Nothing Is Inevitable

What is the relationship between who we used to be and who we became, who we might have been and who we might yet become? What defines who we are as a whole? Is there an essence to our identity, a center to our being? If so, is our ‘character’ destiny, does that center hold? After it is all over, who ultimately judges a life and what it means?

I’ve often contemplated these questions. It seems strange how I ended up where I now find myself, a path that I followed because other ways were blocked or hidden, difficult or treacherous. I really have no clue why I am the way I am, this self that is built on all that came before.

From moment to moment, I’ve acted according to what has made sense or seemed necessary in each given situation. This isn’t to imply there weren’t choices made, but it can feel as if life only offers forced choices. Certainly, I didn’t choose the larger context into which I was born, all the apparently random and incomprehensible variables, the typically unseen constraints upon every thought and action. Nor did I even choose the person I am who does the choosing.

I simply am who I am.

It’s hard for me to imagine myself as being different, but it isn’t entirely beyond my capacity. I sense, even if only in a haze, other possibilities and directions. I try to grasp that sense of unlived lives, potentials that on some level remain in the lived present. It is important not to forget all the choices made and that are continually made. Life is a set of endless choices, even if we don’t like the choices perceived or understand their implications. But choices once made tend to lose their sense of having been chosen.

We look at our personal and collective pasts with bias, most especially the bias of knowing what resulted. The telling of history, our own and that of others, has the air of inevitability. We read the ending into the beginning.

Historians don’t usually talk about what didn’t happen and might have happened, the flukes of circumstance that pushed events one direction rather than another. The same is true for all of us in making sense of the past. We comfort ourselves with the narrative of history as if it offers us an answer for why events happened that way, why people did what they did, why success or failure followed. We judge the individuals and societies of the past with 20/20 hindsight. But as the narrators of their story, we aren’t always reliable.

Before I go further about history, let me return to the present. I was involved in a debate that became slightly heated. The fundamental difference of opinion had to do with how society and human nature is defined and perceived, the specific topic having been victimization.

I mentioned the author Derrick Jensen as he offers the best commentary on victimization that I’ve ever come across. But one person responded that, “Lastly I just can’t have a serious conversation about Derrick Jensen. I’m sorry.” Though they never explained their dismissive comment, I suspect I know what they meant.

The thing about Jensen is that there is a distinction between his earliest writings and his more recent writings. He began as an ordinary guy asking questions and looking at the world with a sense of wonder, considering the panorama of data with a voraciousness that is rare. Then he found an answer and it was all downhill from there. The answer he found was a cynical view of society, in which he hoped for the collapse of civilization. The answer was anarcho-primitivism.

Jensen’s answer is less than satisfying. It is sad he went down that road. He wasn’t always like that. In his early writings, there is a profound sense of beauty and love of humanity, all of humanity. Yes, there was more than a hint of darkness in his first couple of books, but it was only a shadow of doubt, a potential that had not yet fully manifested, that had not yet become untethered from hope. His younger self didn’t dream of destruction.

I knew Jensen’s early writings years before he began his cynical phase. Nothing he could write would negate the worthiness of what he wrote before. But if all you knew were his later writings, it is perfectly understandable that your criticisms might be harsh.

I had the opposite experience in my discovery of George Orwell.

I mostly knew him as a name, having never read his works for myself. I had seen the movie adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four and I’ve come across quotes of his writings in various places. But I knew nothing about Orwell as a man and a writer. He was just another famous dead white guy who said some interesting stuff.

Recently, I decided to lessen my ignorance and read something by him. I randomly chose Homage to Catalonia which had an introduction by Lionel Trilling. At the same time, I did web searches about Orwell, about that particular book, and about Trilling’s intro. This led me to info about Orwell having colluded with the British government when he became an informant. He informed on people in his own social circle and, having been a critic of the British Empire, he had to have known the consequences could have destroyed lives.

That marred any respect I might have had for Orwell, maybe permanently.

So, why could I be so critical of Orwell while being so forgiving of Jensen? Well, for one, Jensen never has colluded with an oppressive government against those who voiced dissent. Plus, it might be the basic reason of my having no personal connection to Orwell’s writings. Jensen’s writings, on the other hand, helped shape my mind at a still tender age when I was looking for answers. I have a sense of knowing Jensen’s experience and worldview, and hence a sense of knowing why he turned to cynicism. But maybe I should also be more forgiving of Orwell and more accepting of his all too human weaknesses, or at least more willing to separate his early writings from his later actions.

