Seizing the words of others, and not wanting to let go, Two

Karl Popper (1902-1994) wrote, perhaps first, about Open and Closed societies. Why is this so important right now? Because our president would, if allowed his way, close us off from the world. Whether a society is classified as a Closed Society or an Open Society (Patriotism speaks to the one, globalism to the other) is directly related to the types of freedoms available.

In a Closed Society, its values, rules and traditions are more important than the individuals which live in it. Members of the society are not independent-minded; they are only part of a circle of the larger society. They have to live, behave and think according to the rules of their society. [the Senate Republicans for example –we have just heard from Dr. Ford and Brett Cavanaugh!, September 28, 2018]
In contrast, in an Open Society, personal beliefs and freedoms are more important than the rules of the society.

[See The Economist, Jan 31, 2016]

The first book in English by Professor Sir Karl Popper was accepted for publication in London while Hitler’s bombs were falling, and was published in 1945 under the title ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’. 


“MY THEORY of democracy is very simple and easy for everybody to understand. But its fundamental problem is so different from the age-old theory of democracy which everybody takes for granted that it seems that this difference has not been grasped, just because of the simplicity of the theory. My theory avoids high-sounding, abstract words like “rule”, “freedom” and “reason”. I do believe in freedom and reason, but I do not think that one can construct a simple, practical and fruitful theory in these terms….The classical theory is, in brief, the theory that democracy is the rule of the people, and that the people have a right to rule.”

And in fact those who would hold onto their own powerful positions will sooner or later take away the freedom of movement of others  [North Korea, Israel, China, Turkey, and Donald Trump’s America] or go even further and take away the freedom of thought and of the press [China, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, North Korea and Donald Trump’s America].

Freedom of movement and thinking is threatened in probably most of  the 54 countries of Africa. The irony here being that man, Homo sapiens, began his journey in Africa some tens of thousands of years ago, travelled without restrictions to all the continents of the earth, and today the movement out of Africa continues but everywhere is obstructed and restricted.
Am I correct to say that Donald Trump would make of what has always been an open society a closed society of those with the same beliefs? I don’t think even as president he can do this. But from his perch at  Mar-a-Lago he’s sure trying.

Samuel Scheffler, Death and the After Life.  My argument has been that personal survival already does matter to us less than we tend to suppose, and that the survival of humanity matters to us more. In saying this, I am not underestimating our powerful impulses to personal survival or the deep terror that many people feel when contemplating their own deaths. Nor am I denying the importance of self-interested motivations in ordinary human behavior. My point is that despite the power of these attitudes, there is a very specific sense in which our own survival is less important to us than the survival of the human race.
The fact that we and everyone we love will cease to exist matters less to us than would the nonexistence of future people who we do not know and who, indeed, have no determinate identities. Or to put it more positively, the coming into existence of people we do not know and love matters more to us than our own survival and the survival of the people we do know and love. . . .
This is a remarkable fact which should get more attention than it does in thinking about the nature and limits of our personal egoism. Yet the prospect of the imminent disappearance of the race poses a far greater threat to our ability to treat other things as mattering to us and, in so doing, it poses a far greater threat to our continued ability to lead value-laden lives.

Well, yes, I can agree with Scheffler, but it is still a question for me, as to just how the survival of the race is a greater threat to us than our own survival.

 Klaus Scharioth: “For me, the key thing is the Enlightenment. I think that’s what keeps the E.U. together, the values of the Enlightenment — a free press, religious freedom, minority protection, free elections, democracy, a free judiciary independent of all the other branches of government, tolerance, respect for others. I’m afraid the United States might no longer be speaking out for these values. And that makes me very anxious.

Klaus Scharioth, born in 1946, the year after Germany’s surrender in World War II, served as Germany’s ambassador to the United States during both George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s administrations. His earliest impressions of America were of a magnanimous, generous country.


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