Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter229



Letters to the Editor

(November 21, 2011)


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The Timeless Buster Keaton: Raju Peddada's The Forgotten Auteur

To the Editor:

I really enjoyed Raju Peddada's articles on Buster Keaton; the details given about the Keaton films added to my appreciation of Keaton's artistry. Prompted by these articles, I rented a DVD of "The General," which also included "Cops" and another short Keaton silent film, to introduce Keaton to my 12-year-old daughter. All the films were wonderful, and yes, "The General" is a masterpiece. My daughter's initial skepticism about these "really old" movies melted as the pace and hilarity of Keaton's mathematically precise stunts mounted. For me a touching afternoon, as I can remember seeing Keaton and Laurel and Hardy movies with my father when I was just a child. These films are timeless; I felt I had passed something on. I'm glad Peddada has taken the trouble to research this film history, and present it so enthusiastically.

I found all the Swans articles thought provoking, but I was really taken with the ones on Keaton.


Manuel García, Jr.
Oakland, California, USA - November 17, 2011


Clarity of Language: Manuel García's Political Belief And Self Image: Aron, OWS, And Libya

To the Editor:

WOW! What else to be said? You need an American physicist to link together Raymond Aron, the decamped OWS, and the Libyan vaudeville. That, as we say in French, is a tour de force. Kudos to Manuel García for the clarity of his language and thoughts. Even J.P. Sartre, Aron's petit camarade, would have appreciated García's prose, before, of course, deconstructing it in the unintelligible fashion for which he was famous -- when he was not fornicating.

But Mr. García seems to be a newcomer to the words of Aron for he misses the fact, well-known in France, that Aron was deeply conservative and a precursor of neoliberalism (before the word was coined in the 1990s). Whether he belonged to the 1%, in today's nomenclature, I do not know (and do not think so), but he certainly advocated that power should be controlled by the enlightened few -- with moderation, it goes without saying.

Still, it does not take anything away from García's piece, especially in regard to the Libyan crisis. Revolutionaries and doctrinaires think in terms of good and evil, but in Libya the situation was, as Aron put it, between the "preferable and the detestable." Here, in France, we fully understood and mostly agreed with Sarkozy that a man who called his citizens rats who deserved to be exterminated had to be stopped by any necessary means. Sarkozy, to his merit, remembered Rwanda. Some surmise that there is no proof that Gaddafi would have obliterated Benghazi, but they conveniently ignore what happened to Misrata... Too bad he was captured by Misrata's boys... It was not a pleasant sight but we all felt a sight of relief that the would-be rat killer had been exterminated by the vermin! I do not know how Americans felt about this little commotion (I suppose not much since they are focused on themselves and their own travails) but here 90% of us felt that we were better off to do and be damned rather than be damned and not do.

By the way, if Manuel García wishes to learn more about Raymond Aron I'd recommend the reading of his Mémoires: 50 ans de réflexion politique ("Memoirs: 50 years of political thinking,") which was published by Julliard in 1983, the year Aron died. It's a very moving work and an exposition of his wide-ranged views.

Gosh, I am getting much too serious for my own sake, which, I guess, is due to my getting older...and soon getting married!


Alouette Arouet
Paris, France - November 16, 2011


Manuel García, Jr. Spanks Our Egos

To the Editor:

As a sometime writer of fiction I find Manuel García, Jr.'s view of the post WWII world fascinating. He sees events as produced by subjective national attitudes such as wounded self-regard, resentment over favors received, sensitivity to a loss of role, national pride, humiliation, vengeance and the like. That world seems like an immense novel portraying a multitude of untamed personal emotions. All it would need to be straightened out is a masterful therapist, some Kissinger disarmed except for a psychoanalyst's couch big enough for a national state.

When, however, I put on my amateur historian's hat the past looks different. An American liberal may sit down at his laptop and fashion his politics according to his personal whim. Then he can send off his comment to his favorite blog. But such "politics" did not make postwar Europe. U.S. troops, money, and ruthless pressure did. Forget airy "sympathy and goodwill"; hard material things won that chapter of the class war. The idea that, say, a Lille factory worker or a Welsh miner in the 1940s or '50s let his ego determine his side in that war is laughable.

Let me add a senior's note. At the time of Jean-Paul Sartre's death in 1980 I watched Raymond Aron on French TV reflect on the departed. From what he said off-the-cuff, I suddenly saw that much of Aron's effort of a lifetime had been to find room for his ego in the free-for-all of Paris intellectual life dominated by Sartre. So naturally his preaching on self-image makes me smile. Aron died in 1983. I commented on the two funerals in a British academic review concerned with France. Sartre's funeral, like Victor Hugo's, was overrun with youth while Aron's passed unnoticed. The professor editors were scandalized by my cemetery travelogue and barred my elucubrations thenceforth. Aron had become the Man of Atlanticist liberalism that has led to our inglorious present.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - November 18, 2011


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Published November 21, 2011
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