The merpeople brandished their spears fiercely. Harry looked around. Ron, Hermione and Gabrielle Delacour drifted lazily through the water, arms bound uselessly behind their backs. Where was Fleur? And where was Krum?
Harry turned to face the merpeople. “The true test is not whether a Triwizard Champion can perform an act of charity — an act of mercy — whether I am capable of saving these victims, these leechers, these children. I can, I assure you. The question is whether I can do without them, whether I can exist solely as my own entity. Whether I can perform an act of accomplishment.”
Harry carefully began placing the heaviest stones he could carry over the rope connecting Ron and Hermione, until they were hopelessly enmeshed in the lake bed.
“The answer, of course,” he said clearly, “is that I can.” He swam away. He swam alone. He had lost the task, perhaps, but he had won the only tournament that truly matters — the tournament of self.
“I hope you’re not expecting me to apologize,” Harry said without looking up the next day when a very muddy and a very angry-looking Ron and Hermione appeared in front of the door to his study. “And don’t come any closer. You’ll track lake water all over my new rug.”
As a financial-aid kid whose life-prospects were significantly bolstered by attending an elite school, this subject is very personal for me, too. I come from a family of construction workers and laundry-owners in Brooklyn, the descendants of Italian and Chinese immigrants, respectively. My father is a laborer and my mother a human resources worker; they’ve both changed jobs across the years, owing to the recession and family circumstances. We don’t occupy an enviable financial situation by any means, and I’d hate to think our unsteady progress from working- to middle-class somehow makes me, as Deresiewicz puts it, “an entitled little shit.” He may have sleepwalked into college, but it’s wrong to assume we all did
[F]or all the good that immigration can do (and I’m an immigrant to the U.S., who is very glad that America let me in, and who generally supports immigration), unregulated immigration can dramatically change the nature of the target society. It makes a lot of sense for those who live there to think hard about how those changes can be managed, and in some situations to restrict the flow of immigrants — who, after all, will soon be entitled to affect their new countrymen’s rights and lives, through the vote if not through force. …
Letting in immigrants means letting in your future rulers. It may be selfish to worry about that, but it’s foolish not to. … [E]ven for America, the influx of millions of new citizens — both the potentially legalized current illegal immigrants and the many others who are likely to come in the wake of the legalization — can affect the society and the political system in considerable ways. It seems to me eminently sensible to be concerned about the illegal immigrants who may well change (in some measure) your country even if your ancestors were themselves illegal immigrants who changed the country as it once was.
Via Clarice Feldman.
But America has always been a country determined to occupy a new continent and build a new country, and America has always had a shortage of affordable labor. That’s why they imported criminals and slaves to Colonial America, and that’s why –until the 1920s– we had essentially unlimited immigration.
After hundreds of years and the influx of countless unrelated groups of people, the United States, I would argue, has a tradition of pluralism and assimilation of immigrants central to its own identity. America previously allowed in all sorts of groups with conspicuously undesirable characteristics, all of whom definitely changed the culture of the country in significant ways.
Native-born Americans in generations gone by endured the Scots Irish lawlessness and propensity toward violence, German-speaking religious extremists’ refusal to assimilate or to use modern technologies, Irish drunkenness and talent for political corruption, the popery and beer garden culture of Bavarian Germans, Italian criminal conspiracies, Jewish enthusiasm for radical politics and bad art, and the general barbarism and illiteracy of representatives of essentially every variety of rural European peasantry. Previous waves of immigration brought crime and violence, political corruption, poverty and illiteracy, and enormous cultural change to America, but immigrants typically rapidly prospered and assimilated, climbing out of poverty while, in the meantime, doing all the disagreeable, dangerous, and low-paying jobs native-born Americans wouldn’t do. Their children filled the ranks of the American Armed Forces and won America’s wars.
As a grandson of turn-of-the-last-century immigrants, I strongly disagree with Mr. Volokh. I think that, as Americans and as the descendants of immigrants, we have an obligation to affirm and defend our national tradition of welcoming and assimilating other immigrants succeeding our own ancestors in turn. The “I’m aboard, Captain, pull the ladder up!” position is simply disgraceful for an American.
