Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Other People’s Thoughts’ Category

Walter Williams

Dr. Walter Williams

In my post on my review of the book Red River (Unfulfilled Potential) I included a link to a speech given by Walter Williams, an African-American professor who takes issue with some of the assumptions I attributed to the author of Red River. How strongly the author holds to such assumptions, I don’t know, but I made some assumptions of my own based on her comments in the back matter of the book. Looking over my post, I thought it might be helpful to take Professor Williams’ speech and condense it to what I was getting at in my book review. Williams fundamentally “gets it” when we white people express frustration in dealing with race relations of the sort I mentioned in my earlier post. So, below are my notes on his revealing speech:

According to Walter Williams, there are three basic assumptions we take for granted when we look at race discrimination in America. They are: (1) Discrimination has adverse effects on the achievements of a race; (2) statistical differences between races imply or measure discrimination; and (3) statistical differences will no longer exist or persist if discrimination were eliminated.

Dr. Williams then takes each of these assumptions in turn and explains them.

Assumption One: Discrimination has adverse effects on the achievements of a race (and blacks in particular).

Race Relations GraphicThrough the centuries Jews have faced great discrimination and yet they have achieved a higher average income than the general population and have a higher-than-average education. Now, you might say that the Jew is at an advantage because he could simply change is name from “Goldstein” to “Smith” and simply melt into the population. However, most have not and are in fact generally known to be Jewish or we wouldn’t have their stats to look at.

The Japanese and Chinese have also faced horrible discrimination, and they cannot simply change their name to melt into the general population. About 15% of the general population in America are professional workers; however, among Japanese Americans 25% of their population are professionals. 24% of Chinese Americans are professionals. Both these groups have a higher income then the national median and have the lowest crime rate, lowest alcoholism rate and highest marital stability.

But, you might say, people have a “special dislike” for African Americans. Well, West Indian blacks in America also have a higher income than the national average and have a slightly higher average of professionals in their workforce. Now, will a potential employer take the time to find out if the black he is interviewing comes from the West Indies? Probably not. (These West Indian blacks have a similar heritage of slavery as the American-born blacks.)

Lest you think discrimination only has effects in America, consider that 60% of GNP in the Southeast Asian countries of Burma and Malaysia is owned my Chinese citizens, even though they are only 13% of the population. In fact, there are Affirmative Action programs for the natives in some Southeast Asia countries.

Also, Armenians in Turkey have a higher average income than the Turks who discriminate against them.

Assumption Two: Statistical differences between races imply or measure discrimination.

“But for the fact of discrimination we would all be alike,” is the argument made by many racial reform activists. Statistical differences exist, no one denies that, but they do not usually have anything to do with “discrimination.”

Black Americans are 13% of the population, yet they make up 75% of the NBA basketball players. They are also the highest paid in the NBA. Does the NBA “have it out” for white players?

There is only one black in the national hockey league—is the national hockey league racist? No one contends that it is. In addition, more than 50% of American hockey players are from Minnesota. What kind of conspiracy is Minnesota conducting?

Jews are no more than 3% of the American population, yet 33% of all American Nobel Prize winners are Jewish. Are the Jews hiding the books from the rest of us?

Statistical disparities do not imply negative discrimination. Equally productive females only earn 59% of the salary of their male counterparts on average. Unmarried men earn only 62% of what married men earn (when adjusted for age). Why don’t companies hire more of the “cheaper” females and unmarried men? Companies often fail when their costs are only 2% higher than the competition. They would be able to outbid other companies out of the market my hiring more women and unmarried men! Why don’t they? Do the vast majority of businesses in America “have it out” for women or single men? That would be the easy answer, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if companies are trying to be competitive.

Now for the hard-truth answer: First you must ask, “Are all women ‘equally productive’?”  Females who remain unmarried and work continuously from age 18 to 37 actually have a slightly higher income than their exact male (never married) counterparts. Female professors who never married also have a slightly higher income than a male professor who has never been married. Apparently, marriage exacts a high cost on women. Because of the traditional roles in marriage, and let us not forget actual biology, women usually become a greater burden on employers once they have married. Their “workforce capital” decreases. Not only do they need time off for pregnancy and maternity leave, they are the ones who are usually called when their child has problems at school, is sick, or needs to be taken to soccer practice. Women traditionally take care of the household needs, such as shopping and cleaning. In other words, their attention is divided; their priority may not, and in some cases cannot (such as childbearing), be with their employment. Also, for whatever reason, women tend to visit the doctor more often then men, costing employers more in health insurance. This is undeniable: health insurance policies on women are slightly higher than on men. Taking all this into account, although married women may be “equally productive” while actually doing the work at their jobs, their costs to employers in time off, divided attention, and other inconveniences brings their “workforce capital” down.

