One of the best interviews ever! Phil Donahue talks to Milton Friedman - the guy that famously said: If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there will be a shortage of sand.
There are many lessons to be learned from Friedman, a 1976 Nobel laureate and libertarian. You can start with this video piece.
"The bigger the crowd the more negligible the individual becomes. But if the individual, overwhelmed by the sense of his own puniness and impotence, should feel that his life has lost its meaning - which, after all, is not identical with public welfare and higher standards of living - then he is already on the road to state slavery and, without knowing or wanting it, has become its proselyte. The man who looks only outside and quails before the big battalions has no resource with which to combat the evidence of his senses and his reason. But that is just what is happening today: we are all fascinated and overawed by statistical truths and large numbers and are daily apprised of the nullity and futility of the individual personality, since it is not represented and personified by any mass organization. Conversely, those personages who strut about on the world stage and whose voices are heard far and wide seem, to the uncritical public, to be born along on some mass movement or on the tide of public opinion and for this reason are either applauded or execrated. Since mass suggestion plays the predominant role here, it remains a moot point whether their message is their own, for which they are personally responsible, or whether they merely function as a megaphone for collective opinion.
Under these circumstances it is small wonder that individual judgment grows increasingly uncertain of itself and that responsibility is collectivized as much as possible, i.e., is shuffled off by the individual and delegated to a corporate body. In this way the individual becomes more and more a function of society, which in its turn usurps the function of the real life carrier, whereas, in actual fact, society is nothing more than and abstract idea like the state. Both are hypostatized, that is, have become autonomous. The state in particular is turned into a quasi-animate personality from whom everything is expected. In reality it is only a camouflage for those individuals who know how to manipulate it. Thus the constitutional state drifts into the situation of a primitive form of society, namely the communism of a primitive tribe where everybody is subject to the autocratic rule of a chief or an oligarchy.
The dictator state has one great advantage over bourgeois reason: along with the individual it swallows up his religious forces. The state has taken the place of God; that is why, seen from this angle, the socialist dictatorships are religions and state slavery is a form of worship. But the religious function cannot be dislocated and falsified in this way without giving rise to secret doubts, which are immediately repressed so as to avoid conflict with the prevailing trends towards mass-mindedness. The result, as always in such cases, is overcompensation in the form of fanaticism, which in turn is used as a weapon for stamping out the last flicker of opposition. Free opinion is stifled and moral decision is ruthlessly suppressed, on the plea that the end justifies the means, even the vilest. The policy of the state is exalted to a creed, the leader or party boss becomes a demigod beyond good and evil, and his votaries are honored as heroes, martyrs, apostles, missionaries. There is only one truth and besides it no other. It is sacrosanct and above criticism. Anyone who thinks differently is a heretic, who as we know from history, is threatened with all manner of unpleasant things. Only the party boss, who holds the political power in his hands, can interpret the state doctrine authentically, and he does so as suits him.
Even a dictator thinks it necessary not only to accompany his acts of state with threats but to stage them with all manner of solemnities. Brass bands, flags, banners, parades and monster demonstrations are no different in principle from ecclesiastical processions, cannonades and fireworks to scare off demons. Only, the suggestive parade of state power engenders a collective feeling of security, which unlike religious demonstrations, gives the individual no protection against his inner demonism. Hence he will cling all the more to the power of the state, i.e., to the mass, thus delivering himself up to it psychically as well as morally and putting the finishing touch to his social depotentiation. The state, like the church, demands enthusiasm, self-sacrifice and love, and if religion requires or presupposes the “fear of God,” then the dictator state takes good care to provide the necessary terror.
As I have already pointed out, the dictator state, besides robbing the individual of his rights, has also cut the ground from under his feet psychically by depriving him of the metaphysical foundations of his existence. The ethical decision of the human being no longer counts- what alone matters is the blind movement of the masses, and the lie has thus become the operative principle of political action. The state has drawn the logical conclusions from this, as the existence of many millions of state slaves completely deprived of all rights mutely testifies.”
The book proposes the negative path to happiness - enjoying insecurity, uncertainty, sadness and failure. It successfully argues that positive thinking, goal setting and happiness seeking are flawed approaches to life. They actually end up undermining your ability to develop, enrich and enjoy your existence.
