The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Ransom Notes 2

Dallas Shipp writes in to ask:  “You once wrote that whenever a talking head on television referred to a storm or a shooting as a ‘tragedy,’ their misuse of the word amounted to nihilism. Could you elaborate and explain your point? TJF:  I don’t recall using the word “nihilism,” but I have frequently argued against the trivializing of the word tragedy by applying it to accident victims and people who have suffered in a disaster.  The trivialization works in two directions.  First, it reduces to the word tragedy to meaning something like “terrible misfortune” or “incomprehensible suffering.”   It is...

1

Dissolving the German People by Robert Peters

Das Volk hat das Vertrauen der Regierung verscherzt. Wäre es da nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung löste das Volk auf und wählte ein anderes? The preamble of this piece is the last line from Bertolt Brecht’s poem “Die Lösung” (“The Solution”), written by the disillusioned Marxist after the failure of the Workers Uprising on 17 July 1953 and the communist government’s response to that uprising.  The title of the poem suggests an objective correlative with the Nazi term “Die Endlösung” (“The Final Solution”), “The Holocaust” in contemporary parlance.  The term also applies, perhaps more appropriately for this piece, to the...

2

Wednesday’s Child: Summing Up and Down

  I begin with house statistics since the day before New Year’s.  We’ve had five guests staying here, all Russian in varying degree, including a Viennese lady by the name of Inga who, even when the lighting is all wrong, looks like a film noir star of the 1940’s.  Suffice it to say that an admirer had given the diva a riding crop for Christmas, which she kindly brandished for us of an evening while wearing, in an effortlessly choreographed sequence, three wigs she had providently packed in her luggage, a blonde, a brunette, and I think a redhead. As...

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Cicero on Duty

In Book III of De Officiis Cicero poses a dilemma: Suppose a father were robbing a temple or digging tunnels into the treasury; should a son give information to the government?  The philosopher’s answer, according to Cicero, was: No, that would be wrong.  Instead,”he ought to defend his father in court. But, someone would ask, doesn’t one’s country take precedence over other responsibilities?  Yes, indeed, but it is in the country’s interest to have citizens loyal to their parents. Obviously, what the philosopher, Hecaton of Rhodes, had in mind was some notion that a healthy state could not exist without...

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Properties of Blood I.3: The Disappearing Individual, Part A

“I am not like anyone I have ever met.  I may not be better, but I am different.” I first ran across this bit of inspirational optimism emblazoned on the wall of a college dormitory room.  The student who had put up the poster was a nice young man and not at all the sort to be quoting Rousseau, even in the simplified version marketed to aspiring egotists.  But, when individualism is the fashion, even the most obsequious members of human herds will have to regard themselves as trail-blazing individualists forging ahead on the road less traveled by. The incongruity...

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A Tale of Two Museums

America’s well-endowed public museums are  classrooms where visitors learn lessons in American political ideology. These institutions are centers of political indoctrination where the political class uses the displays and descriptions to teach their leftist storylines. All of the information is cobbled together to reinforce the lessons of public education and to tilt all political conversation.  Seeing buses of children come in to these venues on school trips to be brainwashed can be a disconcerting experience, In recent months, I have gone to the U.S. Constitution Center in Philadelphia and to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  Of the two,  the more immediately relevant to contemporary...

5

Without Apology

This piece is a slightly revised version of a piece I published some 16 years ago in a magazine I was then editing. “States Rights?  You can’t be serious!  What do you want to do–restore Jim Crow or bring back slavery?” Any serious discussion of the American republic always comes aground on this rock, and it does not matter which kind of liberal is expressing the obligatory shock and dismay, whether he is a leftist at the Nation, a neoliberal at the New Republic, or a National Review minicon (or should that be “moneycon”?) looking for ways to pander and slander their way if not...

1

Ransom Notes, 1

Kellen Buckles wrote to TFF Facebook page: A friend gave me a copy of Rebecca West’s “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon” and I was wondering if my time will be well spent negotiating those 1,150 pages.  Her prologue was full of intriguing ideas but I don’t want to be led astray.   TJF:  The simple answer is that it is a wonderful book, certainly the most insightful and entertaining volume on the Balkans that is available in English.  Nothing else comes close.  West does not know the language and makes historical mistakes, but her approach is humble and allows the various...

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Properties of Blood, I.2: Love and Hate Part E (Chapter Conclusion)

The Greeks were a quarrelsome people, and it would not have taken much to convince a philosopher that love is, in principle, better than strife.  In this philosopher’s lifetime, the Greek world was wracked by incessant warfare: Athens and Sparta against the Persians, Sicilian Greeks against the Carthaginians, Athens against Sparta and her allies.  In the closing years of Empedocles’ life, Athens made up its mind to invade Sicily–a fateful decision that led directly to the Athenian defeat in the Peloponnesian War, which sunk forever Athens’ aspiration to be a world power.  After his death, the merciless Carthaginians would invade...

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Wednesday’s Child: Eating an Englishman

An extraordinary episode set Moscow’s beau monde on its ear last week–extraordinary in the sense that, if a cannibal, instead of boiling an Englishman in the nude, were to eat him together with his bowler hat, silk umbrella, and brogues by John Lobb of St. James’s Street, this might be considered outrageous cannibal behavior.  “What an extraordinary way to act at table,” other, more fastidious cannibals would be heard muttering. A veteran journalist by the name of Viktor Shenderovich was interviewed on “Moscow Echo”–supposedly the last oasis of dissent yet extant in the Russian media mainstream–and made some remarks about...