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Inside-Outside II

Introduction to Part II

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We began this journey with the Sophia Burns article on the movie, The Last Jedi.  Uncharacteristic for the Star Wars series, the general message was curiously populist—that people cannot rely on leaders or grand heroic figures to “fix things”.  We must rely on ourselves. In this second segment of Inside-Outside, we consider the driving forces within us and our collective experience as these forces impact our ability to choose.  Toward the end of the article, a simple exercise is presented—an exercise which, if employed diligently, could revolutionize our daily lives. (more…)

Timothy Snyder Speaks

Remember the post from last summer when we highlighted Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny?  He has begun a YouTube series called “Timothy Snyder Speaks”.  Take a look at episode 7, in which Professor Snyder talks about “The Evil of ‘America First’”.

Timothy Snyder Speaks

Prof. Snyder describes the series as informal talks that fall between “the 90 seconds” afforded during a TV interview and a 45 minute class lecture.  Each is a five to fifteen minute treat of a learned person concerned about the current political climate in America.  Agree or disagree, his gentle, almost offhanded style should allow you the opportunity to debate with yourself in an open, civilized manner. While your there, check out other episodes in the series.

What’s Old is New Again

Remember Dan Rather? Most of us who are even “just a little bit older” certainly do. Mr. Rather, a former anchor of the CBS Evening News, was one of the most well-known broadcast news journalists during a time when the news gave the appearance of being “truer” than many broadcasts manage these days. Some of us might find comfort in knowing such a persons is still at it.

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Apparently, Mr. Rather has teamed up with the Young Turks on their YouTube channel to present a weekly news broadcast. Take a look at the first one. Sober, direct, calm, seemingly non-partisan, the broadcast feels trustworthy enough. You might like it enough to subscribe.

Dan RatherThe endeavor, which Mr. Rather describes as “an answer to what TV news has become” is streamed on YouTube every Monday at 5:30 EST. You might at least get a bit of comfort, a brief respite from these troubled days of “fakenews”.

You might also want to check out the post “State of the Union Address” broadcast from the end of January.

 

State of the Blog

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The first posting on this site appeared one year ago.  The blog arose out of a desire to focus the thoughts and actions of a group of social scientists, artists, educators and others around the general topic “what is happening to the United States and what should we do about it”.  We began 2017 largely with small reposts of articles and videos that seemed noteworthy without appearing overly partisan.  As the months passed and the vagaries of WordPress formatting presented less of an impediment, the posts began to change, dramatically increasing in length, complexity and containing significantly more original content.

The reset for this New Year (2018) will initially return to more “light” fare until the major stories for the year emerge (just as net neutrality and democracy became the major themes of 2017).  The blog’s intention, however, is to shift focus from external or civic (socio-political) events to more internal psycho-social states we each experience as individuals. (more…)

Any questions?

Apologies to those expecting a follow-up to the post on Tim Snyder’ book On Tyranny.  That post is in the works, but has proven to be more complicated than expected.  (As a teaser, Mr. Snyder has predicted a coup in the U.S. within the next year).

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While researching the possibility of a coup d’etat in the U.S., we came across a site called QuoraQuora is a question and answer site where questions are “asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users”.  We have not researched this site enough to rate it, however, a brief perusal suggests the questions to be interesting and the answers to be well thought out and thorough–sometimes.

You will have to register through a real account like Google or Facebook.  During the registration process, you can focus the article categories as a filter for your personalized topic “menu”.  Available topics like politics, health, technology, music, etc.—just as you might expect—are included.  These topics become immediately available to you when you complete the sign up process.

