Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Paradigm for viewing human rights on a traditionalist or classical system of thought

Daniel Steinmetz: February 22nd, 2009 at 7:09 pm
Though it may be a tangential remark, Schmalzbauer could be accused of conflating post-liberal mainline protestantism (Stanley Hauerwas) with American neo-Evangelicalism. The difference between the two is quite significant, especially since the latter over the last 50 years views political participation as a responsibility. That is, they acknowledge the legitimacy of democracy (not voting, for instance, is viewed by the typical Evangelical as irresponsible—whether conservative or liberal). However, the current post-liberal trend views the equal distribution of political power expressed via the vote as some type of simulacra of an egalitarian Christian community. Put differently, one could say that Evangelicals view voting as something of a fundamental right that is therefore good. What Wolterstorff is criticizing with Hauerwas, I believe is qualitatively different.

John Schmalzbauer: February 22nd, 2009 at 9:22 pm
Daniel Steinmetz makes an excellent point. I mentioned Stanley Hauerwas mainly because Wolterstorff did. There is certainly a clear distinction between the American evangelical movement and post-liberalism. At the same time, some of the evangelical scholars I know are attracted to post-liberalism. Within that group of post-liberal evangelicals, some are suspicious of rights talk (even of the kind that Wolterstorff celebrates).

Steinmetz is right to point out that evangelicals have been politically engaged for several decades. However, this is not the same thing as valuing documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A case could be made that evangelical anti-abortion rhetoric draws on rights language (the “right to life”). Nowhere did I mean to imply that all evangelicals are suspicious of rights talk. But some (like my professor at Wheaton College) certainly are.

Robert D. Crane: February 24th, 2009 at 5:04 pm
The question would seem to be not which brand of religious tradition is trying to support human rights on specific issues, such as Darfur or asset-based money, but rather is the question who is trying to revive human rights as a systematic paradigm for viewing all of human life based on a traditionalist or classical system of thought that may have been lost in the modern age. In other words it is a question of conscious paradigmatic transformation.

An good example of an issue-oriented approach favored perhaps by most Protestants is Jim Wallis’s, The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. A good example of the systems or paradigmatic approach favored by Roman Catholics would be Russell Hittinger’s The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World, which I reviewed, along with several other recent books in my article “Taproot to Terrorism: The Loss of Transcendent Law in America and the Muslim World,” published in The Muslim World Book Review, Summer 2005.

The second question is which of these consciously paradigmatic approaches is being revived under the rubric of justice as another word for natural law and as simply an older term for human rights. The best book in the Roman Catholic tradition, with specific reference to the current issues of banking, credit, and taxation, is Michael D. Greaney’s collection of his articles from the Social Justice Review under the title In Defense of Human Dignity: Essays on the Just Third Way: A Natural Law Perspective.

Within the Islamic tradition, the best book on natural law and justice is the monumental tome by Jasser Auda entitled Maqasid al Shari’ah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach. This is part of an entire library of books being published by the International Institute of Islamic Thought either as translations from the Arabic, such as Ibn Ashur’s seminal treatise of 1946, published as Ibn Ashur: Treatise on Maqasid al-Shari’ah, or else written, like Auda’s, originally in English and translated into Arabic and other languages. Some of these books are reviewed, for example, in my article, “Human Rights in Traditionalist Islam: Legal, Political, Economic, and Spiritual Perspectives,” in The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Winter 2008.

The IIIT is now preparing for a twenty-year project to publish in Wikipedic form a twenty-volume Encyclopedia of Natural Law and Justice, perhaps categorized according my own preferred formulation of the irreducibly universal principles of justice, known as the maqasid, as developed during the high point of the Andalucian civilization by Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

This formulation consists of two categories of principles, each consisting of four major purposes as headings for an architectonics that recognizes two levels of sub-categories (known as hajjiyat and tahsiniyat), perhaps first introduced in the modern West in the book The Sun is Rising in the West, edited by Haleem and Bowman in 1998. The categories and component parts are listed below in order of priority as a code of human responsibilities and human rights: The Immanent Frame 5:56 PM

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Debates, sports and community leadership

Re: In Defence of the “Extracts from The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs”—Raman Reddy
by auroman on Sat 03 Jan 2009 11:50 PM IST Profile Permanent Link
IMHO, we need to understand the Western mindset to understand why most of them see this issue differently.

