Arimathea

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Philosophy

All wisdom begins in wonder, and this delight kindles a desire for truth that leads us on a quest for the really real -- the source of being itself. Hence, the philosophical impulse, albeit often manifested in atheistic and irreverent stumblings in the dark of human ignorance, begins and ultimately ends in theology -- communicating and communing with our origin and goal. We men are rational animals who seek to know. We are agents of truth who want correct answers to questions that we must ask. From the noblest objects of contemplation to the seemingly insignificant everyday trivialities of life, we attempt to unravel perplexing knots. Limited, blind, and distracted, we nevertheless struggle for wisdom. This is our lot, and it is also our glory.

Politics

The art of the common good

Wednesday, January 28, A.D. 2015

When Artists Fear Their Audience

Franklin Einspruch has a piece in the City Journal about recent art installation controversies at American universities: “When Artists Fear Their Audience.” In short, leftwing artists have been scandalizing contemporary hypersensitive leftwing coeds* on campus, and the coeds have demanded that their schools banish the unsettling artwork from their precious space. And they get their way. Many social commentators like Einspruch find this trend alarming, wondering what happened to the American spirit of freedom, inquiry, and expression that is supposed to inform our institutions of higher learning. What a circus! It almost makes me think warmly of old school lefties who championed the “open society.” Who knew that their Frankfurt School machinations would ultimately result in tyranny? Imagine—a social revolution instigated by Communists has tended toward totalitarianism? Most unexpected, no?

(* Well, not really coeds in the case of Wellesley College)

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, January 28, Anno Domini 2015
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Friday, January 23, A.D. 2015

Goldberg on “Social Justice”

Jonah Goldberg examines “social justice” in the following short video:

Since my first days of undergrad at a Jesuit university, I have had to deal with the “social justice” crowd. It has been trying. My favorite commentary about “social justice” is my friend Andrew’s riff on Voltaire’s comment: “Catholic social justice is neither Catholic, nor social, nor justice.” I appreciate the comment’s humor and its appropriate insistence that “social justice” is not just. For me, the perverse word twisting is the most insulting aspect of “social justice” because it denigrates real justice, one of the cardinal virtues and proper aims of politics. Such makes it the maggoty gerbil corpse cherry on the fecal sundae of leftist lunacy.

“Social justice” ideology results from egalitarianism, which against all evidence holds that all human beings—and all human wills—are equal and have equal worth. If such were true, then any inequality would be an offense against nature (if there were such a thing!) and should be corrected. If such were true, then erasing or minimizing inequality would be just—that is, it would give each his due—since all are due the same. If such were true, any hierarchy or order would be inherently unjust—as those arrangements require specified roles for different people and necessarily introduce power structures. If such were true, power structures would intrinsically be instruments of oppression, as any authority of some over others disrupts equality. If such were true, then truth, beauty, and goodness would be merely self created (and self interested and sadly imposed) values, since real truth, beauty, and goodness set standards by which some opinions are truer than others, some actions are better than others, and some things (and, the horror) faces are more beautiful than others. What a messy mass of inequality mankind would be! It is therefore not a coincidence that the “social justice” crowd as a Venn diagram set largely overlaps those of nihilists, amoralists, the aesthetes of ugliness, and other neer-do-wells.

Curiously, I discovered with cynical delight the acronym “SJW” just last month. I had never seen it before, and then, apparently all of a sudden, I found it everywhere on non-leftist web sites. I had to look it up to find out that it stood for “social justice warrior.” It is a brilliant caricature, as it defines that crowd by pointing out their comical belligerence. Parasitic cheerleaders of parasites (PCP) might be more accurate, but SJW works well, too.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, January 23, Anno Domini 2015
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Wednesday, January 21, A.D. 2015

The Eternal Collapse of Russia

Last year, during the West’s never-ending minute of hate for Russia, Paul Starobin published an interesting essay in The National Interest: “The Eternal Collapse of Russia.” If you do not subsribe to The National Interest, you may download the article from the Internet Archive. Starobin surveys the history of the West’s jaundiced perception of Russia and analyzes contemporary hostility to that nation. The article is worth a read.

