In Memoriam: Tiananmen Square

Thursday, June 5, AD 2014

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

Thucydides

 

Yesterday, June 4, was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the brutal suppression of the pro-Democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.  Over 3000 of the protestors were murdered by the Communist government of China.  Tyranny won that round, but I have absolutely no doubt that Democracy will ultimately prevail in the Middle Kingdom.  When it does, the heroes and heroines of Tiananmen Square will be remembered and their murderers forgotten.

 

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Secular Heavens Always End in Secular Hells

Monday, March 10, AD 2014

Michael Totten in a brilliant essay in World Affairs on Cuba explains why totalitarian states produce such Hells on Earth:

 

 

Totalitarianism is a radical departure from the standard-issue authoritarianism of men like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, the Chinese communists-turned-capitalists currently ensconced in Beijing, and the former Shah of Iran. Jeanne Kirkpatrick explained the difference in a landmark essay in Commentary in 1979.

“Traditional autocrats,” she wrote, “leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other resources which in most traditional societies favor an affluent few and maintain masses in poverty. But they worship traditional gods and observe traditional taboos. They do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations. Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope, as children born to untouchables in India acquire the skills and attitudes necessary for survival in the miserable roles they are destined to fill. Such societies create no refugees.

“Precisely the opposite is true of revolutionary Communist regimes. They create refugees by the million because they claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society and make demands for change that so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee by the tens of thousands in the remarkable expectation that their attitudes, values, and goals will ‘fit’ better in a foreign country than in their native land.”

Communism isn’t the only ideology that produces such explosive results. Hitler’s Nazi regime did the same, as do radical Islamists when they seize power. Iran’s Islamic Republic regime triggered such an enormous refugee crisis that the Westwood area of Los Angeles (where almost a million exiles reside) is nicknamed Tehrangeles.

And you’re almost as likely to hear Spanish spoken in South Florida as English.

“There is a damning contrast between the number of refugees created by Marxist regimes and those created by other autocracies,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “More than a million Cubans have left their homeland since Castro’s rise (one refugee for every nine inhabitants) as compared to about 35,000 each from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. In Africa more than five times as many refugees have fled Guinea and Guinea Bissau as have left Zimbabwe Rhodesia, suggesting that civil war and racial discrimination are easier for most people to bear than Marxist-style liberation.”

Paul Berman, in his masterful book Terror and Liberalism, wrote one of the best descriptions of totalitarian movements I’ve ever read. In a single paragraph he managed to describe fascists, Nazis, communists, and Islamists simultaneously and captures why so many ordinary citizens can’t coexist with them.

“Each of the movements,” he wrote, “in their lush variety, entertained a set of ideas that pointed in the same direction. The shared ideas were these: There exists a people of good who in a just world ought to enjoy a sound and healthy society. But society’s health has been undermined by a hideous infestation from within, something diabolical, which is aided by external agents from elsewhere in the world. The diabolical infestation must be rooted out. Rooting it out will require bloody internal struggles, capped by gigantic massacres. It will require an all-out war against the foreign allies of the inner infestation—an apocalyptic war, perhaps even Apocalyptic with a capital A. (The Book of the Apocalypse, as André Glucksmann has pointed out, does seem to have played a remote inspirational role in generating these twentieth-century doctrines.) But when the inner infestation has at last been rooted out and the external foe has been defeated, the people of good shall enjoy a new society purged of alien elements—a healthy society no longer subject to the vibrations of change and evolution, a society with a single, blocklike structure, solid and eternal.”

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  • The Apocalypse is not the only theological concept secularized by modern political movements.

    Alain de Benoist has pointed out that “Progressivism is born of the idea that history has an absolute beginning and a necessary end, and that it unfolds globally according to a divine plan… [U]niversalism is the natural expression of a religion that claims to manifest a revealed truth which, valid for all men, summons them to conversion. Modern political life itself is founded on secularized theological concepts.”

    He traces similar origins for his other two bêtes noirs, individualism and egalitarianism – “Individualism was already present in the notion of individual salvation and of an intimate and privileged relation between an individual and God that surpasses any relation on earth. Egalitarianism is rooted in the idea that redemption is equally available to all mankind, since all are endowed with an individual soul whose absolute value is shared by all humanity.”

    A Neo-pagan, Benoist concludes, “Christianity has unwittingly become the victim of the movement it started. In the history of the West, it became the religion of the way out of religion.” Actually, what he describes is a Protestant phenomenon that can be plausibly illustrated from Calvin and Beza to Rousseau and from Luther through Calixtus to Semler and Ernesti who undoubtedly influenced Hegel, who was such a formative influence on Marx.

  • Only an infinite God endows unalienable, civil, human rights. “The rights the state gives the state can take away.” from Thomas Jefferson. The state is finite having been constituted by finite man. Without transcendent and moral underpinnings of virtue and truth and Justice (and as superheroes say: the American Way) there is little the secular can do but pretend that they are the God WHO delivers Truth and Freedom. Every fallible man must trust in Divine Providence for the seed to germinate, the sun to shine and the rain to fall. Some might claim the authority to make the sun shine, but they are pretenders, prevaricators and devil worshipers.

  • Thank you Michael Paterson-Seymour.

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Soft Despotism

Wednesday, July 13, AD 2011

Alexis de Toqueville wasn’t always right, but he was almost always right. From Book One of Democracy in America:

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, and here they are always fashioning new ways to live up to de Tocqueville’s prophecy.

