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Category Archives: Rationalism

On Brick – The American Conservative

Posted: December 3, 2021 at 4:54 am

The industrial revolution brought a question at the heart of designthe relationship of function to formto a point of crisis. Architectural aesthetics is grounded in a structures formal clarity. Classic architectural elements like post and lintel construction telegraph their functions in their shapes; such legible forms are then quite naturally echoed in ornament. Ornament in such cases is simply an articulation, a coming to representational consciousness of the buildings essential structure.

Modern building techniques like steel frame construction and reinforced concrete did away with many of the habitual constraints that made structure legible. The materials are so powerful and so plastic that their functions become obscure, non-intuitive. Thus the question of aesthetic form is brought to a painful crisis point. When all functional limitations are overcome by material virtuosity, why this shape rather than that?

In the post-war era, the international modernist movement dictated a rationalistic minimalism to answer this question. No ornament was suggested by the material itself and none could be justified with cultural or spiritual rationales under the newly secular, egalitarian, and capitalist society; thus, no ornament was called for.

In successive decades, the resulting boring buildings were challenged by an uprising of the human spirit called Brutalism (for bton brut, raw concrete, but etymology seems to be winking here). Concrete became the medium of untrammeled human invention: matter was willed into previously undreamed-of shapes. But when entirely unaccountable to the natural order expressed in traditional building methods and materials, pure human invention produces something timeless only by the rarest strokes of genius.

Tired of the dated jubilance of both modernism and post-modernism, the millennial generation has turned not a new page, but to the immediately preceding era. The pre-war urban industrial district has become the center of gravity for todays urban culture, as techies and creatives take up residence in rehabbed nineteenth-century warehouses and developers fill in gaps in these desirable neighborhoods with stylized imitations. Among the many shared qualities of the new elites digs, one stands out like a gleaming ember: theyre brick.

Is brick intrinsically hipster? The association may be incidental. The Golden Age of American Brick was also the Golden Age of American Urbanism, not as an ideal but as a practice. The districts constructed during this period, with the eras favored building material, evoke an epoch redolent with hipster values. In the warehouse, railroad depot and repair yard, streetcar powerhouse, fire apparatus bay, and mercantile office of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was expressed the material form of an authentically urban economy, one whose logic was as yet undiluted by the space-annihilating automobile. But Im inclined to think brick per se has qualities that justify its pride of place in the era of urban revival we may or may not be living in.

The merits of the material itselffired clayare manifold. Brick has been used since the earliest extant structures of the human patrimony. Having already been subjected to the purifying fire, it is fire-proof. The material has local character depending on the color of the earth and clay in a particular area. Bricks can be red, orange, brown, yellow, black, or bluish grey, and in a thousand shades depending on the vagaries of the firing process; the application of a glaze further broadens the spectrum of possibilities. And brick is cheap, much cheaper than stone.

Beyond the material, there is its power as a medium. Brick is modular: a single unit that can repeat in as many sequences as you can think of. If asked to sketch a brick wall, most of us would likely draw in a bricklaying pattern known as stretcher bond: rows (known as courses) of bricks oriented the long way and offset from the courses above and beneath exactly halfway through each brick. (We might call this Lego bond.) If pushed to think about it a bit more, however, it wouldnt take long to realize that the number of possible patterns in which the bricks can be laid is something more like infinite.

Stretchers are bricks laid with their long face showing; headers show the bricks short face. These two basic orientations give bricks the same fertile sequential potential as binary code, with stretchers as 1s and headers as 0s. Thrown in variations in color and even for a simple wall the possibilities are dizzying. Then bring in the third dimension: the possibilities of bricks laid in a hounds-tooth orientation, offset headers creating texture, corbelling (successive courses set forward or back to create a cornice or dome or simply to widen or taper), the interspersal of open space at a magnitude as small as to create a perforated wall or as large as to create bays and arches.

All this at the unit of a wall. Compose walls into a building

The point of highlighting the modular quality of brick is not simply to dazzle the reader with magnitudes of possibilities. There is something in modularity that makes the modern heart rejoice, not unrelated to the analogy to binary code. Western culture has swung as a pendulum between rationalism and romanticism from pre-Socratic days (atomist Democritus vs. all-things-flow Heraclitus) down to our own (modern Bauhaus vs. postmodern Venturi Scott Brown). A medium both reducible to atoms and constructable into flowery wholes stands a good chance of giving successive, otherwise warring generations each something to appreciate.

Why do this historical eras buildings specifically lend themselves to incarnating a renewed urban vision? The great urbanity of the industrial districts is in part due to the adaptability of their form to new uses. The factories and warehouses of this era featured large open floorplates, extensive natural light through large, gridded windows, and the bay unit, a roomy, repetitive unit nicely adaptable to partitioned units or rooms in a redevelopment scheme.

This adaptability is what makes these buildings not just historical curiosities or architectural specimens, but an urban phenomenon. What distinguishes the political community from any other kind of community, Aristotle argues in the opening of his treatise on the polis, is the ultimacy of the good at which it aims:

Every state [] is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good. (Politics, I.1)

As I explained in a journal article for Open Philosophy, City in Code: The Politics of Urban Modeling in the Age of Big Data:

Aristotle describes this highest, political good not as if it were a distinct interest that city-dwellers happen to share alongside their particular interestsfor instance, a taste for parades and flags, or commissions and committees as we might imagine the civic todaybut rather as a more ultimate goal capable of justifying those particular interests:

When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state [] comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. (I.2)

On this account, cities are created for survival, coming into being as individuals seek to meet their basic needs through cooperation, specialization, and exchange. But this very coming together introduces the possibility of a goal beyond survival: that of the good life. This new goal then sustains a mode of lifethe political, or urbanthat is no longer reducible back into the realm of mere survival, but rather has to do with what makes survival desirable in the first place.

The brick buildings Ive been discussing incarnate this pattern quite literally: having originated in the bare needs of life, they continue in existence for the sake of a good life. (Indeed, the digital marketing agencies and weekend food delivery box companies occupying these buildings often make a business of The Good Life.) Part of what makes much of our cities inhuman is that the artifacts we furnish them with rarely outlive their purpose serving the bare needs of life, and thus rarely carry us into the dimension of the good lifebecause they simply dont continue in existence.

Once an urban artifact has outlived its initial pragmatic purpose, as these old warehouses have done, it raises a new kind of question for its users. It forces them to ask if there is a meaning to human culture that is not reducible to immediate aims. Thus brick takes its place among other favored materials of the millennial generation: leather, wood, wool, iron. All are media with clear origins in nature, elevated by human craft into purposeful, beautiful, and lasting artifactsand, thus, ideal media to incarnate the paradoxes of the good life in a disenchanted age.

Madeline Johnson is from Minneapolis. Sheholds a master of Urban Planning degree from McGill University. This New Urbanism series is supported by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Follow New Urbs on Twitter for a feed dedicated toTACs coverage of cities, urbanism, and place.

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On Brick - The American Conservative

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When Evangelicals Were Considered Too Progressive | Gene Veith – Patheos

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Evangelicals today are tarred with the brush of right wing conservatism, seen by many as the loyal henchmen of Donald Trump and the opponents of progressive social change. But in the 19th century, evangelicals had the opposite reputation, condemned by many as the promoters of dangerously progressive and socially disruptive reforms.

