Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Right to Marry

His Hermeneuticalness, Fr. Tim Finigan, pastor of souls in the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, and proprietor of the blogosphere's Hermeneutic of Continuity has done a great service in parsing what Pope Benedict XVI really said in his remarks to the Roman Rota last week.

Background: in case you missed it, the MSM got it wrong - badly wrong - when the Pope spoke to the Church's supreme appellate tribunal on Saturday of last week. Many headlines procalimed variations on the theme of "Pope denies Right to Marriage" - which is not true, while others said "Marriage is not an Absolute Right" - which is true as far as it goes, but quite beside the point of the Holy Father's remarks.

If you would have the benefit of Fr. Finigan's labors in this regard (and I really do think you ought to), click here.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Language of Life: speaking of opposition to abortion

One of the most familiar refrains of the past week or so, i.e., during the run-up to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Monday's March for Life, was that we as Catholics, know that abortion is wrong.

I submit that this formulation is in all cases harmful to the cause of life, and in most cases indicative of a faulty understanding of how the Church teaches what She teaches.

It is most emphatically not as Catholics that we know abortion is wrong.

If real assent to the truth of revelation were necessary in order to recognize the intrinsic evil of procured abortion, then the pro-aborts would be right.

The data of revelation provide us with more information about human dignity (about its contents, about its source and about its end).

That, however, is entirely beside the point: human reason dictates that abortion is wrong. Not only: reason also shows that positive legal sanctioning of the practice is contrary to the essential ends of political power.

Said differently: there are some things that we know are true because the Church teaches them.

Examples are: that God is one Being in Three Persons; that He created the universe and all that is ex nihilo; that He took on human nature in order to redeem it and to save the whole world.

There are other things that the Church teaches because they are true.

Examples are: that the universe has an intelligible structure; that human reason is capable of penetrating that structure and arriving at true and certain knowledge of the source of all that is; that the moral order is an integral part of the stucture of the universe; that the direct, deliberate destruction of innocent human life violates the moral order that is built into the universe.

If it were otherwise, i.e., if it were rather the case that human reason is incapable of knowing that the direct and deliberate destruction of innocent human life violates the moral order that is built into the universe, then one of a series of alternatives would necessarily obtain: either the universe would be lacking in an intelligible structure, or human reason would be - on principle - incapable of understanding the structure of the universe.

If the former, i.e., if there were no intelligible structure to the universe, then there would literally be no universe (no cosmos, as the Greeks so neautifully called it). If the latter, then every society of human beings would be nothing more than an external power structure, in which the strong lord it forever over the weak.

As things stand, however, there is an intelligible structure to the universe, and we know it: when human beings first turned their gaze to the heavens, they found something wondrous in their ability to measure the stars in their courses. They found community between Earth and Heaven, where they expected only vacuous infiinity between God and man.

This discovery had consequences: people who made it could no longer pretend that their attempts at ordering their lives together on Earth were a matter of indifference to the universe, or to the author of the order they had begun to discover.

So, they began to study the heavens, to search for the ultimate reason behind the movements of the heavenly bodies - and this, with a view to ordering their own lives together in concert with the heavenly order.

The attempt to measure the movement of the heavens is physics, and the attempt to penetrate the source of order behind the movement is metaphysics - but the attempt to order our lives together is politics, and the attempt to understand how best to do so according to measure and reason is political science (episteme politike).

In other words, our political (social) life - remember that Cicero translated Aristotle's zoon politicon as animal socialis - is governed ultimately not by force, but by reason, and this is a fact of history, empirically verifiable: not a conjecture.

So, we are left with an alternative: either abortion is wrong, or nothing is.

But, if abortion is wrong, then it is wrong by the same reason that gives birth to stars: one can know this reason without knowing that the author of it was a Jewish carpenter born during the reign of Caesar Augustus in the Roman province of Palestine.

It is our ability to know the reason, which makes us capable of living together in society.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Adamsian Conservatism

Between changing diapers and servizi giornalistici this weekend, I had an exchange on Facebook with an old friend (and a new one) over the impossibly far-fetched proposal (so stipulated during the course of our conversation) to amend the Constitution so as to reinstate the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law.