My basic sense is that nothing in life is inevitable. As such, it wasn’t inevitable that lives of Jensen and Orwell happened as they did. Almost anything could have intervened at any moment along the way and redirected their lives, forced different choices upon them, allowed them to see new possibilities. And, in the case of Jensen, that is still possible for he remains alive.

Now, for the historical aspect, let me continue on the level of individuals and then shift to a broader perspective.

I’ll use my two favorite examples: Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. They are long dead and so that air of inevitability hangs heavy over their respective histories. Whatever they might have become, it would be hard for either to surprise us at this point, unless previously unknown documents were to be found.

Both Burke and Paine began as progressive reformers. There was nothing in their childhoods or even their young adulthoods that would have portended the pathways of their lives, that would have predicted Burke becoming what some have deemed a reactionary conservative, an anti-revolutionary defender of the status quo, and that would have predicted Paine becoming a revolutionary, a radical rabblerouser, and one of the greatest threats to tyranny. Before all of that, they were friends and allies. They wrote letters to one another. Paine even visited Burke at his home. If events hadn’t intervened, they both might have remained partners in seeking progressive reform in Britain and her colonies.

What drove them apart began with the American Revolution and came to its head in the French Revolution. They came to opposite views of the historical forces that were playing out before them. Burke responded in fear and Paine in hope. But these responses were dependent on so many circumstantial factors. Change any single thing and a chain of events would have shifted into a new pattern, a new context.

Like Paine, Burke at one point considered going to America, and yet unlike Paine he never got around to it. His early life didn’t hit any major bumps as Paine’s did. There is no evidence that Paine had seriously considered going to America until all of his other options had been denied. There is nothing inevitable at all about these two lives. It was a chance meeting with Benjamin Franklin that sent Paine toward his seeming destiny. And it was the lack of such a similar chance meeting that kept Burke in Britain.

Along these lines, it was a complex web of events and factors that led the two revolutions down divergent paths. The French Revolution wasn’t fated to transform into Robespierre’s Reign of Terror and Napoleon’s empire. Likewise, the American Revolution wasn’t fated to end in the further institutionalization of slavery that would lead to a bloody civil war, wasn’t fated to lead to imperial expansion, Indian removal and genocide.

There is no shared character that predetermines a people’s fate. The potential of individual members of a nation are magnified by all of their potential combined, the choices and actions of each affecting those of others, millions of paths intertwining like a flock of birds shifting along unseen currents in the wind. History is a thing of luck and chance, infinite possibilities bounded by necessity and circumstance, an interplay of forces that can’t be controlled or predicted. People act never knowing for sure what may or may not come of it.

People and nations are filled with near infinite potential. None of us knows what might have been or what yet might become. Nothing is inevitable.

The path we seem to be on may change in an instant, may change in ways we can’t even imagine. But, no matter what changes, it will never alter all that came before. The many facets of our lives, individual and shared, offer diverse windows onto the world we see. Even as the past doesn’t change, our relationship to the past does and along with it our understanding, along with it the memories we recollect and the stories we tell. And from understanding, one hopes, comes empathy and compassion.

We are who we are, all the many selves we hold within, all the many identities we have taken. The past and the future, the potential and the manifest meets in the world in which we live. No story is completely told while the actors remain.

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15 Responses

  1. There is so much here to disagree with:

    Before the commentariat tear into me as some kind of neo-conservative, it should be known that I am well to the left of you on almost every question. However, to say “So, why could I be so critical of Orwell while being so forgiving of Jensen? Well, for one, Jensen never has colluded with an oppressive government against those who voiced dissent. ”

    And to forget that Orwell saw his comrades shot by an opposing oppressive government that his colleagues were working with. To pitch this as a simple, Orwell ratting on those who voiced dissent is naive to the point. We know now from the secretive archives that one) the Comintern killed more leftist than rightists, two) Orwell´s account of Spanish civil war and the operations with CMT were accurate, and three) there really were soviet infiltrators in both low levels of the FDR administration and labor party.

    While you are willing to defend Jensen because he does not work with oppressive governments, but attacks trans individuals, advocates a lifestyle that REQUIRES the removal or death of 99.5 of all humans currently alive. Jensen did not have the pressures of the Soviet Union looming over his head or with his highly reactionary opinions masquerading as progressive anarchism.

