Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’: Holocaust memoir a must-read along with Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’

Elie Wiesel Night

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 that the world must never forget what happened because “if we forget, we are all guilty, we are accomplices.” His memoir, Night, is a must-read for anyone who understands — as he did — that “we must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Perhaps one of the most important take-aways from the book is just how averse humans are to acknowledging evil — real evil — when it is in their midst.

Mr. Wiesel’s account of how his hometown in Transylvania reacted to the Nazi threat is surreal. It is hard to imagine just how far men while go to deny the truth when the truth may require a call to arms.

The author wrote:

“The Germans were already in our town, the Fascists were already in power, the verdict was already out — and the Jews of Sighet were smiling.

‘The yellow star? So what? It’s not lethal…’

(Poor Father! Of what then did you die?) …

Little by little life returned to ‘normal.’ The barbed wire that encircled us like a wall did not fill us with fear. In fact, we felt this was not a bad thing; were were entirely among ourselves. A small Jewish republic … A Jewish Council was appointed, as well as a Jewish police force, a welfare agency, a labor committee, a health agency — a whole government apparatus.

People thought this was a good thing.” (Elie Wiesel. Night. Hill and Wang. 10-12.)

The one man in town who tried to warn everyone was treated like a madman, which ironically took him to the edge of sanity. It was not long afterward that Mr. Wiesel would be shipped off to Auschwitz and then Buchenwald.

The horrors that Mr. Wiesel endured are too numerous to list in a single blog post, but it is imperative to note why Nazi torture was a special kind of evil: It took root in the souls of its victims, who then turned on one another.

“In the wagon where the bread had landed, a battle had ensued. Men were hurling themselves against each other, trampling, tearing at and mauling each other. Beasts of prey unleashed, animal hate in their eyes. An extraordinary vitality possessed them, sharpening their teeth and nails.

A crowd of workmen and curious passersby had formed all along the train. They had undoubtedly never seen a train with this kind of cargo. Soon, pieces of bread were falling into the wagons from all sides. And the spectators observed these emaciated creatures ready to kill for a crust of bread.” (101.)

Night is a powerful book that understandably simmers with rage and anger, hate and sorrow. It is a book that everyone should read, but it should not be completed without also making time for Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Mr. Wiesel’s memoir shows his self-described “rebellion” against God, while Mr. Frankl chronicles how spiritual growth is possible — even in an Auschwitz death camp.

“When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.

Long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naive query which understands life as the attaining of some aim through the active creation of something of value. For us, the meaning of life embraced the wider cycles of life and death, of suffering and of dying. …

We had realized [suffering’s] hidden opportunities for achievement, the opportunities which caused the poet Rilke to write, ‘Wie viel ist aufzuleiden!’ (How much suffering there is to get through!) Rilke spoke of ‘getting through’ suffering as others would talk of ‘getting through work.’ …

There was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. Only very few realized that.”  (Victor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press, 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992, 2006. 77, 78.)

In short, both books are essential reading for the man or woman who loves freedom, abhors tyranny, and understands the importance of history. The memoirs can be purchased for $10 or less, which is an unbeatable bargain given the wisdom each contains.

Apple pulls Civil War games with Confederate flag; Americans ironically slaves to the past

Civil WarIt only took the U.S. one week to move from the horrific actions of a lone racist who killed nine churchgoers in South Carolina to companies banning “Dukes of Hazzard” collectibles and Civil War games. Millions of Americans are, ironically, slaves to the past. They are slaves to an inanimate object. They cower in fear of a flag, even though common sense tells them that symbols can only be infused with meanings we permit.

Kotaku reported June 25:

Today, Apple decided to start yanking games that use the Confederate flag in any way (via TouchArcade). For example, you can now no longer buy the strategy iOS games Civil War: 1862, Civil War: 1863, Civil War: 1864, and Civil War: Gettysburg, which, as you might guess, use the Confederate flag because they’re video games about the Civil War.

Andrew Mulholland, director of these Civil War games, told me this morning that Apple pulled them today without any warning.

“It seems disappointing that they would remove it as they weren’t being used in an offensive way, being that they were historical war games and hence it was the flag used at the time,” Mulholland said in an e-mail. “At the moment we’re reworking the games to replace the flags that are deemed offensive. We’re going to use the Confederate flag from 1861 and 1862 as the one that’s considered offensive wasn’t introduced until late 1862.”