On a more pedestrian level, I encountered Russophobia last week when I watched the 2014 film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I like The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger, and I wanted to see the latest “Jack Ryan” film adaptation, though this one was not based on a Tom Clancy novel. What I discovered was as ridiculous as craven Hollywood’s last attempt at a Jack Ryan movie, The Sum of All Fears, which I refused to see on principle. For the villain in this latest film is a Russian oligarch who, with the approval of the Kremlin and the active complicity of the Russian Orthodox Church, orchestrates a terrorist attack to blow up Wall Street and destroy the American economy through a consequent mass sell off of American bonds (or something like that).

Consider the history of global terrorism during the last forty years. We have leftist radicals in the 70’s and Timothy McVeigh and Theodore Kaczynski in the 90’s on the American scene, the Japanese cult group Aum Shinrikyo, the I.R.A. in Britain, and Anders Breivik in Norway. There were surely others, but these terror incidents come immediately to mind. Then, consider what I did not mention. Take some time; for the list is quite long. Do you notice a discrepancy in the quantity and, in a perverse occasion for the word, quality of terrorist acts? Indeed. If we were to compare terrorism to leading causes of death in contemporary America, Muhammedanism would be heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and the flu combined. All other terrorist “causes” combined would be more like shark attacks. But the media love to cover shark attacks. They’re exciting, while heart attacks are boringly trite for the audience.

So, instead of Mohammedan fanatics as the terrorists—so expected and overdone—let’s instead have South African Nazis or Russian Orthodox sleeper cells.

Besides the silly and offensive plot of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a major Hollywood film should at least properly research its settings—in this case, about how Orthodox temples look. In one scene, Kenneth Branagh’s character Cherevin, the evil Russian oligarch, enters Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. He lights a candle and prays for America to bleed—believable so far—I mean, we’ve all done that countless times, you know—and then he exits with a great determination of will to avenge Mother Russia. The interior shown, however, is the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London. The Byzantine style interior is credibly Orthodox, but the suspended Franciscan style crucifix (San Damiano Cross) in the middle of the nave is a sure sign that it is not. That is an acceptable fault, though. The scene wherein the Russian Orthodox priest activates the sleeper cell in Dearborn, Michigan is not pardonable—at all. We are led to believe that a hyper-modernist church with no iconography, complete with a modern stained glass cross behind the apse-less altar and full of pews, is a Russian Orthodox parish in Michigan. The building is, in fact, the Anglican Church of St John the Evangelist in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Now, I realize that no Russian Orthodox parish would allow such filming inside their temple, but surely the filmmakers could have contacted a uniate community. Ukrainian uniates would have volunteered their temple for free in order to make the Russian Orthodox Church look bad.

Anyway, I understand the West’s deeply held belief in Orthodox caesaropapism, and I acknowledge that the Soviet controlled Moscow Patriarchate collaborated with the godless Communists. However, the Russian Church Abroad, to which “Saint Uriel the Archangel Russian Orthodox Church” in Dearborn most likely belongs, strongly resisted Communist control. We are, of course, just gullible tools of the Tsar! Perhaps, that is the film’s message—that the post-Soviet Kremlin, with the new Tsarish Putin, now commands the Whites and the Reds to do its bidding. It is funny! The White Church has often been accused of being a pawn of the C.I.A.—the very employer of Jack Ryan. We Russian Orthodox are always someone’s toadies.

Such brings me to my last rant. Ann Barnhardt is fascinating bird, and I wish her well, but in her post about why Ayn Rand became an atheist (“More on Cowardice and Courage”), she writes:

Do you know why Ayn Rand (Alisa Rosenbaum was her real name) became an atheist? Do you know why that clearly intelligent woman became so utterly convinced that there was no God? It is because she witnessed the revolting, repellant cowardice of the Russian Orthodox clergy in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. Seeing those men capitulate to evil in order to save their own skins was so abhorrent to behold that young Alisa became convinced that there was no way that the church or the God worshiped in that church could possibly be real or true. It was the observation of cowardice that drove her into atheism, and then into her own sad life of sin and self-centeredness, all in the name of †rational self-interest† and †happiness†.

