And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Colour Wheel of False Lights in the Media Grand Narrative

False Light

Under a sky blackened dark, he whistles through the marsh
No earthly lantern call, shall guide him safe
Oh my you are a brave man, but your heart is all I command
So from the path I’ll lure you down, with reeds so fine

This False Light will make you run
Will make you fall like a charm

Through the wild marsh he delved, his eyes bright as a child
No whiskey cloud shall dim, the rushes call
Oh my you are a brave man, but your fear is all I command
So through the mist I’ll lure you down, with peat so fine

This False Light will make you run
Will make you fall like a charm
This false light will make you run
Will make you fall into my arms

They’ll make you search for days, but your love has gone
They’ll make you cry for days, oh lantern man
My light my love

Friday, July 26, 2019

Otto Dix - German Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity)

from Wikipedia:
The New Objectivity (in German: Neue Sachlichkeit) was a movement in German art that arose during the 1920s as a reaction against expressionism. The term was coined by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, the director of the Kunsthalle in Mannheim, who used it as the title of an art exhibition staged in 1925 to showcase artists who were working in a post-expressionist spirit. As these artists—who included Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, and Jeanne Mammen—rejected the self-involvement and romantic longings of the expressionists, Weimar intellectuals in general made a call to arms for public collaboration, engagement, and rejection of romantic idealism.

Although principally describing a tendency in German painting, the term took a life of its own and came to characterize the attitude of public life in Weimar Germany as well as the art, literature, music, and architecture created to adapt to it. Rather than some goal of philosophical objectivity, it was meant to imply a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, understood by Germans as intrinsically American.

The movement essentially ended in 1933 with the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis to power.


Although "New Objectivity" has been the most common translation of "Neue Sachlichkeit", other translations have included "New Matter-of-factness", "New Resignation", "New Sobriety", and "New Dispassion". The art historian Dennis Crockett says there is no direct English translation, and breaks down the meaning in the original German:

Sachlichkeit should be understood by its root, Sache, meaning "thing", "fact", "subject", or "object." Sachlich could be best understood as "factual", "matter-of-fact", "impartial", "practical", or "precise"; Sachlichkeit is the noun form of the adjective/adverb and usually implies "matter-of-factness".

In particular, Crockett argues against the view implied by the translation of "New Resignation", which he says is a popular misunderstanding of the attitude it describes. The idea that it conveys resignation comes from the notion that the age of great socialist revolutions was over and that the left-leaning intellectuals who were living in Germany at the time wanted to adapt themselves to the social order represented in the Weimar Republic. Crockett says the art of the Neue Sachlichkeit was meant to be more forward in political action than the modes of Expressionism it was turning against: "The Neue Sachlichkeit is Americanism, cult of the objective, the hard fact, the predilection for functional work, professional conscientiousness, and usefulness."


Main article: Post-expressionism

Leading up to World War I, much of the art world was under the influence of Futurism and Expressionism, both of which abandoned any sense of order or commitment to objectivity or tradition. Expressionism was in particular the dominant form of art in Germany, and it was represented in many different facets of public life—in dance, in theater, in painting, in architecture, in poetry, and in literature.

Expressionists abandoned nature and sought to express emotional experience, often centering their art around inner turmoil (angst), whether in reaction to the modern world, to alienation from society, or in the creation of personal identity. In concert with this evocation of angst and unease with bourgeois life, expressionists also echoed some of the same feelings of revolution as did Futurists. This is evidenced by a 1919 anthology of expressionist poetry titled Menschheitsdämmerung, which translates to “Twilight of Humanity”—meant to suggest that humanity was in a twilight; that there was an imminent demise of some old way of being and beneath it the urgings of a new dawning.

Critics of expressionism came from many circles. From the left, a strong critique began with Dadaism. The early exponents of Dada had been drawn together in Switzerland, a neutral country in the war, and seeing their common cause, wanted to use their art as a form of moral and cultural protest—they saw shaking off the constraints of artistic language in the same way they saw their refusal of national boundaries. They wanted to use their art in order to express political outrage and encourage political action.[3] Expressionism, to Dadaists, expressed all of the angst and anxieties of society, but was helpless to do anything about it.

Bertolt Brecht, a German dramatist, launched another early critique of expressionism, referring to it as constrained and superficial. Just as in politics Germany had a new parliament but lacked parliamentarians, he argued, in literature there was an expression of delight in ideas, but no new ideas, and in theater a "will to drama", but no real drama. His early plays, Baal and Trommeln in der Nacht (Drums in the Night) express repudiations of fashionable interest in Expressionism.

After the destruction of the war, more conservative critics gained force particularly in their critique of the style of expressionism. Throughout Europe a return to order in the arts resulted in neoclassical works by modernists such as Picasso and Stravinsky, and a turn away from abstraction by many artists, for example Matisse and Metzinger. The return to order was especially pervasive in Italy.

Because of travel restrictions, German artists in 1919–22 had little knowledge of contemporary trends in French art; Henri Rousseau, who died in 1910, was the French painter whose influence was most apparent in the works of the New Objectivity. However, some of the Germans found important inspiration in the pages of the Italian magazine Valori plastici, which featured photographs of recent paintings by Italian classical realists.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

On the Casting of False Lights....of Racism!

from FindLaw
In today's content-rich, digitally networked world, public figures or people involved in newsworthy events aren't the only ones at risk of reputational harm. It has become a relatively simple matter to comment, share, and distribute personal information and media. Unfortunately, people may -- either intentionally or unintentionally -- share information about you that's false or misleading.

If you suspect that false or misleading information about you has been shared or otherwise publicized, then you may have a claim under the law for either defamation or false light.

It's important that you understand the differences between the two 'reputational harm' causes of action, defamation vs. false light, so that you can better assess the strength and scope of your claim moving forward.

Defamation and False Light: Comparing the Elements

Defamation and false light are similar causes of action that hinge on the disclosure of false or misleading information. Because there's substantial overlap between the two causes of action, many states -- such as Colorado -- don't recognize false light as a separate cause of action. When determining the strength and scope of your claim, you should first determine the applicable state law and whether you have access to a false light cause of action.

To start with, let's take a look at the basic causes of action for both defamation and false light.

