Saturday, May 31, 2008

And now for something remotely similar...

(Image from Wikipedia)

Okay, I was stretching the truth yesterday. Claire Berlinski doesn't really like Till Lindemann or Rammstein.

That is, she doesn't rationally assent to the temptation whispering in her own heart when "in a growling bass whisper, Lindemann urges the audience: 'Mit dem Herzen denken!'" (Claire Berlinski, Menace in Europe, page 196).

"Think with your heart!" demand these words, uttered in the song "Links-Zwo-Drei-Vier," and Berlinski, remembering and quoting a passage by the Nazi speechmaster Hugo Ringler, finds an echo of the National Socialists' emphasis upon stirrings of the heart:
[Hitler] spoke not to the understanding but to the heart. He spoke out of his heart into the heart of his listener. And the better he understood how to execute this appeal to the heart, the more willingly he exploited it and the more receptive was the audience to his message. One could not at all at that time persuade the German people by rational argument; things worked out badly for parties that tried that approach. The people were won by the man who struck the chord that others had ignored -- the feelings, the sentiment or, as one wants to call it, the heart. (Hugo Ringler, quoted in Claire Berlinski, Menace in Europe, page 196)
This quote comes from the sixth paragraph in Ringler's essay "Heart or Reason? What We Don't Want from Our Speakers," published in the Nazi Party's magazine for propagandists, Unser Wille und Weg (Our Will and Way), 7 (1937), pp. 245-249.

Not that the Rammstein is aware of any of this, and though Berlinski is impressed despite herself by Lindemann's emotive power, she recognizes Rammstein's perhaps unwitting links to the right and recoils from her attraction. In discussing the punning-pummeling song "Los," she writes:
For men who are basically quite stupid, they do come up with some clever puns. The suffix -los means "-less" in English but, when used as an adjective, means "off" or "loose." As a command, Los! means "go." When Lindemann sings "Sie sind gottlos," he pauses dramatically between gott and los. For a moment, it sounds as if he is singing, "You are God." The song conveys an eerie combination of self-pity and menace. You do hear it -- just what you think you hear. (Claire Berlinski, Menace in Europe, page 221)
In effect, implies Berlinski, Lindemann is telling his hearers that they are gods and urging them to go . . . go and do something, but what?

Go and become proud, nationalistic Germans again?
Since the death of Christian Europe, Europe's new social order has been rooted in the nation state. Nationalism, propagated through the emerging secular channel of print media, restored meaning and ritual to European civic life. National ceremonies replaced those of the Church. The nation-state in Europe has always been more than an administrative structure; it has been a pseudo-spiritual entity, imparting meaning to the lives of men. (Claire Berlinski, Menace in Europe, pages 239-240)
Berlinski worries that the Germans might be seeking their national soul again, might again become a menace in Europe.

Is she right? She does note "The Nazi manner" of diese Männer:
Just go down the checklist. The color: black. The material: leather. The seduction: beauty. The justification: honesty. The aim: ecstasy. The fantasy: death. Check, check, check. And they dominate German popular culture. It is the Germans who are fascinated by Rammstein, who are gobbling up this virtually undisguised Third Reich revivalism, devouring it as if they've been starved for years. But that's not Germany, you say? It's just a handful of jackbooted Teutonic nihilists who happen to be German. Then who bought all those albums? . . . the German people, the bourgeois German establishment. (Claire Berlinski, Menace in Europe, pages 229-230)
Well, perhaps. But Rammstein is popular outside Germany, too.

Still, one can't help but wonder...

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Friday, May 30, 2008

And now for something completely different...

Rammstein in Concert
February 24, 2005
Milan, Italy
(Image from Wikipedia)

Psst . . . Claire Berlinski likes Rammstein's Till Lindemann:
Most compelling is vocalist Lindemann, a massive former swimming champion from the town of Schwerin. He commands a sinister, low bass rarely utilized in contemporary pop music. His voice is untrained but electrifying. His rolled Rs are familiar. The members of the band grew up under the Deutsche Demokratische Republik's cheerless tutelage -- "We were not even allowed to say Hitler's name," keyboardist Lorenz told me -- but somehow Lindemann managed to aquaint himself with that orator's distinctive style nonetheless. He ripples with muscles. He is a man, not a boy, with a voice so powerful and erotic that even women who understand Rammstein's lyrics -- or perhaps especially women who understand those lyrics -- find themselves mesmerized by that voice, by its beauty and masculinity. The first time I heard him sing, the hair on the back of my head stood straight up. (Claire Berlinski, Menace in Europe, page 190)
She adds that such a powerful and erotic "experience is disturbing, to say the least" for a good Jewish girl who knows better than to find that sort of German 'oratory' attractive. But there it is.

You can read more of Berlinski's reflections on Rammstein in a 2005 article, "Rammstein's Rage," published in Azure (Spring 2005, No. 20). Apparently, I've previously read that article somewhere, for I recall her words about running into Lindemann backstage at a concert in December 2004 and commenting that he appeared "bloated and unwell" with "deep circles under his eyes."

So . . . I'd heard of Rammstein, but prior to this 'Age of You Tube,' I'd never had an opportunity to listen, and for the neophyte like me, Berlinski explains how:
Next, let's listen to Rammstein. Much of it can be downloaded from the Internet. Initiates should begin with the song "Reise, Reise," played at top volume. Push your subwoofers to the limit. That is the way it is meant to be appreciated. (Claire Berlinski, Menace in Europe, page 188)
Well, I like a deep base, but I wasn't about to push any subwoofers to the limit at three in the morning when my family is sound asleep. Tillemann's bass-vocal power, however, comes through anyway, its effect deepened by his physical presence, as you can see, and hear, for yourself in the relentlessly aggressive "Reise, Reise."

Or if romantic Wanderungen are more to your taste, there's this muscular version of "Ohne Dich."

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Claire Berlinski on Zadie Smith's White Teeth: An Anecdote

Claire Berlinski

I've been reading Claire Berlinski's Menace in Europe for a couple of days and am about halfway through, and while it's not as weighty as Bawer's book, While Europe Slept, it has some interesting insights drawn from Berlinski's own life.

Like Bawer, she faults the Europeans with having made little effort to integrate its immigrant populations, but also like Bawer, she notes the resistance of some Muslim groups to integration.

First, a little background.

