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Archive for the ‘Enlightenment’ Category

Enlightenment and its discontents – Frontline

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Justin E. H. Smiths most recent book, Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason, addresses beliefs about politics, gender, nature and reason by opposing the discourse of fundamental irrationality with accepted forms of rationality. Smith believes that the dialectical tension between the two is paramount owing to the inevitable rise of irrationality, which has proliferated in the face of our desire to purge it. As Yascha Mounk, the American-German political thinker, writes, the book is an urgent warning that no grand design of perfect rationality can provide the solution to the depravity of this political moment.

The order of human history, from the beginning up to the present perversion of rational thinking by all manners Trump, has a catastrophic impact on the well- being of humanity. The loss of faith in the structures of democracy points to an apocalyptic end. The effort to model society on rational principles has not fructified, going by the long and cyclic dark history of civilisation, of wars and violence, of religious fanaticism and irrationality. Our inherently dialectical history confirms the simultaneous birth of opposing forces at the outset of the assertion of any truth: The thing desired contains its opposite. Thus the trajectory of liberal democracy evolving into totalitarianism was present in the brute forces of Italian fascism or German Nazism. The dearth of ideology is reflected in the irrational outburst of our times, particularly with the birth of vulgar nationalist fervour and muscular racial superiority.

Smith offers the example of how mathematics was demonised in the 5th century BC for its dependence on numbers and decimal series that were endless and irrational. Anyone who believed in mathematics was drowned at sea in the Gulf of Taranto. The drowning of Hipposus, a Pythogorean philosopher, about a century before Socrates explains the upsurge of irrationality in the face of the pursuit of a science that, in later centuries, would usher in the Age of Enlightenment.

Citing the example of the discovery of a human bone at the beginning of Stanley Kubricks 1969 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Smith calls attention to the realisation by a protohuman creature of the value of a bone as a lethal weapon but also as a tool for survival. Similarly, technological breakthroughs bring along a world of comfort or misery, peace or violence, rationality or irrationality.

Something clicks in the mind of a person and then nothing is the same, especially when you attain new power and knowledge that can be used for new occasions for violence. All knowledge, therefore, has brought out the best and the worst in us, a balance of problem solving and problem creating in the service of the most exalted faculties of the human mind that become occasions for the flexing of muscle and, when this is not enough, the raining down of blows. This is the age-old record of human rationality, and therefore also of its irrationality, the exaltation of reason, and a desire to eradicate its opposite.

Take the example of the cultural frenzy of the cyber world that intensified into an unforeseeable landscape of customs and mores, underlain by new political norms and new institutional structures visible in the ideology of the white supremacists, Brexit fanatics or the ultra-nationalists gripped by the narrow boundaries of identity politics.

A world overwhelmed by the use of the Internet allows anyone to get on it, make a noise and change the world for the worse. Instead of the improved access to what we had valued, the Internet has succeeded through its accelerationism in destroying the world of journalism, academia, commerce and publishing industries, thereby disrupting and forever altering the nature of what we have always valued.

In his diatribe against the misuse of the Internet, Smith opines that although initially it was hoped that the Internet would provide some form of collective will and deliberation, it has drowned humanity in the quagmire of an unpredictable response to level-headed statements with the rise of sheer abuse and often concerted and massive campaigns of abuse...from some sock puppet labouring away at a Russian troll farm, working to insinuate some new falsehood into public consciousness. Reasoned arguments are few and far between, and the epidemic of images, allusions and jokes form the basis of a narrative deeply aimed towards the distortion of reality.

Smith considers the Internet today a far darker place where the normal and predictable response to reasonable statements is, if it is coming from strangers, sheer abuse, and often concerted and massive campaigns of abuse; if it is coming from friends, then it is generally vacuous supportiveness, sheer boosterism with no critical engagement or respectful dissent.

Can we finally come to the conclusion that what makes human beings unique is our irrationality? Apart from the damage caused by outrageous reasoning, Smith underlines the human aspect of our self-interest and existential choices based on expected outcomes.Why then does a father offer to vacate his space for his child on a lifeboat? This expression of irrationality, argues Smith, surpasses the realm of good and evil:Life would be unlivable if they were suppressed entirely. Smoking a cigarette or climbing a cliff without a rope seems ludicrous. Irrationality, Smith asserts, is in itself neither left nor right, nor good nor bad. It is a twin of reason and therefore equally vital to human development.

The rational thought propagated during the Enlightenment fails to hold up in an era of senseless pursuits coupled with our unrelenting predisposition to irrationality. The history of human civilisation is witness to the struggle between the forces of rational and irrational thought and the author has made a compelling case for the inevitability and value of the existence of both in our lives. His warning in the end is what humanity must heed: We are, then, not so far from where Hippasus found himself millennia ago. The Greeks discovered the irrationality at the heart of geometry; we have most recently discovered the irrationality at the heart of the algorithm, or at least the impossibility of applying algorithms to human life while avoiding their weaponisation by the forces of irrationality. If we were not possessed of such a strong will to believe that our technological discoveries and our conceptual progress might have the power to chase irrationality, uncertainty, and disorder from our livesif, that is, we could learn to be more philosophical about our human situationthen we would likely be far better positioned to avoid the violent recoil that always seems to follow upon our greatest innovations, upon bagging the great hunting trophies of our reason.

The book is a fascinating narrative, ranging across philosophy, politics and current events.This intertexuality defies the received assumptions of philosophy, science and Enlightenment with the central focus on the transitory nature of the triumph of reason. Understandably, the Enlightenment had built into its very essence the curse of racism and the white supremacist mindset that resulted in the imperialist scheme of dominance through the manifesto of the civilising mission. No wonder that such a political and cultural world-view set humanity towards the irrational path of genocide, war and totalitarianism. The paradox therefore lies in the fact that along with these dark forces that the Enlightenment unleashed, there was also the birth of the liberal ideas of anti-slavery as well as the malaise of materialism overtaking the world. Humanity, indeed, has failed to draw the rational or right inferences from the perceived facts and has carved out for itself a dialectical history of tensions and ambiguities, of madness and sanity, of liberal thinking and totalitarianism.

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Enlightenment and its discontents - Frontline

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August 16th, 2020 at 9:54 am

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The Bata Shoe Museums Latest Exhibit Focuses on 18th Century Footwears Influence in the Age of Enlightenment – Footwear News

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The Bata Shoe Museum, which officially reopened last month in Toronto, is kicking off its first show of the season with The Great Divide: Footwear in the Age of Enlightenment.

The Canadian museum will explore how fashion and footwear, played a central role in defining the 18th century. The exhibition features shoes from around the world that are over 300 years old. The Great Divide is the first of three shows the museum plans to open as part of its 25th-anniversary schedule.

