Archive for October, 2011

So, bring back the tyrants?

October 26, 2011 5 comments

Not good, the news from what is now the Arab Autumn. It is actually frightening, though not totally unexpected, to see how quickly the Islamists are hijacking revolutionary movements. The way things look now, the predictable shift to harsher Islamist governments looms over the heads of populations recently liberated from despotism. Not to say that despotism was good, far, far from it. Good riddance to Ben Ali, Mubarak, Qaddafi, to Saddam before them. To varying degrees and on different scales, they were thugs and they were scary. For years, for decades, they crushed their people, they stole from them, hurt, humiliated, tortured, and killed them. No one will take their defense, dead or alive, their people will not mourn them, the passage of time will not make history kinder to them.

But consider recent developments. Read more…


Tilted scales or skewed vision?

October 22, 2011 5 comments

Reactions to several events last week got me thinking about our perception of what is fair and balanced and what isn’t. The web was filled with comments, none of them particularly friendly, about the fact that for Hamas to return Gilad Shalit, the Israelis agreed to liberate a contingent of 1027 Palestinian prisoners. Vox populi –populi in this case myriad analysts and commentators–was raised, there were howls about the insulting imbalance in the swap. What, they said, one Israeli equals more than a thousand Palestinians? Is that what we’re hearing?

That’s what we want to hear. Reality is, of course, far more complex Read more…

Nature personified

October 18, 2011 7 comments

The story on the wrapper of the broiler chicken is encouraging. It tells me that the bird has been raised without hormones, has not been administered antibiotics, and that in general it enjoyed life in a clean, friendly environment before its head was chopped off. But then the text veers into absurdity when it tells me that it is the kind of food that nature intended. Excuse me? That nature intended? Frankly, nature doesn’t give a hoot what I eat. It is well established, has been since way before Narcissus—whenever that was—that our vanity is immense; in a twist on the original story, the mirror we hold is not to ourselves–the object of all our admiration–but to the world, to confirm that everything around us reflects us and us only. We anthropomorphize animals, Read more…

Categories: Daily life Tags: ,

It’s the economy and everything else, stupid!

October 13, 2011 4 comments

It’s like a cloud at the edge of my consciousness– I first hear the buzz without paying attention, then become conscious of it, then find it has a name—the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest. That doesn’t tell me much. What is the protest for or against, what does it hope to achieve? Not one to march or hold up signs or yell slogans or follow (or lead, for that matter), I pay scant attention at first but, given the pervasive media bombardment, can’t help hearing more. Enough to make me wonder at the lack of focus of the movement—if it can be called a movement—and how it is a perfect reflection of our times. It is as shapeless, diffuse and scattered as everything else. Look at us, at our lives. We can’t concentrate any longer—how can we—with so much to do all the time (when did we slip on these fiendish dancing shoes that will not allow us to slow down?) Read more…

An awkward Nobel Peace Prize

For the most part, the Oslo judges get it right when awarding the Nobel Peace Prize. From Albert Schweitzer to Aung San Suu Kyi, there has been a score of extraordinary awardees. Other choices have been more dubious, even absurd (Henry Kissinger) or perplexing (Obama). Also, a number of lackluster recipients receive a nod from the Oslo committee for not always valid political reasons.

This year’s crop is not impressive for several reasons. Read more…

Steve Jobs, philosopher

October 6, 2011 2 comments

Long-expected bad news still shock when they arrive. Thus with the death of Steve Jobs, star of our times. We knew he was dying, we watched him dwindle before our eyes, and yet last night it was but one long gasp echoing in the world. Jobs is dead? Dead?

Today is a day of tribute to the vision of the man, his amazing inventiveness, the adventurousness of his spirit.   Reading about him—and isn’t it a fact that no matter how well you think you know all there is to know about a public figure, there is still plenty to discover after they die?—two things came to mind. One was an interview a while back by French philosopher Lucien Jerphagnon who, as it happens, also died a couple of weeks ago, at a much more advanced age than Jobs. Talking about philosophers, he said, if memory serves, that these are people who want to understand. So they scroll through what are called philosophical systems. Read more…

Racist? Insensitive? Maybe not

October 5, 2011 7 comments

What does it say about us and the people we elect to office that we don’t believe they could say anything out of conviction but only to court public opinion? That’s the sad state of affairs that Nathan McCall, a professor of African American studies at Emory University, describes in this past Sunday’s Outlook.

My post is going to write itself as all I have to do is quote his article. First, McCall reminds us of Bill Clinton’s 1992 remark about Sister Souljah’s racist statement (“If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”). Clinton likened the hip hop singer’s baffling statement, in its extremism, to the views of white supremacist David Duke, not a stretch by any means. But for McCall, “When Clinton ran for president, he was desperate to woo white conservatives… By showing toughness against African Americans, he hoped to impress Reagan Democrats and other white conservatives.” Call me naïve but I would hope that Clinton would have a few ideas of his own and recognize blatant racism when he saw it. Never mind that the over-analysis (similar to the one I’m indulging in today) that followed immediately forced him to eat his words. Read more…

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