Share(Read more.)Six-hundred and forty two years ago today, citizens in the German city of Aachen started to pour out of their houses and into the streets where they began to writhe and whirl uncontrollably. This was the first major outbreak of dancing plague or choreomania and it would spread across Europe in the next several years.To this day, experts aren't sure what caused the frenzy, which could drive those who danced to exhaustion. The outbreak in Germany was called St. John's dance, but it wasn't the first appearance of the mania or the last, according to The Black Death and The Dancing Mania, originally published in 1888. In the book, Justus Friedrich Karl Hecker imaginatively describes the spectacle of St. John's dance as follows:They formed circles hand in hand, and appearing to have lost all control over their senses, continued dancing, regardless of the bystanders, for hours together, in wild delirium, until at length they fell to the ground in a state of exhaustion. They then complained of extreme oppression, and groaned as if in the agonies of death, until they were swathed in cloths bound tightly round their waists, upon which they again recovered, and remained free from complaint until the next attack.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Let’s start in Europe. Last week a whole cadre of social-media sites — including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft — locked arms with the EU’s European Commission and signed a code promising to suppress “hate speech” wherever it appears. The stated goal is to combat “racism, xenophobia, and all forms of intolerance.” There’s some talk of combating terrorism, forestalling ISIS recruitment in European countries, and keeping people from being incited to hate crimes.
ShareCombating racism and preventing ISIS recruiters from being able to contact young people sounds great. But then there’s that vague, slightly sinister phrase “all forms of intolerance.” That should make us wary, especially when we look closely at the language in the code and consider the background of “hate speech” law in the EU. The first thing you should know is that Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner in charge of writing the code, is an outspoken advocate of the LGBTI agenda. As recently as October 2015, she spoke about the need to use “hate speech” codes to combat any viewpoint that doesn’t support “rights” for those groups. This means that the EU spokesperson who included “all forms of intolerance” in the list of things social-media companies must suppress believes that you are guilty of hate speech if you have any reservations about LGBTI demands. That makes a lot of people guilty of “hate speech” — everybody who thinks that marriage is between one man and one woman, everyone who believes that surgery can’t change a person’s sex, everyone who thinks children probably shouldn’t be encouraged to determine their own “gender” as early as the age of four (as did one child whose story recently appeared in the pages of the Washington Post), and even everyone who merely thinks that people have the right to express the above beliefs. The EU’s language isn’t exactly tailored to limit ISIS’s posts on Facebook without encroaching on the free speech of others. (Read more.)
I first ventured into this world by way of Felix Mendelssohn's Reisebriefe. One of the first was a letter in which Mendelssohn described to his family his visit with Goethe at Goethe's home in Weimar. It is the closest we can come to actually being in Goethe's parlour with Mendelssohn playing the piano. After playing the old poet many pieces pieces by Bach (Goethe loved the music of Bach) and Mozart, Felix (it is almost impossible to read his letters without coming to be on a first name basis with him) said to his elderly friend, "Now I will play you some Beethoven," but Goethe said that he did not wish to hear any Beethoven. "I'm sorry," replied the young composer, "but I can't help it!" and then he launched into a piano reduction of Beethoven's fifth symphony. Goethe listened to the music, and then said, "That was splendid, but if all the musicians were here playing it together, wouldn't the house fall in?"Share
Throughout the course of Felix's letters, his recipients become as interesting as himself. His father, Abraham Mendelssohn, who did not know the strength of his own personality, and who constantly underestimated his own intellectual abilities; his mother Lea Mendelssohn, the great lover of literature and languages, whose favorite play was Der Sturm, that is Shakespeare's The Tempest, and who had been the primary teacher of Felix and his siblings; his younger, fun-loving, Greek reading sister Rebecka; his shy, cello-playing younger brother Paul; and most of all, his beloved sister Fanny, the queen of German chamber music. (Read more.)
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The British General Edward Braddock and his young colonial aide George Washington are often portrayed as symbols of the antagonism brewing between Britain and her Colonies during the French and Indian War, which would soon burst forth in the form of the American Revolution. This is partly true, but their relationship and the relationship between Britain and America were and are much more complex than has often been portrayed in grade school history texts and Hollywood motion pictures. There was also something deeply human about their interaction that is often overlooked in favor of a more easily understood narrative that chooses sides rather than seeks out the middle way.Share
In February of 1755, Edward Braddock, a 62-year-old veteran of the prestigious Coldstream Guards and native of Perth, Scotland, was sent to North America to ostensibly “put the French in their place” and push them further west to make room for the expanding British colonies in the Ohio River Valley. The colonists themselves were enthusiastically behind this push for supremacy, and initially welcomed the regular troops sent from the Mother Country to aid them in the territorial struggle, known as The French and Indian War in America and The Seven Years War in Europe.
