Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Freedom Fridays: Lesson One

Dutch! For YOUR Honor conscience! Against Bolshevism – The Waffen SS calls you! – Department of the Reichs-Kommissar

In politics, being deceived is no excuse.
Leszek Kolakowski

First, I want to thank everyone for your emails, your posts, and your massive support for me to undertake this project. I know that all of us, despite our various points of view, are weary of the drama and horrors, large and small.

But one of my intentions, as we commence this journey together, is to encourage us to step up to a new, more focused level of engagement. To do so, we will also need to practice extreme self-care, which I will also address elsewhere. Both are profoundly necessary.

Let there be no mistake, my loves.

We are fully in, what my colleague and friend Byron Ballard calls, Tower Time. Although commerce and the political status quo are desperately trying to hide it, and a vast number of people are more than willing to be in denial, we are experiencing the end of “Business as Usual,” as another brilliant visionary, Joanna Macy dubs it.

Bottom line: I know (and so do you) that we are undergoing the ending of an age; the centuries-old paradigm is collapsing right out from under us.

What it becomes during and after this process is up to us.

Have courage, dear friends. I believe with my whole heart that this is what we have come here for, at this precise time, with our very special skills, and arts, and knowledge.

So let us begin.

Some Perspective

As I explained last week, I will be sharing 20 lessons of history as described in On Tyranny, by historian Timothy Snyder. Many of the comments and interpretations here on my blog are my own. I will try to make clear which are my opinions, and which are from Snyder’s book.

Before I get to his first lesson, I think his Prologue, History and Tyranny, has some important preliminary points.

As he notes, “History does not repeat, but it does instruct.”

When the Founding Fathers of our country haggled out our Constitution, they were basing it on their own historic perspective.

Well-schooled in classical history, they were fluent with the works of Aristotle, who warned that inequality brings instability, as well as Plato’s admonishments that demagogues will exploit the existence of free speech, in order to grab power.

And certainly, the history of Roman civilization, which started as a representative republic but ended in dissolution and chaos, thanks to the corruption of its tyrannical emperors, is a stark warning that echoes to this day.

This is why our young country’s leaders were adamant that our government be built on so-called checks and balances. The founders well knew that much of human history has featured groups and individuals who have taken advantage of the lack of safeguards, installing themselves as absolute rulers, often by using or circumventing the law for their own benefit, and by means of the agreement, ignorance, and/or apathy of the masses.

As Snyder writes, “Much of the succeeding political debate in the United States has concerned the problem of tyranny within American society: over slaves and women, for example.”

But beyond the historic milieu of colonial America, he notes:

The good news is that we can draw upon more recent and relevant examples than ancient Greece and Rome. The bad news is that the history of modern democracy is also one of decline and fall…

… European history has seen three major democratic moments: after the First World War in 1918, after the Second World War in 1945, and after the end of communism in 1989.

Many of the democracies founded at these junctures failed, in circumstances that in some important respects resemble our own…

Both fascism and communism were responses to globalization; to the real and perceived inequalities it created, and the apparent helplessness of the democracies in addressing them.

American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Falsehood

In my view, which corresponds with Snyder’s observations, we have all been taught a subtle but persuasive distortion — that we, as Americans, are somehow different.

The story goes that we folks of the good old U.S. of A. are exceptionally Good, Decent, Smart, Powerful, and Loved by God. Our 242 year old democracy is so strong, our armies so vast, our guns so much bigger, that we need never fear being overthrown (except maybe the threat of pinko commie peacenik traitors who would undermine our apple pie values from within).

Oligarchies and empires are just some old words from ancient history. Our Leave It to Beaver way of life will just go on and on and on because, well.. hell! We’re AMERICANS!

But that is a dangerous fallacy that has flung open the doors for instability and rot from within.

So how do we begin the task of ensuring that empires, oligarchs, and worse do not steal our freedoms from us?

Lesson One: Do Not Obey In Advance

I am very heartened by the #Resist movement. Resistance is not only not futile, it is absolutely necessary. Snyder begins his Lesson One chapter with this:

Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked.

A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.

Over and over, we see that when radical new bullies emerge, the first, and perhaps most tragic stumble is how people not directly impacted will stand on the sidelines and watch, or even join in.

Snyder notes that after the German elections of 1932, in which Hitler was lawfully elected, despite his loud (very loud!) and clear demonstration of who he was and what he stood for, many decided to hitch themselves to him, simply because he was in power. They opportunistically offered themselves to his government.

I can’t help but notice that in the 2016 American election campaign, which was especially rancorous within the Republican Party, P45’s* rivals fought against him bitterly, and the incumbent Congress mostly shunned him, with a few actually criticizing his tactics and lack of coherent policies.