In a nutshell, my friends argued that something is better than nothing.

I argued that McCain-Feingold was unconstitutional and that the SCOTUS had therefore done well in declaring it so.

At stake was a basic disagreement, I think, about the nature of law.

I think that law is a determinate expression of the inherent juridical ties that bind us together and govern our conduct in society.

My friends seem to consider that law is merely a tool for implementing social policy.

I must admit that empirically, they have recent history, at least, on their side.

A broader view of history would, I believe, confirm a sneaking suspicion I have: that when legislatures begin using law as a mere tool for the implementation of social policy, social foundering (or the threat of it) is present and inevitable.

I do not deny that law is an effective tool for implementing social policy. I only say that law is not, and cannot without courting disaster be considered a mere tool for such an end.

These thoughts crystallized for me as I watched the following video (H/t to Donald R. McLarey at The American Catholic):

McLarey's post has some great commentary, as well as some exquisitely useful and entertaining links: go to be edifited and delighted.

But I titled this post, "Adamsian Conservatism" and I have not explained why.

Well, the causa proxima was an observation I made to that effect during the course of the aforementioned FB exchange, in response to a suggestion that I am big business, because I think McCain-Feingold was unconstitutional.

I responded, roughly, that the rule of law is central to free society, that tolerating a patently unconstitutional law in light of a few of its effects is deleterious, and that, no, I am not in thrall to big business, but that I am an "Adamsian" conservative who therefore has one eye on Hamilton at all times.

What do I mean by this?

Essentially, that ordered liberty is possible only for people who 1) love good and hate evil; 2) have sense (wisdom) enough to tell them apart.

Liberty, in the minimal sense of freedom from external coercion, may be had by any group numerous, motivated, talented and well-armed enough to get it.

The same group that wins its liberty in this sense may and in fact does often turn around and quickly deny liberty to some other group or faction within society.

The very Constitutional Convention was called - at least in part - because of Americans’ intimate experience with this fact.

So, the Framers submitted that the people ordain and establish the Constitution in order to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.

The blessings of liberty are, in short, the conditions for general flourishing of fully human life.

As John Adams noted in his Thoughts on Government:
The foundation of every government is some principle or passion in the minds of the people. The noblest principles and most generous affections in our nature then, have the fairest chance to support the noblest and most generous models of government.… A Constitution, founded on these principles, introduces knowledge among the People, and inspires them with a conscious dignity, becoming Freemen. A general emulation takes place, which causes good humour, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment, inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprizing. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious and frugal. You will find among them some elegance, perhaps, but more solidity; a little pleasure, but a great deal of business—some politeness, but more civility. If you compare such a country with the regions of domination, whether Monarchial or Aristocratical, you will fancy yourself in Arcadia or Elisium [sic].
Without the blessings of liberty, thusly conceived, no free republic can long remain in existence.

The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is, among other things, the protection of liberty.

If liberty, improperly exercised, must inevitably decay into anarchy (from which arises despotism), then government is interested in - and must therefore be rendered capable of enforcing the proper exercise of liberty, i.e. to secure the blessings thereof.

This is a paradox - the paradox of free society: how to resolve it?

America offers a way toward a solution.

If Adams is correct when he says that the foundation of every government is some principle or passion in the minds of the people, then the decision to ratify the Constitution was necessarily an expression of the American people’s self-understanding.

If the Constitution depends on the people’s attachment to the noblest principles and most generous affections of human nature, then the success of the society formed under the new representative framework will depend upon the people’s ability to live up to their estimation of themselves, that is, to prove their professed attachment.

Thus, when Adams said that a government founded on the noblest sentiments and most generous affections of our nature will introduce knowledge among the people and inspire them with a conscious dignity, he was not saying that a republican form of government automatically does these things.

Adams was rather recommending such a course of action, since no government that fails to introduce knowledge, inspire the people with conscious dignity, etc., can hope to ensure what the Preamble to the Constitution called, “The Blessings of Liberty.”

