Posts Tagged ‘Enlightenment’

Another One Bites The Dust

by Bob Livingston on Saturday, October 20th, 2012

This is article 369 of 577 in the topic Media
Another One Bites The Dust


The world is changing.

Print media is going the way of the dinosaur. Digital media is where it’s at.

Newsweek, once one of the premier news magazines (and government propaganda arms) announced yesterday it would cease its print operation as of Dec. 31. It will continue in an all-digital format in 2013. Newspapers across the country are ending or reducing their print operations and focusing on digital.

The Internet is to the current communications environment as the Gutenberg press was in the mid-1400s. The Gutenberg press was the first to use moveable type. It was essentially the printing standard for the next 500-plus years. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention led directly to the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution. Knowledge, long held close to the vest by the elites, became available to the commoners.

For the past 100-plus years, the elites have controlled the mainstream media. The Internet has changed that. Now anyone can publish his message. Information (and disinformation) is available to everyone with an Internet connection.

The elites hate that they no longer control the message. They will continue their efforts to control the Internet through regulation and censorship. These efforts must be resisted at all cost.

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Why the West Loves Lying to Itself About Islam

by Daniel Greenfield on Thursday, July 12th, 2012

This is article 731 of 1262 in the topic International

Say that you get a tempting offer from a Nigerian prince and decide to invest some money in helping him transfer his vast fortune from Burkina Faso or Dubai over to the bank across the street. The seemingly simple task of bringing over the 18 million dollars left to him by his father hits some snags which require you to put in more and more of your own money.

Eventually you have invested more than you ever would have ever done up front, just trying to protect the sunk cost, the money that you already sank into Prince Hussein Ngobo’s scheme. And to protect your self-esteem, you must go on believing that, no matter what Prince Ngobo does, he is credible and sincere. Any failings in the interaction are either your fault or the fault of some third party. Anyone who tells you otherwise must be a Ngobophobe.

Now imagine that Prince Ngobo’s real name is Islam.

That is where Western elites find themselves now. They invested heavily in the illusion of a compatible Islamic civilization. Those investments, whether in Islamic immigration or Islamic democracy or peace with Islam have turned toxic, but dropping those investments is as out of the question as writing off Prince Ngobo as a con artist and walking away feeling like a fool. Western elites, who fancy themselves more intelligent and more enlightened than the wise men and prophets of every religion, and who base their entire right to rule on that intelligence and enlightenment, are not in the habit of admitting that they are fools.

The Arab Springers who predicted that the Muslim uprisings would bring a new age of secularism, freedom and an end to the violence between Islam and the West; are busy writing up new checks. Thomas Friedman is penning essays explaining why the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood will mean regional stability and peace with Israel (and if it doesn’t, it will be our fault.)

It’s not insanity; it’s the term that rhymes with a certain river in Egypt. The Brotherhood’s victory discredits the Arab Spring, which discredits the bid for Arab Democracy, which discredits the compatibility of Islam and the folks on Fifth Avenue. Follow the river back along its course and suddenly the Clash of Civilizations becomes an undeniable fact. It’s easier to give up and let the river of denial carry you further along until, five years from now, you find yourself explaining why Al-Qaeda ruling Libya is actually a good thing for everyone.

In 1991, Israel cut a land-for-peace deal with a greasy Egyptian bloke named Yasser Arafat. The Cairo-born Arafat would turn his gang of terrorists into a government and police force, and rule over an autonomous territory, in exchange for ending the violence. Clinton smiled beatifically as hands were shaken and a new era of peace was upon us. The era, however, has yet to show up.

Over two decades of terrorism have not shaken the belief of the American or Israeli establishment in the “Two-State Solution”, which has solved absolutely nothing, except perhaps the problem of how to make the Middle East into an even more unstable place.

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Ignoring ObamaCare: The “Right Thing to Do”!

by John Lillpop on Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

This is article 315 of 701 in the topic Healthcare

While it is true that the SCOTUS, in effect, re-wrote ObamaCare so as to find a way, however contrived, to rule that the ill-begotten Marxist mistake passed Constitutionality muster, it is also true that obeying the rule of law is now entirely optional, following the precedent set by Obama himself with respect to illegal immigration, the War Powers Act, the use of executive privilege, recess appointments, and on and on.

Indeed, the era of Progressive Enlightenment has yielded a new standard for compliance.

