Opinion editorials, reviews and personal essays
By Grace Deng
Chinese propaganda regularly cites America as a hotspot for gun violence.
In this case, Chinese propaganda isn’t wrong: there have been 154 mass shootings in America since the start of 2018. While the Chinese government does not release official gun violence numbers, a rare independent study found a total number of four mass shootings from 2000 to 2014—in a country where a fifth of the world’s population lives. America loses credibility as a world leader in human rights—namely, the right to being alive—when their gun control policy is more destructive than authoritarian China’s.
Gun policy in China is simple: private citizens can’t own guns. While there are a few exceptions, many SAS students say they’ve never even seen police with guns other than bank security. Meanwhile, Americans own half of the world’s guns despite being 5% of the world’s population.
Last month, the Chinese Embassy in Washington issued a notice warning Chinese tourists of “frequent shootings.” One in 315 Americans will die by gun assault (not including mass shootings). According to the National Safety Council and the National Center for Health Statistics data, guns kill Americans at a faster rate than car accidents, fire, and “any force of nature.”
Gun enthusiasts point to the proliferation of knife attacks in China, saying the violence will always move somewhere else. They cite the Kunming massacre of 2014, a terrorist attack driven by knife-wielding assailants at a railway station in China. But a lone man with a knife can not kill fifty people at a concert in Las Vegas.
Gun control in America is unlikely to change anytime soon. The NRA has a stranglehold on the GOP, and the chances of Democratic control over the Senate this year is bleak, despite recent optimism over flipping the House. All Americans can do is express dissent, a liberty Chinese citizens don’t get.
Recently, the Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times stated in an editorial that Americans should put the right to life above the right to gun ownership. When China can lord over America’s human rights abuses, it’s time to listen to reason.
By Ryan Strong
Why Liberalism Failed (Politics and Culture)
By Patrick J. Deneen
248 pp. Yale University Press.
Though the title seems to suggest that this book would be a conservative polemic against those on the left, it is in fact anything but. This book, in fact, is a sweeping critique of modern political theory and practice, particularly within the American context. Furthermore, Deneen, a professor of political science at Notre Dame, indicts both sides in the political debate as being opposite sides of the same coin of classical liberalism, which is the main target of his short polemic.
Classical liberalism is the first term that needs to be defined. Classical liberalism is one of the three “great” Enlightenment ideologies: fascism and communism being the other two. It is associated with such luminaries as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Rosseau. It is generally associated in the public imagination with features such as written constitutions, civil liberties, and democratic elections.
Now, as far as it can be seen, Deneen is not particularly opposed to the ideas listed above. However, he argues that classical liberalism, rather than simply being a pragmatic political arrangement, actually has a fundamental view of human flourishing, human nature, and the good that discreetly shape the policies of most liberal democracies. Thus, arguably the center of Deneen’s book is a criticism of the state of nature. The state of nature is an idea that tries to imagine human beings in a period without culture or society. Deneen argues that this idea is fundamentally wrong-headed, as no humans in any point in history live without culture or society; humans are tribal animals, after all. Furthermore, the book argues that the essential project of liberalism is to return man to the imagined state of nature. In other words, classical liberalism wants to liberate man from all constraints that could be placed on him by community, family, and society.
As a result, the book argues that the massive amount of social isolation, collapse in community engagement, and social problems that currently afflict the United States are actually a direct result of classical liberal ideology, an ideology that he argues permeates both political parties. Thus, he argues that it is essential for alternatives to classical liberalism to be developed in order to allow these problems to be resolved.
To begin, the book definitely is one of the most fascinating books I have read all year. Its thesis is totally original, and Deneen is obviously a capable political scientist. In particular, I enjoyed his reading of John Locke, as he describes how Locke actually supported the creation a new elite to replace the aristocracy of the Ancient Regime; I never knew about the anti-egalitarian thread of liberalism.
Perhaps my main reason for being skeptical of Deneen revolves around his sense of doom and gloom. After all, there have been pundits in late modernity who have been constantly predicting the end of the world, and surprise; the world is still spinning. Another possible area of criticism is whether or not philosophy really drives history to the degree that Deneen seems to think that it does. However, it seems to me that material circumstances drive acceptance of ideas as much as ideas drive material circumstances. Thus, perhaps the problems that Deneen sees in the United States are not solely attributable to classical liberalism.
In the final analysis though, "Why Liberalism Failed" deserves to be widely read for the sheer boldness of its thesis and its willingness to cut against the grain of modern society. If nothing else, "Why Liberalism Failed" is certainly more profound and thoughtful than most of what passes as political discourse in modern society. I also think that it is particularly relevant for SAS students who often have a more Western outlook, but live in a country such as China. It perhaps challenges what can sometimes be our complacency about the superiority of Western, liberal democracy and force us to consider if other systems have benefits. As a result, I strongly recommend all students, especially those who like politics, to read it and consider its merits.
By Ryan Strong
If I had to sum up this review in one sentence, it would be this: Stanley Kubrick is a genius. Full stop. Even 50 years after its release, 2001: A Space Odyssey is still as revolutionary as it was in 1968. It has a constant feeling of freshness; moreover, it has a constant feeling of a transcendent experience, perhaps unmatched by any director since.
So, where to begin? The logical point would seem to be the plot and narrative, but that is a bit complicated with 2001 (more on that later). Anyway, the superficial plot is that mankind (well, actually members of the American government) discovers a mysterious, black monolith on the surface on the moon. As a result, a manned mission is sent to Jupiter where another monolith is believed to be. There are five members of the mission, three of which are in hibernation. Did I mention the computer? Ah, yes, the HAL 9000 computer that runs the ship, who is “foolproof and incapable of error.” Naturally, of course, things go disastrously wrong when HAL messes up, the crew members decide to deactivate him, and so he decides to kill them all. After some action (Spoiler: people die), the mission makes it to Jupiter and the mind-blowing final act begins.
Of course, this is only the superficial plot. The actual plot takes place on the level of human evolution. The opening sequence occurs on the savannah of Africa with a tribe of apes that are human ancestors. The movie ends with another evolutionary jump for mankind. Of course, evolution is not the only theme, and those themes are extraordinarily debated. What, for example, is the meaning of the HAL computer? Or, what is the meaning of the black monolith, which is hardly explained at all? However, I actually think that this is part of what is great about the film; it never spells out completely what it means, forcing the viewer to actually wrestle with the film.
Along with a lot of the interesting questions about the themes, some of the best elements are the technical aspects of the film. In particular, the music is just astounding. Kubrick actually selected all classical pieces of music for the film, and they work marvelously. Indeed, the main theme “Thus Spake Zaruthasa” has become so intimately connected with the film, even though it was composed long before the film was made. When the monolith appears, the music makes my hair stand on end out of fear for what is coming next. However, hands down, the best part of the film is when we are first shown the spaceships, we see them waltzing in time to Strauss’s “The Blue Danube Waltz.” It is a moment of sheer genius, one of the many in this film.
Perhaps the only possible criticism I could level at it is the fact that the film is slow. I mean, really slow. Kubrick takes as much time as he wants for small, seemingly unimportant things like space flights. When watching these scenes, then, the most important thing to remember is to enjoy the cinematography which is exceptional.
In the end, 2001 is a thinking person’s film, something that resists interpretation, but at the same time is richly rewarding when delved into. For teenagers in particular, the film wrestles with existential issues that we ourselves are only beginning to wrestle with: questions of transcendence, of the unknown, and hope for the future. If you ever get bored of Marvel movies, this is definitely the film for you.