The downtown academic community is not happy with the results of the presidential election. The general disappointment was evident yesterday at a public forum entitled "What Happened?" at the New School.
The announcement for the event, quoted New School history professor Eli Zaretsky: "Few people have noticed that the causes of Bush's victory were the same that Gibbon gave for the fall of Rome: Christianity and barbarism."
"The election was between intelligence and ignorance, and ignorance won," faculty member Jeffrey Goldfarb said at the event. Mr. Goldfarb referred to the present democratically elected administration as a "regime."
Philosopher Simon Critchley said the Republicans had read their Machiavelli and misread their Nietzsche. Mr. Critchley also believes that the Democrats have an impoverished understanding of the politics of fantasy.
He said that the party has been "too bloody decent," "too nice" wanting to bring healing and reconciliation, but they "need teeth" and to "throw away their John Rawls," referring to the Harvard philosopher best known for his book "A Theory of Justice."
If a "new regime of truth" is emerging, then, referring to Yeats's "Second Coming," it is a "new rough beast," he said.
He divided the red and blue states into "Puritania and Pluristan." He said it was a time for cruel Swiftian satire.
"Enough of decency," he said, "Let's laugh at them," for "they, I feel, surely are laughing" at us.
During the question-and-answer period, Robin Blackburn praised the fact that the two candidates faced off for six hours on network television.
He noted that Senator Kerry had not broached the financial scandals or the torture at Abu Ghraib. When President Bush accused Mr. Kerry of being a liberal, the Democrats had "no narrative" - perhaps Senator Kerry ought to have responded along the lines of "I'm a tough liberal."
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PHILOSOPHY AND THE MIRROR OF NATURE
The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU presented a conference entitled "Us v. Them & Beyond: The State of the Divide between Believers and Secularists." The conference boasted Freeman Dyson, Jack Miles, Michael Kazin, Akeel Bilgrami, and Kwame Anthony Appiah.
During the question-and-answer period following the first panel, audience member Jerry Spivack suggested that the panel on "Ameican Exceptionalism" was "us versus us" rather than "us versus them."
When asked why a conservative evangelical with differing opinions had not been invited to the conference, moderator Frances FitzGerald replied, "Efforts were made." Barnard College professor Randall Ballmer, a historian of the evangelical movement, said, "You'd have to talk to the organizer."
Lawrence Wechsler later stressed the phrase on the other side of the conference's title, namely that the conference aimed to discuss the state of the divide.
On the same point, in the Washington Square News, Mr. Wechsler had been quoted as saying earlier, "It seemed to me that it would be more valuable to have people who can talk to each other." He didn't want a "food fight between Evangelicals and foaming atheists."
During her remarks, Katha Pollitt of the Nation said that liberalism includes conservatism: For example on the abortion issue, she said, the prochoice stance allows for a person to be pro-life.
But the basic composition of political views at the "Us v. Them" conference refuted Ms. Pollitt's point.
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TEAR DOWN THAT STATUE
A conference at Columbia University hosted by the Heyman Center for the Humanities addressed the issue of "Rethinking the Left." Speakers and respondents included Mr. Blackburn and Partha Chatterjee.
At one point, geographer David Harvey said in an aside that at ground zero, as part of the new commemoration, there should be a statue of an imperial-looking President Reagan holding in his upturned palm a Taliban figure, who in turn would be holding Osama bin Ladin.
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Pop icon Olivia Newton-John will be honored at the Plaza Hotel at a benefit for the Children's Health Environmental Coalition and Arts for Healing tonight.
The two groups have joined forces to protet chidren from risks caused by exposure to toxic substances found in the environment.