Oh well, Obama got in so it's all good, no wait Ta-nehisi Coates is still raging so 2014 is 1964 in America! : (hat tip ; Erik Loomis)
Oh well, Obama got in so it's all good, no wait Ta-nehisi Coates is still raging so 2014 is 1964 in America! : (hat tip ; Erik Loomis)
ACCORDING to one American stereotype, Europe is somewhere on the road between lazy godlessness and mass conversion to Islam. Does it have any kernel of truth? This much is true: in most European countries there is no obvious equivalent of the American religious right in which a large standing constituency spoils for a fight over hard ethical issues. Those kinds of issues arise in Europe of course, but it is hard for European politicians to build a career by claiming the traditionalist ground; they would generally lose more votes than they would gain.
What does exist in Europe is the politics of identity, including religious identity. In this area Europe's parties and politicians always think carefully about the signals they send and getting it right or wrong has consequences.
(...)The trick in European politics is to appeal to some religious and cultural constituencies without alienating others.
From Ta-Nehisi Coates :
People who take a strict binary view of culture ("culture of privilege = awesome; culture of poverty = fail") are afflicted by the provincialism of privilege and thus vastly underestimate the dynamism of the greater world. They extoll "middle-class values" to the ignorance and exclusion of all others. To understand, you must imagine what it means to confront algebra in the morning and "Shorty, can I see your bike?" in the afternoon. It's very nice to talk about "middle-class values" when that describes your small, limited world. But when your grandmother lives in one hood and your coworkers live another, you generally need something more than "middle-class values." You need to be bilingual.
David Brooks polluted the American 'culture' debate with mediocre thinking and thus, it is just desperately obnoxious and wasteful!
The sentence of the year, so far, from Simon Waxman:
In some respects, identity politics is a monster the left has unleashed upon itself.
A cocorico for Anna Momigliano:
To some extent, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are two sides of the same coin. (...)What’s more, if placing the blame for the problems of a whole nation on a particular minority is increasingly considered “acceptable,” “mainstream,” and “not a threat to democracy,” then all minorities have reason to be concerned — because this paves the way for all kinds of scapegoating.
What should really worry us as Jews, then, is not just that some French people are scapegoating Muslims for the current economic crisis, but that most French people, or at least half of them, don’t seem to think that’s such a big deal.
Please, Ta-nehisi stop you are going to make me puke!:
"I am not raising 'nothing niggers,'" my mother used to tell me. "I am not raising niggers to stand on the corner." My mother did not know her father. In my life, I've loved four women. One of them did not know her father and the other two, very often, wished they didn't. It's not very hard to look at that, and seethe. It's not very hard to look at that and see a surrender, while you are out here at war, and seethe. It not hard to look around at your community and feel that you are afflicted by quitters, that your family--in particular--is afflicted by a weakness. And so great is this weakness that the experience of black fatherlessness can connect Barack Obama in Hawaii to young black boys on the South Side, and that fact--whatever the charts, graphs and histories may show--is bracing. When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happened, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever. (...) There are moments when I hear the president speak and I am awed. No one, from the offices of the White House, could have better explained to America what the George Zimmerman verdict meant. And I think history will remember that, and remember him for it. But I think history will also remember his unquestioning embrace of "twice as good" in a country that has always given, even under his watch, black people half as much.
Well, best wishes to all for the new year (ah it's a world cup year yeah!) and here's a sugary excerpt from Fredrick C. Harris:
What started as a philosophy promulgated by black elites to “uplift the race” by correcting the “bad” traits of the black poor has now evolved into one of the hallmarks of black politics in the age of Obama, a governing philosophy that centers on managing the behavior of black people left behind in a society touted as being full of opportunity. In an era marked by rising inequality and declining economic mobility for most Americans—but particularly for black Americans—the twenty-first-century version of the politics of respectability works to accommodate neoliberalism. The virtues of self-care and self-correction are framed as strategies to lift the black poor out of their condition by preparing them for the market economy.
For more than half of the twentieth century, the concept of the “Talented Tenth” commanded black elites to “lift as we climb,” or to prove to white America that blacks were worthy of full citizenship rights by getting the untalented nine-tenths to rid themselves of bad customs and habits. Today’s politics of respectability, however, commands blacks left behind in post–civil rights America to “lift up thyself.” Moreover, the ideology of respectability, like most other strategies for black progress articulated within the spaces where blacks discussed the best courses of action for black freedom, once lurked for the most part beneath the gaze of white America. But now that black elites are part of the mainstream elite in media, entertainment, politics, and the academy, respectability talk operates within the official sphere, shaping the opinions, debates, and policy perspectives on what should—and should not—be done on the behalf of the black poor.
The sugary excerpt of the day from Alain Finkielkraut who is almost as blind as he is rotten by his self-righteousness:
C'est trop souvent dangereux ou juste inutile d'être trop intelligent et de le savoir !
I am pained to see that the French mode of European civilization is threatened. France is in the process of transforming into a post-national and multicultural society. It seems to me that this enormous transformation does not bring anything good. I am pained to see that the French mode of European civilization is threatened. France is in the process of transforming into a post-national and multicultural society. It seems to me that this enormous transformation does not bring anything good. (...)Today the Muslims in France like to shout in an act of self-assertion: We are just as French as you! It would have never occurred to my parents to say something like that. I would also never say that I am just as French as Charles de Gaulle was.
Hum, well at least Cornel West is consistent. Is that a good thing? I don't know but he is onto something.