Not so for men—their “workforce capital” actually increases with marriage. In the traditional marriage where the woman assumes the primary role in child-rearing (someone has to), the man gets a “helper.” By becoming married the male can devote more to work because, again, in the traditional marriage, the woman now takes care of the majority of household upkeep, freeing the man from those distractions. The woman simply cannot efficiently develop her “workforce capital” in a traditional marriage. Married men therefore earn an average of 38% more by being married—an advantage of having a “helper.” The woman thus owns 38% of her husband’s income without question. If a woman wants to make the same income or better, she simply should not get married. This is simply one of those “hard facts” in life (if you chose to see it that way) that cannot be overcome without sacrificing valued (and most would probably argue “natural”) roles in marriage and family culture.

Assumption Three: Statistical differences will no longer exist or persist if discrimination were eliminated.

Hotel On FireYou may say a specific hotel fire was caused my oxygen. That is true, but does it explain why another hotel, also surrounded by oxygen, did not burn down? Oxygen is so pervasive that it alone cannot explain the fire. Likewise with discrimination—it alone cannot explain any single case of “racial discrimination”—other causes must contribute to each case of “racial discrimination.”

Discrimination is everywhere. For instance, we use it in selecting a wife or husband. We always have criteria for our decisions and we don’t give all an equal chance based on our varied criteria. We eliminate opportunity with every choice we make and discrimination is solely the act of choice. When choosing a husband or wife, we all systematically eliminate vast categories of potential mates. Either they’re the wrong gender (there goes one-half of the pool), are not athletic, don’t make adequate income, don’t share the right religion or beliefs, are not physically attractive to us, and so on. In other words we discriminate. Like oxygen, discrimination is everywhere and cannot be eliminated. Claiming you didn’t get a job because of discrimination is true. It is true in every single case of someone not getting a job. Scarcity requires us to choose (there is only one job opening for many applicants). Someone will always be injured by our choice.

Scary TigerPrejudice literally means “pre-judge” or to use a stereotype. We all use prejudices out of necessity to survive. When you unexpectantly see a tiger sitting on your front porch you will probably “stereotype” it by running away. Why is that? Is it based on any specific knowledge of that particular tiger, or is it based on tiger folklore, what your mother has told you about tigers, videos of tigers acting aggressively, or so forth? Now, that particular tiger may be tame as a kitten; nevertheless, a quick calculation is being made: The expected benefit of additional information about that particular tiger is less than the expected cost, so we discriminate against that tiger without further searching. In other words, cheaply acquired observations are of greater benefit than more costly acquired observations.

If offered a million dollars if they win a basketball game, and given 5 white males, 5 black males, 5 white females, and 5 black females, (and you are unable to watch them play beforehand) most people would pick the 5 black males. They could be labeled sexist or racist for doing so, but they would have a much better chance of getting the million dollars. Can you assume everyone doesn’t like white men or females? Even the Grand Master of the Ku Klux Klan would pick the 5 black males—it’s a million dollars!

Simply watching someone’s behavior will give you very little information about their preferences. A known bigot and the most open-minded person will make the exact same choice in the above example if their objective is to maximize the winnings from the basketball game.

If you are an employer and you are looking for a high school graduate with a high SAT score for a particularly challenging internship and it costs you $100 for every person you interview, would you send your recruiters to a Newark, New Jersey inner-city school or to a more affluent suburban school? Where would you have a higher probability of finding a successful candidate at the lowest cost? You may or may not dislike blacks, but it would probably not affect your decision.

There may not be a causal relationship between race and SAT scores, but there surely is an associative one. Likewise with the basketball players—there is no specific reason to not choose the white males, but out there in the real world there is certainly an associative one. Same goes with the tiger. We have no direct cause to run when we see one, but we have ample associative reasons to do so.

