:: Wednesday, March 28, 2007 ::
The Spreading Desert Sands of Islam
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:38 AM
"It isn't safe to reckon upon a Dervish's fears. We must always bear in mind that they are not amenable to the same motives as other people. Many of them are anxious to meet death, and all of them are absolute, uncompromising believers in destiny. They exist as a reductio ad absurdum of all bigotry - a proof of how surely it leads to blank barbarism."The barbarism of suicide bombers? The death worship of Islamic "martyrs"?
"You cannot foretell what they would do. There is no iconoclast in the world like an extreme Mohammedan. Last time they overran this country, they burned the Alexandrian Library. You know that all representations of the human features are against the letter of the Koran. A statue is always an irreligious object in their eyes. What do these fellows care for the sentiment of Europe? The more they could offend it, the more delighted they would be. Down would go the Sphinx, the Colossi, the statues of Abou-Simbel - as the saints went down in England before Cromwell's troopers."Sound familiar? It is dialogue by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a novel he penned in 1897, A Desert Drama: Being the Tragedy of the Korosko, and published in 1898. It is the story of a group of British, French and American tourists in Egypt and the Sudan and what happens to them at the height of the Mahdist power in North Africa.
One of the novel's characters, Cecil Brown, a British diplomat, remarks:
"...It is my opinion that we [Great Britain] have been the policemen of the world long enough. We policed the seas for pirates and slavers. Now we police the land for Dervishes and brigands and every sort of danger to civilization. There is never a mad priest or a witch doctor, or a firebrand of any sort on this planet, who does not report his appearance by sniping the nearest British officer. One tires of it at last. If a Kurd breaks loose in Asia Minor, the world wants to know why Great Britain does not keep him in order. If there is a military mutiny in Egypt, or a Jihad in the Sudan, it is still Great Britain who has to set it right. And all to an accompaniment of curses such as the policeman gets when he seizes a ruffian among his pals. We get hard knocks and no thanks, and why should we do it? Let Europe do its own dirty work."That should sound familiar, as well. Doyle's novel is replete with statements about Europe and Islam that were as true in the 19th century as they are today. As evidence that Europe's ambivalence is nothing new, especially that of France, witness this statement by a French tourist in Doyle's novel when the touring party is attacked and surrounded by jihadist dervishes:
"The Frenchman waved his unwounded hand as he walked. 'Vive le Khalifa! Vive le Madhi!' he shouted, until a blow from behind with the butt-end of a Remington beat him into silence."Well, that about sums up the current European position. Doyle's novel is full of such gems, almost every one of them recognizable in today's headlines of vacillation, conciliation and accommodation.
(The Khalifa, Abdullah et Taaisha - or Abdullah ibn Mohammad - was the successor of Mohammed Ahmed, or the Mahdi , the "expected one,", who waged a jihadist war on Egyptian/British controlled Sudan between 1883 and 1885, but died of typhus a few months after he captured Khartoum and beheaded British general Charles Gordon.)
It is startling to read how much has not changed, except the irresolution of Europe to confront and combat Islamofication by Muslim immigration under the mantra of multiculturalism, "tolerance," and the Big Brotherish paternalism of the European Union, and the assumption by the U.S. of Britain's former role as the world's "policeman," only handcuffed now by its own altruist ends and self-defeating rules of engagement.
The fundamental character of Islam has not changed, either. Its advocates are still out for blood, conquest and submission.
A retired British colonel, Cochrane, perfectly expresses that same altruist "duty," except that Britain then was not restrained by "rules of engagement" or even Etonian notions of "fairness." Speaking of the successive crises that drew Britain into Egypt and then into the Sudan to crush the Mahdists in 1885, Cochrane laments:
"At the time of trouble we begged and implored the French, or any one else, to come and help us to put the thing to rights, but they all deserted us when there was work to be done, although they are ready enough to scold and to impede us now. When we tried to get out of it, up came this wild Dervish movement, and we had to sit tighter than ever. We never wanted the task; but, now that it has come, we must pull it through in a workmanlike manner. We've brought justice into the country, and purity of administration, and protection for the poor man. It (Egypt and Sudan) has made more advance in the last twelve years than since the Moslem invasion in the seventh century....England has neither directly nor indirectly made a shilling out of it, and I don't believe you will find in history a more successful and more disinterested bit of work."As altruistically "disinterested" as was its policy of policing the world and staving off the advance of Islamic barbarism, Britain was not even trying to spread "democracy," as the Bush administration is. When it engaged the Madhi armies, it meant to defeat them, as it did in September 1898 at Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum. The Khalifa himself was pursued by the British further into the Sudan, and killed there by them in November 1899. And that was the end of radical Islam as a menace in Africa for half a century.
Not exactly the playbook being followed by the U.S. in its pursuit of Osama bin Laden, author of 9/11, who probably pictures himself as another kind of "expected one," in competition for the role with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Remember that in the 19th century all the British had to work with were camels and perhaps the telegraph, without the advantages of GPS- or laser-guided 500-pound bombs, fighter aircraft, or helicopters. Even altruists with a rational "war-fighting" philosophy can accomplish wonders. It was not a "police action" they were conducting, but war.
Doyle's tourists are captured and are to be taken through the wastes of the Libyan Desert to Khartoum to be either ransomed or enslaved. At one point in the novel the chief of the dervishes offers the tourists an alternative: convert to Islam, kiss the Koran, and grind the cross under their heels - or die on the spot. The tourists waver, thinking that pretending to be converted might save them. But every one of them asserts his Christianity, kneeling to pray to God, not Allah. In reality, they would have been executed, but the British Camel Corps comes to the rescue, ambushing the dervishes and slaying every one of them. Doyle, an agnostic, would not have the reader believe that God had anything to do with it.
