When a reviewer starts explaining how the preparation of a quiche Lorraine at the restaurant he has visited differs from the way one prepared a true quiche Lorraine, I always want to interrupt. “But did you like it?” I want to shout. “Did it make you happy? Did you clean your plate?” Any chance that I might someday acquire a serious interest in how closely what I ate resembled the true article disappeared one day at a block party near our house while I was eating some homemade gazpacho and talking about how it differed from the authentic gazpacho one got in Seville. The more I talked about the difference, the faster I wolfed down the gazpacho – until I realized that one way what I was eating differed from authentic gazpacho was that it tasted better.
Jeremy Corbyn is no Donald Trump, and vice-versa. But the moral lesson is the same. This tale of two parties is a powerful allegory about what happens when you take voters for granted for too long. And the Republican Party leaders now launching a late, hopeless rebellion against Donald Trump this weekend should look at what has happened to the Labour Party, and despair. What these Grand Old Party bigwigs don’t realise – or can’t accept – is that, however much the public may think Trump’s candidacy farcical and find him appalling, voters hate them far than they could ever hate the Donald. The more cynically these establishment politicians move against the leader – endorsing him one day then turning on him the next – the more they confirm the public’s suspicion that they are lying crooks who will stop at nothing to preserve their power. The latest coup against Trump, just like the latest attempt to force Jeremy Corbyn to resign, has only strengthened his position among his supporters. Look at the ovation the Republican nominee received outside Trump Tower last night.
I find it amusing to reflect on the idea that mankind may sometime soon grow tired of reading and that writers will do so too, that the scholar will one day direct in his last will and testament that his corpse shall be buried surrounded by his books and especially by his own writings. And if it is true that the forests are going to get thinner and thinner, may the time not come one day when the libraries should be used for timber, straw and brushwood? Since most books are born out of smoke and vapour of the brain, they ought to return to smoke and vapour. And if they have no fire of their own in them, fire should punish them for it.
The aesthetic challenge of slow TV is less about attention, in other words, than about use. Yes, the screens have won, it grants. But no, we needn’t employ them as directed. Look: you can avoid the consciousness-devouring rush of “The Good Wife” (Norwegian: “Brutte løfter”) and use your flat screen to view the regular world. Though slow TV appears to reach back to simpler times, it is in many ways the realization of twenty-first-century media technology, relying, for its full effect, on footage that’s high-definition, organic, and continuous. (The hours of unbroken footage for “Bergensbanen” would have been all but impossible in an era when high-quality images needed to be shot on film.) At its best, it affords a visceral kind of armchair tourism, a global window with a formless and subjective meaning. There’s no zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz in that.
I don’t trust this stuff anymore. It was the very reliability of it — in user-friendly design, as well as stability of functionality — that was the basis of my choice in the first place, and continued choices for decades since. I don’t care about the brand itself, and I have no intellectual investment in the platforms as a developer anymore. I just need things that work, and that I can rely on working. I say this with the utmost regret, sadness, and no small sense of betrayal: Apple doesn’t seem to make those things anymore.
I think Lewis is also the most beautiful writer. The clarity is so fine. And the intimacy. If you’re suffering from grief, to read his book on grief—it’s so direct, so lacking in cant and pomposity and bluster. He’s very clear, and he also has that kind of writerly instinct for knowing your doubts or suspicions. He really has them covered. That’s what Screwtape is, basically; it’s just a series of pre-emptive descriptions of your objections, articulating them before you can yourself and in this manner neutralizing them. But I guess even from the Narnia books, I always thought that—it sounds ridiculous—that to make good on the kind of belief expressed in them—not to be in bad faith—would be to be enormously lost to joy, so that you wouldn’t be able to go about your daily life. I think maybe that’s one of the frightening things about faith for me, that it would be an obstruction of my daily life, and I like my everyday sinful life.
