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The Achilles of 2016 by Oliver DeMille

July 16th, 2014 // 9:08 am @

Achilles 1 The Achilles of 2016 by Oliver DeMille

Setting the Stage

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Republicans went into retreat. Pundits wondered if they’d ever recover, especially after the reversals they’d already experienced in the election of 2006. Some spoke in lasting terms, suggesting that Republicans had become a regional party at best.

Then came the historic Republican victory of 2010, a midterm election that put the GOP in charge of the House and gave it major gains in the Senate. It seemed that a reversal had come at last. A number of conservatives predicted continued victories in the 2012 election and projected that President Obama’s days in the White House were numbered.

With the opposition party gaining momentum in the months leading up to the midterm election of 2014, a number of politicos are forecasting another Republican sweep—some on a major scale that wins control of the entire Congress, others of a smaller but still respectable victory Few, even on the Left, believe that 2014 will go to the Democrats.

In this environment, some on the Right are vocally enthusiastic about the 2016 Presidential election. One elected official said he now thinks Mitt Romney will run again and win, and he has been widely quoted by a number of conservatives hoping for a major change in the White House.

The Common Wisdom

Thoughts about the 2016 election seem to split by geography. Talk to people in most red states, and they’re sure Romney or some other Republican will win this time. In blue states, the opposite is true, and Hillary Clinton is extremely popular. The mainstream media overwhelmingly leans in the direction of “Hillary is the clear front runner,” and most of the alternative (largely conservative) media is hesitant to pick a winner this early—meaning it too thinks Hillary has a lead.

The common wisdom now seems to agree on several things:

  1. Republicans will likely post some gains in the midterm election in November, but whether these are large or small it won’t have a huge impact on federal policy. The White House will block any drastic changes, and maintain its current agenda, albeit stifled a bit. Voters aren’t likely to see any real change of direction.
  1. Whatever happens in the 2014 midterm, it won’t signal how things will go in 2016. The 2006 and 2008 elections went in the same direction, but the 2008 and 2010 elections went down totally different tracks. We won’t know what’s going to happen in 2016 until it does.
  2. Hillary Clinton is definitely ahead right now, and 2016 is her election to lose. All indications are that, regardless of who the Republican nominee is, the strongly blue and red states will vote as expected, and the election will come down to the votes of Hispanics, women, and independents in a few swing states. Hillary will win big with the first two, and probably post a less spectacular win with the third as well.

The Unrest

Achilles 2 The Achilles of 2016 by Oliver DeMille

The wildcard in 2016—and it could change everything—is foreign affairs. On the surface, this should be a strength for Hillary, who traveled widely as the First Lady and both shaped policy and set travel records as Secretary of State. But something deeper is at play. If world events continue to heat up, it could weaken Mrs. Clinton.

Many Americans see Putin’s antics and Syria thumbing its nose at the United States as direct failures of the Obama Administration, not to mention the growing sense that China is replacing us as the up and coming power in the world. Many Americans see Clinton’s role as Secretary of State as partly responsible for these very problems—or for not more effectively addressing them.

Watching rockets rain down on Israel is the worst possible optic for the future of the Democratic Party. (Of course, this is a much bigger issue than American politics, but it matters deeply how America uses its influence in such situations.) If the international incidents continue, or repeat or escalate at any point close to the 2016 election, many voters (most importantly the swing voters) will increasingly see Democratic leadership as weak, naïve and misguided, and yearn for a “strong” Republican-style leader who brings America back to its rightful place in the world.

If Benjamin Netanyahu were running for president in such an environment, it might be a Reaganesque sweep. It would have been fertile ground for Chris Christie, but Bridgegate may have put an end to his viability as the nominee. International unrest could easily increase support for iconic Republican leaders like Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, et al. Romney may well consider another run on such grounds.

In fact, the current level of international unrest could have a huge influence on which Republicans (and even Democrats) ultimately run and who wins. Rand Paul is very popular among Republicans, for example, except when he starts talking about national security in what many of his base consider isolationist terms. And Christie might look better to voters in the face of a serious international threat.

The Outcome

In the famous Nixon-Kennedy presidential debate, the large majority of those who listened on the radio thought Nixon had won. Those who watched on television, however, thought Kennedy had the clear upper hand. He looked cool, calm, and excited about the future of America, while Nixon looked driven and frustrated. Obviously, Kennedy won the election.