Now we are less certain of the value of Western concepts of individual rights, freedom of speech, and other liberties that we once took for granted, thanks to the nihilism of multiculturalism. Iranian dervishes are no less brazen than their ancient counterparts in the Sudan. They can kidnap fifteen British sailors and marines in open waters and send Prime Minister Tony Blair into a Porky Pig dither. The Taliban can behead Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and get away with it. Al Qada can behead Nick Berg and get away with it. President Bush can propose that Americans continue to sacrifice themselves to bring "democracy" to a culture and country whose inhabitants prefer to remain medieval.
In Frankfurt, Germany, a judge rejected a petition for divorce submitted by a Muslim woman whose husband had beaten her and threatened her with death. The judge based her decision, not on German law, but on the Koran's dictum that "men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other." And to treat women as chattel.
An interesting question should be posed to that judge: If the husband had succeeded in killing his wife, would she have countenanced the woman's murder, as well, because the Koran sanctioned it?
Doyle's Colonel Cochrane was worried that the Mahdists might reach the shores of the Mediterranean and swallow Egypt. Over a century later, their desert sands have spread as far north as Germany and Norway, not only in Europe's legal systems, but in men's minds, as well.
5 Comments ::
:: Thursday, March 22, 2007 ::
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:13 AM
I was attending lectures and other events at the Nathaniel Branden Institute in a sub-level of the Empire State Building in 1968 when the Rand-Branden matter "blew up.' Most regular attendees were left utterly ignorant of the reasons behind the conflict. I recall receiving the statements from both Ayn Rand and the Brandens about why it was all over, and of the two statements - even though the concrete particulars of Nathaniel Branden's offenses especially were unfathomable to me and would remain so for years - I gave Rand the benefit of the doubt and granted her statement sole veracity, simply on the basis of her literary and philosophical achievements. But, up until that day, there was no evidence of a conflict between the principals, no hint or suggestion that anything was terribly wrong. The closing of NBI was a surprise.
I have just finished reading James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics: The Case Against the Brandens. I was astonished by two things: the scope of the deceit and dishonesty of the Brandens, and the meticulous and scrupulous examination to which Valliant subjected them.
Until Barbara Branden's Passion of Ayn Rand appeared in 1986, I remained in the dark about the exact nature of the conflict and split. I had heard rumors of an affair between Rand and Nathaniel Branden, but couldn't credit them. Since they had left the field of serious philosophical engagement, what the Brandens did or were doing then was of no further concern to me. I had read that Patrecia, Nathaniel Branden's wife, who played a passive role in Branden's deception of Rand, was found dead in his California swimming pool, and that he had subsequently married someone named Devers. But this and other information about the Brandens I collected without any specific interest, in the haphazard way one notes odd things in the landscape as one speeds on a highway, observed one minute, forgotten a mile down the road.
At the time, I was writing book reviews for the Library Journal and other periodicals, and, out of curiosity, requested a review copy of Passion from the Journal. Also, I had recently been interviewed by Dr. Peikoff about writing a biography of Rand. After I read Barbara Branden's biography, I called him and urged him to respond publicly to it, to set the record straight - not about the affair, but about all the backstabbing allegations made in her book, which I characterized as a prolonged character assassination in an elaborately contrived guise of "homage."
Now that I see what was necessary to properly and thoroughly answer her and Nathaniel Branden's books, I not only understand why Dr. Peikoff did nothing about it for so long - the scope of research and depth of intellectual effort that Valliant must have expended are nothing less than marvelous - but understand better why I knew then that I could not write a review of them. A mere book review critical of just Barbara Branden's allegations would not have sufficed; it would have been an inappropriate and inadequate answer.
It is the difference between the Romans opening diplomatic talks with the aggressor, Carthage, to stop the third Punic War, and simply razing Carthage itself to ensure there would not be a fourth. The Estate of Ayn Rand permitted Valliant unconditional access to the journals that Rand kept while acting as Branden's psychotherapist during this period. With them, Valliant has razed Carthage.
When Nathaniel Branden's Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand appeared, on the basis of things I had read in libertarian publications and had heard on the Objectivist grapevine, I did not bother reading it. At the same time, I observed that the whole libertarian "establishment," from party politics to journalistic commentary to scholarly studies, was largely, in spirit and intent, a concerted effort to discredit Rand and to render Objectivism invalidated, "cultish," and an object of derision. In this campaign the libertarians were (and still are) in cahoots with both the collectivist left and the religious right. What an odd yet philosophically appropriate Triple Entente!
(A noteworthy observation: A few years after the dissolution of NBI, "libertarianism" enjoyed a revival. True to their anarchist heritage, libertarians of all stripes pounced on Objectivism like vultures to pick out features of the philosophy à la carte, all the while eschewing the necessity of a philosophical foundation for their politics. Without Ayn Rand, however, there would have been no libertarian revival. What political principles could they have appropriated and "package-dealt," other than the morally contextless arguments from the 19th century? I have always characterized libertarians as "ventriloquists" for liberty.)
I have written fifteen novels, every one of them with a villain, but all my fictional villains are amateurs compared to the Brandens. I could never have conceived of such evil for any of my villains, of the kind of monstrous deception to which the Brandens subjected Rand even while they knew she was attempting to comprehend their behavior and problems, and even trying to salvage their lives and careers. They are beyond redemption. Valliant's book is a long overdue work of justice, and anyone who values Objectivism and the truth should thank him for it. Ayn Rand is the bridge between Aristotle and our future. It would be tragic if her importance were diminished without challenge by backyard fence gossip and vile dissimulation.
Valliant cites one note of Rand's in her journal (on page 375, top), close to the point when she was beginning to understand how much of a complete and unconscionable dissembler Nathaniel Branden was, stuck out in my mind because it reminded me of the fundamental motive of environmentalists: "...he was willing to destroy the earth (its reality) in order not to discover that he was neither worthy nor able to live on it." I can only conclude, given the ample evidence present in Valliant's book, that the Brandens then, and subsequently over the years, shared that same motive.
