Saturday, May 29, 2010

another Barzun quote

There is but one conclusion: human beings are unmeasurable. It follows that equality is a social assumption independent of fact. It is made for the sake of civil peace, of approximating justice, and of bolstering self-respect.
[From Dawn to Decadence: The Forgotten Troop, p436 pp2; emphasis additional]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We are but expressions of the culture we live in (or, clueless in Atlanta)

I often tell my friends that nobody thinks in a vacuum; we can not separate who we are from those we live among; we understand and express ourselves with language and metaphors that our culture has taught us.

So you can imagine the laugh I had when I read AP: Teacher in trouble after students don Klan robes this morning.  My wife thought I was laughing about the lunacy of the situation, but that's not true.  I found it humorous to imagine the discombobulation (minus the embarrassment maybe) of the students when they came to class and found a note on the door informing them the teacher had been suspended.

I'm going to hazard a guess that they were stunned, and some of them quite likely still have not figured out what's going on.  It was not, I'm sure, the instructor's idea.  Probably the deed was enacted in the plain light of day not so much for ideological reasons, but rather as the result of mundane scheduling concessions.  Couldn't get everybody together on the week-end.  But I'm also sure it never even occurred to them that some bystander's grandfather (yes, that recently!) may have been lynched.  The evidence indicates the individuals in that troupe are almost certainly beneficiaries of white privilege and have no idea of what feelings this kind of image might produce in others. 

But they wouldn't, you see, because of the culture in which they exist.

Maybe I'm getting cynical, though not inconsistent with my age group, but I find it laughably ironic when the reality of one's inherited status slaps one in the face so abruptly.  I'd wager that the teacher (who should be fired, but not destroyed professionally) is feeling somewhat bemused at the moment, yet I hope that she has the grace to see the error of her ways and encourages by example a classroom of impressionable young minds to become a little more aware of their brashness.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Gigrich slays me again...

I heard Newt Gingrich on C-SPAN Washington Journal this morning.

He was spouting crap about Radical Islam and Secular Socialism.

Got me to thinking, where is this guy coming from--I made a magnificent effort to understand him.

I heard him actually say "... the spiritual side of life is more important than the secular...".

I wonder, should that kind of premise be welcome on the public stage? Is there a valid argument that considerations informed by religious belief are or are not helpful?


Sunday, May 16, 2010

on the words conservative and liberal

I believe it may help to consider, for a moment, those two words as rhetorical devices.

Within the rhetorical form referred to as argument there are several important developmental phases including, point of view, audience, persona, etc.

An overarching theme though, is delivery--which concerns the strategy and mechanics of presentation.  This consideration answers the question: what is the best approach to win consensus? I'd like to suggest two strategic models: conservative and liberal.

A conservative model takes the posture that the argument is dealing with some given, or set of givens, e.g. self evident truths.

A liberal model does not enjoy such solid support.  It must assume a posture granting unknowns, an explicit admission that the unknowable exists.  A liberal argument will always impart some sense of an ethical consideration, a qualitative value position. Frequently sentences begin with "In my opinion."

You can always recognize a conservative argument because it is closed, and can not be countered, short of inflicting trauma on the subject.

You can always recognize a liberal argument because it is suggestive and may even encourage alternative interpretations.

It is important to understand that both are useful devices, both are important, both have a place and time.

True of any tool.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Can anybody save the GOP?

Tsk, tsk, it's just too bad. The Republican platform does (really) have some important ideas. But it's impossible to hear them because of...