Ideologies and Metanarratives

Jonathan Jones continues his series on the meaning of conservatism.

I see an intriguing similarity between the conservative's distrust of ideologies and the postmodernist's incredulity towards meta-narratives -- particularly the totalizing narratives of the Enlightenment and of Marxism. Granted, many postmodernists would look upon the conservative's "permanent things" and "eternal truths" as meta-narratives, and Burke's "moral imagination" as incapable of moving beyond the messiness and chaos of experience. Still, there is a shared concern: people becoming trapped in ideologies, meta-narratives, and other constructs and failing to see what is going on beyond them. This is a concern especially when people build grand institutions or other structures, such as governments, on abstract ideological constructions with little rootedness in history and humanity.

Augustine Blog Conference

Cynthia R. Nielsen of Per Caritatem brings Augustine into conversation with philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages, Reformation, Modernity, and Postmodernity. Cool.

In Defense of Greenwald

Jay Anderson has a post on this Glenn Greenwald article about giving "Blue Dog" Democrats the boot, in which Jay says:
What an incredibly stupid thing to propose in a year in which the Dem nominee for President is having problems attracting "Blue Dog" type Democrats (you know, the folks "clinging" to "God and guns"). Threatening to "boot" such folks from the Democrat Party is sure to win them over to Sen. Obama's cause.
I would interpret Greenwald's piece in a different context. The blogger is not a political analyst looking at how best to maintain a Democrat majority in Congress. Greenwald's principles overrule his party loyalty. His chief concern lately has been the evisceration of civil rights by an unaccountable warfare state. I know of no blogger more diligent in shining a light on the grave harm of warrantless eavesdropping powers than Glenn Greenwald. And he's is miffed because Democrats, even when they controlled the Congress, and including Senator Obama, have given in to President Bush's requests for additional wartime spying powers.

From his article:

As foolish as it is, this intense aversion to jeopardizing any Democratic incumbents might be considered rational if doing so carried the risk of restoring Republican control of Congress. But there is no such risk, and there will be none for the foreseeable future. No matter what happens, the Democrats, by all accounts, are going to control both houses of Congress after the 2008 election. Their margin in the House, which is currently 31 seats, will, by even the most conservative estimates, increase to at least 50 seats. No advertising campaign or activist group could possibly swing control of Congress to the Republicans this year, and -- given the Brezhnev-era-like reelection rates for incumbents in America -- it is extremely unlikely that the House will be controlled by anyone other than Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi for years to come.

The critical question, then, is not who will control Congress. The Democrats will. That is a given. The vital question is what they will do with that control --specifically, will they continue to maintain and increase their own power by accommodating the right, or will they be more responsive, accountable and attentive to the political values of their base?

Greenwald knows that usurpation and tyranny from Democrats is just as bad as usurpation and tyranny from Republicans. The American Conservative's Daniel Larison, responding to Greenwald here, provides this bit of wisdom:
Something that the defenders of party loyalty seem never to be able to grasp is that loyalty is a mutual obligation. It is not only something that supporters are supposed to give to their party, but it is something that party leaders owe to the people who put them and keep them in their positions.

Rules and Regulations

Can one really dissent from a teaching without understanding that teaching?

That’s a question I’ve mulled over while reading Gerald Naus. Gerald formerly authored a blog called The Cafeteria is Closed until his open rejection of Catholic teaching on human sexuality prompted ire from readers, quips about his blog title, and his removal from not a few blogrolls around the Catholic blogosphere. Now he pens at Standing Athwart History, Yelling $#@*!.

The 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae provided Gerald another opportunity for open dissent, which he manifests with playful revelry. He seems to enjoy posting weird or disarming factoids about what Catholic theologians throughout the ages have said regarding sexual behavior. However, Gerald himself admits to much ignorance about Catholic thought on the matter. He knows little of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, considering the late pope’s books unreadable. Catholic rules on human sexuality, based on twisted assumptions, are made by the “Chaste Caste,” he says.

