In the 1950s a worker/intellectual (he worked on the docks as a stevedore) wrote a most fascinating book entitled: The True Believer. In this book he explained the psychology of the person who becomes radicalized and a true believer in a cause which takes over his life. Hoffer was, at the time, attempting to explain Nazi extremism, but I now realize that his views have great merit today. It is a most fascinating study of personality. If you are a true believer it will help you understand your own compulsions. I thought It might help.
Stewardship and Citizenship
Stewardship is an important aspect of citizenship
Citizenship entails many things and one of those things is stewardship, which can be defined as having the obligation of management of the affairs of property or even an institution. It is often associated with a duration of time or the terms of an office. For example a heir might inherit the management of a property or a business, which entails seeing after its maintenance and care. In education a principal may be assigned as a steward of a school and a president the management of a university. Almost every person at some time or another finds themselves in some position of stewardship. The stewardship of a university is an awesome responsibility as it entails the management of faculty and staff, as well as the student body. Moreover, the stewardship of a university entails many domains that must be entrusted to a sub-agents under the general supervision of the president, but ultimately that responsibility still falls on the shoulders of the president.
Good or bad stewardship, like good or bad citizenship, is an ambiguous quality that must be assessed at some place and time. The ancient Athenians knew this as they assessed the stewardship of their leaders once their term of office was completed, as did the Romans. In modern day life, unlike the ancient Greeks or Romans, administrators are not "tried" to see if they were good or bad stewards while in office. But to a certain extent, they will be tried in the court of public opinion that we might call historical judgement. Should, for example, it be found that funds turned up missing, or that mismanagement surfaces in regard to some element of responsibility, it will be recorded to their credit or miscredit. Moreover, the welfare of their institution will fail in some regard and that failure will do great harm to the reputation of the institution and as a result, they will be chacterized as failed in stewardship, which translates to failed of citizenship.
Duty Versus Honor
Duty and Honor Are Not The Same
We often hear Duty and Honor mentioned together, especially within the military setting, when in fact the are not the same, and may contradict each other. A persons duty as an individual interprets it may just be the opposite of honorable. Individuals are assigned duties in connection with their obligation and each individual must interpret what this duty encompasses and how it is to be expressed. Consequently, honor and duty often becomes subjective and this pertains to almost every situation from the policeman to the university president. It is in this subjective interpretation that honor, as related to virtue, resides. A soldier, for example, might see his duty as indiscriminately killing those he perceives to be this enemy and in the process many innocent individuals may be killed and the soldiers honor is stained with innocent blood. While the soldier sees himself as honorable in obeying his duty he may not be honorable in the ethical sense. The terrorist that is willing to die for his cause by killing noncombatant civilians lives for duty above honor and his deeds become horrific and disgraceful and not at all honorable. Duty without honor, in other words, is meaningless and empty, but then those who serve others without a sense of honor are simply mercenary servants for hire or hacks for hire with no sense of honor.
Thinking Out Loud!
Reflections on My French Experiences
In 1954 I was a military policeman and I was assigned to a base in Laon France. My main duty was security related to new all-weather bombers located on that base. From time to time I traveled to Paris on a three day pass. I was very young, but I got to know many French individuals that worked with us. I really liked the French and loved the city of Paris. At that time the French still controlled Algeria, a hangover from its colonial past and there was plenty of trouble. Reflecting on the recent terrorism in Paris, It occurred to me that this hostility is not just religious, but has its origins in colonialism. Colonialism did many things some good and some bad. It did bring changes to native cultures such as modern medicine, but it also produced hostility and resentment and that hostility and resentment was producing trouble for France in Algeria. In these types of conflict religion can and does play a role and can be used to generate violence. This violence can be seen as a service to God, and that closes any possibility for rational discourse that might otherwise help to resolve disagreements. In other words this type of conflict and violence must run its course. This is a tragedy, but then history is full of tragedies that could not be resolved. Hatred in this form of human anger must burn itself out and that will take time and may, in the process, cost a great deal of human bloodshed.
What is electronic device Citizenship?
