A Thoughtless Age

The West has cut ties with the great thinkers of the past.

The comments are thought provoking also. The text:

John Agresto’s Aug. 7 essay “The Suicide of the Liberal Arts”  is one of the more eloquent of the elegies for high culture that appear from time to time in the quality press. A former president of St. John’s College (Santa Fe), perhaps the best undergraduate Great Books program around, Agresto wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

When properly conceived and taught, the liberal arts do not by themselves make us “better people” or (God knows) more “human.” They don’t exist to make us more “liberal,” at least in the contemporary political sense. But the liberal arts can do something no less wonderful: They can open our eyes.

They show us how to look at the world and the works of civilization in serious and important and even delightful ways. They hold out the possibility that we will know better the truth about many of the most important things. They are the vehicle that carries the amazing things that mankind has made — and the memory of the horrors that mankind has perpetrated — from one age to the next. They teach us how to marvel.

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The Coddling of the American Mind

A fascinating (as a train wreck is) piece from The Atlantic:

In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.

 

Now Isn’t the Time to Flee the Public Square

From the Wall Street Journal (behind paywall):

Dismay with the same-sex marriage decision doesn’t warrant a retreat from culture and politics.

The full text, by David Skeel:

Even a few months ago, most theologically conservative Christians had never heard of the Benedict Option, a call by writer Rod Dreherfor Christians to stage a “strategic retreat” from the culture. The idea has prompted much online discussion; given the widening chasm between traditional Christian ethics and American culture, many are now seriously considering it.

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A Poet’s Apocalyptic Vision

From the Wall Street Journal (behind paywall), by David Lehman:

‘The Second Coming’ outlines William Butler Yeats’s fearful vision of the future based on the moral anarchy of the present.

The text (the last paragraph raises a chilling question):

If our age is apocalyptic in mood—and rife with doomsday scenarios, nuclear nightmares, religious fanatics and suicidal terrorists—there may be no more chilling statement of our condition than William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming.” Written in 1919, in the immediate aftermath of the epoch-ending disaster that was World War I, “The Second Coming” extrapolates a fearful vision from the moral anarchy of the present. The poem also, almost incidentally, serves as an introduction to the great Irish poet’s complex conception of history, which is cyclical, not linear. Things happen twice, the first time as sublime, the second time as horrifying, so that, instead of the “second coming” of the savior, Jesus Christ, Yeats envisages a monstrosity, a “rough beast” threatening violence commensurate with the human capacity for bloodletting.

Here is the entire poem:

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Quote of the Day

It comes down to this: In the capitalist view, poor people aren’t liabilities to be managed by government; the are human beings with untapped potential.

From the July 11-12, 2015 Wall Street Journal (behind paywall), an interview titled “Playing the Music of Capitalism” with Albert Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, by William McGurn.

Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics

This is old (2008), but timely—found at Isegoria:

  1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
  2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
  3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

John Derbyshire adds this:

Of the Second Law, Conquest gave the Church of England and Amnesty International as examples. Of the Third, he noted that a bureaucracy sometimes actually is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies — e.g. the postwar British secret service.

John Moore thinks the third law is almost right; it should read “assume that it is controlled by a cabal of the enemies of the stated purpose of that bureaucracy.”

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What Greek, and German, history can teach us about today’s crisis

From The Guardian, a history lesson by Michael White:

Greece’s very existence owes more to tyranny than philosophy – no wonder its people reject its creditors’ severity – but Germany has its own baggage too.

Yes, living within your means is so hard when you’ve seldom done it.

The Tragic Death of Freedom of Speech and the Growth of Intolerance

From Psychology Today on, wait for it… July 2, 2009:

Only July 4, the United States will be celebrating Independence Day, the birth of our nation. Unfortunately, the greatest freedom provided us by this new democracy has been dying and few people seem to be aware of it or care about it. And many others are even cheering it on.

The democratic world has made “tolerance” its number one social goal. Nevertheless, this goal has been elusive, as victimized groups continue to lobby for laws that remove the stigmas against them, and educators, social scientists and parents continue to proclaim the horrors of bullying. Despite decades of diversity education, members of the various races congregate largely with their own kind in our schools and neighborhoods.

The truly ironic thing is that the most essential element of a tolerant society has been with us for the past two centuries, as it is also the central element of democracy, but we are slowly but surely killing it. That element is in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is called Freedom of Speech. We need to be allowed to say what we want, as long as our words don’t cause tangible harm to people’s bodies or property, or society will stagnate and we will be prisoners in our own skulls, only permitted to say things that the authorities approve of. Without Freedom of Speech, we would never solve problems that require abandonment of current ways of thinking. Without Freedom of Speech, the government could be as despotic as it wishes, killing off any protestors without impunity. Where the concept of Freedom of Speech is absent, people believe they are entitled to kill others who say things they find offensive. Without Freedom of Speech, we would literally be living in the Dark Ages.

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Inequality: Where Right and Left Agree

From The Daily Beast:

Harvard’s Robert Putnam and The Bell Curve author Charles Murray insist it’s time to save the American underclass.

Liberal Harvard professor Robert Putnam and self-described “Grinch” Charles Murray may be ideological opposites, but both agree it’s time to invest more in helping poor kids succeed.“I’m a libertarian, I don’t do solutions,” Murray said, partly for laughs, at a noontime discussion held at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. But he agrees with Putnam that that extracurricular activities should be free in public schools, that poor kids who do dumb things should get the benefit of the doubt like their affluent peers, and that pre-school is a good way to take poor kids out of a punishing environment even when, in his view, the outcome 20 years down the road doesn’t justify the expenditure.

“Government has a lot worse ways of spending my money,” he said.

 

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