Gerald approaches the rules and regulations of human sexual behavior as products of the celibate clergy’s decision making and evaluates them as such, uprooted from the development of Catholic thought on metaphysics and morality. To my mind, his dissent seems superficial, a response to rules regarding positions and placements, what lovers should and should not do, rather than with the underlying Catholic understanding of human nature from which such "rules" come. By saying Catholic rules are made by the “Chaste Caste,” he divorces such rules from the context in which they can be understood.

Identifying the Problem

Leave it to LifeSite News to keep the blame on the Harry Potter series for children being drawn into the “language and mechanics” of the occult. Conflating correlation and causation again, I see.

I suspect the fascination children have with the occult has to do with the disintegration of moral and metaphysical structures that marks our postmodern condition; the pillars of permanent meaning seem no longer to stand, and yet the call of the supernatural continues to echo in our hearts. We long for a world more than material, and religion doesn’t have the cultural sway it once possessed. So the search goes elsewhere, even to the occult. The fascination with the occult is a symptom of a deeper yearning. The Potter series stands in success above other books of magical themes because it deals with the permanent things, the things LifeSite News claims to advocate, like parental love, sacrifice, and virtue.

My wife and I watched The Savages over the weekend, a film staring the marvelous Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as siblings thrown into caring for a dementia-suffering father who cared little for them. The siblings are both artists of the theater, hopeful for grants that will enable them to write. They’re intimacy with the dramatic arts gives them little closeness with human nature. The very idea is lost to them in a wind of a father’s abuse and a mother’s abandonment. They grew up without the benefits of parental love, and it shows. But so far as the film shows, they didn't read Harry Potter. Whew.

Escaping Dept by Death

Barbara Ehrenreich warns:
Suicide is becoming an increasingly popular response to debt. James Scurlock's brilliant documentary, Maxed Out, features the families of two college students who killed themselves after being overwhelmed by credit card debt. "All the people we talked to had considered suicide at least once," Scurlock told a gathering of the National Assocition of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys in 2007. According to the Los Angeles Times, lawyers in the audience backed him up, "describing clients who showed up at their offices with cyanide, or threatened, 'If you don't help me, I've got a gun in my car.'"

India may be the trend-setter here, with an estimated 150,000 debt-ridden farmers succumbing to suicide since 1997. With guns in short supply in rural India, the desperate farmers have taken to drinking the pesticides meant for their crops.

Diagram of Lawbreaking

"What kind of lawbreaking has happened on President Bush's watch, among his top and mid-level advisers?" That's a question asked by the people at Slate, who in answer provide "a map of who did what and when, with links to the evidence that is public and notes about what we may learn from investigations that are still pending."

Do you think these accusations of lawbreaking hold water? Or do they stem from base partisan politics or a litigious culture?

Staying the Course

We're well into triple-digit temperatures here in Texas, and I continue to bicycle to work each day. I'll spare you the details; they're icky.

Naming and Repetition of 9/11

In my second post on my philsophy blog Towards a Hermeneutic of Hospitality, I examine Derrida’s evaluation of the naming and repetition of “9/11” and apply his analysis to the often repeated expressions “9/11 changed everything” and “post 9/11 world.”

Thought for a Sunday

Christ on the cross bows his head,
Waiting for you,
That he may kiss you,
His arms are outstretched,
That he may embrace you,
His hands are open,
That he may enrich you,
His body spread out,
That he may give himself totally,
His feet are nailed,
That he may stay there,
His side is open for you,
That he may let you enter there.

- Saint Bonaventure

Voting as a Parental Act

I will consider in this post the act of voting as an act of parental responsibility.

As a parent I am responsible for my child in way that I am not responsible for the children of others. My parental responsibility does not erase my obligation to respond to the needs of others in society, for I am responsible for them as well, and they for me. Cain was wrong: we are keepers of our bothers and sisters, neighbors and even enemies, but we are especially the keepers of our children.

Parental responsibility extends beyond the boundaries of the home: the child obligates the parent when the parent decides what occupation to take, where they will live, who will educate the children, and how they will worship. The extension of this special responsibility continues into the parent’s political involvement. This especially great responsibility – the responsibility a parent has for her own child that she doesn’t have for other children – weighs upon the parent in the voting booth.

