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July 15, 2006


James G. Poulos

Where does one begin? The gears of the world are grinding. Important rules instead are impotent to coerce or constrain the conduct of nations. Lebanon is a failed state. Syria is the bonnie king of failed states, a fraud in every manner but in meeting the minimum requirements of sovereign function. And Vladimir Putin is occasionally correct.

We are stepping through the looking glass; the answers we seek inhere in an international order which has been putzed right out of serviceability since the one-two punch of Suez and Hungary. Now no longer is it unserviceable, it is illegitimate, too.

The marks are everywhere. Russia might belong in a group of nations that numbers eight but only by a stretch of official silliness does it belong in the G8. This is awkward because Russia is the most important nation, to the West, on planet Earth. Israel is to be supported in its defenses and not in its offenses. For whom has that ever not been true? The Arab world is in a state of cultural and political apoplexy. Only selling oil works. The Chinese moan at that fossilized and eternally poisonous porcupine quill stuck in the toe. Everywhere is unintended compromise and untoward frustration.

What is to be made of the Open War in this wretched soured light? My groping and reaching through the dusk puts the fingers to an awful but decreasingly negotiable conclusion: Syria is doomed. Syria is Italy 1938. Syria is rotten. Syria is complicit, in a manner, yes, that even Iran is not. Syria is, really, despicable and false in a way Iran is not. Syria peels back the mask on the bankruptcy of the international order in a way even venerable, distressed, ambitious, ignoble, fevered, brilliant, bunkered, brutal Iran does not and cannot.

With Iran, we reap something not of our world. This demands a certain respect (yes) and indeed it has received that respect. With Syria, we reap the ruin and filth of the worst of the West, grown brittle and cliqued in the dead soil of Damascus. We reap phony borders and bogus statehood. Syria is entombed in the same rancid amber containing the zombie state of North Korea. And this is the hungover morning of the dead.

Mrs. Peperium

Reality is our friend and Mr. Poulos, you are aquainted with much more reality than I am with these affairs. I can't help but think there is a tipping point going on here. I don't think Hezbollah wanted war, I think they just wanted to mess with Israel. Unfortunately for them and their allies, like Syria and Iran, Israel was not as weak as they perceived it to be after Sharon's stroke and et al. Now, they've committed themselves and they've got their crazy mullahs and their illiterate goons swearing to fight to the death in return for their 72 perpetual virgins naturally, and Hezbollah can't just simply say oopsie- we'll return those soldiers with their uniforms nicley pressed... or the cries of infidels will go up from their followers and it's orange jumpsuit and sharpened sabar time for the leaders. Just look at what Judas did to Jesus when Jesus did not turn out to be the zealot Judas perceived him to be. So Hezbollah must fight on eventhough they are horriby outgunned and outmanned. They are a suicide death cult operation taking on a highly competent, women soldiers and all army with nuclear-tipped missiles. This is sheer tactical madness! If a Hezbollah strike hit Israeli death paydirt, all bets are off and Hezbollah's allies must join in. Then I think we might even have to pony up to the bar along with England, Australia and whoever else. England had better pony up becuase isn't this mess their fault since they the ones who drew these false boundry lines in the sand back before 1920 or so?
As for how we individually are supposed to respond during all of this, prayers are good and we should also take a bit of advice from those in the region; http://www.sandmonkey.org/2006/07/16/in-praise-of-the-human-spirit/ - keep scrolling down.

Mrs. Peperium

BTW, did you see Father Neuhaus' piece on Phillip Rieff ;

Mulligatawny is one of my most favorite soups. Let me know if you need a recipe.

James G. Poulos

Yes. This, I think, is the nut: “You believe because you think it’s good for you, not because of anything inherent in the belief. I think that the orthodox are in the miserable situation of being orthodox for therapeutic reasons.” I would propose this is both true and necessarily so. Religion -- in its controlling as well as remissive modes -- has always had therapeutic value, and in good faith, too, has religion found compelling and often dangerous vibrance. But how today, in the most self-selfconscious time on Earth, can anyone fend off awareness of the practical value of one's own pose? We have raised awareness to the absurd height -- the point of awareness awareness. And what honest churchgoer, after all, especially after the cruel lessons of religiosity past, wants to selfconsciously do something knowingly bad for him or for her?

The trick I think is that the prevailing notion of "bad" itself is in error -- in a way that leaps beyond Nietzsche's own beyond of superable goods and evils. Even Nietzsche would say our mere bads outnumber our goods. Shame was to be eliminated as an impediment to greatness, not low-rent license. Among our mistaken notions of health, the worst may be that reticences and deprivations are illnesses -- that repression of self is unjust, cruel, rudely unnecessary. In fact -- and this is something some churches still do well -- one example of the health of reticence is the vital community training of ritually manipulated and maintained distance between individuals. Geographically local social order is necessary to the grooming of the civilized, who learn together when and when not to approach, interact, draw near. The formal structure of reticent intimacies is something that churchgoing, I should say, can help teach expertly.

But, of course, to have churchliness in the new style this would all go out the window, both physically and emotionally. One of the costs of selfconscious therapy is that the therapeutic is mounted in bad faith; we know what is happening as it happens, we cannot get far enough outside ourselves to inhabit ourselves in peace. Therapy with a bad conscience is selfishness put on as a group grope stage show. The ritual formality of distance is destroyed on the cheap. That this loss wounds is not so for the selfish reasons of therapeutic well-being, but for those of well social order itself.

Now about that recipe: my own darling might be persuaded to whip up some mulligatawny, to be served, I'd bet, appropriately near a glass of Amontillado.

Mrs. Peperium

Again Mr. Poulos you've got the gears in my brain going around. I'll be back later on this as I give it some serious - well as serious as I can give- thought to it. You have, probably knowingly, hit on something very large.

As for the Mulligatawny - since you live in an area with excellent I'll also post the recipe with the all of the trimmings like tamarind extract and coconut milk. Like Father Neuhaus said; great fun.

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