How often, for instance, we hear the following commonplace repeated: ‘Whether Catholics, Protestants, Jews or Free-Thinkers, we’re all Frenchmen,’ exactly as though it were a question of small territorial fragments of the country, as who should say, ‘Whether from Marseilles, Lyon or Paris, we’re all Frenchmen.’ In a document promulgated by the Pope, one may read: ‘Not only from the Christian point of view, but, more generally, from the human point of view …’, as though the Christian point of view — which either has no meaning at all, or else claims to encompass everything, in this world and the next — possessed a smaller degree of generality than the human point of view. It is impossible to conceive of a more terrible admission of religious bankruptcy. That is how the anathema sit have to be paid for. To sum up, religion, degraded to the rank of a private matter, reduces itself to the choice of a place in which to spend an hour or two every Sunday morning.
Many conservatives—including many friends and fans—don’t like that answer because they think I have to bend the knee to some abstract binary: If I’m not for Trump that means I’m for Hillary. This seems to me a confusion of the logic of voting (which itself is pretty faulty, voters have other options) for the obligations of a writer or analyst. Ted Cruz, before his prostration, told conservatives to vote their conscience. I’m going to speak my conscience. When given a choice between two crap sandwiches on different kinds of bread, my response is ‘I’ll skip lunch.’
It has been hard not to notice that whereas John Paul II spoke of “the culture of death” and Benedict XVI of “the dictatorship of relativism,” Francis instead condemns “the throwaway culture.” His enemy is the same as his predecessors’, but he pays more attention to the economic and material realities that ensnare us in vice. In doing so, he avoids the suggestion that sin stems from a simple lack of personal virtue or mistaken idea left us by Ockham. If thinking he is correct to do so places one on the left, I am there alongside not a few other young Catholics. When it comes to the tradinistas, I think I’m not a contra.
Bryant has seen many familiar faces on the embalming table. He embalmed his mother, honoring one of her more difficult requests. ‘She didn’t want anybody else but me to do it. So my mother can say at least I minded her one time,’ he says. He’s embalmed his father, brother, aunts, uncles, nephews, and classmates from grade school. When one heavy-drinking friend turned up at the funeral home, Bryant tsk-tsked at the body. ‘I told him, “Man, I tried to tell you this was going to catch up with you.”’
The search for a stable definition of melancholy is itself melancholic, because the emotion is inscrutable, unknowable, shading into so many differing and conflicting emotions. It is the melancholic mind—ever probing into an idea that can never be fully known—that produces something akin to Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy—a book that stretches over a thousand pages in search of a definition without ever reaching it, a quixotic futility that enacts rather than defines melancholy. The only way to approach it is as an inexhaustible void, pointless and unproductive.
Envisioning Trump as the restorer of heroic Western life — whether imperial, kingly, or mythical — is quite an act of creation. There is nothing about Trump that suggests he can hasten the end of Enlightenment principles through political rule. (Although an itchy nuclear trigger finger could.) These dreams are funnier still when considered next to Trump’s style, which is lamely democratic; his culture, which derives entirely from cable television; and his personal taste, which resides about one remove from Uday Hussein’s debauches. The man is clearly a product of a decadent society, not the scourge or redeemer of one.
Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as ‘little monsters’ who ‘throw stones’ at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ He scolds pro-life activists for their ‘obsession’ with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are ‘Pelagians’ — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works. Such denunciations demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return. Why join a church whose priests are little monsters and whose members like to throw stones? When the pope himself stresses internal spiritual states over ritual observance, there is little reason to line up for confession or wake up for Mass.
One thing can hardly come under the Hush Hush — I mean the beautiful planetary conjunction last Tuesday. Did you happen to see the moon (first quarter), Jupiter and Venus, all in a line and not more than three fingers apart? I saw them on a clear evening, emerging from the cloister of New Building to go to dinner, and understood what is at the back of all astrology i.e. the difficulty of believing that anything so splendid is without significance.
C. S. Lewis, letter to his brother Warnie, 18 February 1940. Warnie was serving in the Army, and “the Hush Hush” is the forbidding of sensitive topics by Army censors.
I thought of this passage this morning as I was walking my dog. It was still dark, and Orion stood at the top of the sky, and near the horizon the crescent moon lay on its back with the outline of the whole orb just visible. It’s hard at such a moment not to think that the constellations are indeed “the pattern and the mirror of the acts of earth.”