This weight adds gravity to certain issues that may not be as grave as they would be otherwise. Homeschooling families would be more greatly affected by a requirement that children be publicly educated than would families that already use public schools. A parent whose child has shown severe susceptibility to violent reactions from vaccinations would have more cause for concern about enforced vaccinations than parents whose children have shown no problems after receiving vaccinations.

In the political sphere, some issues are objectively of graver importance than others. The subjective factor of parental responsibility may reorder that hierarchy for each voting parent.

I Couldn't Do It

There are occupations that I can imagine myself refusing regardless of the money. Keanu Reeves’ voice coach and Alan Keyes’ campaign manager come immediately to mind. I wouldn’t want to be Captain Hammer’s therapist or Sauron’s ophthalmologist either. But there is one job I would refuse above all others: White House Press Secretary.

I’ve no love for the policies of the Bush administration, or for those of any administration I can remember, but can’t deny the fortitude of one who stands before a hostile, inquisitive audience to defend anything from the remarks to the wars of the President of the United States and to make him look good, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

The world of politics is fraught with competing and conflicting narratives about the president, and to be effective the press secretary must be a master composer and conductor, capable of making the most haphazard, ear-splitting noise sound like music melodic and pleasant. He or she must spin tales of misdirection and deception that appear as clarification and precision. Our political discourse flows tumultuously with contradictory depictions of who the president is, what he’s about, and why he does what does. The press secretary’s job is to calm and control that river. No easy task, that.

Towards a Hermeneutic of Hospitality

To commemorate one year of blogging, today I begin another blog: a philosophy blog I'm calling Towards a Hermeneutic of Hospitality.

It is my hope to explore philosophical questions through the conversational style of the weblog, a medium that blends both speech and writing. Blogging doesn’t offer the same advantages as philosophical conferences, journals, or major texts; nevertheless, like any form of language, it has its limiting conditions, yet also its enabling ones. Blogging will not likely produce A Critique of Pure Reason or Logical Investigations, but it allows for thought-out speculations and knee-jerk reactions, casual musings and formal questioning, instant criticism and long-pondered responses. In short, blogging captures something of both spoken and written discourse.

Postmodern Papist will continue to serve as my flagship weblog, on which I'll post my thoughts on just about anything, philosophy included. The new blog will deal exclusively with matters of philosophy and will be written in a slightly more academic style. I think it's safe to say that PP (fitting acronym) will be updated more frequently: Hospitality will demand some serious studying from me. That may be what I had in mind when deciding to start another blog.

If philosophy is your thing, then please stop by and say hello. Criticism is most welcome. I'd appreciate as well suggestions for the blogroll.


A Lack of Faith

Whereas realism assumes that our ideas correspond to reality, relativism assumes they do not. Relativism indicates a lack of faith.


What place should the effects of a candidate’s election on the voter’s family have in that voter’s decision of whom to support? Should such effects weigh heavier or lighter in the decision process than the candidate’s proposed policies covering the population as a whole or “non-negotiable” issues? Is a voter morally bound to place the needs of others above the needs of his family, or the other way around? Or is that for each voter to decide for himself?

An example to illustrate:

A parent of several autistic children knows that Candidate A will substantially increase funding for assisting people with autism, funding that he needs to give his children the education and help they need to reach their potential. However, Candidate A also supports human cloning, which this parent believes to be intrinsically immoral. Candidate B plans to cut funding aiding those with autism, an act that would severely limit the development of the parent’s children, but does not support any intrinsically immoral policies. Does this parent, in his act of voting, have a greater obligation to vote in a way that will help his children or to vote in a way that doesn’t support an intrinsically evil act even if that vote helps elect the candidate that will stifle his children’s development?

Fellow Interpreters in the Blogosphere

I've been working on updating my blogroll, adding a few sites here and subtracting a few site there. If your blog was removed but remains active, or you'd like it listed, please let me know and I'll add it again.

I'm also on the lookout for blogs to add. Additions needn't be postmodern or papist. My basic qualification is that the blog's author has something to say that's of interest to me and says it well.

