Essays and commentaries by James MacLean
Essais et commentaires de James MacLean

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Observations and analyses in these essays are those of the author, and are not to be attributed to the service provider or to any institution.

Telling the truth about World War I

Our soldiers did not sacrifice themselves so we could be free. The Great War was not great. Death, chaos and ugliness cannot be life, order and beauty. Professional killers should not be honoured qua professional killers. Was World War I normal? Why did they do it?

Why University Education Should Be Free

The 2012 movement of students and their supporters against tuition fee increases in Quebec has brought the issue of the cost of post-secondary studies to the forefront of public debate in Canada. Is the post-secondary education of a significant portion of the citizenry sufficiently important for the functioning of society today to be considered a public and not a private good that, like secondary studies, should be provided to all qualified citizens free of charge?

On Humanitarian War

NATO The discourse of so-called humanitarian war posits the existence of a nebulous entity called the "international community", which is imagined to hold high legal and moral standards and to have a moral duty to intervene in civil conflicts. However no such high-minded entity exists: the term designates nothing more than the United States and its allies, which are themselves responsible for wars of aggression against powerless states and destitute populations. The problems created by a civil war can never be solved by the unilateral injection into that war of even more war, and the concept of humanitarian war is in fact used as a smokescreen to camouflage these wars of aggression

Three Questions on Democracy, Obama, and War

Capitol (1) What is the real (as opposed to the imaginary, ideological) function of the state? (2) Is the process by which the leaders and members of the state structure (i.e., politicians) are selected, namely the electoral process, equivalent to democracy? (3) Does an electoral mandate give moral legitimacy to the organizing of mass killing (as in the war in Afghanistan, where NATO forces have killed many thousands of civilians)?

What is an Empire?

British Empire In the late twentieth century, the architecture of Empire changed through the globalization of multinational corporations. Manufacturing, and more recently marketing and similar services, have been transferred out of First World countries into low-wage zones in Asia and Latin America. There has always been a close connection between empire and war, and the present globalized economy is associated with a state of permanent war.

Why did the United States conquer Iraq? The war economy and the permanent régime of war

Although the United States had lost its longtime Soviet enemy, it has retained an economy that devotes as many resources to military equipment and personnel as every other country in the world put together. Over 100,000 American companies receive Pentagon contracts. Virtually every social class and every geographical region of the United States has a stake in this military economy. From time to time, even when there is no visible enemy threatening, this economic machine must have an outlet to allow for the renewal of production. This outlet is war.

The Anti-war Movement in Canada

The contemporary peace movement in Canada came together in 2002 to work with similar movements elsewhere to stop the invasion of Iraq. On February 15th, 2003, over ten million people around the world, including a thousand here in St. John's, rallied against the planned war. By 2006 Canada found itself plunged into the Afghanistan war, and the Canadian peace movement has redirected its primary focus. The movement faces difficulties, such as the increasing dependence of the North American economy on the war industry, and a dejected feeling that the war machine steam roller is so powerful that nothing can be done to stop it. Ultimately those who want an end to these terrible atrocities have a choice: either do nothing, or do something.

Four principles for remembering the war dead

We no longer reckon Germans, Austrians, Italians, Japanese, Russians or Chinese as our mortal enemies, and rather than dying under their guns and bombs and levelling their cities and killing their civilians by the hundreds of thousands, or being prepared to do so, we now want them to come to study at our university. Here, accordingly, are four principles to observe in modernizing Memorial University's remembrance activities: (1) Do everything possible to spare present and future generations the fate of earlier victims of war. (2) Remember and deplore the death of all victims of war, whatever their national origin, and especially civilian victims. (3) Never assume or imply that the human life of Newfoundlanders and Canadians is more valuable than the human life of Germans, Japanese or Pashtuns, and refuse historically counterfactual catchphrases, like the spurious claim that First World War soldiers killed and died "so that we can be free." (4) Make no compromise with the defeatist assumption of the normalcy of war.

Oral submission to the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence

The Senate Committee on Defence and Security should call on the Government of Canada to end immediately all forms of military collaboration in any formal or informal military alliance with any foreign states that possess weapons of mass destruction, and/or illegally attack or invade any other countries.

