Sentence of the day from Chris Dillow:
(...)a lot of mainstream politics is just narcissistic navel-gazing.
I agree with Kweli Jaoko on this with the usual caveat that I don't agree with the west/rest division:
The banality, say, of tweeting and hashtagging, is part of the socio-historical through which misogyny becomes reflexive. Banality becomes the training we put ourselves through to make misogyny reflexive. What might it mean to understand misogyny through the kind of training that produces reflexes? Certainly the banality of tweeting and hashtagging labors to traffic the misogyny of #TeamMafisi and pass it off as ordinary, everyday, as part of the affects and intensities exchanged through the internet, and therefore something one must put up with. The fallacy is that misogyny is slightly inconveniencing.
As Western media deploys an Orientalist lens that locates rape and misogyny squarely in India—meaning, in the Global South, outside the West, and, yet again, as the need to save brown women from brown men—I would like us to think locally. Misogyny is not just a problem in India; in Kenya; or on Twitter. It is a problem everywhere, including here in the West from where I write.
Well it is always easier and satisfying even to criticize the barbarians rather than to recognize the world has, how should I put it, a woman problem!
Les phrases du jour are from Nadine Gordimer:
You accept or reject the influences around you, you are formed by your social enclosure and you are always growing. To be a writer is to enter into public life. I look upon our process as writers as discovery of life.
Sugary excerpt of the morning from Chris Dillow:
The problem with freedom is that it doesn’t just promote our own interests. It can harm these interests; laisser-faire required that banks collapse, with unpleasant externalities. And it can promote the interests of people who aren’t in our tribe. Freer planning laws help pikeys as well as Daily Mail readers. And the freedom to work where you want is good for foreigners as well as Brits.
This means that the cause of freedom is ill-served by tribalism and self-interest. And because the latter are significant forces in politics, we cannot hope that freedom will thrive.
Sentences of the morning, which made my weekend palatable from Laurie Penny:
Some people can't seem to understand the difference between taking a stand against sexism and taking a stand against sex, but it's a distinction that we must make if we want a women's movement that's smart and brave and useful.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Chris Dillow:
If Lionel Messi plays as well this season as last, only a half-wit will complain that he hasn’t made progress. Instead, we’ll celebrate his consistent brilliance. Only the mediocre need “progress.” For the truly excellent, its enough to maintain a plateau.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Glenn Greenwald:
Yes, the 9/11 attack was an atrocious act of slaughter; so were many of the violent, horrendous crimes which executed convicts unquestionably (sometimes by their own confession) committed. In all cases, performing giddy dances over state-produced corpses is odious and wrong.
This quote from Slavoj Žižek mopping the floor with Julian Assange made my weekend:
At first I treated you as not an idiot, out of politeness, but more and more I have to admit that you are not an idiot.
I agree with Žižek's characterization of Assange who is a self-righteous and useful idiot, who did something necessary by chance, but yet found the way to contaminate it with his fanaticism.
Citation du jour from Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far right party Le Front National:
I believe that it's easier for a man to lose his grip on reality. As a woman, and a mother, you have a close relationship with reality.
I don't agree, with Le Pen for most women in politics are politicians(which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and become women when it is in their personal interest. Politics, nowadays, has very little to do with reality. People don't want politicians to tell them the 'truth' but to make them feel good, while telling them what they want to hear. It is especially in the US and in France.
Quote of the day from Anne Orford :
The bombing of Libya in the name of revolution may be legal, but the international law that authorises such action has surely lost its claim to be universal.
One question comes immediately to mind: does international law has to be universal to be just? My answer without much analysis is no. However, international law does have to be consistent and to be aware of its contradictions to address its own obvious inadequacies. What bothers me about Libya isn't the act, but its consequences and its effectiveness. The possibility that the Libyan intervention may fail or succeed in such a manner that it becomes extremly expensive not financially, but morally is a problem.
I agree with Isaac Chotiner on this:
(...)criticism is too often defined as acceptable when it is made against the “more powerful” and offensive when it is made against the “less powerful.” If this is in part a positive sign that people are sensitive to the less fortunate, it is also a threat to uninhibited intellectual inquiry.
Quote of the day is from Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's former president :
Africa needs as many friends as possible. And if anything there should be co-operation from east and west, to pull Africa up.
I find this sentence appalling. As always 'Africa' is used to create an imaginary entity, which one doesn't have to define, but simply has to dream and to be able to assert something that is illogical without being challenged.