If you know of a blog that you think I'd like - yes, even your own blog - please send me an email or link to the blog in the comment section of this post.

A Musical Meme

After almost a year of blogging, I've finally been tagged for a meme. Just call me Mr. Popular. Here are the rules, missing punctuation, it seems:

1. Link the person(s) who tagged you
2. Mention the rules on your blog
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged

The blogger who tagged me was Pentimento, "a mother, musician, graduate student, and Catholic revert trying to make sense of how I got from there to here." In honor of our musical friend, I'm going to turn this meme into a musical. The rules don't forbid it, and even if they did, I, the spectacular deconstructionist, would find creative ways to mold the signified meanings into meanings permissive of my project.

So, now on to the unspectacular quirks. Really, is there anything about me that is unspectacular? Okay, I'll suspend my disbelief for a second, and you do the same. To make this a musical, I will follow each "unspectacular" quirk with a music video loosely corresponding to each quirk.

1. Despite my being just a few years shy of when hobbits come of age, I still play videogames, or would if time and the wife unit allowed.

2. I ride my bicycle to work, half dressed for the occasion. See here for details and sock-rockin' pictures.

3. I bounce when I walk. Like Tigger.

4. I like my vices.

5. Despite my cheerful personality, I shy away from "feel-good" movies, preferring tales that take their characters to the brink of despair and beyond.

6. I sway all the time while I stand.

Now for some tagging. No worries if this ain't your game, and remember the musical bits are not part of the rules - emanating from penumbras, perhaps? I know Death Chic(k) despises memes and I've read how she responds to wimps who annoy her, so no way I'm including her. Instead, I'll tag Shakespeare's Cobbler, Connie's Daughter, the Darwins, Jenny, the Sojourner, and Chad.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris, and Felicia Harris are having some fun with film, music, and the internet. Wacky stuff. Think Whedon's Buffy episode "Once More With Feeling" meets The Venture Bros. Each Act is about thirteen minutes long. Act I can be viewed here, Act II here. We're still waiting for Act III.

Whedon and Fillion have teamed up before on the television show Firefly, a short lived but altogether outstanding series. I rarely watch TV, and what shows I see these days are on borrowed DVDs, but in my opinion of very limited scope, Firefly is the best TV series I've seen.

Food as a Family Issue

Rod Dreher converses with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. I'm slowly working through Dilemma right now; it's a jaw-dropping exploration of how food get to us and how little like food it is by the time in enters our bellies.

Pollan in the interview (which is worth reading in full):
For the last 40 years at least, our agricultural policy has been driven by an alliance of agribusiness interests and people in Congress. Farm policy has been organized around driving prices down, which is certainly not in the interest of farmers. It’s in the interest of people buying their products—Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola. They are the beneficiaries to the way we’ve organized our agriculture.

Some farmers see this; many don’t. We have this institution called the Farm Bureau, which is believed to represent farmers, but they do nothing of the kind. They tend to represent agribusiness. And the states, in their regulations, have tended to favor the biggest interests against the people trying to do smaller things like raw-milk operations.

The USDA is also very much organized around promoting the interest of the largest meat packers. Four of them control 82 percent of the market, and all the rules are designed for them. Now, I can understand it from their point of view: one inspector at a national beef plant can inspect 400 carcasses in an hour. If you send him to a small regional plant that is only doing four carcasses in a day, that looks like bad business. But in fact, that small plant is supporting farmers in the community and putting out higher quality meat.

So the deck is really stacked against family farmers and people trying to build local food economies. The federal regulatory regime is choking out some really vital start-ups in an important corner of the American economy.

Metaphors Alive!

Darwin Catholic wonders "how long a metaphor can live on in common usage after the reality it's based on has faded into obscurity."

Know Hospitality

The United States' HIV Travel Ban, which had literally divided families, even separating parents from young children, has been repealed. Andrew Sullivan celebrates:
I'm not usually speechless but I'm ecstatic to report that the Senate just passed PEPFAR without the Sessions amendment, and Senator Biden, who managed the bill, just said they will probably avoid a conference with the House and send the bill forthwith to the president's desk. Barring some unforeseen event, the HIV Travel Ban - a relic of the days when HIV was a source of fear and stigma and terror - is finally over.