Throughout the 18th century, Western fashion, including footwear, was central to the naturalization of difference in Europe, said Elizabeth Semmelhack, the creative director and senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum.

The Great Divide explores issues of gender and race through the lens of imperialism and colonization. The exhibit features 18th-century artifacts that highlight the complicated histories of privilege, danger and resistance that continue to be timely, 300 years later.

An 18th century Indian English womens sandal from the Bata Shoe Museums The Great Divide: Footwear in the Age of Enlightenment exhibit.

Some highlights of the show include the evolution of the Indian jutti sandal and how it influenced English footwear during Great Britains colonial period. Another memorable pair from the exhibit are moccasins that were said to have belonged to a Myammi leader Little Turtle who occupied the Northwest territory of the United States during the 18th century. He led one of the worst defeats against the U.S. when defending Myammi territory at the Battle of Wabash in 1791.

This moccasin is said to have belonged to Myaamia leader Mishikinawa, also known as Little Turtle, and is currently on display at the Bata Shoe Museum.

The show also includes loans from the Gardiner Museum as well as contemporary footwear that reflect how shoes continue to symbolize shifts in society today. The exhibition was designed by award-winning designers Arc + Co and curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, the senior curator and creative director of the Bata Shoe Museum.

The Great Divide: Footwear in the Age of Enlightenment is open until Feb. 2021. For more information about the exhibition and how to purchase tickets, head to batashoemuseum.ca.

Cant make it to the museum? Weve rounded up some of the best shoes featured in the exhibit for you. Luckily, the Bata Shoe Museum also has a few virtual exhibits online. Shows include Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels in partnership with Google Arts and Culture, On Canadian Ground: Stories of Footwear in Early Canada and its semi-permanent on-display collection All About Shoes.

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The Bata Shoe Museums Latest Exhibit Focuses on 18th Century Footwears Influence in the Age of Enlightenment - Footwear News

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How This Technology Sales Leader Is Guiding Teachers Toward Instructional Enlightenment – Forbes

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How can we make the best of a bad situation in school?

When Bob Riefstahl founded2Win! Globalalmost 20 years ago, he was ahead of his time. His company provides winning pre-sales, client-success skills, and culture guidance for technology companies. Today, his clients include IBM, Adobe, CISCO, Siemens, and Microsoft.

However, in the beginning, things were quite different.

Riefstahl says, "When we started, software sales were stuck in the past. Big tech companies like IBM had a particular way of doing things, and most of the smaller companies emulated the big boys. Had that not changed, companies like Big Blue (IBM) may have fallen by the wayside. Technology is a two-step process that includes both development and sales.

He also states, The greatest technology in the world is meaningless if nobody buys it."

At the time, Riefstahl and crew began peddling what they knew. Technology companies listened, and the result has been a seismic shift in the economy of the world.

Riefstahl saw a need for technology companies to come out of the shadows and deliver what Riefstahl believed was a beneficial evolution in the way people were able to use and prosper from technology. Many believe that his company and way of doing business were an essential part of the technology revolution.

But now, Riefstahl sees a different need.

"Education has needed a technological wake-up call for some time. With the Coronavirus pandemic forcing learning online, that call is happening too quickly delivering punishing blows to our teachers because they don't have the correct knowledge and training to teach online successfully. Like anything else, teaching and delivering presentations online is a learned behavior," states Riefstahl.

Just like in 2001, when Riefstahl was motivated to help technology companies succeed, he now wants to help children learn in a new virtual world.

He states, "Plain and simple, children are the world's future, and I have two sons who were both products of the public school system, and both excelled in their careers. If we can help teachers that work with kids in very diverse school systems, we can create a better world."

Riefstahl believes his company's expertise and experience in the business sector can translate well in the education sector.

They train the largest and most successful technology companies in the world to use soft-skills to help them connect with prospective buyers of their products in a virtual environment.

Their most deep-rooted focus is on the product presentation and demonstration, and they base it on neuro-linguistic programming.

Riefstahl realized the same techniques that his company uses to teach to some of the most talented and highly paid workers in the world could be effective with the teacher and student experience.

They teach people how to be effective communicators during in-personandvirtual engagementsand have been doing so using virtual classrooms for over ten years.

Riefstahl's virtual training started in 2008, and he saw the immediate benefit and impact by leveraging a flip-the-classroom approach.

When the pandemic broke, rather than experiencing a loss in business, Riefstahl's business began to accelerate.

He says, "I have many friends who are teachers or know teachers, and many are struggling with virtual classrooms. At that point, I realized our methods, with some modifications, could be a lifeline to teachers and students."

Rather than testing the water, Riefstahl and 2Win! Global have jumped in the deep end, and he has big expectations in his company's ability to help educators.

He says, "Now and in the future, we want teachers to feel empowered, inspired, and enthused about teaching in the unfamiliar medium of virtual. We have found that our same classes taught virtually produce as good of a result as in-person classes. We want students to have that same experience."

Riefstahl hired Joan Jahelka, a lifelong educator and fellow Colorado resident, to lead the company's first offering, theClassroom 2.0series, set to debut in mid-August.

They will deliver the series into three parts:

Module One: To help teachers understand how to set up their home and teaching virtually.

Module Two: To help teachers understand the soft-skills necessary to transform their virtual instruction. This module will help to ensure the student learning experience and retention are the best.

Module Three: To help teachers and administrators understand the nuances of child privacy in virtual instruction. All the modules will be delivered in a crisp, micro-learning style using two to five-minute video segments.

Riefstahl's team at 2Win! Global believes that the education division could eventually become profitable, but that is not their primary concern.

"This goal is much more of a charitable offering on our part, and much less about profit. Our price points on this course are such that we believe it would take years to cover our costs. That's okay, because our motivation is about making a difference to kids and teachers," said Riefstahl.

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How This Technology Sales Leader Is Guiding Teachers Toward Instructional Enlightenment - Forbes

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The ‘woke’ will lead us to enlightenment and more letters to the editors – Chattanooga Times Free Press

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The 'woke' will lead us to enlightenment

Won't it be swell when Sleepy Joe takes over. The rioters will lay down their weapons. The media will be giddy with hope and change. The Black Lives Matter movement will be ecstatic that an old, doddering, white man has weakly grasped the helm while cruising full speed toward the shoals.

The woke will choose the appropriate statuary and sports team names. All will cheerfully sing the proper gender pronouns. Marriage and gender will be transformed. All unrest will cease; the masked sociopaths will halt their destruction.

The systemic racism of the privileged white class will gloriously evaporate like a cloud of steam. All will hold woke opinions as all other opinions are blatantly false. White people will genuflect to all other races, cause, well, we got it coming. Everyone will achieve equally as the field is now level for all. Forget about ability and striving for achievement. That sounds awake, certainly not woke.

