Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Dear Readers: I have been working on a new Cyrus Skeen novel (no. 13) and so I have been absent from Rule of Reason the last two or so weeks. There is of course a lot going on, most especially the invasion of Europe by the Islamic and Third World hordes hell-bent on subduing Europe, an invasion by invitation by ex-Soviet Socialist Angela Merkel, who believes that Germany's guilt over the Holocaust and WW2 can be expiated by setting loose rapists, murderers, ISIS fighters, and other predators on the German population. That within a decade there will be no more "Germany," just a fiefdom of Pax Islamia concerns her not. Sweden, again, is as wussy as ever in the face of the hordes swarming into that country. In Germany now calling the macho Muslims Nazis can get you arrested, or at best, beaten up by a Muslim gang (Muslims don't like to fight one-on-one, never heard of it). So, the way to make up for having killed six million Jews is to let in hundreds of thousands of Jew-hating Muslims so they can take a turn at exterminating them, too. Anyway, I'll be back in about two weeks.
Monday, September 14, 2015
My first article on the European immigration/invasion crisis, “’Just Do it!’ Kant and the Immigration Crisis,” elicited some very hostile responses from readers on Facebook, a response I was not aware of until alerted to the cacophony by a friend. In the name of protecting the identities of the perpetrators, I will not provide the link to that particular Facebook account nor name names of those who called me “obnoxious,” an “amateur critic” of Kant, or just plain but uncivilly and unjustifiably angry. I’m not sure if any of them has yet read “Part Two.”
After reading all of the comments on this particular Facebook page, I left my own, not thinking I’d need to return with more words to the wise. My Facebook comments here are edited for style and ease of reading:
To all the talking heads here who think I’m obnoxious, or who don’t like my “manner” of commentary, or who think I’m an “amateur critic" of Islam and of Obama and of Third World immigration and invasion and of all the other plagues that threaten Western civilization, or who question my grasp of Immanuel Kant:
When you’ve written four successful fiction series, including Sparrowhawk, the Skeen novels, the Hanrahan novels, and the Fury novels, and a handful of nonfiction works, plus about 1,400,000 words of commentary on Rule of Reason in over 750 columns, which do not include numerous reviews in the Wall Street Journal and various encyclopedias and other print publications over the years, risked your life by speaking your mind in a public forum and possibly earning an Islamic fatwa or the unwanted attention of our own government – then you may presume to judge my “manner” and any other offensive faux pas you wish to accuse me of committing.
As Howard Roark, the hero of Rand’s The Fountainhead, did not discuss the merits of his work with members of the Architectural Guild, I don’t discuss the merits of my work with people who don’t seem to have anything else to do but nitpick (and when there are not nits to pick). This is why I haven’t participated in your discussions here. I can only thank those few who came to my defense on the matter of the Kant/Immigration column of mine. And that is all I have to say.
But, the thread went on and on. I finally felt it necessary to leave another comment.
Mr. K, on whose Facebook page this session of the Star Chamber is occurring, wrote in answer to another commentator’s remarks:
Peter: I have not read Mr. Cline's fiction, but I have heard good things from those who have. Mr. Cline's position on immigration, like his position on LGTB people, plays right into the hands of the left. Leftists are forever saying: capitalism is for straight white American men to get rich by oppressing everyone else who is different. By saying foreigners and people with atypical sexual desires are grave threats to civilization--as opposed to irrationality and altruism--is to make their case for them, intentionally or not.
My reply was:
Mr. K: You could just as well claim that Rand’s fiction “plays into the hands of the left” and “makes their case for them, intentionally or not” regarding capitalism and LGTBs and foreigners and any other current topic one might wish to raise. As Rand didn’t write her fiction unintentionally to “play into” anyone’s hands, so I do. I can’t control what others “intend” my fiction to be or to represent. She didn’t write her fiction to raise the hackles of conservative William F. Buckley or to cause indigestion in any leftist critic or intellectual.
You seem to be looking at fiction through a counter-Marxist lens – the Marxist position being that fiction represents an expression of class, or of race, or of gender. Well, let the Marxists make their “let’s give his texts a close reading so we can see what are his subtexts and his encoded racial and gender messages” claims, but you shouldn’t dignify their “deconstruction” of fiction by saying that my or Rand’s fiction is somehow guilty of bolstering their arguments against capitalism (or freedom of speech, etc.).
Moreover, if I recall correctly, Leonard Peikoff once received a proposal to produce Rand’s novel “Anthem” as a play with the stipulation that it feature a multi-racial cast. He turned it down. I don’t know his reasons, but I gather it was because there are no homosexual or lesbian or black or other ethnic characters in any of her fiction. There are some “ethnic” characters in my fiction, particularly and necessarily in the Sparrowhawk series, and in some in the Skeen detective series; the homosexual ones are pathetic, the lesbian ones vicious, and in China Basin there’s particularly brutal bisexual, but in all the titles reason trumps their race or gender.
I suggest you sample my fiction and judge for yourself. But don’t approach it with a “deconstructive” motive in mind, that is, expecting to find my intentional, unintentional, or subliminal “subtexts.” I don’t “do” subtexts. You won’t need a secret decoding ring to get something out of my fiction. You won’t need to subject it to cryptanalysis. There are no “signifiers” or “signifieds” in my fiction. Should a deconstructionist claim to find any, then he’s seeing things that aren’t there.
