Tag Archives: history

Niall Ferguson: Ingredients for Populist Backlash

The brilliant historian explains that: 1) Trump is not Hitler (of course he isn’t!), and 2) Trump is not new. As Ecclesiastes tells us, there is nothing new under the sun. In fact, I vaguely remember learning about Denis Kearney when I was in high school and university, and also William Jennings Bryan (the latter far better known today than the former).

At any rate, very important to not conflate fascism with populism.

September 11

There is a lot I could write about this day and what it means to me — and in coming posts I will — but right now I will leave you with a link to a column that was written only a few days after the attacks, a column that still holds up. Not surprisingly, it was written by Christopher Hitchens. How we miss him.

The link to the whole column is here — money quote below.

But the bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there’s no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about “the West,” to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don’t like and can’t defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about the same intellectual content. Indiscriminate murder is not a judgment, even obliquely, on the victims or their way of life, or ours. Any decent and concerned reader of this magazine could have been on one of those planes, or in one of those buildings–yes, even in the Pentagon.

When Extreme Left Meets Extreme Right…

…it’s always rather horrifying. One place they meet is anti-Semitism. Another — and I’m noticing it a lot during this American election campaign — is the spot at which dwell these very bizarre Vladimir Putin/Aggressive Russia apologists.

I suspect the leftists who make excuses for Russia these days miss what they view as the halcyon days of the USSR (I think of Stephen Cohen here); those on the right? Maybe they just like strong-arm tactics.

At any rate, this American election cycle is massively depressing.

September 1…

…1939

It’s always the right time for this poem, though I have always disagreed that “we must love one another or die.” (LBJ used that imagery frequently.) I don’t think that is so. I think “love” is not the only alternative to killing each other. That said, I would consider my life’s purpose fulfilled were I able to write something this beautiful.

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

We Need Hitchens

Important, in light of Chilcot, to remember the following: Saddam Hussein was the war criminal. Not Tony Blair and not George Bush. And neither Bush nor Blair lied their countries into a war. The Chilcot Report says nothing of the kind. Read it.

I miss Hitchens! A good moment to re-read these words of his:

When Tony Blair took office, Slobodan Milosevic was cleansing and raping the republics of the former Yugoslavia. Mullah Omar was lending Osama bin Laden the hinterland of a failed and rogue state. Charles Taylor of Liberia was leading a hand-lopping militia of enslaved children across the frontier of Sierra Leone, threatening a blood-diamond version of Rwanda in West Africa. And the wealth and people of Iraq were the abused private property of Saddam Hussein and his crime family. Today, all of these Caligula figures are at least out of power, and at the best either dead or on trial. How can anyone with a sense of history not grant Blair some portion of credit for this? And how can anybody with a tincture of moral sense go into a paroxysm and yell that it is he who is the war criminal? It is as if all the civilians murdered by al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be charged to his account. This is the chaotic mentality of Julian Assange and his groupies.

That is moral clarity, people. My late brother had it, too. Really miss the wisdom of both of those men.

Robert Caro’s LBJ Books

Currently reading Robert Caro’s books about Lyndon Johnson (link here to the first in the series). What a life; what a life force Johnson was. I’m laughing. I’m crying. I’m in awe of the good and the bad and the ugly and the beautiful of the man – the hate, the love, the pain, the whole damn thing.

Most of all, reading these books has confirmed to me something I’ve always thought: hippies are evil.