The 2016 election will likely provide similarly interesting optics. How will Hillary and her opponent look on camera, compared to each other? This may be the true swing-point of the election.

But there is another possibility. What if the picture foremost in American minds at the time of the debates and election day includes a major national security issue? If China becomes more aggressive, or rockets are raining down on Israel, or anything similar, a Republican “tear down this wall” moment might sway the whole thing.

In our current world, this is not just possible but very possible. A candidate can’t count on it, but a front runner can’t be sure it won’t happen either.

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odemille The Achilles of 2016 by Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah

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The Three Economies by Oliver DeMille

July 11th, 2014 // 9:42 am @

The Hidden Economy

TheThreeEconomies Thefuture The Three Economies by Oliver DeMilleThere are three economies in modern society. They all matter. But most people only know about two of them. They know the third exists, in a shadowy, behind-the-scenes way that confuses most people. But the first two economies are present, pressing, obvious. So people just focus on these two.

A couple of recent conversations brought these economies even more to the forefront of my thinking. First, I was meeting with an old friend, touching base about the years since we’d talked together. He mentioned that his oldest son is now in college, and how excited he is for his son’s future. I asked what he meant, and he told me an interesting story.

Over twenty years ago he ran into another of our high school friends while he was walking into his community college admin building. The two greeted each other, and they started talking. My friend told his buddy that he was there to dis-enroll from school. “I just can’t take this anymore,” he told him. “College is getting me nowhere.”

“Well, I disagree,” his buddy said. “I’m here to change my major. I’m going to get a teaching credential and teach high school. I want a steady job with good benefits.”

A Tale of Two

Fast forward almost thirty years. My friend ran into his old buddy a few weeks ago, and asked him what he’s doing. “Teaching high school,” he replied.

“Really? Well, you told me that was your plan. I guess you made it happen. How much are you making, if you don’t mind me asking?”

When his friend looked at him strangely, he laughed and said, “I only ask because you told me you wanted a steady job with good benefits, and I wanted to get out of school and get on with real life. Well, I quit school that day, but I’m still working in a dead end job. Sometimes I wonder what I’d be making if I had followed you into the admin building that day and changed majors with you.”

After a little more coaxing, the friend noted that he was making about $40,000 a year—even with tenure and almost thirty years of seniority. “But it’s steady work, like I hoped. Still, I’ve got way too much debt.”

After telling me this story, my friend looked at me with what can only be described as slightly haunted eyes. “When he told me he makes $40K a year, I just wanted to scream,” my friend said.

“Why?” I asked.

He could tell I didn’t get what he was talking about, so he sighed and looked me right in the eyes. “I’ve worked 40 to 60 hour weeks every month since I walked off that campus,” he told me. “And last year I made about $18,000 working for what amounts to less than minimum wage in a convenience store. I should have stayed in college.”

That’s the two economies. One goes to college, works mostly in white-collar settings, and makes from thirty thousand a year up to four times that. Some members of this group go on to professional training and make a bit more. The other group, the second economy, typically makes significantly less than $50,000 a year, often half or a third of this amount, and frequently wishes it had made different educational choices.

The people in these two economies look at each other strangely, a bit distrustfully, wondering what “could have been” if they’d taken the other path.

That’s the tale of two economies.

II.

Which brings me to my point. Ask members of either economy for advice about education and work, and they’ll mostly say the same thing. “Get good grades, go to college, get a good career. Use your educational years to set yourself up for a steady job with good benefits.” This is the advice my grandfather gave my father at age twenty, and the same counsel my dad gave me after high school. Millions of fathers and mothers have supplied the same recommendations over the past fifty years.

This advice makes sense if all you know are the two economies. Sadly, the third economy is seldom mentioned. It is, in fact, patently ignored. Or quickly discounted if anyone is bold enough to bring it up.

A second experience illustrates this reality. I recently visited the optometrist to get a new prescription for glasses. During the small talk, he mentioned that his younger grandchildren are in college, but scoffed that it was probably a total waste of time. “All their older siblings and cousins are college graduates,” he said, “and none of them have jobs. They’ve all had to move back home with their parents.”