The note Apple sent, according to Mulholland: “We are writing to notify you that your app has been removed from the App Store because it includes images of the Confederate flag used in offensive and mean-spirited ways.”

What is happening here is only a few steps removed from book burning. It is the second cousin of book burning. We have found ourselves in a place where it is permissible to use a tragedy to target goods and services totally unrelated to the event. In an attempt to expunge certain elements of the past from our collective cultural consciousness, Civil War games are now deemed “mean spirited” merely for being about the Civil War.

This behavior indicates that the United States is culturally insane or a slave to its past. Businesses are beholden to the bottom line, and right now the bottom line is that prudence and reason are dangerously unprofitable. When a company looks out at its potential customers and it preemptively engages in absolute lunacy to please them, then red (not Confederate) flags should go up.

The nation would be wise to consider the words of Saint Francis de Sales, who said:

“‘Know thyself’ — that saying so celebrated among the ancients — may be understood as applying to the knowledge of the greatness and excellence of the soul (so that it may not be debased or profaned by things unworthy of its nobility); but it also may be taken to refer to the knowledge of our unworthiness, imperfection, and misery.” — Saint Francis de Sales, The Art of Loving God.

“Know thyself” is not high on America’s priority list these days. To the extent it is, Americans only want to think about their “greatness and excellence.”

Only sad people avoid confrontation with the worst parts of their nature, and only sick and twisted souls seek to live in complete denial of sins past. No matter how you slice it, America is in a pathetic place in 2015 — and it has nothing to do with slavery.

Niall Ferguson’s ‘Civilization: The West and the Rest’ is a masterpiece

Civilization The West and the RestIt is hard to describe the joy of reading a book so well-crafted that words like “masterpiece” and “genius” come to mind. Reading Niall Ferguson’s “Civilization: The West and the Rest” feels like getting bowled over by an intellectual wrecking ball again and against and again — but you keep coming back for more. If you can take the punishment, then you too are handed a wrecking ball of your very own upon completion of the final page. With your newly acquired weapon you can knock down cultural relativists and anti-Western internet trolls who are too lazy to go through Mr. Ferguson’s gauntlet.

The task before Mr. Ferguson was great: he had to break down the entire history of Western Civilization and explain the key traits — the “killer apps” — its members downloaded to make them rise above the rest. He then had to explain how nations like the U.S. and the U.K. are at risk of letting it all slip away.

Ferguson’s six “apps” are:

  1.  Competition
  2. The Scientific Revolution
  3. The rule of law and representative government
  4. Modern medicine
  5. The consumer society
  6. Work ethic

A sentient drop of water in Lake Ontario would have no clue that it was going to shoot over Niagara Falls in a few days without a broader sense of perspective. Likewise, it can be difficult to see just how close Western civilization is to going over a cliff without trying to obtain a bird’s eye view.

Mr. Ferguson writes:

What is most striking about this more modern reading of history is the speed of the Roman Empire’s collapse. In just five decades, the population of Rome itself fell by three quarters. Archaeological evidence from the late fifth century —inferior housing, more primitive pottery, fewer coins, smaller cattle — shows that the benign influence of Rome diminished rapidly in the rest of Western Europe. What one historian called ‘the end of civilization’ came within the span of a single generation.

Could our own version of Western civilization collapse with equal suddenness? It is, admittedly an old fear that began haunting British intellectuals from Chesterton to Shaw more than a century ago. Today, however, the fear may be more grounded. — Niall Ferguson, Civilization: The West and the Rest (New York: Penguin, 2011), 292.

To make matters worse, those charged with providing that elevated view have done a horrible job — for decades. The author accurately observes in the preface:

For roughly thirty years, young people at Western schools and universities have been given the idea of a liberal education, without the substance of historical knowledge. They have been taught isolated ‘modules’, not narratives, much less chronologies. They have been trained in the formulaic analysis of document excerpts, not in the key skill of reading widely and fast. They have been encouraged to feel empathy with imagined Roman centurions or Holocaust victims, not to write essays about why and how their predicaments arose. …

The current world population makes up approximately 7 percent of all the human beings who have ever lived. The dead outnumber the living, in other words, fourteen to one, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril. … [T]he past is really our only reliable source of knowledge about the fleeting present and to the multiple futures that lies before us, only one of which will actually happen. History is not just how we study the past; it is how we study time itself. (Preface, xx)

‘Civilization: The West and the Rest’ is an extremely important book. If you find yourself looking around and asking, “Where did it all go wrong? What’s happening to us?” then you should buy it today. Mr. Ferguson and the researchers who helped put together his book should be proud. It’s a masterpiece that will be studied for years to come, whether Western civilization retains its global seat of prominence or not.

