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Passions in Poetry

The West's anti-westernism

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Brad
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0 posted 03-24-2002 06:27 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Here's the article. It's a little long and meandering but I think interesting:

http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/20/feb02/msteyn.htm

It's funny to read this. It never seems to occur to Steyn that maybe it's our ability to be self critical that is in fact one reason for our success. If you're a totalitarian, this is complete nonsense, if you're a Liberal . . . .

I did find the bit on the Iroquois influence to be amusing.

From the text:

The good news was that, in the immediate aftermath of September 11, it quickly became clear that there was no serious antiwar movementójust a few aging Ivy League slogan-parroters whose tired tropes failed to spark even on campus. Noam Chomsky will never be a threat to anyone because, when he warns that the Pentagon programs are being ďimplemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next couple of weeks,Ē heís being too self-evidently ridiculous for all but his most gullible patrons. Week after week, poll after poll showed that those opposed to the war numbered no more than 5 percent. True, they were overwhelmingly concentrated in our most prestigious institutionsóBerkeley, National Public Radioóbut the inability of the elites to rouse the masses to their tattered banner speaks well for Tennysonís ďcommon sense of most,Ē at least in the United States. Not for the first time, one appreciates the importance of the popular will as a brake on the inclinations of the elite.


--So, the majority of America supported the war effort, but Chomsky is a member of the elite?  At what point is someone who consistently disagrees with the status quo really a member of the elite?

--Aren't the elites the ones who get on TV, who run the government?

--When was the last time you ever saw Chomsky on TV?

[This message has been edited by Brad (03-24-2002 07:46 AM).]

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1 posted 03-24-2002 04:00 PM       View Profile for PoetryIsLife   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for PoetryIsLife

What does being elite really mean?

That you have influence? I think that is what it truely means.

When we think of elite, we seem to think of those in 'power' wheter or not that power is imagenary.

People of stardom seem to be thought of as elite. They have exposure, they have wealth, they have success.

So elite would seem to be power, money, and succes, influence.

But on the masses, what effect do they really have? Perhaps in our own lives, the elite are those who effect us the most.

So, for one, a boss, for another family.

The American Heritage Dictionary:

    Elite:
       1. A group or class enjoying superior intellecutal, social, or economic status.
      
    Eliteism
       1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment.
       2. The sense of entitlemens enjoyed by such a group or class.

Thus, do we create the idea of elite?

~ Titus


"My body is merely the canvas of my soul."
         ~ The Night Owl

[This message has been edited by PoetryIsLife (03-24-2002 04:01 PM).]

Brad
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2 posted 03-24-2002 04:43 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Titus,

Do you know who Noam Chomsky is?

I'm curious because many seem to see him in only one of the two aspects of his professional life.
Phaedrus
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3 posted 03-24-2002 04:54 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus


I donít think that this supposed self-denigration has anything at all to do with success or failure, the whole premise or argument for either seems to be seriously flawed. Russia admitted that acts perpetrated during the regime of Stalin were, in retrospect, wrong, yet Russia doesnít seem to be enjoying an overabundance of success. Germany on the other hand has conceded to mistakes made in the past and is positively flourishing, if success or failure was dictated by admission of previous errors wouldnít there be a clearer pattern?

Taking a closer look at the issue of admission of previous blunders leads to the obvious conclusion that any other course would be foolhardy and an open admission that current policies were wrong. Take the example of slavery, Britain along with a whole raft of countries had no problem with the slave trade, then they saw the light and passed anti-slavery laws. Anyone who now denies that what we did back then was wrong is admitting that he/she believes that what weíre doing now is wrong. Either slavery is right or itís wrong and if itís wrong admitting it in retrospect serves only as a lesson for others in the future.


Brad


ďAt what point is someone who consistently disagrees with the status quo really a member of the elite?Ē

When a democracy is in action, I could quote Voltaire as proof of the fact that agreement is not a prerequisite in such a system.
Phaedrus
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4 posted 03-24-2002 04:55 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus

http://education.yahoo.com/search/be?lb=t&p=url%3Ac/chomsky__noam

Brad
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5 posted 03-24-2002 05:19 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Phaedrus,

The Communist Party never rescinded its doctrine of infallibility (through understanding the 'science' of history, dialectical materialism). Stalin, from Kruschev's point of view, was an aberration, not a problem with the system.

Even Gorbachev originally scoffed at the idea that the Party should give up monopoly power (However he spins it now, what he said at the time was fairly clear).

