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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Nihilism
Posted: October 18, 2020 at 11:55 pm
Kingdaddy Sunday, October 18, 2020 1 comment
I used to think that nihilism was an active philosophy, rather than a passive mindset. Nihilists, in an active sense, would be people who reject all isms liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, veganism, Protestantism, Daoism as inherently silly or pointless. From this perspective, if we are just bags of protoplasm, living in an uncaring universe that is rushing to his heat death, whats the point of any kind of belief? Isnt belief in something beyond these rude facts just a waste of time, a pleasant fiction covering unpleasant realities? Life for the moment until the last day that you can.
This active, aware form of nihilism always seemed weird, contradictory, and unsustainable. Isnt the proposition that all beliefs are ultimately pointless is itself a belief? Having never met a nihilist of this sort, I had doubts about whether anyone truly adhered to this worldview, outside of a few goth poseurs, psychopaths, and the Elmer Gantry-ish opportunists who put on the costume of principled behavior to get what they want money, fame, power, sex, whatever.
Thats not to say that there arent nihilists of a different sort. The commonplace form of nihilism is more passive and unaware, and far more dangerous.
Nihilism, in this other meaning, isnt the rejection of all beliefs. In fact, many people who are nihilists consider themselves to be true believers in some set of principles. Nihilism is really the absence of any motivation to follow these principles in practice. For the common breed of nihilist, current exigencies always trump principled behavior. The opportunity to do the right thing, to behave in a principled fashion, is a luxury for the future. Of course, that future never comes, so practically speaking, the principles dont really exist at all, except as a self-congratulatory litany of what makes me a better person than you, even while Im doing terrible things to you. For instance, many Soviet commissars believed in a future workers paradise, even as they were shooting living, breathing workers in the head.
The passive, unaware version of nihilism is what has poisoned the American body politic, and led to the events of 2020 as the most troubled year in American history in generations. COVID-19 killed 1,009 Americans yesterday, and the Current Occupant continues to lie about whether the pandemic is even still a threat. People shrug and say, thats just him, or thats just politicians, or he is a flawed human being on the road to do greater things. A nominee to the Supreme Court is unwilling to admit that she has any real judicial opinions, a truly unbelievable claim. So when does the voice of ambition stop whispering in that persons ear when she becomes Chief Justice? Or perhaps never, since there is always some perceived threat to ones position, even when it is life-long? The man who is pushing this nominee, Mitch McConnell, famously abandoned his principle from 2016, and has otherwise destroyed all norms of bipartisanship, comity, and fairness from the Senate, in order to install a certain breed of judges in the federal courts. The erosion of the judicial branches legitimacy as an independently thinking part of the government doesnt seem to enter into McConnells calculations. And for some of the people who, in the face of a pandemic, fires, economic catastrophe, civil unrest, international disgust, the corruption of public agencies, structural racism, the emboldening of white supremacists, the use of phrases like enemy and traitor to describe ones neighbors, and environmental collapse, is it unfair to say that they, too, fall into this category of nihilism, in which all current calamities are justified in the name of some future good?
Power the seeking of it, and the protection of it certainly breeds this kind of nihilism. Ive met people on the other side of the aisle, including politicians, left-leaning thinkers and celebrities, and others, to whom I would apply the same description. However, the nihilism of the American right far outstrips anything you see in other political quarters, in large part because the Republican party, the right-wing social media apparatus, and their partners in social media, have become the de facto party of nihilism. Not belief is sacred, not fiscal responsibility, opposing corruption, eliminating tariffs and other protectionist economic policies, standing by our allies, standing against our rivals and foes, defending democracy, or maintaining the rule of law. The Republican Party, its allies, and many of its supporters, have switched positions on these issues with a speed and unashamedness that would make totalitarian propagandists like the Communist International of the 1930s gape in astonishment.
It is fair to say that the Democratic party has, to use the common cliche, lost touch with its roots in the working class and rural communities. With fierce determination, the Republican Party has excavated its roots, burned them thoroughly, and scattered the ashes, leaving no traces behind.
Yes, power can dissolve someones moral core. Power may tend to corrupt, but it doesnt have to. Just as adults have to learn how to be loving and firm as parents, maturity demands that people, when wielding power, have to balance political expedience with moral necessity. Not everyone is capable of doing that. Some succumb, just as some celebrities collapse under the weight of their fame. Institutions should help people from taking these dark turns, or when they do, remove them from where they can do harm.
Instead, one political party has embraced nihilism. When you have reached a point where, as in the case of Lindsey Graham, you deny the words you said a few years ago, even when anyone can search and find them within seconds, you are beyond simple political expediency. When you are afraid to stand up to a mendacious demagogue, when a thousand Americans die each day because of his incompetence, because you fear for your re-election chances, you have arrived at the point of nihilism. If you cannot act to save American lives, then the only justification you have for holding on to power is holding on to power. Public service is no longer an issue, when the most basic responsibility is to save Americans from preventable deaths.
But again, most of the people I am describing may believe themselves to be principled, well-intentioned people. That is what makes this form of nihilism extremely dangerous. In one of the best episodes of The Americans, a woman about to be murdered asks her assassin, a Soviet sleeper agent, Why? You think doing this to me will make the world a better place? When her murderer answers yes, the victim replies, just before dying, Thats what evil people tell themselves, when they do evil things.
Posted: at 11:55 pm
The penultimate episode of The Boys second season begins in unnerving fashion, even by the shows standards. A lonely young white man who lives at home with his mother is slowly enveloped, and radicalized, by the dangerous rhetoric spewed by the Vought Corporation superhero and newest member of the Seven, Stormfront. Over time, and with Stormfronts warnings of super-terrorists invading America from beyond our borders constantly booming from his phone and computer screens, the loner begins to suspect that his local bodega owner is one of these threats in hiding. (The owner is, of course, a person of color.) The tragic sequence culminates with the man shooting the innocent owner in the face.
