Category Archives: Fear

Taxes are Good


Al Franken is a disgraced Democratic Senator from Minnesota.  Not really. He did a bad thing. He made inappropriate jokes about a sleeping woman and pretended he was going to assault her. It was stupid. He apologized, admitted it, and resigned as a Senator.  No Republican would have even considered resigning under such circumstances. After leaving the Senate he returned to his professional career of being a comedian. In that capacity he appeared as a guest host on the Daily Show after Trevor Noah resigned.

On his last day as interim host he had some fine things to say about taxes. He said he would show us why taxes are good. That is a pretty big task.  But he did a pretty good job.

He said “it is tax season, or as Donald Trump would say, ‘Get off my back already.’”  Trump famously did not pay taxes for years and bragged about it. He said not paying taxes showed he was smart.  In the minds of many conservatives, that is entirely true. There is nothing wrong with avoiding taxes by legal means. At least we can’t really blame anyone for not paying taxes that one can lawful avoid.  Tax evasion, which means unlawfully avoiding  taxes is a different matter entirely.

As soon as the Republicans took over in the House of Representatives after the US mid-term election in 2020 they announced that they would be taking at run at the Internal Revenue Service (‘IRS’) in the US, which is widely seen by the American conservatives as a subversive organization because it tries to enforce American tax laws, and conservatives—at least so ultra-right-wing conservatives believe.  The believe  taxes are immoral. As a result, anything one does to avoid paying taxes is justified. The Republicans basically said—in almost these terms, that they would be emasculating the IRS so that their cronies and supporters who supported their election campaigns would not be required to pay so many taxes. Taxes were for other people to pay. Taxes on their view are not for elites and wealthy people to pay. Taxes are for the common people to pay.  It is hardly an exaggeration to say this. Many  Conservatives actually believe this.  How do I know this?  I have listened to them!  Their own words make it clear.

In Biden’s recent Inflation Reduction Act there was a provision that $80 million would be added to the funding of the IRS to hire new employees and acquire new technology to replace their ancient technology. Conservatives think that is a waste of money in the US.  It is not. It is vital to do that to support lawful government. As Franken said,

“Better enforcement of tax laws means more money for the many, many things government does such as social security, Medicare, infrastructure, not to mention feces scraped off the Capitol walls by the Proud Boys. Clearly the new funding is long overdue. In addition, to pay for immensely popular programs it will help to reduce the deficit, so everybody has got to be happy about it. Everybody right?”


Of course not! That is what people would think in a rational world. This is not a rational world. Here is what Republican Representative Bob Good said, “Democrats want to spend 80 million dollars to hire 87,000 armed IRS agents to terrorize Americans.”  Republican Senator Rick Scott from Florida said this, “They want to hire 87,000 IRS agents that can use deadly force to go after America families.”  Republican Senator John Kennedy said this, “They want to turn the IRS into the Gestapo!”

A Fox commentator on the Tucker Carlson show said this about Biden’s efforts: “A little like James Bond except rather than hunting down evil maniacs they hunt down and kill middle class taxpayers that don’t pay enough.”

Florida Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida said this on social media:  Gaetz asked: “Chaos at the IRS where they are gearing up for something, like, war in our country? Is Nancy Pelosi trying to start a nuclear war in Asia? Is there an effort by the National Security State to stoke violence in a civil war here at home? We certainly hope not.”

Of course, the Republicans are just trying to stoke the fears of the American electorate, again, by suggesting getting wealthy Americans to pay their lawful taxes is federal “overreach.”

Al Franken asked, “Do these Republicans think that if you make a mistake on your tax return the IRS will come to your door, break down, and gun down your entire family?”

Franken said the new money is to be used to restore funding to the IRS that was  aggressively cut by Republicans in Congress in 2011. Since that was done the IRS audit rate has dropped almost 60%. During that time the number of IRS agents has dropped to levels of 1954 when the US population was about half of what it is now. 1954, he said, “was when paediatricians started prescribing menthol cigarettes for sick children.” That last one might have been a joke. After all, Franken is now a comedian and not a politician anymore.

There is a better Way


I want to end this series on the paranoid elites trying to hunker down in a missile silo on a happier note. It is not all doom.