That is the takeaway from a fascinating article by historian Joseph Zeitz on the controversies over Abraham Lincolns proclamation establishing the Thanksgiving holiday. In the article, entitled When People Thought the First Thanksgiving Was Too Woke, Zeitz describes how the holiday was received in the context of the Civil War, in which the national polarization was even more intense that it is today:

For years, many Southerners and pro-slavery Northerners had pilloried the Republican Party as an organization of religious fanatics bound by a commitment to extreme and even (for the time) zany evangelical reform movements in the words of Sen. Stephen Douglas of Illinois, the black republican army is an allied army, composed of Know Nothings, Abolitionists, Free Soilers, Maine Liquor Law men, womans rights men, Anti-renters, Anti-Masons, and all the isms that have been sloughed off from all the honest parties in the country. While some of these movements strike the modern reader as incongruous, in the antebellum era, some of the strongest advocates of abolition and womens rights also wanted to restrict immigration and impose sobriety on a nation of heavy drinkers. Race the debate over slavery and abolition was always at the center of the political debate. But it intersected with a broader array of cultural concerns. . . .

It became increasingly popular for administration critics to lump the offending religious reform movements under the moniker of Puritanism, given the central role that New England played in organized abolitionism. It made little difference that Puritanism bore nothing in common with evangelical Christianity, either intellectually or theologically. By 1863, the term had become a political descriptor, devoid of its original meaning. The Republican Party, as one Confederate political cartoonist portrayed it, was built on the foundation of PURITANISM, supported by pillars that included WITCH BURNING, SOCIALISM, FREE LOVE, SPIRIT RAPPING, RATIONALISM and NEGRO WORSHIP.

Puritanism, said influential Peace Democrats like Clement Vallandigham and Samuel Cox, was the origin of all the isms that had propelled America to war.

And, of course, Puritanism was associated with the New England Pilgrims, so a holiday associated with that ilk made quite a few Americansnot just Southerners but also northern Democratsgo ballistic.

There is a lot to think about here. Ironically, Democrats were the ones who opposed the evangelicals both then and now. And back then Republicans were very much the party of social reform and, as they are today, was identified with religious-motivated voters. Over a century and a half, we have seen quite a bit of political and ideological realignment, and not just with religiously-motivated voters.

Also, the basket of causes includes lots of seemingly incongruous beliefs. We must keep in mind that the opponents of Christian activism back then are not necessarily fair and accurate in their charges, any more than they are today. (Accusing the Puritans of fostering free love seems like quite a stretch, but so does accusing modern-day Christian conservatives of insurrection and fascism. Although free love was an issue with the new so-called libertarians, as the explanation of our illustration shows.) Interestingly, the Christian activists back then were associated with the evils of rationalism, whereas today the New Atheists accuse them of irrationalism. And promoting restrictions on immigration was an issue for evangelicals both then and now.

It was true, though, that the Christian activists of the 19th century promoted the abolition of slavery, giving women the vote, and other social reforms (labeled here socialism), all of which were quite progressive. In fact, another prominent and related cause, the prohibition of alcohol, was also considered to be politically progressive. (In fact, some progressives are coming to the same conclusion today. See this article: Maybe Prohibitionists Were the Good Guys.)

The point is, it isnt just that Christian political activism has changed: progressivism and conservatism have changed. And todays categories dont really apply to the fairly recent past. Was Lincoln a liberal or a conservative? The question is meaningless. One of the most radical 19th century reformers was William Jennings Bryan, today known mainly for his opposition in the Scopes trial to the teaching of Darwins theory of Evolution. And, it has been argued, that todays progressives are todays Puritans. Indeed, the New England Puritans were the ones who adopted the social gospel, which became a dogma of mainline liberal Protestantism but would be the antithesis of the evangelical understanding of salvation. But in the 19th century, these different strains had not yet gone their separate ways.

There are different ways of drawing the lines. They keep shifting over time. And they will shift again in the future.

Christians should probably avoid committing everything to a transient political philosophy as applied to a transient temporal situation. But standing up for transcendent moral principlesfor example, opposition to slavery and opposition to abortionis an obligation in every age. That might be interpreted in different ways in different timesone would think that being pro-life is a progressive positionbut that shouldnt matter to the Christians.

Illustration: The Great Republican Reform Party, Calling on Their Candidate, [click link for the explanation and identification of the cartoon] via Picryl, Public Domain

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Terry McLaughlin: Why a Catholic school education? – The Union

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Named for the great English writer, philosopher and convert to the Catholic faith, G.K. Chesterton, the first Chesterton Academy was opened in Edina, Minnesota, in 2008.

Today there are 33 Catholic schools providing a classical education within the Chesterton Schools Network in the United States and Canada, one in Iraq, a sister school in Italy, and more than a dozen slated to open in the next year.

The good news is that one of those schools will be opening right here in Grass Valley. As many parents in our community are seeking an alternative to public school for their students, the Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick, opening to high school students in the fall of 2022, may be their answer.

Why a Catholic school education? Catholic schools understand the multi-faceted nature of child development and are heavily invested in the well-being of their students. They seek to develop the whole child by engaging the human need for physical, mental, social and spiritual nourishment.

Chesterton Academy schools embrace three pillars of formation for each student: intellectual, learning what is good; character, forming habits of virtue; spiritual, man is made for more.

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They use a tried-and-true approach to classical education which has withstood the test of time and provides the best and most nutritious food for the mind. Each years instruction builds upon the previous one, and the results are that students recognize the order of things and understand cause and effect; think more logically and rationally; become more aware and more appreciative of beauty and truth; and are articulate, clear-thinking, well-rounded, and most importantly, joyful.

Students at Chesterton Academy enjoy a cohesive, content-rich classical education. They benefit from a broad exposure to many disciplines, which helps them expand their interests and their critical-thinking ability. History, literature, philosophy and theology are braided together. The sciences and humanities are intimately connected so that the logic of math is seen in philosophy.

The curriculum is impressive and rigorous. Freshman literature classes will focus on Homer, Aeschylus and Virgil. By their senior year, students will have been introduced to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Orwell and more.

History begins with the study of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and Persia, ancient Greece and Rome, continues on with the early Medieval period, the Crusades, the High Middle Ages, the Renaissance period, Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and culminates with concentration on colonization and exploration, the American Civil War, the two World Wars, the Communist and Cultural Revolutions, and the Cold War.

In philosophy, freshman will study Socrates, Plato, and formal logic, arriving at the study of rationalism, idealism, liberalism, utilitarianism, and Marxism in their senior year.

Science curriculum will take the student from astronomy and physical science through biology, chemistry,and into physics, including Newtonian physics, electricity, and magnetism. Mathematics instruction will include analytical geometry, algebra, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus and statistics.

Equal emphasis is given to language and arts so that every student gains an appreciation of music and art, and learns to draw and paint, sing in the choir, act on stage, give speeches and engage in debate.

The Chesterton Schools Network showed an incredible resilience during the nationwide lockdowns due to Covid-19. While schools all over the country were closing their doors, nine new Chesterton Schools were opened in the fall of 2020.

One sign of growth of the network of schools came from an unexpected place. This September, the Chesterton Academy of St. Thomas the Apostle opened in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

In the summer of 2014, more than 120,000 Iraqi Christians were uprooted from their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain by Islamic State militants and sought refuge in the Irbil Archdiocese. The archdiocese coordinated emergency aid, housing, education, and pastoral care for the displaced families.

When Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil learned of the Chesterton Academys classical model, he was determined to bring it to Iraq as one of several initiatives he established to help Christians remain in Iraq.

Need more reasons to consider Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick for your student? According to the National Catholic Educational Association, 99% of Catholic secondary school students graduate and 88% percent continue on to attend college.

In general, on national and standardized tests, Catholic schools consistently outperform public schools and other private schools by as much as 20 percentage points.

And its affordable. Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick is striving to keep tuition at approximately $7,500 per year, less than half the cost of Jesuit High School in Sacramento.

Our children are the heirs of our future. Brimming with a natural wonder, joy and zeal for life, they have the brightest hopes and biggest dreams for the world around them.

Catholic schools value their students and strive to create an educational experience in which their students thrive while celebrating learning, developing talents, and creating lifelong bonds. They understand that our children are the movers and shakers with the power to determine the course of history.