The Elements of Defamation

For defamation, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
1.The defendant made a statement about the plaintiff to another.
2.The statement was injurious to the plaintiff's reputation.
3.The statement was false.
4.If the plaintiff is a public figure, or was involved in some newsworthy event or some other event that engaged the public interest, then the defendant must have made the false statement intentionally or with reckless disregard of the plaintiff's rights.
5.There are no applicable privileges.
Defendants are generally placed at significant advantage as compared to plaintiffs in defamation actions.

Truth is a complete defense, no matter how injurious the statement may have been. Essentially, a defendant can publically make any statement about the plaintiff, no matter how reputationally damaging or embarrassing, so long as that statement is truthful. If a plaintiff cheated on his wife, for example, then the plaintiff can't effectively sue a defendant for having published that fact in a magazine or newspaper.

Defendants may also claim that their public statement was a matter of pure opinion, which will exempt them from the action. If that fails, they may seek to have the court recognize the plaintiff as a limited public figure so that the higher reckless disregard standard kicks in. Further, many states, including California, have instituted anti-SLAPP legislation that gives considerable discretion to superior courts to determine whether a defamation action should fail before the facts ever go to a jury trial.

The Elements of False Light

In a false light claim, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
1.The defendant published some information about the plaintiff.
2.The information must portray the plaintiff in a false or misleading light.
3.The information is highly offensive or embarrassing to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.
4.The defendant must have published the information with reckless disregard as to its offensiveness.

A false light claim is usually easier to bring than a defamation claim.

Take, for example, a newspaper article about the issue of child molestation in certain churches. If the editor includes a photograph of an innocent priest who has not been accused of or otherwise associated with child molestation, the newspaper may be liable for false light, since the inclusion of the photograph implies that the priest is involved in child molestation. In a defamation action, the newspaper-defendant would simply assert that no statement was actually made about the photographed priest and child molestation.

As you can you probably tell, false light is a powerful cause of action for a plaintiff because it allows for a holistic assessment of published information and the context in which such information is placed. A great deal of potentially injurious commentary merely implicates or speculates, but doesn't go so far as to make a direct, false statement.

The Differences Between Defamation and False Light

Where defamation is meant to protect a person from injury to their reputation, false light is meant to protect a person from the offense or embarrassment that arises from a misleading or untrue implication. This core difference leads to practical differences that affect how the parties approach an issue of reputational harm.

A defamatory statement need only be made to one other person, but a false light disclosure must be made to a large enough group of people to be considered a 'public' disclosure.

Defamation is meant to protect reputation. A non-offensive statement about a person can harm their reputation. As such, defamation does not require that the statement be offensive or embarrassing. False light, on the other hand, demands that the supposed implication be offensive or embarrassing.

False light demands that the defendant has made the implication or misleading statement/disclosure with reckless disregard. This is a high standard. Defamation, on the other hand, only demands the reckless disregard standard if the plaintiff is a public figure or limited public figure.

Truth is a complete defense to defamation. False light is affected by the truth defense differently. A defendant's true statement about a plaintiff may not be used to save the defendant if the implication is false. However, if the defendant's implication about the plaintiff is true, then it will serve as a defense to a false light claim.

Involved in a Defamation or False Light Suit? Speak with a Lawyer

Having your reputation impuned or questioned is unpleasant for anyone, but can also cause real and lasting harm. Whether you were defamed or cast in a false light -- or sued for such an act -- the outcome of the case will depend on not only the facts in the case but also how those facts are represented. Consider speaking with a defamation lawyer to learn more

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Giving Renewed Purpose to the Federal Reserve... MAGA!

...et in simplicitate cordis quaerite illum
quoniam invenitur ab his qui non temptant illum
apparet autem eis qui fidem habent in illum...
- Sapientia 1

Hegel's Holiday

Rene Magritte, "Hegel's Holiday" (1958)

from the New Yorker
One weekend last June, in an auditorium in the German city of Karlsruhe, the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk celebrated his seventieth birthday by listening to twenty lectures about himself. A cluster of Europe’s leading intellectuals, academics, and artists, along with a smattering of billionaires, were paying tribute to Germany’s most controversial thinker, in the town where he was born and where he recently concluded a two-decade tenure as the rector of the State Academy for Design. There were lectures on Sloterdijk’s thoughts on Europe, democracy, religion, love, war, anger, the family, and space. There were lectures on his commentaries on Shakespeare and Clausewitz, and on his witty diaries, and slides of buildings inspired by his insights. Between sessions, Sloterdijk, who has long, straw-colored hair and a straggly mustache, prowled among luminaries of the various disciplines he has strayed into, like a Frankish king greeting lords of recently subdued fiefdoms. The academy bookstore was selling most of his books—sixty-odd titles produced over the past forty years. The latest, “After God,” was displayed on a pedestal in a glass cube.

At a dinner in his honor, Sloterdijk surveyed the scene with a Dutch friend, Babs van den Bergh. “Do you think I should read out the letter?” he asked. In his hand was a note from Chancellor Angela Merkel praising his contributions to German culture.

“You really shouldn’t read it,” van den Bergh said.

“It’s not even a good letter, is it?” Sloterdijk said. “It’s so short. She probably didn’t even write it.”

“Of course she didn’t write it,” van den Bergh said. “But you would never get a letter like that in the Netherlands or anywhere else. Someone in her office worked very hard on it.”

Reverence for intellectual culture is waning in much of the world, but it remains strong in Germany. Sloterdijk’s books vie with soccer-star memoirs on the German best-seller lists. A late-night TV talk show that he co-hosted, “The Philosophical Quartet,” ran for a decade. He has written an opera libretto, published a bawdy epistolary novel lampooning the foundation that funds the country’s scientific research, and advised some of Europe’s leading politicians.

Sloterdijk’s colleagues offered encomiums. The architect Daniel Libeskind said that his books have inspired a rethinking of European public space. Bruno Latour, the sociologist and historian of science, apologized for not knowing German, and recited in French a long, droll poem he had written, describing Sloterdijk as a scribe of God. There was a video montage of Sloterdijk’s television appearances across the decades, in which a young blond mystic with arctic-blue eyes and torn sweaters gradually morphed into the burgherly figure before us.