Valliant himself concludes about Nathaniel Branden:
"While his behavior was not, technically, rape, Branden's was nothing less than the soul of a rapist."
"While Branden's behavior does not compare [with the actual action of a rapist] - his motive - like that of the "Power-seeking" social metaphysician - in his romantic conduct toward Rand was control and physical gain, not a sincere passion at all. Consent [to sexual relations] can be overcome by fraud as well as by force - Branden himself had written on the relationship between force and fraud as means of manipulation - and what his crime lacked in violence, it made up for in [Rand's] prolonged psychological torment and deception."
Overall, I would say instead that, barring her willingness to be deceived and exploited, Branden et al. wished to destroy Rand because they knew they were not worthy of her or of Objectivism, just as the environmentalists want to destroy man because they know they are not worthy of living on an earth they wish to remain "pure" in some autistic, unreal, anti-life universe of their own, of which they project themselves as the humble (and fundamentally homicidal), man-hating guardians. But, at bottom, they wish to perish, and to take with them anyone who can live successfully on earth.
In another sense, the whole saga of Nathaniel Branden's deception is an object lesson in the exponential nature and consequences of faking reality. Practicing such deceit and maintaining such a façade requires building a house of cards; one lie calling for two more to insulate it from rational scrutiny, then those two requiring four, and so on, until the whole fabrication replaces whatever "soul" the perpetrator might have called his own. And, as Valliant demonstrates, Branden practiced it for over a decade. Having a vested interest in maintaining a lie over valuing the truth, he destroyed himself, but blamed Rand.
After finishing Valliant's book, I wondered if there had been any reply to it by the Brandens or any of their allies. What could anyone possibly say against it, except in the form of more evasions, rationalizations, and lies? On the Internet (and that's as far as I plan to go) I found irrelevant criticisms about some typos in the book, and some inconsistencies in style (National Review vs. The National Review!), comments on the production value of the physical book, and the like. Some anonymous person took Valliant to task for citing Jeff Walker's The Ayn Rand Cult, charging him with basing some of his factual statements on material found in that book, when Valliant had otherwise dismissed it as a tract largely founded on Branden material, that "critic" forgetting that Valliant qualified himself in that respect in terms of corroboration with other sources.
I must commend Valliant on a feat of detective work that would have daunted any career detective novelist. I have written one series in which the detective solves what I call "moral paradoxes." It would have been beyond my abilities to imagine anything nearly as complex and insidious as the paradox Valliant explicates in his book. In my mind, Rand never needed exoneration for her actions, and his book more than vindicates my position. Now it all makes sense, that particular, real-life paradox is solved, and I am indebted to him for having undertaken and completed such a prodigious task.
8 Comments ::
The Separation of School and State: The Case for Abolishing America's Government Schools
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 7:34 AM
Here's another event (this one is hosted by the Ayn Rand Institute) that is worth seeing:
The Separation of School and State:
The Case for Abolishing America's Government Schools
Lecture and Q&A by C. Bradley Thompson
Hilton Costa Mesa [map]
3050 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, California
(At Bristol and the 405 Freeway)
Why do so many Americans--liberal and conservative--support a compulsory system of government-run education? What role should the State play in educating America's children? Are government schools compatible with a free society? Is it possible to have a free-market in education?
Dr. Thompson's lecture will examine the destructive effects of "public" education in America, he will critique the principal assumptions behind government schooling (e.g., that children have a "right" to an education and that government schools are for the "public good"), and he will call for the abolition of all government schools. Thompson will present a principled argument for a free-market in education that begins with the rights and responsibilities of parents to provide for the education of their own children.
6:30 PM: Bookstore opens
7:30 PM: Lecture
8:30 PM: Q & A
0 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 ::
Live Lecture: Daniel Chester French—Consummate Idealist
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 8:53 AM
The GMU Objectivist Club is hosting Lee Sandstead on campus tonight; here's a crosspost of the event details:
What: A Live Lecture by Art Historian Lee Sandstead
When: Wednesday, March 21st, 7:30 PM
Where: GMU Fairfax Campus, Johnson Center 3rd Floor, Meeting Room A [Campus Map]
With the dedication in 1922 of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., the United States saw its last great monument rooted in the Renaissance. It was at this time that the world was turning away from the artistic principles of the previous 600 years for the new esthetic of Modernism. This makes sculptor Daniel Chester French doubly fascinating to study; not only does his genius place him on par with the great Renaissance sculptors as seen in the Seated Lincoln of the Lincoln Memorial, but as the world was transitioning to a new era of art—French held fast to his artistic principles.
While French was a house-hold name in his own day, particularly from works such as the Minute Man (1875) and Death and the Sculptor (1893), today little is known of him. He is not studied in academia and books have not been written about him. This is particularly striking as his artistic hand can literally be seen in almost every major American city.
For the past eight years, Professor Sandstead has travelled from coast to coast locating, documenting and photographing the works of this forgotten master. While he has learned a great deal, there is one fact that stands above the rest. That from historic city center, to forgotten cemetery to distant university chapel--French was at all times a consummate idealist.
Attend this stirring, illustrated lecture and survey the many works of Daniel Chester French. With themes of love, beauty and heroism, see for yourself why French is a consummate idealist.
About Lee Sandstead
Professor Sandstead specializes in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Academic art of France, America, Spain, Italy, England and Canada. His lectures on art history and art appreciation have been heard nationally and internationally at over 30 universities and institutions, such as: Harvard, New York University, Yale, and Duke. His art-historical photography has been published in numerous books and publications, including: The New York Times, Fortune, Ms., Preservation Magazine, Style 1900, The New York Post, and American Cemetery Magazine.
When he documented the art and stained glass in the interiors of 1,300 mausoleums at Woodlawn Cemetery in NYC, he has literally traveled where no other art-historian has ever been.
