Merit? What’s that in 21C?

April 10, 2014 - Leave a Response

So a new directorial fuss generated entirely upon political grounds, whatever “Electronista staff” may claim.  Funny how one side of politics only cops this type of campaign, though Apple’s Al Gore should have.  But then it was Apple that may have inaugurated this new set of heavily political concerns.  

In recent years I have often wondered if the twenty-first century had any merit.  By and large it has not.  Truth is dead.  So merit too.  Scholarship has largely died; universities, like primary and secondary schools, have become agents of (typically lying) propaganda.  What trust may one reside in government?  And media?  ‘Nuff said.  Corporations are not much better although they have at least to abide by some degree of consumer and other law.  

It might be amusing if not so serious.  Condi Rice is said by “Electronista staff” to have had a master’s degree by the age of twenty.  Fine (though William Pitt the Younger went to Cambridge shortly after his fourteenth birthday).  Given that intellectuals place great store in irony (more or less synonymous with contempt) the “Electronista staff” might have recalled that Condoleezza Rice’s doctorate was supervised by Josef Korbel, father to one of her predecessors as Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.  Rice’s career is quite marvellous, as interesting as is much of her background, not least some of her experiences as a child.  So here we are, yet another politically motivated campaign designed to denigrate persons of ability but the wrong politics.

It used to be said that the cream rises to the top; no more, politics will only have the scum.  The lie is all.

More politics where it’s not wanted . . . or so one should have thought

April 4, 2014 - Leave a Response

Donating $1,000 to a political campaign is now a cause for giving some one–the boss, no less–the sack.  Thus the fate of the CEO of Mozilla, because:

as Glenn Reynolds points out, he held the same view about gay marriage as Barack Obama in 2008 rather than the view Dick Cheney held in 2008

A company statement is, as Powerline suggests, straight from the pen of George Orwell when writing distopian fiction.

A few weeks ago it was the boss of Apple who said that a certain group of people could not hold or buy shares in his company.  That’s the same CEO whose remuneration this past year was $US73.9 million.  As at other times it remains very safe, even congenial, to be politically correct these days with little want of help from taxpayers–whether they like it or not.  I think often of Pastor Paul Schneider (1897-1939) when contemplating the present.  Who was he?  Look him up.  The parallels are not clear-cut but as Mark Twain remarked, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.  And the rhythm here is becoming more clear with each day that passes.

 

Update:  Robert P. George at First Things takes up the story.

 

 

 

And the point is . . .

April 2, 2014 - Leave a Response

That is,the point of consecutive pieces of television advertising.  Normally I watch not television, but this morning for the first time in several months, I did see a little.  It was last few minutes of the first half and the first few minutes of the second half of the Champions League quarter-final between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.  And Ronaldo’s goal was sublime.  But that’s not the point.

The point is the accompanying advertising prior to the chat show that for decades has punctuated SBS’s football offerings (the least viewer could write the script).  The first advertisement was for something called BET365, which concluded in small print ‘gamble responsibly’.  Next was Nike, offering an imperative in much larger font size: ‘Risk Everything’.  Hmmm.

Kessab, Syria and the ABC, inter al.

March 27, 2014 - Leave a Response

Time magazine had a brief essay on the subject of Islamists and the Syrian border town of Kessab.  It seemed largely sympathetic to the marauders.  A blogger, Mark Movsesian, with First Things informed readers of the existence and events at the place.  He further observed:

Many Armenian Christians in Kessab descend from refugees who fled the last great persecution of Christians in the region, the Armenian Genocide of 1915–itself a byproduct, in part, of a jihad the Ottoman Empire declared against Christians during World War I. The sad ironies will not escape any of the Christians in Syria today.

Mark Twain’s rhyming history diligently creates new couplets.  

And western media?  Except for Time as mentioned, neither seen nor heard.

 

Apple as poisoned fruit.

March 6, 2014 - Leave a Response

Two reports give pause to this long-time user of the products initially of Apple Computer, latterly reduced to Apple Inc.  

The first told of CEO Tim Cook’s remark that climate change sceptics need not hold shares in his company.  I presume that extends to customers as well.  If not, why not?

The second tells of Apple cheating Australian taxpayers of significant taxation revenue.  Still, I don’t suppose anybody else–say, Microsoft, Dell etc.–does anything differently.  But Apple does promote itself as somewhat more pure morally than most like firms.  Perhaps that’s just part of the Democrat ethos (what with former Veep Al Gore on the board).  I have often wondered just level of market share Apple has lost owing to its Democratic connections and promotion (e.g. New York Times).  Given that elections in Australia are no more than auctions with even the expression of bids by the opposing players paid for by taxpayers compelled by law to attend, this may not be that important.  Against that is the expense of Apple (and other) products in Australia.  iTunes, which cannot define a music file, is breath-takingly expensive here.  But, again, what the heck?  

