These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 3, 2006.
Friday, 3 March 2006
Is Freedom "Perfect Slavery?"
I write in FrontPage:
During several notable speeches since 2003, including both inaugural and State of the Union addresses, President Bush has repeatedly stressed the paramount importance of promoting freedom in the Middle East. Speaking in an almost messianic idiom, he has termed such a quest “the calling of our time; …the calling of our country”. Most recently, he reiterated this theme while speaking to The American Legion on February 24, 2006, and offered the following sanguine assessment of progress:
Freedom is on the march in the broader Middle East. The hope of liberty now reaches from Kabul to Baghdad, to Beirut, and beyond. Slowly but surely, we're helping to transform the broader Middle East from an arc of instability into an arc of freedom. And as freedom reaches more people in this vital region, we'll have new allies in the war on terror, and new partners in the cause of moderation in the Muslim world and in the cause of peace.
Despite President Bush’s uplifting rhetoric and ebullient appraisal of these events—which epitomizes American hopes and values at their quintessential best—there is a profound, deeply troubling flaw in his (and/or his advisers) analysis which simply ignores the vast gulf between Western and Islamic conceptions of freedom itself.
“Hurriyya”, Arabic for freedom, and the uniquely Western concept of freedom are completely at odds. Hurriyya “freedom”, as Ibn Arabi (d. 1240) the lionized “Greatest Sufi Master”, expressed it, “being perfect slavery”. And this conception is not merely confined to the Sufis perhaps metaphorical understanding of the relationship between Allah the “master” and his human “slaves.” The late American scholar of Islam, Franz Rosenthal (d. 2003) analyzed the larger context of hurriyya in Muslim society. He notes the historical absence of hurriyya as “a fundamental political concept that could have served as a rallying cry for great causes.” An individual Muslim“was expected to consider subordination of his own freedom to the beliefs, morality and customs of the group as the only proper course of behavior…” Thus politically, Rosenthal concludes, “…the individual was not expected to exercise any free choice as to how he wished to be governed…In general, …governmental authority admitted of no participation of the individual as such, who therefore did not possess any real freedom vis-à-vis it.”
Bernard Lewis, in his analysis of hurriyya for the venerated Encyclopedia of Islam, discusses this concept in the latter phases of the Ottoman Empire, through the contemporary era. After highlighting a few “cautious” or “conservative” (Lewis’ characterization) reformers and their writings, Lewis maintains,
…there is still no idea that the subjects have any right to share in the formation or conduct of government—to political freedom, or citizenship, in the sense which underlies the development of political thought in the West. While conservative reformers talked of freedom under law, and some Muslim rulers even experimented with councils and assemblies government was in fact becoming more and not less arbitrary…
Lewis also makes the important point that Western colonialismamelioratedthis chronic situation:
During the period of British and French domination, individual freedom was never much of an issue. Though often limited and sometimes suspended, it was on the whole more extensive and better protected than either before or after.
In the final revulsion against the West, Western democracy too was rejected as a fraud and a delusion, of no value to Muslims.
Hamas’ resounding victory in the January, 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections represents, unfortunately, a much wider trend in the Islamic Middle East. Each time open or even relatively open elections occur, authentic Islamic movements either emerge with outright electoral victories—as in Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, and the West Bank/Gaza—or at minimum, bolster their representation dramatically, as happened in Egypt under more controlled (i.e., governmentally constrained) circumstances. Historian Meir Litvak notes aptly that this consistent contemporary phenomenon, “..highlights once more the power of Islam as the primary framework of identity in the Arab world, and the structural weakness of non-Islamist ideologies and political movements”....
Posted on 03/03/2006 5:49 AM by Andy Bostom
Friday, 3 March 2006
Remember the ending of Tess of the D'Urbervilles?
“Justice” was done, and the President of the Immortals (in Aeschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess. "
Depressing, isn't it? Hardy got it wrong, it seems, and should have made it a bit jollier. Ben MacIntyre in The Times:
ALL’S WELL that ends well. And if all doesn’t end well, it should be forced to. This is the conclusion of a new survey for World Book Day, which found that most readers would far rather read a novel that ends happily ever after. Pride and Prejudice was voted the happiest ending in literature, followed by To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre.
Only one in fifty readers, it seems, likes to be left tearful at the last page, so the survey also asked which unhappy endings readers would most like to change: Tess of the D’Urbervilles was a clear winner, with readers demanding clemency more than a century after Thomas Hardy sent his tragic heroine to her death. It was also felt that the endings of Wuthering Heights, 1984 and Gone with the Wind were all too depressing, and should be perked up.
In that spirit, therefore, I have begun rewriting great literature to bring it into line with popular sentiment. I, for one, have always found the opening line of Anna Karenina rather a downer. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
When you read that, you just know things are going to go off the rails or, more precisely, on them. Here is something a little more upbeat: “Happy families are just lovely; unhappy families are all the same, and tend to bang on about it.”