He laughed, but he seemed more frustrated than amused. “It’s the current economy,” he continued. “This presidential administration has been a disaster, and it doesn’t look like anyone is going to change things anytime soon. I don’t know what these kids are supposed to do. They have good degrees—law, accounting, engineering—but they can’t find jobs. Washington has really screwed us up.”

I nodded, and brought up the third economy, though I didn’t call it that. What I actually said was: “There are lots of opportunities in entrepreneurship right now.” He looked at me like I was crazy. Like maybe I had three heads or something. He shook his head skeptically.

“Entrepreneurship is hard work,” I started to say, “but the rewards of success are high and…”

He cut me off. Not rudely, but like he hadn’t really heard me. That happens a lot when you bring up the third economy.

“No,” he assured me, “college is the best bet. There’s really no other way.”

I wasn’t in the mood to argue with him, so I let it go. But he cocked his head to one side in thought and said, slowly, “Although…” Then he shook his head like he was discounting some thought and had decided not to finish his sentence.

“What?” I asked. “You looked like you wanted to say something.”

“Well,” he paused…then sighed. I kept looking at him, waiting, so he said, “The truth is that one of my grandsons didn’t go to college.” He said it with embarrassment. “Actually, he started school, but then dropped out in his second year. We were all really worried about him.”

A “Real” Job

He paused again, and looked at me a bit strangely. I could tell he wanted to say more, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it.

“What happened?” I prompted.

“To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure. He started a business. You know, one of those sales programs where you build a big group and they buy from you month after month. Anyway, he’s really doing well. He paid off his big house a few years ago—no more mortgage or anything. He has nice cars, all paid for. And they travel a lot, just for fun. They fly chartered, real fancy. He and his wife took us and his parents to Hawaii for a week. He didn’t even blink at the expense.”

“That’s great,” I told him. “At least some people are doing well in this economy.”

He looked at me with that strange expression again. “I’m not sure what to make of it,” he said. “I keep wondering if he’s going to finish college.”

I was surprised by this turn of thought, so I asked, “So he can get a great education, you mean? Read the classics? Broaden his thinking?”

He repeated the three heads look. “No. He reads all the time—doesn’t need college for that. I want him to go back to college so he can get a real job.”

I laughed out loud. A deep belly laugh, it was so funny. I didn’t mean to, and I immediately worried that I would offend him, but he grinned. Then he shook his head. “I know it’s crazy, but I just keep worrying about him even though he’s the only one in the family who is really doing well. The others are struggling, all moved back in with their parents—spouses and little kids all in tow. But they have college degrees, so I keep thinking they’ll be fine. But they’re not. They’re drowning in student debts and a bunch of other debts. It just makes no sense.”

America Needs to Get It

He sighed and talked bad about Washington again. Finally he said, “I’ve poured so much money into helping those kids go to college, and now the only one who has any money to raise his family is the one who dropped out. It just doesn’t make any sense.” He kept shaking his head, brow deeply furrowed.

I left his office thinking that he’s so steeped in the two economies he just doesn’t really believe the third economy exists. He just doesn’t buy it, even when all the evidence is right there in front of him.

He’s not alone. The whole nation—most of today’s industrialized nations, in fact—are right there with him. We believe in the two economies, high school/blue collar jobs on the one hand, and college/white collar careers on the other. Most people just never quite accept that the entrepreneurial economy is real.

It’s too bad, because that’s where nearly all the current top career and financial opportunities are found. The future is in the third economy, for those who realize it and get to work. If you’ve got kids, I hope you can see the third economy—for their sake. Because it’s real, and it’s here to stay.

The first two economies are in major decline, whatever the so-called experts claim. Alvin Toffler warned us in his bestseller FutureShock that this was going to happen, and so did Peter Drucker, back when they first predicted the Information Age. Now it’s happening.

I hope more of us realize the truth before it’s too late. Because China gets it. So does India, and a bunch of other nations. The longer we take to get real and start leading in the entrepreneurial/innovative economy (the real economy, actually), the harder it will be for our kids and grandkids. The third economy will dominate the twenty-first century. It already is, in fact. Whether we’ve chosen to see it yet or not.

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odemille The Three Economies by Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah

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Friends of Foes? (Obama’s Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMille

June 30th, 2014 // 6:57 am @

President Versus

Modern citizens tend to see what happens in Washington as mainly partisan, timesup 746x1024 Friends of Foes? (Obamas Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMilleand certainly party disputes are a major part of our governance. But they aren’t the only conflict in play.