While The Boys is a pessimistic thought exercise exploring what would happen if super-powered beings actually existed among usspoiler: yes, superheroes would absolutely abuse their powersthis particular moment, unfortunately, feels very much rooted in our current reality. As other on-screen superhero stories have confronted historical examples of fascismHYDRA, originally an experimental scientific branch of the Nazi Party, is a recurring antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic UniverseThe Boys portrays more contemporary racist ideologies. Modern fascism comes by way of social media, memes, and conspiracy theories.
Stormfront, a being who the second season reveals was originally created by Heinrich Himmler (a side effect of her powers is that she doesnt really age), is the evolution of the white supremacist rebrand in practice. Once a literal Nazi from Nazi Germany, she shaves part of her head, is undeniably crafty with her faux-feminist/anti-corporate messaging, and succinctly underlines her philosophy for recruiting people like the aforementioned loner. You cant win the whole country anymore, so stop trying, Stormfront tells Homelander, the shows sociopathic Superman/Captain America stand-in. You dont need 50 million people to love you, you need 5 million people fucking pissed. Anger sells. You have fans; I have soldiers.
That The Boys season finale, What I Know, premiered the day after the FBI uncovered a terrorist plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is further proof that, existence of superpowered humans wearing dorky costumes aside, the series has a firm grasp on how actual cults of personality are formed. Reality these days can be just as strange, and depraved, as fiction. (If the second season wasnt put together in 2019, Stormfront may well have given a shoutout to the same white supremacist group that the president told to stand by just two weeks ago; The Boys is rarely subtle.)
Viewers expecting a crass, irreverent take on superhero culturethe tone of Deadpool in the form of a TV seriescertainly wont be disappointed by The Boys, but Season 2 sure goes down with an un-Deadpool-like bitterness. Amazon Studios originally sent critics the entire second season in advance over the summer, so my enjoyment of the show was distilled in a few afternoons. But The Boys actual release modelafter the first three episodes premiered on September 4, Amazon went with a weekly rollouthas its pros and cons.
On the one hand, the series reaped the rewards of sustaining interest for weeks on end; its popularity is such that not only was The Boys renewed for a third season, but a spin-off about superpowered kids in college is also on the way. (Suggestion: Cast Nicholas Braun for all the Sky High heads out there.) On the other hand, stretching out this particular season into weekly morsels is asking fans to become gluttons for punishment. Even though her name was an obvious reference, Stormfront doesnt reveal her true nature until the end of the third episodeat which point, the show takes its time laying out the full extent of her awfulness (an ageless Nazi who, in a previous superhero iteration under the name Liberty, viciously murdered a young Black man). Its compelling, up to a point: Eventually, you just want to see Stormfront, like Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones, get her comeuppance.
To the credit of The Boys, What I Know does deliver a satisfying rebuke to, as many characters end up dubbing her, the Nazi bitch. After A-Train discovers the real reason why Stormfront doesnt want him back in the Sevenbecause hes Blackhe goes about stealing buried, classified documents of her Nazi past. With Hughie and Starlights help, Stormfronts real identity is leaked to the press, giving Vought another PR nightmare to deal with. (One of the many effects of the revelations of Stormfronts Nazi ties is that A-Train is let back into the Seven so the company can try and save face.) As for Stormfront, who confronts the Boys in the finale, she pivots very quickly from decrying the information as a deepfake to acknowledging that people like what she has to saythey just dont like the word Nazi.
And then, thankfully, she gets walloped. Queen Maeve, whos spent much of the series wallowing in self-pity, leads a Stormfront beatdown, joined by Starlight and Kimiko. The sequence is immensely cathartic and scored to the on-the-nose tune of Peaches Boys Want to Be Her. The Boys loves to take jabs at Marvelwhether intentional or not, three female heroes beating the crap out of a Nazi feels like the shows answer to Avengers: Endgames cringey and entirely unearned girl power moment. Stormfront eventually does her best Anakin Skywalker getting roasted on Mustafar impressioncourtesy of Homelanders superpowered son Ryan nailing her with his laser visionto cap off her arc. With all due respect to Aya Cash, who delivered an incredible performance, Id be fine if that was the last we ever see of her.
Season 2 was a transitional period for The Boys. After all, What I Know saves its biggest mic drop for last: Victoria Neuman, the representative reminiscent of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez whos been trying to hold Vought accountable for its actions, has powers herself. And not only that, shes the character responsible for the series of head-exploding assassinations this season. (Her final kill of the season was the leader of the shows equivalent of the Church of Scientology.)
While Neumans motivations arent entirely clear, it appears that Vought is covering all bases: Since the company cant stop the government from interfering in its nefarious plans, they might as well have a mole in charge of the newly established Office of Supe Affairs. If a Nazi becoming the most popular and social-media-savvy member of the Seven was The Boys appetizer, the shows main course looks like it will be Voughta conglomerate with shades of Disney and Lockheed Martin that turns a blind eye to fascists and murderers in its ranksvying for complete global domination.
Having a young representative in the mold of AOC secretly being a ruthless assassin who can explode heads with her mind is, uh, definitely in line with The Boys provocative sensibilities. But the finales Neuman twist also reaffirms what the show has hammered home from the very beginning: Whether its superheroes, celebrities, or politicians, you should always have a healthy dose of skepticism for authority figures and the institutions that put them on a pedestal. And if you ever find yourself confronted by a Nazi, punch them square in the face.
See more here:
Posted: at 11:55 pm
When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, he was a frail man, disappointed and also withdrawn from national politics. He was 78 years old, and one thought it was a travesty that a person who spoke tirelessly of non-violence all his life met a violent death. But it now looks it was not happenstance; almost 70 years later we are now witnessing a series of events that echo it.