Madame Bovary could also do with some cheering up. How about this: Emma marries Charles, a terrifically entertaining and virile country doctor, they have eight children, someone invents Prozac, Emma buys an Aga and wins first prize for home baking at Yonville agricultural fair.
Why stop there? Macbeth is much too depressing. In my version the gentle, unassuming and monosyllabic thane settles down at Cawdor, where Lady Macbeth develops a profitable line in soap that leaves the hands spotless. Hamlet finds a shrink, marries Ophelia and goes into insurance. In the revised A Farewell to Arms, Catherine has a fat and healthy baby, and she and Henry establish a successful pacifist ski resort in the Alps.
Godot finally turns up.
And since we are making unhappy endings cheerier, for the gloomy 2 per cent there are ways of rendering happy endings a little darker, starting with Jane Eyre: The original “My Edward and I, then, are happy” needs another clause “. . . or we would be, if that bloody Bertha hadn’t found the fire escape.”
Pride and Prejudice could be rendered less saccharine by introducing the scene where Darcy explains to Elizabeth that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune still in want of a wife is obviously gay, so he is moving to Tangiers to live with Wickham.
And so on. Well worth a read and MacIntyre is quite right. On a different note, however, my reason for highlighting the much quoted opening line of Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, is that it has just struck me, as it has perhaps struck MacIntyre, that this is absolute nonsense. Of course it's nonsense. Many unhappy families - indeed many unhappy people - are unhappy for drearily similar reasons, as Theodore Dalrymple knows only too well. Or not. And some happy people and families are unusual, perhaps deriving happiness from an original talent, or a rare meeting of minds. Or not. So why do people quote this line so much, as if it were very clever and not rather silly? Because it comes at the beginning of a really good novel, that's why. If it were the first line of a Jeffrey Archer novel, critics would sneer, "The banality of the opening line is staggering. And it goes downhill from there."
Still, one duff line in such a good book isn't too bad. And he did write War and Peace, so fair play to him. And sucks boo to me, as he might say - in Russian - if he were alive today.
Posted on 03/03/2006 6:17 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 3 March 2006
Bruno: Defeating Defeatism - The End of the Phony War
Wolfgang Bruno writes:
I have stated before that we in the West need to face down our internal enemies, the twin trolls of Denial and Defeatism, before we can have any chance of dealing with Islam. Yes, the Islamic threat is very real and could lead to a cataclysmic world war unless stopped. No, it’s not too late to win this. Not yet. Writer Mark Steyn does a good job at devouring the former troll, but insists on feeding the latter. As Lawrence Auster demonstrates, Steyn continues to claim that we have in fact already lost, and must settle for "a Muslim majority world.” He talks as if he is the Churchill of our age, yet displays a resigned defeatism that would have made even Neville Chamberlain blush. Contrary to the views expressed by many, the madness of the Muhammad cartoons issue can in hindsight turn out to have been a blessing in disguise. Eurabia’s legions of spin doctors were quite successful in placing the blame for 9/11, the Madrid and the London bombings on US and Israeli foreign policies. These attacks may actually have strengthened Eurabia. Not so this time. The first cracks in this wall came with the murder of Theo van Gogh. With the Danish cartoon case, these cracks have now grown into a chasm.
The Phony War was a phase in early WW2 marked by few military operations in Continental Europe, in the months following the German invasion of Poland. What we have witnessed during these past few months is the end of the Phony War against Islamic Jihad. The election of hard-line president Ahmadinejad in Iran and of Hamas in the Palestinian Territories, the Muslim riots in France and the international unrest triggered by the Muhammad cartoons case mark a watershed in this battle. After having carefully, and one must admit skilfully, built up the mythology of Islamic tolerance for decades, Muslims now blew their own cover. This is end of taqiyya, and from the Muslim point of view, it probably came too soon. It is indeed possible for Muslims to win this, but it would have made more sense for them to lay low for another couple of decades, and quietly continue the demographic Jihad through migration conquest. Of course, being Muslims, they have to boast and brag all the time, and haven’t got the patience to wait that long. This critical character flaw, more than infidel strength, is why they will most likely lose. Just like the Japanese during WW2, who hailed the attack on Pearl Harbor as a great victory, the sheer arrogance of their creed blinds them from realizing when they make huge mistakes that could eventually cost them victory. There is now a critical mass of Europeans who see clearly that Islam and Muslim immigration constitute a mortal danger to their freedom and their civilization. They feel confused and scared, but first of all angry. If this is the true face of Islam, doesn’t that mean that our academic elites, our media and our political leaders have lied to us systematically for decades? Muslims misunderstand the mentality and potential response from the infidels because they see mainly the appeasement of the political class. What they don’t see is the simmering defiance that is growing at the grassroots level...
