Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Henry Farrell, and his sister:

Confessional Brezhnevism and Brian Farrell
The Boston Review have just put up a piece I wrote on Ireland’s internal Cold War, which wasn’t about politics, but religion. My generation (and Kieran’s; and Maria’s) grew up in an Ireland where the Catholic Church’s control of politics and society was visibly rotting away from inside, but still strong enough to foreclose the alternatives. It was like Brezhnevism – a dying system, but one strong enough to make it difficult to imagine what life would be like if it were gone.

One vignette from the piece, describing the moment when Bishop Eamon Casey was revealed to have had a long term relationship and child resulting from same.
The day the news broke, I met one of my professors, who had a sideline as a scrupulously evenhanded television host, wandering across campus in dazed delight. “It’s over,” he said. “They’ve lost.” He was right.
Farewell to all that
The Union Jack came down in Camp Bastion today, marking the end of the UK’s combat role in Afghanistan and its misconceived campaign in Helmand Province; the campaign with no strategy, less chance of success and a gossamer-thin plan.

...Nineteen billion pounds. Twenty thousand Afghan civilians. Four hundred and fifty three UK soldiers. More Afghan National Army killed last summer than UK troops throughout the whole war. More poppy seed than ever growing in Helmand, but lots more children in school, too.

Was it worth it? Well if you’ve figured out a workable and not-obscene calculus of human pain and worthwhile profit, let the rest of us know.

I knew one of the four hundred and fifty three, but only superficially. He was deputed one autumn evening to squire me around the officers’ mess when E was already gone. He made sure I had drinks and was warm enough, saw me into the dining room, flirted chastely back and manfully ignored the younger women. It was like something out of Thackeray. Beautiful manners on the eve of battle.

...Later, driving through the gold-tinged dusk of a Wiltshire summer evening, I rounded the corner of B-road to see the flag again, flying in someone’s garden. I had to pull over.

That’s not my flag and never will be. It’s just something someone I slightly knew died for.
She cried for a British soldier, not for the Afghans.

Chicks Dig the Uniform
My husband, E, has been deployed to Afghanistan for six months.
I Love a Man in Uniform
I almost hesitate to make this recommendation, as my taste has cloven to the mainest of main streams since I became an army wife.
Reader, I married him
Sometime in Spring, two years ago, my brother Henry received a hand-written letter from a woman in Ireland he’d neither met nor heard of. It was a letter of introduction. The person being introduced was Edward, “a decent, entertaining fellow. We have known him all our lives.”

...A month or two later, I phoned to say I’d be arriving that evening from L.A. for a couple of weeks in the DC office. Henry pressed the letter into my hands as I arrived on the doorstep. He was rushing to the airport and thought I might have more time to take an interest.

The letter came via a circuitous route from a tenuous connection; Meg, Edward’s godfather’s wife who was also my mother’s friend Mary’s book club companion. It was prompted by a misunderstanding between a son who was monosyllabic about his social life and a mother who thus assumed he had none. It came from the peculiarly Anglo-Irish practice of proper letter-writing, and directly from that rare person who said ‘I must write them a letter’, and actually did.
Where is the love?
Ugh, I feel ill. I had been mellowing on Pope Benedict. It’s hard (not to mention wrong) to keep hating on someone you pray out loud for every Sunday. 
I've always associated libertarians and libertarianism -absent "civil" libertarianism- with people, mostly sons, born into and frustrated by "backwards", tradition-bound societies, born also after the failures of communism. It's the last "scientific" prescriptive theory of culture.
...my mental model of Tyler often sit[s] on my shoulder while I blog, making polite and well reasoned libertarian criticisms of my arguments..."
If the Farrells were Muslim, Henry's sister would be in Hijab. If they were Iranian, she would be a religious liberal reformer; if they were Jewish they'd be Zionists.
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I'd written that in all cases I'd be more sympathetic to her blindness than his, but I'm not sure. As it is she's chosen the life not of a married woman but a wife, and a military one at that. And given the context, not of religion or even conservative religion but global politics and power, that choice, as Jim Hoberman said in the last sentence of his review of Zero Dark Thirty, "leaves an aftertaste of gall".

Evidence of the fading of Henry's interest in libertarianism, nine months after the reference to Cowen: his discovery of Gambetta and Hertog. And I'd used the earlier quote before, but hadn't remembered others' reactions. He was behind the curve even among his peers. They've come a long way.
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I forgot about this.
Al-Ghazali, as quoted by Ernest Gellner, puts Mannheim’s point more pithily – "the genuine traditionalist does not know that he is one; he who proclaims himself to be one, no longer is one."

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