French Intellectuals

Apologies for the gap in posting: I was off in North Africa. Most of the readers of the weblog will have seen this already, since it’s been doing the rounds for over a week now, but some of you may not, which makes it worth reposting:

French Intellectuals to be Deployed to Afghanistan to Convince Taliban of Non-Existence of God

The ground war in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taliban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.

Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or ‘Black Berets’, will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and existential anomie among the enemy. Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris’ Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement cafés at strategic points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life and man’s lonely isolation in the universe. They will be accompanied by a number of heartbreakingly beautiful girlfriends who will further spread dismay by sticking their tongues in the philosophers’ ears every five minutes and looking remote and unattainable to everyone else.

Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, gesticulated wildly and said, “The Taliban are caught in a logical fallacy of the most ridiculous. There is no God and I can prove it–take your tongue out of my ear, Juliet, I am talking!”

Marc-Ange plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man’s nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. However, humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmens’ endless gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area…

I’m not sure where this is from originally, so if anyone can give credit where it’s due, please get in touch.

Raj writes [22.3.2002]: First saw the ‘French Intellectuals’ piece on NetTime. The home for it appears to be here.

Total but welcome stranger Shaun agrees [26.3.2002]: I’d like to pass on the following as the source of the French Intellectuals In Afghanistan piece… You’ll get a great laugh fromMichael Kelly’s site as this stuff is so typical of his humor and he deserves the credit where it’s due!

Chris replies [26.3.2002]: Credit where it’s due, indeed, though most of the rest of Michael Kelly’s site seems to me to be not terribly funny at all, and the splendid Afghanistan piece a rare triumph. That’s a swift verdict after spending less than five minutes at the site, though, so not to be taken especially seriously.


New material at The Voice of the Turtle this month includes David Bleakney’s attack on and Petie Petrovich’s defence of the recent behaviour of U2’s Bono (but see here for the final word on this controversy); Radha D’Souza’s thoughts on the problems of the Global Commons; Friederike Habermann’s two separate reports, one in English, the other in German, from the crisis in Argentina; the words of the blatantly pseudonymous “Zim Admin”, who writes from the crisis in Zimbabwe; Jonathan Wilson’s article on the changing world of football in the former Soviet Union; a report of Naima Bouteldja’s recent conversation with Susan George; as well as a new agreement with Freezerbox Magazine, which has led to a new home on our site for Michael Manville’s excellent article on the Drugs War in the USA. And there’s a German text of the Manifesto of the Communist Party posted on the site, together with the text of Ken Knabb’s new translation of Guy Debord’s Situationist Classic, The Society of the Spectacle, complete with hypertext index.

Richard wrote [12.3.2002]: 1: Voice of the Turtle t-shirts. You know you want one. 2: Laugh at this.


Thanks to James for reminding me of this excellent remark in Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (Volume II, p.221):

An American, instead of going in a leisure hour to dance merrily at some place of public resort, as the fellows of his class continue to do throughout the greater part of Europe, shuts himself up at home to drink. He thus enjoys two pleasures: he can go on thinking of his business and can get decently drunk by his own fireside.

Speaking as someone who likes to shut himself up at home to drink, I’m not sure that this should be seen as a distinctively American practice, but it’s certainly a neglected topic among contemporary social theorists.

Opus Dei

Old news, but interesting news, from Opus Dei:

Blessed Josemaría Escriva to be canonized October 6, 2002

Pope John Paul II will canonize Blessed Josemar�a Escriv�, Opus Dei’s founder, the Vatican announced on February 26, 2002. The canonization will take place in Saint Peter’s Square on October 6, 2002. …

Blessed Josemar�a founded Opus Dei in Spain in 1928 to help people seek holiness in everyday life, especially through work. By the time of his death, on June 26, 1975, Opus Dei had spread to 32 countries and had 60,000 members.

“By his example and preaching, Blessed Josemar�a has taught many thousands of people that their daily activities can bring them closer to God,” said Rev. Arne Panula, the vicar of Opus Dei in the United States. “The Church, in declaring Blessed Josemar�a a saint, reminds us that all men and women are called to sanctity.”