The Montgomery County Council approved a smoking ban at playgrounds and indoor common spaces on Tuesday, asking neighbors to report offenders.

The ban restricts smoking within 25 feet of playgrounds and in the shared spaces of multifamily residential buildings, such as apartment hallways or lobbies.

Two witnesses can file a complaint identifying the smoker, as well as the time and place of the violation, to start an investigation. Otherwise, a county Health and Human Services Department employee must catch a violator lighting up.

Excellent.  Not only have they all but banned smoking in your own home, but they’re also encouraging people to inform on their neighbors.  I wonder if this poster served as an inspiration to the County Council:
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23 Responses to Soft Despotism

  • Petty tyranny is like being gummed to death by a pack of aged poodles: lethal over time, incredibly tedious and profoundly silly.

    Alexis de Toqueville, the Frenchman who knew us better than we have ever known ourselves:

    “Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity?”

    http://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/alexis-de-tocqueville-our-mirror/

  • Paul, I don’t like the part about ratting on your neighbors but I strongly support anti-smoking laws. It’s good public policy. My right to breathe clean air supersedes the other person’s right to blow smoke in my face.

  • I am a life long non-smoker Joe, and for the life of me I cannot see why the private market place cannot handle whether restaurants, etc, allow smoking or not. Long before there were anti-smoking laws I patronized only establishments that did not allow smoking and dining to be mixed. From the number of young people who I observe smoking, which to my mind is stupidity on stilts, I wonder just how successful this second attempt at slow motion Prohibition is.

  • Don, the comparison with Prohibition does not work. Smoking has been scientifically linked to more than 400,000 deaths a year. Tobacco is a legal product, yes, but it’s a clear detriment to the ‘general welfare,’ which our Constitution vows to promote. Alcohol, on the other hand, in moderation is not a detriment. A sip now and then does the body good. Did not Jesus turn the water into wine at the wedding feast?

    Here in WI, as you know, the anti-smoking law has been in effect for just over a year. At first, Gov. Walker took your position: Let individual businesses decide. He actually campaigned to repeal it. However, in hindsight even Walker admits it has worked well and he no longer supports repeal.

    In a compromise, however, the powerful Wisconsin Tavern League managed to squeeze in a provision that allows smoking in some outdoor areas that are well ventilated.

    So, I say, Smoke em if you got em…but do it so it does not harm others.

    Excerpt from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story July 4:

    “Although I did not support the original smoking ban, after listening to people across the state, it is clear to me that it works. Therefore I will not support a repeal,” Walker said in a statement.

    The SmokeFree survey shows the smoking ban enjoys support across partisan lines, with 66% of Republicans, 74% of Democrats and 80% of independents saying they favored the law.

    More than 90% of the 500 likely voters polled in mid-June say they go out to eat and drink the same or more often now that the state is smoke-free. The poll was conducted by a nonpartisan national polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.

    “The ban hasn’t hurt business at all,” said Derek Stamates, a manager at Tracks Tavern and Grille in Riverwest. “We’ve seen more families with kids coming in. It didn’t drive anyone away.”

    Here is a link to the full story:
    http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/124983484.html

  • I’m ok with banning smoking in common areas of an enclosed space. I think the same thing could be accomplished through the private sector, so maybe it’s an overreach, but not much of one. (I know, the point of this article is that soft tyrannies are made of small overreaches…but even so.)

    But parks? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

  • “Don, the comparison with Prohibition does not work. Smoking has been scientifically linked to more than 400,000 deaths a year.”

    It certainly does work Joe. Alcohol has an enormous negative impact on the US with an estimated 17.6 million alcoholics in this country. Of course we have carnage on our roads due to addiction to drink, and all the health related consequences of alcohol. I am both a non-drinker and a non-smoker, but I have always thought that a much stronger case can be had in favor of a government war against alcohol than tobacco.

  • In early 1990 I was eating lunch in our law firm dining room when one of my partners approached me with a sheet of paper in his hand and a snarky grin on his face. He handed me the paper, and I read that effective next month our law offices would be non-smoking. No debate; no partner vote; just a managing partner edict. My partner just snickered, “That’s right; freedom breaks out in Eastern Europe, and the clamp-down begins at home.” He nailed it.

  • It is tyranny. but i think the people want government tyranny. the idea of being an adult is scary to the offspring of the greatest generation and consequently to their offspring. There are no grown ups left in the United States except the remaining WWll Generation.
    This is why neither Democracy nor Libertarianism will work.

  • Don, it’s possible to consume alcohol without harming oneself or others. But smoking is altogether different. Even minimal use is harmful. The carnage that stems from alcohol is from excessive use not moderate use.

    Further, the point that conservatives miss when they rail against government interference with private business is that some regulation is necessary for the good of the general public. Taverns must be licensed by local and state authorities to make sure they comply with sanitary regs, insurance, fire laws, etc., all to protect the public. By adopting anti-smoking laws, the state is simply saying that it is one more requirement to be licensed to do business. If there is a “right” to smoke, then there ought to be a “right” to prostitute oneself, a “right” to gamble, a “right” to engage in any other vice. Freedom is not what one can do but what one ought to do. I think it was Bishop Sheen who said that.

    Moreover, there are countless laws on the books in a wider realm that one could make comparisons to, such as traffic laws. Why not let everyone drive at whatever speed they wish? After all, isn’t this an unwarranted intrusion by government on the “personal freedom” to drive as fast as we want. Clearly, traffic laws must be enforced. Does this mean that there are no accidents? Of course not. But there would be more without laws. Why not legalize all drugs, legalize all harmful activity and leave it up to everyone to decide for his or herself what is “right” and “wrong,” what is “good” and “bad.” Is this what Christians mean by free will?

