Obligatory shilling. I reviewed Jacob Phillips’s beautiful and thought-provoking book Obedience Is Freedom for The Critic.
For Spectator World, I wrote a response to President Biden’s partly moving, partly baffling, partly reckless speech in Poland.
I wrote for my subscribers about anorexia, recovery and drinking. I also republished four literary essays that had gone offline.
Vladimir Putin? Welcome to the Intellectual Dark Web. Putin condemns cancel culture! Can you imagine how it must feel to be a Russian soldier on the front lines, freezing your nuts off and wondering if you are going to die for no good reason, and hearing that your president is ranting about Harry Potter? Mad.
Should it bother critics of “social justice” that Putin agrees with us? No. He also condemns the Iraq War and likes cute puppies.
Contrary to commentators claiming that pro-Putin sentiment is strong on the right - as, for example, Antonio García Martínez argues at Common Sense - right-wing opinion is firmly against the war. Take Sebastian Milbank’s report from the “National Conservatism” conference in Brussels as an illustrative example. To find anomalies you have to seek out the likes of Candace Owens, for whom the sky is green if the libs say it is blue.
Still, the smears will come. Don’t get defensive. Flick them off.
Getting real. What about the realists, though? The John Mearsheimers and Peter Hitchenses of this world, who think the war was a response to NATO expansionism. Personally, I think the war has less to do with NATO than revanchism and material ambitions. Still, it is unfair to call Mearsheimer and Hitchens’s view pro-Putin. To paraphrase the great Harry Hutton, saying “if you stick your dick in a bees nest you’ll get stung” doesn’t make you pro-bee.
Compact. That is the name of a new magazine founded by the conservative Catholics Sohrab Ahmari and Matthew Schmitz and the populist leftist Edwin Aponte. It features contributors like Christopher Caldwell, Slavoj Žižek, Peter Hitchens and Nina Power. What unites such a grab-bag of Marxists, traditionalists, integralists et cetera? Why, owning the libs, of course! Well, owning the libs is a good and vital. On the other hand, it can become formulaic and deranged. Keeping high standards when it comes to what is true and broad standards when it comes to what is interesting strikes me as a winning method.
Their Afghanistan. Niall Ferguson worries that the US is hoping merely to prolong the war:
Prolonging the war runs the risk not just of leaving tens of thousands of Ukrainians dead and millions homeless, but also of handing Putin something that he can plausibly present at home as victory. Betting on a Russian revolution is betting on an exceedingly rare event, even if the war continues to go badly for Putin; if the war turns in his favor, there will be no palace coup.
Against our instincts. Ed West asks whether forgiveness can exist without Christianity:
Wokeness has been compared to a heresy of Christianity, in particular Calvinism, except one lacking any idea of redemption or forgiveness. Indeed it is something far more visceral and atavistic, far more natural than Christianity, the will to dominate and to destroy rivals — except to those who supplicate. Forgiveness goes against our instincts, and that is what makes it divine.
Personally, I am very forgiving, as I have a great deal to be forgiven for.
Unstinting contemplation of human nullity. Over at First Things, Algis Valiunas considers the bleak life and work of the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi:
His mind was as bleak as the arch-pessimist Schopenhauer’s in its rejection of revealed religion, its disdain for the nineteenth century’s philistine belief in endless progress, and its unstinting contemplation of human nullity and everlasting meaninglessness.
For all that, he was a very productive man. I admire an energetic Sisyphus.
Have a lovely week,