He has studied art history at the University of Memphis’ graduate program, and most recently, the art history doctoral program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He was a Visiting Scholar of Art History at Montclair State University from 2001-2006. Today, he serves as Chair of the Department of Art History and Fine Arts at Founders College in South Boston, Virginia.
1 Comments ::
:: Friday, March 16, 2007 ::
Spartans: Two – Iran (née Persia): Zero
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:32 AM
One of the most ridiculous accusations leveled against the U.S. by Iran is that “300,” the movie depicting the heroism of the Greek Spartans against the invading Persian hordes under Xerxes in 480 B.C., is a product of “a comprehensive U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture.” This movie allegedly “insults” Persian civilization.
The allegation was made, according to the Iranian Fars News Agency, by Javad Shamquadri, filmmaker and art advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Fars is not so much a news agency as it is a vehicle for propaganda and misinformation.
The allegation is baseless on two counts.
First, no program of psychological warfare is being waged against or about Iran or any other Islamic state. We can only wish one existed. Hollywood is not in cahoots with the CIA, NSA, or the State Department to insult any country, least of all Iran, to which the U.S is making meek overtures to stop killing American troops in Iraq and to stop development of nuclear weapons.
In fact, if anything, Hollywood is waging a kind of psychological war against the U.S. without any connivance of the government. During World War Two, Hollywood turned out dozens of films that “insulted” Nazi Germany and Tojo’s Japan, some at the behest of the War Department, others independently. How many films has it produced about the “war on terror,” other than one or two non-judgmental films about the 9/11 hijackings? None.
Second, Persian cultural accomplishments in literature, the decorative arts and architecture – great portions of them cadged or adapted from other cultures – were more or less nullified with the Arab/Islamic conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century A.D. Under the Muslims, much Persian literature simply vanished. At Marathon and Thermopylae, the Spartans and other Greeks were not fighting jihadists or Islamists in a holy war of conquest. They were opposing a megalomaniacal tyrant, Xerxes I, who did manage to sack Athens.
Up until the Arab conquest, the dominant religion in Iran or Persia was Zoroastrianism, founded about two hundred years before Marathon and Thermopylae. Like Islam (and Christianity, as well), it featured a bizarre divinity and farcical cosmology. The apostles of Mohammad subsequently cleansed Iran of that religion and all Greek influences in Persian culture.
Why is Javad Shamquadri so touchy about a pre-Islamic Persian tyrant, nominally an infidel? Historically, Xerxes couldn’t have heard of Allah, because that divinity wouldn’t be invented for another thousand years. Why boast of a civilization that his creed erased some 1,500 years ago? If Shamquadri was going to complain about anything, it might have been that the hairless, androgynous Xerxes in the film resembled nothing like the 6th-5th century B.C. bas-relief of Xerxes in the Archeological Museum in Tehran. Also, most of the film’s Persian soldiers dressed suspiciously like…Arabs. But, those are mere details.
“Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Hollywood and cultural authorities in the U.S. initiated studies to figure out how to attack Iranian culture.” There’s a xenophobic conspiracy theory for you. The efforts of those plotters, such as the movie “300,” would be fruitless, because “values in Iranian culture and the Islamic Revolution are too strongly seated to be damaged by such plans,” said Shamquadri. And there’s package-dealing for you, too, a coupling of nationalism and theocratic fervor. And which values does he mean: Islamic or non-Islamic?
What, basically, is “300” about? The refusal of Spartans and Greeks to submit to tyranny, preferring to die defending their freedom and autonomy rather than live as conquered subjects. And what does the term “Islam” mean? Submission.
Regardless of the movie’s flaws – and there are stylistic and technical ones – this is what really upsets Shamquadri and his own tyrant, Ahmadinejad, and not any imagined cultural aspersions. The box office success of “300” in the U.S. is evidence that the West is not yet vanquished, in spite of the best efforts of Hollywood and the pragmatists of Foggy Bottom. To date, “300” is the only movie in my memory to champion the superiority of the West – because of its heroes’ unequivocal value of freedom. To borrow a scene from the movie itself, “300” is Leonidas’s spear that grazed Shamquadri’s cheek.
3 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 ::
Understanding the Founders College Vision
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 6:09 PM
I'm back at Founders College again. Obviously for both Ed Cline and myself, this new vision for higher education has captured our attention. As I said before, the campus is stunning-a fitting home for the pursuits envisioned. Here's a photo I took of a walk I was able to enjoy last night though the horse pastures.
During my walk, I noticed something that I had missed the first time I visited the campus. A few short steps from the Berry Hill mansion at Founders College lies the Bruce family cemetery. There, Mrs. Betty Bruce Williams (1878-1943) rests with the following epitaph inscribed upon her headstone:
"She has lived with a heart and soul alive for all that makes life beautiful."I was struck by how this remembrance intended to encapsulate the meaning of Mrs. Williams' life comes admirably close to capturing the vision of this newly launched college. At Founders, Dr. Gary Hull and Tamara Fuller propose to create a multi-faceted institution dedicated to helping people come to know themselves and the world around them. I find myself utterly inspired by their vision-based upon what I have seen thus far, I believe them to be armed with both ideas and passion necessary to make this vision real.
I'm also struck by the controversy surrounding this endeavor, especially among some Objectivists, whom one would expect would be enthusiastic supporters of the college. It's inevitable that any new project be subject to some amount of scrutiny, particularly when it is as ambitious as this one, so as I've come to understand the ideas behind Founders, I think it would be helpful to examine some of the lingering doubts that I've seen raised over the past months.
Foremost is the idea that since Founders is not an explicit Objectivist institution, it is guilty of being a step away from goodness, or is somehow ashamed of the role Ayn Rand's philosophy played in shaping the thinking of its principals (and its ultimate educational strategy). I admit that I wondered about this issue myself, thinking that perhaps the school simply didn't believe that "the time was right" for an avowed Objectivist institution.