Trump announced that he considered saying something ‘very rough’ about Hillary Clinton or her family but in the end elected not to. He said this with solemnity, as if amazed at his own benevolence.
My correspondent felt that my argument betrayed a failure to understand his generation. ‘I’m a regular social media and in-class arguer against people who are being racist, queer-phobic, etc,’ O’Donnell wrote. ‘I like explaining why it’s bad and trying to change their minds. But it’s exhausting. Sometimes I want to go home and not have to deal with that. When asking for a home, they’re not asking that their every whim be catered to, but that they have one place they don’t have to constantly be on guard. One where they can take a break from the exhausting work of speaking out for what you believe in. Obviously, Yale students and others have overreached, but you should acknowledge the genuine concerns behind what these students are saying.’
Leaving the EU is no small affair. It probably will have enormous effects on the UK, Europe, and much of the rest of the world. But just what these effects will be is unclear. To have even a rudimentary sense of the pros and cons of Brexit, a person would need to possess tremendous social scientific knowledge. One would need to know about the economics and sociology of trade and immigration, the politics of centralized regulation, and the history of nationalist movements. But there is no reason to think even a tenth of the UK’s population has a basic grasp of the social science needed to evaluate Brexit.
1) How does one become a member of the epistocracy? Can you just vote yourself in?
2) How often must you be wrong before you get booted out of the epistocracy?
3) Granted that average people don’t know much, do epistocrats know significantly more? Enough more that they should be trusted with rule? If you think so, what’s your evidence?
Until about 30 years ago, writers like [Graham] Greene were not at all accessible to the reading public; they did not turn up for signings at bookstores or allow themselves to be pimped by publicists or buttonholed by TV producers who promised fame and better sales. They existed in their work, in their biographical notes and in the usually outdated photos on their book jackets. Invisible, they were the more powerful for seeming forever elsewhere. These writers bewitched the imaginations of those of us who grew up in that period of glamour and solitude, and who wished to be writers ourselves.
Do you remember those kids in high school who used to brag that they laughed while watching horror films? The impulse is almost scarier than the movies themselves. Cracking up at The Exorcist is possible only if you agree that jokes are indeed epitaphs on the death of feelings and you don’t mind committing emotional suicide in order to feel aloof and edgy. This is what I thought of when the audience snickered at the moment Kee unbuttons her robe and reveals that she is mysteriously, probably miraculously, pregnant. It was what I thought of when the audience went on tittering and gigging and hooting at dozens of other inappropriate points in the film. The shot of her swollen belly is one of the most beautiful in all of cinema. To laugh at it is like walking into a museum and pointing out the genitalia in Renaissance paintings, or belching along to Wagner at the Met. The first time I heard unexpected laughter I thought it was a fluke. There are a handful of grimly amusing moments, but no real belly-laugh material in this dystopian drama about the consequences of worldwide infertility. Eventually I found myself wondering whether these people were watching a different film. The only other possibility was that they were sociopaths who had never been to the movies before.
I want us to be free – just long enough – that I have time to tell my brothers and sisters who do not know Jesus and tell them about a deeper and wider freedom. I want to tell them about the truly good and free one who came to liberate us all, not only from the ongoing legacy of racism, but also brokenness that traps us all in our sins. I would love to tell them about the king who has reconciled all of us: Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic in his blood. But that message is hard to hear when you are afraid and discouraged. That message becomes nearly impossible to appreciate when you turn to Christians for help only to be told that your complaints are an exaggeration or are rooted in your own sin. It is heartbreaking to be told that you must earn the right to be treated like what you are: someone made in the image of God. When God’s people don’t love us, it makes it harder (humanly speaking) to hear and properly respond to the Gospel.