Such may be true; I do not know enough about Rand’s biography. However, it is very misleading. Barnhardt does not mention the millions of Russian Orthodox martyrs who resisted, fought against, and suffered from the Communists. She does not explain how the Communists gained control of the Moscow Patriarchate. The “revolting, repellant cowardice of the Russian Orthodox clergy” resulted from the liquidation of the Russian episcopate and priesthood. The Communists imprisoned and killed the Church’s bishops, and then the Party repopulated its ranks from the small number remaining—the few who exhibited “revolting, repellant cowardice” in the face of torture and death—with controllable pawns. The Soviets murdered two hundred thousand priests, deacons, and monastics. “Revolting, repellant cowardice”—blasphemy against the Holy Spirit comes to mind.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, January 21, Anno Domini 2015
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Friday, January 16, A.D. 2015

Free‌ Range‌ Kids

I wish you my last Nativity greetings of the season!

Yesterday, I stumbled upon Free‌ Range‌ Kids, which is a site dedicated to counter the “helicopter parenting” style that has come to dominate American bourgeois childrearing. Its owner Lenore Skenazy simply promotes what parents universally used to do (e.g. let your children walk to school or take a public bus), and the chattering classes see her as a revolutionary. She has gigs on television shows, publications, and even a speaking circuit. She may have even started a movement. I wish her well, but I want to know why she is necessary. Why does common sense or a fundamental aspect of our inherited way of life need an articulate defender in the court of public opinion? Is such true everywhere in human history, or is this a special characteristic of the contemporary West? And if so, why? When idiots and ideological psychopaths impose their insanity, I expect Americans to push back forcefully and immediately, and that happens at times. But it appears to happen less and less often—and I get the sense that the American masses are becoming more and more complacent, more mandarin, more thoughtlessly obedient to “experts” and social engineers. Perhaps, this is due to successful conditioning, or a breakdown of traditional order, or secularization, or perhaps even the feminization of our civic life. Women tend to be more herd-like in their moral judgments; female suffrage appears to lead by necessity to increased social and political conformity.

Conformity? In our carefree days? Indeed. How funny it is that our latter day libertines become the most draconian bores when their own oxen get gored. “Live and let live”—with the slight modifications listed in three million regulations designed to shackle all life (and to minimize microaggressions, to be sure). Those who preach liberation just want to paint the yoke a new hue (pink, perhaps, or how about rainbow taffy?).

Anyway, I loathe contemporary American pedagogy, with all its toxic, inhuman, suffocating filth. I wish Lenore Skenazy the best in fighting for a “cause” that only requires a champion in a crazy world. And since she has a website and a following, other dutiful mothers might now feel free to follow their instincts and rational judgment rather than the 24/7 media-hyped paranoia. Brave Lenore Skenazy—trailblazing the obvious so that the bovine masses might slowly moo to greener pastures. I say this with genuine admiration for Skenazy coupled with acerbic contempt for human nature—or at least for our sorry, perverted remnant of it.

For a sample of Free‌ Range‌ Kids, check out Skenazy’s New Year’s post, “The Craziest Zero Tolerance Stories of 2014.” It makes one want to grab his pitchfork and a torch and march down to the local board of education. If only Americans had the healthy sensibility of yesteryear’s peasants . . .

Posted by Joseph on Friday, January 16, Anno Domini 2015
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Tuesday, January 6, A.D. 2015

Christmas Greetings from Benjamin Netanyahu

As the Christmas season comes to an end for Western Christians and is about to begin for Eastern Christians, I wish everyone a joyous Nativity.

In that spirit, I offer the following Christmas message for this year from the Israeli prime minister:

Isn’t interesting that the nationalist Jewish leader of the Jewish State finds it appropriate to wish Christians in Israel and throughout the world a merry Christmas, but many supposedly Christian politicians in the United States consider such a gesture of good will “divisive” and “alienating”? Of course, the Prime Minister has political reasons for his well wishes. What, I wonder, are the political reasons of the aforementioned American Christians who refuse to celebrate the birth of our Lord publically? Their ways are indeed inscrutable.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, January 6, Anno Domini 2015
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Tuesday, November 25, A.D. 2014

Ferguson: Microataxia

The protesters of the grand jury’s decision in Officer Darren Wilson’s case have a fondness for signs that read, “This is what democracy looks like!”