A family information night will be held on Monday, Dec. 6, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the large hall at St Patrick Church, at 235 Chapel St. All are welcome to attend, regardless of religious affiliation, and learn more about Chesterton Academy of St. Patrick, coming to Grass Valley in 2022. Or you can visit http://www.caofstpatrick.org , email info@caofstpatrick.org, or call 530-273-2347.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

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Professor George Paxinos’ 21-year writing odyssey comes to an end with ‘A River Divided’ – Greek Herald

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Professor George Paxinos is arguably one of the greatest minds in the world, having identified and named more brain structures in rats and humans than anyone in history.

Like many brain cartographers before him, hes also principally published his work and research in books 58 to be exact. These works have led to advancements in the prevention, treatment and cure of brain and spinal cord diseases, disorders and injuries.

But Professor Paxinos has also always had the urge to write a fiction novel focused on environmental concerns, such as deforestation and climate change. This urge has led to the publication of his new thrilling environmental crime novel A River Divided.

Speaking with The Greek Herald after the release of A River Divided, Professor Paxinos says the novel came out of a continuous defeat in things that I tried to do to protect the environment.

In the 1980s and the 1990s, Professor Paxinos was the principal advocate for the return of trams to Sydney, founding The Light Rail Association of which he served as President. The Association aimed to reduce reliance on the car and reduce atmospheric pollution.

But despite Professor Paxinos best efforts, the tramway infrastructure of Sydney was not preserved and once the CBD and South East Light Rail network began to be built in October 2015, the environmental impact was huge.

I was frustrated because I was losing every time and I thought if I were to write a novel, as they werent many novels on the environment back then, that I might be able to take the reader with me and make change in behaviour upstream from action that is, to change attitude, Professor Paxinos says.

After making this decision to write the novel, the neuroscientist began to think about a plot and he says it came to him one night at a Christmas Party in 1999.

I was with some friends and someone asked me what were doing and I said, were going to Spain and they asked, if youre going to Spain why dont you visit San Juan de Compostela? The church where the bones of St James are buried, Professor Paxinos explains.

I thought at that moment, Ill take some DNA and see what the guy looked like but then I thought, why not someone far greater? The idea of cloning the remains of Jesus came to mind and having him look at the world today and seeing what his reaction would be to the environmental issues that are facing us.

Its from this moment on that A River Divided was born.

The novel begins withJesus DNA being discovered and then cloned to bring twins into the world.Separated by circumstance, the twins are unaware of each others existence and they live completely different lives. One day, they coincidentally meet and come to logger-heads over a project in the Amazon rainforest that could threaten life as people know it.

This narrative is so well-written and meticulously researched that its no surprise it took Professor Paxinos 21 years to finish writing it in a way which pays homage to religion, the environment and science.

Of course, I had my day job but it was more so that novel writing is a different skill to scientific writing. I thought it would be a good transfer of skills, he says.

I had the background [as] I was teaching neuroscience. I had also a long-standing interest in the environment so I had that benefit but still, it is a lot of work to make the words.

Despite this, the words Professor Paxinos did use in A River Divided dance across the pages as a demanding tango between scientific rationalism and literature.

Its definitely a novel you dont want to miss!

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Kirkwood Artist Works with Psychology Group to Find Link Between Art and Science with Creativity and Madness – Catholic University of America The…

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Image Courtesy of Webster-Kirkwood Times

By Angela Hickey

Human beings have created art for as long as we can remember, but is there any science behind this constant creation? One Kirkwood artist has taken up this mission in order to answer the question, is there a link between art and science?

For the past decade, artist Bob Dick of Kansas City, MO known professionally as R.H. Dick has been involved with Creativity and Madness, an organization founded by Yale psychiatrist Barry Panter, whose main mission is to study the link between art and science. The group has published three volumes of psychological case studies; their latest features a section by Dick himself.

Creativity and Madness was founded in 1981 through The American Institute of Medical Education (AIMED) to provide education for scientists and physicians in the name of discovering the scientific links between psychology and art. Preaching the importance of searching outside the fields of science in order to keep up analytical research, Creativity and Madness searches for new ways to link the arts and the sciences.

These cats are fascinated by the artist because most of them are quantifiers. Theyre scientists, said Dick in an interview with The Webster-Kirkwood Times. Theyve been saddled with numbers and the scientific method since the Renaissance. Guys like me come in here and we talk about the vibe, the joyce, the things from beyond. They look at us bug-eyed. It blows their minds.

The group features prominent figures, from neuroscientists and physicists to brain mappers and surgeons. The group of researchers gets together to hold conferences to hear from artists like Dick about what drives them to do what they do.

Theres power that art has that modern man is just beginning to realize, Dick said. What is it about art that we just seem to be drawn to? Its that power that hasnt really been analyzed yet. We know that art changes the brain, but we dont know why and thats why theyre intrigued.

Dick was featured in Creativity & Madness most recent case study, discussing his time in the artist colony of Taos, New Mexico. Visiting for the first time at age 12, Dick felt an unexplainable force in the surrounding pueblos and returned to Taos numerous times over his career.

How to describe Taos to a civilian? Anything goes. Artists, poets, freaks, snake handlers, outlaws, motorcycles, dropouts, drop-ins, gays, lesbians. Everybody is on a quest. Everybody is trying to find the center, said Dick. If youre a searcher, if youre an artist or poet, then Taos has an attraction that will grab you around your throat and not let go.

Dicks introduction to his section of the most recent case study talks about a zone in the creative process where time and space are broken. Artistic genius, he said, is determined by how long one can exist in that zone.

Ive talked to other creators and we all agree that if you, in your lifetime, can produce one or two great things, its at that point that youve jumped into madness, he said. Whats happening in that flow is that logic has dropped to the floor. Rationalism is gone. Youre dealing with ethereal, mystical things.

The artist first experienced this phenomenon several decades ago, while working with fellow artist and model, Andrea Paulette, whom Dick calls, a true muse. Dick worked with Paulette for several years, creating various paintings and photographs, and what he considers his best work a sculpture of Paulette created in a beer and aspirin-fueled haze.

Shed come in in the morning and take the pose, and Id work, said Dick. After seven days and seven nights, Im coming apart. She looked at me and she said, Whats wrong with you? And I said, I cant do any more. And she walked out of here and that was the last time I saw her.

Dick is very open with his mental health experiences, going into detail about his own struggles and personal experiences with depression.

While she was sitting there and I was working, I had gone over the edge, he continued. When that came to an end, I went into a depression. I went into a sulking, gloomy life. I didnt know what was wrong with me. I had given so much. I was empty.

Ultimately, Dick, unlike many other famous artists, was able to pull himself out of that darkness, encouraging him to work with Creativity and Madness to understand the root of these common experiences and symptoms and their links to the artistic world.

To this day, Dick hasnt parted with the piece he created with Paulette all those years ago.

Im proud of it, but at the same time Im not so sure I did it, he said. Some of my best things came from beyond. Is that madness? It may be.

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The Best Books I Read This Year (2021 Edition) – Patheos

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2021 has been a banner year on the reading front, though maybe not exactly the one Id expected. My little sons entrance into the world has sent me plumbing the depths of the Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman canons, breaking out the classic Berenstain Bears, and seeing how well I can nail the tongue-twisters of Fox in Socks. I cant wait until hes old enough for the Chronicles of Narnia, Beverly Cleary, Harry Potter, and so many others.

That being said, I managed to get a fair amount of personal reading done toodidnt quite hit the 200-book mark this year, but am looking to clock in around 180 volumes or so. Having less time for my own study has forced me to prioritize the stuff I really want to read, which has ended up being quite a good thing.

