition partner, sounds good. Not unlike Putin, “Duly Noted” is unimpressed. The small print –it is always what matters- tells why earthquake watchers register no trembling under the Kremlin. 

To keep Moscow off tranquilizers, also to prevent the scramble of scared chickens in the coop, a qualifier is inserted. To unleash retaliation, the violation must be “serious”. Experience suggests that we have to do with a definition that is as flexible as is the “meaning of is” in “Clinton-Speak”. The criterion of “serious” is only fulfilled if Russia’s consents that her violations have been serious. Conclude: the Atlantic Alliance is back in its favored slumber mode. 

Justice And Common Sense

Duly Noted

For long, a plea for the recognition of a Kurdish entity has been in “Duly Noted’s” pipeline. The Kurd’s impressive valor and the injustices meted out to them to create “stable conditions”, constitute a moral imperative to present this piece.

It is tempting to plead here what cannot be dismissively attributed to ones ethnicity. Local roots are a trap: if a theme to which one is related is handled, the “local bias” is used to discount an informed thought process. “Knowing too much” is a charge that claims that immersion results in bias. At the same time, a removed background brings another disqualifying charge. It is that, being far from the subject, you do not know enough to speak up. If these ideas hold water, no one is to be trusted. 

There is a criterion to judge presentations that the reader is not independently familiar with. Ask if the references to points that are within the grasp of the educated are plausible. Are the signals that pass through such contacts points undistorted? By that standard, much that represents a global view of a local matter can pass muster.

The Structure of Education is the Structure of Faith

This is the first in a series of three essays intended to critique selected aspects of the prevailing modern worldview of the West’s ubiquitous liberal regime. In the present essay, I am interested in the prevailing modern view of education; I argue that various pre-modern ways of understanding education address their topic with a good deal more penetration than that achieved by the modern view, which tends to insipidity. In a follow-on essay to this one I will address the question how revelation is related to reality; a third essay will devote itself to a discussion of memory considered as an institution.

The one thing that modern educators, including modern college and university educators, know best is that faith has no place in education. Faith, the term by which modern educators, when they use it, invariably mean Christianity, is, in the prevailing view, inimical to education – a “clinging” bogey to be banished. At the institution where I teach, a mid-tier state college in the Northeast, official edicts have banished all signs of Easter and Christmas, substituting for the latter the bland notion of “Winter Holidays.” In December, the president annually sends all faculty and staff a calculatedly inoffensive “Winter Holidays” greeting, via email. For what it is worth, for many years I have regularly received an unambiguous “Merry Christmas” message from a long-distance colleague at the University of Tehran, under the auspices of whose department I had the good fortune, a few years ago, to chair a dissertation.

“No Guns”: Who Benefits?

Duly Noted

This column likes to assert that the threat to our way of life does not reflect the muscles of its enemy. Materially, the challenger is too backward to upset the world order. This applies, whether the foes meant are Marxists, traditional ethnic imperialist (Russia), religious supremacist (Islamists), or Third-Worldists who blame their poverty on those that escaped it through their own efforts. Whatever the chance of these for success might be, it flows from the fashionable self-flagellation of the developed world. 

Although non-western societies join eagerly the western model that they adjust to their traditions, the ranks of the progressive world’s enemies are swelling. Potentially, in the future case of China, but presently mainly from Russia and the Islamists, a challenge unfolds. This dispute is partly cultural –it can pit Islam or a secular religion (Marxism), against modernity. In the latter area, Russia’s militarized resentment of models beyond her control is the chief threat. Tactically, Islam’s hostility might be more brutal and confrontational. Nevertheless, it does not compare to Russia’s, as the Islamist cannot produce the armaments they need to crush the Infidels.

Jihad’s Ace Cards Unmasked

Duly Noted

Advanced societies find it difficult to respond to Islam’s fundamentalists. The credit is not due to the fanatics. Yes, the cards they hold are used ruthlessly and cleverly and they score spectacularly. However, the real super-weapon of the radicals is their victim’s mind-set.

Our professional wise guys are at a loss. How is the violence generated in a Muslim context to be registered without insulting its source? We have here something that, by our culture’s prejudice, should not exist. Moreover, rationally evaluated, Islamism is self-destructive. Such calculations reflect our civilization’s parochial inability to comprehend those defined by a “stone age” past. The reaction is “We would not act that way; how come that they do?” That astonishment provokes a search for the normal world’s contribution that must have provoked what appears to be irrational. 

