A Lesson From Ukraine?

I’m a longtime reader of the Hedgehog Review, and was reading  a review in the current issue of a book I’ve recently purchased but haven’t yet read: The Dawn of Everything. The review was  very positive–the reviewer was a longtime fan of  one of the co-authors, who recently died–but  the final paragraph of that review brought me up short.

[The authors’] one undeniable achievement, it seems to me, is to show what a dangerous tool common sense can be. As more than a few people have pointed out lately, no government in the history of the world—not even Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany—has ever had anywhere near the force needed to repress all of its people at once. States have always depended on their people to repress themselves. When most people—most anthropologists, even—deny that we can have iPhones and equal freedom at the same time, the chances of revolutionary change dwindle to zero, and glib cynicism becomes the new wisdom. “The moral basis of a society,” John Lanchester has written, “its sense of its own ethical identity, can’t just be: ‘This is the way the world is, deal with it.’” The Dawn of Everything says, in essence, “This isn’t the way the world has to be. There are literally thousands of other ways.” It’s high time we give some a try.

The “common sense” to which the reviewer alludes is the frequent, confident assertion that hierarchies are inevitable in a technologically-advanced society. (Evidently, the book includes a number of historical exceptions to that “common-sense” rule). More striking, however–and definitely more thought-provoking–is recognition of the undeniable  reality that no government can repress all of its people all at once.

We do, as the reviewer asserts, repress ourselves–and although the author didn’t elaborate on how or why we do that, it seems to me that there are a some rather obvious causes of that self-repression: propaganda that encourages beliefs grounded in falsehoods, tribalism that encourages conformity with “our” positions, and civic ignorance. They combine to reinforce the conviction that individual citizens are powerless. Even people who recognize that Fox News and its clones are promoting lies tend to believe there is little or nothing that can be done about it–or about the gerrymandering that they think makes an effort to cast a ballot worthless.

It’s just “common sense,”  that the forces that have distorted our democracy and impeded the passage of policies desired by large majorities of Americans–big money, big Pharma, the NRA, et al– are too powerful for mere citizens to vanquish.

Ukrainians are challenging that conviction.

After all, it was also “common sense” that the Russians would easily overpower Ukraine. Russian propaganda–quite probably even believed by Putin–assured its audiences that Ukraine was filled with Russian sympathizers who would greet invaders with flowers (a belief with some uncomfortable resonance with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.) Even if there were no flowers, however, most of the West shared the “common sense”  that Ukraine would quickly fall to Russia’s greater military power. 

The people who didn’t buy either form of that “common sense” propaganda were the Ukrainians. Thanks in part to their recent history, they knew better.

 I previously posted about a documentary chronicling the Ukrainian’s 2014 uprising against the Russian puppet President who had refused to sign an agreement tying Ukraine to the EU. Despite an unbelievably brutal response by the Russian-dominated government to initially-peaceful protests, they prevailed.

As I noted in that post, what was amazing to me was the Immense size of the Ukrainian protests, the enormous numbers of ordinary citizens–teenagers and grandparents, labor and management, men and women– who joined in the demand for change, took to the streets, and actively participated in the ensuing deadly combat with government forces.

The Ukrainians who are having surprising successes battling Putin’s army learned a great deal from that 2014 experience: that politics matters, that citizens have agency,  and that “common sense” opinion is often very wrong.

Those are lessons Americans (and especially Hoosiers) need to learn.


  1. I wouldn’t invest a lot of brain cells in what a documentary on Netflix said about the 2014 Euromaidan in Ukraine while Google is censoring the likes of Abby Martin and Chris Hedges and using CIA employees to clean up Wikipedia.

    Why is the USA scared of the truth? Why does the truth threaten NATO?

    It will undoubtedly play out if they are on the right side of history. LOL

    Why doesn’t CNN invite Noam Chomsky on to tell Americans why our media has to distort the truth in Ukraine or Washington?

    Because their eyes and ears wound sting, followed by their egos bursting while lounging on their couches.

    That hasn’t been our way for 40 years, yet people still believe in the USA Intelligentsia and MIC. We are a gullible lot.

    The excursion into Ukraine is already over and soon China will straighten out Taiwan. The days of the petrodollar are coming to an end and the days of the dollar being the geo global currency of reserve is over. Don’t watch your TVs for the answers though. 😉

  2. This mornings news from the war in Ukraine appears to be that the allies have been successful in their earlier public statement that a way to help Putin “save face” was needed to get him out of this situation. Will President Zelensky relinquish the areas of Ukraine which Russia has claimed as Russian occupied territory? Will Ukrainians support this decision as the allies mull it over? Was Russia’s scorched earth tactic and the reported deaths of thousands of their own troops worth that small area? Has “common sense” that Russia had no right to invade Ukraine been totally lost? Did Russia win their war? What happens to those all important sanctions which were to defeat Russia if this is the end result? President Biden is correct in his comments regarding Putin is the world’s worst dictator and isn’t fit to lead; but will they matter if this is the end result? Will they help or harm President Biden in 2024 against Trump whose support of Putin has never wavered?