It began with the murders of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and Kalburgi all of them into their 70s, and more recently the arrest of Varavara Rao, and now Stan Swamy, both into their 80s. The silent but unmistakable ageism in the way the Right in India thinks will hold important clues to how they see life and the nihilism, and contempt for anyone considered vulnerable. What can explain the series of killings and arrests of octogenarians, and what could be the possible message that they wish to communicate?
From the left: Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, Varavara Rao and Stan Swamy. Credit: PTI
There seems to be a mix of factors as to how activists who are old, ageing and ailing seem to be picked up and made a spectacle of. It immediately communicates certain ruthlessness and recklessness. Varavara who was once known to be a powerful public speaker was struggling to find the right words and who was known to have an elephants memory failing to recognise his own family. All stress-induced symptoms also come with ageing. But repeated refusals to grant bail and machinations to keep him in prison are a clear message of seeing this as a fight to finish.
It symbolises a predatory culture where one can either be a victor or the vanquished. Targeting the old seems to bring a sense of doomsday where there is no escape for the rest if the old and ailing are not spared.
It seems to also resonate with the idea of a strong nation that has little space and patience for the unproductive bodies. It brings back the memories of Nazi rule that targeted not just the Jews but also the disabled White German kids and put them through the same gas chambers. It symbolises a kind of productivism of both the market and the nation. If one is not of use and not productive it is not immoral to dispense with them.
This, figuratively, seems to stand in opposition to the young and productive nation that is looking ahead. By default making a spectacle of the old and ageing seem to also signify that the values and ideologies they stood for are outdated and irrelevant. Shrinking bodies become the templates for conveying coded message of fading ideas and upend value system.
The recent video of Stan Swamy complaining of ailments and yet remaining steadfast for the values he stood for in fighting for the tribals can send a message of unflinching commitment, but it can also mean they are stretching themselves at a time when they needed to retire and spend time with grandkids, be contemplative and await the inevitable.
In Hindu philosophy, it signifies an age to move towards vanaprastha and sanyasa referring to giving up worldly pursuits. It goes with the symbolism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi meditating in the cave and taking a lonely walk between the election results and announcing 75 as a cut off year to hold administrative posts in state or central governments. He had moved the ageing leaders to a freshly minted Margadarshak Mandal.
The Right seems to believe that given the cultural codes of Hindu way of life, dispensing with the old will meet less protest and resistance from the society. It creates a scope for more fear and less resistance. The suffering they are being put through seems to be seen through the prism of a calculus of how many more years are really left and society would forgive and may be even forget the excesses more easily but the message of being ruthless and un-pardoning slowly seeps in.
Also read: Modi 2.0: A Coming-of-Age Drama for Majoritarianism and Authoritarianism
While the arrests of young men brings a spirit of resistance that can inspire the society, incarcerating the old makes us more contemplative, look at the meaning and purpose of life, and we associate it less with action. It brings in a sense of nihilism, reminding us of the inevitability of death and futility of suffering. It reminds us of a time for other worldly pursuits as is poignantly reminded to us in the film Mukti Bhawan. In fact, in much of religious philosophy, death is Moksha, a kind of liberation for the corporeal self and body and is not something to grieve over, much less resist.
Ageing reminds us of a sense of loneliness that awaits us with a deep sense of vulnerability. It reminds us of the need to plan for ones safety and care and pursuit of collective interest and heroic activism can cost you not just your life but the bare needs necessary for an ageing body. It can have deep roots in psychology of creating innate insecurity; the Right consciously targets sites that harbour our latent and dark selves.
Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar notes how rumours of poisoned milk being sold are spread during communal riots as figuratively milk symbolises a primordial maternal security. It can arouse latent fears and insecurities and primordial instinct for violence. In killing and arresting the old and ageing, the Right is targeting a psychological warfare on its own society to disempower and silence it.
It is an empowering irony to watch and get inspired by the dadis of Shaheen Bagh where Bilkis Bano symbolises the new hope. Her age evokes happiness, love and mischief. It transcends social boundaries of religion and place. Time magazine listed her in 100 most influential people of 2020.
Shaheen Bagh, on one of the evenings in March. Photo: Rayees Amin
Life moves through dialectics, as the current regime looks at the underside of age, dadis of Shaheen Bagh are reminding us of what Mark Twain once famously said: Age is an issue of mind over matter, if you dont mind, it doesnt matter. Age brings the best of lighter side of life and reminds us of taking life with a pinch of salt and standing for causes well beyond ones immediate interest could possibly be the most meaningful way of living ones life. Collective resistance needs to upturn the cynical spectacle in resisting for and celebrating the lives of these ageing soldiers of salvation and emancipation.
Ajay Gudavarthyis an associate professor at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU.
Read more here:
Posted: at 11:55 pm
Democrats look well poised to beat President Trump and the Republican Party in this fall's election. There are some observers who hope that a good electoral thrashing will bring Republican leaders to their senses and cause them to steer a course away from the party's unofficial platform of revanchism, culture wars, and white identity politics toward a less-alarming path.
But defeat no matter how large or ignominious probably won't redeem the GOP, nor cure it of its Trumpist excesses.
A landslide victory for Democratic candidate Joe Biden "would turn the Trump era of nihilism, tribalism, and cruelty into a cautionary tale of extremism, illiberalism, and, above all, failure," Andrew Sullivan wrote last week. He added: "And a landslide is the only thing that can possibly, finally break the far right fever that has destroyed the GOP as a legitimate right-of-center political party, and turned it into a paranoid, media-driven, fact-free festival of fear and animus."
This might sound familiar. Sullivan made a similar case in 2007, arguing in The Atlantic for the candidacy of Barack Obama as a means of repudiating the Boomer-driven culture wars that had culminated in the multiple disasters Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession of George W. Bush's presidency.
"At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a momentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most," Sullivan wrote. "It is a war about war and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama and Obama alone offers the possibility of a truce."
Obviously, that's not how things actually worked out.
Republican leaders did distance themselves from Bush, but Obama's landslide election victory sparked a backlash that ushered in the Tea Party, Glenn Beck's ugly heyday, GOP intransigence, and birtherism.
