truth

Perspective I

persepctive - ParisIf you could do anything right now, anything at all, what would you do? Why? Here is a slightly different question. If you had no constraints, if you could cause one thing to happen in the world, what event or change would you choose? Now, consider that of all the things you could have chosen, you chose this (whatever that is). What does that say about you? About your orientation and desires? Do you express such interests in your day to day decisions?

When you begin to consider what you might do if you could do anything, what is your first and second thought? Hard to pin down? For many of us one of those thoughts will be negative—some reason we believe stands in the way of doing something we say we want. We bump our heads on that learned limitation some have called achievable belief threshold or ABT—which effectively stops us in our tracks. While our wishes reflect what is important to us, so do our beliefs in limits to our freedom to fully express ourselves. But are these limits real, imposed contrivances or excuses? (more…)

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…)

Inside-Outside I

…a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…
~ Lao Tzu

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Part I: Introduction

Sometimes we need to go back to basics. The proverb above is ancient (that is, “old”). The aphorism’s “classic” truth about a journey’s beginnings is not diminished by the age of the phrase. The idea is timeless. Yet to an alarming extent, our modern society eschews things “old” as unimportant, lacking worth. We do so as a component of our own demise. Perhaps we should begin to re-examine some of those “old” ideas that have provided strength and resilience in EveryDayLife.

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Agitprop and Us

The point is not what we expect from life,
but rather what life expects from us.
~Viktor Frankl

agitpropWe constantly look to heroines or heroes to “save“ us. We wait for messiahs, we follow gurus and place considerable faith in politicians and other individuals, elevating them to the status of societal leaders, policy makers and ultimately gatekeepers of societal norms. Many of us dutifully cast our votes at election time, assuming our ballot can effectively shift the scales in our favor regarding civil liberties, personal protection as well as economic and physical well-being. Essentially, when it comes to getting things done, to make life better, we tend to look elsewhere instead of looking to ourselves.

History belongs to the people. So says Sophia Burns in her article “Star Wars: ‘The Last Jedi’ is Revolutionary Agitprop”. Such a belief portrays us as the captains of our fate, the rulers of our days. However the attitudes and behaviors expressed by most people seldom justify such heroic notions. (more…)

What is Democracy?

Death of Democracy

Part IV: What is Democracy

Demacracy is a Fraud.PNGClasos/CON/Getty

What is this thing we call “democracy”.  Just as once there was some general consensus about the nature of truth—facts in the public sphere—we once believed we shared a relatively common meaning of the word “democracy”.  One of the reasons we (both in the U.S. and internationally) do not agree on how our governments should operate is that while we might call our form of government “democratic”, that is, reflecting the basic principles of democracy, we do not necessarily agree on the set of principles that constitute such an idea.  When we use the phrase “death of democracy”, we might not be talking about the demise of actual “democracy” at all.  In fact, we might be talking about something considerably more pervasive, profound and, if lost, catastrophic for American society.

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Death of Democracy III

Part 3: Morality That Divides Us

“I loathe nationalism.  It is a form of tribalism–the idolatry of the century”
~Cornel West

When many of us hear the word “morals”, we often withdraw, flinch, find someone else to talk to or another place to be.  In fact, morals, in the simplest terms, only refers to what we consider “good” (or “bad”).  All of us hold them (moral positions, that is).  We might not talk about them much (in a metacognitive, that is, self-conscious manner) but we express them constantly.

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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.