The Hope of Audacity

“Maybe the critics are right. Maybe there’s no escaping our great political divide, an endless clash of armies, and any attempts to alter the rules of engagement are futile. Or maybe the trivialization of politics has reached a point of no return, so that most people see it as just one more diversion, a sport, with politicians our paunch-bellied gladiators and those who bother to pay attention just fans on the sidelines: We paint our faces red or blue and cheer our side and boo their side, and if it takes a late hit or cheap shot to beat the other team, so be it, for winning is all that matters.
But I don’t think so. They are out there, I think to myself, those ordinary citizens who have grown up in the midst of all the political and cultural battles, but who have found a way ,in their own lives at least, to make peace with their neighbors, and themselves…I imagine they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point. They don’t always understand the arguments between right and left, conservative and liberal, but they recognize the difference between dogma and common sense, responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that last and those that are fleeting. They are out there, waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.”
― Barack Obama in The Audacity of Hope summing up the point of this piece better than this piece itself.


While the majority of the Republican field has abandoned principle in their endorsements of the Republican nominee Who Shall Not Be Named , it remains to be seen whether left leaning Democrats bite the bullet and throw their weight behind a woman who is sharply antithetical to liberal politics and seems just as willing as the Republican nominee to pander in return for power and popularity.

With Hillary Clinton’s newfound status as “presumptive nominee” (a phrase that sounds as appealing as its current subjects) There will be a slew of op-eds and expert opinion that will attempt through means patronising and bordering on blackmail. Pieces like this attempt to shame Sanders supporters into reticence by painting their cohorts as privileged and in many cases sexist and misogynistic. In carefully putting these straws together in a mannish shape and gleefully setting the ensuing construct alight one can easily claim the moral high ground that most commentators seek. This form of political extortion of the electorate is a prime example of the dysfunction of American democracy; where the choice is between a demagogue with a Napoleon complex the size of his Freudian skyscrapers and an amoral political climber as incapable as her competitor of admitting fault. Continue reading “The Hope of Audacity”

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Something worth reading.

Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.
― Carl SaganCosmos

To introduce oneself as a “writer” is increasingly in vogue, spurred on by a consumer oriented publishing industry that treats books as products. I find this extremely unsavoury as it reduces literature to just another aspect of the market. Biased though I am against the assembly line tracts of modernity, seeing as I hope to avoid modern times as long as I live (preferably longer) I think this a fundamentally flawed view of the ideal purposes of writing and does immeasurable harm to the medium.
To be a writer should be beyond a simple job description. It should be an announcement of skill, of style and intellect. Many can write, but to be “a writer” should promise a celerity and beauty of prose that also informs. This applies not only to the world of fiction, where hackery can frame the bestseller list for months on end but also to journalism, specifically to opinion writers a great many of whom can be best describing as “stating” their opinion. I think that qualifies them as hacks. There is nothing gained in a stated opinion. Any fool can state their opinion. An opinion writer should “express” their opinion in a manner that is rewarding in its own right. The best non-fiction writers did this. Men and women like Christopher Hitchens and Dorothy Parker managed to make the tedious book review, now so often abridged to a scale rating, into works of art in their own right; concurrently funny, illuminating and insightful. Continue reading “Something worth reading.”

Remember the Ladies

“You have to know the past to understand the present.”
― Carl Sagan

Recently I have been reading a variety of correspondence between the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. In addition to being an unequivocal wealth of historical insight, the letters are surprisingly effective at humanising figures spoken of by most in the same breath as gods. It is a curious inversion of the laws of optics that the distance of time makes great men legends.
However, it seems that this rather pleasant order is upended with great women the same temporal distance from the present. So I felt the urge to help distribute the history of one such woman and ask for others to follow.
Continue reading “Remember the Ladies”

In Review

In reviewing the events of the last six months, the period of time between the creation of this website and its actual usage, it’s rather difficult to narrow them down to highlights, though no doubt many more experienced websites will and have done so. In this time we’ve seen the popularly inexplicable rise of Donald Trump in American politics beside an increasingly fierce Democratic nomination process , an anxiety inducing swing to the authoritarian right in most of the world and perhaps most importantly a shift towards censorship of difficult ideas in some very unfortunate places. In addition we’ve seen rising controversy over religions place in (ostensibly) secular societies and a great deal of unfortunate backpedaling from positions of principle by those in power. As always the more consistent stories have stood by us; ISIS remains scary, Russia remains labyrinthine in its foreign policy and China looms ever larger over the global stage.

The object of this piece is not to provide a complete summary of the history of the last six months but instead to use them as launching pads for the sort of work I plan to do here.

The rise of Trump seems is couched inextricably from a fundamental failure of the media. As a sample, my first instinct was to write of the Trump “phenomenon”. The failure is not simply one of prediction. It is also of a basic underestimation of the anger hidden beneath the surface of the Republican electorate. But the uplifting of Trump from a common demagogue to a “phenomenon”, while certainly a ratings booster, is in large part responsible for his current stranglehold on political debate.
Trump is the “greatest” illustration of the return of the authoritarian right in the democratic world. And that return is again predicate on a failure of liberalism. Through political liberalism’s largely unconditional embrace of diversity and multiculturalism, especially in the West and the gradual victory of the left in the Culture Wars the right has been forced further right in order to provide any meaningful opposition. By shifting the goal posts so frequently and changing the rules so often leftists initiated a slow awakening of the parts of the American electorate most people would rather not think about; the poor, uneducated majority ethnicity. It is a small wonder that the most ridiculed segment of American society found comfort in the clutches of a demagogue who makes liberal use of racism and bigotry as campaign tactics. That is not to say some of their motivations are entirely without merit however. But we’ll leave that for another piece.

The Indian and Bangladeshi governments seem intent on slipping further back into a pit of religious sectarianism, although with the examples of political discourse the West is providing it’s difficult to blame them.
In the Middle East theocracy and dictatorship remain the status quo, Saudi Arabia continues its perfidious relationship with liberal democracies and the rare bastions of (relative) sanity and secularism like the Iraqi Kurds are so entangled in regional rivalries with an increasingly despotic Turkey that any hope of the establishment of secularism in that cradle of civilization must look far to the future.
Meanwhile Putin’s Russia has continued its serpentine course through current events and bolsters an Iran that must soon deal with a generational shift towards democratic values.

As you can imagine it’s a rather difficult point in history to jump in with opinions and ideas.
Regardless, things will almost certainly get a great deal worse before they get better so one may as well start now. This website will be dedicated to covering the events that surround us, the history that seats us, and the art that guides us. Now that we’re mostly caught up future pieces should hopefully be more in-depth and more interesting.
Until then.