Hannah Arendt, On Violence

Progress, as we have come to understand it, means growth, the relentless process of more and more, of bigger and bigger… (and) the need for…the anonymous power of the administrators… Monopolization of power causes the drying up or oozing away of all authentic power sources in the country…. This generation, trained like its predecessors in hardly anything but the various brands of the my-share-of-the-pie social and political theories, has taught us a lesson about manipulation, or, rather, its limits, which we would do well not to forget… The manipulation addicts, those who fear it unduly no less than those who have set their hopes on it, hardly notice when the chickens come home to roost… They discovered what we call today the Establishment and what earlier was called the System, and it was this discovery that made them turn to the praise of violent action…. It goes against the very nature of self-interest to be enlightened… The self qua self cannot reckon in terms of long-range interest… Self-interest, when asked to yield to “true” interest — that is, the interest of the world as distinguished from that of the self — will always reply, Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin.

Editor’s Report

I didn’t want to discourage anyone from voting for Biden with “The Amoral Joe Biden” and hope it didn’t burn bridges. I merely believe that if he presented his case within a more robust moral framework, it would be more effective politically — and help nurture change throughout society.

Biden never said we should support Ukraine simply because it’s the right thing to do — for ethical reasons. He could’ve said, “When we see a bully harming someone, we should intervene, whether in a school, workplace, community, or on the global stage.” Making that point would encourage people to improve their interactions in general and help build a powerful, independent grassroots movement.

I don’t judge Biden’s moral character. I don’t know his motives, and I can’t read his mind. I can only judge his actions. I called him amoral, as I might call someone a “criminal” when they break the law. We can make judgments without being judgmental.

I only know the motives of a few close friends, but I don’t trust any politician to that degree. Some politicians enter the arena because they want to do good, but most soon become focused on getting re-elected for selfish reasons.


I read an essay from James Baldwin’s Cross of Redemption daily. I only read one because the essays are intense, and I want to absorb them before moving on.

I’ve considered inviting 100 or so Contacts to a “James Baldwin Zoom,” but none of you have commented on his 1959 essay, “Mass Culture and the Creative Artist,” which I posted two weeks ago. So, I suspect Baldwin doesn’t impact others as strongly as he does me and have placed that idea on the back burner.

However, here’s a link to another Baldwin essay, a 1962 New York Times piece, As Much Truth As One Can Bear.

After I finish Cross of Redemption, I may comment on it with an essay and share quotes and excerpts.


I recently added the following to the opening of the Systemic chapter introduction:

Egalitarian Seeds: Holistic Reform

Numerous advocates presented in the Systemic knowledge base promote holistic reform rooted in compassion. They address the whole person and the whole society. These efforts differ; none echo each other precisely, but they share core principles and move in the same direction.

I’m adding summaries of some of these essays and books to the end of the Systemic chapter.

I’m using “holistic” rather than “holistic and systemic.” Holistic means “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the individual parts,” so it incorporates “systemic.”


Taking Away a Social Safety Net

Is This What Happens When You Build a Real Social Safety Net, Then Take It Away?
By Bryce Covert

It’s a riddle that economists have struggled to decipher. The U.S. economy seems robust on paper, yet Americans are dissatisfied with it. But hardly anyone seems to have paid much attention to the whirlwind experience we just lived through: We built a real social safety net in the United States and then abruptly ripped it apart.

Take unemployment insurance….

Many told Dr. Michener about having to hustle harder for work, and she told me that the word “struggle” comes up over and over again in the researchers’ interviews. Americans have less sense of security, she said, “that you’re going to be OK and you’re going to be taken care of should the worst-case scenario befall you.”

The disillusionment this creates is incredibly harmful. Yes, if people feel pessimistic about the economy, it may very well swing the election away from President Biden. But it’s bigger than just this election. Even if somehow the experience of losing benefits doesn’t diminish political participation, it’s a lost opportunity for the government to continue demonstrating to Americans that it can make their lives better. That draws people into democracy and strengthens it. The worst — and more likely — case is that it turns them off.

“There were a lot of things across many programs that changed and made people’s lives better, and so many of those things have been pulled back,” Dr. Michener said. “We’d have to think people are idiots not to notice that.”

