Saturday 12/3/16

  1. Simple and brief
  2. Not of General Interest?
  3. 40% deplorable
  4. Disproportionate vengeance and perfect security
  5. Glass ceiling? (Yawn!)
  6. Voting in Fear and Trembling
  7. In defense of philosophy
  8. Agrarian populism


First Things

1

Do not be over-sophisticated in the words you use when praying, because the simple and unadorned lisping of children has often won the heart of their Heavenly Father.

Do not try to be verbose when you pray, lest your mind be distracted in searching for words. One word of the publican propitiated God, and one cry of faith saved the thief. Loquacity in prayer often distracts the mind and leads to fantasy, whereas brevity makes for concentration.

(St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 27)

Secondary Things

2

On November 10, the Conseil d’Etat ruled it “inappropriate” to show happy children with Down syndrome on TV, as that sight could “trouble” women who chose not to give birth to their disabled children.

With this pronouncement, the French judges upheld a previous decision by the CSA (“Conseil Supérieur de l’audiovisuel” – equivalent of the US Federal Communication Commission). In 2014, CSA banned the diffusion of the video “Dear Future Mom,” an award-winning short movie that was released on World Down Syndrome Day and broadcasted by some French media outlets.

The video was meant to sensitize parents about the reality of a life with Down syndrome. Answering to the fears of a pregnant woman, whose unborn baby had just been diagnosed with this genetic disorder, some adolescents appear on the screen. For two minutes, they tell their “future mums” that they can do everything other kids can do. They explain that they can read, go to school, fix bicycles, … and, eventually, even pay their own rent. They are happy to be born, and they simply say it.

[A] few negative reactions by some “troubled” French viewers were enough to stop the screening … According to Éric Morain, an expert lawyer in the media field, “The decision of the Conseil d’Etat states that freedom of expression of individuals with trisomy must bow down to the right to have an abortion.” Morain explains also that this judgement is unclear in that, on the one hand, it admits that the video serves a “general interest,” as required by the French law regulating media advertisements; but, on the other hand, it holds that its broadcasting is also “inappropriate,” being “susceptible of harming the consciences of women who, as provided by the law, made different life choices.” In brief, according to the French Court, the possibility of regret that this ad may cause for a woman who chose to abort her baby is per se sufficient to annihilate its “general interest” feature.

The threat to freedom of expression, when it consists in defending life, is so imminent that the European Center for Law on Justice (ECLJ) launched a call for action. In France, a Parliament’s Commission just passed a bill targeting pro-life websites: it creates a new crime of “digital interference” to abortion …

Somehow, the mixed message coming from the French authorities echoes a statement by Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” “Negroes” were just replaced by people with Down syndrome.

(French Court Rules: Down Syndrome Children Not Allowed to Smile on TV)

This is far worse than I previously reported, and I’m not just relying on the clickbait headline.

It struck me as odd that what we’d call a “Public Service Advertisement” should be considered “not of general interest.” But the reality is beyond odd — all the way to Orwellian. It’s considered “not of general interest” because it could prick consciences, and that pricking consciences is deemed somehow to violate the right to abort.

3

Regarding the contemptible Buzzfeed hit piece on some HGTV stars, gay writer Brandon Ambrosino writes:

A 2016 survey from Pew Research Center shows public support of same-sex marriage is at an all-time high of 55 percent — and it is steadily growing. But the same polls tell us that nearly 4 out of 10 Americans — no small number! — are not on board with it. The minds at BuzzFeed are not naive: They know that the Gaineses and HGTV are going to have to come out with a public statement on same-sex marriage. They also know that if the statement is not 100 percent supportive of same-sex marriage, the network will be pressured to drop them.

Think about that for a moment. Is the suggestion here that 40 percent of Americans are unemployable because of their religious convictions on marriage? That the companies that employ them deserve to be boycotted until they yield to the other side of the debate — a side, we should note, that is only slightly larger than the one being shouted down?

(H/T Rod Dreher) That puts it starkly but, I think, fairly. The only thing that stands between me (and others in the 40%) and unemployment is that most of us are obscure and lightning only strikes one or two of us — usually, the more prominent ones, but remember Memories Pizza — at a time. We’re praying the odds.

