What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Truth-tellers: "Live Not By Lies"

I've just read for the first time a striking, challenging, and inspiring essay by Solzhenitsyn on truth-telling, "Live Not By Lies." Its echoes and applicability in our own day and in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" are chilling. As you read the quotations below, I ask you to think about all the ways in which so many are being asked to live by lies in order to have any livelihood at all. Think of mandatory corporate sensitivity training, college courses and orientation sessions that are nothing more than indoctrination, job firings for Facebook postings that dissent from the leftist agenda, the incessant drumbeat of our increasingly blatantly dishonest mainstream media. Solzhenitsyn calls us to a kind of passive resistance to the culture of lies, a refusal to be part of the herd that appears to assent to them. His words sound like a trumpet call and are frightening in their implications. For too many, following his prescriptions would indeed mean genuine hardship and loss of livelihood and prospects. And that, even if they do not actively seek to stick their necks out but merely refuse to appear to go along like sheep and say "shibboleth." Solzhenitsyn's words need to be heard and pondered. I have added a few emphases to them in the form of bolded sentences, though even that is an almost presumptuous gilding of lilies. My own further comments, somewhat orthogonal to his essay, will come afterwards, and you need not read them if you do not want to, for what he has to say is a great deal more important.

The circle—is it closed? And is there really no way out? And is there only one thing left for us to do, to wait without taking action? Maybe something will happen by itself? It will never happen as long as we daily acknowledge, extol, and strengthen—and do not sever ourselves from the most perceptible of its aspects: Lies.

When violence intrudes into peaceful life, its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and shouting: “I am violence. Run away, make way for me—I will crush you.” But violence quickly grows old. And it has lost confidence in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood as its ally—since violence lays its ponderous paw not every day and not on every shoulder. It demands from us only obedience to lies and daily participation in lies—all loyalty lies in that.

And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me.

This opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction. It is the easiest thing to do for us, but the most devastating for the lies. Because when people renounce lies it simply cuts short their existence. Like an infection, they can exist only in a living organism.

We do not exhort ourselves. We have not sufficiently matured to march into the squares and shout the truth our loud or to express aloud what we think. It's not necessary.

It's dangerous. But let us refuse to say that which we do not think.

This is our path, the easiest and most accessible one, which takes into account out inherent cowardice, already well rooted. And it is much easier—it's dangerous even to say this—than the sort of civil disobedience which Gandhi advocated.

Our path is not to give conscious support to lies about anything whatsoever? And once we realize where lie the perimeters of falsehood, each sees them in his own way.

Our path is to walk away from the gangrenous boundary. If we did not paste together the dead bones and scales of ideology, if we did not sew together the rotting rags, we would be astonished how quickly the lies would be rendered helpless and subside.

That which should be naked would then really appear naked before the whole world.

So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood—of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one's family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies—or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one's children and contemporaries.

And from that day onward he:

*Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.

*Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation nor in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf nor at the prompting of someone else, neither in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, nor in a theatrical role.

*Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can see is false or a distortion of the truth, whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.

*Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.

*Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.

*Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.

*Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question.

*Will immediately walk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.

*Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

Of course we have not listed all of the possible and necessary deviations from falsehood. But a person who purifies himself will easily distinguish other instances with his purified outlook.

No, it will not be the same for everybody at first. Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice.

But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude.

And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul—don't let him be proud of his “progressive” views, don't let him boast that he is an academician or a people's artist, a merited figure, or a general—let him say to himself: I am in the herd, and a coward. It's all the same to me as long as I'm fed and warm.

You say it will not be easy? But it will be easiest of all possible resources. It will not be an easy choice for a body, but it is the only one for a soul. Not, it is not an easy path. But there are already people, even dozens of them, who over the years have maintained all these points and live by the truth.

So you will not be the first to take this path, but will join those who have already taken it. This path will be easier and shorter for all of us if we take it by mutual efforts and in close rank. If there are thousands of us, they will not be able to do anything with us. If there are tens of thousands of us, then we would not even recognize our country.

I would not presume to tell others, all far more perilously placed than I, how strictly they should apply Solzhenitsyn's words to their own lives, nor how strictly they should advise their children to do so. If your company holds required propaganda meetings, should you refuse to go to them? Or is there a way to avoid living by lies while going, maintaining a scrupulous silence, a refusal to affirm the propaganda, even if this invites suspicion? I know of one corporate employee who has courageously refused to participate in making a square for (of all things) a "diversity quilt" to be hung in the corporate headquarters. He knows quite well that "diversity" is now a not-so-subtle code word that affirms, inter alia, sexual deviance. He is applying Solzhenitsyn's advice even without (I would wager) having heard it. Must all do the same, even at the risk of their and their family's livelihood? That must ultimately remain between each man and his conscience. But it is sobering and salutary to ponder the challenge.

