Wednesday, February 24, 2010

culture, politics, midrash, peshat


Culture, and not politics, determine the success
of society;
that’s the reason why of cultures we need more, not less,

Politics just blurs our problems and can only make
them worse;
culture on the other hand makes clear what was opaque,
like verse.

With politics the meaning of our lives is circumscribed,
whereas with culture it is open, by us vibed,

With politics we’re always faced both with decline
and fall;
without defeating anybody, culture can define
us all.

Inspired by information gleaned from articles written on the Op-Ed page in the NYT on consecutive days.

Thomas Friedman cites Patrick Moynihan on February 24, 2010 (“Iraq’s Unknowns, Still Unknowns”):

In many ways, Iraq is a test case for the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s dictum that “the central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

Piers Brendon writes in an Op-Ed in the NYT on February 24, 2010 (“Like Rome Before the Fall? Not Yet”):
On the other hand, Paul Kennedy may well be right to predict that the United States will shrink relatively in wealth, and therefore power, as its Asian and European rivals grow. Such contractions can be traumatic, as suggested by the experience of Britain, which, as Dean Acheson said, lost an empire without finding a role. However, the British now tend to echo the historian Lord Macaulay, who said that the end of their physical empire would be the proudest day in their history if they left behind “the imperishable empire” of their arts and their morals, their literature and their laws. In other words, national self-esteem should not stem from global might but from cultural values and achievements. Faced by the prospect of decline, Americans could hardly do better than to cling to the noblest traditions of their own civilization.
The contrast between politics and culture outlined in this poem is like that between peshat, the plain meaning of a text, and midrash, which reveals the text’s potentialities.


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