Learning Languages, Part I: Your Teacher

jmiller_web1I’m a lousy language learner. I’m probably not supposed to say that if I want to learn a language. But the fact is, I’ve had life-long problems with memorization that have affected my ability to learn music as well as languages. I suspect that I have a truncated phonological loop. Basically, I may have a unusually limited short-term memory capacity and, therefore, a lesser ability to shift things from short- to long-term memory. Nonetheless, here I am ten successful months into learning Welsh.

I tried to learn languages many times before – and failed. But I’m finally succeeding. I’ll post a few tips and principles explaining how I now seem to be succeeding.

Principle 1: Unless you’re a baby, no one but you is going to teach you a new language.

I have a Welsh tutor. We meet online once a week for an hour. He gives us homework, corrects us, encourages us, answers our questions, and gives us an opportunity to engage in conversation. But if I relied on him, I’d never learn Welsh – and that’s not a criticism of him as a teacher.  It’s just a fact of life. When you’re a baby, your family may be willing to spend hours every day teaching you your first language, but no teacher can do that. You’re on your own.

I use my tutor as just one part of my self-directed learning. Along with his homework, I spend another hour every day studying. I use flashcards for memorizing vocabulary. I use various online tools. And I study additional grammar books. I also listen to Welsh music and television nearly every day to submerge myself in the sounds of the language.

You are your own language teacher. You have to take responsibility for your own learning.

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The Anatomy of Trumpism, Part VI: By Definition

9781400033911Read Parts
I: Foundations
II: Dilettante
III: Liberal Delusions
IV: Conservative Complicity
V: Violence
VI: By Definition
VII: Democracy

In his 2004 The Anatomy of Fascism, historian Robert Paxton succinctly defines fascism in a way that emphasizes what fascists do rather than what they say.  He defines fascism as

a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. (218)

Community decline: Inaugural speeches are usually occasions for rhetoric meant to unify Americans, reconcile with opponents, and offer a vision of a greater America. What stuck out in Trump’s inaugural speech was his vision of “American carnage.” Not even in the midst of civil war did President Lincoln offer such a bleak view of America. Even he did not offer a vision of “community decline,” but, instead, of a future with “malice towards none” and “charity for all.” But, of course, Trump assures us that he is the only one who can Make America Great Again.

Humiliation: Trump is obsessed with the idea that other countries are laughing at us. China laughs at us for our trade deficit. Mexico laughs at us for accepting immigrants. The “world” laughs at us for the foreign aid we provide and because of Obamacare. Iran, the Taliban, ISIS, Russia, etc. are laughing at us for our military weakness. Of course, Trump is the only one who can stop the world from laughing. His frequent solution is to make other countries pay us. Mexico will pay for a border wall. Germans owe us billions for defending them. Ironically, the world now really does seem to be laughing, not at “us,” but at Trump.

Collaboration with traditional elites: I have already written about how Trump has convinced traditional Republicans to cover for and support him with the hope that they could use Trump and his movement for their own purposes.

Abandons democratic liberties: The decline of our liberties is by no means confined to Trump’s presidency. Our Fourth Amendment liberties in particular have been declining under the national security state even before the PATRIOT Act. This decline has been bipartisan. Thanks to Ed Snowden, we know something of the extent to which the at least the NSA has been spying on us. Privacy is nearly dead. And now these powers are in the hands of Trump, a man with a reputation for wanting revenge against critics. He is attacking the free press by undermining its legitimacy, even calling the press that criticizes him the “enemy of the people.” Now he has assembled a commission to investigate non-existent voting fraud and is doing so in a way that has already scared some people enough to unregister. The leader of this commission Kris Kobach has reveled what was probably the real intention of the commission all along, federal laws to make it more difficult to register to vote and easier for states to disenfranchise eligible, legal voters.

Violence: I have already written about Trump using violence in his campaign and the importance of violence to his supporters.

Internal Cleansing: Trump built his campaign on building “the wall” to keep out illegal immigrants and mass deportation to get rid of immigrants already here. He made various proposals for the barring of Muslim immigrants and refugees and even went to such extremes as calling for the monitoring of mosques and the forcible registration of Muslim Americans. In the context of the Black Lives Matter struggle against police violence, Trump called for removing restraints on police, with the clear implication that they could attack blacks with impunity.

I started this series by saying that Trump isn’t a fascist; he’s too stupid and unread to be able to be one. But I worry that he is making acceptable, for a significant number of Americans, actions, policies, and rhetoric that might allow real fascists or other authoritarian movements (left or right) possible and even powerful. Now is the time to resist every shift in that direction.

