An Old Prediction About Trump, the Left, National Pride, And Scapegoating

Here is a fascinating, deep, albeit brief look at something unexpected: A liberal philosopher predicts of the rise of a Trump-like figure 20 years ago based on the worst elements of the left’s political  and philosophical blunders. He is not the only one to make such an observation (note the linked video from Jonathan Pie is one profound explanation of the rise of Trump, but it is NSFW- lots of bad language). Back to Rorty. He explains:

“National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals, a necessary condition for self-improvement”

My thoughts: A few things that are becoming more apparent to me:

The political left despises America, many of its historic values, and many of its citizens. They don’t want to improve America so much as bury it and create something new in its place.

The modern left, just as the neoconservative movement, has departed from it’s more historic values (liberalism).

In the article there is another insightful paragraph. In trying to remove the stigma from minorities and the underprivileged, the left has shifted it onto middle class white people. Many of them were glad to throw it back.

The lesson? Demonization doesn’t work.

“Rorty’s only issue with identity politics was that the left, having worked so hard to transfer stigmatic cruelty away from received categories like race and gender, had done too little to prevent that stigma from landing on class—and that the white working class, finding itself abandoned by both the free-market right and the identity left, would be all too eager to transfer that stigma back to minorities, immigrants, gays, and coastal élites.”

Source: Richard Rorty’s Philosophical Argument for National Pride – The New Yorker

Music as Cultural Warfare: How the Nazi’s Co-opted the Orchestra to Serve Their Political Ends.

Art always bows to some greater ideology. There is no such thing as neutral art. It always conveys a message. Most often it is a servant of the strongest principles within a culture. This brief article reviews research to show how the Nazi propaganda machine slowly took over the Berlin orchestra to reinforce ideas of German National Socialism.  The author is clear that the foundations for this were laid many years before. Yet hearing about the actual events is both fascinating and chilling.

This process started with understanding the power of music as a cultural force. Then Goebbels “annexed” the  Berlin orchestra in the same way that Germany annexed land during the war.  But it started when members of the orchestra were willing to sell their autonomy and their souls for more money and other cultural benefits. After that, they were owned by the Nazis.

This kind of research is delightful stuff for history nerds like me. And the great question of history is always, “what does this mean for us today?” I think at present most people are associating fascism with Trump in the US. But to be honest, when I read this, I thought much more about the music and entertainment business in America as supporting the Left. In our country, one of the great weaknesses of the conservative movement has been second rate art. But within Hollywood there is a group-think that preaches leftist (rather than liberal) ideas.  Think I am exaggerating? Just listen to the speeches at the Oscar’s.  Add to this the recent censorship that is happening on University Campuses in the name of having “safe spaces” in the name of avoiding hate speech, and you can see that the Left has a much tighter grip on these cultural expressions.

In any case we need to be aware that culture-makers are trying to recruit us (and at times enslave us) for their view of the world. This is an inescapable reality for good or bad. Dictators who want to hijack culture will always move toward this source of power and it is in the best interest of free people to be aware of the greater agenda. I think the ideal situation is a culture of arts that is both free and reinforces important virtues.

Some tidbits from the article:

 

“The alchemy of the transformation began with a gradual relinquishment of autonomy, especially stark in Berlin. The Berlin Philharmonic, nationalized into a state-owned company in January 1934 under Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda, began to perform in the old Philharmonie on Bernburger Straße under an immense swastika. It was now expected to render service to “the German cause.” (Even Goebbels did not speak of “Nazi music” but of “German music.”) Goebbels, who began to call it “my orchestra,” increased its subsidies and its musicians’ salaries and personally signed letters of exemption from military service for its members. Goebbels also lavishly funded a movie about the orchestra (released in late 1944), which Trümpi calls “the most expensive advertising campaign ever undertaken on behalf of the Berlin Philharmonic.”

And again,

“After the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria in March 1938, things were even worse in Vienna, which liked to think of itself as the “music city” par excellence. Trümpi, the first historian granted full access to the Vienna Philharmonic archives, reports that a blacklist compiled in 1938 named 11 Jewish orchestra members, and ten more who were married to Jewish women. After the Anschluss, an annexation as much cultural as territorial, all were either forced into retirement or dismissed. Seven of them would be murdered in the Holocaust. Close to half of the philharmonic’s remaining musicians joined the Nazi Party.”

Source: The Baton and the Jackboot

The Barbed Gift of Leisure – The Chronicle of Higher Education

 

Here is a thoughtful essay on the fact that the leisure we all desire is actually fraught with significant dangers and temptations. Mark Kingwell (the author) is obviously a scholar and his writing cuts across the standard short-attention-span variety of prose that flows in the gutters of the internet (translation: this is not an easy read).