The sanctimonious, imperious, authoritarian, censorious woke will lead us to enlightenment. It appears the only police the left desires is the thought police.

Jim Howard

We must reaffirm American principles

We are being assaulted by the cancel culture movement and by the protests of Black Lives Matter. Opposing voices on college campuses have been shouted down; editors or reporters who question the movement are silenced; even corporate executives are bowing before the mandates to repudiate the America of the past 250 years.

Most Americans are shaking their heads at this effort to destroy our history and values. Yet we remain separated and silent. I am sure there are millions of Americans, liberal and conservative, who still believe the nation was founded on principles of individual liberty and the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These Americans believe the family unit is fundamental. They have served together on boards and commissions and debated their differences while acknowledging their agreements. They are in business, think tanks, politics, church and our universities. We need them to step forward and find common ground. We need to reaffirm our fundamental American principles.

There are millions who have been called "the silent majority," but we need to remain silent no more. Future generations depend on us. Now is the time to act as proud Americans.

George Davenport, Signal Mountain

What did we learn from Dr. M.L. King?

We have witnessed burning, looting and destroying statues representing our history and culture. Our Constitution allows peaceful demonstrations, but it has turned out to be lawlessness beyond what any civilization should allow. So far, I've not been able to figure out what is wrong with these people and their cause.

Most religions theoretically prescribe noble teachings. But in reality these lofty standards are often far removed from those religions' actual thought and practice. Do Christians, for example, really live up to the teachings of Jesus?

Position in our society is believed to be fixed on the merits one has earned in a past life. Our society needs to be re-educated to a point of responsibility our forefathers have handed down to us. Martin Luther King, Jr. had to visit India to learn about a nonviolent society. Has his teaching made any difference in our society?

Amos Taj, Ooltewah

Forget Trump, Biden; vote Jo Jorgensen

Nothing has changed. We still have a horrible president and a horrible Democrat running against him. If you want to change people, you have to vote differently.

Jo Jorgensen is the Libertarian Party's candidate for president. Look her up. Not only intelligent, but very well spoken and honest. Jo Jorgensen is everything Trump and Biden are not.

Once again, to effect change, vote differently.

Mark Tyson

Bennett cartoon was 'gallows humor'

I cannot believe the TFP allowed Clay Bennett to publish a "gallows humor" cartoon at the expense of our children last week.

It was an image of a funeral home with a sign that said, "Back to school sale." Isn't this supposed to be a family newspaper?

Bennett's cartoons are never encouraging, never positive and especially never funny.

Rev. Betty Latham

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The 'woke' will lead us to enlightenment and more letters to the editors - Chattanooga Times Free Press

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Freemasons: Behind the veil of secrecy – Livescience.com

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Freemasonry, known popularly for its white aprons and arcane symbols, is the world's oldest fraternal organization. Despite its longevity, Freemasons have long been shrouded in mystery. To outside observers, the organization's rites and practices may seem cult-like, clannish and secretive even sinister. Some of this stems from Freemasons' often deliberate reluctance to speak about the organization's rituals to outsiders. But it is also partly the result of many popular movies and books, such as Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" (Doubleday, 2003), that have fostered misconceptions or depicted the order in an unflattering light.

In reality, however, Freemasonry is a worldwide organization with a long and complex history. Its members have included politicians, engineers, scientists, writers, inventors and philosophers. Many of these members have played prominent roles in world events, such as revolutions, wars and intellectual movements.

Related: Belief in 'Da Vinci Code' conspiracy may ease fear of death

In addition to being the world's oldest fraternal organization, Freemasonry is also the world's largest such organization, boasting an estimated worldwide membership of some 6 million people, according to a report by the BBC. As the name implies, a fraternal organization is one that's composed almost solely of men who gather together for mutual benefit, frequently for professional or business reasons. However, nowadays women can be Freemasons, too (more on this later).

But Freemasons, or Masons as they are sometimes called, are dedicated to loftier goals as well. Bound together by secret rites of initiation and ritual, its members ostensibly promote the "brotherhood of man," and in the past, have often been associated with 18th century Enlightenment principles such as anti-monarchism, republicanism, meritocracy and constitutional government, said Margaret Jacob, professor emeritus of European history at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of the book "The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).

This is not to say that Freemasonry is wholly secular and devoid of religious aspects. Its members are encouraged to believe in a supreme being, which in the parlance of Masonry, is known as the "Grand Architect of the Universe," Jacob added.

Related: What drives religious belief? It's not intuition

This Grand Architect, Jacob further explained, is akin to a Deistic creator rather than a personal God as envisioned by Christianity. The concept of Deism, which has its origins in the 17th century Enlightenment, promotes the idea that the supreme being is like the ultimate "watchmaker;" a deity that created the universe but does not play an active role in the lives of its creations.

A code of ethics also guides the behavior of members. This code is derived from several documents, the most famous of which is a series of documents known as the "Old Charges" or "Constitutions." One of these documents, known as the "Regius Poem" or the "Halliwell Manuscript," is dated to sometime around the latter 14th or early 15th century, and is reportedly the oldest document to mention Masonry, according to the Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry, an online magazine written by Freemasons. The Halliwell Manuscript is written in verse, and in addition to purportedly tracing the history of Masonry, it also prescribes correct moral behavior for Masons. For example, it urges members to be "steadfast, trusty, and true," and "not to take bribes" or "harbor thieves."

While many Freemasons are Christians, Freemasonry and Christianity have had a complex, often divisive, relationship. Some orthodox Christians have taken issue with Freemasonry's Deism and its frequently perceived ties to paganism and the occult. But the Catholic Church has been among its harshest critics. In 1738, a Papal decree prohibited Catholics from becoming Freemasons, Jacob wrote. Even today, the Papal ban on Freemasonry remains in place, with the Church declaring Freemasonry "irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church," according to the Vatican.

The origins of Freemasonry are obscure, and the subject is rife with myth and speculation. One of the more fanciful claims is that the Freemasons are descended from the builders of Solomon's Temple (also known as the First Temple) in Jerusalem, according to Jacob. Others have argued that the Freemasons began as an offshoot of the Knights Templars, a Catholic military order dating to medieval times. And the famous American revolutionary Thomas Paine attempted to trace the origins of the order to the ancient Egyptians and Celtic Druids. There has also been a longstanding rumor that Freemasons are the same as the Illuminati, an 18th-century secret society that began in Germany, Jacob wrote. Most of these theories have been debunked, though some people continue to believe them.

"Freemasonry has its origins in the stonemason guilds of medieval Europe," Jacob told Live Science. These guilds, especially active during the 14th century, were responsible for constructing some of the finest architecture in Europe, such as the ornate Gothic cathedrals of Notre Dame in Paris and Westminster Abbey in London.

