June 5, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality
Twitter Is Crap on Aggregation Tools

Damn: This is good: Jeffrey A. Sachs: Laicite: "I spent six years in Quebec, a province that has moved in fits and starts toward criminalizing public displays of religiosity...

...At present, public institutions will not serve women who wear niqabs or burqas, nor employ them https://twitter.com/benmanson0/status/1003777437069606917. Hasids face similar challenges. In neighborhoods of Montreal, local elections center on the question of whether eruv-thin wires suspended above the rooftops-are a threat to public order. The answer, of course, is laicite. But that doesn’t really tell us anything. Why laicite? What does laicite assume about the world and human nature?

So we work ourselves backward through time, paddle against the current, until we reach the Enlightenment, when someone suggested that maybe there is such a thing as a state of nature. A stable reference point prior to states, prior to culture, prior (maybe) to family itself. That’s when we were free. So we work forwards again: from Rousseau to the Tennis Court to Catholic counter-reaction to the Quiet Revolution to eruv. And now we have the beginnings of an answer: Quebec’s government is hostile toward public displays of religiosity because it believes that the public sphere is a sphere for freedom, and to be free means to be pre-cultural. Not a spouse or a Muslim or candlestick maker, but a citizen.

There it is. Enlightenment ideas structure our thinking so completely that we don’t even recognize them, or the justices/injustices they might facilitate. That’s why the heavy lifting of intellectual historians is so worthwhile. That’s what’s at stake.