Blessed Josemar�a�s emphasis on lay holiness, while first considered radical by some within the Catholic Church, was later re-affirmed by the Church�s Second Vatican Council. Pope John Paul and other Church leaders have described Blessed Josemar�a as a precursor of the Council.

“Your institution has as its aim the sanctification of one�s life, while remaining within the world at one�s place of work and profession,” Pope John Paul once told members of Opus Dei. “This is a truly great ideal, which right from the beginning has anticipated the theology of the lay state, a mark of the Church and the Council.”

Blessed Josemar�a was born in Barbastro, Spain, on Jan. 9, 1902. He founded Opus Dei on Oct. 2, 1928. After his death in 1975, a third of the world�s bishops petitioned the Vatican to open his cause of beatification and canonization.

Vatican procedures for canonization � a formal declaration that someone is a saint � require an exhaustive investigation of a potential saint’s life, plus two authenticated miracles.

Pope John Paul II beatified Monsignor Escriv� in Saint Peter’s Square on May 17, 1992, attracting an audience of about 300,000 people.

On Dec. 20, 2001, the Vatican authenticated a second miracle attributed to Blessed Josemar�a, thus clearing the way for the canonization. A Spanish doctor suffering from chronic radiodermatitis, damage to his hands caused by repeated exposure to x-rays, was miraculously healed after praying for Blessed Josemar�a’s intercession.

The canonization later this year coincides with a worldwide, year-long series of events commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Blessed Josemar�a’s birth. At one of these events last month Pope John Paul said, “Blessed Josemar�a placed at the center of his own preaching the truth that all the baptized are called to the fullness of charity, and that the most immediate way to reach this common goal is through the ordinary events of each day.”

Since Blessed Josemar�a’s death in 1975, the number of people in Opus Dei has grown to 84,000 people worldwide, with 3,000 in the United States. …

In what sense precisely was Escriv� a “precursor” of Vatican Two? For an alternative perspective, and to learn a bit about What’s Wrong with Opus Dei, try or the Opus Dei Unofficial Home Page.

Good news!

NME (and everyone else) report that the Sex Pistols’ classic single God Save the Queen is going to be rereleased by Virgin Records on 27 May, just in time to top the charts for the Golden Jubilee on 3 June. It was probably always going to happen, but it is still very good news.

And, pleasingly, the BBC, reporting the news on Thursday, still refuse to admit that it went to number one last time around:

“In 1977 many radio stations were banned from playing the record but that did not stop the song officially reaching number two in the pop charts. At the time some people claimed sales figures had been massaged in order to prevent the single reaching the number one spot in time for the jubilee.”

Best of all would be if Rod Stewart could rerelease his “official” number one single from 1977 “I Don’t Wanna Talk About “/”The First Cut Is The Deepest” for a 25th anniversary outing, and we can find out which record has borne the test of time the best.

Mummified Communists

No weblog last week: too busy. Let’s start the new week with a handful of news clippings, and first with this one, about mummified communists, from Agence France Presse on 28 Feburary:

Lenin remains could remain in mausoleum for another 100 years: expert

The embalmed remains of Vladimir Lenin, which have been on display in a Red Square mausoleum since 1924, will be presentable for at least another 100 years, a Russian expert revealed.

The mummified corpse of Soviet Communism’s founding father “is in a very good condition and could stay in the mausoleum for 100 years with the appropriate care,” said the deputy director of the Russian centre for bio-medical technologies, Yury Denisov-Nikolsky.

The specialists of the centre “are doing all they can to preserve the remains of the Guide of the International Proletariat for a long time”, he told the RIA-Novosti news agency Thursday.

The mausoleum was closed Thursday for six weeks “for preventative work,” according to the Kremlin administration cited by the Interfax news agency. This will consist of “examining Lenin’s corpse,” Denisov-Nikolsky said.

The debate over the future of Lenin’s remains has quietened down since Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was opposed to attempts by liberals to remove Lenin from his symbolic resting-place just under the Kremlin walls and bury him. The Communists are fiercely opposed to the initiative.

A recent poll showed that 66 percent of people in Russia viewed Lenin’s role in the history of their country as positive.

Mr Denisov-Nikolsky seems keen to do Fidel Castro, too, when the time comes.