In the 60s and 70s Stewart Brand, now a Silicon Valley sage, owned the “Whole Earth Catalog.” It attracted a large and loyal cult following as it blended hippie-dippy advice with the technical. I loved their motto: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”. Brand experimented with survivalism but abandoned it.  Ultimately, he found it did not make sense. Things based on unreasonable fears seldom make sense. Evan Osnos described him in his current situation this way,

“At seventy-seven, living on a tugboat in Sausalito, Brand is less impressed by signs of fragility than by examples of resilience. In the past decade, the world survived, without violence, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; Ebola, without cataclysm; and, in Japan, a tsunami and nuclear meltdown, after which the country has persevered. He sees risks in escapism. As Americans withdraw into smaller circles of experience, we jeopardize the “larger circle of empathy,” he said, the search for solutions to shared problems. “The easy question is, how do I protect me and mine? The more interesting question is, What if civilization actually manages continuity as well as it has managed it for the past few centuries? What do we do if it just keeps on chugging?”


As it has so often in the past, America is being pushed and pulled at the same time particularly by the extremes of left and right.  On the one  hand there are people like survivalists, neo-liberals, and their political puppets who have shredded all of their fellow feeling in order to fill their bags with as much money as possible. On the other hand,  are some genuine whackos on the left as well.  Yet there are the kinder gentler souls who see a better way, but seem to be increasingly crushed by the more vocal and bellicose camps. I don’t know who will win this battle, but I care. I hope that America (and with Canada dragging along behind) comes to its senses and abandons this philosophy of fear. Fear is all right but it must be managed. Don’t let it get unreasonable. When it gives way to panic we have to realize that smart decisions will no longer be made. We must abandon panic; we must embrace critical thinking and fellow feeling. If we can do that then we will survive. If we are unable to do that, we will sink into the mire, or worse. And we will deserve it.

We must remember: there is a better way. We may need to meander to find it, but its there.


Gilded Dispair


A symbol of decline?

Every year a group of scientists, many of whom are Nobel laureates, set a big clock as a symbol of our dire straits. At the time when the Cold War was ending they set it at its lowest (safest) point ever at 17 minutes to midnight.


Sadly, since then the clock has been moving back up closer to midnight. In January 2016, after tensions rose between Russia and NATO and after the warmest year on record for the world, they set it at 3 minutes to midnight. After Trump got elected and bellicose relations continued between the US and North Korea it was set at 2 & ½ minutes to midnight.  That was the highest since 1953 when the US first tested the atom bomb. it is even higher now.

There is no doubt that all of this is being driven by fear. Fear of disaster can be a useful thing. When the world realized that a hole was being punched in the Ozone layer because of chlorofluorocarbons (‘CFSs’) in the atmosphere they got together and adopted the Montreal Protocol to do something about it. They phased them out. This was a rational response to fear. That action has been a remarkable success story.

But this is not happening  in Kansas at the missile silos bought by wealthy fearful people. Instead, it is another case of the super wealthy doing nothing to  solve the problem they helped to create. Instead of doing something helpful,  they are using their money to buy an escape. It is illusory, but that is what these rich people want to do with their money. Instead of using it to help solve the problem, they are trying to run away from it.  As Evan Osnos said,

“Fear of disaster is healthy if it spurs action to prevent it. But élite survivalism is not a step toward prevention; it is an act of withdrawal… Faced with evidence of frailty in the American project, in the institutions and norms from which they have benefitted, some are permitting themselves to imagine failure. It is a gilded despair. As Huffman, of Reddit, observed, our technologies have made us more alert to risk, but have also made us more panicky; they facilitate the tribal temptation to cocoon, to seclude ourselves from opponents, and to fortify ourselves against our fears, instead of attacking the sources of them.


Some of the super-rich have a perverted sense of risk.  One of them, a hedge fund manager of course, said this to Osnos “He was telling me we should buy land in New Zealand as a backup. He’s, said to Osnos, ‘What’s the percentage chance that Trump is actually a fascist dictator? Maybe it’s low, but the expected value of having an escape hatch is pretty high.’ ” Even though he had supported Trump he wanted an escape hatch in case he had made a mistake.

