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Science Fiction and Communist Reality

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.


Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem (1921–2006) “skillfully dissected the 20th century’s foolhardy efforts to create utopias by stifling individuality and economic freedoms.” So said cultural critic Bruce Edward Walker. Lem was best known internationally as author of the classic Solaris — twice adapted for the silver screen — but the majority of his fiction featured damning allegories against the suppression of the human spirit.

Lem ranks high in the Polish pantheon of independent thinkers and dissidents, any list of which would be long and distinguished. Poland’s role in the historic unraveling of the Soviet empire was pivotal by any measure. And while world leaders from Pope John Paul II to Ronald Reagan to Margaret Thatcher played a part, the audacity of the homegrown resistance is a story that is still underemphasized to this day.

What Lem did with a wrench to German vehicles, he later did with pen and ink to the communist state.

In November 1986, I spent nearly two weeks in Poland with the anticommunist underground. This was five years after the Warsaw government declared martial law and threw many pro-freedom activists in jail. It was still many months before the big changes of 1989 that would liberate Eastern Europe from the communist yoke. One night during my visit, I met in a private home with a half-dozen underground printers. They were eager to impress me with examples of many great pro-freedom books they had illegally translated, printed, and distributed througho…

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Tea

The tea seller sits in the tea shop and pours us liquid amber in cups tiny as a nestling, a ping-pong ball, the acorns that fall from trees. The taste is of fresh grown grass and dirt, camellia flowers and smoke. She refills our cups over and over; the pot is never empty. We sip and sip until we cannot see straight. We beg her to stop, we cannot stop our hands from bringing tea cup to mouth, our throats from swallowing. She shakes her head, she says “This is tradition. This is your culture.” The tea fills us, it drowns us, we cannot stop drinking.

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NEO – Ending the Business of Terror

Editor’s Note:  Despite the world reaction to this tragedy with France declaring war against ISIL, no one seems to want to declare war against ISIL’s real backers. Putin did have the gumption to tell the UN that some of ISIL supporters were in the room with him at the G-20, but out of diplomatic courtesy did not name them.

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We Don’t Need Mass Incarceration to Reduce Crime

Daniel J. D’Amico is the associate director of the Political Theory Project and lecturer in economics at Brown University, where he teaches and coordinates student programs dedicated to invigorating the study of institutions and ideas that make societies free, prosperous, and fair. His current research focuses on punishment and incarceration throughout history and around the world.

We recently got a chance to sit down with Dr. D’Amico to talk about crime, punishment, and the opposite of freedom.

Freeman: Do you think we’re locking up too many people?

D’Amico: I used to think that the answer to this question was an obvious yes, but now I think it’s a lot more complicated.

My concerns about overincarceration paired with an appreciation for market economies seems odd to most readers. 

I’m not a philosopher, so it’s sort of above my pay grade to definitively assess the moral aspects of our punishment system. That being said, it does seem obvious that any system can make errors of excess. It also seems reasonable that the larger a system is, the more errors it will likely commit. Thus, on net, our system probably imposes incarceration unjustly on individuals more often than smaller systems do.

Freeman: So is “more” too much?

D’Amico: Understanding if our system is systemically excessive is a bit more complicated. To say yes as a matter of efficiency implies some preferable alternative system is known and viable at lower social costs. This is less obvious.

I do not think that incarceration is an effective response to social problems associated with the drug trade and drug abuse. But as for understanding the US incarceration rate, simply noting that we outpace other countries, even vastly so, does not itself imply that an alternative outcome is feasible or of lesser consequences.

Mas…

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Researchers discover that memories can be passed down through changes In our DNA

Epigenetics is a branch of biology which studies how the development and functioning of biological systems are influenced by forces that operate outside of the DNA sequence. Within the past few years alone, remarkable discoveries have been made which  demonstrate that our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and overall perception of the world/environment around us can actually have  physical/biological effects on our DNA.

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Ten things the Ancients did better than Us

Just a couple of decades ago, the people of ancient civilizations were viewed as simple, primitive people.  However, numerous discoveries since then have revealed a number of surprising facts about ancient cultures, namely that many of them possessed advanced knowledge of metallurgy, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, and more.