Sntences of the week from Ta-nehisi Coates:
The years between 2000 and 2010 do not simply constitute a war on marijuana, but a war on black people who use marijuana.A rising wave smashes Negroes first.
Sugary excerpt of the week so far from Zoe Holman:
Discussing the traditional role of corporeality in protest, Judith Butler recently noted that: “if there is a body in the public sphere, it is masculine, free to create, but not itself created... When male citizens enter into the public square to debate questions of justice, revenge, war, and emancipation, they take the illuminated public square for granted as the architecturally bounded theatre of their speech.” By contrast, the female body has customarily been associated with the sexual, the childish, the labouring and the pre-political. This being the case, Butler argues for the need to interrogate and challenge the division of gendered bodies into “one that appears publicly to speak and act, and another, feminine, foreign and mute, that is generally relegated to the private and pre-political sphere.” (...)
Boobs can be fun. Boobs can be frivolous, primal or sexy. For this reason, they are compelling. In the right context, they might prove powerful. But they are also distracting. And for those women wishing to enter the theatre of political speech to debate questions of justice, emancipation, war, or indeed the sales tax on tampons, to achieve something more than lechery and to be taken seriously, they may prove a diversion.
Just the facrs from Chris Dillow:
The fact that a terrorist is likely to be a Muslim does not mean a Muslim is likely to be a terrorist. Even if we assume that there are ten terrorists walking the streets for every one inside, then 99.988% of Muslims are not terrorists. To put this another way, there's only around a one in 8000 chance of a Muslim being a terrorist; it's 16 times more likely that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will name their child Wayne. Given all this, why does anyone think terrorism is a Muslim problem?
Great stuff from Mukoma Wa Ngugi:
For western journalism to be taken seriously by Africans and Westerners alike, it needs Africans to vouch for stories rather than satirizing them. I am not saying that journalism needs the subject to agree with the content, but the search for journalistic truth takes place within a broad societal consensus. That is, while one may disagree with particular reportage and the facts, the spirit of the essay should not be in question. But Africans are saying that the journalists are not representing the complex truth of the continent; that Western journalists are not only misrepresenting the truth, but are in spirit working against the continent. The good news is there have been enough people questioning the coverage of Africa over the years that Western journalists have had no choice but to do some soul searching. The bad news is that the answers are variations of the problem.
Michela Wrong, in a New York Times piece shortly before the Kenyan elections, debated the use of the word “tribe.” She acknowledged that the word tribe “carries too many colonial echoes. It conjures up M.G.M. visions of masked dances and pagan rites. ‘Tribal violence’ and ‘tribal voting’ suggest something illogical and instinctive, motivated by impulses Westerners distanced themselves from long ago.” But she concluded the piece by reserving her right to use the term. She stated that “When it comes to the T-word, Kenyan politics are neither atavistic nor illogical. But yes, they are tribal.” The term tribe should have died in the 2007 elections when Africanist scholars took NYT’s Jeffrey Gettleman’s usage of the term to task. To his credit, Gettleman stopped using the term.
If you have Wrong insisting on using a discredited analytical framework, you have others who position themselves as missionaries and explorers out to save the image of Africa. But their egos end up outsizing the story.
Well, the problem starts with the simple fact that Africa is not a country and that therefore Kenya is neither Mali or Cote d'Ivoire and vice versa.
From Helen Epstein :
The administration’s neglect of human rights in Africa is a great disappointment, since the president began his first term by laying out ambitious new goals for the continent. In July 2009, when his presidency was only six months old, Barack Obama delivered a powerful speech at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, the point from which millions of African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic. He called on African countries to end the tyranny of corruption that affects so many of their populations, and to build strong institutions that serve the people and hold leaders accountable. The speech seemed to extend the message of his much-discussed Cairo address a month earlier, in which he called for a new beginning for Muslim relations with the West, based on non-violence and mutual respect. Many thought that the policies of the new president, himself of Kenyan descent, would depart from those of the Bush administration, which provided a great deal of development aid to Africa, but paid scant attention to human rights.After more than four years in office, however, Obama has done little to advance the idealistic goals of his Ghana speech.
Oh Well as the one himself once said words matter and the trouble here starts with the fact that having an 'african' policy doesn't mean much for there is no africa. Moreover, the saddest fact is that reality when it comes to Obama's deeds in countries on the african continent doesn't matter because of the worst and most dangerous anti-intellectual form of identity politics.
I bet that at least some Nigeriens are happy to have a drone base in Niamey.
From Elissa Strauss:
According to Gawker, [Michael] Bloomberg once told a female colleague to “kill it” when she announced her pregnancy, only after teasing her about being too ugly to be engaged. Another Bloomberg employee complained of the institutional harassment at Bloomberg LP in the late 1990s, and believed that the misogynistic workplace culture was linked to her being raped by her superior in a hotel room. Also, “in 2007 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Bloomberg LP on behalf of 78 women who claimed that Bloomberg — who at that point was not involved in the day-to-day company operations, despite being a majority shareholder — and Bloomberg LP ‘fostered, condoned and perpetuated’ a hostile work environment for female employees.”
This is pretty bad, right? Nevertheless, nobody seemed to really care when they elected him to mayor the first, second or third time. And nobody seems to really care now either.