One other point occurs to me, from the second, shorter quotation from the essay. Chesterton said that the men of the cross go gaily in the dark. But, I would add, it is back-breakingly difficult, almost psychologically impossible, to go gaily in the dark alone. We need friends and brothers in arms. One of the saddest facts of the contemporary American scene, almost sadder in its own small way than the big picture of the toppling of constitutional America, is the fragmentation of the conservative movement. Here I refer even to American social conservatives, not merely to a cobbling together of allies--say, social conservatives and fiscal conservatives--who otherwise have little in common. I do not derogate such alliances. I think they serve an important role. But here I am talking about those of us who actually know and see the evils of abortion, euthanasia, the sexual social agenda, those of us who believe that the unborn child, the lab-created embryonic human being, the vulnerable elderly, and the handicapped should be protected in law from the forces of death, those of us who know what marriage is and that it must be properly upheld. If even we are fragmented, torn over matters both of theory and of practice, where is courage to be found? The Internet is both an instrument of unification, bringing together like-minded individuals who would otherwise never have known anything about each other, and of division, encouraging us endlessly to talk and debate until something goes wrong.

We should use the unifying power of the Web and resist, to the best of our ability, its tendency to separate natural friends and true allies. We have enough enemies closing that circle around us. If we are to live by truth and not by lies, we will need all the friends we can get.

Comments (49)

Good essay (although feeding your families will be a practical point the majority of people, including eventually myself if I ever have one myself, will never be able to get past), but one thing did stick out to me: Theatrical roles? I'm honestly not sure what that means. We're not supposed to be or support actors or something? We can't play a role? Because I love theater. I intend to be in more shows if possible.

This interpretation of course seems totally wrong, but that DOES seem like a bizarre phrase stuck in there, and I'm honestly not sure what it means.

I think if one puts it in the context of 1970's Communism, when it was written, one will interpret that phrase as referring to an actor's prostituting himself to play in a propagandistic play lauding Communism, pushing the present Party Line and so forth. In Communist countries the arts were fairly heavily controlled by the government. Independent art was looked upon as dangerous, and the arts were supposed to bring the masses to greater and greater agreement with the ideology of the Party.

I assume that Solzhenitsyn is thinking of "uttering a phrase in a theatrical role" in the context of a propagandistic play where the actor's "uttering the phrase" is part of promoting (and the actor knows it is part of promoting) an ideology he knows to be false.

Certainly such problems could easily arise in our own acting contexts, though usually not promoted directly by the government. Nonetheless, a great many films, etc., are indeed blatantly and unabashedly promoting an ideology that a Christian, not to mention a morally conservative Christian, will know to be false, and this could easily create a moral dilemma for an actor.

Remember that the "such a phrase" line follows up on a bullet point that says he will not write, sign, or print a phrase which distorts the truth. Naturally, we could get into all sorts of questions about when a line in a play or film distorts the truth. For example, you can have something said by the villain of the piece that distorts the truth, but if he is the villain of the piece, then his role is set in an overall context that does not distort the truth, since the overall perspective of the play is not to promote but to critique his position. A big topic, obviously--the role of acting and of spoken speeches in drama in the promotion or distortion of truth. Still, I think we can all imagine situations in which an actor would legitimately feel that he was doing something against his conscience in being part of a particular production, and that, because of the ideology that he knew the production was promoting and that he was assisting in promoting.

The Internet is both an instrument of unification,...and of division, encouraging us endlessly to talk and debate until something goes wrong.

No, no, you've got that all wrong. It's quite the other way, because...

Oops. Sorry. :-)

My company has been enthusiastically leaning on its employees to participate in all the lies that the god of the marketplace is spreading. It is a very large company, that most would probably guess is conservative, but it is not. It has gone so far as to pay, through its medical plans, for people to mutilate their bodies for end of self actualization. This company is not just going along with the lies to avoid being a target, but has enthusiastically picked up the flag and is leading the vanguard.

Heh, Tony, you're great.

Randy, I well believe it. I've found again and again that companies that are excoriated for being "haters" or what-not are sometimes actually quite PC. This applies to institutions and colleges as well. The question, then,is what they are demanding of their employees and how their employees who know the truth can and should resist the lies.

It is a very large company, that most would probably guess is conservative, but it is not.

Your statement could be generalized to say that most people think very large companies are conservative, but virtually none of them are. I also work for a multi-billion-dollar corporation and our internal homepage is an unceasing parade of leftist propaganda. In fact, that has been the case at every really large company I've worked in.

Of course, it is worse within the government itself. A friend works in one of those enormous basements that they call offices at CIA. One day when walking into work the marquee sign in the lobby, which each and every one of the thousands of employees who file into that drab facility must pass by in silence, was lit up with the demand to "CELEBRATE GAY PRIDE!" She said she never felt so much like a Party worker in Oceania.

Do people realize the extent to which official government orthodoxy in this country is explicitly leftist, and does not intend in any way to take "no" for an answer? I don't believe they do, having been taught that conservatives are by definition paranoiacs.

Hypothetical question: What if most people tried to live by the rules in that essay? Obviously newspapers would go out of business immediately, that sort of thing. But would life even be possible? I'm talking about relatively free places like America, not the USSR or Japan. Solzhenitsyn might answer that life would definitely be possible because after the first large numbers of people act, the lies would begin to crumble, and there would be less need for others to resist. But I think that's false.

