Stand on Tradition – The Weekly Standard

"To put it in a nutshell, Joo Carlos Espada tells us, his book "aims at providing an intellectual case for liberal democracy." This aim puts The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty on a crowded shelf of mostly desiccated husks. What gives his work vitality is his wish to clarify why European democracy differs from England's and ours, and his search for what is common among various figures from the past 60 years whom he admires, and earlier thinkers similar to them.

These goals lead him to defend the substance and conditions of our Anglo-American life of liberty, not to attempt to explore freedom's deathless merits. To accomplish his task, Espada briefly discusses a large number of philosophers, statesmen, and scholars. This breadth means that he does not attend to scholarly minutiae, chains of philosophical abstraction, or detailed questions of policy. Each of his discussions is interesting, although some are more telling or reliable than others. I would especially recommend his remarks on Karl Popper, Michael Oakeshott, and Edmund Burke. His discussion of Alexis de Tocqueville is as good a 20-page presentation of what matters in him as one is likely to find.

Espada's concern is more with tradition than principle. John Locke's principled arguments promoting free government were useful in Britain and America because they entered countries that already practiced or defended limited government and the rule of law. In France, however, the "effect of the importation of Locke's doctrines," Espada tells us, quoting Anthony Quinton, "was much like that of alcohol on an empty stomach." Lockean principles came to light there as a wholesale reordering or destruction of traditional ways.

In general, indeed, the Europeans made themselves dizzy with rationalistic schemes. Their hope, stemming from Descartes, not to ground politics and morals on anything that we merely assume is, however, doomed to fail. In fact, it leads finally to relativism. For if all is not completely rational, then it seems that nothing is. Along the path to such relativism, however, came the disasters of the Marxist and Nazi attempts at total amalgamation and control. These were liberty's very opposites.

If the Anglo-American tradition of liberty is vital to liberty's existence, how can liberty prevail where this tradition never existed, or is now withering? Espada's answer to this pressing question is not simple, partly because of what he has in mind with "tradition." Sometimes he points to matters that were, or are, primarily English, quoting John Betjeman and T.S. Eliot on peculiar English tastes that range from "boiled cabbage cut into sections" and dartboards to Tennyson's poetry and Elgar's music. Other times he includes American practices advocated or instituted by Madison or noticed by Tocqueville. Occasionally, he points to tradition as attachment to one's own familiar routines. But we can see that such attachments could, in many places, as easily be illiberal as liberal.

What we most usefully learn from Espada's approach is that liberty requires (or is strongly aided by) a public and private disposition to allow competitive spheres of social, political, and economic influence rather than social and political monoliths; a proclivity to let people lead their lives without much interference from others; and support of government that is "limited and accountable." These dispositions and their objects are broader than "traditional" ways simply, and we can see how several concrete practices could be compatible with them. Espada, however, does not explore the varied ways to advance these liberal dispositions.

To what degree are these dispositions the seedbed or material of liberty, and to what degree are they liberty itself? Espada's intelligent discussion of liberty's tradition leads him to downplay some of its concrete institutions and principles. There is occasional mention, but little discussion, of religious toleration, a free and responsible press, free speech, good character, and the rule of law. There is mention, but little analysis, either of the place of expanding economies in modern liberal countries or of their disruptive effects on traditional ways.

Some of these practicessay, religious tolerationcould perhaps be dealt with within the general dispositions I just discussed. Some omissions might also be explained by Espada's wish not to identify liberal democracy with any current political party or movement, or to allow figures who range from Hayek to Oakeshott to near-socialists and social democrats such as Raymond Plant and Ralf Dahrendorf exemplify the Anglo-American tradition. Liberal democracy covers a wide range. Nonetheless, it is important to discuss these practices because instituting them clarifies areas where the limits, accountability, competition, and variety in authority that Espada connects to liberal democracy must be won and defended, and cannot merely grow. Tradition, habit, or "political culture" are not enough to support them, whatever their importance. This is especially clear with religious toleration and competitive economies.

In general, Espada downplays the place of principles, or the revolutionary ground, of American and even British liberty. He is taken with Hayek's notion of spontaneous order, and is wary of the schemes of founding and constructing that he believes belong to the hyper-rationalism that is one of liberalism's enemies. Yet the United States was founded explicitly, England had its own principled revolution in 1688, and the Locke (or Lockean) principles that thrived in welcoming Anglo-American traditions or practices are not identical with those traditions. The meaning and benefits of equal rights, religious toleration, voluntary action, liberated acquisitiveness, and limited government all needed to be rationally explained, justified, and defended, even in welcoming situations.

Indeed, relativism or irrationalism arises not only from an extreme reaction to reason's disappointed hopes but from eschewing reason in favor of guidance from race, nation, tribe, or other identities. From Nietzsche on, in fact, relativism is defended by some thinkers themselves. Liberal democracy deserves (and its founders present) an intellectual defense that can bring out what is true in it, even if this is not the whole truth about human affairs. Espada offers little defense of liberty itself, or even of the liberal way of life, beyond its moderation and the growth in economic and other information it might provide. He writes thoughtfully about the possibility of truth in the absence of comprehensive certainty, but he reaches no firm conclusion.

We should also point out that liberal democracies do not rely completely on already-friendly soil. They also produce resources with which to buttress their traditions, and favor practices that are conducive to them. Among these are virtues of character such as responsibility, tolerance, and industriousness that citizens need in order to live successfully in liberal democracies, and the attraction of friends and family that reasserts itself even amidst liberalism's geographic dispersal. In this regard, restless American individualism buttresses free government somewhat differently from the mixture of tradition, respect for authority, limited government, and "inner contentment with life which explains the Englishman's profoundest wish, to be left alone, and his willingness to leave others to their own devices."

It is not clear why the basic goals of liberal democracy could not be approached within several "traditions" were these virtues and natural charms to assert themselves, within limited, accountable institutions. Liberal principles must be asserted and defendednatural rights examined as true guides not arbitrary onesif one is to see why we should protect them, and how, when their traditional soil seems increasingly barren.

One virtue of Espada's wariness of rationalistic schemes is his distrust of experts and his keen sense of the current gap between ruling elites and many of the people they purport to help. This view informs his discussion of the European Union. Here we should remind ourselves that "experts" do not understand better than their clients the ends they serve, that much specialization is false, and that legalistic or pseudo-philosophic expertise in "just" distribution and "correct" behavior is often mere political imposition.

We cannot take freedom for granted todayanywhere. Liberalism cannot rely on practices, traditions, or dispositions alone, but also requires reasonable, convincing argument. Still, Joo Espada is correct to point to the importance of liberal traditions, and to the importance of the writers and statesmen who defended them. This thoughtful book will be valuable for all lovers of liberty.

Mark Blitz is Fletcher Jones professor of political philosophy at Claremont McKenna College and the author, most recently, of Conserving Liberty.

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Stand on Tradition - The Weekly Standard

Abortion Debate Poisoned By ‘Pro-Choice’ And ‘Pro-Life’ Labels – Huffington Post Canada

"Women should have the right to kill children, as long as they are still inside of them. But, it is killing children. It's just that it is OK if they do."

These are the words of comedian Louis CK when he performed last month in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. The 20,000 people in attendance applauded and laughed, pushing down any evidence of being offended and basking in the hilarious logic, wavering in their own minds as to whether it was offensive, non-fictional or both.

Pro-life marchers go to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. to mark the Roe v. Wade decision, Jan. 22, 2015.

Abortion is probably the most divisive, complex issue in modern times. It ensnares every other polarizing conversation like religion, gender, socioeconomic conditions, class warfare, politics, even race. A collision of emotional anguish and legalese envelops all those who dare engage with the impassioned teams from the other side -- the enemies of truth, the hypocrites too drunk on ideology to engage sensibly.

I always believed that as a man I should just keep my head down when tempted to weigh in on the abortion debate. A part of me still feels that way, but after my partner and I brought two kids into this world I felt an incorrigible, nagging voice that will not go away. This voice, when I allow it to speak, feverishly runs through the typical pro-life and pro-choice mantras, arguing with itself until I am mentally exhausted from the mutual blind spot of each side. I only knew two things for certain: if my wife had had an abortion a year and a half ago, my daughter would not be on my lap as I type this piece, and she should never lose the right to end a pregnancy.

There are several contradictions embedded within the two accepted positions of abortion politics. In the pro-choice camp, the definition of a fetus changes depending on whether or not the mother wants to keep the baby. If she doesn't, a fetus is just a bunch of mingling cells, an organic compound that does not constitute an actual living thing. But if she does want to start a family, that fetus becomes a miracle, something to be protected at all costs. This malleable definition is understandable, given the enormous magnitude a decision like having an abortion carries, but is still impossible to reconcile considering the deference to logic and consistency we must give the definition of a singular thing.

Meanwhile, the pro-life camp continues to place religious people front and centre to articulate the notion of a fetus being a living thing. After decades of losing the argument by putting god before science, religion before logic, they still appear unable to grasp why theocracy is not an effective starting point if your goal is to increase the support for preventing abortions in the first place. Add to that a vehement tendency to place abortions side-by-side with strangulations and drive-by shootings, and you have a camp unwilling to adjust their dogma to the detriment of society itself.

Anti-Trump demonstrator protests at abortion rights rally in Chicago, Jan. 15, 2017. (Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

Everything about this issue makes my head explode. First and foremost, there is an unhealthy prerequisite of undying support for one group or the other, a destructive starting point steeped in deliberate polarization that works as a barometer and an albatross for both groups.

You are either with us, or you are a murderer.

You are either with us, or you hate women.

Lovely, I know, but also an accurate depiction of the insanity that grips this issue. Accusations of misogyny are a typical ruse by pro-choicers when describing pro-lifers, a fallacy of epic proportions as it ignores one obligatory fact: far more women are against abortion than men. In fact, if it were not for men co-signing a woman's right to choose, abortion laws would have been challenged more fiercely a long time ago.

But in our hyper-chivalrous society, men are being asked to shut up and nod politely as they help hold the abortion door open, a cynical reality given the vital role they play in the debate. And while there is some fodder to spotlight where old men attempt to be the sole arbitrators of women's health, by and large men are the most valuable allies in the fight to keep abortion legal.

All of this leads me to believe that we need to scrap the pro-life and pro-choice labels so we can usher in a new era of rationalism and honesty. Taken on its face, I am more inclined to side with a pro-choice argument from a legal standpoint, but the branding of that label has been poisoned, commandeered by radicals who are disinterested in discussing real ancillary issues such as mental health and the societal impact of abortion. If you've ever known a woman who has had a miscarriage or who has given birth to a stillborn baby, you know the emotional toll both those situations carry. Abortion, from what I am told by women who have had to make that difficult choice, is nearly identical.

On the other hand, from a biological perspective, I am more inclined to side with a pro-life position; abortion means ending a life. But again, this label has been politically poisoned and is a paradoxical position if you do not believe in forcing women to give birth, or in punishing them if they do.

Once you really boil down the dominating talking points and focus on the scientific, emotional and legal realities, you come to a fairly uncomfortable conclusion: Louis CK was right. Abortion should remain legal, and it is literally like ending a life. Our society, for better or worse, has decided that this is a self-defence issue, in the realm of justifiable homicide where a woman is given the authority to destroy another human being in the early stages of life, and I believe as a society we should strike the balance between supporting this right and labelling it accurately. By doing so we can probably better educate men and women on birth control, mental health, and the impact abortion has on relationships between mothers and their families.

And perhaps, by erasing the pro-choice/pro-life labels, we can succumb to a more rational, less polarized dialogue where demonization becomes a relic from the past.

Also on HuffPost:


REALITY: Over 99.75 percent of abortions do not cause major medical problems. Less than one-quarter of 1 percent of abortions performed in the United States lead to major health complications, according to a 2014 study from the University of California, San Francisco, that tracked 55,000 women for six weeks after their abortions. The researchers note that this makes an abortion statistically about as risky as a colonoscopy. If that fact seems surprising, consider how American pop culture misrepresents the risks of abortion: Nine percent of film and television characters who have abortions die as a direct result of the procedure, according to another 2014 study from UCSF.

REALITY: About one in five abortions are medical abortions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19 percent of abortions in 2011 were medical abortions and that 28.5 percent of those took place in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute also found that medical abortions increased substantially from 2008 to 2011, meaning more women have ended their pregnancies with this alternative to surgery.

