Neuropsychologist Nicholas Humprey writes in his provocative new book Sentience about consciousness that people want to live fully and well. That is how the human mind has evolved.
He quotes the poet Byron who wrote, “the great object of life is Sensation—to feel that we exist—even though in pain.” Presumably, this would apply to our political leaders.
But it doesn’t.
The book is timely for me, a former political writer who once loved politics and specialized in trying to understand why so many politicians self-destruct, even when it’s evident to original thinkers that they are failing.
I don’t believe hatred is what most people want to live with day after day. As Humphrey discovered, they want more.
We’re in the crazy season again; Donald Trump is out there passing out his Maga hats and trying to look like a champion of the little guy and is campaigning at restaurants like Huey Long.
You, sir, are no Huey Long.
And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is rumored to be smart because he went to two Ivy League schools (really?) is re-defining the idea of a dumb political campaign.
Trump is a good guide to that.
I don’t want to write about politics often; it’s too poisonous. But I do need to speak up once in a while. I love the country too much.
This is a good time.
I read yesterday about Florida, where textbooks have fallen victim to politics and the mystical and mysterious war against the “woke.”
For weeks now, a small army of state “experts,” teachers, parents, and political “activists” have been combing thousands of pages of schoolbooks texts – not only evaluating academic content but also flagging anything that could expose, for example, on critical race theory or any theory that suggests the country has an ingrained history of racism.
Rosa Parks is one of the victims, reports Florida journalists; she is one of the first to be banished because of the story of her boarding a segregated bus in Alabama and refusing to go to the rear.
DeSantis’ army believes this story promotes bias and could make children feel bad about themselves. It is, they say, a”woke” story.
Race and gay and trans people and slavery and anything suggesting that humans have sex seems to be the primary targets.
Soon, those things will not exist in the Florida public educational system. How sad. How hateful.
This, say, educators, is the most extensive book purge and burning since the Nazis did it on Kristallnacht in 1938.
This might even top Donald Trump’s idea about drinking bleach to stop Covid-19.
This travesty is one of Governor DeSantis’s big ideas for reforming American education if he is elected president.
According to Florida journalists, election deniers, White Christian Nationalists, and defenders of the January 6 rioters are flocking to help sanitize textbooks.
DeSantis is very proud of himself.
His followers blame the “woke” for everything that goes wrong in America, from railroad accidents to lousy weather to bank closures.
It’s all the fault of the smooshy-headed people who keep babbling on about helping the poor.
Wait until he tries this in New York or California, or Massachusetts.
The Democratic election planners can’t believe their good fortune at being handed so much ammunition guaranteed to enrage and “wake” their supporters. What else can Trump and DeSantis do to win over more voters, piss on the Lincoln Memorial?
If you have a label, you don’t have to think about who you are or what you are about; you just let other people paste a sticker on your head and start hating everyone with a different label.
Labels are “stupid” stickers to me.
If you accept a label, you join in what the great critic Harold Bloom called the death of the American mind. Being “woke” is the hot new label, whatever it means.
You might remember the idea of truth and empathy. They were until recently considered moral virtues. I still consider them moral virtues.
If you call yourself a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, or Muslim, you might also know that hatred is considered immoral by the universal God and every major religion in the world.
Dr. Melvin Dunn, professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University, is preparing another one of his Teach the Truth tours in April, when he will take a busload of people – mostly young African Americans – to visit sites where Blacks were lynched, brutally attacked, and murdered, including the Rosewood Massacre.
He says he’s afraid black children will never know the truth. The truth is bigger than any politician, it towers over Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis.
At the core, almost all of us want the same thing, to be lifted, not torn down, respected, not belittled and humiliated.
This was Donald Trump’s colossal failure and is his failure still.
Ron DeSantis, his likely party heir and a new star in the Republican Party, have accomplished the impossible. He makes Donald Trump seem spiritual.
Hatred may be in politics, but it is not favored in our religious heritage. I think that still matters.
Ephesians 4:31: Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
According to the Bible, God said: “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Proverbs”
Buddha said: “do not respond to anger with anger.” It can’t be a moral idea to feed fuel hatred.
Conventional religious morals are no longer restraining our leaders. Lying is not only okay but helpful. Hatred is essential. A politician that doesn’t hate someone is in trouble today.