Ive already raved here about Sigrid Undsets amazing novel Kristin Lavransdatter, so lets consider that one a gimme. Here are ten of the other books I picked up this year that really made an impact.

The Decline of the West (Oswald Spengler)

Spenglers opus is a massive and genre-blurring interpretation of world history on the largest possible scale. In the simplest terms, his project amounts to a theory of the defining characteristics and life cycles of major world cultures, ranging from the Mesoamerican to the Babylonian to the Russian. In Spenglers account, great cultures are unified by the metaphysical world-pictures at their respective heartsfrom the Way of the Egyptians to the garden of the Chinese. As a culture ages, its denizens response to this world-picture inevitably shifts from religious awe toward rationalism, scientism, and decadence. Of course any work like this one is inherently daring and extravagant, and there are plenty of places where one can poke holes in Spenglers thesis, but I could hardly put this book down. This is what genius looks like.

Aspects of Truth: A New Religious Metaphysics (Catherine Pickstock)

Aspects of Truth, the latest volume from the grand doyenne of the Radical Orthodoxy movement, is a showstopping articulation and defense of the Christian philosophical tradition against virtually all assailantsfrom both the analytic and continental traditions of philosophy. In its depth and breadth, Aspects of Truth is to metaphysics what Alasdair MacIntyres Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity is to moral philosophy. This is decidedly not an entry-level work, and probably requires a graduate-level background in philosophical theology to really enjoy, but those with a taste for intellectual brio will find much to love here.

The Ecclesiastical Text: Criticism, Biblical Authority, and the Popular Mind (Theodore P. Letis)

In this essay collection, the late biblical scholar (and Lutheran theologian) Theodore Letis outlines a provocative argument that the Protestant quest for the original autographs of Scripture is misguided, conceding far too much to modernist methods. Instead, Letis contends that what matters is the ecclesiastical text handed down by the church through time (perhaps even including such allegedly later texts as the Johannine comma and the long ending of Mark)a stance that brought him into the strange company of KJV-onlyists. In so doing, Letis defends an understanding of sola scripturathat fully owns the fact that Bible exists in, with, and for the church. Regardless of your confessional allegiance, Letiss unconventional and surprisingly brilliant case deserves your attention.

Between Two Fires (Christopher Buehlman)

The only way I can describe this historical horror-thriller novel is something like Cormac McCarthys The Road mixed with Frank Perettis This Present Darkness, set during the Black Death. Its a high-testosterone rollercoaster of a book that manages to be spectacularly gruesome, theologically sophisticated, and deeply moving all at the same time.

Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha (Thch Nht Hnh)

If, like me, your exposure to the Buddhist tradition has been mostly limited to fragments of pop culture, Thch Nht Hnhs intellectual biography of Siddhartha Gautama is the ideal entry point to further study. In easy, accessible prose, Old Path White Clouds outlines the early history and fundamental principles of Theravada Buddhism, explaining complex ideas that might otherwise seem alien to those of us with thoroughly Western worldviews. Yes, its 600 pages, but they fly by.

Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law (Chaim N. Saiman)

Ill freely admit that, over the years, I havent done much reading about the Jewish Tradition! that Fiddler on the Roofs Tevye defended so famouslymuch less the intricate legal lattice of reflections on the Torah that have developed within Jewish scholarship for millennia. Saimans study of halakhah, or Jewish law, is an accessible scholarly introduction to how these laws have emerged over time and how they actually work in practice. Saiman advances the compelling argument that debates over the most arcane points of lawcovering impossible situations that would never obtain in realityare, in a sense, religious devotions, discussions through which all things in the world can be seen to be ordered to God. A perfect read for the curious and legally-minded soul.

The Invention of Religion in Japan (Jason nanda Josephson Storm)

Josephson Storm delivers an interdisciplinary exploration of the ways in which the notoriously contentious concept of religionas a master category encompassing traditions as different as Christianity and Buddhismbecame embedded within a Japanese civilization that had no indigenous word for this concept. Most notable is this books exploration of the deliberate construction of a State Shinto ideology as a distinctively Japanese tool for navigating Westernized modernity. This required the development of a new theology drawing on Japanese folk traditions and coupling them with a new appreciation for Western science and industrializationeven to the point of reconceiving the afterlife as a mechanized fantasia rather than the traditional grassy fields. In short, Josephson Storms argument points toward the uncomfortable suggestion that attempts to repristinate cultural traditions in the face of hostile cross-pressures are inevitably transformations of those traditions. If you loved Charles Taylors A Secular Age and want to take things to the next level, this is the volume for you.

Klara and the Sun (Kazuo Ishiguro)

Like everything Ishiguro writes, Klara and the Sun is a treasure. This latest novel tells, in the first person, the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend (semi-sentient robot) tasked with serving as companion to the sick human girl Josie. As a solar-powered automaton, Klara is dependent upon the sun for all thingsand comes to revere it as a god. And as Josies illness advances, it soon becomes clear that Klaras role may not be what she initially envisioned, forcing Klara to trust in powers beyond herself. Culminating in one of the best endings Ishiguro has ever penned, this book is a powerful journey through memory, identity, and the irresistible orientation of every rational creature towards the divine.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Thomas S. Kuhn)

Kuhns groundbreaking volume is the sort of text that regularly makes its way onto college syllabi, but that nobody actually reads. At its core, its a thoughtful examination of the historical contingencies underlying what counts as science. Instead of reflecting a smooth progression from ignorance to knowledge, Kuhn argues, the history of science must depict a tradition riven by fundamental paradigm shifts that periodically change the game altogetherafter which scientists employ different methods in order to answer different questions. The implications of Kuhns thesis are far-reaching, especially once they really sink in; internalize Kuhn, and youll inevitably find yourself left uncomfortable by casual public appeals to what science tells us. (A worthy follow-up read is Bruno Latours We Have Never Been Modern.)

Before Auschwitz: What Christian Theology Must Learn from the Rise of Nazism (Paul R. Hinlicky)

In this tough-to-classify volume, Lutheran theologian Paul Hinlicky canvasses the historical scholarship on German Lutheran complicity with Hitlers Reich from an overtly theological perspective, asking tough questions about political quiescence, the metaphysics of Nazi theology, and the Christian Churchs relationship to historical antisemitism. While Hinlickys own constructive theological proposals are more suggestive than systematic, this isnt a downside; Before Auschwitz is a unique work of meta-history that is acutely conscious of the inevitable ways in which theological commitments (of any sort) shape historical analysis, and the book even points toward a decidedly postliberal Lutheran critique of modern liberal-capitalist society. Ill be returning to this one repeatedly in the years to come.

____________________

Some honorable mentions would have to be Albions Seed: Four British Folkways in America (David Hackett Fischer), Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir), and The Blazing World (Siri Hustvedt).

What are your favorite books from 2021? Please feel free to share in the comments!

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Nine Implications for Investors of the Longer-Term Coronavirus Legacy ShareCafe – ShareCafe

Posted: November 28, 2021 at 10:00 pm

Introduction

The magnitude of the coronavirus shock means it will have implications beyond those associated with its short-term economic disruption. Possibly a bit like a world war where the post war period is very different to the pre-war period.

Of course, coronavirus has not yet released its grip as its resurgence in Europe and the US highlights with a very high risk of the same elsewhere. But there is good reason for optimism vaccines are 85-95% effective in preventing serious illness and there are now several effective treatments that are useful for those for whom the vaccines are less effective and for the unvaccinated. Vaccines are less effective though in preventing infection (at 60-80%) and their efficacy fades after about five months so when 70% or less of the population is vaccinated (as in Europe and the US) that still leaves a high proportion of the population who can get sick and overwhelm the hospital system, particularly as colder weather sets in and efficacy wanes resulting in the return of restrictions in some places. And vaccination rates remain low in poor countries running the risk of new waves and mutations. The only way to avoid this is to get vaccination rates to very high levels (with the help of vaccine mandates), quickly roll out booster shots and only remove restrictions gradually. This includes Australia too.