When Obama won big again in 2012, there was a moment when the party's leaders appeared ready to set a new course. The Republican National Committee produced a postmortem report that proclaimed voters perceived the party as belonging to "stuffy old men." The RNC vowed to plunge its resources into reaching out to minority voters. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) eyeing a 2012 run for the presidency even took the lead on crafting a bipartisan immigration reform bill as part of an effort to soften the GOP's image.
The bill never gained traction. Conservatives bludgeoned Rubio for his perceived softness on immigration. Republican voters chose Donald Trump and his border wall in the 2016 primaries, despite the obvious agitation it caused the party establishment. But when Trump was elected, that establishment including Rubio fell in line.
So even if Trump loses the election by double-digit margins, as several recent polls have indicated he might, recent history doesn't augur Republican repentance. The party's Trump-loving base voters aren't going anywhere. Neither is Trump. It is doubtful he would follow the lead of his predecessors and recede into the background after leaving office instead we probably can expect a Mar-a-Lago tweetstorm to keep the former reality star in the spotlight and stirring up trouble for as long as he is able.
One big election defeat, or two, might not convince Republicans of the errors of their ways. It might take a generation of losses, of being deprived of power, to do the trick. Republicans were locked out of the White House for 20 years starting with Franklin Roosevelt's election in 1932, and only reclaimed office after Dwight Eisenhower a hugely popular war hero whom Democrats had also tried to woo as their candidate took office and governed as a post-New Deal moderate. Similarly, Democrats spent most of the post-Richard Nixon era in the wilderness, given a break only by the Watergate-driven election of Jimmy Carter, and getting relief only when Bill Clinton arrived on the scene in 1992 to steer the party toward the center.
Maybe this time will be different.
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Posted: at 11:55 pm
Photo: Darwin statute at the Natural History Museum, by Alan Perestrello, via Flickr (cropped).
Here is a Darwinist with a fair and clear-headed understanding of the intellectual and spiritual stakes in the evolution debate. Or rather, some of the stakes. Jamie Milton Freestone is a postdoc at the University of Queenslands Institute for Advanced Studies in theHumanities. Writing at Areo, he asks bluntly, Does Darwinism Conflict with Religion?
Hes probably right that many people, including otherwise thoughtful ones, dont give the question any serious thought. And hes right that it all depends on how you understand what evolution means. His comments on intelligent design are remarkably civil, and I was amused by his designation of our colleague Michael Behe as the intelligent design equivalent of [Richard] Dawkins. That might not be too far off.
Freestone concludes that evolution, if you do think about it seriously, probably cant be reconciled with religious belief. He cites the thought of Stephen Jay Gould, Dawkins, Alex Rosenberg, and proponents of the extended evolutionary synthesis as options, along with intelligent design, and asks, So what should be said about Darwinisms implications? His answers:
1. It can only describe the natural world, so keep it separate from human concerns, which you learn about in civics class or Sunday school. (Goulds view.)
2. It explains everything in nature and rules out God, but we can make our own purposes because we evolved to do so. Phew. (Dawkins view.)
3. If Darwinism were true it certainly would destroy all human purpose and meaning, and wed be left with nihilism. Luckily it isnt true and the irreducible complexity of living things is evidence of a designer. Phew. (Intelligent design.)
4. The neo-Darwinian orthodoxy is too harsh. We need to promote a non-supernatural but still more expansive version of Darwinism that allows for lifes creativity and agency. (Some advocates of a scientifically respectable version of vitalism and some peoples take on the extended evolutionary synthesis.)
5. Darwinism appears to be nihilistic because it is. Its baleful implications for politics and morality are an important part of the theory and the sooner we take the bitter pill the better. (Rosenbergs view.)
He rightly dismisses Goulds strategy of reconciliation:
Stephen Jay Gould, a more irenic Darwinian, tried to separate science and religion into non-overlapping magisteria, arguing that they simply answer different questions, so they neednt be in conflict. This is wildly wrong for multiple reasons. First of all, religions clearly pronounce on factual questions all the time. Second, science often pronounces on ought questions. Third, what about all the other domains, like the arts, humanities and social sciences, where do they fit in? Fourth, is it even possible to separate is and ought?
Once Gould is eliminated, it comes down to evolution that indeed forces us to decide between atheism one that is thoroughly nihilistic or cautiously allows for (the illustion of) purpose or intelligent design. I dont see any evidence of Freestones wrestling in detail with arguments for ID. But the candor and, as I said, civility of his writing deserves commendation.
One might add, though, that there are additional stakes in the origins debate. Yes, the coherence of a religious viewpoint is one point balanced on the knifes edge. But theres more. The God hypothesis, as philosopher of science Stephen Meyer calls it in his book that comes out in March (Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe), allows for a divine image imprinted universally upon the human race. As the Bibles language puts it, Gods image is reflected in man much as a mans image is imprinted in his children. What that means exactly is enigmatic, but it demands a recognition of equal human dignity regardless of skin color or ethnicity. What is a human being? That may be a still more profound consequence of the intelligent design controversy than the one that is the focus of Freestones article.
John Wests documentary Human Zoos powerfully summarizes some of the baleful history of how Darwinism has encouraged racial and eugenic horrors from the 19th to the 20th to the 21st century:
Take away the idea of a transcendent image shared by all humans equally, and you are left with a nightmare in which grading humans by race, condemning some and exalting others because of their pigmentation, becomes a definite option. Darwins theory gave a powerful boost to pseudo-scientific racism, as various neo-Nazis and white nationalists down to our day recognize and celebrate. In fact, Ive never heard a good answer to the question: Given the premise of Darwinism, why would you expect humans to be equal?
I would be curious to hear how Darwinists like Dr. Freestone reconcile their evolutionism not just with religion but with their commitment, assuming they are committed, to human equality and human dignity. That would make a fine topic for a further essay at Areo.