It’s called “The Right Thing To Do” litmus which, in simple terms, means that if one does not agree with a particular law or equivalent (SCOTUS Ruling), one has the option of simply ignoring the offending statute, with impunity.

Besides providing urgently-needed flexibility for dealing with bureaucratic legislative rot, the “Right Thing to Do” standard is imperative when it comes to issues of grave moral significance such as abortion, taxation without representation, and other mainstays of the Obama reign of tyranny.

As of June 28, the abomination known as ObamaCare has joined the list of government lawlessness which MUST be ignored, and to hell with John Roberts, Stephen Bryer, and all three women “serving” on SCOTUS.

In a bit of good news from an otherwise dreadful week, it is reported in the reference that several Republican governors are indeed refusing to implement ObamaCare, at least until after the election:

WASHINGTON—Just because the Supreme Court affirmed that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, doesn’t mean that Republican governors are rushing to follow it.

“We’re not going to start implementing Obamacare. We’re committed to working to elect Governor Romney to repeal Obamacare,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) Friday morning on a call with reporters hosted by the Republican National Committee.

The Affordable Care Act requires states to set up health care benefits exchanges to help Americans buy insurance. If a state fails to act, the federal government will operate that state’s exchange program.

States have until Jan. 1, 2013, to demonstrate to the Department of Health and Human Services that it has a plan in place for the exchanges, which are required to be up and running by Jan. 1, 2014.

“On the exchanges, we’ve continued not to implement the exchanges in Louisiana. We’re going to work very hard to get Governor Romney elected so this law will be repealed long before the effective dates,” Jindal added.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) did not go as far as Jindal on the call, although he made clear that his state is not jumping to comply just yet.

“We don’t even know exactly what that federal exchange would look like,” he said. “So there’s still some uncertainty at this point as to what the right course is. And over the next days and weeks we’re going to be evaluating the case as well as the options for Virginia.”

On Thursday, another leading Republican governor—Wisconsin’s Scott Walker—similarly said, “Wisconsin will not take any action to implement Obamacare. I am hopeful that political changes in Washington, D.C., later this year ultimately end the implementation of this law at the federal level.”

And so it goes. Responsible governors refusing to follow the Leftist Pied Piper (Obama)into destruction and devastation via ObamaCare.

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The Universalist Holocaust

by Daniel Greenfield on Monday, April 23rd, 2012

This is article 671 of 1262 in the topic International

Everyone deals with trauma in different ways. Getting violently attacked on a street late at night. Watching a loved one murdered in front of your eyes. Feeling the fire on your skin as your home burns. It’s not just the pain of the experience, it’s realizing afterward how your world has changed and that your life will never be the same.

There are two basic human responses to an assault. I will protect myself. I will make the world a better place. The first deals with the risk of an attack. The second with your feelings about the world. The first leaves you better able to cope with an attack. The second makes you feel better about the world.

The Jewish response to the Holocaust fell into these two categories. Never Again and Teach Tolerance. And the two responses were segmented by population. Never Again became the credo of Israel and Teach Tolerance became the credo of the Western Diaspora. There were many Israelis who believed in teaching tolerance and many Western Jews who believed in self-defense, but for the most part the responses were structural. And yet the divide between Nationalists and Universalists also predated the Holocaust.

The Holocaust was a transformative event, but only to a degree, the responses to it came out of earlier debates that had been going on for two generations. Before the Holocaust, the Czarist pogroms had led to the same fork in the road between a collective struggle for a better world and national self-defense. The current debates about Israel revisit an old argument that has been going on for well over a century.

To the Nationalists, the Holocaust was not an unexpected event. Nationalist leaders like Jabotinsky had warned repeatedly that it was coming. To the Universalists however, it was an inexplicable event because it challenged the entire progressive understanding of history as a march to enlightenment. Violent bigotry was a symptom of reactionary backward thinking, not something that modern countries would engage in. There might be anti-semitism in Berlin, but there wouldn’t be mass murder. That was for places like Czarist Russia, but not for the enlightened Soviet Russia or Weimar Germany.

The Universalists seemed to have a point. The Beilis blood libel case had been treated as a medieval freak show by Western newspapers. Czarist pogroms received widespread coverage and condemnation. Some on the Russian left, Jewish socialists among them, justified and even excused the atrocities, but they were a minority. And when the Daily Worker, the organ of the Communist Party in New York, praised the Hebron Massacre, it resulted in a news vendor boycott that banished it from the shelves.