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The Full Spectrum of Dream Consciousness

I am in an airport. I am unsure of where I’m trying to go. Or did I just come back from somewhere? I finally figure it out. I’m going to a conference. But where is my gate? I search all over. I finally find it, I think. But, wait a minute. I’m in Switzerland. How did I end up here? I’m in the wrong country. I’m supposed to be in America. Oh, forget it. I’ve missed my flight and now I’m not going to make it to the conference on time. Now let’s see if I can just find my way to flight home.

1844097358Many times I have dreamt of trying to use some sort of transportation, but can’t find my way. Some years ago, I started to notice more and more dreams expressing confusion and frustration. What did these recurring dreams mean? I finally realized they meant nothing. The confusion was not a meaningful unconscious message. It was the product of my mind trying to grapple with the inconsistencies of the dream world. My mind was acting as it does during normal waking consciousness, even though I did not know I was dreaming.

My dreams showed me that there is no clear distinction between waking consciousness and a pure dream state. Consciousness often functions while we dream. But dream consciousness is a spectrum that ranges from the entirely inactive to active, but unaware of dreaming, to full waking consciousness with awareness of being in a dream.

Non-lucid dreams are what we normally think of as dreams. These are dreams in which our conscious mind is not active. The current of the dream carries us along with the story. We do not question the inherent inconsistencies of the dream world.

I watch a legendary (and dead) jazz musician perform. I’ve never heard such ecstatic music. First he is playing a piano with a small informal group  Then when I watch him from another angle, I see that he is playing with a small orchestra. I look closer at him and see that he is now playing a bass guitar.

My consciousness did not interrogate or try to interfere with the impossible changes in setting and instrument. I accepted it all as a coherent story. It was only upon awakening that I recognized the impossibility of the dream.

In sub-lucid dreams, like the one I opened this post with, our consciousness is more or less active, but unaware of the fact that it is dreaming. These dreams are characterized by a sense of confusion or frustration. The confusion results from our conscious mind recognizing that something isn’t right and then trying to make sense of it.

Dream worlds are, in some ways, like theater sets. You might have something that looks like a phone on the stage, but it doesn’t actually work. Imagine being on a stage, but not realizing it. You try to use the prop phone. You would be confused or frustrated when you found that it didn’t work, that it didn’t have all the parts it should, that it fell apart when you touched it, or that the voice on the other end was garbled and unintelligible. That is, in many cases, the dream world. When our consciousness intrudes, we try to make the things in our dreams do things they’re not built for. They’re just props.

Just as with sub-lucid dreams, our consciousness operates in lucid dreams. The difference between the two is that, in a lucid dream, our consciousness is aware of the fact that we’re dreaming. However, just as with sub-lucid dreams, consciousness exists on a spectrum within lucid dreams. Consequently, the extent of control over the dreams varies. I have experienced lucid dreams in which, although I was aware of the fact that I was dreaming, I had no control over the dream. I was carried along by the current just as if I was not conscious at all. That is the other extreme of lucid dreaming.

To take full advantage of our dreams, we must recognize that different parts of the spectrum of consciousness impart distinctive characteristics to our dreams.

  • Non-lucid dreams are generally the products of our unconscious minds and our daily experiences. Our consciousness does not interfere with such dreams. Consequently, we can analyze and interpret non-lucid dreams to reveal the contents of our unconscious minds.
  • Sub-lucid dreams, on the other hand are distorted by our expectations and our self-direction. While some aspects of our dreams, such as the setting or basic theme might still have interpretive value, we must be careful about interpreting them. Our confusion or the malfunctioning of devices is not of interpretable value. They are not the products of our unconscious mind; they are the product of our attempt to make sense of the dream world. On the other hand, we can cultivate sub-lucidity to bring about lucid dreaming. So it is useful to recognize sub-lucid consciousness when it occurs so that we can recognize signs that we are in fact dreaming. Such recognition is the opening of lucidity.
  • Of course lucid dreams, because we direct ourselves consciously, are of no more use for dream interpretation than are the events of our daily lives. Take that to mean what you will. But lucid dreams have their own value. We can use them to, for example, confront fears or just to experience bliss.

Read more about understanding and interpreting your dreams in my book Dream Patterns: Revealing the Hidden Patterns of Our Waking Lives from Findhorn Press.

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Dream Patterns

1844097358Dream Patterns: Revealing the Hidden Patterns of Our Waking Lives will be available by August 8. I’ve added a Dream Patterns page to my site. Following the link here or look for the link in the menu bar above.

Thanks again to Findhorn Press for making the publishing process so easy, for being so professional, and for making the book look great.