Africa is as real as Xanadu. There are only african countries, which have to realize that their destiny is in their hands and that it is foolish to believe that all countries on a continent have a common destiny and identity. In short, Obasanjo, as all of his peers, uses the word 'Africa' to hide from the sad reality that he has no imagination and not enough no-how to help Nigeria. He is suffering from what I like to call the Caligula complex, which is the obsession with the sun to avoid focusing on what one considers small and prosaic things, but which are, alas, essential.
Sugary excerpt from Christopher Hitchens in his debate against Blair on Religion
Religion forces nice people to do unkind things, and also makes intelligent people say stupid things. Handed a small baby for the first time, is it your first reaction to think, beautiful, almost perfect, now please hand me the sharp stone for its genitalia that I may do the work of the Lord. No, it is -- as the great physicist Stephen Weinberg has aptly put it, in the ordinary moral universe, the good will do the best they can, the worst will do the worst they can, but if you want to make good people do wicked things, you'll need religion.
Sugary excerpt of the day, which I will not comment because it makes grin even though I don't agree with it totally, from Jennie Bristow:
Feminism has always had a contradictory attitude towards sex, combining demands for sexual liberation with a prudish, pursed-lips disapproval of heterosexual relationships. The focus on the problem of men has always concealed two fundamental truths: that men and women have far more common interests and problems than those that divide them, and that men and women like each other.
I agree with the immortal (for I believe that his work will remain after he is gone, let's hope though that he lives a long life) Christopher Hitchens on this:
I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness. Amazing. My conservative friends look at me and say, 'Welcome to the club. What took you so long?' Well that's what it took and I think it's worth recording.
Sugary excerpt of the morning from Chris Dillow:
(...) many of those born into privilege have forms of self-deception that prevent them seeing that they don't deserve their fortune.
The general phenomenon here is simply illusory superiority. Everyone likes to think they are better than average, and it is always easy to believe in things it is comfortable to believe. Self-interest breeds self-deception.
Sugary excerpt of Saturday is from Laurie Essig:
(...)there is no point in getting people the facts. They won’t believe you anyway. There was one hopeful piece of information from the Michigan study, however. What people need is a hug, not facts. The researchers found that the better people felt about themselves, the more likely they were to accept information that was inconsistent with their world views. In other words, if you told the idiots screaming out that there’s no global warming that they were in fact “good people” and that you “care about them,” they might be more likely to listen to facts and not just “facts.” So perhaps Anita Hill should just give Ginny Thomas a big hug and say “The very fact that you are still married to your husband, a real creep and I should know, means that you are loyal and dedicated.” And perhaps the number of reasonable candidates running against Tea Party wing-nuts can just reach out and hug their opponents and say “You may be as ignorant of the U.S. Constitution as anyone on this earth, but you are not a bad person.”
We do not vote about who owns what, or about worker–management relations in a factory; all this is left to processes outside the sphere of the political. It is illusory to expect that one can effectively change things by ‘extending’ democracy into this sphere, say, by organizing ‘democratic’ banks under people’s control. Radical changes in this domain lie outside the sphere of legal rights. Such democratic procedures can, of course, have a positive role to play. But they remain part of the state apparatus of the bourgeoisie, whose purpose is to guarantee the undisturbed functioning of capitalist reproduction. In this precise sense, Badiou was right in his claim that the name of the ultimate enemy today is not capitalism, empire or exploitation, but democracy. It is the acceptance of ‘democratic mechanisms’ as the ultimate frame that prevents a radical transformation of capitalist relations…
Sugary excerpt of the day from the always pertinent Jennifer Thorpe:
One of the most powerful narratives we have of women, is of women as a victim — a victim of circumstance, a victim of violence, a victim of her own femininity. Women are distanced from their own sexual desire in public discourse, and are essentially seen as “the weaker sex”. This is one of the most disabling narratives we have. When we view a woman who has experienced sexual violence, or is a prostitute, or has experienced domestic abuse, or is poor as a victim rather than a survivor we to talk about her in an extremely limited fashion. We also only allow her access to an extremely limited way of talking about herself, or accessing public space.
I'm left wondering what makes a narrative powerful nowadays, the fact that it sounds true and touches one emotionally, or something else. The trouble with powerful narratives is that they are capable of stopping deep thought, analysis, and any kind of much needed self-introspection.
Sugary excerpt of the day is from Cordelia Fine:
We look around in our society, and we want to explain whatever state of sex inequality we have. It's more comfortable to attribute it to some internal difference between men and women than the idea that there must be something very unjust about our society.