The reality of the situation is much different and it reflects the distinction between an institution with mandate to teach vs. an institution with a mandate to advocate. For example, the Ayn Rand Institute is an advocacy organization; it seeks to present the philosophy of Objectivism to the public and train new intellectuals who will aid the institute is expanding its outreach. ARI's more advanced programs teach individuals who are already committed to Objectivism the history of philosophy and other arts. While this instruction clearly benefits students in a host of life applications, the ultimate aim of this program is to produce scholars who will apply Objectivism to their scholarship and teaching (and thus grow our numbers). This end goal clearly shapes ARI's advocacy, from who underwrites its cost, to who is admitted into its training programs as a student.
In contrast, the goal of an educational institution is to provide a broad base of customers with the training they need to lead successful and productive lives. An institution like Founders College takes the unschooled (and that's putting it politely, given much of the rot infecting education today) and it educates them-many for the first time in a formal setting. And while it's easy to see the critical impact Objectivism has played in shaping the Founders College curriculum (please go to Founders' website and review its curriculum for yourself), it is improper to think of Founders as the equivalent of a bible college.
Ultimately, when it comes to making the integrations about what philosophy its students will use to guide them in life, students must be responsible for making their own choices. I believe Founders will give its students the skills and knowledge necessary to make an informed choice; in fact, I doubt that there is another college in existence that will do more for its students in this regard, but these students will have to make good on the very purpose of their education, which is to think properly and confidently. In my opinion, this is exactly what an education should be.
In any case, as I understand it, Founders will offer a minor in Objectivism. I challenge Founder's critics to name me any other college program in the world that offers such a program and explain to me why this program remains a secret.
Another controversy that I don't quite understand now that I've had a chance to see the college and review its program for myself is over just what assets Gary Hull brings to the table with the Founders' launch. The thinking that I saw argued that since Founders is not explicitly an Objectivist college and Hull is an Objectivist philosophy professor, the value of his contribution is somehow lessened.
With the benefit of a broader understanding, I say that this argument falls into a rationalistic trap by undervaluing Hull's real genius, which is his understanding of the philosophy of education and his groundbreaking practical application of his knowledge to the classroom. Hull's creation of an integrated and conceptual-based curriculum for higher education is revolutionary. His commitment to coach his professors, enhance their teaching talents and then hold them strictly accountable for how they perform in the classroom is pioneering. When I look at his handiwork and talk to people he has already coached, all I can see is evidence of a top-level Objectivist at his absolute best. I think it's high time Hull got some credit for it.
The last concern that I've seen is a minor one, but one that I've nevertheless seen repeated several times. Some are not quite sure how Founders is being financed, speculating that there is some behind the scene mystery donor funding the project. From what I have learned, there is no such financier, but instead a three-pronged business plan that Tamara Fuller, the business visionary behind the project has been able to successfully present to normal commercial lenders. In addition to its educational mission, Founders will continue to use the Berry Hill property as a world-class resort/conference center, as well as develop parts of the outlying estate for residential living. The appeal of this plan is that it allows each branch of Founders' business triad to grow while contributing to the strength of the whole, and places the business in the position of being able to capitalize on the economic benefits it creates. It's a simple and straightforward plan, but obviously sexy when it comes to capitalizing upon the benefits. My eyes often glaze over when I hear business pitches, but with this one, I have to admit-I'm impressed.
My view is now that Founders is out of the gate, its vision is clear and its methodology sound, Objectivists should be outspoken in their support of its mission. Right now, Founders needs (and in my view, deserves) boosters. If Founders fails, it will be only because potential students did not hear about it and not because its educational vision was flawed. And since my own thinking and misgivings have been answered by getting the facts straight from the source, I encourage those who continue to have their own misgivings to take their questions directly to those in charge. Founders College offers the education that I wish I had had when I was 18-and I think the others will feel the same way once they come to fully understand Founders' vision.
Thought Crime: The Logical End of Politically Correct Speech
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:13 AM
“It is not so curious that in the wake of the Danish cartoon conflict, during which the American press and news media revealed their tepid commitment to freedom of speech and the inviolacy of the First Amendment, incidents of assaults on that freedom would not only multiply, but assume odd but no less ominous forms.”
That was how I opened a commentary on the corruptive power of politically correct speech in “Moving Towards Freedomless Speech” on this site in May 2006. I further remarked:
“To return to thought control: The ‘control’ that enforces ‘orthodoxy’ in speech by individuals is simply fear of retribution, reprisal, or financial and personal ruin. To work, thought or speech control relies exclusively on self-censorship. The instances of operable thought control are as ubiquitous and innocuous in our culture as countless drops of water falling on one’s forehead in a Chinese torture.”
“On a fundamental cultural level, it is no coincidence that the introduction and gradual acceptance of the concept of ‘hate crimes’ paralleled the stealthy and de facto imposition of politically correct speech. Politically correct speech, in turn, has established the grounds for punishable ‘tactless language.’”
Politically correct speech, we are seeing, inevitably leads to politically correct thought, if the speech is not flouted, opposed, or corrected. Who can enforce that epistemology-wrecking and metaphysics-warping nomenclature? Who can enforce mental blank-outs?
Inevitably, government force. But our federal and state governments have not yet imposed censorship. They are evading that damning label – the term still carries an onus of tyranny that its advocates avoid like primitive savages, even though it is tyranny they wish to impose – by stealthily coming in through the backdoors of speech codes, vocabularies of “sensitivity,” campaign finance laws, and the like. No, they are allowing the gauleiters of correct speech to lay the groundwork for censorship in numerous fields of thought and action.