REALITY: Most women will not regret their decision, and are no more likely to experience mental health problems than women who carry an unplanned pregnancy to term. While many women experience mixed emotions after an abortion, 95 percent of women who have abortions ultimately feel they have made the right decision, according to an August 2013 study from UCSF. "Experiencing negative emotions postabortion is different from believing that abortion was not the right decision," the researchers explained. Furthermore, while unplanned pregnancies often cause emotional stress, there is no evidence to suggest that women who choose to terminate their pregnancies will be more likely to suffer from mental health issues, according to a 2008 report from the American Psychological Association that investigated all relevant medical studies published since 1989. The APA found that past studies claiming abortion causes depression and other mental health problems consistently failed to account for other risk factors, particularly a woman's medical history. The APA accounted for these factors and found that, among women who have an unplanned pregnancy, those who have abortions are no more likely to experience mental health problems than those who carry the pregnancy to term.

REALITY: Fetuses cannot feel pain until at least the 24th week of pregnancy. Experts ranging from Britains Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree with that timeline. In fact, research from UCSF found that fetuses can't perceive pain before 29 or 30 weeks of development. Then why have so many states banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy? Perhaps misrepresentation of research is partly to blame: Many of the researchers most frequently cited by pro-life politicians told The New York Times that their research does not prove anything about fetal pain.

REALITY: Most Americans support a woman's right to choose. According to a Gallup poll from 2014, 78 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances. (Fifty percent said "some circumstances," while 28 percent said all.) What's more, in 2012, Gallup found that 61 percent of Americans think abortions that take place during the first trimester of pregnancy should be legal. (Nine out of 10 abortions in the U.S. do take place during that time period, according to Guttmacher.)

REALITY: The abortion rate in the United States is the lowest it's been since 1973. The abortion rate has been on the decline for years, and hit its lowest level in 2011, according to the latest data available from the Guttmacher Institute. The study's author partially credited the decline to better contraceptive use and more long-term contraceptive options, such as the IUD.

REALITY: Women face a growing number of barriers to accessing abortions. More than 57 percent of American women live in states that are hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That represents a marked increase from 2000, when 31 percent of American women lived in such states. In 2011, 89 percent of counties in America had no abortion clinics. This is no accident: Across the U.S., lawmakers have enacted 231 new abortion restrictions over the past four years, according to a Guttmacher analysis from January 2015. As a result, many women have to travel great distances to reach an abortion clinic, where they may face 24-hour wait periods. These barriers particularly affect women living in rural areas and low-income women, who often can't afford to take time off work and pay for gas and a hotel room. Other laws force women to go through potentially distressing procedures, such as viewing their own ultrasound photos, in order to move forward with an abortion.

REALITY: Women rarely cite pressure from family or partners as leading to their decision to abort. A 2005 study from the Guttmacher Institute found that less than 1 percent of women surveyed cited such pressure among their main reasons for having an abortion. A 2013 study from UCSF reached a similar conclusion, and found that while women rarely cited partner coercion as a reason they sought an abortion, many did cite the desire to escape a bad relationship or domestic violence.

REALITY: Most women who have abortions are already mothers. Sixty-one percent of women who had abortions in 2008 were mothers, and 34 percent had two or more children, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That number only increased after the 2009 financial downturn. The National Abortion Federation told Slate that between 2008 and 2011, 72 percent of women seeking abortions were already mothers. A study from Guttmacher found that mothers typically have abortions to protect the children they already have; they simply cannot afford to raise another child.

REALITY: Requiring abortion clinics to meet these standards does little to improve patient safety and forces many to shut down. Currently, 22 states require abortion clinics to meet a set of restrictive and often arbitrary standards, dictating that they be close to hospitals and that their hallways and closets meet certain measurements. Clinics often need to undergo expensive renovations in order to comply, and leading doctors' groups say the laws do little to improve patient safety. What's more, 11 states now require that doctors at abortion clinics obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, but many hospitals flat-out refuse to grant these privileges. As a result, hospitals essentially have the power to shut down nearby clinics.

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Abortion Debate Poisoned By 'Pro-Choice' And 'Pro-Life' Labels - Huffington Post Canada

Saturday (novel) – Wikipedia

Saturday (2005) is a novel by Ian McEwan set in Fitzrovia, London, on Saturday, 15 February 2003, as a large demonstration is taking place against the United States' 2003 invasion of Iraq. The protagonist, Henry Perowne, a 48-year-old neurosurgeon, has planned a series of chores and pleasures culminating in a family dinner in the evening. As he goes about his day, he ponders the meaning of the protest and the problems that inspired it; however, the day is disrupted by an encounter with a violent, troubled man.

To understand his character's world-view, McEwan spent time with a neurosurgeon. The novel explores one's engagement with the modern world and the meaning of existence in it. The main character, though outwardly successful, still struggles to understand meaning in his life, exploring personal satisfaction in the post-modern, developed world. Though intelligent and well read, Perowne feels he has little influence over political events.

The book, published in February 2005 by Jonathan Cape in the United Kingdom and in April in the United States, was critically and commercially successful. Critics noted McEwan's elegant prose, careful dissection of daily life, and interwoven themes. It won the 2005 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. It has been translated into eight languages.

Saturday is McEwan's ninth novel, published between Atonement and On Chesil Beach, two novels of historical fiction. McEwan has discussed that he prefers to alternate between writing about the past and the present.[1][2]

While researching the book, McEwan spent two years work-shadowing Neil Kitchen, a neurosurgeon at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square, London.[1][3][4] Kitchen testified that McEwan did not flinch in the theatre, a common first reaction to surgery; "He sat in the corner, with his notebook and pencil".[1] He also had several medical doctors and surgeons review the book for accuracy, though few corrections were required to the surgical description.[1][4]Saturday was also proof-read by McEwan's longstanding circle of friends who review his manuscripts, Timothy Garton Ash, Craig Raine, and Galen Strawson.[1]

There are elements of autobiography in Saturday: the protagonist lives in Fitzroy Square, the same square in London that McEwan does and is physically active in middle age.[1]Christopher Hitchens, a friend of McEwan's, noted how Perowne's wife, parents and children are the same as the writer's.[5] McEwan's son, Greg, who like Theo played the guitar reasonably well in his youth, emphasized one difference between them, "I definitely don't wear tight black jeans".[1]

Excerpts were published in five different literary magazines, including the whole of chapter one in the New York Times Book Review, in late 2004 and early 2005.[6] The complete novel was published by the Jonathan Cape Imprint of Random House Books in February 2005 in London, New York, and Toronto; Dutch, Hebrew, German, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and Japanese translations followed.[7][8]

The book follows Henry Perowne, a middle-aged, successful surgeon. Five chapters chart his day and thoughts on Saturday the 15 February 2003, the day of the demonstration against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the largest protest in British history. Perowne's day begins in the early morning, when he sees a burning aeroplane streak across the sky. This casts a shadow over the rest of his day as reports on the television change and shift: is it an accident, or terrorism?

En route to his weekly squash game, a traffic diversion reminds Perowne of the anti-war protests occurring that day. After being allowed through the diversion, he collides with another car, damaging its wing mirror. At first the driver, Baxter, tries to extort money from him. When Perowne refuses, Baxter and his two companions become aggressive. Noticing symptoms in Baxter's behaviour, Perowne quickly recognises the onset of Huntington's disease. Though he is punched in the sternum, Perowne manages to escape unharmed by distracting Baxter with discussions of his disease.

Perowne goes on to his squash match, still thinking about the incident. He loses the long and contested game by a technicality in the final set. After lunch he buys some fish from a local fishmonger for dinner. He visits his mother, suffering from vascular dementia, who is cared for in a nursing home.

After a visit to his son's rehearsal, Perowne returns home to cook dinner, and the evening news reminds him of the grander arc of events that surround his life. When Daisy, his daughter, arrives home from Paris, the two passionately debate the coming war in Iraq. His father-in-law arrives next. Daisy reconciles an earlier literary disagreement that led to a froideur with her maternal grandfather; remembering that it was he who had inspired her love of literature. Perowne's son Theo returns next.

Rosalind, Perowne's wife, is the last to arrive home. As she enters, Baxter and an accomplice 'Nige' force their way in armed with knives. Baxter punches the grandfather, intimidates the family and orders Daisy to strip naked. When she does, Perowne notices that she is pregnant. Finding out she is a poet, Baxter asks her to recite a poem. Rather than one of her own, she recites Dover Beach, which affects Baxter emotionally, effectively disarming him. Instead he becomes enthusiastic about Perowne's renewed talk about new treatment for Huntington's disease. After his companion abandons him, Baxter is overpowered by Perowne and Theo, and knocked unconscious after falling down the stairs. That night Perowne is summoned to the hospital for a successful emergency operation on Baxter. Saturday ends at around 5:15a.m. on Sunday, after he has returned from the hospital and made love to his wife again.

McEwan's earlier work has explored the fragility of existence using a clinical perspective,[9] Hitchens hails him a "chronicler of the physics of every-day life".[5]Saturday explores the feeling of fulfilment in Perowne: he is respected and respectable but not quite at ease, wondering about the luck that has him where he is and others homeless or in menial jobs.[5] The family is materially well-off, with a plush home and a Mercedes, but justifiably soPerowne and his wife work hard. McEwan tells of his success rate and keeping cool under pressure; there is a trade off, as he and his wife work long hours and need to put their diaries side by side to find time to spend together.[5]

Perowne's composure and success mean the implied violence is in the background. His personal contentment, (at the top of his profession, and "an unashamed beneficiary of the fruits of late capitalism"[3]) provides a hopeful side to the book, instead of the unhappiness in contemporary fiction.[2] McEwan's previous novels highlighted the fragility of modern fulfilled life, seemingly minor incidents dramatically upsetting existence.[9]Saturday returns to a theme explored in Atonement, which plotted the disruption of a lie to a middle-class family, and in The Child in Time, where a small child is kidnapped during a day's shopping.[10] This theme is continued in Saturday, a "tautly wound tour-de-force" set in a world where terrorism, war and politics make the news headlines, but the protagonist has to live out this life until he "collides with another fate".[2] In Saturday Perowne's medical knowledge captures the delicate state of humanity better than novelists' imaginations: his acquaintance with death and neurological perspective better capture human frailty.[9]

The burning aeroplane in the book's opening, and the suspicions it immediately arouses, quickly introduces the problems of terrorism and international security.[5] The day's political demonstration and the ubiquity of its news coverage provide background noise to Perowne's day, leading to him to ponder his relationship with these events.[11]Christopher Hitchens pointed out that the novel is set on the "actual day the whole of bien-pensant Britain moved into the streets to jeer at George Bush and Tony Blair" and placed the novel as "unapologetically anchored as it is in the material world and its several discontents".[5]The Economist newspaper set the context as a "world where terrorism and war make headlines, but also filter into the smallest corners of people's lives."[2] McEwan said himself, "The march gathered not far from my house, and it bothered me that so many people seemed so thrilled to be there".[12] The characterisation of Perowne as an intelligent, self-aware man: "..a habitual observer of his own moods' [who] is given to reveries about his mental processes," allows the author to explicitly set out this theme.[1]

"It's an illusion to believe himself active in the story. Does he think he's changing something, watching news programmes, or lying on his back on the sofa on Sunday afternoon, reading more opinion columns of ungrounded certainties, more long articles about what really lies behind this or that development, or what is surely going to happen next, predictions forgotten as soon as they are read, well before events disprove them?"[13]

Physically, Perowne is neither above nor outside the fray but at an angle to it; emotionally his own intelligence makes him apathetic, he can see both sides of the argument, and his beliefs are characterised by a series of hard choices rather than sure certainties.[5][14]

He is concerned for the fate of Iraqis; through his friendship with an exiled Iraqi professor he learned of the totalitarian side of Saddam Hussein's rule, but also takes seriously his children's concerns about the war. He often plays devil's advocate, being dovish with this American friend, and hawkish with his daughter.[12]

McEwan establishes Perowne as anchored in the real world.[5][15] Perowne expresses a distaste for some modern literature, puzzled by, even disdaining magical realism:

"What were these authors of reputation doing grown men and women of the twentieth century granting supernatural powers to their characters?" Perowne earnestly tried to appreciate fiction, under instruction from his daughter he read both Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but could not accept their artificiality, even though they dwelt on detail and ordinariness.[11]

Perowne's dismissive attitude towards literature is directly contrasted with his scientific world-view in his struggle to comprehend the modern world.[11] Perowne explicitly ponders this question, "The times are strange enough. Why make things up?".[11]

Perowne's world view is rebutted by his daughter, Daisy, a young poet. In the book's climax in chapter four, while he struggles to remain calm offering medical solutions to Baxter's illness, she quotes Matthew Arnold's poem Dover Beach, which calls for civilised values in the world, temporarily placating the assailant's violent mood.[3] McEwan described his intention as wanting to "play with this idea, whether we need stories".[16] Brian Bethune interpreted McEwan's approach to Perowne as "mercilessly [mocking] his own protagonist...But Perowne's blind spot [literature] is less an author's little joke than a plea for the saving grace of literature."[15]

Similarly he is irreligious, his work making him aware of the fragility of life and consciousness's reliance on the functioning brain.[11] His morality is nuanced, weighing both sides of an issue. When leaving the confrontation with Baxter, he questions his use of his medical knowledge, even though it was in self-defense, and with genuine Hippocratic feeling. While shopping for his fish supper, he cites scientific research that shows greater consciousness in fish, and wonders whether he should stop eating them.[11] As a sign of his rationalism, he appreciates the brutality of Saddam Hussein's rule as described by the Iraqi professor whom Perowne treated, at the same time taking seriously his children's concerns about the war.

