September 2, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM

LIBERTY, NOT FREEDOM:

Neo-Roman and Christian conceptions of liberty (JOE CARTER, September 2, 2019, Acton)

Understanding how "liberty" has been used in the past can therefore help us understand how and why we have different views of it today.

A prime example is political historian Quentin Skinner's explanation of "neo-Roman liberty."

3:AM: You are known as a leading historian of political history and in particular the formation of ideas around human liberty. One of the key ideas you've written about is what you label 'neo-Roman' liberty.' This began back in Ancient Rome didn't it, where freedom was contrasted with slavery, wasn't it? Can you tell us what its distinctive traits are?

Quentin Skinner: The vision of personal freedom that interests me is articulated most clearly in the Digest of Roman Law, which is why I have wanted to describe its later manifestations as examples of 'neo-Roman' liberty. The fundamental distinction drawn at the outset of the Digest is between the liber homo, the free person, and the servus or slave. The law needed to begin with this contrast because law applies only to free persons, not to slaves. So one crucial question was: what makes a slave? The answer given in the legal texts is that a slave is someone who is in potestate, in the power of a master. The contrast is with someone who is sui iuris, able to act in their own right. Long before these argument were summarised in the legal texts, they had been elaborated by a number of Roman moralists and historians, above all Sallust, Livy and Tacitus. These writers were interested in the broader question of what it means to say of individuals - or even of whole bodies of people - that they have been made to live in the manner of slaves. The answer they give is that, if you are subject to the arbitrary will of anyone else, such that you are dependent on their mere goodwill, then you may be said to be living in servitude, however elevated may be your position in society. 

The thing to remember is that while we rely on republican liberty, it is a means, not the end.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

FROM WHO? TO WHAT?:

'The Great Scattering': How Identity Panic Took Root in the Void Once Occupied by Family Life (Mary Eberstadt, 8/27/19, Quillette)

When sociologists first began mapping the post-revolutionary empirical world beginning a little over half a century ago, they looked first, naturally enough, to the terrain that was easiest to see and measure: fatherlessness and its correlates. In his 1965 report, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, future U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that black poverty was tied fundamentally to the implosion of the black family, and worried over the rate of out-of-wedlock births--which was then around 25 percent, much higher than that of whites. That rate would continue to rise for both whites and blacks during the decades to come, and academics began connecting dots to show what was happening to children and adolescents in the new social order.

In 1997, one of the most eminent social scientists of the twentieth century, James Q. Wilson, summarized many of these findings succinctly in a speech that was later published as an essay. He identified the root of America's fracturing in the dissolution of the family, and described what he called "the two nations" of America. The dividing line between these cleft territories was no longer one of income or social class, he argued. Instead, it had become all about the hearth.

"It is not money," Wilson documented, "but the family that is the foundation of public life. As it has become weaker, every structure built upon that foundation has become weaker." He pointed to the library that social science had been building for decades, filled with books and studies about the correlations between crumbling family structure and various adverse results. Kinship composition, as Wilson's work among others demonstrated, had become more important to positive outcomes than race, income, or one's station at birth.

Absent fathers have been only the most visible and measurable of the new family lacunae. In a landmark 2000 book called Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, Elizabeth Marquardt, working with sociologist Norval Glenn, reported on a study into the long-term effects of parental breakup into adulthood. She administered a lengthy questionnaire to 1,500 young adults, half of whose parents had split up by the time the children turned fourteen, and documented differences between children of divorce, and those who came from intact families.

At times, the two groups exhibited starkly opposed concepts of identity. For example, children of divorce were almost three times as likely to "strongly agree" with the statement, "I felt like a different person with each of my parents." They were also twice as likely to "strongly agree" with the statement, "I always felt like an adult, even when I was a little kid"--a particularly poignant expression of confusion about the question "Who am I?" Almost two-thirds of the respondents of divorced homes also "agreed" with the following statement, which similarly expresses the division of oneself: "I felt like I had two families."

This is evocative evidence, again, of the unsteady sense of self that many people, adult and child alike, now experience as the givens of life. It expresses the division of one into more than one--of selves torn, as in the book's title, between worlds. And though these researchers limited their study to children of divorce only, their findings would also appear to apply to any home where two parents play a role in a child's life from different locations.