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The site cannot be characterized as either heavy or light.  Backing into the site, so to speak, by following a link to a particularly good article (answer to a question) initially gave the impression of depth and seriousness.  However, further exploration for only a short time began to feel pointless. The questions posted vary dramatically.  For instance, there are questions which roughly might be characterized as trivia (“Could a current medical doctor have saved Presidents Lincoln and McKinley with our current medical knowledge?”).  Some are personal (“When is the loneliest moment of your life?”).  Some are political (“Why aren’t jobs coming back to the USA?”, “Have there ever been any countries that have tried to overthrow the US Government?” and “Is a coup d’etat underway in the USA?”). The profundity of the answers are largely determined by the questions. (Incidentally, the articles on the possibility of U.S. coup d’etat are quite interesting.)

Quora will probably never be one of your go-to sites for research.  But you might find it an interesting ancillary source of information.

On Tyranny

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In a country fond of seeing itself as “the land of the free”, in the last couple decades, fear seems to have considerably tarnished this idealistic notion. We say we want freedom, but for whom? Too often, such notions suggest that we want freedom within the boundaries of what we idiosyncratically define as “US”—a term that has increasingly become more grounded in exclusivity than inclusion. This “US” comes to inform our socio-politically charged definition of freedom. In an attempt to stave off fear, our expectations are tinged by a new found xenophobia; we redefine a continually shrinking concept we used to refer to as “a free American”. In so doing, we open the door for those who would exploit our assumed sense of vulnerability. But when freedom does not apply to all, ultimately, it will fail to encompass any of us.

On Tyrrany“European democracies collapsed into right-wing authoritarianism and fascism in the 1920s and ‘30s… The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”

So writes historian Timothy Snyder in his recently published book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. On Tyranny is a tiny book, 126 pages measuring only about 4×6 inches. Each of the twenty suggestions forms a chapter consisting of only two to five pages.

Mr. Snyder does express certain biases (such as casting a jaundiced eye toward the Internet). However, for the most part, the book is largely written from a non-partisan perspective, focusing on various means of preserving freedom and staving off tyrannical control. As the book is quite easy to read, you can probably finish it in an hour (although you will likely ruminate over its contents for much longer).

Some of Snyder’s suggestions are expected (such as #3 – Beware the One-party State). Others are either surprising or defined in a thought provoking manner. For example:

  • #  2 – Defend Institutions
  • #10 – Believe in Truth
  • #11 – Investigate

All address–directly or indirectly–some of the more hidden aspects of what is currently happening in the United States.

In a Washington Post review, Mr. Snyder’s book is described as “a slim book that fits alongside your pocket Constitution and feels only slightly less vital.”  Some folks have been so taken with this little gem that they have bought multiple copies to distribute for free (a little over $6 on Amazon).

Requiem - Chomsky book coverOnce you have read through the Snyder book a couple times you might, on reflection, find yourself thinking a bit differently about the state of affairs in the United States. While the twenty suggestions Snyder offers are pointed and helpful, the brevity of the book prevents comprehensive treatment of any idea. As such, you might want to follow-up Snyder’s book and expand your understanding the mechanism of tyranny by tackling the more in depth descriptions of “reality” in the U.S. by reading Requiem for the American Dream, Noam Chomsky’s new book. Professor Chomsky addresses tyranny from the perspective of identifying various tactics of oppression such as reducing democracy, attacking solidarity and marginalizing the population—all of which have been happening and continue to occur as you read this. Like On Tyranny, Requiem is easy to read, although not quite so brief.

Finally if you are really committed to understanding tyranny and how it might have been the underlying mode of governance in the United States for decades, consider Sheldon Wolin’s more challenging and comprehensive book Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.

Update: WikiTribune – On its way!

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Remember the seekingGood teaser about the crowdfunding endeavor for WikiTribune, a new evidence-based journalistic initiative launched by Jimmy Wales (one of the founders of wikipedia)?  The group behind WikiTribune reached their funding goal and has entered the next phase of the project.  Take a peek here if you would like a more general update on what is going on with WikiTribune.

More specifically, as of August 3rd, 2017, WikiTribune has hired three journalists and an editor, all of whom you might like to know more about. (more…)