1) Those brought up in the West, or who have acquired a Western world-view seem to think that this book issue is some battle between freedom and repression, which it is not. If you tell them not to do something, they immediately cry out "censorship". The fight against communism and other forms of repression has colored their view of everything else.

2) The tradition in the West since the sixties sexual revolution is that "we must have an open discussion about everything". This extends to sexual matters as well "whats wrong with talking openly about sex?" or "lets give condoms to children instead of telling them not to do it". They don't see anything wrong with discussing Sri Aurobindo's sex life, even though it may seem offensive to Indian sensibilities.

3) There is no natural atmosphere of Bhakti in schools or homes. Prayer in schools is discouraged. Children are focussed on debates, sports and community leadership. That is why they might assume that all the people who oppose the book are being emotional or unreasonable. It is this background of lack of humility or Bhakti that we must consider.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Testament is all about justice

Justice: Rehabilitating religious rights talk posted by John Schmalzbauer

In December, we celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, it has served as a charter for the modern human rights movement.
Many scholars are unaware of the religious underpinnings of the Declaration. In A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, legal scholar Mary Ann Glendon (who is concluding her service as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See) uncovers the influence of Catholic social thought on this historic document. According to Glendon, certain phrases “have a familiar ring to persons acquainted with the social encyclicals.” Recognizing this connection, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace held a public commemoration of the anniversary attended by Pope Benedict XVI. In the United States, many Catholics celebrated the legacy of what Pope John Paul II called “one of the highest expressions of the human conscience in our time.” While some liberal Catholics used the occasion to protest the hierarchy’s opposition to gay rights, they have largely shared the Vatican’s support for the Universal Declaration.

By contrast, many evangelicals let the Declaration’s anniversary pass without notice. A Google News search for the words “evangelical” and “Universal Declaration” yielded just six stories (compared to 133 for “Catholic” and “Universal Declaration”). While the National Association of Evangelicals and Christianity Today have given increasing attention to human rights (going so far as to cite the Declaration in the past), no mention of the anniversary could be found on their websites.

Why have evangelicals ignored the birthday of the twentieth century’s most profound statement on human rights? One reason may be evangelical ambivalence about the United Nations. Another may be that some evangelicals regard “rights talk” as an alien language with little connection to Biblical faith. Raised in the evangelical subculture, I have experienced this attitude firsthand. During my undergraduate years at Wheaton College, one of my professors presented the class with a startling claim: human rights are a product of modern political thought and cannot be found in the Bible. At the time, I wondered how he could square this statement with the dozens of Bible verses proclaiming the rights of the poor.

In Justice: Rights and Wrongs, Yale University philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff offers a devastating critique of the historical narrative employed by my professor. Drawing on the work of historians Brian Tierney and John Witte, Jr., Wolterstorff argues that the “conception of justice as inherent rights was not born in the fourteenth century or the seventeenth century.” Debunking the notion that natural rights are the outgrowth of philosophical nominalism and the European Enlightenment, he pronounces this narrative “indisputably false.”

Along the way, Wolterstorff critiques the notion that rights talk is an offshoot of modern individualism. Questioning Stanley Hauerwas’ claim that the language of rights “underwrites a view of human relations as exchanges,” he presents an account of justice that is irreducibly communal. Wolterstorff also takes on those philosophers who would ground their accounts of justice in the classical Greek and Roman descriptions of the well-lived life. In his judgment, such approaches fail to take into account the inherent worth of human beings.
Rather than treating rights as a modern invention, Wolterstorff traces them back to the early church fathers and the Bible itself. Noting the prominence of the “quartet of the vulnerable” throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, he sees the protection of “widows, orphans, resident aliens, and the poor” as central to the biblical text. Criticizing those who would “de-justicize” the New Testament, he contends it “is all about justice.” Citing the focus of the Gospels on “lifting up those at the bottom,” Wolterstorff celebrates Jesus of Nazareth’s “expanded vision of the downtrodden.”