In one section of her book, Berlinski describes her romantic entanglement with Zia Haider Rahman, a Bengali-Briton born in a Bangladesh village but brought with his immigrant parents at a very young age to Britain, where he grew up and, thanks to his intellectual brilliance, eventually entered Oxford for his education. Berlinski met him there and first introduces us to him through the fictional character Magid Iqbal in Zadie Smith's novel White Teeth. According to Berlinski, Zia Haider Rahman was the real-life inspiration for the fictional Magid, just as Magid's twin brother, the fictional Millat was inspired by the real-life Jimmi Rahman, Zia's younger brother:
This is not speculation. I know this. I know this because I too was once in love with a Rahman -- Jimmi's brother, Zia. Zia is Magid. (Menace in Europe, page 50)
Berlinski sounds pretty persuasive about this, though she notes that the author, Zadie Smith, denies having based the novel on their lives. Be that as it may, the real-life Zia has some interesting things to say about the resistance of his Bengali community to integration:
They aren't equipped to deal with modernity. They come from villages -- I come from a village, I'm a villager, I was born in a village, I lived in a village, I spent several formative years in a village -- and there's very little in a village that will equip you with the necessary skills. (Menace in Europe, pages 60-61)
Zia continues in that vein, which leads into an insightful passage about the Bengali villagers' views on educating their children:
Many of these children are taken off to Bangladesh by their parents for months, even years at a time, interrupting their education. I help out in a reading program run by my firm at another school. The kids are wonderful, they still have brightness in their eyes, but they read the storybooks like drones. They can read the symbols, but ask them to explain what they've read and you can see that they've barely taken in a word, and this at an age when their comprehension should be much better. How can that be? Well, after school, these kids are taken off to local madrassas by their parents, where they recite pages and pages from the Koran without understanding a single word -- Arabic is a foreign language. For these kids, recitation is reading. This is how their parents are educating them. (Menace in Europe, page 61)
Children raised in this way are missing out on one of the best things that the West can offer, an education in critical thinking. Some individuals, such as Zia himself, succeed in escaping through this intellectual Berlin wall that keeps the majority hemmed in. When I was living in Tübingen, Germany, I was friends with a British Muslim woman whose parents had been expelled from Idi Amin's Uganda. Her family was one of those brought from India to Uganda by the British during Britain's imperial period, long before India had been partitioned, so I suppose that she considered herself to be of Indian Muslim origin, ultimately.

I once asked her if she had a Qur'an, which she did, so I implored her to read a passage to me. She complied, and as she read, chanted really, I noticed that her reading was accompanied by ritual motions with her right hand -- touching her lips, her forehead, the Qur'an itself. After she had recited a passage, I asked her what it meant:
"I don't know," she replied, laughing ironically. "I wasn't taught to understand it, just to recite the words."
She herself had, like Zia, escaped the confines of such a limited view of education -- for she was quite bright -- and was enjoying the fruits of modern Western learning. I think that she considered herself European, and she seemed well-integrated, but she noted that Germans generally didn't accept her very readily. I don't recall her making a similar remark about the British, but given some of Zia's anecdotes, I can imagine that problems also exist there.

Anyway, the usefulness of Berlinski's book, compared to Bawer's, is that it provides an occasional, empathetic glimpse into the inner life of Europe's Muslim minorities, whereas Bawer saw these groups almost entirely from the outside.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gypsy Scholar: "the same mindset as bin-Ladin"

Osama Bin Laden (1957-?)
"the same mindset as Gypsy Scholar?"
(Image from Wikipedia)

In a response to my blog entry yesterday on John Milton, the moderate Muslim Irfan Yusuf has informed me that I "have the same mindset as bin-Ladin."

That wasn't a very moderate thing for Mr. Yusuf to say, but one can't always maintain one's moderation. Here's the entire comment:
horace, do you know what proportion of European Muslims use Arabic as their first language? Or what proportion of Muslims live in Arab League states? And have you ever set foot in a mosque? Or are you afraid that you might get bitten by a scorpion?

Bin-Ladin makes some absurd and silly generalisations about Europeans, Westerners, Jews, Hindus and other groups. You are doing the same thing to 1.2 billion Muslims.

Will you permit me to exercise my freedom of speech and suggest that you have the same mindset as bin-Ladin?
So many questions! Who knew that Milton, 400 years after his birth, could inspire such an impassioned response?

Yet . . . when I re-read my words on Milton to discover what I supposedly did to 1.2 billion Muslims, I found myself baffled -- and, naturally, a bit insulted -- so I replied to Mr. Yusuf (taking care to respectfully capitalize his name):
Irfan Yusuf, you seem to have forgotten that I go by "Jeffery."

You are free to comment here so long as you don't abuse the privilege with ad hominem attacks -- though you are really pushing that line with your insulting comparison of me to mass murderer and Islamist terrorist Osama Bin Laden. I suggest that you restrain yourself in future comments.

Now if I recall correctly, you previously objected to my having made a distinction between moderate and radical Muslims. Now, you accuse me of not distinguishing. I plead not guilty anyway, for if you look closely, you'll see in my post [on Milton] that I used the term "Islamism," by which I mean the use of Islam for political purposes, the ultimate aim being a shariah state.

I don't consider the majority of Muslims to be particularly interested in Islamism.
In a subsequent response to another interlocutor, Otto Silver, whom Mr. Yusuf had also engaged in conversation, I added the following remarks about Mr. Yusuf:
Otto, I appreciate your cordial response to Irfan Yusuf and your temperate remarks. I try to keep my blog free of insults.

Irfan is a 'moderate' Muslim (though he doesn't like my saying so), a lawyer, a journalist, and quite intelligent, but is also, it seems, too easily riled.

He is, in short, better than his recent comments.
I give Mr. Yusuf, anyway, the benefit of the doubt since he obviously doesn't like Osama Bin Laden.

He does not, however, extend me the same courtesy, for in a comment to Sonagi concerning my "'Dhimmification' of Europe?" blog post, Mr. Yusuf remarked: "I hope that the academic who writes this blog doesn't pollute young Korean minds with such sectarian bigotry."

To those words, I can only repeat my initial, lapidary response: "Islamism is a problem in Europe, and it cannot be ignored."

I anticipate more lapidation from Mr. Yusuf, but perhaps he'll call for a moratorium.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour"

Tempted by Censorship?
(The New Yorker, June 2, 2008)

I've finished reading Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept and am reflecting upon the implications of what he describes, especially the meekness with which too many Europeans, after the assassinations of such outspoken critics of Islamism as Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn, have accepted restrictions on their freedom to voice their opinions:
Across Western Europe . . . authorities were cracking down on free speech -- or trying to. Meanwhile, many artists, writers, and "cultural workers" were practicing pragmatic self-censorship -- taking down "offensive" artworks, cancelling screenings of "offensive" movies, thinking "offensive" thoughts but not daring to voice them. (While Europe Slept, page 216)
The offensive short film, Submission, written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and produced by Theo van Gogh -- and which had so enraged Mohammad Bouyeri that he had murdered van Gogh -- proved too controversial for the art world:
In February 2005, a scheduled screening of Submission at the Rotterdam International Film Festival was canceled by its producer, Gijs van de Westelaken . . . . The festival's theme, ironically, was "censored films"; in place of Submission, the festival audience saw two movies sympathetic to suicide bombers. (While Europe Slept, page 216)
As Bawer notes, "'Provocative'' art was all right, in short, so long as it didn't actually provoke anybody" (page 217).

When I consider our current need for a vigorous defense of free speech, I think of the line by William Wordsworth concerning John Milton: "Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour":
London, 1802
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
O raise us up, return to us again,
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power!
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
I like those lines "Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free." Milton certainly defended free speech with great rhetorical power in an argument "For the Liberty of Unlicen'd Printing" expressed in his essay Areopagitica. This work was in direct response to the the Puritan Parliament's Licensing Order of 1643, which reinstated the pre-publication censorship of earlier royal and ecclesiastical censors.

