Tuesday, November 12, 2002


I have nothing but goodwill towards Jim Ryan of Philosoblog but I seem to be doomed to giving him a hard time. In one of his recent posts he proposed that Conservatism is basically just a cynical, realistic, pragmatic approach to knowledge of and understanding of the world. More recently he posts that certain core belefs that conservatives hold -- such as the inherently greater wisdom of traditional arrangements -- are vital to being a conservative. Can he have it both ways? Is conservatism a style of thinking or is it what we think?

I think that there is a simple answer to that but I am not going to tip my hand just yet.



President G.W. Bush opposes affirmative action in theory but in practice has appointed a huge slew of women and blacks to senior positions. It is just good politics of course (there are a LOT of black and female voters) but Wendy Kaminer had rather a prophetic laugh about how it would undermine the Democrats here. The Democrats should now have learned that identity politics will not save them. They might have to come up with some other ideas now.

The idea that conservatism is inimical to women was always demonstrably a big laugh. British Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is the obvious and highly significant counter-example but the rise of women to the Prime Ministership in such traditional societies as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is surely also of some relevance. But there is probably not one Democrat in a thousand who even knows that that happened.

Here is one Leftist who got the point quite a while ago:

�Some progressives, sensing their precarious position, are urging the Left's far-flung constituency of feminists, civil-rights advocates, gay-rights activists and others to abandon the politics of identity for the good of the commonweal.

Identity politics not only imperils the notion of community by fetishizing difference, they argue, it also diverts energy and attention from more immediate causes that cry out for action. Todd Gitlin's new book,
The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked By Culture Wars (Metropolitan Books), makes this argument most eloquently. "Instead of moving to organize against rock-bottom class inequalities and racial discrimination," Gitlin argues, "many activists [have chosen] to fight real and imagined symbols of insult." There is much to recommend that view.

In a fragmenting nation, the duty of progressives seems clear: halt the fragmentation. The logic of identity politics, and its multicultural offspring, seems to lead to chaos. If African-Americans can insist on Afrocentric curricula, for instance, what's to stop Lithuanian-Americans from demanding their own specific version of history? What about Korean-Americans? This cacophony of relativism would feed directly into the right's xenophobic agenda, progressives fear. Instead of uncritically celebrating the politics of difference, they argue, the Left should be exploring ways to more effectively bridge those differences.�



The Leftist perspective of most late 20th century intellectuals has resulted in a general acceptance of the myth that Hitler's German Nazism and Mussolini's Italian Fascism were Right-wing -- regardless of the fact that Hitler called himself a socialist and that Mussolini was a prominent Marxist theoretician. The figleaf that such intellectuals use to hide Hitler's Leftism is the fact that he was also a nationalist. They blandly assert that you cannot be a Leftist and a nationalist too. They give no evidence for it but assert that somehow being a nationalist necessarily makes you a Rightist regardless of anything else that you might advocate or do. I have given many contrary examples from history showing that nationalism is in fact no stranger on the Left but perhaps the best known historical figure by way of an example of that is the original Leftist nationalist: Napoleon.

Napoleon Bonaparte was the child and heir of the very first Leftist revolution, the French revolution, and he is to this day lauded as the man who took the "ideals" of the French revolution to the rest of Europe. Yet he also took French nationalism and love of gloire to new heights. During his rule -- police state though it was -- he made the French feel that they were the greatest nation on earth. And they died in their droves in furtherance of that myth just as Germans later died in their droves for Hitler. Mussolini may have invented the term but it but it was really Napoleon who was the first Fascist. Since Napoleon is still a French national hero, it is no wonder that the Germans found it relatively easy to get the French to "collaborate" in World War II.



My post about antisemitism in the International Red Cross of a few days ago drew a number of interesting responses and I have now received from Jiri permission to reproduce his view of the matter:

While it would not surprise me one bit if the Red Cross really was anti-semitic and corrupt to the core, Arlene Peck's history is abysmal. The IRC commission toured the Theresienstadt ghetto, not the camp located outside of the town (which was was known as the "Little Fortress of Theresienstadt"). The two facilities had no connecting link, except that some "offenses" committed by Jews in the ghetto earned a ticket to the fortress.

As fate would have it, our family history has ties to both places. My paternal grandparents died in the ghetto within weeks of each other. Grandpa of a heart-attack, grandma of a typhoid fever. My Dad did time at the fortress which was one of the most horrendous camps around. The Kochs of Buchenwald, and Amon Goetz of Krakow, had a worthy competitor in the fortress' Kommandant Rojko, who tortured and slaughtered hundreds of prisoners. The Little Fortress was one the less known horrors of the Third Reich; in the stories of my father the place was indescribably psycho - and he did have Auschwitz, where he ended up later - to compare with.

The Theresianstadt ghetto was bad, as all ghettos were, but had none of the phantastic overcrowding of the larger Polish ones. The touring IRC was of course duped by the Nazis, especially about the availability of food and sanitation, but one cannot draw the conclusions about it that Ms Peck had. They are a product of a sad misunderstanding.

I did of course say in my original post that interpreting the WWII events was not my personal primary concern. It was the present-day discrimination by the IRC against Israel that I found clearly unforgivable.



I rather liked the following observation in an email I received from Marc Miyake in beautiful Hawaii:

"I have been sick of people who denounce Nazis and Fascists (since they're "Right" and therefore fair game) but ignoring similar offenses committed by the "Left". The percentage of people who realize that Nazi is from Nazionalsozialismus, particularly outside the German-speaking world, is probably pitifully small, though the name says it all. Labels do matter. Avoiding the "Rightist" label is a virtual license for evil."


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