04 December 2013
02 December 2013
01 November 2013
Justice versus justice
However, most political issues do not have such a simple dichotomy between justice and injustice. In the real world, conflict is likely to lie not between just and unjust, but between different visions of justice. Partisans everywhere often have difficulty understanding this.
A good example of this is the debate over the closed union shop, an issue that goes back to the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 which legalized collective bargaining in the workplace. Those of a more conservative mindset argue for so-called right to work laws, which would free prospective employees from the obligation to join a union if they prefer not to do so. After all, the Constitution guarantees freedom of association, which the closed union shop appears to violate unjustly.
On the other hand, those of a more liberal bent argue that the closed union shop is necessary to enhance the power of potentially disadvantaged workers against management, who would otherwise unilaterally dictate the terms of their employment. Justice in the workplace requires worker solidarity, which the union guarantees. Requiring employees to join and pay dues to the union is thus very much in accordance with justice.
Read the entire article.
22 October 2013
The fate of two ghost cities
In July 1974 the military government in Athens engineered a coup d'état in Cyprus and installed a puppet dictator expected to annex the 14-year-old island republic to Greece. This reckless escapade came crashing down when Turkey sent a military flotilla to the north coast of Cyprus on the pretext of protecting the country's ethnic Turkish minority. Greece's military régime went down with it, along with relentless aspirations in some quarters to unite the two countries in a greater Greece.
This all changed during that terrible summer. As Turkey moved to take the northern part of Cyprus, Varosha's residents fled hurriedly, leaving dishes on the table and laundry on the lines, assuming they would soon be returning after the crisis had passed. But this never happened, and my relatives and so many others became refugees in their own country. I was a young man at the time, and this traumatic event was one of the precipitating factors in pushing me towards the study of political science.
Twenty-one years later I finally got to Cyprus and was able to gaze from a distance on the eerie sight of an abandoned city, caught in a United Nations-monitored buffer zone, with homes, cafés and hotels crumbling into disrepair (see photograph above left).
Now to this side of the pond.
I personally greeted the news that Detroit had filed for chapter 9 bankruptcy with considerable sadness. My mother grew up less than an hour away, and I still have relatives on her side living in the Detroit metropolitan area. Once the centre of North America’s now vastly diminished automobile industry, much of Detroit is now a ghost city, its former residents having long ago fled to the suburbs or to America’s Sun Belt. It might be a stretch to label them refugees, yet for those who were born and grew up there and can no longer safely return, the loss of their “homeland” must still be difficult to accept.
Of course, conquering armies did not literally expel Detroit’s inhabitants from their homes, as occurred in Varosha. Yet the fate of both cities is due in large measure to political authorities pursuing ill-considered and short-sighted policies at the expense of ordinary people.
Like individual persons, cities are born and die. But unlike persons, cities can be revived and become livable again. The last book of the Bible tells us that the redeemed creation will be centred in a city, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2). Whether Varosha and Detroit become signposts to this city, attaining their former prosperity and becoming home to new generations, depends on God’s will and timing. In the meantime, though some of us will continue to mourn these cities’ current sad circumstances, we do so as those expecting the ultimate fulfilment of urban life in Jesus Christ and his redeeming grace.
David T. Koyzis has taught politics at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, for just over a quarter of a century. This appeared in the 14 October issue of Christian Courier as the latest instalment of his "Principalities & Powers" column, which has been running monthly since 1990.
06 September 2013
The Perils of Taking Sides
A century later, we face similar complexities in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, a series of popular uprisings which began with high hopes of a smooth transition to democracy but whose tragic reality has been civil warfare. The rhetoric of the Arab Spring fits into a larger narrative with which Americans are familiar: Subjugated people living under tyranny finally tire of oppression, rise up, overthrow their despotic rulers, and claim liberty for themselves and their communities. Having overturned a self-serving oligarchy, they set up a government more responsive to their own needs and aspirations.
Yet this narrative does not entirely fit the current situation in a region where there are no obvious good guys and bad guys.
Read the full article here.
