A Word to My Readers

Dear reader, whether long-time, occasional, or casual passer-by,

Over the coming months I would like to begin offering more original material in this space. Some of it will reflect my ongoing scholarly work, including excerpted topics and sources from my in-progress dissertation, or something drawn from the many other things I am interested in as a scholar. I am also committing myself to the regular writing and publishing of more personal essays, from a reflection on being drawn into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to some thoughts on the intersection of fatherhood and ecology, and much more. I will also begin presenting at least two new poems a month- one by someone else, one an original composition of my own. Finally, I have a vast library of photographs I have taken and historical imagery I have accumulated that I want to begin sharing in earnest, so be on the lookout for more visual essays, starting with an exploration of the pious graffiti found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Part of my rationale for more writing is simply to improve my writing, in particular to refine my dissertation and the book project to come, God willing. Of a more philanthropic nature, I want to share the fruits of my scholarship with a wider audience, beyond the confines of the academy and of academic press paywalls. Finally, in order for this additional work I’m assigning myself to make some financial sense, I’ve decided to experiment with maintaining a Patreon account and soliciting supporters, as much as the thought of asking for money for my work grates on my genteel sensibilities and my resolute lack of entrepreneurship. If you’d like to sign up for a small, minuscule even, monthly donation- which you can of course cancel at anytime should you be dissatisfied with the quality or pace of my work- please head on over to my account, where you can also read my full spiel on why you should support me and what the benefits are: Jonathan Parkes Allen. New material will be posted here and on my Patreon page. I’d really, really appreciate any support you might be able to give!

That unfortunate business of soliciting money out of the way, I encourage you to check back into this space in the coming weeks and months, and to let me know if you have any topics that you think might be in my wheelhouse and which you’d like to hear something about.

Domination and Concentration

In a society in which nearly everybody is dominated by somebody else’s mind or by a disembodied mind, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn the truth about the activities of governments and corporations, about the quality or value of products, or about the health of one’s own place and economy.

In such a society, also, our private economies will depend less and less upon the private ownership of real, usable property, and more and more upon property that is institutional and abstract, beyond individual control, such as money, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, and shares. And as our private economies become more abstract, the mutual, free helps and pleasures of family and community life will be supplanted by a kind of displaced or placeless citizenship and by commerce with impersonal and self-interested suppliers…

Thus, although we are not slaves in name, and cannot be carried to market and sold as somebody else’s legal chattels, we are free only within narrow limits. For all our talk about liberation and personal autonomy, there are few choices that we are free to make. What would be the point, for example, if a majority of our people decided to be self-employed?

The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth – that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community – and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace

Friday Roundup

The Policeman’s New Clothes: ‘In October 2010 a new Industrial Police Force (IPF) became operational in Bangladesh. After years of refusal, reluctant to provide the extra funding, the government finally agreed to demands of the garment manufacturers and established a permanent paramilitary force to deal with workers unrest in the industrial zones. The widespread strikes and riots of the previous years, ongoing since the mass revolt of 2006, had also prompted the state’s initiative.’

The Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie: Slavoj Zizek is a loose cannon, to be sure. However, his analysis here of the current shape of capitalism and class is pretty well spot on, I think.

War on Iran: It’s not a Matter of ‘If’: ‘As with sanctions and covert military onslaughts on Iraq in the run up to 2003, the first point to underline is that the US is waging war on Iran. But well aware of the US public’s aversion to yet another war in the Middle East, the onslaught is an undeclared one.’

Is Distributism a Form of Capitalism?: ‘In other words, while Distributism and Capitalism adhere to a basic principle of private ownership of productive capital, there is a vast chasm of difference which makes even the term “distributist capitalism” misleading.’

Creating American Terrorists: ‘Defenders of the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, which declares the entire world to be a “battlefield” against terrorism and authorizes the U.S. military to detain indefinitely anyone suspected of being a terrorism supporter, have claimed that the White House will only use its new power carefully and with due process. Opponents note that the White House has never hesitated to use any new authority, no matter how outrageous, and that the trend of law enforcement and security agencies is to expand on powers granted, not to rein them in or limit them.’

The Morning Commute

I live a couple miles east of the university; every morning I descend on my bike the hill my neighborhood is perched on and take a greenway that runs alongside the Tennessee River. It comes out below the university, leaving a short hustle uphill to get on campus. All in all, a hard to beat commute. Though the up-hill journey coming back is less enjoyable.

Trumpet creeper vines

The Tennessee River (well, the Tennessee Lake these days, to be more accurate)

Morning glories are everywhere and in multiple colors along the river.

Downtown comes into view

Back Home

I am not dead, nor have I been in hiding, exactly; rather, I spent the past few months in Fes, Morocco, studying Arabic. I had originally intended to blog while there, but I didn’t bring my laptop with me, and while I had access to internet regularly, it was too much trouble to blog and I wanted to devote my time to other things than the internet.

Now that I’m back in the States I plan on resuming blogging. Since I have not blogged my experiences in Morocco, but have quite a lot of write about and photos to post, I will share them here: Lost in the Medina.

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

To the person who searched this blog for “New Orleans” sin volunteer, I’m not sure if I really hope you found what you’re looking for, because frankly it doesn’t sound to savory. I would offer that finding opportunities to sin in New Orleans- for free or for a slight charge- hardly require the services of a search engine. If you would like to combine your sinning with some volunteer work, I can likewise attest that N.O. still has plenty of opportunities for that, also.

 Also, for the confused soul wondering what a thicket is for: it all depends, I suppose, on the sort of thicket.