I half expect someone to reply to that by pointing to my “White Literary Privilege,” that is, my making all my characters “white” with few ethnic characters. No, I’m not being fair now. I would expect that from the harpies of Academe. I will confess that I have one Chinese character in An August Interlude.
And then there's that "anger" issue. So what if I'm "angry"? How many of Rand's columns were written from "anger"? Plenty. Hell hath no fury like a philosopher scorned. But it's not okay for an "amateur critic” of Kant to write from "anger"?
Mr. P left this suggestion:
What would interest me much more would be to know if Mr Cline is open to having the basis of his ideas challenged (not so much the principles, which I agree with) if they were based on facts, on correct observations about current events in immigration and refugees. I had a similar try with Mr Mazlish, who holds views similar to his, and got nowhere with simply showing that many of his facts were not real, but manipulated by his sources. Often they are conflations of truth and fiction.
The truth is that, sadly today's Internet and today's radio and TV shows are sadly totally unreliable to use as sources to build ideas upon. They are 80% fabrications and only 20 % truth.
No, Mr. P, I'm not interested in debating my position. I don't need to validate it. Read what I have to say, take or leave it. I've already done the heavy lifting. I'm guessing also that because I'm not speaking from a position of "authority," everything I have to say can be challenged. Challenge away. Although Mr. P is right about the bias in today’s news reportage on the “refugee” and “asylum seekers” investing Europe. But I don’t get my news from the MSM anymore. I get it from Jihad Watch, Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs, Gatestone, The Gates of Vienna, Steve Emerson’s IPT, FrontPage, and Sultan Knish, among many other sources. Those are all sources I trust to tell the truth. If I read the MSM’s version of the news, it is with a jaundiced eye and a developed skill of reading behind the lines, as I’ve read the New York Times for decades.
Here I end this column, my anger having been spent, to turn to other, more pressing matters.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” Immanuel Kant, in Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, 1785
Or, to put Kant’s categorical imperative in contemporary language: “Do the right thing!”
See my article, “Just Do It!” – Kant and the Immigration ‘Crisis’” for an explanation of today’s title.
On September 11th, I responded to Diane West’s foreshadowing article, “Strangers in Your Own Land,” in which she details the inexplicable behavior of European leaders in wanting to “redistribute” the invasion of the Continent by raggedy hordes of Muslims and other “asylum seekers” or “refugees.” In her article she expresses some bafflement about why German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others are inviting the demise of their countries as Western countries committed to Western values and civilization:
I wonder about the wielders of power, the redistributors, seated in their elegant conference rooms, sipping sparkling water, pronouncing on the fate of millions of citizens across Europe. German Chancellor Merkel. Swedish Prime Minister Lofven. European Commission President Juncker, and the rest. Either they have no understanding of the plight of their peoples; or, they have full understanding of it. That is, either they are insulated to a point of numbness to what actually happens to Europe's people – their churches and remaining synagogues, their schools and languages, their marketplaces and streets, their customs and their lore – when a town or neighborhood is engulfed by an alien and predatory culture such as Islam; or, they sadistically relish the prospect in the name of something they like to call "European values."
Well, an alleged “European value” that contains the kernel of its own destruction is nihilistic and no longer anything, least of all “European.” In point of fact, an ethical “value” that prescribes the suicide of the person who holds it is Eastern in nature, rooted in the anti-life mysticism of various such systems that originated and thrived in the Far East. It neither European nor Western.
And, you can bet that neither Merkel nor her cohorts in treason will need to experience first-hand the inundation of Muslim barbarians in their homes or neighborhoods. They will be living safely and undisturbed in their gated or fortified communities, away from the chaos they have birthed in the name of altruism and repudiating genuine, life-affirming Western values.
I wrote Miss West this comment, edited for the occasion:
Just read your “Strangers in Your Own Land” column via Ruth King. Great piece. You are, however, one who also is baffled by Angela Merkel’s actions and those of the EU privileged class (that non-elected gang of bureaucrats you briefly mention) in deciding to allow tens of thousands of innately hostile Muslims to change the character and demographics of Germany and other European countries.
I think Merkel’s actions are particularly vicious; seeing the hesitation and often the resistance of Germans to allowing even more rapists, killers, and welfare parasites into the country, she deliberately dumps batches of them amidst the “foot draggers” with a “get used to it” or “eat it” attitude.
Now, one reason I wrote the “Just Do It!” piece was to underscore the Kantian premises of European leaders. Ideas do have consequences, and Germany in particular has never entirely shaken off the influence of Kant (and, implicitly, of Nazism).
One of Kant’s categorical imperatives, as I illustrate in my piece, is that you must “do your duty” even if it means your death – even when you know it will mean your death. Merkel and Company are saying to their underlings in Germany and Sweden and elsewhere: “We, the powerful, are doing our duty by welcoming hordes of Muslims into our countries; you, the hoi polloi, must do no less; it is your duty to tolerate Muslims even though they may beat you up on the street, pursue your Jewish neighbors, prey on your daughters and wives, demand more and better welfare benefits which you will pay for, and enjoy more freedom of speech than we allow indigenous Europeans; that is, they are free to spew hate speech against you, but you may not criticize them or answer them in any way without incurring penalties.”
Merkel harks back to the bad old days of Nazi Germany:
“If you thought the scale of Russian rape in Germany once the Soviets occupied it was awful and once that not very nice man Hitler was gone, you ain’t seen nothing yet! (‘Sie ist noch gar nichts gesehen!‘) Just look at Sweden, the rape capital of Europe. But then, we deserve a sharp rise in crime rates among Muslims. Don’t we? We are all guilty for having killed so many Jews. Muslims hate Jews, and would like to kill them all, but I’m sure some accommodation can be reached between Muslims and Jews, so that fewer Jews are victimized. Why are you laughing, Blöd?
“You may not ‘provoke’ or ‘incite’ Muslims to violent behavior by wearing short skirts or giving a Muslim a dirty look or refusing to serve halal food exclusively in all European restaurants and schools. If physically attacked by Muslim youth, you may not defend yourselves without the risk of arrest or enduring other penalties. Muslims may do as they please. Yes, we will prosecute Muslims who commit really, really, really awful crimes; but, for the most part, we must grant them a free hand to conquer you and subject you to their peculiar barbarism and harassment and being beaten up by gangs of ‘asylum seekers.’
“Unfortunately, many of our citizens must learn the hard way that they must correct their ‘White European Privilege’ and not flaunt it provocatively in front of our Muslim brother citizens.
“Resign yourselves to the inevitable!
“We know, from experience, that Muslims already here and this new wave of Muslims – mostly adult males between 25 and 35 years old, and ready to rumble, jihadist style, if you will – will not assimilate into German or Swedish or Dutch or French culture; to avoid conflict, you, the hoi polloi, must assimilate into Muslim culture. You must accommodate their customs and practices; it is the height of imperialistic hubris to expect them to adopt our 'superior' ways. It is your duty. Just do it, no questions permitted.
“We have done our duty, by opening wide our borders so that you may prove your moral worth by submitting to Islam; now it is time for you to do yours. It is the altruistic thing to do, even if it means suicide. Do you question altruism? Do you question our motives? It is the multicultural thing to do, even if it means the submersion and more likely the drowning of Western culture! You don’t think multiculturalism is working? Off with your head!
“If you won’t comply with our edict, then we can only conclude that you are racists, or bigots, or Islamophobes. You are common lickspittle! Dare we call Muslims racists, or bigots, or Europhobes – even though most Muslims have amply demonstrated those character flaws, intrinsic and prescribed in their ‘creed’? No. However, you will not be permitted to point that out publically without incurring penalties. Europe oppressed Islam and Muslims for fourteen centuries. Now it’s pay-back time. We must do our duty and submit to Islamic justice! Submitting to Islamic justice is our moral duty! If we don’t, we are immoral!”
Anyway, Diane, I don’t know how else to better demonstrate the poisonous influence of Kantian ethics that is governing European behavior. There’s really nowhere else to look for a reason why Merkel and Company are behaving as they are. It’s a philosophical issue first, a moral one second.
Merkel and Company say: We must do our duty – it is categorically imperative! – even if it means soaking and choking Europe in the swirling sewage waters of Islam!
Glug, glug. The sound you hear is Europe drowning.
Back home, Obama, heeding Rahm Emanuel’s advice to never let a serious crisis go to waste, has jumped on the Syrian refugee bandwagon and announced that he wants to bring in at least 10,000 alleged Syrians. These will be in addition to the tens of thousands of Somalians and other Muslims he’s welcomed into various American towns and cities. Don’t get me started on his open borders invitation to countless Mexicans and other South Americans who have no cultural affinity with the U.S., but rather a cultural hostility.
Syrians? Columnist Daniel Greenfield remarked recently that Syrian passports are as cheap to buy as a European Union bureaucrat’s honor. In his FrontPage article of September 11th, “Get Ready: Obama Bringing 10,000 Syrian Refugees to U.S,” Robert Spencer wrote:
The Reuters headline was “Obama wants U.S. to prepare for 10,000 Syrian refugees next year: White House.”
Prepare? How can we prepare? Bomb shelters? Underground bunkers? Metal detectors at shopping malls? Funeral arrangements? Exactly what preparations does the President expect us to make?
I know what you’re thinking: there you go again, Spencer, you racist, bigoted Islamophobe. Here is Barack Obama magnanimously opening America’s doors to a desperate population in crisis, and you’re demanding that our nation’s hospitality not be tendered to these poor people – and why not? Just because they are “brown”?
Nope. That’s not the problem at all, although as always, charges of “racism” will be used to drown out any dissenting voices. The real problem is that last February, the Islamic State promised to flood Europe in the near future with as many as 500,000 refugees. That future is upon us, and it is important to note that the Islamic State was not simply talking about engulfing the continent in a humanitarian crisis that would strain its resources to the breaking point. The jihadis were also planning to cross into Europe among those refugees, and now they’re boasting that they have done so.
An Islamic State operative boasted last week that among the flood of refugees, 4,000 Islamic State jihadis had entered Europe. “They are going like refugees,” he said, but they were going with the plan of sowing blood and mayhem on European streets. As he told this to journalists, he smiled and said, “Just wait.” He explained: “It’s our dream that there should be a caliphate not only in Syria but in all the world, and we will have it soon, inshallah.”
And now Barack Obama is bringing 10,000 of these refugees to the United States. How many Islamic State jihadis will be among them? No one can say, but what jihadi would pass up a chance to go to the Great Satan itself, and win his share of virgins by destroying an American landmark or mass murdering American infidels wholesale?
And what about those Syrian passports? Daniel Greenfield provides the lowdown on just how “Syrian” most of those “refugees” are in his September 12th column, “Syria Happy to Help ‘Refugees’ Fake Their Way into Europe.”
The official story is that all those poor refugees are fleeing Assad's oppression. But Assad seems eager to help them go.
