Saturday, January 11, 2003 :::
DECADENT CONSERVATISM? "Conservatives rightly condemn the moral relativism that is eating away at the foundation of our society. Yet some of the most eloquent conservative publications unintentionally have been promoting a variant of the same disease: aesthetic relativism", as evidenced in their praise for vulgar movies, according to writer Spencer Warren.
Thursday, January 09, 2003 :::
SEARCH TOOL. I do hope this is not the equivalent of telling someone that there is this really cool search engine called Google, but when I was trying to locate this old article by Midge Decter tonight, I found a gold mine called "FindArticles.com". On the Commentary site, I could get the article for a fee, but on FindArticles.com it was free. It's a treasure trove filled with articles that have not previously been posted on-line. Go check it out.
SOCIAL(IST) CONSERVATISM. One of the interesting facts Neil Clark points out in his piece on Roy Jenkins (see below) is the radical change in left-wing politics that has occurred since the '60s. Before World War II, and indeed for quite a long time after, most mainstream socialist parties in Europe were strongly committed to traditional social mores. In many cases, their arguments for central planning were actually predicated on the value of the nuclear family. Even if they were atheists, socialists often hoped to preserve the cultural order that had previously been protected by the church -- it was simply that they believed economic egalitarianism was a more just and reliable basis than religion for virtue and stability. Today we correctly regard them as mistaken. But it is worth noting that the establishment of "the permissive society" was primarily the goal of middle class intellectuals who, like Lord Jenkins, were often quite unpopular within their parties. Leftists who are still confused by the drift to the right of the working and lower middle classes need look no farther for an explanation; there is no existential connection between "liberal" causes like trade-unionism and sexual liberation. As the Democrats learned with Reagan and Labour with Thatcher, ordinary people have generally preferred leaders sympathetic to what they consider a decent society to those who employ the flamboyant rhetoric of unlimited individual rights.
AS IF he had deliberately tried to tie together our previous posts, Neil Clark, a self-described Old Labour Euro-sceptic, accuses Roy Jenkins of having made Britain a far less civilized country. His argument echoes that of Roger Scruton, reviewed here. If the influence of television -that old chestnut- is really as bad as our man in Oxford suggests, friends of civilization in America will breathe a sigh of relief that Sarah Jessica Parker's libertine 'Sex and the City' is scheduled to end next year. We are pleased to note, however, that off-screen Ms Parker has been happily married to Matthew Broderick since 1997, who had apparently been her "longtime beau". Funny how the example that her on-screen persona sets to others is one that she blatantly refuses to follow in her own real life.
BREAKDOWN IN BRITAIN. Evidence --anecdotal and statistical-- is accumulating that Britain is undergoing something of a meltdown of civilization. For instance, The Times of London reports this morning that "conversations have deteriorated into a 'daily grunt' that leaves young children unable to talk properly." The man in charge of maintaining educational standards in Britain, Alan Wells, blaims lives led in the shadow of the television & computer, single parenting, and the end of shared meals in schools. His bizarre suggestion that parents should go back to school to relearn how to talk to their offspring shows how serious the problem is.
Tuesday, January 07, 2003 :::
MORE MADNESS. I can hardly believe this is true, but apparently Scottish schools are being forced to reassess detention as punishment after lawyers warned they risked breaching pupils' rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. With people like this educating our children, one is surprised society is still functioning -- more or less. How long can it last?