    Does not Paul in Romans Chapter 13 tell us to “governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Should we decide which laws to obey and which to flout unless the laws of men conflict with the laws of God, as Peter said?

    Freedom is a word that everyone bandies about, but many seem to forget that freedom is not absolute and with it goes responsibility and duty.

  • fixing previous post to insert omitted word:

    Does not Paul in Romans Chapter 13 tell us to OBEY “governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

  • “Don, it’s possible to consume alcohol without harming oneself or others. But smoking is altogether different. Even minimal use is harmful. The carnage that stems from alcohol is from excessive use not moderate use.”

    Actually Joe I disagree with that. Most of the DUIs where I have represented individuals have not involved alcoholics. Alcohol not infrequently plays a role in many of the dissolution cases that I have handled and, once again, usually do not rise to the level of alcoholism. Compare and contrast that with someone who dies at 75 from a cancer that may be smoking related. I think the ill effects of alcohol are often far more immediate than the ill effects of tobacco.

    The trouble with a nanny state is that it diminishes freedom and treats us all like children. If I do not want to smell cigarette smoke when I eat I am quite able to give my patronage to businesses that do not allow smoking without the government having to intervene. Acting as nanny necessitates a large, bullying and expensive government. The modern nanny state in this country reminds me of this line from the Declaration of Independence:

    “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.”

    We have gone well beyond common sense in this area, and I think time is overripe for the pendulumn to swing back from this madness.

    As for Saint Paul:

    “Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation. For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil.”

    That particular passage has been cited by worthless tyrant after worthless tyrant down through the centuries. What Saint Paul was obviously trying to counteract were people who were attempting to claim that being a Christian freed one from secular authority. Saint Paul was not giving a blank check to every idiot idea emanating from government as the Church makes clear in the Catechism:

    “2238 Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts:”Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. . . . Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God.”Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community.”

    “2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” “We must obey God rather than men”

    When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.”

  • Then I suppose it boils down to one man’s vice being another man’s virtue. I’m not enamored of the Nanny State either. Certainly, there are limits on what government should regulate and salt use (see NYC) is not one of them.

    But if government is We the People, then let the people decide. And in the case of smoking, a vast majority want it controlled in some fashion. Let me ask you, Don, should I be allowed to blast my stereo with my windows open at 3 in the morning? Shoot fireworks off anywhere? Discharge my gun within city limits, the 2nd amendment notwithstanding. Ad infinitum.

    Of course, this is argument and not proof so further discussion is pointless. Example:

    1. a) You should not smoke (individual action, individual decision)
    b) because smoking is harmful (generally accepted wisdom that health is good). The argument is neither a) advice nor b) moral or economical judgment, but the connection between the two. An argument uses always the connective because. An argument is not an explanation. It does not connect two events, cause and effect, who already took place, but a possible individual action and it’s beneficial outcome. An argument is not a proof. A proof is logical and cognitive concept; an argument is a praxeologic concept. A proof changes our knowledge ; an argument determines us to act.

  • “But if government is We the People, then let the people decide.”

    In regard to the Nanny State, I think We the People have little say. It is rather politicians seeking votes from particular pressure groups, and, as an added bonus, swelling the rolls of government employment and revenue from fines and taxes.

    “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.”

    It is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that the worst of this type of rubbish comes from blue states and blue cities. Government has more than enough essential tasks to do, many of which government is failing to do adequately at the present time, without treating adults as if they are unruly first graders who must be micromanaged.

  • Don, seems like we can’t keep Ben Franklin’s Republic. Maybe what we need is a good king with a sharp axe. 😀

  • Oh, one last point (maybe): Since there are apparent limits to the universe but none to human stupidity, I have little faith of heaven on earth. It is indeed disheartening to find that most citizens do not know the difference between a YIELD and STOP sign. 😛

  • We need government Joe because men aren’t angels. That obvious fact is also an argument, as the Founding Fathers understood, to keep government small and limited.

  • The worst, but better than every other as Churchill said, Don? Not so sure.

  • “Freedom’s just another word for “nothin’ left to lose.” Janis Joplin.

    “All attempts to create Heaven on Earth result in Hell on Earth.” Camus

  • George Washington, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

  • Long as we’re dropping quotes, here’s one my Catholic friends may like:

    Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. — Pope John Paul II

  • “The advice you give us does not spring from a full knowledge of the situation. You know one half of what is involved, but not the other half. You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too.”

    Herodotus

  • “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or SPIRITUAL [emphasis added]. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.” John Stuart Mill

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Burleigh Defends the Pope

Friday, September 17, AD 2010

My second favorite living historian, Michael Burleigh, who has written stunningly original works on subjects as diverse as Nazi Germany, religion and politics in the last two centuries,  terrorism, and morality and World War II,  has taken up the cudgels against the despicable attitude of many Brits of the chattering classes regarding the visit of the Pope to the Island next to Ireland.

Under normal circumstances, one might say “welcome” rather than “receive”. But the multiple sexual scandals that have afflicted parts of the Catholic Church have created a window of opportunity for sundry chasers of limelight – including human rights militants, crusading gays, Islamist fanatics, and celebrity God-botherers – to band together to “arrest” the Pope under laws so obscure that few knew they existed. Because child abuse is involved, rather than the more widespread phenomenon of homosexual predation on young men, these manifestations will receive much media attention, especially from the BBC, to the guaranteed perplexity of a less involved general public in a nominally Protestant country. It will require some effort of mind to tune out this noise to hear what the Pope will be saying.