Lax new rules handed down from Damascus allows passports to be issued abroad with virtually no checks for just £250.
Why is Assad doing this?
1. Obviously money - Refugee smuggling is big business and his regime is happy to take a cut. 10,000 passports being issued in August in Jordan adds up to 4 million dollars or so. Keep multiplying and you end up with half a billion dollars.
2. Russia - Assad is an Iranian/Russian client and Moscow is obsessed with destroying Europe, particularly the big three players, the UK, France and Germany. A flood of Muslim migrants will eventually get that job done. Muslim migration will also destroy Russia, but it's not like anyone is thinking rationally here. Instead the various Western nations keep using Muslims as weapons against each other.
But that was also true back in the Gates of Vienna days.
3. Refugees as a Terror Weapon - There's quite a history of countries using refugee dumping to destabilize and damage other countries. Gaddafi is a famous regional example. Assad is warning Europe that the alternative is a flood of refugees and so it ought to meet his demands. Since Europe can't actually shut down the Syrian civil war, it's a little pointless, but European leaders aren't known for having any understanding of the situation anyway.
4. Mainly this benefits Iran, which can once again claim that it can stabilize everything as long as its demands are met. Again, all it can do is prolong the conflict, but that is what it wants anyway.
The Washington Post ran an article on September 12th, “Protests in support of migrants expected throughout Europe” about the “hardships” of these “refugees,” complete with the standard tear-jerker photograph of a little girl screaming her head off. No photographs or videos, however, showing the overwhelming number of physically fit Muslim men rioting and throwing food and water back at their benefactors in Hungary and Greece and Austria and trashing the hostels they’ve been billeted in. It’s not the poor women and children – an infinitesimal percentage of the Mongolian horde sweeping into Europe – that anyone is worried about. It’s all those “asylum seekers” in their prime ready to go on welfare and ready to wage jihad. They’re escaping the “war torn” Middle East and North Africa, you see, so they can wage the same war in Europe itself.
Of course, with Obama, it’s not an issue of his being captive to one of Kant’s categorical imperatives. He’s just a hateful nihilist who wishes to subject this country to the same chaos that Europe is now experiencing. He wants to beat down “whitey” by surrounding him with Muslim brown and Mexican brown. But, don’t call him a racist. Or an ally of La Raza or the Muslim Brotherhood or of #BlackLivesMatter.
That would be “racist.”
Friday, September 11, 2015
…called our Cultural Establishment, of crooked little men and cash-flush caitiffs and assorted other denizens of the ongoing cultural scam with their crooked little smiles and crooked sixpence.
Have you ever wondered where all the trashy literature and modern anti-art comes from? Or, rather, have you ever scratched your head in wonder about who paid to have it produced? In large part, we, the taxpayers pay for it, through Federal, State, and local taxes. These unreadable, boring, super-naturalistic or unclassifiable novels, those “controversial” or shock-jock or feminist shock-crotch plays, the sculpture that looks like debris from the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11, the crucifixes in jars of urine, the welded-together auto parts, the cheapjack, hand-held camera movies one can find by the wheelbarrow-load on Netflix, each crediting half a dozen or more oddly-named production companies – these are also the products of private grant money.
This private grant business – or, I should say the private grant racket, as it’s as much a racket as are the government’s – together with the Federal government encourages, promotes, and enables mediocrity and the otherwise unsalable in the culture. The irrational, the sub-average, the hackneyed, and the prosaic passed off as “novel” or “radical” are the touchstones of virtue worthy of a lifetime sinecure, a prestigious teaching job, and lots of money. It is the practice of elevating the undistinguished distinguished only by their banality.
Government grants today are the whores’ whelps of the Depression era Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). Their official progeny are the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
In sum, private and government grants have also turned fringe writers and artists into the foremost. Receiving a grant, fellowship, residency, or all-expenses-paid “quiet time” vacation at some artists’ or writers’ colony or community is one’s official induction into the cultural establishment. For example, see this Wikipedia entry on one of the more famous “retreats,” Yaddo:
Yaddo is an artists' community located on a 400-acre (1.6 km²) estate in Saratoga Springs, New York. Its mission is "to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment." On March 11, 2013 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
It offers residencies to artists working in choreography, film, literature, musical composition, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and video. Collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won 66 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 61 National Book Awards, 24 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, 49 Whiting Writers' Awards, a Nobel Prize (Saul Bellow, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976), and countless other honors.
There are even sites that promote the writing grant applications as a profession. Remember those matchbook correspondence school ads that asked if you wanted to become a painter or a medical billing expert or a dog handler, and “here’s how”? These are the online equivalents of how to get started in writing government and private grant applications for yourself, for your community or business, or for others.
I began taking notes for this column to discuss PEN, and out of curiosity I went onto the PEN America Center site to see what writers – known to me and unknown – were members of this organization. There seemed to be hundreds of members – perhaps, I imagined, over a thousand. I tried counting them, but it would’ve taken me two mind-numbing hours to complete just one column of names and as a result would have grown cross-eyed. And there were two columns. I got through about 1/20th of just one column before calling it quits.
Then a PEN staffer answered my query about the number of living, dues-paying PEN members: “Roughly 4,200.”
