Quote of the Day: Robert Walser on his "Docile Little Dog"

"At times, Walser's stylistic prowess tempts him to believe that style is all. But never for long, since, in spite of his precarious life on the margins, he was also a writer with strong convictions about how people should behave, what a civilized society would look like etc. Yet he never lapses into sentimentality. What saves him from that fate is the pervasive self-irony that kept following him, as he once put it, 'like a docile little dog.'"

Walser Translator Mark Harman


Extreme in Germany, Common Sense Elsewhere

"It is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest."

This is a quote from an American politician.

If you said this on a German talk show in mid-2015, you would have been denounced as a callous xenophobe by all the other panelists: "Immigration law means asylum law, and asylum law is Germany's way of making up for its sordid and horrific history! Germany is literally morally obligated to take in every single refugee in the world if necessary, no matter the consequences -- therefore there can be no upper limit to the number of refugees Germany may have to accept. The idea of letting selfish nationalistic concerns obscure this sacred moral duty is venal."

A lot has happened since mid-2015.

If you said this on a German talk show now, perhaps half the panel would denounce you, the other half might agree. Note that many of the ones agreeing with you now were the same people who attacked you in mid-2015.

The Overton window is shifting. In mid-2017, I predict this sentiment will be mainstream. 

It already is in every other advanced nation on earth.

Oh, and the American politician who said what I quoted above was Barbara Jordan:

BjBarbara Charline Jordan (February 21, 1936 – January 17, 1996) was a lawyer, educator, an American politician, and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. A Democrat, she was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. She was best-known for her eloquent opening statement at the House Judiciary Committee hearings on the impeachment of President Nixon, and as the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous other honors. She was a member of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors from 1978 to 1980. She was the first African-American woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

In 1994 and until her death in 1996, Jordan chaired the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, which advocated inceased restriction of immigration, increased penalties on employers that violated U.S. immigration regulations. While she was Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform she argued that "it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest." Opponents of modern U.S. immigration policy have cited her willingness to penalize employers who violate U.S. immigration regulations, tighten border security, oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, [recognize] harm to US citizens in jobs and employment from cheaper illegal alien workers, and clear process for the deportation of legal immigrants.


Quote of the Day: Eric Rohmer on "The Left"

Over at Obscene Desserts, Anja caught this intriguing response in a biography of Rohmer:

I don't know if I am on the Right, but in any case, one thing is certain: I'm not on the Left. Yes, why would I be on the Left? For what reason? What forces me to be on the Left? I'm free, it seems to me! But people aren't. Today, first you have to pronounce your act of faith in the Left, after which everything is permitted. So far as I know, the Left has no monopoly on truth and justice. I too am for peace, freedom, the eradication of poverty, respect for minorities - who isn't? But I don't call that being on the Left. Being on the Left means endorsing the politics of certain people, parties, or regimes that say they're on the Left and don't hesitate to practice, when it serves them, dictatorship, lying, violence, favoritism, obscurantism, terrorism, militarism, bellicism, racism, colonialism, genocide.

It's from Antoine de Baecque and Noel Herpe's biography of Eric Rohmer (Columbia UP 2014).


Quote of the Day: Dostoevsky on Virtue Signalling

The narrator describes an article by the writer Karmazinov, Dosteovsky's satirical portrayal of Turgenev:

"A year before, I had read an article of his in a review, written with an immense affectation of naïve poetry, and psychology too. He described the wreck of some steamer on the English coast, of which he had been the witness, and how he had seen the drowning people saved, and the dead bodies brought ashore. All this rather long and verbose article was written solely with the object of self-display. One seemed to read between the lines: 'Concentrate yourselves on me. Behold what I was like at those moments. What are the sea, the storm, the rocks, the splinters of wrecked ships to you? I have described all that sufficiently to you with my mighty pen. Why look at that drowned woman with the dead child in her dead arms? Look rather at me, see how I was unable to bear that sight and turned away from it. Here I stood with my back to it; here I was horrified and could not bring myself to look; I blinked my eyes—isn't that interesting?'"

Dostoevsky, The Possessed


Quote of the Day: 'People of Strong, Broad Sense'

"All people of broad, strong sense have an instinctive repugnance to the men of maxims; because such people early discern that the mysterious complexity of our life is not be embraced by maxims, and that to lace ourselves up in formulas of that sort is to repress all the divine promptings and inspirations that spring from growing insight and sympathy. And the the man of maxims is the popular representative of the minds that are guided in their moral judgement solely by general rules, thinking that these will lead them to justice by a ready-made patent method, without the trouble of exerting patience, discrimination, impartiality, without any care to assure themselves whether they have the insight that comes from a hardly-earned estimate of temptation, or from a life vivid and intense enough to have created a wide fellow-feeling with all that is human."

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (source)