Republicans spent the first few nights of their convention warming the cockles of their Republican hearts: Obama wants to take away your guns and give them to ‘illegal aliens’ so they can shoot your children. Obama is trying to atone for America’s greatness by giving Iran nuclear weapons so they can destroy Israel. Hillary personally issued a ‘stand down’ order at Benghazi because she wanted to respect the cultural sensitivities of the terrorists.
I’m of course making stuff up. But so were they.
Still, none of what was said in those first nights was new. And it’s not as if that stuff was only introduced with the Trump campaign. Republican leaders have been dealing that ideological cocaine for decades. The only difference now is how many of them are actually high on their own supply. The really new and surprising stuff came on the last night of the convention. Before the man himself got up on stage to bring us all back to a comfortable level of fear and acrimony, the night’s speeches read like a progressive’s wish list: paid maternity leave, equal pay for women, holding corporations accountable for bad behavior. The list goes on.
People have been decrying the fascistic tendencies of the Trump campaign since its golden escalator rollout a year ago. But I’m not sure it truly hit me until I heard last night’s progressive themes. It’s quite possible that those speeches were just a cynical play for the Bernie Sanders vote. On the other hand, it might be that the Trump crowd actually wants those things. And, strangely enough, that thought scares me even more. It scares me because those are all things that are nearly impossible to get outside the workings of a civil society…or, variously, a big government. Sure you could expand the police state to root out undocumented workers and other undesirables, but you need regulations and bureaucracy to ensure something like paid family leave–you know, like the kind they have in that post-apocalyptic hellscape, Sweden.
But these people have lost all faith in the ability of civil society to make life better for them. It is not just that civil society is corrupt and ineffective at the moment; civil society is, for them, inherently rotten and weak. I’m happy to discuss radical alternatives like Autonomist Marxism, but I get the feeling the Trump crowd is not at present considering those alternatives. The only other alternative within the limits of their imagination is to get the things they want through the will of an individual.
In other words, we might have finally come to our Hobbes vs. Rousseau moment, and it goes way beyond the ballots people punch in this November’s election. It’s about a decision on our national ethos: YES WE CAN vs. YES YOU WILL. I know what I heard last night.
I just finished a very nice little book by Douglas Edwards about the philosophy of properties, appropriately titled Properties. The arguments Edwards covers are entirely from the analytical side of the fence, most of which are from the past forty years or so. I was familiar with some of the arguments and unfamiliar with others. But even if you are well versed in this area, I’d still recommend the book because of the masterful way Edwards put the various approaches into conversation with one another. Properties is designed primarily as an introductory text, so it’s plenty accessible to the uninitiated too, and Edwards provides excellent definitions and examples for key concepts before discussing them in the context of existing arguments.
That’s as far as I want to go by way of a review. I really want to record some thoughts I had about properties and predicates as I was making my way through the book.
I’ve started working out at the gym again. This is primarily because I can’t stand the thought of other people getting fit because of a fun internet phone application. How dare they?!? Fitness is supposed to be about envy and shame, not whimsy. Everyone knows that.
I’m sure the renewed exercise is healthy for me, but it does feel a little unwholesome.
Usually, whenever a publicity starved celebrity incites an internet indignation orgy with an off-color comment, I give it the old Lucille Bluth eye roll (see image above). And I’m tempted to do the same with Martha Stewart’s latest one about millennials’ ignorance and lack of initiative. It’s a blip in the news cycle. There are much more important things going on. Martha Stewart’s cultural megaphone doesn’t have much amp anyway. But I’m happy to steal her kairos to say something I’ve been wanting to say for a while.
My contemporaries and I live in a shadowy space between generations. We’re too young to be GenX and too old to be Millennial. The terms GenY and Nintendo Generation have applied to us, but we never got assigned a definite character like the boomers, Xers, and millennials got. In the classroom, I’m usually young enough to get my students’ pop culture references but too old for them to get my references (I’m guessing no more than 25% of them know what a Lucille Bluth eye roll is, for instance). It’s a strange asymmetry, but I believe that at this brief moment I’m on a sweet spot where it’s possible to have both an insider’s empathy and an outsider’s perspective. Or at least I have enough millennial narcissism in me to think so.
No, it’s not the one about absolute vs. relative space. In fact, the challenge Graham Harman takes up in his latest book, Immaterialism, wasn’t so much a challenge issued by Leibniz as a throwaway comment about real objects and the Dutch East India Company. Having rummaged through the dustbin of philosophical history, Harman found Leibniz’s comment, uncrinkled the paper, and stuck it to his refrigerator door. At least that’s how I imagine it.
Si kanagodi bilasho te del vorbis chorres pe mulende, mai kana o mulo sas ekh Nobel laureate, kaske vorbe, mai but ke fersave, delas la lumjake maturo ke mai baro beng ande manushikane historia. Numa vi sa peske zor i sa peske lashimos, sas maturo biperfekto. O Wiesel delas leske zurale literakani i rhetorikani butchi, kusa lesko zuralo ethos, nai feri kaste e lumja chi bisterel le Porrajmos, numa kaste e lumja serel le Porrajmos vi purposa. Chi zhanav kai kerelas le phraso “Never Again,” numa trobul te thol ekh faca angla peste, kam avel faca le Wiesel. Ke le Wieselske, “Never Again,” mothol nai palo karingodi–ande Bosnia, ande Rwanda, vor ando Darfur. Deke, si sostar Wieseleske legacia le Rromensa del mange but pushimata tai but problema.
It’s never good form to speak ill of the dead, especially when the dead is a Nobel laureate whose words, more than anyone else’s, gave the generations a witness to the worst evil in human history. But for all of its power and all the immeasurable good it has done through the years, Wiesel’s witness was an imperfect one. Wiesel dedicated his incomparable literary and rhetorical skills, along with his undeniable ethos, not just to making sure the world never forgot the Holocaust for its own horrors, but also to guaranteeing that the world would remember those horrors with purpose. It’s not exactly clear who coined the phrase “Never Again,” but if you had to put a face to the phrase, that face would most likely be Wiesel’s. For Wiesel, “Never Again” meant never again anywhere, whether it be Bosnia, Rwanda, or Darfur. And that’s why Wiesel’s legacy with regards to the Roma is so confounding, if not troubling.