Archives for category: authoritarianism
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Get a vaccine, wear a mask…

“You can’t deprive others of their liberty without forfeiting your own. Liberty is lost with every person seeking to control others for their comfort and sentiment.”

Getting a vaccine and wearing a mask are sensible things to do, right?

Establishing a free environment, where all individuals might enjoy their liberties, is also a sensible thing!

For the simple reason that even a casual examination of history provides ample proof that freer societies fare far better than those which curtail individual freedoms.

Simpler said than done…
Mention the mandatory mask and the imperative advice to get vaccinated to those passionate about individual liberty and you have a hornets’ nest on your hands.

Or maybe this is an excellent occasion to discuss the ‘gap’ we constantly need to bridge between individual freedoms and a free society?

Can you have a free society composed of slaves?

The answer depends on who gives it to you.
I’d spent the first 30 years of my life under communist rule.
My country, Romania, was declared, by those who were ruling it at that time, as being free. Both domestically and internationally.
The only free individual was the ruler. Nicolae Ceausescu. He was the only guy who could do as he pleased. And only for a while… Until 25 December 1989…
In the end, the regime had crumbled and the only ‘free’ individual had met with the consequences of how he had chosen to use his freedom.

So no, you cannot have a free society when one individual, or a group of individuals, impose their will on everybody else.

‘Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’

Otherwise put, if you refuse to get vaccinated/wear a mask you might be instrumental in getting me sick. Or dead.

‘Might’! It’s the ‘might’ part which troubles you!
Why should you shoulder a minimal risk/discomfort for my safety? Specially when you’re not convinced that my safety is in danger… Or, maybe, you’re thinking ‘let him take whatever precautionary measures he considers to be necessary!’

Because of India, that’s why!

Do you consider present day India to be a free society?
Do you consider that people currently living in India are truly enjoying their freedom? Today?!?

And no, I’m not going to contrast what’s going on in India with what the Chinese government had done.
First pretend nothing had happened then lock up the entire population.

No!
I’m going to contrast what’s going on in India with how the ‘other’ China had reacted to the Covid pandemic. Or with the South Korean response.

Different economic realities… Different cultures…
Maybe!
But also different levels of economic and social disruption!

Don’t tell me that what’s going on in today’s India won’t have repercussions!

This book represents Djuvara’s thesis for his 1974 Doctorat d’Etat.

There are two main ideas which are to be pointed out here.
A first one hidden under the distinction he identifies between ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’.
The second being the bread and butter of his thesis. That civilizations are initiated in one place, diffused/exported for a while and then replaced – or led further, depending on how one chooses to interpret the facts, by people until then living somewhere on the fringes of the civilization they are replacing/refurbishing.

Nothing really new, right?
‘Cyclical History’ wasn’t invented yesterday. And certainly not by Neagu Djuvara.

Well, Djuvara’s ideas – like everybody else’s, are nothing but ‘overgrowth’. Things which sprung in people’s minds ‘on top’ of what those people had already learned. Found out. Or, of course, both.

In a sense, what I’ve said in the previous sentence is the very condensed abstract of Djuvara’s second ‘main idea’.
The first, the ‘hidden’ one, – again, in an extremely abridged version, being that ‘history, as a narrative, is nothing more and nothing less than what historians choose to make of the facts they had learned about’.

Too blunt?
Well, first and foremost, I’m an engineer. Not a fancy pen-pusher…

OK. Let’s go further.
I’m going to illustrate, briefly, Djuvara’s main thesis by presenting his version of what had happened in Europe. What had started as an European phenomenon, more precisely.

The Roman civilization had grown at the periphery of the Ancient Greece. And, eventually, took over more ‘space’ than the Ancient Greeks.
The Russian civilization had grown at the periphery of the Byzantine/Orthodox one and eventually took over. Or, at least, attempted to…
The Holy Roman Empire of German Nation ‘recycled’ – or, at least, attempted to, the ‘ancient’ values and traditions.
Great Britain had grown at the periphery of Europe until it took over the whole world. At least for a while…
The US, which had started as a British colony, had grown into the most powerful nation known to man.

‘OK, I understand what you meant by trailers and trailblazers. Some of those who trail might end up trailblazing.
Do you want to add anything?
Is there an actual point to your post?’

Yep.
As they say about the market, ‘past performance is no guarantee about the future’.
The fact that things have happened as they did is no guarantee that they’ll keep unfolding in the same manner.

In a sense, Fukuyama was right, after all…
Even if not in the sense he thought it!

According to “The end of history” people – all over the World, had realized the relative merits of ‘liberal democracy’ and ‘capitalism’. Which were going to be put in practice, effectively marking ‘the end of history’.
Thirty years past that moment, it seems that things aren’t going in that direction.