In fact, James Madison pointed out in Federalist 10 that freedom is protected when factions, parties, government branches, and even levels of government are pitted against each other.

When Democrats in the White House find themselves arguing with Democrats in the Congress, for example, or when House Republicans face off against conservative governors and other state- and local-level Republican officials, the normal power of partisan politics can be reduced.

Everyone tends to benefit when this happens, because it creates an additional check on any part of government seeking too much power.

If anything, it is unfortunate that this doesn’t occur more often.

Right now the Democratic Party is dealing with just such an internal battle. It takes the form of the President versus Congressional candidates who are running for office this year and need to break from the White House in order to get enough votes. Also the President versus Hillary Clinton and other potential Democratic presidential candidates who are trying to build their own following.

It also includes the President versus various Democratic Washington insiders who feel that his more controversial policies are hurting the Party. And the President versus past members of his administration, current members who keep “leaking” inside scoops to the media, and the usually liberal media that is now pressing the President more aggressively than at any point since his election in 2008.

Freedom is protected 2 945x1024 Friends of Foes? (Obamas Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMille

Fighting Allies

In short, it seems to be the President versus a lot, if not most, of his own Party—not just in Washington but in many states and locales as well.

George Will noted that the President has faced strong opposition among his own party in a number of major crises during the past year. Such conflicts include sharp criticism about the failures of the Obamacare website, the Snowden revelations about government spying on its own people, the IRS scandal, the White House “negotiating with terrorists” and swapping prisoners with the Taliban, the President’s seeming weakness in dealing with Putin and the Ukraine, the controversial EPA rules, Democratic opposition to Presidential appointments (e.g. Larry Summers), Democratic resistance to the President’s attempts to use force in Syria, etc.

All in all, the President’s own party is rendering his policy agenda and even his responses to national crises very difficult. Oh, and no surprise, the Republicans are doing their part to oppose him as well. But it is the division in his own party that is really creating a problem for him—the word popping up now in the press is “incompetence” or “a lack of presidential competence.”

Most national Democratic leaders are quick to verbally support the President in conversations with Republicans, but among their constituents and on Capitol Hill they are increasingly going their own way. Even when it directly conflicts with the Administration.

As the elections heat up for 2014 and in preparation for the big one in 2016, many Democrats are finding that Obamacare and perceived problems with the Obama Administration are hurting them among voters. They are naturally distancing themselves from the Oval Office, and this trend is spreading.

Lasting Wisdom

amazing constitution 773x1024 Friends of Foes? (Obamas Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMilleMadison wanted a divided government (3 branches competing against each other, as well as the state and federal levels closely watching the excesses of the other), and the constitutional system is at least partially still working in this way. To have Democrats checking Democrats and Republicans checking each other brings an extra smile to many independents. If a Republican were in the White House, a major international crisis could bring the GOP together in support of the President, but it doesn’t seem likely that anything similar will help President Obama. In fact, international affairs seem to be the focal point of the Democratic divisions.

The most powerful “Tea Party” work seems to be occurring among a growing number of Democrats who are committed to checking what they consider to be excesses of the current Administration.

The Constitution never ceases to amaze! Even as Washington grows to massive levels and most Americans agree that the government is deeply broken, the framers’ wisdom still manages to keep even the most powerful office in the world from exerting truly unchecked influence. This must be frustrating to those in power. Bravo Madison, Dickinson, Franklin and all your colleagues. Bravo!

Of course, if the framers were here today, they’d no doubt point out that this will only last so long. If we don’t become the kind of citizen-leaders they were, we will lose the rest of our freedoms—sooner rather than later.

(If you haven’t read Oliver DeMille’s new book, We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident, this is a great place to start! This may be one of the most important books so far in the 21st Century. It is truly a Must Read!)

 

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odemille Friends of Foes? (Obamas Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah

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Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention?

June 3rd, 2014 // 11:18 am @

An Invitation to Join the Current Debate

Please participate in a conversation with us. Here goes:

Background

I received the two emails within a week of each other, and they really made me think.

First of all, they made me happy. I’m so glad there are two people out there so passionate and studious about a topic that most Americans don’t ever think about.

That’s great.

bilde Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention?

