Sataurday, 8/6/16

  1. Putin: Real meat and gravitas
  2. Halfway measures
  3. I’d rather die
  4. 11/9/16: When All Will Be Revealed?
  5. Terror’s precedents
  6. Learning and schooling
  7. Education for jobs sucks

1

[T]hree of the major works of the anti-communist dissident and Nobel Prizewinner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, are required reading at all Russian high schools. These three works are the novella, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a harrowing account of the cruelty and barbarism of the Soviet labour camps; The Gulag Archipelago, a monumental history of the Soviet prison system and its inherent and endemic injustices; and Matryona’s House, a short story about the heroine’s retention of traditional Christian virtue in the face of communist tyranny … In October 2010, after it was announced that Solzhenitsyn’s works would become required reading for all Russian high school students, Putin described The Gulag Archipelago as “essential reading”: “Without the knowledge of that book, we would lack a full understanding of our country and it would be difficult for us to think about the future.”

Although one might justifiably lament the usurpation of the rights of parents by central government in the setting of a common core for education, whether such usurpation takes place in Russia or the United States, it must be said that the inclusion of a moral and literary giant, such as Solzhenitsyn, in Russia’s common core serves to highlight the relative trash and trivia included in the common core in the USA. At least Russia’s common core offers real meat and gravitas whereas American kids are being fed a thin gruel of nutrient-free nonsense. The former is healthy food for the mind and soul, full of nourishing traditions; the latter is fast food and junk food for the soulless and the mindless.

(Joseph Pearce, Putting Putin in Perspective) This brief essay is a welcome antidote to the bipartisan consensus that Putin is one of the world’s great menaces (Left: He’s a homophobe. Right: He’s Stalin and Khrushchev and he won’t let our sects operate freely to disrupt the recovery of truly Christian culture.)

He inherited a Russia that was economically and morally bankrupt, crippled by the kleptocracy that followed in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. He has taken on many of the worst oligarchs, has restored the Russian economy to a position of relative health, and has introduced family and child-friendly policies that have led to a significant increase in birth rates, thereby averting the imminent demographic death of Russia from population implosion. None of this justifies or excuses acts of imperialism on Russia’s borders but it does demand a more measured approach to our understanding of the Russian President. He is not a saint and none but a fool would seek to canonize him, but nor is he a tyrant and none but fools should seek to demonize him.

What fools (or rogues) our leaders are!

2

If there is any lesson to take from this present disaster, surely it is that the place of the presidency in American life has grown too large. It has taken calm, rational human beings and turned them into fanatics; it has turned dispassionate observers into cultists. And we do desperately need Congress to reassert its role restricting the executive, and to devolve the powers that have been more and more centralized by higher and higher offices back to state, regional, and municipal governments.

(Bill Smythe on Facebook)

One “conservative” cesspool website gives readers just two options for responding to stories:

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Truth is, my reaction to most of their articles is “dishonest clickbait, unworthy of conservatives,” but there’s no button for that. No, you’re either part of their tribe, right or wrong, or you’re a “liberal.” Such is the divisiveness of today’s politics, where fame and fortune await the victorious.

One of the most myopic things President Obama ever said was “government is simply the word for those things we choose to do together.” That anyone should count it profound is tragic very sad.

“Devolve the powers that have been more and more centralized by higher and higher offices back to state, regional, and municipal governments” is a halfway measure. Some of those powers simply need to be abandoned altogether so that civil society can function more fully.

3

At the risk of being dismissed as hostem humani generis, I will say that I’d rather die than be saved as the result of discoveries from swine-human chimera.

When our ancestors heard of Vlad the Impaler’s wife bathing in the blood of slaughtered virgins to keep herself beautiful, they were certain it was a bad thing. When they were told fairy tales of an old crone fattening children to suck the health from them, they knew which side they were supposed to take. When they read of Dorian Gray’s purchase of eternal youth, they understood that the price he paid was his soul.

But we live at a moment in which British newspapers can report on 19 families who have created test-tube babies solely for the purpose of serving as tissue donors for their relatives — some brought to birth, some merely harvested as embryos and fetuses. A moment in which Harper’s Bazaar can advise women to keep their faces unwrinkled by having themselves injected with fat culled from human cadavers. A moment in which the Australian philosopher Peter Singer can receive a chair at Princeton University for advocating the destruction of infants after birth if their lives are likely to be a burden. A moment in which the brains of late-term aborted babies can be vacuumed out and gleaned for stem cells.