On the second night of the symposium, Sloterdijk and his partner, the journalist Beatrice Schmidt, invited some friends to their apartment, on a stately street next door to a Buddhist meditation center. A picture by Anselm Kiefer of a bomber plane hung in the hallway to the kitchen. In the building’s untamed back garden, Sloterdijk began pouring bottles of white Rhône wine for his guests. There were whispers about the wonders of his cellar. On a small wooden porch, Sloterdijk spoke to two young women about his recent travails while getting his driver’s license renewed. “It’s a complete horror,” he said. “It takes nine hours in Germany. Only your most maniacally loyal friends are willing to go with you.” When Sloterdijk goes into one of his conversational riffs, there is a feeling of liftoff. A rhythmic nasal hum develops momentum and eventually breaks into more ethereal climes, creating the sense that you have cleared the quotidian. “The car is like a uterus on wheels,” he says. “It has the advantage over its biological model for being linked to independent movement and a feeling of autonomy. The car also has phallic and anal components—the primitive-aggressive competitive behavior, and the revving up and overtaking which turns the other, slower person into an expelled turd.”

In Germany, where academic philosophers still equate dryness with seriousness, Sloterdijk has a near-monopoly on irreverence. This is an important element of his wide appeal, as is his eagerness to offer an opinion on absolutely anything—from psychoanalysis to finance, Islam to Soviet modernism, the ozone layer to Neanderthal sexuality. An essay on anger can suddenly plunge into a history of smiling; a meditation on America may veer into a history of frivolity. His magnum opus, the “Spheres” trilogy, nearly three thousand pages long, includes a rhapsodic excursus on rituals of human-placenta disposal. He is almost farcically productive. As his editor told me, “The problem with Sloterdijk is that you are always eight thousand pages behind.

This profligacy makes Sloterdijk hard to pin down. He is known not for a single grand thesis but for a shrapnel-burst of impressionistic coinages—“anthropotechnics,” “negative gynecology,” “co-immunism”—that occasionally suggest the lurking presence of some larger system. Yet his prominence as a public intellectual comes from a career-long rebellion against the pieties of liberal democracy, which, now that liberal democracy is in crisis worldwide, seems prophetic. A signature theme of his work is the persistence of ancient urges in supposedly advanced societies. In 2006, he published a book arguing that the contemporary revolt against globalization can be seen as a misguided expression of “noble” sentiments, which, rather than being curbed, should be redirected in ways that left-liberals cannot imagine. He has described the Presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as a choice “between two helplessly gesticulating models of normality, one of which appeared to be delegitimatized, the other unproven,” and is unsurprised that so many people preferred the latter. Few philosophers are as fixated on the current moment or as gleefully ready to explain it.

Sloterdijk’s comfort with social rupture has made him a contentious figure in Germany, where stability, prosperity, and a robust welfare state are seen as central to the country’s postwar achievement. Many Germans define themselves by their moral rectitude, as exhibited by their reckoning with the Nazi past and, more recently, by the government’s decision to accept more refugees from the Syrian civil war than any other Western country. Sloterdijk is determined to disabuse his countrymen of their polite illusions. He calls Germany a “lethargocracy” and the welfare state a “fiscal kleptocracy.” He has decried Merkel’s attitude toward refugees, drawn on right-wing thinkers such as Martin Heidegger and Arnold Gehlen, and even speculated about genetic enhancement of the human race. As a result, some progressives refuse to utter his name in public. In 2016, the head of one centrist party denounced him as a stooge for the AfD, a new far-right party that won thirteen per cent of the vote in last year’s federal elections.

The rise of the German right has made life more complicated for Sloterdijk. Positions that, at another time, might have been forgiven as attempts to stir debate now appear dangerous. A decade ago, Sloterdijk predicted a nativist resurgence in Europe, a time when “we will look back nostalgically to the days when we considered a dashing populist showman like Jörg Haider”—the late Austrian far-right leader—“a menace.” Now Sloterdijk has found himself in the predicament of a thinker whose reality has caught up with his pronouncements.

The rest of Germany thinks of Karlsruhe, when it thinks of it at all, as a placid city where the Supreme Court is situated. Nestled in the far southwest, where Germany begins to blend into France, Karlsruhe was one of the first planned cities of Europe and an oasis of the Enlightenment. When Thomas Jefferson passed through, in 1788, he sent a sketch of the street plan back home, as a possible template for the layout of Washington, D.C.

The town is also the birthplace of the inventor of the bicycle, an entrepreneurial baron named Karl von Drais—a fact that Sloterdijk, who loves cycling, cherishes. When I met him a few weeks after his birthday celebrations, he suggested riding into town to try a new steak restaurant. He talked about advances in bicycle design, which got him onto one of his favorite topics: inventors. “There are people who are all around us who have invented something essential,” he said. “There’s a man in Germany who invented the retractable dog leash. Can you imagine? Millions of people have them now. Of course, these leashes present an existential threat to me, since I’m an avid cyclist. Sometimes I’m riding fast and there’s an owner over there, and the dog over there, and in between—!”

We embarked. On his bike, Sloterdijk seemed massive. In the light wind, his plaid short-sleeved shirt became a billowing tube. The fusion of man and machine looked top-heavy and precarious, but his pedalling was strikingly efficient, unstrenuous yet powerful. From the chest up, he appeared no different from the way he does in a seminar room.

At the restaurant, Sloterdijk ordered a glass of rosé. I asked him about the German federal elections, which were a few months away. Sloterdijk spoke disparagingly of all the major parties, except for the F.D.P., Germany’s closest equivalent to libertarians. “The most appealing scenario would be for the F.D.P. to share a coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats,” he said. “They could inject some sense into them.”

Most Germans think of health care, education, and other basic services as rights, not privileges, but the F.D.P. has argued that the country’s welfare state has become hypertrophied, a view close to Sloterdijk’s own. “It creates a double current of resentment,” he said. “You have the people making money who feel no gratitude in return for all they give in taxes. Then you have the people who receive the money. They also feel resentment. They would like to trade places with the rich who give to them. So both sides feel bitterly betrayed and angry.” Sloterdijk argues that taxation should be replaced with a system in which the richest members voluntarily fund great civic and artistic works. He believes that this kind of social web of happy givers and receivers existed until around the end of the Renaissance but was then obliterated by the rise of the European state. He gets excited about the profusion of philanthropic schemes emanating from Silicon Valley and sees in them an attractive model for the future.