Pop culture weighs in, too. In a 2004 Policy Review essay called Eminem Is Right, I documented how family rupture, family anarchy and family breakup had become the signature themes of Generation-X and Generation-Y pop. If yesterday's rock was the music of abandon, today's is that of abandonment. The odd truth about contemporary teenage music--the characteristic that most separates it from what has gone before--is its compulsive insistence on the damage wrought by broken homes, family dysfunction, checked-out parents, and (especially) absent fathers. Papa Roach, Everclear, Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Snoop Doggy Dogg--these and others have their own generational answer to what ails the modern teenager. That answer is: dysfunctional childhood. During the same years in which progressive-minded and politically correct adults have been excoriating Ozzie and Harriet as artifacts of 1950s-style oppression, millions of American teenagers have enshrined a new generation of music idols whose shared signature in song after song is to rage about what not having had a nuclear family had done to them.

In 2004, identity politics was not the omnipresent headline subject it is today. Even so, the effect of family decline on the sense of self already was appearing writ large across popular music. Tupac Shakur rapped about life with a single mother and no male parent, including in his 1993 Papa'z Song, about a boy who has to play catch by himself. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, both towering figures in 1990s rock, were children of divorce, and both referred back to that event repeatedly in their songs and interviews.

Above all, there is the fiery emotional connection that generations of teenagers have found in rap superstar Eminem. It exists not only on account of his extraordinary facility with language, but also, surely, for his signature themes: absent father, inattentive mother, protectiveness toward a sibling, and rage. Eminem is the Greek chorus of family dysfunction. And long before today's brand of identity panics, a lot of young America already was stumbling over how to answer the question "Who am I?" Just listening to what they were driving up the charts proved the point.

All the lonely people, why do they embrace identity politics? (Madeline Fry, September 01, 2019, Washington Examiner)

"Eleanor Rigby" was strangely prescient of an epidemic of loneliness that afflicts our society today. Senior citizens are increasingly isolated, more than one-fifth of millennials say they have no friends, and scientists are even developing a pill for lonely people.

It's significant that The Beatles released Eleanor Rigby in the '60s. Author Mary Eberstadt might call it a case of foreshadowing, for she argues in Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics that the sexual revolution led to a national sense of loneliness and lack of identity .

Her book, released this month, makes the case that the sexual revolution led, surprisingly, to the rise of identity politics.

"Wherever any one of us stands in matters of the 'culture wars' is immaterial here," she writes. "The plain fact is that the relative stability of yesterday's familial identity could not help but answer the question at the heart of identity politics -- Who am I? -- in ways that many men, women, and children can't answer it any more."

In some ways, Primal Screams is a follow-up to Eberstadt's 2012 book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution. If the sexual revolution led to unexpected problems between men and women, how else has it affected us as a society? Primal Screams answers that question.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

IDENTITIES ARE CREATED, NOT BORN INTO (profanity alert):

Lionel Shriver returns to Australia and doubles down on 'fascistic' identity politics (Debbie Zhou, 1 Sep 2019, The Guardian)

Three years after vowing never to return to Australia, author Lionel Shriver says she stands by her controversial keynote speech at the Brisbane writers' festival in 2016, calling identity politics "fascistic".

Sunday night marked the American novelist's first appearance in Australia since that controversial tour, despite her having released two books in the intervening years.

Shriver's 2016 address on fiction and identity politics, in which she said she hoped "the concept of 'cultural appropriation' is a passing fad", received widespread backlash. Sudanese-Australian writer Yassmin Abdel-Magied walked out of the event midway, later writing in the Guardian that Shriver's argument - that fiction writers shouldn't need to seek permission to write on minority cultures - "became a celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction".

But on Sunday night, Shriver, speaking to an intimate crowd of 150 at Sydney's Bookoccino event, said her only regret in the controversy was the way it was reported. Abdel-Magied's opinion piece sparked an international uproar and debate, with stories in the New York Times and the New Yorker. The Orange prize-winning novelist on Sunday reiterated her arguments from the keynote, warning of the dangers of "a larger cultural cowardice".

"So ultimately [for] this movement - I'm sorry to throw around what sounds like hyperbole - but the end point is fascistic. Because it's about control. It's about silence. It's about obedience. It's about conformism. It's about imposing a way of thinking," she said. [...]

She resisted the idea that people should be defined as part of the "groups we're a member of, and what order we are in the social hierarchy", saying she doesn't believe "race, gender or sexual proclivity" are forms of identity. This line of thought led her to penning a controversial essay in the Spectator in 2018, in which she expressed her disagreement with Penguin Random House's diversity quotas.