Red highlighted names are links to a writer’s own blog site or to some program he is connected to or affiliated with. This double-columned list, which seems to go on for several scroll-downs, is just chock full of names of famous writers you have never heard of:
Such as: Paul LaFarge, Britt Leach, Linda Leavall, Russell Banks (Banks is better known), Joyce Carole Oates (also better known), Millicent Dillon, and Judy Blume. Ever hear of Belinda McKeon, Marie Mutsuki Mocket, Selene Castrovilla, Taiye Selasi, Norman Sprinrad, Samrat Upadhyay, Luis Alterto Urrea, Metta Sáma, or Sergio Troncoso? No? Don’t you read? They’re literary immortals.
Many of these writers are recipients of MacArthur and Guggenheim Foundation grants and “fellowships.” The MacArthur Foundation is singular in its awards to some of the most ditzy “artists” and writers. The mission statement of the MacArthur Foundation goes:
Now led by President Julia Stasch, MacArthur is one of the nation’s largest independent foundations with assets of approximately $6.3 billion and annual giving of approximately $220 million.
The Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.
The Guggenheim Foundation’s purpose is similar in ends and means:
United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1925 as a memorial to a son who died April 26, 1922. The Foundation offers Fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color, or creed. The Foundation receives between 3,500 and 4,000 applications each year. Although no one who applies is guaranteed success in the competition, there is no prescreening: all applications are reviewed. Approximately 200 Fellowships are awarded each year.
About those Guggenheim Fellowships, here is a clue:
Often characterized as “midcareer” awards, Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.
Fellowships are awarded through two annual competitions: one open to citizens and permanent residents of the United States and Canada, and the other open to citizens and permanent residents of Latin America and the Caribbean. Candidates must apply to the Guggenheim Foundation in order to be considered in either of these competitions.
I’ve seen some of the “productive scholarship” the Guggenheim subsidizes. It’s on a par with “The History and Social Status of Maori Tattooing Arts,” while much of the “exceptional creative ability” sustained by the Foundation is along the lines of the notorious ribbon fence in California. See also the works of Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano, and Richard Serra.
Many, many MacArthur, Guggenheim and other foundation “fellows” are “double dippers,” that is, they are recipients of both government and private grants. To wit:
Anthony Cerulli's next project, Sanskrit Medical Classics in Crisis: Language Politics and the Reinvention of a Medical Tradition in India, which he will pursue as a Guggenheim Fellow, explores the impact of European colonial medicine on the transmission of knowledge in one of India's classical medical traditions, Ayurveda….
Cerulli has been the recipient of fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, European Institutes for Advanced Study, Fulbright Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities. He has held appointments as Directeur d'études invité at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, Chercheur invité at the Institut d'études avancées in Paris, and twice as scholar-in-residence at the Rochester Zen Center in western New York. Since 2008, he has taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where he is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Asian Studies. Since 2009, he has been the Managing Editor of the journal India Review.
PEN (comprising of PEN International and PEN World) opposes censorship and champions the freedom of speech of many foreign writers jailed or persecuted by their governments. Its mission statement reads:
International PEN, the worldwide association of writers, was founded in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere; to emphasize the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world culture; to fight for freedom of expression; and to act as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for their views.
PEN is strictly non-political, a non-governmental organization in formal consultative relations with UNESCO and Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
PEN is composed of Centers, each of which represents its membership and not its country, and membership of its Centers is open to all qualified writers, journalists, translators, historians, and others actively engaged in any branch of literature, regardless of nationality, race, colour or religion. Every member is required to sign the PEN Charter and by so doing to observe its conditions.
PEN is supported by a Mulligan stew of major corporations and government agencies, including the NEA and the Open Society Institute (the latter is a George Soros creation to help bring about Obama’s “transformed America”). But PEN can’t be “strictly non-political” if is associated with the United Nations, with the Open Society Institute, with the Ford Foundation, and with other left-wing “charitable” entities.
PEN’s overall opposition to censorship and restrictions on freedom of speech may be commendable, but it is a policy which operates in a moral and intellectual vacuum. There are some thirty PEN affiliates in various countries. It views freedom of speech as an intrinsic value that ought to thrive in any political context, and as a “right” that should be respected irrespective of the character of a country’s political system. It is a “floating abstraction.” Without property rights, there can be no freedom of speech. If a government owns or controls all venues of expression, then demanding that it guarantee its citizens freedom of speech is whistling into the wind.
On a personal note, I would not be invited to join PEN, nor would I be able to receive any kind of grant, government or private, even if I applied for one, because my fiction has no “edge.” It’s not “mainstream.” It performs no discernible or definable “social good.” It wasn’t written as a “community service.” It would probably be deemed “violent,” “homophobic,” “sexist,” and even “Islamophobic.”
No, this is not a “sour grapes” column. I haven’t written it because I’ve been overlooked or ignored by today’s cultural establishment and wish to send a zinger to PEN or any other leftward cultural organization. My name and book titles are not household words in the homes of establishment critics. I’d be unwelcome in any secular synod of contemporary writers and artists.
Frankly, I’m grateful that I’ve been ignored or rendered invisible in today’s culture. I’d rather be known for the company I keep, and that’s all my fans and loyal readers.
Sunday, September 06, 2015
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” Immanuel Kant, in Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, 1785
Or, to put Kant’s categorical imperative in contemporary language: “Do the right thing!”
Just do it! Don’t think, don’t hesitate, don’t wonder whether or not you will benefit from doing “the right thing,” because if you think or wonder, then your action will be impure – nay, immoral! – and won't make you a moral person. It might be praiseworthy by others, but the esteem you might be held in by them should not be a primary consideration. The thought should never enter your mind.
If you hesitate, that means you were thinking. Thinking is not allowed.