As women have taken greater positions of leadership in the United States, they have also left a leadership vacuum behind them. In middle-class, highly educated communities, women may be busier and more tired than their mothers and grandmothers once were, but they mostly figure out ways to advocate for their kids at school-board meetings or volunteer to chaperone a class trip to the zoo. The people who have suffered most aren’t white and well-off; they’re lower income, poorly educated, and largely disconnected from the rich network of membership-based associations that used to provide both a local sense of community and a national voice in politics. Women in these positions have lost access to one of their only means of gaining leadership skills. And while many of their educated, wealthier peers now have alternatives to the suffocating housewife’s life that so enraged Betty Friedan seven decades ago, some experience it as an opposite kind of suffocation: a never-ending, ladder-climbing work life, the height of which is making money for someone else rather than building a world in which they’re invested.
If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation. Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasms, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary. But the mysticism of Catholic meditation — of the Rosary, of Benediction, or simple contemplative prayer — is a tradition in search of rediscovery. The monasteries — opened up to more lay visitors — could try to answer to the same needs that the booming yoga movement has increasingly met.
My own kind of incrementalism draws on a different attitude than a lot of what you hear on the right and the left for the past few years. I am not of the view that we are at an abyss and that if we don’t take drastic action immediately everything will fall apart. I’m of the view that we’re failing to thrive and that we’re allowing too many people to live lives that don’t enable them to flourish. That’s different. That means we could be doing a lot better. To me, the great tragedy is that we just allow this to happen. There are a lot of people on both sides of our politics who think in much more drastic, cataclysmic ways about this situation. They’ll say, ‘This election, if this doesn’t go our way, there’s no turning back.’ It seems to me that what it means to be a Burkean conservative is just not to believe that.
Each New Year begins for me not on January 1, not on Rosh Hashanah, but on the first day of classes. I must then put away my laconic interiority, my meditative vegetative stupidity, and perform that public act of assertive eloquence and flimflam showmanship known as teaching. It can be a wrenching transition, and I have discovered I am not alone in feeling frightened the first day. Other university teachers I have spoken to, who have been at it even longer than I have, report butterflies in their stomach, a tightening of the chest, and the equivalent of stage fright. Fortunately, that first day I can get away with passing out syllabi, projecting an air of authority, cracking a few jokes, and dismissing the group early. It is in the second week that I will truly have to pull myself together.
That, I suspect, is what really rankles those who gnash their teeth when someone lectures them about how art is all about borrowing and exchanging freely. That’s exactly what art is, but our whole edifice of intellectual property law is increasingly designed not to facilitate that borrowing and exchange, but to frustrate it, in the service of protecting the value of incumbent cultural products — the ones owned by corporations. The solution, though, isn’t to build more walls, so that everyone sticks to their cultural knitting. That will just exacerbate existing baleful trends. Rather, what’s needed is to restore the artistic commons, before the only culture we know is one we’ll have to pay a fee to join.
Life is rough in Dallas right now. They’ve got no district attorney, no quarterback, and they’re about to have no police chief. The city leads the nation in income inequality by neighborhood. In the poorer of those neighborhoods, stray dogs roam the streets in packs. Tent cities for the homeless spring up almost as soon as they’re closed. But on Monday, Dallas City Council took a step to address one burning civic issue: the proliferation of Little Free Libraries that people have enjoyed putting up in their yards, so neighbors can take and share books with each other.
Read good writing, and don’t live in the present. Live in the deep past, with the language of the Koran or the Mabinogion or Mother Goose or Dickens or Dickinson or Baldwin or whatever speaks to you deeply. Literature is not high school and it’s not actually necessary to know what everyone around you is wearing, in terms of style, and being influenced by people who are being published in this very moment is going to make you look just like them, which is probably not a good long-term goal for being yourself or making a meaningful contribution. At any point in history there is a great tide of writers of similar tone, they wash in, they wash out, the strange starfish stay behind, and the conches. Check out the bestseller list for April 1935 or August 1978 if you don’t believe me. Originality is partly a matter of having your own influences: read evolutionary biology textbooks or the Old Testament, find your metaphors where no one’s looking, don’t belong. Or belong to the other world that is not quite this one, the world from which you send back your messages. Imagine Herman Melville in workshop in 1849 being told by all his peers that he needed to cut all those informative digressions and really his big whale book was kind of dull and why did it take him so long to get to the point. And actually it was a quiet failure at the time. So was pretty much everything Thoreau published, and Emily Dickinson published only a handful of poems in her lifetime but wrote thousands.
