truth

What is Democracy?

Death of Democracy

Part IV: What is Democracy

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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.

Metaphor as Identity as Metaphor…

We know from neuroscience that most thought is unconscious, carried out by neural circuitry. In Metaphors We Live By, Mark Johnson and I showed that much of that unconscious thought is metaphorical, and further, that we often live our lives according to those metaphors.

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So says George Lakoff, neuroscientist and linguist.  Mr. Lakoff recently posted an article in which he presents his take on the nature and implications of a primary metaphor driving the person currently occupying the oval office.  Mr. Lakoff’s central premise is that POTUS 2017 operates according to the assumption “the president is the nation”.   The “meaning” of the phrase itself, out of context, presents very little significance.   However, the true meaning of such a metaphor only appears in the expressed attitudes and behaviors that ensue from it.  Assuming the Lakoff depiction is accurate, an important question arises:  how might a person who suddenly finds himself in the most power office in the world behave as a result of the validation offered by the new found title “President of the United States”? (more…)

Consider a Think Tank

The seekingGood.blog has endeavored to provide useful information such that readers might expand their understanding of themselves and their overall knowledge as well as to subsequently act in accordance with the “Good” they individually manage to determine. This blog has offered repeated admonishments to “find out for yourself”, to do your own investigations.  Furthermore, while this is a decidedly left-leaning blog, we have also endeavored to encourage open-mindedness, exploration of competing ideas and transcendence of the comforting limits of habitual ways of thinking.  In this light, consider the following.

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[IMAGE from ClipartFest]

Introduction

Governments do not think.  People think.  Think tanks represent people thinking collectively.  Governments implement and enforce policies.  Regardless how much thinking individuals do, most will have little direct impact on public policy issues.  Think tanks—collections of thinking people–often help to develop or influence public policies. (more…)

Are We Prepared?

Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.      ~ Adyashanti


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Naomi Klein: “The worst is yet to come!”

What happens when disaster strikes?  What do we do when all normalcy ceases?  To whom do we turn when events like the recent Manchester bombing, the Paris attack or events like those on the morning of September 11th, 2001 in New York occur?  In her new book, No is Not Enough, activist and author Naomi Klein encourages us to be prepared for such disasters—which she calls “shock” events—not so much for the event itself but for likely actions by the U.S. government in the wake of these occurrences.

In the video below, Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! interviews Naomi Klein about her book Naomi Klein Interview.PNGand the general proposal that in the wake of a cataclysmic event, the U.S. government is likely to invoke a series of actions designed to tighten control of the general public.  Under the guise of national security relative to a shock event, the government is likely to suspend civil liberties, human rights and the right to privacy.  (Part 2 of the interview begins at approximately the 2:20 minute mark and lasts about 15 minutes).  In addition to the usual question and answer format, the interview presents a video within the video.  In the internal video, produced by the Intercept, Naomi describes a five step preparedness toolkit. She urges us to anticipate inevitable crises, at which times we need to be prepared to mobilize rather than comply with the government’s attempts to  contain us—to keep us in our homes, for instance, “for our own safety”.  We need to be mindful of the history of the previous U.S. government’s uncharacteristically freedom-destroying responses such as internment of Japanese-Americans during WWI, deportation of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the early 1930’s and abandonment of freed slaves in the wake of the Civil War. (more…)

A New Normal

Have you ever heard the phrase “defining deviancy downward”?   In the early 90’s, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan sparked controversy by using this phrase to address what he and others believed was a devolution of our socio-cultural standards.  Essentially, Moynihan suggested that we were allowing behaviors previously defined as “deviant” to become accepted as “normal” behavior.  He suggested that American society was beginning to accept what was previously unacceptable.  In a May 23rd video, Robert Reich describes various facets of contemporary instances of what he sees as defining deviancy downward, a devolution that is occurring right before our eyes.

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As always, this seekingGood blog encourages you to think for yourself.  Better yet, do some research to expand your knowledge of this issue of devolving values.  Perhaps you do not agree with these ideas at all.  Especially if you do agree, you might want to take a look at a dissenting view which appeared in a 1994 edition of Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture.


Robert Reich is an American political commentator, professor, and author. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997. If you find this video interesting, you might want to check out Professor Reich’s YouTube channel for frequent videos of this kind, posted under the name ResistancE is FertilE.


NOTE: This video was originally posted on YouTube on May 23rd, 2017. Mr. Reich makes references to what were then “current” events.