Compared with many other countries in the West, Germany still has a relatively high level of social equality. The Second World War decimated the German aristocracy, and anti-élitist sentiment surged during the protests of 1968, as a generation of German students began to question the bourgeois priorities of their parents. There is a widespread skepticism of unbridled American-style capitalism and consumer culture. German bankers earn a fraction of what their American counterparts do, and avoid ostentation. It is not uncommon for C.E.O.s and C.F.O.s to painstakingly sort through their household recycling on the weekends. People are wary of credit—nearly eighty per cent of German transactions are made in cash—and customers in hardware shops and bakeries pay, with unfathomable diligence, in exact change.

But even in Germany inequality is growing. Sharp hikes in apartment-rental prices in major cities have dissolved neighborhoods and pushed ordinary workers into long commutes. Last year, the government put forward a plan to privatize the Autobahn. Deutsche Bank, once a stolid provincial lender, has transformed itself in the past two decades into a steroidal, Wall Street-style multinational, a leader in the collateralization of debt, and a major creditor of Donald Trump. Hippie beach enclaves on the Baltic Sea have become resorts for trust-funders.

Germany’s embrace of luxury delights Sloterdijk. He believes that it was a historic mistake of the international left to “declare war on the beautiful people,” and welcomes signs that Germans are allowing themselves to take pleasure in extravagance. The proliferation of sleek steak restaurants, such as the one we were in, is but one promising sign among many.

The waiter stopped by our table, and Sloterdijk handed him back his second glass of wine. “Was it not cold?” the waiter asked. “Yes, but I want it colder,” Sloterdijk said. Later, as we got up to leave, the waiter tentatively approached him and asked, “Are you Herr Sloterdijk?” For a second, it seemed as if he was going to kiss his hand.

As we rode our bikes through Karlsruhe, I asked Sloterdijk what he remembered of his childhood. “We lived in another part of town,” he said over his shoulder. “I’ve gone back to visit it, looking for traces, but nothing came back: there was no temps retrouvé! ” Sloterdijk was born in 1947, part of the generation that Germans call “rubble children”; he remembers playing in the ruins left behind by the Allied bombing campaigns. His mother worked at a radar center during the war, and met his father, a Dutch sailor, after the German collapse. The marriage did not last long, and Sloterdijk lost contact with his father in early youth. “I had to find my own father and mentors, which meant that I had to look in the world around me,” he has said. “Somehow I managed to divide myself into teacher and student.”

Part of the “somehow” involved his mother, who taught him ancient Greek sayings and harbored no doubts about her son’s genius. When Sloterdijk was a teen-ager, they moved to Munich, where, outside school, he started consuming large amounts of expressionist poetry. In the late nineteen-sixties, he studied literature and philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Munich, where his friend Rachel Salamander, now an editor and the owner of a Jewish-literature bookshop in the city, remembers him as a dazzling presence. “He spoke faster than everyone thought, and wrote faster than they spoke,” she told me. “I was not surprised at all by what he became.”

Sloterdijk pursued a doctorate at the University of Hamburg but received only a middling grade on his dissertation, and, for a while, his academic prospects were uncertain. In 1979, he moved to India, where he studied with the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, near Pune. He says that the greatest discussions of Adorno he ever heard were on the fringes of an ashram there. His time in India led him to challenge many of his intellectual assumptions. “In the German philosophical tradition, we were told that we humans were poor devils,” he said to me. “But in India the message was: we weren’t poor devils, we contained hidden gods!”

In 1983, a few years after his return, Sloterdijk published a thousand-page book that has sold more copies than any other postwar book of German philosophy. The title, “The Critique of Cynical Reason,” seemed to promise a cheeky update of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason,” but the book instead delivered a wildly personal polemic about the deterioration of the utopian spirit of 1968 and called for Sloterdijk’s generation to take stock of itself. His peers, as they reached middle age, were pragmatically adjusting to global capitalism and to the nuclear stalemate of the Cold War. He issued a challenge to readers to scour history and art for ways of overcoming social atomization. Punning on Kant’s concept of the thing-in-itself, he asked, “Have we not become the isolated thing-for-yourself in the middle of similar beings?”

The antidote to cynicism, he suggested, was a re-immersion in the heritage of the Cynics of ancient Greece. He looked to the philosopher Diogenes, who rejected the social conventions that governed human behavior and said that people should live instinctively, like dogs. The word “cynic” comes from the Greek kynikos, meaning “doglike,” and Sloterdijk coined the term “kynicism” to differentiate Diogenes’ active assault on prevailing norms from the passive disengagement of the late twentieth century. He celebrated the direct way that Diogenes made his points—masturbating in the marketplace, defecating in the theatre—and suggested that the answer to his generation’s malaise was to repurpose the spontaneous currents of sixties counterculture.

The book caught a moment and made philosophy seem both relevant and fun, beguiling readers with arguments about the philosophical import of breasts and farts. But although it made Sloterdijk’s name, he remained an academic outsider, drifting from post to post for almost a decade. His response was to dismiss those who dismissed him—“Their codes and rituals are reliably antithetical to thought,” he told me—and to forge his reputation instead with articles in magazines and newspapers. He received job offers from America, but it was becoming clear that he was by nature a gadfly—that he and Germany needed each other because they agitated each other so much.

Sloterdijk began picking fights with some of the most renowned members of the German academic establishment, in particular the leftist theorists of the Frankfurt School. “It’s not advisable to go up against Sloterdijk in a public setting,” Axel Honneth, a leading figure of the school, told me. “He wins on points of rhetoric that are in inverse proportion to the irresponsibility of his ideas.” A French-Canadian academic recently produced a diagram of Sloterdijk’s feuds with other German intellectuals; it looks like a trick play in football.

The most notorious episode occurred in 1999, after Sloterdijk published “Rules for the Human Zoo,” an essay about the fate of humanism. Since Roman times, he argued, humanism’s latent message had been that “reading the right books calms the inner beast” and its function was to select a “secret élite” of the literate. Now, in the age of media-saturated mass culture, reading great books had lost its selective function. “What can tame man, when the role of humanism as the school for humanity has collapsed?” he wrote. Channelling Heidegger and Nietzsche, Sloterdijk imagined an “Über-humanist” who might use “genetic reform” to insure “that an élite is reared with certain characteristics.”

In Germany, where the very word “selection” is enough to set off alarms, Sloterdijk’s essay invited antagonism. Was he making a plea for eugenics? Jürgen Habermas, the country’s most revered philosopher, declared that Sloterdijk’s work had “fascist implications,” and encouraged other writers to attack him. Sloterdijk responded by proclaiming the death of the Frankfurt School, to which Habermas belongs, writing that “the days of hyper-moral sons of national-socialist fathers are coming to an end.” German intellectuals mostly sided with Habermas, but Sloterdijk emerged from the scuffle with his status considerably enhanced. He was now a national figure who stood for everything that Habermas did not.

