- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Group rules

“Being black or gay, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests, requires one to follow certain ‘life-scripts’ because ‘Demanding respect for people as blacks and gays can go along with notably rigid strictures as to how one is to be an African American or a person with same-sex desires.’ There will be ‘proper modes of being black and gay: there will be demands that are made; expectations to be met; battle lines to be drawn.’

“It is at this point, Appiah suggests, that ‘someone who takes autonomy seriously may worry whether we have replaced one kind of tyranny with another.’ An identity is supposed to be an expression of an individual’s authentic self. But it can too often seem like the denial of individual agency in the name of cultural authenticity.”

- Kenan Malik, writing on “Identity is That Which is Given” at ButterfliesAndWheels.com on July 9

So vast

“These days, virtually every aspect of public life is contested, challenged, doubted: there is little agreement on what are the causes of our current predicament. We might refer to this as a ‘crisis of causality’, and it is a crisis which continually calls into question any official version of events. …

“The crisis of causality means many people believe that major events are shaped and determined by a hidden agenda. We seem to be living in a shadowy world similar to that depicted in the movie franchise The Matrix Trilogy, where the big questions are: how do we know what is real, and who is being manipulated by whom?

“In previous times, such conspiracism mainly informed the thinking of right-wing populist movements, which always saw the hand of Jewish, Masonic or Communist conspiracies behind major world events. Today, conspiracy theory has gone mainstream, and many of the most vociferous proponents of the conspiracy theory are radical protesters and thinkers on the cultural left.

“When, a few years ago, Hillary Clinton warned of a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ to undermine her husband … it became clear that the politics of the hidden agenda had well and truly become a feature of public life.”

- Frank Furedi, writing on “Why facts won’t demolish the conspiracy theories” at Spiked-Online.com on July 7

What’s a hero?

“[Van] Heflin’s character, Dan Evans [in ‘3:10 to Yuma’], is a simple farmer in danger of losing his farm to drought who, for the $200 it would take to pay the mortgage, accepts the task of escorting [Glenn] Ford’s Ben Wade, a dangerous killer, to catch the eponymous train to trial. At a moment when it looks as if he is sure to die in the attempt, Evans explains to his wife that he is no longer escorting the prisoner for the money but as a civic duty. ‘The town drunk gave his life because he thought people should be able to live in peace and decency together,’ he said. ‘Can I do less?’

“Needless to say, there is no comparable line in the remake. The Dan Evans of 2007, played by Christian Bale, is an almost helpless victim, a Civil War veteran who lost his leg in a friendly-fire incident and whose motivation would remain merely mercenary but for the fact that, like us, he is meant to become rather fond of [Russell] Crowe’s fascinating Wade - and vice versa.”

- James Bowman, writing on “Hollywood’s Hero Deficit” in the July/August issue of the American

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