Posted: at 11:55 pm
Its hard to express how angry I am over the latest outburst of leftist violence in Portland. Statues of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, two of the greatest Republican presidents, were torn down and the Oregon Historical Society was ransacked in a day of rage on Sunday.
The destruction of those statues is all the proof you need that this violence has nothing to do with black lives or racism. This nihilism has nothing to do with making America a better country.
The riot itself was billed as a demonstration for Indigenous Peoples Day. The Biden campaign put out a statement for Indigenous Peoples Day and ignored Columbus Day, the actual federal holiday.
I can say with certainty that none of the thugs participating in Sundays violence are Trump/Pence voters, but a significant percentage are undoubtedly Biden/Harris voters. This is not a fringe movement, but the heart of the Democrat Party.
Why do I say this? Because, among other things, one of the rioters was a former Democrat candidate. Democrat staffers and officials have been arrested at other riots.
I have no doubt that the Portland rioters were inspired by what they have been taught at our institutions of higher learning. They are immersed in a campus culture that mocks patriotism.
They have been taught anti-American history, taught that America was evil from its founding in 1619 and that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery, a disgusting lie.
They have been inspired by Nancy Pelosi, who condemned law enforcement officers as Stormtroopers and by other leftists who have denounced America as systemically racist.
The lefts rhetoric and its radicalism created this violent mob, and the Biden/Harris ticket is empowering this mob. Just yesterday the guy were told is a moderate stoked the lefts hatred of America once again. See below.
Who Loves America?
After the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers raised eyebrows for declaring, Its amazing to me why we [black Americans] keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.
Joe Biden quickly embraced Riverss statement and has repeated it during recent campaign events. Monday in Ohio Biden said, Think about what it takes for a black person to love America We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men, weve never met that standard.
What an outrageous statement for Biden to make! He served as the vice president to the first black man ever elected and reelected as our president. And Biden has the audacity to say, Weve never met that standard.
Bidens statement mocks every black man and woman who wore the uniform of our all-volunteer military. It mocks every grave of a patriotic black veteran. It is a poisonous message to every young American.
Once again, we see just how desperate the left is to gain power, even if it has to tear down America in the process.
You Dont Deserve To Know
As you know, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett are underway. Predictably, Democrats have condemned the hearings as illegitimate and condemned Barrett as an extremist. Incredibly, one left-wing Democrat suggested that Barrett, a highly successful working mother of seven, would setback womens rights!
First, lets set the record the straight on the question of legitimacy. A Supreme Court vacancy has occurred 15 times during a presidential election year. In all 15 times, the president made a nomination, as is his constitutional right.
In seven of those times, the Senate was controlled by the opposition party and there were only two confirmations. Thats a confirmation rate of just 29% when the White House and the Senate are controlled by different parties.
In eight of those times, the Senate was controlled by the same party as the president. Seven of those nominations were confirmed. Thats a confirmation rate of 88% when the White House and the Senate are controlled by the same parties. And that is the situation we have today.
There was nothing unusual with the Senate refusing to confirm Merrick Garland in 2016. It would have been highly unusual if Garland had been confirmed. And there is nothing unusual about the Senate proceeding with Judge Barretts confirmation now. It would be highly unusual if Judge Barrett were not confirmed.
Moreover, in the course of their remarks, one Democrat after another has revealed their true intentions as they label Barrett a threat to abortion, a threat to Obamacare, a threat to LGBTQ rights.
In other words, they arent interested in the Constitution, but their policy agenda. They want activists making policy from the bench. Thankfully, Judge Barrett rejects that philosophy.
In her opening remarks yesterday, Barrett declared, Courts are not designed to solve every problem The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the People.
But Joe Biden has no interest in being accountable to the people. When asked recently about his views on packing the Supreme Court with more left-wing judges, Biden said, Youll know my position on court-packing the day after the election.
Pressed later by a reporter as to whether voters deserved an answer, Biden doubled down, saying, No, they dont.
Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer isnt being coy. He told MSNBC that Democrats would be right to pack the Supreme Court with left-wing judges. Schumer also said he was plotting ways to block Barretts confirmation.
An Absurd Analysis
Fox News ran a story Monday about Joe Biden calling court packing a boneheaded idea 23 years ago. Some Fox commentators suggested that Biden may have a problem with his left-wing base as a result. I cant believe how absurd that analysis is.
Biden used to be pro-life. We know what his position is today. The Joe Biden of decades ago would have no chance of being nominated by todays Democrat Party. Thats why he has moved so far to the left on every issue.
Meanwhile, the left is claiming that Trump and Senate Republicans are attempting to pack the court with Judge Barrett. Thats not court packing. Thats fulfilling a constitutional obligation to fill a judicial vacancy.
Court packing is not liking the make-up of the court, not waiting for a vacancy and increasing the number of justices by legislation so you can install activist judges who will rubber stamp your radical agenda.
That is the only definition of court packing that has ever existed. It is foolish for analysts at Fox News to defend Biden over some decades-old statement.
The most telling point here is that the left is attempting to redefine court packing in order to justify their efforts to do real court packing in the future, just as Chuck Schumer did.
Monday, Joe Biden made several statements that raise serious questions about his mental faculties.
When talking about the 2012 campaign, he couldnt remember Mitt Romneys name.
He told an Ohio audience that he was running for the United States Senate. He last ran for the Senate in 2008, the same year he was elected vice president.
Later in the day, he directed supporters to the wrong website.
Unfortunately, these kinds of memory lapses are not unusual for Biden, and the people who love him the most have to know what is happening to him. The fact that they are not protecting him, and quite frankly the country, from this deterioration is beyond sad.
It almost leads one to conclude that the powers controlling the Democrat Party are convinced Kamala Harris is the real power behind this ticket. And the American people seem convinced as well, as most dont expect Biden to finish his first term.