Nevertheless, I agree. Self-criticism, in terms of a nation's future, is a technique for getting better, it shouldn't be a recipe for guilt (which can lead to self-absorbtion). Admitting guilt is a tactical ploy, a move to placate another, it should never be seen as something that solves anything.
  
Nevertheless, again, you don't think this (not as a sole measure but as one factor in an overall system) didn't have at least something to do with West Germany's superiority over East Germany?

Brad
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6 posted 03-24-2002 05:24 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Phaedrus,

That's cheating. I wasn't worried whether he couldn't find out, I was wondering how influential Chomsky really is if you don't consciously have an interest in political radicalism or linguistic theory. If he is that influential, how so when he's completely ignored by the mainstream media (He's also criticized that same media on a number of occasions, maybe there's a connection?)

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7 posted 03-24-2002 06:05 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus

Iíd be tempted to look a little closer into the socio-economic history of East/West Germany, Russia had expended almost all of its resources in defeating the Germans. If you were to look at each country involved their respective success is pretty clear, America had reserves after the fall of Germany and had a fully functioning, in fact improved, production infrastructure in the post war period and fared the best. Britain had to contend with massive rebuilding on empty coffers, Russia even more so Germany having flattened large swathes of that countryís industrial centres. East Germany was last on Russiaís to do list. West Germany however was totally rebuilt by the allied nations from the ground up with the latest in manufacturing machinery and techniques.

How could Germanyís admittance of previous mistakes have any effect on success when the mistake predates the admittance by so many years? If on Monday West Germany were bankrupt and on Tuesday they admitted a previous mistake which resulted in a boom in the economy on Wednesday Iíd be more liable to agree.

Self-criticism as a tactic to placate is on the face of it a viable standpoint, but doesnít the fact that the errors are simply just the plain truth, and self-evidently so in most cases, turn admission to hollow words? ďYou know it was wrong I know it was wrong weíve changed the system so it wonít happen againĒ Or is it more like a promissory declaration underlining that the same mistakes wonít be repeated?

On the Noam/elitist point, I think itís not that important that I know who he is and what heís saying but itís very important that heís saying it, however contrary his views may be. His being there and raising his point of view forces the other Ďeliteí, who should know who he is, to investigate his claims and decide on the validity or absurdity based upon a wider understanding. Whether itís Noam specifically is debatable but a devils advocate does have positive advantages but normally only in a democracy.

Iíll admit that I didnít know Noam from Noah until I read the article, to understand it fully I did a quick search and read some of his work and biography. I donít think thatís cheating, I had no reason to know of him before but that changed and I reacted accordingly.

(OK so it might have been cheating a little bit   )

[This message has been edited by Phaedrus (03-24-2002 06:08 PM).]

Brad
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8 posted 03-24-2002 06:55 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

True, it shouldn't bother anyone that they've never heard of Noam Chomsky before today (though didn't you mention Kripke somewhere?) anymore than the fact that I didn't know who Steyne was before today.

Where we differ, perhaps, is on the need for a one to one correspondance between a self-critical society (perhaps we should use the more general Open Society?) and economic development and a self-congratulatory one (or should we say Closed Society?) and the same thing.

By being an Open Society, doesn't it mean that we admit fallibility and by doing that we at least allow for the opportunity to create something we hadn't considered. Is it a guarantee of success? No, I can't prove that. Is it the better bet? I think so.

The mistake that I think Steyne makes is not that he can't criticize Chomsky (I disagree with Chomsky's assessment of 911 as well.) but he seems to be saying that we shouldn't criticize ourselves, that it's a sign of weakness. But doesn't the five percent figure contradict his thesis? We are very intent on keeping what we have, we all at least pay some homage to the system we have.

If Chomsky is irrelevant, why villify him except to, by taint of association, villify those who have similar but less radical criticisms of the West?

Isn't the danger of that five percent figure mean that we may be simply seeing the reification of the Open Society into our society. What I mean by that is simply that we conflate 'us' with the idea of freedom or openness, that what we do is free and open, what they do is not, even if what we actually do has no relationship to being free and open.

A comment was made at PiP after a rock concert for the victims of 911 that we really are freedom.

Doesn't that seem strange?  

The Iroquois example, the Chomsky example are points that show that nobody's really listening to the people who say these things (I have doubts that anybody would write that the Iroquois Confederation was the model for the United States, I suspect that somebody was trying to show more influence than previously acknowledged -- not as sexy perhaps but certainly plausible.) And even when they do read such controversial works, they tend to misread them (not completely their fault of course).

I don't mean to devalue your point concerning American support for West Germany, I simply want to argue that an open system, not simply a system that says its open, has more opportunities to succeed than a closed system. I'm not sure Steyne is arguing for an open system.