    Will McDonald’s move back into Russia to sell Big Macs and will they want to add fried to that order?

  3. The US is on a fast decline and will be a democracy in name only in 10 to 20 years. That’s the major reason I’m leaving. BTW, I’m a disabled Vietnam Vet and just purchased land in my wife’s name in the Philippines. Wi;; start building in June.

  4. @ Smekens … I am relieved you have not influenced my investment advisors. I would have missed out on prevailing opportunities since 2014.

  5. If you don’t have “common sense,” begin speaking out honestly. Write a blog. Podcast your own commentary. Share it with groups. Thank you, Sheila.

  6. Common sense should be common, but common sense is also driven by conscience! And, as the apostle Paul said the conscience is a law for individuals unto themselves. It it can accuse, recuse, or forgive!

    Conscience is in short supply! It’s obvious, the situation we find ourselves in, has very little to do with, “doing the right thing?”

    All politicians absolutely know, if you keep hammering away at different things every single day, people get fatigued and they quit paying attention! Our former president was an expert at that. So is Vladimir putin. And, if you look at all the despots in history, Hitler, Chairman Mao, Stalin, they used the scattergun approach,
    Play The People’s fears, create lots of boogeyman, make a lot of accusations, and people just Short circuit. There’s so much crap shooting out of the fan, you can’t even duck from it.

    Really, it’s not rocket science! I stay very well aware of what I can, and, I live by different values than I used to! I do what I can do for my fellow man, there are bigger forces at work here. If everybody did what they could do for their fellow man, this would be a much different place we live. Unfortunately, humanity is incapable of that very task! I can see what’s coming, it’s common sense! And, it won’t be pretty!

  7. I had a discussion with a friend yesterday regarding the total lack of protests in this country. Our country is dissolving in front of our eyes, and the prevailing attitude seems to be a giant yawn.

  8. Common sense is a most uncommon commodity. It has to begin with a knowledge of history, which far too few of us have.

  9. “Common Sense” ideas like giving someone unemployment will make them lazy and they stop looking for a job? That kind of common sense?

    When it turns out the root of that kind of common sense is really an effort to not give money to the wrong kind of people, yes, common sense will kill a democracy.

  10. Common Sense is in the eye of the beholder. For some Common Sense is to have every willing adult armed, a response to climate change is not pressing, no need for racial understanding or that traditional gender and family roles are best for everyone. For others Common Sense is none of those things. Where one sits seems to depend a lot on education and whose opinions/narrative you trust. I’m afraid that if Indiana reshaped its society by the Common Sense of its citizens it would be changed and, in my view, not for the better.

  11. “The moral basis of a society,” John Lanchester has written, “its sense of its own ethical identity, can’t just be: ‘This is the way the world is, deal with it.’” So “spot on” as our UK friends might say.

    But, perhaps, we are even beyond Lanchester’s identity to “This is the way the world is. Too complex and I am having too much fun.”

  12. I have nothing to say about common sense today, but I’ve been reading The Dawn of Everything, and in the first third of so of the book, I was bothered by the authors’ heavy use of manuscripts written and published by the Jesuits who spent a lot of time in the indigenous communities.

    Thinking about the accusations that Margaret Mead was naive when she believed what the South Sea Islanders told her about their cultures, I wondered how the Jesuits were able to penetrate the cultural walls between European and Indigenous cultures. I suspect that if it were possible for modern anthropologists to be parachuted into the past, into those cultures, they might be more discerning about how things really operated.

  13. @Norris – the gambling in the stock market has been artificially propped up solely by the trillions given to NY by our FED and the politicians who serve the financial oligarchy.

    However, it required cooperation from foreign entities, which has now ended. Ask Larry Fink at BlackRock what has happened. Unfortunately, even he hasn’t been frank or isn’t aware.

    We overplayed our hand, or hubris got in our way. As John would note, “Pride cometh before the fall.”

  14. As David Leonhardt wrote a week ago…” social alienation makes some people more willing to break the rules and act violently. A broader sense of disorder can create a so-called moral holiday…

    By many measures, Americans are feeling frustrated with their government, their economy and their fellow citizens. Nearly 80 percent are dissatisfied with the country’s direction, according to Gallup. People spend hours screaming at one another on social media. Many Americans consider people with opposing political ideas to be so wrong that they don’t deserve the right to express their views. Polls also show an alarming degree of skepticism about democracy and openness to political violence.

