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Society and culture

America, the world, science, the Tridentine Mass, etc.

In my recent entry on being American I quoted John McCain and Thornton Wilder as authorities. McCain evidently views America as a sort of overriding moral cause that we should all buy into, Thornton Wilder as an inescapable reality and predicament we must accept and deal with on its own terms. That is to say, their understanding of America is their religion. It defines what they believe is ultimately real and unavoidable and obligatory, at least for us (as with Wilder) and possibly for everyone (as with McCain).


Life according to reason, I suppose

A couple of texts I found horrifying:

  • Tony Blair’s ode to the conversion of Britain and the British, without remainder, into efficient cogs in a global economic machine. This is the “forces of conservatism” speech he gave at the 1999 Labour Party conference.

What is it to be an American?

It’s a bad question, I think, because it overemphasizes the attribute in a way that makes no sense, certainly not in 2007 and maybe ever. You can reasonably be an American stamp collector, lawyer or Catholic, meaning one whose attitudes, understanding and pursuits are colored by a background and web of connections accumulated growing up and living here, but not an American simply as such.

If you try to answer the question as posed, and treat “American” as an identity rather than attribute, here’s what happens:


Purity is elusive

It seems strange that the reason given by the Federation of American Scientists for their condemnation of James Watson’s views on race and intelligence, and their public characterization of them as “personal prejudices that are racist, vicious and unsupported by science,” is that they’re worried that the credibility of the disinterested truth-seeking scientific enterprise might b


Final comments on Alexander

Alexander is important because architecture is important. It gives the social, intellectual and spiritual order a physical form that helps mold our lives. Also, it’s large, solid, visible and very expensive, so it’s difficult to ignore issues created by the kind of order or disorder it embodies. Discussing architecture is therefore an indirect way of discussing other still more important issues. As such, it is useful because it provides another line of analysis that doesn’t run into political and social taboos so directly and so is more likely to reveal disfavored truths.


A note on politics

Alexander’s outlook has definite implications when applied to society. It rejects the idea of imposing concept and image on reality, and so is anti-constructivist. It favors particularity of position and so is anti-egalitarian and anti-inclusivist. It accepts that patterns that reappear in a variety of traditions very likely have something to them that rationalism should not be allowed to trump. And it treats both subsidiarity and hierarchy as necessary features of any acceptable system.


Difficulties in Alexander's proposed conquest

If Alexander is right in The Nature of Order, what do we do about it?


After Strange Interpretations

Some time ago J. Bottum, now editor of First Things, published a sort of hit piece on T. S. Eliot, What T.S. Eliot Almost Believed, that I just ran into going through some old correspondence.


Laptop globalism

This sounds like a techie’s fantasy: hundred dollar laptops for Hottentots. Someone wants every poor kid in the world to get his own laptop. Computers haven’t done much for education in America, though, and it’s not clear they’d do more in Waziristan. It’s not as if every third world schoolkid is a computer nerd who just lacks the computer he needs to blossom.


Boring summary of American right-wing ideas

The point of present-day political thought is to integrate everything into a single system of technological hedonism that managers and functionaries can dominate with the aid of their ideological champions. A better and more human way of thinking would recognize that we live in a larger and less controllable world, one in which things above and below us, not to mention other people, maintain a certain autonomy.


Back to school

So far I’ve proposed beauty and contemplation as pieces of a program for restoring the transcendent and therefore humanity. What else is needed?


The traditionalism of fools

Today’s quote:

“Minorities often behave the way majorities want them to. America’s German and Sephardic Jews in the nineteenth century tried to model themselves on WASP high society, believing that they had to do so to move up socially and professionally. Today Jews who spew hate on gentiles also move up, because they are doing to Euro-American-Christians what the majority society wants, blaming that society for the ills of humanity and urging it to become a multicultural mess.”


There will always be an England

Or at least something called by that name:

  • Hindus there are planning to bring a legal challenge against the refusal of two churches to host yoga classes. The churches say they’re Christian and yoga promotes some other religion, so they don’t want to host it. The Hindus say “yeah, that’s the point, if a church supports one religion and refuses to support another that violates the Equality Act.”

My kingdom for a shoe

Turning to another side of Iranian life, I just watched a pleasant and rather well-made movie from over there, Children of Heaven. It’s about a young boy who loses his little sister’s shoes and their attempts to get them back or replace them, in the mean time keeping it a secret and getting by with just one pair between the two of them.


Another blog on Belloc

I just finished another of Belloc’s books, Characters of the Reformation.


A "rising tide of fundamentalism"?

I suppose people could claim things like these are signs of some such:


Notes on multicultural culture

I’ve said that multicultural is really a-cultural, since culture that cannot be public and authoritative is not culture but private habit and taste. Naturally, that description simplifies things a bit. No human group can function without common habits and understandings that its members are entitled to rely on. Multicultural society therefore has its own culture, one that trumps and suppresses the particular inherited cultures it claims to respect.


Comments on the poll

I expected there would be more “others” with this poll than previous polls, and so far I’ve been right. I do hope that if you vote that way you’ll say what you think the true account is. People are puzzled by “inclusiveness,” so their theories are all over the place, and a list of some of them would be interesting.


Furthering the neoconservative diagnosis

A while back I noted the oddity of Catholic neocon George Weigel praising Philadelphia in the 50s as “a town of ethnic neighborhoods in which Catholic kids unselfconsciously identified themselves by parish … dang, it was great” and in a few lines without explanation attacking those who wanted to maintain ethnic and religious boundaries in Philadelphia.


Protest against scientism

Melanie Phillips gives a pop version of objections to attempts by scientists and their hangers-on and popularizers to claim that something like modern natural science can explain everything.



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