Saturday is a "post 9/11" novel, dealing with the change in lifestyle faced by Westerners after the 11 September attacks in the United States. As such, Christopher Hitchens characterised it as "unapologetically anchored as it is in the material world and its several discontents".[5] "Structurally, Saturday is a tightly wound tour de force of several strands"; it is both a thriller which portrays a very attractive family, and an allegory of the world after 11 September 2001 which meditates on the fragility of life.[14]

In this respect the novel correctly anticipates, at page 276, the July 7, 2005 bombings on London's Underground railway network, which occurred a few months after the book was published:

London, his small part of it, lies wide open, impossible to defend, waiting for its bomb, like a hundred other cities. Rush hour will be a convenient time. It might resemble the Paddington crash twisted rails, buckled, upraised commuter coaches, stretchers handed out through broken windows, the hospital's Emergency Plan in action. Berlin, Paris, Lisbon. The authorities agree, an attack's inevitable.

The book obeys the classical unities of place, time and action, following one man's day against the backdrop of a grander historical narrative the anti-war protests happening in the city that same day.[9] The protagonist's errands are surrounded by the recurring leitmotif of hyper real, ever-present screens which report the progress of the plane and the march Perowne has earlier encountered.[11]Saturday is in tune with its protagonist's literary tastes; "magical realism" it is not.[5] The 26-hour narrative led critics to compare the book to similar novels, especially Ulysses by James Joyce, which features a man crossing a city,[15] and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, of which Michiko Kakutani described Saturday as an "up-to-the-moment, post-9/11 variation."[10]

The novel is narrated in the third person, limited point of view: the reader learns of events as Perowne does. Using the free indirect style the narrator inhabits Perowne, a neurosurgeon, who often thinks rationally, explaining phenomena using medical terminology.[1] This allows McEwan to capture some of the "white noise that we almost forget as soon as we think it, unless we stop and write it down."[16] Hitchens highlighted how the author separates himself from his character with a "Runyonesque historical present ("He rises " "He strides ") that solidifies the context and the actuality."[5]

Saturday was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, a best-seller in Britain and the United States. It spent a week at No. 3 on both the New York Times Best Seller List on 15 April 2005,[17] and Publishers Weekly (4 April 2005) lists.[18] A strong performance for literary fiction, Saturday sold over 250,000 copies on release, and signings were heavily attended.[19] The paperback edition sold another quarter of a million.[20]

Ruth Scurr reviewed the book in The Times, calling McEwan "[maybe] the best novelist in Britain and is certainly operating at the height of his formidable powers".[9] She praised his examination of happiness in the 21st century, particularly from the point of view of a surgeon: "doctors see real lives fall to pieces in their consulting rooms or on their operating tables, day in, day out. Often they mend what is broken, and open the door to happiness again."[9] Christopher Hitchens said the "sober yet scintillating pages of Saturday" confirmed the maturation of McEwan and displayed both his soft, humane, side and his hard, intellectual, scientific, side.[5]

Reviewers celebrated McEwan's dissection of the quotidian and his talent for observation and description. Michiko Kakutani liked the "myriad of small, telling details and a reverence for their very ordinariness ", and the suspense created that threatens these.[10] Tim Adams concurred in The Observer, calling the observation "wonderfully precise".[21] Mark Lawson in The Guardian said McEwan's style had matured into "scrupulous, sensual rhythms," and noted the considered word choice that enables his work. Perowne, for example, is a convincing neurosurgeon by the end of the book.[22] This attention to detail allowed McEwan to use all the tricks of fiction to generate "a growing sense of disquiet with the tiniest finger-flicks of detail".[14]

The "set-piece" construction of the book was noticed by many critics; Mrs Scurr praised it, describing a series of "vivid tableaux",[9] but John Banville was less impressed, calling it an assembly of discrete set pieces, though he said the treatment of the car crash and its aftermath was "masterful", and said of Perowne's visit to his mother: "the writing is genuinely affecting in its simplicity and empathetic force."[3] From the initial "dramatic overture" of the aircraft scene, there were "astonishing pages of description", sometimes "heart-stopping", though it was perhaps a touch too artful at times, according to Michael Dirda in The Washington Post.[14] Christopher Hitchens said that McEwan delivered a "virtuoso description of the aerodynamics of a squash game," enjoyable even "to a sports hater like myself",[5] Banville said he, as a literary man, had been bored by the same scene.[23] Zoe Heller praised the tension in the climax as "vintage McEwan nightmare" but questioned the resolution as "faintly preposterous".[11]

John Banville wrote a scathing review of the book for The New York Review of Books.[3] He described Saturday as the sort of thing that a committee directed to produce a 'novel of our time' would write, the politics were "banal"; the tone arrogant, self-satisfied and incompetent; the characters cardboard cut-outs. He felt McEwan strove too hard to display technical knowledge "and his ability to put that knowledge into good, clean prose".[3]

Saturday won the James Tait Black Prize for fiction;[24] and was nominated on the long-list of the Man Booker Prize in 2005.[25]

According to songwriter Neil Finn, the Crowded House song "People Are Like Suns", from Time on Earth (2007), begins with lyrics inspired by the beginning of Saturday, stating "...when I wrote it, I was reading Ian McEwan's novel Saturday, which begins with a man on his balcony watching a plane go down, so the first lines borrow something from that image."[26]

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Saturday (novel) - Wikipedia

Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s Sumptuous Palm Springs Hideaway – Architectural Digest

When one discusses the midcentury-modern architecture of Palm Springs, its best to be specific. On the one hand, there are those archetypes of classic California modernismperhaps best exemplified by Richard Neutras famed Kaufmann Housethat echo the language of the International Style, all glass and steel and elegant rationalism. But then theres another, more playful school of modernism, one that embraced historicist elements, purely theatrical effects, and no small portion of camp to conjure a suitably sybaritic mise-en-scne for the leisure class at play. To the surprise of absolutely no one familiar with interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard or his sumptuous settings, the effervescent British expat selected a prime example of the latter for his own Palm Springs hideaway.

Bullard and his partner, property developer Michael Green, soak up the sunshine in a 1963 house by James McNaughton, a Hollywood set designer who found the ultimate canvas for his flights of fancy in the desert sands of the Coachella Valley. With an arched exterior canopy that segues into interior colonnades, the structure looks a bit like an early maquette for Wallace K. Harrisons Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. The analogy is apt, given the unapologetic drama of the design, which is centered on a semicircular living room that is completed in a bowfront wall of glass overlooking the swimming pool and a black-banded terrazzo floor that was originally intended for dancing.

Its all a bit mad but divine, Bullard says of the house. Hugh Hefner supposedly owned it in the 70s, then Roger Moore, who had it tricked out in fabulous James Bond finery. This place was built for relaxation and fun, so we use it in that spirit.

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Bullard largely preserved McNaughtons floor plan, restoring sections of the home that had been altered over the years. To make the place more accommodating for visitors, he converted a pool cabana and what had been a lavish dressing room into additional guest quarters. Bullard also transformed an erstwhile library into a seriously plush screening room bathed in emerald-green lacquer and furnished with topographical de Sede Terrazza sofas covered in Ultrasuede.

During the holidays, we hole up there with our dog, Daisy, a bunch of screeners, and a lot of candy, the designer says. (For those unfamiliar with Hollywoods mysterious customs, screeners are copies of the latest movies that are distributed by the studios to industry bigwigs and apparatchiks at the end of every year, in advance of awards season.)

Bullard describes his interior appointments as a mix of swinging 60s with a touch of disco 70s. In specific terms, that vision translates into a roster of stellar furnishings by Vladimir Kagan, Willy Rizzo, Paul Evans, Milo Baughman, Angelo Mangiarotti, Karl Springer, and Charles Hollis Jones, among other avatars of groovy modern furniture. There are also more idiosyncratic pieces, like the Pierre Cardin stools at the bar and the living rooms vast zebra-skin rug (a gift from model Cheryl Tiegs, it once graced Andy Warhols Factory).

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Martyn Lawrence Bullard's Sumptuous Palm Springs Hideaway - Architectural Digest

How to Use Imagination to Grow Your Business – Business 2 Community

In a 1929 interview, Albert Einstein said:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.

Do you think he was correct?

Einstein was voicing his opinion regarding scientific research, an area traditionally dominated by pure rationalism.

How about in business? Do you value imagination more than (or as much as) what you know?

Its unlikely. We favor knowledge over imagination, reason over intuition.

But its imagination that creates the new, the better, the unforeseen. Imagination fuels all great visions.

All inspired leaders can envision a future that doesnt yet exist.

When we understand the source of creativity, we are better positioned to access it more freely.

When Einstein says knowledge, hes referring to our conscious, rational minds. It is from our conscious minds we operate each day.

We mainly use our intellect or reason to evaluate our surroundings, make decisions, and communicate.

Modern science, however, continues to reveal that most of our behavior, attitudes, and decisions are influenced, even ruled, by unconscious processes.

The source of our imagination lies in what we can call the unconscious mind. This unconscious mind is a storehouse of every memory, image, thought, feeling, and experience weve ever had.

More interestingly, in The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung illustrates how this unconscious has a collective or universal element that accesses the memories, images, thoughts, feelings, and experiences of all humanity throughout time.

Its as if, deep inside each of us, untold imaginative treasures, insights, and ideas are just waiting for us to discover.

Living strictly conscious lives, most of us rarely tap into these imaginative capacities. Those who do, we call artists.

Ancient traditions and modern integrative therapies suggest theres a mediating factor that enables our conscious mind (or ego) to access, communicate, and even befriend the forces of the unconscious.

The Egyptians called it the Ba-Soul. Ancient Greeks called the inner daimon. The Romans saw it as genius in everyone.

Webcast, March 15th: How to Scale Upmarket with Enterprise Field Sales

Western religions call it our guardian angel or soul. Eastern philosophies and transpersonal psychologies call it the Self (capital S).

Many artists call it the Muse. William Blake called it Poetic Genius.

By whatever name, it is this Inner Guide that we tap into when our imagination flows.

Just as our conscious mind is providing us with a constant stream of thought, our unconscious mind is perpetually trying to express itself.

Only, we havent learned how to give it attention, relate to it, and understand it.

Using our conscious mind, humans communicate with one another through language.

Language is a process of the rational mind (or cerebral cortex).

The difficulty in approaching the unconscious is that it doesnt communicate to us in words. It expresses itself as images and symbols.

Only a select few have learned to access these images and symbols that come to us in dreams, fantasies, visions, and daydreams.

Accessing and paying attention to these images is the first step; learning to interpret them is the second.

To balance out our bias toward rationalism, we need to create space for the imagination.

Disney uses a method for producing creative work that any business can emulate.

They differentiate three roles necessary for generating creative ideas and actualizing them: the Dreamer, the Realist, and the Critic.

The Dreamer accesses the unconscious by allowing the mind to wander without bounds. Daydreaming isnt just allowed; its encouraged.

The Realist accesses the conscious mind that organizes ideas, develops plans, sets forth strategies for execution.

The Critic tests the plan, plays the role of Devils Advocate, and looks out for what could go wrong.

A process such as this gives the Dreamer its rightful place in business that might otherwise treat humans as purely rational beings that need to be at their desks working at all times.

See this guide for a comprehensive look at the creative process.

Its difficult to access your creativity when your body is holding unnecessary tension or anxiety.

Start by taking a few slow, steady, deep breaths. Breathe into the bottom of your belly and exhale, allowing an imaginary balloon in your belly to deflate. (See, were already using our imagination.)