You've got every person deciding for himself what the truth is. Everyone refuses even to sit in a meeting when a speaker is telling lies, as determined by that individual listener of course. America is already at the place where political adversaries are not just mistaken, they're dirty liars, they know that their expressed beliefs are false, because any intelligent person can see the falsity of those beliefs. People's opponents are evil, because they're destroying everything that this country is, and they know it.

I don't really like the tone of this essay. Solzhenitsyn is a martyr calling on others to become martyrs, which is OK, but it's not an essay for the people of the USSR, much less for the people of America. Personally, I prefer something like Hannah Arendt's "Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship."

Your statement could be generalized to say that most people think very large companies are conservative, but virtually none of them are. I also work for a multi-billion-dollar corporation and our internal homepage is an unceasing parade of leftist propaganda. In fact, that has been the case at every really large company I've worked in.

Recently, my company distributed "pride mugs" to those who requested them, and encouraged people to display them at work.

The communication was very clear that the mugs WERE NOT to be displayed outside of work.

So how does one deal with this? Especially one who has to provide for a family. And then, how does he prepare his children to deal with a world that will likely be even more hostile?

I don't really like the tone of this essay.

Okay, that's unintentionally funny. Somebody who can read a long quote from that essay, by Solzhenitsyn, about the USSR, and respond that he "doesn't like its tone" is unintentionally funny.

Aaron Gross, that you could say that in response to that challenge is a sign that you do not get it.

As for "everybody deciding what is truth for himself," yes, I suppose it _would_ be less divisive if we just let the Party decide what is truth for us and continued to go through the motions of accepting it. Also a road to being zombies. But, hey, at least people would "like our tone" better.

Randy, it does kind of surprise me that the "Pride" mugs were not to be displayed outside of work. I don't know how your company can continue to walk that line. It's kind of a dilemma for them, isn't it? How can they advertise their tolerance so as to try to get credit for it from the liberals while not scaring the horses (i.e., their customers who wouldn't like the pride mugs)?

So how does one deal with this? Especially one who has to provide for a family. And then, how does he prepare his children to deal with a world that will likely be even more hostile?

I don't know, but it keeps me up at night. The fact is, libertarian protests to the contrary notwithstanding, it is not possible for a conservative simply to "change the channel" and to raise his family just as he'd like. The effects of living in the kind of society that celebrates every kind of ugliness and perversion are unavoidable. One cannot choose to "not see" the whole society in which he lives, and a person who is forced to remain silent in the face of obvious lies, and to keep his eyes constantly averted from florid expressions of bloodlust and unchastity, is not really free in any sense that matters. He is oppressed at the most fundamental level of his being. He cannot even choose to live among others who think as he does, because the formation of such a community is explicitly forbidden by sweeping laws that prevent the maintenance of any social norm not in harmony with "socially liberal" orthodoxy.

And because "social" liberalism leads inexorably to the economic sort--not least because it creates intolerable levels of decadence and decay among precisely those populations with the least resources--the conservative man is straight-jacketed in all the minute particulars of how, precisely, he supports his family and provides for their material sustenance. To enter into any remotely public endeavor (whether that be to turn on the television or to start a business) is to enter the sphere of liberal control, and that sphere expands to crowd out all that is not itself, day by day, in the name of greater freedom for all.

He cannot even choose to live among others who think as he does, because the formation of such a community is explicitly forbidden by sweeping laws that prevent the maintenance of any social norm not in harmony with "socially liberal" orthodoxy.

Sage, I think we need to make strides against that. And I think it can be done, too, though it's difficult. But it would take a lot of courage and a lot of money.

Everyone refuses even to sit in a meeting when a speaker is telling lies, as determined by that individual listener of course. America is already at the place where political adversaries are not just mistaken, they're dirty liars, they know that their expressed beliefs are false, because any intelligent person can see the falsity of those beliefs.

Aaron, surely you can see nuances here. It is one thing for a company VP to sit around drinking with you after hours and bitching about some stupid new policy, and then the next day sitting in a board room discussion where the very same VP is fawning all over the policy because the CEO likes it (so the hypocrisy is clear and certain to you, even if it is not to everyone else), on the one hand, and the situation where some feminist VP starts promoting some new program which is all about tolerance for Wicca, which (at the moment, at least) she truly believes should receive that tolerance because "everybody should feel cherished". The feminist may be a dolt, and may be hypocritical in OTHER ways, but she is not a hypocrite in the blatant, direct sense of spouting something right there in the meeting which she disparaged only a few hours ago to your face.

We all know people who hold on to error even though the fact that it is error is plain to see for everyone who opens their eyes. Maybe this person has not opened their eyes.