03 September 2013
Bad People and Private Schools
I went K–12 to a terrible public school. My high school didn’t offer AP [advanced placement] classes, and in four years, I only had to read one book. There wasn’t even soccer. This is not a humblebrag! I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either. You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I got a lame education. I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all.
Conventional wisdom tells us that satire doesn't work if you have to explain it, but here goes. Anyone reading the article should quickly pick up that, if the author has to resort to such flimsy reasoning to denigrate parents desiring a better education for their children, then her own admittedly bad education obviously cannot have served her very well. A better education might have prepared her to mount a more effective argument and to avoid ad hominem attacks. It really is an exquisitely subtle jab at the public system, though perhaps a little too subtle for some.
It seems odd that so many readers have failed to pick up on this satirical element. Yet charity for the author does indeed require us to assume it's satire, because if it's not . . . well, it may be wise to allow readers to draw their own conclusions in that case.
25 August 2013
Rising at Midnight: Changing Sleep Patterns and Daily Prayer
Your ancestors slept in a way that modern sleepers would find bizarre – they slept twice. . . . The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.
His research found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.
References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.
Although unfamiliar to us today, a perusal of the Bible appears to support Ekirch's discovery. Here are a few telling references:
But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron (Judges 16:3).
At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! (Ruth 3:8)
At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules (Psalm 119:62).
Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning (Mark 13:35).
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25).
What did people do with these wakeful hours in the middle of the night? According to Stephanie Hegarty, writing for the BBC,
During this waking period people were quite active. They often got up, went to the toilet or smoked tobacco and some even visited neighbours. Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. Countless prayer manuals from the late 15th Century offered special prayers for the hours in between sleeps.
This answers a question that has puzzled many of us who have studied the ancient patterns of daily prayer practised by God's people of the old and new covenants. Nowadays we have difficulty imagining why anyone would willingly consent to be roused from a supposedly deep slumber by the summons to prayer at such an (if you'll pardon the expression) ungodly hour. Yet they may already have been awake. Both Roman and Orthodox monasteries prescribed a midnight office, with certain psalms assigned to be prayed at that hour. According to chapter VIII of the Rule of St. Benedict:
Making due allowance for circumstances, the brethren will rise during the winter season, that is, from the calends of November till Easter, at the eighth hour of the night [between 12 and 1 am]; so that, having rested till a little after midnight, they may rise refreshed.
Some of us who have suffered from insomnia in the past have already discovered the benefits of prayer during these periods of wakefulness. Perhaps it is time to change our attitude towards these times. Rather than see them as occasions for suffering, at least where obvious illness is not a factor, perhaps we might view them as opportunities to bring our praises, petitions and thanksgivings before a gracious and loving God, who, as the psalmist assures us, neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4) and for whom night is as bright as day (Psalm 139:12).
19 August 2013
Christians and nationalism in the Middle East
Centuries ago followers of Jesus Christ were in the majority in the region, even after the Muslim Arab conquests and possibly as late as the fourteenth century when the tide turned in favour of Islam. The Ottoman authorities were tolerant of religious diversity, content to rule their nonmuslim subjects through their religious leaders, or ethnarchs. True, they persecuted Christian Armenians from the mid-1890s, but much of the prosperity of the Empire depended on the commercial activities of the nonmuslim communities. Such cities as Thessaloniki, Constantinople, Smyrna and Alexandria were polyglot, religiously-diverse urban centres in which Muslims, Greeks, Jews and Armenians rubbed shoulders constantly in pursuing their respective livelihoods.
This all changed with the coming of the Great War, when nationalist régimes replaced the old imperial orders in so much of Europe and the Middle East. Nationalists pursued a policy of ethnic homogeneity, reserving Turkey for the Turks and Arab countries for the Arabs. This forced Christians to embrace a different strategy for coexistence with Muslim majorities. Up until then they did not generally see themselves as Arabs, but as Copts, Assyrians and so forth, identifying with the pre-Arab populations that had once dominated the region. But Arab nationalism compelled them to embrace an Arab identity or risk being treated as outsiders.