Recall that Thomas Hobbes remarked that “the life of man [was] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” in the absence of political community.  The twentieth century showed that it held true even in many forms of political community.  Life itself is longer now, but the qualifications on “solitary”, “nasty” and “brutish” are weakening.  Apple seems determined to advance, if that’s the right word, these conditions.

 

Oz Intelligentsia on Display

February 27, 2014 - Leave a Response

You can read it all here.  Climate change goes on and on.  .  .  .

What I noticed in particular was an absurd sentence by a journalist, David Marr who finds the want of public interest in climate change, the political ideology of the day.  He tries to command:

We need to pray for an absolutely devastating drought to make [climate-change denying] Australia snap out of it.

Why “pray”?  Has David Marr found God?  Or does he recall that during a severe drought many years ago the premier of Queensland at the time, the much-derided Joh Bjelke-Petersen, prayed for rain.  Such, apparently, was the success of his petition that a few days later many begged him to turn off the spigot.  Alternatively, Marr and his friends (all listed in the linked article in Quadrant), could head for somewhere caught up in drought, California.  Or, they might leave the green shores of Oz for inland dry, like south-west Queensland.  I don’t mind.  What I do mind is taxpayers’ funds being wasted on spurious literary festivals.  Want variety of perspective?  Where you might find it, I don’t actually know.  Where you definitely won’t find it is at a government-sponsored literary event.  We should note the fundamental contempt that the likes of David Marr have for those who provide for their comfort.  In South Australia the government includes a Fringe, an alleged Festival of the Arts (once upon a time it was), a car race  and a public holiday and plonks an auction (sorry, election) in the middle of it all.

The Great War–according to George Weigel.

February 12, 2014 - Leave a Response

The short answer to the question posed–not uniquely–by George Weigel, Why did the First World War begin? seems to have no answer than that “Men have forgotten God”.  At least that’s the impression left by the only report available thus far.  I offered the following comment on that particular page.  For whatever reason the moderators at the Family Research Council found it unacceptable.

___________________________________________________

Hmm!  Not notably enlightening.  Pity.  More interesting–and Weigel’s lecture was said to be discussing this question–is why the conflict continued.  “That men have forgotten God” provides little that is compelling regarding beginning of the Great War and even less regarding its continuity, its extraordinary momentum.  One should recall, too, that the Kaiser, for all his faults, as well as his cousin, Nicholas II, himself not without fault, both recognised in July 1914 that the war then impending would be catastrophic for millions of men–and they knew it was wrong.  Politicians had taken control, acted in a variety of ways none of which were commendable, and those men indeed paid the price.

Some 360,000 volunteered from Australia, most served in Europe.  In excess of two thousand of them in splendid voice on 25 April 1916 sang Kipling’s Recessional in Westminster Abbey, having been invited by the King who, like his continental cousins, recognised the moral depravity of this war.  Many Australian soldiers believed deeply in the rightness of their cause, primarily for freedom.  The public at home supported them to the hilt.  And some highly varied notion of God underlay that determination to work for victory over “Prussianism”.  They mourned 60,000 fellow citizens killed in the First World War but did not relent.  Politicians then served up another within twenty years.

Martyrdom?

February 6, 2014 - Leave a Response

What is it, I wonder, that makes martyrdom so attractive to those for whom it is not a risk?

The Most Reverend James D. Conley, STL, the Catholic bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, writes in this way in a recent post for First Things.  He does so on behalf of Pope Francis:

The promise of the Gospel is that authentic commitment to the truth—and a refusal to separate a commitment to social justice from a commitment to orthodoxy and piety—will lead to conversion. The path of Pope Francis might lead to “media martyrdom.” But martyrdom sows the seeds of conversion.

There is a qualification, it is true, regarding (the horror that is contemporary) mass media.  But the point remains: it won;t be the author’s experience or that of those who offered comments on the article.

Elsewhere, Robert Morgan, published in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament, in 2010, made the following comment on the ‘self-confessed sin of Christians [in National Socialist Germany]’.*  Morgan noted:

the failure of most (not all) Christians to face martyrdom for themselves and their families when that was perhaps the only fully adequate Christian response.†

As Morgan noted, not quite all failed his basic test of making ‘the only fully adequate Christian response’.  

What is now interesting is not only the typically loose expression of such matters as martyrdom, ‘the death or suffering of a martyr’.  It is also, first, the failure to recognise either its unsought presence among Christians, particularly in the Middle East.  Secondly, and perversely, it is the discounted nature of persecution of the followers of Christ, and martyrdom of some, among historians of the Third Reich.  