Even clear thinkers could have been forgiven for seeing two worlds, one modern and one backward. These worlds could worked best in the big picture, the details were often a little fuzzy. The USSR had begun repressing its Jewish minority, along with a whole range of groups the Communists did not care for, with no protests from the same press and intellectuals who had denounced the same behavior by the Czarist regime.

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The Constitution And Electing The President

by Thomas E. Brewton on Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

This is article 47 of 147 in the topic History

Robert Curry continues his exposition of the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment on the founding of our nation.

The Scottish Enlightenment and America’s Founding: The Drama of the Constitutional Convention
By Robert Curry

“Discussion began on June 1 with the Virginia Plan, introduced by Virginia Governor Edmund Randolph and privately drafted by Madison …It would have resembled the parliamentary system of government that exists in much of the world today…[James] Wilson argued early on for a single President to be directly elected by the people…A small group of delegates, known as “the committee of detail”…produced a draft Constitution in early August.  Wilson, the consistent supporter of an independent executive, headed the committee, and it showed.  The Constitution now vested “the executive power of the United States” in one man.”
John Yoo, Crisis and Command

No doubt it is impossible to quantify the impact of the Scottish Enlightenment on America’s founding.  This is the kind of question that can be endlessly debated by scholars. It simply is the case that many factors contributed and many streams of causation converged to make America’s founding possible.

However, it would be possible to dramatize the impact of the Scottish Enlightenment.  That is of course true because the dramatist’s task is in one sense much simpler than the task of the historian.  The dramatist is free to create characters and structure the action to convey his message; the historian must deal with stubborn facts, with what actually happened.

Remarkably, the actual course of events during the Constitutional Convention, as if by dramatic intent, seems designed to draw our attention to the enormous importance of the Scottish Enlightenment in America’s Founding.

Conceived as a dramatic work, Madison and Wilson were given the roles that drive the action.  Madison opened with the Virginia Plan; Wilson played a central role in the debate and in the final decisive action, the drafting of the Constitution by the committee that gave it the shape we know today.  Remarkably, their central roles also dramatize the impact of the Scottish Enlightenment on the American Founding.  That is so because Madison and Wilson taken together perfectly symbolize that impact.

Madison perfectly symbolizes one half of the story of the Scots in America.  He represents the Revolutionary generation of Americans trained by the wave of Scots who brought the Scottish Enlightenment to America.  As Gary Wills observed, “At age sixteen Jefferson and Madison and Hamilton were all being schooled by Scots who had come to America as adults.” Madison’s tutor, Donald Robertson, was a product of the Scottish Enlightenment at its peak, but the great intellectual influence on Madison was John Witherspoon, also a Scot.  When Madison entered Princeton in 1769, under the leadership of Witherspoon it had become the American university where the great thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment—Hume, Smith, Hutcheson, Reid, Ferguson and Kames—were studied most intensely.

As for Wilson, he is a perfect symbol for the other half of the story because he was actually a part of that wave of Scots in America. A member in good standing of the Scottish Enlightenment, educated at St. Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh at the height of the Scottish Enlightenment, he was also a signer of the Declaration—one of only 6 men who signed both documents.

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Historical Obfuscation

by Thomas E. Brewton on Sunday, January 8th, 2012

This is article 44 of 147 in the topic History

In the United States, a large part of historical truth has systematically been smothered or ignored by academics.

From the closing decades of the 19th century through mid-20th century, academics (who were heavily influenced by the socialistic materialism espoused in the great German universities, then regarded as the ultimate source of PhD degrees) taught a distorted version of American history.  That version centered around the false idea that the Declaration of Independence represented the egalitarian spirit of the French socialist revolution and that the Constitution was a reactionary effort to kill egalitarianism.  Notable among those academics were Vernon L. Parrington (Main Currents in American Thought) and Charles A. Beard (An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States).

Because academics of that era, just as is true today, favored the collectivism of the socialistic welfare state, they identified the 17th and 18th century Enlightenments exclusively with the socialistic French Revolution.

Robert Curry sets about dismantling that academic fraud.

Sorting out the Enlightenments
By Robert Curry

A Review of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Roads To Modernity: The British, French, And American Enlightenments (Knopf, 2004)

“Can you recommend a book that sorts out the various Enlightenments and makes it clear why I should care?”