I completely agree.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, November 25, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, July 24, A.D. 2014

A Womyn’s Occasional Nods to Nature

A few months ago, Laura Wood showcased “A ‘Feminist’ Who Refuses to Hire Women” on The Thinking Housewife. I especially like Buck’s comment below the excerpt.

Human beings are so fascinating.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, July 24, Anno Domini 2014
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Monday, July 14, A.D. 2014

Ethical Conservativism

My friend Andrew recently sent me a link to Brian Patrick Mitchell’s “What Is ‘Ethical Conservatism’?” in The American Conservative, and I recommend it as a brief manifesto of good sense in an age of insanity. Besides the good deacon’s regrettable use of gender instead of sex, I find it remarkably unobjectionable. However, I did find the following passage a bit unclear:

The contradiction at the very heart of progressive ethics is undeniable: People must be “forced to be free,” as Rousseau candidly admits. Why? Because the prideful, passionate, progressive heart cannot admit that what it wants is wrong; it must therefore insist that what others want instead is wrong and identify itself with the Promethean lawgiver, “enlightened despot,” or “revolutionary vanguard,” in sympathy with “the People” but not benighted like “the masses,” capable of divining the “general will” of the former and compelled to force that will upon the latter. This follows, perversely, from the Rousseauean conceit that man is innocent of the evil he finds in the world, which originates outside of him and is only imposed upon him. As man is forced to be evil, so must he be forced to be free of it.

“As man is forced to be evil, so must he be forced to be free of it.” Does Mitchell mean that, as Rousseau’s ideas externalize evil, they thereby externalize all morality? As such, must the state direct human decisions? In short, are virture and vice politicized not only in the classical way—the ancients knew well how law and custom cultivate virtue or invite vice—but completely so that there is no individual moral reasoning at all? Or is it rather that after the original sin of man’s corruption by society, only an enlightened state can redeem lost souls, depraved as they are in a condition of complacent repression? I don’t know.

The rest of the essay is clear and reasonable. Kudos to a fellow Cincinnati(ish) native who labors in the devil’s fields (around the Potomac).

Posted by Joseph on Monday, July 14, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, May 15, A.D. 2014

Coulter Picks Lockett

Христос Возкресе! And happy feast of Saint Athanasius the Great!

In her last two weekly columns, Ann Coulter provides Clayton Lockett’s gruesome backstory and then marvels at the Left’s souciant concern for Lockett’s “botched” execution: “Lockett & Load” and “Death Penalty Opponents, Have I Got a Deal for You!” From the latter:

As described in last week’s column, The New York Times and other sanctimonious news outlets censored details about the crime that put Clayton Lockett on death row, the better to generate revulsion at his deserved execution. You might say they buried the facts alive. [J.A.: In the first article, we learn that Lockett buried one of his victims alive.]

For example, the Times neglected to mention anything about the raping that preceded the murdering, which seems odd for a newspaper so consumed with the “War on Women.” (At least Lockett never refused to pay for a woman’s birth control pills!)

The Times also dropped the part about Lockett’s dangerous behavior while incarcerated, such as ordering hits on the witnesses against him, his threats to kill prison guards, and the bounty of homemade weapons seized from him in prison—saw blades, sharpened wires, shivs and shanks. (Old Times motto: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” New Times motto: “Nobody Likes a Rat.”)

The newspaper also failed to report that Lockett had ended up in an adult prison by the age of 16 and then was convicted of four more felonies before committing the torture-murder of Stephanie Neiman that sent him to death row.

No, that information might distract from the Times’ florid descriptions of Lockett’s execution.

Bless their hearts, they gave it their all, but even the Times could not make Lockett’s “botched” execution sound particularly grisly. Here is the paper’s full, terrifying description:

“According to an eyewitness account by a reporter for The Tulsa World, Mr. Lockett tried to raise himself up, mumbled the word ‘man,’ and was in obvious pain. Officials hastily closed the blinds on the chamber and told reporters that the execution had been stopped because of a ‘vein failure.’ But at 7:06, the inmate was pronounced dead of a heart attack.”

HE RAISED HIMSELF UP? WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY ARE WE???

Actually, I’m not that horrified. It sounds as if he suffered a bit, which is nice, and he’s dead, which was the objective of the whole enterprise.

You want horrifying? Imagine a 2-inch baby being chopped up with scissors. That can’t feel great.