Muslims always claim that the West owes much to Islam, and that Islamic influences triggered the Renaissance. That’s not true. But maybe it will be this time. It is true that the West in general and Europe in particular has lost its way at the beginning of the 21st century. Perhaps this life-and-death struggle with Islam is precisely the slap in the face that we need to regroup and revitalize our civilization. Europe will now be forced to rethink her culture and the entire basis of Western civilization, if she is going to cure the weaknesses that are currently making her vulnerable to Islamic infiltration. We need to rebuild a stronger sense of Western unity, much fractured by the Eurabian Union and the anti-Western, pre-Enlightenment ideology of Multiculturalism. If so, Islam would indeed be responsible for triggering a Western Renaissance, the Second Renaissance. Ironically, Islam itself would be critically, perhaps mortally wounded by this struggle, and Bernard Lewis would be proved wrong. Europe, or at least most of Europe, will not be Islamic by the end of his century. It is more likely that Islam itself will have ceased to be a global force of any significance by that point. But it is important to realize that such a result will not come by itself. It will require Europeans, Westerners and infidels in general to grow some backbone, end appeasement and openly confront the very real Islamic threat we are now facing. If we do so, I remain confident that we will prevail. We just have to listen a bit less to the defeatist siren song of Mark Steyn.
(I believe Bruno is misreading Steyn, but the jist of his argument is solid.-RB)
Posted on 03/03/2006 7:16 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 3 March 2006
Dining in the dark
In an earlier post I stated that the German language does not lend itself to humour. This is a generalisation, of course, but it is probably fair to say that it does not lend itself to puns. You could probably put this latter generalisation to the test, by counting the number of homonyms. But sticking, for now, with gut feeling, it is likely that the Teutonic punster is a rare bird.
Like all rules, this is proved by an exception, which, as it concerned food, a subject close to my heart, etched itself on my memory. Four years ago a restaurant opened in Cologne. The restaurant was called Unsicht-Bar, which is a half decent pun on the word "unsichtbar", meaning "invisible" and "Bar", meaning - er - bar. Here it is:
From Time Europe Magazine:
The dark is good for all kinds of things, like love, trysts or even murder. Now, however, another nocturnal activity can be added to the list: fine dining. In Cologne's trendy Unsicht-Bar (in German, an untranslatable pun on the words invisible and bar), light is absolutely verboten, and patrons gather to wine and dine in utter darkness.
With the complete loss of vision — and the resulting heightening of the other four senses — an evening at Germany's first-ever dark restaurant is an extraordinary culinary adventure. "You smell better, you are more receptive to differences in texture, consistency and temperature," says Unsicht-Bar manager and founder Axel Rudolph, 46, who opened the eatery in May 2001. "It's a holistic experience." As taste buds work overtime to discover fresh nuances in well-known flavors, even simple, everyday foods like potatoes or plain yogurt morph into nouvelle cuisine.
Before descending into the Stygian darkness of the dining room proper, where flashlights and even luminous watches and mobile phones are prohibited, customers choose their fare in the restaurant's brightly lit, cheerfully decorated entrance hall. To add to the spirit of mystery, individual dishes are not clearly identified as, say, goat cheese on a tomato beignet. Instead, enigmatic descriptions such as "a flying visit to an Alpine cheese factory" make the diners even more curious about what's soon to hit their palettes. It's all very reminiscent of the exotic dinner parties planned by the Futurists, the early 20th century avant-garde group, who concocted multi-sensory meals such as the "tactile dinner party" during which guests might feast in the dark on Polyrhythmic Salad (undressed lettuce leaves, dates and grapes) and Magic Food (small bowls filled with balls of caramel-coated items such as candied fruits, bits of raw meat, mashed banana, chocolate or pepper).
The Unsicht-Bar's waiters play a particularly important role — all of them are either visually handicapped or completely blind, and they not only serve the meals but also act as guides to the stumbling diners....
Cologne's Unsicht-Bar does more than just fire the imagination and stimulate the senses. After one or two hours in complete darkness, patrons come to appreciate the skills of the blind waiters, who move around the room with perfect ease. A trip to Unsicht-Bar thus sheds light on a strange sensual world in which the sighted people are the ones who are blind.
Now it seems that dining in the dark has come to London. However, we have imported neither the pun, nor the enthusiasm. From The Telegraph:
My dining companions were Jill, Saffron, Sophie and Simon. All seemed exceptionally nice though I had no idea what they looked like. I accidentally patted Sophie on the head trying to find where she was sitting and she returned the compliment by poking me in the eye....
You cannot signal your waiter, but calling his name brings him back to your side. In his enthusiasm Paul plonked down a plate in front of me on the edge of the table. I just caught it before it landed on my lap.