The Roads To Modernity ought to be the perfect answer to that question.  As you might anticipate because of the author’s sterling reputation, where it is good it is very, very good indeed.  Unfortunately, although the author accomplishes the task brilliantly in two magnificent chapters, she also creates confusion in a third chapter.  Despite the problems with that third chapter, The Roads To Modernity remains the best answer to the question, and even the chapter that goes awry has much to recommend it to the alert reader.
The two outstanding chapters are the ones on the French and the American Enlightenments.  They are models of brevity, clarity, and scholarly command of the subject.  The French and the American Enlightenments are brought into sharp focus, and their profound differences are made clear.

Prof. Himmelfarb brilliantly contrasts the French Enlightenment, which she terms “the Ideology of Reason,” and the American Enlightenment, termed by her as “the Politics of Liberty:”

“The idea of liberty…did not elicit anything like the passion or commitment [from the French] that reason did. Nor did it inspire the philosophes to engage in a systematic analysis of the political and social institutions that would promote and protect liberty.”
This passage is an example of the book at its best.  The philosophes and the Founders were working in very different directions on very different projects.  These differences help explain the very different outcomes of the American and the French Revolutions.
Because the study of the Enlightenment has traditionally focused on France, these two chapters provide the interested reader with an opportunity to make a great leap forward not just in understanding the Enlightenments, but also in understanding America.  Many Americans who take a keen interest in American history do not realize how much America’s Founding was an Enlightenment project.  They are surprised to learn that The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and The Federalist are among the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment.  Prof. Himmelfarb’s thoughtful analysis makes a powerful case for the historical significance and the uniqueness of the American Enlightenment.


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In the America of the Enlightenment

by Thomas E. Brewton on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

This is article 8 of 147 in the topic History

In the America of the Enlightenment…the specifically American form of Christianity—undogmatic, moralistic rather than creedal, tolerant but strong, and all-pervasive of society—was born, and…the Great Awakening was its midwife.

Paul Johnson, A History of the American People

The Great Awakening was the great Protestant revival which swept the American colonies during the first half of the 18th century.  One of the key events of American history, its importance to America’s Founding was enormous yet is often overlooked.  Paul Johnson puts it like this:

“The Great Awakening was thus the proto-revolutionary event, the formative moment in American history, preceding the political drive for independence and making it possible.  It crossed all religious and sectarian boundaries…and turned what had been a series of European-style churches into American ones “[emphasis added].

It also broke down the geographical boundaries.

Each colony had been largely a world unto itself, more oriented to London than to its neighbors.  The Great Awakening changed all that.  George Whitefield, “the Grand Itinerant”, made seven continental tours between 1740 and 1770, speaking to enormous crowds everywhere he went—10,000 was not uncommon—and became the first truly American public figure, equally well known in every colony.  Whitefield and the other revival preachers of the era brought about a new sense of geographical unity, and a new sense of what it meant to be an American.  The Great Awakening has had an enduring impact on America, persisting in the great camp-meetings that played such an important role in American life for the next two hundred years and in the great non-denominational mega-churches of our day.

The fact that the Great Awakening prepared the way for the American Revolution had the greatest of consequences.  Growing as it did out of a period of deep religious fervor and ferment, the American Revolution was not going to be an anti-religious revolution like the one in France.  In the words of John Adams:

“The Revolution was effected before the War commenced.  The Revolution was in the mind and hearts of the people: and change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.”

The specifically American form of Christianity was matched by the specifically American form of the Enlightenment.  Gertrude Himmelfarb distinguishes the American Enlightenment from the French one in this way:

“The French had [an] exalted mission: to make reason the governing principle of society as well as mind, to ‘rationalize,’ as it were, the world.  The Americans, more modestly, sought to create a new ‘science of politics’ that would establish the new republic upon a sound foundation of liberty.”

The leaders of the French Revolution abolished the Christian calendar, gave the months of the year names that they thought were more rational and enshrined the Goddess of Wisdom in Notre Dame.  Instead of abolishing history, the leaders of the American Revolution wanted to learn from history in order to find a new way forward that benefited from what the West had learned about human nature from experience and from Scripture.

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A Clash of Histories

by Daniel Greenfield on Thursday, July 28th, 2011

This is article 444 of 1262 in the topic International

The clash of civilizations is also a clash of histories. The Western view of history is progressive. A march upward from barbarism to greater phases of enlightenment. This view is fairly modern and fairly liberal, yet closely associated with the success of Western civilization. In progressive history, human techniques from the technological to the social can be used to improve life and make the world a better place.