Maybe they—and MSNBC’s similarly high-minded Rachel Maddow—should comfort themselves by thinking of Lockett’s execution as a very, very, very late-term abortion. You know, the kind that liberal darling Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours to keep legal.

Since Rachel and the Times are such big fans of partial-birth abortion, would they mind if we took a gigantic pair of scissors, jammed them in the back of Clayton Lockett’s head and let his brain slide out? Let’s get Kermit Gosnell working again!

Or how about giving the citizens of Oklahoma the right to choose an acid bath for condemned murderers? We’ll submerge people like Lockett in a tub filled with burning fluid until he’s mostly disintegrated and can be flushed down the toilet. (If it’s low-flow, flush twice.)

Or maybe an industrial vacuum designed to tear Lockett’s body apart.

Which reminds me: Would the Times ever give as detailed a description of an abortion as it does for the execution of a remorseless killer? The odds are pretty high that the baby isn’t even a rapist/murderer.

Opposition to the death penalty has nothing to do with compassion. Liberals weeping for murderers have zero compassion for an innocent baby trying to escape an abortionist’s cranioclast. Their dead earnestness about monsters like Clayton Lockett is solely designed to demonstrate how virtuous they are.

Coulter treads close to Steve Sailer in her analysis of leftist opposition to the death penalty. I know that she reads Sailer as she links to him occasionally. I wonder if she also read Lawrence Auster’s site. Speaking of Auster, Coulter’s current topic reminds me of a thread from a couple of years ago in which I caused some dismay to Lydia McGrew and others for defending the subhuman characterization of men like Lockett. From “Feral blacks and the image of God”:

The discussion in “Feral blacks and the image of God” requires some useful metaphysical distinctions.

As Lydia McGrew notes, Christians affirm that all human beings are made in the image of God. However, we often fail to live up to the high calling that our nature demands. Church Fathers from Irenaeus of Lyon to Bonaventure distinguish between God’s image and God’s likeness in which we are made. The image is in our essence; we cannot lose that, just as we cannot become oak trees or bullfrogs. However, through sin, we lose the likeness, and thus the way that the divine image manifests itself becomes marred. Therefore, it is correct to call evil people subhuman or bestial if we mean that they are failing to live up to the fully human standard of a rational creature oriented toward the good. This is true of everyone to some extent and at certain times, but it is sadly holds for certain souls to an extreme degree most or all of the time.

Consider the wicked boys who tortured the Haitian mother and her son in Florida five years ago (I wrote about it here). Such boys are human beings in that they have a human nature; they do carry the image of God. However, they have been so fully perverted that it is sensible to say that they are less than human. They are like Dionysius’ demons or Tolkien’s orcs—so fully corrupted that they no longer appear to have the essence given to them by God—though they fundamentally do.

In the Nicomachean Ethics [typo in the original], Aristotle recognizes that repeated vicious actions slowly pervert one’s practical reason, and this process eventually leads to the complete destruction of one’s moral compass. Therefore, the vicious man is no longer fully human in that he has lost his ability to perceive the moral good. Of course, his essence remains human, but his actuality is not.

Such appears to irk certain folks for two main reasons. First, any suggestion that dehumanizes a member of Homo sapiens troubles them greatly. “First, they came for the men who raped and killed infants. Then, they came for the unrepentant matricidal maniacs. When will they come for me?!?!?!” That is a K-Y slippery slope, but Godwin’s Law is absolute. Second, the modern mind has difficulty in grasping “vertical” metaphysical distinctions, as the thread demonstrates.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, May 15, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, April 10, A.D. 2014

Desiccated Intellectual Life

Here are some links to posts about our sorry academic and general intellectual situation:

“College Students Demand Respect” on The Thinking Housewife with a guest article by Richard Cocks

“The Academy Then and Now” by Paul Gottfried at the the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy site (courtesy of Thomas F. Bertonneau)

“Arguing Over Argument in the Internet Age” by James Kalb in Crisis Magazine

If that was not enough doom and gloom for you, check out this enthusiastic support for constructivism: “Constructivist Learning and Teaching.”

Sigh. I stand by my belief that nominalism has been the chief specific cause of the West’s decay.

Rend your clothes and toss dust.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, April 10, Anno Domini 2014
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