However, I think there is probably a third category, sort of in the middle, those who engage in systematic intellectual tomfoolery (a kind of intellectual dishonesty) because they don't want to accept the logical conclusions that they can kind of see the edges of as following from their premises (but they think maybe there is some counterargument to these conclusions, but they are never sure because they won't permit the discussion to go that far). They refuse to carry through their thinking because its emptiness will be manifest, but they don't say THAT to themselves. Or, a little less obvious, there are those who are in the middle of a moment of intellectual tomfoolery that is not systematic and habitual, but is still a sort of momentary willingness to be slipshod and asinine about some topic that has them roiled. They exaggerate for effect, they belittle opposing evidence, and so on, in ways that they probably wouldn't accept in typical cases. I don't think S is talking about walking away from these sorts of situations.

I think Solzhenitsyn's comments apply most squarely to being forced to attend diversity training or sensitivity training. Even if the people running it are in some sense "sincere" in their baloney-mongering, there is a very important sense in which they are doing something Orwellian which bears an uncomfortable resemblance to brain-washing. It is clear pressure to conform to a highly ideological agenda. I think there's no getting around the implications of attending. At that point one has to ask whether it's worth the loss of one's job to go to these propaganda, baloney sessions and _try_ to retain some measure of integrity throughout the process. One will be wondering, "Hmm, what sort of group activities will we have to engage in? How much can I or should I take of listening to everybody fawning over the leader and spitting back the ideological nonsense? Even if I am silent, in what sense am I participating in the process by attending? What happens if I see someone else impressionable having his mind influenced and being brainwashed before my very eyes, being taught to blather even more than he did before about sensitivity and diversity? Ought I to try to speak up?" I suppose some people might mind less than I would if the ideology in question is the oppression of women and minorities (everybody's mileage may vary), but what happens when it's all about "sexual diversity" and gay pride and being "sensitive" to that?

In that context, I understand perfectly well what Solzhenitsyn means by lies. The fact that the leftist facilitator brought in to teach the people to "celebrate diversity" so that the company can avoid lawsuits (or try to) actually _believes_ the ideology doesn't vitiate the point. No doubt the Communists who ran the schools in the USSR were _real_ Communists. But there was a real sense in which the people forced to attend rallies and ideological training sessions were being forced to accede to things that they themselves (in many cases) knew to be false, and that warping of conscience, that forcing people to say "shibboleth" to what in their hearts they opposed, was part of the corrupting influence of Communism. It is of the very essence of what S. means when he talks about "living by lies," and unfortunately, we do have our counterparts today.

Some, at first, will lose their jobs.
Lydia, you do not have a (paid) job. You have a tenured husband. Tenured academics can claim almost anything they want. Some had personal contact with extraterrestrial species, others believe in ESP, marxism, post-structuralism, segregationism, cold fusion or even hold the view that the historic evidence yields a chance of 99.9 % that Jesus rose from the dead. The only personal risk they (and their spouses) face is to make fools of themselves. To oppose communism in the Soviet Union was different, even in the 70's. Courageous people were threathened with persecution, prison, psychiatry or labor camps, you could lose your home, get a publication or occupational ban, they could publicly denigrate you in the state-run media, place bugs in your private rooms, force you into emigration etc. To compare the religious right in the US with dissidents in the Soviet Union is just outrageous, even for your low standards. You are not resistance fighters or martyrs like Solzhenitsyn (or Bonhoeffer or Delp), but just a group that is lamenting the loss of some of its former social impact. However, a group still powerful enough to almost inaugurate the GOP president candidate (Santorum) and to make the official candidate (Romney) say things he - very probably - did not believe. And whereas the cause of Solzhenitsyn was the end of tyranny and the guarantee of personal and religious freedom, your cause is to "uphold true marriage". Get some perspective.

Apparently Solzhenitsyn was not a voter.

Lydia, you do not have a (paid) job. You have a tenured husband.

Uh, Grobi, you'll notice that I made a _special reference_ to the fact that I'm in a much easier situation than a lot of my readers. But a lot of people in the U.S. _do_ and _can_ lose their jobs for not towing the line. In fact, I think it was remarkably restrained of Solzhenitsyn to lay such stress on economic hardship and job loss. As you point out, in the USSR a lot worse could happen than losing one's job--and did happen, to Solzhenitsyn himself.

In the U.S. now, whether you happen to like it or not, a lot of people who don't have tenure face job loss if they won't say "shibboleth" to the present gods of the age. My friend who refused to participate in the "diversity quilt" has no tenure (there isn't in the corporate world) and took a real risk.

And upholding marriage does have a real relationship to personal and religious freedom. Sorry you don't get that. The many businesses destroyed and people fined, investigated by police, and even arrested in Canada and the United Kingdom could tell you a thing or two about that.

Oh, by the way, tenured professor Mike Adams has had to sue because his political views have been used against him to attempt to deny him promotion.

Sure, being sent to the Gulag is worse. That's a pretty low standard.

We've definitely come to the point where a great many principled conservatives have to hide their identities in order to support their families and not ruin their futures and their careers. And this is certainly true in the university as well as in the corporate world. I would certainly not recommend that any untenured philosopher write the kinds of things I write.