Trump can’t open his mouth without lying.
DeSantis can’t open his mouth without hating or demeaning or bullying. If there is, in fact, a God, he is in big trouble.
Where is the vision to lift our spirits and improve our lives and get us to a better place?
What exactly are these men asking people to vote for? Is hate enough? Not if you know politics. Not if you know history. There are good reasons why historians consider Abraham Lincoln the best president and Donald Trump the worse.
Trump is a dreadful politician, a loser and loser and loser; of all people, DeSantis is his allegedly his saner mini-me.
DeSantis is supposed to be the smart one. I don’t see any evidence of that in politician terms.
Famed bigot George Wallace won the election in his state by huge margins too. Voters all across America choked on him and spat him out. For all of his success, DeSantis is another born alienator, the worst thing for a national politician.
What fascinates me about Trump and DeSantis is not what they think or propose but what they don’t.
What will Governor DeSantis do for us besides bullying Mickey Mouse and sanitizing our textbooks?
Haven’t we seen this movie before? Even the reporters are beginning to wonder.
Donald Trump has failed in three successive elections, bringing down scores of fellow politicians and followers and traumatizing his party.
Governor DeSantis was hailed almost desperately as the perfect Trump replacement – Trump without all the bullshit and incompetence.
America is not Florida; DeSantis can’t get his cronies to gerrymander all of it. And according to the latest poll, 78 percent of Americans have no idea what it means to be “woke.” Neither do I.
DeSantis, like his mentor, is taking a huge and perhaps fateful gamble.
Do the math. In a few years, most Americans will be people of color.
How is this bullshit a viable plan for the future of America that most Americans can or will embrace?
To any student of history and politics, these men are the same, singing the same old song: everything is stealing people’s stuff, displacing them, and taking their jobs.
The plan is to get enough people to hate others to vote for you, and you can win through the back door.
Except it doesn’t work.
It only makes sense if you only talk to yourself, go on Fox News, and surround yourself with subservient acolytes. That will only get you so far.
Lincoln had this idea that the country should not be forever divided.
The new De-Santis-Trump idea is that the country must be forever divided. He’s banking on it.
De Santis has just one idea so far – he wants people to hate the “woke,” even though I’ve yet to find and listen to anyone who knows what that means.
What it seems to mean to both men is this: we should hate people who think differently than we do; we should hate anything the people we hate like. They are “woke,” and the rest of us are what? Asleep?
We must find people who disagree, silence them, remove them and protect our children from the dangers of thinking and learning. “Woke”people are trying to destroy our country.
We have no vested interest in Ukraine, says Ron DeSantis; preserving democracy is not our national interest; the war is a screen for the woke to do woke things, and programs for children and the poor are wasteful and “woke.”.
The hypocrisy- I consider hypocrites the lowest form of life – stands out -elitists in a hate campaign about elitists who pretend to be average Joes. Trump is a great actor. DeSantis isn’t.
He will never pass for an average Joe.
One of the seminal foundations of national politics is that people who want to be President need to stand for something, a dream, vision, or series of policies that inspire, touch, and call to the people who vote.
Alienating women, blacks, gay people, and compassionate people all at once doesn’t add to political genius; it adds to political suicide. Trump is the master of political suicide.
He had all of it right in his hands, and at his feet, he blew it all, not once but thrice.
Joe Biden beat the haters in 2020 just by not being them. That should give politicians some pause for thought. And Trump, at least, is exciting. DeSantis is as exciting as a turnip.
I believe – and Donald Trump’s campaigns have proven this again and again – that humans are programmed differently than the people trying to lead them.
They wish to live, not die. They wish to hope and feel love. Hatred is grinding, wearing, and unpleasant at best. We are programmed to want more.
People want their souls awakened, not closed. They want something other than hate alone to believe in. Nobody wants to put up with someone as dull and sour as Ron DeSantis for four years. At least Trump was interesting.
Trump knows he can’t win a legitimate campaign, so he tried to steal one and take over the government. DeSantis is either blind or just as dangerous. He can’t win a legitimate national campaign, either.
I see little evidence of this alleged genius in Ron DeSantis.
I see more of it in Trump, who didn’t go to Harvard and Yale but has created a remarkably successful, if corrupt and narcissistic, life for himself solely on the strength of his personality.
