Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cosmopolitan or Multicultural?

In Identity and Violence, the concluding sentence of which I have quoted above, Nobel Prize economist Sen meditates on what the Patriarch of Venice has well indicated as the unavoidable fact of civilizational hybridity. Sen, like Cardinal Angelo Scola, is sensitive to the concerns that many of us, who call ourselves cultural conservatives, have over what passes for multiculturalism:

“There is a real need to rethink the understanding of multiculturalism both to avoid conceptual disarray about social identity and also to resist the purposeful exploitation of the divisiveness that this conceptual disarray allows and even, to some extent, encourages. What has to be particularly avoided (if the foregoing analysis is right) is the confusion between multiculturalism with cultural liberty, on the one side, and plural monoculturalism with faith-based separatism on the other. A nation can hardly be seen as a collection of sequestered segments, with citizens being assigned fixed places in predetermined segments. Nor can Britain be seen, explicitly or by implication, as an imagined national federation of religious ethnicities.” (p. 165)

And neither can the United States — or Europe. Yes, we are members of communities of faith. But there is common humanity, and, in various places and at various times, common civilizations have flourished, each articulating that common humanity in its own unique way. Our own civilization has been fairly unique in offering hospitality to those who come to us from other civilizations and their outskirts, trusting to our common humanity and to a set of institutions and traditions designed to allow members of different communities to collaborate as neighbors, clients, and colleagues. And this has worked remarkably well, at least in America.

August 1, 2007

A Martyr for Peace

A priest came in around noon to give the condemned the last rites — and one last chance to save his neck. “I cannot and may not take an oath in favor of a government that is fighting an unjust war,” the prisoner said, and politely turned down the offer of religious tracts and a reading from the New Testament. “I am completely bound in inner union with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God.” The priest never forgot the joy of his countenance. It was a year to the day since the Jewish philosopher Edith Stein, now Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, was consumed in Hitler’s Final Solution.

A week before George W. Bush arrived in Rome for their first meeting, Benedict XVI put his signature to a document proclaiming Franz Jägerstätter a martyr of the Church for refusing to serve in an unjust war, such as Benedict and John Paul the Great insisted the Bush war against Iraq has been from the beginning. The decree means that the Bishop of Linz in Austria, whose predecessor had tried to talk the farmer out of his rash act of resistance, can go ahead with the beatification; a miracle is not required, as it would be in the case of a Servant of God who was not a martyr. (A miracle will be required, however, before the Blessed Franz becomes Saint Franz.) The beatification will take place on October 26—just about the time that some observers expect a departing, lame-duck President Bush to launch a Pearl Harbor style pre-emptive attack (perhaps a nuclear one) against Iran.

From Taki's Top Drawer

July 6, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

"My Argument with the Pope"

"But now His Holiness has taken a step further and has answered my critique in a creative exercise of exegesis and theology. In his Jesus of Nazareth the Judeo-Christian disputation enters a new age. We are able to meet one another in a forthright exercise of reason and criticism. The challenges of Sinai bring us together for the renewal of a 2,000 year old tradition of religious debate in the service of God's truth.

"We are in for interesting times.
-- Rabbi Jacob Neusner in The Jerusalem Post

You don't advance dialogue by covering up disagreements. First Regensburg, now this. Interesting times indeed.

Monday, May 21, 2007

May 1970: Much is taken, much abides

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Well, I had to rewrite the lead (or lede, as they now spell it) at the last moment to go with publication this late in the month -- and introduced an historical howler which was detected within minutes! Keeps you humble, it does...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Back to Scola

Back in January I was blogging here and elsewhere about Cardinal Scola at the U.N. I see that Tom Bethell was covering his Washington stop for the NOR, in which his fairly lukewarm review has finally appeared.

Bethell admits that he avoids interreligious dialogue, as well he might; he doesn't really believe in it. For him the occasion, and the man, were insufficiently confrontational, and the subtext here seems to be an invidious comparison between the spirit of Scola and the movement he is taken to represent, and that of the sainted Escriva, and the movement he founded. Bethell is resigned to the idea of a Papa Scola as the third in a series of professorial pontiffs, as the best that can be hoped for at the moment. Were he writing today, after Papa Ratzi's alleged right turn, he might be more upbeat about things at the Vatican.

