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Monday, June 07, 2004

TWO BOOKS: One by Robert Paxton the other by Naomi Judd

Two books are currently bobbing in the wake of public conscienceness, one written by a respected historian the other by a pop culture diva, one insisting that ideas manifest themselves in the real world, the other dismissing ideas as an relevant predictor of events. I refer to Robert Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism and Naomi's Breakthrough Guide: 20 Choices to Transform Your Life. Robert Paxton is an esteemed academic, who is considered by many to be a ‘great’ historian. Naomi Judd is buxom country western diva with a pair of equally gifted, albeit, difficult daughters.

It is ironic that it is Paxton’s book that finds no cause and effect between the ideas one holds and the outcome that results. He assures us Fascism is accidental. As a guest on C-span, Paxton summed up his examination of Fascism by saying that is an accidental occurrence, a phenomena that manifests when a strong leftist movement couples with a national emergency making conservatives nervous enough to ally themselves with totalitarians as a last ditch defense against the left. He rejects any attempt to form opinion based upon what Fascists believe, rejecting all conventional definitions of the movement. Reviewer Michael Keaney writes, “ he controversially denies that the Spanish dictator, Franco, or Vichy France, were fascist . . . Nor does Paxton have much time for the theory, originally put forward by the psycho analyst, Wilhelm Reich, that fascism is a psychological disorder - though he accepts that many of its leaders were fruitcakes. Indeed, Paxton is so preoccupied with what fascism is not that he fails to make clear what it actually is. His own definition is so broad and all encompassing that it is largely useless.”

By contrast, Judd’s book, admittedly philosophy lite, is a primer on introspection, reminding us the beliefs we hold manifest as events in our lives. She has figured out that our predicaments in life are the result of our choices, and recommends a “change-your-mind-to-change-your-world approach” Judd believes "a dead end is just a good place to turn around”.

This juxtaposition, a book by a light weight on ideas and the mind, and a book by a heavy weight telling us that events are unpredictable, totally removed from philosophy, is what is has gone wrong with American society.


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