I've lived with this awful sense of insecurity, of fear of leaving the country, of visiting my family, of the lingering sense that my virus rendered me potentially deportable, that any roots I put down might be dug up suddenly one day - for fifteen years. The lifting of this threat - the sense that I now ave a home I know will be secure for me and my husband - is indescribable.

Defining Conservatism

Jonathan Jones considers the question, turning to the thoughts of Burke, Johnson, Coleridge, Newman, and Kirk. His exploration of how "man lives by myth" is particularly intriguing.

The conservatism from Burke to Kirk is a very incarnational approach to politics, rooted in history and culture, skeptical of bloodless abstractions and ideologies. Very Aristotelian, really. And I would not be the first to suggest a similarity between the conservative's criticism of ideology and the postmodernist's criticism of meta-narratives.

Extended Narratives

I came across this fairly old post at InsideCatholic by T. Joseph Marier on the potential artistic and narrative features of videogames. Money quote:
A lot of narrative can be covered in the course of a long game. Outside of novels, quality videogames are the only storytelling medium that still tells extended, complex stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Movies are too short. Television is too open-ended, and famously tends to get worse as a good show ages.

For those who love the long form narrative, videogames and novels are keeping the fire alive.

And videogames take things a step further. The interactive elements of a quality game can lead to many different paths and discoveries upon repeated play. Unlike a standard novel, the game narrative is not linear but participatory and immersive, placing videogames among the more complex storytelling forms.
I agree, but lately I haven't had the time to devote to stories, either in novel form or otherwise. My fault, completely. I'm in the process of re-reading Tolkien's grand tale, though, and hope to read more fiction in the near future. Not sure I'll get back into the videogames any time soon.

Descent into Barbarism [Updated]

Deal Hudson, the director of and member of the Catholics For McCain National Steering Committee, opines: "President Bush has been the most committed pro-life president since Roe v. Wade." Hudson’s statement is debatable, but if true, only heightens this president’s tragic descent into barbarism and inhumanity. Whatever his contributions to the cause of life, President Bush and key members of his administration have, knowingly, willingly and deceptively worked to establish a policy whereby the leaders of our country have the power to capture, hold indefinitely, torture, and even kill "the enemy" with impunity.

Underlying this policy is the president’s power to define the enemy, to control the meanings of words used to signify the enemy, so that the boundaries established by such words reside wherever the president says they reside. Daniel Larison explains:

The premise of the dissenting minority in Boumediene was essentially that if the government has defined someone as an enemy combatant, he should not enjoy any measure of due process and to grant such an ”enemy combatant” the ability to contest his detention and the charges against him would be to risk the acquittal and release of terrorists. Of course, when the government is allowed to define who an “enemy combatant” is, up to and including U.S. citizens such as Padilla, it takes away the possibility of reviewing the very designation that strips the detainee of legal rights, and then without those rights he cannot contest his detention. Better still from the government’s perspective, because the detainees are charged with terrorism and would not have been uniformed members of any military, they cannot claim the status of prisoners of war and so the government tries to find a way to evade international legal obligations as well. The argument that these detainees should not have access to the courts relied on the belief that terrorist suspects should not be processed through civilian courts, which presupposed that their status as terrorist suspects had some basis in reality. The entire system was justified according to the assumption that the government never makes mistakes and always acts in good faith, when we know that the opposite is typically the case.
This policy is a relativism of the most dangerous sort. President Bush’s blatant lie, “We don’t torture,” exemplifies that relativism. The meaning and morality of torture are relative to his declarations.

Alas, I don't expect this policy will be corrected with much justice; too many of those who would carry out charges of war crimes are complicit in helping to enact the policy. Still, we learn more and more everyday about whom the key players were in this tragedy and how they operated to institute a torture policy.