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The Lure of Authoritarianism

Wednesday, March 31, AD 2010

61 Responses to The Lure of Authoritarianism

  • That’s a very poor measure. China is starting from a lower base. Even if it does everything right, the U.S. will have a higher standard of living for a while.

  • “There seems an odd attraction towards Chinese-style authoritarianism among certain more technocratic/elitist segments of the left-leaning political elite.”

    An excellent post as usual Darwin but I disagree that it is odd. Most Leftists since the time of the Russian Revolution have had an attraction towards totalitarian regimes of the Left. Orwell was very much the exception to this rule. China, although it has strayed in many ways from the days of Mao and his little red book which thrilled so many contemporary Leftists in the days of their youth in the Sixties, still is officially a Communist regime and antagonistic usually to the policies of the US, and thus something to be mentioned in praiseworthy terms by the herd of independent minds on the Left, another typical example being linked below.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/feb/06/china-useconomicgrowth

  • (it is, after all, rather easy to dislike the US for a number of reasons — we are, as the saying goes, over-paid, over-sexed, and over here)

    The phrase was supposedly common in Britain during the Second World War. The trouble with this thesis is that the overwhelming majority of American soldiers and sailors billeted overseas are in one of seven countries where reside about 5% of the world’s population (Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Korea, Japan, Germany, and Britain). I do not think social contact with the American military explains much of the generic hostility to the United States you find abroad.

    Orwell was very much the exception to this rule.

    Prof. Paul Hollander has said this was true among the subset of chatterati who went on guided tours of communist countries (“for every Andre Gide there were ten G.B. Shaw’s”). In fairness to our leftoid intelligentsia, there has always been a vigorous and at times modal strain which had no time for this sort of thing (Reinhold Neibuhr, Irving Howe, Michael Walzer, and Robert Leiken being examples).

  • “In fairness to our leftoid intelligentsia, there has always been a vigorous and at times modal strain which had no time for this sort of thing (Reinhold Neibuhr, Irving Howe, Michael Walzer, and Robert Leiken being examples).”

    Quite right, although they usually were regarded as heretics by a fair amount of the Left.

  • Art Deco,

    I was perhaps being too clever by half in using the “overpaid, oversexed, and over here” phase, but to clarify: My intent was not at all to convey it was contact with members of the US military which turned people off the US, but rather that:

    1) We are the richest country in the world (and thus its easy for people to claim we’re spoiled, out of touch, greedy, etc. (thus overpaid)

    2) Our popular culture (which is widely exported) is fairly degraded from the point of view of many traditional cultures. (thus oversexed)

    3) Our cultural, financial and political influence per pervasive throughout the world. (thus over here)

    Restrained Radical,

    It seems to me that people general emigrate to a country based on the degree of opportunity they believe they’ll experience there. It would seem pretty clear then, that people see more opportunity in the US than in China. I suppose one could claim that the rapidity of change in China suggests that at some point in the future there will be more opportunity for people there than in the US — but I don’t think you’d actually find many people who believe that.

  • Discussions of net immigration are of passing interest. What is most unsettling in all of this is the admiration of authoritarianism. Although the American Left has always flirted with authoritarianism, and I have no objective historical measure of it, my personal sense is that there’s a growing impatience with democratic processes, a growing desire to use executive and judicial powers to force unpopular or controversial policies, and a growing feeling that we can no longer abide politics as usual.

    I’m not sure why I have this personal opinion, except for perhaps the kinds of stories linked to by Darwin. Even a casual reading of news headlines today gives one the impression that there’s a sense of urgency to the progressive agenda like never before. The previous president was such a bogeyman in the Left’s imagination, they believed that the only way to counter his “disastrous” administration was to have a strong executive of their own. And whatever faults Bush had — one might argue he was at the vanguard of the “strong executive” model — there’s no comparison to the breakneck speed with which the Left wants to take that ball and run with it.

  • Friedman’s Lincoln Steffens-ish cheerleading for China is well past embarrassing.

    Otherwise bright people have the strangest blind spots.

  • Our current cultural elites go on pilgrimages to Cuba and Venezuela. It’s the same thing.

  • Its perhaps human to believe that what you know is perfectly right and it must be implemented. This seems to be more a problem of the left than of the right though both are possessed of it. of course one can say that it is in the nature of the left to want to change society into their “progressive” vision (of course not realizing their progress may be over the edge of a cliff) as opposed to the right which seeks to be skeptical of change.

    It doesn’t help that this country handed those on the left the means to enact a radical agenda (the most liberal president in history, a fillibuster proof Senate and a solid House majority with an ultra-liberal Speaker.) It doesn’t help that most Americans were not informed enough to vote against this.

    One can then understand the impatience of the left when members of Congress didn’t toe the line and enact all of the ultra liberal agenda. The answer then begins to reject the democratic process.

  • Of course all of this in the context of some who believe the “right” to pump breast milk in a special room is a right to life issue.

  • Phillip:

    Weeeelllll…

    While I find the overall illogic of the argument risible (a few sops in a bill that vastly expands abortion funding and access does not make it palatable), I think a good case can be made that provisions which make pregnancy and motherhood more reconcilable with work are in and of themselves pro-life.

