Obligatory shilling. I wrote for The Critic about the burning of a woman in Bury, England, and the news that barely makes the news.
I wrote for my paying subscribers about gang wars between rappers and the commodification of killing.
Afghanistan. This year I re-watched Out of the Ashes - an immensely moving, very comic film about the Afghan cricket team. I'm thinking about of brave, resourceful men now as the Taliban rolls effortlessly up to Kabul. Thinking of Afghans in the abstract is different to thinking of, well - Afghans.
I hope their dreams, and those of countless others, will not be flattened in the coming months. Many will. But it is hard to know how different things could have been. As Bruno Maçães writes, a state that collapses in days is not a state. The Afghan papers taught us that the US has not believed for years that the war was winnable. An American presence kept the Taliban at bay without achieving progress - and the bravery of individual Afghans, as real as it is, could never overcome institutional incapacity.
Should the US have stayed indefinitely? Sell that to the soldiers. Sell that to the taxpayers. No one ever did, including people who are condemning the departure now, because it could not be done.
Still, I feel so sad for people who dreamed of a better life, but who were born in less fortunate circumstances than ours.
Home front. This week my dad has been visiting. It has been a pleasure! Being an adult, for those of us with the tremendous fortune to have had good parents, is in part a process of realising that in many ways your mum and dad were right all along. When I was young, I thought my parents taking me out on a walk was something close to torture. This week, we have spent most of our time walking.
Incidentally, people often assume that my father must be Martin, the diplomat and author, rather than, as is the case, David, the mathematician. But it is a relatively uncommon name and Dad got a big shock once when he turned the radio on and heard, “The government blames Mr Sixsmith…”
She speaks with the calm of a woman who has faced death before. In May, a mob surrounded her screaming for her blood. Last October, she was punched in the face. And in July last year, another mob dragged her to the ground for using a sheik's own words to point out 'holes in the narrative' of the doctrine of Koranic preservation – the belief that the Koran is word-for-word unchanged from its original form.
What a brave woman!
High windows. Ian Marcus Corbin reflects on death:
Apart from the emotional pain of losing or being lost, there is a kind of imaginative aporia to death. As Dugdale puts it, “We cannot imagine ourselves as nonexistent. We cannot grasp what it means.”
It is hard to imagine not existing - which is strange because I believe that other people can imagine my non-existence with no difficulty.
Evangelists. Carl Trueman reviews the work of Joshua Harris, who made his name as a proponent of “purity culture” and is re-making his name as a critic of the movement:
Light on intellectual substance and shamelessly appealing to the emotional intuitions and needs of the customer base, the evangelical celebrity world is geared toward marketing the attractive personality as the branded product that will solve the problems of potential customers. It is how Josh Harris, the youthful peddler of purity, made his name and his money. And that is precisely how Josh Harris, the older and wiser former Christian, continues to sell himself to anyone foolish enough to buy his “making peace with your story” shtick.
I grew up in an evangelical church, and it is easy to imagine how the focus on emotions and self-actualisation could allow one to flip elegantly from Christian to secular evangelism without a huge change in the sales pitch. Feelings, important as they can be, are not a philosophy - as most people recognise about people who happen to have different feelings to theirs.
Tax evasion. Kat Rosenfield reflects on the downfall of Emmy Award-winning Andrew Cuomo:
Just as tax evasion was hardly Al Capone’s worst offence, the imperviousness to scandal of someone like Cuomo begets a prosecutorial, let’s-find-something-to-charge-him-with mentality, which in turn begets the weaponisation of sexual misconduct allegations against a man whose worst crimes are something else entirely.
At least Mr Cuomo will be able to spend more time with himself.
Trad-topia. Rod Dreher responds to my thoughts on Hungary. I should say, I was not thinking of Rod when I wrote them but this effusive piece about the “bouyant” mood in Warsaw, which also, bafflingly, suggested that Poles feel national pride despite surviving the partitions, Nazism and communism, rather than, to a significant extent, because of it. I am sure its author meant well, and suspect that I share his opinions on many things, but accuracy is essential and often elusive when we travel abroad, physically or intellectually.
Have a lovely week,