Imagine if there was a similar history of his saying or condoning disparaging remarks against blacks or Jews. Our inboxes and Facebook feeds would be filled with celebrity-endorsed pleas to sign online petitions pressuring him to resign from office. He would feel obligated to at least mutter some public apology, even if it clearly wasn’t heartfelt. But talk down to women like this, and the outrage is barely existent. (Think I am over exaggerating? Remember what happened with serial misogynist Charlie Sheen? The actor’s career was derailed by a single anti-semitic comment, after years of reports of domestic abuse and porn addiction.)
Sure, sexism can be more difficult to define than racism or anti-semitism (because humans + sex drives = messy), but when there is a pattern of misogynistic behavior like Bloomberg’s, albeit alleged, I wonder why we are so darn tolerant.
Well, the answer to that question explains in part why Obama is president.
I agree with Sandy Livinson on this:
What I want to do now, though, is simply to vent about the patent irresponsibility of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in appointing his friend Michael Cowan to replace John Kerry as senator, apparently for no other reason than his (Gov. Patrick's) desire to have an African-American Democratic senator for at least four monts or so, and regardless of the fact that there is no reason at all to believe that Sen. Cowan, as I presume he'll become tomorrow or very shortly thereafter, has any real knowledge about national political issues that may in fact come up in the next four months. This is "expressive politics" at its absolute worst, and Gov. Patrick should be ashamed of himself. Frankly, it is the kind of self-indulgent gesture by someone with power that gives "affirmative action" (which I support) a bad name with many Americans. He has, in one instant, disserved his state, his party, and the nation (even if, as I presume, Sen. Cowan is an extremely fine and able person whom all of us would be proud to have as a friend or, if governor of Massachusetts, an aide, as he was.) Nothing in my remarks should be read as casting aspersions on Mr. Cowan's personal character (other, frankly, than that he didn't have the personal self-discipline to exercise what Madison might have described as the "civic virtue" to tell the Governor that he is highly flattered but not really qualified for the job).
All politics nowadays is expressive politics, which is almost always a potent and dangerous form of identity politics.
Deval Patrick is Obama 1.0, he hasn't yet updated his operating software to make his errors of judgment appear to be brilliant avant-gardism and awesomely historic.
From Garry Wills:
Tradition dies hard, hardest among those who cannot admit to the toll it has taken on them. That is why the worst aspects of the South are resurfacing under Obama’s presidency. It is the dignity. That a black should have not merely rights but prominence, authority, and even awe—that is what many Southerners cannot stomach. They would let him ride on the bus, or get into Ivy League schools. But he must be kept from the altar; he cannot perform the secular equivalent of taking the Lord in his hands. It is the dignity.
This is the thing that makes the South the distillation point for all the fugitive extremisms of our time, the heart of Say-No Republicanism, the home of lost causes and nostalgic lunacy. It is as if the whole continent were tipped upward, so that the scattered crazinesses might slide down to the bottom. The South has often been defeated. Now it is defeating itself.
It is easy, comforting, and convenient to blame American idiocy on the South, it fits perfectly in the dumb culture wars narrative.
The absurdity of the day from Heather Mac Donald:
Absent a showing that gender discrimination is causing the selection of inferior leaders, the sex of politicians and government officials is of no public import. And feminists’ cherished conceit that women today face a wall of overt or unconscious bias rests on deliberate blindness to the facts. No elite organization today fails to incorporate oppressive gender and race consciousness into its every hiring and promotion decision. Any woman in the public realm not acutely aware that her gender is a plus in getting selected for panels and media appearances, in all likelihood catapulting her ahead of more qualified male participants, is living in a state of denial.
Well, America is particularly in a state of denial when it comes to gender...
From the great Pankaj Mishra:
The European idea of the nation-state, realized after much horrific bloodshed in Europe itself, was always a poor fit for Asia’s diverse mosaic.
Joseph Roth, who grew up in the multinational Hapsburg empire, was appalled by the imperatives of modern nationalism, according to which “every person must belong to a definite nationality or race” in order to be treated as an individual citizen. Roth, a Jew, suspected that members of minority groups, like himself, would be relegated to third-class citizenship, and vicious prejudice against them would be made respectable in the new nation-states built on the ruins of multinational empires.
The ethnic cleansers of 20th century Europe proved him right. It required a monstrous crime and a repentant political imagination to institute peace between warring European nations and soften attitudes toward minorities.
The battle against bigotry is far from over; Europe’s long and violent past today looms over its inevitably multicultural future.
Ah I have always found fascinating the idea that some things are inevitable especially when it is based on the assumption that ethnicity is destiny and identity!
The problem with modern voters is not that they are selfish, but that they are often ignorant and irrational. That problem cannot be solved by restricting corporate and union-funded political speech. Obviously, corporate and union-funded speech sometimes seeks to exploit political ignorance. But the same is true of speech funded by the media, political parties, activist groups, and others. In a political environment where the electorate is often ignorant, whoever is allowed to engage in electoral speech has a strong incentive to take advantage of that ignorance.
I agree with Somin even though I am trouble by the elitism (but right) of our shared viewpoint. However, my discomfort is soothed by the realization that America and Americans don't want an educated citizenry because of the belief, that politics is about identity and that illusory thing called culture. In other words, people should always vote who they are and never what they know.
In Obama's America it isn't knowledge that is power, but identity.