But this is the essence of his take on the situation: "It may also be that, at a time when undiluted Catholic teaching is increasingly at odds with the world, a conservative prelate is only being prudent when he veils his orthodoxy behind philosophical abstractions. I felt at times that Scola was doing just that. The Communion and Liberation movement does have that inclination."

Yet Bethell himself shows that Scola freely and cheerfully admits his orthodox Christianity. Indeed, he might even be said to flaunt it. So the philosophical abstractions must be something other than a smokescreen. They are, I think, an attempt, and about as successful an attempt as one could hope for, to express the universals of human experience to which the Gospel speaks, and to express them in a way a Muslim, or even a Pagan, can recognize -- and to state Christian dogma in those terms. I take it that that is what Giussani, Scola's professor and the founder of CL was up to. The latter was speaking to a generation so alienated from the traditions of European civilization that they could only be reached by an appeal to the universally human, and that may be the only address Muslims of good will. I suspect that there are such, though Bethell implies they are sleeper agents waiting for the signal to turn on us.

The passage of Scola's speech that Bethell holds up to ridicule is rather a bold challenge to Muslims and Jews who reject the doctrine of the Trinity, indicating that the alternative may well be some kind of pantheism. And this is neither obfuscation nor pussyfooting.

I'm sure OD has its place in the Church. But my place is not with them.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why "Arisbe" ?

Then Diomed killed Axylus, son of Teuthranus, a rich man who lived in the strong city of Arisbe and was beloved by all men; for he had a house by the roadside, and entertained all who passed; howbeit not one of his guests stood before him to save his life, and Diomed killed both him and his squire, Calesius, who was then his charioteer -- so the pair passed beneath the earth. -- Iliad VI, 12-19,

In the city of Milford, at the Delaware Water Gap, by the side of the road to Port Jervis (the end of the railroad line to New York), stands an old stone house used by the National Park Service. A sign near the highway, of the sort marking lesser battlefields of the Revolution, identifies it as Arisbe, the last home of Charles Sanders Peirce, and of his mysterious wife Juliette.

The name Arisbe was perhaps suggested by the justly forgotten sentimental poet of "The House by the Side of the Road," who sang that Axylus "lived in a house by the side of the road and was a friend to man."
By the 1890s America's greatest philosopher had no higher ambition. Hounded out of his government job and his academic appointment, Charles Peirce was rich only in his knowledge and in his love for his ailing wife. Did Peirce ever turn back to Homer and reflect that of all who feasted of the bounty of Axylus, none stood up to save his life? Malnutrition may have played its part in the martyrdom of America's greatest thinker, as the deathbed photograph makes painfully clear.

I have used the word martyrdom for reasons I must now explain. Martyr is Greek for witness. To what or to Whom does Peirce at Arisbe bear witness? We know much less than we should like to about the end of his career as a scientist and teacher -- only the orignis of his second wife are more obscure. But there is a passage in The Philosophy of Loyalty which I have lived with for many years with a growing conviction that there is only one man Josiah Royce can be describing so movingly. (If any Royce scholar has another candidate than Peirce in mind, please let me know!)