The Antidote brought me immense satisfaction because it deeply resonates with my current approach to life. It reinforces personal theories on the subject, while assuring me that mentally I’m not completely off track (yet ;-)
The chapters treating death and existentialist despair are my favorite. Somehow related: I just found out that one the very few people that I looked up to and completely admired all my childhood is about to die.
"The voice too — I am working with a teacher on the voice. When I have perfected it the larynx will show no ring of conviction except the conviction of the person I am talking to. Since it will be largely called upon for the elicitation of the word “Yes,” my teacher (a lawyer) and I are concentrating on that, but in extra hours. I am learning to bring into it that polite acerbity that makes people feel that far from being welcome they are not even tolerated and are under continual and scathing analysis at every moment. These times will of course not coincide with the smile. This will be reserved exclusively for those from whom I have nothing to gain, old worn-out people or young struggling people. They won’t mind — what the hell, they get it most of the time anyhow."
"A reaction will set in against this communal dissociation. Man doesn’t stand forever his nullification. Once - there will be a reaction. I see it setting in. When I think of my patients: they all seek their own existence and to assure their existence against that complete atomization into nothingness or into meaninglessness. Man cannot stand a meaningless life.”
In the quest for meaning you (and I) try to get answers.
Usually a mix of knowledge from books, thinking or intelligent dialogue can get you possible and useful answers. But, it takes time and effort. For some issues I’m not willing to put in the time and effort, so I go for the the already masticated answers.
Most of the “answers” I found lately lie in online articles, full of advice. Stupid advice to be precise.
Why 99% of the advice you get is stupid?
It’s definitive. It scares me when I see people that have it all figured out, speak (or write) loudly and are very confident in their assertions. They tend to give definitive advice. Amusingly enough, even if you challenge them after a while by showing facts that prove how bad their stance was, they will still find a new, “definitive” belief.
It’s specific. Sometimes you can portray the author just by reading his words of advice. Most are narrow minded enough not to see outside of their immediate world. The advice given is very often not applicable or plain wrong when applied to a crowd geographically spread wider.
It’s shallow. Even if readers expect instant intellectual gratification, there is still a need for substance. Still, there is a much more intense need for quantity when it comes to published content. Hence, the advice is given by “experts” usually sounds good and guarantees a good headline or interest, but it’s useless (when it’s not just obvious).
The problem can be tackled from two sides.
The readers - should consider all advice b.s., filter and keep anything that seems reasonable. This should be followed by some inner depth study/analysis of the subject. Add some ambivalence to it!
The publishers should put forward the name of the author (public humiliation?), realize that bad advice is bad content and bad for business. On the long run publishers can actually harm their readers.
To cut it short, forget about getting simple advice to complex problems, especially online. Do your thinking or just accept that you are following someone else’s [most probably stupid] advice.
I am at a point in life where doubt is my greatest certainty. One of the few things I’m very committed to is expanding my worldview.
To keep it simple, by world view I understand the sum of my perceptions and interpretation of my surrounding universe. For the not-so-lazy, there is a great article about world view on Wikpedia. Lots of food for thought in there.
The simplest way of expanding your world view is colliding with other world views. You can start easily, by trying to understand the world view of those who are physically close to you but otherwise significantly different.
As an Eastern European, the western society was the first thing that intensely attracted me. Getting to understand cultural references or encompassing the static world view of an older westerner were (and still are) delightful tasks.
Next, I was fascinated by understanding, to a point, how the Arab Muslim society works, why exactly do people still live in tribes in Africa or what is it like to be a young Asian in an overly populated community. Different people, different place, different beliefs, different perceptions.
There is a magnificent thing about expanding your world view - every time you collide with a new universe, your universe expands with everything you understood from the newly visited world. You only need to be conscious about it.
Greatly expanding your world view helps you a develop as a human being. You see patterns, you get to understand people, you loose fears and it clears the path towards a personal purpose by weeding out all those false problems that surround us.
One thing that I understood is that people are the same everywhere. May sound cliche, but we really have a lot more in common than we have in differences.
Everywhere you go you will find good people, willing to share their world and seeking for approval of their life worthiness. They are all the same, even if they live in tribe, write in alphabets you don’t understand or pray to a god you fear (as you have been trained by your friendly TV).
My generic advice would be to try to grasp the notion of world view.