Ferrari F340 Competizione, based on a true classic – the 1952 Ferrari 340 Mexico Berlineta. Only three of the original were built, by Vignale specially for the 1952 Carrera PanAmericana race, held in Mexico. With Gullwings, these were only $4,000,000.
Walter Russell Mead admires the way the Mainstream Media looks carefully away as the Obama Administration’s “Smart Diplomacy” puts Middle Eastern countries, provinces, and WMDs into the hands of murderous fanatics. The days of the New York Times micromanaging US Foreign Policy are clearly over.
If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq. Indeed, the MSM right now would be howling that Obama was stupider than Bush. Bush, our Journolist friends would now be saying ad nauseam, at least had the excuse that he didn’t know what happens when you overthrow a paranoid, genocidal, economically incompetent Arab tyrant in an artificial post-colonial state. But Obama did—or, the press would nastily say, he would have done if he’d been doing his job instead of hitting the golf course or yakking it up with his glitzy pals at late night bull sessions. The ad hominem attacks would never stop, and all the tangled threads of incompetence and failure would be endlessly and expertly picked at in long New Yorker articles, NYT thumbsuckers, and chin-strokings on all the Sabbath gasbag shows.
Why, the ever-admirable tribunes of a free and unbiased press would be asking non-stop, didn’t this poor excuse for a President learn from what happened in Iraq? When you upend an insane and murderous dictator who has crushed his people for decades under an incompetent and quirky regime, you’d better realize that there is no effective state or civil society under the hard shell of dictatorial rule. Remove the dictator and you get chaos and anarchy. Wasn’t this President paying attention during the last ten years?
Some of the criticism would be exaggerated and unfair; the Monday morning quarterbacks never really understand just how complicated and tragic this poor world really is, not to mention how hard it is to make life and death decisions in real time in the center of the non-stop political firestorm that is Washington today. And the MSM attracts more than its share of deeply inexperienced but entitled, self-regarding blowhards who love to pontificate about how stupid all those poor fools who have actual jobs and responsibilities actually are.
But luckily for Team Obama, the mainstream press would rather die than subject liberal Democrats to the critiques it reserves for the GOP. So instead, as Libya writhes in agony, reputations and careers move on. The news is so bad, and the President’s foreign policy is collapsing on so many fronts, that it is impossible to keep the story off the front pages. “Smart diplomacy” has become a punch line, and the dream Team Obama had of making Democrats the go-to national security party is as dead as the passenger pigeon. But what the press can do for the White House it still, with some honorable exceptions, labors to accomplish: it will, when it must, report the dots. But it will try not to connect them, and it will do what it can to let all the people involved in the Libya debacle move on to the next and higher stage of their careers.
David Gutmann thinks he has figured out the Arabs’ real problem, why they are continually being moved to murderous rage.
I do not agree with many hawks that Islam by itself is the prime mover of Arab violence. When I consider the obsessions, the language and the actions of the extremists, it becomes evident that, perhaps even more than religion, overlooked aspects of national character contribute to the fevers of jihad. As a Jew who owns a Koran (Oh Imams, is this permitted?) it appears to me that the more lurid stanzas of that generally inflammatory text are being used, by Islamic extremists, to rationalize their fury over perceived insults that have nothing to do with Islam per se.
That fury is not a product of the Koran. Rather, it has to do with a prior, psychological cause: the vulnerabilities of Arab national character, which is centered on the maintenance of honor and the avoidance of shame. Some readers will probably accuse me of psychobabbling. Note, however, that some very smart observers—the Israeli anthropologist Rafael Patai, for instance—have already documented the Arab phobia against the experience of shame.