Grobi, if you cared about political freedom, you'd care about that. But you will apparently (based on your comments here) either deny that it is true or you will say it isn't that big of a deal. So much for your frequent lectures to me about open-mindedness and the philosophical spirit.

I don't like the tone of the essay, that's right. I wouldn't say that about an essay by a good philosopher or deep thinker. Solzhenitsyn was a brave dissident and deserves our admiration for that, but he was not a good moral thinker, nor does he have any special moral authority. This stuff isn't Plato or Aristotle or something like that, and it shouldn't be treated that way.

Right, Aaron, it's not Aristotle and shouldn't be treated like Aristotle, but that's not what Lydia has done here. She treats it as a call to arms--which is not, I would guess, how she treats Aristotle.

Of course, St. Therese of Lisieux was also not a "deep thinker," but many people have learned from her example anyway. It doesn't have to be the work of St. Thomas Aquinas to be treated as morally serious.

You say you wouldn't level your criticism of "tone" against Aristotle, then go on to criticize it not only on the basis of its tone, but on the basis that it isn't Aristotle! Confusion abounds.

It's actually very powerful, literarily. But more than that, he's talking about an evil system that did force people to be complicit in lies, and there is no reason whatsoever to take a good "tone" toward it. The sort of resistance he suggests was very important. Brainwashing needs to be resisted; so does propaganda. To suggest that we need to take a better "tone" towards brainwashers and propagandists is to suggest that we need to be sheep. Since you, Aaron Gross, are yourself a liberal, perhaps I should not be surprised that you do not understand why this is morally shallow and that you would like to counsel those to the right of the current propaganda establishment to be _nicer_ and watch their _tone_, and even that you go so far as to deprecate an inspiring essay by a dissident from Communism on the grounds of its "tone," but please understand: It isn't just some kind of holy reverence for Solzhenitsyn that causes me to think that your criticism of his "tone" is not morally serious.

Superb find, Lydia. Many thanks for posting this. I've been up against this wall of lies all of my adult life. My resistance is non-heroic, but it's to the point where I really can't work for any large company anymore. When I'm told to positively assent to lies a switch just flips inside my head and, damn the torpedoes, I end up exposing the charade. I want to be clear, too, that this culture of lies exists on the "conservative" side as well, but in different ways. One year ago I was a manager at an otherwise very conservative company. I supervised the customer service team. The training manual for our reps literally told them to lie in one specific context. It was my project to update the manual, and in one of our meetings I told my reps to cross out the part where they are instructed to lie, and please don't lie to any of our clients. I did this calmly and quietly, non-accusingly and with sympathy for their predicament, and immediately rushed to the next subject. But they went ballistic. Tears and everything. They went over my head and made a ruckus with the owner. I made permanent enemies over this. The incident was just one example of the culture of lies in the company that I ultimately could not tolerate and ended up quitting.

Considering that I have ambitions of getting a PhD in History from Princeton (someday!) I will most likely be as submerged in lies as anyone.

This is piece is excellent, and we all need to understand it. Aaron Gross's objection is only justifiable if you are a person who believes that morality and truth is obscure and hard to know.

Jeff, I thought of you when I read it, because I know that you have talked about the difficulties people will find in finding jobs if they won't agree with certain moral values.

My _guess_ would be (but correct me if I'm wrong) that the injunctions to lying in "otherwise very conservative companies" are somewhat unsystematic. That is to say, we can _predict_ that companies with "mainstream" (liberal) values will ask people to tip their hats to diversity, inclusion, and the like, and never to say anything that calls those into question or challenges those. This is part of the systematic culture of lies of a leftist society. but it is harder to predict whether an "otherwise very conservative" company will ask you to lie and, if so, to lie about what.

It's not just the tone I didn't like. And please, Lydia, stop saying I meant his tone of protest against the Communist system. That's not what I said and it's absolutely not what I meant.

Again, Solzhenitsyn was addressing potential martyrs, not the people of the USSR. It's the tone of a prophet, spoken by one with no prophetic authority. I contrasted it with another essay - a good one - called "Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship," which could have been addressed to the people of Nazi Germany. (It was written in the 1960s, but you know what I mean.)

Sage, I'm sorry you're confused, but I think I was pretty clear. Great literature, philosophy, etc., deserves a certain presumption of correctness; reading it, I should ask myself how I am mistaken if I judge it to be not good. Solzhenitsyn's non-fiction (I haven't read his fiction) is neither good literature nor good moral philosophy. So it's open season.

Anymouse, if you take this essay seriously as a model, then I think you ought to kiss your Princeton education goodbye. Sorry, but better to accept that fact earlier than later.

I'm saying, yes, that truth and morality are disputed in America, if not in the USSR. Putting Solzhenitsyn's words in an American context - which might not be fair to him, but that's what's being done here - it means, for instance, that atheists should get up and walk out if a school assembly is opened with a prayer. After all, religion is "lies." I don't like that attitude. America is not the USSR.