In a recent study by a reputable research group, it was found that students in secondary school are on some type of electronic device nine hours a day. This time does not include school related time on computers, etc. This is very disturbing as it appears that students are losing the ability to concentrate because they are so involved in electronic noise, as they try to multi-task to the point of distraction. As a result of these findings, researchers are calling for parents to intervene by laying down rules of "engagement" or rules that state when devices are off-limits. This system of advocacy is being called "citizenship". It is citizenship in that these researchers want student to have more time with their families or to participate In a more active family life. The problem, of course, is that parents may also be distracted by their own electronic devices and are ignoring their children. Consequently, the problem may be proper parenting caused by electronic noise as parents do their own thing and do not parent as they should. What this means is that normal family life is disappearing as there are too many distractions and too much electronic device noise. While this problem may be somewhat over stated, it is worth discussing at home and in the classroom.
What Role Does The Media Play in Civism?
Media, in all of its forms, is a powerful tool in helping to shape the values and the mindset of individuals, provided that those individuals have access to media and regularly attend to it. However, most individuals hear about events or commentary on events from second hand sources such as other family members, work colleagues, fellow students, friends, or even from casual conversations, say on a bus or on a train. Consequently, media as a " tool" for creating or shaping civism, is not a primary source of influence. On the other hand, scenes depicted on the television can have a powerful primary influence. For example a person being beaten or killed by another, a tragic earthquake, or a raging fire, etc. tends to provoke an immediate and emotional reaction such as fear, anger or sympathy. Such media can even cause hated and the desire to seek revenge. Therefore, media can be hot or cold. For example, discussion or communication on everyday events tend to be cold, while "shock and awe" events tend to be hot. Media is hot when it evokes emotions that shape feelings. This hot media tends to create what we are calling civism by shaping ones mindset or attitude toward ideas, individuals, groups of individuals, and even institutions, such as banks or corporation. The same phenomena can shape feeling and attitudes of individuals towards the courts, or even a ruling party, as well as political regimes.
In politics, democratic or otherwise, media can play an important role in defining the character of public persons. Media can, on the one hand, denigrate one person's character, or on the other hand, can enhance the character of another person, perhaps a competitor. Media can serve as a watch dog for the public, but it can also impose personal political values by defining the character of a public personality according to one's personal values. Media can also serve as a political agent for an ideology. Ideology arises when it is impressed on a media person's outlook, perhaps in connection with their family, friends, or ethnic identity group. It also arises in connection with education and training, but also in connection within or because of status systems. Although media claimes certain ethical standards related to neutrality, such standards are difficult to actually attain.
Who was Camillus and why is why is he of interest to us today?
Camillus is consider the "Second Father of Rome" by the ancient historians after Romulus. For three hundered and fifty years the Romans were successful in building a powerful city-state based on a well-trained and disciplined army. However Roman society was in conflict based on social divisions that separated nobles (patricians) from commoners (plebeians). As a great general Camillus won many battles and was honored with high office. He possessed those qualities of leadership the helped to make him an ideal man. He was kind, intelligent, valiant, pious, determined, and unassuming. When Rome needed him most he was self-exiled because of the greed of the Roman citizens who put him on trial for want of booty. In his absence a great horde of barbarians attacked Rome and burned most of the city and slaughtered most of it's citizens including the old people and the trapped women and children. Camillus was called out of exile and in brilliant fashion defeated the Gauls and restored Rome to an even greater position than in the past. Camillus laid down his power and helped to resolve the social divisions that might have destroyed Rome from within. He is an ideal subject in the study of civism.
Historical Perspectives on Civism: Building the Estate of the Political Mind
A new chapter ("Civism in the Ancient World") has been drafted dealing with a war between two world views. One view addresses the despotic tyranny of the ancient empires that culminates in the Persian Empire under Cyrus The Great, Darius I, and Xerxes. Cyrus is credited with developing a new perspective on subjugation, which is a very interesting way of dealing with the problems of annexation. The other world view is addressed in the last half of the chapter, which describes the plight of the Ionian Greeks and their rebellion against the Persians in the region of the Aegean Sea (the west coast region of Turkey). In this struggle of world views, the Greeks (especially the Athenians) cause the Persians no end of trouble, as their perspective is just the opposite of the imperial Asian mindset. In the process of the two invasions of Greece (Marathon and The Persian War), the Greeks discover that democratic citizenship can used as a powerful weapon against tyranny. This looks like a long term project and will take several years to complete, but, for me, it also hold some very interesting prospects.