There was a friend of my own youth whom I have not seen for years, who once faced the choice between a scholarly career that he loved, on the one hand, and a call of honor on the other, -- who could have lived out that career with worldly success if he had only been willing to conspire with his chief to deceive the public about a matter of fact, but who unhesitatingly was loyal to loyalty, who spoke the truth, who refused to conspire, and who, because his chief was a plausible and powerful man, thus deliberately wrecked his own worldly chances once for all, and retired into a misunderstood obscurity in order that his fellow-men might henceforth be helped to respect the truth better. Now, the worldly career which that friend thus sacrificed for the sake of his loyalty is far from mine; the causes that he has since loyally served have not of late brought him near to me in worldly doings. I am not sure that he should ever have kept our interests in close touch with one another even if we had lived side by side.
For he was and is a highly specialized type of man, austere, and a little disposed, like many scholars, to a life apart. For the rest, I have never myself been put in such a place as his was when he chose to make his sacrifice, and have never had his great choice set before me. Nor has the world rewarded him at all fairly for his fidelity. He is, then, as this world goes, not now near to me, and not a widely influential man. Yet I owe him a great debt. He showed me, by the example of his free sacrifice, a good in loyalty which I might otherwise have been too blind to see.
He is a man who does not love flattery. It would be useless for me now to offer to him either words of praise or words of comfort. He made his choice with a single heart and a clear head, and he has always declined to be praised. But it will take a long time, in some other world, should I meet him in such a realm, to tell him how much I owe to his example, how much he inspired me, or how many of his fellows he had indirectly helped to their own loyalty. For I believe that a good many others besides myself indirectly owe far more to him than he knows, or than they know. I believe that certain standards of loyalty and of scientific truthfulness in this country are to-day higher than they were because of the self-surrendering act of that one devoted scholar.
-- J. Royce, The Philosophy of Loyalty, Lecture III, Section VI, Paragraph 11.

This, then, is Peirce at Arisbe, the scholar, the man of science, loyal to the truth. Whatever the faults of his youth and middle age, the name Arisbe recalls a Peirce who sets a high standard of loyalty indeed.

But martyrdom? Certainly Peirce worked tirelessly and creatively with no real hope of an audience in his lifetime, in terrible pain and worse anxiety for his wife. But where is the specifically religious dimension the term martyrdom connotes?

Charles Peirce was far from an orthodox Christian as we generally understand the term. Raised Unitarian in the circle of Emerson, he became an Episcopalian on the occasion of his first marriage, but could not attend services with a good conscience, feeling his intellectual integrity compromised. His alienation from historical Christianity troubled him greatly until one Sunday morning in 1892 he suddenly felt permitted, invited, commanded, and indeed compelled to return to Holy Communion.

Not that he suddenly became orthodox in his thinking, but orthodoxy suddenly didn't matter. Later that day Peirce wrote a letter to the pastor of St. Thomas's on Fifth Avenue in New York, where this occurred. Kenneth Ketner sent a copy to Walker Percy, and it was recently published in their correspondence. In this remarkable letter, Peirce wrote that

(T)hat which seemed to call me today seemed to promise that I should bear a cross like death for the Master's sake, and he would give me the strength to bear it.
I am sure that will happen.
My part is to wait.
I have never before been mystical; but now I am.
-- A Thief of Peirce, p.137.

Many admirers of Peirce will no doubt be astonished and bemused by these words, but surely no more than he himself by the experience they describe: "I have never before been mystical; but now I am."

Peirce never became a mystic in the Randian sense of submitting his mind to external authority; his religious experience made him more of a freethinker than ever. But he was now convinced that in following the truth wherever it led, without looking back to see if anyone was following him, he was somehow at one with the Founder of Christianity, and with the divine source of creativity and love he posited as the cause of Evolution.

Axylus and Calesius of the strong city of Arisbe passed beneath the earth, slain by Diomed. The ashes of Charles Sanders Peirce reposed in an urn on the mantlepiece of his Arisbe livingroom: I do not know what has become of them; perhaps nobody knows. His manuscripts somehow survived, many of the most important have been published in one form or another, and a critical edition is at last begun.

At the start of a new century, Charles Peirce stands as an icon of integrity to all who would study, teach, or practice philosophy, whether inside or outside the sacred Grove of Academe.

The place where they meet is Arisbe.