Like many artisan craft guilds of that time, its members jealously guarded their secrets and were selective about who they chose as apprentices. Initiation for new members required a long period of training, during which they learned the craft and were often taught advanced mathematics and architecture. Their skills were in such high demand that experienced Freemasons were frequently sought out by monarchs or high-ranking church officials, Jacob said.

The guilds provided members not only with wage protection and quality control over the work performed but also important social connections, she added. Members gathered in lodges, which served as the headquarters and focal points where the Masons socialized, partook in meals and gathered to discuss the events and issues of the day.

However, with the rise of capitalism and the market economy during the 16th and 17th centuries, the old guild system broke down, Jacob wrote. But the Masonic lodges survived. In order to bolster membership and raise funds, the stonemason guilds began to recruit non-masons. At first, the new recruits were often relatives of existing members, but they increasingly included wealthy individuals and men of high social status.

Many of these new members were "learned gentlemen" who were interested in the philosophical and intellectual trends that were transforming the European intellectual landscape at the time, such as rationalism, the scientific method and Newtonian physics. The men were equally interested in questions of morality especially how to build moral character. Out of this new focus grew "speculative Freemasonry," which began in the 17th century. This modernized form of Masonry deemphasized stone working and the lodges became meeting places for men dedicated to and associated with liberal Western values, Jacob said.

"Freemasonry as we know it today grew out of the early 18th century in England and Scotland," she said. A major turning point in Freemason history occurred in 1717, when the members of four separate London lodges gathered together to form what became known as the Premier Grand Lodge of England. This Grand Lodge became the focal point of British Masonry and helped to spread and popularize the organization. Freemasonry spread rapidly across the continent; soon there were Masonic lodges scattered throughout Europe, from Spain and Portugal in the west to Russia in the east. It was also established in the North American colonies during the first half of the 18th century.

By the late 18th century, at the height of the Enlightenment, Freemasonry carried considerable social cachet. "Being a Mason signaled that you were at the forefront of knowledge," Jacob said.

Freemasonry wasn't always welcomed, however. In the United States in the 1830s, for example, a political party known as the Anti-Masonic Party formed, the Washington Post reported. It was the nation's original third political party and its members were dedicated to countering what they believed was Freemasonry's undue political influence. William Seward, who went on to become President Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state, began his political career as an Anti-Masonic candidate.

The early Masonic lodges were exclusively male, meaning that women were prohibited from membership, a point made clear in the "Old Charges" ("no bondmen, no women, no immoral or scandalous men..."). This tradition, a principle that reflected the predominant social arrangements of the time, continued for many decades, especially in Great Britain.

But over the years, women increasingly began to play active roles in the organization, especially on the European mainland. In France during the 1740s, for example, so-called "lodges of adoption" began to appear, Jacob said. These were lodges that admitted a mixture of men and women, the latter mostly the wives, daughters and female relatives of the male Masons. They were not fully independent but were sanctioned by and attached to the traditional male lodges. Soon, similar lodges of adoption sprang up in the Netherlands and eventually in the United States.

Out of this tradition, Masonic organizations were eventually formed that admitted both men and women as full members. Some of these organizations included the Order of the Amaranth, the Order of the White Shrine of Jerusalem and the Order of the Eastern Star. In these organizations, both men and women partake in Masonic rites and women can hold positions of authority and leadership. The highest ranking woman in the Order of the Eastern Star, for example, is known as the "Worthy Matron" and is the presiding officer of the organization. There are also several Masonic-related girls' and young women's organizations, such as the Order of Job's Daughters and the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, both of which are active today. The Rainbow Girls are an offshoot of the Order of the Eastern Star and is largely dedicated to service and charity.

A California native, who asked to remain anonymous, and who was a member of the Rainbow Girls in the 1970s, remembers the organization fondly. As a young woman, she said, she was never made to feel lesser because she was a member of one of the female organizations. "We were autonomous," she told Live Science. "We always decided our own agenda."

"If anything," she continued, "looking back, the organization gave me a glimpse of a slightly utopian society because we were very democratic. The organization was well run and well organized."

Today, traditional Masons are still exclusively men but the related organizations of female Masons are still active, many involved in charity, education and character-building.

Similar to its relationship with women, Freemasonry in the United States has had a complicated history with ethnic minorities, especially Black Americans. After Freemasonry was established in the American colonies, but prior to the Revolutionary War, a few free Black colonists, including a man named Prince Hall, petitioned for membership in the Boston, Massachusetts Lodge, according to Ccile Rvauger's book "Black Freemasonry," (Simon and Schuster, 2016). Hall was denied but he persevered, eventually receiving a charter in 1784 from the Grand Lodge in England. The Masonic lodge he established was the first African American lodge in the United States, and became the basis for the many other Black lodges that subsequently sprang up. These Black lodges were named "Prince Hall Lodges" in the founder's honor, and were established exclusively for African Americans.

Although the Masonic codes do not strictly prohibit the membership of non-white ethnic minorities, integrating the mainstream lodges has been an on-going struggle. Attempts to integrate the mainstream lodges have been met with varying success. "There are liberal lodges that make the extra effort, but most just go with whoever turns up," Jacob said.

However, even as late as the first decade of this century, attempts to integrate some lodges in the southeastern United States have met with opposition from some white members, the New York Times reported.

Several prominent historical figures have reportedly been Freemasons, including Simn Bolvar, known as the "liberator of South America"; the French philosopher Voltaire, known for his voluminous philosophical and political writings; and the famous German poet and writer Goethe. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the famous composer, became a Mason in 1784. His renowned opera, "The Magic Flute," contains elements of Freemasonry, and is a paean to his Masonic beliefs, NPR reported.

In his book "Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840" (University of North Carolina Press, 1998), historian Steven Bullock noted that several of the Founding Fathers and notable American revolutionaries and presidents were Freemasons, including George Washington, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson. Franklin was one of the first Freemasons in what was then Colonial America, and in 1734 he became the Grand Master of the Philadelphia Lodge, according to a 1906 article published in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.

The world of Freemasonry is composed of esoteric signs and symbols that are baffling to most non-Masons. Perhaps the most common are the compass and square, which are the universally recognizable symbols of the organization. They typically emblazon the lintels above lodge entrances and can be found on the aprons worn by Masons during rituals.

Although there is not a single, universally agreed upon meaning, most Masons would probably contend that these two objects in conjunction are meant to represent how a Mason should conduct himself, according to an online dictionary of Masonic symbols. The square signifies that a man should act "square" with his fellow man that is, he should be honest and forthright in all his dealings. The compass is a reminder to engage in moderation, and not to get carried away by life's vices.

In general, Masonic symbols such as the beehive, the acacia tree and the all-seeing eye, to name a few are meant to invoke ideals, remind members of correct modes of conduct and behavior, and impart important lessons.