Another super-wealthy CEO had a much better approach. This is what he said,

 “There are other ways to absorb the anxieties of our time. “If I had a billion dollars, I wouldn’t buy a bunker,” Elli Kaplan, the C.E.O. of the digital health startup Neurotrack, told me. “I would reinvest in civil society and civil innovation. My view is you figure out even smarter ways to make sure that something terrible doesn’t happen.” Kaplan, who worked in the White House under Bill Clinton, was appalled by Trump’s victory, but said that it galvanized her in a different way: “Even in my deepest fear, I say, ‘Our union is stronger than this.’ ”


Osnos understands this well. The panicky approach of rich people trying to escape reality is just plain dumb. It is dumb and counter-productive as it is likely to make the problem worse, not better. Super-rich people are purchasing their own doom with these mad schemes.  Osnos understands that the CEO who believes the political union in America is stronger than the survivalists think is in the end, an article of faith—a conviction that even degraded political institutions are the best instruments of common will, the tools for fashioning and sustaining our fragile consensus. Believing that is a choice.”

Yes there really is a better way.

Facilities of Doom


Evan Osnos had the benefit of a tour of the Kansas facility. I wish I could have seen it, It had many amenities. $20 million buys a lot of amenities. It has a 75- foot- long pool, a rock-climbing wall, an Astro-Turf “pet park,” a classroom with a line of computers, a gym, a movie theatre and a library. According to Osnos “It felt compact but not claustrophobic.”


Osnos also described the armory and related facilities:

“We visited an armory packed with guns and ammo in case of an attack by non-members, and then a bare-walled room with a toilet. “We can lock people up and give them an adult time-out,” he said. In general, the rules are set by a condo association, which can vote to amend them. During a crisis, a “life-or-death situation,” Hall said, each adult would be required to work for four hours a day, and would not be allowed to leave without permission. “There’s controlled access in and out, and it’s governed by the board,” he said.”


The facility also contained a hospital bed, operating table, dentist’s chair and food storage area. 2 doctors will be residents and 1 dentist. I guess they are wealthy enough.

Many Americans don’t think Kansas is isolated enough. Many of them are choosing a New Zealand option instead. One American told Osnos this,

“I think, in the back of people’s minds, frankly, is that, if the world really goes to shit, New Zealand is a First World country, completely self-sufficient, if necessary—energy, water, food. Life would deteriorate, but it would not collapse.” As someone who views American politics from a distance, he said, “The difference between New Zealand and the U.S., to a large extent, is that people who disagree with each other can still talk to each other about it here. It’s a tiny little place, and there’s no anonymity. People have to actually have a degree of civility.


There they don’t need bunkers. They are thousands of miles from Australia. They think they will be safe there. Amazingly some of them like New Zealand because it is mountainous and remote. They think there they can avoid rising sea levels. So these rich Americans who likely publicly supported all government inaction on the issue of climate change are actually privately worried about climate change. Worried enough to buy property in New Zealand.

Even people who claim not to believe in climate change actually fear the consequences of climate change!


Doom Boom


Fear was not invented recently in America. Long before people bought condos in missile silos, fear was a profitable business. It has always been there. It always has been profitable.  There were ample fears earlier in the United States too. The Cold War was brimming with fear.  Many thought there were communists under every bed. Many feared nuclear annihilation. Of course, as always, politicians ensured that the most important people had the most protection. That meant, of course, they were protected. As Evan Osnos said,


“During the Cold War, Armageddon became a matter for government policymakers. The Federal Civil Defense Administration, created by Harry Truman, issued crisp instructions for surviving a nuclear strike, including “Jump in any handy ditch or gutter” and “Never lose your head.” In 1958, Dwight Eisenhower broke ground on Project Greek Island, a secret shelter, in the mountains of West Virginia, large enough for every member of Congress. Hidden beneath the Greenbrier Resort, in White Sulphur Springs, for more than thirty years, it maintained separate chambers-in-waiting for the House and the Senate. (Congress now plans to shelter at undisclosed locations.) There was also a secret plan to whisk away the Gettysburg Address, from the Library of Congress, and the Declaration of Independence, from the National Archives.”


Frankly, I would have felt better if the political leaders were the last to be put into bunkers, so that their conduct would not be overly reckless. In 1961 John F. Kennedy encouraged “every citizen” to help build fall-out shelters.  Thousands of Americans complied. Back home I knew someone a block away who had one in his house. Now that seems crazy.  Few people would have survived a nuclear attack in those shelters. But this advice played on American and Canadian fears. Many people felt better doing something.

This was part of a cherished American tradition of fear mongering–one of the most popular sports in America. Right next to NASCAR racing, wrestling, and NFL football.

