Tracing the roots of political thought

first_imgEric Matthew Nelson is a young, newly minted professor of government at Harvard, though his specialty is the long, complex history of political thought.His academic rise has been, by most measures, meteoric. Nelson graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1999, and three years later, at age 24, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge under the supervision of professor Quentin Skinner. Later, among other honors, he became a junior fellow in the prestigious Harvard Society of Fellows.Now he is an accomplished scholar of early modern political thought, a student of the venerable — and sometimes ancient — ideas that underlie present conceptions of liberty, justice, and property.His fascination with history and politics “goes way, way back,” said the native New Yorker, starting at age 4, when he first saw the film “The Ten Commandments.” The 1956 biblical epic, said Nelson, inspired him to give chatty tours of the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to his amused family.A childhood trip to Washington, D.C., prompted an interest in American history and the law, and by fifth grade Nelson had won a spot on the student senate at The Town School in Manhattan. He dreamed of a career in the law (both parents are lawyers), and maybe political office, perhaps leading to a judgeship.“I gave up the ghost very late,” said Nelson of his aspirations to a legal career. He set off to Cambridge, England, on a British Marshall Scholarship, clinging to that same dream, which lasted through his doctoral work.But by then, other early influences tugged Nelson toward scholarship, including a dramatic family heritage. One great-grandfather fled Russia in 1905, a time of enforced conscription and pogroms against Jews. His maternal grandparents are Holocaust survivors who were wrested from school by the Nazis. They are “both brilliant people,” he said, “who had very little formal education.”The drama of family history extended to his mother. Now a law professor at John Jay College, she was born in a displaced-persons camp in postwar Germany.Then there was Harvard. “I had such an incredible experience in college,” said Nelson. “People either do or they don’t get lucky in their teachers, and I was extremely lucky.”Nelson cites two mentors with special fondness: James Hankins, still a professor of early modern European history, and Richard Tuck, Harvard’s Frank G. Thomson Professor of Government, whose Knafel Building office is now next to Nelson’s.Nelson was a few days into his sophomore year when he met Tuck, a University of Cambridge scholar who was so new to Harvard himself that he was just unpacking his books. Nelson, 19, joined a graduate seminar taught by Tuck on philosopher Thomas Hobbes. The young scholars in that class would go on to join faculties at Oxford, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Chicago; another recently became one of Britain’s first black Tory members of Parliament.To the teenage Nelson, Hobbes was a real draw, the star who sparked a fascination that began with a freshman-year course on Western intellectual history that was taught by Hankins.Describing the 17th century author of “Leviathan” as “incredibly cool,” Nelson embraced Hobbes as an intellectual touchstone, and still does. He edited the first modern edition of Hobbes’ little-known translation of Homer, released in 2008 by Clarendon Press. (Nelson reads Greek, Latin, and German, and he both reads and speaks Hebrew, Italian, and French.)“Here is someone,” Nelson said of Hobbes, “who reasons from very egalitarian premises to extremely autocratic conclusions,” a person who nonetheless was widely admired among republicans of his day.The emerging, shifting, tumultuous history of republicanism informs much of Nelson’s scholarship. He is the author of “The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought” (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and “The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought” (Harvard/Belknap, 2010). He is working on a project concerning the political thinking behind America’s founding.Americans now accept that all humans have rights, can own property, and are free to affect their own governance. But these were all once controversial ideas, said Nelson, and it is the historian’s role to lead students back to the origins of political commitments that are taken for granted today.Students are shocked that “fixed points in our moral imagination” — such as opposition to slavery — were once not widely accepted, said Nelson. Exposing the roots of political thought, he said, is like “playing with live ammo. We’re talking about our most important commitments, and we’re scrutinizing them.”Concepts related to the republican ideal — justice, virtue, freedom, happiness, property — have immense power, said Nelson. “An incredible proportion of countries in the world are now called republics — even countries that aren’t,” such as Iran and North Korea.“Being a ‘republic’ is now the price of admission,” he said, to the modern political stage. “To achieve full legitimacy, you must be a republic, and that’s an extraordinary transformation of the political world.”Another extraordinary transformation is that monarchy is no longer “the default setting of the human race,” said Nelson. “Now if you have a monarch, it’s very important to show the monarch doesn’t actually do anything.”last_img read more

Clips of the Week: Extreme Heli, MTB Church, Metlako, Awkward High Fives

first_imgOur favorite outdoor videos from around the web for the week that was:Behind the Line: Heli PilotTeton Gravity Research praises their Alaskan heli pilot Teeg (Teig? Tege? Teague?) in the latest episode of their Behind the Line series. Some serious sketchy heli drops here.ChurchFantastic footage of some fall mountain biking in WNC. Where do you worship?Church from ZfH Productions on Vimeo.Metlako FallsWinter paddling action: running PA’s Metlako Falls. Looks, um, cold.Metlako Falls, PA from ARMADA Media on Vimeo.PSA: Chesapeake Bay ConservationThis applies to all of us. Also: cute animal shots.PSA: What does it take to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay? (Presentation Version) from Chesapeake Bay Program on Vimeo.High FivesHuckers, shredders, and all humans love to high five. It’s in our bones. But sometimes it can go wrong, horribly wrong. Here are some awkward high fives from the world of sports.last_img read more