The sugary excerpt for this Sunday is from Roger Ebert's excellent entry in his journal about Christopher Hitchens, life,religion and what happens when even though you couldn't wait for death, she stops for you, even though she doesn't do it kindly as she did for Emily Dickinson:
Deathbed conversions have always seemed to me like a Hail Mary Pass, proving nothing about religion and much about desperation.
Quote of the day from A.Jay Adler:
To anyone anywhere actually on the Left, the description of Obama as governing from the far Left is preposterous. Here it is like staring from the earth at a star three light years in the distance and another ten. From the earth, the Right, they seem very much the same distance away in the sky. The actual far Left is critical of Obama on multiple fronts, from his continuation of so many of Bush imperialistic war policies, to his significant retreats from far Left aims in health care reform, to his cooperative relationship with big banks and advocates of neoliberal economics and his excessive realism, in far Left eyes, on human rights issues. To anyone anywhere on the Left, Obama’s policies are mainstream liberal, with a foreign policy more hawkish than many mainstream liberals would prefer.
Te quote of the day is from Theodore Dalrymple:
In democratic countries, for example, politicians often parade their children on platforms, as if the freshness and innocence of the children were somehow evidence of their own freshness and innocence.How many vile dictators have had themselves portrayed as the friends of children? We all know the pictures of Hitler receiving flowers from pretty little girls, who cannot possibly know the nature of the man they are giving them to. Indeed, the juxtaposition of child and politician is much more likely to be a sign of utter lack of scruple and of ruthlessness than it is of the reverse.
Whenever, then, I see a demonstration, even in a cause to which I might otherwise be sympathetic, in which demonstrators have children on their shoulders, I am appalled. My objection is not just at the emotional kitschiness of it, but at the lack of serious moral reflection by those who do it.
The quote of the morning is from Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president running from reelection among increasing scrutiny over his autocratic instincts:
Democracy is good music but you need somebody with ears to listen to that music. It doesn't matter how much you talk about democracy or human rights. Tell me about a family who spend the whole night looking at one another and wondering whether they will have something to eat. Are they thinking about anything else? They are just not listening.
Quote of the day from Norman Geras:
There are, in fact, two types of liberal. One believes that liberalism is a better moral and political philosophy than its illiberal alternatives and is willing to say this upfront and follow through on the consequences. The other does not believe this, and is merely confused - not having any secure basis for saying why she is a liberal.
Quote of the morning from David Bowden :
Culturally, the Romans were the great plagiarists, freely stealing from the Greeks and plundering the best of their conquered lands. It was materially – in building those roads and viaducts – that they really left their stamp on the modern world. While the British Empire sought its legitimacy in those cultured Greeks and their smooth marbles, the consumerist US has always been much more fascinated with the Romans, with their gains of blood, orgies and land. The willingness to emulate the Romans says a lot about America’s self-image: both asserting its significance (after the fall of Rome came barbarism) while letting its opponents have their small victory (the Yanks have no culture, sniff the Europeans) and getting on with ruling the world. The West has always revelled in the decadence of the ancient world. But as Angus Kennedy has argued, what is decadent about Western civilisation today is not its sexual licentiousness or profanity, but the fact that it consumes without creativity or production. That America is looking to invoke the excess of the Romans is not because it shocks, but rather that it comforts.
Quote of the morning from Jennifer Howze:
If ever you started to wonder that maybe your counterculture attitude toward child-rearing was just a little too laid-back - that perhaps you should spend more time worrying about sex maniacs on the school run and that your every action (whatever it may be) ruining your child's life - along comes an announcement that reaffirms the absolute hysteria that surrounds children these days.
The quote of the day is from Arnold Kling:
The political class does not want to take the Tea Party movement at its word. Instead, it wants to dismiss them as angry, bigoted, and ignorant. That is an obviously self-serving approach for the political class, and I think it is unfair.
Adornment is everything; what leads men on in their never-ending chase after female beauty is less a matter of biology than of art and performance. And no performance of femininity is more stylized, more artificial than Noh. (...)Some believe, in defense of the great art of men playing women in Noh, Kabuki, or in pre-Communist days the Chinese opera, that men can represent the allure of female beauty better than women can. For the idea is not to mimic reality but, as in a Chinese painting, to express an idea of reality, an abstraction almost. Men can represent the idea of women better, because they can take a distance from the real thing and reinvent it as art.
