Archive for February, 2010

Eric Voegelin On Terrorism

February 13, 2010

Another “Pungent Observation” of Eric Voegelin, this one “On the Pathology of Terrorism”:

A further reason for my hatred of . . . ideologies is quite a primitive one. I have an aversion to killing people for the fun of it. What the fun is, I did not quite understand at the time, but in the intervening years the ample exploration of revolutionary consciousness has cast some light on this matter.
The fun consists in gaining a pseudo-identity through asserting one’s power, optimally by killing somebody—a pseudo-identity that serves as a substitute for the human self that has been lost. . . . A good example of the type of self that has to kill other people in order to regain in an Ersatzform what it has lost is the famous Saint-Juste, who says that Brutus either has to kill other people or kill himself.
. . . . I have no sympathy whatsoever with such characters and have never hesitated to characterize them as “murderous swine.”

Discovering Eric Voegelin

February 11, 2010

I think I had heard of Eric Voegelin, now I want to read more about and by him.  Here’s the Wickipedia article on Voegelin.   An impressive number of important thinkers came to the US from Austria, fleeing from the Nazis (another would be Peter Drucker, the late guru of humanistic business management).

Voegelin’s first book (1928) was Ueber die Form des Amerikanischen Geistes– he was a young man of 27 at the time– and  here is a comment of his “On the American Inclination to Avoid Conflict”:

The feature that gives its color to the American phase of the English Revolution, as well as to the later independent American development up to the beginning of the twentieth century, is the fundamental possibility of evasion.

If friction or conflict arises within a social group in Europe, it has to be settled by compromise or fight. In America it could be settled by moving to another place. In its good as well as in its less good consequences, this opportunity has profoundly determined the American national character. Among the good consequences we may count the atmosphere of freedom and independence, of self-expression, self-assertion, and dignity of man on a broad democratic basis;  among the more questionable consequences we have to count the evasion of issues and the lack of tragic sentiment that can arise only from collective experiences of insurmountable resistance and the necessity of submission.  We may take it as a symptom of the situation that American literature has not yet produced a tragedy of high rank nor a work of profound humor.

That seems very true.  How often when we don’t like changes in our neighborhood– traffic, crime, ethnic changes– do we simply pick up and move?   As they say Daniel Boone would do when he started to see the smoke from his neighbors’ chimneys.

That was one of the  “Pungent Observations of Eric Voegelin”– lots more on this website.  Read them, it’s almost an education in itself.

“How Global Warming Makes Blizzards Worse”

February 11, 2010

From Yahoo news, a link to a Time magazine article with the headline “DC Snowstorm:  How Global Warming Makes Blizzards Worse”.  Yes, I’m sure that explains  it all!

Perhaps some day, Time magazine, or the IPCC, or the World Wildlife Fund (a prime source of science info for IPCC reports), or even Al Gore, will condescend to answer the following question:  What weather event, or what seasonal weather anomaly, do you think would tend to disprove Global Warming?

Unusually severe Caribbean hurricanes(as in 2005), or puny hurricanes (since then)?  Droughts in our Southwest(as this year),  or lack of drought in the African Sahel(in recent years)?  Heat waves in Western Europe in 2003, or very cold weather there this year?

All, all are caused by Global Warming.  “The science is settled.”

“Why are liberals so condescending?”

February 9, 2010

Due to a record-breaking snowstorm here in the Washington DC area we have not received any mail, or the Washington Post in the morning.  Thus I missed reading a fine op-ed piece in Sunday’s Post by Gerald Alexander.  Too bad, it would have brightened my morning before I went out to shovel more snow; but reading it online was fun too.  He starts with this:

Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration. Indeed, all the appeals to bipartisanship notwithstanding, President Obama and other leading liberal voices have joined in a chorus of intellectual condescension.

I’m an ex-liberal, and I think Alexander (a prof of Politics at UVA) is on to something.  Of course I know conservatives who have the same attitude to liberals, denouncing them like Catholics did in the old baptismal rite, renouncing Satan with “all his works and pomps”.  So, is “to a degree far surpassing conservatives” really true?  I’m afraid it is, especially when I hear the President speaking of consensus and compromise in a most reasonable tone while– maddeningly– assuming that those who oppose him are either too dumb to understand, or acting in bad faith.  From Alexander’s piece:

…  Indeed, when the president met with House Republicans in Baltimore recently, he assured them that he considers their ideas, but he then rejected their motives in virtually the same breath.

“There may be other ideas that you guys have,” Obama said. “I am happy to look at them, and I’m happy to embrace them. . . . But the question I think we’re going to have to ask ourselves is, as we move forward, are we going to be examining each of these issues based on what’s good for the country, what the evidence tells us, or are we going to be trying to position ourselves so that come November, we’re able to say, ‘The other party, it’s their fault’?”