Lost in the Ben Affleck debate with Bill Maher: Batman refused to say ‘endowed by our Creator’

Ben Affleck Bill MaherBen Affleck made national news in early October when he nearly broke down crying during a debate with Bill Maher and Sam Harris over Islam. In my rush to cover his petulant behavior I completely glossed over one important detail — Mr. Affleck refused to say that all men were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” He corrected himself as the “Cr” came out of his mouth to say our “forefathers” were the source of our rights. The implications of such an edit to our history are profound, and give insight into the liberal mind that must be exposed.

The exchange went as follows:

Bill Maher: “Why are you so hostile about this concept?”

Ben Affleck: “Because it’s gross! It’s racist! It’s like saying ‘you shifty Jew.’”

Bill Maher: You’re not listening to what we are saying.”

Ben Affleck: You guys are saying, if want be liberals believe in liberal principles. That’s freedom of speech. Like we are endowed by our Cr-forefathers with certain inalienable rights. All men are created equal.

Sam Harris: No, Ben. We have to be able to criticize bad ideas.

Ben Affleck: Of course we do. No liberal doesn’t want you to criticize bad ideas.

Here is an excerpt of what the U.S. Declaration of Independence actually says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

If your rights are doled out to you according to the auspices of men, then they can be altered at any time. If your rights are something that is a part of your being — a gift from an eternal Creator who always was, is, and will be — no one can take them from you. Ever.

The heart of liberalism beats with tyrannical blood. A true liberal activist denies God because, whether he realizes it or not, he wants to play God.

If your rights come from man — or a small elite group of men — then you will ultimately be forced to worship and adore them as if they were gods. If your rights come from God — the true God — then no man has the moral authority to deny you of your life, liberty or property.

When you couple the woeful state of the U.S. education system with the insidious way liberal actors, politicians, and media all go about trying to divorce Americans from their true history, it is a recipe for disaster. The reason why so many liberals despise the tea party movement is because conservatives and libertarians are acutely aware of America’s true history. They are familiar with the words of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. They’ve read Alexis de Tocqueville. They have copies of the U.S. Constitution in their home and know that our rights come from the Creator.

Ben Affleck reacts viscerally to conservative men because they are roadblocks to tyranny. They stand in the way of the wannabe masters of the universe and their plans to control every aspect of human life — down to the tablespoons of sugar Americans consume every single day.

When we “cling” to God there is no need to latch on to the empty promises of politicians. When we “cling” to guns, we can more easily fulfill our right — our duty — to “throw off” a tyrannical government if necessary. All patriotic Americans pray that the day never comes where prudence demands such extreme measures, but that still does not change the need to vigilantly defend liberty.

Carefully watch and listen to actors like Ben Affleck, and you will catch them surreptitiously trying to change America into something that would be completely unrecognizable — abhorrent, actually — to our Founding Fathers. You may not be able to enjoy their movies as much as you used to, but you’ll be doing your own small part to safeguard civil society for future generations.

Editor’s Note: You can watch the video here. Mr. Affleck’s line comes shortly after the 1:50 mark.

‘Unbroken’: Louie Zamperini’s story offers crucial lessons for improving mental, spiritual health

Louis Zamperini

Reviewing “Unbroken” is a difficult task. The story of famous Olympian and World War II hero Louie Zamperini’s life includes an endless list of lessons. Author Laura Hillenbrand, who also penned “Seabiscuit,” has churned out a product that is essential reading for anyone who seeks to improve their mental and spiritual health. Mr. Zamperini’s tale is a road map for greatness, and it is one that all Americans would be wise to study.

In short, the book can be divided into the following segments:

    • Louie’s defiant childhood and the moment he realized that his defiance could be channeled to bring him positive attention.
    • His time as an elite runner at USC and his 5,000-meter run at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
    • Louie’s training and missions as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.
    • The crash of the B-24 named “Green Hornet,” and his survival in shark-infested waters for 47 days.
    • His time spent as a prisoner of war at multiple Japanese camps, including Kwajalein (“Execution Island”), Ofuna (a secret interrogation center), Omari and Naoetsu (where Mutsuhiro Watanabe made it his all-consuming mission to break Zamperini’s spirit).
    • The end of the war, Louie’s decent into darkness with PTSD, and his salvation through Christ.