This coincided with the departure of the European powers, especially Britain and France, which had protected the Christian minorities of the Middle East and North Africa. In 1933, after the end of British occupation in Iraq, more than a thousand Assyrian Christians were killed by their Arab neighbours in the Simele massacre. After unsuccessful efforts to secure autonomy before the League of Nations, Assyrians felt betrayed by Britain. Henceforth they would have either to emigrate elsewhere, which many did, or to find a new way to integrate into the newly independent states.
As a consequence many Christians threw themselves into the Arab nationalist movements, which were anti-imperial and antiwestern in flavour. This necessitated a shift from their previous status as pre-Arab indigenous peoples to that of Christian Arabs fighting alongside their fellow Arabs in the struggle for independent nationhood. In the decades after the Second World War, Christians were disproportionately prominent in the Arab nationalist movements. For example, Michel Aflaq, who was born into an Orthodox Christian family in Syria, eventually became a communist and led the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, a movement that would be dominated by the Assads in Syria and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Arab nationalism played down religious distinctives, focussing instead on a pan-Arab identity. As such it seemed an ideal vehicle for the aspirations of Christian minorities who were now part of an Arab majority.
By the 1980s, however, the old Arab nationalism had run out of steam, while Islamism was moving into the ascendancy. Because local Christians had tied their fortunes to such nationalist autocrats as Mubarak, Saddam Hussein and the Assads, they increasingly became targets of the Islamists, who associated them with the discredited old guard. This has made Christians increasingly vulnerable in countries affected by the Arab Spring. In recent months reports have reached us of the anti-Assad rebels in Syria targeting Christian villages. Despite such attacks, western governments, including that of the United States, are supporting the rebel Free Syrian Army against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, apparently judging that the tide of history is on their side.
It would be easy for us, as outsiders, to judge that Middle Eastern Christians severely miscalculated by throwing their lot with Arab nationalism. Yet because Islamism by definition makes no place for religious minorities, local Christians understandably prefer the least bad alternative, which might enable them to continue to live in their ancestral homelands with at least some hope of security.
The long-term prospects for Christians in the Middle East are not encouraging. Unless western countries change their policies towards the region, we will continue to see increasing numbers leaving the very places that saw the birth of Christianity two millennia ago.
David T. Koyzis has taught politics at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, for just over a quarter of a century. This appeared in the 12 August issue of Christian Courier as the latest instalment of his "Principalities & Powers" column, which has been running monthly since 1990.
07 August 2013
Visões políticas e Ilusões
30 July 2013
Millennial religion and the sovereign self
Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. . . .
Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.
Let's for the moment leave aside the Episcopal Church. Held Evans appears to see Rome and Constantinople as little more than exotic ports of call for a disaffected generation whose members nevertheless retain their own spiritual autonomy. In all things, including spiritual, they jealously guard their right to choose, and their criteria for doing so tend to be idiosyncratic at best. Some people simply like smells and bells, so go for it!
Yet that is definitely not how these two communions understand themselves. To become Roman Catholic is to accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome, the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the decisions of Vatican II, the Bible, etc. To become Orthodox entails accepting the authority of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Bible, the patriarchs and bishops, etc. Both of these communions set forth teachings on sexuality, ordination, contraception and other issues with which it is difficult to imagine Held Evans agreeing.
During Great Lent and other seasons throughout the year, the Orthodox Churches impose a far stricter fasting regimen than most westerners are willing to tolerate. Rome obliges members to attend mass, say confession, follow its own teachings, fast on designated days, and so forth. Ex-Catholics regularly excoriate their former communion on grounds of legalism, if not worse. Indeed, attending mass and living as a Catholic is a matter of obedience, not merely of soaking up a "high-church" atmosphere with ancient roots while continuing to live as one wishes and following whatever agenda seems most congenial to the sovereign self.
Ultimately, the same can be said, not only of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but of any church communion taking seriously the normative character of the Christian faith. The way of the cross is always one of obedience. To come to the church with an idiosyncratic checklist of demands is to take the church as church less than fully seriously.