The quote of the day is a joke from Samir Khullar:
I don’t mind being a slave. My ancestors were. What bothers me about being a slave in Quebec is that there’s a good chance my master will be poorer and less educated than I am.
Quote of the morning from Claire Berlinski:
No one talks much about the victims of Communism. No one erects memorials to the throngs of people murdered by the Soviet state. (In his widely ignored book, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, Alexander Yakovlev, the architect of perestroika under Gorbachev, puts the number at 30 to 35 million.)
Indeed, many still subscribe to the essential tenets of Communist ideology. Politicians, academics, students, even the occasional autodidact taxi driver still stand opposed to private property. Many remain enthralled by schemes for central economic planning. Stalin, according to polls, is one of Russia’s most popular historical figures. No small number of young people in Istanbul, where I live, proudly describe themselves as Communists; I have met such people around the world, from Seattle to Calcutta.
We rightly insisted upon total denazification; we rightly excoriate those who now attempt to revive the Nazis’ ideology. But the world exhibits a perilous failure to acknowledge the monstrous history of Communism.
Quote of the afternoon from Norman Geras:
To deny that millions of Jews were done to death in Nazi-occupied Europe is an odious lie harmful to the interests and the well-being of Jews. Racism and other forms of prejudice can often be traced back to prior social or political causes; but that doesn't undo their racist character.
Quote from the morning from Glenn Greenwald:
There is, of course, no moral difference between subjecting citizens and non-citizens to abusive or tyrannical treatment. But as a practical matter, the dangers intensify when the denial of rights is aimed at a government's own population. The ultimate check on any government is its own citizenry; vesting political leaders with oppressive domestic authority uniquely empowers them to avoid accountability and deter dissent. It's one thing for a government to spy on other countries (as virtually every nation does); it's another thing entirely for them to direct its surveillance apparatus inward and spy on its own citizens. Alarming assaults on basic rights become all the more alarming when the focus shifts to the domestic arena.
Drinking-age laws aren’t designed to prevent teenagers from drinking (and thus the fact that they don’t work is immaterial); they’re designed as a fuck-you from the voting-age demographic to those younger than they, rubbing their noses in it just in case the kids start getting ideas.
Quote of the day from David Betz:
A few guys really committed guys with the level of infantry training you could get in a good reserve unit, equipped with stuff you can purchase from Tesco for a few hundred pounds, and weapons available to anyone with cash and criminal connections can cause a colossal amount of damage. Of course an interesting question is whether the two trend lines–self-start Jihadist ineptitude, increasing non-state death commando sophistication–are actually connected. Do they form part of a coherent strategy or are they independent phenomena? For that matter is the latter truly non-state? At any rate it seems to me that the question of resilience is highly germane. Let’s not ramp up fear without reason. But then again don’t fool yourself. Times Square is a point on a trend line. Mumbai is a point on a trend line. What’s next?
Quote of the day from Gilles Saint-Paul :
(...)it is somewhat disturbing that we are now asked to pour money into Greece to "save the euro" (while the British, who have no stake in the euro, are spared that burden). Besides the fact that apart from Germany, the other large Eurozone economies (France, Italy, and Spain) are barely in a better shape than Greece, and besides the moral hazard effects of the intervention, it makes little sense to prolong a monetary regime which is actually one of the reasons why those countries are in trouble.
I genuinely believe that the legacy of colonialism is to blame for so many of the woes facing the African continent today, and that former colonising countries can and should do more to address the global inequality that was built on the backs of slavery and colonialism.
The trouble with this assertion is that it is based uniquely on feelings and ideology and that it is more importantly unhelpful and superfluous.
The sugary excerpt of the morning from Slavoj Zizek building on a quote from Donald Rumsfeld (it's hard to admit, but I miss Rumny):
When it comes to the risk of ecological catastrophe, we are dealing with "unknown unknowns", to use the terms of the Rumsfeldian theory of knowledge. Donald Rumsfeld set out this theory in a bit of amateur philosophising in February 2002, when he was still George W Bush's defence secretary. He said:
There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know.
What Rumsfeld forgot to add was the crucial fourth term: the "unknown knowns", things we don't know that we know - which is the Freudian unconscious, the "knowledge which doesn't know itself", as Lacan put it. To the assertion that the main dangers in the Iraq war were the "unknown unknowns" - the threats that we did not even suspect existed - we should reply that the main dangers are, on the contrary, the "unknown knowns", the disavowed beliefs and suppositions to which we are not even aware we adhere.
