This TV segment is from mid-November, but we’re running it now because of all the news about Solzhenitsyn. It starts with a discussion of the US mid-term elections, and how uncivil the tone is in the US, and then has a very good discussion of Solzhenitsyn.
He specifically calls out excessively individualistic ideology in the Western world as one that will lead to future decline and decadence:
This decadence can be seen in various clips of vicious fighting in the American mid-term elections. What democracy can endure when such extreme hatred, rather than collaboration, is normalized between the two main political parties of a country?
On Tuesday, the mid-term elections were held in the USA. The bottom line is President Trump strengthened his position in the upper chamber of the American parliament. He gained a majority in the Senate. It means there will be no impeachment. Trump will remain in office.
But in the lower chamber of the Congress, in the House of Representatives, Trump lost his position. Now, he has a minority there. Since it is the Congress that determines the country’s foreign policy, this means that it will be obviously impossible to agree on major issues with Trump. Trump has only a consultative role.
Also, the governors were elected. An interesting fact — among all the governors in the USA, there wasn’t and there still isn’t a single black governor after these elections. Think what you like. Not a single one.
The number of women in the House of Representatives grew — on the wave of the feminist movement. There is even the first openly lesbian from an Indian tribe, which is considered a huge achievement of American democracy. And there’s the first Muslim as well which is also widely discussed as something unusual.
The distinctive feature of the US election campaign was extraordinary fierceness and unrestrained rudeness. There’s an example. CNN’s political observer, Anna Navarro, casually calls President Trump a “racist pig” on air, and this was received calmly as something ordinary.
This style, however, reflects the deep irreconcilability and even hatred which is shown to each other by the two American camps — the Republicans and the Democrats.
Since the bloodthirstiness in the split American elite won’t disappear after the election, the USA will face nothing good with such an attitude of the upper crust. They have no sobering experience of civil conflict.
There are no restraining motives. But the exasperation is growing. There is a situation in the elite when everyone hates and everyone is hated. At the same time, the culture of the political struggle is falling apart.
There’s an important point — Nikolai Berdyaev wrote about the primacy of culture for the sustainability of society.
“In society’s life, spiritual primacy belongs to culture. It’s not politics or economy but culture where the goals of the society are fulfilled. The value and quality of the public are measured by a high-quality cultural level.”
That is, the quality of culture determines the quality of the public. This brings to mind the famous Solzhenitsyn speech at Harvard University. Soon, we will be celebrating Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s centenary.
With the anniversary coming up, I’d like to turn to his thoughts on the symbol of the West, America, that he knew so well, he used to live there while in exile. What was said 40 years ago turned out to be a prophecy, because it sounds relevant, even fresh, and intellectually bold.
Alexander Isaevich spoke then about the “blinding of superiority” and “the fall of courage” as a “sign of the end.” He spoke of the need for moral criteria and that legal restrictions are never enough for the society. At that time, intellectual America applauded to the words.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “I’ve spent all my life under a Communist regime, and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either.”
Further, correlating the interests of the individual and the society, speaking against anthropocentrism, against the uncouth man as a measure for everything.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless. Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence.”
Harvard listened then with bated breath, after all, Solzhenitsyn spoke about the very core of the ideas of Western democracy.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging and evaluating everything on earth. Imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey.
On the way from the Renaissance to our days, we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.”
It was a call to rise to light self-restraint and to be able to leave this life as a being that’s higher than the one at the beginning of the path. Solzhenitsyn called material America and indeed humanity to go to the next as he put it, “anthropological level.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that human life and society’s activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?”
Yes, it is extremely instructive today to consider ourselves in the light of such deep and sublime thoughts of Solzhenitsyn. To consider ourselves and America where Solzhenitsyn sounded so powerful 40 years ago.
Simon Harris and wife welcome new baby boy
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has announced the birth of a baby son.
Posting on Instagram, the Minister said he and his wife Caoimhe had on Wednesday “welcomed Baby Cillian into the world”. Cillian is the couple’s second child, they also have a daughter Saoirse.
“Caoimhe and baby doing great and Saoirse delighted to be a big sister and looking forward to meeting him soon.”
Mr Harris thanked all of the staff at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.
The Fine Gael TD said he will be taking paternity leave for a few weeks to “get to know this new little man”.
In a previous post he said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar would be taking any of his department’s business to Government during the time while Minister of State Niall Collins would be carrying out his day-to-day work in the department and Labour leader Alan Kelly would be providing a pair for Dáil votes.
Macron presses Biden for ‘clarifications’ over submarine snub
Macron was left furious by Australia’s decision last week to ditch a 2016 deal to buy diesel submarines from France in favour of nuclear-powered ones from the United States and Britain.