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Liberalism will remain vulnerable unless it can speak to our need for emotional storytelling – New Statesman
Posted: at 11:55 pm
Close to the end of Hari Kunzrus new novel, Red Pill, the narrator is telling a Manhattan therapist about his deranged attempts to expose Anton, an alt-right screenwriter who he believes is stirring up dangerous political forces. The therapist scoffs that Antons television shows hardly make him a significant figure: Dragons, that sort of thing. Surely I could see that this was not a field for anyone with serious political ambitions. It would be hard to think of anything more purely escapist. But he demurs: There were underground currents, new modes of propagation. It wasnt even a question of ideas, not straightforwardly, but feelings, atmospheres, yearnings, threats Essentially I was talking about fascism. The therapist dismisses it as anxiety about the presidential election. It is polling day, 8 November 2016.
The narrator is a restless New York intellectual who accepts a fellowship at the Deuter Centre, an interdisciplinary institute at Wannsee, outside Berlin. Alienated by its clinical and rigid atmosphere he takeslong, bleak walks around the lake; encountering the grave of the romantic poet Heinrich von Kleist, the villa where theNazis devised the final solution, and a former East German punk haunted by her past as a Stasi informant. He also lurks in his room, binge-watching footage from war zones and Blue Lives, a trashy cop drama whose nihilism and unacknowledged quotes from an anti-rationalist opponent of the French Revolution beguile him. Meeting Anton, the shows Nordic supremacist writer, in Berlin, he develops an obsession, pursuing Anton to Paris and a Scottish island.
Back in New York, his wife is devastated by his melodramatic self-absorption, friends regard him with pity and detachment and the therapist dismisses his sense of dread about the future. The novel concludes as his wifes fashionable Brooklynite circle gathers to watch the election results coverage, champagne at the ready to toast a Hillary Clinton win and the natural next step on a timeline in which the future is predictable, an extrapolation from the past, a steady progression. Donald Trump triumphs, their world collapses and suddenly the momentum seems to be with Antons people, the alt-right trolls with their memes, in-jokes, sinister Nordic symbology and conspiracy theories; a rival timeline in which all this normality is a paper screen over something bloody and atavistic that is rising up out of history to meet us. It occurs to the narrator: My madness is about to become everyones madness.
A presence looms over Red Pill but is not named in it: Friedrich Nietzsche. He looms thematically, as the supreme theorist to emerge from the mists of German Romanticism. And he looms intellectually, his arguments echoing in the contrast that strikes Kunzrus narrator towards the novels end. The world experienced by the narrator at Wannsee and in Antons oeuvre is not the orderly, rational, linear system of the therapist or the Brooklyn sophisticates, what Nietzsche dubbed the Apollonian. It is revealed disorder, frenzy, urges and appetites, or what the philosopher dubbed the Dionysian. Nietzsche argued that Greek tragedys synthesis of the Apollonian and the Dionysian order forged in the very affirmation of the chaos of reality made it the highest and purest form of art. It is such a tragic synthesis that Anton finds in his fascistic nihilism, and that the narrator, too, finds in his own, doomed quest to stop Anton.
Four years on from the fictional Brooklyn party, the madness seemingly unleashed at the last US presidential election hasindeed become everyones madness to some extent. Established assumptions about the march of progress are not gone, but are less glib and more qualified. The Dionysian forces tribes and masses, mysticism and disorder have announced their presence behind the paper screen. It is now widely accepted that desiccated liberalism, the weightless technocracy of Stronger Together (Clinton 2016) or Stronger, Safer and Better Off (Remain) is vulnerable when up against rival offerings that speak to the human yearning for emotional story-telling, for operatic goodies and baddies, for the recognisable narrative of a Make America Great Again (Trump 2016) or a Take Back Control (Leave). Once more a US presidential election approaches and once more a liberal candidate looks likely to win. But this time few are willing to predict that outcome with confidence.
Even if Joe Biden does triumph on 3 November, this should not be mistaken for a restoration of some temporarily disrupted order. The Dionysian will still lurk below the surface, and with it myriad chances, for those willing to take them, to mould it into forms and stories. Trump will almost certainly decry the result as illegitimate, urging his supporters to agitate against it. Violence may ensue. Disinformation and myths will continue to ripple across social media. More previously apolitical types, isolated by lockdowns and spending too long online, will be drawn into conspiracy theories such as the QAnon claims that Trump is secretly battling an elite, Satan-worshiping paedophile ring; modern-day Quixotes driven mad by reading too many fanciful tales.
None of which is to say that these threats should be overblown in a way that flatters their propagators, or to deny that humans also have an immense capacity for reason and science and individuality. But it is to remind ourselves that there is something universal, eternal and, like it or not, innately human about the atavistic passions that seemed to come out of nowhere four years ago. They existed beforehand and will long outlive any Biden presidency. Feelings, atmospheres, yearnings, threats will stillshape and define experience. History will not be over, nor will it have been proved to be linear. Stories will still matter.
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Posted: at 11:55 pm
FEELING GUILTY? From Dante to Freud, guilt is a ripe subject for exploration. More often than not, the sentiment is understood in personal terms, as the responsibility assumed by an individual for a wrongdoing. It is Raskolnikov, not Mother Russia, who splits open the heads of the sisters with an axe at the outset of Fyodor Dostoevskys mid-nineteenth-century novel, Crime and Punishment, and it is his lone task, no one elses, to atone for his crime.
In the twentieth and now the twenty-first century, though, guilt has enjoyed a different connotation. Its become attached to the deeds of nations and even of civilizations. The French writer Pascal Bruckner, for example, took up this theme in The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, published in French (La tyrannie de la pnitence) in 2006 and in translated English in 2010. His subtitle notwithstanding, Bruckner insisted on a crucial distinction between America and Europe. America is a project, Europe is a sorrow, he said: one broods on the past, the other starts over again.