--Frank Palmer Purcell

Monday, May 07, 2007

There is No President

Political authority is not a force of nature; it does not inhere in Messrs. Bush and Cheney as gravity inheres in mass, and we are not held in orbit around them as the earth is the sun. Political authority is a social construct. It exists because we believe it exists, have faith in it, and act as if it exists or, for those who would like nothing better than to get their hands on it, because it is a game that must be continued in order to acquire that power to exploit for their own interests and goals. As such, it is not something that Messrs. Bush or Cheney actually possess – we have it. Let’s stop trying to bend the president. Clearly that’s impossible. Instead, only try to recognize the truth: there is no president; it is only yourself. Our desire that someone exercise power over others for our benefit is the source of, and provides the tools for, our own subjugation and exploitation. -- Jef Snyder

Saturday, May 05, 2007

What He Said

“The controversy with the Attorney General is symptomatic of a more serious illness within this Administration – which is the desire for unchecked power,” said AFA Chairman Bruce Fein. “As fellow conservatives, we believe we have a greater responsibility than most to stand up to this particular Administration and demand that it respect the checks and balances established by the Founding Fathers. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, regardless of party affiliation, and we can no more remain silent to the abuses occurring under President Bush than we could if a President Clinton were in office. In advancing the American Freedom Agenda, we are all Conservatives, we are all Liberals, we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats. We are above all Americans who cherish the Constitution more than partisan advantage.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Welcome to the Arisbe Network

It's a long story. There is going to be an evening in honor of murdered Archpriest Alexand(e)r Men(n) in July, and I need to update the web page I created for our last conference back in '04. I was hosting amenn.net as a subdomain on arisbe.net, and went there to try a file transfer operation, just to see whether I remembered the password, and discovered that my free site was not for five years but for three, and had expired in November. Luckily I remembered the password for my domain forwarding -- and luckily I hadn't gone through with the change of registrar and DNS server to my now former host. So I have redirected web traffic here, and may even change the name on the masthead. ArisBlog is just too cute. Especially if you are clueless about Charles Peirce and Arisbe. Here goes!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

JHN: The Annual Post

There, then, in that most awful hour, knelt the Saviour of the world, putting off the defences of His divinity, dismissing His reluctant Angels, who in myriads were ready at His call, and opening His arms, baring His breast, sinless as He was, to the assault of His foe,—of a foe whose breath was a pestilence, and whose embrace was an agony. There He knelt, motionless and still, while the vile and horrible fiend clad His spirit in a robe steeped in all that is hateful and heinous in human crime, which clung close round His heart, and filled His conscience, and found its way into every sense and pore of His mind, and spread over Him a moral leprosy, till He almost felt Himself to be that which He never could be, and which His foe would fain have made Him. Oh, the horror, when He looked, and did not know Himself, and felt as a foul and loathsome sinner, from His vivid perception of that mass of corruption which poured over His head and ran down even to the skirts of His garments! Oh, the distraction, when He found His eyes, and hands, and feet, and lips, and heart, as if the members of the Evil One, and not of God! Are these the hands of the Immaculate Lamb of God, once innocent, but now red with ten thousand barbarous deeds of blood? are these His lips, not uttering prayer, and praise, and holy blessings, but as if defiled with oaths, and blasphemies, and doctrines of devils? or His eyes, profaned as they are by all the evil visions and idolatrous fascinations for which men have abandoned their adorable Creator? And His ears, they ring with sounds of revelry and of strife; and His heart is frozen with avarice, and cruelty, and unbelief; and His very memory is laden with every sin which has been committed since the fall, in all regions of the earth, with the pride of the old giants, and the lusts of the five cities, and the obduracy of Egypt, and the ambition of Babel, and the unthankfulness and scorn of Israel. Oh, who does not know the misery of a haunting thought which comes again and again, in spite of rejection, to annoy, if it cannot seduce? or of some odious and sickening imagination, in no sense one's own, but forced upon the mind from without? or of evil knowledge, gained with or without a man's fault, but which he would give a great price to be rid of at once and for ever? And adversaries such as these gather around Thee, Blessed Lord, in millions now; they come in troops more numerous than the locust or the palmer-worm, or the plagues of hail, and flies, and frogs, which were sent against Pharaoh. Of the living and of the dead and of the as yet unborn, of the lost and of the saved, of Thy people and of strangers, of sinners and of saints, all sins are there. Thy dearest are there, Thy saints and Thy chosen are upon Thee; Thy three Apostles, Peter, James, and John; but not as comforters, but as accusers, like the friends of Job, "sprinkling dust towards heaven," and heaping curses on Thy head. All are there but one; one only is not there, one only; for she who had no part in sin, she only could console Thee, and therefore she is not nigh. She will be near Thee on the Cross, she is separated from Thee in the garden. She has been Thy companion and Thy confidant through Thy life, she interchanged with Thee the pure thoughts and holy meditations of thirty years; but her virgin ear may not take in, nor may her immaculate heart conceive, what now is in vision before Thee. None was equal to the weight but God; sometimes before Thy saints Thou hast brought the image of a single sin, as it appears in the light of Thy countenance, or of venial sins, not mortal; and they have told us that the sight did all but kill them, nay, would have killed them, had it not been instantly withdrawn. The Mother of God, for all her sanctity, nay by reason of it, could not have borne even one brood of that innumerable progeny of Satan which now compasses Thee about. It is the long history of a world, and God alone can bear the load of it. Hopes blighted, vows broken, lights quenched, warnings scorned, opportunities lost; the innocent betrayed, the young hardened, the penitent relapsing, the just overcome, the aged failing; the sophistry of misbelief, the wilfulness of passion, the obduracy of pride, the tyranny of habit, the canker of remorse, the wasting fever of care, the anguish of shame, the pining of disappointment, the sickness of despair; such cruel, such pitiable spectacles, such heartrending, revolting, detestable, maddening scenes; nay, the haggard faces, the convulsed lips, the flushed cheek, the dark brow of the willing slaves of evil, they are all before Him now; they are upon Him and in Him. They are with Him instead of that ineffable peace which has inhabited His soul since the moment of His conception. They are upon Him, they are all but His own; He cries to His Father as if He were the criminal, not the victim; His agony takes the form of guilt and compunction. He is doing penance, He is making confession, He is exercising contrition, with a reality and a virtue infinitely greater than that of all saints and penitents together; for He is the One Victim for us all, the sole Satisfaction, the real Penitent, all but the real sinner.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Holy Thursday Tenebrae?