Close your eyes.

Visualize yourself at work. See the faces of your team. Notice what they are doing. Feel the overall energy in your environment.

How are they relating to each other? How do they perceive you? Try to get a realistic picture of the average day at work.

Now, imagine how you want it to be. Imagine the potential of your people. See them collaborating earnestly with each other.

Feel the energy, playfulness, openness, and creativity in the air. Notice the positive and passionate attitude of your people.

Can you see the untapped potential within your business?

Can you envision new and better ways of serving your customers?

Your Inner Guide can. Trust that this is true and look and listen within yourself.

Steve Jobs never saw Apple as a business that sells computers. In his imagination, Apple made products that unleashed peoples creativity.

Imagination is vital to creating a bold, inspiring vision.

Never underestimate the power of such an image. It can rally your people around a common goal. It can fuel the creation of something that will have a positive impact on humanity.

Adapted from an article originally published on scottjeffrey.com.

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How to Use Imagination to Grow Your Business - Business 2 Community

Junk restrictive faith-based laws: Mumbai atheists – Daily News & Analysis

The Atheists community from Mumbai will be coming together in a conference to demand abolition of the Indian Penal Code Sections 295 (hurting religious sentiments), 295A (deliberate act intended to outrage religious feelings) and 298 (Uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person). The community will also demand that an elected leader should not take an oath in Gods name to maintain the sovereignty of the state.

The fourth atheist conference which will be organised by The Brights will have speakers who promote rationalism. Advocate Asim Sarode will talk about the IPC Sections 295, 295A and 298 which were written during the British era.

When the President of our country is elected, the person is subjected to say I, (name), do swear in the name of God (or solemnly affirm), which should not happen. We will also demand change in the swearing-in the court witness box in which people are forced to take oath under a holy book, said Kumar Nage, Country Head for a multinational company and founder of The Brights.

The Sections 295, 295A and 298 are draconian which were established to control the colonies in which the Brits ruled. Even today we follow these laws in case if we speak against god in our democratic country, said Nage.

The group of atheists who reject the fiction called God want civil equality and development. In the name of God and religion people are now indulging in anti-social activities, says Nitin Worlikar, a banker and co-founder of The Brights.

On March 19, the conference will be held in Pune, in Nashik on March 26, and in Mumbai on April 9 in Yashwantrao Chavan Centre at Nariman Point.

Our motto is to spread awareness among the countrymen that they should not believe in any fanaticism which disturbs peace and harmony, said Worlikar.

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A French Surrealist’s Eclectic Remembrances of His Cohort, Finally in English – Hyperallergic

Philippe Soupault, Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism

Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism is a diminutive, stylish book that kicks off by appreciatively documenting a curiously seedy period of transition within the anti-rationalist French avant-garde: from Dada to Surrealism. Published by legendary City Lights in late 2016, this alluring collection of amiable reminiscences was penned by co-founding Surrealist poet Philippe Soupault (18971990) and first appeared in French in 1963 as Profils perdus. City Lights has bracketed this English translation with an introduction by Mark Polizzotti, the director of the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an afterword by poet Ron Padgett.

Polizzottis contribution is essential, as he not only contextualizes Soupault within the Parisian avant-garde but corrects some dating errors of Soupaults and reverses some of Andr Bretons bowdlerizing, revealing the essential conceptual contribution that psychologist, philosopher, and psychotherapist Pierre Janet played in Soupault and Bretons budding Dada-cum-Surrealist movement. (Breton had neglected the erudite Janet in his accounts.) On the other hand, Polizzotti keenly reports that Soupault tends to assign himself the starring role a bit more than is warranted, thus advancing the thesis that every biography is a disguised autobiography.

Though essentially about his experiences as a rather blissful young man, Soupault wrote this book of portraits at age 66, sparing it the typical excesses of literary juvenilia. Indeed, his generally urbane tone is neither ironic and frivolous, nor competitive and facetious. His clipped, fluid prose avoids academic stodginess with lan, and there is nothing insolent, narcissistic, lecherous, or self-protective about it.

The translation by poet Alan Bernheimer has flair too, delivering Soupaults appealingly eclectic text in delightful form to the Anglophone audience for the first time. Soupaults sharp but sweet anecdotal memories of fellow experimental artists and antagonists include laudable short portraits of Guillaume Apollinaire, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, sad surrealist Ren Crevel, novelist Georges Bernanos, painter Henri Rousseau, poet Charles Baudelaire (whom he sketches as a precursor avant-gardist) and lesser-known poets Pierre Reverdy and Blaise Cendrars. Given the heroic stature of some of these audacious subjects, within their chapters Soupault seems to delight in making large small and small large, humanizing the celebrated with intimate particularization and paeanizing the obscure with encomium.

With a seductive cubist cover painting by Robert Delaunay of a scowling Soupault ignoring a quaking Eiffel Tower, this enjoyable collection of crisp recollections popularizes what was once essentially arcane. Like Marc Dachys essential Discoveries: Dada: The Revolt of Art, Soupaults book with its pocket size, short chapter format, and reasonable price makes for the perfect travel companion. Even though the essays presume a certain level of familiarity with the French avant-garde, they have an engaging quality that transmits Soupaults palpable love for experimental art and for his quelle surprise exclusively male subjects. Lost Profiles offers witty and unexpurgated views of venturesome men during a daring era, but it is in no way a sufficiently broad-spectrum historical overview of the birth of the avant-garde in Paris.

Soupault, whose style of disaffection favored plain living and high thinking, lived a lengthy literary life, never ceasing to write improbable tales. Rather young during World War I when he served in the French army, he saw the Parisian art spirit of the times as one based in Dada iconoclastic destruction, bent on devastating conventional systems of representation, traditional morality, and all sorts of rational social organization (which the Dadaists saw, in light of the war, as depraved and crazed). This effervescent mood, which fted scandal, was particularly incited in Paris by the arrival of Tristan Tzara. This closed a circuit, as Dadaist Tzara had been influenced by Parisian Cubism: borrowing and intensifying the anti-logic of juxtaposition, condensation, and displacement specifically from Synthetic Cubist collage. For Soupault, Tzaras tipsy Dada showed the nonsense latent in all sense.

As Soupault writes, Dada was out to destroy all the established values, the literary practices, and the moral bias in the interests of what Apollinaire (an outspoken and thought-provoking defender of Cubism) called the new spirit in art. Perhaps that is one reason that the essay Steps in the Footsteps (Les pas dans les pas) has been moved from the end in the French edition to open the collection in English: It is here that Soupault recalls how he and Breton were first affiliated through Apollinaires friendship and encouragement as they came to know Tzara and participate in the earliest performances of the Paris Dada movement. In 1919, with Breton and Louis Aragon, Soupault co-founded the Dada journal Littrature. That same year, Soupault collaborated with Breton on Les Champs magntiques (The Magnetic Fields), the text of automatic writing that inspired Andr Massons automatic drawings. Together, these works are widely considered the foundation of the Surrealist movement and the greatest contributions by the original Surrealist group.

Of course, Soupault had a famous falling out with Bretons goatish brand of Surrealism (a term taken from Apollinaires text Onirocritique that was itself snatched from Artemidoruss ancient Greek treatise on dream interpretation) arising from the movements increasingly Soviet Communist ties and Bretons self-anointment as leading arbiter. In 1927 Soupault and his wife Marie-Louise translated William Blakes Songs of Innocence and Experience into French, and the following year Soupault authored a monograph on Blake, arguing that he had anticipated the Surrealist movement.

After putting down this fulfilling read, a few nasty thoughts kept haunting me. Soupaults anti-rational Dada-Surrealism was largely the art of generalizing where the particular was in play. Dada-Surrealism rejected the tight correlation between words and meaning, which perhaps sounds familiar in our era of Trump post-factuality: slippery conceptual bullshit moves that exploit Soupault-type forms of verbal extrapolation in the interests of far-right political manipulations. It seems to me that what Soupault wanted to show us was that verbal impossibilities could produce astonishing transgressions that liberate the mind from conservative militaristic convention something quite the opposite of spectacular post-factual speculative conspiracy theories (think Pizzagate) that support Trump by liberating thought from a concern for credibility.

In that sense (and that one alone), Soupaults avant-gardism helped cultivate a taste for the ambiguity of the post-truth political economy of the alt-right, with its toxic mix of white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, militarism, and oligarchic tendencies. Indeed, hard-right Trump trolls are similar to their Dada predecessors in that they do not recognize any limits to truth claims. For some, merely saying things that are not usually said openly is part of the transgressive thrill of Trumpism. Even when Trump himself is caught in an egregious lie, his anti-globalist, nationalist supporters manage to believe that he is instead revealing critical truths, and that any reporting to the contrary actually exposes the anti-conservative bias of the perceived media and cultural lite.

Like the Dadaists, the trolling radical right has always been acutely sensitive to the emotions of shockingly vulgar communications whose primary goal is cognitive manipulation. Trump panders to prejudice by liberating previously repressed aggression, viciousness, and mockery and redirecting it at immigrants, people of color, women, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. So it saddens me to say that I could not help but notice that the alt-right trolls and the Dada-Surreal heroes share many of the clever cognitive-dissonant techniques in their messaging. Of course, the evil onus is on the alt-right (already a pass term, as this groups objectives are no longer an alternative to anything but central to sites of forceful power). Therefore, it is important to note that Soupault did not stop his intellectual pursuits with the anti-rational Magnetic Fields. Following his co-founding of Surrealism, he practiced journalism and directed Radio Tunis from 1937 to 1940 after he was arrested in Tunisia by the pro-Vichy regime during WWII. After the war, he resumed his journalistic activities, worked for UNESCO, and taught at Swarthmore College while writing essays and novels.

The reality of Trump has now sunk in, and the sense of trauma on the cultural left has deepened (with the stakes only likely to get higher). As a starting point for political activism/artivism, perhaps artists engaged in increasingly vehement expressions of dissent may wish to consider how best to combat the normalization of Trumps impulsive anti-rationalism through the refusing anti-rationalist eyes of Soupaults disaffection, conversely tempered by his journalistic rigor and educational commitment. This double-bladed approach of utilizing anti-rational (post-truth) mind games and facts-based objective accuracy may best frustrate Trumps insatiable desire for recognition and get under his oh-so-thin skin.

Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism is now available from online booksellers and City Lights.

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A French Surrealist's Eclectic Remembrances of His Cohort, Finally in English - Hyperallergic

SBCC Presents ‘A Flea in Her Ear’ – Santa Barbara Independent

Theatre Group at Santa Barbara City College Performs OutlandishFarce

Bedroom farces, such as the current Theatre Group at SBCC production A Flea in Her Ear, are excursions into a universe liberated from the consequences of social grievances. The outlandish mad-cappery of Flea is set in motion when two socialite wives, Raymonde (Addison Clarke) and Lucienne (Courtney Schwass), conspire in an ill-fated plot to trap Raymondes husband in flagrante, by sending him a steamy proposition letter soaked in perfume. Three acts worth of mistaken identities, doppelgangers, slapstick, innuendo, and skirt chasing ensue but rest assured that conclusion brings complete resolution, and all the characters forget and forgive the buffoonish offenses theyve both suffered and perpetuated throughout theplay.

SBCCs production of Flea, which runs through March 18 at the Garvin Theatre, is a surprisingly honest presentation of farce. Featuring several suitably over-the-top characterizations and tireless physical performances, the cast tore the set to shreds literally. Doors were slammed off their hinges, and costumes were bursting at the seams, which provided a strangely apt sense of destruction within a piece where the humor depends on a reality exaggerated far beyond rationalism. Commanding performances by Sean Jackson (as both Victor Chandebise and his double, drunk bellhop Poche) and Pacomio Sun, as jealous, deranged Spaniard Don Carlos Homenides de Histangua, kept a stumbling performance on its feet, forcing the story to stay in scene despite numerous chaotic moments that brought the cast desperately close to completebreakdown.

While slow to start, A Flea in Her Ear hit its stride in the second act when the characters all meet up through coincidence and deceptive design at the Frisky Puss Hotel. There was an atmosphere of true mirth onstage that conveyed the deliciously ridiculous elements of the story in a satisfying manner. The Theatre Group at SBCCs Flea doesnt have polished choreography, but it still delivers joyful, vigorous performances that inspire genuinelaughter.

Presented by the Theatre Group at SBCC. At Garvin Theatre, Sat., Mar. 4. Shows through Mar.18.