The Washington Post reports:

In The Dark Side, Jane Mayer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, documents some of the ugliest allegations of wrongdoing charged against the Bush administration. Her achievement lies less in bringing new revelations to light than in weaving into a comprehensive narrative a story revealed elsewhere in bits and pieces. Recast as a series of indictments, the story Mayer tells goes like this: Since embarking upon its global war on terror, the United States has blatantly disregarded the Geneva Conventions. It has imprisoned suspects, including U.S. citizens, without charge, holding them indefinitely and denying them due process. It has created an American gulag in which thousands of detainees, including many innocent of any wrongdoing, have been subjected to ritual abuse and humiliation. It has delivered suspected terrorists into the hands of foreign torturers.

Under the guise of "enhanced interrogation techniques," it has succeeded, in Mayer's words, in "making torture the official law of the land in all but name." Further, it has done all these things as a direct result of policy decisions made at the highest levels of government.
Larison again:

There are new reports based on Jane Mayer’s new book The Dark Side detailing a Red Cross investigation that concluded that detainees have been tortured by the CIA and also revealing that the administration ignored warnings that many of those being held at Guantanamo had been detained by mistake.
See also Scott Horton's interview with Jane Mayer.

UPDATE: Welcome InsideCatholic readers!

Deal Hudson links to this post, writing,
I'm noticing a trend toward using torture as a "life issue" to offset Obama's pro-abortion, pro-infanticide voting record. I've noticed it on this blog, and now I am seeing it more and more around the Internet.
Such a trend may exist, but from me. As I made explicit Friday, I do not support Senator Obama's quest for the presidency. Nor have any intention of offsetting the Senator's record on abortion, about which I have also post.

The Counselor Concludes

Friend and fellow parishioner Kevin Funnell brings his thoughtful blog to conclusion. An inspiration to begin my own blog, Kevin constantly reminded us to keep our eyes on the prize – a lesson I forget to my doom – and he proved a fierce but funny scourer of trolls. Gandalf would be impressed, and the counselor’s wit and wisdom will be missed.


Some people show no respect for the living; others show no respect for the dead.

Caputo on Prisons and Houses

"Even the most interior monologue is already infiltrated by the historico-cultural categories of language, which exert their invisible influence everywhere, 'tracing' out the unities of meaning within which we think. Speech deploys a particular chain of signifiers, structuring and articulating the world by its means. Speech is already structured as an articulation, already invaded and differentiated by a system of categorization and syncategorization. It would not be enough to say that thought 'cannot escape' from the chain of signifiers, as if language were a prison and not a 'house,' as if différance were only a limiting condition and not an enabling one. The chain of signifiers makes thought possible in the first place and hence ‘liberates’ thought. It is this tracing and pretracing out of the world according to a differential system of signifiers that Derrida calls ‘writing,’ in the sense of ‘arché-writing,’ or, as one would say in left-wing Husserlianism, transcendental writing.”

From Radical Hermeneutics by John D. Caputo

Howdy, Timothy!

This one's for you, boss.

A Cyclist's Pose

Photographing the elusive cycling nerd in his unnatural and native environment proves a tricky art, even for the most proficient and accomplished photographers of the strange and unusual. Kudos to my colleague for getting this shot. Note how the subject's corresponding shades of blue clash with the green frame of the bicycle and with the brown socks and shoes, how the helmet is tilted with dangling straps so as to provide no protection, and how strange a posture it poses with feet oddly pointed, all while giving a gesture signifying self-approval. Madness in great ones must not un-photographed go.

Reveling in Sacrilege

Talk about being inhospitable! Professor PZ Myers writes on his biology blog:
Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There's no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I'm sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won't be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart.
No person indifferent to religion would write this. No, there’s something much darker going on here. Professor Myers would do well to take a break from biology and study the philosophy of hermeneutics (among other disciplines). “It is just a cracker!” he writes. Well, you can’t desecrate a cracker if its only a cracker; only if the cracker contains a sacred meaning can he desecrate it. Even if the the Eucharist were for Catholics a mere symbol, the Eucharist wouldn’t be just a cracker. Given the salivating delight Myers has in imagining his proposal, I suspect he knows that.

