Thursday, 2/27/14

    1. The Kennan Diaries
    2. WEIRD Culture – nothing more provincial
    3. Ambivalence about Ukraine
    4. New! From The Algorithms of Townhall.com
    5. Rationalizing apostasy
    6. Almost agreeing with Peter Singer

1

Fareed Zakaria has written what strikes me as a terrific book review of The Kennnan Diaries. I’m not a big reader of book reviews, so take my opinion of the review qua review with a grain of salt, but it sure makes me want to read the book and to get to know more about George Kennan.

Let’s get the racism out of the way. I don’t get it and I don’t excuse it except to say that I’ve heard very similar things from white men of that and somewhat younger generations. I guess you had to be there to “get” anxiety about miscegenation.

But otherwise, oh my! What a man and what a true conservative!

George F. Kennan was the most celebrated ­diplomat-intellectual of the 20th century, the brilliant author of the strategy of containment that the United States adopted and that won the Cold War. For most of his life he was seen as a strategist and — because he was dovish on most foreign policy issues — a liberal. As these diaries make clear, he spent much of his life thinking about political philosophy. And his instincts and insights were deeply conservative, but in a way that doesn’t really fit into today’s left-right categories.

“I cannot help but regret that I did not live 50 or 100 years sooner,” he wrote in one of his entries. “Life is too full in these times to be comprehensible. We know too many cities to be able to grow into any of them, . . . too many friends to have any real friendships, too many books to know any of them well, and the quality of our impressions gives way to the quantity, so that life begins to seem like a movie, with hundreds of kaleidoscopic scenes flashing on and off our field of perception, gone before we have time to consider them.” It’s a vivid expression of a deep, instinctual conservatism, especially when you consider that it was written in December 1927.

I open with that to whet your appetite because Zakaria did, and I think it was a great choice.

If I go on, I’m going to use up my lifetime quota of exclamation points, so I’ll just commend the review to you and hope I can soon move it from Wish List to reading list (so many books, so little time!).

2

Once again, we see the conflict between the values of WEIRD cultures–Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic–and those of more traditional societies. WEIRD cultures stress individual expression and fulfillment; traditional cultures value authority, community, and sacredness. To someone from a WEIRD perspective, it’s impossible to believe that serious people could be morally outraged by Doniger’s book, or think destroying the book a proper response. By contrast, people embedded in a traditional Hindu culture find Doniger’s interpretation disgraceful and foreign—an insult that should not be borne.

(Mark Movesian on Penguin’s decision to withdraw a controversial book on Hinduism)

3

Ukraine of course had its anti-Russian revolutions before, only ten years ago in fact. The makers of the Orange Revolution made such a mess of things with infighting and corruption that Yanukovich was legitimately voted into power in 2010. Now he has been ousted by young revolutionaries, but if you are a Russian-speaking Ukranian,—perhaps a third of population—you might well think of the Maidan crowds as street mobs with no legitimacy.

(Scott McConnell) True. So much for facile claims that the Ukrainian unrest was all about democracy.

But there’s another problem: much of Ukraine, perhaps a third of it, identifies not with the West, but with Russia. And vice versa. William Pfaff concisely portrays the depth of this association by observing that Europe’s maneuvering to draw the Ukraine into the EU

required rupturing Ukraine’s medieval and modern association with Russia, whose people are held to have been Christianized by Ukraine’s Byzantine Saints Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century, thereby laying the foundation of Russian civilization.

In other words, by messing with the connection between Ukraine and Russia, Europe and Washington’s diplomats and armchair strategists are playing with something that cuts to the core identities of Russians and many Ukrainians both. Perhaps this is why the Russian speaker at today’s forum, a learned and witty man, reminded his powerlunch audience that he appreciated a quotation he had once heard from Alexander Haig: “There are some things worse than war.”

I therefore join McConnell in is ambivalence about events in Ukraine.

4

Keep an eye out for a brand new book from Greg Gutfeld, best-selling author and FOX News personality, on America’s newest culture war. Gutfeld turns a tough eye on society’s elite: the Cool. We’ve all met the Cool: the latte-sipping, flannel-wearing “hipsters” who look down on America and her ideals. They scoff at hard work, kowtow to terrorists, and belittle religion.

This is conservative book formula #1 of 2 from from The Thing That Used To Be A Conservative Think Tank via it’s wholly-owned lowbrow subsidiary, Townhall.com. #2 is:

Keep an eye out for a brand new book from [fill in the blank], best-selling author and FOX News personality, on America’s newest culture war. [fill in the blank] turns a tough eye on the new atheists, who scoff at all that’s Good’n’Sacred.® They also are latte-sipping, flannel-wearing “hipsters” who look down on America and her ideals. They scoff at hard work and kowtow to terrorists, too.

Be very angry and afraid. And send your checks and money orders today!

5

The same poll finds that a significant number of Millennials who have left the church saying that the church’s perceived negativity towards LGBT folks had a lot to do with it. That strikes me more as a rationalism than a reason. If that were true, they would go to one of the liberal, gay-affirming churches. For reasons that are not entirely clear, once many people cease to believe in traditional Christian teaching on sexuality, they cease to believe in Christianity in any meaningful sense. Which came first? Hard to say. But if a church or denomination’s view on homosexuality were a deciding factor, we would see liberal churches gaining members among the Millennials.

(Rod Dreher)

6

I do sometimes think that, in hindsight, it might have been better if I never addressed that topic.

(Peter Singer on killing babies) I was going to say I finally agreed with Singer about something, but before I could cut and paste it, I started thinking “No, it’s really better to have the eventuality of his philosophy made stark and hideous before the seduction is too complete.”

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.