Why?

Simple questions might demand difficult answers.

This writer became politically aware when the fifties dawned. Condemned to live in the Hungarian cell of Socialism’s Soviet empire, the “why” was reoccurring in the conversation of the adults. Given the colonial status, the descent into poverty and the lost hopes for a new era after the Axis’ defeat, the phrase is understandable. 

There were things that no one could fathom. A bit later, Stalin’s death saved us, at the outset of the greatest of his purges.  When we waited with a bag under our pillow for our anticipated transport to liquidation, no one really understood. That “why” came not from wanting to know why those things were done to us. Much rather, no one could understand why “the Americans” would allow the system that marked us for extermination to push them around. Regardless of its brutality toward its subjects, to us the weaknesses of the USSR were obvious. 

Taleb, Mystery and Conservatism

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Greek Orthodox Christian from Lebanon; the Levant. In the course of his book Antifragile, he promotes skepticism, theism, tradition, the writings of the stoics and seeks to restrict the claims of theory and "naïve rationalism."

Elsewhere I have said that often theory seems to make us stupider than we would be without the theory. This is particularly true when theory says something is not possible. A key phrase Taleb appeals to is from Friedrich Nietzsche, hardly a defender of tradition or theism, “Just because something is unintelligible to you does not mean it is unintelligent.” Many traditions, such as those involving fasting may seem unintelligible to many but there can be reasons for thinking that they are intelligent.

One of the things I have found interesting about Taleb is the way he extends what I had in my own thinking thought of as ‘mystery’ to areas of human life I had not previously considered. My list of the ‘mysterious’ had included life: what is it, where did it come from and why; consciousness, morality and free will. Emotion too is mysterious because it is implicated in a proper existential attitude to the world and yet it is not fully intelligible. Emotion complements reason but by definition is not simply reason itself. Thus its workings and logic has to be intuited and felt rather than fully explicated.

The Revolt of the Masses

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This installment of Duly Noted departs from the posting’s usual pattern. A seemingly small event has occurred that sheds light on what might be, a yet partially hidden, long-term trend of fundamental significance.

The venue of the deed is Switzerland. That country might be small but its unique political system –that operates one of the world’s most successful economies without having natural resources- has now produced a result that deserves the title of this writing. Here the reader should know that Switzerland practices direct democracy, which means that the people is called upon several times a year to vote directly over initiatives and to make the decisions of parliament and executive binding.  The result is that, matters about which even in advanced democratic countries the political class decides, are subject to the direct judgment of the citizenry.

New Tags for Old Problems

Duly Noted

Inventive labels do not heal what they cover up. 

Labels can change an object’s perceived meaning while the traits of the verbally recycled item remain unchanged. Through this process, the good is redone as bad, black may mute into white, and negatives are transformed into positives. 

 A classic case of overwriting reality is the terms “Fascism” and “National Socialism”. With the rise of the Nazis, their name that fused two deviations grew into a threat to the “International Socialists”. Outside of Russia, the “national’s” credentials were better than the “international” appendix of Socialism. It was the Comintern’s Dimitroff, which rescued the cause by using “Fascism” for the Kremlin’s competitors. Although the difference between National Socialism and Fascism is considerable, the Left’s fifth column made the term stick. With that, everything to the right of Stalin, is “Fascist” –especially the National Socialists. Even Tito, a Yugoslav Communist that sinned by resisting Moscow, became a “Fascist” –and a “Wall Street Hireling”.

’68 And All That

Some dissonance to embellish an otherwise undisturbed self-anointment.

Inexorably, the intensively self-admired ‘68ers are aging.  The passing of time does not keep the eternally youthful from continuing in their bad old childish habits. Therefore, the gorilla-style breast beating continues. It is followed by preaching about how we should behave and why their shining example is to be replicated. 

Some aspects of this self-celebration are remarkable. However, the exercise unmasks the self-adored as being by now to be twice the age of thirty. Thirty is a magic number taken from the haunting past’s self-advertisement. Just in case, you forgot: The then and now infallible youths –excused for misbehavior because “kids do strange things- used to trumpet that, above thirty, no one is to be trusted. 

This, in itself, reveals much about the skewed perspective that handicaps the source of the acclaim. Remember, it was not the malicious writer that pretended, earlier or now, that by reaching the age of thirty the culprit becomes a reactionary leper. The ‘68ers themselves had announced this with incessant emphasis because it constituted one of their dogmas. In time, that tenet aged as does wine in an open glass; it is known to turn into vinegar.  

