National Treasures

     No, this isn’t about the movie, though I must admit that I enjoyed it greatly. Then again, I’m a Nicolas Cage fan. I’m thinking of a few writers and thinkers whom I might never have encountered if not for the World Wide Web. There are several…and some of them get much less appreciation than they deserve. To them, I offer these belated Christmas presents.


     One of that neglected group is Chaya Raichik, the person behind the much-celebrated Twitter account Libs of Tiktok:


     Another is the website ZeroHedge:

     Modernity could be described as humanity’s accelerating pace of technological advancement. Part of that advancement is the ever increasing level of intellectual abstraction.

     If you’ve been a member or following my writings long enough, you’ll have heard me talk about the W R Clement book, Quantum Jump; written in 1998, it ascribed the entire scientific revolution from the Enlightenment onwards, to the discovery of perspective (then called “God’s space”), in art….

     That “quantum leap” began the process of rewiring all our brains for ever higher levels of intellectual abstraction. It enabled us to go from ownership of a coal mine, for example, being ascribed to whomever physically occupied the space – including militarily – to people, and even corporatized entities like pension funds or investment clubs, owning fractional pieces of that mine, from far off places, even other countries.

     Initially we did this using physical pieces of paper to represent that ownership. There is a scene in an Agatha Christie “Miss Marple” mystery, “The Moving Finger”, where a man of leisure (played by William D’Arcy) takes to convalesce in a small cottage in a country town, and he visits the local barrister to register his securities with him, reaching into the inside pocket of his sport jacket and handing him the physical share certificates.

     Today, he’d just handle everything from a smart phone he carries around in his jeans.

     That’s increasing abstraction.

     A day spent pondering the modern progression from ownership as possession to “ownership” as a claim administered by some faceless agency immune to correction would not be wasted.


     I think Zoroaster would have heartily agreed with my third selection, the perpetually embattled yet apparently undaunted Robert Spencer:

     The claim that the Israelis drove the Muslim Arabs out of what is today the modern state of Israel is a historical myth: they were told to leave by the Arab League in 1948 when Israel declared its independence. The Arab League was promising to destroy Israel in a matter of weeks, after which they could return. Nevertheless, they now claim to have been driven out, making the destruction of Israel a matter of fulfilling the immutable will of Allah.

     With these kinds of ideas in mind, the preacher continued: “And I said to him: ‘You are protecting the remaining dignity and honor, and some kind of respect for this nation.’ So I always make that supplication. When you think about it that way, that they are protecting the remaining dignity, the remaining sort of… kind of like… to show some power of this nation – it is our brothers and sisters in Gaza. We ask Allah to protect them. We ask Allah to grant them victory.” The nature of the victory he envisioned, however, should make every non-Muslim’s blood run cold.

     “Oh Allah,” the cleric began his prayer, “punish the infidels, come upon them from wherever they do not expect. Oh Allah, instill fear into their hearts. Oh Allah, destroy their houses with their own hands and the hands of the believers. Oh Allah, let us inherit their homes, wealth, and land where we have not set foot yet. Oh Allah, turn them, their wealth, their children, and their lives into booty for Islam and the Muslims. Oh Allah, turn them into booty for Islam and the Muslims.” Yes, he really said that. Read it again.

     Do not imagine that Spencer’s long tenure in the unenviable position of one who “speaks truth and shoots the arrow straight” about Islam, its innate hostility to all that it does not utterly dominate, and especially its ravening hatred for Israel, means that he is safe and secure. He’s not, any more than was Pim Fortuyn, or Theo van Gogh, or the late, lamented staff at Charlie Hebdo.


     Finally, let me not forget my favorite among contemporary commentators, whose oeuvre has never received the appreciation it and he deserve: the inimitable Roger Kimball:

     Much that is happening in the spectacle of America’s legal-political life today reminds me of some pages in Johan Huizinga’s great book Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (1938). In a chapter on “Play and Law,” Huizinga distinguishes the unfolding of legal proceedings in advanced cultures, where strict adherence to process and abstract notions of right and wrong prevail, from the situation in more primitive cultures, where the ultimate criterion is victory. “Turning our eyes from the administration of justice and highly developed civilizations,” Huizinga writes, “to that which obtains in less advanced phases of culture, we see that the idea of right and wrong, the ethical-juridical conception, comes to be overshadowed by the idea of winning and losing, that is, the purely agonistic conception. It is not so much the abstract question of right and wrong that occupies the archaic mind as the very concrete question of winning or losing.”

     In this sense, I submit, Special Counsel Jack Smith, District Judge Tanya Chutkan, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and the rest of the anti-Trump legal confraternity perfectly epitomize the atavistic persistence of archaic impulses in the law. People like me are always going on about “the rebarbarization of civilization.” The peculiar legal assault against Donald Trump is one instance (among many) of that phenomenon.

     Honor them, for we cannot know how much longer we have to enjoy them.

     More anon.