Osnos described the American fear movement this way,

 “In 1976, tapping into fear of inflation and the Arab oil embargo, a far-right publisher named Kurt Saxon launched The Survivor, an influential newsletter that celebrated forgotten pioneer skills. (Saxon claimed to have coined the term “survivalist.”) The growing literature on decline and self-protection included “How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years,” a 1979 best-seller, which advised collecting gold in the form of South African Krugerrands. The “doom boom,” as it became known, expanded under Ronald Reagan. The sociologist Richard G. Mitchell, Jr., a professor emeritus at Oregon State University, who spent twelve years studying survivalism, said, “During the Reagan era, we heard, for the first time in my life, and I’m seventy-four years old, from the highest authorities in the land that government has failed you, the collective institutional ways of solving problems and understanding society are no good. People said, ‘O.K., it’s flawed. What do I do now?’ ”


I doubt that anyone ever lost money overestimating American fears.  Doom is always booming.



Strange Fears


All unreasonable fears are strange, but some are stranger than others. Some fear environmental collapse. Not such a strange fear at all.

Some of the people who put down $3 million to purchase a condo in a former missile silo in Kansas have strange fears. In the land of conspiracy theories that should not surprise. Maybe they all do. Evan Osnos interviewed Tyler Allen a real estate developer in Florida who bought a unit in the Kansas silo. He worries about future “social conflict” in America. That really is not so strange a fear.  Allen also thinks that the government will deceive the public, as it has done in the past. He even believes that Ebola was allowed into the country “in order to weaken the population.” Unsurprisingly, he is transfused with fear and conspiracy theories. But I am not putting down $3million. Of course, I can’t put down $3 million, but if I did, I would think that there must be a better way.

Allen claimed that when he started suggesting ideas like this people thought he was crazy, but they don’t anymore. He said, “my credibility has gone through the roof. Ten years ago, this just seemed crazy that all this was going to happen: the social unrest and the cultural divide in the country, the race-baiting and the hate-mongering.”

Of course, how will people get to their bunkers? The buyers don’t live next door. Tyler lived in Florida. That is a long way from Kansas. Tyler thought he would have 48 hours to make it to Kansas. Most people he believed, when the crisis came, would head to the bars while he headed towards Kansas. I guess they would be watching from “Sports bars.” Of course, if a nuclear bomb hit American, such driving would be difficult. Did you see the images of the highways around New Orleans when the people there were told to evacuate because of impending Hurricane Katrina? We would not want to be in the line-up. Pretty messy!

As I have said, all of this is driven by fears–in particular fears of the very rich. Osnos does not disagree,

“Why do our dystopian urges emerge at certain moments and not others? Doomsday—as a prophecy, a literary genre, and a business opportunity—is never static; it evolves with our anxieties. The earliest Puritan settlers saw in the awe-inspiring bounty of the American wilderness the prospect of both apocalypse and paradise. When, in May of 1780, sudden darkness settled on New England, farmers perceived it as a cataclysm heralding the return of Christ. (In fact, the darkness was caused by enormous wildfires in Ontario.) D. H. Lawrence diagnosed a specific strain of American dread. “Doom! Doom! Doom!” he wrote in 1923. “Something seems to whisper it in the very dark trees of America.


Do these doomsday fears not tell us something important about the über rich? This is what they are bringing about! They have no one to blame but themselves. Can’t they do better? Their own actions are creating these fears. Their own actions could forestall them.

There must be a better way and its not being brought in by forest fires from Ontario.

Logical Fear


As we drove through Salina Kansas where rich people have bought bunkers in an old missile silo to protect them from the impending chaos, I asked myself, for them what might that be?  I asked myself, ‘What generates fear among rich people”?  Particularly what triggers fear among rich white people?  I think the answer is obvious. They fear African Americans because they know they have the objects of horrific injustice that has never been remedied or compensated, and in many cases even acknowledge.


The election of Barack Obama led to a spike in survivalism. Many of white Americans feared (and this is the operative word) that as a black President he would ignite racial tensions because expectations of Blacks would rise too high and too fast. They thought Obama would react by restricting gun rights and expanding the national debt. Many of them loaded up on freeze-dried cottage cheese and beef stroganoff that had been promoted by Glen Beck and Sean Hannity. As Osnos reported, “A network of “readiness” trade shows attracted conventioneers with classes on suturing (practiced on a pig trotter) and photo opportunities with survivalist stars from the TV show “Naked and Afraid.” The fear of American whites—based on the fear of the tables being justifiably turned over against them—is a deep and pervasive fear. Such fear is a is a well spring of racism.