The latest casualties in freedom of thought and speech in the name of orthodoxy may be science and scientists. The Daily Telegraph (London) of March 12th featured this disturbing article, under the headline, “Scientists threatened for ‘climate denial’”:
“Scientists who questioned mankind’s impact on climate change have received death threats and claim to have been shunned by the scientific community.
“They say the debate on global warming has been ‘hijacked’ by a powerful alliance of politicians, scientists and environmentalists who have stifled all questioning about the true environmental impact of carbon dioxide emissions.
“Timothy Ball, a former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Canada, has received five death threats by email since raising concerns about the degree to which man was affecting climate change. One of the emails warned that, if he continued to speak out, he would not live to see further global warming.”
What is the next step after threats to enforce goodthink in a semi-free society? Outright force, as we witnessed when homicidal anti-abortionists took shots at doctors, terrorized women seeking abortions, and firebombed abortion clinics.
“Last week,” the Daily Telegraph article continued, “Professor Ball appeared in The Great Global Warming Swindle…a documentary in which several scientists claimed the theory of man-made global warming had become a ‘religion,’ forcing alternative explanations to be ignored.”
Yes, environmentalism is a religion, although it didn’t just recently become one. It has been a religion – a system of reason-proof intrinsic values that places nature far above man’s survival – ever since the first savages sacrificed one of their own to placate the mysterious moods of gods. Reality, facts, evidence, and proofs have never stood in the way of faith in the incomprehensible.
“Richard Lindzen, the professor of Atmospheric Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology – who also appeared on the documentary – recently claimed: ‘Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves labeled as industry stooges. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of science.’”
Another scientist on the program stated, “The Green movement has hijacked the issue of climate change. It is ludicrous to suggest the only way to deal with the problem is to start micro-managing everyone, which is what environmentalists seem to want to do.”
Premise check here: Climate change, or global warming, is not a “problem.” And that scientist errs in another premise, that environmentalists wish to micro-manage everyone (as totalitarians are wont to do), presumably for their own good and the good of the earth. If he examined the Green movement as closely as he might data from a sample ice core from the Arctic or Antarctic, he would conclude that environmentalists wish to micro-manage man out of existence – first with solar and wind power, then with ethanol, then with florescent light bulbs, and God knows what other “energy-conserving,” “environment friendly” doodads and scams someone or some group might foist on a defenseless public.
What the environmentalists do not wish to hear – nor wish anyone else to hear – are some of the conclusions and observations of the scientists who appeared on the Great Global Warming Swindle program: that if there is warming, it is caused by sunspot activity, which drives up CO2 levels, which may or may not mean anything; that the environmental movement is driven by politics; and that scientists who question or deny the “truth” that man is causing the rise of CO2 levels find their names appended to international reports that endorse the man-made global warming mantra. That is consistent with the style of environmentalists: threats of force, preceded by fraud and forgery.
What about those polar bears clinging to melting icebergs as they drift into the ocean (and often landing in Iceland, where they are shot)? Another Daily Telegraph article from March 9th, “Polar bears ‘thriving as the Arctic warms up’,” among other things reports a rise in the polar bear population.
“Polar bear experts said that numbers had increased not because of climate change but due to the efforts of conservationists. The battle to ban the hunting of Harp seal pups has meant the seal population has soared – boosting the bears’ food supply. At the same time, fewer seal hunters are around to hunt bears.”
But those poor bears, hanging ten on shrinking ice cubes! Said one professor from the University of Alberta about “a celebrated photograph of a bear and its cub floating on a tiny iceberg, the animals often travel in that way. ‘Bears will often hang out on glacier ice or large pieces of multi-year ice.’”
Last week a biologist on a San Francisco radio program raised the point that since polar bears are a species closely related to grizzly bears, both species carnivores, they have no problem hunting on land and finding food that way.
“Tina Cummings, a biologist attached to the Alaskan government, questioned whether they needed sea ice to survive, saying they could adapt to hunt on land and find alternative food sources to seals.”
So, it isn’t just Muslims who object to freedom of speech and the “inconvenient” truths about Islam such freedom might reveal. The fire and brimstone faithful of another religion, environmentalism, also wish to squelch anyone who questions the soundness or truthfulness of their “science” of global warming and man’s contribution to it.
“Slay them wherever you find them,” orders the Koran about infidels and unbelievers. “Call them names, accuse them of denial, of trafficking with the capitalist Satan, of using tactless or insensitive language, shun them,” order the environmentalist gurus. And if the unbelievers won’t shut up, threaten them with death.
When men begin to resort to death threats and ad hominem arguments as means of persuasion, then one should know immediately that a fraud is being perpetrated and that the facts of reality are not on their side. To submit to such persuasion is to submit to thought control, which can “work” only if one vanquishes one’s own mind. A mind cannot be forced, said Ayn Rand’s John Galt; it can only abdicate.
Other articles by Edward Cline on censorship:
“Here Comes a Chopper to Chop Off Your Head: Freedom of Expression vs. Censorship in America” Essay: The Journal of Information Ethics (St. Cloud State University, MN/ McFarland & Co., Publishers, Jefferson, NC), Fall 1995
“The Ghouls of Grammatical Egalitarianism” a review of Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing, ed. Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-Free Language, The Social Critic, November/ December 1996
“Censorship” Entry: The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, ed. Allen Kent, Marcel Dekker, New York, Vols. 62 (1998) and 70 (2002)
“Moving Towards Freedomless Speech” The Rule of Reason, 18 May 2006
1 Comments ::
:: Sunday, March 11, 2007 ::
The AP covers the canceled John Lewis talk
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 4:04 PM
Matthew Barakat of the Associated Press reports on the canceled (and soon to be rescheduled) John Lewis talk on totalitarian Islam at George Mason University.
Note how the spokesman from the Council on American-Islamic Relations claims that Lewis is an "unfit" public speaker--as if it is his right to vet who speaks and who doesn't speak on an American college campus.