Sloterdijk’s professional uncertainties resolved themselves in the early nineties, when his appointment to a prime post at the academy in Karlsruhe gave him the freedom to do whatever he liked. Since then, his newspaper articles and TV appearances have gradually established him as a media celebrity. Over the summer, ordinary Germans who spotted his books in my hands engaged me in conversation on trains, in coffee shops, at universities, and in bookshops. “Sloterdijk creates for his readers the feeling that they are suddenly in possession of the solutions to the greatest problems in philosophy,” the German literary critic Gustav Seibt told me. He also has a strong following among wealthy élites, who value the intellectual patina he provides for their world views. Nicolas Berggruen, a billionaire investor who recently established an annual million-dollar philosophy prize, told me, “Sloterdijk takes on the biggest issues, but in the least conventional ways.”

In the academy, he is still regarded with suspicion. The English philosopher John Gray argued, in a recent issue of The New York Review of Books, that, sentence by sentence, much of his output is simply incomprehensible. It’s a common reaction among Anglophone readers, who are often baffled by the scale of his reputation. This is in part because his metaphorical, image-addicted style of philosophy has been in short supply in English since Coleridge. But in Europe it finds a ready audience. His writings, abstruse yet popularizing, have made him an uplifting guru for some and a convenient devil for others—the crucial fact being that he is never ignored. “The most interesting thing about Sloterdijk may not be anything particular he has written,” the Berkeley intellectual historian Martin Jay told me, “but simply the fact that he exists.”

Shortly after the German federal elections in September, I met Sloterdijk for lunch, at a small Italian restaurant in the west of Berlin. “This is a restaurant where Gerhard Schröder used to come,” Sloterdijk told me with satisfaction. The former German Chancellor began inviting Sloterdijk to gatherings of intellectuals in the nineties, when his broadsides against left-leaning public moralists were first winning him a following among conservative and centrist politicians. After our lunch, Sloterdijk was going to see the country’s current President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. I asked if he ever saw Angela Merkel, and he laughed, saying, “She’s got to this point where she exudes the persona of a woman who no longer needs anyone’s advice.”

Since I had last seen Sloterdijk, Merkel and her party, the C.D.U., had pulled off a narrow victory in the federal elections, but major gains achieved by previously marginal parties were making it hard for Merkel to assemble a governing coalition. The leftist party Die Linke had made inroads into the youth vote, recalling the successes of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. The libertarian F.D.P., which Sloterdijk had praised months before, had done well, too, but eventually turned down the opportunity to join Merkel in a coalition government. Overshadowing everything else in the headlines were the advances made by the nationalist AfD.

When I brought up the AfD, Sloterdijk sank his head in his hands, and his expansive manner gave way to something more cautious. For years, the German media have been making connections between Sloterdijk’s thought and new right-wing groups, and he’s become used to rebutting the charge of harboring far-right sympathies. In my conversations with him, his political preoccupations seemed closer to libertarianism than to anything more blood and soil, but he has a habit of saying things that, depending on your view, seem either like dog whistles to the far right or like the bomb-throwing reflexes of a born controversialist. When Sloterdijk said, of Merkel’s refugee policy, that “no society has the moral obligation to self-destruct,” his words called to mind Thilo Sarrazin, a former board member of the Bundesbank, who, in 2010, published an anti-Muslim tract with the title “Germany Abolishes Itself,” which became a huge best-seller and made racial purity a respectable concern of national discussion.

I asked Sloterdijk about Marc Jongen, a former doctoral student of his who became the AfD’s “party philosopher” and recently took up a seat in the Bundestag. “In a perfect world, you are not responsible for your students,” he said. “But we live in a half-perfect world, and so now people try to pin Jongen to me.” I asked if there was any common ground between him and Jongen, and he replied with an emphatic no, calling Jongen “a complete impostor.” He went on, “He came to the university to study Sanskrit classics like the Upanishads, but then he gave it all up. A political career is the way out for him.” The response was unequivocal, but couched less in terms of moral abhorrence than of professional disdain.

Sloterdijk deplored the rise of the right, but he couldn’t resist seeing something salutary in the spectacle. “It’s been coming for a long time,” he said. “It’s also a sign that Germans are more like the rest of humanity than they like to believe.” He started talking about “rage banks,” his term for the way that disparate grievances can be organized into larger reserves of political capital.

He described this concept in his 2006 book “Rage and Time,” an examination of the loathing of liberal democracy by nativist, populist, anarchic, and terrorist movements. The book follows his usual detour-giddy historical method, comparing political uses of anger, and of related emotions such as pride and resentment, from Homer to the present. In premodern societies, he argues, vengeance and blood feuds provided ample outlet for these impulses. Later, loyalty to the nation-state performed a similar function, and international Communism managed to direct class rage into utopian projects. But modern capitalism presents a particular problem. “Ever more irritated and isolated individuals find themselves surrounded by impossible offers,” he writes, and, out of this frustrated desire, “an impulse to hate everything emerges.” It was this kind of rage, Sloterdijk believes, that was on display in the riots in the banlieues of Paris in 2005.

In “Rage and Time,” Sloterdijk writes that the discontents of capitalism leave societies susceptible to “rage entrepreneurs”—a phrase that uncannily oreshadows the advent of Donald Trump. When we spoke about Trump, Sloterdijk explained him as part of a shift in Western history. “This is a moment that won’t come again,” he told me. “Both of the old Anglophone empires have within a short period withdrawn from the universal perspective.” Sloterdijk went so far as to claim that Trump uses fears of ecological devastation in his favor. “The moment for me was when I first heard him say ‘America First,’ ” he said. “That means: America to the front of the line! But it’s not the line for globalization anymore, but the line for resources. Trump channels this global feeling of ecological doom.”