Will Wolterstorff’s Biblically-grounded account of justice sway those evangelicals who are allergic to rights talk? It is possible it will. Though most laypersons and clergy will not read this book, its rehabilitation of rights may filter down through evangelical colleges and seminaries. Thanks to Wolterstorff, it will be harder for evangelical faculty to dismiss rights as an Enlightenment creation.
As Allen Hertzke documents in Freeing God’s Children, some evangelicals have embraced the global struggle for human rights. Though initially interested in securing the religious freedoms of fellow believers, they have widened their focus to include the campaign against genocide in Darfur and the fight against human sex trafficking in Asia. Whether such evangelical activism represents a new wing of the religious left or the globalization of religious conservatism remains to be seen. Given Wolterstorff’s history of opposition to the Vietnam War, apartheid, torture, and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, it is clear that his sympathies lie with the former. Despite these political commitments, he has managed to win the respect of many conservatives.

Wolterstorff may have a harder time convincing secular readers that the “incursion of Scripture into the thought world of late antiquity made possible the rights culture that we are all familiar with.” In the final chapters of the book, he asserts that it may not be possible to provide a secular grounding for human rights, critiquing the attempts of Immanuel Kant, Ronald Dworkin, and Alan Gewirth to do just that. According to Wolterstorff’s 2007 lecture to the American Academy of Religion, “the only adequate grounding is a theistic grounding which holds that each and every human being bears the image of God and is equally loved by God.” Like political philosopher Glenn Tinder’s 1989 Atlantic article, “Can We Be Good Without God?” Wolterstorff’s argument may resonate more with people of faith than with secular scholars.

The fact that Princeton University Press was able to secure a positive blurb from New School philosopher Richard J. Bernstein suggests Wolterstorff may have a shot at influencing the wider conversation about rights. Calling Wolterstorff’s study “the most impressive book on justice since Rawls’ A Theory of Justice,” Bernstein writes that even “those who are skeptical about his theistic grounding of justice will be challenged by the clarity, rigor, and thoroughness of his arguments.”

From 1997 to 1999, Bernstein was a participant in the Lilly Seminar on Religion and Higher Education, co-directed by Wolterstorff and historian James Turner. Composed of twenty-eight members from across the humanities and social sciences, it was an opportunity for secular and religious scholars to engage in serious conversation about issues of faith and meaning. Written in the same spirit of civility, Wolterstorff’s Justice is another effort to bridge the gap between secular and religious understandings of public life. This entry was posted on Friday, February 20th, 2009 at 1:23 pm and is filed under Justice. SSRC Home SSRC Blogs Blog Home

Friday, February 20, 2009

Diversity is not a problem, but a blessing Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age by Juana Bordas (Author)

A Must-Read for Today's Leader, May 21, 2007
By Leyna Bernstein "Pop Culture maven" (Berkeley, CA USA) - See all my reviews Juana Bordas' Salsa, Soul and Spirit belongs on the book shelf of every forward-thinking leader, management expert and leadership trainer. In compelling, personal language, she makes the case for the development of new leadership practices that reflect the realities of today's multicultural society. In challenging times when it is easy to feel discouraged by the divisions and "isms" of politics and social ills, the author shines a light on a new path of hope and collaboration. This book should find its way quickly into the required reading lists of leadership programs across the country and beyond. Comment Permalink

Essential Leadership Principles for a Multicultural World, May 21, 2007
By David Perkins (Santa Fe, NM USA) - See all my reviews Salsa, Soul, and Spirit is one of the most timely, relevant and up-lifting books I've read in recent memory. It should be read and studied by everyone from the President down to the grassroots community activist. In a country deeply divided by red state/blue state animosities, culture wars and "hot button" issues like immigration policy, Bordas shows us the way forward. She argues persuasively that the idea of a New Social Covenant and the leadership practices summarized in her Eight Principles of Multicultural Leadership are not theoritical and optional but are essential if America is to fully address its plethora of social ills and reach its full potential.

After reading this book my concept of "leadership" will never be the same. Bordas' simple yet profound insight is that all positive social change begins with leadership and her choice of examples from the Black, Latino and American Indian communities is truly enlightening. Comment Permalink

From Margaret J. Wheatley - Leadership and the New Science, May 19, 2007
J. Bordas "—Margaret J. Wheatley –... - See all my reviews Praise for Salsa, Soul, and Spirit "This wonderful book made me want to dance with joy. In Western society, we suffer from a loss of community and spirit because we're so disconnected. American Indian, Latino and African American cultures have never forgotten that we need to be together, and that diversity is not a problem, but a blessing. May this book lead you to discover what we've been missing-- each other." Product Link: Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age Comment (1) Permalink

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Ancient Indian culture was closer to the Goa Model of Liberty than the Taliban

Against Our Desi Taliban from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik

Fortunately, our ancestors have left behind telling records of the liberties they enjoyed. Chanakya’s Arthashastra contains a chapter on the regulation of drinking taverns. An interesting rule stipulates that if a traveler passes out in a tavern, the tavern owner is liable for the safety of his person and properties.

