Tim Crane: Are you skeptical of the idea of universal human rights?
John Searle: No, I’m not skeptical about the idea of universal human rights. I’m skeptical about what I call positive rights. You see, if you look at the logical structure of rights, every right implies an obligation on someone else’s part. A right is always a right against somebody. If I have a right to park my car in your driveway, then you have an obligation not to interfere with my parking my car in your driveway.
On June 2, seven years of division between Fatah and Hamas came to an end. Hamas ministers in Gaza surrendered their authority to a new Palestinian government of national consensus, which pledged to adhere to the three principles demanded by the US and its allies as conditions for receiving vital aid. But little has changed in Palestinian relations with the West.
For French writer Jean-Patrick Manchette and the generation of writers who succeeded him, crime novels became far more than simple entertainment; they became a means of facing society’s failures head on. One after another the curtains are torn back. Pretense. Deceit. Manipulation. Till there in the small, choked room behind it all we witness society’s true engines—greed and violence—grinding away.
A photograph taken in Argentina in 2007 shows two cardinals, Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Tarcisio Bertone, sitting side by side, although their chairs are on two different levels. Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, occupies his virtual throne with kingly complacency, with a sporty pair of aviator sunglasses to complement his gold-embroidered miter. Next to him, in Jesuit black under plain white robes, Cardinal Bergoglio, with his iron cross and his horn-rimmed spectacles, looks open-mouthed upon the radiant spectacle.
Last week’s court ruling against job protections for California school teachers has distracted us from the genuine inequalities that harm minority children. It does not address the dire overcrowding of classes or the lack of resources for basic needs, including libraries, counselors, after-school programs, and nurses. Nor does it address segregation or poverty— root causes of poor academic performance.
Agnieszka Holland’s brilliant, ambitious, and moving new film, Burning Bush, begins at a violent and traumatic moment in Czech history, five months after Soviet tanks had brought an end to the Prague Spring. Part of what makes the film so affecting is the pace and patience with which it documents the gradual change undergone by its protagonists as they come to realize how unlikely it is that anything will change.
The conditions in which we read today are not those of fifty or even thirty years ago, and the big question is how contemporary fiction is adapting. What I’m talking about is the constant distraction we live in and how that affects the special energies required for tackling a substantial work of fiction—for immersing oneself in it and then coming back and back to it over what could be days, weeks, or months. Of course long books are still being written. But there is a battering ram quality to the contemporary novel, an insistence and repetition that permits the reader to hang in despite the frequent interruptions to which we leave ourselves open.
Narendra Modi, the decisive winner of India’s national election, rarely departs from Hindi and Gujarati; his English is serviceable but never elegant. In fact, his election coincides with a surge of confidence in India’s regional languages—a shift that is challenging English as the default medium of Indian public life.
Is it possible to feel more ambivalent than I do about Orange Is the New Black? I love the actors and I especially love that it is about a culture of women. It is good to see a light shed on the disgraceful situation of prisons in this country. But the experience of being entertained by this soap opera—which is often extremely funny—turns us into tourists of suffering.
Seventy years ago, on June 6, 1944, a heroic group of American Rangers scaled the one-hundred-foot cliffs of the Pointe du Hoc, a vital promontory on the Norman coast. They were setting out to break through the Atlantic Wall—the German defenses spanning from the Arctic to the Pyrenees. Today, these fortifications are monuments to failure.