This from John Quiggin disturbs me:
It strikes me that the best way to understand the distinctive characteristics of US voting patterns is to to treat “Southern White ” as an ethnicity, like Hispanic. With that classification each of the major parties becomes an coalition between a solid bloc vote from an ethnic minority and around half the votes of the “non-Southern white” ethnic majority, which is more likely to vote on class lines. The question then is which ethnic/class coalition is bigger. As in other countries, voting for the more rightwing party is correlated, though not perfectly with higher incomes and (conditional on income) lower education, and to shift according to broader ideological movements.(...) To the extent that white Southerners vote on ethnic lines, hostile to key Democratic ideas, it makes little sense to try for a class-based message that panders to (for example) Confederate nostalgia. Rather, the best hope is that younger generations will cease identifying with the South and regard themselves just as Americans or even (Utopianism alert) just as human beings.
Is it legitimate to treat Southern Whites as a separate ethnic group? Certainly, plenty of Southerners thought so at the time of the Civil War. Since then, Southern whites have made strong claims to a separate cultural heritage, defined in opposition both to blacks (and also through historic and recent conflicts with Hispanics) and to Northern Whites.
Really does ethnicity make one more likely to be stupid and to vote a certain way? It does in America because ethnicity is treated as a religion. Quiggin's point just illustrates what is wrong with the America's view of ethnicity and race for they are used to legitimate identical illusions and ignorance.
Come on now, whether one is a 'Southern White' or whatever else, in America, the fact remains that it is much easier and even comfortable to justify the unjustifiable by using ethnicity, culture, and identity as excuses for one's biases and irrationality and that is a problem for no matter what their heritage, people chose who/what to be.
From Sean Collins at Spiked:
In a campaign devoid of ideas, people fell back on identity. Obama’s victory was a victory for the Democrats’ strategy of winning on social values and cohering support among women and minorities, an approach which was very pronounced at their national convention in September.
Identity politics is very much the present and the future of not only American politics, but of world politics. That said, I think Obama's victory was impressive!
Sugary excerpt of the day from Lynn Parramore :
Cultural memory and prejudice form strange currents in the Southern mind. The power of the fear and antipathy of the black man has been diluted, but it’s still there, and it's easily stoked by unscrupulous politicians. But it’s easy to just stop there, and you won't have a clear picture if you do.
If you look closer, there’s something else. The Harley Davidson guys and their Southern brethren who put rebel flag stickers on their rides are signaling that they still strongly identify with a war in which their ancestors found themselves on the wrong side of history and fought a losing battle. White men in other regions of the country don’t really get what it feels like to know that your people were defeated in a war by their own countrymen. There’s a feeling that they lost so much for this Union to stay together that they’ll be damned if they are going to admit another defeat by recognizing that America is currently in decline. That is too much for the heart to bear.
Aah, I have to admit this type of analysis just drives me bonkers for it evokes the despairing consensus in America that identity and culture are solely about collective memory and history. I resent that idea because it takes me back to the Fascist dictum that people think with their blood.
I agree with Alan A on this:
(...) many people were shocked by the support – from the film industry, this time – for the fugitive Roman Polanski, who drugged and sodomised a child. How could Whoopi Goldberg opine that this was not “rape-rape”?
Well, you’re seeing this happening again, with Assange. The message is clear: if you like a rapist, and particularly if you like the rapist’s politics, if you see him as “one of us”, then rape is just fine and dandy.
Worrisome stuff from the Economist's Democracy in America blog:
If the taker economy has less to do with citizens receiving transfer payments and rather more to do with crony capitalism (or "public-private partnership", as boosters like to put it) and a rapidly expanding security state that is more parasitical than protective, then it is not at all clear which major-party presidential candidate is most on the side of the makers.
Takers are less and less willing to share and to even acknowledge that inequality as well as unproductiveness is a problem because of identity politics.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Stanley Fish commenting on the dishonest, vile and more importantly willfully stupidly ideological 'documentary' on Obama from Dinesh D'Souza who must have perfected at Dartmouth what seems to come naturally to him, prostitution :
(...) the meaning of America is continually contested in essays, books, backyard conversations, talk shows and, most of all, in elections. It is often said, and it is true, that the opposing parties in an election have “different visions for America.” There are many ways of describing the alternative visions offered to us in a year like this; but describing one of them as un-American and its proponent as a foreign intruder is not to further discussion but to foreclose it and to replace the contest of ideas with the rhetoric of demonization. (Democrats have been as guilty of this as anyone.) Obama may have a vision for America that you don’t like, but it is a vision for America put forward by an American. If you don’t like it, vote against him, not in the name of Americanism but in the name of the ideas and outcomes you, also an American, prefer.
In short, Obama is as American as apple pie. Unfortunately that fact isn't enough to make him a good president.
I found it thought-provoking, compelling and even morbidly ironic that Obama is considered "foreign," European, and even socialist when it is Mitt Romney who spent critical parts of his youth in France. It tells me that Romney is actually more worldly than Obama and that fact explains, in great part, in my opinion, his obvious discomfort with his political 'family.'
Ethel Waters, for example, was the result of a forcible rape. (...)I used to work for James Robison back in the 1970s, he leads a large Christian organisation. He, himself, was the result of a forcible rape…(...) Even from those horrible, horrible tragedies of rape, which are inexcusable and indefensible, life has come and sometimes, you know, those people are able to do extraordinary things.
I am having a hard time swallowing (no pun intended) the expression 'forcible rape...' In any case, I think that people who don't believe that marriage is a requirement for women who shouldn't be able to et a divorce when they want one and cannot say no to their husbands because their body is his and giving is is their divine obligation shouldn't comment on rape.