Apropos of tenured professors: Maurice Eisenstein at Purdue appears to be a tenured professor:

http://webs.purduecal.edu/histpoly/department-of-history-and-political-science/faculty/maurice-eisenstein/

In 2011 he was subjected to a lengthy "investigation" for remarks he made on Facebook criticizing Islam. He has since filed a lawsuit against his university.

http://thefire.org/article/14486.html

Don't get me wrong: Tenure in an institution of higher education is indeed one of the best protections for people with conservative political views. Indeed, that is why I suspect people with such views will find it increasingly difficult to get tenure in the first place and why they have to lie so exceedingly low earlier in their careers. However, the protection of tenure is increasingly not an absolute protection against, at least, harassment and threat of loss of further promotion, frivolous investigation, and the like. The precedent of using Facebook comments (Eisenstein) and outside political columns (Adams) against professors is a bad one, and I expect it to increase as time goes on.

My _guess_ would be (but correct me if I'm wrong) that the injunctions to lying in "otherwise very conservative companies" are somewhat unsystematic. That is to say, we can _predict_ that companies with "mainstream" (liberal) values will ask people to tip their hats to diversity, inclusion, and the like, and never to say anything that calls those into question or challenges those. This is part of the systematic culture of lies of a leftist society.

That is correct. In the dominant leftist corporate world, the lies are structural and built into the ideological culture of the company. They are "the emperor has no clothes" kind of lies, and there is no escape.

But it is harder to predict whether an "otherwise very conservative" company will ask you to lie and, if so, to lie about what.

Yes, but not harder to predict by much, sorry to say. It can be easier to survive in these businesses, though, if you're fortunate enough to be in a back office position that doesn't have to worry about image. But even then I have occasionally seen office managers, accountants, technicians and engineers corrupted. These are typically non-ideological, opportunistic, cynical lies for the ultimate purpose of making money, and most employees need to play along. Some companies are better than others, but it is often so pervasive as to be intolerable.

The precedent of using Facebook comments (Eisenstein) and outside political columns (Adams) against professors is a bad one, and I expect it to increase as time goes on.

Do you live in a glass house?
http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2011/08/w4_exclusive_dordt_college_quo.html

"truth and morality are disputed in America"
Good thing I don't care about mainstream American beliefs. A society full of lower middle class liberals and lumpenproles is just not a society I care to emulate.

"Do you live in a glass house?"
No, they live in a house with clear moral standards.

Um, no, Step2. I refuse to get into a lengthy discussion here, but here is a _brief_ response to your rather silly challenge: A) That was a student, not a professor. B) That student was attending a school with _explicit_ moral standards, a Christian school, standards written in the student handbook (a handbook that students are allegedly agreeing to abide by in virtue of attending and expecting a degree from the school) which she was blatantly violating. C) The student was blatantly violating said standards in a completely public forum, accompanied by her own picture.


This is not a matter of a professor's being pursued for his political opinions.

Let me add that if a school wants professors to agree to a code of conduct and a statement of faith, because the school is an explicitly religious or ideological school, then all questions of academic freedom will have to be thought of in different terms in light of the commitment the professor must repeatedly make as a condition of employment.

Last I looked, neither Eisenstein's nor Adams's university required them to sign a statement of leftist faith and conduct as a condition of employment, nor was any such agreement implicit in the terms of their employment.

I sometimes wonder what the effect would be if universities did try some such stunt. I suspect they'd have an uphill battle of it. They want to maintain their pose of academic freedom so they can stick their noses in the air as compared with those "faith-based schools" that _do_ require theological and behavioral conformity in an explicit and unabashed way. So the secular schools rely instead on informal political discrimination and on attempts, as in the Eisenstein case, to pretend that the prof who is actually the _object_ of a political witch hunt has somehow "harassed" students by expressing unwanted political opinions on Facebook. Classy.

Um, no, Step2. I refuse to get into a lengthy discussion here, but here is a _brief_ response to your rather silly challenge: A) That was a student, not a professor. B) That student was attending a school with _explicit_ moral standards, a Christian school, standards written in the student handbook (a handbook that students are allegedly agreeing to abide by in virtue of attending and expecting a degree from the school) which she was blatantly violating. C) The student was blatantly violating said standards in a completely public forum, accompanied by her own picture.

And, let's not forget: D) The student was promoting evil and opposing the good. Her acts deserved to be censured and she deserved to be marginalized.

Step2, does that help? The issue isn't that certain behaviors are being encouraged and contrary behaviors censured or marginalized. It's that evil is being encouraged and the good is being censured and marginalized. That's what makes it tyrannical, not the mere exercise of power.

I used to think that, if universities and corporations made it evident that theirs is essentially a pseudo-religious opposition to certain opinions as if they were tantamount to evil conduct, this would lessen their credibility. A Christian university has a policy according to which a student is engaging in misconduct by blatantly advocating promiscuity (inter alia). If a secular university said, "We think that for you to say on your Facebook page that Muslims are intolerant or that homosexuals cannot be married, this is wicked and is contrary to our code of conduct, and you will be investigated and could be dismissed," I used to think that this would be an admission that said university was like a little religious school and hence didn't deserve (since people _think_ religious schools don't deserve) the prestige of being a school with academic freedom, freedom of inquiry, etc.