At one point, Milton -- who evidently considers the Qur'an fictitious -- implies that "Alcoran" can only be protected by Muslims through restrictions on expression:
There is yet behind of what I purpos'd to lay open, the incredible losse, and detriment that this plot of licencing puts us to, more then if som enemy at sea should stop up all our hav'ns and ports, and creeks, it hinders and retards the importation of our richest Marchandize, Truth: nay it was first establisht and put in practice by Antichristian malice and mystery on set purpose to extinguish, if it were possible, the light of Reformation, and to settle falshood; little differing from that policie wherewith the Turk upholds his Alcoran, by the prohibition of Printing. 'Tis not deny'd, but gladly confest, we are to send our thanks and vows to heav'n louder then most of Nations, for that great measure of truth which we enjoy, especially in those main points between us and the Pope, with his appertinences the Prelats: but he who thinks we are to pitch our tent here, and have attain'd the utmost prospect of reformation, that the mortall glasse wherein we contemplate, can shew us, till we come to beatific vision, that man by this very opinion declares, that he is yet farre short of Truth. (Areopagitica, paragraph 19)
This is a dense passage, but I think that we can all understand Milton's basic point, namely, that preventing free speech -- whether by Catholics, Protestants, or Muslims -- entails restrictions on truth, and that, Milton implies, would be to settle on falsehood.

Forthrightness demands that I acknowledge that Milton himself placed some restrictions on free expression, more than I would wish to see.

In that, one might say that even Milton fell tempted by censorship.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

'Dhimmification' of Europe?

Apologizing to Mohammed Hamdan
(Image from VG Nett)

I've nearly finished reading Bruce Bawer's book, While Europe Slept, and I encourage people to read it. It's not a scholarly text, so you won't find citations to help you track down Bawer's sources, but what he writes accords with what I've read elsewhere.

I'll soon go on to read Claire Berlinski's Menace in Europe, Bruce Thornton's Decline and Fall, and Walter Laqueur's The Last Days of Europe, all three being about the 'challenges' facing Europe in its decline.

But before leaving Bawer entirely (though I'll return to him as I prepare my Yonsei course), I'd like to draw attention to his recent article for City Journal: "An Anatomy of Surrender" (Spring 2008, Volume 18, Number 2). This article recaps many of the points that Bawer makes in While Europe Slept.

In this article, Bawer emphasizes that the Islamists are attempting to force Europeans to accept the strictures of sharia by restricting the right to free speech, an assault that began with the Rushdie Affair:
What has not been widely recognized is that the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie introduced a new kind of jihad. Instead of assaulting Western ships or buildings, Khomeini took aim at a fundamental Western freedom: freedom of speech. In recent years, other Islamists have joined this crusade, seeking to undermine Western societies' basic liberties and extend sharia within those societies. (Bawer, "An Anatomy of Surrender," paragraph 2)
Bawer relates an example from a more recent crisis in Norway that followed in the wake of the controversy that had resulted from the publication of several Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten:
With the press, the entertainment industry, and prominent liberal thinkers all refusing to defend basic Western liberties, it's not surprising that our political leaders have been pusillanimous, too. After a tiny Oslo newspaper, Magazinet, reprinted the Danish cartoons in early 2006, jihadists burned Norwegian flags and set fire to Norway's embassy in Syria. Instead of standing up to the vandals, Norwegian leaders turned on Magazinet's editor, Vebjørn Selbekk, partially blaming him for the embassy burning and pressing him to apologize. He finally gave way at a government-sponsored press conference, groveling before an assemblage of imams whose leader publicly forgave him and placed him under his protection. On that terrible day, Selbekk later acknowledged, "Norway went a long way toward allowing freedom of speech to become the Islamists' hostage." As if that capitulation weren't disgrace enough, an official Norwegian delegation then traveled to Qatar and implored Qaradawi -- a defender of suicide bombers and the murder of Jewish children -- to accept Selbekk's apology. "To meet Yusuf al-Qaradawi under the present circumstances," Norwegian-Iraqi writer Walid al-Kubaisi protested, was "tantamount to granting extreme Islamists . . . a right of joint consultation regarding how Norway should be governed." (Bawer, "An Anatomy of Surrender", paragraph 25)
What I find most disturbing about this episode concerning the restriction of Vebjørn Selbekk's free speech is that Mohammed Hamdan, the leader of those 'Danish' imams, "publicly forgave him and placed him under his protection"!

Lest anyone not understand the implications, that sort of 'protection' implies that Selbekk is already a dhimmi and that an Islamist such as Hamdan believes that Islam already rules in Norway.

Such 'protection' is contingent upon the dhimmi's continued good behavior, which entails continually acknowledging the supremacy of Islam.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ironies of Activism...

Tübingen: Outlook on an Insight
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm still reading Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within and finding that Bawer has remarkable insights on a number of issue, one of these being an insight into an especially pernicious side effect of Europe's generous social welfare system. In commenting on Europeans' bystander passivity, their tendency to stand aside and do nothing but watch during antisemitic attacks on Jews or gay-bashing of homosexuals, Bawer noted:
How to reconcile this kind of unresponsiveness -- this colossal lack of what Americans call civic responsibility -- with all the proud rhetoric about "solidarity" and "community" that fills Western European political speeches and newspaper editorials? Well, I realized quite a while back that this rhetoric, far from having anything to do with cultivating among citizens a feeling of mutual support and neighborliness, was, quite simply, welfare-state sloganeering. Western Europeans have been brought up to think of solidarity with one's fellow man not as something they have to attend to themselves but rather as something mediated through state bureaucracies. (Bawer, While Europe Slept, page 149)
I recall a conversation, sometime around 1990, that I had with a Pakistani-British woman in a coffee shop in Tübingen, Germany. She was very critical of Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and argued that the British were becoming more conservative and thus more selfish, less concerned with community or with helping others. I politely disagreed with the argument that turning conservative meant that one was becoming more selfish, and I said that reliance upon the state might actually discourage individuals from personally acting to help others and therefore might tend to undermine community.

That was 17 years ago, and I've since had similar thoughts. Just yesterday, Michael Bauman and I exchanged emails on this point. I wrote first, sending a note of thanks for sending me some articles and books that he had authored:
As for the other books that you sent, previously, I've read everything that you wrote . . . and some things written by others. All were quite enlightening. I find myself more motivated to defend free markets as I grow older, so reading more about their defense is useful.

Just yesterday, I was telling my wife that the Korean protests against American beef were "irrational." Eventually, she saw my point -- especially when I pointed out how much more she was paying for Korean beef[, which is protected from a free market,] when the risk of mad cow disease from American beef was, roughly, one in one-hundred million.
Michael replied:
I think you are quite right about the failures and foolishness of interventionist economics. It simply does not work. The closer you get to government control of a market, the closer you get to the poverty of places like North Korea, or the hyper-inflation we mentioned on your blog last week. I am continually astonished by the ignorance of Christians like Jim Wallis, who want to exercise compassion for the poor, but who don't know the first thing about how poverty is defeated or how wealth is created.
On the point about misdirected compassion, I replied:
I think that the ethical intuition usually directs us to do something active to help the needy, whereas laissez-faire economics advises us to do nothing, counter-intuitive if anything is.