But problems arose almost immediately, involving the proper accoutrement of these newly arrived troops and misunderstandings on both sides. The British viewed the colonists, by and large, as low-life opportunists who tried to get best edge on every deal and refused to obey orders or conform to disciplinary regulations. The colonists, on the other hand, resented the pompous and bullying attitude of the British officers, including Braddock, who refused to acknowledge that the Americans could ever stand on equal footing with them in social, political, or military spheres. (Read more.)
Donald Trump is releasing a 35-page document that takes down Hillary Clinton's foreign policy and economic stances — a 50-point attack that pulls together news articles, documents and speeches critical of the former secretary of state.Share
While Enlightenment political thought was less violent in America, the French Revolution was a bloodbath that ended in tyranny. And it’s philosophical heirs, particularly Russia’s Bolshevism, lay claim to the greatest genocides in human history. According to cultural and philosophical critic Jay Dyer:Share
“French Revolutionary demagogues, such as Danton, Robespierre, the Duke of Orleans, Marat, and St. Just, were all members of secret societies and Illuminist orders. Many communists leaders such as Vladimir Lenin were also “Illuminists.’ Through infiltrating Freemasonry, many of these bloody men were also inducted into a deeper, darker society within the ranks known as the Illuminati.“The Illuminati had been formed in 1776 by an ex-Jesuit canon lawyer named Adam Weishaupt, in Bavaria. Weishaupt, who was immersed in rationalism, intended to organize an elite group that would eventually install a one-world, socialistic order and abolish theology. Weishaupt seems to have been the key ideological figure behind the revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries that ultimately removed all forms of monarchy and effectively cut off Christianity from having any cultural influence.”Modern governments have no contract with God but rather claim a “social contract” between the government and its subjects. Instead of God being the highest authority, that role now belongs to “the people.”
Jesus Christ is not part of the contract. Compare this to the vows made by a King such as Russia’s Czar Nicholas II at his coronation:
“May my heart be in Thy hand, to accomplish all that is to the profit of the people committed to my charge and to Thy glory, that so in the day of Thy judgment I may give Thee account of my stewardship without blame; through the grace and mercy of Thy Son, Who was once crucified for us, to Whom be all honor and glory with Thee and the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, unto ages of ages. Amen.”(Read more.)
Monday, June 27, 2016
Mme de Staël did not present this problem as a matter of political philosophy. Although she frequented philosophers, notably Benjamin Constant, one of her many lovers, she was known primarily as a literary figure—a salon lioness, a romantic novelist, and the woman who defied Napoleon, preferring exile to subjection. Yet she grasped something that had eluded political theorists and that is still worth pondering. It was the importance of public opinion at the deepest level of political life—neither the shifting, short-term views of policies and politicians nor a preference that could be tallied in the form of votes, but rather a visceral, collective emotion that linked a people to its leaders.Share
Should that tie be broken, Staël maintained, the public could develop such a sense of estrangement that the political elite, whether royal ministers or elected officials, could no longer manage public affairs. This kind of disaffection ultimately explained the failure of the French Revolution, she argued, and she made the argument by working it into a full-scale history, Considérations sur les principaux événements de la révolution française (Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution), her last and most ambitious book, published posthumously in 1818. (Read more.)
- Good-willed, but naive, Catholic laypersons go to one of their priests to talk about supporting “pro-life” in the election only to be rebuffed, either outright, or with a lecture about social justice, or with a nod of head which leads to nothing being done.
- These same lay Catholics then begin to talk to others in the parish only to find many are also hostile, or fear “politicizing” the church, or are worried about what “father” will think: “Have you asked Father?” they will ask.
- These same lay Catholics are bewildered by the fact those in the parish are not responsive to political engagement on the side of protecting life and end up doing little or nothing, and becoming cynical about the Church’s commitment to life.
- It’s become standard practice in US parishes not to talk about abortion, especially during a campaign season, for many reasons, the most ridiculous one being the charge that to preach against abortion is a partisan activity. (Read more.)