Not all survivalists think collapse is about to happen soon. Many of them take the position that the risk of catastrophe is so severe if a political collapse occurs that the smart betters will take precautions. They are playing the odds. As one of the techies told Evan Osnos The New Yorker writer, “Most people just assume improbable events don’t happen, but technical people tend to view risk very mathematically.” He continued, “The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely. They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.


To them,  in other words is fear is logical. It is not paranoia it is a reasonable fear.  Such fear may be unreasonable. By definition, it that is correct this is  not paranoia. One C.E.O. of another large tech company told Osnos, “It’s still not at the point where industry insiders would turn to each other with a straight face and ask what their plans are for some apocalyptic event…He went on, “But, having said that, I actually think it’s logically rational and appropriately conservative.

I think it is a sign of the decline of western civilization.  The rich elites are losing their confidence. Do they know something we don’t?


Riding out the Apocalypse


We didn’t stop in Kansas, but I am stuck there metaphorically near the silos occupied by the fearful rich. That phenomenon really puzzles me. It calls to mind what the Eagles said, “every form of refuge has its price.”

Antonio Martínez was very rich and wanted a refuge far from cities, but he did not want to be too far off the grid either. As he said, “All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.” It won’t be simple to “ride out the apocalypse.”

Martínez thinks that Americans are in a difficult position. As he said, “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now.

 Evan Osnos writing in the New Yorker described these wealthy survivalists this way,

“In private Facebook groups, wealthy survivalists swap tips on gas masks, bunkers, and locations safe from the effects of climate change. One member, the head of an investment firm, told me, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system.” He said that his preparations probably put him at the “extreme” end among his peers. But he added, “A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”


Another wealthy forty-four-year-old managing director at Mayfield Fund, a venture-capital firm, Tim Chang, said this,

“There’s a bunch of us in the Valley. We meet up and have these financial-hacking dinners and talk about backup plans people are doing. It runs the gamut from a lot of people stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens… I’ll be candid: I’m stockpiling now on real estate to generate passive income but also to have havens to go to… Oh, my God, if there is a civil war or a giant earthquake that cleaves off part of California, we want to be ready.”


Chang called this a “terror scenario.”  That phrase is apt. People like Chang and his cronies live in fear. They are terrified. They fear that soon the gig will be up. Chang also realizes that he will need more than caches of food and gear. He will need weapons to defend himself and his family. To protect his wife and daughter, he said, “I don’t have guns, but I have a lot of other weaponry. I took classes in archery.” Archery that ought to do the trick.

Some of these guys are young yet incredibly rich (even though many also seem incredibly stupid). Welcome to modern America. One of them is Steve Huffman, the thirty-three-year-old co-founder and C.E.O. of Reddit, which was valued at six hundred million dollars. Not bad for a 33-year-old, but he was not happy. He was scared shitless! Osnos says that some of these survivalists are in it for “brogrammer” entertainment. They like the real-world sci-fi with fancy (and expensive gear).  Others like Huffman treat it much more seriously. He has been scared ever since the saw the film “Deep Impact” in 1988. That film depicted a comet striking the Atlantic causing a massive tsunami. As Huffman said, “Everybody’s trying to get out, and they’re stuck in traffic. That scene happened to be filmed near my high school. Every time I drove through that stretch of road, I would think, I need to own a motorcycle because everybody else is screwed.”

I remember seeing scenes like that north of New Orleans when people fled the city to avoid the dangers of Hurricane Katrina. The roads were clogged with traffic as people fled in mass.

After that film in 1988 “Huffman  has been a frequent attendee at Burning Man, the annual, clothing-optional festival in the Nevada desert, where artists mingle with moguls. He fell in love with one of its core principles, “radical self-reliance,” which he takes to mean “happy to help others, but not wanting to require others.” I would call this radical fear. Paranoia in other words.

 It is such fear that breeds conspiracy theories as Richard Hofstaeder pointed out in his class The Paranoid Style in American Politics. That spirit is alive an well. Really not so well.


Unreasonable Fear of the Super-rich


Paranoia is one of the least appreciated yet most significant emotions in the United States today.  As Richard Hofstadter explained decades ago in his book based on an earlier article “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, paranoia is the basis of one of the things that is undermining the country as it reinforces conspiracy theories.  America is a fearful country and that fear manifests itself in many strange ways.