I’m I contradicting myself? Who’s right, after all?
Djuvara? Since history doesn’t seem to have stopped?
Or Fukuyama, but for some other reason? Than the one advertised by him?

‘History, as a narrative, is nothing more and nothing less than what historians choose to make of the facts they had learned about’

Then, if history is ‘man made’, what about the future?

Can we really make it? Predict it?

‘Make it’, for sure!
If not us, then who?!?

‘Predict it’… that’s something totally different!

There are signs, though.

First of all, Djuvara had described something which can be compared with fire burning in a savannah. It starts in one place, burns for a while… and then starts up some place else. Until now, no fire – no fire known to man, had burned any savannah so thoroughly that nothing was left for a ‘second’ fire.

Secondly, Fukuyama said that history will end when all humankind will sync. When all ‘civilizations’ will be run according to the same paradigm. According to the liberal democratic and capitalist paradigm, in Fukuyama’s vision.
We’re still far from that.
Only there is one paradigm which is willing to play that role! To fill those shoes…

The ‘greed is good’ paradigm!
Or, if you don’t like to think in ‘monetary’ terms, the ‘my version is the only right one’ paradigm.

The problem being that these two work in concert.
They are two facets of something called ‘intellectual arrogance’.

I’ll come back to this notion sometime in the future.
Now I’ll end up telling that there’s not much left of the ‘savannah’.

When things were unfolding as Djuvara described them, the planet itself was more or less ‘virgin’. Unexploited. Unoccupied.
Human culture used to be diverse. Ideas were developing. Traded. From one place to the other. From one culture to the other.

Nowadays, much of the planet – our home, is occupied by the, more or less, same civilization. And by an increasingly similar culture.

Nothing inherently good nor bad here, mind you!

If we still have no definitive history, then the future hasn’t been written yet.
It’s up to us to choose the right trail.
For no other reason than the fact that there are very few trails left for us to burn!

After ‘firing’ Trump, the President, America’s most important stake-holders, “we, the People”, are scrambling to adapt to what Trump had laid bare.

Books are being written.
Many blame Trump. And explain, in detail, what he had done while manning the Oval Office.

The G.O.P. is somewhat fractured. Some want to get over Trump, others to hide behind his still towering presence.
The Dems act like he was a mere accident. One which can, and they are hard at work attempting to do it, be ‘band-aided’ with some money. Government money, of course.

A few years ago, I had read an interesting article claiming that Trump had been made possible by the media.
Googling to find it, I stumbled upon another. Which summarizes what Trump had done to the media

I still have to find, only I’ve lost patience, an explanation for what had ‘fed’ Trump.
Trump as social phenomenon…

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.
Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth.
Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.

Trump has made himself famous. Among others, for imparting new meaning to the concept of ‘fake-news’. And for using “alternative facts” to introduce us to an ‘alternative reality’. His…

Only his reality did have something in common with that faced by many of his fellow Americans.

Middle class incomes have shrunk 8.5 percent since 2000, after enjoying mostly steady growth during the previous decade. In 2011, the average income for the middle 60 percent of households stood at $53,042, down from $58,009 at the start of the millennium.

Oops!
Suddenly, Trump’s ‘alternative’ reality – part of it, at least, has become one with that experienced by “we, the People”. By a majority of them, anyway.

What made so many people – dispirited, undoubtedly, believe that a self professed pussy grabber and proud member of the Washington establishment would solve their real-life problems… by ‘draining’ the very ‘swamp’ in which he had grown to his present stature … that’s something for other people to explain.

My point being that Trump’s behavior had very closely followed that of Goethe’s Apprentice Sorcerer. He had used his uncanny knack of playing hide-and-seek with reality to climb into the Oval Office only to be fired after one mandate.
To be the first American President who had survived two impeachments.
And the second one who had witnessed – more or less unmoved, the untimely demise of half a million Americans due to disease

But the first who had done that during a mostly peaceful mandate. Pandemic, true enough, but otherwise peaceful.

NB. The ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic, which had happened during Woodrow Wilson’s mandate, had caused the death of 675 000 Americans. Only that had occurred just after a world war, when viruses hadn’t yet been discovered and man hadn’t yet walked on the Moon.

What will happen next?

Who knows… Goethe’s poem had a relatively happy ending because a master sorcerer was at hand. Who had solved the problem with a swift gesture of his powerful wand.

No such easy solution is available now.
But one thing has become clear.
Again…

Two things, actually.
Too many dispirited people eventually become a powerful – and highly unstable, ‘Petri dish’. Where all kinds of ‘social experiments’ might ‘spontaneously’ explode.
And playing with people’s passions might take you places. But will, almost always, end up badly.

‘Are you nuts? or something?
Isn’t exactly this what the Europeans had been doing all over the world? For the last five centuries?
And you attempt to ‘nuance’ it?
Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?!?’