After a cabinet meeting, government spokesman Gabriel Attal made clear French anger had not abated with an unusually frank statement of Macron’s expectations from the scheduled conversation with 78-year-old Biden.
The exchange would be an opportunity to “clarify both the way in which this announcement was made and the way for an American re-engagement in its relationship with an ally,” Attal said.
Paris was particularly outraged that Australia negotiated with Washington and London in secret, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced as “treachery” and a “stab in the back”.
French officials were notified about the loss of the contract just hours before Biden unveiled the new AUKUS security and defence partnership between the three English-speaking countries.
Macron was expecting “clarifications about the American decision to keep a European ally outside of fundamental talks about cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” Attal added, without giving the schedule time for the exchange.
“We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now.”
The submarine row has plunged Franco-US ties into what some analysts view as the most acute crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Paris opposed.
After four years of tumultuous relations with ex-president Donald Trump, the spat has also dashed hopes of a complete reset under Biden, who took office in January aiming to rebuild frazzled ties with Europe.
As the row drags on, observers and some of France’s European partners are wondering how and when the French leader will call an end to the face-off, which is playing out just seven months ahead of presidential elections.
British Prime Minister Johnson said it was “time for some of our dearest friends around the world to ‘prenez un grip’ (get a grip)” in comments in Washington that mixed French and English.
“‘Donnez-moi un break’ because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security,” he told Sky News.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, whose country is staunchly pro-American, defended Biden as “very loyal” and warned against turning “challenges which will always exist between allies into something they should not be.”
Attal said that France and the US needed to begin a process “to create the conditions for confidence to be restored”.
As well as an acknowledgement of French interests in the Pacific region, the process should include “full recognition by our American allies of the need to boost European sovereignty as well as the importance of the growing commitment by the Europeans to their own defence and security.”
This latter point is a source of tension between Biden and Macron, who has pushed hard during his four-and-a-half years in office for Europeans to invest more in defence and pool resources in order to increase their joint military capabilities.
The US, and some EU members including Denmark and Baltic countries, see this as a potential challenge to NATO, the US-led transatlantic military alliance that has been the cornerstone of European defence since World War II.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly argued against the idea of France withdrawing from NATO command structures, which some politicians in France have suggested in the wake of the submarines snub.
“Is it worth slamming the door on NATO? I don’t think so,” she said, while adding that “political dialogue is non-existent in NATO.”
Australia’s decision to order nuclear-powered submarines was driven by concern about China’s commercial and military assertiveness in the Pacific region, where Biden is seeking to build an alliance of democratic states to help contain Beijing.
Paschal Donohoe plans bank levy extension but lower haul
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will continue the Irish banking levy beyond its scheduled conclusion date at the end of this year, but plans to lower the targeted annual haul from the current €150 million as overseas lenders Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland retreat from the market, according to sources.
Reducing the industry overall levy target will avoid the remaining three banks facing higher levy bills at a time when the Government is seeking to lower its stakes in the bailed-out lenders.
AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB paid a combined €93 million levy in each of the last two years, according to their latest annual reports. A decision on the new targeted yield, currently linked to deposit interest retention tax (DIRT) collected by banks on customers’ savings, will be announced at the unveiling of Budget 2022 on October 12th.
Originally introduced in 2014 by then minister for finance Michael Noonan for three years to ensure banks made a “contribution” to a recovering economy after the sector’s multibillion-euro taxpayer bailout, the annual banking levy has since been extended to the end of 2021.
A further extension of the levy has largely been expected by the banks and industry analysts, as the sector has been able to use multibillion euro losses racked up during the financial crisis to reduce their tax bills. A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment on the future status of the banking levy as planning for Budget 2022 continues.
AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB (PTSB) alone have utilised almost €500 million of tax losses against their corporation tax bills between 2017 and 2019, according to Department of Finance figures.
Sources said that the Government will be keen not to land a levy increase on the three lenders at a time when it is currently selling down its stake in Bank of Ireland and plotting a course for the reduction of its positions in AIB and PTSB in time.
The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which holds the Bank of Ireland stake on behalf of the Minister for Finance, sold 2 percentage points of holding in the market between July and August, reducing its interest to just below 12 per cent.
Meanwhile, it has been reported in recent days that the UK government is planning to lower an 8 per cent surcharge that it has applied to bank profits since the start of 2016. It comes as the general UK corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in 2023.
“The optics of reducing the surcharge might still be bad politically, but it would signal the partial rehabilitation for the nation’s banking sector,” said Eamonn Hughes, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, in a note to clients on Tuesday, adding that he continues to factor in a retention of the Irish banking levy in his financial estimates for banks over the medium term.
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