In fact, your wanting to be a moral person by doing “the right thing” will also disqualify you from being a moral person. To be a moral person, your doing “the right thing” must be scoured of all personal interest, it must be eminently and literally disinterested, expecting no kudos, no laurels, and not even personal satisfaction for having “done good.” When and if you see the “right thing” to do, you must know it somehow beforehand –– that it is a priori the “right thing to do” – and take action and just do it.
If “doing the right thing” means leaping trance-like off a bridge without a Bungee, so be it. Others will mourn your passing, and reflect on how moral a person you were. You did your duty.
So, if you’ve ever wondered why Europe is committing suicide by allowing itself to be invaded by hundreds of thousands of Muslims and other “asylum seekers” or “refugees” from the pestholes of the planet – in fact, by inviting them to swarm over hills, dales, and borders to infest their countries with their “culturally enriching” primitive practices and behavior – the answer lies in understanding Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of selflessness and self-sacrifice and its death-grip on Western leaders and Western culture. The ostensive morality is altruism; the underlying morality is Kant’s nihilistic code of “just doing it” because it is “good,” even should one’s own consequent death or the extinction of one’s country be a certainty. No thought is required, necessary, or desired. Only a feeling that action is the “right thing to do.” To Kant, a feeling is a tool of cognition, a sense organ.
One supposes that “doing the right thing” like a robot would elevate one to sainthood, just as Islamic jihadists “do the right thing,” as commanded by the Koran, and kill themselves while killing others, to achieve “martyrdom.”
We know, say the political leaders and champions of enforced multiculturalism, that by allowing these barbarians to settle in our countries, it will change the identities, character, and nature of our countries beyond recognition, repair, and reclamation, but we must do it, because to not do it would be inexcusably immoral. Those political leaders, of course, will expect their indigenous citizenry to “do the right thing” in the most disinterested and tolerant manner, even while they foot the bill for their own conquest and are exposed to the criminal depredations of the barbarians. If they resist, they can be called “Islamophobic,” “racist” and “bigoted.” Ordinary citizens thus can be shamed into submission.
These same political leaders would never think to accuse the barbarians of racism, bigotry, intolerance, and a proclivity towards crime.
On the other end of the bookshelf are Kant’s two ponderous Critiques. The ultimate test in a refutation of Kant’s noumenal and phenomenal worlds, on the other hand, is to ask whether or not any sentence or statement in either of his Critiques or in his Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals is exempt from the distortions he claims are inherent in his phenomenal thesis. How can one know, when he writes, for example, that “the moral strength of a human being's will [is] in fulfilling his duty,’ he is stating just that, when in reality – or in the reality of his noumenal world – it might be actually a recipe for bouillabaisse or beef stew or instructions on how to repair a carburetor? Are printed words exempt from his phenomenal rule? Are Kant’s books exceptions to his own rules? And if we cannot know the “real” meaning of his printed assertions – if what we read in print is merely a distorted rendition of some ethereal, crystalline entity somewhere out there beyond our ken – then what can we know? Was Kant’s quill “real”? The ink? The paper? Or were they merely distortions of what they “really” were beyond even his perception?
Have these questions ever occur to Kant? Has they ever occurred to any of his champions and teachers in academia? For if Kant’s works aren’t exempt from the conditions governed by his noumenal and phenomenal thesis, then his works are all gibberish, what is being communicated via our distorting senses is rubbish. And if his works are exempt from his rules, then Kant was some kind of savant who, like Mohammad, received his knowledge of the noumenal world magically from the Transcendental angel Gabbo the Verbose who visited the caves of Königsberg, Prussia. Or perhaps Kant was a space alien from that alternate, noumenal universe sent here to confuse the human race.
However, to quote from a book review that questions the inclusion of Kant as a champion of freedom and reason, citing Kant’s purpose to save religion and a codified submission to all things mystical, I wrote:
Religion was what he wanted to save from the onslaught of reason. He appropriated the term “reason” and then proceeded to eviscerate it of all meaning in two brain-stultifying Critiques…. Kant’s Critiques – of Pure Reason and of Judgment – are what he is best known for, and through those works Kant has had a profoundly pernicious and deadly influence on the course of philosophy and politics in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Immanuel Kant was a malevolent leprechaun who offered man a pot of lead coated with arsenic.
Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch asks: “Meanwhile, no one is bothering even to ask, much less answer, one central question: why is it incumbent upon Europe to have to absorb all these refugees?”
Spencer identifies what Europe’s political leaders refuse to see.
Approximately 104,460 asylum seekers arrived in Germany during the month of August, setting a new record. That makes 413,535 registered refugees and migrants coming to Germany in 2015 so far. The country expects a total of around 800,000 people to seek asylum in Germany this year. And that’s just Germany. The entire continent of Europe is being inundated with refugees at a rate unprecedented in world history. This is no longer just a “refugee crisis.” This is a hijrah.
Hijrah, or jihad by emigration, is, according to Islamic tradition, the migration or journey of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Yathrib, later renamed by him to Medina, in the year 622 CE. It was after the hijrah that Muhammad for the first time became not just a preacher of religious ideas, but a political and military leader. That was what occasioned his new “revelations” exhorting his followers to commit violence against unbelievers. Significantly, the Islamic calendar counts the hijrah, not Muhammad’s birth or the occasion of his first “revelation,” as the beginning of Islam, implying that Islam is not fully itself without a political and military component.
