Most Interesting Reads for the Week

Some of the more interesting things I’ve read over the course of the last week:

  • Some ad hoc theorizing on collaboration.By collaborator, I simply mean those men and women who work with elites and who occupy the lower tiers of power and make political fear a genuinely civic enterprise.
  • On freedom and order, Good Hegels and Bad.…Hegel thus starts to look a lot less like a liberal aiming for a political order that can be made ‘justifiable to each person’ and more like Plato: idealistic philosophy for a highly educated elite, and for the rest . . . what?
  • Caught between ISIS and the regime in Syria.People in the city refuse to see and hear the violence in their suburbs, much as Beverly Hills ignored riots in Watts in 1965 and 1992. It becomes easy to pretend there is no war, unless a bomb falls too close or kills someone you know. One morning as I was driving through the upscale Abu Rummaneh quarter, a rebel mortar shell whistled overhead, hit a fuel storage tank, and sent black smoke soaring into the sky. Yet the shoppers around the corner went on as if nothing happened.
  • Western leaders are unable anymore to think coherently about evil as part of the human condition, and leaves them thinking we can solve problems we cannot.Here [Tony] Blair is at one with most western leaders. It’s not that they are obsessed with evil. Rather, they don’t really believe in evil as an enduring reality in human life. If their feverish rhetoric means anything, it is that evil can be vanquished. In believing this, those who govern us at the present time reject a central insight of western religion, which is found also in Greek tragic drama and the work of the Roman historians: destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings themselves.
  • Why medieval Islam was actually a really good thing. “It was Islam that brought Greco-Muslim scientific culture to Western Europe, giving rise to centuries of material and intellectual progress. The tireless translations of Gerard of Cremona, Plato of Tivoli, and others should not be taken for granted, nor should the transmission and assimilation of the ‘new’ learning—algebra and trigonometry, engineering and agriculture, astronomy and chemistry, and perhaps above all philosophy—much of which was met with hostility in Latin Christendom.
  • The western converts to Islam who embrace the ideology of jihad.What I saw were, and I hate to say it – vulnerable young men – with massive great chips on their shoulders. With their radical new status they felt empowered, superior and perhaps most annoyingly for me, righteous. … In a former life, the world they had been brought up in had wronged them. Perhaps they had family troubles, or maybe society shunned them, whatever it was, they resented it – they were lost, empty and had no stake in the western world. Becoming a radical Muslim reversed the polarity.
  • On failing spectacularly in Afghanistan.Gopal’s book, however, should at least make us question this fashion of state-building under fire. What has actually been the result of Afghanistan’s $1 trillion attempt to create ‘security,’ ‘economic development,’ and ‘governance’?
  • Serpico talks about cops these days.Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved.