Monday, April 03, 2006

It still isn’t what it isn't.

There are many impenetrable reasons that the New York Times is what it is. Most of them are hardly worth caring about since words live on after writers die. An item of interest jumped out at me while reading the Sunday Book Review section – an obvious revision at someone’s request to fit in with the usual collection of reviews featuring abnormally heroic middle-aged women and other miscellaneous ruminants.

Mark Lilla competently reviews Michael Burleigh’s “Godless Europe”, a survey of Europe’s evolution into the world’s first and only society where religion is nearly entirely absent. It leads inevitably to the state that Islam is presently in, writing:

The other challenge is to learn how to distinguish between those whose political programs are inspired by genuine faith, and those whose defense of religion is inspired by reactionary utopianism having less to do with God than with redirecting the faulty course of history. In radical Islam we find both phenomena today, authentic faith and anti-modern fanaticism, shaken together into an explosive cocktail.
But here’s the kicker, and probably that phone call from “paper of record” HQ: the US has to be figured into it even though the US has virtually nothing to do with the subject of a Godless Europe. Even Europe’s having to deal with the often fanatical cultures it neighbors barely merits that much space in a subject as expansive as the co-option of the faith of Europeans by political leader, the merest of Christians:
And even in the United States we are witnessing the instrumetantalization of religion by those who evidently care less about our souls, or even their own, than about reversing the “apocalypse” of the 60’s.
First of all, when has anyone writing in the NY Times cared about anybody’s soul? Who out there who has found any faith NOT find the negligence and depersonalization of feeling in the interest of sensation that the years of 1968-74 brought the mushy, newspaper-believing middle anything other than a loss – a deficit of self-investigation that brings people closer to animals in their lack of self-awareness? How about all of that loathing of their own society it brought us too?
Calling it an “apocalypse” externalizes it too much, given that people brought it on themselves. It’s no wonder that personal laziness even appears in its’ identification.

Another thing that didn’t leap off the page because of its’ very commonness was another review. Joyce Johnson reviews Gail Caldwell’s “A Strong West Wind.” Gail Caldwell is The Boston Globe’s book critic. A group which is that self aware shows signs of decay when it reviews it’s own. If only they could be a little more aware of others. Aware enough to know that critics discussing work by critics seem too eager to look at he world around them to notice what’s just around that circle: the world around them, replete with violence hiding behind religion. Joining them are the victims who are all too willing to make that same violence impossible to deal with by waving the magic wand of something they are least likely to grasp – the regard of any religion, just as Napoleon had.

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