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9 posted 03-24-2002 07:47 PM       View Profile for Phaedrus   Email Phaedrus   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Phaedrus


I think weíre pretty much in agreement that self-criticism, in this context, isnít a sign of weakness, albeit due to differing reasons. I donít think itís a sign of anything other than a statement of truth while you argue itís potentially a positive sign of good practice.

I can see the arguments in favour of your stance but your self-congratulatory/self-critical assessments donít quite tally with my perceived understanding of American culture. Looking from the outside in my perception, rightly or wrongly, is that the American culture leans strongly towards self-congratulation, self-criticism being the standard of the British.

Could it be possible that our differing opinions are a reflection of cultural bias, I accept self-criticism as the norm and a simple statement of fact while you attempt to accentuate the positive? (Thatís not a criticism, rather an observation and possibly flawed )

The Iroquois example:

Iíve read this theory somewhere before and in more depth and have to admit being impressed with the arguments put forward, I canít recall when or where but Iíll try and find out more otherwise itíll haunt me for weeks.
Brad
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10 posted 03-24-2002 08:12 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

"...is that the American culture leans strongly towards self-congratulation, self-criticism being the standard of the British."

--That's what I'm worried about.

Tim
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11 posted 03-24-2002 10:43 PM       View Profile for Tim   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Tim

A reoccuring theme in your threads is the proposition that the intellectual elite is denied access to the power structure.  Why should they have access to the power structure?  What is the power structure?
No, the elite mentioned in the article is not the powers of government or the national media. I would think more proper terminology would be spheres of influence. No, you would not expect to see Chomsky on television.  Why would the media allow access to an individual who denegrates them? Also, would it not be hypocritical for Chomsky to use the media to air his "elitist" views.  (the term of elitist would not be my word of choice, but relates to the context given to it by Steyn) Perhaps the question ought to be, what is the relevance of philosophy to the modern world and to the average citizen? The argument has been made that philosophy has long since abandoned the search for the truth.  Has it?
  To be worried about American culture being self-congratulatory?  I am afraid someone will have to explain that one to me.
Brad
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12 posted 03-25-2002 12:12 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

If you talk about people in mainstream media (would the New Criterion be considered national media?), shouldn't they have a chance to respond?

Again and again, I read off-the-cuff comments about the silliness of academia and the intellectual 'elite' (I agree, wrong term, they're not that smart), but if you do any research at all, you'll find that it's usually (but not always) not as crazy as was said. The wording is different, it's designed, perhaps, to be provocative, but many in the Kimball crowd seem to think it's the end of civilization as we know it.

I don't see how you can have it both ways. I don't see how they can have as little influence as indicated and still be the scourge or the death of the West. Chomsky is often described as someone who never thinks the West does anything good -- I can see why somebody might say that but it would be wrong to say that he is therefore in support of Middle Eastern regimes. Whoever he talks to, as was said somewhere, he tells you what you don't want to hear.

I don't think Chomsky is anti-Western. I think he wants us to follow what we say we stand for.

The appeal to populist, anti-intellectual sentiment is always a popular one, but it crosses the line, in my opinion, when there is no attempt to understand what was said. It's an issue of responsibility.

At the same time, it might get academics to stop hiding behind their isolationism (the modern monastery) and actually try to explain what they mean in terms, even if reductionist, that can be understood by most people. Still, I have to admit that academic culture plays a role in this as well. The moment you become a 'popular' writer, there's a lot of resentment.

And it's easy to pick apart. I've done it on a few occasions but I still believe we should try to bridge this gap.

--------------------------------

I've discussed TRUTH on several occasions here and what at least some philosophers are arguing about it. More than happy to do so again, but I don't think it's appropriate in this thread. Nevertheless, in a nutshell, let's just say truth isn't a magic word.

As far as self-congratulatory Americans, is it really that difficult to read comments here and in other forums, on media programs, and in the letter sections of newpapers that promote nothing more that a nation wide pep rally?

It certainly looks that way from the other side of the bigger pond.

Brad

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13 posted 03-25-2002 04:04 PM       View Profile for PoetryIsLife   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for PoetryIsLife

*pops head into discussion*

No, brad, I honestly didn't know who he was.

I'll be back later...

~ Titus

"My body is merely the canvas of my soul."
         ~ The Night Owl

Brad
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14 posted 03-25-2002 05:47 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

And there's nothing wrong with that.

On the flip side, I think Chomsky gets more press for being villified than he does for his own writing.

I suppose that's advertising in a way.
 
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