Image Credit: IndyStar.com

The fact that there are two such people actually making contact means there are certainly a lot more engaged with the issue, and actually these were only 2 of dozens of notes I’ve received on the same topic. Wonderful.

We need this kind of citizen participation in order for our freedom to work and last.

The Debate

Second, well…just consider these two notes:

“Oliver, why do you support a Constitutional Convention that will send delegates from each state to rewrite our Constitution? Don’t you know that the participants will be almost entirely today’s politicians and attorneys, and possibly a few famous Establishment Academicians from the Ivy League or Berkeley thrown in, and that they’ll reject everything in the Constitution, get rid of the three branches and the checks and balances and who knows what else? Anyone who supports this just doesn’t understand freedom.”

I had to respond that I have never supported a Constitutional Convention, in fact I have written against it on various occasions. Some readers got confused when I quoted a couple of well-known supporters of a Convention, thinking I agreed with them.

Actually, those who read my full article could see that I quoted them to show that they were up to no good—because these particular supporters of a Convention want to use it to reject the Constitution and go to a Parliamentary system. Bad idea for freedom.

I have to point out, however, that some people who support a Convention do so for all the right reasons. Still, if a Convention happens, its actions will all depend on who gets sent as delegates.

The second note was very different, though similar in tone:

“Oliver, how can you not support a Constitutional Convention? I know you think it will be hijacked by today’s lawyers and politicians and used to throw away the Constitution and replace it with something much worse, but how is that any different from what’s happening anyway? If we don’t hold a Convention, we’ll continue to see the politicians and special interest groups just circumvent the Constitution, and the President, Congress and Court just ignore it when it’s inconvenient.

“This problem is getting worse, and most people really think that we’re under the Constitution. But we’re not. It’s ignored or circumvented every day, and this trend is only growing. At least with a Convention the loss of our freedoms will be out in the open. People will know what’s happening. And there is a chance, a slim one I grant you, but a chance, that the people and states will send good delegates who really do something to refocus on the principles of the original Constitution and help restore our freedoms.

“Without a Convention, there is absolutely no chance of this at all. Why don’t you support at least a chance for freedom? Without a Convention, Washington will just continue to destroy the Constitution piece by piece until our freedoms are entirely gone. A Convention gives us a slim chance for freedom, while no Convention gives us no chance.”

I’ve heard this argument before. In fact, I heard it from one of my mentors, W. Cleon Skousen, who said almost exactly the same words. When he said this back in the 1990s, I argued that the Constitution was still mostly intact, and we should give the natural tension between branches of government the time it needed to correct the problems.

He countered that it was headed in the wrong direction and would soon become unsalvagable without either a Convention or some major world crisis that forced a Convention—or something like it. Most of his predictions have certainly come true, the Constitution is much less followed or valued than it was just twenty years ago when he and I enjoyed in a number of deep discussions on this topic.

For example, the Spring 2014 edition of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy has no less than 8 full articles on how the federal government is right now further ignoring or circumventing the Constitution and drastically encroaching on state’s rights!

Would such states now feel the need to send good, freedom-supporting delegates to a Constitutional Convention just to get their rights back?

Should those of us who have opposed a Convention change our minds before all of Cleon’s predictions happen?

Or will a Convention just speed up the loss of our freedoms and give us less time to do something else—outside a Convention—that really could work? After our long and deep discussions, Cleon and I agreed on how we thought this point would go.

More later on what we decided…

What Do You Think?

So, what do you think of these two arguments? More importantly, where do you stand?

Will a Constitutional Convention help us?

Do you think it gives us a slim chance for a restoration of freedom?

Do you think anything else realistically gives us a better chance?

I have a strong opinion on this, but before I share more about it I want to see what you think. Seriously, what do you think can turn our nation in the direction of freedom (and end our current direction of decreasing freedom and inevitable decline)?

Is a Convention the answer?

What, if any, other truly realistic policy answers are there? Specifically?

I’m excited to see how many people care enough to answer, and what great ideas you have.

How to Share Your Vote

Please don’t just rehash the two views above. If you think a Convention is a bad idea, for the reasons above, just write: “My vote is against a Convention.” If you think a Convention is needed for the reasons above, just write, “I’m for a Convention.”

But if you have any third ideas beyond a Convention that can really fix America, or different reasons for or against a Convention, please share them.