Amir Azarvan summarizes a bit differently:

Buzzfeed reports that “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage.” Whether one likes it or not, no more than 27% white Evangelical Protestants (and 39% of black Protestants) support same-sex marriage. This is not news. This is a religious witch hunt. This is a refusal to coexist with people who may hold different views on sexual morality. Instead of inquiring on whether Chip and Joanna agree with their church, let’s look at whether they’ve ever publicly harmed or expressed hatred towards the gay community. If they haven’t, then please: leave these people alone.

(Emphasis added)

I still don’t understand how Donald Trump won the election, but a lot of people are suggesting that backlash against crap like the Buzzfeed story had much to do with it. That sounds plausible.

This, too, though this particular episode post-dates the election. $81,000+ to make an example of these folks! Couldn’t they just behead them and hang the corpse for public view for a week? Sheesh!

Tertiary Things

4

A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. McDougall frames his story by asking why the George W. Bush administration blundered so badly in the Middle East. His answer is that the president gave Americans exactly what his predecessors in the Oval Office had taught the people to want—namely, “disproportionate vengeance and perfect security, while pretending their government’s wars were part of a universal crusade.” On page after depressing page the author tries to shake Americans from their national hubris. He concedes that civil religion can “provide the emotional glue binding diverse groups to each other and to shared institutions and national interests.” But in the United States, he writes, civil religion has become a “Jacobin creed peddled to people at home through mythical history and forced down foreign throats at gunpoint.” Whether American presidents could conduct foreign relations better without the hype of civil religion Mr. McDougall does not say. But he suggests that the national interest might be a better guide to America’s conduct in the world.

(D.G. Hart reviewing Walter McDougall’s The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy)

5

Boy, does this ever ring true:

I know quite a few people (men and women) who were, in fact, excited by the prospect that Clinton would become the first female president. Every single one of them, however, was a dedicated Democrat who would have voted for Clinton regardless. I didn’t come across a single independent or Republican friend, in “real life” or in social media, who found the breaking-the-glass-ceiling meme the least bit compelling. Indeed, some found it off-putting that the Clinton campaign seemed to want them to vote for her in part because she was a woman.

By contrast, almost everyone I knew, even die-hard conservatives, were at least a bit excited in 2008 that Barack Obama had the opportunity to become the first African American president. Indeed, for many who opposed him, it was something of a consolation; their preferred candidate lost, but they were proud and happy that the American public was willing to elect a black president.

(David Bernstein, The dangers of living in a political-ideological bubble, Clinton campaign edition)

6

Donald Trump is a caricature of Donald Trump. He speaks in loops, gets lost in a sentence and doubles back to the beginning. He lost me at his candidacy announcement and at a half-dozen or more pronouncements following. He needs a three-member review panel, minimum, for his tweets.

Hillary Clinton gives off icky smarmy creepy vibes, and a fair number of people must visibly resist an urge to count their fingers after shaking her hand. She’s never met a government regulation or a Wall Street donor she did not like.

(Russell E. Saltzman, Voting in Fear and Trembling)

7

Thaddeus Koszinski defends the study of philosophy. No, his defense is not “you can make big bucks by majoring in philosophy.” It’s far more important than that, and it’s coincidental that I touched just days ago on a closely-related subject.

8

Towards a left agrarian populism

I’ll now try to sketch in briefest outline the way that a left agrarian populism of the kind I espouse might orient itself to the preceding points.

1. The people that populism serves are all the citizens of the polity, regardless of political allegiance, class, gender, skin colour, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or any other characteristic. Therefore it’s crucial to defend the liberal public sphere as the space of free political self-expression. There are plenty of people dancing on the grave of liberalism at the moment, while implicitly relying on the freedoms that it gives them  …

2. The populist economy is grounded in local needs and capacities …

3. The populist economy is a producerist economy – what unites the people is work

4. The populist state is judged largely by its capacity to support local producerism …

5. The populist mentality is internationalist …

(Chris Smaje, Why I’m still a Populist Despite Donald Trump – Elements of a Left-Wing Agrarian Populism)

* * * * *

“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.