The irony is that the social-welfare state trains its citizens to be passive. The moral intuition to help gets directed toward the state, which vicariously takes on the role of moral agent . . . but without the ability to enjoin responsibility on the part of those whom it 'helps.'
Or so things seem to me, for with the years comes clear the irony of unintended consequences as we find ourselves living them out in our own lives.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

"The 'Trials' of Theoretical Curiosity"

(Image from Yonsei University)

For those of you interested in such things, I should mention that I'll be offering a course on "curiosity" at Yonsei's Underwood International College next fall. Here's the official description of the course, which I think can be accurately categorized as "intellectual history":
The 'Trials' of Theoretical Curiosity: Free Inquiry and its Potential Limits

The course will deal with Part 3 of Hans Blumenberg's tome in intellectual history, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age. Originally in German but translated by Robert M. Wallace into English, Part 3 is titled "The 'Trial' of Theoretical Curiosity." Blumenberg's historical analysis traces the vicissitudes undergone by "curiosity" from Socrates to Feuerbach. The course will be intellectual history but with larger implications for views on the origin and character of Modernity and its emergence from the Medieval worldview. The fundamental lesson would concern the difficulty encountered by curiosity as a legitimate intellectual pursuit. Students would likely draw their own inferences as to current threats -- or even understandable limits -- to curiosity in our postmodern times, whether from the political correctness advocated by radical multiculturalism or from the fundamentalist resurgence predicated upon the revenge of God. Readings will include selections from Blumenberg as well as articles to be supplied at the beginning of the semester. An essay with thesis statement, citations, and bibliography, initially as a first full draft and then as a final draft, will be required.
As I explained to John Frankl, the UIC's Assistant Dean (or perhaps: Common Curriculum Program Chair):
Blumenberg's argument on the trial of theoretical curiosity would likely be of intrinsic interest for students. Moreover, I've been familiar with Blumenberg's works since 1984, and I've been doing a research project with Professor Warren T. Reich, editor of the Encyclopedia of Bioethics, who is working on a history of care and wants to include the etymologically related term "curiositas" in his work, so I've become something of an expert on this topic and will be working on it even more over the next few months.
Frankl asked only that I shorten the title, which I have: "The 'Trials' of Theoretical Curiosity."

Now, we just have to see if students are interested.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Korean Anti-Americanism?

What's he doing here?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Let me copy here for your edification a morality tale that I read yesterday about anti-Americanism on a peninsula at the end of a continent:
In the spring of 2001, through a rather absurd set of circumstances, my understanding of Korean anti-Americanism took at great leap forward.

One day, an editor of the New York Times travel section called me and said she needed something in a hurry. They were doing a feature on "farm stays" -- working farms that accommodate visitors who want a taste of the agricultural life -- and were an article short. Could I find such a place in South Korea and write it up pronto?

It didn't sound like my cup of tea, but I promised I'd look into it. Within an hour, I'd located a farm in Gangwon-do that sounded suitable and booked a room for my partner, his brother, and me.

A few days later we were there. High on a remote mountainside, it was the opposite of what Americans think of when they hear the word "farm": this was no patchwork of cornfields stretching to the horizon, but a cluster of small weatherbeaten wooden buildings surrounded by rocky scrubby earth, most of it far from horizontal, on which a few dozen goats and chickens grazed. It was, admittedly, picturesque: our room afforded a spectacular view of the valley and of a steep green mountainside down which narrow waterfalls trickled, like tinsel sparkling.

But the experience was ruined by the proprietor's behavior. Much of the point of a "farm stay" is to watch the farmer farm -- and our farmer obviously hated being in our company, and seemed determined to make his own company as unpleasant as possible. The three of us all came to the same conclusion as to why he was treating us this way, but I'll keep our speculations to myself; suffice it to say that I'd never encountered such incivility on the part of an alleged host. We'd planned to stay two nights but left after one.

Had there been time, I would've found another farm to write up; but since the Times needed something right away, I did what I had to. Though honesty required that I mention the host's conduct, this was a travel article and not an exposé, so I tried to be as positive as possible. I sent the piece in, and it appeared a couple of Sundays later. The next day, South Korea's newspaper of record, The Hankyoreh, ran a story summing it up. Now, what I'd written wasn't remotely newsworthy; the only reason the editors of The Hankyoreh thought otherwise was that South Korea had been mentioned in the New York Times. The attention surprised me.

Even more astonishing was what happened next. The owner of the farm, irked that I'd made a point of mentioning his rudeness, got his revenge by telling reporters that I'd demanded McDonald's hamburgers for dinner instead of that most South Korean of delicacies, Hanwoo steak. Though this was a transparent fabrication (his farm was in the boondocks, far from the nearest golden arches), the South Korean press lapped it up. The story received high-profile coverage all over South Korea and dragged on for days. After somebody at The Hankyoreh tracked down an essay I'd published in a Washington, D.C., policy journal, criticizing various elements of South Korea's statist economy and praising the at least somewhat market-friendly Grand National Party, the newspaper ran an article helpfully explaining that I didn't just hate the farm in Gangwon-do; I hated "pretty much everything about South Korea."

Meanwhile our inhospitable host became an instant folk hero. The next weekend, he was accorded a cozy ten-minute segment on MBC's Sunday evening -- the South Korean equivalent of being profiled on 60 Minutes. By the time the story had run its course, our unpleasant weekend trip had been transformed into a morality play about the threat posed by vulgar American urbanites to cherished native traditions. (Though two of our party of three had been South Koreans, we were referred to by more than one journalist as "the Americans.") I was flabbergasted. But my erstwhile host obviously wasn't: he knew his country; he knew its media; and he'd known, accordingly, that all he needed to do to spin events to his advantage was to breathe that talismanic word, McDonald's.

For me, the episode raised a few questions. Why had the South Korean press paid so much attention to a mere travel article? Why had it then been so eager to repeat a cartoonish lie and obsess over it for days? Were these actions reflective of a society more serious, more thoughtful, than the one I'd left? Or did they reflect a culture -- or, at least, a media class -- that was so awed by America as to be flattered by even its slightest attentions, but that was also reflexively, irrationally belligerent toward it?
This sort of story will sound depressingly familiar to many expats living here in South Korea.

However, the story isn't about South Korea at all. It's about an experience that Bruce Bawer had in Norway and recounts in pages 96-97 of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. Another, shorter version of the story can be found online, in Bawer's article "Hating America,", Vol. LX, No. 3: Autumn 2007.

Here's the code for deciphering the story posted above: Korean = European; South Korea = Norway; Gangwon-do = Telemark; The Hankyoreh = Aftenposten; Hanwoo (i.e., Korean beef) = reindeer; South Korean = Norwegian; Grand National Party = Conservative Party; and MBC = NRK.

Many of the American expats that I meet in South Korea have never lived elsewhere abroad. They therefore experience culture shock and anti-Americanism for the first time and conclude that South Korea is uniquely hostile to America, but we see that Bruce Bawer's "morality play" recounts an experience eerily similar to one that an American expat could easily have here in Korea.

Or elsewhere in the world.

In addition to living here in South Korea, I have lived in Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Israel, and -- of course -- the Democratic People's Republic of Berkeley, so I'm quite familar with the anti-Americanism of other lands.

Korean anti-Americanism merely fits into a common, easily recognizable pattern, so I didn't let it rile me much when I first encountered it since I'd already experienced the European (and Berzerkeleyan) variety.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Decline of Europe?