No longer. Today, America is experiencing what is popularly called a reckoninga return to the past with an eye on crimes related to race, the crime of slavery especially, charged not only to particular individuals or institutions but to the nation as a whole. It is a backwards voyage with an avowed forward purpose: to make America a better, more just society. Still, even if intentions are laudable, the question can be posed: What does it profit a nation to embark on what might aptly be called a guilt trip? Is the hoped-for destination likely to be the actual point of landing?
A PLACE to begin to look for an answer to that question is with one of those long, nearly impossible for the English speaker to pronounce, German words: Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung. This word, for which (of course) there is no ready English substitute, can be translated as working-off-the-past, Susan Neiman, director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, tells us in her 2019 book, Learning from The Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil. Neiman, a Jewish native of the American South who has lived in Tel Aviv and now lives in Berlin, offers a guide to this territory. In her book, she notes a marked generational dimension to Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung:
Working off Germanys criminal past was not an academic exercise; it was too intimate for that. It meant confronting parents and teachers and calling their authority rotten. The 1960s in Germany were more turbulent than the 60s in Paris or Praguenot to mention Berkeleybecause they were not focused on crimes committed by someone or other in far-off Vietnam, but those considerably closer to home, committed by the people from whom lifes earliest lessons were learned.
And the spirit of Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, Neiman takes care to remind, was not a one-off of the 1960s, but continued to express itself for decades to come. In Berlin, in the autumn of 1982, she recalls:
those who came of age in the 60s were working-off-the-past with special intensity, for the fiftieth anniversary of Hitlers election was approaching. There seemed no end of books and speeches The arts academy offered workshops on making films about the Third Reich. There were performances of music the Nazis banned and performances of music they promoted, with lectures accompanying each. Neighborhoods competed with each other to explore their own dark history.
That last sentence bears repeating, followed by a question mark: Neighborhoods competed with each other to explore their own dark history? To come to grips with personal guilt, as seen in Raskolnikovs paradigmatic experience, tends to be a wrenching, anguished, deeply private matterin his case the occasion for a conversion from a sort of casual nihilism to hard-won religious belief. The spectacle of neighborhoods in left-tilted Berlin vying with each other to exhume crimes of the past hinted at a cultural or political fashion. To parade guilt, was this to be a public badge of authenticity in the new Germany?
Still, Germans were right to reject the tempting idea, all too tempting, that, somehow, only Hitler was responsible for the evilness of the Nazi period, a point made by the ironically-titled play, It Wasnt Me, Hitler Did It, that opened in Berlin in 1977 and continued on for thirty-five years. Even Bruckner accepts this lesson: in The Tyranny of Guilt, he commends Germany for its exemplary effort to reflect on itself. In his framework, guilt becomes oppressive, an exercise in masochism, in sweeping self-indictments of Europe as essentially a criminal enterprise and no more than that. He may sound like he is exaggerating but there are many such examples. In the 1990s, the Swedish writer, Sven Lindqvist, pronounced that extermination was at the heart of European thought, with the Holocaust properly understood as a culmination of Europes imperial and colonial crimes in places like Africa. This refusal to acknowledge Europes accomplishment as the pioneer of the Enlightenment in the thicket of the obscurantism of the Middle Agesthe trailblazer for what became known as modern Western liberal valueswas more than just warped history. In this original-sin rendering of an entire civilization, here was a past that could never be worked off. Picture this Europe as a character consigned to Dantes eighth circle of hell, head plastered with excrement.
SO, WHAT is it to be for America, circa 2020: A narrowly-cast Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, in the purposeful and bounded (if not always pristine) German manneror something a good deal messier than that?
An answer is suggested by two defining differences between the German experience with Nazism and the American experience with slavery and racial injustice generally. First, on the dimension of time, the Germans have less pasta lot less pastto work off. The Nazis became a national force on their party capturing nearly twenty percent of the vote in parliamentary elections held in 1930. Just fifteen years later Hitler committed suicide in a Berlin bunker, his ambitions, his regime, the thousand-year-Reich, obliterated for all time. By contrast, slavery in America began with the arrival of a slave ship in the British colony of Virginia in 1619 and was not abolished until 1865, on the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by the U.S. Congress and ratification by states of the American republic.
Second, the American reckoning of 2020 occurs a century-and-a-half after slavery was formally outlawed. The American South, home of the defeated Confederacy, did not experience, post-Appomattox, a Berlin Sixties type moment, a new generation rising up to confront the sins of the fathers. To the contrary: defiant Southerners established the Ku Klux Klan to terrify freed slaves and perpetuate white supremacy, and they built monuments to honor Confederate leaders as martyrs to the Lost Cause. And even with slavery made illegal, African Americans were kept from fully participating in American society well into the twentieth century by a variety of measures, from the institution of sharecropping to the practice of voter suppression.
For these two fundamental reasonsthe sheer amount of past that America has to process, and the long-delayed nature of the reckoningan American attempt at Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung is bound to be less tidy than the German original. And so it is indeed proving.
Consider The 1619 Project. This major initiative of The New York Times, an ongoing collection of essays and educational materials, is intended, as the magazines editor-in-chief, Jake Silverstein, said on inaugurating the project last year, to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nations birth year. What it would mean requires no strenuous exertion of the mind: it means a reductive, racialized understanding of a dichromatic America, divided into black and white. It is, in short, bunk.
To see race as the one recurrent thread in our history is, well, to see race as the one recurrent thread in our history. That insistent view translates, inevitably, into a flawed understanding of our past, including some of our most important moments. Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery, Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote in the first package of Times essays for The 1619 Project. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her essay even though she had her facts wrong. The idea that the Revolution occurred as a means of protecting slaveryI just dont think there is much evidence for it, and in fact the contrary is more true to what happened, the historian Gordon Wood, his career devoted to the study of the American Revolution, has countered. He offered that remark in an interview given to one of the few media outlets in America committed to a rigorous, dogged challenging of the 1619 narrative: a website operated by Trotskyists, a clan wedded to class, not race, as the motive force of history. The Revolution, Wood added, unleashed antislavery sentiments that led to the first abolition movements in the history of the world. In response to this correction of the record, the Times made a modest update to the Hannah-Jones piece.