To emigrate in the cause of Allah – that is, to move to a new land in order to bring Islam there, is considered in Islam to be a highly meritorious act. “And whoever emigrates for the cause of Allah will find on the earth many locations and abundance,” says the Qur’an. “And whoever leaves his home as an emigrant to Allah and His Messenger and then death overtakes him, his reward has already become incumbent upon Allah. And Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.” (4:100)
Why is it incumbent upon Europe to have to absorb all these refugees? Because Europe is the captive of Kant’s categorical imperatives, that’s why. According to Kantian ethics, it is indeed incumbent upon Europe to “do the right thing” and welcome its colonizers, its destroyers, its conquerors. It’s the altruistic thing to do. How could anyone question altruism? Viewing the scale of rapes, murders, harassment, welfare costs, and destruction wrought by the barbarians in all these countries as mere “phenomenal” phenomena – critics of Islam and Muslims offer a “distorted” view of thing, don’t you know? They’re just Nazis – Kantian-bred political leaders see instead a kind of noumenal Nirvana of cultural “diversity” for having done their “duty.”
In closing, I cede the floor to Ayn Rand, who, in her essay, “For the New Intellectual,” explains what Kant really means by duty and his whole mare’s nest of non sequiturs.
The arch-advocate of “duty” is Immanuel Kant; he went so much farther than other theorists that they seem innocently benevolent by comparison. “Duty,” he holds, is the only standard of virtue; but virtue is not its own reward: if a reward is involved, it is no longer virtue. The only moral motivation, he holds, is devotion to duty for duty’s sake; only an action motivated exclusively by such devotion is a moral action (i.e., an action performed without any concern for “inclination” [desire] or self-interest)….“
She quotes directly from the horse’s mouth:
“It is a duty to preserve one’s life, and moreover everyone has a direct inclination to do so. But for that reason the often anxious care which most men take of it has no intrinsic worth, and the maxim of doing so has no moral import. They preserve their lives according to duty, but not from duty. But if adversities and hopeless sorrow completely take away the relish for life, if an unfortunate man, strong in soul, is indignant rather than despondent or dejected over his fate and wishes for death, and yet preserves his life without loving it and from neither inclination nor fear but from duty—then his maxim has a moral import” (Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, ed. R. P. Wolff, New York, Bobbs-Merrill, 1969, pp. 16–17).
While you may love life, Islamists love death, as they so often claim, and they are willing to be “moral men” – by Kant’s measure – and live long enough to kill you, and entire Western nations.
They just “love” doing it.
Friday, September 04, 2015
I would recommend that Classical Liberalism – A Primer, by Eamonn Butler, be incorporated into the standard curriculum of any university’s political science or economics course, and be made required reading, qua primer, except I know that in today’s educational environment pigs will fly first class on Kuwait Airways before that ever happens. I would even recommend it be used as a textbook in high schools’ “social studies” courses; however, I realize that is as unlikely as roses blooming on Mars, as well, as long as public schools remain in the government’s “public” hands. Public schools and universities are in the tenacious grip of anti-American, anti-Western, anti-freedom, anti-freedom of speech faculties of Marxists, collectivists, feminists, enforcers of politically correct thought and language, and the advocates of tolerance for everything but free inquiry.
High school students who survive the dumbing-down of their cognitive powers and the corruption of the evidence of their senses by Common Core, and college students who successfully resist, at the risk of their tenure as students, their incessant political indoctrination in academia, may or may not have difficulty reading Butler’s brief introduction to the subject of classical liberalism. It all depends on their commitment to take their “education” seriously and their willingness to escape or combat the poisonous miasma of contemporary educational philosophy. It all depends on whether they’re satisfied with being the passive receptors of the “received wisdom” of Karl Marx and Howard Zinn and the U.S. Department of Education, or have active minds that are not satisfied or content with the zealous but pat explanations offered by their PC professors.
Butler writes that Classical Liberalism – A Primer is “designed for students and lay readers who may understand the general concepts of social, political and economic freedom, but who would like a systematic presentation of its essential elements.”
Butler is director of the Adam Smith Institute in London, and has written a number of books on the Austrian and other pro-freedom schools of economics. In this new title he painlessly and in plain language introduces the reader to the whole panoply of classical liberal thought throughout the centuries.
As a primer, Classical Liberalism introduces the student or lay reader to some fundamental aspects of this school of economics, such as the upholding of the individual over the group, the primacy of individual choice in terms of economic action over a government’s “command economy” policies, and the long-range destructive consequences of state interference in an individual’s life and in a nation’s economy. What classical liberalism isn’t, is conservatism, which bases its advocacy of individual freedom on religious or traditional argumentation. Stephen Davies, in the Foreword, writes of Classical Liberalism:
It is a wonderfully clear and well set out introduction to what classical liberalism is as a system of thought, whence it came, what it is like now and where it might be going. One valuable feature of the book is the way that it brings out the differences and variety within what nevertheless remains a coherent approach to political [and not merely to economic] thinking and questions of public policy.
Davies explains that classical liberalism is:
…is distinct from socialism and other forms of egalitarian collectivism such as social democracy and social or ‘new’ liberalism. It is also not the same as conservatism, being generally more optimistic, more trusting in reason (as opposed to faith or tradition).
My chief reservation about all the classical liberal thinkers cited and discussed by Butler – beginning with John Locke and ending with Milton Friedman and Robert Nozick but excepting Ayn Rand – is that they all based the moral justification of laissez-faire capitalism and freedom on either an explicit or implicit altruistic tenet: that such freedom benefits society, it is for “the greater good,” it is the “greatest good for the greatest number,” and so on. John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson, and their contemporaries can be excused that failing; to have advocated in a largely Christian culture that man exists for his own reasons and for no other, would have clashed violently with the overriding moral atmosphere of their times, and had them excoriated.