22 July 2013
Bridging the Political Gap: Haidt’s Righteous Mind
Enter New York University’s Jonathan Haidt, whose book, The Righteous Mind, shows promise in helping to bridge this yawning chasm, persuasively explaining “why good people are divided by politics and religion,” as the subtitle puts it. Haidt pulls off this seemingly impossible feat by studying the responses to hypothetical moral dilemmas by ordinary people, which yielded unexpected results. In contrast to rationalists of the Kantian variety, who assume that moral judgment follows careful consideration of motives and consequences, Haidt has discovered that people decide right and wrong intuitively. Such decisions are not “a purely cerebral affair in which we weigh concerns about harm, rights, and justice. It’s a kind of rapid, automatic process more akin to the judgments animals make as they move through the world,” responding almost instinctively to aversions and attractions (61).
Read the full article here.
07 July 2013
Lumen Fidei: the popes on faith
Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth. Those who choose not to put their trust in God must hear the din of countless idols crying out: "Put your trust in me!" Faith, tied as it is to conversion, is the opposite of idolatry; it breaks with idols to turn to the living God in a personal encounter. Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives, and which shows its power by its ability to make straight the crooked lines of our history. Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call. Herein lies the paradox: by constantly turning towards the Lord, we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols.
02 July 2013
Religious freedom: for individuals and communities
The Southern Baptist Convention was right to pass a resolution at its annual meeting in Houston this month defining religious liberty as “the freedom of the individual to live in accordance with his or her religiously informed values and beliefs,” and citing in support Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.”
To be sure, this is considerably better than the rather narrowly construed freedom of worship championed by the current administration. If religion consists only of what we do within the four walls of the church, synagogue or mosque, then safeguarding religious freedom need not accord the adherent much latitude to practise his or her faith, which now becomes a mere private matter with no public import. The Southern Baptist Convention correctly recognizes religion as a genuine way of life.
However, the SBC would do even better to acknowledge the communal dimension of religious observance. A religion is not a designer-label consumer item that individuals can tailor to their own tastes and predilections. Even if we manage to acknowledge the authority of a norm for faith outside of ourselves, many of us continue to assume that it is up to each of us to decide what that norm is, an approach that does nothing to challenge the hegemony of the dominant North American liberal worldview.
By contrast, Christians and other adherents of the major religious traditions live out their respective faiths in community. These communities inevitably set standards for membership, including expectations for faith and standards for life and conduct within the community. A robust public recognition of religious freedom must account for this communal dimension of faith.
To this end the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance is engaging in an important work. Under the leadership of Stanley Carlson-Thies, IRFA aims to safeguard “the religious identity and faith-shaped standards and services of faith-based organizations, enabling them to make their distinctive and best contributions to the common good.” In a society so heavily influenced by individualism, IRFA’s efforts deserve our support as it strives to deepen recognition of the communal character of religious freedom.
10 June 2013
For me home has all of these connotations and more. Hamilton, Ontario, has been my home for 26 years. I have lived here longer than anywhere else, and in that time I’ve grown to love it and everything about it. Though constantly overshadowed by Toronto in the popular imagination, it boasts a lovely natural setting along the Niagara Escarpment. The Bruce Trail is a short walk from our house, as is a magnificent view of Lake Ontario. We are never more than a few minutes from a waterfall. Hamilton is a favourite of film producers because of the sheer diversity of landscapes found within a fairly small area.
Yet for me Hamilton is home because of the people who have become dear to me over the years, including Redeemer University colleagues, former students who have settled here and, of course, my wife and my daughter, who was born here. Our church community, now 175 years old, has become our home church.
Our family usually makes an annual pilgrimage to the Chicago area, where I was born and grew up. Topographically, that region is not especially interesting and lies in a flood plain. The farmlands that were never too far from our home when I was younger have mostly disappeared and been swallowed up by the sprawling suburbs. Nevertheless, it means a lot to me to be able to visit the elementary school where I was educated, to see the two houses our family lived in and to look for remnants of the electric railway that once passed through my hometown. Most of all, the presence there of four generations of family means everything to me.