There is a further point, involving the relation of virtue to morality.

This is a basic problem in politics, the theoretical treatment of which we could trace at least as far back as 4th century BC Athens.

One of the salient points in the history of the treatment of the problem occured in the waning days of Rome’s Empire, when the great Roman rhetor and philosopher, St. Augustine of Hippo, wrote a treatise establishing the aptness of Christian religion to inform and perfect human beings for Roman citizenship, during the course of which he found himself asking what the mores of the Romans were, that God should have deigned to help them in the expansion of their rule (De civitate Dei V.xii.1-2).

In short, the mores of a society are those things that the members of society love or desire in general. The difficulty, however, is that good mores - while necessary - are not sufficient.

In order for society to thrive, in order for the blessings of liberty to be preserved, society’s members must actually possess the characteristics generally esteemed as good and worthy - they must have virtue.

The political haggling over the charter of the Bank of The United States is apt to illustrate the principle.

In 1790, the financial position of the United States was not exactly rosy.

Alexander Hamilton proposed a scheme for the salvation of the young republic’s financial solvency and the foundation of its economic future. Congress was persuaded, and passed Hamilton’s proposal. Only the President’s signature was outstanding.

In those days, Presidents would refuse to sign a bill only if they had specific Constitutional qualms about it.

The question therefore turned on the constitutionality of Hamilton’s plan.

The new Constitution vested in the Congress of the United States with power:

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The POTUS, George Washington, asked his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, to share his opinion of the constitutionality of Hamilton’s plan.

Jefferson responded in a letter, in which he refused to reduce the sense of the Constitutional term, “necessary” to synonymy with “expedience” and concluded that Congress had not power therefore to erect a bank (the cornerstone of Hamilton’s proposal), because the Constitution did not grant that power explicitly to Congress, and a Bank were not, stricto sensu, necessary.

The President also asked Hamilton, who was his Secretary of the Treasury, to make a case for the plan.

Hamilton responded:
Every power vested in a Government is in its nature sovereign, and includes by force of the term, a right to employ all the means requisite, and fairly applicable to the attainment of the ends of such power.
The limits of sovereign power are only that the action countenanced by a legislature be, “…not immoral, nor contrary to the essential ends of political power.”

The upshot of all this is that Jefferson recognizes no limit to the power of government other than the textual or structural limits of its constitution, while in practice, he would have made the whole financial future of the United States to depend on his opinion of the meaning of a word.

Hamilton, on the other hand (who is popularly reputed a conniving, wrangling, haggler, with neither moral sense, nor the restraint that ought to accompany it), here shows us the depth of his political thought and reflection on human nature.

Hamilton sees, where Jefferson either does not, or does not care, that no government will serve the good, unless the people for whom the government is given love good and hate evil.

The essence of Hamilton's argument is that government can function only when no officer or agent of government could dare, for fear of public outrage, to do evil in the light of day, and only when public officials are terrified of public wrath in the event that they should fail publicly to prosecute and punish evil-doers according to the law.

The shared notion of right and wrong, and not the constitutional structure of a government, is the last bulwark against tyranny.

Without good government, order in social life will decay, for there is, as Publius has noted:
[A] degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust.
Nevertheless, as there are these:
So there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.
Publius' point is that:
Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be, that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another. (Federalist #55)
Let the blessings of liberty be something called the good life.

The good life requires liberty - and liberty, if it is to guarantee and not destroy the good life, requires virtue, and virtue does not come easy.

Some forms of government subvert virtue, though no government can provide it.

All good government requires virtue, and republican government requires more of it, and in more members of society, than any other form of government.

This is what I meant by "Adamsian conservatism" with an eye on (an eye toward) Hamilton at all times.


Who can play Shylock to Antonio president

I am not entitled to play Shylock and claim a pound of flesh from the president, for the very simple reason that I am not en elector. Which means that in this affair the one with whom the president made a contract, and who only can claim it, is the electorate.

