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When democracy is established after the break-up of a multi-ethnic state a rash of secessionist movements normally follows. The reason is simple. For communities that fear being permanent minorities in the new democracy, separatism may seem the only way to avoid forever being underdogs. The safest way of protecting themselves is by having their own state; but the divisive process of separation is risky and costly. It fuels the growth of identity politics, in which people find themselves bearers of a univocal identity that is decided by others– rarely an auspicious development. This is what happened in interwar Europe, where the new democratic states all had significant national minorities. With the growth of fascism and Nazism these minorities came under attack from regimes that were virulently anti-democratic; but the division of people into mutually exclusive groups had already taken place. Sadly, it seems that the spread of democracy and ethnic cleansing go together. Keane tries to explain the ethnic strife of interwar Europe by citing economic conditions, along with the anti-democratic tendencies of leading intellectuals such as H.G. Wells and the Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran. No doubt these factors played a part, but the pattern is too widespread to be accounted for in these circumstantial terms. Similar conflicts have been played out in post-communist Yugoslavia, parts of the former Soviet Union and countries in postcolonial Africa. Keane cites India as having proved “not only that democracy could survive violence and carnage: it proved that democracy could thrive within a society that lacked a homogeneous demos, a civil society shackled by poverty and illiteracy and crowded with all sorts of cultural, religious and historical distortions.” The Indian achievement is certainly extraordinary. Yet it cannot be forgotten that it has occurred against the background of partition. In India as elsewhere, democracy and the exclusionary politics of nationalism have been closely linked. –“The Democratic Wish” (review of The Life and Death of Democracy by John Keane), John Gray, The National
For many of us George Tiller was mentor, teacher, friend—he was known in our circles as ‘St. George’ because he embodied principles of goodness, kindness, respect, and faith–the best in us. He was a man of extraordinary principles and generosity. In a field in which courage and dedication in the face of hatred, violence, and terror are almost expected, Dr. Tiller stood out. He had been firebombed more than once, mercilessly harassed by legal officials who over and over came up with nothing, and survived a previous assassination attempt in which he was shot. He continued to do his work because women needed him. So we are justifiably protective of Dr. Tiller’s reputation and honor. NBC concocted a dreadful hybrid that bears no resemblance to this truly amazing doctor. And they concocted a story that bears no resemblance to the complexity of the issues involved in abortion, let alone late abortion. NBC cannot hide behind the words, “The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event when they begin their story by having a doctor murdered in his church. Their disclaimer should have read, “This story purports to be balanced but we are about to insinuate that a doctor who was assassinated was, himself, guilty of homicide, and thus to blame for his own murder.” This is particularly egregious because Dr. Tiller was the repeated victim of politically motivated investigation and was repeatedly found innocent of any wrongdoing related to his medical practice. This “fiction” casts doubt on his integrity, and gives the impression that abortion is homicide which U.S. law is clear that it is not. –“Dr. George Tiller Murdered Again: Abortion Providers Angry at Law & Order episode,” (Press Release), Abortion Care Network (via)
Jessica Mann, an award-winning author who reviews crime fiction for the Literary Review, has said that an increasing proportion of the books she is sent to review feature male perpetrators and female victims in situations of “sadistic misogyny”. “Each psychopath is more sadistic than the last and his victims’ sufferings are described in detail that becomes ever more explicit, as young women are imprisoned, bound, gagged, strung up or tied down, raped, sliced, burned, blinded, beaten, eaten, starved, suffocated, stabbed, boiled or buried alive,” she said. “Authors must be free to write and publishers to publish. But critics must be free to say they have had enough. So however many more outpourings of sadistic misogyny are crammed on to the bandwagon, no more of them will be reviewed by me,” said Mann, who has written her own bestselling series of crime novels and a non-fiction book about female crime writers. –“Sexist Violence Sickens Crime Critic: Leading novelist says graphic depictions of sadistic misogyny have become so extreme she refuses to review any more fiction,” Amelia Hill, The Guardian (via)
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”