Each chapter of Mr. Zamperini’s life could be turned into its own book, yet Ms. Hillenbrand found a way to seamlessly tie them all together into a thought-provoking read that lives up to its billing: “A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

How does a man survive in the middle of the ocean on a tiny raft for 47 days? How does a man endure the horrors of a POW camp, where every effort is made to strip him of his humanity (e.g., injecting him with experimental drugs, beating him daily, and making him regularly clean up a pig’s bowel movements with his bare hands in return for food)?

The answer comes down to realizing that how you think about things — the conscious decisions you make every day regarding what to focus on — play a crucial role in shaping the outcome of your life.

Ms. Hillenbrand writes:

“Exposure, dehydration, stress, and hunger had quickly driven many of [World War I pilot Eddie Rickenbacker’s] party insane, a common fate for raft-bound men. Louie was more concerned with sanity than he was about sustenance. He kept thinking of a college physiology class he had taken, in which the instructor taught them to think of the mind as a muscle that would atrophy if left idle. Louie was determine that no matter what happened to their bodies, their minds would stay under their control. …

Within a few days of the crash, Louie began peppering the other two with questions on every conceivable subject. Phil took up the challenge, and soon he and Louie turned the raft into a nonstop quiz show. …

For Louie and Phil, the conversations were healing, pulling them out of their suffering and setting the future before them as a concrete thing. As they imagined themselves back in the world again, they willed a happy ending onto their ordeal and made it their expectation. With these talks, they created something to live for. …

Though all three men faced the same hardship, their differing perception of it appeared to be shaping their fates. Louie and Phil’s hope displaced their fear and inspired them to work toward their survival, and each success renewed their physical and emotional vigor. Mac’s resignation seemed to paralyze him, and the less he participated in their efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Though he did the least, as the days passed, it was he who faded the most. Louie and Phil’s optimism, and Mac’s hopelessness, were becoming self-fulfilling,” (Lauren Hillenbrand. Unbroken. New York: Random House, 2010. 145-148).

While “Mac” would ultimately redeem himself for some of his early behavior on the raft (e.g., he ate the only source of food the men had while they slept the first night), his inability to change his focus from death to life appears to be a major reason for his failure to survive.

One way to explain what is going on is this: the unconscious mind never sleeps. Since the unconscious mind operates outside time and space (i.e., think of how time and space operate in your dreams), it is vitally important that you are aware of what you decide to add to the mix. During the day a person plants seeds of thought into his subconscious. Those seeds eventually take root, and the fruit they bear affects both the conscious and subconscious mind. When the mind is weighed down with negative thoughts, it in turn weighs down the spirit. The spirit is strong — stronger than we can ever imagine — but when it breaks, then the body and mind surely follow.

Louie Zamperini understood that just as it was important to exercise his body if he wanted to be a world-class runner, the real key to success is to exercise the muscles that can not be seen or measured on a scale. In order to excel in the physical world an individual must also concentrate on the metaphysical. For Mr. Zamperini, whose PTSD after the war led him to abuse alcohol as a way of dealing with flashbacks and nightmares, peace was finally found when he embraced Christianity.

“In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness, had fallen away. That morning, he believed, he was a new creation. Softly, he wept.” (376)

The night that Mr. Zamperini fully understood his own faith, his nightmares ended. He regained his life, saved his marriage and even found it within himself to forgive the men who tortured him during the war.

While “Unbroken” is scheduled to be released to the big screen this Christmas, I highly recommend buying the book and adding it to your reading list before then. I find it hard to imagine that by the time you turn the last page that you will not experience a “single, silent moment” that will change your life for the better.

D’Souza’s ‘America’ reminds us: As free men ‘we must live through all time, or die by suicide’

America Imagine a World Without Her

Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘America: Imagine a World Without Her’ is an important book. It addresses what Abraham Lincoln knew long ago: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

“What kind of crazy American would want to end the nation?” is a logical question. The answer, however, is not a pleasant one. There are plenty of U.S. citizens who do not believe that America is, as George Washington put it, the “cause of mankind.” There are Americans who believe that America’s founding was so flawed that the only option is to “fundamentally transform” it, either through radical revolution from the outside or from a kind of stealth revolution from within. Mr. D’Souza directly rebuts the case against America made by men like Saul Alinsky, William Ayers, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Michel Foucault, Howard Zinn and their ideological allies.