That sensitivity is now at fever pitch. The Arab world is suffering a crisis of humiliation. Their armies are routed not only by Americans, but also by tiny, Jewish Israel; and as Arthur Koestler once remarked, the Arab world has not, in the last 500 years or so, produced much besides rugs, dirty postcards, elaborations on the belly-dance esthetic (and, of course, some innovative terrorist practices). They have no science to speak of, no art, hardly any industry save oil, very little literature, and portentous music which consists largely of lugubrious songs celebrating the slaughter of Jews.
Now that the Arabs have acquired national consciousness, and they compare their societies to other nations, these deficiencies become painfully evident, particularly to the upper-class Arab kids who attend foreign universities. There they learn about the accomplishments of Christians, Jews, (Freud, Einstein, for starters) and women. And yet, with the exception of Edward Said, there is scarcely a contemporary Arab name in the bunch. No wonder, then, that major recruitment to al-Qaeda’s ranks takes place among Arab university students. And no wonder that suicide bombing becomes their tactic of choice: it is a last-ditch, desperate way of asserting at least one scrap of superiority—a spiritual superiority—over the materialistic, life-hugging, and ergo shameful West.
But this tactic is not, I suggest, a product of Islam. Rather, it is a product of the bruised Arab psyche. Remember that the Japanese also turned to suicide tactics in WWII to evade the humiliation of defeat. Though their religion was Shinto rather than Muslim, they too constituted a paradigm shame/honor culture, and defeat brought about, as with the Arabs, a furiously suicidal/homicidal response. After their armies had been defeated, their fleets sunk, their cities set aflame, and their home islands invaded, they launched the kamikaze bomber offensive, thereby committing a hi-tech form of hara-kiri, their usual remedy against intolerable shame. It is in this way that the modern Arab world resembles the Japan of World War II. In both cases it is not religions but psychic wounds, the wounds inflicted by defeat and evident inferiority, that inspire suicide bombers.
It is often asserted that the changes set in train by modernization are particularly toxic to the Arabs. No doubt this is true. But if we are going to be therapeutic, our diagnoses need to be more specific; we need to identify the particular pathogens that are released by modernization. Besides sharpening their sense of inferiority relative to the West, modernization threatens to bring about the liberation of women (as in Afghanistan and Iraq). I say “threatens,” because the self-esteem of Arab males is in large part predicated on the inferior position of their women. The Arab nations have for the most part lost their slaves and dhimmis, the subject peoples onto whose persons the stigmata of shame could be downloaded. But anyone who has spent time among them knows that Arab males have not lost their psychological need for social and sexual inferiors. In the absence of slaves and captive peoples, Arab women are elected for the special role of the inferior who, by definition, lacks honor. Arab men eradicate shame and bolster their shaky self-esteem by imposing the shameful qualities of the dhimmi, submission and passivity, upon women. Trailing a humbled woman behind them, Arab men can walk the walk of the true macho man.
Hence the relative lack of material achievement by Arabs: the Arab world has stunted the female half of its brain pool, while the men acquire instant self-esteem not by real accomplishment, but by the mere fact of being men, rather than women. No wonder, then, that the Arab nations feel irrationally threatened by the very existence of Israel. Like America, the Jews have brought the reality of the liberated woman into the very heart of the Middle East, into dar al-Islam itself. Big Satan and Little Satan: the champions of Muslim women.
Fred Reed is not impressed with what egalitarian progressive modernism has wrought.
The bleakness of American culture leads one to despair. Subtract technology and nothing is left. Music? Classical composition is dead. The symphony orchestras hold on by their teeth. Opera is unheard and almost unheard of. Book sales drop, and those that sell are mostly trash. Poetry is dead, Shakespeare a comic shorthand for ridiculous irrelevant pedantry.
Talented painters abound, but the nation has no interest in them. Sculpture means curious blobs and shapes said to be art and chosen by suburban arts committees. Theater? How many people have seen a play recently other than a high-school production?
In all the things that once marked civilization, the United States has become a desert, a waste of self-satisfied, pampered, arrogantly ignorant sidewalk peasants. This is curious, since anything the cultivated might want awaits on the web. One may think of Amazon as an automated fifth-century monastery, saving things of worth for an awakening centuries hence.