Killing the City Won’t Save the Small Town
1 hour ago
Completely absent in the passing fury over the decline of civility was even a momentary reflection on the etymological origin of the word. Like the related word “polite,” civility can be traced back to an ancient word for “city” – cives in Latin, polis in Greek. This is hardly an incidental or irrelevant relationship. The ancients understood that there was an intimate relationship between life in the city and the activity of civilization. The city was not fundamentally understood (as in its liberal conception) as a vehicle of mutual convenience aimed at the pursuit of maximum individual self-fulfillment. Rather, the city was the necessary sphere in which humans became fully human, in which the higher parts of their natures were cultivated through practice and habituation to become self-governing and, with the limits of our inescapable self-ness, to be oriented toward a concern for the common good. The ancients understood that such an orientation required a life-long and concerted effort to combat the human propensity toward self-centeredness, and that it could only be effected in relatively small societies in which the distance between my immediate good and the good of the community was not too vast. Politics, and political life, was thus a kind of schooling in self-governance and common weal, with the aim of political life being the cultivation of citizens, not the encouragement of individual and self-defined goods.
In this context we can understand why “politeness” and “civility” are so closely connected to the ancient conception of politics. Manners – those expressions of civility and politeness – is a basic form of training in citizenship. By enacting a considerateness for others – even where this may not be actually our initial reaction – we become habituated into the practice of being other-regarding. Far from being punctilious and effected, manners are actually those earliest forms of training in civic life, the attendant “formalities” that make civic life more than simply a contrivance for self-interested individuals. They are also a kind of training in self-governance: for instance, table manners exist not to increase our capacity to consume more faster, but to slow us down, to allow us to ingest slowly, to reduce our consumption and at the same time to encourage the arts of conversation and companionship as the primary way we experience our most basic instinctual consumption (courtship customs, of course, afforded the same training in matters sexual).
I’m here to tell you that The Front Porch Republic is not a community—and for the same reasons that no “gathering” of individuals at any “place” on the internet is a community. Community requires bodies in an actual place—a place where whole human beings can live and move and have their being. That is, a community requires a place where we can walk, eat, kiss, defecate, give one another the finger, and go a progress through the guts of a beggar.
Item the Fifth: Give the Finger. And let life be understood in all its beauty and ugliness. The walking, eating, kissing (etc.), and fertilizing will necessarily involve some wrath and acrimony—that is, some flipping of the bird. Acrimony tends to follow people wherever they go. But a community marked by real people in real places is poised to deal with real middle fingers. Unlike a supposed community—like, say, the FPR—an actual community is comprised of people who flip one another off in physical proximity. They do so with real fingers extended in front of faces that attach to real names. They cannot hide behind the anonymity afforded them by the computer screen. Even the young boys throwing snowballs at cars after midnight will be found out sooner or later. As a thrower of late-night snowballs I know this to be true. The longed-for anonymity is always pretty short-lived. What we throwers learn is that it’s hard to dole out abuse anonymously in a place that takes seriously the business of caring for itself.
In such a place I don’t mind getting flipped off. But let’s be clear: someone who flips you off from a moving car is a placeless coward. Let disputes take place face to face. There will be fewer of them if they are not conducted in abstraction.
The impressive shopping spree comes on the heels of a painful military reform that severely downsized Russia's conscript Army, eliminating 9 out of 10 Soviet-era units and cutting 200,000 officers. The goal now, experts say, is to equip Russia's new lean-and-mean, largely professional armed forces to face 21st-century threats. These are mainly considered to be regional conflicts such as the brief 2008 Russo-Georgian war, which highlighted military shortcomings.
RUMIPAMBA, Ecuador (AFP) – She has no legal training, and doesn't speak the Spanish that dominates government in Quito but indigenous villager Maria Aguinda helped bring a landmark judgment against US oil giant Chevron for polluting the rain forest she calls home.
The diminutive grandmother whose modest home sits near marshes clogged for decades in sticky oil has been at the heart of the David-and-Goliath case, and spoke out after Chevron was slapped last week with a $9.5-billion fine, among the heaviest ever handed down for environmental damage.
Congress should think twice before forcing a government shutdown as the consequences could be the loss of the power of Congress to control spending through authorization and appropriation bills.
Congress permitted President George W. Bush to accumulate new powers in the executive, and these powers have passed to Obama. Bush succeeded in establishing that as a wartime commander-in-chief he had the “inherent power” to disobey the laws against torture, spying on Americans without obtaining warrants, and indefinite detention. In addition, Bush used signing statements in ways inconsistent with his oath and obligation to uphold the laws of the United States, and he took the U.S. to war based on lies, deception, and fabricated “evidence,” an offense that qualifies as treason.
With these precedents, it is a simple matter for President Obama to declare that, with the U.S. at war in a world of growing instability, he has the inherent power to ignore the debt limit and to continue financing the government with the creation of new money by the Federal Reserve.
Congress could try to protect its loss of the power of the purse by impeaching Obama. But how credible would it be to impeach a wartime president who is using the same “inherent power” of his office that Congress permitted the previous president to use?
The powers that Bush asserted not only violated statutory law, but also set aside constitutionally guaranteed rights that are the essence of American liberty. Yet, Congress made no attempt to restrain him with impeachment. How then does Congress impeach a president who is merely using his power to keep a government at war operating?
As President Bush’s acts were not deemed impeachable offenses, it seems likely that Congress has lost its power to impeach through default.