"Your Weekly Reason to Neglect All of Your Tasks" Edition
Obligatory shilling. This week I wrote an article for Why Now in opposition to a great evil of our times: table service in pubs.
I wrote for the Spectator World about three bad rhetorical appeals the right makes to the left.
This is the first week I have failed to think of anything to write for my paying subscribers. I feel very bad about this - it is something I had hoped would never happen - but the vexing fact is that I had no inspiration and I did not want to clog up anybody's inbox with musings on my toenail clippings or the Conservative Party. I will make up for it soon!
Serwer has had almost three years to reconsider whether he really wants to argue that his political opponents are not just misguided or stupid or selfish or craven but sadistic. He stands by it. It is immoral for him to repeat this charge, immoral for his editors Jeffrey Goldberg and Yoni Appelbaum to publish it, immoral for Laurene Powell Jobs to fund it, immoral for One World publishing imprint to put it between two covers and try to sell it.
Many right-wingers believe that progressives are motivated by ideological bloodlust. It can be so! Hang out on Twitter for a day and tell me otherwise. Still, I am cheerful enough to think the average person on both “wings” is more or less benevolent. Believing otherwise will make it difficult to keep friends and relatives. How much influence the average person has is another question.
Scott contra Smith. Scott Alexander responds to Noah Smith on the different outcomes of demographic groups:
The Standard Model of American Ethnicity says that there are whites and non-whites, whites are rich, non-whites are poor, and this is because of structural racism where whites are oppressing everyone else. Reality gets beaten and twisted until it can be shoehorned into this model - gifted programs that are 80% Asian "perpetuate whiteness", etc. The reality is that every ethnic group is different from every other ethnic group, including in socioeconomic status, with white people usually somewhere around the middle.
This most tremendous tale. Jonathon Von Maren writes about “cultural Christians” on the intellectual right, such as Niall Ferguson and Douglas Murray:
Increasingly, some intellectuals from across the disciplines—history, literature, psychology, philosophy—are gazing out of what was once a refuge and wishing that, some how, they could believe it. They have understood that Christianity is both indispensable and beautiful, but their intellectual constraints prevent many of them from embracing it as true.
This is something I have written about before. Sympathising with the values and traditions of the faith without believing in its truth claims is understandable. It has to be, for me, because I do it myself. But it does not get us very far. Greek myths contained “inherited wisdom” - as Ferguson claims of Christianity - but no one takes them very seriously now we think of them as myths. Can you imagine sacrificing oxen to Zeus without believing he exists? Besides, the Christian faith is not concerned with worldly as much as Heavenly ends. To see it as a feature of a civilisational toolbox is to some extent to miss the point.
Again, I am not trying to scold anyone here - only to emphasise that we cannot side-step the question, “And is it true?”
The shrine. Scott Beauchamp is characteristically fascinating and compelling in this piece on tradition, Ezra Pound and Eastern philosophy:
Unlike so many empty cathedrals in the West, millions of pilgrims make the journey to worship each year. The Ise temple is 1,300 years old. It is also rebuilt from scratch every year. These two facts are not contradictory.
No justice and no peace. Churches are burning across Canada in response to sick-making revelations about unmarked graves at former Catholic residential schools that housed indigenous boys and girls. These revelations are indeed disturbing - a powerful reminder that worldly authority that clothes itself in virtue can be nothing of the kind. But I still feel like if groups of people from a different religion were committing violence - now, never mind historically - there would be far more fuss if people took it upon themselves to enact revenge against the houses of worship of their co-believers.
Waste land. Over at The Critic, Mary Harrington reviews an interesting-sounding book about inter-war utopians:
People who dream of better worlds are often — as Neima puts it — more gifted at “conjuring up alluring alternatives with words” than they are at “organising people and funds into functional, enduring systems”.
Thank God we have moved on from that. Anyways, time to write 8,000 words about my dreams for neoreactionary anarcho-communisn.
A plague of frogs. Maria Wilczek writes about Poland's ubiquitous Żabka outlets:
Almost a third of Poland’s population now lives within 300 metres of a Żabka store, claims the company, whose name, meaning “little frog”, has become a byword for convenience shopping.
With 7,272 outlets in 950 towns and cities serving almost three million customers daily, the network has been expanding at a breakneck pace to become the largest convenience chain not only in Poland but across all of Central and Eastern Europe.
I shop in Żabka all the time. It is very convenient. But I feel sad - in a sloppy, sentimental way - when I think about the decline of independent businesses. Polish corner shops pop in the unlikeliest places, with the unlikeliest aesthetics. Boxes of salmon and jars of sour cucumbers share counter space with giant racks of day-old, dinner plate-sized buns. Every can of beer or cola has a little film of dust. A disheveled alcoholic is always in the background, counting up his change. Perhaps I'm not selling them very well but they have their charms.
Furnishing a life. Justin E.H. Smith writes a sad, funny piece about his book collection:
These books destined me to an unbalanced life, like a poorly packed U-Haul that leans too far to one side; like a cheap Ikea particle-board bookshelf, bought only as a temporary and partial solution, sagging under the weight of its books.
Have a lovely week,