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SBCC Presents 'A Flea in Her Ear' - Santa Barbara Independent

Is Democracy Dying Before Our Eyes In America? OpEd – Eurasia Review

By Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.*

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Freedom Thomas Jefferson

And at the end they go crazy Giambattista Vico

John Adams, the second president of the United States, did a study on the life of Republics from their inception all the way to the 18th century. To his great surprise, he discovered that they all died, sooner or later. In other words, they were mortal. The ones who lasted longer were what he calls republics of virtue.

By republic of virtue Adams meant a polity based on the rule of law, concern for the common good of the whole polity, rationality, justice, personal virtues such as courage, honesty, sobriety, wisdom, harmony, enterprise, magnanimity. These were the virtues as enunciated by the ancient Greeks ethical treatises, considered essential components of personal as well as collective well-being.

Rome could also function as an example of that stance toward republicanism, at least at the beginning. That may explain why it lasted so long, some 500 years as a Republic based on democratic principles of peoples representation via the Senate. It was built on a solid political foundation.

But as that other great observer of republicanism in Roman history, Giambattista Vico, well observed, it too eventually succumbed to the process of an historical law wherein republican polities begin with a basis in necessity and a need to survive (the poetical era of the gods), continue with a basis in utility based on prosperity (the era of the heroes), and finally, as he puts it, they become corrupt with abundance and luxury and they go mad (the era of men) The process of madness comes in the third and final cycle. Then the process repeats itself and from extreme rationalism there is a gradual return to the poetical.

That is to say, at the end republics manage to destroy themselves. The destruction happens interiorly, with the corruption of the essential moral core of the republic based on virtue. And this was the second great surprise to Adams: they did not succumb to external invasions by fierce enemies; they committed suicide.

The best example of that sad situation is to be found in Roman history in the reign of Caligula which was the culmination of imperial corruption. Prominent on stage, at that time, there was a deranged emperor sitting on top of a pyramid of power which had lost even the memory of its virtuous republican heritage.

He was a vindictive sort of fellow and thought of himself as a magnificent god before whom his subjects had to kneel in adoration, even when he presented himself naked in every respect, especially the moral sense. Few dared shout that the emperor is naked. In effect, the Romans had become sychophantic narcissistic idolaters worshipping themselves. Caligula was the supreme representation of that narcissistic idolatry. Rome worshipped itself as a goddess. It was nothing less than the beginning of the end.

Enter Thomas Jefferson: he agreed with Adams that virtue was essential but added that it was also important to keep up ones guard and not sleep on ones laurels, so to speak, and not take the democratic system, as brilliant as it might be, too much for granted. That too can be corrupted. Hence he coined the famous dictum: Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

When Jefferson counseled eternal vigilance he did not mean the installment of a powerful invincible army buttressed by state-of-the-arts weapons that would keep the peace world-wide (the pax Americana, similar to the pax Romana), but the preservation of the virtues on which the republic had been built: its democracy, its checks and balances, its freedom of speech, its Constitutional guarantees, its bill of rights, its freedom of religion. Unless those were preserved, Democracy would eventually turn into a shamble of sorts. Democracy can be powerful in a military sense, but to remain a democracy, its foundations cannot be based on sheer power, in a Machiavellian mode, so familiar to European nationalism, but on virtue as the Greeks and early Romans understood it.

Lets now briefly look at the present situation. The parallels between Trump and Caligula are uncanny. Undoubtedly we still have all the trappings of democracy in America: three branches of government, elections, congress, executive, judicial, constitutional guarantees of human and political rights, free unfettered debates.

All this in theory. In practice we have an electorate of which 50% and more does not bother to vote; of the other 50% approximately 25% have opted to vote for a madman who has somehow managed to become a president by the subversion of democracy even if never won the popular vote (which he lost by 3 million votes). He won mostly by electoral college count and, most importantly, by harnessing the help of an undemocratic foreign power run by authoritarian oligarchs, Putin at the forefront. That remains to be investigated.

To be perfectly truthful and frank, the whole process was rigged and fraudulent. Had Congress insisted on the revelation of Trumps tax returns, as all other modern presidents had done, his financial connections with Russia, going back 30 years, would have come to the surface and would have revealed malfeasance and corruption. He has no intention of doing so, and the Republican controlled Congress has no intention, so far, to demand the disclosure; which in effect means that they are in on the malfeasance.

This illegitimate president reigning like Caligula and demanding constant adulation, has so far fooled some 40% of the electorate by making it look like populism: he feigns to be for the people and by the people. In reality he has surrounded himself with fat cats who are beginning to show their bias for tax cuts for the rich and diminishment of social benefits for the poor and middle class, not excluding their health insurance. This is in process as we speak.

Behind the scene, pulling the strings, there is his strategist Steve Bannon, who is in possessions an historical theory of clash of civilizations and white supremacy. His allies are those who believe that there is an alternate government at work (consisting mostly of Intelligence agencies) which they call deep alternate government.

It stand to reason that the enemy would be perceived to be intelligence agencies, globalization in any shape or form, the liberal media, and, by default, genuine democracy itself. And that is exactly what we have been witnessing for the last few weeks. Few pundits and media experts have shouted the Emperor is naked.

The allies, on the other hand, are perceived to be white supremacist authoritarian fascist-leaning nations like Russia or Hungary who have little use for democracy and social justice. Its all grab what you can for yourself, at the personal and collective level and to hell with democracy.

We have now reached the sorry stage when some 30% of Americans have more sympathy for Russia than for our traditional allies in the European Union. The same people continue deluding themselves that they live in a thriving democracy. I suppose derangement is like a disease: it spreads exponentially.

So the urgent question resurfaces: are we witnessing the beginning of the end of American and Western democracy as we know it? Will Jeffersons dictum come back to haunt us when America and the EU will have destroyed themselves by destroying their own principles and ideals? Indeed, Jefferson had in on target: eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

Let me end with a modest proposal. The Romans had in place a system of emergency in case of a political disaster. It was the equivalent of desperate measures to confront desperate situations, like a Hannibal, for example. We should install such a measure, democratically installed and approved, of course: when the republic is in mortal danger, and it is discovered that a national election was rigged and fraudulent, it should be declare null and void and the citizens be invited to return to the urns and vote again, this time in a legal and fair mode. Any takers? Let those who have ears, let them hear.

About the author: *Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of the neo-immigrant exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

Source: This article was published at Modern Diplomacy.

The Modern Diplomacy is a leading European opinion maker - not a pure news-switchboard. Todays world does not need yet another avalanche of (disheartened and decontextualized) information, it needs shared experience and honestly told opinion. Determined to voice and empower, to argue but not to impose, the MD does not rigidly guard its narrative. Contrary to the majority of media-houses and news platforms, the MD is open to everyone coming with the firm and fair, constructive and foresighted argumentation.

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Is Democracy Dying Before Our Eyes In America? OpEd - Eurasia Review

Interview with Deo Ssekitooleko Representative of Center for Inquiry International Uganda – Conatus News

Interview with Deo Ssekitooleko Representative of Center for Inquiry International Uganda

In brief, what is your family story?

I was born in a poor African family. I firstsaw my biological father when I was ten years old. I am the heir of my late father, Fulgensio Ssekitooleko. He was a very committed catholic, very social, and a committed humanitarian. I grew up with my mother Noelina Nalwada which was typically asingle-parent household (but atother times I had step-fathers). I am the only child. My fathers children, apart from one, died after getting infected with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s. My mother is an atheist, agnostic or skeptic. When I tried to enter a catholic seminary, she abused me and challenged me whether I hadever seen somebody who has ever seen God or returned from death.

However, one of my last stepfathers who was both a devout catholic and a believer in African traditional religion influenced me to be a very religious person (Catholic) in my early youth. My mother knew how to fight for my (and her) rights, so I never understood issues concerning human rights violations during my youth except when seeing teachersapply corporal punishment to my fellow students. As I was growing up, I was not aware of the massive human rights abuse by the governments of the day, but, once in a while, I could hear whispers about somebody who has disappeared or killed by the government. Those were regimes of president Iddi Amin Dada, and the second regime of Apollo Milton Obote as he was fighting guerrillas lead by Yoweri Museveni the current president of Uganda

I am married to Elizabeth, and we have been togetherfor 17 years. We have four children: Sylvia (16 years), Diana (12), Julius (11), and Nicholas (3).

Are there any others things about your personal story you would like to share? I grew up striving to succeed in education so that I could escape poverty, ignorance, and unfairness in society. My mothers relatives were always exploited by witchdoctors who claimed to have healing-powers and thus could curediseases including HIV/AIDS. My uncles and aunts gave away their land to witchdoctors in order to get cured from HIV/AIDS, but they later died leaving no property to their offsprings.

In the years to come, the Pentecostal movements emergedpromising prosperity on earth, good health and many other opportunities. The two groups, i.e. the traditional religions and the Pentecostals, were undermining the struggle against HIV/AIDS, exploiting poor people. Yet, nobody could talk about them or challenge them.

This was a traumatising experience. I never knew whether this was a human rights issue or mere belief, or ignorance. As the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends the right to belief, all governments have gone on to include that article in their constitutions.

This means that ignorant people can be exploited in the name of belief as it is their human right to be exploited as long as they believe. This has been one of my most traumatising struggles in life. I have lost so manyrelatives out of their ignorance of science concerninghealth issues. Yet, governments cannot do anything about this because the politicians are also superstitious and the laws protect the charlatans.

In Uganda, almost 80 per cent of FM radio stations spend most of their time promoting the work of faith healers and witchdoctors. Rationalists do not have resources to own a radio station or to buy time on radio and television.

In my struggleto promote rationalism, I founded the Uganda Humanist Association. I became the East African Representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (2007-2012). Now, I am the Ugandan Representative of the Center for Inquiry International.

As advocacy campaigns are difficult, we now engage with local communities to talk about science and superstition in health and community development. Our work is now to invite whoever happens to be involved to discuss these issues openly and inform communities of the dangers of superstition in health and community development.

As of now, I have personally suspended armchair conference-hall humanism. I am in the trenches of community practical humanism. Whatever little I do, I feel proud that at least I am part of the struggle to rationaliseAfrican communities.

What are your religious/irreligious, ethical and political beliefs? I grew up as a staunch Catholic, and then at university I became a radical secular humanist. Now, having interacted with various so-called humanists and observed their limitations (especially in building harmony, inclusive communities, practical approaches to society problems, and a general lack of openness)I have reviewed my humanism.

I am now a free thinking, liberal, practical humanist. I do not mind other peoples beliefs on the condition thatthey do not infringe on the rights, happiness, and welfare of other human beings. I can work with Catholics on a health project, but I tell them point blank that the use of condoms should not be underminedand that family planning is essential in our families.

I tell Pentecostals that by preaching miracles such as faith-healing they are committing homicide. However, I enjoy my intellectual philosophical humanism as we debate Darwinism, the Big Bang theory, the environment, and the future of humanity among others. Politically, I am a social welfare democrat. Democracy should not be only about elections, but on how society shares opportunities and resources and how it promotes harmony.

I do not support the winner takes it all type of democracy. I prefer proportional representation in government as a form of democracy,as is the case in many countries which suffered the madness of the second world war.

How did you become an activist and a sceptic? When I enrolled inhigh school, I was still a very confused young man. I had experienced a lot in my childhood. My Biology teacher, the late Mathias Katende, made an explosion in my brain and changed my ideological worldview. He introduced evolutionary biology to us.

The more he taught, the more we became confused. All along, I had prepared myself to go to heaven and meetMary, the mother of Jesus, and escape worldly problems. However, by the time I entered University to study Botany, Zoology, and Psychology, I had become completely healed from this ideological and philosophical trauma.

At University, we got more lessons on evolution, but the lecturers were not as committed to evolution as my high school teacher. In fact, most students never took evolution seriously. They just wrote their examinations and moved on with life.

At university, by luck, a friend gave me a book on discovering religions. I read about most religions, worldviews, and philosophies. I found Humanism to be more related to my new worldview. I wrote to the British Humanist Association and got a positive response from Matt Cherry who encouraged me to form a humanist organisation. That was the birth of the Uganda Humanist Association.

He connected me to the center for Inquiry International through Norm Allen who was the Director of African Americans for Humanism (AAH). The Free Inquiry Magazines that Norm sent us opened our eyes wider on how humanity sees itself. Later, we were to work with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) on many secular projects.

Do you consider yourself a progressive?

I am very progressive. I have always been evolving in my ideological, philosophical, cultural, and political views. I used to be a staunch believer in American democracy, but now I am more rotated towards European Social Parliamentary Democracy. I used to hate Chinas politics, but now I see it relevant in order to maintain orderliness and social welfare to a country (that has over one billion people) under one authority. I am a progressive because I am ever open to new challenges, new ideas, and new world views for the good of humanity and the environment at large.