DeSantis’s real hero seems to be Benito Mussolini, the fascist who did come to power by going after people who disagreed, often jailing them in prison camps. He also ended up swinging from a tree.
Aside from my particular politics, which aren’t really at play here one way or the other, I don’t see why many people expect campaigns like Trump’s and DeSantis’s to succeed when they have failed and again and again.
Hate is not a material thing that improves lives. It is the cheapest way to go.
It hurts and frightens people, preventing them from understanding the common good.
On his strikingly uninspiring national book tour, DeSantis had the chance to broaden his message, move beyond his war against that inspiring word “woke,” and draw more people to his cause.
He failed miserably, just like his mentor Trump.
Don’t get sucked in by fickle and crippled media. He is blowing it. Successful politicians broaden their base; they don’t keep reducing it.
Hate is not an enduring philosophy. When I think of being “woke'” I think of people like Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa.
It isn’t that one has to agree with everything they say or do; both were very human. It’s that they can dream of something more than hating other people.
King said hate was too heavy a burden for him to bare. Can anyone imagine Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis being that humble or self-aware?
From my curious perch on my farm, this next election is over already.
Both men are political dunderheads. They have no charm, soul, or inspiration about them. They offer us nothing that will touch or affect our lives.
As we learn over and over again, Hate isn’t enough. Politically, it’s a surefire loser. It’s just not enough in a country as big, complex, and diverse as America already is.
DeSantis wants to be Mussolini? Who was shot at the Swiss border (together with his mistress) by the Communist partisans who were fighting the remnants of roving Italian fascists? Whose body was taken by truck back to Milan where it was hung upside down and displayed “for revilement by the masses” — that Mussolini? Ron better read some history books. Oh, wait … There aren’t any in Florida any more.
Thank you so much, Jon, for your excellent post: “One Man’s Truth”. I enjoy and appreciate all your blog posts but this particular series has done the most for setting my mind at ease when chaos in the news threatens to destroy my peace of mind (which is why I try to mostly avoid listening to it). You present the broader picture with facts to back it up. Plus, I love the quotes you choose from the great men of history, which have application to our own time as well as the time in which the words were spoken.
MLK and mother Teresa in the same sentence? One is not like the other. If you want to call out evil, don’t liken it to a person devoted to civil rights.
Altho a nice essay, I honestly think little will change since humans are tribal beings focused on their belonging to a like minded in group and shunning the out group. We can only hope that the saner group that does not fear or harbor hate and fear wins out. But even as POC increase in numbers beyond the Caucasian citizenry, we cannot and should not underestimate the strength of the Stockholm syndrome (native American missionaries, African American embrace of Christianity ring a bell?). Let’s hope the increase of hate crimes and the likes of those perpetuating the blanching of history that makes their kind look bad, is a death rattle signaling the end of their reign.
It’s because they are different, Monica, that they are in the same space. People are different in the world, there are all sorts of ways to do good. I don’t cancel people because they aren’t like me..
You nailed DeSantis! I just moved out of Florida after 26 years. I guess I’m just too “woke”.
This was in the news today about some people esp. politicians no understanding the word “woke.” https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/joegarofoli/article/conservatives-woke-definition-17841408.php
I am surprised how much damage Desantis and his ilk can do before these issues go before the courts who are increasingly changing to Desantis types nominations of judges. But I think given enough time it will be righted. I saw that some people are sending a list of the Blacks who have been lynched to whoever decries wokeness.
However there is a bigger issue behind this: schools are one of the huge institutions that are largely paid for with taxpayer money. People like Betsey DeVos and her ilk see public schools as a great investment opportunity and are working every angle to turn public schools into voucher schools. Usually charter schools create a for-profit management company. The original charter is secured by a nonprofit, which gets federal, local, and state funds — and then the nonprofit turns around and gives those funds to the for-profit company to manage the school. Taxpayer money is funneled through the nonprofit to the for-profit companies. (What children learn inM charter schools as compared to private schools is problematic but that’s another issue.)
Sorry to say, people like Desantis game the university acceptance process in the status schools. Many morally evil people get in. A even dummies do too.
If this is the basic definition, then I am proud to be known as “woke.”
a large well informed group of people with basic empathy who are compassionate, committed to dismantling injustices, and making the world a better place for all of humankind.