Where would this train of logic lead? How many other associations to which students belong might be judged, with equal or greater plausibility, to be hostile to Harvard’s ‘values of non-discrimination’? What of the undergraduate who joins a lobbying organization that opposes gay marriage or one that combats affirmative action programs in higher education? Is membership in the Republican Party less an affront to ‘our deepest values’ than membership of the Fly? How about the Daughters of the American Revolution—or the Roman Catholic Church? We are not the first to notice the alarming implications of the new policy. Students have already asked us if they should hide their religious and political affinities if they hope someday to receive Harvard’s support. How can they be confident that a fellowship nominating committee will not hold their religious or political convictions against them, if these might run afoul of Harvard’s ‘values’?
[Geoffrey Hill] always was, of course, a Christian poet, and much of his poetry is about wrestling with his faith (or more specifically, wrestling with aspects of himself, with depression and despair specifically conceived in terms of sin), a set of beliefs and attitudes I did not share. He was also, I suppose, what we might call a politically ‘conservative’ writer (although actually I think Hill’s politics were quite complicated and more idiosyncratic than the tag ‘conservative’ implies), although I was not, and am not. But then, Coleridge was also very much both a Christian writer and, in his later life, a political conservative, and there seems to me actual merit, quite apart from my personal enjoyment, in reading him against the grain. from a position, like mine, that does not share many of those assumptions. I don’t mean in order to critique those attitudes, but on the contrary to try to read them in good faith. But writers like Coleridge, and I think Hill, need to be rescued from readers who identify too strongly with the positions they are dramatising.
Wallace had his reasons for grammatical zealotry in the classroom, but it wasn’t about being Gradgrindian or prescriptive. I think Wallace is rightly understood as a moral writer – so much of his work explores what it means not just to be human, but to be a good human – but he was also an ethical one. He was always talking about a writer’s responsibilities: the responsibility to be clear, the responsibility to be interesting. Because Wallace’s work could be difficult, because he asked the reader to work, he wanted to be sure he was doing his work too, saying exactly what he intended, in a way that was compelling. Another entry from my notebook: ‘If you’re more interested in what you’re saying than the person listening to you is, you’re the definition of a boring person.’ I remember feeling like I’d been slapped with a stick.
But of all the marvellous and mighty acts related of Him, this altogether surpasses human admiration, and is beyond the power of mortal frailness to understand or feel, how that mighty power of divine majesty, that very Word of the Father, and that very wisdom of God, in which were created all things, visible and invisible, can be believed to have existed within the limits of that man who appeared in Judea; nay, that the Wisdom of God can have entered the womb of a woman, and have been born an infant, and have uttered wailings like the cries of little children! … Since, then, we see in Him some things so human that they appear to differ in no respect from the common frailty of mortals, and some things so divine that they can appropriately belong to nothing else than to the primal and ineffable nature of Deity, the narrowness of human understanding can find no outlet; but, overcome with the amazement of a mighty admiration, knows not whither to withdraw, or what to take hold of, or whither to turn. If it think of a God, it sees a mortal; if it think of a man, it beholds Him returning from the grave, after overthrowing the empire of death, laden with its spoils. And therefore the spectacle is to be contemplated with all fear and reverence, that the truth of both natures may be clearly shown to exist in one and the same Being; so that nothing unworthy or unbecoming may be perceived in that divine and ineffable substance, nor yet those things which were done be supposed to be the illusions of imaginary appearances. To utter these things in human ears, and to explain them in words, far surpasses the powers either of our rank, or of our intellect and language. I think that it surpasses the power even of the holy apostles; nay, the explanation of that mystery may perhaps be beyond the grasp of the entire creation of celestial powers.
Isn’t that just about the most paralyzingly unrapturous question you’ve encountered in any textbook? ‘Explain your answer.’ No, thank you. I will not explain my answer. My answer is my answer. I am a transparent eyeball. I am a huge, receptive visual instrument with a flexible lens, and I’m taking in the infinitude of all space and time and dragonflies and owls and life and roadkill and hydrogen gas. I am nothing and everything. I am bathed in air. I’m a carefree, happy huge shining slimy eyeball of weird wonderment. I can swivel in any direction. Any direction I look, I will find something interesting.
