product of our virtues and proof of them

America viewed the Arab Spring and saw its own beloved idea acting in history to overcome geographic, political-economic, ethnic, and religious facticity, in short overcoming history itself, in accordance with liberal-democratic prophecy and the new order of the ages, the basis for American “exceptionalism” as faith, ideology, and, equally and interdependently, functional system of government. Americans saw, could not help but to see, and were not simply wrong to see the mirror images of their sacred secular ideal, the irresistibly resplendent light of the promise of freedom, in the series of uprisings, stirrings of the holy popular sovereign, against seemingly interchangeable tyrants. Specifically on Syria, the expectation of Assad’s imminent fall was natural for all true believers, and not to be a true believer on this matter is to declare oneself only an equivocal liberal-democrat or progressive or American patriot at all. Upon discovery of the apparent failure of faith, the believer withdraws or looks away – if only under an adjustment in time horizons – rather than undergo self-doubt: We will always prefer to doubt the others. So, America now or again looks away from Libya, and Egypt, and Syria, and Iraq, and Israel or Israel-Palestine, and forgets whatever it needs to forget in order to continue to believe in itself, and continue to live as it prefers, which are the same thing for America. In ignoring the geographic, political-economic, ethnic, religious impediments to the universalization of the human idea, Americans repeat those ineluctably pleasing, necessary operations of the spirit that tell us our luck – or the sum of our combined advantages in relation to geography, politics, economics, ethnicities, and religions – is deserved, a product of our virtues and a proof of them, whatever costs to others not only unavoidable, but just.

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10 comments on “product of our virtues and proof of them

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  1. Writing about French colonial history (in any extended abstract, the rest behind a paywall) our erstwhile virtual commenter, Ann Laura Stoller, proposes using aphasia a metaphor.

    But forgetting and amnesia are misleading terms to describe this guarded separation and the procedures that produced it. Aphasia, I propose, is perhaps a more apt term, one that captures not only the nature of that blockage but also the feature of loss. Calling this phenomenon “colonial aphasia” is of course not an appeal to organic cognitive deficit among “the French.” Rather, it is to emphasize both loss of access and active dissociation. In aphasia, an occlusion of knowledge is the issue. It is not a matter of ignorance or absence. Aphasia is a dismembering, a difficulty speaking, a difficulty generating a vocabulary that associates appropriate words and concepts with appropriate things. Aphasia in its many forms describes a difficulty retrieving both conceptual and lexical vocabularies and, most important, a difficulty comprehending what is spoken.
    Ann Laura Stoller

    As an aphasiac I find this apt and appealing. Cognitive dissonance seems handy, but perhaps not quite “there”. Part of many experience of aphasia is a difficulty/impossibility in expressing not necessarily thoughts in general (ie global aphasia), but thoughts in specific times and situations. The term “global aphasia” then becomes here not just a general difficulty/impossibility in speaking, but difficulty/impossibility speaking about certain global situations.

  2. Except it was nothing of the kind, the liberal like the Wafd in Egypt, the Cadets in Czarist Russian, the broad base of the anti Batista movement, don’t count in the big scheme of things, only
    the most committed do,

  3. Well, there was somethin funny goin on with the subs, tho I’m not sure why you weren’t getting adequate functionality anyway. Pretty please give it another try, maybe another thread if you’re already pseudo-psubscribed to this one, and let me know it goes.

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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