We have spoken to your mother. We know everything.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

In The Garage: American Digest On The Couch With SC&A

American Digest might be described as the first post modern blog. For the most part, blogs are exercises in the personal expression of an individuals thoughts and ideas. Bloggers might focus on an idea or one two, and are then written in the hope that like minded individuals will find those personal expressions. Gerard Vanderleun's American Digest is clearly a personal reflection, but it is a lot more. Reading his responses to our questions makes that very clear.

American Digest
is a magazine, more about ideas than about ideologies. This is not an unimportant distinction. While Mr Vanderleun's philosophies can be easily discerned, readers of all political, economic and philosophical persuasions find themselves challenged by his writing. He is quite comfortable writing on any subject and like the mythical, perfect TV programmer, he seems to have the uncanny ability to understand exactly what his readers what to read and when they want to read it.

It is also clear that American Digest readers aren't 'average' in any sense of the word. They are thoughtful and pensive and quite comfortable finding themselves in agreement, disagreement or someplace in between.

The scope of American Digest is wide- breathtaking, really, and this is where Mr Vanderleun has managed to create something that will, in the near future will be often imitated. That said, those efforts will rarely succeed.

Gerard Vanderleun's efforts succeed because he is a reflection of the American success story.He is the kid in the garage with a better idea- or looking for one. He isn't bound by what is already out there, but rather, with what he believes is possible. He is looking to reinvent the wheel and build a better mouse trap.
Insofar as blogs go, he has succeeded.

The author of American Digest sees things differently. It is as if he were immune to the barrage of images and symbols that are thrown at us everyday, in the hope that various ideas and agendas will take root. He is also unaware that he sees the world of ideas and possibilities very differently than most of us.

There have been a lot of thinkers that started off in their garages- Edison, Picasso, Jobs and Gates and hundreds of others whose names we don't know, but have nonetheless changed the world we live in.

Gerard Vanderleun is in good company.




What is American Digest?

Initially, it grew out of a print publication plan that got run over by cyberspace in the early 90s. It was to be a kind of compendium of interesting items from the online editions of magazines. Then it became a compendium of squiblets and pointers to interesting items across the web as a whole, your standard linkblog. But along the way it became more and more a place for me to publish the first drafts of various things I was thinking about, hence the kind of mish-mash you see today. I've been thinking about renaming it to reflect this but so far I haven't come up with a name that suits me.

How do you define what Bernard Lewis calls the Clash of Civilizations?

It is, indeed, much of what Lewis defines it as in that seminal essay; a Religious War. But I think it is important to understand exactly what religions are at war.

One the one hand we have the Religion of Islam (and by this I mean a very broad swath of Islam and NOT the popular PC group we call 'Islamic Fundamentalism'). On the other hand we have the Religion of Freedom, by which I mean the entire concept of personal and social freedom as most highly expressed by American Liberalism today. That this far edge of freedom is determined to give, in the name of freedom, the edge to Islam and its determination to destroy all individual freedom in the name of submission to on god, theirs, is the leading irony of our time. For, at the far edge of personal freedom, we see that this concept is indeed a suicide pact between liberalism and its deepest values.

There is a Thomas Wolfe quote, "If a man has talent and cannot use it, he has failed,' displayed on your site. What is your talent, and have you used that talent?

"For I believe, that since the world begain, The most I've ever had is just a talent to amuse...." -- Noel Coward

My talent, if talent it be, is the ability to write quickly and convincingly on any subject that comes to hand. "Glib R Us." Indeed, the less I know about a subject the more articulate I can be. I blame Wikipedia and Google and am only half in jest.

Are Americans literate? Which three books does every American need to
read?

Americans are much more literate than the Elites would have us believe. Case in point, the Barnes and Noble / Borders mega-bookstores that proliferate around the nation. Add in the crowd reading and typing away at Starbucks and its ilk. Add in the huge explosion of blogs and web essay sites. We have more college educated adults in the population than ever, even if there are very deep problems with college education.

Three books? Well, that would be tough, but just off the top of my head I'd say: The King James Bible (Whether or not you believe.) The Works of William Shakespeare (Otherwise you know nothing of reading and writing.) Moby Dick (The great American novel has been written and this is it. Prophetic vision of America that proves more true with every passing year.)

Have you ever taught? What makes teachers great?

