Saturday, April 26, 2003

Occasionally it occurs to me what a strange thing this life is--for some reason we naturally think that others are feeling and thinking the same things we are.

And then reality hits.

Here I sit, in the (for once) fairly clean living room of The Beat, recently awakened from a nap but still strongly feeling the strangely expectant, quiet, mournful-yet-not spirit of this Great and Holy Saturday, imbued in me by the hours of intense liturgical worship in which I have been blessed to take part over the past week--my belly is empty and my heart is full of strangeness, of wonder, of expectation and at least some small part of the awed, silent worship which should be present on such a day. I have not felt so well for months. The Hour of the Resurrection is near. Awake, you that sleep!

One friend is sitting upstairs surfing the web and laughing at earthy jokes. Still another just left for a pig roast. Two more just came in with Oakley! subs, about to watch a movie. And the neighbors next door are drinking it up, shouting at passing cars and attracting loud honking in response.

None of which is bad. But today? This strange day when all Creation is silent and waiting for the wonder of the approaching Dawn? How can there be such noise today, of all days?

And the Synaxarion reading still echoes in my mind.

Awake, you that sleep! Your King is come!

I do not understand.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Here is my most recent piece for the Collegian. It ran as the Weekly unsigned editorial. I was fairly happy with tell what you think, whether you agree or disagree with me.


As everyone now knows, the war in Iraq is essentially over. And with its swift and easy end, the world as we know it has changed. Hawks in the media and the administration are venting their rhetorical ire at Syria, Iran and North Korea in threats ranging from veiled suggestions that these nations beware to barefaced exhortations to change Syria�s regime as we did in Iraq.

Indeed, the ease with which the American military has prevailed in Iraq may prove the bane of the United States in coming years. Despite our obvious superiority, it is na�ve to assume that every military encounter from this moment on will fall to our advantage as quickly as that of the past month. Our overconfidence may well lead to situations far more costly than the invasion of Iraq. Hubris is always the worst enemy of a powerful people.

This will most likely be proven, however, not in war, but in a supposed peace, in the reconstruction of Iraq. The challenges facing the American occupation are all but innumerable.

It is a fine line that the coalition must walk in Iraq. Despite the hopes of the Bush administration that a strong democracy might be established in Iraq to serve as a beacon of civilization and moderation to the Arab world, it is simply not possible to establish the form of a democracy and leave the people to govern themselves. Democracy cannot be imposed�it must be chosen. Yet we cannot trust the Iraqis to choose democracy for themselves.

After all, that which we call democracy is a peculiarly Western phenomenon, depending on the conflicts, philosophies, religions and societal innovations of over three millennia for its continued propagation in the nations of the West.
The notions of individual rights, responsibilities and autonomy are fundamental to our very existence�we take them in with our mother�s milk. To put it simply, tribal societies such as Iraq�s do not. Yet democracy as we know it in America cannot exist without an almost universal recognition of these principles, and our demand that Iraq immediately adopt democracy is hence incredibly na�ve.

This experiment has been tried before, in the myriad colonies of the British Empire. So long as the British occupied those colonies, they abided in peace and prosperity, apparent havens of Western civilization amidst the brutality of the Third World before it even was the Third World.

But the moment the British withdrew, the Western system they had established dissolved into political corruption and tribal infighting, as seen in the transformation of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe described by Theodore Dalrymple in his sobering article �After Empire� in the Spring 2003 issue of the City Journal.

With this in mind, it is safe to say that almost any conflict between the cultural norms of a people and a government imposed upon them will inevitably end in the dissolution of that government. Therefore, the development of democracy in any nation must have organic roots in the history and culture of that nation and people. If that connection is absent, the institution cannot survive except at gunpoint.

This is not to say that the situation in Iraq is hopeless. The very fact of the location of Tuesday�s meeting in ancient Ur gives cause to hope that the Iraqi people may yet find their way out of their dark age�for after all, as any Hillsdale freshman knows, the oldest roots of the rule of law are found in the Code of Hammurabi, which governed the very land now occupied by modern Iraq. The London Times indulged in the same hope Wednesday, asserting that the symbolism cannot help but be powerful. By meeting in Ur, these disparate Iraqi factions have invoked their connection with the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, meeting �against a backdrop of 6,000 years of history.�

But the road will still be incredibly hard. Such a thing, after all, has never before been done.

Therefore, let us shun hubris.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

This piece is a sobering reminder of the difficulties and perhaps impossibilities of nation-building. Much remains to be seen in Iraq, but all indications suggest that the next several years are going to be very difficult. I wonder how right I was in my support of this war--I always said I was aware of the difficulties that were likely to present themselves after the war ended (or at least I always thought it), but I don't think I realized the half of it. I wonder how many other hawks find themselves in a similar state.

Do read the article, though--it is a fairly powerful reminder of the essential problems of colonial nation-building, as I said. And, I must add, the manner in which this enterprise has begun does not bode well for the future.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Well...the throes are over. This semester seems to be winding down more quickly (to be frank) than I'm quite ready for. But last week was still a great success--in one unexpected way as well as all the other things. My senior Honours thesis presentation went well when I delivered it a few weeks ago--I got some very positive feedback. Now I only have to do a little more research and expand the silly thing, and it'll be done. Perhaps I'll post the presentation up here sometime--or at least a link to it. It's fairly long. My recital went fairly well also--it was weak towards the beginning, but got better as it went on. I passed my Greek comprehensive exam strongly, according to Dr. Jones, and Dr. Holmes has decided that she'll give us an extra week off from Greek class to study for finals, so this Thursday's class will be our last. Finally, Holy Cross gave me another 10 days to submit the financial aid applications, which is perfect for me--things should be much more sane from now on. Not to mention (speaking of Holy Cross), I received my acceptance letter a little over a week ago. So I'll be starting there in September, God willing.

But the biggest news is that I finally asked my longtime girlfriend Elisabeth Dyess to marry me last Sunday. To which proposal she gladly consented. :) If you want to know how it happened, drop me a line and ask. It's a bit much to explain online. The date for the happy event remain undecided, but, God willing, it will be fairly soon. No later than a year from now, methinks. And, speaking of the Almighty, His mercy has been abundant towards me and, indeed, towards us, of late. Thanks be to Him.

So, while this is not precisely a post of substance, I submit the plea that I have been otherwise occupied in matters very important which, had I neglected them, my life would be in a much less satisfactory state. :)

More later.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Yes, I know, it's been a long time. I have been in the throes of preparing a presentation of my senior Honours Thesis which I will present at 2 pm today, of rehearsing for a cello recital to be held next week, and the usual race to get ready for Greek class. I hoe to post something of substance soon, but until then, I will pacify my rabid audience (nonexistent though it may be) with a joke.

Thought for the day:

If Saddam loses a leg, but survives, how mad do you think his
doubles will be?