    Along with these signs of alienation, a wide range of behavior has deteriorated. Alcohol abuse and drug overdoses have increased. Americans’ blood pressure is up, and measures of mental health are down. Vehicle crashes have surged… This country’s recent dysfunction is bigger than Covid. It is a dark new form of American exceptionalism.”

  15. I have come to believe that humans may be the smartest species of life on the planet, but we aren’t that smart. How could we be? We are born knowing only how to cry and suck. We are born with five senses only capable of sensing energy transitions in our place and time and at our scale. That’s smart?

    Our very limited senses observe what happens around us. We soon observe we are separate from other people, we are one gender or the other, and certain actions get us noticed and served. First, crying, then, smiling. People teach us what they know including how to use our flexible faces to make certain noises that stand for certain concepts. They show us how we are supposed to interact with others and how to arrange and rearrange stuff that we encounter. That’s smart?

    We pay attention for a couple of decades and then start a new cycle all over again by reproducing. We learn skills useful to provide food and shelter and health and sex and understand more and more about arranging and rearranging the stuff around us. We are about 90% just parroting what we have observed around us. We are 90% culture and 10% thought all aimed at achieving comfort. That’s smart?

    Where I start to see some signs of intelligence is what we do collectively. There I see how stuff arranging builds magnificent structures and machines and factories to make truly mind-bending arrangements of stuff. I’m impressed by how much we can collectively learn about everything going on in the universe inside our bodies as well as outside. Collectively we emerge from our past and create separation from our former jungle friends when we lived in Africa. Now that’s smart, but only sometimes.

    Sometimes it’s war and other crimes against others. Sometimes we arrange our stuff for the purpose of rearranging other people’s stuff into piles of waste and stacks of bodies. Sometimes we metaphorically walk on the bodies of suffering others because we are still comfortable.

    So, I guess we can be collectively smart and collectively stupid making us, on average, average life forms.

  16. Common sense means sound judgement based on facts. What we see most often now is emotional “beliefs” based on opinion. “…You can have your own opinion, but not your own facts”.

    Life is complicated.

  17. One of my kids read a book about Soviet Russia called child 44 (or maybe it was 45). It was a murder mystery about children being murdered along a train line. It centered around a man trying to solve the murders, but they were praying the man trying solve the murders because he was crazy
    He had to be because this was the perfect society and such murders could not happen in this perfect society. And because it was also a police state, everyone pretended that it was the perfect society. What happens to theind of the leader of such a country who believes he is actually leading the perfect country when the social reality is that is absolutely correct, except for little pockets of people who talk together about the insanity while also afraid someone will rat them out and to prison the you will go because of their obvious insanity. Is this where Putin he as put himself in his isolation?

  18. Common sense is not, Not in the eye of the beholder!

    Common sense is based on thinking ability, it’s based on wisdom, it’s based on knowledge! It’s based on moral Justice and equality, it’s based on empathy and compassion!

    Millennia ago, Common Sense and Conscience was related to and explained as the figurative heart!

    The figurative heart was always Viewed as an intellectual skill or capability, an intellectual manifestation of morals, thinking ability, reasoning, understanding, and knowledge!

    You can’t have a complete moral compass without combining the figurative heart and the mind. The human conscience uses all of these things, this product of the inner man, allows a sense of things that are not that common anymore.

    The conscience along with common sense can react positively to love, joy, pain, sorrow, hate, anxiety, affliction, distress!

    An abandoned conscience, a corrupted conscience is useless! It leads to impulsive inappropriate desires, emotions thusly steering the direction of the inner Man in a negative way.

    We try to be overly logical most times, but that logic is based on flawed reasonings. Illogical! Our “want of heart” is completely antithetical to a clean conscience.

    Author William Gesenius states that “want of heart” Marks a person who is “void of understanding.”

    Other interpretations list want of heart to having, a lack of sense, a lack of judgment, has no sense, is a senseless fool! IE, no Common Sense.

    This can actually apply directly to yesterday’s thread, want of heart by the incels lead to no common sense. Those on the road of life, Common Sense can be a light to their roadway. A lack of that light will always lead to disaster!

  19. Common sense is not defined properly by several people here. Common sense is the judgment of one person based on their experiences, and it is just as faulty as an apocryphal story can be a misrepresentation of reality.

    Common sense is the opposite of judging something based on proven principles and actual facts.
    It is, in essence, “going with the gut,” and as we all know, for plenty of people that is a very bad idea.

    People like to say “common sense is not common.” Wrong. It is extremely common. It just isn’t “sense.”