The Arthashastra lists out alcoholic drinks that were locally made. It also contains a longer list of alcoholic drinks that were imported. No swadeshi at all. This was India circa 350 BC. There must have been thousands of drinking taverns in Takshashila, Pataliputra and the other great cities of the time. And there was music, dance and entertainment – for the Arthashastra also contains a chapter on the regulation of these arts, and the women who practice them. Ancient Indian culture was closer to the Goa Model of Liberty than the Taliban.

In this war between party animals and political party animals let it be widely known that we who detest political parties and love all other kinds have history and tradition on our side. Including the tradition of liberal public administration. What do our enemies have on their side? God?

We Hindus are lucky that we have many gods, many holy books, and many godmen. We have no pope. Our priests are competitive service providers. They cannot issue fatwas. Our religion teaches us to look for moksha our own way, through our own guru. And we have many false gurus. Many false sadhus. Many false godmen. So the path before us is strictly individualistic. We are not a communitarian faith.

The Hindoos who want to talibanize us want to turn us into a communitarian faith – like the Sikhs, Parsees, Christians and Muslims. They want to do this not because they value religion: rather, they want to take over our The State, which is itself based on collectivism. We Must Not Be Fooled Again. So party on, dudes, as Free Individuals. And fuck all the collectivists.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fashion-as-shallowness is a sexist construction

Shallow Gals By Phoebe Maltz

A pet peeve of mine is the belief, common among those who consider themselves intellectuals, that an interest in fashion (broadly defined, as in, could be designers, could be well-arranged thrift-store duds) takes something away from a person’s intelligence, such that each trip to H&M knocks another shelf’s worth of Hegel and Heidegger out of one’s brain. But even beyond tweedy circles, admitting to thinking about what you wear, beyond situation-appropriateness, is considered suspect. Thus the platitudes about books, covers, and under what circumstances one is and is not allowed to judge.

So, a hypothesis, one I’m sure I’m not the first to make, but one that needs making: caring about clothes is seen as dumb because it’s seen as - and often enough is - something typical of women, something men find dull. (The cliché about taking a yawning guy shoe-shopping? Based on heaps and heaps of fact.) When a serious male political blogger has a post every so often about sports, he shows his real-person side. When a female blogger takes a break from Important Questions to post a link to a shiny pair of ballet flats, she has effectively declared herself the ditsiest sorority girl on the beach at Cancun. (It was with this hypothesis in mind that I recently defended the indefensible.)

It could be, as Rita proposed, that "Blogging about fashion usually means blogging about your fashion–it indirectly reveals things about your body, your income, your friends–in sum, your private life. And when the snipers come out, it makes some sense that they’ll take aim not at the shoes, but at you, since you have armed them with all the relevant information and personal insults hurt more." (Yes, sounds familiar.) The same could well be true of interest in fashion expressed off-line.

But I still think there’s something to the idea that fashion-as-shallowness is a sexist construction, albeit one traditional feminism has embraced. Rather than encouraging men to cook meals as well, we as a society embraced crappy food. Rather than asking men to care about their own appearances, we as women protested and put on some snowboots that shall not be named.

There’s no reason fashion should be considered shameful or idiotic. How we dress is a form of self-expression, one among many, not merely a surface underneath which our ‘true’ selves lie. Aside from young children and the very poor - groups, incidentally, often excluded from other forms of self-expression as well - everyone has some choice in what they wear. Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2009 at 11:11 pm and is filed under Ideas. 24 Responses to “Shallow Gals” Pages: [1] 2 3 » Show All

WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US WHINE? from Dr. Sanity by Dr. Sanity
Heather MacDonald asks today's feminist movement a rather pertinent question:

Which is it? Are women “strong”? Or can they be crushed by fears of a permanent bad hair day and inspired by something as superficial as Hollywood fashion? Given the amount of time and money that most women spend on applying makeup, blow-drying their hair, shopping for clothes, and gullibly attending to preposterous wrinkle-cream ads in women’s magazines, Angier’s claim that girls could be thwarted by a TV comedy is not wholly unreasonable. It just happens to contradict the usual feminist claim that women are just as tough as men.