Does progressivism logically imply other beliefs, or tend to or even not all?

I dont look at progressivism as a confined ideology or philosophy. If so, then I need more education about it. In my view, progressivism should be open to all aspects of human life including but not limited to culture, beliefs, politics, philosophy, and views about the environment among others.

How did you come to adopt socially progressive worldview?

As I explained earlier, it is a combination of my childhood experience, my culture, my environment, and possibly my inherited biological genes. I am lucky to have been introduced to evolutionary theory by my high school biology teacher and through reading various related literature including Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker. The works of Philosophers such as Thomas Paines The Age of Reason taught me critical reasoning skills. Studying the American revolution was equally important in my political thought development. I was humbled by the sacrifices of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues to liberate South Africa from apartheid. Julius Nyereres trials with community socialism in order to liberate Tanzanians from poverty and to unite them into one nation was a positive human commitment. I can not forget reading the life of Bill Clinton in his voluminous autobiography. It is a story of moving from no where to the top of the mountains of his country.

Thank you for your time,Deo Ssekitooleko Contacts: Email: [emailprotected] The website is being worked on.

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Interview with Deo Ssekitooleko Representative of Center for Inquiry International Uganda - Conatus News

Philharmonic program celebrates passion, youth – Albuquerque Journal

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Cellist Edvard Pogossian will join the New Mexico Philharmonic as the featured guest.

Cellist Edvard Pogossian of the Juilliard School will join the musicians on Josef Haydns Cello Concerto in C Major on Sunday at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Musicologists knew Haydn had written a second cello concerto, but the score remained undiscovered until 1961, guest conductor Oriol Sans said. The composer had written the beginning of the principal theme of the first movement in his draft catalog in 1765.

The music was discovered in a library in Prague, Sans said.

Oriol Sans will be guest conductor for Sundays concert.

Whats funny is it has become more famous than the other one, he said. Its one of the first great cello concertos.

The concert will open with Piazzollas Meloda en La menor (Melody in A minor). Piazzolla is considered one of the masters of tango.

The composer penned the piece during a love affair that dissolved, Sans said. He had originally called the piece October Sky.

He had to change it because he was upset with her, Sans said. It has a beautiful melody with very typical Piazzola rhythms that remind us of tango.

Haydns Symphony No. 49, La passione, was written in 1768 during his Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) period. The movement encouraged extremes of emotion in response to the confines of rationalism.

We are not sure why it has this name, Sans said. Some people think it comes from this piece being used at Easter celebrations.

The concert will end with Mendelssohns Sinfonia No. 7 in D minor, written when the composer was just 12.

Mendelssohn was one of the most amazing prodigies in the history of music, Sans said.

His wealthy parents provided him with his own orchestra.

They had money, Sans said. Besides that, he had talent.

Its kind of like an exercise, but he has that incredibly beautiful music. Its packed with ideas like a young composer was practicing what hes learned.


Philharmonic program celebrates passion, youth - Albuquerque Journal

Thomas Isaac budget: Split between populism and Marxist rationalism – Times of India

Tapping into capital markets to fund infra projects is a smart move but shouldn't finance minister Dr Thomas Isaac have also used the Kerala budget he presented on Friday to bring down revenue expenditure? Is he split between mai-baap populism and Marxist rationalism, has the politician in him trumped the trained economist that he is?

The crucial and contentious part of the Kerala budget presented by finance minister Thomas Isaac on Friday in the state assembly, which the LDF government has touted as an "alternative development" path, lay buried in the fine print. In 201718, the state will receive loans worth Rs 21,227.95 crore from various agencies, but 75.6% of this - i.e., Rs 16,043.14 crore -will have to be spent to bridge the state's revenue deficit. A state which has to spend threefourths of the loan amount, meant for capital expenditure, to address revenue deficit is certainly not in the pink of economic health. Rather, it may be moving to an inexorable debt trap.

Isaac justified this state of affairs by citing the stagnation that has arisen as a result of demonetisation and the corresponding need on the part of the state government to increase its budget expenses considerably. He even drew a parallel with his own 2008 budget which was announced at the time of global recession.

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Thomas Isaac budget: Split between populism and Marxist rationalism - Times of India

Pankaj Mishra’s ‘Age Of Anger’ Is A Flawed But Fascinating Intellectual History – Swarajya

British writer of immense learning, Pankaj Mishra has authored a new book, Age of Anger: A History of the Present, that reflects an extraordinary breadth of reading. It opens as a conventional work of intellectual history in this case, the history of modernisation and its travails but soon becomes more of a collage of aperus organised around themes laid out by the path-breaking critic of modernity Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the 1920s Iranian writer Jalal al-Ahmed and the Italian poet-cum-Duce Gabriel DAnnunzio, among many others.

For instance, Mishra pits Rousseaus finicky quest for authenticity against Voltaires heirs, the mimic men who try to replicate Anglo-French manners and mores. Mishra sees Voltaire as primarily a champion of enlightened despotism, while Rousseau is presented as a clear-eyed critic of liberal rationalism and cosmopolitan pretension. Mishra is sympathetic to al-Ahmeds obsession with the psychic damage or Westoxification imposed on the Islamic world by western colonialism. Hes fascinated by DAnnunzio, who, in the wake of the First World War, choreographed a disastrous fascist future that paved the way for Mussolini. DAnnunzio was the first Italian politician who decked out his supporters in black uniforms and stiff armed salutes. He cheered on the Italian armies as they conquered the Ottoman provinces that came to be called Libya and which, Mishra notes, suffered the worlds first aerial bombing in 1912. Libya became the testing ground for the New Man theorized by Nietzsche and Sorel.

Mishras loosely connected pearls of insight about belief, mindsets and outlooks are tied together by his anti-anti-Communism, an outlook echoed by todays anti-anti-Islamicism, exemplified in the pages of the British Guardian, which paints the Muslim world as the victim of western liberalism. Mishras disdain for the liberal ideals of progress and reasoned choice, understood as excesses of individualism, will be familiar to readers of Elie Kedourie on nationalism, Jacob Talmon on the creation of secular salvationism, Christopher Lasch and John Gray on the paradoxes of progress and William Pfaff on the pent-up violence of the modern world. But his discussion of the Nazi origins of Hindu nationalism will be eye-opening to many readers.

Mishras intermittent account of how the writings of Giuseppe Mazzini, the liberal nationalist founder of modern Italy, inspired nationalists in India and China places the problem of modernisation in an illuminating context. On a darker note, Mazzini influenced Georges Sorel, whose anti-liberal paeans to the power of myth excited would-be dictators on both right and left. Sorel saw in the working class the collective incarnation of the Nietzschean superman. Mussolini first read Sorels work on violence when he was a socialist, but he continued to incorporate his ideas as he moved to develop fascism.

Mishra is right to argue that attempts to modernise traditional cultures involve, as in Italy and Germany, considerable psychic dislocation. It can produce a burning anger fuelled by the emotional displacement of communal cultures fractured by the demands of economic individualism. But Mishra goes off the rails when he tries to assimilate the acquired insanity of Islamic jihad into the pains of modernisation. Modernization as in Iran offered an alternative to the meld of entitlements and resentments borne of Islamic claims to rule over infidels. Islam has always been a political theology of the sword. Muhammad wasnt responding to modernisation when he slaughtered the Jews of Medina.

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Pankaj Mishra's 'Age Of Anger' Is A Flawed But Fascinating Intellectual History - Swarajya

Reason, Creativity and Freedom: The Communalist Model – Truth-Out

Whether the twenty-first century will be the most radical of times or the most reactionary will depend overwhelmingly upon the kind of social movement and program that social radicals create out of the theoretical, organizational, and political wealth that has accumulated during the past two centuries The direction we select may well determine the future of our species for centuries to come.

-- Murray Bookchin,The Communalist Project(2002)

In the aftermath of Donald Trump's election, devastating images and memories of the First and Second World Wars flood our minds. Anti-rationalism, racialized violence, scapegoating, misogyny and homophobia have been unleashed from the margins of society and brought into the political mainstream.

Meanwhile, humanity itself runs in a life-or-death race against time. The once-unthinkable turmoil of climate change is now becoming reality, and no serious attempts are being undertaken by powerful actors and institutions to holistically and effectively mitigate the catastrophe. As the tenuous and paradoxical era of American republicanism comes to an end, nature's experiment in such a creative, self-conscious creature as humanity reaches a perilous brink.

Precisely because these nightmares have become reality, now is the time to decisively face the task of creating a free and just political economic system. For the sake of humanity -- indeed for the sake of all complex life on earth as we know it -- we must countervail the fascism embodied today in nation-state capitalism and unravel a daunting complex of interlocking social, political, economic and ecological problems. But how?

As a solution tothe present situation, a growing number of people in the world are proposing "communalism": the usurpation of capitalism, the state, and social hierarchy by the way of town, village, and neighborhood assemblies and federations. Communalism is a living idea, one that builds upon a rich legacy of political history and social movements.

The Commune From Rojava to the Zapatistas

The term communalism originated from the revolutionary Parisian uprising of 1871 and was later revived bythelate-twentiethcentury political philosopherMurray Bookchin(1931-2006). Communalism is often used interchangeably with "municipalism", "libertarian municipalism" (a term also developed by Bookchin) and "democratic confederalism" (coined more recently bytheimprisoned Kurdish political leader Abdullah calan).

Although each of these terms attempt to describe direct, face-to-face democracy, communalism stresses its organic and lived dimensions. Face-to-face civic communities, historically called communes, are more than simply a structure or mode of management. Rather, they are social and ethical communities uniting diverse social and cultural groups. Communal life is a good in itself.

There are countless historical precedents that model communalism's institutional and ethical principles. Small-scale and tribal-based communities provide many suchexamples. In North America, the Six Nations Haudenasanee (Iroquis) Confederacy governed the Great Leaks region by confederal direct democracy for over 800 years. In coastal Panama, the Kuna continue to manage an economically vibrant island archipelago. Prior to the devastation of colonization and slavery, the Igbo of the Niger Delta practiced a highly cosmopolitan form of communal management. More recently, in Chiapas, Mexico, the Zapatista Movement havereinventedpre-Columbian assembly politics through hundreds of autonomousmunicipiosand five regional capitals calledcaracoles(snails) whose spirals symbolize the joining of villages.

Communalist predecessors also emerge in large-scale urban communities.From classical Athens to the medieval Italian city-states, direct democracy has a home in the city. In 2015, the political movement Barcelona en Com won the Barcelona city mayorship based on a vast, richly layered collective of neighborhood assemblies. Today, they are the largest party in the city-council, and continue to design platforms and policies through collective assembly processes. In Northern Syria, the Kurdish Freedom Movement hasestablisheddemocratic confederalism, a network of people's assemblies and councils that govern alongside the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

These are just a few examples among countlesspolitical traditions thattestify to "the great theoretical, organizational and political wealth" that is available to empower people against naked authoritarianism.

Power, Administration and Citizenship

The most fundamental institution of communalism is the civicassembly.Civic assembliesare regular communal gatherings opentoall adults within a given municipality -- such as a town, village or city borough -- for the purpose of discussing, debating and making decisions about matters thatconcern the community as a whole.

In order to understand how civic assemblies function, one must understand the subtle, but crucial distinction between administration and decision-making power. Administration encompasses tasks and plans related to executing policy. The administration of a particular project may make minor decisions -- such as what kind of stone to use for a bridge.

Power, on the other hand, refers to the ability to actually make policy and major decisions -- whether or not to build a bridge. In communalism, power lies within this collective body, while smaller, mandated councils are delegated to execute them. Experts such as engineers, or public health practicioners play animportantrole in assemblies by informing citizens, but it is the collective body itself which is empowered to actuallymakedecisions.

With clear distinctions between administration and power, the nature of individual leadership changes dramatically. Leaders cultivate dialogue and execute the will of the community. The Zapatistas expresses this is through the termcargo, meaning the charge or burden. Council membership execute the will of their community, leadershipmeans"to obey and not to command, to represent and not to supplantto move down and not upwards."

A second critical distinction between professional-driven politics as usual and communalism is citizenship.By using the term "citizen", communalists deliberately contradict the restrictive and emptied notion of citizenship invoked by modern-day nation-states. In communal societies, citizenship is conferred to every adult who lives within the municipality.Everyadult who lives within the municipality is empowered to directly participate, vote and take a turn performing administrative roles. Rather, this radical idea of citizenship is based on residency and face-to-face relationships.