In any case the article is thought provoking and profound. He concludes with something significant. What to do with our time when we don’t have to work to put food on the table? That question brings up the greatest question all: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here anyway?  He writes:

“More profoundly, though, is a point that returns us to the original vision of a populace altogether freed from work by robots. To use a good example of critical consciousness emerging from within the production cycles of the culture industry, consider the Axiom, the passenger spaceship that figures in the 2008 animated film WALL-E. Here, robot labor has proved so successful, and so nonthreatening, that the human masters have been freed to indulge in nonstop indulgence of their desires. As a result, they have over generations grown morbidly obese, addicted to soft drinks and video games, their bones liquefied in the ship’s microgravity conditions. They exist, but they cannot be said to live.

The gravest danger of offloading work is not a robot uprising but a human downgrading. Work hones skills, challenges cognition, and, at its best, serves noble ends. It also makes the experience of genuine idling, in contrast to frenzied leisure time, even more valuable. Here, with only our own ends and desires to contemplate—what shall we do with this free time?—we come face to face with life’s ultimate question. To ask what is worth doing when nobody is telling us what to do, to wonder about how to spend our time, is to ask why are we here in the first place. Like so many of the standard philosophical questions, these ones butt up, however playfully, against the threshold of mortality.”

And this thought about our social media addiction is the best line I have read in while:

We are no longer owners and workers, in short; we are, instead, voracious and mostly quite happy producers and consumers of images. Nowadays, the images are mostly of ourselves, circulated in an apparently endless frenzy of narcissistic exhibitionism and equally narcissistic voyeurism: my looking at your online images and personal details, consuming them, is somehow still about me.”

Source: The Barbed Gift of Leisure – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Why Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year Matters

Another great contribution by Ravi Zacharias. What comes through so clearly is the irony of scholars and media personalities who will insist there is no truth and then complain about lies. It shows the emptiness of postmodernism and its self defeating attempt to destroy the truth by denying its existence. I have said it before, but it bears repeating, people who deny the existence of rules only want that privilege for themselves.

Ravi writes:

“We now live in a “post-truth” culture where misremembering is normal. (Not surprisingly, within hours of the American elections, a French television network baptized our culture as “post-logic.”) These two bastions of values, the academy and the media—where relativism flows in their veins—have become the town criers of this new word. Castigating the politicians, they untruthfully predicted the destination of the untruthful. Excoriating an electorate gone amuck, they wondered how people could be duped into a lie. Having themselves swallowed a camel, they strained a gnat. They are the primary carriers of word manipulation, repeating distortions often enough to make them into truths. Caring not for truth but for effect and for the manipulation of all thinking, their victory is pyrrhic.”

Again:

“It used to be said, “If a Cretan tells you all Cretans are liars, can you believe him?” Now we have to ask ourselves if we can believe it when a post-truth culture tells us it is a post-truth culture.”

And this one wins the day:

“And we have so extinguished the light of truth in our halls of learning that it is possible for a Harvard student to say, “I can believe anything I want, so long as I don’t claim it to be true.”

Source: Why Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year Matters

Why Schools Are Failing Our Boys

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“Statistically speaking, boys now lag behind girls on every single academic measure; they also get in trouble and drop out of school much more frequently than girls. There are fewer boys in college than girls, and far more lost 20-something boys than 20-something girls.”

This article is a helpful intro on how our education system is failing our boys. In many ways normal boy behavior is considered at best an inconvenience, and at worst a disorder to be treated.  This is important stuff, and if you would like to explore this more check out the book “Boys Adrift” by family practice MD and psychologist Leonard Sax.

You need to read this if you have little boys.

Our current system is not helping boys succeed, it is holding them back. And this in spite of the ongoing myth of oppressed girls in the academic environment.

Source: Why schools are failing our boys – The Washington Post

The Unexpected Cost of Materialism

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Today I found an old iPad charger in a drawer while cleaning out some clutter. This discovery made me take a moment to reflect. Why? Because I didn’t know I owned this charger. At some point I bought it and stowed it away. But that moment was lost in the archives. In fact, several months ago a friend asked me to borrow it because theirs stopped working and they had to wait for the new one to arrive in the mail.  When they asked, I told them no. I would have gladly loaned it, but I couldn’t share I didn’t have. And you might as well not own something if you don’t know that you own it or can’t find it.

I recently preached on some of the problems with materialism and consumerism at our church, so this has been on my mind. You can listen to the message here. But finding this charger clarified several things for me. Here are a few more observations that can fuel the movement to get away from “stuffocating” our souls with material things.