Since his inauguration, the challenges from his party have gone quiet, except for a very few who, for a little while, continued to question the direction he was steering us, as well as his conduct and honesty.

But now party loyalty and tenure are more important than serving the people, and there is almost no opposition from the Republican Party.

His challengers have resigned — either literally, by announcing they would step down after their term ends, or else by quietly knuckling under in resignation to the power he is wielding, as corrosive as it is proving to be for many Americans and even for the former ideals of the GOP.

This jumping-on-the-bandwagon compliance occurred in pre-WWII Germany, as well as in Czechoslovakia’s communist takeover in 1946. Snyder warns us, “Because enough people in both cases voluntarily extended their services to the new leaders, Nazis and communists alike realized that they could move quickly toward a full regime change.

“The first heedless acts of conformity could not then be reversed.”

Shooting People On Fifth Avenue

In January, 2016, the radical outsider American candidate boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Despite his loud (very loud!) and clear warnings of who he is, and what he stands for, he has garnered the support of the current party (that also happens to be in complete control), in part because during his ascent to power, his antics were frequently dismissed as entertainment and spectacle.

In 1938 Austria, in the wake of their independent chancellor’s resignation to Hitler’s annexation, Snyder writes, “It was the Austrians’ anticipatory obedience that decided the fate of Austrian Jews.

“Local Austrian Nazis captured Jews and forced them to scrub the streets, to remove symbols of independent Austria. Crucially, people who were not Nazis looked on with interest and amusement.

“Nazis who had kept lists of Jewish property stole what they could. Crucially, others who were not Nazis joined in the theft…The anticipatory obedience of Austrians in March, 1938 taught the high Nazi leadership what was possible.”

This success led directly to the horrific pogrom in Germany only eight months later, known as Kristallnacht.

That Wouldn’t Happen Here.. Would It?

Snyder goes on to illustrate other examples of how this works, including one of the most infamous academic behavioral studies ever performed.

Anyone who’s ever studied sociology or psychology is well aware of the Milgram experiment, performed in 1961 at Yale University.

Using actors to play the part of the victims, the idea was to observe the extent to which ordinary people will comply with authority, even when they believe it is causing extreme pain or even death to the recipients of their actions.

The outcome astonished the researchers. Not because it worked, but because of how easily the subjects were persuaded to administer what they were seeing as, first painful, then agonizing, and, finally, deadly electric shocks during an exercise that they’d been told was simply an experiment in teaching word associations.

The experiments came under heavy criticism later, because the subjects who carried out these orders were, understandably, traumatized after the fact.

However, at the time, Milgram reported that “65 percent (26 of 40) of experiment participants administered the experiment’s final massive 450-volt shock, and all administered shocks of at least 300 volts. Subjects were uncomfortable doing so, and displayed varying degrees of tension and stress…Every participant paused the experiment at least once to question it. Most continued after being assured by the experimenter.”

Milgram concludes:

I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not.

The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.

Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.

Multiple similar studies have been performed since then, including in the U.S., Australia, Scotland, France, and other locations.

The results have been nearly identical in every variation.

Learning from Lesson One – My Suggestions

Resist. If something looks wrong to you, say so.

Vote and speak your conscience, while you still can. If you don’t agree, refuse. Or confront. Ask. Beware of what appears to be the expedient, safe thing.

Do not conform just because you seem to be going against the current. Question authority (it’s more than just a bumper sticker).

Build up your “resources,” as Milgram calls them, by refusing to compromise when you are a witness to injustices, large and seemingly small, as well as the intrusive encroachment of authority.

The prevailing forces may seem very strong, but tyrants always — always — begin as the minority. They depend on recruiting the undecideds, the grudge-holders, the ignorant, the bystanders, and the in-advance compliance of the “silent majority.”

Don’t join.

And remember — you are not alone!

* About using my abbreviation, “P45” —   I am sorry, but I cannot and will not call him “President.” And I can hardly bear to see his name in print. Therefore, I will avoid using it. Thanks for understanding.

ps: I promise the coming weeks’ posts will not be as lengthy. Today I wanted to include Synder’s prologue observations, in addition to Lesson One.

Just finding your way here? Want to go back and read from the beginning?

No problem:

Introduction to Freedom Fridays

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • July 14, 2018, 9:14 am Kate

    Thanks, Beth, you inspired me to go out and to find ON TYRANNY and read it along with your posts going forward. Yes, it is really hard to speak the name, see the face, and listen to the voice. Actually, it is unbearable. I still feel slightly shocked every time I hear about the latest confusing, humiliating, and ridiculous commentary from him and his minions. But I will never give up. Looking forward to your next posts!