What makes ‘America’ interesting is that many of the men covered in the book were interviewed by D’Souza for his upcoming movie by the same name. He isn’t afraid to let America’s critics have their say. He is confident that when those thoughts and ideas are placed side-by-side with an articulate defense of the principles of our founding, the wisdom of Washington will shine even brighter.

Any book that defends the America’s founding must address slavery, and as usual D’Souza does not shy away from the task. And, while it’s useful to have quotes on hand by former slave Frederick Douglass, who eventually believed that the U.S. Constitution guaranteed that slavery was an ugly “scaffolding to the magnificent structure [of America], to be removed as soon as the building was completed,” readers need more. Readers need to know that slavery wasn’t an American invention — but that it was present in all cultures up until that period of time. What is uniquely Western, he says, is not slavery but the abolition of slavery.

D’Souza adds another bitter pill for progressive men like Saul Alinsky (the author and “community organizer” who dedicated ‘Rules for Radicals’ to Lucifer, “the first radical”) to swallow: Christianity helped propel the anti-slavery movement:

Slavery became controversial for one reason: the influence of Christianity. …

It is a fact of great significance that only in the West — the region of the world officially known as Christendom — did anti-slavery movements arise. There is no history of an anti-slavery movement outside the West.

Even atheists admit that the anti-slavery movements in England and America were led by Christians. I am not suggesting that the Christians were the only ones who disliked slavery. From ancient times there had been another group that dislike slavery. That group was called the slaves. So there were always reports of runaways, slave revolts, and so on. What Christianity produced was an entirely different phenomenon: men who were eligible to be masters who opposed slavery.

D’Souza then points out that while the seeds for ending slavery were planted by Christians (i.e., we are all equal in the eyes of God), the Founders in Philadelphia found themselves in an interesting predicament: the choice was not whether to have slavery or not. “Rather, it was whether to have a union that temporarily tolerated slavery, or to have no union at all,” because immediately ending slavery would have been a deal-breaker for the Southern states.

Abraham Lincoln said it well during the Lincoln-Douglass debates regarding the Declaration of Independence:

[The Founders] intended to include all men, bu they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. … They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they respect they did consider all men created equal — equal in certain inalienable rights. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying equality… They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.”

What would have happened to the nation in its infancy if the Founders pushed the slavery issue to the point that the Union dissolved from the get-go? The world would be a very different place. Ultimately, it did take a Civil War and hundreds-of-thousands of deaths to resolve the issue, but to assert that the Founders should have pushed the issue as they were preparing to declare independence from England is bizarre.

In short, ‘America’ is a good read and well worth your time. Luckily, if you don’t have a lot of spare time or $30 on hand for the hardcover you can see the movie when it lands in theaters July 2.

And yes, I will be reviewing the film.

Thank God for George Washington, the ‘indispensable man,’ on Feb. 22

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was one of the greatest men to ever have walked the earth, which is why I suggest saying a prayer of thanks this Saturday.

During one battle of the Revolution, at Monmouth in New Jersey, the American troops were in confused flight and on the verge of destruction when General Washington appeared on the field. Soldiers stopped in their tacks and stared as the tall, blue-coated figure spurred his horse up and down the line, halting the retreat. The young Marquis de Lafayette remembered the sight for the rest of his life, how Washington rode “all along the lines amid the shouts of the soldiers, cheering them by his voice and example and restoring to our standard the fortunes of the fight. I thought then, as now, that never had I beheld so superb a man.”

The General turned his army around. The fighting raged until sundown, and that night the British took the chance to slip away. Washington’s very presence had stopped a rout and turned the tide of battle.

It was not the only time. Again and again, Americans turned to Washington. He was, as biographer James Flexner called him, the “indispensable man” of the American founding. Without George Washington, there may never have been a United States. (Bennett, William and Cribb, John. The American Patriot’s Almanac. p.59)

The more I’ve learned about Washington over the years, the more I have come to love him. It’s hard not wonder what it would be like to serve under his command. Whenever I read of the pivotal role Washington played in helping our nation to survive such a fragile moment in its history, I can’t help but think, “There is a man who I would follow into any battle. I would die for that man.”