Soumission orale au Comité sénatoriel permanent de la Sécurité nationale et de la défense

Le Comité sénatorial permanent de la sécurité nationale et de la défense devrait demander au gouvernement du Canada de mettre fin immédiatement à toute forme de coopération militaire, officielle ou officieuse avec tout État étranger qui possède des armes de destruction massive, et/ou qui attaque ou envahit illégalement, avec ou sans occupation, tout autre pays.

When is censorship justified?

Voltaire I defend censorship in certain well-defined cases, arguing that it is perfectly consistent with the principle of freedom of expression as this principle is found in the political tradition on which the modern state is founded.

Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau For Claude Lévi-Strauss the ultimate lesson of Rousseau's anthropology is a lesson in humility, a humility which derives from the human person's natural capacity to identify with all forms of sentient life. Lévi-Strauss concludes that there is only one truly unpardonable crime for a human being: "to consider oneself, in the short term or in the long term, superior [to others], and to treat other human beings as objects."

The Two Meanings of "Liberalism"

Adam Smith The term "liberalism" is used in two distinct, and even contradictory ways. In Europe liberalism means minimizing government participation and regulation in the economic sphere. By contrast, American "liberalism" is equivalent to what Europeans call "social democracy": it favours intervention of the state to redress some of the inequalities arising out of capitalism and the historic role of certain groups such as blacks and women. How did these different meanings evolve from classical eighteenth-century liberalism?

L'action sociale et la doctrine sociale de l'Église catholique

Il y a deux volets également indispensables de l'action sociale chrétienne : d'un côté l'aide immédiate qu'on doit offrir à ceux et à celles qui souffrent, et de l'autre la critique morale des structures socio-économiques. Nous distinguons trois moments dans l'interaction de ces deux éléments formateurs de l'action sociale chrétienne, celui d'abord de l'Évangile, celui ensuite de la tradition catholique et du magistère, et celui enfin de la situation d'aujourd'hui et des défis de l'avenir.

Becoming an Adult Christian: a Personal Memoir

Paul Tillich As a young person I came to understand that Christian beliefs were not empirical facts but affirmations of value, that they did not mean accepting an antiquated cosmology, that God is not "a being", however perfect, that the message of the Gospel cannot be reconciled with the practice of war, and that Christian faith, while developing the inner spirit and personal relations, means as well an engagement with real life and the real world.

Ritual and Toleration in Sixteenth Century Europe

Sebastian Castellio In early Protestantism we observe a partial de-ritualization, with a shift of emphasis in their ritual gatherings away from the physical and the gestual towards the verbal. However the new word-dominated forms of ritual were quickly institutionalised, while at the same time Protestant theology became a new codified and normative orthodoxy in those European states where it was adopted. A theory of toleration and freedom of conscience could be developed only outside of institutional Christianity, appearing in the writings of that small group of European thinkers (notably Sebastian Franck and Sebastian Castellio) who came to reject ecclesiastical religion altogether.

The Critique of Institutional Religion in the Later Middle Ages

Jan Hus It is possible to identify three schools of religious thought in the later Middle Ages that provided a theoretical basis for challenging either the validity or the necessity of the Church's institutional apparatus. These are: the evangelical reform movement associated with Wyclif and Hus, the popular form of mysticism that was practised in the German Rhineland, and the eschatological movement initiated by Joachim of Flora which flourished among spiritual Franciscans of the late thirteenth century. I focus on aspects of these three movements that point in the direction of, and lay the foundation for, the non-ecclesiastical spiritualism of radical sixteenth-century thinkers like Sebastian Franck.

Initiation à la littérature ou initiation à la lecture ?

Autrefois à l'université Memorial notre programme d'études littéraires commençait en deuxième année par une introduction à la littérature française de la fin du Moyen Age au XXe siècle. Cependant, les enseignants constataient que la majorité des étudiants de deuxième année ne comprenaient qu'avec beaucoup de difficulté les textes qu'ils lisaient. La solution consistait à leur proposer des cours d'initiation à la lecture en deuxième année, à la place des cours de littérature. Or la distinction entre « lecture » et « étude littéraire » n'est pas nécessairement évidente, car il s'agit, dans l'un cas comme dans l'autre, de lire des textes de façon attentive, donc d'en faire finalement une certaine analyse. Mais dans un cours de lecture il s'agit de privilégier les problèmes langagiers, d'insister sur l'analyse grammaticale et sur l'approfondissement du vocabulaire des étudiants.