Archive for August, 2007

‘The decadence of the Turk’

[A]fter the Second Balkan War a British diplomat, Sir George Young, was commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace to investigate the causes that led to conflict in the Balkans, he blamed the failure of the Ottoman empire to modernize on Byzantinism. “The failure of the Turks”, he wrote, “is due to Byzantinism.” The British diplomat saw in Byzantinism a “decadent social system” with “no democracy, no simple virtues, and no sound vitality.” “The decadence of the Turk,” he wrote, “dates from the day when Constantinople was taken and not destroyed.” Byzantinism as an imperial principle of statehood was the antipode of European nationalism, which he, writing shortly before the onset of World War I, viewed in very positive terms.

Source [pdf].

Life is hard

Van Gogh, “Old Man in Sorrow”


My problem with conspiracy theories is not so much identification of the fact that people attempt to conspire in order to produce a desire outcome (you would have to be incredibly naive to think governments and its agencies have not, and do not, ‘conspire’).

My frustration with this approach is that it often ends up replacing political, cultural, historical or social analysis.

Fox Attacks

The following video was made by Robert Greenwald, the filmmaker behind Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism.

(Via Chapati Mystery.)

Great moments in British television

Courtesy of Paxo.

Implicit Association Test

Psychologists understand that people may not say what’s on their minds either because they are unwilling or because they are unable to do so. For example, if asked “How much do you smoke?” a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may purposely report smoking only 2 packs a day because they are embarrassed to admit the correct number. Or, the smoker may simply not answer the question, regarding it as a private matter. (These are examples of being unwilling to report a known answer.) But it is also possible that a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may report smoking only 2 packs because they honestly believe they only smoke about 2 packs a day. (Unknowingly giving an incorrect answer is sometimes called self-deception; this illustrates being unable to give the desired answer).

The unwilling-unable distinction is like the difference between purposely hiding something from others and unconsciously hiding something from yourself. The Implicit Association Test makes it possible to penetrate both of these types of hiding. The IAT measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report.


Take one of the tests.

Anti-political legalism

John Gray in Two Faces of Liberalism says this of Rawls’ liberalism:

The central institution of Rawls’s ‘political liberalism’ is not a deliberative assembly such as a parliament. It is a court of law. All fundamental issues are removed from political deliberation in order to be adjudicated by a Supreme Court. The self-description of Rawlsian doctrine as political liberalism is supremely ironic. In fact, Rawls’s doctrine is a species of anti-political legalism. [my emphasis]

Could a similar remark be made for the majority of Muslim thinking on this subject?

(The chapter of Gray’s book from which the quote is taken can be read online.)


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