Something dark indeed.

H/T: Francis Beckwith

Making Boromir the Ring-bearer

I performed a Google search for websites or weblogs of postmodernists created specifically to endorse one of the presidential candidates. Nothing. We must not be much of a voting bloc. No postmodern papists for McCain or Obama either, although that’s no surprise as I may be the only one in that category.

The web is full of Catholics supporting one candidate or another. No shocker there. There’s Catholics for Obama and Catholics for McCain, two of many websites created to support the candidate whom each blogger sees as the more Catholic choice. The topic of how Catholics ought to vote receives enough treatment on and off the web to make an undecided Catholic dizzy. Catholic groups disperse voter guides in keeping with their take on Catholic social and moral teaching. We hear reasons why no serious Catholic will vote for Obama or why Catholics should criticize the life-ethic of McCain.

I feel sorry for whoever wins. Not just because both major candidates will commit objective evils endangering our country and, not the least, their souls, but also because I wouldn’t wish the power of the presidency on anyone, particularly upon anyone who seeks it. It would be like wishing Boromir to be the bearer of Sauron’s Ring.

I don’t plan to vote for either candidate. I'm not undecided; I've decided against both. In Treebeard’s words, I’m not on anyone’s side because no one is one my side. More to the point, each candidate advocates certain grave evils that while I may be justified in materially cooperating with their rise to power, I don’t want to participate, even remotely, in some of the particular evils these men defend. In Bartleby's words, I would prefer not to. But that's just me.

A Common Language?

The question of the U.S. being a multi-lingual nation is under discussion again, propelled to the forefront by a presidential candidate. I've posted my thoughts on the question before, but the responses of Jay, Gerald, and Nathancontramundi have me considering the question again.

On a related matter, I'm re-reading The Lord of the Rings, a literary work that deals with language if it deals with nothing else. Testifying to my Elvish heritage, meaning my nerdiness, I have on my shelves a book explaining the grammar and vocabulary of Tolkien's invented languages-compete with an Elvish-English dictionary! The people who populate Middle Earth speak a variety of different languages, but they also have recourse to the Common tongue in order to communicate across race and culture.

So I'm wondering whether we'll have need of an official Common Language as the peoples of our world become more inter-connected, interdependent, and, I hope, more in solidarity. English serves this purpose in some of the world already, of course.

Should there be an International Language or Common Language that all peoples learn in addition to their native language(s) and perhaps others? If so, what should it be?

Mark Levin's Revealing Diction

"We conservatives believe in materialism, but that's not all we believe in. The left worships it, and they worship redistributing it. We worship opportunity," said Mark Levin on his radio show Tuesday, giving the game away. If he misspoke, he didn't revise his word choice, so far as I heard.

Levin's radio program ranks as the fastest growing syndicated talk show in the country, my guess due to his rudeness-as-an-art-form style. Levin's hyperbolic and crude insults to "liberal" politicians and callers--which he delivers in a raised, indignant voice--are in no short supply. "Stalinist-Marxist," he calls Obama and others. "Hillary Rotten, Her Thighness," he says of Senator Clinton. He speaks of waterboarding and imprisoning callers who annoy him with concerns about FISA.

Given his style, I'm not surprised by his characterization of liberal economic beliefs as a form of worship, but to use the same term of religious significance to describe his own conservative beliefs on economics? Very telling.

I've Been Wrong All Along

"Postmodernism is a worldview characterized by atheism and relativism." So says Conservapedia, the trustworthy encyclopedia! This reliable wellspring of knowledge on the web instructs us to see also "nihilism" and "political correctness." Don't listen to me, folks. Listen to Conservapedia.

FISA Compromise and Tyranny

Daniel Larison dispels the smoke:
There is no obvious limit to the communications that could be targeted for surveillance. Warrantless wiretapping is unconstitutional and dangerous to a free society. At the very least, we should understand that the “compromise” bill will give a Congressional rubber-stamp to unconstitutional acts by the federal government on an ongoing basis.

Evangelium Vitae and Conscientious Objection

Morning's Minion and Zippy Catholic debate the moral obligation to oppose the legality of abortion and what that obligation specifically means.

