Wednesday
Oct152014

R: Enact Reparations for Slavery

The tide is high for a renewed debate over equality and liberty in America. The conflicting concerns of both are borne out in our history, and have left us with myriad issues to choose from. But at the center of this is the continued march toward finally being able to proclaim as one, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last!"

The legacy of slavery in America is one that lives on beyond the history textbooks, as new focuses on "white privilege" and micro-aggression sweep through the media and raise questions as to how much discrimination really does exist below the surface of civil society. At the height of this are the plights of minority communities in income, employment, incarceration rates, and more. Are these problems at least partially attributable to implicit forms of discrimination? Is this issue, so often couched in terms of equality, really one of liberation? If so, the degree of societal recompense must be established and paid. Freedom must be given. Yet, the debate will rage on as to who has responsibility to whom, if not themselves, and who determines how much is owed by whom.

The questions certainly rage around this sensitive issue, and so we invite all to join us this Thursday, October 16th at 7:30 pm in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room as we ponder this bold policy solution currently making headlines in the American media. Again, all are welcome!

Tuesday
Oct072014

R: All Struggle Is Progress

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," or so the old adage goes. What drives human history, and what brought our species from being mere hunter-gatherers to becoming comfortable urban dwellers across the world?

From Norse mythology to Hegel to John Steinbeck, there has always been a certain wonder found in the confrontation of Man with his brother, with nature, and with practically everything else. Despite lip service to peace and order, war springs up in every century, and the clash of civilizations seeps down to the individual. Our desires and dreams grow into causes, our causes develop resistance, and soon enough the peace we yearn for so dearly is thwarted by the very act of seeking its fruition. We see our tranquility as Moses did the Promised Land: there before us, but unattainable. We become children kicking at a wall, hoping to topple it, but left merely with stubbed toes and eyes looking up to Heaven.

But perhaps to struggle and to fight really is our culmination and not our undoing. It is in encounter and opposition that we learn of foreign methods and wisdom. It is in having an "other" that allows us to define ourselves, and when we are ready, to advance that conception with knowledge we have gained. Perhaps all great things must be taken, and perhaps life devolves into a humdrum meaninglessness without the great struggle for survival and control of our own fate or success. But if this is the case, where is the limit? Competition in the market? Boxing? War?

Leftists, rightists, pacifists, conservatives and all others should join us this ThursdayOctober 9th at 7:30 pm in the Calhoun Parlor to join the fray. All are welcome!

Tuesday
Sep302014

R: Bulldoze the Suburbs

What makes for strong communities? How important is human geography to how we live our lives?

One of the greatest yet least acknowledged phenomena of modern American history has been the invention of the suburb. The suburbs represent the ultimate division of family life from professional and business life, made possible by the mighty bonds of our interstates and automobiles. One can go from his kitchen, to his car, to his workplace, and back to his garage without ever taking a step outside. The morning stroll to the mailbox is considered an adventure.

The suburbs are the great enablers of this reclusiveness, and their victims are the once tight-knit communities of sandlots, block parties, and old ladies with soup at your door whenever you're sick. Yet suburbs can also represent something grander: the triumph of the American dream. Perhaps the community weakens, but is not every house now truly its owner's castle? In it he can raise a family without interruption, cultivate hobbies and garden in the backyard, and use it as capital to be disposed of when he sees fit. Perhaps the suburbs can be the key to our liberation. And so we must ponder several oft-neglected questions: Now that the majority of Americans live in the suburban outskirts of urban America, what exactly are we giving up for this kind of life? How dangerous or advantageous is it? What—if anything—is to be done?

Join us this Wednesday, October 1st at 7:30 pm in the Calhoun Parlor to ponder the physical dimension of Man's communal life. All are welcome!

Monday
Sep222014

R: If God Does Not Exist, We Must Invent Him

"If God did not exist, we would have to invent Him," wrote the great philosophe Voltaire. These words, which started out as a quip, are in fact more provocative than their author would have ever dared to imagine. For what Voltaire did was jam a wedge between goodness and truth. It is perhaps rightly assumed by Voltaire that objectivity and order only come from God, but is God valuable to us because of this moral order? Does one act on the truth he cannot shake from conviction, or does he act on the impulse of good, regardless of its logical merits?

We like to think of the truth as a universal pursuit, undertaken by every human being. And yet, all too often the citizenry of myriad democracies flood the streets with apathy and jarring relativistic mottoes boiling down to a philosophy of "you do you." Moral systems play out in pluralistic societies with the specific end goal of stunting any one of them from claiming victory. Man seems wholly unfit for the truth, yet utterly desperate for some kind of structure, sold at bargain prices in the marketplace of ideas. And what of those who do seek it? Some ascend literally to the heights of heavenly ecstasy, while other collapse in insanity, unable to grasp its ineffability. The man who seeks truth seeks the ultimate destiny of his essence in a Ragnarok of earthly pleasures, values, and customs.

And what of the good? This is the age where being a "good person" is paramount. The ideal is to live in that middle ground, shunning greatness and avoiding evil, while embracing the pretty spouse and two-child family in the fenced house just off Main Street. It seeks to bring us the contentment and happiness we all seek from the little things in life. Even those of us who don’t know much still comprehend the most basic ideas of right and wrong. And yet, where is the meaning and purpose to this? The fear of societal chaos or coercion stands to keep us from the extremes of both thought and potential. To live for goodness without knowing whence it comes is best summarized by Lord Tennyson: "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die." Is this necessarily bad?

Join us this WednesdaySeptember 24th at 7:30 pm in the Calhoun Parlor (adjacent to the Calhoun College Common Room) to debate the direction in which Man should orient the quest of life. All are welcome!

Wednesday
Sep172014

R: Yes, Scotland!

What are a people's greatest aspirations? Is total sovereignty a nation's only legitimate claim to existence?

This Thursday, Scots will head to the polls to decide the fate of their nation: they will either vote for independence from the United Kingdom, or choose to remain subjects of the Crown that they have generally supported for over three centuries. It is the test of a spirit and of a tradition in our time, and the events that take place on that side of the globe will provide commentary on the pillars of communities and states the world over.

We can support the cause of an independent Scotland, and in doing so throw down our gauntlets against the waves of postmodern cultural indifference. We can rally one last charge for nationalism in the West, that in turn will speak to the hundreds of cultural and racial minorities still without states of their own. Standing for Scottish independence means standing for the belief in the liberated soul of a people, inherent to the land, food, dress, music, religion, and other customs that make a rabble into a mighty race.

But what of the other side? Is the nation really the fundamental building block of humanity given its bloody history? Indeed there is an argument to be made on two fronts. As modernity quickly reduces the world's cultures into select off-Western idiosyncrasies, the idea of a nation may already be anachronistic. Furthermore, is focusing on nations futile when many feel greater affinities for their towns and provinces than for strangers who might share some common tribal blood? And so it goes: the great debate on how Man organizes himself, his neighbors, and his people.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts, ranging from the patriotic to the pessimistic, and encourage everyone to join us this WednesdaySeptember 17th at 7:30 pm in the Calhoun Parlor (adjacent to the Calhoun College Common Room) as Federalists and non-Federalists alike conceive and rebut thoughts on this upcoming historic referendum.