Truth or Right?

American politics is raucous. It always has been. And part of that raucousness is a less than 100% dedication to the truth, especially in the heat of a political campaign.

But there is something a bit more devilish going on these days. These days, we witness a “movement” that is dedicated to changing how we understand who we are as Americans. Why? Because liberals screwed up the inheritance from the founding fathers.

This would not be such a big deal if the movement was like many other movements in America – just another voice in the crowd. But this movement has now taken over one of the great parties, the republicans. How did this happen?  Heather Cox Richardson tells the story rather well.

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Who Killed Nemstov?

It is the question of the hour. Initially, it was presumed that Mr. Putin had a hand in it. But Mark Almond thinks that perhaps it was the radical nationalist crowd

Whoever murdered Boris Nemtsov wanted to kill hopes for a cosier future between East and West.

There is a point here — Nemstov’s murder will harden attitudes in the west against Putin (whether there is evidence of his complicity in the crime or not). It will make it harder — not easier — to undo sanctions.

But consider — during the Ukrainian fiasco, Putin showed no serious interest in getting rid of sanctions quickly. He could have by doing a deal in Ukraine, but he did not. So is he really so worried about sanctions now? Perhaps not. On the other hand, a public murder of Nemstov demonstrates to the Russian elite that they cross him at their peril.

We might also recall that murder in Moscow has not been all that uncommon over the last period of years.  Anyone remember Paul Klebnikov?  Anna Politkovskaya? These are just two. Who killed them? Was it the shadowy nationalist right, trying to discredit Putin? If so, what did Putin do to demonstrate that he is a more moderate figure? As far as I can recall, he did nothing.

In other words, my own guess is that Almond is full of it.

 

Power Games: What is Wrong with the Game?

Imagine that you were playing a game with a friend. Let’s say tennis. And let’s say that you lost every time. After a while, it would get a bit frustrating. It would not be fun. You might give up.  Or this might spur us on to practice and get better at the game. But what if no matter how hard you practiced, you would not be able to win?

And let’s say that you realized that your friend was not winning because he or she was inherently better at the game, but because they knew something about the game that you could not know. Your friend was a “tennis insider” and you were not. Now you might start feeling just a tad angry.

So , how much is life just like this? How much is life a game that we play but cannot win? How often do we feel like “outsiders”? In answering the reality of our situations may be less important than how we feel about those realities. For if we feel like a loser and an outsider and that the cards are stacked against us, we tend to stop playing the game

This is what feeling powerless does to people. And it has severe and long term negative effects on lives. We need not give statistics to prove this. We can simply look around at those who commit acts of violence. Most frequently, these acts are not strictly rational. They are the lashing out of someone who felt powerless.

I propose that we can take a huge step forward in dealing with this problem by re-thinking what power is about. Instead of taking the term as we know it from our culture and history, we can re-shape it to meet our current needs.

Ready?  I will be posting on this thread to build up a book called “Power Games”. You can follow this adventure with me. Onward!

Power Games: Once Upon a Time

As I mentioned, I am writing a book called “Power Games” and I will be doing i´t in public here on this blog. Each day, I will be adding the next step to bring the writing forward. We are still in the conceptual stage, and yesterday I wrote for the first time about the tension that will provide the foundation for our story.

This tension is between how the powerful and the powerless feel about each other. They do not connect. Indeed, you might make the case that they make each other miserable.

The next step in our story development is to think for a moment where this story starts. How did we get started on this rather dreary path?

The answer, I think, is rather obvious. Think back to historical figures who were “powerful”. They share a common characteristic, going back to Alexander. They created followers and led them to significant activity. And they were profoundly self-centered. All of them.

This was accepted as a necessary evil. Of course the king takes on airs. He has such important things to do! Well we got rid of kings, but we find that presidents, prime ministers, and now CEO’s all act the same way. They exhibit the same power trait that we saw in Alexander.

This is something that is deeply embedded in our culture. And I think this is at the root of our tragedy. Why tragedy? Because this value is embedded so deep that we cannot see it as a problem.

That is the starting point for our story.

Power Games: The Tension

A good story conveys deep tension. So, if you have a great hero, like Sherlock Holmes, you might balance him with great evil. Otherwise, Holmes and the reader get bored.

We are embarked on a journey to create a story about games of power. And what tension  holds the story together? By definition, it must be lack of power. Perhaps a weak character craving power and striving to achieve it.  Perhaps a powerful character who loathes what has obtained.

At the core of  the above examples is a dilemma. As humans we crave knowing the answers to questions. We believe in knowledge as power. But strangely, we get bored with these answers nearly as soon as we discover them.

So our weak character is not bored, and perhaps our powerful character is troubled by intense depression.

Perhaps. BTW, if this interests you, consider how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created and used the character Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was not happy with Holmes. People loved the character more than the creator of the character. And Doyle knew that he achieved the creation using a cheap parlor trick.

Want Power, then Sacrifice Listening

Most people would say that they would like more power. More precisely, they would like to be more powerful. This would appear to be especially true among young people, who are confronted with such intense life challenges.

And you can become more powerful. Here is how. But there is a catch. The more you focus on becoming powerful, the less you will be able to listen.  Now consider Mr. V. Putin. He is no doubt a “powerful” man. How well do you think he listens? Consider how well he would take to an objective assessment of Russia’s prospects in the next decade.