THE INEVITABLE: Bill Clinton is rumored to be Oxford's first choice to succeed Lord Jenkins as Chancellor of the University. For those who might be concerned, don't worry (yet). This article in the Times is based on no more than talk, from a dubious source. Alan Ryan is an old friend of Bill Clinton. He tutored Clinton when he was a Rhodes scholar here, and hosted Bill and Chelsea when Clinton was here to give that talk at the Rothermere Institute (see previous post). Mr Ryan has recently bitterly criticized the university (it's no accident he's gone into voluntary exile). Mr Ryan is unlikely to know for whom a few thousand members of Congregation will vote for in a few months. Moreover, the lead of the article is entirely misleading. There is no indication -- not in this article, and not elsewhere-- that there is an official wish list of candidates, or that Clinton would be ranked first on such list. At this moment, it is anybody's guess who the next Chancellor will be. That is not to say Clinton might not emerge. Oxford is in love with itself. Any fact from the outside world that corresponds to Oxford's inflated view of itself is embraced beyond belief. Oxford thinks it ought to produce American presidents, and so it tends to be most lenient towards Clinton. That he never bothered to actually finish a degree here, did not hinder Oxford from granting him an honorary doctorate in 1994. Nor did his impeachment stop the University from repeatedly honoring Mr Clinton since. Undoubtedly, many dons might be attracted to having a former President as Chancellor. Oxford is desperate for money and Clinton's consummate fundraising skills could come in handy. If Oxford would allow Clinton to keep making money from other sources, he want the job (and Mrs Clinton would undoubtedly be much relieved if her husband were to take a job abroad). It is the kind of respectable position suitable for former US president, I suppose, and it would give a purpose to Clinton's existential need to travel, do fundraisers, and mix and meet with the great and good. But could Oxford really allow a Chancellor who takes such a direct interest in American politics? If Mr Clinton is really interested, however, Oxford is faced with a Faustian bargain that I am afraid it might not be able to withstand.
Monday, January 06, 2003 :::
A REMEMBRANCE OF JENKINS PAST. The scene is Mansfield College, Oxford, where some hundreds of that university's most well-behaved members have been invited to the opening ceremonies for the Rothermere American Institute. The speaker is former President and Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton, he of the sententious oratory. The size of the crowd demands that the speech be simulcast on large video monitors. To break the monotony, these were often used to display crowd shots of the sort familiar from major sporting events. About twenty minutes into the speech, whose larger-than-life visage should appear on the screen but Chancellor Lord Roy Jenkins? Fast asleep. Obviously snoring. Possibly drunk. It was a magnificent rebuke to Mr. Clinton who, for all his talk about Oxford, never actually managed to take a degree.
MORE JENKINS in London's Telegraph, as Robert Harris writes a warm tribute to his late friend. "He took John Major out to lunch a couple of years ago and reported that Mr Major had asked him whether he ever regretted not being prime minister. '[Jenkins} said, "Not really" and was tempted to ask [Major] whether he ever regretted that he had been.'" Doing lunch, by the way, was one of Jenkins' specialties. "Lord Jenkins enjoyed the high life: a devotee of fine wines and food, Harold Wilson once described him as 'more of a socialite than a socialist.'" Evidence of the latter can also be found in his "Numerous love affairs, most notably with Jackie Kennedy's sister Lee Radziwill". Nevertheless, like our man in Cambridge, MA, I wish that Jenkins' emphasis on the champagne in his champagne socialism had led him to reconsider his politics, particularly his misguided enthusiasm for "Youwop", as Jenkins the former European Commission President pronounced it.
Sunday, January 05, 2003 :::
THIS PAGE MOURNS the death yesterday of Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. Lord Jenkins was a former MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Home Secretary, and since 1987 had been Chancellor of the University of Oxford, but he is probably best known in the United States as author of a bestselling life of Churchill Although we rarely agreed with his social-democratic politics and sympathy for the 1960s cultural revolution, we salute Lord Jenkins as among the last of a dying breed: the intellectual politician. For him, as for Churchill, the art of government was inseparably from the reading of books and discussion of ideas -- and in particular the study of history. Their example stands in ever starker contrast to the poll-driven efforts of our contemporary mob of dwarfs on the right and the left.
THE BEST NEW BLOG OF THE YEAR began publishing promptly on January 1, 2003. The only strange thing is that it's being written from the 17th Century. Thanks to the wonderful efforts of Phil Gyford, one entry of Samuel Pepys' diary is to be posted each day, providing a literary counterpoint to most of the nonsense spewed into the blogosphere. It is also promises to be significantly naughtier than most content one can view without -- shall we say -- a subscription. How exactly would one say "mi mano was sobra her pectus, and so did hazer with grand delight" these days?