    I am sorry, but as a moral calculus, this seems particularly messed up. You give Jensen a pass because he is not in the position to enact his beliefs, while you hold Orwell more accountable for being the lesser of two evils in a situation where not taking a stand would not be an option.

    As per your assertion about inevitable, it is JUST an assertion. You do not actually argue it because it is impossible to know. Given that counter-causal freewill is incoherent, we can not know what is inevitable and what is contingent with anything like the epistemological certainty on which your entire argument rests.
    Conversely, this applies to claims about the certainty of certain events, even if they are determined by historical actions. We can not know that either, but the inversion of an unsound argument is not a sound argument.

    • “There is so much here to disagree with:”

      I don’t think you’re really disagreeing with me or I don’t see myself disagreeing with you. I see this more as a matter of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

      “And to forget that Orwell saw his comrades shot by an opposing oppressive government that his colleagues were working with. To pitch this as a simple, Orwell ratting on those who voiced dissent is naive to the point. We know now from the secretive archives that one) the Comintern killed more leftist than rightists, two) Orwell´s account of Spanish civil war and the operations with CMT were accurate, and three) there really were soviet infiltrators in both low levels of the FDR administration and labor party.”

      I don’t disagree with any of those statements. And none of them contradicts what I wrote.

      As for the last, there were also people in positions of power and respect who were allied with fascists. They sometimes worked closely with fascist governments and leaders. But no one ever seems to want to acknowledge that. The Commuinists lost in America, but the fascists won. And the winners write the history.

      “While you are willing to defend Jensen because he does not work with oppressive governments, but attacks trans individuals, advocates a lifestyle that REQUIRES the removal or death of 99.5 of all humans currently alive. Jensen did not have the pressures of the Soviet Union looming over his head or with his highly reactionary opinions masquerading as progressive anarchism.”

      I’m actually not willing to defend Jensen. I’m only willing to defend what Jensen once was and the potential he once held to offer something more constructive. Part of my point is that Jensen went down a dark path that I refuse to follow. That is sad, but it was not inevitable or at least I see no evidence that it was inevitable. Just going by his earliest writings, it is easy to imagine his life going in many directions.

      “I am sorry, but as a moral calculus, this seems particularly messed up. You give Jensen a pass because he is not in the position to enact his beliefs, while you hold Orwell more accountable for being the lesser of two evils in a situation where not taking a stand would not be an option.”

      The whole point of my argument is that I don’t give Jensen a pass. I’m simply offering an understanding. His own early writings offer an explanation for how traumatized people go down dark paths. He also used to write that we need to fight that danger, but it could be argued that he has failed by his own prior standard.

      “As per your assertion about inevitable, it is JUST an assertion.”

      Of course, it is an assertion. I asserted it. I thought that was obvious.

      “You do not actually argue it because it is impossible to know. Given that counter-causal freewill is incoherent, we can not know what is inevitable and what is contingent with anything like the epistemological certainty on which your entire argument rests.”

      I wasn’t trying to start a debate. I was exploring a point of view. That was all. Nothing more and nothing less.

      I should clarify also that I wasn’t even talking about freewill. I honestly have very little opinion about freewill. I see it as a (mostly? entirely?) meaningless concept.

      “Conversely, this applies to claims about the certainty of certain events, even if they are determined by historical actions. We can not know that either, but the inversion of an unsound argument is not a sound argument.”

      That is most fundamentally my point. By saying something isn’t inevitable, I mean to say that no one knows the future. When the French Revolution began, no one could have predicted Napolean Bonaparte building one of the greatest European Empires in history.

      I was playing around with that idea of inevitability. Scientifically speaking, I think inevitability is another meaningless concept. All we can scientifically speak of is probability.

      Is there a reason you want to argue? Is there a reason you are looking for disagreement where none may exist? I really don’t have much desire to fight about any of this. If you still think we disagree, so be it. You’re still welcome to go on criticizing me. I never mind your criticisms, even when communication can seem difficult.

      • Oh, well, my problems in the beginning are based in misreading, but the philosophical problems with the concept of inevitability seem pretty much standing. I think that many things are all but inevitable given the probability of events being so very high, but determining that probability, even with a Bayesian calculus, seems to be almost impossible to do with certainty, but that is the difference between a metaphysical (problem) and an epistemological problem.