[read more]

The Amoral Joe Biden

Circles, Baldwin, and Comments

-Valor Academy’s Circles, By Wade Lee Hudson
-Mass Culture and the Creative Artist, By James Baldwin (1959)
-Readers’ Comments

Valor Academy’s Circles, By Wade Lee Hudson

I found “How one school is centering social-emotional learning” to be profoundly inspiring. This PBS “Brief but Spectacular” video documents a Valor Collegiate Academy mutual aid “Circle.” Since 2014, Valor has expanded to more than 30,000 students nationwide. Their success suggests the holistic, egalitarian movement is spreading. Time is short, however. The world may be on a deadly downward spiral.

Daren Dickson, Valor’s Chief Culture Officer, says

Our dream has been to turn circle facilitation over to the kids as they get into high school. We all know that middle schoolers are much more impacted by each other than by adults, so having them lead the practice will be more meaningful. 

This 11-minute video captures a Circle led by a Valor student.

Valor encourages students to share what’s going on in their lives and accept support. Their mission is “sharp minds; big hearts.”  They aim to create a community of care “to empower our diverse community to live inspired, purposeful lives,…bring our diverse community together, and support each other in identity and relational development.”  Valor bases its approach on four pillars: 1) top-tier academics; 2) intentional diversity; 3) built to last; and 4) whole child development….
(read more)

Mass Culture and the Creative Artist: Some Personal Notes
By James Baldwin (1959)

Someone once said to me that the people in general cannot bear very much reality. He meant by this that they prefer fantasy to a truthful re-creation of their experience. The Italians, for example, during the time that De Sica and Rossellini were revitalizing the Italian cinema industry, showed a marked preference for Rita Hayworth vehicles; the world in which she moved across the screen was like a fairy tale, whereas the world De Sica was describing was one with which they were only too familiar. (And it can be suggested perhaps that the Americans who stood in fine for Shoe Shine and Open City were also responding to images which they found exotic, to a reality by which they were not threatened. What passes for the appreciation of serious effort in this country is very often nothing more than an inability to take anything very seriously.)

Now, of course, the people cannot bear very much reality, if by this one means their ability to respond to high intellectual or artistic endeavor. I have never in the least understood why they should be expected to. There is a division of labor in the world  — as I see it — and the people have quite enough reality to bear, simply getting

through their lives, raising their children, dealing with the eternal conundrums of birth, taxes, and death. They do not do this with all the wisdom, foresight, or charity one might wish; nevertheless, this is what they are always doing and it is what the writer is always describing….
(read more)

Readers’ Comments

Re: “Friedman on Israel”
Larry Walker
Excellent and timely article. My related observation is that the US is losing its role as world leader in other ways as well.


Re: Introduction
Freddi Fredrickson

Growing a generation of intrinsically minded people.


Re: Interview with “Fluke” author, Brian Klass”
Jed Riffe

After being self employed for over 50 years, experiencing 19 stock market failures, all of which seriously disrupted my small independent print and documentary film businesses, I feel like chaos is the operating mode. I appreciate Wade’s two comments.

Yahya Abdal-Aziz
Thank you for this! I believe he’s hit on something important about modern society. He’s right, there is – by design! – very little slack in our systems, so any little chance event (“fluke”) can tip us into an unstable situation that may deteriorate rapidly and uncontrollably into chaos and disaster.

Yes, we like to think we’re in control of our personal lives, but “a little less hubris” would be a very good thing for most of us. And perhaps we can trace some of the roots of our modern epidemic of anxiety and depression to our inchoate sense of the precariousness of the teetering sand-pile?

Joyce Beattie


“When we inject people with positivity, their outlook expands. They see the big picture. When we inject them with neutrality or negativity, their peripheral vision shrinks. There is no big picture, no dots to connect” (p. 95).
Barbara Fredrickson, Positivity, 2009

Friedman on Israel

I’ve spent the past few days traveling from New Delhi to Dubai and Amman, and I have an urgent message to deliver to President Biden and the Israeli people: I am seeing the increasingly rapid erosion of Israel’s standing among friendly nations — a level of acceptance and legitimacy that was painstakingly built up over decades. And if Biden is not careful, America’s global standing will plummet right along with Israel’s. I don’t think Israelis or the Biden administration fully appreciate the rage that is bubbling up around the world, fueled by social media and TV footage.
Thomas L. Friedman

The Circle

Circles have been used as structures for meeting communally for thousands of years. Some of the earliest known tribes and native people across all continents used Circles, sometimes called councils, to meet to discuss the most important matters their communities faced. In this sense, Circles are natural to us and are not anything new. In many ways, the Valor Circle is a new spin on an ancient practice.
Valor Collegiate Academies

Putin, Truth, and Scapegoating