Physical characteristics can serve as proxies for other characteristics that are more costly to observe. (We could choose the white females for the basketball game but that would likely be more costly by not winning the game, even though we can say we gave them a “fair” chance. We’re not saying they could not win or even do better than the black males, it’s just with a million dollars on the line, it is not worth the risk.)

It is important to change the characteristics associated with a race or gender to eliminate this kind of “cheap” pre-judging. If we tame a majority of all tigers in the world and actively market and promote the knowledge that most of them are tame, then we may have fewer kitties with hurt feelings as people no longer so readily run away at the sight of one.

The use of the word “minority” is misleading when used in the context of race. The largest identifiable ethnic group in America are people with English ancestry, they are slightly more than 15% of the population. Next are those of German ancestry who are 14% of the population. Next are those of African ancestry who make up 13% of the population. Every other ethnic group is in the single-digit minorities.

Whites are not all alike. White people in their European homelands have been trying to slaughter each other for centuries. The longest period of peace in Europe has been only since the end of the Second World War. You can’t lump all white people into one bag.

How much of what we see in African-American relations can be attributed to discrimination?

African-American and GradesMuch of it is fraudulent education. The average black will score between 100 and 150 points below the average white on the SAT and still have the same high school diploma in hand. This is not made up in college. The GRE scores of blacks are slightly over 125 points lower than the national norm. 12 years of fraudulent education in primary and secondary schools cannot be corrected in 4 years of college. If diplomas or degrees cannot be trusted as proof of the same level of learning, one is forced to look at other criteria for making good choices.

The saddest aspect of this education fraud, in which employers are forced to compensate for by using the “cheaper” race discrimination, is that it need not be. In private schools 85% of blacks read at or up to three grade levels above their own grade level. The majority of these black children come from low or middle income families. It is not generally a question of capability, but culture.

Throwing money at the problem is not the solution: In Philadelphia, the cost for tuition to one private school with the above success rate is $1,200 whereas the per capita cost for a child in Philadelphia’s public schools is $5,000 with only the national average results. Blacks don’t need to capture a white kid to sit by. These private schools with successful black students, most notably the black muslim schools, are not into bussing and integration programs. In these schools you observe utter quite. The kids have pencils in their hands and their eyes on their teachers. This is all black kids need: Parents who make sure he does his homework, gets him to bed early on school nights, feeds him a breakfast in the morning, and makes sure he gets to school in a business-like fashion ready to learn. There is no mystery.

Black White HandshakeThere is a huge reserve of racial goodwill in America which we are needlessly wasting. Racial incidents and resentment have increased in traditionally black-accepting colleges where affirmative action has been in effect. People know that disregarding behavior is being dishonest. Many colleges either have or are considering such things as black economics courses simply because some dishonest person suggested it. What if someone suggested a course on Polish economics, or Japanese-American economics? They would be thrown out. We need to have courage.

Recognizing the truth is only half the battle, now we need to correct the negative discrimination by first “taming the tigers”—getting rid of the fraudulent education by strengthening the family culture and stop using blame as an excuse—and publicizing this fact after it has taken effect. Affirmative Action and like policies—when based on a lie or fraud—will only exacerbate the problem as all people (blacks included) naturally react to being lied to.

Discrimination is everywhere. We use it in selecting a wife or husband. We always have criteria for our decisions.
We don’t give all an equal chance based on our varied criteria.
We eliminate opportunity with every choice we make.
Discrimination is solely the act of choice.
Scarcity requires us to choose. Someone will always be injured by your choice.
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

lasting-marriageThis was given to me by a coworker, David Bern, who found it on Todayshow.com. I thought it very interesting.

Matthew Boggs, whose parents divorced, was jaded about marriage. But he noticed his grandmother and grandfather, who had been married for 63 years, were still madly in love. To find out what was the secret to a long and happy marriage, Boggs and his friend, Jason Miller, traveled 12,000 miles around the U.S. to talk to what they call the “Marriage Masters,” couples who have been married 40 years or more. In their new book, “Project Everlasting,” Boggs and Miller share advice from the happy couples. TODAYshow.com asked the two bachelors to tell us what are the top seven secrets to a successful marriage. Here they are:

1. “Divorce? Never. Murder? Often!”