0 Comments ::
:: Saturday, March 10, 2007 ::
Founders College: A Strategic Division of Labor
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:40 AM
After spending a weekend at Founders College near South Boston, Virginia – a place I now think of as the future “Galt’s Gulch” of education – I have had time to reflect on the importance of that place and its vision. And one of the first things to occur to me, once the means and ends of the institution had percolated in my mind for a while, was how ingenious an educational strategy had been conceived by its founders.
If a goal of a liberal arts college is to prepare a student with a “comprehensive knowledge and deeper understanding of great ideas, their connections and consequences,” structured as an “integrated, logical whole,” then that goal would complement perfectly a student’s pursuit of a profession in the work world or if he matriculated into a university to master a specific field of knowledge.
This is truly a revolutionary concept, having no precedent even in the liberal arts colleges of the 19th and early 20th century, when educational standards were immeasurably higher than they are at present. I recall a Wall Street Journal article some time in the 1970s when the paper reprinted part of a private New Jersey high school’s entrance exam. It required an active knowledge of American, European and ancient history, of a language other than English, of calculus and trigonometry, of philosophy, of science, of law, and the ability to solve complex problems. The test, as I recall, had been given to modern Harvard and Princeton juniors; every one of them flunked it miserably, unable to correctly answer a fraction of the questions or to solve any of the problems.
Yet fortunes were and still are being spent on these students’ education, sending them out into the world barely less ignorant than when they matriculated, and if not indoctrinated by vicious, anti-mind ideas, then indifferent to all great ideas.
Of course, even in the 19th and early 20th centuries, education was “traditional,” that is, it relied chiefly, as the Founders College brochure describes it, “on rote memorization of a random set of disconnected facts and opinions.” It might have been at a higher, more demanding, and an even comprehensive level of knowledge, but it was largely disconnected and certainly not logically integrated. In only a few students would education instill in them a “lifelong passion for knowledge and discovery.” It was up to the students to discover the “whole” on their own efforts, possibly encouraged by the even rarer teacher with a passion for his subject.
If we treat as an absolute truism that ideas can influence the direction of a culture – indeed, of a nation – and that those ideas flow from the centers of education, then the power of reason – in this instance, the logical integration of ideas from a wide spectrum of human endeavors – should be enhanced in the student, in the culture, in the nation.
Ideas can certainly influence the direction of a culture and nation. Witness the influence of bad ideas inculcated in students for a few generations – of collectivism, of nihilism, of environmentalism, of religion, of virtually every brand of anti-reason, anti-mind philosophy – and then observe the state of the country and of the world. These ideas are spread by the colleges and universities. The best institutions are today in a state of criminal decrepitude – the logical dead end of a century of promulgating irrationalism – and the destruction they are wrecking in every field of human action is of an unimaginable magnitude.
Countering this phenomenon is the Ayn Rand Institute’s Objectivist Academic Center, which trains students in an unadulterated philosophy of reason, together with its efforts to place as many of its graduates as possible in the country’s top universities. There is no other such organization or program in existence. And it is such an organization with which Founders College can establish a complementary relationship. It is a perfect educational fit.
Imagine it: A student who graduates from Founders would be far better prepared to grasp and absorb a philosophy of reason than a student who, similarly motivated, had to endure two or three years of agony in a liberal arts school that sought to cripple his mind and which regularly extorted his silence or agreement over irrational ideas and opinions. In the context of an irrational culture, Founders would serve as a kind of advanced crèche for adolescents and adults alike.
There is a mutual benefit to stress here. Instead of Objectivist teachers and scholars having to struggle with students who have been mentally stunted and flayed of any pro-life, pro-reason values, they could begin to have in their classes students ripe for the refinement of reason and imbued with pro-life values, students who value an “integrated whole” in their education, and who would exhibit a far broader and deeper knowledge of the liberal arts – philosophy, politics, law, literature, and so on – than most students could even imagine today.
And, instead of the most able and intellectually ambitious students having to resort to outwitting their extortionate, irrational teachers just to pass a course or obtain a degree, they could encounter teachers and scholars hospitable to their ambition and abilities, and who reciprocated excellence and performance with recognition and academic justice.
Excuse the hubris of an individual who decades ago was repelled by the modern, “traditional” mode of “higher” education, but I see no conflict between the two levels. If the goal of the OAC is to produce professional intellectuals, what better preparation for that role could there be in today’s educational environment than Founders College? Founders College would be the next step up from such pro-reason, pro-individual, pre-college schools such as the Van Damme Academy and the Leport Schools, whose typical students are so far advanced in every important respect over their traditional or public school counterparts that one is hard put to find a credible measure.
What I find incredible is that anyone who values reason and the mind would express opposition to the idea of Founders College. Such a person must be blind to the overall, revolutionary strategy conceived by Founders’ principals.
Founders College is the missing piece of the vast puzzle of turning a culture and a nation back to life-saving, life-enhancing reason. If I had the funds to spare, I would without hesitation invest in its future.
:: Monday, March 05, 2007 ::
An Evening with Novelist Edward Cline
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 5:51 PM
What: a live lecture by novelist Edward Cline, author of the Sparrowhawk series of revolutionary war-era historical fiction.
When: Wednesday, March 7th, 7:30 pm
Where: GMU Fairfax Campus Johnson Center 3rd Floor - Meeting Room A [Campus Map]
Edward Cline has been writing since graduation from high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Primarily a novelist, he has written fifteen novels and nearly one hundred published nonfiction articles, book reviews, monographs, and essays for such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Marine Corps League, The Social Critic, and the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science on subjects ranging from censorship to politically correct speech. His articles have also appeared on websites such as Capitalism Magazine, The Rule of Reason, and Dougout. His article on John Locke in the Colonial Williamsburg Journal was reprinted twice in McGraw-Hill Dushkin’s Western Civilization II, a college textbook, and also served as the basis of a course in political science at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk.