The Web Of Soothing Lies

A lesson from mankind’s experience is that all past generations have lived “interesting times”. Popular amnesia likes to lose sight of this; therefore, we think our day’s vicissitudes are unprecedented. That said it appears that we are departing from the cast of the past in a way that shatters patterns. Below follows a move through time to the discernible future in our present.

During the development of “Western Civilization”, our relationship to authority changed significantly. We went from chaos to submission and then, once order returned, we grew into a participatory system based upon delegated power. This is the condition of our day that might be surpassed through that new departure.

Breaking With the Past?

Duly Noted

Forgiveness not met by regret implies subjugation.

The practical use of history is its distorted exploitation. This abuse accompanies the following discourse about the present.

Perceived developments that disturb the world order and our holiday peace produce sundry responses. Some are echoes of a fictitious past that nets new soothing errors in fact or logic that cater to self-deceit. If that is so, then a purpose can be to avoid the challenges of self-protection. Behind this hides the attempt to skip the effort that self-defense causes. Problem solution by denial ties to a vice of our culture to wallow in the luxury that isolates failures from their unpleasant consequences. 

This lets the PC-infected to excuse criminals as the victims of “society” while the cornered policeman that confronts him becomes a violent racist. A symptom of this decadence, which helps us to avoid our duties, we encounter in miss-educated children. Parents are too lazy to educate their kids, so they raise them to become brats. The theory is that, if it feels good it is right to do it, even if the results are wrong. Indulgence in inaction is wrapped in excusing slogans. These pretend that (a) nothing that should not be happening is occurring, and (b) that to say “no” could warp the child’s psyche. Therefore, the little tyrants are badly socialized and, for that reason, their misdeeds grow as they mature.

Marxism Is Still Alive

Looking at the world today, it would seem that Samuel Huntington's thesis of a coming clash of civilizations has been entirely vindicated by the facts. The conflicts that dominate the headlines these days are mostly of an ethnic or cultural nature: the continuing problem of Islamic terrorism and “stealth jihad”, the riots in the United States following the Ferguson incident, and demonstrations in the Netherlands against the custom of “Zwarte Piet”. And in case the reader remarks on the omission of the “new cold war” with Russia, it can also be explained as a revival, not of the ideological confrontation with communism, but of the age-old clash between Western and Orthodox Christianity. 

Telling Tales

Duly Noted

1. Revealing: A reputable Swiss weekly presented Koran verses that incite to violence against unbelievers –which means you, the world and me. The intent: show that violence in the name of God is not an error of confused followers. 

The response of Islam experts: to read the Book, you need to be an expert. That confers power because you must believe what they say and not what you see. 

The expert excuse for the inexcusable: The Prophet advocated and practiced what has been normal in his time in backward places. Also, Mohammed was under the pressure of enemies, which influenced his pronouncements. Does this mean that not God –who was hardly pressured- but a man, is the Book’s source? Considering the factors of limited time and plenty of enemies, one wonders how violent Christ’s should have been by that standard.

René Girard On The “Ontological Sickness”

Owen Barfield in 1922
Owen Barfield in 1922

Owen Barfield (1898 - 1997), the English philologist and literary critic, is not an author whom one casually connects with the natively French but long-naturalized American anthropological thinker René Girard (born 1923), but one of Barfield’s coinages – the concept of “internalization,” which he develops in his History in English Words (1926) – makes a good introduction to Girard’s concept of “ontological sickness,” the proposed topic of the present discussion. Barfield uses his term “internalization” to designate an essential characteristic of modernity that can be traced back to the late Seventeenth Century only to reach a degree of alarming acuity three hundred and fifty years later. In both the Pagan order and the medieval Christian order, people grasped nature as vital and as having a reciprocal relation with the individual human being. This perception is rooted partly in the agricultural pattern of the classical and medieval societies, but also powerfully intuitive irrespective of its context. Human beings under this intuition share the cosmos with other beings of various hierarchical orders, some of whom exert influence on people, as the planets and stars supposedly do according to the precepts of astrology. One need not take the propositions of the astrologer literally in acknowledging that, even by modern, skeptical criteria, his nowadays much-disparaged cosmic science grasps an essential truth: That every creature has an environment, with whose fluctuations the creature’s life remains intimately entangled.

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