But John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer especially among all the thinkers highlighted by Butler are guilty of having characterized freedom as a utilitarian value, not as one that is derived from man’s nature as a volitional being. That failing continues to be indulged up to the present day. The “practical” values of freedom, reason and capitalism can always be denied by socialists, collectivists who seize the moral “high ground” and declaim that these values have outlived their purpose and assert, as Barack Obama has said, “It’s time to try something new.” Which, in his mind, was the expansion of government powers. Hardly “new.”
Butler, intentionally or not, does credit to his book by not challenging the altruist premises of most of his subjects. Still, the moral foundations of classical liberalism, as presented in the book remain woozy and adumbrate, even though such ideas as natural rights, spontaneous orders, toleration, and the rule of law are treated at length.
I would like to have seen Butler agree with Ayn Rand that laissez-faire capitalism is a primarily a political system, and not just an economic one. He could very well have quoted her from Capitalism: The Unknown idea:
Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.
The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.
This means that the social system is a coercion-free one, except in the circumstance of retaliation, and that the state’s role in it is a subsidiary one. A society governed by a laissez-faire morality could be likened to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel or to any other luxury hotel; such places are not defined or known by how many doormen, valets, and maids they employ.
I would recommend Classical Liberalism – A Primer, but with two major caveats, and one minor one.
The first is that Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the Prussian philosopher who never left his home town of Königsberg, was not a “classical liberal,” even though Butler includes him among past thinkers who contributed to the literature of liberty. He wrote far, far fewer words about liberty and governments being restrained in their powers than he wrote on philosophy, that is, on the noumenal and phenomenal worlds and the categorical imperative. He wrote that man cannot know the “real” ideal world, and that our senses inherently distort what we think we know. Kant was a dedicated enemy of the Enlightenment, which he saw as a threat to religion. His categorical imperative is the basis for the notion of “duty,” which let loose the horrors of Nazism and Communism (and, separately, Shintoism for the Imperial Japanese government). “We’ve got to break eggs and heads to achieve the perfect human society, regardless of reason and the lives we sacrifice.”
Religion was what he wanted to save from the onslaught of reason. He appropriated the term “reason” and then proceeded to eviscerate it of all meaning in two brain-stultifying Critiques. So any scrivenings he may have penned are distracting and utterly irrelevant in any discussion of freedom and liberty, and should be dismissed as a very minor footnote in the history of ideas, if even that. Kant’s Critiques – of Pure Reason and of Judgment – are what he is best known for, and through those works Kant has had a profoundly pernicious and deadly influence on the course of philosophy and politics in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
One wouldn’t call Hitler, Mao, Stalin or Mussolini champions of free enterprise and individual rights just because they happen to have once uttered those words at some point in their murderous political careers. Drafting Kant as an ally of classical liberalism is like consulting an Islamic supremacist on how to fight and defeat ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood.
My second reservation regards an exclusion, which is the glaring and inexplicable omission of Ludwig von Mises from Classical Liberalism in terms of a précis or two of his positions on politics and economics. He is mentioned infrequently, and only incidentally and parenthetically (e.g., p. xvi and p. 25, ), as a kind of “also ran” contributor to the corpus of classical liberal literature throughout Butler’s book. His works are not included in the list of “classical texts.” There is no web link listed to the Mises Institute. In the “classical liberal timeline” (p. 125), an early work of Mises’s, Liberalismus, from 1927, is grudgingly mentioned but not explicated.
By omitting von Mises as a “key classical liberal thinker,” and giving him very short shrift as an economist and innovator in the field, Butler does his book a disservice. Snubbing von Mises, possibly because of doctrinal differences between him and other classical liberals, is tantamount to leaving Victor Hugo out of a serious discussion of the major Romantic novelists of the 19th century. When I read of the differences between the Mises camp and the other camps, I can’t help but recall that tune, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” I do not know the nature of the animus Butler (and, by implication, the IEA and the Adam Smith Institute) has for Mises. It would be interesting to learn what it is.
My minor reservation concerns the designation of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy is partly but erroneously distilled in the book (p. 105), as a “Russian-American novelist and moralist.” Rand regarded herself as an American, exclusively, who escaped Soviet Russia. A better designation might have emulated that of Hannah Arendt, who is called a “German-born political theorist.” Rand retained all her life a heavy Russian accent, but she would have been the first to protest the hyphenation of her nationality. She came from a Jewish family, but she would also have objected to being called a “Jewish-American novelist”: she was an atheist. The précis affiliates her with libertarianism, which she abhorred. She was also a philosopher, and not a mere “moralist.” Her having written extensively on epistemology, metaphysics, concept-building and the development of philosophical thought over time, eminently qualifies Rand as a bona fide philosopher, and not just as a classical liberal groupie. The skewed distillation of her philosophy makes her sound like a champion of holistic mental health. She advocated egoism and selfishness, not “self-actualization,” as the moral foundations of any political and economic system.
To conclude, I would recommend Classical Liberalism – A Primer as a textbook, but only if I were teaching a course on the subject. That way I could be certain that my students would be cautioned concerning my qualified endorsement. And they are important reservations. A likely alternative text would be Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
Classical Liberalism – A Primer, by Eamonn Butler. London: the Institute of Economic Affairs, 2015. pp. 132.