The Struggle to Stay Human Amid the Fight

World War I and the adversarial mentality.

It’s the eternal argument. When you are fighting a repulsive foe, the ends justify any means and serve as rationale for any selfishness.

Dax’s struggle is not to change the war or to save lives. That’s impossible. The war has won. The struggle is simply to remain a human being, to maintain some contact with goodness in circumstances that are inhumane.

Disillusionment was the classic challenge for the generation that fought and watched that war. Before 1914, there was an assumed faith in progress, a general trust in the institutions and certainties of Western civilization. People, especially in the educated classes, approached life with a gentlemanly, sporting spirit.

As Paul Fussell pointed out in “The Great War and Modern Memory,” the upper classes used genteel words in place of plain ones: slumber for sleep, the heavens for the sky, conquer for win, legion for army.

The war blew away that gentility, those ideals and that faith in progress. Ernest Hemingway captured the rising irony and cynicism in “A Farewell to Arms.” His hero is embarrassed “by the words sacred, glorious and sacrifice and the expression, in vain.” He had seen nothing sacred in the war, nothing glorious, just meaningless slaughter.

.. European culture suffered a massive disillusion during the conflict — no God, no beauty, no coherence, no meaning, just the cruel ironic joke of life. Cynicism breeds a kind of nihilism, a disbelief in all values, an assumption that others’ motives are bad.

Fussell wrote that the war spread an adversarial mentality. The men in the trenches were obsessed with the enemy — those anonymous creatures across no man’s land who rained down death. “Prolonged trench warfare, whether enacted or remembered, fosters paranoid melodrama,” he wrote.

The “versus habit” construes reality as us versus them — a mentality that spread through British society. It was the officers versus the men, and, when they got home, the students at university versus the dons.

George Orwell wrote that he recognized the Great War mentality lingering even in the 1930s in his own left-wing circles — the same desire to sniff out those who departed from party orthodoxy, the same retelling of mostly false atrocity stories, the same war hysteria. As Christopher Isherwood put it, all the young people who were ashamed of never having fought in the war brought warlike simplicities to political life.

.. Some of the disillusioned drop out of public life, since it’s all meaningless. But others want to burn it all down because it’s all rotten. Moderation is taken for cowardice. Aggression is regarded as courage. No conciliatory word is permitted when a fighting word will do.

Today we face no horrors equal to the Great War, but there is the same loss of faith in progress, the reality of endless political trench warfare, the paranoid melodrama, the specter that we are all being dehumanized amid the fight.

Richard Rohr: Hinduism: Action and Contemplation

Krishna has even been called “The Unknown Christ of Hinduism”—the same mystery of spirit and matter that we Western Christians, with our dualistic minds, struggled to put together in Jesus.

Krishna, like Jesus, also shows the integration of action and contemplation. The Gita does not counsel that we all become monks or solitaries. Rather, Lord Krishna tells Prince Arjuna that the true synthesis is found in a life-long purification of motive, intention, and focus in our world of action.

How can we do “pure action”? Only by gradually detaching from all the fruits of action and doing everything purely for the love of God, Lord Krishna teaches.

Jesus says the same thing in several places (Mark 12:30, for example): “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus even counsels the same love toward the neighbor (Matthew 22:39). The only way to integrate action and contemplation is to go ahead and do your action, but every day to ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it to make money? Is it to have a good reputation? Is it to keep busy? Or is it for the love of God? Then you will discover the true Doer!

.. Reflect on these passages from the Bhagavad Gita (4:18, 23-24):

The wise see that there is action in the midst of inaction,
and inaction in the midst of action.
Their consciousness is unified,
and every act is done with complete awareness.

When a man has let go of attachments,
when his mind is rooted in wisdom,
everything he does is worship,
and his actions all melt away.

God is the offering. God
is the offered, poured out by God;
God is attained by all those
who see God in every action.

 

Scott Adams: Why Would Putin Meddle in Our Election?

Have you noticed how Michael Cohen stuff has pushed down the Helsinki news conference?

Why would Trump say: I don’t know why he wouldn’t?

Trump was putting his own ego lower than Putins.

Now we know that Trump doesn’t have any confidence problems.

Think of Trump’s statement as a hypnotist.

When he says “I don’t know why he would“, he’s getting to motivation.  It wasn’t intended to be factual, but persuasive.

Everyone who has evaluated it as a statement of fact, but it’s talking about Putin’s motivations, which he had just changed.

In the meeting, he had just made a big impact on Putin’s motivations.

There is a tit-for-tat-for-tit-for-tat forever.

If Trump removed his reasons and have him a virtual pardon.

Trump did the same thing with Kim Jong Il, he make a better offer.  He took the reason away.

CNN covered story of Putin offer to interview 12 indictments, but it was never plausible.

The death of the archetypal Russian villain

THE cold war was fought as much in the imagination as on the battlefield. Each side sought to project images of social and cultural superiority; stories of people corrupted by the decadent West or persecuted by the KGB were turned into weapons. This struggle was largely waged on screen, in shows and films that were subject to varying degrees of government involvement. When the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union followed, writers and directors put down their arms. Barely any films about the cold war were made in the years immediately following its end.

