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What's All the Fuss About? Religion, Taxes, and Programs

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Understanding Bush's Power

by Christopher Chantrill
November 04, 2004 at 7:00 pm


KHAJURAHO, India -- The villager leads me onto the concrete roof of his house in the village of Khajuraho, and points. Over there live the Brahmins, over there the warrior caste, and on the edge of town live the Untouchables. Unlike the metro Indians, he’s not ashamed of the caste system. It is just the way things are. He’s proud of the concrete roof he’s built for his house. It’s much cooler than the traditional clay tile roof, so everyone in the village is doing it.

What about Bush, he wondered? I told him that Bush had won a famous victory. Bush is strong man, he agreed, appovingly.

Yes. There’s a culture divide in India too, between the educated elite influenced by government teachers and the BBC World Service and the traditional culture in the village. In the sturdy country, where the roads groan with the traffic of trucks, cars, auto-rickshaws, bicycles, tractors, livestock, and people, things are looking up, and farmers are turning into small businessmen, trading junk to the tourists, running tiny retail establishments, getting ahead. Their children, they report, speak English and Hindi, as well as the local dialect. India may not be shining, as the Hindu Nationalist BJP party suggested, but it is certainly bursting and bustling, feeling its new power and prosperity.

In the countryside, they still understand that life is a struggle, that a strong man means something, that there is no substitute for power. But the metro elites have forgotten about the ubiquity of power. That is why they hate Bush. The newly elected president, with the mandate he never got in the election of 2000, is a man who understands and uses power.

He and his team understand, for instance, that the solution of the Palestinian problem is not about finding the right peace process, but about achieving victory and confirming that victory in a peace agreement. That is something that the BBC World Service with their "sadlys" and their "surelys" just don’t get.

Michel Foucault understood the half of this disconnect from understanding power when he wrote that the ancien regime flaunted its power while the bourgeoisie hid its power behind the faceless walls of the prison and the bland bureaucrat. But the post-bourgeois western elite seems to have forgotten that there was ever a need for power. Just as the Khajuraho villager accepts the caste system as the way things are, the educated elitist experiences the power structure of the welfare state as the natural order.

That is why, back in 2001, the Democrats forgot President Kennedy’s injunction: Don’t get mad, get even.

Instead they riled up their supporters into an orgy of Bush hatred, and then led them to a humiliating defeat at the hands of a man who was supposed to be too stupid to be president. It is hard to imagine the full cost of this strategic mistake. Soldiers who have been recruited, trained, and inspired may not be willing to return for another campaign.

But for Bush and company, everything has paid off. They have a comfortable majority in the Senate, big enough to allow them to pick off enough Democrats to enact their agenda. And the demonstration of Bush as a "strong" man has got to have beneficial results in the macho culture of the Middle East.

It was a famous victory.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican

Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008

Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006

Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph

Class War

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Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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