Operation Bite: April 6 sneak attack by US Forces against Iran planned, Russian Military sources warn
Monday, 26 March 2007
By Webster G. Tarpley

The long awaited US military attack on Iran is now on track for the first week of April, specifically for 4 AM on April 6, the Good Friday opening of Easter weekend, writes the well-known Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov in the Moscow weekly “Argumenty Nedeli.” Uglanov cites Russian military experts close to the Russian General Staff for his account.

The attack is slated to last for twelve hours, according to Uglanov, lasting from 4 AM until 4 PM local time. Friday is a holiday in Iran. In the course of the attack, code named Operation Bite, about 20 targets are marked for bombing; the list includes uranium enrichment facilities, research centers, and laboratories...

Observers comment that this dispatch represents a high-level orchestrated leak from the Kremlin, in effect a war warning, which draws on the formidable resources of the Russian intelligence services, and which deserves to be taken with the utmost seriousness by pro-peace forces around the world.

Asked by RIA-Novosti to comment on the Uglanov report, retired Colonel General Leonid Ivashov confirmed its essential features in a March 21 interview: “I have no doubt that there will be an operation, or more precisely a violent action against Iran.” Ivashov, who has reportedly served at various times as an informal advisor to Putin, is currently the Vice President of the Moscow Academy for Geopolitical Sciences.

Our Russian friends have been putting this out for the last week. This is the first I've heard, and not from any mainstream source. If all is well Thursday night, I will wonder what this was all about, as I wonder about much else.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Westfield, 1948

"Ego baptize te Franciscum," which was, my mother was assured, not the name of some Italian beggar, but merely Latin for Frank, her one hundred percent American father's name. And so it is, isn't it? Not that I am much of a Latinist. I mean, Franciscum looks wrong, as if it should be Franciscem, but that would be irregular, wouldn't it? Besides, if I were to be named for the Poor Man of Assisi, I should be called John, after his own Christian name, not Frank, Franco, or Frenchy or whatever nickname he went by. On the other hand, I did take John for Confirmation, so there.