But the key is that vaccines and new treatments provide a path out of the pandemic and long hard lockdowns and as a result its likely that 2022 will be the year we will learn to live with covid and it goes from being an epidemic to being endemic. So it makes sense to have a look at what its longer term legacy may be (beyond of course associated medical advances that have been big). Here are 7 key medium to longer term impacts.

The GFC brought an end to support for economic rationalism and was associated with a leg up in public debt levels. Fading memories of the problems of too much government intervention in the 1970s added to this. The coronavirus crisis has added to support for bigger government intervention in economies and the tolerance of higher levels of public debt. Particularly given that the pandemic has enhanced perceptions of inequality and that governments should do more to boost infrastructure spending & bring production of key goods back onshore. And its now combining with a desire for governments to pick and subsidise climate winners rather than rely on a carbon price to achieve net zero emissions. IMF projections for government spending in advanced countries show it settling 1% of GDP higher in five years time than pre-covid levels.

Source: IMF, AMP Capital

And net public debt is also expected to settle at levels around 15% of GDP higher more so in the US.

Source: IMF, AMP Capital

Implications while increased infrastructure spending is positive for productivity, the trend towards bigger government generally is more of a negative for longer term growth.

The combination of quantitative easing (which saw money injected into economies) along with government spending through the pandemic to support household and corporate income boosted broad money supply measures (like M2 and M3 which include bank deposits) well above their long-term trend. This is evident in excess household savings (savings above their long-term trend built up through the last two years) of $US2.3 trillion in the US (10% of GDP) and $180bn in Australia (8% of Australian GDP). This is radically different to the post GFC period that saw QE boost narrow money (mainly bank reserves) but was offset by fiscal austerity.

Implications the pool of excess saving provides a boost to spending & a potential disincentive to work (until it runs out) and with increased money supply risks an ongoing boost to inflation, beyond the pandemic driven boost currently being seen.

Geopolitical tensions were on the rise prior to the pandemic with the relative decline of the US & faith in liberal democracies waning from the time of the GFC. This has seen various regional powers flex their muscles Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and notably China, which was facilitated by its own economic rise. The pandemic inflamed US/China tensions, particularly over the origin of coronavirus and as the US poor handling of coronavirus reinforced Chinas shift away from economic liberalism. Russia and Iran are now seeking to take advantage of the global energy shortage, which itself is partly pandemic-related. The summit between Presidents Xi and Biden offers hope for a thaw in tensions but its not clear how far that will go.

The pandemic has also arguably inflamed political polarisation with the hard left tending to support lockdowns & vaccines and the hard right against them. This is perhaps more of an issue in the US and parts of Europe than in Australia.

Implications increased geopolitical tensions could act as a negative for growth, work against multinationals and be negative for shares. It also poses a threat to Australia with restrictions on imports of various products into China so far this has been masked by first higher iron ore prices and then higher energy prices. And more political polarisation risks policy gridlock. Fortunately, its not as much of an issue in Australia.

A backlash against globalisation became evident last decade in the rise of Trump, Brexit and populist leaders. The coronavirus disruption has added to this. Worries about the supply of critical items have led to pressure for onshoring of production.

Implications Reduced globalisation risks leading to reduced growth potential for the emerging world generally. Longer term it could reduce productivity if supply chains are managed on other than economic grounds and will remove a key source of disinflationary pressure from the global economy.

Working from home and border closures have dramatically accelerated the move to a digital world. Workers, consumers, businesses, schools, universities, health professionals, young & old have been forced to embrace new online ways of doing things. Many have now embraced on-line retail, working from home & virtual meetings. It may be argued that this fuller embrace of technology beyond Netflix will enable the full productivity enhancing potential of technology to be unleased.

Implications there are big ongoing implications from this: Pressure on traditional retail/retail property has intensified. The decline of the office some sort of happy medium (eg 2 days in and 3 days at home) will likely be arrived at trading the need for collaboration and team building against the need for quiet time and getting things done. But it has huge implications for office space demand and CBDs. An ongoing reinvigoration of economic life in suburbs and regions as work from home continues (albeit not necessarily for five days for all). Virtual meetings may see less demand for business travel.

Its conceivable that the lockdowns have driven many to rethink whats important in life and that pent up saving through the pandemic along with the ability of many to work from home has provided flexibility for some to refocus and a reluctance to the fully return to the old grind. In fact, the term Great Resignation has been coined in the US as labour force participation remains below pre pandemic levels and the proportion of workers quitting their jobs is at record levels. This in turn (and the absence of skilled immigrants and backpackers in Australia) may be contributing to labour shortages (which given the boost the pandemic provided to goods demand has created supply shortages and a surge in inflation). Of course, some of this may fade as excess savings are run down, people return to work as the pandemic fades and there is less evidence to support a Great Resignation in Australia where jobs turnover is normal. And it seems like only yesterday there was talk of automation wiping out lots of jobs so it could all just be another beat up. Then again, its likely some of it will linger as work from home has shown a way to a higher quality lifestyle.

Implications this will provide an ongoing boost to relative demand for lifestyle property, albeit it risks driving higher wages in the short term. And labour supply in some countries may take a while to get back to what it used to be.

Its conceivable that elation once the pandemic is finally over, the spending of pent up demand and excess savings along with the productivity enhancing benefits of new technology unleashed by the lockdowns will drive a re-run of the Roaring Twenties much like occurred after Spanish flu. Time will tell.

Implications growth may turn out stronger than expected.

Each new crisis seems to bring Europe closer together. The ECBs response to the pandemic which has seen it buy more bonds in problem countries and the economic recovery fund where Italy and Spain will receive a disproportionate share highlight that Europe is getting closer and the impending change of government in Germany may add to this. The pressures to keep the Eurozone together (safety in numbers, a high identification as Europeans, support for the Euro, Germany benefitting from the EU & Germanys exposure to Italian bonds via the ECB) remain stronger than the forces pulling it apart.

Implications I still wouldnt bet on the Euro breaking apart.

Given the hit to immigration by 2026 Australia will be 1 million people smaller than expected pre coronavirus. And the Federal Government appears to have rejected the idea of a catch up in immigration levels to make up for lost arrivals.

Implications the hit to immigration if sustained could mean a more balanced housing market in the years ahead with less upwards pressure on prices and reduced potential growth in the economy as a result of skilled shortages and lower population growth. But of course, this could reverse if the Government rapidly ramps up immigration after next years Federal election.

Some of these implications will constrain growth & hence investor returns bigger government, reduced globalisation, lower population in Australia and a possible longer-term threat to labour supply. And increased geopolitical tensions could add to volatility. Against this, the faster embrace of technology boosting productivity and a potential post pandemic boom will work the other way and is positive for growth assets.

The biggest risk is high inflation. Just as World War 2 and expansionary post-war policy ultimately broke the back of 1930s deflation, so to the pandemic and its monetary and fiscal response is likely to have broken the back of the prior disinflationary period. This in turn means the tailwind of falling inflation & interest rates which provided a positive reflation and revaluation boost to growth assets is likely behind us.

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A decolonised approach to tackling community challenges – University World News

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GLOBAL

The university of the future is engaged it has no walls. It is committed to social responsibility and encourages students to engage directly with real-world challenges. In doing so, engaged universities prepare students for livelihoods that contribute to a more sustainable future, says Nieves Segovia, president of Camilo Jos Cela University in Madrid, Spain, and Talloires Network steering committee vice-chair for the conference that was hosted from 30 September to 3 October.

As conceived by the 22 founders of the Talloires Network, civic engagement is much more than working a few hours in the community. And, as John Kerry, US President Joe Bidens special presidential envoy for climate, stressed in his keynote address, although being an informed voter is a start, it is not enough.