        My reason for arguing is that I think that Jensen is very dangerous actually. More than dangerous than an Orwell, as most of Orwell’s followers would not follow him to ratting on fellow travelers, but when dealing with the Comintern, it is hard for me to hold that strongly against Orwell. I am a Marxist and I do not know what I would have done after a few socialist comrades were offed by the NKVD, the secret police of the very society I am ideologically aligned with. Hard to say.

        I am actually quite hard of liberal soft-peddling of Soviet infiltration. Hell, I think Algier Hiss was guilty as charged.

        • I’ll give you that Jensen has become a person that is very dangerous or has great potential for causing immense problems, even inciting violence and destruction. We should take that very seriously.

          But the only reason he poses so much danger now is because he is living off of his former legitimacy. If he had always been a dangerous and angry radical, he never would have gained the wide readership and the following he has. Even so, many of his former supporters have left him once they saw problems in what he was involved with.

          I’m not sure that I’m easier on liberal soft-peddling of Soviet infiltration. I’m just equally hard on conservative soft-peddling of fascist infiltration and collusion at the highest levels of our society. I know of more liberals who acknowledge the Soviet infiltration than conservatives who even know of the fascist side of the story.

          It is because the fascists (along with their allies among proto-fascists, corporatists, crony capitalists, etc) were never outed in the US that they’ve had so much influence. I don’t know who was more dangerous in the past, but the Soviets are no longer a danger. The US government is more likely to become fascist than communist, in my opinion. I suspect that was always the case, but maybe I’m wrong.

          • I think you frankly do not understand fascism. Fascism’s use of corporatism has literally no relationship to it use in the US in regards to business/state collaboration. If I may make a suggestion, read Zeev Sternhell’s two books on the development of fascism. Fascism in the US was possible under FDR (and no, I am not making the idiotic Jonah Goldberg article. However, FDR did base a lot of his policy off of similar developments in early Italian fascism) but not so much anymore. The US government is conservative-liberal, and so it does have a tendency to be reactionary: but there is no internal logic of either a blood-and-soil movement or a third position movement in the US. It’s more old fashion reactionarism.

            Can I ask you a question? Did you read Corey Robin’s book the Reactionary Mind?

            • What I was referring to was the history of US business leaders and the US government working with various forms of authoritarian right-wing states, which continues to this day. This included a number of US corporations having close ties, for example, to the Nazis. So, I wasn’t so much speaking of the direct relationship among the elite in the US and more about the common interest among a specific group of the elite.

              As I see it, it is hard to distinguish fascism from inverted totalitarianism. That is why I tend to just speak of corporatism. Those outside of power simply have no idea who is pulling the strings. Old school authoritarianism with a clear source of power in a dictator or council is not very common these days. Another example of confusion is how easy it was for China to go from supposed communism to whatever strange capitalist-communist hybrid it is now.

              I think absolute distinctions are less helpful. So, I wasn’t arguing for a clear cut case for a specific ruling system. I think those in power will use any ideological rhetoric, any public policies, and any private means to achieve their end.

              And, yes, I’ve read Corey Robin’s Reactionary Mind. Why do you ask?

              • You sound like him in your analysis. He has some great understandings of reactionary liberalism, but I think his discussions of fascism and proto-fascism are actually not rigorous enough.

                ” Old school authoritarianism with a clear source of power in a dictator or council is not very common these days.”

                Try older school reactionarism. Look at the way the US congress mirrors the elite concerns of the patronage system in the late Roman Republic.

                “This included a number of US corporations having close ties, for example, to the Nazis.”

                Business powers played all sides in that period, including funding parts of the Bolsheviks at the same time as working with the Nazis.

                I can suggest a few good books on this if you would like.

                I, of course, disagree with you on strong distinctions. By the way, I am posting something you might like because its related to this discussion on my old today.

  2. Let me take responsibility for our minor conflict here.

    The failure of communication was my fault. I was trying to express something that was difficult to put into words. I really needed to be more careful in my wording. I needed to have explained it better and probably in more detail.

    Part of the problem was that I didn’t feel motivated to spend too much time on it. I had other things I wanted to do, including other things I wanted to write. I wrote this fairly quickly and didn’t give it the time it deserved.

    There might have been a better approach. Maybe I should have focused on the ideas themselves that were behind my thinking. And I definitely should have defined my terms. My point wasn’t to deny inevitability on the level of fact as if I were arguing for its opposite. I was arguing that the term simply didn’t offer a useful context for trying to understand complex issues of history and humanity.

