Saturday, June 13, 2009

What This Means

There are a plethora of reports alleging election fraud in Iran. The best I have read thus far comes from Juan Cole, whom I do not normally agree with. Al Jazeera is being really weird and anti-liberal in its coverage, generally maintaining a neutral to skeptical tone regarding the fraud.

The election indicates is that there is distance between the policies of the government and Ayatollah and the wishes of the people, but the fact that the results will likely stand demonstrates that the people are still unable to affect that policies of the Iranian government. Despite the media frenzy over the protests, comparisons to Tiananmen and all, the scale appears to be on the order of thousands, a relatively small showing for protests in the Middle East. The result is not a tragedy because the delegate to the office of the presidency will or will not change, but because of what it indicates about the willingness of Iran's oligarchy to change its policy, even on something as small as a figure head (let alone it's nuclear program). Given that policy change, let alone regime change, appears unlikely Israel will likely bomb Iran*. This is a disaster...

Update (6/15): OK, NYT is reporting protests of ~half a million. That's a real, ol' timey, Mid-East protest. None of this "thousands in the street" crap. I have no idea what's going to happen from here, but at least it shows some spunk.

*Again, this is a descriptive not a prescriptive claim.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Three Questions

Whenever reading political theory always ask three questions:
1. What is the premise?
2. What is the account/mechanism?
3. What is the payoff?

So for Hobbes it would be something like:
1. People have a projectivist epistemology which causes acrimony. We must solve that by bringing people together under one rule.
2. Consent is employed to transfer 'natural rights' to one body.
3. A perfectly consensual and represented politics.

There are still some bugs in this and my account of Hobbes might not be perfect, but I think it is a good rubric. A surprising number of articles do a hack job of #2 and don't address #3 at all. So, for instance, if you ever read something that outlines a problem and resolves it by magic pixie dust, dragon fire or power excised by the industrial bourgeoisie always be skeptical.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Kol Yisrael Arevim

I post this because it is getting some traction in the blogosphere, and because it finely articulates why I struggle with Zionism and kol yisrael arevim.

For a moment I will engage my mother, who will no doubt respond along these lines: So they are stupid?! There are lots of stupid people in the world. Why let stupid people alter your identity?! The problem is that according to normative religious/cultural principles I actually share a community with these people. Why can't I construct a community which cleaves along the lines of smart/stupid as opposed to Jewish/non-Jewish (granted my life is far more heavily weighted the former already)? Why would I want to share anything with bigots?

The best rebuttal I can offer at this moment is that maybe God wants us to take responsibility for stupid people. Maybe that's the point of community. Living together in a diverse environment in order to understand the baseness and transcendence of the human spirit. I think it was St. Thomas who argues this, but how can we appreciate the beautiful without the ugly?