In the midst of all this, the creation of a human-pig arrives like a thing expected. We have reached the logical end, at last. We have become the people that, once upon a time, our ancestors used fairy tales to warn their children against — and we will reap exactly the consequences those tales foretold.

(Jody Bottum, 2000, via Rod Dreher)

I am not concerned that the slope is slippery; we shouldn’t be on it at all. NPR says the government wants to avoid blurring the line between human and animal too much; any “blurring” is too much. There are just some things that shouldn’t be done. We’ve already done too many of them.

4

Two prominent GOP pols are going to wake up on November 9 in position to become the new face of the GOP: Ted Cruz and Ben Sasse … And the reason they are going to be in that position is that they did what no other prominent GOP pols were willing to do—refused to endorse Trump. Cruz has less credibility here since he spent months cozying up to Trump when he thought Trump could be useful to him before pivoting away when he recognized Trump as a genuine threat.

But both Cruz and Sasse will have their dignity on November 9. Chris Christie won’t. Paul Ryan won’t. Mike Pence won’t. Mike Huckabee won’t. Rick Santorum won’t. And as Trump has made clear with his handling of Ryan, he won’t let anyone get away with playing the awkward, dishonest, and cowardly game Ryan tried to play of not condemning but also not endorsing.

(Jake Meador, An Addendum on Evangelicals Endorsing Trump) I’ve liked a lot of Jake Meador’s stuff, but this is pretty silly.

What’s the magic about November 9? Do Christie, Ryan, Pence and Huckabee have their dignity today, just because Trump hasn’t lost yet? Not in my book. Is it an indignity to back a loser (Boy! If feels good and spiteful to use “loser” about Trump!). How big must he lose to cross the indignity threshold? Does Sasse languish until Trump loses? Would they retain their dignity if he wins?

Or is Meador thinking that Trump will win, and they’ll lose their dignity upon waking up, groaning, and saying “Oh, shit! What have we done?!” If Trump wins, won’t they keep their dignity, such as it is, and even enhance it a bit until the first nuclear war President Motor Mouth starts?

Would Sasse be dishonored if Trump wins? If Trump wins and his multiple personality disorders don’t cause calamity, I’ll be astonished and relieved beyond words. “Dishonored” by Trump accidentally and unexpectedly behaving himself? I’d have to be as narcissistic as he is to think in those terms. I hope Sasse feels the same.

Really, this fake specificity is about as dumb as the progressives’ “You’re on the wrong side of history” — although I do think that Meador is far more on target than Pat Buchanan, who thinks that Sasse and Cruz are Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, and William Scranton redux. Barry Goldwater was not, ominous attack ads notwithstanding, certifiably insane.

5

On the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon, though it could as easily be about ISIS-inspired terrorism:

We congratulate ourselves perpetually upon our Civil War by which the slaves were, in a manner of speaking, “freed.” We forget, if we have ever learned, that the same army that “freed the slaves” established for us the “right” of military violence against a civilian population, and then acted upon that “right” by a war of extermination against the native peoples of the West. Nobody who knows our history, from the “Indian wars” to our contemporary foreign wars of “homeland defense,” should find anything unusual in the massacre of civilians and their children.

(Wendell Berry, Our Only World)

6

For the sake of cultural continuity and community survival, we must reconsider the purpose, the worth, and the cost of education – especially of higher education, which too often leads away from home, and too often graduates its customers into unemployment or debt or both. When young people leave their college or university too much in debt to afford to come home, we need to think again. There can never be too much knowledge, but there certainly can be too much school.

The Amish famously, or infamously, limit formal schooling to eight grades. (This is not at all to say that they limit learning. Some Amish men, for example, have gone on to learn mechanical engineering.) They limit schooling in order to keep their children in the community. This makes sense if you want to keep your children in the community, and if you have understood the purpose of mainstream education is to prepare children, and especially country children, to leave the community.

(Wendell Berry, Our Only World) Be it noted that the quotes are not even in the same essay. This is just a recurring theme of the Sage.

7

Replacement of workers by machines becomes more serious when it is enabled by the degradation of work. We have ignored the limits of compatibility between labor-saving and good work. And we have degraded almost all work by reducing the generously qualitative idea of “vocation” or “calling” to the merely quantitative integer, “a job.” The purpose of education now is to make every body eligible for “a job.” A primary function of politics is “job creation.” Persons deprived of work that they have loved and enjoyed and performed with pride are to consider their loss well remedied by some form of “welfare” or “another job.”

(Wendell Berry, Our Only World)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.