Now, I'm not at all sure of that. I think that increasingly people _would_ still respect secular schools that made, "Thou shalt not express non-leftist political opinions on Facebook" the equivalent of, for a Christian school, "Thou shalt not publicly advocate wild promiscuity."

So pretty much the only bar to a secular school's setting up an actual required Statement of Secular Faith and Conduct and firing professors (and expelling students) for failing to abide by it is the fact that various professorial organizations would frown on such an official move and would try to stop it, apparently because they still retain a vague notion of generic academic freedom.

And frankly, Lydia, that's a pretty tenuous hold, since these professorial organizations are in a real sense client-recipients of the University's largess, they are hardly in the driver's seat. I predict that you will see exactly this sort of change, within 10 years. Maybe within 5, about the SSM issue more than likely.

Well, I never thought you'd hear me say a word in support of unions, but... Where the organization in place is a union, it's not that simple, because the AAUP doesn't think of itself as a client-recipient of the university's largess but rather thinks of itself as standing in an adversarial relationship to the university as the Potentially Evil Employer against whom it must guard its members. This does at least create some degree of independence between the entities which I think would especially come into play if it were a matter of attacking tenure, which as of now the professor unions are still adamantly defending.

What happened in Eisenstein's case was that his comments were said to constitute "harassment" against Muslim students, even though they were not directed at students but were rather criticisms of Islam more generally. This gave the employer an excuse to investigate him even though he was tenured.

I will say this: The organization FIRE is composed of a bunch of free speech absolutists, and doubtless many of my colleagues and our commentators here at W4 would be horrified by their extremely broad interpretation and application of the First Amendment, especially to state universities. I'm not saying I'm convinced all their legal interpretations are correct. But they are doing a lot of pro bono work that is keeping that small space open for conservative (inter alia) professors in a hostile, leftist university environment. They are representing Eisenstein in his suit against Purdue for the harassing "investigation" of his Facebook remarks about Muslims.

Anymouse, try to keep your eye on the ball. No one's saying you should emulate the lower-middle class or anyone else. The whole point is that truth and morality are being taken as obvious by people here, as if Solzhenitsyn's advice would never be used against them. I'm not suggesting that you could possibly be mistaken on truth and morality; you're obviously too intelligent for that. I'm suggesting that your contemptible enemies might themselves be mistaken about truth and morality. What you believe to be the truth, many of them believe to be lies.

This is different from the USSR in the 1970s, when pretty much all of the people knew that Communist propaganda was based on lies.

This is different from the USSR in the 1970s, when pretty much all of the people knew that Communist propaganda was based on lies.

The difference, then, is that more Americans believe obvious lies than did Russians of the 1970's? On that we certainly agree. And I would submit that the term "political correctness" refers to nothing other than the officially required assent to leftist lies about society, human nature, history, religion, and everything else. You make a sensible enough point that of course, there are some people who believe them, but I would submit to you that they are much fewer than the power of political correctness over our society would seem to testify, and that the overwhelming majority of people--practically everybody at least claims to hate political correctness--do not in their hearts agree with those liberal premises that they are required to assume in all their daily speech.

As an aside it's already the case that leftists have taken to adopting Sozhenitsyn's advice, so what should conservatives really be afraid of here? That they'll start treating conservative ideas as beyond the pale? That they'll start trying to shut down conservative speech on college campuses? That they'll try to isolate and ghettoize conservative intellectuals with an unreasoning and emotive hostility, papered over with pathetic pretenses like "collegiality?" How many committed liberals are willing, even now, quietly to sit through any seminar or any speech that is directly contrary to their stated beliefs without some florid display of disapproval, and are further willing to pretend to agree with every word of it as a condition of going about their daily lives? None that I've met.

So frankly, if your warning sounds grave to you, it's because you assume that liberals are currently a mousy and open-minded lot in the face of what they consider to be lies--or even what they consider inconvenient, impolite, or impolitic. Remember the feminist fainting spell that cost Larry Summers his job at Harvard? Liberals have gone well past the point of silent refusal to assent to that which they find objectionable, so I say we as conservatives--so long having been hounded, browbeaten, shouted down, and otherwise force-fed obvious lies, and having been required to mouth them ourselves if we hope to preserve our livelihoods--have nothing more to fear. It's not as if we are trying to have our druthers by cramming openly political propaganda down people's throats at their place of work, after all, so what, exactly, will you be walking out on? A conservative already has to hire his own security detail or be denied access even to speak on many a college campus. So what is your new threat? That liberals will be even less tolerant than the miserably low standard they're setting for themselves? The ratchet is moving inexorably in the direction of open persecution and censorship each and every day, and has well passed the point of no return in most of the Western world (you may have missed that bit of news with your coffee this morning), and the least a self-respecting conservative can do is to cease being complicit in it himself, either by his silence or by his acquiescence. If you fear that this level of resistance will break the peace in which we live, well, that's tough.