To get back to the core of the issue, I think that 'qualifying' rape is always dumb and abominable for Huckabee could have as well said that great things come from any 'evil." He may have as well said that 'Blacks' and 'Jews' in America should be grateful for slavery and the Shoah because those tragedies enable them to become Americans and to have a shot at the American dream. That would have been as dumb, cruel, inculture and mean as what he said simply to defend his conviction that sex is rarely about violence for after all there is one that takes what is naturally his to take and one that should always feel fulfilled and grateful for the possession/penetration/insertion/abuse.
At last Walter Mead says what I have been saying for 4 years, Obama is a WASP:
In his own way, however, President Obama is one of the neo-Waspiest men in the country. He is not a product of Kenyan villages or third world socialism. He was educated at the Hawaiian equivalent of a New England prep school, and spent his formative years in the Ivies. He has much more in common with Harvard-educated technocrats like McGeorge Bundy than with African freedom fighters and third world socialists of the 1970s.
Barack Obama is neither a citizen of the world nor an exotic creature, he is as American as Georges Bush!
As always great stuff from Glenn Loury and John McWhorter. Happy Independence day!
Sugary excerpt of the day from Jennifer Thorpe's take on the whole Brett Murray's Zuma painting (The Spear of the Nation) with his cock exposed:
Zuma has characterised himself as a man’s man. He celebrates a masculinity that emphasises sexual virility and supports polygamy in the face of an HIV epidemic spread by multiple concurrent partners; a masculinity that emphasises that men take sex when they want it and, despite being accused of rape, never once says that violence against women is wrong; and a masculinity that is heteronormative and homophobic (see comments about pushing down gay men, and appointment of John Qwelane and Mogoeng Mogoeng). His masculinity has been the core of his politics thus far, and perhaps the core appeal to those who vote for him. When it is under threat the very core of what he stands for is under threat. That the painting was defaced by men is interesting and reflects that perhaps these scary sentiments about manhood and its untouchability are shared by many other men, not only Msholozi.
For now we’ll have to see what happens in court for Zuma and for the two men who defaced Murray’s painting. In the meantime state resources will be spent in court cases that focus on what it means to be a man. The politics of the cock are alive and well. And this whole saga had taught us all that they are not up for discussion.
I have to admit that I believe that the painting to be on point for it goes to the core of what/who Zuma is and why his politics are problematic: they justify the worship of the cock, any vile behavior in the name of a non-existent africanness which force morality, ethics to be about who people are (which is determined by their race, gender, class for individuality isn't allowed) rather than about what they do. This explains why Zuma can rape have manly sex with a HIV positive woman and still become president of South Africa.
(...) And there’s the argument that the burqa objectifies women. I think the fact that women are often treated as objects for male use and control is a real problem. But let’s also think about porn magazines, the treatment of women in advertising and in the media, where women are treated as consumer objects and are encouraged to package themselves for male use and control in a way that eclipses their individuality. If you go to a high school dance, girls are wearing identical micro-skirts and packaging themselves as objects for a simulated group sex ritual that takes the place of dancing. There are lots of practices in our society that objectify women, unfortunately. To complain about one that happens to be the practice of the minority religion and not to examine yourself and the many ways in which you participate in such practices is terrible, especially when the force of law is brought to bear. In America, fortunately we don’t have bans on the burqa and the headscarf. But the French would ban you from walking down the street in a burqa, while you could wear a micro-skirt and your 4-inch heels and they’d think nothing of that. I think it’s just an ugly inconsistency.
Most times in today’s Europe, the guys beating, burning and killing Jews will be Muslims. Once in a while, it will be somebody else killing the schoolkids. But is it so hard to acknowledge that rapid, transformative, mass Muslim immigration might not be the most obvious aid to social tranquility? That it might possibly pose challenges that would otherwise not have existed — for uncovered women in Oslo, for gays in Amsterdam, for Jews everywhere? Is it so difficult to wonder if, for these and other groups living in a long-shot social experiment devised by their rulers, the price of putting an Islamic crescent in the diversity quilt might be too high? What’s left of Jewish life in Europe is being extinguished remorselessly, one vandalized cemetery, one subway attack at a time. How many Jewish children will be at that school in Toulouse a decade hence? A society that becomes more Muslim eventually becomes less everything else. What is happening on the Continent is tragic, in part because it was entirely unnecessary.
To quote André Breton, l'homme fait un état risible de ce qu'il croit savoir.
Steyn seems not to know(he probably doesn't for reality is meaningless to him) that France has had a president, Sarkozy, for the last five years, who would agree with him and has been ruled by the right since 2002. Of course, as with all fear-mongers and fanatics, the goal is to keep the fear alive because it enables them to remain irrational and hateful.
Sugary excerpt of the day from John Quiggin over at Crooked Timber:
(...)there’s a striking difference between Republican tribalism and the kind of identity politics that has long characterized parts of the left. Left identity politics typically involves focusing one aspect of your identity (gender, sexuality, race, religion, class) and organizing around issue that affect the relevant group. We spent a lot of time in the 70s arguing over whether gender trumped class and so on, and getting nowhere, with the result that the left side of politics, to the extent that it can be viewed in these terms, is, as Haidt puts it, a coalition of tribes.
But that’s not true of the right – it’s core tribal appeal is to white, anti-intellectual, non-feminist, non-poor, Christian, heterosexuals who identify themselves, and others who share all these characteristics as “real Americans’. The problem they face is that each of these taken individually is a majority characteristic, the majority of people deviate from the model in one way or another. So, the way to defeat Repub tribalism is to peel off everyone who is on the wrong side of one or another of their culture wars, and reduce them to a minority.
