Posts Tagged Culture Wars

Visionaries and Ideology: a study in contrasts

imagesWho knew a trip to New York could be so emotional?

I didn’t want to go in the first place. As my 92-year-old student likes to quote: Travelling is for peasants.

But my wife convinced me with simple arithmetic. Four tickets to bring three kids and son-in-law home or two tickets to visit them. No-brainer.

So I went grudgingly, confirming in the end the truism that some of life’s most profound moments come not only unexpected but against our will.

Our first stop was the 9/11 museum. I marveled at the artistic vision that had conceived the memorial pools, the water channeling down in rivulets that mirrored the face of the fallen towers, the continuous downward rush balanced by the redemptive feeling of water — the source of life — returning to the heart of the world. Here there was solace, closure, and consolation.

But a very different feeling accosted me inside. Almost upon entering the doors a single word brandished itself across my mind’s eye: Holocaust.

Let me explain.
Read the whole article here.

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Leadership vs. Ideology

What bad calls in baseball teach us about global terrorism, climate change, and the leadership to face the real problems that threaten civilized society

7811115782_9f4bf679b3_oBaseball aficionados will not soon forget the game played on June 2, 2010, at Comerica Park between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga should have become the 21st pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game. Instead, the first base umpire called Indians batter Jason Donald safe at first base, handing Mr. Galarraga the lesser distinction as winning pitcher of baseball’s most “Imperfect Game.”

The question on everyone’s mind was, justifiably: How could this happen?

In an interview with NPR’s Shankar Vedantam, Etan Green of Stanford Business School offered this thesis based on her research team’s observation and analysis of over a million pitches:

“If you’re an umpire and you’re unsure about what the correct call is and you’re given a choice between one call that’s particularly consequential and one call that’s relatively inconsequential, they will more or less preserve the status quo.”

This says a lot about the process of calling plays, which is much more of an art than a science. It also suggests applications that extend far beyond the field of athletics.

Read the whole article here.

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The Priorities of Progressives

I offer here a remarkably savvy insight into progressive thinking and priorities from Jim  Geraghty of the National Review, cited by Eytan Kobre in Mishpacha Magazine:

 

imgresA list of progressives’ fears would offer a mix of the insignificant, the theoretical, the farfetched, and the mundane… climate change a century from now, the Koch Brothers, insufficient cultural sensitivity in video games… New York mayor Bill DeBlasio is on a crusade to save his city from charter schools and horse-drawn carriages…

You notice progressives don’t spend a lot of time and energy fearing flights of people from countries with Ebola, and unsecured border, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Vladimir Putin’s aggression, the declining number of two-parent families…

This may be a bit of psychological transference.  When the Leftists notice things like ISIS, Putin’s aggression, or the collapse of the family, on some level — perhaps subconsciously — they realize their prefered options are unlikely to be effective.  Confronting that fact would force them to reevaluate how they see the world — and sometimes, after a sufficiently dramatic or frightening event such as 9/11, some people actually do change their worldview.

But a lot of people can’t or won’t overhaul their entire philosophy and understanding of how the world works.  So they deny the idea that any of these are real problems or worthy of much attention or discussion — they reflect GOP scaremongering, others’ paranoia, etc.

But all that fear and anxiety and anger has to go somewhere… and thus it gets expressed at much more convenient and much more philosophically aligned targets — i.e., climate change a century from now, the Koch Brothers, insufficient cultural sensitivity in video games, and so on.

 

In other words, if the big problems of the world are likely to remain insoluble unless I change my approach to political, economic, and social dynamics, then I’m likely to shift my focus to more abstract issues that don’t force me to question my own ideological predisposition.

This reminds me of a meeting I once had with my editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  In the course of the conversation I mentioned columnist Charles Krauthammer.  Without missing a beat, my editor said, “I hate him.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.  “He’s so articulate that I find myself agreeing with him… and I don’t!”

Had I been less protective of my position at the time, I would have suggested that she reexamine some of her positions.  Oh, well.  I guess I can suggest it now.

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My intolerance of faith

The moment the rabbi walked through the door all the students jumped to their feet… and I looked about desperately for a way out of the room.

The rabbi wore a long coat, a wide, antiquated black hat, an untrimmed beard, Coke-bottle spectacles and, incredibly, sidelocks. I knew — I just knew — what was going to happen next: the rabbi would lecture us in a thick German accent and tell us we were all damned to hell. There was no way I could sit through such an ordeal.

Read the whole article here.

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The thought police widen their net

Thank you, Glenn Garvin, for paying attention.  The Miami Herald columnist reports what the rest of us were too preoccupied to notice:

In an order to the University of Montana that they labeled “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” Obama’s Justice and Education departments created a sweeping new definition of sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct.”

(Or, as those more familiar with the English language call it, speech.)

Who gets to define “unwelcome”? The listener and the listener alone — no matter how high-strung, neurotic or just plain pinheaded that person is. The feds’ letter is quite explicit: the words don’t have to be offensive to “an objectively reasonable person” to be considered harassment.

Given that standard of guilt, it’s perhaps not very surprising that the government says anybody accused of harassment can be punished even before he or she is convicted.

Mr. Garvin goes on to identify a partial list of authors whose provocative works stand in danger of censorship under these new edicts:  Shakespeare,  Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and Anne Frank, to name a few.  He then continues:

But surely, you say, surely nobody will take the letter of the law to such absurd extremes. And surely you are wrong: They already have. Brandeis University went after a professor for uttering the word “wetback” during a lecture — no matter that he was criticizing its usage.

A janitor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis was disciplined for reading a disapproving book on the Ku Klux Klan. Marquette ordered a graduate student to remove a “patently offensive” quotation by Dave Barry from his door:  “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.”

So what do we have here?  If someone takes offense, even where any “objectively reasonable person” would see no cause for offense, the perpetrator is guilty without recourse to due process or appeal.

In a land of political correctness run amok, feelings are the ultimate currency of social interaction.  Reason, logic, intellectual discipline, objective reality — none of these mean a thing if there is the slightest risk of hurt feelings.

Or perhaps there is a deeper fear.  Not the pain of hurt feelings, but the pain of having to think, the pain of developing  a work ethic, the pain of personal accountability.  Apparently, the truism of no pain, no gain applies only in the gym and not in the halls of academe.

Is this really what we want for our children?  Is it really what we want for ourselves?  Or are those questions simply too painful to think about?

Read Glenn Garvin’s full article here.

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The Midpoint of the World

What would you ask of a time traveler from a hundred years ago? And if you traveled a hundred years into the future, what would you want to tell the people you found there? Perhaps it would sound something like this:

What did you do to handle the overpopulations we predicted? How did you protect the seashores? What did you do to keep the ozone layer intact, the energy supplies, the trees? Have you eliminated ignorance, brutality, greed?

There might be no better way to discover unexamined truths about ourselves then by composing a letter to our grandchildren’s grandchildren. This was certainly on the mind of award-winning essayist Roger Rosenblatt a quarter century ago when he penned his deeply thoughtful Letter to 2086.

Read the whole article here.

Hat tip:  David Rich

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Kindling the Lights of Wisdom

Please take a look back at past essays, popular and scholarly, that explore the profound contemporary relevance of Chanukah and how the cultural battle against Hellenism remains the defining condition of the Jewish people.

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