That is all Lydia is getting at in this thread, and it's not much different that what liberals have already done a million times in a million contexts. It's not as if the leftist mobs who took over the campuses in the 1960's and 70's were really interested in persuasion, as their behavior in the ensuring decades has shown.

Sage, I sort of agree with you. Lots of political correctness is unpopular, even among many liberals; that's important to remember. If somebody's willing to risk his job by refusing to go to some diversity seminar or whatever, I say good for him. (That goes to my other objection, that Solzhenitsyn is addressing potential martyrs and no one else.) Human-Resources bolshevism deserves no respect.

By applying Solzhenitsyn's words to America, you're going way beyond that. The liberals I know personally are pretty tolerant of other beliefs. They might think fundamentalist Christianity is stupid, but they love their fundamentalist relatives and neighbors, and they don't insult their religion or even challenge it at the dinner table - much less stand up and walk out. I hope you don't think silence implies consent or complicity.

Apparently, from what I've been reading here over the years, the liberal friends and relatives of the contributors here are truly monstrous people. I'm sorry for you all that you have to put up with them, but it doesn't cancel out the decent and tolerant liberals. I don't think that refraining from walking away from decent people is giving in or being complicit in evil.

It's hard to know how to respond to that, Aaron. It's not the first time I've encountered it. I could show you a litany of outrages, catalog for you in endless, painful detail, complete with links, references, and footnotes, the utterly outrageous state of leftist intolerance and ideological oppression that is descending on the whole of the Western world--jail sentences, children seized, careers ruined, lives destroyed, all of which is happening right now, in perfectly well-documented fact--and your response will be that the liberals you know are wonderful people, and we should all just be polite. The oppressive, institutionalized insanity that is political correctness (another word for the requirement to assent to liberal nonsense whether one believes a word of it or not) is unpopular "even among many liberals," so it's nothing to get in a huff about, I suppose.

Good grief, what a waste of time.

I thought I was clear that it's good to resist all those things you listed, if you're willing to pay the price. I repeat: "If somebody's willing to risk his job by refusing to go to some diversity seminar or whatever, I say good for him." I don't know how I can be any clearer on that. Resistance is good.

If resistance is so good, then why do you get nervous and deplore the "tone" of a piece calling for such resistance? Seriously, Aaron, do you think we're talking about walking away from the Thanksgiving dinner table because liberal Uncle Joe starts talking about politics and we can't bear to respond to liberal Uncle Joe by a polite but slightly tight-lipped silence, which U.J. and everyone else there will understand quite well? And are you seriously worried that if a small minority of conservatives who take this kind of thing seriously start living by the advice given in the main post, America is going to become a worse country?

Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.

I was roundly criticized by some here for something pretty similar to this awhile back. I said that I would only vote for the person who most closely represents my beliefs. My version could be an amalgamation of the two sentences: "Will not vote for a person with whom he does not sincerely sympathize".

So, how many here "lied" when they voted?

Lydia, why do you say I'm getting nervous? I don't like that tone either.

Aaron, if you prefer, "getting concerned," you can substitute that. After all, you are the one lecturing us about how we're going to harm civil society or something, by refusing to live by lies as discussed. You asked, "But would life even be possible?"

I asked if life would be possible if most people tried to take this advice. I meant social-political life, not biological life of course. But only a few people would ever try to live that way, so the question is hypothetical.

I think this advice would be harmful in America to the extent that people try to follow it and, importantly, to the extent that America differs from the USSR. That is, to the extent that America permits a politics of equal voices, of persuasion rather than force, and so on. There's still plenty of that in the public realm, not only at the dinner table.

Solzhenitsyn's advice, applied to America, would be harmful to that realm. That's not his fault: he was writing about the USSR, where such a realm did not exist. It's the fault of those who would apply his rules to America. The Bolshevik-like aspects of political correctness, etc., should be resisted, whether passively or actively, but I don't see much sign here of distinguishing that from other public situations.

I cited Hannah Arendt's "Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship," but on second thought, another of her essays is actually more relevant the American aspect of your post: "Truth and Politics."

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

at Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises,

Thursday, June 8, 1978

Well-Being
When the modern Western States were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration). Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?

Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.

Calling it like it is, got Solzhenitsyn dis-invited to anymore graduation speeches.

I know he's no favorite around these parts (ahem), but Wendell Berry's essay "Standing by Words" is good on this issue as well.

I just found Lydia in a search on the dating of the gospels, and found more shared interests in moral issues and conservative politics.

On the issue at hand, has anyone read the slim volume by Os Guinness, Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype, and Spin?

In a rush, hope to write more later.

When I went to college, Solzhenitsyn’s book Warning to the West was required reading in a poli-sci class I took. That was at a large state university. Recently, while teaching at a small liberal Protestant college in Pennsylvania, they refused to let me use an excerpt form this book, since it would be interpreted as critical of Obama. Oh, yes, and the President of said college was recently on the cover of Christianity Today. How the world has changed!

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