The Ember Of Self-Worth & “The Beast With Red Cheeks”
By TLB Contributing Author: Ken LaRive
The Socrates conversation…
The thought I will attempt to clarify here is indeed profound, and not easily explained. It journeyed for thirty years with a barrier I tried to overcome back in university called Plato’s Republic. There, I tried to understand a conversation Socrates had with two young Athenians, Glaucon and Adamants… They spoke of a chief psychological phenomenon that all men possess, a noble association with what is called courage, and the reasoning behind a reality where one will willingly risk everything, even one’s own life, for such a nebulous ideal. In echoing marble halls, they studied and discussed the motivation of the soldier, whose main objective in life, they thought, was defense of the city. However, in the course of that conversation, they found something profound. They wondered what would make a man risk his life for little or no pay? What motivated them to march in punishing conditions… sometime with meager nourishment, violent resistance, disease, and death? What was his motivation?
There were many powerful institutions in history who tried to formulate this reasoning, because they knew if that key could be found, men would become putty in their hands… Hume, Alexander Hamilton, Hobbs, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche, all spoke of “the beast with red cheeks.” And I saw the worth of this study become apparent in a simple but intense conversation in an Internet coffee shop of Czech Republic. It was an inspiration, a flash of insight, just a decade after their amazing totalitarian push-back called the Velvet Revolution… and those red cheeks were the blush of resistance to tyranny.
The Power of the Powerless…
My young Czech friend, Martin, Maddy and I, in from the snow, was discussing the human condition of pre-democratic Bohemia. Martin mentioned a man named Vaclav Havel, who became president of Czechoslovakia in 1998. He had been previously jailed as a dissident, and became the founder of a human rights organization there called, Charter 77, long before the democratic revolutions of Eastern Europe were achieved. He saw it as inevitable… He realized that men have in them, and assign to the world about them, a degree of worth. Plato called this worth, thymos, where men seek recognition based on what worth they assign to themselves, and the world.
While in prison, Havel formulated astonishing ideas as to the nature of the evil that was the core of the system that jailed him, and he published these thoughts in the 80’s in an essay called “The Power of the Powerless.”There he tells the story of the greengrocer, and although I don’t have the space to put it all here, in a nutshell it is about a grocer in a totalitarian society who has a sign in his window: “Workers of the World, Unite.”Havel thoroughly questions the many various reasons why the greengrocer would agree to put that sign in his window… It protects the greengrocer, to a degree, from informers, and it gives a message to his superiors that reflect their agenda and interests, while amazingly shielding its real meaning. This meaning is evident, my friend told me, to all who live by the enslavement of the spirit, and know that the sign should read: “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” but indeed, it is the semantics that leaves the greengrocer a bit of dignity… Dignity, in a world of oppression, and spiritual slavery. It leaves the greengrocer with what is called“disinterested conviction” and allows him to express: “What is wrong with uniting the world?” Havel wrote: “Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is Ideology.”
And why not just admit that he was afraid? The reason is quite simple. The greengrocer believes that he has a certain amount of worth… and this is the real reason that totalitarian communism doesn’t work. The greengrocer believed that he was more than his fear and need, and even though he didn’t know how to articulate it, he felt stronger, and possibly a bit smarter than those who tried to control him. He saw his slavery, and named his masters… just as we are now trying to do with the Deep State. God help us, but the same men who controlled his world, are now controlling ours.
He displayed that sign because he is capable of choice, no matter how subtle, and displayed it sorely for the sake of principle. He was, however, according to Havel, fooling himself, but non-the less believed himself to be of sound principle, rather than being entirely a scared victim. In his mind, he was anything but a victim, so long as he kept that fire in his belly.
Of course it really doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but to the green grocer, it was a grand statement that shows that he is, on the inside, a free man. The sum of this man was a lot more than fear, his need to survive, even his responsibilities…
Yes, survival is paramount, of course, but it is human nature to always push back from the tyrant… Even if there is just a small glimmer of hope, freedom of the spirit constantly tries to push to the surface. It is the truest nature of man, Liberty from tyranny… It is the one element very hard to quell, and it is the true, and only salvation of a Patriot. This ember, that glows in the breast of every man and woman, is always waiting to ignite…
Havel wrote: “The essential aims of life are present naturally in every person. In everyone there is some longing for humanity’s rightful dignity, for moral integrity, for free expression of being and a sense of transcendence over the world of existence.” And then on the other hand, he wrote: “…each person is capable, to a greater or lesser degree, of coming to terms with living within the lie.”