Think of all the men in your life. How many of them would you follow into battle without question? How many would it be an honor to serve? You could probably count them on one hand.

One day the fate of the nation will hang in the balance, and we will only be able to pray that a man of Washington’s caliber is available to guide us through the ordeal. Until then, take a moment every so often to given thanks for the “indispensable man.”

Related: D.C. goons target Mount Vernon during shutdown — even though it’s privately owned

Editor’s note to regular readers: As some of you may have noticed, I have written less blog posts on contemporary politics as of late. There are quite a few reasons for that, which I’m more than willing to elaborate on in the comments section. However, the long story short is that over the next few months I will probably lean more often on the readily-available wisdom of greater men than I to keep the blog fresh. I will still write on political stories that are front and center in the news cycle, but with less regularly. I’m still trying to find the proper balance, but I think that it this point in history it might be better to reacquaint as many people as possible with our founding fathers instead of the ramblings of modern career politicians.

Buy ‘Democracy in America’ because Alexis de Tocqueville predicted the despotism before you

President Obama may be a well-read guy, but on Tuesday as he stood next to French president Francois Hollande he indicated to the world that he had not read Alexis de Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America’ in full. If he had, there would be no way he would have referred to the intellectual giant as “Alex.” While it may seem like nitpicking, let’s put it this way: it would be like talking about how much you respected “Ernie” Hemmingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’ with a straight face.

And so, it is with that in mind that I invite you to read just a small excerpt from de Tocqueville’s masterwork. In short, the man predicted to a the the kind of despotism Americans currently live under — even if millions of them don’t realize it.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835:

If despotism were to be established in present-day democracies, it would probably assume a different character; it would be more widespread and kinder; it would debase men without tormenting them. …

I wish to image under what new features despotism might appear in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of men, all for those petty, vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, living apart, is almost unaware of the destiny of all the rest. His children and personal friends are for him the whole of the human race; as for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he stands alongside them but does not see them; he touches them without feeling them; he exists only in himself and for himself; if he still retains his family circle, at any rate he may be said to have lost his country.

Above these men stands an immense and protective power which alone is responsible for looking after their enjoyments and watching over their destiny. It is absolute, meticulous, ordered, provident, and kindly disposed. It would be like a fatherly authority, if, father like, its aim were to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks only to keep them in perpetual childhood; it prefers its citizens to enjoy themselves provided they have only enjoyment in mind. It works readily for their happiness but it wishes to be the only provider and judge of it. It provides their security, anticipates and guarantees their needs, supplies their pleasures, directs their principal concerns, manages their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances. Why can it not remove from them entirely the bother of thinking and the troubles of life?

Thus, it reduces daily life the value and frequency of the exercise of free choice; it restricts the activity of free will within a narrower range and gradually removes autonomy itself from each citizen. Equality has prepared men for all this, inclining them to tolerate all these things and often even to see them as a blessing.

Thus, the ruling power, having taken each citizen one by one into its powerful grasp and having molded him to its own liking, spreads its arms over the whole of society, covering the surface of social life with a network of petty, complicated, detailed and uniform rules through which even the most original minds and the most energetic spirits cannot reach the light in order to rise above the crowd. It does not break men’s wills but it does soften, bend, and control them; rarely does it force men to act but it constantly opposes what actions they perform; it does not destroy the start of anything but it stands in the way; it does not tyrannize but it inhibits, represses, drains, snuffs out, dulls so much effort that finally it reduces each nation to nothing more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as shepherd.

I have always believed that this type of organized, gentle, and peaceful enslavement just described could link up more easily than imagined with some of the external forms of freedom that it would not be impossible for it to take hold in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.” — De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. 1835.

Anyone who reads those words and appreciates the message would never forget the author who wrote them because it is the work of genius. If you have not purchased ‘Democracy in America’ I highly suggest doing so. It will cost you $13 brand new if you go for the Penguin Classics edition, which is not too shabby when you consider how much you’ll learn by the time you’re through.

Editor’s note to my regular readers: As you know, I haven’t been blogging as much lately because I’m attempting to finish a book. Without giving too much away, I will say this: the passage you just read by Alexis de Tocqueville will, for all intents and purposes, be included in the final draft. If you like science fiction and U.S. history, then I invite you to stay tuned.