    I appreciate that you helped me clarify my thinking here. I wasn’t communicating effectively, but I wasn’t aware of how unclear I was being. I’m not sure I really understood the point of my own post. I was trying to articulate something that was still vague in my mind. It was just a thought, but writing about it (and receiving responses to what I write) is how I go about making sense of the jumble within my mind.

  3. There is my obvious failure to communicate.

    Partly that is based on the failure of language itself. As I said, I see the concepts of ‘freewill’ and ‘inevitability’ as unhelpful (misleading? inaccurate?). And so debates about them as unhelpful at best. I really do feel that way.

    I’m always coming back to this issue of the failure of language. It really frustrates me at times, especially as a writer. I want to communicate well and I want to find useful ways to discuss things. But in so many ways our language is inadequate, often counterproductive. This comes up all the time with economics and politics. We have a hard time looking at our own system objectively and envision new possibilities. A major reason for that is the terminology and conceptual frames we have available to us.

    I see this as the basis of what Mark Fisher details in his book about capitalist realism. Our words shape how we see reality, human reality and beyond.

    Another important failure we are contending with is that of humanity, of human potential. What makes Jensen or Orwell seem like such sad cases is because they could be seen as failures by their own ideals. The same goes for me, as for many people. In Jensen’s case, the personal failure is particularly stark. I easily can use the arguments in Jensen’s early books to criticize the person Jensen has become.

    Such human failure is hard to come to terms with. And failure on the larger scale of failed revolutions is even harder to take. We are beset by failure on all sides, failure of ideological systems of all kinds, from communism to capitalism. Jensen has come to embrace failure and the only hope he sees is in everything failing, and so he simply proposes an ideology of human failure.

    How do we talk about all this? I’m open to suggestions.

  4. I should note that I have no grand interest in following debates about Derrick Jensen and Deep Green Resistance. I speak only as someone who read his early books, and see them as important critiques of the problems we face.

    That Jensen can be judged as having failed according to his own former views is another matter. One could argue, in a deterministic fashion, that Jensen’s later views were fatalistically implied in his earlier views. But I don’t ascribe to such a simplistic worldview.

    As for the transgender issue, I have no dogs in that fight for a few reasons. First, I didn’t even know about it, until it was mentioned in the comments here. Second, it partly seems like typical leftist bickering and in-fighting. Third, it is a very involved debate that I have no desire trying to dissect and analyze, but I did come across what seems like an even-handed appraisal:

    http://www.benbrucato.com/?p=413

  5. There is a more pragmatic aspect to my thought here.

    I was proposing the notion that we can consider someone’s early life separately from their later life. This relates to the notion that we can consider something someone says in one context separately to what they say in another context.

    So, we could disagree with a person’s worldview or who they become and yet still admit that they were correct or insightful in some instances. A scientist, for example, may be an expert in his field and we should take that seriously, even if he is completely wrong about his views on politics, economics, etc.

    As Ken Wilber always liked to say, no one is stupid enough to be wrong all the time. By the way, Wilber is another person like Jensen where his earlier thought is more interesting or worthy than his later stuff.

  6. skepoet – I hope I didn’t offend you by this post. I had no sense while writing this that anyone would respond to it so strongly. I was genuinely surprised by your comment.

    You brought up the issue of forgiveness. That is a difficult issue, of course.

    In my post, I was offering a simple personal commentary. I wasn’t philosophically defending a position nor logically arguing for a consistent application of some principle. Forgiveness is never rational. Nor was I trying to excuse anyone’s wrongful attitudes.

    I was merely pointing out that, for purely personal reasons, I had more insight into what makes Jensen tick and so felt more forgiving, if ‘forgiving’ is the right word. As for Orwell, I wasn’t seeking to judge him unfairly. It’s just that I have no personal sense of who he was upon which to have an instinctive response of understanding and sympathy, but that isn’t Orwell’s fault. I wasn’t making any grand contrast between the two. The contrast was more about my own personal relationship to the work of each. It was more about me than them.

    You wrote that, “And to forget that Orwell saw his comrades shot by an opposing oppressive government that his colleagues were working with.” Yes, that is true. But it is equally true that the British Empire has done horrific things in its history, abusing its military power even in Orwell’s lifetime. Orwell wasn’t a stupid and ignorant guy. He had to have understood the violence and oppression of the British Empire.

    Still, that is neither here nor there. Each person’s sins must be judged on their own their own, not being rationalized away as being lesser than some other more egregious sin. Jensen has become a person who is more than worthy of judgment.