[Be civil and polite in this; I’ll just delete any name-calling or uncivil responses or words toward anyone or any view joining this discussion. Every view deserves to be heard.]

This topic is too important to turn impolite.

This is a very important discussion, and I’ll tally the responses and share some that really add to the topic, along with my own ideas on what needs to happen—in a future article.

I look forward to reading your thoughts!

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odemille Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention? Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Symbolic Language

April 22nd, 2014 // 3:32 pm @

Two Different Americas

There are two classes in modern America, the literal class and the metaphorical class.Divergent film poster 191x300 Symbolic Language In the increasing divide between the “haves” and the “have nots,” this language difference is central.

Those who don’t understand the language of metaphor are falling behind in the widening gap that is the global economy. They are watching their family’s standard of living decrease over the decades.

This trend will only increase in the years ahead.

Those with a quality education learn to think, to readily see symbolism wherever it is found. But most Americans and Westerners are part of the literal class—symbolism is often lost on them.

They tend to see things without the metaphor.

Parental Guidance

For example, last year a long debate raged on social media about whether or not The Hunger Games trilogy was good or bad reading for youth. The most interesting thing about this debate wasn’t the arguments made by either side, but the fact that symbolism was hardly ever part of the debate.

But the symbolism is glaring: A nation sacrifices its helpless children for the convenience, entertainment, and libertine moral values of the urban upper class, while government, media, and big wealth combine to keep their control over the outlying, rural people dedicated to “archaic” family values.

What could be a closer parallel to our modern society? And what metaphor could ever more clearly point out the hypocrisy of the American cosmopolitan class and its views on abortion?

What Was Missed

To anyone trained in symbolism, the metaphor is obvious. We watch children killed for the convenience and political values of the elite class. And note that in The Hunger Games the urban classes have collectivist economic views combined with libertine moral values—the same as those in the real world who support Roe v. Wade and easy abortion laws in modern America.

This is blatant symbolism, but only the upper classes really understood this.

In fact, some of the most vocal voices declaring that The Hunger Games books and movies are inappropriate for youth came from people who are strongly against abortion.

They just didn’t understand that The Hunger Games was probably the biggest, best, and most popular anti-abortion movie ever. This was entirely lost on the literal classes.

When the ruling classes understand literal and symbolic language, while the masses only understand the literal, freedom is in decline and the power of the ruling classes will only increase.

This was true in Shakespeare’s day, in the time of Virgil, and when the Psalms and Proverbs were written.

The elite classes, steeped in the classics and great books that teach readers how to think (especially symbolically), are always going to rule over the literal classes whose education is limited to getting the “right” answers, preparing for jobs and careers, and not really thinking about things symbolically.

Allan Bloom warned that modern America has this problem at the level of Hitler’s Germany.

The Real Fascination

Another example: People in the literal classes can’t quite understand why today’s youth are so intrigued by vampire books, movies, and television programs. “What is this fascination with vampires?” the literal classes ask.

The elite classes, well-versed in metaphor and symbolism, know better. They understand that vampires are symbols of something—something many young people struggle with.

Imagine a society made up of two major groups. First are the hard-working, regular people who live in middle-class neighborhoods, go to work every day, raise families, sleep during the night (because they have to go to their job tomorrow), send their kids to school in order to get a good career in their adult lives, etc.

The second group in society is made up of a few people who have trust funds, inherited wealth, can get in trouble with the law but get out of it relatively easily, stay up through the night at fancy balls and dinners, then go home in the early morning and sleep late into the day, and have more power, wealth, fun and entertaining lives, and sophisticated connections with other aristocrats far beyond the local community—and even around the world.

The first group envies the second, while the aristocratic second group hardly gives a thought to their “inferiors.” Parents of both groups warn their children not to mix with the other group—because it inevitably causes many problems.

This clearly defines two things: 1) an aristocratic society, like all elite societies that have existed in human history, and 2) every group of vampires portrayed in literature, juvenile fiction, and in movies and TV programs.

But the literal classes mostly miss this symbolism. “Why do the kids like vampires?” the literal classes ask.

Some literal writers even try to explain how youth like to be scared, so they love the idea of biting strangers dressed in black. So literal. So shallow.

Answer: The kids don’t love actual vampires, they love the idea of rising into a higher class. In high school, this is a driving passion for many teenagers. If movies are to be believed, it’s the driving theme for most students in most high schools.

