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March 2010

“They Are Ridiculous.”

Via Dan, here’s an extract from a piece by Michael Totten, in which he talks with Raluca Grosescu of Romania’s Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes:

I’ve always wondered what democrats who grew up in communist countries thought of communists who grew up in democratic countries. Hardly anyone in the West ever voted with their feet, so to speak, by moving to a communist country; but communist dictatorships created millions of refugees who fled their homelands for Western democracies. East Germans were willing to risk being shot to make a run over the wall, Cubans are still willing to risk drowning to reach Florida, yet once in a while I still meet Westerners who have a warm spot in their hearts for regimes like Castro’s.

“What do you think,” I asked her, “of people in the West who think communism is a good idea but haven’t actually experienced it? There are quite a few people who admire the system in Cuba. You know the types I mean. The people who wear Che Guevara t-shirts.”

“Ah, yes,” she said. “They are ridiculous. But somehow I can understand them. Let’s take the example of France. In France they were all socialists when they were young. Sartre was a close friend of Castro’s. Gerard Depardieu was a close friend of Castro’s. They believed in this ideal, but after they saw what Stalin did they couldn’t look to the Soviet Union. So they turned their hopes to Cuba. Then they saw what Castro did. The only one who still seemed to live up to the ideal was Che Guevara. So they turned to Che Guevara. I understand them. They were wrong their entire lives, and it is difficult to admit this.”

“They are ridiculous.” Perhaps some t-shirts could be made. After all, people who wear “Che” t-shirts and peddle communist claptrap presumably imagine they’re signalling how daring they are, righteous even. Some, like the people at 21st Century Socialism, may think of Castro’s chief executioner as “an icon, a means of identifying with the anti-establishment, a unique mix of the revolutionary ideals and pop star celebrity.” Yet it seems to me they may as well be walking around with a big notice saying, “If I had my way I’d control you and ruin the lives of everyone you care about.” Though stated in those terms it could lead to an occasional thumping.

I feel an urge to juxtapose.

“The intellectuals’ vain search for a truly socialist community, which results in the idealisation of, and then disillusionment with, a seemingly endless string of ‘utopias’ – the Soviet Union, then Cuba, China, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Tanzania, Nicaragua – should suggest that there might be something about socialism that does not conform to certain facts.” Friedrich von Hayek, The Fatal Conceit, 1988. 

“We’ve had the Soviet experiment. We’ll get it right next time.” Daoud Hamdani, The Guardian, 2010. 

Related: Memorial of the Victims of Communism. And on the “social justice icon,” Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Reheated (7)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives.

Thrashing the Hegemon.

Fearless artist José Carlos Teixeira gives Western society the thrashing it deserves.

Mr Teixeira’s ostentatious subversion is all the more amusing because it’s so conformist. He, like many others, is doing what he thinks he ought to be seen doing, if only by those playing much the same game. Making a thing of beauty isn’t a consideration and isn’t attempted, possibly because it doesn’t suit the role-play of being a “social and political agent.” What matters to Mr Teixeira is demonstrating his compliance with the belief that art should be a vehicle for anti-bourgeois gestures, which signals both the cleverness of the artist and his ideological credentials. This is done by muttering the standard incantations – “hegemony,” “subversion,” etc. The use of such terms indicates the artist belongs to an approved ideological caste and has the approved political views. (We can be fairly sure that the assumptions being “challenged” and “subverted” won’t include egalitarianism, the parasitic nature of arts subsidy or the latest conceits of the postmodern left.) So the more loudly a piece of art affects an air of subversive radicalism, the less reason there is to believe it delivers anything of the sort.

Moral Inertia.

Anti-social behaviour and the weight of doing nothing.

The stare, body language and bellowing have to be calibrated just so. Too little force and mockery may ensue – from which there’s no recovery. This is after all a game of humiliation. You have to look as though you mean it absolutely. Those being bellowed at have to at least entertain the possibility that you may do them serious harm if they fail to comply. The risk of embarrassment has to be theirs and theirs alone. This requires a certain willingness to look like an escaped mental patient, at least temporarily. But looking utterly bonkers and socially incongruous is much easier to do if you’re not inhibited by a large group of other people conspicuously doing nothing.

Every Bit as Hobbled.

Christina Hoff Sommers highlights inaccuracies in feminist textbooks. The Sisterhood takes umbrage.

Needless to say, Sommers’ line of enquiry isn’t universally welcomed. Her points about gross errors, overstatement and competitive victimhood are often met with prickling indignation, not least from those whose activities include some combination of the above. Some denounce Sommers as “conservative” – a synonym for evil – a “female impersonator” and an “anti-feminist,” a term that suggests both the crime of apostasy and a very narrow definition of what “real” feminists should be concerned with and how they’re permitted see the world.

There’s more, of course, in the greatest hits.

Friday Ephemera

Yes, it’s a jetpack, but could you make it smaller? // The tin foil aesthetic. // Feeder. // Dentistry of yore. // Magical Japanese toilet flushes away unhappiness. (h/t, Metrolander) // Tokyo/Glow. // A swarm of light. // Lightbotz. // Alice in Wonderland. (1903) // Horrible dragon threatens Council Worker Fantasy Land. // There are 50,000 rockets headed this way. // A day in the life of London Transport, 1962. // Someone shrank New York. // Horses made of junk. // Interact with zombies. // Play pinball with your mind. // More volcanic lightning. // Vinyl grooves. // The hazards of going to warp. // Rhombidodecadodecahedron.

Elsewhere (20)

A happy, fluffy Islam edition.

Virginia Haussegger on beer, public whipping and the gentle kiss of Sharia.

Who gives the government the right to do moral policing and why should a personal sin be turned into a crime against the state? 

An article by Taslima Nasrin “causes” rioting in India

Shimoga and Hassan cities witnessed widespread violence on Monday following protests by Muslim organisations against the publication of an article in the Sunday magazine section of a Kannada daily. The article is a translation of an essay by Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen on wearing of the burka by Muslim women, and contains remarks that could be considered religiously insensitive and provocative. [...] Several persons were injured and there was large-scale destruction of property in different parts of the city. Police reports stated that at least 15 two-wheelers, three auto rickshaws and a large number of shops in the main market areas were set on fire. It is stated that three persons with bullet wounds were admitted to the McGann Hospital in a serious condition. A person manning a telephone booth on Nehru Road was seriously injured when a petrol bomb was thrown at him.

Readers may recall Ms Nasrin’s earlier, firsthand experience of Muhammadan umbrage when a book launch ended in the author being violently assaulted by Islamic lawmakers and members of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, whose piety entailed throwing chairs at a terrified woman. Hyderabad police subsequently filed a case against Nasreen for allegedly “creating religious tensions” and writing “provocative literature.”

And Bruce Bawer interviews Geert Wilders

Thomas Mertens, a law professor at universities in Nijmegen and Leiden, argues that Wilders, by seeking so urgently to clarify for the general public the truth about Islam, is actually undermining the central precept that underlies the Dutch social contract which has been in place for centuries: namely, the agreement among members of different faith traditions to tolerate their theological differences – to close their eyes, as it were, to one another’s truth claims. What Mertens and others like him refuse to acknowledge is that the willingness of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, and others to agree to disagree about theological abstractions has no relevance whatsoever to the present situation, in which the Netherlands, and the West generally, are confronting a faith tradition for whose most committed adherents theological abstractions have calamitous real-world consequences. 

As usual, feel free to add your own.