But a Porzia can always argue, yes, a pound of flesh, but the blood was not included in the contract.

What could this mean in the analogy of the present situation with the Merchant of Venice?

Perhaps that the elected monarch, once found ineffective in assuring the welfare of his community, is not put to death, as in certain old African kingdoms, but just kicked out of office?


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Alright, I'll play, HP...

But HP, it was not an episode or an affair of "politics as usual" - it was a national tragedy.

The President is not supposed to "pacify" the lunatic fringe: he is to hold the center: gubernare.

He did a good job this time, by which I only mean that he said the right things and sounded like he meant them.

Am I wrong, or do you want the pound of flesh on this one?

I hope not: the role of Shylock does not suit you, and I will not play Portia to the President's Antonio (and who would be Bassanio in this analogy, anyway?).

Just two words

Not to keep the discussion open, but the president's behavior in this whole affair was simply sly.

It didn't pacify anybody of those who needed pacifying.

I don't add more!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Giving Credit where Credit is Due

The HP and I have been back and forth over President Obama's speech in Arizona.

I have been sidelined with a flu-like bug for several days, and have not responded to the HP's latest on the subject.

First, let me say that I think that to some extent, we are talking at cross purposes: I merely wish to give credit where credit is due, while the HP wants to raise more general questions regarding democracy and the President's fitness to lead the nation.

I think those are legitimate questions.

I do not think they need to be raised in connection with the President's admirable conduct in the face of national tragedy.

Still, they do need to be raised.

So, let this be my final word on the President's speech: well done, Mr. President.

Nevertheless, I will not be voting for him in the next election - unless the GOP decides to run the Prince of Darkness (or Sarah Palin).

Why not?

I'll tell you when I feel better.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Being and playing president

POTUS is an elected monarch. In the previous posts the LD and I examined mostly the reigning and the governing sides of his office. Or, better, just to these two sides the LD answered me, also pointing out that they can never be totally separated, as he noticed by recalling the example of a president whom we love, Theodor Roosevelt, who knew how to reign by governing and to govern by reigning.

Correct. But we need to take into consideration a third side, pertaining to the fact that he is an elected monarch: i.e. campaigning.

Obama, during the 2008 campaign, played at being presidential, which he failed to be while in office. How about the Tucson speech? Was that a playing president too?

There isn't a one way answer: because he is the president.

Therefore, by delivering a speech addressed to everybody, all molded in a pacifying mode, he was presidential, up to his role.

However, he also needs to be reelected. Returning to the style of his old candidate speeches is clearly aimed then at recovering consensus for election. And it couldn't be otherwise.

We live in a democracy, after all, where it is elected he who knows how to touch the right chords in the public audience: is rhetorically effective. But here we need to make distinctions. If rhetoric is unavoidable, it doesn't mean that we can't discern whether one is in his whole person consonant to what he says, or this appears dissonant with respect to what he otherwise shows to be.

The second I think is the case with Obama. His speech was indeed presidential, and still he was playing president.

I tend to agree with the comment to my post: that speech doesn't show a change of heart.

I don't applaud at Sen. McCain's applauding at the Tucson speech. To my view, as I often repeated in this blog, the cleavage that divides Americans is deeper than he seems to suggest. Sweet pacifying words avail to nothing if they don't go with some account of what divides, and possibly with a hint of what can heal the division. Or better, they amount in the end to no more than an electoral devise.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Our Elected King: being a reply to the HP with regard to the Tucson speech

The President of the United States is essentially an elected monarch.

This is true whether one considers the powers of his office, or the symbolic role the office-holder is called to play as the efficacious sign of national unity.

Let these two aspects of consideration correspond roughly and respectively to the tasks of governing and reigning.

NB, I say, "roughly," for a reason: sometimes, official presidential authority is used to reign, as when the POTUS issues a Thanksgiving Day proclamation; at other times, such as the Coal Strike of 1902, when Theodore Roosevelt used the prestige of the office to bring what had become an ungovernable situation back under control, the powerful symbolism attached to or inherent in the office of POTUS is used to govern.

