The New Caesars

October 3, 2019 at 8:26 am (By Amba) (, )

Historian Claire Berlinski jokes that she’s “the Dear Abby of liberal democracy,” but she’s more like the Joan of Arc of liberal democracy, beating the bushes to raise an army. (Of course “liberal” has become a dirty word on both right and left, but it used to stand for an ideal claimed by both, the optimistic faith that freedom of thought and enterprise would bring out the best in people—with some healthy arguing over the details.) In Berlinski’s view, it’s giving way to “illiberal democracy” —”democracy without freedom.” She writes about the wave of “authoritarian populism” sweeping the world and of the “New Caesars” who (shades of the Roach Motel), once voted in, may make it impossible to vote them out.
This is worth reading. You can skip the hissy fit for unsubscribers at the beginning, and start with “The Dear Abby of Liberal Democracy,” and further down, “Newspeak: How Did We Get Here?” A couple of appetizers:
[to a reader in the Czech Republic] The first task: No despair. You may feel utterly overwhelmed by the weight of the illiberal forces lined up against you. … You will not be alone in feeling this way. But don’t succumb to this sentiment. This is a path to ruin. None of us can retreat, in the coming years—as we will surely be tempted—to the politics of internal exile. … We must learn from each others’ experiences … It’s especially important for ordinary American citizens to be in personal contact with citizens of what I call the laboratory countries, countries like yours—the countries where the New Caesars are experimenting with and perfecting their techniques.
* * *

[After quoting Orwell on “Newspeak”] The shrinking of our vocabularies … has not been imposed upon us. We’ve freely and willingly contracted our own verbal skills, our own reading skills, our own sense of nuance in our language … People who care about speaking and writing precisely—people who use the full range of the English language’s rich vocabulary, people who understand language as a subtle and nuanced tool—have become despised by both the right and the left as elitists.

This is perhaps an outgrowth of our commitment to egalitarianism, in that we are hostile to aristocracy in any form. Our educated elites were once a form of aristocracy. Perhaps they suffered so intensely from the shame of being aristocrats in an egalitarian country that they adopted not only the concerns of the popular classes, but their manner of speech. …

Whatever the causes of the diminution of the American vocabulary, it has had political effects. The effects are those Newspeak was designed to have. We lack the words we need to speak precisely and accurately about our own system of governance.
For more of this historically literate point of view, which may help to clarify your view of what’s going on in front of your eyes:
The New Caesarism: A Lexicon
The New Caesarism: A Lexicon, Part II

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If you love someone, set them free

August 24, 2019 at 10:13 pm (By Amba) (, , )

Heavy fare for a summer Saturday night . . . but hey, freelancers don’t know from weekends or vacations.

This is Kierkegaard on free will. It’s actually very advanced Christian theology. I’m neither qualified nor motivated to debate its provenance, its truth, or its craziness. I just find it beautiful and thought-provoking.

“. . . goodness is to give oneself away completely, but in such a way that by omnipotently taking oneself back one makes the recipient independent. All finite power makes [a being] dependent . . .

“It is incomprehensible that omnipotence is not only able to create the most impressive of all things—the whole visible world—but is able to create the most fragile of all things—a being independent of that very omnipotence. Omnipotence, which can handle the world so toughly and with such a heavy hand, can also make itself so light that what it has brought into existence receives independence, Only a wretched and mundane dialectic of power holds that it is greater and greater in proportion to its ability to compel and to make dependent. No. Socrates had a sounder understanding; he knew that the art of power lies precisely in making another free. But in the relationship between man and man this can never be done . . . only omnipotence can truly succeed in this.”

~ Søren Kierkegaard

It’s just this to the nth power.



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The Fruit Bat Fitness Regime

February 5, 2014 at 12:27 am (Icepick) (, )

From one Eric the Fruit Bat:

Here it is, in a nutshell:

(1) Do something.

(2) Start now.

(3) Keep it simple. You didn’t turn into a blob overnight and you won’t get back into shape overnight.

(4) I’m serious about that. Do five squats every morning for a week. Next week, do six. After that comes seven. You get the idea.

(5) I’m serious. That’s how it’s done. One day at a time. Patience is a virtue.

(6) It wasn’t so long ago I would have to undo my belt because it was too tight at 40 inches. Now it’s about 31 inches. And yes, the femoral arteries are plain as day.

(7) You want to know what does that? Squats, diet and consistency.

(8) Oh, and one more thing . . . start now.

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