The most interesting statement of the day from Arnold Kling:
I believe that America does have a state religion. I call it the religion of Unlimited Government. Those of us who dissent from the state religion believe in Limited Government. I will elaborate below. (...)There is no one who will come right out and say they are for Unlimited Government. However, on each specific issue, from obesity to education to financial regulation, the believers have faith that government action would be moral and effective. The believers never accept an argument that government's wisdom and morality have limits. Instead, they view any government failure as the unfortunate consequence of special interests, free-market ideology, or just plain evil people who manage to get into positions of power. For believers, government is "us" and those who believe in Limited Government are the dupes of a false religion.
Quote of the evening from Naomi Wolf:
One of America’s last competitive cultural exports, it seems, is the postadolescent male escape fantasy.
men all over the world tune in to American-made fantasies of male bonding and male escape – escape from the bonds of work and domesticity, and, if only for a youthful period of the male lifespan, from long-term commitment to women themselves.This fantasy, derived, no doubt, from American history – from westward expansion and Manifest Destiny, from the Gold Rush and a settlement policy that valorized staking a claim to the wilderness and subduing it – is powerfully appealing to men in general, and to many women as well.
Quote of the day is Melanie Phillips :
(...) in certain areas science has overreached itself by trying to play God, and as a result has turned into an ideology. Contrary to popular myth, Western science was not created by Enlightenment secularism. It grew out of the revolutionary claim in the Bible that the universe was the product of a rational Creator, who endowed man with reason so that he could ask questions about the natural world. With the rise of secularism, the striking thing is that people didn’t lose the drive to believe. They stopped having religious faith — but that drive was diverted instead into the creation of a wide variety of secular religions, otherwise known as ideologies. But these are the true enemies of truth and reason.
Quote of the evening from Andrew Robinson:
The reason elections are now no more than a televised popularity contest is that the main parties have fused into something akin to a single party, indistinguishable on major issues. The most marked characteristic of the televised debates is the lack of distance between politicians on any of the major issues: in the two main parties, ‘everyone agrees’ that immigration is a bad thing, that public spending needs to be cut, that crime should be smashed with an iron fist, that workers must remain weak and unorganised, that benefits should be conditional on work, that education exists to serve the market, that the private sector should run or at least inspire the management of public services.
Quote of the afternoon from Andrew Brown :
The pope, as is well known, can't even stop Catholics from using birth control, let alone the rest of the world; and while I understand he is not keen on sex of any sort, I have never been turned down by anyone on the grounds that the pope would disapprove. Somehow, they have all managed to find even more compelling reasons. Perhaps more fanatical atheists have had a different experience.
Quote of the mid-day from Frank Furedi:
The act of suspending judgment need not mean a commitment not to judge. It can mean the postponement of judgment while the sceptic continues to inquire into the problem. Unlike doubt, which involves a negative judgment, scepticism represents a form of prejudgment. It is opposed to dogma and the attitude of unquestioned certainty.
The quote of the day is from Nick Cohen:
(...)with the possible exception of the BNP, the Lib Dems are indeed the most unscrupulous campaigners in politics, the only party to my knowledge that has taken stolen money from criminals and then refused to return it to its rightful owners. Meanwhile, you do not have to be a deranged militarist to look at the Liberal Democrat front bench and suspect that they would, if they could, leave Afghan women to the mercy of the Taliban and feel very pleased with themselves as they did it.
Quote of the day from Ujjal Dosanjh:
I think what we are doing to this country is that this idea of multiculturalism has been completely distorted, turned on its head to essentially claim that anything anyone believes – no matter how ridiculous and outrageous it might be – is okay and acceptable in the name of diversity. (...) Where we have gone wrong in this pursuit of multiculturalism is that there is no adherence to core values, the core Canadian values, which [are]: That you don’t threaten people who differ with you; you don’t go attack them personally; you don’t terrorize the populace
Quote of the morning from Gita Sahgal:
Torture was seen as something that primarily applies to men and not to the more routine ways in which women experience harm. Thus, the 'war on terror' has had a very profound effect on women’s rights. Yet there is really very little analysis of what has happened. So much commentary has concentrated simply on what Bush or Blair said about women’s rights at one time or another to further their own instrumental agenda, that we have simply ignored the areas where advances in women’s rights have been undermined - either because of a fundamentalist backlash to enforce what they consider their cultural and religious rights, or by human rights professionals who, as they see it, are trying to protect the purity of the human rights framework.