Ashamed of what some of my predecessors have done, yes!
Also ashamed of what some of my contemporaries are doing.
Right now, as opposed to back then.

And since there’s nothing to be done about the past, but to learn from it, and everything to be done about the future, right now, I’d rather have at least some of those statues still standing.

In public squares!
Maybe not in the same places, maybe not in the same settings. But still in public!
Hiding them in museums would mean taking them out of the limelight. Out of public scrutiny!
If we are to learn anything from past mistakes we must focus on them. Putting those statues aside because we feel too strongly about them would only serve those who don’t want to admit mistakes had been perpetrated. Who actually don’t want to own our past.

Those who had promoted Jim Crow legislation had erected the confederate statues as a symbol of their regained public influence.
Obliterating the statues won’t make anything suddenly right. The consequences of Jim Crow won’t disappear, as if by magic, along with the statues. They didn’t disappear when the legislation had been abolished and they won’t disappear now.
If we want to put the past behind us, we must accomplish what has to be accomplished. We need to make things right, not hide away the prickliest pieces of evidence.

Demolishing statues won’t help any of those living in still segregated neighborhoods. Won’t help the children going to heavily underfunded schools. And so on…
Demolishing statues will only help those who will certainly ask, in a few short years, if nothing changes in our hearts and minds:

What more do they want?!?

We’ve even dispatched those damn statues!!!

You have to give this to the guy.

You really have to give it to him.
He was absolutelly right about his supporters being loyal.
‘No matter what’ kinda loyal…

“”Most Americans want neither inaction nor retribution,” McCarthy said, despite surveys showing a majority of the country in favor of impeaching and removing Trump from office. Most Republicans do not, however.
“They want durable, bipartisan justice. That path is still available, but is not the path we are on today. That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.
“These facts require immediate action from President Trump — accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure that President-Elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term. And the president’s immediate action also deserves congressional action, which is why I think a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution would be prudent. Unfortunately, that is not where we are today.””

““Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.”

As for the fact finding mission… I wonder!
Given the amount of loyalty extended to Trump by Kevin McCarthy, how many years might pass before the facts will be ‘found’?

5?!? And who would be fingered for ‘starting the whole thing’?

Where there’s a will there’s a way

According to the internet, this proverb is way older than the American Constitution.

Now, will ‘they’ find a constitutional way to set a precedent?
That a guy who had so horribly – and tragically, misused the sacred notion of “freedom of expression” has no place in such a powerful position?
Or, by failing to do so – for whatever reasons, will ‘they’ leave open the ‘opportunity’ for an even more callous ‘political animal’ to climb into the Oval Office?

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Abraham Lincoln, 1838

Imagine an ‘outside observer’. From, say, Sirius.
Who had just arrived. Didn’t have enough time to become familiar with what’s going on here.

Thailand.
Ballots had been cast in November. A party had lost. And pretends, without proof, that the elections had been rigged.

“In his first public comments after the coup, Gen Hlaing sought to justify the takeover, saying the military was on the side of the people and would form a “true and disciplined democracy”.” GETTY IMAGES

When the parliament was about to be convened, and the electoral results formally confirmed, the backers of the loosing party – which had happened to be the army, declared martial law and annulled the electoral results. The leading general announced in public that the measure had been adopted in pursuit of a ‘real and disciplined democracy’.

The US.
Ballots had been cast in November. The looser pretended, without proof, that the elections had been rigged.

When the parliament was convened to certify the results, a mob had stormed the House of the Parliament, at the bidding of the loosing President. Order was finally restored and the dully elected President installed into office.

What would the ‘outside observer’ think about our planet? About us…

What if their job is to asses whether we should be allowed to roam the Galaxy?
To be entrusted with some very powerful technological ‘secrets’. Which would help us solve some of our very stringent problems. Feel free to name a few…

Cultural Dementia by David Andress

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


One of those books which function as a magnifying mirror.
The older you get – and the more mistakes you’ve made, the less you like of what you see when facing it.



View all my reviews

I challenge you to try an experiment.
Click the illustration bellow, copy the link and post it to your favorite social media.
Then observe the likes you’ll get. I wasn’t surprised to notice that many people on the right side of the political divide were quite fond of it’s spirit…

‘Yeah, only MLK hadn’t been “formally affiliated with either political party“…”

Well… how about this one?

‘OK, and your point is…?’

That there’s not much real difference between the radicals. Between the radical members of both parties.
Both are so convinced that they ‘know better’ that neither have any qualms trying to impose their vision upon everybody else.
Both are so convinced that they are right that they ‘hate’ all other authority but their own. And they hate each-other’s guts… only that comes with the territory…

Let me start with the beginning.

