You know your reading is taking off when the books you’ve knocked off your list start connecting in your head like puzzle pieces on the dining room table. This happens to yours truly all the time nowadays, and it particularly occurred with two works I read in 2018, Patrick J. Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed and Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of A Family and Culture In Crisis by J.D. Vance.Continue reading →
It has been my conviction for a while now that social media and the daily phony outrages they help spur are rewiring our brains as we speak and make us more stupid. (Ever been on Twitter? Yeah.) Moreover, reading the drivel passing for political insight on our feeds makes us desperate to avoid the latest spat involving President Trump when we talk to these Facebook philosophers at an uncle’s birthday party. Better to change the topic to, say, the Patriots’ ‘Deflate Gate’. It’s bound to get some voices raised, but at the end of the day that feels better than having to battle accusations of secretly cherishing Nazi sympathies.Continue reading →
One of the great feats of being a small business owner — besides being part of the backbone of America’s economy — is that one gets to spend evenings reading books and magazines about organizational management and other business topics in a continuous effort to improve one’s own skills.
Or so the theory goes. Yours truly, in fact, prefers to read about philosophy and history and would consider Plato to be the best organizational guru there ever was. Preferred self-help works include Dante’s Divine Comedy and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. But occasionally, nudged by the missus, I’ll open up one of the works on her growing list of recommendations and start reading.Continue reading →
During a good chunk of the mid-twentieth century the great conservative giants of that era argued over the question of what conservatism is. For Russell Kirk it transcended particular cultures and was, in the words of Bradley Birzer, “a natural longing to preserve the best of human thought as divined by, through, and across the slow process of the experience of humanity, tied to an omnipotent source of creation.” To Robert Nisbet, in contrast, conservatism was a modern phenomenon formed in reaction to the French Revolution and essentially launched single-handedly by Edmund Burke.
The string of terrorist attacks in European cities in recent years has produced, in addition to a significant number of casualties, no shortage of prophets counseling us on where the present crisis of Islamic immigration into the Old Continent will end. Those predicting that it is but a passing moment which will dissolve into a peaceful and harmonious future face off against doomsayers, yours truly included, who fear that many European countries are at risk of becoming Balkanized and collapsing into political turmoil or even civil war.
“They said to her in a harsh voice: ‘Cry out: Long live the nation!’ – ‘No! no!’ she said. They made her climb onto a heap of corpses. … Then a killer seized her, tore off her dress and opened her belly. She fell, and was finished off by the others.” So ended the life of the Princess de Lamballe, a close confidante of Marie Antoinette, in 1792.
This harrowing episode is one of many documented in Peter McPhee’s 2016 book about the French Revolution, Liberty or Death: The French Revolution. This thorough and well-researched work takes off in pre-revolutionary France, which the author explains “was a land of mass poverty in which most people were vulnerable to harvest failure” and “in which the weight of authority guaranteed relative obedience and stability.” This state of obedience gradually disintegrated throughout the eighteenth century, as food-rioting and “complaints about the presumptions of the privileged” increased. A patchwork of overlapping authorities of monarchy, aristocracy and Church in those days, France was economically backward compared to England, where the Industrial Revolution was well underway by 1789. France’s peasants and artisans had ample reason for discontent with their rulers.
What does a self-styled conservative who’s read his fair share of the classics make of a work that on the surface looks like an ordinary self-help book but then plunges him into hundreds of pages about the “archetypal” stories in the Bible and Disney movies, not to mention lobster hierarchies and chimpanzee behavior?
He’s fascinated and possibly a little confused at the same time, that’s what.