Granger does not have the best interest of our people in mind

first_imgDear Editor,I read in a media article which quoted President David Granger in his address to PNC’s public meeting at Vreed-en-Hoop on February 03, 2019, saying “This is not about David or Irfaan. It is about the future of our children. It is about whether they can grow up in a democratic State. It is whether they could enjoy the quality of life that we promise them”. For me, this was an interesting statement and says a lot in my mind.I must say I agree with the President that the elections are not about personalities but what is best for the future of our country. Bearing that in mind, can we really say that our President and his colleagues are guided by such lofty aspirations? In the short but eventful period of the Granger Administration, we greatly declined to the point where we are clinging on to a singular hope of oil which, as several have pointed out, is no panacea. Can we really be assured of a good future when our Government officials travel off to faraway countries for healthcare and our ordinary people have to pay taxes on medical care and medication? What should we expect when our people are incarcerated for the slightest of infractions and a Minister can trample signs in a darkened parking lot with immunity and reportedly have a security officer losing his job? Or how can we have confidence in tomorrow when many of our people have nothing to put on their tables but we read of our Governmental elite dining on King Crab and the fanciest of foods. Is the current crop of personalities best for our future?The President said our children should grow up in a democratic state. But at the same time His Excellency delivered those remarks, he was openly and nakedly flouting the Constitution and a decision of the Chief Justice regarding the very democracy he wants our children to enjoy. He and his colleagues have cast dark shadows on our democratic foundation when he unilaterally named a Chairman of the Elections Commission, throwing away decades of tradition and precedent which worked. The Granger Government, we should not forget, also engaged in gerrymandering when it altered the construct of several Local Authorities just prior to the last Local Government Elections. Is this the democracy the President is speaking about?The President spoke about delivering a good quality of life to our children. But it was his Government that imposed VAT on private education which it had to walk back after it was met with wide condemnation. It is his Government that charges taxes on crayons, pencils, books and other essential school supplies. It was his Government that took away the State support to school children. It was his Government that ended the one laptop project, essentially denying children access to a computer in their homes. Is this the good quality of life the President talks about?The President talks a good talk, saying the right things but I have long learnt that actions speak louder than words. It is clear to me that the Granger grouping doesn’t have the best interest of our people in mind.Yours faithfully,Patricia Persaudlast_img read more

Uganda Rugby Cranes lose final Gold Cup game

first_imgThe Cranes went into the final game on the back of two wins (File Photo)Africa Gold Cup 2018Uganda 18-38 ZimbabweKyadondo Rugby Ground, KampalaSaturday, 18-08-2018Kampala – The Uganda Rugby Cranes ended their 2018 Africa Gold Cup on a low as they were defeated 38-18 by Zimbabwe at Kyadondo.After winning their last two games of the competition at the same venue, it looked like they would see off Zimbabwe but it was not to be.The Cranes got off to a poor start as they conceded an early penalty and seconds later Connor Pritchard powered his way beyound the white wash for the opening try of the tie for the visitors.Down to 14 men with Aaron Ofoyirwoth sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, Rugby Cranes were penalized for diving into the ruck, and a quick tap from Tafadzwa Chitokwindo caught the Cranes sleeping and he sneaked in the second try that Chris Tambwera converted for a 14-00 lead.Byron Oketayot cut the deficit with Uganda’s first try. From a line-out and rolling maul, Oketayot picked the ball and ran through to the try line and Philip Wokorach scored the resulting conversion.Minutes later, Wokorach slotted in a penalty to cut the deficit to 4 points.A few minutes to the beark, Robert Masendi’s poor attempted pass was intercepted by Brendon Mandivenga who raced to the white wash and extend Zimbabwe’s lead to 19-14.At the start of the second half, Zimbabwe increased their lead with Chitokwindo getting in his second try of the game.Uganda went on the attack and Michael Okorach forced one over but Wokorach who had an off day pulled his conversion wide.Wokorach immediatly made amends with a penalty to bring Uganda within six points (18-24).Zimbabwe Sables maintained their Africa Rugby Tier 1A status with a dominant 38-18 win over erratic Uganda Cranes.The Sables needed nothing short of victory to stay afloat and started the game with real intention putting the hosts under pressure early.The Sables then worked the ball through several hands and Shingirai Katsvere was at the end of it scoring a try with just over ten minutes to play.Uganda’s fight back hit a dead end as Shayne Makombe’s try in the 78th minute that Lenience Tambwera convereted put the game to bed for Zimbabwe and secured Tier 1A status.Meanwhile, Namibia defeated Kenya 53-28 to successfully defend the Gold Cup and qualify for next year’s World Cup.However, Kenya can qualify for the World Cup through a global repechage competition that will be played in France.The East African nation will tussle it out with Canada, Germany and Hong Kong.Comments Tags: Africa Gold cup 2018Rugby Cranestoplast_img read more