Quiggin is almost right for the wrong reasons. American politics suffers from the focus placed on identity instead of actions. To use Quiggin 's terms, I don't think that political tribalism is worse than identity politics, I just think it is a different strain of the same bacteria that is ruining the political discourse in a country that desperately needs to talk about its present and its future. The issue is that it s obsessed with its past and its essence when what matters is its actions and the welfare of its citizen not the salvation of their soul .
In the world according to Rick Santorum (and Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh), the university-educated are the real One Percent who lord it over the Lord’s people. These fancy folks dare not call themselves by their true name—a French word, not accidentally, with one of those tricky accent marks over the initial é, and how appropriate for a concept so radically un-American. This élite is made up of secular zombies who smash sacred tablets, sneer at hard-working people, use fancy words, and otherwise try to convince the world that they are entitled to lounge around the ski slopes noshing on multigrain bread and Chilean sea bass while Joe the Plumber is busy whacking at government tentacles so that he can afford a decent steak.
Gitlin isn't wrong, but although he is on point, he isn't right either for I do think there is a certain disdain of the élite for people who in their eyes lack the proper amount of sophistication and raffinement even when they aren't as anti-intellectual and as arrogantly pious as Rick Santorum.
One more person, or rather Nathalie Rothschild in this case, has seen the light:
The revelations that the NYPD routinely infiltrates places like schools, dollar stores and Halal restaurants in the name of rooting out terrorism shows – yet again – that civil-rights assaults were not a Bush-era anomaly, but continue under, and are literally sponsored by, the Obama administration.
The trouble with identity politics is that it makes policy and actions secondary and even unimportant for the focus is placed on the persona of the doer and on whether he is 'one of us.'
In short, the main issue that many liberals/democrats had with Bush was that he wasn't one of them. His policies were never really the problem for they were seen as the proof of his otherness, of his stupidity and unculture. Obama is seen as smart and cultured so there is no way for too many people that his policies can be barbaric and simply dumb!
As always great stuff from Glenn Loury and John McWhorter. Didn't I make the point since the beginning that Herman Cain was a race man?
Fallows finds Herman Cain likeable. I feel utterly embarrassed by him. It's not his politics -- I've never felt embarrassed by Condi Rice, Colin Powell, or Clarence Thomas. It's more akin to feeling I got when Jesse Jackson got caught claiming he wanted to cut Barack Obama's nuts off. Or watching Marion Barry attack black people for moving out of the city. There's a hucksterism there that transcends.
I agree that with the assessment that Cain is not a serious candidate for POTUS, but Coates's embarrassment makes me cringe because of what it shows about America, Americans, and identity politics.
To the contrary of Coates, I'm not embarrassed by Herman Cain because I do not/cannot identify with him. I don't think he represents me and more importantly, I do not feel that I have to delegitimate his point of view to show that he is wrong and that he is just a race man and wrong on the issues.
In short, I think the unseriousness of Herman Cain's candidacy doesn't mean that he is an embarrassment for he is just wrong. That fact makes very much like Obama for there is a lot to admire about him, but very little that shows that he would make a good POTUS unless you agree/identify with him
I agree with Jeremy Harding on this:
The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating even as Obama draws down the numbers abroad. Despite war-weariness at home, war has remained the model for curbing illegal immigration; territorial integrity and the preservation of national identity are the goals. Unlike the invasion of Iraq, this is a respectable struggle – all nation states assert the right to secure borders. Yet watertight security is becoming harder to achieve as the global era brings new pressures to bear on the frontier, adding to the older challenge posed by people wishing to move freely. At fortified boundaries, frailty lurks beneath the show of strength.
Most people who are obsessed with illegal immigration want the issue not the solutions for talking about it enables them to talk about an America that either never existed or that is far gone. Illegal immigration is an issue about identity, about the fear of being invaded by others who not only are different, but savages for they don't have any manners or are not cultured for they didn't even have the decency to knock on the door before starting to make themselves at home.
The hot exchange between Perry and Romney (I like Romney, I always have, he reminds me of my sister's dog Blackie which I like as much I can- because it just wants so much to be loved- in spite of the fact that I am not an animal lover. I just don't want to hear him tell me how I should live my life and that I should keep my baby if I become pregnant) in the Las Vegas Debate last night told us everything: illegal immigration to true believers isn't a law enforcement, but an identity issue.
Cain is now the second African American Republican of late to brand the Democratic Party a plantation. Rep. Allen West (Fla.) said so during a Fox News interview in August. He also likened himself to Harriet Tubman. File that one under “delusions of grandeur.”
There are plenty of things to say about the Democratic Party and how it has let down people of color in general and blacks in particular. But invoking slave imagery is unnecessary. And it is especially galling coming from a member of a party whose policies and politics generally speaking haven’t been exactly welcoming to African Americans.
Is Capehart right? Yes, but Herman Cain isn't disgustingly wrong, he is just wrong and not playing racial politics in the expected way. I'm trying to say that Capeheart is slamming Cain solely for using racial politics to support the 'wrong policies' when he should be slamming him for being as much a race man as Cornel West and Harry Belafonte for they agree that race matters, but just disagree as to how and as to the consequences of what for them is an existential fact. Those three manly men have another thing in common: a huge ego who convinces them that anybody who kind of looks like them ought to think like them.