Bruce Bawer
While Europe Slept
(Image from

I've been asked to teach a course on multiculturalism in Europe next fall for Yonsei's Underwood International College, so I'm trying to plan well in advance and have come up with the following course description:
Multiculturalism in Europe: Political Implications

In his book Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, Robert Kagan argues that Europeans believe that "Europe is turning away from power . . . [and] moving . . . into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation . . . . a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Immanuel Kant's 'perpetual peace'" (page 3). But is Europe's self-perception realistic, or merely self-delusion? European integration has drawn into the EU a collection of distinct nations, each with its own unique culture, making the EU a genuinely multicultural political entity. These various nations, however, largely share the same civilizational identity, as Samuel Huntington (Clash of Civilizations) would observe and Remi Brague (Eccentric Civilization) would seek to define. Yet, continuing, large-scale immigration from various parts of the world may be introducing a more radical version of multiculturalism as communities with other than Western civilizational identities begin to emerge and to practice, if not outright demand, cultural autonomy. Do these emerging communities pose political difficulties for the European paradise of peace? Are the Paris riots a harbinger of multicultural -- perhaps even civilizational -- conflict to come? This course will focus upon these and related questions.
In preparing for this course, I ordered four books from, and they arrived yesterday, ahead of schedule, so I've already begun reading by reading Bruce Bawer's critical look at multicultural Europe: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. What Bawer describes is the way in which an official commitment to radical multiculturalism combined with rigid political correctness has prevented Europeans from openly discussing the problems that now confront them in a Europe being transformed by immigrants who do not share Western values and -- as in the case of radical Islam -- sometimes intend to impose their own values upon the native European population.

Bawer, who is gay, gives an example of gay-bashing -- at a multicultural festival!
Gay-bashing is on the upswing. In May 2002, a German gay couple, Dennis and Aribert Otto, were attending a multicultural street festival in Berlin when someone behind them shouted: "Gay pig! You should all be gassed." They turned to see ten immigrant youths coming toward them. The gang beat them viciously. "Five minutes later," reported Welt am Sonntag, the two men "were lying on the ground bleeding while 'One World' was being sung two blocks further down. That day they lost their belief in the ideal of a multicultural society in which minorities act together in solidarity."

I wasn't familiar with "One World," so I looked it up online. I found the lyrics -- where else? -- on a UN Web site. Here's an excerpt:
Even if we are different in ages and gender
We make friends in the same way
Even if we live in different continents and countries
We play in the same way
We are the friends of One World
We are the children of one family.
In short, it's multiculturalism set to music. The message: all cultures are equal, and all cultural differences superficial. No matter where people come from, their values are essentially the same: they all cherish peace, they all believe in "live and let live," they all want the best for their children. Where serious differences do exist, moreover, it is invariably the West, with its evil history of colonialism and racism, that is inferior; in case of conflict, it is invariably the West that is at fault. There is, moreover, nothing that the West can teach other cultures, though we can of course learn much from them. This is the line the political and media establishment has sold to the people of Western Europe. To suggest that it's not entirely true -- that, indeed, there exist cultural differences that can cast a dark shadow over this sunny "It's a small world" sensibility -- is verboten. (Bawer, While Europe Slept, pp. 39-40)
Bawer is a journalist, and he clearly has an ax to grind, but he has grounds for his grinding -- and as a gay man, he feels especially threatened by the direction that Europe is currently headed. Bawer notes the irony in this:
The main reason I'd been glad to leave America was Protestant fundamentalism. But Europe, I eventually say, was falling prey to an even more alarming fundamentalism whose leaders made their American Protestant counterparts look like amateurs. Falwell was an unsavory creep, but he didn't issue fatwas. James Dobson's parenting advice was appalling, but he wasn't telling people to murder their daughters. American liberals had been fighting the Religious Right for decades; Western Europeans had yet to even acknowledge that they had a Religious Right. How could they ignore it? Certainly as a gay man, I couldn't close my eyes to this grim reality. Pat Robertson just wanted to deny me marriage; the imams wanted to drop a wall on me. I wasn't fond of the hypocritical conservative-Christian line about hating the sin and loving the sinner, but it was preferable to the forthright fundamentalist Muslim view that homosexuals merited death

Given what I'd seen and heard of evangelical Christianity in America, I hadn't been terribly upset that Christian belief in Western Europe had declined precipitously since World War II and that the churches were now almost empty. But I was beginning to see that when Christian faith had departed, it had taken with it a sense of ultimate meaning and purpose -- and left the Continent vulnerable to conquest by people with deeper faith and stronger convictions. What's more, no longer able to take religion seriously themselves, many Europeans were unable to believe that other people might take religion very seriously indeed. (Bawer, While Europe Slept, pp. 33-34)
I don't agree with some of what Bawer thinks about evangelical Christianity -- for instance, his remark about "the hypocritical conservative-Christian line about hating the sin and loving the sinner." I don't consider this 'line' hypocritical. It's surely a central Christian virtue to make such a distinction, and this distinction partly accounts for the fact that the Falwells, Dobsons, and Robertsons of American evangelicalism don't advocate dropping walls on somebody.

Despite some disagreements, I'm finding Bawer's book mostly agreeable about some disagreeable aspects of a changing Europe. He is a journalist, however, so I'm looking forward to reading the other three books that arrived yesterday, including one by the scholar Walter Laqueur: The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent.

It promises to be just as depressing...

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Walter McDougall: Throes of Democracy

Walter McDougall, Throes of Democracy:
The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877
(Image from

Long-time readers may recall some early posts on Freedom Just Around the Corner, the first volume in a planned five-volume series on American history written by one of my old Berkeley professors, but now safely ensconced at the University of Pennsylvania, Walter McDougall.

For more recent readers who'd like to know -- or long-time readers with short memories -- simply copy the title "Freedom Just Around the Corner" within double-quotation marks, paste it in the "Search Blog" box above, and click the "Search Blog" button or hit "Enter" to find nine posts from 2005 on precisely this first volume.

Three years ago! How time flies.

I've not commented on the most recent stage of McDougall's long excursion through American history because I've been waiting for a report from the man himself.

Well, I didn't get that, but I did receive an E-Note from the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) alerting me to the recent publication of McDougall's second volume: Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877.

This E-Note also offered McDougall's summary, an essay that can be read at the FPRI website under the same title as the book and which opens with a description of a religious revival that had previously escaped my attention, a 'spiritual' awakening that came in the wake of "the capsized steamer Central America, which had gone "down on September 12 with 426 souls and a half million ounces of California gold," bringing on The Panic of 1857 with its liquidity crisis, tumbling markets, and collapsing banks:
A ruined broker named Jeremiah Calvin Lanphier believed that Wall Street, which had been reduced to cinders in a terrible fire in 1835, needed to burn again, only this time with the Holy Spirit. On Wednesday, September 23, he summoned businessmen to a noon prayer service at the old Dutch Church on Fulton Street. Six stragglers peeked in. But increasing numbers showed up over the next months. During what Walt Whitman called those "melancholy days," prayer groups sprang up all over New York, then Chicago and Philadelphia. The revival spread all over America, but it hit northern cities the hardest because the "Plundering Generation" of textile manufacturers, merchants, shippers, insurers, and investment bankers repented of their profitable complicity in the slave-based cotton trade. Bestsellers called this revival a harbinger of the Apocalypse and Millennium.