In such an environment, vampires are the shortcut to social success. If one bites you (dates you, likes you, includes you in his group, etc.) you immediately climb to a higher social class. The highest social class, in fact.

The one that has the money, the power, the mystery, and the worldwide connections (rather than the homegrown limits of the coal mines, a job at Blue Bell’s Rammer Jammer, or a lifetime of alumni fundraising for the Friday Night Lights).

The fact that many parents tell you to ignore the vampires (“Don’t worry about high school cliques, or being popular. It won’t even matter after you graduate.”) just adds to the intrigue.

Vampires are aristocrats. Elites. People with enough money, power and connections to ignore the limits most people and families struggle with—as youth, and also as adults.

The kids instinctively understand this, though their literal parents may not.

The Old Tool

This language barrier isn’t new.

In aristocratic Britain, the upper classes pronounced words differently than the lower and working classes—so elites would always know who they were dealing with. In fact, the pronunciations were literal (pronounce every syllable) versus symbolic (skip syllables, if you’ve been trained by other aristos and know what to look for).

For example, the word Worchester was pronounced “wor-ches-ter” by the lower classes, but simply “wis-ter” by the nobles. Or the name St. John was pronounced “Saint John” by working classes but “Sinjin” by nobility (see Jane Eyre). There are thousands of similar words.

This boils down to two classes, the Literal versus Symbolic. Checkers versus Chess. “Tell me the right answer, so you can pass the test and someday get a good job,” versus “Tell me your opinion, because there are many possible correct answers, and our purpose is to help you learn how to think—so you can become a leader.”

These are how public schools versus elite prep schools, respectively, generally teach.

The Price of the Literal

Facts versus Metaphor. Precision versus Imagery. One Meaning versus Poetic Allegory.

Again, the elite classes are well educated in both of these dialects. The problem is that the middle and lower classes are not. They only know the literal meanings of words.

This is a growing concern, because it causes increased divisions between the elites and the regular people. The masses don’t understand what is happening to their society, because they don’t speak the language of metaphor. When President Obama promised, “If you want to keep your doctor [under Obamacare], you can keep your doctor,” the two classes heard very different things.

The literal classes heard: “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Hearing this, they planned their family and business finances and voted accordingly.

The symbolic classes, trained in metaphor, heard the following: “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor, or at least one that is just as good; or, even if you can’t keep your doctor under the new plan, the nation will be better off, so it’s worth the change anyway.”

The symbolic class knows that political promises are rhetoric, meant to win elections—not meant to actually, literally be fulfilled. The literal class is slowly realizing that this is the case, but they still feel lied to by each new candidate. In reality, they just don’t understand metaphorical language.

A teacher I know once shared the following quote by Groucho Marx with her class: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” One student was very frustrated with this little proverb. When questioned, the student said emotionally, “This is so cruel to dogs. Why would anyone want to read inside of a dog?”

When the literal class doesn’t easily and immediately understand symbolism, it will lose its freedoms to the elite ruling class that does.

The Missed Symbols

I wonder what people will say about the book and movie popularity of Divergent. It is a great symbolic attack on the modern public school system and the way we choose careers and jobs in the U.S., Canada, and Europe—but I bet there will be a number of homeschoolers, charter school and non-traditional educators and parents who miss some key points.

First: this is not a book for youth; the intermittent suggested sensuality that is predictable and “natural” for youth in crisis who depend upon each other without family support is not suitable for most youth.

Second: this book is for adults, and it may be the best promotion for homeschooling and other cutting-edge, new educational choices since…well, ever.

If non-traditional education seizes this opportunity, there will be a lot of support for Divergent, because people will understand its symbolism: Each person is different, and each person has unique genius inside.

The purpose of education is to help each student discover and develop his or her inner genius and passion, and use it to improve and serve the world. When the focus is on making every child fit in, it’s not education at all. At best it’s training, at worst brainwashing.

This is the overarching message of Divergent—but will it be lost on the literal class? I hope not.

We all can benefit from including more symbolic thinking in our reading. It’s like a new mantra for 21st Century leadership: Read more, think more, serve more. And look for symbols and metaphor in everything you read.

Join Oliver for Mentoring in the Classics >>

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odemille Symbolic Language Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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