  • Though it is quuuuuuuuiiiiiiiiitttttteeeeeeee a stretch to say that mandating a separate, private room for pumping breast milk vs. using a the current, private bathroom for pumping breast milk is a major pro-life move and a major advance for pregnancy and motherhood. Sorry, it really isn’t.

  • And thus the silliness of much current thought on social justice.

  • Maybe some will consider this to label me some sort of knuckle dragger, but I’m not clear how cementing the normality of women going back to full time, in-office work while their children are still nursing age if necessarily a pro-life victory.

    Which is not to say that no women should be working outside the home shortly after giving birth, but it would seem that from a point of view of upholding the natural family, situations that involve putting a child under 12 months in daycare are less than ideal. Not everyone can pull off being a single income family, and perhaps some don’t want to, but I don’t see that pumping breast milk in one’s cube or in the bathroom or in some other private place is a major anti-life problem. And I do see the increasing societal pressure that all mothers should work full time, and do so outside the home starting at most 2-3 months after birth, as being a serious negative from a pro-family point of view.

  • I’m sympathetic to the argument that another mandate from our increasingly intrusive current government is onerous.

    But forcing the mother into the crapper presents its own problems. As my wife (who used a breast pump in the toilet back when she was in the wage-earning workforce) pointed out: “Who else has to prepare their meals in the bathroom?”

  • Even beyond that, there is the silliness of saying that it is a “pro-life” issue. This while the real probability that abortions will be paid for and probably increased as a result is ignored. But heck, we get special breast pump rooms in the workplace.

  • Sure, Darwin, it’s a problem. Ideally, Mom would be able to stay home. That’s what *we’ve* been able to do, all thanks to God.

    But that doesn’t work for everyone, and there are good (as well as not good) reasons for the mom to work. Starting with an absent dad, and going from there.

    I’m not saying it’s ideal, nor should I be construed as regarding it as a pro-life victory for the ages. But we have to meet people where they are, and any reasonable incentive supporting, or removal of stigma from, motherhood in the workplace should be welcome and seen as pro-life.

  • Actually it really isn’t much of a pro-life victory. Not at all. Such thinking belongs in the crapper.

  • Phillip, I said that at the outset. I said it’s an abortion funder. It’s not to be celebrated. In fact, from the perspective of the blog poster in question, it’s as ludicrous as a pro-Iraq War blogger calling the War pro-life because of the reconstruction funds given to Iraqs.

    Bracketing all of that, as I expressly did from the outset, I think those provisions which support pregnancy and motherhood are helpful from a pro-life perspective. Not that any can counterbalance the great evils stemming therefrom, but helpful.

  • Again, pointing out that I do not believe it is a pro-life issue. It is really morally neutral. Some may be in favor. Less bacteria in a separate room (perhaps if it is kept very clean. Though of course there are about as many bacteria in a nursery room as a bathroom and women pump there.) But some may see it as not much of an issue at all from a pro-life perspective. That it really isn’t pro-lefe. And it really isn’t.

  • May you and yours have a blessed Triduum, Phillip.

  • And to yours also as we disagree on this small, prudential point.

  • I guess it’s something that goes both ways. Within the modern context, it is a slight concession towards parenthood, and in that context thus good. On the other hand, it strikes me as upholding a modern, individualized lifestyle over a traditional one, and in that sense strikes me as a negative.

    One thing that sometimes strikes me when progressive pro-lifers list these kind of things as pro-life victories is that things like subsidized child care, extra working-mom mandatory concessions, etc. end up increasing the marginal cost of being a more traditional family. Essentially, I as a single income end up making less (both because of taxes and because my company devotes more money to offering benefits I have no use for rather than to wages) in order to subsidize people who due to their two-income households make twice what I do in order to support fewer kids. (These same people, around the office, often express wonder as to how one could possibly afford to have four kids rather than their own one or two — despite the fact their household incomes are twice mine.)

    So there’s a sense in which pushing these benefits too hard (as, for example, with the amount of subsidized childcare, leave, etc. in Western Europe) makes it even harder to break with the system and have a more traditional family structure instead.

    On the other hand, moves which reduce the “my world will end if I carry this pregnancy to term” factor are clearly a good thing from the pro-life point of view.

  • Phillip:

    Agreed. And I wanted to remind myself that I was speaking with a Catholic brother in Christ. It wasn’t one of those passive-aggressive “I’ll pray for you” digs-drenched-in-piety.

  • Darwin:

    Good points, all. Recognition of “unintended consequences” doesn’t pop up often enough in evaluating these sorts of things.

  • Thanks Dale. I have been brusque and apologize if offense was taken. I will say that I tire of those (not saying you) that will take minor provisions (that often in fact are prudential judgments) and ignore massive support for intrinsic evils. Part of the problem I think with the USCCB Faithful Citizenship document. Seen some use that document to say that so and so is pro-abortion, but is in favor of increased food stamp funding and gun control so he is pro-life on two out of three issues – vote for him.

  • Well, Darwin, there is a considerable degree of antagonism to the United States in Western Europe, which approaches or exceeds us in its level of affluence and in the prevalence of bastardy, among other metrics of cultural degradation. One might also note that the bulge bracket banks in Britain and Spain are actually larger and more inclined toward international business than their American counterparts.

    Maybe the characters at Vox Nova

  • Well, nowhere did I say the breast pump law was a “major pro-life victory.” But it is certainly a pro-life victory. How strange that some ostensibly “pro-life” Catholics can’t see that. Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood? Good to see that not everyone in this thread is so dismissive of a pretty significant and praiseworthy bit of progress.