When you have too much stuff, you have trouble remembering what you own. If you do remember, then it is because you have devoted vital time and mental energy to keeping track of it. This is time and focus that should be spent on things that actually matter.  It can be like our own private version of warehouse management.  Simply trying to organize and remember what we already have can be exhausting, and expensive.

And if your house and garage are full, then something like this will probably happen to you:  You need something that you think you already own. But you don’t know for sure, and you definitely don’t know where it is. So you spend a lot of time and frustration looking for it. And if you can’t find what you are looking for, you may end up going to the store to buy another one anyway. Now you own 2 of them.

This whole arrangement is draining. And that is the real price of having too much stuff. It robs us of our time, focus, and emotional energy. And these are limited resources that  should be used for things that are really important, like God and people.  And it is not just exhausting when we are trying to find the thing we need. It is exhausting because thousands of things we might need some day are in the way of the life we are trying to live everyday.  How many of us know we should straighten up our stuff to make life more navigable, but the thought of spending several hours (or days!) is just too overwhelming?  What’s the answer? Lets go shopping!

Better to give deliberate thought to the meaning and purpose of our lives and then determine to only acquire and own what we need for that purpose.

When and Why We Overlook Unethical Behavior

The folks at the Harvard Business Review point out the natural ways that employees punish unethical behavior-often through social means like walking away from an unethical person or leaving the room when someone enters. Basically this means that when we know someone is a cheater, it is so distasteful that we don’t even want to be around them. But there is an exception, and it is revealing.

When we are willing to tolerate or overlook really bad behavior there is always a reason. Often it is because we are benefitting in some way. It may be financial, social, career advancement, etc.  But the reason is revealing.  If there is real evil in your circumstances and you are unwilling to take a stand against it, you can learn something important about character. The reason you won’t take a stand may reveal what you value most.

Here is something from the article:

“Unethical high-performing employees, however, appear to receive a free pass for their unethical behaviors. These people may be unethical, but they get the job done, and enhance the organization’s short-term profitability along the way.

“This is the case even in organizations that on the whole are considered highly ethical. In our third study, we took into account the organization’s ethical environment and still found the same pattern of results. Irrespective of the extent to which the organization prioritizes ethics, unethical high-performing employees still had better working relationships with their peers and were less socially rejected than their unethical low-performing counterparts. There’s something about being a high performer that appears to mask concerns related to immorality.”

Source: We Don’t Shun Unethical Coworkers If They’re High Performers

You Can’t Slow Things Down by Speeding Up – Or- You Need Time To Delegate

The problem with being over-busy is that you might actually get more done. But this only lasts for a brief period of time at the beginning. But invariably the rushing/exhausted pace leads to bad decisions and the inability to make judgments about what is really important. This is the lesson I am trying to work out in my own life.

Here is more fuel for the fire on this whole discussion:

“If I take some time off – on a holiday, over the weekend, or even just not checking mail in the evening after closing time – my decisions get better. I don’t just keep grinding it out, trying to get strategic by processing ever more detail. I start to notice what is really important so I can leave the rest, or delegate it to someone more qualified or more motivated to do that thing.

“When running at full tilt I don’t even have time to think of passing it off to others.  I’ve seen this over and over again in my work with people leading teams. Things are stuck not because there is no one to do them, but because the person who has them on their plate doesn’t have (or take) the time to clarify who should be doing them.”

Source: You Can’t Slow Things Down by Speeding Up – Next Action Associates

The Value of Community and Solitude are Interdependent

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I am studying for a sermon series on community and fellowship for our church and was struck by an odd realization.

The loss of a sense of community also signals the loss of meaningful solitude. The reason is that without meaningful relationships, solitude is no longer a nourishing respite. It is similar to the way sleep becomes different for a person that isn’t able to get out of bed. It still happens, but the way it is experienced is different from the person that is exhausted from a hard day of physical work. Without meaningful community we may fall into a state of constant loneliness, and in such a state periods of solitude may do little more than magnify the feelings of isolation.

Job Interviews, False Impressions, and Why People Get Fired

Here is a brief article with some fascinating ideas on how to avoid the reality of false impressions and deception in the job interviewing process. A short read, and worth it. The “car test” is very interesting… Also using the interaction with the secretary.

An interesting tidbit on the real reasons people get fired:

“According to one study, only 11 percent of new hires who failed in the first 18 months did so due to deficiencies in technical skills. The majority washed out due to problems with motivation, an unwillingness to be coached, or a lack of emotional intelligence.”

Source: The 1 Job Interview Technique You Need to Use | Inc.com