Settlers and Migrants

Duly Noted

The story of a derailment.

Let this begin with a superfluous defense against the inevitable PC-fed charge of small-minded prejudice. Your writer is a habitual migrant. Having left, entered, moved from, and then reentered several countries is part of the blame that validates the claim. Add that, the family language has been shifted in a contrarian way. By design not being the same as that of the natives, the effort was to further the careers of the children. The result is that one feels, even at home, a bit like an incurable migrant. A minor disadvantage of this practice is that your correspondent does not have insider communications with his newest, Alemanic-speaking grandchildren 

Coercion and Concord

Duly Noted

A contemporary tale told in the past tense.

In 2014, the world recalls the “Great War” of 1914. Already the gap between the terminology used then, and the rating applied now, are thought provoking. The Great War held its title for twenty years. Then, the faults of the treaty that ended the conflict ripened. Clemenceau – France’s Premier drunk by grandeur - estimated that the dictated agreement was not a peace but an armistice for twenty years. The mistakes of a country that did not seek peace and reconciliation but a system to assure its continental dominance, converted the forecast into a fact. 

Ukraine And The European Consensus

Like all geopolitical issues, the recent events in the Ukraine were not specifically important in themselves, but revealed a lot about the attitudes of different shades of opinion in the West, and about the nature of Western society in contrast to Russia. 

On the one hand, American conservatives and neoconservatives, and European liberals, saw in the protest movement the embodiment of a universal struggle for freedom and Western values. Indeed, for these currents of opinion, this was the only meaning of the events of the past weeks. Since the Ukrainian people is fighting for these values which we all hold so dear, we should assist it with all means at our disposal to throw of the yoke of Russian autocracy and its local stooges like president Yanukovich. On the other hand, traditionalist (especially European) conservatives were, as always, eager to point out the expansionist agenda of the United States and NATO: after all, the current government of the Ukraine has been democratically elected, it is a sovereign country, and if it chooses to deal with its Russian neighbor rather than with the excessively liberal European Union, we should respect that choice. Open support for the opposition from Western governments would amount to an attempt at neocolonial domination of the Ukraine.

“Karl Marx For President”

Incompetence and endangered freedom.

Recently, a memorable video had been circulated. It showed a person collecting signatures in a better neighborhood. So far, you have not discovered anything sufficiently unusual to deserve a commentary. The wondering ends when you hear about the matter for which support was drummed up.

In the video, passersby are faced with this plea: “Support Obama’s continued Communist course. In the past, he has been advised by his friend Karl Marx to guide his actions. To assure the continuity of his policy, Karl Marx needs to be our candidate after the coming election because Obama cannot run,. Therefore, we ask you to sign this petition supporting ‘Karl Marx for President’.”

Poe And His Frenchman, Baudelaire And His Americans: La Théorie De La Décadence Bohème

Remember: I think these thoughts so that you don’t have to…

The spectacle of decadence has appealed to poets since the time of Juvenal, the heyday of whose authorship came early in the Second Century AD. The hypertrophy and grotesquery of the Imperial City thus provide the background for Juvenal’s remarkable Satires, which presciently mirror the cultural degeneracy of the early Twenty-First Century’s civic scene, quite as well as they do for that of their own Latinate-Imperial milieu. Did Juvenal’s eyes witness him the Urbs on the Tiber or the City by the Bay? Is he writing about Rome’s Stoic salons or UC Berkeley’s Philosophy Department during the visiting professorship of Michel Foucault or again about the disintegration of the humanities departments generally under Deconstruction? “Infection spread this plague, / and will spread it further still… You will be taken up, over time / by a very queer brotherhood,” as Juvenal writes. Rome had its mysteries two thousand years ago, but then so does West Hollywood today: “You’ll see one initiate busy with an eyebrow pencil [while] a second sips his wine / from a big glass phallus, his long luxuriant curls / caught up in a golden hairnet.” Nor is the modern milieu less free than Rome was under Domitian, say, or Hadrian, of secret police, informers, and goon-squads. A ready inclination to cry lèse majesté belongs to the ripeness of a politically and culturally corrupt scene. So too do the insipidity of literature and the jejuneness of art.

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