Entering matrimony with the mindset that “divorce is not an option” is vital for the long-term success of marriage, say the Marriage Masters (a term we gave couples who have been happily married over 40 years). They went on to explain that this kind of mindset allows a couple to see solutions to marriage’s boiling points — and trust us, not one of our interviewee couples avoided such periods of relational strife — which would have otherwise been overlooked simply because one eye was too busy examining exit strategies.

Marriage Masters simplify this into one word: Commitment. And they’re quick to point out that commitment is the virtue sorely missing from today’s marriages. That said, there are deal breakers that very few of our interviewed couples advocated working through. These are known as the three A’s — addiction, adultery, and abuse. A marriage overwhelmed by any of these three issues is unhealthy, plain and simple, and the Marriage Masters suggest that if you find yourself overwhelmed with any of the three A’s, take care of yourself (and your safety) first, and the marriage second.

In the end, the old saying holds true: where your attention goes, energy flows. So the next time you’re facing a mountain in your marriage, focus on the next foothold and soon enough you’ll find yourself over the top.

2. “There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, only perfect
moments.”

We were shocked to discover how much work went into creating a great marriage. We’d always figured, “Hey, I’ll just find my soul mate and things will naturally fall into place after that … we’ll live happily ever after.” Um, not so fast, one Marriage Master wife said with a certain look that meant business. “Whoever said being soul mates was going to be easy?”  Her husband of 52 years nodded, then added, “Marriage is a bed of roses, thorns and all.”

Any time two individuals live together (especially over 40 years) there are bound to be annoying, irritating, and frustrating experiences. But whether it’s the toothpaste cap, toilet seat, snoring, or the last-minute pull-the-car-over-to-check-the-score-of-the-game-at-the-local-bar move, one thing is for sure: the best marriages are served with an extra helping of acceptance for one another’s peccadilloes. “And that’s the beauty of marriage,” said Maurice, another Marriage Master. “All of our individualities, all of our wonderful differences. You gotta have friction. You can’t get any heat without friction.”

We would do well, they say, to expect non-perfection; practice patience and give the acceptance we want in return. There’s no doubt that this is hard work, but judging by the end result, it’s well worth the effort.

3. Unpack the Gunnysack

“People ask us our secret to marriage,” said John, married 48 years. “I tell them it’s the boxing gloves. We aren’t afraid to say what’s on our minds.”

Unexpressed frustrations in a marriage can pile up and weigh us down like an overloaded gunnysack. These accumulated frustrations can quickly turn into resentments. “Holding resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” said Sally, married 50 years. “Resentment will eat away at your marriage.” The Marriage Masters encourage us to unpack the “gunnysacks” by opening the communication lines as frequently as possible.

But guess what? If we haven’t created and nurtured an environment where open, honest communication is welcomed and treated with diligent respect, then we can wave these crucial “clearing the air” moments goodbye. So where did some Marriage Masters go to build that trusting, open environment? Weekend marriage retreats! These powerful getaways stood out in many of our interviewees’ minds as the one experience that turned their faltering marriage into a flourishing one. The trick, of course, is convincing the husband to attend.

4. Never Stop Dating

It has been said that it’s the quality of time, not the quantity of time that matters. But now we know, thanks to the Marriage Masters, that it’s the quantity of quality time spent together that leads to a wonderful marriage. Whether it’s a vacation in the Bahamas, or simply spending a night at a local motel once a week, keeping the romance burning is easy: all you have to do is keep stoking the fire.

One woman, married 47 years before her husband passed away, disclosed her secret to lifelong love. Every night, when her husband came home from work, they went up to their bedroom and hung a sign on the door that read “Do Not Disturb: Marriage In Progress.” For the following fifteen minutes they’d focus all their attention on one another. No phones, no pets, no distractions; even the kids knew that mom and dad were not to be bothered. When asked what they did in their bedroom, she laughed and said she’d leave that to our imaginations.  That was probably best anyway.

5. “Love is a four-letter word spelled G-I-V-E”

Marriage Masters have a high degree of selflessness. “I’ll never forget what my mentor told my wife and me before we got married 42 years ago,” said a Marriage Master named Walter. “He looked at us and said, ‘Most people think marriage is 50/50.  It’s not. It’s 60/40. You give 60.  You take 40. And that goes for both of you.’”

