Daily Office:


Matins: Paul Krugman addresses our most dangerous problem: the growing power of a right-wing rump without any interest in governing and with every intention of preventing others from governing: “the GOP has been taken over by the people it used to exploit. (NYT)

Lauds: Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, who “became a teenager in 1972,” fears that the Internet has not been a positive force for popular culture. He seems troubled by the fact that it makes too much old stuff too easy to get, thus reducing the need for new stuff. (BBC News; via Arts Journal)

Prime: Felix Salmon disagrees with Wall Street Journal writers on the subject of Ken Lewis’s “mettle.”

Tierce: Meryl Gordon’s discussions with some of the Marshall Trial jurors makes for fascinating reading at Vanity Fair.

Sext: Choire Sicha remembers “vividly” where he was when The Wall Fell — although he didn’t know a thing about it at the time. (The Awl)

Nones: George Packer reminds us why the Wall fell when it did, in a piece about the uniqueness of 1989 in Europe. (The New Yorker)

Vespers: Tim Adams talks about Alan Bennett‘s new play, The Habit of Art — a little. Mostly he appreciates a writer who, against all the odds, has become a beloved fixture in Britain. (Guardian)

Compline: Jonah Lehrer registers a new study about the “privileged” sense of smell. (Frontal Cortex)

One Response to “Daily Office:

  1. Allan Connery says:

    George Packer makes too strong a case for the uniqueness of the circumstances that undid the Soviet empire. Elsewhere, not much earlier, several dictatorships of various degrees of nastiness had quietly gone out of business. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Chile and Argentina immediately come to mind.

    If Packer is counselling us against facile optimism, that’s fine, but I would respectfully counsel him against facile pessimism. On balance, in the end, and on the whole, the Twentieth bloody Century was a good one for democracy.

    George Orwell didn’t see the good news coming, and I’m not sure Packer has noticed it yet. Orwell’s vision of the future – “imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever” – has been at least postponed indefinitely.

    There’s a mystery here: why did so many Twentieth Century dictatorships prove to be not merely fragile, but too enervated to resist their own demise? To adapt Orwell’s image, the man wearing the boot got bored, his foot went to sleep, and he limped away muttering “I give up. Oppress yourselves, or don’t. I don’t care.” And the person whose face he’d been crushing didn’t even throw a stone after him.

    All this happened not just once in the late Twentieth Century, but half a dozen times at least. Once might have been a rare concatenation of fortunate circumstances, as Packer would have it, but repeatedly, on two continents, in the same short interval of history? There seems to be a phenomenon here.

    Perhaps historians or sociologists have already offered an explanation, but if so their findings deserve a general audience. The Krugman piece you cite in Matins reminds us that when a governing class loses its energy, confidence and coherence, the consequences are of more than academic interest.