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The Anatomy of Trumpism, Part V: Violence

9781400033911Read Parts
I: Foundations
II: Dilettante
III: Liberal Delusions
IV: Conservative Complicity
V: Violence
VI: By Definition
VII: Democracy

In his 2004 The Anatomy of Fascism, historian Robert Paxton points out that, since the end of World War II violent, uniformed fascist paramilitary groups have not been able to gain any allies that would help bring true fascism to power. Skinheads, he argues,

would become functional equivalents of Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s squadristi only if they aroused support instead of revulsion. If important elements of the conservative elite begin to cultivate or even tolerate them as weapons against some internal enemy, such as immigrants, we are approaching Stage Two” (175).

During Stage Two, fascist movements establish themselves as a national political force.  Stage three is when fascists actually acquire power.

Perhaps more pessimistically, historian Timothy Snyder argues

When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.
On Tyranny: Twelve Lessons from the Twentieth Century (42)

Perhaps Paxton is now being proven wrong about the inability of violent groups to gain legitimacy. Consider:

President Trump has promoted violence against opponents. He and now the Republican Party around Portland are legitimizing right-wing paramilitary groups. The NRA, which has, until the election of Trump, been an anti-government organization, gives the appearance of becoming a pro-Trump paramilitary group. All of this ultimately undermines the rule of law and the constitutional order. Authoritarianism can ride in on the backs of gangs and paramilitaries.

Yes, there is left-wing violence as well. The Alexandria shooting is the most awful example of political violence since the 2016 presidential campaigns began. But consider the responses of the Democratic Party to such events:

  • Democrats immediately and consistently denounced the Alexandria shooting.
  • When a man wearing a pro-Sanders shirt participated in a violent disruption of a Trump rally, Sanders immediately denounced that violence.
  • Antifa has zero support among Democrats.
  • Democrats nearly universally denounced Kathy Griffin for showing a fake severed Trump head. And CNN fired her from the annual New Years show.

While Trump, Portland Republicans, and the NRA promote violence and paramilitaries, the Democratic Party, and liberals and leftists in general, have consistently denounced political violence.

There is no moral equivalence between Republicans and Democrats regarding political violence; it is one-sided. Right-wing paramilitaries and use of violence are undermining the rule of law and the legitimacy of our political institutions. This violence promotes a crisis in the constitutional order, exactly the sorts of crisis that fascists and authoritarian movements have historically exploited to establish authoritarian regimes.

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The Anatomy of Trumpism, Part IV: Conservative Complicity

9781400033911Read Parts
I: Foundations
II: Dilettante
III: Liberal Delusions
IV: Conservative Complicity
V: Violence
VI: By Definition
VII: Democracy

In his 2004 The Anatomy of Fascism, historian Robert Paxton discusses how post-war German conservatives have “made much of their opposition to Hitler and of his hostility to them” (130).

Paxton discusses in some detail the differences between pre-war German conservatives and Nazis. But, “At every crucial moment of decision, however – at each ratcheting up of anti-Jewish repression, at each new abridgement of civil liberties and infringement of legal norms, at each new aggressive move in foreign policy, at each further subordination of the economy to the needs of austerity and hasty rearmament – most German conservatives (with some honorable exceptions) swallowed their doubts about the Nazis in favor of their overriding common interests” (130).

As Trumpism sours or when it is judged in the future, will Republicans emphasize the primary-season opposition to Trump or the “Never-Trump” Republicans? Some Congressional Republicans have stood up to Trump. Senator John McCain has, for example, repeatedly expressed his despair at Trump’s public support for Russian and Turkish authoritarianism. Richard Burr leads the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign at a slow, but steady pace, unlike the disastrous House investigation. But many other Republicans who had loudly denounced Trump have come around to supporting him. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Ted Cruz are perhaps the most embarrassing examples of this.

  • Few Republicans are willing to speak out about Trump’s ongoing corruption, including his obvious and willful violations of the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses.
  • Many Republicans have joined in with Trump’s attacks on a free and critical press. Among Republican votes, physically attacking reporters is apparently a winning strategy.
  • Many Republicans denounce any investigation of Trump as a “witch hunt.” Former House Speaker and vocal Trump apologist Newt Gingrich went so far as to say that a President, by virtue of his position and authority, cannot commit obstruction of justice. Of course, when that President was Bill Clinton, Gingrich voted to impeach him for exactly that.
  • Almost no one, Democrat or Republican, wants to hold Trump accountable for unilaterally deciding to wage war against the Syrian government.
  • Many Republicans have shifted their position on Russia. During the Obama administration, they denounced Obama for not being strong enough on Russia. Now that Trump advocates for Russia and Russia worked to get him elected, suddenly many Republicans find themselves friendly towards a country that wants to destroy NATO, is trying to claim more territory in Europe, and attacks our elections and democracy.