The Islamic view of history is regressive. A lost golden age followed by unbelief and heresy, culminating in a struggle by the believers to restore Islamic dominance. Everything that humans do independently of Islam makes the world a worse place. The perfect touchstone of history was Mohammed. And the only way that history can be set right is by restoring the lost and corrupted caliphates.

Both the progressive and the regressive views of history have their limitations. The progressive views tends to unrealistically overestimate its own progress. It does this by dismissing 99 percent of what came before it as bunk and barbarism, and places itself at the pinnacle of history. Using the Dark Ages as a prop, history is divided between the medieval and the enlightenment, superstition and knowledge.

Overlooked is the knowledge that civilization and barbarism actually come in cycles. And that the ancients were not stupid or ignorant, often they were quite sophisticated. But they were unable to retain, integrate and build on what they had until it formed the core of a stable and self-sustaining civilization. Despite our technological sophistication, we are actually poorer than them in vital areas, and there is every sign that our own civilization will implode the way that theirs did.

The surest sign of this may be that the intellectual elites of the West have begun to make the switch to a regressive model of history. The environmental movement and the postmodern left have become the champions of a regressive history which demands that we turn back the clock and learn to imitate the slums of the Third World in order to become a better society.

That the people doing this are some of the best and the brightest, the graduates of elite institutions and the thinkers and philosophers of the West, who have followed the dark road of social revolution into oblivion and have come away with no reason for their cultures and nations to go on living– testifies to the peril that the West finds itself in.

The progressive model of history is on life support. In its pure form, it hardly exists outside of scientific circles, rationalist atheists and patriotic Americans. And the former two often incorporate it into a global admixture that depends on a Wellsian world-state through the United Nations. An organization founded on a progressive worldview, but that in the hands of the left and its Third World allies has become a regressive influence.

That just leaves the regressive model of history with its lost golden age and its distaste for a humanity whose petty faults are in the way of a full restoration.

We are most familiar with the Islamic version of regressive history, whether it is Osama bin Laden or an exhibit on Islamic science. Both depend on a heavily distorted and romanticized history.

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Leave Me Alones vs Make It Betters

by Daniel Greenfield on Thursday, June 30th, 2011

This is article 11 of 105 in the topic Preserving America

The two streams in American politics are not liberal vs conservative, they can be roughly defined as “Leave Me Alone” vs “Make It Better”. Leave Me Alone seeks personal independence, self-reliance and freedom from interference. Make It Better believes in the progressive betterment of society through regulation, intervention and education.

Most people associate the “Leave Me Alones” with conservatism and the “Make It Betters” with liberalism. That’s partly true, but not entirely. The hijacking of liberalism and the Democratic party by the radical left has them into the standard bearers of a ruthless “Make It Better” agenda. But “Make It Better” is found often on the right as well. The loss of the cultural war to the left has pushed conservatives into a defensive position. And the ascension of the left has moved it into a state of permanent aggression.

“Leave Me Alone” is defensive. It creates boundaries and asks that they be respected. “Make It Better” is offensive, it pushes through individual boundaries in the name of the greater good. Neither of these are purely moral positions. Rather they are preferential positions. “Leave Me Alone” can turn a blind eye to evil with long term consequences. “Make It Better” sometimes brings positive change. But like any course of positive action, “Make It Better” is more likely to be associated with negative consequences.

The difference between “Leave Me Alone” and “Make It Better” is cultural. It’s in the way we prefer to live and how we see other people. To “Leave Me Alones”, other people are either good or bad. But to the “Make It Betters”, everyone is in a gray area and in need to enlightenment. “Leave Me Alones” trust people more as individuals, while being suspicious of groups. “Make It Betters” think of groups as more moral than individuals.

“Make It Betters” judge people by their web of interconnections. The interconnectedness is their way of morality. The more involved with others someone is, the better of a person they are. By contributing to the whole, they demonstrate selflessness. Their understanding of morality is purely external, as shown by interaction with others. It is why “Make It Betters” are often unable to process how one of them could possibly be guilty of a crime, when he is so involved in helping others. They derive their sense of moral worth from group participation, which makes self-examination difficult for them. Dissatisfied with the group, they often search for happiness and pursue self-improvement, but lack the internal moral code that makes either one truly possible.

“Leave Me Alones” see morality as internal. A matter of character. Public interactions can reveal character, but are also dominated by social pressures. “Leave Me Alones” distrust those who make a show of their social morality. To them external morality is often a cover for private sin. They are prone to self-examination and have a keen awareness of their failings. And suspect that everyone else also has a similar mismatch between their outer and inner selves.

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