Civic assemblies are a living tradition that appear time and again throughout history.It is worth pausing here to consider the conceptual resources left to us by classicalAthenian democracy. Admittedly, Athenian society was far from perfect. Like the rest of the Mediterranean world at that time, Athens was built upon the backs of slaves and domesticated women. Nonetheless, Athenian democracy to this day is the most well-documented example of direct, communal self-management:

Agora: The common public square or meetinghouse where the assembly gathers. The agora is home to our public selves, where we go to make decisions, raise problems, and engage in public discussion.

Ekklesia: The general assembly, a community of citizens.

Boule: The administrative body of 500 citizens that rotated once every year.

Polis: The city itself. But here again, the term refers not to mere materiality, but rather to a rich, multi-species and material community. The polis is an entity and character unto itself.

Paeida: Ongoing political and ethical education individuals undergo to achieve arete, virtue or excellence.

The key insight of classical Athenian democracy is that assembly politics are organic. Far more than a mere structure or set of mechanisms, communalism is a synergy of elements and institutions that lead to a particular kind of community and process. Yet assemblies alone do not exhaust communal politics. Just as communities are socially, ecologically and economically inter-dependent, a truly free and ethical society must engage in robust inter-community dialogue and association. Confederation allows autonomous communities to"scale up" for coordination across aregional level.

Confederation differs from representative democracy because it isbased on recallable delegates rather than individually empowered representatives.Delegates cannot make decisions on behalf of a community. Rather, they bring proposals back down to the assembly.Charters articulate a confederacy's ethical principles and define expectations for membership. In this way, communities have a basis to hold themselves and one another accountable. Without clear principles, basis of debate to actions based on principles of reason, humanism and justice.

In the Kurdish Freedom Movement of Rojava, Northern Syria, the RojavaSocial Contractis based on "pillars" of feminism,ecology, moraleconomy and direct democracy. These principles resonate throughout the movement as a whole, tying together diverse organizations and communities on a shared basis of feminism, radical multi-culturalism and ecological stewardship.

A Free Society

There is no single blueprint for a municipal movement. Doubtlessly, however, the realization of such free political communities can only come about with fundamental changes in our social, cultural and economic fabric. The attitudes of racism and xenophobia, which have fueled the virulent rise of fascism today in places like the United States, must be combated by a radical humanism that celebrates ethnic, cultural and spiritual diversity. For millennia, sex and gender oppression have denigrated values and social forms attributed to women. These attitudes must be supplanted by a feminist ethic and sensibility of mutual care.

Nor can freedom cannot come about without economic stability. Capitalism along with all forms of economic exploitation must be abolished and replaced by systems of production and distribution for use and enjoyment rather than for profit and sale. The vast, concrete belts of "modern"industrialcities must be overhauled and rescaledintomeaningful, livable and sustainable urban spaces. We must deal meaningfully with problems of urban development, gentrification and inequality embodied within urban space.

Just as individuals cannot be separated from the broader political community of which they are a part, human society cannot be separated from our context within the natural world. The cooperative, humanistic politics of communalism thus work hand in hand with a radical ecological sensibility that recognizes human beings a unique, self-conscious part of nature.

While managing our own needs and desires, we have the capacity to be outward-thinking and future-oriented. The Haudenasaunee (Iroquis) Confederacy calls this the "Seven Generations Principle." According to the Seven Generations Principle, all political deliberations must be made on behalf of the present community -- which includes animals and the broader ecological community -- for the succeeding seven generations.

While even a brief sketch of all the social changes needed today far exceed the scope of a short essay,the many works of Murray Bookchin and other social ecologists provide rich discussions about the meaning of a directly democratic and ecological society. From the Green Movement, the Anti-Globalization Movement, Occupy Wall Street, to Chile and Spain's Indignados Movements, communalist ideals have also played a growing role in social and political struggles throughout the world. It is a growing movement in its own right.

Communalism is not a hard and rigid ideology, but rather a coherent, unfolding body of ideas built upon acoreset of principles and institutions. It is, by definition, a process -- one that is open and adaptable to virtually infinitecultural, historicaland ecological contexts. Indeed, communalism's historical precedents in tribal democracy and town/village assemblies can be found in nearly every corner of theearth.

The era ofprofessional-driven, state "politics" has come to an end. Only grassroots democracy at a global scale can successfully oppose the dystopian future ahead. All the necessary tools are at hand. A great wealth of resources have accumulated during humanity's many struggles. With it -- with communalism -- we might remake the world upon humanity's potential for reason, creativity and freedom.

Originally posted here:

Reason, Creativity and Freedom: The Communalist Model - Truth-Out

Why America Can’t Afford to Get Into a Trade War with China – The National Interest Online

Throughout the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump blasted China for its protectionist trade policies, currency manipulation and a number of other accusations. Indeed, these accusations were not limited to Trump as China bashing is simply standard fare for anyone seeking elected office and on the campaign trail. Much of Trumps campaign was, however, met with derision. As the election process unfolded, the derision soon turned to snickers. As the election continued, the snickers turned downright somber while Trump sailed past his Republican opponents Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and others who had been deemed more likely to become the GOP nominee.

Among the intelligentsia, the mood has turned to alarm as now President Trump has set out to do exactly as he promised during his America First campaign. To show his sincerity to the campaign promise of bringing jobs back to the United States, he kicked off his first day in the Oval Office by issuing an Executive Order that cancelled American participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP was President Obamas signature trade deal. It created a free-trade zone with eleven other nations for approximately 40 percent of the worlds economy. Trump also threatened to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods if China does not behave accordingly.

Since Trumps selection of Iowa governor Terry Branstad as his ambassador to China, the president may be backing away from some of his campaign promises. Still, the fact that Trump was elected based upon the use of these rhetorical devices suggests that there is a profound misunderstanding, if not complete lack of understanding, of the symbiotic relationship between the United States and China. It is also worth noting that, had his opponent Hillary Clinton won the election, she too would have won based upon some of the same anti-China trade rhetoric.

Is ignorance dangerous?

In his book, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (1963), Richard Hofstadter once wrote that after the 1952 election, the intellectual was now dismissed as an egghead, an oddity, [who] would be governed by a party which had little use for or understanding of him, and would be made the scapegoat for everything from the income tax to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Adding to that of Hofstadter, Arthur Schlesinger had remarked that anti-intellectualism (and anti-rationalism) has long been the anti-Semitism of the businessman. It appears that America has set a new low bar, with an electorate that is smug in its ignorance. Yet, it prides itself on knowing who best should guide the myriad U.S. policiesfrom trade, investment and currency to geopolitical strategyto achieve the national interest.

Americans always admire those that are decisive and true to their word. But those qualities are only admirable when decisions and actions are based upon a clear and unvarnished understanding of the problem. That either candidate could win an election based on attacking a trade policy that has benefitted so many people on both sides of the Pacific for so long is at best disingenuous, and at worst, exploitation. Voters need to be more informed about the policies and agendas of their candidates and politicians need to stop pandering to a political base that subscribes to a zero-sum, take no prisoners theology. Both need to develop an understanding of the historical context between the two countries.

Philosopher Sren Kierkegaard remarked that Life can only be understood backwards . . . but it must be lived forwards. In developing sensible and pragmatic Sino-U.S. policies for the future, likely the most consequential relationship in the twenty-first century, voters and policymakers must have at least an understanding and appreciation of the past.

Partners in peace

The generally understood starting point for Americas trade relations with China begins in 1784 when the privateer Empress of China set sail from New York Harbor for Canton (Guangzhou). In fact, trade relations had already begun during the seventeenth century. However, while Chinoiserie did exist in America at that time, direct trade with China was limited by the English Parliaments Navigation Act of 1651. It was not until after the 1783 Treaty of Paris that the Patriot war financier Robert Morris decided to establish trade between the new Republic of the United States and China to encourage others in the adventurous pursuit of commerce. Free from the mercantilist policies of England, Morris sent the Empress of China on its maiden voyage to China. In doing so, a tectonic shift was created for the Republic as it severed its commercial obeisance to the United Kingdom and embarked on a new relationship with the Middle Kingdom.

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Why America Can't Afford to Get Into a Trade War with China - The National Interest Online

The ideas election | The Indian Express – The Indian Express

Written by Prasanna A. Deshpande | Updated: March 3, 2017 8:22 am Factors like the charisma of the BJP campaign, the projection of the state governments accomplishments and the ever-operative Modi effect, have definitely had a role in turning the tide of votes towards the BJP.

The victory of the BJP in the municipal elections in Maharashtra is not just a vote against the NCP and Congress. It is also a rejection of the provincial progressivism of the social organisations nurtured by these parties. Factors like the charisma of the BJP campaign, the projection of the state governments accomplishments and the ever-operative Modi effect, have definitely had a role in turning the tide of votes towards the BJP. At another level, the social significance of the BJPs victory is that people of Maharashtra have voted against the provincial and imported theory of progressivism and liberalism that originated in the West. This homogenising progressivism used for political tokenism and as a tool for abusing the innocuous traditional and family values of the people of Maharashtra has cost the Congress-NCP their political presence.

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Western theories perceive progressivism as a process of avant-garde reasoning through a resistance to the institutionalised Semitic, monolithic society. Polity and politics are to be separated from the clutches of religious systems. This notion of democracy does not recognise the inherently liberal and inclusive culture of the people of India and in Maharashtras case, as a guiding principle of the state. The western idea of secularism demands an absolute ideological autonomy from spiritual and religious values because the Semitic philosophy is essentially expansionist. Hence, western intellectuals approach progressive politics as a critique of any subservience of the state to cultural traditions and resist reciprocal relations between them.

In India, our sensibilities and consciousness are distinct from the West. This distinction needs to be recognised and reflected in our polity. The so-called progressive brigade, on the contrary, adopted a derisive language against the culture of the people rooted in tradition. The Congress and NCP undertook a short-cut to create a rational society through an imposed aloofness towards popular beliefs and culture. This terminology of rationalism, vivekvaad, secularism, freedom of speech, Hindu terrorism, anti-superstition became the weapons of (mass) culture destruction.

The cultural politics of progressive activists, bound by NGOs indulging in festival-shaming, tradition-bashing, ritual-punching, faith-deriding and debunking popular culture, has always been supported by the Congress and NCP in the name of the progressive values. This culturally leftist activism was found by these parties to be a handy instrument of countering the pro-tradition, pro-nationalism image of the BJP. This insurgence was neither apolitical nor a genuine activism of the reformist type. These naysayers and why brigades had all the political ammunition save one: They did not use conscience. Their anti-tradition activism was directed against even those traditions which the people at large found indisputable. The liaison between Congress-NCP and this progressivist activism has not gone down well with the masses.

Another feature of this distorted progressivism is the ill-informed approach to the study and of the teachings of Chhatrapati Shahu, Jyotiba Phule and B.R. Ambedkar. The Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar phrase was made into an emblem of this alienating and provincial progressivism. The distorted appropriation of these thinkers established caste versus caste politics as the only tool for social awakening. This model of hate-mongering conveniently ignores the integrating aspects of the life, deeds, writings and teachings of the great social reformers. Shahu, Phule and Ambedkar did fight against inequalities but their writings did not disintegrate society and polarise individuals and communities into caste units and organisations. Rather, they offered ingenious solutions for nation-building through liberty, equality and fraternity. Theirs was a truly Indian progressivism, much broader and inclusive than the provincial progressivism of the dissenting gangs that revolutionise everything and change nothing.

The provinciality of their progressivism has cost political parties their political presence and brought into question the relevance of their divisive cultural activism. It is not about elections at a lower level or a higher level, it is about the relevance of ideas. The people of Maharashtra have voiced their rejection of the naysayers.

The writer is assistant professor, department of English, Fergusson College, Pune

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The ideas election | The Indian Express - The Indian Express

Architecture’s Pritzker Prize lauds Spanish trio for ‘a strong sense of place’ – The Globe and Mail

Architectures biggest award has gone not to a star, but to a group of three Spanish designers deeply committed to creating a sense ofplace.

The Hyatt Foundation announced Wednesday that Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta, who lead the Catalan firm RCR Arquitectes, had won the $100,000 (U.S.) Pritzker Architecture Prize. Often called architectures Nobel Prize, it has previously gone to many leading figures in architecture, among them Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and the late ZahaHadid.

Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and RamonVilalta.