Whatever one makes of the current claims about the effects of our supposed Age of Distraction, it should be evident that their cause is unlikely to be the workings of new technology. The experience of the past indicates that most of the troubles attributed to the internet and digital technology have served as topics of concern in previous centuries. Contributions on the current challenges facing readers recycle an age-old mantra that there is too much choice, too much information and too much change. It is far more likely that our current predicament is not the availability of powerful and exciting new technologies of communication, but an uncertainty about what to communicate.
As American cities expanded during the Gilded Age, city planners pushed for tree-lined streets and leafy parks as public health measures. In overcrowded tenement districts where heat could be deadly, trees cooled the air. Today, researchers are discovering that urban dwellers who live near and among trees have healthier babies, display better cognitive functioning, and report less stress—no small matter when 80 percent of Americans live in and around cities. City trees and woods—which clean the air, cool urban heat islands, and capture stormwater runoff—can and should play a more important role.
Cal Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown and author of the book How to Win at College, has interviewed hundreds of students about their college experience. Based those interviews and observation of his own students, Newport believes that those who chose majors simply to please their parents are more likely to give up or burn out. ‘It’s just harder to weather the hard times if you don’t have the intrinsic motivation,’ he said. You might not expect college freshmen to understand that careers don’t proceed in straight lines, but surely their parents ought to. In the real world, most physics majors don’t become physicists, most psychology majors don’t become psychologists, and most English majors don’t become writers or teachers. You’ll find a surprising number of philosophy majors at hedge funds and lots of political-science majors at law firms. I was an American studies major. Among chief executives of the largest corporations, there are roughly as many engineers and liberal arts majors, in total, as there are undergraduate majors in business, accounting and economics combined. Indeed, one study found that only 27 percent of people have jobs that are substantially related to their college majors — a reality that applies even to the STEM fields. ‘Choosing a major is not choosing a career,’ says Jeff Selingo, author of There Is Life After College.
Me: ‘Hey, Siri, find me a Catholic Mass to go to.’
My phone: ‘I don’t know how to respond to that.’
Me: ‘Okay then, take me to a strip club.’
My phone: ‘Which strip club? Tap the one you want.’
Kaepernick’s decision to sit for the anthem did not rely on disruption. In fact, it was so unobtrusive that it wasn’t even noticed the first time he did it. It relied on a symbolic act, one with enough room for interpretation that Kaepernick needed to spell out its meaning. His protest was a piece of performance art, and in staging it he blurred the line between art and protest. Kaepernick isn’t just a part of the long line of black athletes who have used their platforms to speak out about political issues; he (unintentionally) inserted himself into the rich tradition of black artists who have invoked the American flag in political protest.
Selfie Takers are not snobs, at least as far as I can see. In fact, they seem pretty indiscriminate in their appreciation of works of art. And their way of appreciating art is to approach it aggressively. I mean aggressive in a physical sense. They lurch toward a painting, register its existence, and then, by way of appreciation, turn their backs on it. They raise their cellphones aloft and adjust the camera’s position to take in themselves and the painting. They mince, they pout, they grin, they tilt their heads and part their lips in a way that is meant (I’m guessing) to be seductive. The photo is snapped and the Selfie Taker lurches forward without a backward glance, to further appreciate man’s deepest yearnings as expressed through art. Civilization is really terrific.
I was going into town one day and had gotten as far as the gate when I realized that I had odd shoes on, and one of them clean and the other dirty. There was no time to go back. As it was impossible to clean the dirty one, I decided that the only way of making myself look less ridiculous was to dirty the clean one. Now would you have believed that this is an impossible operation? You can of course get some mud on it but it remains obviously a clean shoe that has had an accident and won’t look in the least like a shoe that you have been for a walk in. One discovers new catches and snags in life every day.