Then there’s the state of Michigan, where my mother was born and where I spent so much of my childhood visiting relatives. I have deep roots there going back to 1882, when my great-great-grandparents, Niilo and Anna Juntunen, brought their infant daughter (my great-grandmother) from Russian-controlled Finland to settle in the Upper Peninsula near the shores of Lake Superior, very likely arriving by way of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Three sets of great-great grandparents, two sets of great-grandparents and a grandmother lie at rest in the Great Lakes State. Though I never had a permanent address there, Michigan still has a homelike feel to me.
The term homeland sometimes has political significance, but not always. Early twentieth-century Germans spoke of das Vaterland, the fatherland. Russians call the Second World War the Great Fatherland War, because it was fought on Russian soil, even as they continue to speak of “Mother Russia.” After the 9/11 attacks the United States established the Department of Homeland Security, a seeming redundancy that the Department of Defence should have made unnecessary. The flag and arms of the Swiss canton of Vaud carry the motto: “Liberté et Patrie” – Liberty and Fatherland. Here fatherland refers, not to Switzerland, but to Vaud itself, suggesting that, even a country as geographically compact as Switzerland may be too large to feel like a real home to many people.
So where is my homeland? I am a citizen of two countries, with an apparent right to claim two more citizenships through my father’s birth as a British subject in Cyprus. I should be the stereotypical cosmopolitan, but I really am not. My earthly homeland is the Great Lakes Region. Yet, from my reading of St. Augustine and from my Cypriot relatives’ painful experience of exile, I know that our earthly homes are never completely secure. Given the multi-layered meaning of home, I can accept more than one earthly home while recognizing that our ultimate loyalty is to the city of God, the only place that can genuinely offer homeland security over the long term.
David T. Koyzis has taught politics at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, for just over a quarter of a century. His next book on authority, office and the image of God is forthcoming from Pickwick Publications, a division of Wipf & Stock. This appeared in the 10 June issue of Christian Courier as the latest instalment of his "Principalities & Powers" column, which has been running monthly since 1990.
01 June 2013
Calvinist Baptists, But No ‘Lutheran’ Baptists?
Although John Calvin and Martin Luther are generally recognized to be the two principal reformers of the 16th century, there is a certain asymmetry in their respective legacies, as seen in the fact that no one ever complains of creeping Lutheranism in the Southern Baptist Convention. As far as I know, there is no pro-Luther party in America’s largest Protestant denomination. Why not? If one becomes a Lutheran, it almost always means that one has joined an explicitly Lutheran Church, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (or Canada) or the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. By contrast, if one becomes a Calvinist, it usually means that one has embraced Calvin’s theology — generally his soteriology — while possibly staying put with respect to ecclesiastical loyalties. This is clearly the case with respect to Calvinist Baptists.
From an historical vantage point, the reason for this difference between the Lutheran and Calvinist labels is far from obvious. After all, Calvin was much more explicit in setting forth a reformed ecclesiology than was Luther, who was more willing than his Genevan counterpart to tolerate different ecclesiastical polities in different geographical contexts. The Churches of Sweden and Finland, for example, maintained an episcopal polity with bishops in apostolic succession. Nevertheless, when Swedes and Finns migrated to North America, their respective transplanted church bodies, the Augustana and Suomi Synods, were generally less hierarchical and more congregational in nature, without in any way impairing their continued communion with the mother churches. Their common adherence to the Augsburg Confession was more important than their polities.
On the other hand, when Reformed Christians established their churches in the New World, they usually brought their polity with them to this side of the Atlantic. Thus if Lutheranism has been historically more flexible than Calvinism with respect to ecclesiology, it is not immediately evident to some of us why becoming a Calvinist is usually thought to be a soteriological statement while becoming a Lutheran is an ecclesiastical one. But it may be that I’m missing something that others have picked up on.