Javier LorenzoDomnguez

RCR are little-known outside of Spain; much of their work is in Catalonia, concentrated on their small hometown of Olot, where they set up shop in 1988. While several recent winners of the Pritzker have focused on humanitarian issues designing social housing or temporary shelters RCRs win signals a turn back to interests in craft and, in particular, site and culture. It is a victory for slowarchitecture.

All their works have a strong sense of place and are powerfully connected to the surrounding landscape, the award jury said in a statement. This connection comes from understanding history, the natural topography, customs and cultures, among other things and observing and experiencing light, shade, colours and theseasons.

Bell-Lloc Winery, Palams, Girona,Spain.

Hisao Suzuki

The Pritzker jury cited specific projects, including outdoor space at Les Cols Restaurant in Olot and the firms own office in a former foundry. These projects use the local volcanic rock; at the restaurant, it is in dialogue with pristine glass cubes that evoke minimalist sculpture and Japanese modern architecture, and berms of earth. The space is quite literally rooted in theground.

Similarly, their most recognized work, the Soulages Museum, is carved into the crest of a hill and forms a sort of sculpture in dialogue with landscape. The museum, in the southern French town of Rodez, is devoted to the work of the painter Pierre Soulages. It is a line of blocks clad in weathering steel, the material made famous by the artist Richard Serra. Yet it articulates the local geography, turning a face of glass towards a park and the historic centre of the town, while presenting a tougher, impermeable face toward modern commercialdevelopments.

La Lira Theater Public Open Space in Ripoll, Girona, Spain.(2011)

Hisao Suzuki

We are used to reading the site as of it had its own alphabet, Pigem says in documentary video produced by the Pritzker. And she says elsewhere, A great motivating force is to be able to discover the treasure of each place, or where the magicresides.

These traditional concerns of architecture were sometimes set aside by the Modernist movement of the 20th century in its push for rationalism and efficiency. The past three decades in architecture have been a dialogue between work that is driven by more personal agendas like Frank Gehrys and work that draws from its place. The latter tendency is a strength in Canada, where firms such as Shim-Sutcliffe, Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple and Patkau Architects have developed strong bodies of work that are somewhat local in theirapproaches.

Sant Antoni-Joan Oliver Library, Senior Citizens Center and Candida Perez Gardens in Barcelona, Spain.(2007)

Eugeni Pons

And then, more recently, architecture has taken a turn toward social concerns. The Pritzker has reflected that, beginning with the 2014 choice of the architect Shigeru Ban, whose work has bridged high design and humanitarian concerns. Last years award went to the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, best known for social housing that allows residents to contribute their own labour to the process. In social housing, there is no time for whats not strictly necessary, he told me. There is no arbitrariness. Aravenas win seemed to cement a shift in values for the prize to a type of design that aimed to change the world. It was an award for a set of values rather than pureaccomplishment.

Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta represent a gesture the other way, back toward architecture as a medium for subtle and slowcraft.

Row House in Olot, Girona, Spain(2012)

Hisao Suzuki

Their win also breaks ground in that there are three of them, and that one is a woman. Since its beginnings in 1979, the award has almost always gone to an individual, with only two exceptions, and only two winners have been women, which has generated contentious debate within a profession where women are underrepresented in many professional roles. In 1991, the Pritzker went to Robert Venturi, the American architect and theorist but not to Denise Scott Brown, who has been his lifelong collaborator in the office Venturi Scott Brown Associates. In 2013, a group of students at Harvard University organized a petition; they proposed that Venturis Pritzker should retroactively be shared with Scott Brown. The prizes organizers shot that ideadown.

Yet this years award recognizes the value ofcollaboration.

Ideas arrive from dialogue and collaboration by more than one person, says Vilalta in another video. Its almost a reaction against the contemporary world, which has promoted, in an exaggerated way, the value of theindividual.

Indeed architecture is, now more than ever, a collaborative art. And the Pritzkers newest laureates seem ready to confirm that in an atomized and globalized age, there is power in working together, and going slowly, and stayinghome.

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Architecture's Pritzker Prize lauds Spanish trio for 'a strong sense of place' - The Globe and Mail

Barnaby Joyce condemns WA Liberals’ preference deal with One Nation – Eyre Peninsula Tribune

13 Feb 2017, 12:34 p.m.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has condemned the Western Australian Liberal Party's unprecedented decision to preference One Nation ahead of the Nationals at the upcoming state election, a deal that has been defended by Mr Joyce's federal Liberal partners.

Prime Minister and Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull with Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop. Photo: Andrew Meares

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo has defended One Nation's record defending the government, while Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has warned the deal could cost the Liberal Party government in WA. Photo: Andrew Meares

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has condemned the Western Australian Liberal Party's unprecedented decision to preference One Nation ahead of the Nationals at the upcoming state election, a deal that is splitting opinion in the federal Coalition ranks.

Striking a different note to Liberal colleagues, former prime minister Tony Abbott agreed with the argument that One Nation leader Pauline Hanson was a "better person" today than when she was previously in Parliament but said the Nationals should be preferenced above all other parties.

While Mr Joyce described the deal as "disappointing", cabinet colleague and Trade Minister Steve Ciobosaidthe Liberal Party should put itself in the best position to govern and talked up Ms Hanson's right-wing populist party as displaying a "certain amount of economic rationalism" and support for government policy.

Mr Joyce said the conclusion "that the next best people to govern Western Australia after the Liberal Party are One Nation" needed to be reconsideredand the most successful governments in Australia were ones based on partnerships between the Liberals and Nationals.

"When you step away from that, there's one thing you can absolutely be assured of is that we are going to be in opposition," he told reporterson Monday morning.

"[WA Premier] Colin Barnett has been around thepoliticalgame a long while and he should seriously consider whether he thinks that this is a good idea or whether he's flirting with a concept that would put his own side and Liberal colleagues in opposition."

The deal will see Liberals preference One Nation above the Nationals in the upper house country regions in return for the party's support in all lower house seats at the March 11 election.

The alliance between the more independent WA branch of the Nationals and the Liberals is reportedly at breaking point over the deal, which could cost the smaller rural party a handful of seats.

"Pauline Hanson is a different and, I would say, better person today than she was 20 years ago. Certainly she's got a more, I think, nuanced approach to politics today," Mr Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB.

"It's not up to me to decide where preference should go but, if it was, I'd certainly be putting One Nation ahead of Labor and I'd be putting the National Party ahead of everyone. Because the National Party are our Coalition partnersin Canberra and in most states and they are our alliance partners in Western Australia."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declined to criticise the deal, stating that preference deals in the state election were a matter for the relevant division who "have got make their judgment based on their assessment of their electoral priorities".

Mr Ciobo joined the Prime Minister and other federal Liberal colleagues in defending the WA division's right to make its own decisions.

"What we've got to do is make decisions that put us in the best possible position to govern," he told ABC radio of the motivations of his own branch in Queensland.

After Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos called the modern One Nation more "sophisticated" now, Mr Ciobo also praised the resurgent party.

"If you look at, for example, how Pauline Hanson's gone about putting her support in the Senate, you'll see that she's often voting in favour of government legislation.There's a certain amount of economic rationalism, a certain amount of approach that's reflective of what it is we are trying to do to govern Australia in a fiscally responsible way.One Nation has certainly signed up to that much more than Labor."

When in government, former Liberal prime minister John Howard declared that One Nation would always be put last on how-to-vote cards.

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The story Barnaby Joyce condemns WA Liberals' preference deal with One Nation first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Barnaby Joyce condemns WA Liberals' preference deal with One Nation - Eyre Peninsula Tribune

Meet the Group of Extreme Rationalists Bent on Cheating Death – Signature Reads

In his latest bookTo Be a Machine, Mark OConnell probes the impulses, personalities, and technology of the people who believe the human body, particularly its stubborn insistence on dying and abdication of Moores law, is a system ripe for disruption. Meet the transhumanists.

OConnells book takes himdeep into the heartland of the professional disrupter class mostly the Bay Area and the cities, like Austin, eager to take in its spillover to meet with and discuss the ideas of everyone mostly men from billionaire tech CEOs and venture capitalists, to researchers at top-tier universities, to otherwise aimless loaners, apparently eager to extend their time in a world they scarcely seem to enjoy.

OConnell goes in as no diehard spokesman, and his report is not one of a jaunt through an imagined imminent utopia. Instead, its a journey that, like the books title, invites questionsWhat does it mean to be a machine? and speculative answers to them.

OConnell lives in Dublin. When I called him, we struggled at first to get a clear connection, an irony of relatively simple tech failure that was not lost. Once clearly connected, we discussed the possibility and consequences of a future where we are in some form machine and in some form potentially totally destroyed by machines.

SIGNATURE: You dont come out of the book as a devotee to transhumanism. When you started out, what were your thoughts on the movement?

MARK OCONNELL: My initial position was skeptical. At the same time, I never wanted to go in with a skeptical attitude and just come out with skepticism confirmed. I dont agree with the methods or ideology or the place where those transhumanist ideas come from, yet that almost childish horror that we get old and die, thats something I kind of share and I think a lot of people do as well. It is sort of basically unacceptable that we have this in our future. So there is something very compelling about the notion of people deludedly or otherwise thinking that this is a problem that can be solved.

SIG: A lot of it seems to be focused on this idea of not just overcoming death, but also overcoming general human inefficiency.

MO: When you talk to transhumanists most of them have a real, basic frustration with the human body and with the limitations of their sort of meat brains, thats the term you come across again and again. I suspect, it comes from an over-identification with computers. A lot of transhumanists are programmers and engineers and they spend a lot of time around computers, seeing systems, and thinking of efficiency and intelligence in a very machine-based way. Transhumanism makes perfect sense logically if you already think of yourself as a machine. It makes perfect sense to want to be a better machine, to want to be more efficient. It seems to me like being ultimately quite an insane way of thinking about human nature and thinking about what it means to be human. Thats really what interested me about transhumanism, is that it comes from this really strange notion of human existence that I think is kind of a confusion of the boundaries between the machines and the humans.

SIG: What do you see being lost in this view of man as machine?

MO: A sort of glib answer would be everything that doesnt involved a very narrow view of intelligence. Transhumanists have this battle cry that you hear over and over again that is optimized for intelligence and thats the bottom line for every metric of progress. Intelligence is the most important kind of value in the universe. I think thats a really narrow way of thinking about what it means to be human. It is also a very narrow view of what intelligence means, because when they talk about intelligence they tend to think about computational power. But I think being human is obviously a very messy, very inherently unquantifiable thing in terms of what makes it worthwhile. I suspect it has something to do with not being a machine and with not being ruthlessly efficient and productive and intelligent. But thats not a very good answer. As much time as I spent thinking about this stuff, and talking to these people, I never really came up with a satisfying answer to what it meant to be a human being.

SIG: One of the things that I was thinking about as I was reading the book, and you touch on it too, is that there is some similarity between transhumanism and millenerian thinking. The idea that since there is going to be this great reward at the end, that the contemporary world as it is now is kind of pointless. The problem of this, Ive always thought from the religious perspective, is that it deemphasizes solving the problems of today because its so focused on this thing that is going to come. I was wondering, did you find that transhumanists were very concerned about contemporary problems?

MO: The short answer is no. Because most of the time you are dealing with rationalists who are so extreme in their rationalism that it becomes insanity in a way. I wont say theyll dismiss things like climate change, but theyll say, oh yea climate change is a problem, but its fairly well served and there is a lot of people working on it and its not going to wipe out all of humanity, so lets not worry about it too much. They talk about it in terms of future lives. The lives of the people who are yet to be born are just as important or are given just as much weight in the moral calculus as people who already exists, which I guess as a utilitarian and sort of rigorously rationalist claim does make a kind of sense, but for most actually living human beings, it is kind of weird to think of things in that way, for me certainly. I find it hard to care about people who will be born in one-hundred years time as opposed to people who are alive now. Maybe thats wrong, maybe thats morally a bit dubious, but it seems to me strange to prioritize the lives of people who have yet to be born over those who are living and suffering now.

SIG: It seems like one obvious criticism of transhumanism is that if what they really want to do is extend human life, then they should be focusing on the things today that really shorten it like war and poverty and inadequate medical care.

MO: Yea. But to these folks like Aubrey de Grey, who I talked to for the book, you are just looking at it all wrong. To them, death is an ongoing holocaust that we deal with everyday and if we bring forward the cure of mortality by however many days, its thirty September 11ths a week that weve prevented. Its really hard to argue with that kind of extreme rationalism, I find, because youre kind of talking different languages altogether.

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Meet the Group of Extreme Rationalists Bent on Cheating Death - Signature Reads