Achieving a Lasting Cultural Peace

Some of the particular prescriptions offered in this open letter to Senators McCain and Obama leave much to be desired, but the basic call by David Gushee and Rachel Laser is prudent enough. The authors ask the two candidates to lead the country away from the polarization, disrespect, and vituperation employed in the culture wars and towards a communal approach “based on common ground and common values.”

The culture war metaphor and its accompanying interpretive frameworks are not without accuracy, but they too often lead to a situation in which opposing sides seek to defeat one another as if the enemy’s defeat would bring lasting victory and solidify the victor’s cause in unbreakable stone. Won’t happen. Political victories especially are hardly permanent in a democratic society. Sure, one side may win the day and enshrine its stances in the law, but the other side may change the law tomorrow.

At some point, if we are ever to see any lasting resolution to these cultural conflicts, each side has to deal directly with the others in ways that essentially do away with each side’s reason for fighting. Invective poisons the waters from which all sides drink. Political defeat fuels the fire where the conflict itself remains unresolved.

Political measures serve their purpose, but they cannot be the sole instruments for achieving a lasting cultural peace.

Symbolic Reality

In The Conflict of Interpretations, Paul Ricoeur writes:
The symbol, I said, is constituted from a semantic perspective such that it provides a meaning by means of a meaning. In it a primary, literal, worldly, often physical meaning refers back to a figurative, spiritual, often existential, ontological meaning which is in no way given outside this indirect designation. The symbol invites us to think, calls for an interpretation, precisely because it says more than it says and because it never ceases to speak to us.
The secondary meaning of a symbol cannot be divorced or abstracted from its primary meaning without grossly altering the secondary meaning and rendering it a lifeless abstraction. The two meanings are wedded, the one embodied or incarnated in the other. To understand the secondary meaning we must go through the primary; moreover, we better come to understand the primary meaning through our encounter with the secondary meaning.

To the extent that we use symbols in our efforts to formulate an understanding of reality, the reality at which we arrive and so formulate is inseparable from the symbols used.

Thompson at the NRL Conference

Fred Thompson spoke at the National Right to Life Conference today, giving a speech declaring that an Obama presidency would bring about "harmful changes" to the country whereas a McCain presidency can be trusted to be "consistently pro-life." Thompson was particularly concerned with enemy combatants being granted habeas corpus rights and a state not being able to kill someone.

It's About Time

Time is money. No, really, it is. This metaphorical cliché establishes a context for how we speak and think about time, and as Henry Karlson notes in a post yesterday, context is everything. To speak technically, this cliché formulates a hermeneutic framework through which we understand time. Notice the words we use for time are often the same words we use when speaking of money: spending, wasting, managing, economizing, etc. The metaphor is at play in these commonly used verbs. People living within a society having no monetary system would undoubtedly understand time very differently, for their understanding would be based upon a different metaphor and therefore different hermeneutical framework. Our language constructs the reality of time.

Of Bikes and Velcro Bugs

We’re nearing triple digit temperatures here in North Texas, and I continue my gas-conserving and money-saving venture of bicycling to and from work.

The local animals have responded to the hot weather by crossing busy streets to find shady spots along my path. A duck and large turtle have made acquaintances with me. The bunny rabbits all run away. Jerks. Just like that Rabbit from the Hundred Acre Wood.

I had a rather ugly encounter on the way home, though. You know those pesky gnats that fly in head-height clouds of swarming annoyance? The ones that follow your head about as you’re on an otherwise lovely walk? Yeah, those. I rode through a few swarms on the way home, and they stuck to me. Perhaps because I was damp from sweat, they attached to me like Velcro: my face, my helmet, my shirt, and my arms. It’s a blessing that I had my mouth closed at that exact moment; otherwise I’d have had first hand experience answering this question. It took several swipes and several near collisions to remove the bugs.

Lots of people out cycling today, too. Kids riding for fun, professionals for exercise, even whole families crowding my sidewalks. What, are the TV shows no good Tuesday evenings? What gives?