"To tell me that identity comes down to these little boxes that we were born into ... [is] depressing and also politically regressive," she said. "I find that a really grim, ugly, flat way of looking at the world."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THE CULTURE OF DEATH:

Texas loosens firearm laws hours after the state's latest mass shooting left five dead (Faith Karimi and Allen Kim, September 1, 2019, CNN)

A series of new firearm laws will go into effect in Texas on Sunday just hours after a shooting left five people dead in the western part of the state.

The laws will further loosen gun restrictions in a state that's had four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history. They will make it easier to have guns just a month after a shooter stormed a Walmart in El Paso and killed 22 people.

On the other hand, elected officials will pray for the dead.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

PECAN SHOULD HAVE PREVAILED:

Why Americans Love Their Apple Pie: How did a humble dessert become a recipe for democracy? (Gabriella Petrick, September 2019, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE)

In the early 1900s, the United States was at war--over pie. On one side were the traditionalists, who saw pie as "an article of necessity in every household as much as the bed and cook stove," according to a Chicago Daily Tribune report in 1899. On the other side were the food reformers, who wanted to break this unhealthy and corrupting habit. "Pie really is an American evil," Kate Masterson wrote in the New York Times in 1902. It is an "unmoral food," she warned, offering advice for spotting pie eaters: They have "sallow complexions" and "lusterless or unnaturally bright eyes" and, of course, they "are all dyspeptic." "No great man," she wrote, "was ever fond of pie."

Those were fighting words. Pie eaters traced their love of the dish back to the founding fathers--a particular pumpkin pie recipe credited to the Adams family was said by the Kansas City Star to have "raised a well-fed race of jurists, scholars, orators and Presidents"--and still further back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The pie tradition of the New England colonies had come from old England with the settlers, who transformed the savory kidney and mincemeat pies of the British Isles into sweet pies filled with fruits that grew well along the Atlantic Coast. The crusts changed, too. They were lighter and flakier because lard from pigs was more abundant in the Colonies than tallow from cows. (Sugar and spices were imported to the Colonies from Britain, which controlled most trade.) In 1892, Rudyard Kipling described the Northeast as "the great American pie belt," a title that traditionalists claimed proudly. As the population moved west, the pie recipes did, too.

By the turn of the century, Americans were eating more apple pie than any other variety. Apples, first brought to the continent by the colonists, grew well across large swaths of the country and could be stored through the winter, unlike most other fresh fruits. The phrase "as American as apple pie" would not be coined until a 1924 advertisement in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Times for men's suits that bucked English fashion trends. But the idea was already so deeply ingrained that pie eating became a way for the country's newest arrivals--now mainly from Central, Southern and Eastern Europe--to assimilate. "Every American is born with an appetite for pie," a New York newspaper opined in 1895. As for the immigrant, the paper wrote, "his Americanism, in fact, may be tested in his taste for pie."

To the growing food reform movement, though, pie was a remnant of our rustic past, before the United States had taken its place on the international stage. Advocates such as Harvey Wiley--now best known for his support of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906--called for a simpler and lighter diet, focused on Northern European cuisines. Pie eaters (code for immigrants and the lower classes, in the language of the food reformers) were a drag on society. Elizabeth Fulton, a home economist at Kansas State Normal School, believed pie eating, like alcoholism, was a cause of divorce. She implored homemakers to "return to fresh fruit."

The reformers might have won the battle, too, if not for the outbreak of World War I. Now pie eating was patriotic.




Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

TRUMPONOMICS:

Sanctions choke Iran's crude sales, but oil product exports booming (Ahmad Ghaddar, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, 9/02/19, Reuters) 

While U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil industry have slashed the OPEC member's crude exports by more than 80%, oil product sales from the Islamic Republic remain strong at nearly $500 million a month, shipping data and Reuters calculations show.

Sanctions have barely affected Iran's exports of oil products, primarily fuel oil used for power generation and shipping as well as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) used as cooking gas and petrochemical feed. [...]

Samantha Hartke, head of natural gas liquids and LPG at consultancy Energy Aspects, said her firm did not expect Chinese imports of Iranian LPG to abate given China's new petrochemical capacity is creating significant demand for the feedstock.

"The irony is: if not for the U.S.-China trade war, the U.S. would have greatly benefited from this uptick in Chinese demand as a means of mopping up its overabundance of LPG supplies, thanks to shale," she added.