March 20, "of the Feria" then as now. Venerable Fathers of St. Sabbas in the East. The New Calendar East. Go back two weeks for the old one and it's the 40 martyrs of Ammonium. Ammorium. But at least the forefeast, back then, of our own Benedict, of whom I am, on paper, still a novice Oblate.

I visited the church website today and looked up the history, and saw what at first appeared to be an enormous gap in the list of pastors. Then I realized why:

"In the 125 years of Holy Trinity Parish life, there are fifty-five golden years that stand out above all. This was under the guidance of Rev. Henry J. Watterson, who arrived on St. Valentine's Day in 1913, at the age of thirty-seven. He was a man of great determination and tenacity. When he decided to become a priest, he worked day and night to complete a thirteen-year course of study in ten years. He was ordained in 1901 and his first assignment was to St. Lucy's Catholic Church in Jersey City. After that, he went to St. Francis Church is Lodi, where he had the distinction of being the first parish priest in Bergen County to own a car. It is hard to imag[in]e in this age of rapid change, that he was in residence at Holy Trinity for so many years, many of those either by himself, or with just one assistant priest. Msgr. Watterson retired in 1968 at the age of ninety-two and lived into his 101st year. He is buried alongside the church he built."

I doubt he performed the baptism himself, but it is good to think this remarkable man was my first pastor. And he might even be amused to know that the baptismal register now states, or should, that I am no longer a member of his church, but a subject of the long vacant Russian Exarchate. One of them, anyway. Harbin, perhaps?

Westfield, New Jersey. Where I do not remember living. Home of Charles Addams. Inspiration of the Addams Family. No wonder, to those who know me.

Next time, perhaps, something of Weehawken.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Lost Month

Chalk it up to Great Lent, if you will. If you won't, don't!

This morning I got an email informing me that a cause has been opened for the canonization of Prince Dmitri Gallitzin, a Russian child of the French Enlightenment settled near Pittsburg, where he was for a time known as Father Smith. Only in America... Although Prince Dmitri was a cradle Orthodox, on his conversion he was not assimilated to any of the Eastern Churches, nor would he be today, as he had a Roman Catholic mother, and however you are raised, your ritual church is that of your Catholic parent. That was Catherine Doherty's problem, more serious in her case, as she was indeed a child of Eastern Christendom. The elder Prince Gallitzin was a friend of Voltaire; his son turned to the Church about when his mother returned to it.

Interesting scene last Thursday when some friends were discussing Giussani's Journey to Truth. One retired lady drew the wrath of a True Believer when she said she didn't quite see things the way Father G. did, and he accused her of being a Gnostic. He didn't know that she had spent years studying one Eric Voegelin, who had a bee in his bonnet on the subject of Gnosticism, if indeed he knew who Voegelin was. Needless to say, she let him have it!

I guess Gnostic is a general term of opprobrium you pick up in the seminary. In this case a singularly inappropriate one, as her fault was admitting that she had no great sense of Certainty, but had to be content to walk by faith. And of course the idea of some esoteric mental posession, higher than mere faith, the mark of the elect, is the very definition of theological Gnosticism, never mind Voegelin's political varieties.

Frankly, I think Gnosticism is the special temptation of all these new ecclesial movements. CL does better than most by refusing to segregate themselves from the main body of the Church, but sometimes I do hear the strains of esoterism, however faintly.

Don Luigi seems to have two things in mind. He speaks of moral certainty, the ability to act with enthusiasm and confidence. And he speaks of the existential attitude of being open to reality as a whole. I see what he means, but there is also the risk of cutting yourself from the human race by defining everyone who expresses himself differently than you do as an inauthentic human being. For example, there are some followers of Lonergan who don't think it's worthwhile to talk things over with people who disagree with you, as they are in need of radical conversion.