"The symbols of freemasonry largely have to do with ethics how one should live their life," said the former-Rainbow Girl.

Related: Cracking codices: 10 of the most mysterious ancient manuscripts

Today, Freemasonry is undergoing a decline.

"The lodges are having a terrible time recruiting men," Jacob said. "Most young men today don't accept these kinds of distinctions such as places exclusively for men and places exclusively for women."

Consequently, membership in lodges has dropped and the pull to join an exclusive, privileged enclave of men does not carry the attraction it once had. Although there are Masonic lodges in every U.S. state, many of these now stand vacant.

One of the reasons for this decline has been competition from similar fraternal and service organizations, such as the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Columbus, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and E Clampus Vitus. But it's also possible that this decline can be explained by the different values espoused by the newer generations, value systems that are often at odds with the previous generations.

The problem of decline, Jacob said, is rooted in the current composition of the lodges. Most members, she noted, are between the ages of 50 and 60, are predominantly white and hold very conservative politics. "This has no appeal to the younger generation," she said. "Even the armed services are integrated now by race and gender, but not the lodges."

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Freemasons: Behind the veil of secrecy - Livescience.com

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2 BR 0 2 B and the current situation of the world – newagebd.net

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Kurt Vonneguts short story 2 B R 0 2 B talks of a utopia that has turned out to be a dystopia where everything is controlled by the government and the political system serves only the elite. Sheikh Tasmima Mrenmoi argues that we are living in similar times

KURT Vonneguts short story 2 B R 0 2 B is a Juvenal satire. The Federal Bureau of Termination in 2 B R 0 2 B is promoting selective immortalities in several places for example, Death, barring accidents, was an adventure for volunteers. In these lines, it shows that killing people seemed like an enjoyment for the volunteers who are supposedly the doctors and people liked them. Vonnegut is not afraid of his chosen words either, hes constantly offending people as well, like Swift.

Restoration has some qualities of Renaissance which means the zeitgeist is more or less the same. Restoration is the age of isms and the era was all about what was challenged before. In other words, an era of light, hence the enlightenment. The light of enlightenment is knowledge, if we remember how we lost the paradise we lost the fruit of knowledge so knowledge can be sometimes forbidden and if we pursue it, it can be destructive we may lose our paradise.

Therefore, the restoration era was all about challenging what was conceived before, the restoration is an era that begins to challenge the innocence of the renaissance. The Renaissance era embraced humanity with all its faults and restoration did not. In other words, the renaissance argued humanity and the restoration era developed the notion of humanity. A sort of critical analysis of human behaviour.

Now if the restoration era is compared with the current time, connect it with the present context, in case a COVID-19 vaccine is finally prepared and ready to be in use, a selected few community will enjoy the privilege first as opposed to the entire world. In that case, are ideas like equality, fraternity, and liberty an illusion that humans had been chasing since the dawn of civilisation or do they really exist and are waiting for us to be found?

The readers of the satire could surely connect with the current COVID-19 situation as it can be assumed that if corona vaccine is finally prepared only a selected few community will enjoy the privilege first as opposed to the entire world. The terms equality, fraternity, and liberty are illusions that humans had been chasing since the dawn of civilisation.

Human behaviour and their minds have been constructed in such a way that the ideas of equality, fraternity, and libertymight not be chased ever, no matter how many eras come after the restoration era. Massacres like COVID-19 shall presume and the words like equality, fraternity, and liberty shall remain an illusion.

The short story, if compared with the situation currently, would be our situation if we survive COVID-19. Few years from now, the world would be much more concerned about controlling the population. Killing off old people and making a father choose, which child he wants to save would be considered to be a wise verdict. The painter draws a world which is fallacious and can only be imagined.

He knew that he would never paint again. He let his paintbrush fall to the drop-cloths below. And then he decided he had had about enough of life in the Happy Garden of Life, too, and he came slowly down from the ladder.

As he slowly came down the ladder, he gave up. His beautiful world inside the painting shall remain a happy dream. Just like the Rape of the Lock, Gullivers Travel and satires like these remain in our bookshelves after we are done with the course, we analyse the messages, the words and what not.

But the question lies, are the changes really being made? When a situation arrives, writers and free thinkers do their role in the best possible manners to make us all aware of the situation, it is up to us how we respond. Just like the muralist got down the ladder, they all do so at some point.

In the final lines, as the hostess thanks the mural, it proves how the advanced society is imposing and trying hard, barring the population of the society. Whereas, an individual in a democratic country has every right to live. Similar situations arrived in Swifts Gulliver's Travels when Gulliver was compared to an animal. The mural is no less than an animal when he was thanked. The harsh political system questions his identity, whether to be or not be?

Therefore, the responsibility of a free thinker in a time crisis is to convey the message to the whole humanity including the political world using satires and allegories. He has delivered the message, now rest depends on people and the countrys political system.

In Vonneguts 2 B R 0 2 B, the desire to create autopian world has reached a level, where its almost like a dystopian world. Where the world has collapsed into a sad depressing place. Government is controlling everyone and no one can be a human anymore. Vonnegut in the first few lines of the story showed us how perfect the postmodern world is. Whereas, at the end he enlightened us with the reality.

The whole play talks about the shallow government system, of not only the England or American but of the entire world. In a search to create a utopian world, we have created this dystopian, shallow world where, the term equality has become vague.

Even in crisis like corona virus, the entire world has proven to be disgusting. Corruption has been going on since the beginning of the perfect world and question lies for how long? No matter how many eras pass by the world will be among the fallen ones, we have lost the paradise and everyone in this world is in search of their own perfect paradise. Is the paradise going to be or not to be? Or are we all stuck in this maze, each with a story of its own, many bleak, scary stories.

Sheikh Tasmima Mrenmoi is a student of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.

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2 BR 0 2 B and the current situation of the world - newagebd.net

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Nepal, India in war of words over Buddhas origins – The Hindu

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Row after Jaishankar describes the founder of Buddhism as one of the greatest Indians ever

Nepal is the land of origin of Lord Buddha, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kathmandu asserted on Sunday after Indias External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar described the founder of Buddhism as one of the greatest Indians ever. The comment from the Indian Minister also drew a series of reactions from leading Nepalese figures, including former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who said Mr. Jaishankars comments about Lord Buddha were objectionable.

It is a well-established and undeniable fact proven by historical and archaeological evidence that Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal. Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha and the fountain of Buddhism, is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, said the official spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal in an official statement.

The controversy erupted after Mr. Jaishankar, during an interaction with the Confederation of Indian Industries on Saturday, referred to Buddha while discussing Indias soft power. Who are the greatest Indians ever that you can remember? I would say one is Gautama Buddha and the other is Mahatma Gandhi, said Mr. Jaishankar.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, however, responded saying that the Minister was referring to the shared Buddhist heritage. The Indian statement supported the Nepalese assertion and said, There is no doubt that Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal. Indias statement, however, did not clarify how Mr. Jaishankar regarded the Lumbini-born Sakyamuni or the Buddha as an Indian.