What is paranoia? It is unreasonable fear. We all have fears and many of us also have unreasonable fears. Disaster can flow from unreasonable fears if they are not constrained. America has experienced this repeatedly. It experiences it now. There are many examples of the power of unreasonable fears.  This morning we drove near to one of them

An ancient Titan missile site is located near Salina Kansas close to the Nebraska border.  It was one of two such sites in North America during the Cold War. The other was located in Green Valley Arizona where Chris and I lived for a month a couple of years ago when we first enjoyed an extended stay in the American south in winter. That missile site was turned in to a museum. We toured it with friends John Wiebe and Margaret Daley-Wiebe.

The second site near Salina where we drove today, is being developed as a security haven for the super-rich of America. It is astonishing, but these are among the most fearful people in America. You would think they had nothing to fear. After all, what can harm the super-rich?

As Evan Osnos said in an article for The New Yorker, “Some of the wealthiest people in America—in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond—are getting ready for the crackup of civilization.” Sometimes the practitioners of this art are called survivalists, because they hope to survive what they see as the inevitably impending doom. They hope to survive something that is intuitively unsurvivable. Full disclosure I fear the same thing but have not invested a fortune is finding a way to survive it.


As Osnos said,


Survivalism, the practice of preparing for a crackup of civilization, tends to evoke a certain picture: the woodsman in the tinfoil hat, the hysteric with the hoard of beans, the religious doomsayer. But in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters, taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort.



I am fascinated that this is being developed by the very rich. Why is that? I don’t know, but I have a theory. I think the rich in America live in fear.  They fear that their wealth will crumble and they will be left to their own devices among drug crazed hooligans out to get them and their families and their wealth. In fact, I think (entirely without evidence of course) that this fear emerged out of a sense of guilt. Guilt is the existential edge of unreasonable fear. American society–and American wealth in particular–is based on 2 ultimate horrendous injustices. The first was the genocide of Indigenous peoples that the first European settlers encountered in the New World. The second was the astonishingly long imposition of slavery on African-Americans. Immigrants from Africa as Ben Carson famously called them. That injustice leads to guilt, which leads to fear. Many rich Americans are incredibly fearful.


The Religious  Mob


In the amazing novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when it is discovered that a slave has escaped from his master, a mob of white people—mainly good Christian white people—got excited and gave horrific chase to the slave aided and abetted by his young white friend. These were good ordinary citizens of America. They believed it was their religious duty to give chase to an escaped black slave and return him to his owner. Of course, it helped that they might reap a $40 reward from the owner. Is that all it takes?


Azar Nafisi was a Muslim woman living in Iran who taught Huckleberry Finn to young Islamic men and women.  By and large these students were respectful of the tyrannical regime in their country. Like good American citizens, they were good citizens and good Muslims? What would they think of Huck Finn?

The book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is as I have been saying a book about freedom and resistance to authority.  Those are both characteristics that have usually been absent in Iran. At least that was true until recently, when there have been some rebellion led by young women resisting the authority of the government to impose dress requirements upon them, as well as other even more important impositions on their freedom. The women have demonstrated uncommon bravery in the face of that tyranny. A number of them have been killed by the government for their opposition.

Mark Twain in that brilliant book showed how an uneducated white boy and his black slave friend revolted against the “conscience” of the nation. Most people in America, at the time, believed in the racial superiority of whites and in their absolute right to do as they saw fit with the inferior black race in their midst.

Nafisi said this about the book:

“It looks at how ordinary decent people, or outcasts like Huck and Pap, could abandon their hearts and take the easy road, embracing ugly thoughts and prejudices when they are sanctioned by society. Could such horrors as slavery or the Holocaust happen without the complicity and voluntary blindness of decent, ordinary people, those who go to church and volunteer for good works and yet can easily turn, as they do in Huck Finn, into a murderous mob? It might have been the question that gave Huck such a dramatic sense of urgency when I taught it in those violent revolutionary days in Iran”.


How can good people wreak such havoc on other more vulnerable good people? Is a $40 reward all it takes?

Yet the young students of Iran largely supported the rebellious position of Huck. They applauded his actions in refusing to return the slave to the master.

Even though they were good Muslims, they did not support the religious mob! I found that interesting.