Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Glenn Greenwald has some analysis of a recent book luncheon Bush attended with a handful of neoconservative thinkers to discuss revisionist historian Andrew Roberts. Within the piece is the following quote:

The causes of rampant anti-Americanism do indeed include dislike of Bush. But there are others: the war in Iraq; anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiment, laced with some covert anti-Semitism; and resentment of American power. Roberts urged the president not to concern himself with these anti-American feelings, since in a unipolar world the lone superpower cannot be loved. His advice: “Get your policies right and history will prove a kind muse.”

which was preceded by this gem:

On one subject the president needed no lessons from Roberts or anyone else in the room: how to handle pressure. “I just don’t feel any,” he says with the calm conviction of a man who believes the constituency to which he must ultimately answer is the Divine Presence. Don’t misunderstand: God didn’t tell him to put troops in harm’s way in Iraq; belief in Him only goes so far as to inform the president that there is good and evil. It is then his job to figure out how to promote the former and destroy the latter. And he is confident that his policies are doing just that.

Okay, first of all what fucking moron believes he can destroy all evil? That clearly points to the man’s megalomania. But what really bothers me about these two passages is that Bush doesn’t acknowledge that a president serves the American people. Not his historical legacy and not some divine presence, but ordinary people. And nowhere is this ever mentioned to him by his neocon enablers. No they talk about how we haven’t dropped enough bombs on non-english speaking people (who aren’t real people anyway in their view).

Isn’t it enough to just point out to everyone that Bush and the neocons worship at the altar of Leo Strauss, a man who said “those in power must invent noble lies and pious frauds to keep the people in the stupor for which they are supremely fit”. This quote is from an article Greenwald links to which discusses Strauss in more detail and seems to perfectly summarize the disdain that the current ruling class have for us wretched, disgusting, ordinary people. Here’s what I consider the uber-relevant bit from the rest of the Strauss piece:

There have always been those who deluded themselves into thinking that they were akin to gods who are entitled to rule over ordinary mortals. But no one has described this mentality more brilliantly than Dostoevsky, when he created the figure of the Grand Inquisitor. In his short story of the same title, Dostoevsky imagined that Jesus has returned to face a decadent and corrupt Church. As head of the Church, the Grand Inquisitor condemns Jesus to death, but not before having a long and interesting conversation with the condemned man. Jesus naively clings to the belief that what man needs above all else is freedom from the oppressive yoke of the Mosaic law, so that he can choose between good and evil freely according to the dictates of his conscience. But the Inquisitor explains to him that truth and freedom are the sources of humanity’s greatest anguish and that people will never be free because “they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious.” He declares that people can be happy only if they surrender their freedom and bow before miracle, mystery, and authority. Only then can people live and die peacefully, “and beyond the grave, they will find nothing but death. But we shall keep the secret, and for their happiness we shall allure them with the reward of heaven and eternity.” The Inquisitor explains that the “deception will be our suffering, for we shall be forced to lie.” But in the end, “they will marvel at us and look on us as gods.”

To say that Strauss’s elitism surpasses that of the Grand Inquisitor is an understatement. Undeniably, there are strong similarities. Like the Grand Inquisitor, Strauss thought that society must be governed by a pious elite (George Bush the second and the Christian fundamentalists who support him fit this role perfectly). Like the Grand Inquisitor, Strauss thought of religion as a pious fraud (something that would alarm the Christian fundamentalists who are allied with the neoconservatives). And even though Strauss was sympathetic to Judaism, he nevertheless described it as a “heroic delusion” and a “noble dream.” Like the Grand Inquisitor, he thought that it was better for human beings to be victims of this noble delusion than to “wallow” in the “sordid” truth. And like the Grand Inquisitor, Strauss thought that the superior few should shoulder the burden of truth and in so doing, protect humanity from the “terror and hopelessness of life.”

All the similarities between Strauss and the Grand Inquisitor notwithstanding, the Straussian position surpasses the Grand Inquisitor in its delusional elitism as well as in its misanthropy. This shows that while one need not be a religious thinker to be misanthropic, religion is an excellent vehicle for implementing misanthropic policies in public life.

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I was reading the letters section of my latest issue of Harpers, and one responding to Through a Glass, Darkly caught my attention (emphasis mine):

Perhaps evangelical Christians are predominant among homeschoolers, but they are not the entirety. Many people have kept their children out of school so that they would not be indoctrinated or “dumbed down,” to use a phrase of former New York State teacher-of-the-year John Taylor Gatto. Compulsive schooling, the brainchild of industrial magnates in the late 1800s, had the repugnant goal of creating a docile, easily exploited workforce. Schooling was, and is, intended to create parameters within which we are allowed to think. My children, whom I homeschooled can think independently, expressoutrage when it’s appropriate, and find time to read Harper’s. They’re a minority in the homeschooling world, but they are also a minority in mainstream America.

There are, of course, some excellent schoolteachers. But schools themselves are antidemocratic and bear great responisibility for the sheeplike behavior of our compatriots. To dismiss homeschooling itself as dysfunctional is to eliminate a potentially powerful tool for redressing the greater dysfunction of society. To assume that homeschooling belongs to evangelical Christians is no more accurate or fair than to assume that the whole country does.

Penny Teal
Mystic, Connecticut

Other respondents pointed out that while it may be true that many Christian homeschoolers may be teaching their children a skewed version of history, it is equally true that our secular public schools are not teaching history full or accurately themselves. If they did, then why would Howard Zinn have needed to write A People’s History of the United States?

I also strongly agree that schools and the authoritarian systems that govern them and standardized expectations can be quite detrimental to some people’s development. I speak from experience here as someone who simply cannot learn in the standard educational environment. I don’t know if it’s because I am diagnosed with ADD or some other psychological factor, but the only way I can learn is by following my own interests.

This is a topic that I want to write about expansively, specifically my own story of educational successes and failures as well as some of my friends. The theme of this is something that The Wire has brought to my attention, which is the failure of institutions to allow for individual freedom and mobility due to their need to maintain the status quo through varying degrees of conformity and often at the expense of the very people that they were established to help.

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Why is Debra Dickerson running around saying this crap?

“Now, I’m willing to adopt him,” Debra J. Dickerson continued [in a Salon essay]. “He married black. He acts black. But there’s a lot of distance between black Africans and African-Americans.”

and this shit:

“Black,” in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics.

Who is this woman and why is she going out of her way to make the world believe he isn’t black? What’s the goddamned point of this? Obama is all about unity and bringing us together, but she wants to waste time on the Colbert Report trying to say he’s… what? I don’t get this shit, but it’s annoying the piss out of me. I’m starting to wonder who the fuck this woman is.

Sounds like she’s a crackpot pundit who needs to stop being taken seriously.

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I can’t pimp this guy enough.

David Brin wrote the book The Transparent Society, which is a frightening and enlightening examination of the choices our society will face as surveillance technology improves. He strikes the balance between security and transparency and demonstrates that security is only truly attainable by allowing full transparency of our institutions. In the wake of the NSA stories of today, it is a highly recommended read. And anyone who’s come by this site knows that I’m big into Glenn Greenwald as well, I think the topics that Greenwald discusses in How Would a Patriot Act? intersect perfectly with Brin’s perspective.

I got into him somehow when I was first browsing iTunes podcast directory. I can’t find it on iTunes, but the lecture that got me interested in Brin can be found here, and for a shorter bit of his stuff, here he is on YouTube:

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