..  For example, Ivan Drago, the antagonist of “Rocky IV” (1985), was an emotionless brute: “If he dies,” he memorably says of a defeated American boxer, “he dies.” So was Podovsky, a Russian torturer, in the “Rambo” series. In “From Russia With Love” (1963), the assassin Rosa Klebb relished inflicting pain on both her compatriots and her enemies

.. the rare female communist was either a nymphomaniac or frigid and repressed.”

.. “They” were cold-blooded criminals, subversives and deviants; “we” were enlightened defenders of democracy and freedom. Even in grittier, more realistic works, the motivations of communist characters were rarely explored. They existed mostly as “foils against which the men of the West demonstrated their superior skills,”

.. These hard-faced psychopaths have now been ousted by richly textured Soviet citizens. “The Americans” is concerned as much with the marriage of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, the Russian agents (pictured), and the trials of raising their children in America, as with espionage.

.. The pair grapple with guilt and the meaning of freedom.

.. So human are these characters, in fact, that viewers are persuaded not only to empathise with them, but to hope they evade capture—even as they kill and blackmail Americans.

.. In these stories, the idea of Western superiority—either moral or professional—is questionable.

.. In the case of “The Americans”, it can be laughable: one of the series’ funniest moments comes when the head of counter-intelligence at the FBI discovers that his secretary has secretly married a KGB officer.

.. The villain of “The Shape of Water” is not Mosenkov but a repulsive American colonel.

.. The overseers of “The Americans”—Joe Weisberg, himself a former CIA officer

.. They enlisted Masha Gessen, a Russian-American writer, to ensure their Russian dialogue would feel idiomatic.

.. Now the production team has been “able to spend time in the Stasi archives, to spend time with people who were on the East German side,” Mr Cornwell says. “There is room in the six-hour format to explore both sides.”

.. faith in Western spooks has drastically decreased in the wake of the Iraq war and recent surveillance scandals.

.. despite Vladimir Putin’s election-meddling and revanchism, most English-speaking viewers no longer feel they face an existential threat from Russia.

.. The imperative to deflect criticism outward, so conspicuous in the 1980s, no longer applies.

.. Used to navigating moral minefields in shows such as “The Wire” and “The Sopranos”, viewers have outgrown simplistic tales of good and evil. Proof was offered by “Red Sparrow”, a film released earlier this year that starred Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian seductress targeting a CIA agent.

.. It was “designed to make Americans feel good about [themselves] by showing how much nicer [their] spies are than their Russian counterparts,” says Denise Youngblood, a historian of Russian and Soviet cinema. Judging by its box-office performance, the formulaic plot was a turn-off.

.. Because Russia has always been a land of villains,” Rodric Braithwaite, a former British ambassador to Moscow, once wrote, “it is also a land of heroes and saints.” Hollywood is at last imaginative enough to make room for all of them.

Have You Ever Seen Donald Trump Laugh?

As Trump himself might say, there’s something going on.

The less honest you are with yourself, the less likely you are to laugh.

.. “Self-deception inhibits laughter.”

.. “There’s a huge correlation showing that people who score high in self-deception laugh less,” Lynch told me. Furthermore, he said, “there’s a pretty robust correlation between self-deception and an inflated ego, or unwarranted high self-esteem. Some of the self-deception is telling yourself that you’re greater, more powerful, smarter than you are.”

.. It’s a lot harder to laugh when you don’t recognize absurdity. Think of how much Trump must have had to lie to himself, perhaps even unconsciously, in order to convince millions that Obama was born in Kenya
.. (By the way, the liars-laugh-less formulation doesn’t work in reverse: People who don’t laugh aren’t necessarily self-deceptive or narcissistic at all.
.. some people don’t laugh out of low self-esteem. “Self-deception,” Lynch estimates, “explains about 20 percent of why people don’t laugh.” Besides, if we didn’t tell ourselves little white lies, he adds, “we wouldn’t get out of the bed in the morning.”)
.. “Superficially, the problem that torments Trump is trade. But his language—they ‘beat’ us and ‘laugh’ at us—provokes the emotional power of shame,”
..  “all about shame—avoiding it himself, and inflicting it on others.”
..  As his biographer, I see it in his struggle to satisfy a strict and demanding father and his banishment, at age 13, to a military academy in Upstate New York where, Trump has said, he was subject to violence at the hands of Army veterans who staffed the school.
.. Trump was major-shamed again, D’Antonio writes, “when he lost his Trump Airline and the Plaza Hotel and became a symbol of failure in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Out of this defeat he fashioned a comeback that saw him become richer and more famous than ever.”
.. At the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, for example, President Obama coolly humiliated the birther-in-chief, getting the crowd and soon the whole world to laugh at him, while Trump sat there stone-faced. In all likelihood, that experience motivated him to finally make a real run for the presidency.
.. As best we can tell, Trump’s whole psychological dynamic might be explained as a serial encounter with public shame over his fear of inadequacy.
.. Like Dostoevsky’s The Gambler, Trump likes the thrill of getting so close to being exposed and still winning—until, of course, he finally loses, which may be what he really wants
.. “laughter relieves shame.” Laughing, especially at oneself, “is one of the main ways in which shame can be dissipated or released.”

Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

We talk about what’s known and what’s not known about terrorism; we talk about what’s working and what’s not to prevent it; we talk about whether we overvalue the threat of tactical terrorism and undervalue the threat of strategic terrorism, including cyber- and bioterrorism.