It is understood that the Nepalese side believes Lumbini is of paramount importance in Buddhism, and the Indian side highlights the importance of Bodhgaya, the place of enlightenment of the Buddha and Sarnath, where the first Buddhist sermon was delivered.

Earlier Mr. Jaishankar drew an angry retort from Mr. Nepal who described the remarks as insensitive and wrong. The Indian Foreign Minister has described Nepals Lumbini-born Gautama Buddha as a great Indian. This amounts to misinformation and is objectionable, said Mr. Nepal.

The war of words about the Buddha has highlighted the Buddha diplomacy that both India and Nepal have been practising for the last few years. While Prime Minister Narendra Modis government has been highlighting Indias Buddhist heritage since 2014, Nepal, with the help of international partners, including China, has invested in developing Lumbini as a major tourism destination. During the Kathmandu visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in October 2019, both countries agreed to collaborate on building a road connecting Kathmandu and Pokhara with Lumbini. Notably, Mr. Modi visited Bodhgaya, the place where prince Sidhartha Gautama became the enlightened Buddha. He, however, could not visit Lumbini during his visits to Nepal due to scheduling problems.

Apart from Lumbini, Bodhgaya and Sarnath, classical Buddhism also attaches high significance to Kushinagar, the place where the Buddha breathed his last.

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Following and learning mumbo-jumbo – The News International

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If you have not read Francis Wheens wonderful book How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world, you have missed out on a lot of fun. It is a hilarious account of how people love to add words and activities that seem fairly complicated or pretty simple but which have no real meaning.

Before we discuss what mumbo-jumbo means and how it has creeped into nearly all walks of life, something about Francis Wheen and his book is in order. Wheen is a British broadcaster and journalist who has worked for some of the top newspapers in Britain. He is also author of several books including a biography of Karl Marx and a notional biography of Das Kapital dealing with the creation and publication of the first volume of Marxs most important work, as well as other incomplete volumes. Wheen is a keen observer of history and writes about it with passion.

How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world is subtitled as a short history of modern delusions. He contends that in the last quarter of the 20th century when the likes of Khamenei, Reagan, and Thatcher used mumbo-jumbo to conquer their countries, a period began in the worlds history when most things began to stop making sense. With changes in the Soviet Union and emerging crises in the socialist world, notions of history, progress, and reason vacated space for colonization by literary loons, management gurus, and spiritual cults. Irrational ideas presented by quackery brought about a New Age of confused mumbo-jumbo. He uses voodoo for such quackery.

Wheen exposes the march of unreason that threatens to clog our minds. He is an intelligent sceptic who raises pertinent questions about new hocus-pocus disguised as academic excellence, management marvels, mastery learning, post-whatever, and spiritual guidance. To Wheen, it shows an absence of common sense in most people who welcome every new jargon as impressive and self-evident. Wheens mission is to debunk such jargon as mumbo-jumbo. He attacks both complicated pomposity and simplistic explanations. The book was published in 2004 and my English friend Alan Hamilton who died last year at the age of 90 presented it to me.

For the past 15 years I have read it multiple times with new enjoyment as more and more mumbo-jumbo from education to politics emerges across the world and in Pakistan too. Wheen begins with Khomeini, Reagan and Thatcher, describing them as masters of mumbo-jumbo who had nothing concrete to offer but people liked their grandiloquent style and optimism. They cajoled their people into acquiescence by the promise of change that ultimately proved illusory. He enumerates the cost people paid for the political chicanery of these leaders. Why do people accept and welcome such mumbo-jumbo? Wheens answer is self-incurred immaturity.

Wheen suggests that we demand autonomy and clarity with intellectual and rational vigour from anyone who offers checklists and straitjackets to confine our thinking. For example, he says the word enlightenment itself has been misappropriated by the purveyors of mumbo-jumbo who dish out hundreds of books every year on enlightenment which tends to be more spiritual than intellectual. In its original meaning, enlightenment referred to rational enquiry rather than purifying your soul with meditation. Enlightenment gives you confidence in rational argument, and anything that moves you away from it we may consider as mumbo-jumbo that promotes obscurantist bunkum.

In most cases, mumbo-jumbo uses elegant phraseology to promise complex or simple solutions. It works both ways: complicated and simplistic. Some mumbo-jumbo uses complex discourse to sound academic and authentic, whereas at the bottom it is shallow. Some others use oversimplified language for ideas that need profound thinking. In both, they target and satisfy their own audiences which regale in, at times scientific approach and at others, in presumably down-to-earth simplicity. So, the mumbo-jumbo can work as a double-edged sword with its own sharp ends that appear to be cutting-edge but in fact blunt the minds.

Catchphrases turn into mantras which every other street-corner orator may use. In countries such as Pakistan, ideological and sectarian mumbo-jumbo is a favourite staple in all seasons. Most of this is intellectually unsound and self-defeating, but it sells. Even if such mumbo-jumbo is incredible, most people from academics and the clergy to the laity find it impressive and useful. Mumbo-jumbo has its own spell that prevents independent thinking be it in development and economics or in education and management. The mumbo-jumbo of the development sector presents agents of change, benchmarks, capacity development, community empowerment, decentralized planning, enabling environment, logical frameworks, theory of change, and many others.

Market economy presents a selective picture of society using its own mumbo-jumbo such as bottom-lines, choices, consumer satisfaction, derivatives, economic determinism, futures, game theory and trickle-down effect. Education has developed its own mumbo-jumbo that talks about academic achievement, behaviour-change communication, competency-based education, complementarity, curriculum delivery, classroom management, formative assessment, goal-oriented education, and higher-order learning. Management has its own alchemical formulas that have a veneer of scientific method to make them universally popular. All the above may have some utility but in most cases they become voodoo; meaning as if by the magic of this you will get the desired results.

In most cases, the mumbo-jumbo by itself does nothing to induce genuine change. Academics to celebrities who become influenced by such mumbo-jumbo end up as incorrigible fantasists. In every field there appears to be some old ham who makes you believe in fantasies. Do this or that, and the future is yours. Draft a single national curriculum and you get a uniform education system. Add more religion in the syllabus, and you get admirable believers. Develop good benchmarks and you have top scorers. Conduct training in community empowerment and you harvest empowered people. The trick is to cut through this mumbo-jumbo.