Rather, civic engagement has two parts. First, as exemplified by The Street Store@UP, a programme founded by Paseka Elcort Gaola, a fourth-year bachelor degree student at the Mamelodi campus of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, civic engagement involves students in the warp and woof of their communities: in this case, distributing food, toiletries and clothing to students in need.

Second, by being enmeshed in their communities, students like Gaola learn about economic realities that are rather different from those covered in the traditional curriculum studied by a commerce and law major.

Vuthlarhi Shirindza, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, who co-founded a company that uses drones to deliver medicines to patients in rural South Africa, is likewise immersed in the practical needs of her community and necessarily has learned about public health problems from the ground up.

The students who presented at the conference have founded a number of organisations, including ones that:

Connect underprivileged Ghanaian youth with higher education opportunities.

Teach underprivileged Ghanaian youth basic computer skills.

Advocate against violence against women in Sudan.

Provide menstrual products to women in Kenya.

Work to remove barriers to education for LGBTQ2S in India.

Advocate for Indigenous land rights in Mexico.

Develop a micro-health insurance system for students in Cameroon.

Mentor youth in the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).

Much as dramatic irony (to borrow a term from theatre studies) dissolves the fourth wall and involves the audience in the production, these organisations dissolve the illusion that the university is a self-contained unit, a view supported in many cases by the campus gates and the enduring trope of the Ivory Tower.

Varied paths

The paths the students in the Civic Engagement Futures session travelled to the Talloires Network conference vary widely.

Gaolas runs through the University of Pretoria and includes a six-week civic engagement scholarship that brought him (and other students) to Washington DC; Memphis, Tennessee and Seattle, Washington. In the American capital, he studied the structure of the American government.

Recalling our emotional reaction when, about a decade ago, my wife and I visited the Lincoln Memorial, I asked Gaola about the impact it made on him. He began by referencing popular culture: For the first time, it felt real. Its one of the places television likes to show.

Then, after a short pause, he added in a reverent tone: It was quite interesting to go up the steps, until you reach the last one and then, [suddenly] you just see it [the seated 19-foot-high Lincoln statue and to his side the famous Gettysburg Address].

Gaolas visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, left him thinking about how the narrative of American history changes when viewed from the African American perspective.

It always depends who is writing the story, he told University World News.

In Memphis, he saw how his and his fellow scholarship students foreign accents shielded them from the racism they also saw around them. This was underlined for them when an African American came up to Gaola and told him: Its not every day that we see white folks communicate to us [black people] the way you are. And they [the white southerners] were quite interested in knowing what we spoke about.

In one exchange, as if on cue, some white southerners expressed surprise that the Africans had iPhones.

Claire McCann, a graduate student from Rhodes University in South Africa, is also trained in economics. Her masters thesis, situated at the intersection of economics and feminist theory, focuses on the caring economy and early childhood development or ECD: A critical analysis of the barriers to an effective ECD rollout in South Africa, and the possibility the social economy offers in this space.

At Rhodes University, McCann has been volunteering to design a short course in community engagement for grades 10, 11 and 12 to be delivered in local private schools. This course serves to equip South African private school students in the discourse of transformation and development. In the modules, we embed reciprocal community development practices and ones that are based on assets instead of needs, she says.

The course is designed to be self-transformational. So, it has its mainly white and well-off students look for privilege and stereotypes, and how to overcome these to build towards a transformative society.

The impact of McCanns discussions with fellow team member Maria Djalma Torres Sanchez, a Peruvian lawyer who claims her indigenous identity and is now studying at University College Cork in Ireland, exemplifies the Talloires Networks belief that the interchange between students from different backgrounds and places can lead them to new insights.

We spoke a lot about indigenous epistemologies, different sources of knowledge and the importance of oral histories, with the last being especially important for McCann for two reasons.

First, she learned when studying history as an undergrad, like so much else in South Africa, that what constitutes history is bifurcated between written (official) history produced mainly by and for white colonial governments and the oral history of the black majority.

The second impact of Torress explanation of indigenous epistemologies and spirituality highlighted for McCann the limitations of rationalism and pragmatism for the [Global] North and West.

The practical effect of these discussions can be seen in the methodology of the qualitative (ie, oral) research McCann is using for her thesis. Not only will her interviews not be extractive, they will be structured so that she and her interviewee are co-producers of the material McCann will use in her thesis.

As well, McCann told University World News, her work will be informed by the idea that spirituality is a legitimate and very powerful source of knowledge.

The day we spoke, Torres, who, in the decade since graduating from law school, has worked on indigenous issues on litigation, advocacy and lately as parliamentary adviser for the Peruvian Congress was a day away from starting work at the Asociacin Intertnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (AIDESEP). AIDESEP is one of the main national indigenous organisations of the Peruvian Amazon.

A born and bred Limea (resident of Lima), Torres was totally unaware of muddy roads like the ones in Ancash, Cajamarca and Yauyos, all in the north central part of Peru, where her grandparents were from; still less was she able to speak her grandmothers native language, Quechua.

She realised that she wanted to specialise in indigenous peoples rights after travelling, as part of a law school course, to the Kandozis ancestral territory. The indigenous people in this area of the Western Amazon suffered from hepatitis B and were abandoned by the state. Her indigeneity became important to her after five years working closely with these peoples.

In 2018, Torres was invited to participate as a speaker and as human rights defender to the Roger Casement Summer School in Dublin, Ireland. Roger Casements journey, from being an official of the British Colonial Service to Irish patriot was, Torres told me, personal for her in two ways.

First, in 1911, Casement wrote a report about the plight of the indigenous people working in the rubber plantations in the Putumayo, a border that Peru and Colombia share. A common form of punishment was the pillory, which men, women and children could be locked to for months at a time.

This report was written six years after his more famous report detailing the abuses including slavery, mutilation and torture of hundreds of thousands of Congolese on the rubber plantations in the Congo, which was the personal fief of Belgiums King Leopold.

Second, Casement served as a model of having, to use Torress words, decolonised himself after realising his nation was suffering under British rule.

Casements example, his discovery that his Irishness was central to his identity, is a model for me. It is why my masters thesis is on indigenous self-identification and its relationship to supporting indigenous peoples demands for self-determination, Torres told University World News.

(In Casements case, he paid for his quest to support self-determination with his life. Early in 1916, he travelled to Germany where he tried to raise a regiment from Irish soldiers who had been captured on the Western Front to fight against British rule in Ireland. He was captured on Banna Strand in Tralee Bay, County Kerry, Ireland, after being put ashore by a German U-boat, and was executed for high treason [ie against the British occupying power] in August 1916.)

Helping indigenous peoples on their land claims and realising self-determination is a central part of Torress work at AIDESEP.

Self-determination in this case doesnt mean we want our own country. It means, respect my territory. Respect my decisions and development priorities. Indigenous peoples dont oppose mining and economic development per se. But we want them done with respect for the indigenous peoples and their territories, Torres says.

Since arriving at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in 2020 to begin his bachelor degree, Fadi Marwan Salahedin has involved himself both in his physical surroundings and in the lives of refugees in Lebanon. With partial funding from the Boston-based NGO, Peace First, he organised an initiative that recycles plastic left over from the huge explosion that devastated Beirut on 4 August 2020.

Further, Salahedin has volunteered as a research intern with the AUB Center for Civic Engagement and Community Services Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA) programme that bridges refugees whose studies have been disrupted.

In addition to helping obtain transcripts and the like, PADILEIA provides upgrading courses in mathematics, English and the sciences. More closely linked to Salahedins field of study, psychology is an often-overlooked area of need: psycho-social support.