Of course there are problems adapting a high school and college youth movement to adults. Young people do need to be reminded that that they don't have to undermine their confidence by always brooding over how the world thinks. But adult Catholics don't need to fall into the defensive mentality of Kuyperian neo-Calvinist worldviewism. There are also cultural differences. Secular Americans are not Italian secularists -- even our Freemasons are not of the Grand Orient -- indeed, they are forbidden to associate with Grand Orient Masonry!

Italians still concern themselves with Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors. Americans, on the other hand, have rediscovered the formula for the blessed man's cologne, and are not only selling it, but advertising it on the National Catholic Reporter's website -- even the "progressives" here have a sense of humor. Sometimes. I must admit, I am truly curious what it smells like, though it doubt it will put the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab out of business.

On the causes for canonization front, I am happy to see the founder of Mondragon listed -- but don't ask me to spell his name now! But Julius Nyerere? (Which I have probably misspelled too.)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cheesefare Sunday, Sen on Multicult

"As an eleven-year-old boy I could not do much for Kader Mia as he lay bleeding with his head on my lap. But I imagine another universe, not beyond our reach, in which he and I can jointly affirm our many common identities (even as the warring singularists howl at the gate). We have to make sure, above all, that our mind is not halved by a horizon."
--Amartya Sen

Though my cold is much better today, I did not venture into SoHo for Liturgy and Forgiveness Vespers; I barely made it up to Barnes and Nobles on 82nd Street, where I found Sen's Identity and Violence (Norton, 2006), the last sentence of which I have transcribed above.

In his latest book Sen, a Nobel Prize economist, meditates on what the Patriarch of Venice has well termed the unavoidable fact of civilizational hybridity. Sen, like Cardinal Scola, is sensitive to the concerns that many of us, who call ourselves cultural conservatives, have over what passes for multiculturalism:

"There is a real need to rethink the understanding of multiculturalism both to avoid conceptual disarray about social identity and also to resist the purposeful exploitation of the divisiveness that this conceptual disarray allows and even, to some extent, encourages. What has to be particularly avoided (if the foregoing analysis is right) is the confusion between multiculturalism with cultural liberty, on the one side, and plural monoculturalism with faith-based separatism on the other. A nation can hardly be seen as a collection of sequestered segments, with citizens being assigned fixed places in predetermined segments. Nor can Britain be seen, explicitly or by implication, as an imagined national federation of religious ethnicities." (165)

By cultural liberty Sen means the ability given by education to make intelligent, informed, and responsible choices among the cultural alternatives offered. As Goethe says somewhere, we do not really own what we inherit until we freely embrace it. If you wish to call this the criterion of Western civilization I will not dispute you, though it is one we have not always honored, and Sen points to paradigmatic instances of it east of Suez.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Lost Year

Well, I'm back on Blogger, and I think I will be posting my more serious reflections here but keep my LiveJournal for the sort of things the folks there are more used to. Besides, I like being able to keep a blogroll here -- not that I can't on LJ, but it would seem an intrusion there. Not that the blogroll is working perfectly; it seems to be displayed in the order entered, which means philosophy first, then religion, then politics, though I didn't get to the politics yet -- I am taking a break to write this entry. If the Blogroll folks have their act together I hope to see the blog links displayed in the inverse order of last update. I suspect it will take a day or so for that to happen.

I don't know how I feel about Google taking over Blogger. I didn't appreciate Yahoo taking over Rocketmail and then Egroups, and Microsoft swallowing up Hotmail and Listbot, but that is the way of things. On the other hand, I no longer have to pay for enhanced service or go to an outside provider to have comments enabled, and that's a good thing.

Some folks in cyberspace and real life know that I am attending something called the School of Community, and are worried that I have Joined a Cult. Yeah, right. I do enjoy reading and discussing some paragraphs of Luigi Giussani with others so inclined, as does a certain Bavarian resident in Rome. I find in Don Juice (as he is known, or at least as he is pronounced) an echo of the philosophical position I had developed in the context of American pragmatism or pragmatic idealism, and of the approach to theology exemplified by Rufus Jones and Richard Neibuhr (not the other fellow).

But more of these matters later.