24 May 2013
Urban visions at odds: Haussmann, Kuyper, and the Chicago Housing Authority
There was just one problem: Brasilia is a walker's nightmare, boasting one of the highest rates in the world of traffic accidents involving pedestrians. It is virtually impossible to get anywhere on foot, as the distances between destinations are too great, and so are the dangers to life and limb of trying to get there. Having admired Costa's and Niemeyer's handiwork for so long, I eventually came to understand the drawbacks of planning an urban centre from the top-down, with its flashy expressions of artistic modernism but with little sense of what it takes to build a genuine human community.
Read the full article here.
17 May 2013
Viktor Orbán and Hungary’s Constitution
This parliamentary supermajority has invited much of the criticism leveled at Orbán’s government. Critics, including the European Union, the Council of Europe, and even the United States, have charged him with using this overwhelming power to cripple the opposition and thereby subvert Hungarian democracy.
What has Orbán done? His most significant act has been the adoption of a new constitution, the Fundamental Law. While the other former communist states of eastern Europe adopted new constitutions shortly after the old regimes collapsed, Hungary continued for two more decades under its 1949 constitution. Once Fidesz returned to power with such overwhelming popular support, Orbán adopted a fresh constitution, which took effect at the beginning of last year.
Read the full article here.
14 May 2013
An untimely death: 'Why, O Lord?'
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
As Christians we live in the sure hope of the resurrection and know that death will not have the final word. But in the meantime we grieve. And pray.
06 May 2013
The tyranny of the choice-enhancement state
Not everyone will agree with my analysis, especially those who persist in thinking early liberalism to have been solidly grounded and its later decadent manifestation a betrayal of the original vision. Yet I am by no means alone in noting the spiritual continuities among the stages of liberalism. To take just two of many recent articles on the subject: Douglas Farrow's The Audacity of the State is one of the more trenchant analyses, and this past Friday Wesley J. Smith's The Coercive Freedom of Choice probed what I call the choice-enhancement state, roughly encompassing the period since 1960. According to Smith, "We have now reached the point that others are expected to pay for individuals’ 'choices' and maximizing others’ self-identity—even when it violates the payer’s own beliefs. . . . Not too long ago, Americans mostly believed in 'live and let live.' The ironic motto for the current day: 'You do it my way.'"
Is this paradoxical quality in the unending expansion of individual autonomy implicit in the logic of liberalism? I don't know what Smith would say, but I would say: Yes, most definitely. If liberalism is based on the tendency to reduce all manner of communities to mere voluntary associations, as we see in the contractarian approach of Hobbes and Locke, then we should not be surprised if the effort to mitigate this tendency by, say, an appeal to natural law in the more conservative English-speaking liberals is unsuccessful over the long term, and in the name of freedom tyranny ends up extinguishing freedom.
19 April 2013
Redefining reality to accord with our desires
Ideology, in creating a bridge of excuses between the system and the individual, spans the abyss between the aims of the system and the aims of life. It pretends that the requirements of the system derive from the requirements of life. It is a world of appearances trying to pass for reality.Read more »
11 April 2013
Rival leaders blood relatives
Canada’s political spectrum could include a family feud, according to Ancestry.ca. The popular Canadian genealogy website says Liberal leadership frontrunner Justin Trudeau, and NDP leader Tom Mulcair are distant relatives – ninth cousins, to be exact. The two prominent politicians share a set of eighth-great-grandparents: Mathieu Amiot and Marie Miville, who were married in Quebec in 1650, the website says. Amiot and Miville were among the first Quebec settlers, and apparently had quite an impact on the political future of a country that, at the time, didn’t yet exist.
This is hardly news. Given that the two political leaders have roots in 17th-century Québec, and given the small number of French families living there at the time, it would be more surprising if they were not related to each other.
According to my own genealogical research, the Queen is my 13th cousin once removed, as is my own wife. Once you go back far enough, it turns out that virtually everyone is related to everyone else.
By the way, this month marks the tenth anniversary of this blog. Cause for celebration? Depends on your perspective, I suppose.