I grew up under a communist regime. Drowning in propaganda. The education system was finely tuned to raise us, children, as ‘the New Man’. All cultural effort – culture was ‘sponsored’ by the communist state and heavily censored, was meant to achieve the same goal. Immediately after the communist regime had grabbed the absolute political power, the legislation had been altered to reflect the ‘new reality’. And then used to convince the people to change their behavior according to the new rules.
According to whatever the new masters had in mind …
So that they could control everything. That nobody else could have exerted any authority. That nobody else could have had any real influence over anything.

And, as you might know, the communist regime – most of them, anyway, had eventually crumbled. Under its own weight.

Which teaches us two things.

That whenever a system is run in an authoritarian manner, mistakes keep piling. One on top of the previous one. Constituting the dead-weight which will eventually sink the ship.
That no artificial ‘New Man’ will ever survive for long. Yes, you may ‘legislate behavior’ – even against the true wishes of the general population, only the ‘new’ arrangement will not last for long. For a ‘legislation’ to be able to survive for any substantial amount of time it has to reflect the ‘true heart’ of those called to put it into practice. To ‘follow the rules’. That you ‘can restrain the heartless’ but for only as long as the ‘heartless’ remain a small minority.

Want to ‘change’ something? Then open people’s eyes first. Only that way they’ll eventually open up their hearts.

‘What about the spat between AOC and Ted Cruise? Where’s the link between what happened with GameStop and MLK’s attempt to regulate behavior?’

Both AOC and Ted Cruise hate the fact that there are independent agents. Besides them, of course. That there still are people who call their own shots. Private companies they cannot control, media venues, independent authorities… The ‘AOC’-s and the ‘Ted Cruise’-s of this world hate each-others guts but have more or less the same convictions.

That they are right – and everybody else is wrong.
And that there must be a way!
That there must be a way, a ‘rational’ way, in which their righteousness may be imposed upon the rest of the world.

That ‘rational’ way implying two things.
Control over the ‘material’ resources and control over people’s minds.

That’s why the communists had ‘abolished’ private property. That’s why the (no longer free market) contemporary capitalists are OK with extreme wealth polarization. As long as they on the right side of the ‘in-equation’, of course…
That’s why education has become such a hot subject.
That’s why control over the legislative process has become so important.
Why controlling the markets – controlling them, not preserving their freedom, is paramount…

The only bright thing in this whole mess being that the two sides still hate each-other’s guts.
Which gives us some more lee-way.

Time to understand that for progress to be possible we need to take care of our roots. To ‘conserve’ them!
Time to remember that ‘pruning’ needs to be done carefully.

That we have to ‘cut’ only what’s ‘wrong’, not everything we don’t like.

How to tell those two apart?
‘Humility’ comes very handy in these moments….
Freedom isn’t for free. Nobody is free by itself, only together.
Those who really want to be free must start by respecting each-other.
That’s how mistakes are avoided. By asking for a second-opinion. By listening to what others have to say on the matter.
That’s how normalcy is being defined. And preserved.
How we learn what’s ‘wrong’. How to tell what works from what needs to be pruned.

I cannot wrap this up before giving you a fine example of how ‘propaganda’ works.
It starts with cutting up the truth. By actually pruning it to fit the purpose. Then let’s our already primed brains to do the rest.

See what I mean?

Trump summoned supporters to “wild” protest, and told them to fight. They did

One of my high-school mates had emigrated to Canada. From Romania. He’s been living there for 25 years now. We keep in touch. A few years ago, he told me:

“We come from their future. I currently experience things which had already happened in Romania.”

His prophecy had been fulfilled, and then some, yesterday. The sixth of January, 2021.

1991, Romanian miners occupying the Romanian Parliament.

The differences between the two instances exist and they are not insignificant.

Both Trump and Iliescu – the Romanian president at that time, had been democratically elected. Both on populist platforms, even if the concept wasn’t as widely used in 1991 as it is now.

Only 1991 wasn’t the first time the miners had come to Bucharest.
In 1990 Ion Iliescu – the ‘cripto’ communist leader who had risen to power as a consequence of the 1989 uprising, had ‘thanked’ the miners for quelling a ‘festering’ anti neo-communist protest organized mainly by students.
In fact, this had been yet another precedent. ‘Occupy’ Piata Universitatii 1990 versus Occupy ‘Everything’ 2011.
In 1991, the miners had, again, ‘occupied’ Bucharest. Again, ‘supposedly’, under their own volition. The then prime minister, Petre Roman, had adopted some very stringent free market reforms. Which had fallen foul of both Iliescu and certain swaths of the population. Hence the miners had not been driven back to Valea Jiului until Petre Roman had been revoked from office.

And 1991 wasn’t the last time the miners had attempted to make themselves noticed…
As the old saying goes, it’s harder to quiet down a hornet’s nest than to stir it up!

We’ll see, as the blind man always says.

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