In other words: when you have a monarchy, elected or otherwise, and not a diarchy, the king (call him the POTUS) will sometimes govern by reigning and sometimes he will reign by governing.

President Obama was reigning in Tucson as the nation's "mourner-in-chief" - and he acquitted himself admirably.

He was also, and contemporaneously, governing.

Our nation is now like a ship, the crew of which is on the verge of mutiny: the officers (Congress) are incompetent at best, venal at worst; the crew is divided over whether to trust the captain, whose past service is storied, but whose recent performance has been aloof, retiring, and when present, heavy-handed.

The POTUS seized a moment of national shock and suffering, and called the crew to order, not by scolding, not by blaming, but by reminding them of their past glories, and calling on them - on us - to believe ourselves yet capable of that authentic national greatness, which is grounded in prudent regard for basic human goodness.

Senator McCain put the matter thusly:
The president appropriately disputed the injurious suggestion that some participants in our political debates were responsible for a depraved man's inhumanity. He asked us all to conduct ourselves in those debates in a manner that would not disillusion an innocent child's hopeful patriotism. I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments. We should respect the sincerity of the convictions that enliven our debates but also the mutual purpose that we and all preceding generations of Americans serve: a better country; stronger, more prosperous and just than the one we inherited.

We Americans have different opinions on how best to serve that noble purpose. We need not pretend otherwise or be timid in our advocacy of the means we believe will achieve it. But we should be mindful as we argue about our differences that so much more unites than divides us. We should also note that our differences, when compared with those in many, if not most, other countries, are smaller than we sometimes imagine them to be.

I disagree with many of the president's policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause. I reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals. And I reject accusations that Americans who vigorously oppose his policies are less intelligent, compassionate or just than those who support them.
In other words, POTUS was reminding the nation of (even as he wrestled with) a profoundly patriotic and quintessentially American idea: that America (the conceptual space that informs our nationhood) is at once good, and in its embodiment, not (yet) good enough - not (yet) as good as it should be - so he was calling us to the kind of moral improvement in which the possibility of America is proved.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Tucson speech

Ok, I perceive a certain approving consensus, right and left, about Obama's Tucson speech. Also the LD didn't hesitate to say that it was great, really presidential, he even perceived in it a touch of sincerity.

And though, I am diffident. I'll try to explain you why.

There was an old book by Michael Novak entitled "choosing our king". That's what the President of the United States is: an elected king. My diffidence comes from here.

In England it affirmed itself since the late eighteenth century a sort of diarchy between king and prime minister: the first reigns but doesn't govern, the second governs but doesn't reign. In spite of the fact that monarchy has disappeared almost everywhere else in Europe, something of the kind still holds true. In Italy, for example, after the defeat in WWII the king was substituted by a president, about whom, though, it can be said the same it is said of the king: he reigns but doesn't govern.

Not so in the US, where the president reigns and governs.

The present POTUS was great during the electoral campaign, making inspiring speeches, with people swooning of excitement. Those speeches were all about what would mean his reigning. Almost not a word about his governing, which actually turned disastrous. So on the whole also his reining failed: he had promised as a king to unite, once in govern he actually divided. And all those great speeches appeared to be mere electoral mockery.

We have now this new great speech. Is it a presidential speech? Or isn't it just an electoral speech in view of the second mandate, to regain the consensus that his disastrous governing made him lose?


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More on hate words and inflammatory rhetoric

I'm afraid that my previous post wasn't very clear, so I'll try to say what I meant in a more direct way.

The establishment – in the academic world, the media, finance and politics – has lost touch with the people. Let's remember, for example, the scorning words of the presidential candidate Obama about those back country folks holding to their religion and their guns to fight their sense of insecurity. He presented himself as the bearer of new tidings, but actually he was the topmost exponent of that establishment. So he paid lip service to religion, and even presented himself as a kind of savior of the country… from whom? Well, it is easy, from itself.

What does the establishment hold against the people? Well, Obama said it: not to give up guns and religion.