  • DarwinCatholic, there’s greater economic opportunity in the US because of the higher standard of living. Compare the earnings of a restaurant employee in China to one in the US and you’ll see why they come here. There are large immigrant populations in Singapore and Dubai, very authoritarian countries with very high standards of living. Authoritarianism is usually opposed to economic development but there are plenty of exceptions (China today, Pinochet’s Chile, Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, pre-1990’s South Korea).

    There’s also the lure of excellent higher education. An internationally respected university takes many decades, perhaps centuries, to build so the US is safe in that department for a while.

    Ethnic diversity also helps. Pretty much any citizen of the world can move to the US and find an ethnic enclave to live in, making the move much easier.

  • Good to see you here Michael. Actually as Darwin points out and as Dale agrees, there may be unintended consequences to this “pro-life” measure that wind up being anti-life. That as opposed to the actual,intrinsically anti-life reality of the health care bill.

  • Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood?

    Hmmm. That’s an interesting theory, Michael. Maybe you could flesh it out a bit. You’ve been a parent for how long, Michael? You have how many children? You have spent how many years, as a parent, working in offices consisting of 50 employees or more and understanding the financial and personal pressures that apply to single and double income families respectively?

    To help ground our discussion, I can provide the following answers to the above questions:

    Eight years. Five. Six years (during my first two years of parenthood I was working for a company with only ~30 employees.)

    Doubltess your longer years being a parent, larger number of children, and more extensive workplace experience as a parent gives you a deeper and broader understanding of all this. Surely you wouldn’t simply be praising this as a “significant and praiseworthy bit of progress” simply because it’s a progressive point-score and you enjoy tweeking the noses of people who actually vote against abortion and support more traditional family structures…

  • Now Darwin, you know our betters know more about parenting and business even though they are not parents and have never been in business. Even as our betters know more about minorities even though they are white Europeans while we are Hispanics.

  • As for authoritarianism being a leftist philosophy, I mentioned above, Pinochet’s Chile, Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, and pre-1990’s South Korea. Add Batista’s Cuba. On civil liberties, Bush was very authoritarian for a US president.

  • RestrainedRadical,

    Agreed that there can be fairly rapid economic growth for a while even under an authoritarian regime, but for Friedman and Meyerson’s concerns to pan it, it seems to me that one would have to argue that the combination of authoritarianism and development seem in such examples is in danger of being a more attractive model to the peoples of the world than the US model. And I’m not seeing why one would think that to be the case.

    Certainly, authoritarian and developing rapidly may be more attractive than authoritarian and povety-stricken (thus making China more attractive than North Korea) but I fail to see the danger that Meyerson in particular is concerned about that developing nations will look at the US and China and conclude, “Wow, we really better have a technocratic dictatorship rather than a democratic republic.”

    That’s the sense in which I think that immigration direction of the US relative to China is indicative. Given the choice, people voting with their feet seem to clearly prefer the US over China.

  • I don’t think anyone was actually dismissive of the provision; in fact, I thought Darwin gave a very balanced view of the matter. (Rarely are matters of public policy win-win situations, anyway. There’s always a cost to every benefit.)

    All of this is beside the point of the article. Even the point about immigration patterns is a side issue. What’s more at issue is our willingness to circumvent the political process and flirt with authoritarianism.

  • This is certainly a wide-ranging thread. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

    I agree, j. christian, that this is a disturbing trend — one more pronounced on the left in that they have many more things that they positively want to do, while conservatives are currently mostly engaged in resisting change. On a number of issues (perhaps most notably environmentalism) there seems to be a waning patience with actually persuading the public to support “the right thing” and an increasing frustration that technocrats cannot simply impose new regulations and structures without consulting the troublesome electorate and their representatives.

  • But it is certainly a pro-life victory. How strange that some ostensibly “pro-life” Catholics can’t see that. Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood? Good to see that not everyone in this thread is so dismissive of a pretty significant and praiseworthy bit of progress.

    I don’t really think so, even though I think the existence of a comfortable place for a woman to pump is a good thing – but it’s more of a plain ol’ decency thing. Then again, having six kids, two of whom have special needs, I’m out of touch. Oh, and one of those special needs kids was born with a cleft palate and therefore couldn’t suck. My wife pumped exclusively for over a year – we even had to rent a medical grade pump that was so heavy and awkward that it brought on excessive scrutiny from airline security.

    Yeah, out of touch…

  • Technocrats grow impatient because they “know” what is best for us. They have the knowledge that we don’t have even if they haven’t the experience. Thus someone who is not a parent or business person can know what is good for parents and business. Why someone who is a white European can know what racial programs are good for ethnic minorities even if those minorities disagree.

  • While I see the breast-pumping rooms as something beneficial to working mothers, I still can’t help but see it as an oddity.

  • It seems the briefly aired Firefly series was rather prophetic. The (Sino-American) Alliance exercising galactic totalitarianism in the name of peace, efficiency and happiness. Could it be the Tea Party are the Browncoats?

    The elite financiers and their academic lackeys have always sought to merge the USA with a Communist regime to use capitalism to fund a global totalitarian oligarchy. Used to be think tanks (foundations) were preparing us to merge with the USSR. However, Reagan, Thatcher and Blessed John Paul II put a stop to the attraction for that horror. So now they are working on merging us with China. China is the future model of world government and many people are willing to make a deal with the Devil so they can have the comfort of security (slavery) rather than living in fear of failure (freedom).