No historian is so bold as to say that the Revival of 1857-58 caused our Civil War. But several, including myself, find it plausible that the spiritual message reinforced the political message of the new Republican Party; bred revulsion to the corruption and vice in American society; and made northern elites more receptive to antislavery agitation. (Walter A. McDougall, "Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829 – 1877," The Newsletter of FPRI's Marvin Wachman Fund for International Education, May 2008, Vol. 13, No. 12, paragraphs 3-4)
From my reading of McDougall's essay, the line between this revival and the Civil War is not so plainly drawn. I would guess that the spiritual revival McDougall draws attention to had its more potent expression in the Northern population's reception of Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous work, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and McDougall himself credits Stowe with "trumpet[ing] dangerous truths in Uncle Tom's Cabin and indict[ing] Northern complicity in the slave trade" (paragraph 18)

Whatever the spiritual gunpowder that primed the material gun power, the Civil War came and changed America and its South forever even if -- as McDougall put it -- "Reconstruction became Americans' first of many failed experiments in nation-building" (paragraph 23). McDougall finds four significant ways in which the Civil War era shaped American 'character':
The Civil War era, it seems to me, hard-wired four telling traits into Americans' character, traits they would go on to display time and again during their later career as a world power. The first is a careless lack of responsibility: the American people and political system invariably put off pressing problems until they finally cannot be ignored any longer. Because of delay, the solutions prove exponentially more costly and less satisfactory than they could have been. The second is amnesia: the American people tend to forget or misremember their past mistakes and ordeals out of a cheerful optimism and faith in the future born of their civil religion. The third is an amazing power of resilience: Americans invariably rebound from the ravages of war in a very short time and recover their confidence. The fourth, to paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, is a nationalism with the soul of a church, because the United States resurrected after its death in Secession purged old myths only to fuse nationalism even more inextricably with a cult of material progress disguised as a holy calling. That coalescence of Union and Creed, power and faith, rendered Americans uniquely prone to sanctimony, but also uniquely immune to cynicism. (paragraph 28)
In the hands of a different sort of historian, all this mess would be cause for a cynical reading of American history, but McDougall, fully as American as those whom he describes, is himself "uniquely immune to cynicism."

That's partly what I like about him.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Calvin and Hobbes": An En-Uk Perspective

Calvin and Hobbes (April 1987), page 51
(Image from

En-Uk turns nine years old next week on Wednesday, so we're getting into more sophisticated literature in our daily homeschooling sessions.

For instance, he loves reading works of theology and politics like Bill Watterson's great comic strip, "Calvin and Hobbes," so we're gradually making out way through the first Calvin and Hobbes collection published in book form, Calvin and Hobbes (April 1987).

Yesterday evening, we reached page 51 and encountered the strip that appears above:
En-Uk read, "Here's a good movie! 'Vampire Sorority Babes'!"

"You know what a vampire is?" I checked, pretty sure that he knew.
En-Uk nodded.
"And 'sorority'?" I asked.


"A 'sorority'," I explained, "is a girl's club in college. The word means 'sisterhood'."
En-Uk nodded to signal that he understood.
"And 'babes'," I asked, "do you know what 'babes' means?"


"The word 'babe' here," I explained, "means 'beautiful woman'."
Again, En-Uk nodded his understanding. He then read the remainder of the strip without difficulty though I had to explain why no one under 18 could get in to see the film:
"Too scary," I told him.
That wasn't entirely true, of course, but at 8 years old, En-Uk is much too young to understand the so-called 'facts' of life. Visually, the strip was funny enough for En-Uk to laugh at:
"Ha, ha, ha," En-Uk laughed. "Calvin likes hos!"
Astonished at what I seemed to have heard and wondering where En-Uk could have picked up such trashy street rap, I asked myself: "He knows that 'whores' are called 'hos'?"
"What did you say?" I asked, checking to make sure.

"Hos," En-Uk repeated, then seemed to correct himself, "Whores."
I stared at him.
Finally, he succeeded: "Horrors. Calvin likes horror movies."
Whew! That was a relief. En-Uk needed no intensive debriefing but merely a bit more practice enunciating the letter "r" in difficult words like "horror," which usually is a horror for Koreans to pronounce, and En-Uk, having lived here on the peninsula since he was seven months old, is far more Korean than American.

Otherwise, my literary mind, confronted with En-Uk's uncanny knowledge, might have had inklings of such lost innocence as the sort explored by Henry James in The Turn of the Screw, a horror story in its own right.

I'm not entirely rational...

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Monday, May 19, 2008

"Milton is a great poet, but living with him is hell."

Milton: Testosterone-Driven Poet?

If we take Gary Lynn Taylor's words in the entry heading above at face value, then we can probably agree that he does not boundlessly love Milton.

I've taken the quote from this Shakespearean scholar's recent Time Magazine 'review' of Nigel Smith's new book, Is Milton Better Than Shakespeare?

Taylor is the Shakespearean scholar who argues that the poem "Shall I die? Shall I fly" -- found in a collection of manuscripts donated to the Bodleian Library in 1755 by Bishop Richard Rawlinson -- truly comes from the hand of Shakespeare:
Shall I die? Shall I fly
Lovers' baits and deceits,
sorrow breeding?
Shall I tend? Shall I send?
Shall I sue, and not rue
my proceeding?
In all duty her beauty
Binds me her servant for ever.
If she scorn, I mourn,
I retire to despair, joining never.

Yet I must vent my lust
And explain inward pain
by my love conceiving.
If she smiles, she exiles
All my moan; if she frown,
all my hopes deceiving
Suspicious doubt, O keep out,
For thou art my tormentor.
Fie away, pack away;
I will love, for hope bids me venture.

'Twere abuse to accuse
My fair love, ere I prove
her affection.
Therefore try! Her reply
Gives thee joy or annoy,
or affliction.
Yet howe'er, I will bear
Her pleasure with patience, for beauty
Sure will not seem to blot
Her deserts, wronging him doth her duty.

In a dream it did seem
But alas, dreams do pass
as do shadows
I did walk, I did talk
With my love, with my dove,
through fair meadows.
Still we passed till at last
We sat to repose us for pleasure.
Being set, lips met,
Arms twined, and did bind my heart's treasure.

Gentle wind sport did find
Wantonly to make fly
her gold tresses.
As they shook I did look,
But her fair did impair
all my senses.
As amazed, I gazed
On more than a mortal complexion.
You that love can prove
Such force in beauty's inflection.

Next her hair, forehead fair,
Smooth and high; neat doth lie,
without wrinkle,
Her fair brows; under those,
Star-like eyes win love's prize
when they twinkle.
In her cheeks who seeks
Shall find there displayed beauty's banner;
O admiring desiring
Breeds, as I look still upon her.

Thin lips red, fancy's fed
With all sweets when he meets,
and is granted
There to trade, and is made
Happy, sure, to endure
still undaunted.
Pretty chin doth win
Of all their culled commendations;
Fairest neck, no speck;
All her parts merit high admirations.