And why should they? It could be asked. Guns are dangerous, you could say, but religion? Why does it offend the establishment? Tough question, hard to answer.

Let me try to do it by recalling the peculiarity of American experience compared to Europe.

The United States of America were formed by affirming the primacy of society over against the state, which had taken in Europe a sovereign character. This implied the power of the state to make laws, as an absolute power, not tied to any superior sense of justice and the law; not tied, most of all, to ancient customs grounded on Christian religion. Getting rid of this had been in Europe the way for the new bourgeois establishment to supersede the old monarchical and aristocratic one, which had rather made of religion an instrumentum regni. Not so in America, where religion was free from the state, so that Protestant Catholic and Jews all contributed to the making of "the American way of life" as a kind of civil religion (as used to say an old professor of mine: Will Herberg).

Since many decades, though, a europeanizing new establishment has grown in America, tending, as in Europe, to dissolve religious ties to subordinate society to the state: an establishment that considered itself enlightened, because it substituted to the alleged divisiveness coming from differences of religion, culture, race and sex, the equality of all people (no longer, mind me, men and women) before the law made by the state. Substituting the God of the old religion, this becomes then the great equalizer.

So, holding to their equality in God, and just in God, the people offend the establishment, as being ungrateful for all the benefices it brought to them.

Ok, you could legitimately ask, what does all this have to do with what you spoke about in the previous post?

Well, religion contributed to keep people passably virtuous, held families together, made for good neighborhood, etcetera. Sure, there has been in America the problem of slavery, with its aftermath of racial discrimination. But also this seemed to be on the way to be solved, in a religious way, thanks to leaders like the reverend Martin Luther King.

Making religion irrelevant, the establishment followed another way: exclusively that of law. Or of a law like etiquette that prohibited the use of certain words. To the point of wanting to expurgate classics. And it doesn't matter that Mark Twain, while using the word nigger, showed niggers to be people just as the whites!

Not teaching virtue, but erasing words from the vocabulary is for the establishment, self styled liberal, the way to keep people good.

This has made on the opposite side the word liberal to become itself a slandering one. That's why, as I said, I'd rather not use it. Even though I consider the establishment I am speaking about tyrannical. Also because it kills, with other virtues, that which makes people capable of rational conversation.

Instead of conversation, such an establishment only knows outrage, before whatever popular use of language it disapproves, or it finds convenient to disapprove.

If I said that all liberals should be shot, it is a metaphoric hyperbole. If someone else singled them out through the sight of a rifle, again it is a metaphor for wanting them kicked out of office, and as such all sane people take it.

Should we then think that banning words and metaphors would save us from prejudice and crazies? I don't believe it.

Besides, let the man without sins throw the first stone. I mean, liberals have not refrained from slandering conservatives, or abstained from bellicose metaphors.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hate words and inflammatory rhetoric

Two news of a quite different kind keep on whirling together in my mind:

of a new edition of Huckleberry Finn expurgated of the word nigger;

of the shooting in Tucson, where Rep. Gabrielle Gifford got a bullet in the head and six other people died.

To bring them forward so naked, it's like playing one of those quiz games in which, given two words, one has to guess what they have in common.

Well, I'll give you the answer: a question of elocution.

The forced avoidance of hate or despise words investing one of the masterpieces of American literature seems to come from the same source that unleashed a squabble about inflammatory rhetoric in political disputes: the "liberal" left, I'd say, if I weren't afraid of falling into using that same kind of branding words, expressing political animosity.

If I called them so, someone might think that I want all of them liberals shot. I actually advocated some times in playful conversations with friends the Renaissance notion of tyrannicide, which even some theologians considered at the time legitimate, even though, I argued, today it would be quite hard to practice because it would involve the mass killing of university professors, journalists, etcetera, all of the people making up in Europe as well as in America the dominant educated class: too many, should I have said it publicly, to fear that my words could be taken on face value.

To speak of a mass tyrannicide was just a kind of joke to point out the harshness of a situation, in which we appear to have a hard time to find common grounds of conversation. Which would be what I rather do, instead of calling names.