Is this our true duality, our reason for being: dignity, and its opposition, humiliation? Both are so evident in our daily lives… the same two words are the description Havel gives for life in communist Czechoslovakia! Who are we? What have we become? Ask these questions, and you will receive an answer in like kind!
The Bolshevik machine
Brezhnev totalitarian states attempted to make the populace both complicit and compliant, and not just by terror. There was also the constant dangling of the features, advantages and benefits of modern consumerism before them, the proverbial carrot on a stick. This was the fuel they used to run the Bolshevik machine, this desire for a better life, of material possessions, i.e., a vacation in the Alps, a refrigerator, and a foreign car, as materialism is the catalysts that pitted the desiring part of the soul with the thymotic part. Once that materialistic hunger is instilled, and morals and ethics dispelled, their destiny no longer belonged to them, and those who resisted, disappeared in the dead of night. My friend in the coffee shop told us of the beautiful man-made facade that was Prague, and the dread and fear behind its parapet walls. He cried when he told us that American motivational speakers tried to get people to smile, as the faces of the new business entrepreneurs, had forgotten how. The strength of faith, a moral standard, had to remain hidden, by fear of death… There are many standards that influenced and orchestrated the very foundation of our American society. Destroy this, make a populous dependent on a Big Brother government, and it will die on the vine.
Without a doubt, its selfish allure grips our future, as the power and control of a true Totalitarian Government is supported by the constant and unrelenting oppression, and with time, increment by increment, subjugates our free will. Without this constant suppression, human beings will always seek an avenue to rebel, pushing back on the yoke… But tyranny is slow to die, and Liberty easy…
Today, hopefully, our Progressive Socialist Marxist leftist ideology is doomed to have the same fate… And as Liberty and Communism are diametrically opposed, they will ultimately cancel each other out… Unfortunately, as our founders duly warned us: “The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.” – Thomas Jefferson. And as John Adams, in 1776 said: “Liberty once lost is lost forever.” So let us pause here… We cling to the notion, the hope, that our masters will let us utilize the greatest gift ever bestowed on a people, the ability to self govern? That is, our Constitutional Republic based on law, with its backbone, our Civil Liberties, given to us by God. Will they voluntarily release us from what can only be described as voluntary servitude? Never. They will never. They would rather see us all dead.
So here we finally come back to Plato’s thymos. It is defined in The Republic as an innate human psychological set of virtues like bravery, courage, idealism, principle, morality, self-sacrifice, and honor. Thymos is the process of evaluating these principles by putting value on them, and this value can be so powerful that it can outweigh life itself. As we evaluate ourselves in relation to how we perceive others to be evaluating us, whether accurate or not, we may then assign a value to ourselves based on that.
Indignation is a feeling one gets when self worth is not balanced with what we perceive another (more valuable) set of values to be. Perhaps this model can help us ascertain the twisted reasoning that motivated the shootings these past few years in our American schools. These murdering individuals seem to have lost, or displaced, their value or self worth, considered themselves irrevocably separated, and placed that same negativity on the others they massacred. As the value they have for themselves are not shared by their peers, the indignation is too much to bear, as love for humanity is displaced by a horror of self loathing, desperation, and worthlessness.
So there is a desire here, for simple recognition, and it arises from the thymos. The thymos phenomenon is a psychological attempt to balance by justice and selflessness, but at the same time is itself selfish in nature, and as Socrates pointed out, it has a potential to be an alley of reason, suppressing wrong or foolhardy desire, or destruction. This duality can twist us into reacting to the world in anger and violence, and its understanding is paramount to getting control of our emotions.
When our perceived values of both ourselves and the world are not recognized by others, the thymos self-assertion kicks in with feelings of frustration, questions of self-worth, and then anger. And also then, if a person become angry, for instance by indignation, he may react without regard for anything else, including his own safety. There are some that suggest that thymos is also the starting point for conflict, and the fundamental source of evil. On the other hand if the thymos is nurtured with positive affirmation, it can flower with untold conviction. As an evaluation of one’s self-worth, it can mean the difference between self-esteem or self-reproach.