Most documents and speeches using mumbo-jumbo are vainglorious monuments waiting for followers. When academies, departments, institutions, ministries, or organizations adopt such mumbo jumbo, the people working there and expected beneficiaries are blithely left to the tender mercies of gurus who claim to be experienced and qualified. A good guru is sharp in using jargon with unsuspecting followers, but a better guru is able to develop a whole new set of jargon; and lo and behold, you are in with some brand-new mumbo-jumbo. But those who can challenge the jargon become a tiny and ever-shrinking group.

The rhetorical ammunition at the command of gurus is formidable, and that ammunition is used to wage a war against the enemy within. If you are working in a department that has decided to embrace such mumbo-jumbo, and you decide to challenge, the gurus are likely to declare you the enemy within. The mumbo-jumbo itself becomes a kind of theology that you cant question. Be it academic theology about categories and rankings or simple educational mumbo-jumbo about pacing guides, outcomes, topic sentences, and topic paragraphs, we should not consider them scriptural.

Ultimately, mumbo-jumbo is all about neologism in which you use a new word or expression, or simply give a new meaning to an existing one; and make people believe in it, no matter how irrational this exercise is. Then you lionize the gurus who use euphemisms such as downsizing, right-sizing, or rationalizing the number of employees rather than saying you are depriving them of their employment.

As Wheen says: legerdemain depends on its success on fooling all the audience all the time: any member of the crowd who points out that the entire operation is a con must be silenced at once

The writer holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad.

Email: [emailprotected]

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Top 10 books about the Grand Tour – The Guardian

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Not for the oiks British Gentlemen in Rome by Katharine Read, c.1750. Photograph: incamerastock/Alamy

The Grand Tour was one of the defining educational experiences of the 18th century, a kind of travelling finishing school, comprising aristocratic visits to ancient cultural sites, princely art galleries, and exclusive Enlightenment soirees. Typically, British tourists (the word dates from 1772) visited France, Germany and Italy. Some, like Byron, even went on to Greece and Turkey for headier pursuits. It was a year of sightseeing, hobnobbing and sex before returning home with good memories and possibly syphilis. But this was strictly an elite experience. It was very much not for the oiks.

My new novel tells the story of two brothers dispatched on to the Grand Tour in the 1760s to make fashionable new friends. Instead they meet the magnificently savage Lavelle, who destroys their plans. There is plenty of sex and culture in the book, but as a writer, I am more interested in the other side of history, the history of outsiders.

The Grand Tour is the ultimate story of insiders: rich, white Europeans go on an exclusive jolly before commencing a life of power and privilege. We can all imagine a certain blond-haired chap having done it as a youth. Writing my novel, I was asking: is there an outsider history of the Grand Tour? Does the other even exist in the Enlightenment, which spoke of freedom, but from the most elite vantage point?

1. The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century by Jeremy Black (1992)If you want a readable introduction to the subject, this is it. It covers everything from the harsh realities of life on the road, the still-perilous journeys, that discovery of sex and suddenly running out of money 1,000 miles from home. It also shows how unforeseen events (the French Revolution) could suddenly change everything. Should you too be living through a time where unforeseen events have suddenly changed everything, I recommend it.

2. Of Travel by Sir Francis Bacon (1625)Gleaned from his own journeys around France, Italy and Spain, polymath genius Bacon recommends travellers should keep a journal, meet locals, get them to show you around, visit many famous sights, and regard travel as an illuminating experience. It is amazing to think these were new ideas then, but as with so much of modern life, Bacon had to show us first.

3. The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett (1751)Frankly, Peregrine Pickle is a pain in the arse. The Grand Tour is only part of this story the hero only gets as far as France before turning back but he is cantankerous, offensive and hilarious right across his travels, not least in poisonous pen portraits of literary enemies such as Henry Fielding. George Orwell hated the book, deriding its snobbish, elitist impulses. But then again, Orwell was proudly, openly homophobic.

4. Travels through France and Italy by Tobias Smollett (1766)Despite Peregrine Pickles awfulness, you still want to like Smollett because of the circumstances in which he wrote his hugely influential Grand Tour travelogue: grief-stricken, fleeing the death of his only child. But the same wonderfully awful Smollett who insulted and berated through that book now picks stupid, pointless real-life fights all the way across France. He hates his travel companions and is dubiously withering about Catholic southern Europe. But his wicked in the real sense humour and perceptive eye make this glorious, shameless, appalling fun.

5. A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy by Laurence Sterne (1768)Written in response to Smolletts travelogue, it was allegedly inspired when the two writers met. Sterne so disliked Smollett that he created the odious, fabulously named Smelfungus, whom his own alter ego, Yorick, meets en route. Wandering aimlessly around France, Yorick is more interested in sex than culture. In so doing, Sterne cleverly reminds us of a big part of the Tours appeal for young British people: sex.

6. Sultry Climates: Travel and Sex Since the Grand Tour by Ian Littlewood (2001)Speaking of which, this very entertaining book explores the Grand Tour more fully as an opportunity for sex of every variety, frowned upon back home. It also considers the influence of the Tour on how weve holidayed ever since. Are you a Connoisseur, a Pilgrim or a Rebel? This book shows you how the Grand Tour shaped how you travel.

7. Italian Journey by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1816)Where the British snigger and satirise, the Germans bring poetry. Italian Journey is a lovely work suffused with Goethes sincere, lush Romanticism genuinely new after the hard-eyed satires of the 18th century. Ruminations on art, culture, history, climate, even geology hover beautifully, while Goethe shows how Italy seemed to the Grand Tourist a great civilisation simultaneously alive and in ruins. Which is all great: but still white, male, elite business as usual.

8. Ladies of the Grand Tour by Brian Dolan (1992)Women rarely feature much in writing about the Tour but Dolans survey captures its liberating sometimes revolutionary impact on British women, celebrating them as writers, thinkers and observers. It finds interesting links between travel and radicalism for that first generation of women we now see as feminists, for example, Mary Wollstonecraft.

9. Mary Shelleys History of a Six Weeks Tour (1817)Speaking of whom, you could probably make a good argument for the influence of the Tour on Shelleys Frankenstein, but Mary Wollstonecrafts daughter also wrote an account of her own experience of the Grand Tour. Today, its a fascinating document of a politically radical young woman venturing off on her own adventures, claiming a female voice in an otherwise male space. And what a voice insightful, polemical, literary and all written when she was just 20. Marvellous.

10. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789)But while the upper classes had such fun on the Tour, many people in the 18th century were on far darker journeys. Equianos autobiographical masterpiece travels from his childhood in (what is now) Nigeria to slavery in the Caribbean and freedom and fame in Britain as a leading black activist. His book thus becomes a horrifically clever inversion of the classic Grand Tour narrative, boldly smashing open the vanity of so much of the Enlightenment.