    Ai ya women wanle!

  • Darwin, your tactics and “arguments” (bullying) are boring.

  • bullying = pointing out when someone claims authority/experience he lacks

    Well, we aim to please. 😉

  • Darwin, you might be interested in a post I wrote today for Rock and Theology on children. Pay close attention to the seventh paragraph.

  • Let me chime in here as a full-time working mother who pumped milk for over a year for my daughter and plan to do it again for my forthcoming baby (I think MrsDarwin and I are due about a week apart).

    My family is a little unusual because my husband stays home with our children while I work. This decision was not made because of an unexpected unemployment situation but something we deliberately chose. We felt strongly about not sending the children to daycare and having a stranger raise them. One of us was going to stay home and, since the economic potential in my field is much greater than his, we decided it would be my husband. Over time, I think we have made the right decision, but, in these child-bearing years, it can be very hard.

    Now, in a lot of ways, we get the worst of both worlds. We live far out from the city and I have a long commute because we cannot afford to live near the city on one income. Pricing of many things seems dependent on two incomes and the assumption that everyone has a paying job. So I am not in favor of anything that reinforces the “necessity” of a dual income household and that it is proper to outsource the raising of one’s children.

    On the other hand, there is very little corporate support for working mothers beyond pats on the head. I get zero paid maternity leave. All the time I take off of work for childbirth comes from my accumulated sick and vacation time. What that means in reality is that our family just doesn’t go on vacation beyond a handful of days around major holidays to visit nearby family. Taking a week off to go to Florida (or go visit family across the country) is just not feasible. I am relatively healthy and don’t get sick that often, but am fearful of ever getting put on pregnancy bedrest. We can’t afford unpaid leave because I am our only income. And I know that I am lucky in that I actually get sick and vacation time to bank and can actually take time off after childbirth. So it would be nice if working mothers had more concrete support.

    Now the law in my state (Tennessee) already required employers to offer a private, non-bathroom area to pump. So while it is nice thought that federal law now requires everyone to be decent to pumping mothers, I’m not sure it is that great of a pro-life victory. If even pro-business, low tax, redstate Tennessee has this law, it must not be that controversial and could be passed state by state respecting our federal system.

  • bullying = pointing out when someone claims authority/experience he lacks

    This is a great line to remember the next time you pontificate about, say, liberation theology.

  • Or the next time you give an opinion on breast pumping, I suppose. If you want to claim you have more experience at breast pumping than I do, go right ahead.

  • Michael,

    Perhaps you should rely on Jenny’s experience noted above.

  • Michael,

    The reason I called you on your “Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood?” line is because you were using it on people some of whom you knew very well to have much more experience being working parents than you do. If I’m out of touch with actual parenthood, then you clearly don’t have standing to even possess an opinion on the matter. Next time I suggest to you in a condescending fashion that you are perhaps out of touch with actual liberation theology, or suggest to a mother that she is out of touch with actual breast pumping, I strongly encourage you to parrot the line back to me. I’ll deserve it.

    As it happens, I read your Rock & Theology post even before you linked to it here (it was a slow day, so I read it when you linked to it at Vox Nova) and I did indeed crack an amused smile at that seventh paragaph, since it seemed like such a classic example of choosing to characterize others rather than understand them. I’ll see about leaving a comment there with more detail, if you’d like.

  • “I did indeed crack an amused smile at that seventh paragraph, since it seemed like such a classic example of choosing to characterize others rather than understand them.”

    ..Sort of like treating people as objects rather than subjects, wouldn’t you agree? That passage was pure argument by assertion. He might’ve just as easily claimed that parents in big families don’t love their children — it would be just as factually correct, and just as devoid of substance.

  • Jenny,

    Fair points. You’ve definitely taken the harder road, and I have a lot of respect for you and your husband on that.

    Certainly, the extra burden to large companies in having a room somewhere which can be used for nursing mothings is not large — I wouldn’t consider it to have nearly the kind of blowback for those of us (like you and me) who are slogging through the single-income lifestyle that mandating company-paid or taxpayer-subsidized childcare would.

    The concern about being forced to subsidize the two-income lifestyle does, I guess, spring to mind for me since the very large company I work for does provide a fair number of benefits clearly designed to help out the two-incomes-two-kids-in-daycare set. And on various teams I’ve been on over the years, it often seems like as someone who doesn’t have to rush out right at 5pm in order to pick the kid up from daycare on “my day to pick the baby up”, I would often get extra tasks dumped on my by my two-income-household co-workers at the end of the day. The combination of working later so they can rush out to daycare on time (and thus getting home later to my own wife and kids), while hearing them talk about how they can’t imagine affording a “large family” like mine, gets to rankle a bit. (Though clearly, excess cynicism isn’t the right response.)

  • (Though clearly, excess cynicism isn’t the right response.)

    Ah, but sometimes it can be a satisfying one. Rather like when I am dealing with a client who is on bankruptcy number three and who is complaining to me about a bank which, for some unfathomable reason, does not wish to extend a loan to him.

  • I also find Jenny’s insight good. She is struggling but still finds that a breast-feeding room is not a “pro-life” issue. Rather, as others have pointed out, it is a decent issue for a mother’s sake where appropriate.

  • Perhaps you should rely on Jenny’s experience noted above.

    My wife’s experience is key for me, as well as women in my family.

    If I’m out of touch with actual parenthood, then you clearly don’t have standing to even possess an opinion on the matter.