I asked Sloterdijk if there was something specifically American about Trumpism. “You can’t go looking for Trump in Europe,” he told me. “You know, Hegel in his time was convinced that the state in the form of the rule of law had not yet arrived in the new world. He thought that the individual—private, virtuous—had to anticipate the state. You see this in American Westerns, where the good sheriff has to imagine the not-yet-existent state in his own private morality. But Trump is a degenerate sheriff. He acts as if he doesn’t care if the state comes into being or not, and mocks the upright townsfolk. What makes Trump dangerous is that he exposes parts of liberal democracies that were only shadowily visible up until now. In democracies, there is always an oligarchic element, but Trump makes it extremely, comically visible.” For Sloterdijk, Trump’s true significance lies in the way that he instinctively subverts the norms of modern governance. “He’s an innovator when it comes to fear,” Sloterdijk told me. “Instead of waiting for the crisis to impose his decree, his decrees get him the emergencies he needs. The playground for madness is vast.”

The day after our lunch was the five-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. The city of Wittenberg, half an hour outside Berlin, where Luther had—allegedly—nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church, had suddenly been transformed into something like an American Christian-college campus. Midwesterners and Californians mixed with fellow-pilgrims in squares and outside churches, discussing the doings of St. Paul and debating whether Luther was a monk or a friar. Faux-medieval stalls were selling Reformation souvenirs, including T-shirts that said “Viva la Reformation!” and Luther socks that read “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

Sloterdijk had come to speak at a local Protestant academy about the meaning of the Reformation. “Luther had the great fortune to be followed by Bach,” Sloterdijk told his audience. “His form of individualism was illuminated by the most beautiful music.”

“But he was also followed by Hitler!” a young man in the audience said.

“Hitler was a degraded Papist,” Sloterdijk shot back.

Little by little, the discussion gravitated to assaults on Sloterdijk’s positions. “You sound like the right-wingers when you speak of the refugees,” an elderly doctor stood up and declared. “We cared about refugees after the war and we can do it again.”

Sloterdijk replied impatiently. “The Americans gave us this idea of multiculturalism that suited their society fine, but which, as software, is not compatible with our German hardware of the welfare state,” he said. “There’s this family metaphor spreading everywhere: the idea that all of humanity is our family. That idea helped destroy the Roman Empire. Now we’re in danger of letting that metaphor get out of control all over again. People are not ready to feel the full pressure of coexistence with billions of their contemporaries.” He went on, “In the past, geography created discretionary boundaries between nations and cultures. Distances that were difficult to overcome allowed for mental and political space.” Space and distance, he argued, had allowed for a kind of liberality and generosity that was now under siege—by refugees, by social media, by everything.

At the end of the talk, the faithful of all ages lined up to buy copies of “After God.” The polite chatter momentarily gave way to the brisk ritual of book-signing. Sloterdijk scrawled on the open books offered to him. Bearing a freshly signed copy, a pastor visiting from the Rhineland sympathized with Sloterdijk’s predicament as a salesman. “We become more like America every day,” he told him. “Isn’t it a pity?”

Thursday, July 18, 2019

More Critiques of Cynical Reason

*Slawomir Sierakowski, "Voters who knowingly usher in morally bankrupt governments are driven by “cynical reason”, unwilling to sacrifice material gains for abstract principles like liberal democracy."
We all know that politicians are cunning and cynical, but could the same now be said for the electorate?

Many of those who voted for US President Donald Trump did so knowing that he is a habitual liar with suspicious ties to Russia, just as the rank and file of the Conservatives in the United Kingdom know that Boris Johnson has lied and cheated his way to the top.

In Poland, it is no secret that the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is packing governing institutions with its lackeys, misusing public media, rewarding cronies and undermining the independence of the courts.

Nonetheless, PiS trounced Poland’s opposition parties in the European Parliament election in May.

The fact that Poles, Britons and Americans have all ushered in morally bankrupt governments is symptomatic of what German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk described in the early 1980s as “cynical reason.”

Sloterdijk argued that, in the absence of widely shared narratives of progress, the Western elites had absorbed the lessons of the Enlightenment, but applied them in the service of narrow self-interest rather than the common good.

Social problems such as slavery, poverty and inequality were no longer attributable solely to human ignorance, and yet enlightened people lacked the determination to solve them.

As Slavoj Zizek has put it, the operation of ideology today is not “they do not know it, but they are doing it” — it is “they know it, but they are doing it anyway”.

The great ideas promising significant social change are only finding resonance among the older generation.

In Sloterdijk’s view, this cynicism began with the elite.

Now we all behave like enlightened egotists. Although we know how to fight inequalities, they are still increasing. Authoritarianism (whether Russian or Chinese) deals more efficiently with poverty than democracy does. Rich societies are little moved by wars or refugee crises.

The great ideas promising significant social change, whether social democracy or Christian democracy, are only finding resonance among the older generation.

Voters who don’t care that populists such as Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban change their stated positions from one day to the next are not blind admirers of power. They are simply advocates of their own particular interests.

If reducing greenhouse-gas emissions means closing down coal mines and coal-fired power plants, those with an interest in the coal sector will not support climate policies, just as those in wealthier areas don’t care much about laid-off coal miners.

Post-ideological axis

In Europe, the emerging division between Greens and populists seems to reflect a new post-ideological axis. On both sides of the divide, voters now behave like political operatives, highlighting certain topics while studiously avoiding others.

They have internalised the party line (often a patchwork of former left and right policies), which they then repeat in focus groups, on social media, and around the dinner table.

Political parties no longer represent voters; rather, voters represent parties, sometimes even before they emerge, as was shown by the Yellow Vest protests.

The Trump presidency, the United Kingdom’s Brexit debacle and the rise of PiS and Orban suggest a widespread loss of faith in progress.

The Eastern European vision of progress was long synonymous with the transition from communism to capitalism, but three decades of belt-tightening and waiting for a better tomorrow have taken a heavy toll on people’s confidence in liberal democracy.

Populism appeals to voters with its promise of a kind of Copernican Revolution, reversing the belt-tightening as well as the prevailing assumptions of the past.

Shortly after PiS’s victory in the European Parliament elections, in which it captured 45.5 per cent of the vote, the online news service Oko.press asked Poles: “Does the current PiS government pursue its party interest more than earlier PO-PSL (Civic Platform-Polish People’s Party) governments?”

Altogether 68 per cent of respondents answered yes, and only 24 per cent said that PiS is less self-interested than its predecessors. Even among PiS voters, 38 per cent acknowledged that the state apparatus is more politicised now than it was under PO and PSL.

When asked whether the current PiS government does more for the personal financial gain of its officials than earlier PO-PSL governments, 58 per cent deemed PO and PSL more honest.