It’s always super-apparent in the best of the best marriages that both spouses have followed this philosophy. Though it’s not a difficult concept to understand — putting one another first —it’s surely a bit more difficult to practice consistently, especially with the prevailing “Me first (and second)” mentality today. “The younger generations seem to have a sort of me-me-me mentality,” says Donna Lee, married 45 years. “The great part is that the me gets everything it needs when it puts the we first.”

6. Join the CMAT Club

Grandma Dorothy Manin, the inspiration for Project Everlasting with her 63 years of beautiful matrimony, formed an informal club when she turned 70 years old. She called it the CMAT club. The CMAT club stands for Can’t Miss A Thing and represents the idea that life is short, so make sure to enjoy as much as you can. The death rate for human beings hovers right around 100 percent, and is expected to remain there for … well, forever. Consider this: if the average life span is 77 years, then that means we only have 77 summers … 77 winters … 77 Christmas mornings … 77 New Years, and that’s it. The Marriage Masters know this all too well. It’s easy to get caught in the day-to-day craziness of life and, in the process, take our spouses for granted. A widow named Betty, married 54 years, says, “Now that he’s gone I wish I hadn’t had so many headaches.”

The Marriage Masters are here to remind us that this adventure we call life goes by in the blink of an eye; relish your sweetheart’s presence while he or she is still here.

7. The Discipline of Respect

“You can have respect without love,” said Tom, married 42 years, “but you can’t have love without respect.” His sentiments were not uncommon in our 250-plus interviews around the nation. By and large, the number one secret to a thriving, everlasting marriage, as declared by the Marriage Masters, is respect. It is the catalyst for all things beautiful in a relationship: trust, connection, authenticity, and love. Unfortunately, respect — in all its seeming simplicity — is too easily overlooked, leading to criticism and all the ugliness that eventually causes both spouses to wonder (and vehemently): How in the heck did I ever fall in love with this person?

“You are the master of your words until they are spoken,” a Marriage Master of 65 years pointed out. “Then they become the master of you … so choose your words carefully.”

Read Full Post »

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel

 

My mom gave me this article and I thought it was really insightful. It is from a speech given by Vaclav Havel about 30 years ago. Havel later became the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the new Czech Republic in the 1990s. He is speaking on the socialist conditions in Eastern Europe at the time. Considering the later events in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, it appears quite insightful.

by Vaclav Havel {1978}

[excerpts]

{1} A SPECTER is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called “dissent” This specter has not appeared out of thin air. It is a natural and inevitable consequence of the present historical phase of the system it is haunting. It was born at a time when this system, for a thousand reasons, can no longer base itself on the unadulterated, brutal, and arbitrary application of power, eliminating all expressions of nonconformity. What is more, the system has become so ossified politically that there is practically no way for such nonconformity to be implemented within its official structures. . . .

{2} Our system is most frequently characterized as a dictatorship or, more precisely, as the dictatorship of a political bureaucracy over a society which has undergone economic and social leveling. I am afraid that the term “dictatorship,” regardless of how intelligible it may otherwise be, tends to obscure rather than clarify the real nature of power in this system. . . Even though our dictatorship has long since alienated itself completely from the social movements that give birth to it, the authenticity of these movements (and I am thinking of the proletarian and socialist movements of the nineteenth century) gives it undeniable historicity. These origins provided a solid foundation of sorts on which it could build until it became the utterly new social and political reality it is today, which has become so inextricably a part of the structure of the modern world. . . . It commands an incomparably more precise, logically structured, generally comprehensible and, in essence, extremely flexible ideology that, in its elaborateness and completeness, is almost a secularized religion. It offers a ready answer to any question whatsoever; it can scarcely be accepted only in part, and accepting it has profound implications for human life. In an era when metaphysical and existential certainties are in a state of crisis, when people are being uprooted and alienated and are losing their sense of what this world means, this ideology inevitably has a certain hypnotic charm. . . .

{3} The profound difference between our system-in terms of the nature of power-and what we traditionally understand by dictatorship, a difference I hope is clear even from this quite superficial comparison, has caused me to search for some term appropriate for our system, purely for the purposes of this essay. If I refer to it henceforth as a “post-totalitarian” system, I am fully aware that this is perhaps not the most precise term, but I am unable to think of a better one. I do not wish to imply by the prefix “post” that the system is no longer totalitarian; on the contrary, I mean that it is totalitarian in a way fundamentally different from classical dictatorships, different from totalitarianism as we usually understand it.