These mobs are an alarm. They are telling you something has gone wrong in the system; something was wrong before you saw the proof. Your inventions and interconnections, your techniques and reassurances – none of them were the success you always supposed. They may have been adopted, but they were never liked. You took too much for granted. The mobs that come out of nowhere don’t come out of no time; they come when authority has miscarried, when it has taken command without taking control, and failed to learn the complexity of the medium it was working in.
Trump and women. This isn’t new. This is something old that has recrudesced, an atavism that has “become raw again.” This is a wound with the scab off. And now he just can’t hold it in, can he, he just can’t stop himself — out they come, these smoke signals of aggression. And he is being empirically stupid. The question you want to ask Trump is clearly not “If you’re so smart, how come you ain’t rich?”; it is “If you’re so rich, how come you ain’t smart?” Has something very grave happened to Trump’s I.Q.? He’s been worrying about it, too, it seems. Responding on the air to David Cameron’s opinion of his ban on Muslims (“stupid, divisive, and wrong”), Trump touchily (and ploddingly) shot back: “Number one, I’m not stupid, okay? I can tell you that right now. Just the opposite.” Don’t you blush for the lavishness of his insecurity? But Trump is insecurity incarnate — his cornily neon-lit vulgarity (reminding you of the pinups on Lolita’s bedroom wall: “Goons in luxurious cars, maroon morons near blued pools”); his desperate garnering of praise (Crippled America quotes encomia from Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, BusinessWeek, and Golf Digest, among many other outlets); his penile pride.
I had some bad moments with him. I hadn’t been there more than a few months when he caught me looking out of the window onto Russell Square. I had my back both to my colleagues and to the door, and I was saying: ‘Look at all those lucky people in Russell Square doing bugger all.’ My colleagues were silent and when I turned round I realised why: Eliot had come into the room and was glowering at me. I might as well have been tearing at the grapes with murderous paws. After I’d graduated to blurb-writing he showed all the directors a blurb I’d written, saying: ‘Surely we can’t publish this.’ It was for Ann Jellicoe’s play The Knack and I’d said that the knack in question was the knack of getting girls into bed. Once, early on, I pointed out a discrepancy between two printings of one of his early poems – I can’t remember which. I was quite proud of myself. He said it didn’t matter.
The disapproval wasn’t all one way. When no one else was in the room I’d look at the letters his secretary typed up for him and turn away dismayed to have found him thanking people for their ‘courteous’ or ‘gracious’ letters. How could he use such awful words? Then there were the clothes, the light blue flannel suits: surely a poet, even an elderly poet, should dress in normal tweeds, or in black, or in something more outlandish altogether. Worst of all, I saw him one evening standing at the top of the stairs holding hands with Valerie. How could someone so old and so grand allow himself to be seen in public holding hands with his wife?
Every time Ryan talks about patriotism, every time he talks about conservative ideals, the orange face of Trump seems to rise moon-like behind his shoulder — a reminder that this patriot and idealist is supporting, for the highest office in the republic and the most powerful position in the world, a man that he obviously knows (including, one assumes, from firsthand exposure) to be dangerous, unstable, unprincipled and unfit.
Long after this election is over, that effect will endure. Every piety that the speaker utters, every moral posture that he strikes, will be received with derision by anyone who remembers the months that he spent urging Americans, albeit through gritted teeth, to make Donald Trump commander-in-chief.
Starting out from the fact that the frustrated predominate among the early adherents of all mass movements and that they usually join of their own accord, it is assumed: 1) that frustration of itself, without any proselytizing prompting from the outside, can generate most of the peculiar characteristics of the true believer; 2) that an effective technique of conversion consists basically in the inculcation and fixation of proclivities and responses indigenous to the frustrated mind….
The fact that both the French and the Russian revolutions turned into nationalist movements seems to indicate that in modern times nationalism is the most copious and durable source of mass enthusiasm, and that nationalist fervor must be tapped if the drastic changes projected and initiated by revolutionary enthusiasm are to be consummated.