On a personal note, I have been told that I care too much for what others may think of me. This is something that was taught, perhaps as far back as Mother’s knee. What control we have of these emotions, and the thoughts they induce, is proportional to the understanding we have of them, and the effort we set forth to manifest our goals and dreams. Pervert that, and the entire civilization will disintegrate like a house of cards. A modification of the values that we held close as a child surely should be reevaluated to fit our adulthood… and I’m not saying it’s easy. Self reflecting meditation takes time, as we attempt to unravel the many tentacles and hooks that control both our mind and spirit.
There are other avenues of the thymos that can further expand an understanding of this life, our motivations and desires, so well understood by our Freudian masters. Megalothymia is the thymus at work in the authoritarian, or tyrannical type of person, and it’s opposite the isothymia. It defines a person’s need to be recognized as an equal… To learn more about values and how much of a role they play in how we think and act, there are several sources to go to, beside the ones I’ve mentioned. Read: “The End of History and the Last Man,” by Francis Fukuyama,“Nietzsche’s view of Socrates,” by Werner J. Dannhauser, and “On History” by Immanuel Kant… and know this, the powers that be, have. And oh, THE PRINCE, by Machiavelli.
“Hagel…believed that work was the true essence, the true essence of man.” -Karl Marx
A truth seeker is a student, and will be until the last breath. His motivation is a simple one, and “it” is distilled into a vessel that he carries day and night. It pulls and pushes him, and every truth he finds alienates him further from those who care for little or nothing but immediate gratification. He keeps loneliness well hidden, along with his doubts about self-worth. His ultimate goal, one might imagine, is to save the world, but he knows that he is hampered by his own inabilities, IQ, for one, time, and other responsibilities like making a living for his family, and he is guilt-ridden that he cannot produce more. He eats it, dreams it, and it moves through his veins every waking moment, and yes, it consumes him, as he realizes that the opposition, his enemy, are far stronger, and without his own morals and ethics, far more dangerous… because they, unlike he, will stop at nothing to win. He does not want to be like them, but he knows his ethics are his Achilles heel, the vulnerable space in his righteous armor.
As he connects the dots, unraveling the invisible lines of force that he sees on every side of his bogus reality, propaganda, lies, and deceptions that run into a great rabbit-hole void, he tries to navigate in this great storm of insanity, trying desperately to keep his. He sees the faces of his grandchildren, and the world they will inherit, and it creates a vortex of consternation that reaches his very soul, and yet, a powerful volition too. He is desperate to save them from a protected state of mind that controls this world’s psyche, body, and spirit… and though he sees their enslavement, he is at a loss to fight it, and yet, he will never… ever give up. He loves them, and all of humanity, even though, and he knows this in the fire of his belly… that he might not have enough men to carry his coffin.
The most profound element of this story is not that he is betrayed, but that all of humanity is, and that pressure tries to crush him, strangle him to silence… but that is the fuel, and the strength in his arms. That is the Liberty Movement.
Ken La Rive
My Parting shot …
From the Author, Ken LaRive – We in the Liberty movement have been fighting to take back this country for less than a decade, peacefully and with the love of God and country in our hearts. Our banner has been trampled on and displaced by a multitude of distractions, further eroding our nation and the cause for Liberty. And so, as we are pulled by forces we cannot fathom, powerful entities with unlimited resources stolen from our future, unaccountable trillions printed out of thin air and put on our backs as debt, we must formulate the most pitiful of all questions any patriot might ask in the final hour: Are we going to fight for our master’s tyranny, or are we going to demand the return of our civil liberties and Constitution? Are we going to choose The Banner of Liberty, or the shackles of voluntary servitude? Will it be a war for corporate profit, or a war to regain our ability to self govern, as the blood and toil of our forefathers presented to us, their children, as a gift? I fear that decision is emanate. I fear that any decision will be a hard one, but my greatest fear of all is that the decision has already been made for us.
Ken LaRive – Facets: It’s a simple but beautiful metaphor. Our soul is likened to an uncut diamond, pure, perfect, and unrealized. Each learned experience cleaves a facet on its face, and leaves it changed forever. Through this facet, this clear window, new light, new questions and ideas take shape and form. This process is our reason for being …
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