I recently endeavoured to find the name of Pastor Paul Schneider, murdered in Buchenwald concentration camp, in July 1939, in the indexes of recent works of history where one might have expected to find it.  And, as that suggests, it occurs but very rarely.   Indeed, the more glowing the reviews of the work, the less likely is it that Schneider’s name (let alone details of his pastorate and persecution) will appear.  

In brief, the following list indicates a disturbing trend of disregard for a significant proportion of the historical record:  Bergen, Twisted Cross (1996); Heschel, Aryan Jesus; Ericksen, Theologians under Hitler (1985); Judaism and Christianity under the Impact of National Socialism, ed. Kulka and Mendes-Flohr (1987); Ericksen, Complicity in the Holocaust (2012); Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust, ed. Ericksen and Heschel (1999); Historiography of the Holocaust, ed. Stone (2010). 

I don’t read German.  One two accounts is this a pest.  One, naturally, is the fact that original sources are beyond me.  Secondly, I cannot read what conclusions historians writing in German have reached in, say, the last twenty years.  Most especially does this matter at the level of microhistory, work telling of the life of local churches and families.  Nor, therefore, can I compare these with the much-lauded work of Heschel and Ericksen so damning of Christians and Christianity.  For it would be very interesting to know what occurred at the local level, of daily life and devotion under a racist, totalitarian regime.  That is to say, the places where easy talk of martyrdom could not exist.

 

Notes.

*  Robert Morgan, ‘Susannah Heschel’s Aryan Grundmann’, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, vol. 32, no. 4 (2010), pp. 437.

†  Ibid., p. 438.

 

Obamacare? Who cares.

January 26, 2014 - Leave a Response

And why should we?  Certainly, no particular reason comes to mind.  There might, nonetheless, be one other angle from which to consider this bizarre heap of legislation, or rather, the people proclaiming it (very few now) or declaiming against it (rather more).  

And that is the language of the various parties.  Just one example to offer, since reading all this rubbish from Americans (as if their TV and cinema, their culture generally, in the twenty-first century were not enough) is utterly beyond the pale.  

Powerline tells of a televised debate under the proposition “Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue”.  Apparently one speaker, having no experience of debating (so why begin on television?) was thus “feeling a little trepid”.  Good grief.  

One notices this sort of nonsense on most occasions that one looks at American sites.  Nor is it unique to American web-sites, university publishers are little better.  Dust-jackets reveal a good deal, not least that tertiary education (like primary and secondary levels) now is little more than fraud.  Certainly one can argue that language changes over time, quite so.  It is another thing altogether to claim that the (now) constant deterioration and contraction of language comes into that historical category.

Vocabulary is a significant element here, having been in contraction for possibly four decades (very hard to measure, naturally) but the contexts in which young people learn new words and how to manipulate them with deepening subtlety have gradually been lost. Their parents have followed suit, mostly by tolerating–encouraging?–the loss of their own language.  Actually, that should probably have been grand-parents, for the current generation of parents (of school-aged children) seemed to have learned very little.  And they are content in that loss.

Schools (all levels) might be reckoned guardians of language, not uniquely perhaps, so who now guards the guardians?  The fact is, no-one.  And the authoritarian streaks first noticeable in the 1980s have a stranglehold on personal expression.  Successful employment of meaningless has become a source of power.  And power is the sole source of definition of meaning in the twenty-first century.

Obamacare the book, in excess of two thousand pages, is but one example.  It may be a defining one.

Christianity and the intolerance of the liberal state

January 25, 2014 - Leave a Response

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Philadelphia, made numerous, important observations in the course of a homily delivered at the National Shrine for the 41st March for Life.  He particularly emphasised the counter-cultural nature of Christianity.  Against that he observed the deepening intolerance of the liberal state.  And he concluded thus :

If Jesus is the lord of the sabbath, he is also the lord of history.  And sooner or later, despite the weaknesses of his friends and the strengths of his enemies, his will will be done—whether the Pharisees and Herodians of our day approve of it or not.

Yet it remains the historical reality that Christianity has always depended to some degree, however modest, upon the tolerance of the state.  That has implications for Christians, especially if pro-life.  Nothing in the present–or for some time–has indicated that Christianity will survive as states become ever more intolerant.  One would like to hope otherwise but the evidence is, well, intolerant.

 

Update: There is one further observation to make.  I wrote this brief post because although I subscribe to First Things, I could not comment upon Dr. Chaput’s homily without logging-in in one of four ways (logging-in to the journal did not suffice).  I refuse to have dealings with any of the proffered options, at least three of which are doubtless hostile to the pro-lifers (what ‘Disqus’ refers to I do not know).

 

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