Pretty bare, past compare,
Parts those plots which besots
still asunder.
It is meet naught but sweet
Should come near that so rare
'tis a wonder.
No mis-shape, no scape
Inferior to nature's perfection;
No blot, no spot:
She's beauty's queen in election.

Whilst I dreamt, I, exempt
From all care, seemed to share
pleasure's plenty;
But awake, care take
For I find to my mind
pleasures scanty.
Therefore I will try
To compass my heart's chief contenting.
To delay, some say,
In such a case causeth repenting.
Taylor's disputed discovery of this 'new' Shakespeare poem was also the subject of a Time Magazine article of June 21, 2005 (1985?), "Shall I Die? Shall I Fly . . . ," in which Otto Friedrich reports on the debate among Shakespearean scholars over Taylor's attribution of the poem to Shakespeare, the sharpest objection being: "Could Shakespeare really have written a poem that is so, well, mediocre?"

I wouldn't venture to say, except to note that a commonplace of creative writers is the proverb that "Every writer has a bad first novel."

Be that as it may -- and even though "Taylor himself does not claim to have discovered a masterpiece" in the 'Shakespeare' poem -- Taylor takes issue, in "Milton and Shakespeare: Battle of the Bards" (Time Magazine, May 15, 2008), with Nigel Smith's insistence that Milton is better than Shakespeare, apparently because Taylor believes that Shakespeare has better sound bites, Milton not being "a poet for the sound-bite century" because of such passages as one from Paradise Lost 4.268ff describing Adam and Eve in Eden:
The 20-line sentence contains 20 proper names: Enna, Prosperin, Dis, Ceres, Daphne, Orontes, Castalian, Nyseian, Triton, Cham, Ammon, Lybian Jove, Amalthea, Bacchus, Rhea, Abassin, Amara, Ethiop, Nilus, Assyrian.
Definitely no sound bite, but is Taylor being serious, or ironic? Or possibly both? Read his review, and decide for yourself. Meanwhile, he does make a good point about one difficulty that we face in reading Milton:
Milton makes even smart people feel stupid. Not by accident, either. He is probably the most unrelentingly aggressive poet in English. When Samson says, "My heels are fettered, but my fist is free," he displays the best and worst of Milton. The best is Milton's unsurpassed technical command of English: the double contrast of "heels . . . fettered" against "fist . . . free"; the long vowel in "heels" echoed by "free"; the alliteration of "fettered . . . fist . . . free"; the combination of all three effects in the verse-ending stressed monosyllable "free," so ironically spoken by a blind slave in chains, but also so irresistibly open-voweled, defiant and exhilarating. In some ways, "free" is the single word that sums up what's most appealing about Milton's politics -- his resistance to tyranny, his commitment to liberty. But of course the whole sentence is a threat to beat up someone who disagrees with him -- in particular, someone who refuses to acknowledge his God-guaranteed superiority over everyone else. And this religious fanatic will express his freedom by committing suicide in order to kill thousands of his enemies.
I wouldn't say that Milton makes us feel stupid, though we might feel a bit brow-beaten if we disagree with Milton, for he could be harshly, brilliantly polemical, but Taylor has chosen a pertinant issue here. How do we deal with a great poet who has written such a masterpiece as Samson Agonistes, which seems to justify a man who in our time would fit the profile of a suicide bomber?

Or did Milton really mean to justify blind Samson's ways to man?

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Speaking of beef, I mean beer...

Lee Hyo-bok, Seoul WaBar
JoongAng Daily, May 14, 2008
(Image by Kwon Hyuck-jae)

The JoongAng Daily for Wednesday, May 14 -- my birthday, if you recall -- had a couple of useful articles on finding good beer in Korea.

The articles don't talk much about Korean beers. I wonder why.

Anyway, the first article, "Booze news for beer hunters," by Lee Young-hee and Kim Do-eun, describes the Koreans changing tastes in beers:
In Korea, American beverages like Miller and Budweiser, and Mexico's Corona, used to be considered cool, but today European beers, with their stronger personalities and richer tastes are becoming more prominent.

Interest in European drinks has been fueled in part by the tourism boom. As more Koreans travel overseas, they encounter a diverse range of brews. Events like Oktoberfest in Germany have introduced more locals here to that nation's wealth of beer talent. Subsequently, the beer market here is moving away from lagers and is embracing dark, wheat and light beers.
That's a change all for the better here in Korea even if I do choose readily available Budweiser over the cheaper Korean beers, but if my Arkansas beer-buddy John Wells is right about the best, most-creative beers in the world now being brewed in America, then we can hope for a New World reorientation sometime and a Korean return to American beers, albeit of more creative brews . . . unless Koreans worry about getting some of those mind-wasting prions from American-brewed, beef-flavored beer.

(Advice: Don't drink beef-flavored beer -- it's for the dogs!)

But worried Koreans can flush their brains of these concerns and unlikely prions by turning to beers with higher alcohol, described in a section of the article with this heading:
For drinkers who want to get drunk
Lee and Kim obviously know their Korean readership -- and perhaps their foreign readers as well -- for they get directly to the point:
A beer's alcohol content is usually about 4 to 5 percent. But if you want to get really plastered, try a barley-rich Bock, a lager with 7 to 9 percent alcohol. Erdinger Bock is 7.3 percent on the alcohol Richter scale while Paulaner Salvator at 7.5 percent will get you tipsy quickly.
But that's not why I drink beer, and I feel no urge to flush my brain of any putative prion build-up from my many years eating American beef. Moreover, too much alcohol, not American beef, is the real mind-wasting stuff.

My advice to Korean youth with their irrational fears of getting bovine spongiform encephalopathy from American beef and their candlelight protests against importing mad-cow disease from the United States:
Kids, don't follow the example of your elders, drinking to get quickly drunk, but drink in moderation, and your brains will stay healthier no matter how much American beef you eat.
That's my expert medical advice, speaking as a doctor of philosophy.

The second article, "Abide by this guide when you imbibe," written solely by Lee Young-hee, tells of Lee Hyo-bok's WaBar chain of bars offering a selection of international beers.

WaBar doesn't seem to have a website, despite having 100 bars (including one in L.A.'s Koreatown) though a website appears to be in the works.

Anyway, the bar owner, Lee Hyo-bok, offers some advice for would-be beer drinkers, including this final piece on how to drink a beer:
It tastes best with good friends close to you. Beer just doesn't taste as good when you drink alone.
I agree, and precisely for that reason, when I'm hot and sweating after my daily exercise, I like to have an ice-cold beer with a friendly book.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Zimbabwe: It's time to intervene!

Castle Lager
At the current, low price of 160 million!
Uh, wait a moment...
(Image from Daily Speculations)

One of my regular readers who goes by the pseudonym "Conservative in Virginia" forwards this news of another atrocity in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

Ian Brakspear, writing for the Daily Speculations, tells of "A Lunch in Zimbabwe" (May 15, 2008):
I had lunch in Mutare yesterday, a town in Zimbabwe on the Mozambique border.

To give you a benchmark -- bread is currently over 110 million a loaf; on 22nd April it was 40 million per loaf.

The lunch bill: soup -- 50 million, oxtail -- 600 million, coffee -- 50 million, with no charge for the pink ice cream.