Nonetheless, in focus groups of Polish voters, one consistently hears things like: “I know that PiS is not particularly honest, but they look out for the people; they steal and they spin, but at least they share.”

In other words, these voters support PiS despite its obvious flaws, because they do not believe they can afford to vote out the party that has been funneling cash and other social transfers their way.

Between ‘bad’ and ‘worse’

Prospect theory, the behavioural-economics model pioneered by Nobel laureates Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, predicts that people will become less risk-averse if presented with only bad options.

Our calculus depends not merely on what we can win or lose in absolute terms, but by our current situation and expectations. When someone who is anticipating a high payout receives less than expected, they will feel disappointment, rather than satisfaction at having gained anything at all.

Such heuristics show how voters can become attached to politicians such as Trump or PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński.

Polish, British and American voters have made political choices that they know to be risky because they feel as though they have nothing to lose, and their options are between “bad” and “worse.”

Upholding lofty ideals such as liberal democracy, constitutional order and press freedom feels like an unaffordable luxury. They are not willing to sacrifice material benefits for abstract principles.

Upholding lofty ideals such as liberal democracy, constitutional order and press freedom feels like an unaffordable luxury.

Who can blame them? Western multinational corporations that do business in Russia, China and elsewhere have for years been sacrificing liberal ideals in the name of profit.

As Sloterdijk observed almost 40 years ago, cynical reason trickles down. If only the same were true of wealth, history might have turned out quite differently.
*Sławomir Sierakowski, founder of the Krytyka Polityczna movement, is Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw and a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.

Mass Speculation...

Thursday, July 11, 2019

What Are the Limits to PC'ness?

Slavoj Zizek, "Anti-Semitism & Me Too complaints challenge freedom of debate"
Some British Jews feel affronted by alleged anti-Semitism in the UK Labour Party. But how many of the complainants empathize with complaints from West Bank Palestinians?

Throughout history, thinking at variance with the mainstream was always unpopular and risky. However, at various times, it has been tolerated to different degrees. Today, it’s less and less acceptable than in the recent past.

Liberals of all colors like to repeat German socialist Rosa Luxembourg’s critical stab at the Bolsheviks: “Freedom is freedom for those who think differently.”

And, to spice it up, they often like to add Voltaire’s maxim: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

That said, does our recent (and not so recent) experience not show that freedom for those who think differently is now acceptable only within the constraints of the predominant social pact?

We can see this clearly, right now, as the unwritten rule which determines the limits of what is acceptable is breaking apart, and different visions compete to impose themselves as hegemonic. Years ago, Noam Chomsky caused a scandal when he followed Voltaire’s maxim to its extreme: he defended the holocaust denier Robert Faurisson’s right to publish his book, and his argumentation even appeared in Faurisson’s book as an afterword.

Today such a gesture would be immediately identified as anti-Semitic

Big numbers

Holocaust denial is today not only criminalized, the terms of its criminalization are sometimes even numerically circumscribed.

For example, an idea circulated a decade or so ago that it should be punishable to set the number of holocaust victims at lower than five million. Other mass crimes were then added to the list – such as when France made it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide.

Even if something is not legally criminalized, it can be submitted to de facto criminalization. Typical here is the fate of Martin Heidegger, until recently considered the key philosopher of the 20th century. After his ‘Black Notebooks’ were published, a group of liberal critics made a coordinated campaign to academically criminalize his thought.

The idea was that, due to his direct links with the Nazi ideology, Heidegger doesn’t even deserve to be the topic of a serious philosophical debate – he should be simply dismissed as unworthy of such an approach since, as Emmanuel Faye put it, Heidegger not only supported Nazism, his thought is nothing but the introduction of Nazism into philosophy.

This procedure of extra-legal criminalization reaches its peak in today’s politically correct version of MeToo. Sometimes it looks as if its partisans care more about a couple of affluent women who were shocked when Louis CK showed them his penis than with hundreds of poor girls being brutally raped. In replying to those who insisted on a difference between Harvey Weinstein and Louis CK, MeToo activists claimed that those who say this have no idea about how male violence works and is experienced, and that masturbation in front of women can be experienced as no less violent than physical imposition.

Although there is some truth in both of these claims, one should nonetheless impose a clear limit to the logic that sustains this argumentation: the limits of freedom are set so narrow here that even a modest debate about different grades of abuse is considered unacceptable­.

Is freedom (of debate) then not de facto reduced to freedom solely for those who think like us? Not only must we accept the general (PC) consensus and then limit our debate to minor details, even the scope of the details one is allowed to debate is very narrow.

Ticking boxes

Am I then a diehard liberal who pleads for total openness? No, prohibitions are necessary and limits should be set. I just hate those hypocrites who don’t admit the obvious fact that, in some sense, freedom effectively IS freedom for those who basically think like us.

The partisans of the criminalization of “hate speech” predictably try to concoct a way out of this paradox; their usual line of argumentation is: hate speech deserves criminalization because it effectively deprives its victims of their freedom and humiliates them, so the exclusion of hate speech effectively widens the scope of actual freedom.

This is true, but problems arise with the PC procedure of prohibiting even an open debate about this scope, so that an arbitrary exclusion (like the prohibition of Louis CK) is itself excluded from debate.

The argument evoked against defenders of Louis CK is the same as the one pushed by those who accuse the British Labour Party of tolerating anti-Semitism: who are we to judge if the complaints of the self-proclaimed victims are justified or not?

It is up to the affronted to decide this – if they feel hurt, then this is it. But really?

Let’s take the case of anti-Semitism: so we should take seriously the complaints of those UK Jews, who feel offended. However, are they ready to take seriously the complaints of the West Bank Palestinians, or is this considered a different case of a complaint where the victim’s word is not to be trusted?

If so, it’s proof that the claims of one’s own victimization are never to be taken at their face value but always coldly analyzed.