My problem with Cain is that he loves too much Hermain Cain and can't get out of his own way to see the big picture and to have empathy for those who in spite of their best efforts, not because of race or anything else, can't be Herman Cain. In short, Herman Cain is too Hobbsian for his own good and not really able to get past race because of his ego-centrism. I would love to be able to love Herman Cain for he almost has the right tune when it comes to affirming that individuality matters, but I cannot. He is too comfortable playing racial and identity politics instead of sticking to what matters. Cain takes too much pleasure in fighting perpetually old and passé rumbles in the jungle (it is a sign of a lack of imagination) and desacralizing an undivine and unsavory histoiry.
The Economist's Democracy in America blog on the Wall Street protests :
HERE's my two cents on the Occupy Wall Street protests: Woo!
Maybe that's one cent. Anyway, I am not by disposition a joiner, but I'm nevertheless inclined to smile upon attempts to stick it to the man, even if the attempt is quixotic or confused and the man in the end remains unstuck. The Burkean horror of social upheaval is fine in its place, but there is no apparent danger of upheaval. And who among us doubts that the man deserves a good sticking to? So why not try?
I don't find the whole Occupy Wall Street stick compelling for the simple reason that it seems to me that the idealists willing to come to New York to protest against corporate greed are the same who fell in love with Obama in 2008 and who, instead of holding him responsible for his actions, are looking elsewhere to blame for the state of the American economy and society.
In short, the Occupy Wall Street movement represents a unsettling manifestation of identity politics for as in the Salem Witch Trials, the priority is to stick it to certain people while refusing to acknowledging the responsibility of the others who look/think/feel as the 'occupiers' but never take a definite stand by acting and fighting back.
Conclusion of John McWhorter's interesting article (I swear that I don't go looking for articles on Obama and race, they are just finding a way to me) advising Obama to become angry for America needs an Angry Black president:
Don't worry about people saying you're an Angry Black Man. For one thing, your supporters think Angry Black Men are prophets anyway. As for the other side, almost none of them will dare haul this out, just for fear of alienating the center with racially unsavory language of too obvious a nature.
And as for those who will -- and they will -- just own it. Again, the sky will not fall. After all, you are angry (I presume), and you're black, too. The country could use an Angry Black Man president just about now.
I have a lot of respect for John McWhorter, but his words make me uncomfortable they are racializing an issue that is already very polarized. Lastly, I have to admit that it's extremely tiresome to have too many Americans make race the essential element of Obamism (which partly confirms its vacuity) and to put on the shoulders of Obama all the frou -frou of an imagined and superficial blackness. What is alarming is that the fact that many Americans are advising Obama to play a role and to become someone else just shows that for them, race skin color trumps/kills/negate/obliterate individuality.
By the way, America doesn't need an angry black president, it just needs, as always, a good president.
This sugary excerpt from Gary Younge is infuriating because it shows that people who have grand theory about identity politics without acknowledging its frivolity are cons:
Thinking of identities as being part of a fixed hierarchy is a terrible mistake. Being gay and black doesn’t mean that person has it twice as bad as a straight white woman. That’s the kind of mess some white feminists got into with the 2008 presidential debates between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They suggested that somehow a black male candidate had it easy, and that it was much worse to be a white woman candidate, which is just crazy. Not that it was more difficult for Obama than her. It’s just that the terms of the discussion weren’t helpful to either of them.
One of the many reasons this is an obstacle is that identities aren’t fixed in place and time. Their meaning and relevance is always shifting. As much as anything, this book is an attack on essentialism, because one thing essentialists have always tried to do is suggest there is a fixed notion to who and what we are. Actually, we are many things to many people while also being one thing to ourselves. Whatever else is said about Hillary Clinton, no one questions her being born in America or claims she is a Muslim. They have certainly said other things – demeaned her on the basis of her relationship with her husband or etched out every laugh line, crease and wrinkle – but identity should not be a competition. And if it is made a competition, then everybody loses.
Hey Younge leave Hillary Clinton alone, isn't Black the new president ? So deal with it and explain to us one more time why the One had to be the One.
Sentence of the day from Zoe Williams:
Prominent women do not necessarily pursue the rights of women generally, and it is almost worse when they pretend to (Lagarde said once: "I feel accountable to the community of women. And I don't want to fail because of them.") than when they don't (...)
You don't say! I have to admit that Williams puzzles me (she would bug me if her arguments were convincing) because she is stuck in the 1960s for she is still under the impression that women are a caste and that feminism is its only true religion.
I like John McWhorter and Glenn Loury and their conversation on race is fascinating especially for somebody like me who believes she got beyond race. That isn't to say that race doesn't matter, but rather that it does because people want it to matter in order to make the world simple and to put people within tiny and beautiful boxes.
To talk about Cornel West, I think he epitomizes of the fact that race forces people to be inauthentic and to hold on to bad faith in a pointless, vile and desperate attempt to make race matter more than anything else.
One comment: I don't think that enough Americans want to 'overcome;' (my point here isn't just abou 'race') too many want to hang on and to never let go because their past defines them. I'm still waiting for John McWhorter to define what he means by postracial because when he was supporting Obama, it seemed to mean something elses that it means now.