  • July 14, 2018, 12:38 pm nofixedstars

    everything above is cogent and effectively stated. and for those who haven’t much background in history or political science, it may serve as a helpful statement of what they innately feel to be going on, without fully understanding why they have felt that way. a sort of national level gaslighting seems to going on, and it”s all the more effective because none of us want to believe that things really are this bad and may get worse. (!) i am glad that you mentioned american exceptionalism, because i think that has been operative in many people accepting the regime.

    the fact that it is headed by a buffoon makes it, i believe, easier for people to tolerate, because it all seems so ludicrous. surely nothing so mad could get the nomination. he did. surely nothing so mad could get elected. he did (albeit with help from a corrupted electoral process and russian-hacked media). surely this madness can’t last. can’t get worse. can’t (fill in the blank with the atrocity or insanity du jour)… but the buffoon and his handlers are doing real, terrifying harm. our minds may reel, but they must also act.

  • July 14, 2018, 2:30 pm Beth

    Thank you, Kate! If I could afford it, I fantasize going out and buying PILES of copies, and handing them out to everyone I know. I am glad to know you are along, step by step.

    And dearest nofixedstars — I so agree, and you’ve said it beautifully. Sadly, I think that the news cycle and social media have programmed us to have a very limited attention span. I worry, for instance, about my posts being too long.

    But I also know that this is not simple or shallow stuff, although the temptation is to just hop over to the next shiny thing being presented to us. Making changes at this point will take focus, effort, and steady perseverance. But we must endure and act, because every day, it gets harder.

    Thank you, you two.

  • July 14, 2018, 3:11 pm Maribeth E Pittman

    Huzzah! Sometimes I feel like I want to just shout at people, “WAKE UP!”

    Your last paragraph was succinct and pithy – right on point. (“The prevailing forces may seem very strong, but tyrants always — always — begin as the minority. They depend on recruiting the undecideds, the grudge-holders, the ignorant, the bystanders, and the in-advance compliance of the ‘silent majority.’ ” I would love to share it (credited to you, of course!) on my Facebook wall. May I, please, dear Beth?


  • July 14, 2018, 5:39 pm myka

    Awesome, i wanted to say thank you for this and last week’s post. this is really above and beyond and I’m so appreciative that you are devoting your precious time to this effort. i’m in the sandwich phase of life, dependent kids and parent’s who serious medical problems and i just don’t have the time to do my own research. every word of your posts resonante deeply! namaste,

  • July 14, 2018, 5:40 pm Beth

    Beloved mep – I would be honored. Please do.

    And thank you. xoxoxo

  • July 16, 2018, 12:57 pm Jacqueline

    Thank you Beth for the reminder that we need to prepare ourselves to resist any call to ignore or participate in immoral acts. As a student of psychology I watched the videos of the Milgram experiments and the only people who were able to resist the “white coat effect” of authority were those trained at the nearby Yale Divinity School or had previously undergone an experience in which they had been forced to contemplate the concept of their place in relationship to a “higher authority” that gave them moral courage. The main tool that “broke” the participants was for the actor in the white coat to say that they “assumed all responsibility” for whatever happened. Only those who insisted that their personal acts were their personal responsibility regardless of what the man in the white coat said were able to resist this siren song of not being responsible.

    Participants were horrified when they realized how they had been tricked into doing an evil act. They required therapy but when interviewed years later said they were grateful for the experience because they had been able to resist authority in real life later when it had mattered. The keys here were to remember our connection to the divine coupled with taking responsibility for our own actions. These things can be mindfully practiced by becoming aware of each action and inaction we take and accepting that while we may not be perfect, every time we do the “right thing” we make ourselves stronger. Every small act, like letting a driver turn into your lane of traffic or giving someone who looks tired or frail your seat on the bus, or speaking up when we could be silent, makes us more awake and makes our ability to resist evil stronger. I have personally been working on my “moral muscles” lately by remembering the times I felt connected to awe and wonder, nature and the divine, and attempting to be mindful and generous in my public interactions. It is of course a work in progress.

  • July 16, 2018, 3:38 pm Beth

    Jacqueline – thank you for this powerful, thoughtful post. I hope everyone that visits here will read them; they are incredibly enlightening and comprise a clear map for how to move forward from the current morass.

    Bless you.

  • July 16, 2018, 9:22 pm Nicole

    Dear Beth,
    Thank you so much for stepping up and providing focus and important historical information so relevant to what is happening in America today.

    P.S. Your post is NOT too long! Absolutely fascinating.