Consider the Khan affair. Were Trump’s remarks tasteless? Absolutely. But no more so — I’d actually say quite a bit less so — than countless other comments he’s made over the past year. But wait: How dare I! This is a Gold Star family! A grieving father and mother whose son, Army Captain Humayan Khan, gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country! What could be more horrifying than to slander them?
Here’s the thing: The moment Khizr and Ghazala Khan took the stage at the DNC to deliver a speech that savaged the Republican presidential nominee and endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee, they ceased to be any old “Gold Star family.” They became political actors and legitimate political targets. You can’t claim immunity from political attack after you’ve launched an attack of your own in primetime at a political convention.
The sexual assault scandal that took down Baylor University’s president and revered football coach also found a problem with a bedrock of the school’s faith-based education: a student conduct code banning alcohol, drugs and premarital sex that may have driven some victims into silence.
Investigators with the Pepper Hamilton law firm who dug into Baylor’s response to sexual assault claims determined the school’s rigid approach to drugs, alcohol and sex and “perceived judgmental responses” to victims who reported being raped “created barriers” to reporting assaults. Some women faced the prospect of their family being notified.
“A number of victims were told that if they made a report of rape, their parents would be informed of the details of where they were and what they were doing,” said Chad Dunn, a Houston attorney who represents six women who have sued Baylor under the anonymous identification of Jane Doe.
Baylor’s strict conduct code may have silenced rape victims. Two thoughts:
1) Let it all come out, and the sooner the better. Let no element of the corruption remain hidden.
2) Say someone involved with insider trading were discovered and blackmailed by a co-worker: would we argue that the laws against insider trading were to blame? There is nothing wrong with a conduct code such as the one Baylor has. What is wrong, what is absolutely wicked, is the use of that code to pressure victims of sexual assault into hiding the truth of what happened to them.
The essay (or the essay-affect) at its best interrogates these questions of truth and verification, bringing the reader directly into the process of evaluating fact and fiction, and providing the reader with some kind of navigation for our current state in which truthfulness is such a fraught concept. In a contemporary landscape in which fact is so regularly and systematically disregarded, the essay responds not just by demanding its own truth, but by turning our attention to the means by which we evaluate the information around us. Biss, Nelson, Jameson and other modern essayists all work, as D’Agata says of Joe Brainard’s essay, ‘I Remember,’ to ‘engineer significance out of doubt.’
And so if the word is basically ‘ISIS’, but in Arabic, why are the people it describes in such a fury about it? Because they hear it, quite rightly, as a challenge to their legitimacy: a dismissal of their aspirations to define Islamic practice, to be ‘a state for all Muslims’ and – crucially – as a refusal to acknowledge and address them as such. They want to be addressed as exactly what they claim to be, by people so in awe of them that they use the pompous, long and delusional name created by the group, not some funny-sounding made-up word. And here is the very simple key point that has been overlooked in all the anglophone press coverage I’ve seen: in Arabic, acronyms are not anything like as widely used as they are in English, and so arabophones are not as used to hearing them as anglophones are. Thus, the creation and use of a title that stands out as a nonsense neologism for an organisation like this one is inherently funny, disrespectful, and ultimately threatening of the organisation’s status. Khaled al-Haj Salih, the Syrian activist who coined the term back in 2013, says that initially even many of his fellow activists, resisting Daesh alongside him, were shocked by the idea of an Arabic acronym, and he had to justify it to them by referencing the tradition of acronyms being used as names by Palestinian organisations (such as Fatah). So saturated in acronyms are we in English that we struggle to imagine this, but it’s true.
In 2006, Indonesia passed a law requiring minority religious groups to collect signatures from the local majority group before building houses of worship. For instance, when Indonesia’s largest Protestant organization decided to build in a suburb of Jakarta, it was required to secure signatures of approval from 60 Christians and 90 people from another faith.
Since the passage of this “religious harmony” bill, which was touted by lawmakers as a long-term solution to religious conflicts, more than 1,000 Indonesian Christian churches have closed. Others have never been built.
“It shows the failures of the religious harmony regulation,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told Foreign Policy. “It discriminates [against] minorities, thus making way for the majority, mostly Muslim hard-liners in Indonesia, to pressure the government to close down churches.”