Sugary excerpt of the day or rather of the night from Juan Cole:
Note to Muslim-hater Bill Maher, who should know better: It is not true that women cannot vote in 20 Muslim countries, and please stop generalizing about 1.5 billion Muslims based on the 22 million people in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, the only place where women cannot drive and where men can vote (in municipal elections) but women cannot. It would be like generalizing from the Amish in Pennsylvania to all people of Christian heritage and wondering what is with Christianity and its fascination with horses and buggies.
I have to admit that I have stopped watching Bill Maher years ago because I couldn't take him seriously. He is exactly like the people he criticized, arrogant and fanatically persuaded to be on the right side except that his views are seen more fashionable and more 'cultured' (some forms of inculture in America and elsewhere are tolerable/fashionable than others when they lead to more palatable conclusions).
Bill Maher doesn't care about the status of women in the "Muslin world," to use an expression that I hate. He is using it to make a cheap point to win an argument that isn't about women, but about a group of people he considers as savages. My own point here isn't that there is no there there, but to make the assertion that consistency matters when being self-righteous.
I will not foolishly assert that women in America are not privileged compared to others or that foreign countries especially those in certain parts of the world have a 'woman problem.' I will just argue that saying that isn't saying much for the question remains what is the ideal, what are absolute and universal values, and to stop using women as human shield, as props to win ideological wars.
Interesting stuff from Charlemagne:
The West is guilty of two errors, in my view.
Firstly, in the contest between the police state and the mosque, it too easily fell into the trap of backing the police state. It therefore became associated with oppression and hypocrisy in the minds of many Arabs. It never sought to help foster other democratic opposition forces, or to criticise rulers for their oppressive ways. President Barack Obama’s brilliant speech in Cairo in 2009 criticised the Bush-era’s (short-lived) notion that democracy could be brought at the point of a gun, but did not shy away from making a powerful case for freedom. The trouble is, Mr Obama’s America then did little to support the cause of democracy in the Arab world. The same was true of Europe.
Any promotion of democracy in the Arab world cannot avoid the encounter with some form of Islamism. And this is Europe’s second error: its failure to distinguish between different currents of political groups inspired by Islam. Not all groups bearing the name of “Islamic” are puppets of Iran’s mullahs, or comrades of Osama bin Laden. Hamas may be the violent Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt. But the Egyptian branch declares itself to be non-violent and democratic, and is hated by al-Qaeda. At the very least, its democratic credentials should have been tested through greater dialogue.
I disagree with Charlemagne's implied affirmation that there is such a thing as the Western world. Nevertheless, he isn't wrong. The trouble is that he doesn't assert explicitly that the problem comes precisely from the too-easily made assertion that some foreigners are different, not mature, brutal, have an exotic or homogeneous or simply an essentialist culture, which makes it impossible for them to have self-determination and other good things in life. In short, the issue is always going to come to Sameness, commonness, that is to how much Charlemagne's West believes that the people from the rest of the world have in common with them.
Sugary excerpt from Stephen Steinberg's must-read essay in the Boston Review on the return of the culture of poverty arguments:
Notwithstanding the election of Barack Obama, the last 40 years have been a period of racial backlash. The three pillars of anti-racist public policy—affirmative action, school integration, and racial districting (to prevent the dilution of the black vote)—have all been eviscerated, thanks in large part to rulings of a Supreme Court packed with Republican appointees. Indeed, the comeback of the culture of poverty, albeit in new rhetorical guise, signifies a reversion to the status quo ante: to the discourses and concomitant policy agenda that existed before the black protest movement forced the nation to confront its collective guilt and responsibility for two centuries of slavery and a century of Jim Crow—racism that pervaded all major institutions of our society, North and South. Such momentous issues are brushed away as a new generation of sociologists delves into deliberately myopic examinations of a small sphere where culture makes some measurable difference—to prove that “culture matters.”
I don't believe in culture even though I'm a strong believer in free will in the sense that I'm convinced that personal decisions matter especially in difficult circumstances. That said, I think that blaming poverty on culture is as stupid as asserting that race determines culture. What I'm trying to say without finding the words to do so eloquently is that culturalism is dangerous because it encourages both scapegoating and prejudices, without the important acknowledgments that who people are matters and that the type of society within which they evolve has a role in what they are and can become.
Richard Cohen doesn't get it and is stuck in a place where people are too different too immature, too barbaric to know what to do with the good things in life, which to him are 'western values':
Egypt's problems are immense. It has a population it cannot support, a standard of living that is stagnant and a self-image as leader of the (Sunni) Arab world that does not, really, correspond to reality. It also lacks the civic and political institutions that are necessary for democracy. The next Egyptian government - or the one after - might well be composed of Islamists. In that case, the peace with Israel will be abrogated and the mob currently in the streets will roar its approval.
My take on all this is relentlessly gloomy. I care about Israel. I care about Egypt, too, but its survival is hardly at stake. I care about democratic values, but they are worse than useless in societies that have no tradition of tolerance or respect for minority rights. What we want for Egypt is what we have ourselves. This, though, is an identity crisis. We are not them.
I'm not buying into that ideological distinction between 'us' and 'them' and into the racialist notion that traditions are everything and that identity is a non-evolving state in all societies meaning that people are their history and their traditions. The lesson of our post-globalized world is precisely that 'we' are all westerners now in the sense that 'we' all choose who want to be and thus decide the future, which doesn't have to be like the past. It comes to Hannah Arendt and to her favorite quote of René Char, which I never get tired of using: notre héritage n'est précédé d'aucun testament.
People are not chained to their past. Egyptians are not the slaves of history, of what they may have been.