    Um, I didn’t say you were out of touch with parenthood.

    He might’ve just as easily claimed that parents in big families don’t love their children — it would be just as factually correct, and just as devoid of substance.

    Why? It’s a completely different, unrelated claim than the claim that I made.

  • So what are your wife’s experiences on breast feeding in the workplace?

  • Phillip,

    I didn’t say the breast pump rooms were *not* pro-life. It is just that they are more in the “children deserve the best nutrition that can be given” vein of pro-life, as opposed to the “it should be illegal for your mother to kill you” vein. But I don’t think it is a grand victory or a significant gain for the pro-life position. If Tennessee has laws protecting public nursing, extended (albeit unpaid) maternity leave, and pumping at work, these issues must not be that great of a battle and could be passed in all the states.

    Darwin,

    My company doesn’t really offer benefits that only apply to dual-income households beyond the flex account for daycare, but I view that as more a federal issue than a company one. And amazingly none of my coworkers have kids in day care, so getting work dumped on me is not really a problem.

    What does set my teeth on edge is the federal tax credit for daycare. I find the provision to be anti-family and discriminatory against one income, two parent households. While it is true that the direct cost of our “day care” was zero dollars, the actual cost of this free service was an entire year’s salary.

    If we, as a society, have decided to subsidize the cost of daycare, then every child’s family should have the cost subsidized, not just the families that have decided to outsource the job. The best way to do this is to increase the child tax credit and abolish the day care credit.

  • Agreed on the federal daycare tax credit.

    Actually, it comes into play far less frequently that some of the child care related programs and policies at my company, but the thing which perhaps galls the most is a policy which was adopted after a PR snafu a few years back that in any layoff, if both spouses work for the company they will never lay both off, even if both would otherwise have been targeted, because they don’t want to wipe a family’s entire income.

    Of course, for those of us who already are our family’s only source of income, no such promises…

  • Actually Jenny then we disagree. I think there is an abuse of language to claim that such an issue is pro-life. Sure there is a charity to allow women a private room to breast feed. But is this a fundamental issue of justice? Is justice violated in a basic sense if a woman has to breast pump in a bathroom? Is it really? Not at all. And the trivialization of what is pro-life is part of the problem with such arguments.

  • While a private pumping room may be a charity for the woman, I *do* believe it is an issue of justice for the baby.

    The problem with pumping in the bathroom is not necessarily that it is a bathroom. It is that the bathroom is a public place. Breast pumping requires a loud machine, an electrical outlet, partially disrobing, attaching two largish suction pumps to a private area of the body and relaxing enough to let the milk flow. Next time you are in a public bathroom at work (or wherever), take notice of the electrical outlets. They probably are not in the stalls, so the pumping would have to be out in the open. Imagine standing in this vulnerable position next to that outlet while your boss, your coworkers, and who knows who else comes in and out of that bathroom.

    Most women will not endure that type of humiliation three or four times a day for however long the child needs breastmilk. They will simply choose to formula feed and some children will pay with their lives. The pro-life angle of the policy is that it allows women better opportunities to feed their children the best possible nutrition and may save lives. http://apnews.excite.com/article/20100405/D9EST98G0.html

    Now all that being said, I do agree that the language can be (and often is) co-opted to justify all manner of minor pro-life policies while allowing the one major pro-life issue to go unchecked. Do these minor victories redeem a monstrous bill? No. And I do agree that it is a trivialization to label a bill “pro-life” because it federally mandates private pumping rooms, but allows funding for abortion.

  • I guess we will still disagree. A benefit perhaps. But an issue of fundamental justice no.

5th June, 1989 A.D.

Friday, June 5, AD 2009

Tianasquare
Sometimes one image serves to sum up an event in the world’s memory.  For the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, that image is probable the one of the “tank man” — a lone protester who was photographed on June 5th, 1989 when he briefly stood, unarmed, before a tank column and stopped it.

There is not agreement as to who the “tank man” was, and most reports suggest he was arrested by the secret police and executed within the next two weeks.

In those heady days, it seemed possible that within a few years communist dictatorship would be nothing more than a memory, but twenty years later the communist oligarchs in China have learned to accomodate freedom and enterprise enough to remain in power.  And the tank man’s dream remains unrealized.

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4 Responses to 5th June, 1989 A.D.

  • “And the tank man’s dream remains unrealized.”

    I suspect that in the long run the Chinese will remember him and his dream well after the leaders who murdered him and so many others in 1989 are all but forgotten.

  • My 7-year-old son who wants to be a priest told me yesterday that he wants to be a missionary priest. I can’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect of wanting to preach about Jesus all around the world like Paul did, and then something about working against “those bad old communists”.

    Honestly, I don’t know WHERE he gets this stuff.

    😉

  • Donald, I pray you’re right about that.

    I watched much of the Tiananmen Square coverage from my father’s hospital room. Dad had had a severe stroke. One day, I was sitting there next to my unconcious father, watching the “tank man” brave the might of the Communist tanks, and I saw my dad’s hand move a little. I looked at him. His eyes were open and he was looking at the television screen. “That’s wrong,” he said. It was the last thing I heard him say. (And very appropriate, if you knew my dad. He was a news hound and could not watch the news without giving us a passionate running commentary on every story.)

    Several days later, my sister told me he had told his then 9 month old grandson, “I love you.” Those were his last words.

    I can’t see footage of Tiananmen without thinking of my father, a crusty old WWII vet who had fought against tyranny and hated it with all his being.