    In his early work, Jensen wrote about the victimization cycle. He discussed two possible responses to being victimized. One can become a victimizer in turn or else one can become a defender of victims. Jensen would like to think of himself as the latter, but he has become so identified with the role of victim that he hasn’t been able to transcend his own traumatized psyche. Instead, he has made a mythology out of victimhood which very well may make him, sadly, prone to becoming a victimizer. When he speaks of helping bring down civilization, does he ever consider all the people who will be victimized in the process?

    I do not forgive him for anyone he may have victimized. But I won’t condemn him for imagined crimes. I don’t know that anyone has been harmed yet by his own actions or by the actions of others inspired by his words. Likewise, I wouldn’t forgive Orwell if his act of snitching had led to real harm. And, likewise, I won’t condemn him for imagined crimes.

    The issues about Jensen has been on my mind for a long time. Several years ago, I was criticizing Jensen along these lines for I saw the danger in it. All of that was years before the whole transphobia accusations came up, whatever one wishes to think of them.

    I’m not naive about Jensen, just saddened that he became lost in his own suffering. He could have been a defender of victims and inspired so many more people with his work. Think of all the good he could have done over these past years during which he has fallen further into cultish radicalism. It is just sad.

    If I thought it was an inevitable path, I would have to believe we all are similarly doomed to fates outside our control. And that would lead me also down a dark path of despair. I don’t wish to follow Jensen into an embrace of what seems like desperate cynicism.

    http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/stories-personal-collective/

    “Ignoring the issue of tact, I’ve often felt that Jensen has made a mythology out of his personal trauma… which I don’t mean as a criticism per se. Mythologizing of this sort is powerful and can be an effective way of creating a transformative vision of reality (e.g., Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis), but there are obvious dangers. In Jensen’s earliest work, there was a profound sense of wonder that blew me away and awoke me to the suffering in the world like few other authors. However, in Jensen’s later work, my perception is that the rage and frustration has tarnished some of that wonder.

    “To be fair, I don’t doubt that I’m projecting as well. It’s easy for everyone to get weighed down by life’s frustrations and lose our sense of wonder. Jensen has written about the attempt to regain that sense of wonder after having lost it and that inspired me. For that reason, it would sadden me if the ideology of anarcho-primitivism began to trump that regained wonder. I somehow doubt that any action taken without that sense of wonder will lead to positive results.”

  7. “You sound like him in your analysis. He has some great understandings of reactionary liberalism, but I think his discussions of fascism and proto-fascism are actually not rigorous enough.”

    I wasn’t thinking about Corey Robin here. There is one point of disagreement that has grown in my mind. I don’t see reactionary and conservatism as the same thing. Or maybe conservatism is simply what we call reactionary liberalism. I’m not sure.

    “Try older school reactionarism. Look at the way the US congress mirrors the elite concerns of the patronage system in the late Roman Republic.”

    That is an interesting perspective. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if such a comparison would bring insight. But I’m not familiar with the patronage system in the late Roman Republic. What made you think of it?

    “Business powers played all sides in that period, including funding parts of the Bolsheviks at the same time as working with the Nazis.”

    That would be closer to my actual position. I tend to see things as ‘complex’ and ‘complicated’.

    Yes, there were USSR spies in the US. There were also US spies in the USSR. And, more relevant to our discussion, every major country in the world had probably spies in our country and we had spies in their countries. The various fascist governments surely had spies here. Even allies have spies in each other’s countries.

    There is nothing particularly surprising about the USSR having had spies here. But why do so many people obsess over one set of spies and ignore all the rest?

    “I can suggest a few good books on this if you would like.”

    You never need to ask about that. You could list a thousand interesting titles and I’d be happy. I may not get around to reading particular suggestions as I’m already swamped in books, but I do love suggestions.

    “I, of course, disagree with you on strong distinctions. By the way, I am posting something you might like because its related to this discussion on my old today.”

    I could be wrong. I so far haven’t seen evidence and analysis that convinces me of strong distinctions. But I’d definitely be interesting in seeing such presented. Our political-economic system seems like such a hodgepodge. I don’t know how one makes heads or tails out of it.

    I don’t think trying to figure it out is hopeless, though. Some insider perspective would be helpful. We need a tell-all deathbed confession from someone who has been a member of the most powerful ruling elite for decades. But maybe there is enough data out there to make some educated guesses about what is going on.

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