During the meal, one of my mates was drinking beer -- 750ml bottles of Castle Lager (fondly called bombers). He ordered a fifth one, was advised that the price, which when he ordered his first, second, third and fourth ones was 160 million per bottle, had gone up to 340 million per bottle.

That's right -- during lunch there was a price increase . . .

He ordered no more beer! Aren't you glad you are not a beer drinker here in Zimbabwe!
Definitely glad! And I wouldn't much like eating out for lunch there either.

Obviously, the time for intervention has come. We don't need to go in with weapons. Just mass on the borders with truckloads of good beer and call out "Free beer for all who overthrow Mugabe!" I have no doubt that even Mugabe's 'friends' will turn against him in exchange for a cold brew.

Historians say that the American Revolution was made in alehouses, and I believe that we ought to be trying to spread that revolutionary spirit again.

Speaking of revolutionary experiences, I drank an excellent Korean beer at dinner yesterday. It was a dark amber color, had some small amount of sediment, foamed nicely, and offered a full-bodied taste with slight bitterness.

The father of one of Sa-Rah's friends had brewed it in his home and kindly offered it to us. Even Sun-Ae, who usually can drink only one-quarter of a glass before turning red, enjoyed this one, drank an entire glass, and didn't even blush. I suppose that implies a somewhat low percentage of alcohol, but even if so, the flavor didn't suffer.

Which has gotten me to thinking. If neither the West nor the UN nor even the ambient African nations intend to do anything about getting rid of Mugabe to help the Zimbabwean people -- within whose breasts there surely lurks a thirst for freedom -- then it's time for ordinary people to start brewing beer independently and setting up our own underground networks to get beer to the borders of Zimbabwe, where we can sing out loud and long the battle hymn of a new republic:

Free beer for all the lurkers,
Free beer for all the lurkers,
Free beer for all the lurkers,
When the revolution comes!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Europeans and Euro-Islamism

Great Mosque of Paris
(Image from Wikipedia)

Note that I'm referring here not to the liberal Euroislam discussed by Bassam Tibi but to the 'fundamentalist' Euro-Islamism that has taken hold among some Muslims in Europe.

Robert S. Leiken, director of the Immigration and National Security Program at the Nixon Center and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, has an interesting, six-page article, "Europe's Angry Muslims," in the July-August 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs, in which he details the spread of radical Islam among the descendents of Europe's Muslim immigrants and the implications of this spread.

Leiken divides the blame, albeit unequally, between the immigrants and the Europeans:
In Europe, host countries that never learned to integrate newcomers collide with immigrants exceptionally retentive of their ways, producing a variant of what the French scholar Olivier Roy calls "globalized Islam": militant Islamic resentment at Western dominance, anti-imperialism exalted by revivalism. (Leiken, "Europe's Angry Muslims," first page)
This is the generation that Al-Qaeda and its ilk want to capture for their Islamist jihad. Even if the Islamist jihadis remain a tiny minority, a larger group of Islamist politicos -- to borrow two categories of Islamists from Quintan Wiktorowicz, "Anatomy of the Salafi Movement," Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 29:3 (2006) -- pose a potentially more significant problem for European politics as Muslim demographic power begins to express itself in votes not for the leftist parties that Muslims in Europe have heretofore supported but for Islamist parties that could attempt to utilize radical multiculturalism toward their ultimate aim of implementating shariah in Muslim-dominated districts.

This problem is exacerbated, as the Norwegian feminist Hege Storhaug notes, by the fact that the European political elite hasn't figured out that many of their partners in dialogue among the 'leaders' of the Euro-Muslim communities are not moderates at all:
Our politicians and intellectuals have to be aware of who they are collaborating with. Today the support is going to the political Muslims and organisations, not to the secular Muslims. Because most politicians don't have a clue who they are in so-called "dialogue" with. (Hege Storhaug, writing for "Symposium: The Death of Multiculturalism?", moderated by Jamie Glazov, (Friday, September 8, 2006)
European political leaders may be waking up, for some have become aware that many 'moderate' Muslim leaders in Europe speak out for moderation only when they are speaking to European non-Muslims in European languages. When they are speaking in Arabic and attempting to rouse Islamist sentiments, they do not sound moderate at all, as the Danes discovered during the controversy over the Jyllands-Posten cartoons satirizing Muhammad.

What should be done?

I'm no expert on practical affairs, but I would emphasize that radical multiculturalism ought to be vigorously rejected by Europeans, and perhaps they're now beginning to do this. Moderate multiculturalism is necessary in Europe, for the continent is intrinsically multicultural, as I've noted before. A moderate multiculturalism that appeals to universal human rights, presupposes the right to criticize cultures, insists on European legal traditions, and emphasizes free speech would definitely help Europeans learn how to talk about the Islamist problem.

They certainly need to discuss the problem openly, for the native European population is on a demographic decline, not reproducing fast enough to reproduce itself, whereas the Euro-Muslim population has, so far, maintained high birth rates and can expect its 15 to 20 million Muslims to increase significantly over the next couple of generations.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius"

Orion Cough Drops
Also in bags.

And I am mad, too! I take one day off, and guess what happens. Orion nearly kills me with his slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

May the Scorpion take him!

My son, En-Uk, had chosen a bag of medicinal candy from among Orion Confectionery's fine selection to give me for my throat as a birthday present. He must have noticed my regular, mildly asthmatic cough, which seems worse here in Seoul than in other places that I've lived, probably due to the bad air and seasonal dust storms.

Whatever the etiology to my cough, the Orion drops seemed to be helping, so I had several as I sat checking the friendly messages left yesterday on my birthday blog. As I was reading Uncle Cranford's comment, I began madly laughing.

"What's so funny?" inquired my wife, who was laboring in earnest at her translation work.

Attempting to catch my breath and explain, I sucked into my windpipe a tiny drop of candy-flavored saliva, just sufficient for the upper trachea to clamp shut in reaction. Alarmed, I stood up, trying unsuccessfully to inhale. I coughed, emptying my lungs of air.

My wife stared at me. "What's wrong?"

I couldn't answer, couldn't breathe, couldn't cough.

My wife stood up. "What's wrong?

I could nearly have smiled at the irony. Here I was, about to die on my birthday, choking to death from a lozenge intended to stop my coughing. Well . . . it had stopped my coughing.

My wife, realizing that I couldn't breathe, grew alarmed. "Jeff!"

I finally croaked.

Not "croaked" as in "died," of course, or I wouldn't be writing about this, but "croaked" as in the creaky, cracky, deep-throaty sound of a great, big ol' bullfrog . . . or maybe a wheezy, middle-sized frog.

Then coughed a small cough. Wheezed. Inhaled a tiny gasp. Coughed again. Wheezed. Breathed a large breath. Coughed hard. Breathed better. Coughed more. Breathed. Looked at my wife. Smiled. Pointed at the bag. Said:

"I thought that these were supposed to help my breathing."

My wife grabbed the bag and threw it into a drawer of her desk, saying, "Don't have any more!"

To my mind, she somewhat overreacted to my near death experience . . . but don't trust me. I'm mad. Punished by the gods for my hubristic remark about leaving the defense of Western civilization to others for 24 hours -- as if I were its primary defender.

"Whom the gods would destroy..."

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