. . . .

{4} The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

{5} I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.

{6} Obviously the greengrocer . . . does not put the slogan in his window from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: “I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” This message, of course, has an addressee: it is directed above, to the greengrocer’s superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the greengrocer from potential informers. The slogan’s real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the greengrocer’s existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?

{7} Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient;’ he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.

{8} Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe. . . .

{9} The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.

{10} Individuals need not believe all these mystifications, but they must behave as though they did, or they must at least tolerate them in silence, or get along well with those who work with them. For this reason, however, they must live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.

. . . .

{11} Why in fact did our greengrocer have to put his loyalty on display in the shop window? Had he not already displayed it sufficiently in various internal or semipublic ways? At trade union meetings, after all, he had always voted as he should. He had always taken part in various competitions. He voted in elections like a good citizen. He had even signed the “antiCharter.” Why, on top of all that, should he have to declare his loyalty publicly? After all, the people who walk past his window will certainly not stop to read that, in the greengrocer’s opinion, the workers of the world ought to unite. The fact of the matter is, they don’t read the slogan at all, and it can be fairly assumed they don’t even see it. If you were to ask a woman who had stopped in front of his shop what she saw in the window, she could certainly tell whether or not they had tomatoes today, but it is highly unlikely that she noticed the slogan at all, let alone what it said.

{12} It seems senseless to require the greengrocer to declare his loyalty publicly. But it makes sense nevertheless. People ignore his slogan, but they do so because such slogans are also found in other shop windows, on lampposts, bulletin boards, in apartment windows, and on buildings; they are everywhere, in fact. They form part of the panorama of everyday life. Of course, while they ignore the details, people are very aware of that panorama as a whole. And what else is the greengrocer’s slogan but a small component in that huge backdrop to daily life?

{13} The greengrocer had to put the slogan in his window, therefore, not in the hope that someone might read it or be persuaded by it, but to contribute, along with thousands of other slogans, to the panorama that everyone is very much aware of. This panorama, of course, has a subliminal meaning as well: it reminds people where they are living and what is expected of them. It tells them what everyone else is doing, and indicates to them what they must do as well, if they don’t want to be excluded, to fall into isolation, alienate themselves from society, break the rules of the game, and risk the loss of their peace and tranquility and security. . . .

{14} Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings. And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth. . . .

{15} The bill is not long in coming. He will be relieved of his post as manager of the shop and transferred to the warehouse. His pay will be reduced. His hopes for a holiday in Bulgaria will evaporate. His children’s access to higher education will be threatened. His superiors will harass him and his fellow workers will wonder about him. Most of those who apply these sanctions, however, will not do so from any authentic inner conviction but simply under pressure from conditions, the same conditions that once pressured the greengrocer to display the official slogans. They will persecute the greengrocer either because it is expected of them, or to demonstrate their loyalty, or simply as part of the general panorama, to which belongs an awareness that this is how situations of this sort are dealt with, that this, in fact, is how things are always done, particularly if one is not to become suspect oneself. The executors, therefore, behave essentially like everyone else, to a greater or lesser degree: as components of the post-totalitarian system, as agents of its automatism, as petty instruments of the social auto-totality.

{16} Thus the power structure, through the agency of those who carry out the sanctions, those anonymous components of the system, will spew the greengrocer from its mouth. The system, through its alienating presence in people, will punish him for his rebellion. It must do so because the logic of its automatism and self-defense dictate it. The greengrocer has not committed a simple, individual offense, isolated in its own uniqueness, but something incomparably more serious. By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal. The principle must embrace and permeate everything. There are no terms whatsoever on which it can co-exist with living within the truth, and therefore everyone who steps out of line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety. . . .

{17} The original and most important sphere of activity, one that predetermines all the others, is simply an attempt to create and support the independent life of society as an articulated expression of living within the truth. In other words, serving truth consistently, purposefully, and articulately, and organizing this service. This is only natural, after all: if living within the truth is an elementary starting point for every attempt made by people to oppose the alienating pressure of the system, if it is the only meaningful basis of any independent act of political import, and if, ultimately, it is also the most intrinsic existential source of the “dissident” attitude, then it is difficult to imagine that even manifest “dissent” could have any other basis than the service of truth, the truthful life, and the attempt to make room for the genuine aims of life.

Read Full Post »