Though post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most well-known psycho-social condition refugees have to deal with, it is not the only psycho-social issue facing refugees, Salahedin told University World News.

It would be reductive to narrow it down to just PTSD, although it is an important issue, as are the subcategories of PTSD.

Refugees are subject to the same gamut of psychological issues non-refugees are subject to, underlined the Syrian student who attends the AUB on a scholarship, and who plans to study industrial and business psychology.

Everything a person can go through can cause them to have depression or anxiety, or suicidal ideation can be present. So can undiagnosed ADHD: Because there has been no background knowledge or psychological knowledge [where the refugee came from], no one has ever addressed it and they live in misery for the rest of their lives without ever knowing whats going on.

He added that there are of course other issues such as borderline personality disorders, schizophrenia and the like.

After pointing out that each of the terms he had just used can be found in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and, thus, belong to the Western (especially American) understanding of psycho-social disorders, I asked if there is a gap between this view of psychology and the non-Westernised people that make up some of the refugees in Lebanon? Salahedin said that such a barrier does exist.

However, he quickly added, when you can see that the issues result in distress in the day-to-day lives of the individual, that is something that people can talk about. In collectivist societies like here and in the Middle East in general, the role of the family or the society becomes more important than it is in individualistic communities in the West where an individual might just go to a therapist to address these issues.

This must be taken into consideration when designing programmes or initiatives to support individuals in distress.

What is the university good for?

Drawing on their own experiences and their discussions about them, the students in the Civic Engagement Futures session answered the second of the two questions that Okidi Patrovas Gabriel, a MasterCard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, posed at the beginning of their presentation: What is the university good for?

In asking this question, Gabriel, who is studying statistics, pointed our attention not just toward the future but, more importantly, toward the universitys social function. We realise, he said, that COVID-19 has exposed the social cracks in our society and that it has opened a space for us to engage with this question further.

Telegraphing what the other six participants would say, Gabriel said that their vision implies a paradigm shift about how to overcome the systemic barriers that hinder students from engaging in civic engagement.

The students in the Civic Engagement Futures session called for civic engagement to be recognised as a core element in university education. Showing the influence of the several students who had economics or law training, they spoke the language of registrars when they said that civic engagement must be evidence based and that the goals of both the individual students and the organisation or group they work with must be measured.

When civic engagement involves underprivileged or marginalised communities, the group said that care must be taken to avoid imposing on the community what amounts to a colonial structure.

Put another way, student activists must recognise that as members of a university community they necessarily act from a position of privilege vis--vis underprivileged or marginalised communities. Accordingly, they must ensure that the solutions to the real-world problems that they work towards are defined and arrived at with the community in question.

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Brexit, an unresolved personal issue between London and Paris | International – Market Research Telecast

Posted: at 10:00 pm

When Goscinny and Uderzo published Asterix in Brittany, In 1965, and Oblix kept repeating throughout history that these British are crazy, General de Gaulle had already made every effort to veto the entry of the United Kingdom into the then European Economic Community. The head-on clash between two unrepeatable political personalities, such as Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron, could simply be one more chapter in the eternal tension between the two nations, were it not for the emotional catalytic effect that Brexit has had on that relationship.

The British are sovereign in their decisions, and may well think that [esas decisiones] They are not our business, but the truth is that they are. Because this was a divorce, they divorced us , explained in March to the AFP agency in her Paris apartment Sylvie Bermann, the one who was French ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2014 to 2017. Her book Goodbye Britannia, published months earlier, it was a declaration of love betrayed to the British and a visceral attack on Johnson, whom he defined as a stubborn liar.

Every time Macron has punched the table, and threatened to twist Londons arm, he has resorted to the same argument: the lack of seriousness of his interlocutor in Downing Street. If one does not respect what was negotiated, nothing is worthy of respect. I believe in the soundness of the treaties, and in the need to take matters seriously, the French president said in June, hours before heading to Cornwall, on the British coast, for the G-7 meeting.

Macron, as he has not stopped doing all this time, was once again exercising poly little of the EU, reproached Johnson for his unilateral breach of the Northern Ireland protocol (the cornerstone of the Brexit agreement). And burst, incidentally, the first attempt at the new Great Britain Global dreamed by Eurosceptics of being a relevant international actor. In the new confrontation this week, after the death on Wednesday of 27 people trying to cross the English Channel and reach British shores, Macron has once again questioned the prime ministers disposition.

According to Paris, the attempt to seek avenues of cooperation in the face of the migration crisis had been exploited by the indiscretion of Johnson, who had published on Twitter the letter he had just sent to the French president. Those methods surprise me, they are not very serious. It is not normal for two leaders to communicate with each other through tweets and make their correspondence public, Macron said this Friday.

The troubles between the two politicians have become a constant in international meetings. At the inauguration of the last Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, a cloud of journalists caught the French president in the corridors of the Convention Center. They did not want to ask him about the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but about the ultimatum, which was going to expire in a few hours, on account of the fishing conflict between London and Paris. A Scottish ship was still held in French port, and the Macron government threatened to block access to the coast of the British fleet and reimpose tight customs controls on the Calais border. London, in return, wielded the warning to invoke the safeguard and arbitration mechanisms of the trade agreement signed with Brussels. An attack from Paris would be considered an attack by the EU.

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There are domestic and international political reasons for the continuing hyperbole that is the relationship between London and Paris. A few months before a presidential election in which Macron feels the breath of the populist right on his neck, the national reaffirmation at the cost of the prfida Albin usually works. And in the midst of a gasoline shortage and queues at service stations, a lack of labor and immigration lack of control, Johnson has found in France the perfect scapegoat to purge his shortages. But in addition, Macron openly detests the British negotiating maneuvers, which represent the opposite of the Cartesian rationalism and Napoleonic positivism on which the negotiating strategy and the legal solidity of the EU are based. Johnson, on the other hand, is convinced that France remains determined to prove that Brexit was a mistake for which the United Kingdom must suffer.

November 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the last major bilateral agreement between London and Paris: David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy signed the Lancaster House agreements, which expanded and strengthened military and defense cooperation between the two nations. This terrain has been the only one in which, historically, there have never been mutual doubts (with the exception of the confrontation between Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac on account of the Iraq war). Here too everything has been put up for auction, after Paris saw as incomprehensible disloyalty the AUKUS agreement forged last September between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, which took France by surprise from the contract of the century with the country Austral, for the construction and sale of new submarines.

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Ayanna Pressley And The (Un)Logic of Critical Theory – The Claremont Independent

Posted: at 10:00 pm

We dont need any more brown faces that dont want to be a brown voice. We dont need any more black faces that dont want to be a black voice.Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley

Ah, what a quote. But what does it mean, exactly? What are the assumptions about belief and identity implicit in Congresswoman Pressleys words?

First, she assumes that politicians, activists, writersreally anybody, for that mattermust bear two expressions of their identity: an outward, physical expression (the color of their skin, their gender, their socioeconomic statustheir face) and an inward, psychological expression (their values and normstheir voice).

Second, she asserts that these two things are related but disconnected, in that certain outward expressions have values and norms that are typical of them and which they would default to under normal conditions (i.e. the natural-state rich person would be fiscally conservative, the natural-state sexual minority would be socially liberal, the natural-state immigrant would be pro-multicultural, etc.), but these default conditions can be lost via outside interference.

And third, she asserts that in these unnatural instances in which a person (in this case, a brown person or a black person) believes in values and norms that do not belong to their set of default conditions, the person in question has chosen to betray their natural essence (i.e. brownness or blackness), and therefore can no longer serve as an effective and authentic representative for constituents of that identity group.

These are all tenets of a belief system based on Critical Theory, a philosophy of social analysis which is not unique to Congresswoman Pressley but shared by many people across the political spectrum today, and increasingly on the left. This belief system is thoroughly complex, bolstered by the work of many different highly intellectual people, and yet, I believe, both wrong and threatening to the very foundation of modernity.