In my book, Lavelle casts a withering eye over the self-regard of the Enlightenment. He retains his ire most of all for the adored Voltaire, who was also an antisemite who sucked up to autocrats. The world is rotten, Lavelle says. Lovers of books, do you think they do not rape their maids? And philosophers, do they not whip their slaves? Equiano teaches us the truth of 18th-century Europe as much as Voltaire, Sterne and Smollett. It is he, the outsider, who tells the truth of history, every bit as much as or more than its privileged heroes.

The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore is published by Cornerstone. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com.

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Top 10 books about the Grand Tour - The Guardian

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Review: "Culture and the Death of God" – NBC2 News

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Culture and the Death of God By Terry Eagleton | Yale University Press 240 pages Langans Book Mark: 4/4 stars

Terry Eagleton, Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of Lancaster and author of forty books, investigates in Culture and the Death of God how our supposedly faithless age threatened by religious fundamentalism after 9/11 searches for a replacement for God.

The abstruseness of this search was brought home to me by a comment made by one of my daughters. When she saw that I reviewed an earlier Eagleton book, After Theory, in 2004, she said, Dad, who cares about that stuff?

Who cares indeed? This is the basic question. See if you care enough by reading this. Its longer and more complex than a usual review, because Eagleton is more intricate in his writing.

After Theory sustained a tightly woven argument asserting that cultural theory had become largely irrelevant. Cultural theory used to be an enterprise or a patch, as the author calls it, where intellectuals could raise basic questions about what is now quaintly called the human condition.

Despite my daughters remark, I think she cares, and others may as well about that stuff. Her impatience could be a trigger for a bigger issue agitating what passes for the collective conscience of the world. It is dissatisfaction with surrogates put in place of the Almighty. My daughter might say I was reviewing a book that nobody would buy because of the topic.

But thats Eagletons point: while many have jettisoned the idea of God, no good candidates have shown up to take his place. In his new book, Eagleton gives us a list of substitutes and reasons that they havent passed muster, and looks to a future it doesnt seem anywhere on the horizon to me where just and compassionate communities thrive.

So what are the loser replacements for God, our author asks? Good bye to culture, he says, as well as Enlightenment ideas, the philosophy of idealists, romantics, Reason, modernism and more. They all have their charms but come up short. The ache for permanence in humans wants more.

Here is how Eagleton states his case:

Those who find religion boring, irrelevant or offensive need not feel too deterred by my title. This book is less about God than about the crisis occasioned by his apparent disappearance. In pursuit of this subject, it begins with the Enlightenment and ends up with the rise of radical Islam and the so-called war on terror.Among other things, the narrative I have to deliver concerns the fact that atheism is by no means as easy as it looks.

Lets look at the usual suspects to replace God, and see why, according to Eagleton, none of these viceroys for God turned out to be very plausible

First of all, culture: Our author thinks this has always been the most credible candidate. After all, it involves, he says, foundational values, transcendent truths, authoritative traditions, ritual practices, sensuous symbolism, and much more.

So why did culture fail to take religions place? It couldnt, despite some Enlightenment scholars hopes, bridge the gap between the values of a minority and the life of the common people. Culture was unable to be a guarantor of social order and moral conduct because, as our man puts it, No symbolic form in history has matched religions ability to link the most exalted of truths to the daily existence of countless men and women.it was clear that there could be no salvation in aesthetic culture alone.

Not only that, Eagleton remarks, but when politically charged social divisions infiltrate the concept of culture itself, elements like language, symbol, kinship, heritage, identity and community are exploited, culture becomes part of the problem, shifting from a bogus transcendence to militant particularism. Read the front page of any newspaper describing various countries internecine warfare for verification of this remark.

What about idealist philosophy? German idealist philosophers, retaining some impetus from the Enlightenment, put Spirit in place of Reason as the mainspring of human history. This synoptic vision of science, art, Nature, history and politics represents one of the most astonishing intellectual syntheses of the modern era

In a sense, idealistic philosophy was a predictable candidate. It co-opted old religious ideas and put them into sectarian clothing. Idealistic thought was mid-way between traditional Christian doctrine and the creeping secularization of the modern era, according to Andrew Bowie, another historian. Still another historian, M.H.J. Abrams, called the Idealists and Romantics quest a pursuit of natural supernaturalism. Eagleton considers this a false transcendence there was no there, there and it ultimately failed.

What about Romanticism? Eagleton observes that Romanticism is a darker, more troubled affair than Idealism, even if, in some of its moods, it shares its zest and buoyancy. Like Goethes Faust, it must content itself with this endless process of becoming, not with any assured end product.

As Novalis, a pseudonym of George Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg (1772 1801), poet and philosopher of German Romanticism wrote, We seek everywhere the unconditional, and find only the conditional.

These rejections of God-substitutes give one a sense of Eagletons philosophic direction.

Then, how did religion capture the flag? Eagleton writes, The Church had sealed the rift between them (minorities and common people) in its own fashion enfolding clergy and laity in a single institution; and though the simple faithful may not be exactly on all fours with cardinals and theologians, this matters less than the faith they share.

A recurrent facet of the authors argument is that religion has not endured by assuming a series of cunning disguises, any more than it has been secularized away. Instead, religion, he says, has the capacity to unite theory and practice, elite and populace, spirit and senses, a capacity which culture was never quite able to emulate. Religion has all the qualities of culture, and more, a most tenacious and universal form of popular culture: according to Eagleton.

(As the author ironically puts it, The word religion crops up in university cultural studies prospectuses as often as the sentence We must protect the values of a civilized elite from the grubby paws of the populace.)

Why the omission? Eagleton writes that Almost every cultural theorist today passes over in silence some of the most vital beliefs and activities of billions of ordinary and women, simply because they happen not to be to their personal taste. Most them are also ardent opponents of prejudice.

Eagleton defends a highly unpopular concept in postmodern quarters: objective truth. He says that in fact it is a modest notion that many shy away from. The author chides those in the United States for slipping in to our speech the word like after every few words, as a postmodern reflex of not knowing what one thinks about anything. It would be dogmatic to suggest that something actually is what it is. Instead, you must introduce a ritual tentativeness into your speech, in a kind of perpetual semantic slurring.

About religion: If it were released from the burden of furnishing social orders with sets of rationales for their existence, he writes, it might be free to rediscover its true purpose as a critique of all politics. He notes that the New Testament has little or nothing to say of responsible citizenship. It is not a civilized document at all.

I question this last analysis of Eagletons. After all, the New Testament, echoing Exodus, set up rules for living that outline harmonious living among women and men.

In any case, the Almighty appears not to be safely nailed down in his coffin, Eagleton comments. He had simply changed address, migrating to the US Bible Belt, the Evangelical churches of Latin America and the slums of the Arab world. And his fan club is steadily swelling.

Michael D. Langan, the NBC-2.com Culture Critic, met Eagleton in the early 1990s when he spoke at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

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