Posted: at 11:55 pm
In Hirayama disease patients initially notice difficulty in writing, doing fine work like buttoning the shirt, mixing food and holding objects in the hands due to weakness. Here's everything you need to know about this rare condition.
This neurological condition usually affects young males
Hirayama disease is a rare disease of the nervous system presenting with weakness of one or both hands. This condition was first described by Keizo Hirayama in 1959. It is also called as brachial monomelic atrophy (MMA), juvenile segmental muscular atrophy of distal upper extremity. It is more prevalent in Asia especially Japan, India, China and few south East Asian countries. In India it is commonly seen in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana regions. The disease is mostly seen in males in the adolescent and early adulthood age group (15-25 years).
What causes it?
The cause of this disease is not fully known. Initially it was thought to be a progressive degenerative motor neuron disease; however it may not be so. There may be genetic factors which may predispose to the disease occurrence however no specific gene has been identified with this disorder. Hirayama disease is nonfamilial in most patients.
Symptoms of Hirayama Disease
It is insidious in onset and slowly progressive. Patients initially notice difficulty in writing, doing fine work like buttoning the shirt, mixing food and holding objects in the hands due to weakness. It usually starts in one hand and then may progresses to involve the other. Later in the course of the disease the hands become progressively thin and develop a claw deformity with useless function. Worsening of weakness when exposed to cold environments is another characteristic feature of this disease. There is usually no sensory loss and no difficulty in passing urine or stools. Rarely the disease may involve the arm and shoulder muscles. Atrophy slowly progresses and plateaus typically over the course of several years. By that time the hands are completely wasted and have no functioning capacity.
Diagnosing this disease can be tricky as it masquerades as other degenerative neurological disorders for which there is no definite treatment yet. Muscle biopsy and nerve conduction studies suggest neuronal cell death without giving clue to the cause. Routine cervical spine MRI may miss the diagnosis. There may be a Loss of normal cervical lordosis (curvature) with straight or hypnotic (reverse curvature) cervical spine alignment, but this is a nonspecific finding. No compression over the cord is evident. However on performing MRI with the neck flexed (bent forward) compression of the cervical spinal cord posteriorly by the dura (a thick protective membrane which comprehensively covers the brain and spinal cord) can be patently identified. In advanced cases there may be localised atrophy of the cervical cord.
Treatment and Prognosis
Till recently this disease was looked at with despondency and nihilism, with no specific treatment. A cervical collar with watchful expectation along with physiotherapy was the treatment option available. It may provide some relief from symptoms, though not satisfactorily. In spite of this, the disease can progress relentlessly, stabilising only after significant weakness has occurred.
Over the last few decades it is becoming clear that surgical intervention may provide some hope to this otherwise hopeless condition. The surgery involves removing an offending cervical disc and fixing the adjacent portions of the cervical spine with a plate and screws. This reduces the extent of neck bending and prevents further damage to the cervical spine. This is a technically challenging surgery done under the microscope. The disc is approached via an anterior neck incision and by displacing the trachea and esophagus to one side. It takes about an hour or two depending on the complexity, to perform the surgery. The patients are discharged on the next day after surgery and are encouraged to return to normal activities in a week or so. Following surgery a cervical collar is to be worn for 3-6 weeks along with regular physiotherapy. In most patients the disease stabilizes after surgery along with many times noticeable improvement in hand bulk and strength.
Hirayama disease is an often under recognized condition, the etiology of which is unknown. It usually affects the young male population leading to incapacitating, helpless situation of hand weakness. If timely, early diagnosis is made surgical intervention can provide a ray of hope in halting the progression and to some extent reversing the weakness in these patients.
(Dr. Dhananjaya I Bhat, Senior Consultant, Neurosurgery, Aster RV Hospital)
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Opinion: Protests in Belarus are an attempt to split the society for years to come – Belarus News (BelTA)
Posted: at 11:55 pm
Minsk. An archive photo
MINSK, 14 October (BelTA) Protest actions in Belarus represent an attempt to shake loose the society and split it for years to come, BelTA learned from Igor Gedich, a member of the Education, Science, Culture, and Social Development Commission of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus.
The senator said: As of late it is noticeable that the number of people taking part in protest actions has decreased, yet the protests themselves have become more radical. I met an acquaintance of mine the other day. We have different convictions. He told me I might become his personal enemy. I started to think where I had heard it before. It was in the 1940s. Do you remember the leader of Nazism? He also had personal enemies Yuri Levitan, Erich Remarque, Marinesko. This trend has resurfaced now with a tint of aggression. All of us remember history well and know how that man's life ended. I think this radicalism will end the same way. These threats and aggression are not part of the Belarusian character but there are such individuals. We have to fight these manifestations and make certain decisions within the framework of the legislation.
The senator said that there are tools that allow every Belarusian to express his or her opinion. Igor Gedich mentioned political parties and dialogue platforms, which are being opened to discuss proposals on the constitutional reform. There are ways to submit your proposals. Simple law nihilism, which thankfully only a small number of Belarusians embrace, should not spread. We need to convince people. We have to talk to them, which is being done at all the levels of the government structure, he said.
Igor Gedich stressed that tolerance has always been part of the Belarusian character. There is no revolutionary situation in Belarus at present. We all understand it very well. In my opinion, it is simply an attempt to shake loose the society and keep it separated for many years. This is why certain measures need to be taken to prevent the split of our society. It is very important, he added. We can see that the events going on in Kyrgyzstan, in Nagorno-Karabakh at present cannot make people happier. They convert people and the state into an easy prey for certain political forces that exist around us. There are external players that are trying to influence the domestic situation by all means. Declarations of non-interference in internal affairs of the state stay on paper. Unfortunately, it is part of today's political world.