Fumbling with knives and forks and fingers, we scooped what food there was into our mouths. At first I thought my starter was pasta before deciding it was smoked salmon. For the main course I was convinced I was eating moussaka with lamb or beef mince. Later I discovered it was fish.
The dessert was easy, I thought, pears in a raspberry juice. It turned out to be apples with ice cream. Our taste buds may have been aroused, but they were confused. After an hour and a half, we were desperate to return to the light.
Outside, opinions were divided. Claire Hill, 28, a marketing manager from Islington, north London, said: "I enjoyed it, though it won't be replacing my local Italian. I have no idea what I ate. We had a laugh when we tried to pass the bread. You would never think it could be so difficult."
Another guest was not so enthusiastic. He said: "It was interesting but I am not so sure enjoyable. You have to ask why do people want to experience being blind?"
A meal at Dans Le Noir, which serves mainly French food, costs £37 per person.
That's a lot considering all the money the restaurant is saving on electricity. No, I'll pass. I like to see what I'm eating. After all, what you thought was a sausage might turn out to be something quite different.
Posted on 03/03/2006 7:36 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 3 March 2006
The yogh's on you
There are probably many important things to say about the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Menzies Campbell. For US readers not in the know, however, possibly the only important thing to note is the way his first name is pronounced. It is pronounced so as to rhyme with "fingers". "Ming-iss", in other words. His merciful nickname "Ming" might give some indication of this, otherwise mercilessly counter-intuitive, pronunciation.
In fact there is an explanation for this. From the BBC:
Sir Menzies Campbell (left) and the symbol for the now defunct yogh
Blame the "yogh", a letter in old English and Scots (see image, right) which has no exact equivalent today.
Pronounced "yog", it used to be written a bit like the old copperplate-style "z" with a tail, which helps explain the discrepancy between the spelling of Menzies and the pronunciation.
The rise of printing in the 16th Century coincided with the decline of the yogh, and so it tended to be rendered in print as a "z", and pronounced as such.
But there's more to saying Menzies than simply transposing the "z" for a "g" when speaking the name.
"You've got the upper 'y' sound from the back of the mouth and the 'n' sound going to meet it," says Chris Robinson, director of the Scottish Language Dictionaries. "There's a sort of assimilation of the two sounds."
According to the BBC Pronunciation Unit, the name can be phonetically transcribed as "MING-iss".
"It rhymes with 'sing' but without the hard 'g'," says BBC pronunciation linguist Catherine Sangster. "Think of the difference between 'finger' and 'singer'. In Menzies, you want the 'n' to immediately form into the soft 'ng' from singer."
The yogh takes a softer "y" sound in the word capercaillie, the name of a large grouse, which the Oxford English Dictionary spells "capercailye" or "capercailzie".
The same goes for the Scottish surname Dalziel, pronounced Dee-ELL.
The yogh owes its origin to the Irish scribes who arrived in Saxon Britain in the 8th Century and began teaching the Anglo Saxons to write - before this, old English was written in runes, says Ms Robinson.
It fell out of favour with the Normans, whose scribes disliked non-Latin characters and replaced it with a "y" or "g" sound, and in the middle of words with "gh". But the Scottish retained the yogh in personal and place names, albeit mutating into a "z" to please the typesetters of the day.
Inevitably, however, the euphemistic "z" became a real "z", in some quarters at least. The surname "MacKenzie" now almost universally takes the "zee" sound although it would have originally been pronounced "MacKenyie".
"I had two girls in my class at school with the surname Menzies, one pronounced 'Mingis' the other 'Menzees'," says Ms Robinson.
Often pronunciation can be an indicator of class and status, or geography. But in the case of Menzies it's purely arbitrary, says Ms Robinson, who advises to always check.
Those south of the border might be surprised to know that the newsagent chain John Menzies takes the old pronunciation, and so should be John Mingis.
The company's website has a bit of fun with the potential for misunderstanding, invoking the following poem to make its point .
A lively young damsel named Menzies
Inquired: "Do you know what this thenzies?"
Her aunt, with a gasp,
Replied: "It's a wasp,
And you're holding the end where the stenzies."
So Menzies joins those names that seem designed to flummox foreigners, such as St John, Featherstonehaugh, Dalziel and Cholmondesley, pronounced respectively "Sin gin", "Fanshaw", "Deeyell" and "Chumley".
Well, I've certainly heard Menzies pronounced as Menz-is, many times. Not least in the old limerick:
There was a young fellow named Menzies
Whose kisses drove girls into frenzies
A lady one night
Crossed her legs in a fright
And fractured his bi-focal lenses
Whoever made that up must have thought long and hard.
Posted on 03/03/2006 10:02 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 3 March 2006
NYC Rally for Denmark and Free Speech
Good to see this:
Posted on 03/03/2006 6:04 PM by Rebecca Bynum