Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Good reads

Hey, I just realized that there's no election going on anymore! Here's a couple of things worth the read now that an unhealthy preoccupation with Canadian federal politics is no longer so urgently required.

Frank Furedi, author of Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right and a secular humanist, plumbs the zeolatry and frustrated political motivations behind the current trend of denouncing movies with a religious message in "The curious rise of anti-religious hysteria" (via Western Standard Shotgun):

The problem with politically motivated calls for the restoration of a moral dimension to public life is that they are driven by the instrumental purpose of gaining or retaining power. But a morality manufactured in response to the demands of political pragmatism is bound to lack any organic relationship to lived experience, and is thus unlikely to find resonance with the wider public. An unfocused and disconnected oligarchy is unlikely to possess sufficient sensitivity to the day-to-day problems confronting the public. That is why the pragmatic search for a ready-made moral purpose usually turns into an arbitrary exercise in picking and choosing some inoffensive values.
On a lighter note, Garrison Keillor's uncomplimentary critique of American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville, by Bernard-Henri Lévy, is without question the funniest book review I have ever read (via Paul Wells):
And what's with the flurries of rhetorical questions? Is this how the French talk or is it something they save for books about America? "What is a Republican? What distinguishes a Republican in the America of today from a Democrat?" Lévy writes, like a student padding out a term paper. "What does this experience tell us?" he writes about the Mall of America. "What do we learn about American civilization from this mausoleum of merchandise, this funeral accumulation of false goods and nondesires in this end-of-the-world setting? What is the effect on the Americans of today of this confined space, this aquarium, where only a semblance of life seems to subsist?" And what is one to make of the series of questions - 20 in a row - about Hillary Clinton, in which Lévy implies she is seeking the White House to erase the shame of the Lewinsky affair? Was Lévy aware of the game 20 Questions, commonly played on long car trips in America? Are we to read this passage as a metaphor of American restlessness? Does he understand how irritating this is? Does he? Do you? May I stop now?