John Stuart Mill Showed Democracy as a Way of Life

Donald Trump is always trying to cure his loneliness by making friend/enemy distinctions; trying to unite his clan by declaring verbal war on other groups; trying to shrivel his life into a little box by building walls against anybody outside its categories.

.. Richard Reeves points out that in “On Liberty,” Mill used the words “energy,” “active” and “vital” nearly as many times as he used the word “freedom.” Freedom for him was a means, not an end. The end is moral excellence. Mill believed that all of us “are under a moral obligation to seek the improvement of our moral character.”

“At the heart of his liberalism,” Reeves writes, “was a clearly and repeatedly articulated vision of a flourishing human lifeself-improving, passionate, truth-seeking, engaged and colorful.”

.. He championed the labor movement, was the first member of Parliament to call for women to be given the right to vote, was the leading British philosopher of the 19th century and served as a loving son, husband and friend.

.. Mill had an optimistic view of human nature and probably an insufficient appreciation of human depravity

.. Mill was living in a Victorian moment when the chief problem was claustrophobia — the individual being smothered by society. He emphasized individual liberation. His emphases probably would have been different if he had lived today, when our problem is agoraphobia — too much freedom, too little cohesion, meaning and direction.

.. His example cures us from the weakness of our age — the belief that we can achieve democracy on the cheap; the belief that all we have to do to fulfill our democratic duties is be nice, vote occasionally and have opinions.

.. Mill showed that real citizenship is a life-transforming vocation. It involves, at base, cultivating the ability to discern good from evil, developing the intellectual virtues required to separate the rigorous from the sloppy, living an adventurous life so that you are rooting yourself among and serving those who are completely unlike yourself.

The demands of democracy are clear — the elevation and transformation of your very self. If you are not transformed, you’re just skating by.

Behind Wonder Woman Is a Great Man

Diana’s mother Hippolyta explains at the beginning of the film that humans were originally created to be “strong and passionate,” and Captain Trevor is both, and when it matters, he can use those qualities to support someone else.

.. Mr. Pine is working in a mode previously explored by Chris Hemsworth in “Ghostbusters” and Channing Tatum in pretty much everything — the preternaturally attractive man who wears his beauty lightly, who is both willing to be objectified and to make a joke of his objectification. A white, muscular man on the big screen isn’t exactly boundary-breaking, but even the acknowledgement that male bodies can be beautiful sometimes feels subversive, and an actor who’s willing to take a playful and self-aware attitude toward his own sexiness is a welcome break from a culture that frequently lays the heavy burden of hotness exclusively on women.

.. Captain Trevor is a reminder that masculinity itself isn’t the problem.

.. he remains masculine throughout the movie in a fairly traditional sense — his masculinity just allows for supporting a powerful (O.K., superpowerful) woman, rather than undercutting or resenting her.

.. it’s also important for boys and men to see a man who becomes heroic by following a woman’s lead.