SEARCHING FOR AN ANALOGY January 23, 2005Posted by wmmbb in Duckspeak.
You may know that it is the nature of Australian wild ducks to be nomadic. They follow the rains in search of dams, river banks and duck ponds. So in many ways the screen I saw last night and this morning with the wallpaper of the site without text was appropriate to the nature of the Duckpond. I am not sure about this analogy but I will fly with it for the moment.
However, this anecdote sticks in my mind. I did not learn much from attending those lectures on Australian politics, except everything I know about the subject. Apparently, at some time during a debate in Federal Parliament a member proclaimed, “The Country Party is the backbone of the nation”, to which there was a rejoinder, as sometimes happens, called across the chamber from an opposition member, “It is a pity that the backbone ends at the neck”.
That story came to mind when I saw the headline, “Bush rings liberty bell with force”, in the Sydney Morning Herald. Somebody counted up that “liberty” was mentioned fifteen times and “freedom” said twenty-nine times in his second inauguration speech. The thing about the headline is that the actual Liberty Bell is cracked. Yes, the Liberty Bell is an important symbol, and the inscription, selected by a Quaker, does not seem at first glance, to be incongruent with the Inaugural Speech, but the bell does not ring.
Now it seems that there is a need to explain what was meant, since the mission to extend the scope of freedom and liberty does not extent to some countries, who for the moment are particular friends of the United States, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as indeed once was Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Should we forget such inconvenient thoughts by double thinking them out of memory, the formulation, “Freedom is Slavery” might become appropriate. As far as I know, Jefferson and Kennedy, although his best intentions left him open to in Vietnam, for example, never had to offer such explanations of their speeches, to apply spin to rhetoric, or at least so immediately.
Juan Cole has a penetrating,and pictorial, critique of the Bush Inaugural Speech. At least the Americans do have a Bill of Rights, the criteria by which to measure their values, if not always a desire to asess their actions, it seems, in the light of those values.
We know Bush read the speech. We can be almost certain that he did not write it. It would be interesting to know what part he had in its creation.
AFTER THOUGHT: Sunday 23/01/2005
Sometimes I follow my own advice, and I was interested by the criticism of Mark Bahnisch by Al Brundy at Intemperate Thoughts. From his perspective my observations would be tendentious. On reflection, I can see there is something in that view. The test here would I have reached the same conclusion had, for example, Senator Kerry had read the same speech, however unlikely that may be.
It should however be pointed out that being a critic of liberalism or democracy or both does not make one automatically an enemy of America. On the contrary, freedom and democracy can only be strengthened by intellectually confronting their critics.
The Straussian philosophy hardly seems consistent with the Bush Inauguration Speech. And from this article, from a Straussian perspective, we are meant to conclude that, “War is Peace.” Perhaps, as a block of wood, I am unable to distinguish between the rhetoric, masking as philosophy and the wisdom of the ancients, or between freedom and liberty, and tyranny.
And another thing, I was of the view that neo-cons held the scriptural literalists in contempt, who I concluded were not so much anti-science,as pre-scientific. Now, this article makes clear the natural affinity, perhaps not widely recognized, between the two political movements, one religious, the other philosophical:
So, what is neoconservatism? And how does it propose to change the world in accordance with Straussian political philosophy? ‘Neo’ comes from the Greek neos, which means new. And, what’s neo about neoconservatism? Well, for one thing, the old conservatism relied on tradition and history; it was cautious, slow and moderate; it went with the flow. But under the influence of Leo Strauss, the new conservatism is intoxicated with nature. The new conservatism is not slow or cautious, but active, aggressive, and reactionary in the literal sense of the term. Inspired by Strauss’s hatred for liberal modernity, its goal is to turn back the clock on the liberal revolution and its achievements.
This article gives rises to the speculation that “the War of Terror” is a cooperative enterprise of the anti-modernists in the West and the Muslim World.
Given the above provisional conclusions, at least for my part, here is a more favorable, even flattering view of the Bush Presidency. Greg Sheridan, writing in The Australian, had, among other comments, the following to say:
The US president is the most extraordinary politician of his time anywhere in the world, and perhaps the most consequential. That is the only conclusion to drawafter the soaring rhetoric and purpose of George W Bush’s second inaugural address.”
Sheridan goes on to make the case, if such a case can be made. Most people would agree, I suspect, with the first phrase. ( the link might be available tomorrow).
I have had a considerable problems with errors in this post. Every time I look, I see another mistake. Sometimes I just give up.