The above do not compare to the attacks on civil liberties and the rule of law during early Nazi rule. Nor has Trump made headway in increasing his unconstitutional authority beyond what other Presidents, including President Obama, had already done. But Republicans have gotten into the habit of tolerating criminal and authoritarian behavior for the sake of partisan power. History suggests that they’re unlikely to suddenly learn to say no after having gotten into the habit of saying yes.

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Dream Patterns Excerpt

1844097358

My new book Dream Patterns from Findhorn Press will be available in just over a month.  You can now read an excerpt of it here and pre-order it from major online booksellers (Amazon, Books-A-Million, and Barnes and Noble).

 

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Pre-order Dream Patterns

My new book Dream Patterns: Revealing the Hidden Patterns of our Waking Lives will be available on August 8. You can pre-order it now from the big online book dealers (Amazon, Books-A-Million, and Barnes and Noble). Findhorn Press is publishing it. They’ve been great to work with.

1844097358

 

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The Anatomy of Trumpism, Part III: Liberal Delusions

9781400033911Read Parts
I: Foundations
II: Dilettante
III: Liberal Delusions
IV: Conservative Complicity
V: Violence
VI: By Definition
VII: Democracy

In his 2004 The Anatomy of Fascism, historian Robert Paxton discusses the hubris of the conservative and Marxist responses to the rise of the Nazis (128).

On the traditional conservatives:

When Adolph Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, his conservative allies, headed by Deputy Chancellor Franz von Papen, along with those conservative and nationalist leaders who supported von Papen’s Hitler experiment, expected to manage the untrained new head of government without difficulty. They were confident that their university degrees, experience in public affairs, and worldly polish would give them easy superiority over the uncouth Nazis. Chancellor Hitler would spellbind the crowds, they imagined, while Deputy Chancellor von Papen ran the state.”

It wasn’t so then. And in 2017, Congressional Republicans are disappointed by Trump’s unwillingness to become “presidential” and his constant interference with the “Republican agenda.” Good luck Paul Ryan.

On the Marxists:

Hitler’s conservative allies were not the only ones to suppose that Nazism was a flash in the pan. The Communist International was certain that the German swing to the Right under Hitler would produce a counterswing to the Left as soon as German workers understood that democracy was an illusion and turned away from the reformist social democrats.

It wasn’t so then. And in 2017, Congressional Democrats are still dreaming of retaking the House in 2018 and the Senate by 2020. Out-of-power Berniecrats, on the other hand, are still dreaming of shifting the Democratic Party away from neoliberalism and back towards a progressive populism. Good luck to both of you.

The authoritarianism of Trumpism isn’t something that his supporters are likely to recognize and then reject; it was part of what attracted many of them to start with. Even his inability to reindustrialize America and his outright attacks on labor probably won’t be enough to diminish his core support. Afterall, it doesn’t look like labor was the issue that brought him to power; it was race and misogyny. So a progressive populism is unlike to draw his supporters to the Democratic Party.

Some Republicans rejected either Trumps authoritarianism or his protectionism and fake anti-interventionism and voted instead for other candidates. I haven’t seen any reason to think there will be a surge of further defections in 2018 and 2020. I suspect Republicans will continue to attach themselves to Trump and Trumpism, unless something unignorably treasonous comes out of the Russia investigations. Otherwise, Trump will continue to run the show and Democrats will be the minority party.

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The Anatomy of Trumpism, Part II: Dilettante

Read Parts
I: Foundations
II: Dilettante
III: Liberal Delusions
IV: Conservative Complicity
V: Violence
VI: By Definition
VII: Democracy

A major problem for intentionalists [a historical interpretation that emphasized the importance of the leader’s will in fascists acquiring and exercising power] was Hitler’s personal style of rule. While Mussolini toiled long hours at his desk, Hitler continued to indulge in the lazy bohemian dilettantism of his art-student days. When aides sought his attention for urgent matters, Hitler was often inaccessible. He spent much time at his Bavarian retreat; even in Berlin he often neglected pressing business. … After February 1938 the cabinet ceased to meet; some cabinet ministers never managed to see the Fuhrer at all.

-Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (127)

Okay, this tells us nothing about authoritarianism, fascism, or Trump; I just find it funny. Mar-a-Lago, lack of staff, declining press conferences, watching TV constantly, …

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