I have never formally taught but I come from a family of teachers. What makes teachers great is when they have the rare ability to see into the developing soul of a child and call out of them the very best in the specific talents of that specific soul. These teachers are increasingly rare in the stultified educational atmosphere of today but I was fortunate enough to have four of them.

You wrote, "The Unremitting Stupidity of 21st Century "Civilized"
Man," clearly born of frustration. Will things change? What will it
take?

It seems that for many, becoming more "civilized" involves a lot of forgetting concerning how deeply evil human nature can be. It assumes that everyone in the world shares, deep down, the very best values and aspirations of the Liberal West. It ignores that these values can only exist in a carefully constructed and highly protected and very rich nation such as the US and the First World. It has to ignore that since to admit it leads one to admit that man is pretty much as man has always been and is not perfectible just yet. I saw the deepest evil
that civilized man is capable of on 9/11 from the Promenade at Brooklyn Heights in NYC and it made a deep impression on me.

That said it is clear to me that we will go on in our Happy World until such time as we lose a city and become aware that such an attack has killed not only men and women as 9/11 did, but many of our children as well.

Only, it seems, a massive kick in our heads will wake us up and I fear for what comes after. But come it will.

The warrantless wiretap story is disturbing, even if you support
President Bush. Is there a compromise?

In the overheated political imagination it seems disturbing, but those who bleat the loudest clearly do not have "the good of the country" at heart but the hate of the President driving them. If I thought they had the good of the country motivating them I might listen more closely but they clearly do not. The compromise is to stop letting Bush Derangement Syndrome drive the policy of the party and to start letting what is best for the country lead the dance. I don't think they are capable at this point of being cured. As they say out West, "Once a bear is hooked on garbage, there's no cure."

I am also not so sure that the pre-existing and present wiretap laws prohibit 1) interception of wireless cellular traffic and 2) calls that originate in a foreign country and are inbound or calls that originate in the United States and are outbound. It also, it seems to me, depends on who is calling whom.

The Amanapour issue is germane here. It is clear from her reporting over the years that this writer has a lot of contacts among people in the Middle East and among our enemies. If the NSA is tracking known terrorists or terrorists and these people call Amanapour have they bugged Amanapour or her informants. If Amanapour is in the middle east or elsewhere out of the United States and the NSA listens to her cellular conversations or other calls because she has contacts that are known to be antithetical to the interests and safety of the United
States, is she supposed to be given a pass because she's a journalist? It seems to me that the entire "special privileges" of this self-appointed fourth arm of government needs to be re-examined in the digital age.

So, yes, it is disturbing but not in the way the President's enemies want Americans to think and I suspect that most American's support the concept of listening in on suspected terrorists' conversations here and abroad.

What is much more disturbing to me is the recently reported item of fudging the law with a signing statement, but I suspect we'll see the Clinton version of this revealed in the next day or so. Either way, it is disturbing.

Does prayer come easily to you? Do you ever get angry at God?

Not easily at all. I've only been able to do it from time to time over the last year and I notice that when I fall away from it things tend to get worse in my life and in the lives of those I love.

Angry with God? Never. He's given us all we need to make Jerusalem here on Earth. What He's also given us is the most important gift of all, free will. But when we use that to put our obsessions ahead of His intent for us, then our lives disintegrate. The key phrase in prayer, I find, is "Thy will, not mine, be done." Francis Porretto once mentioned to me in a comment or in email that Grace is always rapping softly at our door, but it is up to us to answer that knock. When we fail to do this our will leads us astray. I know this to be true, but I keep failing to learn it. We are weak and God is not finished with all of us. I know this because if He were finished with us we'd have a third set of teeth that would come in when we turn forty.

Why has anti-semitism proved resurfaced in Europe?

I don't think it ever submerged but was a case of "Hate, Interrupted".

I lived in Europe (England, Spain, Portugal and France) from 1977 to 1980 and I ran across it everywhere from cab drivers to dinner parties in those years. Very unsettling. Anti-semitism is the oldest spiritual virus in the world and shows no signs of going away. It has only been held in real check since Israel got the bomb.

What book would you like see written, and by whom?

About six of them that sit in my notebooks and on my computer. By myself. I really have to get offline and down to business this year. This blogging sometimes seems to be the ultimate in "Fritterware." But, of course, "It doesn't rule my life."