As the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze put it decades ago, all politics which relies on the unique experience of a limited group is always reactionary.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Aha, aha, aha, aha
Foot on the ground
Sky falling down
Stifle the sound
Volume unbound
Scent of myself
Toll of the bell
It's not a crisis
So much detail
Aha, aha, aha, aha

Turn it around
The seed in the ground
A vowel or a noun
Addicted to sound
Battle of will, it's only a drill
I don't have to save myself
Put the books on the shelve

No matter what you say
No matter what you say
No matter what you say
No matter what you say
With your foot on the ground
I can turn it around
When we go to the sound
And I'm not coming down


A temper not to tame
Finish left unframed
Wood that's stripped of stain
Leveling the plane
Don't want them to know
Choke on weeds that grow
Catch her in the flow
The sand will stop the flow

No matter what you say
No matter what you say
No matter what you say
No matter what you say
With your foot on the ground
I can turn it around
When we go to the sound
And I'm not coming down
Aha, aha, aha, aha


Monday, July 8, 2019

The Left Has no Faith in it's Own Solutions

-Slavoj Zizek, "I believed in Syriza, but their election defeat was secured the moment they caved in to the forces of capitalism"
I naively thought thought the party had a plan to defeat the EU elite. But they did the authoritarian job of implementing austerity policies while right populists around the world are now enacting welfare measures. The left must learn lessons from the party’s defeat

The sad fate of Syriza is emblematic of the new situation of the European left.

In capitalism as we knew it, when a severe economic crisis made impossible the system’s normal reproduction, some kind of authoritarian rule (usually a military dictatorship) was imposed for a decade or so till the economic situation was re-normalised enough so that a return to democracy could be tolerated again – recall the cases of Chile, Argentina, South Korea.

The unique role of Syriza is that it was allowed to play this role usually reserved for right wing dictatorships. It took power in a time of deep upheaval and crisis, it fulfilled its task of enacting tough austerity measures, and now it left the stage, replaced by a party called New Democracy, the same party which brought Greece to the crisis in the first place.

The achievements of Syriza government are mixed. It did some good things (which could have been done also by a reasonable centrist government, like the agreement with Macedonia on the change of its name), but overall the result is a double catastrophe. Not only did it do the job of enacting austerity measures – the very task its entire program was opposed to. But the perverse genius of EU bureaucrats was to allow a purportedly radical left party, Syriza, to own it. In this way protests against austerity were minimised. A government of the right would not have gotten away with it so easily.

Even worse, by enacting the austerity measures, Syriza de facto destroyed its own social base, the rich texture of civil society groups out of which it emerged as a political party. Syriza is now a political party just like the others.

When Syriza took over and engaged in negotiations with the EU, it was clear that the moment the only choice was austerity or Grexit, the battle was lost. Accepting austerity measures meant betraying the basic tenet of its program, and Grexit would have caused a further 30 per cent drop in the standard of living and a collapse of social life (lack of medicines, of food etc.) leading to an emergency state. We now know that Grexit was quite acceptable to the European financial elite: Yanis Varoufakis reports that when he mentioned Grexit as a threat to Wolfgang Schauble (at that time the German finance minister), Schauble immediately offered billions of help for Greece to do it.

What was intolerable for the EU elite was not Grexit but Greece remaining in the EU and mounting a counter-offensive there. From Schauble’s reaction, the idea was clear: the collapse caused by Grexit would have served as a good lesson to all leftists not to play with any radical economic measures. The establishment likes a more radical left to take power every two to three decades, just to warn the people what dangers lie ahead along this path.

So everything hinged on avoiding this choice and finding a third way. Naively, we who supported Syriza thought they had a plan. In all the debates I had with them I was assured they knew what they were doing. Yet in spite of all the leftist critique of the brutality of EU pressure on Greece, the EU did nothing unexpected, the Brussels administrators acted precisely as we thought they would – and Syriza was left helpless. So what precipitated the double U-turn in July 2015?

The extraordinary reversal of one extreme into its opposite would bedazzle even the most speculative Hegelian philosopher. Tired of the endless negotiations with the EU executives in which one humiliation followed another, the Syriza referendum on Sunday 5 July asked the Greek people if they supported or rejected the EU proposal of new austerity measures.

Although the government itself clearly stated that it supported “No”, or “Oxi”, the result surprised them: an overwhelming majority of 61 per cent said no to European blackmail. Rumours began to circulate that the result – victory for the government – was a bad surprise for Tsipras himself who secretly hoped that the government would lose, so that a defeat would allow him to save face in surrendering to the EU demands (“we have to respect the voters’ voice”).

However, literally the morning after, Tsipras announced that Greece was ready to resume the negotiations, and days later Greece negotiated a EU proposal which was basically the same as what the voters rejected (in some details even harsher) – in short, he acted as if the government had lost, not won, the referendum.

Here we encounter the truth of populism: its failure to confront the real of capital. The supreme populist moment (referendum victory) immediately reverted into capitulation, into a confession of impotence with regard to the capitalist order – there is no simple betrayal in this reversal but the expression of a deep necessity. It is all too easy to speak of “treason” here, but we are dealing with a much deeper crisis of the left.

I remember how, in the debates around that election in 2015, I warned against the fascination with great public events – all the fuss about “one million of us at Syntagma square, we were all clapping and singing together”. What really matters is what happens the morning after when the drunkenness of the collective trance is over and the enthusiasm has to be translated into concrete measures.

I often mockingly evoked a group of participants who, once a year, meet in a cafeteria at the anniversary of past demonstrations and sentimentally remember the bygone moments of ecstatic unity… but then a cell phone rings and they have to run back to their boring jobs. We can easily imagine such a scene today: members of Syriza meet in a cafeteria fondly remembering the unique spirit of their 2015 mass protests, and then a phone rings, and they have to run back to their office to pursue the job of austerity.

This is our world today, a world in which right populists enact welfare-state measures and the radical left does the authoritarian job of imposing austerity. Will a new left find a way out of this deadlock?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Poet of the American Revolution

A Picture from the Life
To serve with love,
And shed your blood,
Approved may be above,
But here below
(Example shew,)
‘Tis dangerous to be good.
--Lord Oxford

Deep in a vale, a stranger now to arms,
Too poor to shine in courts, too proud to beg,
He, who once warred on Saratoga’s plains,
Sits musing o’er his scars, and wooden leg.

Remembering still the toil of former days,
To other hands he sees his earnings paid;--
They share the due reward—he feeds on praise.
Lost in the abyss of want, misfortune’s shade.

Far, far from domes where splendid tapers glare,
‘Tis his from dear bought peace no wealth to win,
Removed alike from courtly cringing ‘squires,
The great-man’s Levee, and the proud man’s grin.

Sold are those arms which once on Britons blazed,
When, flushed with conquest, to the charge they came;
That power repelled, and Freedom’s fabrick raised,
She leaves her soldier—famine and a name!
--Philip Freneau, "The American Soldier"