City-State Civism in Ancient Athens
Sales of my new book, City-State Civism in Ancient Athen, is doing well and I believe that as more readers become aware of this work, it will increase in readership. This book consists of nineteen chapters that are divided into six parts. The first half of the book deals with the history of ancient Greece and its developing political system, including the emergence of the Athenian Empire in the fifth century under the leadership of Pericles. The second half of this work examines the work of exceptional scholars who contributed to the emergence of western civilization. They include the sophists, Protagoras, Isocrates, Demosthenes, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Xenophon; with special attention to their life story and particular contributions to the development of civism. So far, the book has more than met the expectations of my publisher. While I have always believed that this book would make a unique contribution to western political history, I am almost ready to declare that it is being well received by a growing audience of contemporary readers.
The Rhetoric of Civism: The Art of Political Persuasion
The further development of civism requires an additional methodological work aimed at applying elements and understanding from the study of rhetoric to civism. From my recent studies and research, I have decided that the study of oral and written speech is the most conducive means of persuasion in the shaping of the citizens mindset. At the same time, it is recognized that other forms of expression, including the civic arts, must also be included as an important aspect of the interpretation of ancient of modern political behaviors.
Recently, I have divided this project into two parts, which should lead to two new manuscripts. The first work is tentatively entitled: Civism: Shaping the Citizens' Mindset. This eight chapter work is designed to explore that nature of civism from several perspective including: citizenship, ideology, education, religion, moral development, artistic expressions, and rhetoric. At last, I am ready to present civism in its most expressive forms of influence, which are based on the works that I have already completed (a work on the Roman Republic also is in the works). The second work, which is in the initial development stages will more exclusively focus on the the study of civism from a rhetorical perspective and will include an analysis system that can be used to assess some of the civistic characteristics used in political speech as a means to influence the citizens' political outlook.
Warning! Words are powerful cultural factors!
How do words work? A word is a cultural factor, usually it is associated with an image! When one elicits a word (said or written) it evokes an image that then associates that image with a meaning or a value! Words are very powerful and are very defining! So if you do not wish to be associated with that image or value, do not use that word! It's a brain thing! Words impact memory as well!
If a religious leader claims infallibility are they also claiming divinity? Most reasonable persons would agree that mortal men are subject to error: therefore, such claims should be fair game for debate. This is an important issue in both the Christian and the Muslim world, but It is especially an important contemporary issue in Iran where innocent blood has been shed. In other words, would or could a divine person justify the killing of the innocent?
A New Nationalism
Thinking Politically: In the twentieth century nationalism combined with militarism to produce the National Socialism and economics combined with nationalism to produce Communism. In the twenty-first century religion will combine with nationalism to produce a national-theocracy in the Middle East.
Which is correct? "I wish I were in the land of cotton ..." or, "I wish I was in the land of cotton..." Why?
The Problem with Profanity
Is America becoming a profane nation? Many events indicate that it is! For example a recent tv ad stated: "Come and dance your ass off" and many think this is cute. But words count as they define character of the person that uses them and the nation that tolerates their use in public media. My studies suggest that profanity suggests weakness and ignorance rather than strength, especially in defining character
Is Perception Reality?
Interesting question: Is perception reality? Most philosophers would say no! Reality is illusive and perception is often misguided and at best inaccurate (our senses and our instruments are limited). For example, one might perceive that persons are wealthy because they own things, but in the moral sense others might perceive them as being poor. Much depends on definitions and a priori assumptions.
Study While Multi-tasking
Is multi-tasking, i.e. watching tv while reading an assignment, destructive to comprehension?
Teaching Social Studies to near illiterate students.
Social studies teachers can and should teach reading to near illiterate older students. I taught seniors, who could not read their class materials. By the end of the school year most of my students could read and to enjoy their reading experiences, but it was an act of desperation on my part. Have you ever had this experience? If so, what did you do? (See my up-coming blog regarding my experiences.)
Civism as Persuasive Political Speech: What key themes move an audience to conviction or action?
Do you like my web site?
Hi Eric, Civism as a historical concept has allowed me to view history from a different perspective. I do have a passion for it as I find it fascinating and insightful. I am working on Livy's history and reading from a civic perspective, which I find very helpful and understanding early Roman culture, as well as all other cultures and states past and present.
I like the website. I dont think I have ever fully understood your studies until now. Well, I at least grasp what you are studying. Its interesting though. Why civism? What is it that motivates this passion?