Some commentators have blamed inflammatory rhetoric for the Tucson shooting. Appearing to want to sedate the tone of political squabbling. Actually keeping it alive. Providing further reason to argue.

All that matters is to ban the public use of hate and despise words, seems to suggest the Huckleberry case; and banning in the same way inflammatory rhetoric.

The hope appears to be that in such a way people would be conditioned into avoiding hatred and political warfare; but I am afraid, instead, that this would result in the institution of a police state, in charge of having that avoidance respected.

Where conversations ends, tyranny is around the corner, ready to set in.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011


I'd like to start the new year on a positive mode, and, in order to do it, I recollect that it just was Christmas and soon it will be Epiphany.

Nice promising word epiphany: the showing forth, sensory manifestation of something glorious, an event of beauty that leaves you ecstatic.

Thing for theologians, you will say, people of faith.

Nay, thing for everybody, without which the world becomes a rather sad place.

Which lover hasn't experienced a moment of contemplative looking at the beloved, in full marvel for the sheer grace of his or hers existence? A moment, let's say, of ecstasy, being out of oneself before a manifestation – again an epiphany – of another, better world?

I correct myself, it isn't the vision of another world, but of this very world we live in, transfigured in the full light of its perfection, showing forth in the person of the beloved. Who ceases to be just that bodily individual. Forgetting ourselves, in that woman we see all women, in that man all men, in that child all children.

A new born baby can draw from us a smile or even a laughter of joy, because of the renewal of life that shows in him: in two words, life eternal.

I think there isn't anybody who has never experienced such a moment of joy. Even if he doesn't consciously remember it. Its total lack would make him, I suspect, quite deranged.

Ok, after Epiphany we get back to the ordinary, imperfect world. In which love can end, and the once beloved person become estranged from us.

So we get back to the topics of human contrasts to which the LD and I referred in the last posts. With regard to which the LD expressed the suspicion of a cultural derangement afflicting our world. I agree, such is the effect of the lack of recognition of epiphany. But about this in another post.

To be positive for now, let's notice that without the recollection of love we couldn't even lament its absence.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Another New Year's Wish (being something of a reply to the HP)

When Whoopie Goldberg and Bill O'Reilly are our cultural standard-bearers; when the POTUS takes pandering to its apotheosis in positively Orwellian revision; when, to paraphrase Eric Voegelin, pneumopathological delusion trumps reality and realism (he means both metaphysical and the political) is insanity, then what hope is there for civilization?

Thankfully, WG and BO'R are not our cultural standard-bearers, and King Barack must stand for re-election.

Still, the problem you raise is, as you say, a "mighty" one. You will recall this entry of mine, in which I treat of Mosques and Men?

I object to the use of terms like "Islamist" and "Muslim extremist" on the grounds that they are ill-informed, chauvinistic, and (in the case of "extremist") dangerously misapplied (dangerous, that is - does it not go without saying? - to language). Words have no meaning if reading the Qur'an and taking what it has to say seriously makes one an extremist.

The Islamist is one who would see the absolute rule of Shari'a, and the disintegration of infidel political modes and orders. This is what Qur'an calls for explicitly. Anyone, who submits to its dictates as God's perfect revelation, which is to say, any Muslim, is bound to work toward precisely such ends. So, Islamist is a critically useless neologism.

Ave crux, spes unica!

A New Year’s wish

It happened again. In New year's Eve 21 Christians were killed in Egypt by… whom:

Radical Muslims, or simply Muslims?

Mighty question, which would require an accurate, i.e., lengthy answer – for which I hope to find time.

For now I just want to express a wish for the New Year: that the MSM will start to take notice of this regular dripping of Christian blood in Islamic countries, with deaths counting now by the thousands.

Perhaps then POTUS will be more careful in praising the (null) Islamic contribution to America.

And Whoopie Goldberg won't get up angry and walk out on Bill O'Reilly because he dared to express doubts about the peacefulness of Muslims. If anything, she could have stayed to show him wrong.