Lets reexamine our reading of Pressleys statement: first of all, what is this implied interfering force that might corrupt someone to betray their natural essence? What is this impetus that might lead black and brown faces to open their mouths and speak with un-black and un-brown voices? Under the Critical Theory paradigm, this interfering force is whiteness.

See, whiteness in Critical Theory is not simply an identity that one is born into (a face), but rather a social property imbued with certain political, economic, and social privileges. Whiteness and the privileges that it holds are tightly coupled, and social power structures have been built-up to create and sustain both this condition of privilege as well as the white identity itself. Whiteness in this case, does have a face which people can be born with, but it also has a particularly powerful voice, one which all white people have access to, but which is not exclusive to white people and is indeed transmissible across boundaries of identity. See, if someone whose identity is marginalized wants to experience some of those political, economic, and social privileges which come with whiteness, they can obtain some semblance of those privileges by adopting certain values and norms which uphold the status quo, as the status quo systematically advantages white people. In this way, the marginalized individual in question sacrifices their conscience on an altar of social power, further bolstering white social hegemony by allowing whites to proclaim that the status quo is universally beneficial and that everyone can take part in it, when in reality both of these proclamations are lies that simply legitimize oppression. They are able to become less marginalized by co-opting whiteness, and in exchange, the white power structure is able to suppress dissent by co-opting their voice. The individual is now participating in a symbiotic relationship with whiteness, and is said to have taken on the condition of false consciousness.

What are some telltale signs that someone has taken this Faustian bargain of false consciousness and avowed themselves to whiteness? Well, it all comes down to narratives. White power structures are, after all, only maintained because people buy into certain narrative myths that legitimize white hegemony and keep the wheels turning. For example, the narrative that American society is meritocratic (or at least close to meritocratic) is one such myth that advantages white power by invalidating the possibility of systemic racism as a cause for the political, economic, and social disadvantages presented to people of color. Those people of color therefore, who do not believe in systematic forces of racial oppression which pervade multiple levels of society, are quite un-POC in their voices, and have been co-opted by the power structure.

Another telltale sign that someone has assumed false consciousness is that they participate in discourse using the so-called masters tools. Critical Theory lecturers have occasionally passed around this term, referencing a quote from a famous speech given by Audre Lorde at a feminist conference in 1979: [T]he masters tools will never dismantle the masters house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. These masters tools include empiricism, positivism, science, and anything else that seeks to perpetuate epistemic injustice by excluding other ways of knowing (such as the lived experience of marginalized people) from discourse. As Robin DiAngelo states in her book Is Everyone Really Equal?, [The] scientific method (sometimes referred to as positivism) was the dominant contribution of the 18th-century Enlightenment period in Europe. Positivism rested on the importance of reason, principles of rational thought, the infallibility of close observation, and the discovery of natural laws and principles governing life and society. Critical Theory developed in part as a response to this presumed superiority and infallibility of the scientific method, and raised questions about whose rationality and whose presumed objectivity underlies scientific methods. In this conception of science, the rationality and objectivity of the scientific method is undergirded by white masculinist definitions of what it even means to be rational and objective at all. In this way, someone who might reject that the lived experiences of some black and brown folk can be used as evidence to support the existence of a larger system of racial oppression, instead citing data which contradict said lived experiences, is engaging in epistemic violence by denying them their voice, excluding them from the conversation based upon inherently white standards of truth, and thereby perpetuating this very system of oppression. If the dissenter in question is themselves a person of color, then they have taken on the condition of false consciousness for certain. Their voice surely is not a voice of color.

If it isnt clear by now why this framework is ridiculous, then allow me to explain. Forgive me if this is suggesting too much, but the whole idea of false consciousness looks a lot like a convenient way to immediately dismiss anyone who disagrees with you as brainwashed. And lets be mildly charitable to Pressley and DiAngelo herelets say some black and brown voices who support the status quo are brainwashed and self-hatingeven so, not every black person who doesnt believe in Critical Theory is Jesse Lee Peterson. Some, indeed, many conscious objectors to Critical Theory exist among POC intellectuals on both the left and the right, and to dismiss them as all traitors to their communities for simply believing in universality, progress, and rationalism is unfounded, presumptuous, and frankly laughable.

Furthermore, it can be dangerous. The Enlightenment project of liberalism was not a white projectit was a universal project founded upon the notion that through our mutually operable senses of reason and our singular objective reality we could come to peacefully agree upon the values by which a prosperous society should be structured. It is jeopardizing the whole foundation of modernity to suggest that those valuesincluding democracy, human rights, and the rule of laware instead products of a self-sustaining hegemonic social order.

Historically speaking, most successful movements towards further racial equality have explained how the emancipation of racial minorities actually fits the logic of liberalism, and policies of racial exclusion are simply failures to live up to the right ideals. When Frederick Douglass wrote What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July, he explained how slavery was in contradiction with the fundamental principles of natural rights present in the American Constitution. When Ida B. Wells spoke out against the vigilantist lynching of black men in the Jim Crow South, she argued for anti-lynching legislation on the basis that black Americans deserved the same right to fair trial, and that the rule of law is foundational to just democratic governance. When Martin Luther King Jr. marched on the Washington Monument, he proclaimed that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. These great intellectuals of black American history believed that more liberalism and more universality was the solution to an unequal and broken system. None of them argued that liberal epistemology itself was the problemno successful movement for racial equality throughout history ever has. To put it mildly, it is an insult to the legacy of these great peopleand to black intellectual history as a wholeto say that these men and women were using the so-called masters tools or were somehow otherwise guilty of submitting to white power structures.

Finally, I wonder if Critical Theorists are even aware that their claimthat science and rationality are rooted in white conceptions of realityis exactly what white nationalists want people to believe. Its absurdly ironic, in an incredibly dark and slightly humorous sort of way. Both Critical Theorists and white nationalists share in this view that the natural state of black discourse is anti-positivist, except that while Critical Theorists use the terms counterstories, lived experiences, and ways of knowing, white nationalists describe our discourse as relying on myth, ignorance, and superstition. In both cases, the more rigorous form of discourse is relegated to whites and thought inaccessible to someone well-socialized to a black way of life. Legitimizing this way of thinking is deeply perilous. In an interview with Thomas Chatterton Williams, Richard Spencer, an avowed white supremacist and neo-Nazi, said the following with regards to some statements by a critical race theorist, This is the photographic negative of a white supremacist...This is why Im actually very confident, because maybe those leftists will be the easiest ones to flip. The main reason why white nationalists love this narrative is because it renders any possibility of multiracial liberal democracy as essentially doomed to fail. If white and black epistemologies are fundamentally incompatible, then where is the hope that intercultural dialogue will ever be capable of bringing about harmony between them? Why should they even belong to the same state at all? Now more than ever, we must reaffirm the notion that we are absolutely epistemically equivalent. For despite the disharmony, the suffering, and the racial violence, it is only between groups of people who agree on what reality is that change can ever occur.

Black and brown voices are ultimately diverse, and whether positivist or anti-positivist, pro-status quo or anti-status quo, Republican or Democratic, they all merit consideration on the basis of their real intellectual content. So maybe instead of creating a new POC anti-liberal orthodoxy, we should celebrate a wide diversity of black and brown political thought, and welcome well-founded dissent against Critical Theory. After all, when Max Horkheimer wrote Traditional and Critical Theory in 1937, he famously defined the goal of Critical Theory as being, to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them. So if genuine freedom is the goal, then ferociously pigeonholing POC thinkers into expectations of what they ought to believe based upon their identity might actually render us more unfree than we began.

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Ayanna Pressley And The (Un)Logic of Critical Theory - The Claremont Independent

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