- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2008

World pressure

“The case of Robert Mugabe gets one thinking about this most peculiar of academic nods, worth less than extra sabbatical time, sometimes a quid pro quo for a free commencement speech or a significant donation.

“In June the University of Massachusetts at Amherst rescinded the honorary doctorate it had bestowed on Zimbabwe’s longtime president in 1986. Last year the University of Edinburgh similarly withdrew its 1984 degree to Mugabe. And on June 25, in the same spirit, Queen Elizabeth II canceled the 1994 knighthood Britain had bestowed on Mugabe …

“In light of what great countries and institutions might do to murderous dictators, it’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe ‘The Economist’ will cancel Mugabe’s subscription next.

- Carlin Romano, writing on “Dishonorary Degrees,” in the July 11 issue of the Chronicle of Higher’s Education’s “Chronicle Review”

Enjoying misery

“For what is the fundamental premise of post-colonial studies, women’s studies, black studies, queer studies and all the traditional disciplines, such as English, comparative literature, anthropology, sociology and history, which these bogus ones have infected but the Marxist-Leninist ‘oppression’ narrative, founded on the belief that the world is divided into the exploiters and the exploited?

“This set of assumptions about the world may not call itself ‘Marxist’ anymore, but it has learned from Marx the con-trick of making the world as it is seem contingent and replaceable by inventing a word for it - ‘capitalism’ in Marx’s case, ‘patriarchy,’ ‘imperialism’ etc. in that of the neo-Marxians - and thus implying that the world as it isn’t, never has been and never could be, the world they used to call, jestingly, (no place), is a reasonable alternative to it.

“Except that the neo-Marxists don’t even bother to offer their vision of the socialist paradise that will supposedly one day, with the help of the inevitable forces of history, replace the world as we know it. They’re having much too good a time being oppressed and permanently resentful about it.”

- American Spectator critic James Bowman, writing in his diary at his Web site JamesBowman.net

Once upon a time

“… Humans are essentially storytellers, and … all communication - history, art, language, science, etc. - is a form of storytelling. That is to say, the world is a collection of ‘stories’ … that we constantly examine for coherence and check against our experience as we attempt to create meaningful lives, individually and collectively.

“You can readily see how this idea functions at the political level. Obviously, various factors determine political success - everything from the state of the economy to the weather on voting day - but a deeper dynamic is also at play. When you vote, you are not only endorsing a particular politician, but also saying something about yourself, about your ideals and aspirations (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The politician who wins elections is one whose story a majority identifies with. …

Bill Clinton, too, told a good story. During the 1992 campaign, Clinton convinced Americans that the incumbent, George H.W. Bush, was out of touch and that only he felt their pain. In the end, after various scandals, Clinton’s story proved to be mostly about his pain.”

- Robert Sibley, writing on “No happy endings” in the July 4 issue of the Ottawa Citizen

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