Of his novels, First Prize, the second in a series of stories that feature a detective who solves murders based on moral paradoxes, was published in 1988. Whisper the Guns, the first in a suspense series featuring an American entrepreneur hero, was published in 1992. In 2001 the first of his Sparrowhawk novels, set in Virginia and England in the decades preceding the Revolution, appeared. The sixth and last title in that series debuted in December of 2006.
Sponsored by the GMU Objectivist Club and The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism.
1 Comments ::
My remarks at Founders College
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:04 AM
NB: Below are the brief remarks I made at my book-signing event at Founders College this weekend.
The Founders College website, under "Our Vision," states:
"A Founders education will spark in you a lifelong passion for knowledge and discovery....We focus on the great ideas and significant events that have shaped civilizations. Your mind will be prepared with a comprehensive knowledge and deeper understanding of these great ideas, their connections and their consequences. You will enjoy life with a much better understanding of yourself and of the world around you."Doubtless, an admirable goal and method—and a rationally proper one, as well. Presumably a Founders student will study the sciences, politics, philosophy—and literature.
Well, how would literature help Founders to achieve that goal and fulfill that mission? What place has literature, or any of the other arts, in that program? What connection can literature have with business, history, law, science, or philosophy? Is it mere disconnected "entertainment," or does it serve a greater purpose than passing one's time or diverting one from the tasks of living?
Now, I will say at the outset, to paraphrase Ayn Rand in The Romantic Manifesto, that literature is not a didactic medium. To teach is not its purpose. Its paramount purpose is to show. Its value lies in its capacity to serve as emotional and psychological fuel.
Ayn Rand, in her essay, "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art" (in The Romantic Manifesto) writes:
"When we come to normative abstractions - to the task of defining moral principles and projecting what man ought to be - the psycho-epistemological process required is still harder. The task demands years of study - and the results are almost impossible to communicate without the assistance of art. An exhaustive philosophical treatise defining moral values, with a long list of virtues to be practiced, will not do it; it will not convey what an ideal man would be like and how he would act; no mind can deal with so immense a sum of abstractions. When I say 'deal with,' I mean retranslate all the abstractions into the perceptual concretes for which they stand - i.e., to reconnect them to reality - and hold it all in the focus of one's conscious awareness. There is no way to integrate such a sum without projecting an actual human figure - an integrated concretization that illuminates the theory and makes it intelligible."And the means of projecting such a human figure is in a novel, a play, or a painting, to render that philosophy or moral ideal in the perceptual concrete of such a figure, and to make that figure as memorable as one's skill allows.Rand's conclusion: "Art is the indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal." So, art is a perfect, complementary partner of philosophy.
Now, I think that any novelist, whether he writes romantic novels, or romantic realist novels, or naturalist novels, or even historic novels, explicitly or implicitly, consciously or unconsciously, strives to create a moral ideal, endeavors to recreate in his heroes or principal characters an "ought." His success in that task depends on many factors, such as his purpose, his skill, his fundamental views of reality and life. Not even a naturalist novelist can avoid selecting what he perceives as "life as it really is"; he must employ selectivity in what he chooses to represent. If he didn't employ selectivity, he wouldn't be able to write the first word. And if he were consciously consistent in his view of things, he wouldn't attempt to write a novel at all.
A romantic or romantic realist novelist, however, is one driven by a passion for values, for men and things as they ought to be.
I can tell you why I wrote Sparrowhawk and all my other novels, but will dwell only on Sparrowhawk here. I wished to dramatize, or bring to life, the caliber of the men who made the Revolution possible. It was a lifelong ambition that I realized after writing nine novels before I took the first note for Sparrowhawk. I wished to do literary justice to the time and the events as my predecessors in the genre never did. The task entailed recreating the British-American culture and politics of the time to better dramatize the men and the events, to better tell an epic story, rather than relate a history, though writing the epic required a knowledge of history. That meant, in part, applying the same principles that comprise the philosophy of education of Founders College, to communicate and dramatize the connections between the great ideas and discoveries that have always made Western Civilization possible, and sustained it, and moved it forward, and to integrate them all into a story which I believe has no parallel in the genre.
The Founders College brochure states: "We work hard to produce extraordinary thinkers - individuals who will make a real difference." The thinkers and actors of the pre-Revolutionary period were extraordinary, and made a difference. I often tell people that the American Revolution was a culmination of the English Civil War of the 1640's, a conflict fought over many of the same issues that ignited the Revolution. But, why did the British trade a Stuart monarchy and its tyranny for a Puritan regime and its tyranny, and ultimately invite the Stuarts back? Why didn't the American Revolution collapse, or follow the same course as the English Civil War?
It was a thinker who made the difference, one whose ideas the American patriots had the advantage of, but which the British did not. That was chiefly John Locke, the 17th century political philosopher, who explicated the principles of a proper government by integrating, or making the connections between, metaphysics, epistemology, and morality (but not nearly as successfully and completely as Ayn Rand would two centuries later in Atlas Shrugged). And one of the most extraordinary exponents of Locke among American patriots was another thinker, Thomas Jefferson. His Declaration of Independence is written almost solely in Lockean language.
After reviewing the course curriculum of Founders College - especially its Literature and Arts program - I am gladdened to see that it addresses every one of the points I have just mentioned. I confess that I will be envious of any student who enrolls in this institution. My own experience with college level studies was, to paraphrase English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, "poor, nasty, brutish and short." So, I had to make do without the benefit of what I believe young people will experience here at Founders College, which has been created as an antithesis of and an alternative to what passes for "higher" education today. Imbued with the knowledge and experience "based on the integration of a carefully structured core of great ideas" gained at the College, its graduates will be able to face their lives, careers and the world armed with a combination of confidence, passion, and a reverence for their own lives and accomplishments.