  20. Outside of lobbyists,individuals are powerless. If individuals were to confront government and business malfeasance,they’re brought to heel and quickly vilified by Big Interests and Big Money. Especially if it’s a movement of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie will summarily deride those efforts,no? Just one example; remember the Sanders campaign?

    Money talks. The people of Ukraine are not fighting against Big Pharma,Big Insurance and giving agency to the underpaid single-mom in the U.S. To romanticize the Azov Battalion and Ukraine in general, is a disservice to readers and to the events at hand.

    I get it. You hate Russians and Russia. Nevermind daily on this very forum –frequented by a very privileged white minority–moan incessantly about everyone and everything. I get it. You hate Americans and America,as well. At least that’s seemingly the daily message. You’re entitled to hate because of your perception of your very own merit,that is clear. Speaking of minority status,most of the world including India and China are not on board with the U.S. That’s a very large number of the world’s population. Are they under the spell of Putin? Hardly. Many of the people of the world are in fact,genuinely fighting for agency.Ukraine is not one of them. Ukraine is the land of Stepan Bandera.

    The Biden administration wants to use the Ukraine for a proxy war against Russia,the Ukrainian people be damned. That’s what happens when you have Kagan,Nuland, et al, amongst your wrecking crew.

    Zelinskyy is the Donald Trump of Eastern Europe. Now,Ukraine has marauding armed punks strolling through and wreaking havoc. Only an idiot would make arms available to anyone and empty the prisons. Both actions are the actions of a selfish loggerhead. Under similar such logic, I expect Zelenskyy’s American cheerleaders to lobby for the giving of arms to every passenger before boarding an airplane in America and Europe to thwart hijacking attempts. Idiocracy in action.

    If you want examples of agency for individuals,look no further than the Houthis. But again,they’re not exactly Caucasian. Which is what the members of this very forum truly embrace. And, America, too. Despite popular platitudes and rhetoric that implies a differing view.

    If Indiana is the Mississippi of the North,it stands to reason that its judicial system,education system, judges and professors are most likely substandard as well–which is seemingly de rigueur in America at the moment. America—a race to the bottom.

    I admit,this was a decent attempt to make Ukraine look good. Well written. Too bad it’s just so transparent. Some might call it pablum. I’ll be more hospitable and describe it as misguided.

    Btw,keep an eye on the goings-on between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This could escalate.

    Interesting Times, Indeed.

  21. I saw that our President was criticized for saying Putin could not remain in power and that Putin is a butcher. I totally agree with President Biden. I do not think Putin will agree to any compromises that do not agree with his ultimate aim of a new Russian empire. Therefore, it would be best to go after him now rather than waiting to find out that compromises will not work. This whole mess reminds me so much of what I have read about Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” while Hitler was taking over continental Europe. Right now “peace talks” between Russia and Ukraine are going on, but Russia has not called for a cease fire; it has continued to bombard civilians and destroy homes. Pay attention to what Russia is doing, not what it is saying.

  22. One of the buzzwords that we all know but few understand is AI, artificial intelligence, computers learning how to solve problems.

    That’s all well and good but a more descriptive name would be collective machine learning.

    Conceptually it’s programming that starts with a problem descriptive then searches other computers now connected by networks into a global nest and inquires as to their relevant experience, and learns from them.

    Just like humans, but smarter in the sense of able to remember and focus.

    It can look like we look like: an intelligent collection of memories of our experiences plus the experiences of others we learn from.

  23. Why are we stuck with this forum machinery, Sheila?
    Why is there no reply after each comment?
    Why no upvote?

    Look at the style of commenting?
    Is it generated by the forum structure?

    Is it just inertia?

  24. Re:

    Pete’s word salad and Ormond’s attempt to silence words he doesn’t like, the two of you have underscored my criticisms of the commentariat.

    How dare anyone have a differing view! It’s got to be AI! Too funny.

  25. Samuel J. Clemens (as paraphrased) noted that “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” and I think today’s topic falls within the logic of that observation. Todd’s usual complaint of oligarchic control we experienced in the first Gilded Age; Lester’s reference to political violence we have experienced before, during and after the Civil War and Reconstruction Days etc. We survived, and will survive today’s right wing antics.

    However, the setting within which we were able to heretofore overcome or blunt the effects of such threats to our existence has undergone radical change. Now we have the internet and anyone and everyone whether informed or uninformed can weigh in on the issues of the day. Thus, for example, when what was later to become known as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 was proposed there was no social media in which virtually everyone could vent his/her opinion in re its adoption, and while citizen participation in the affairs of state is to be encouraged in order to thwart deals made by politicians in smoke-filled back rooms, the fact is that when there is such political anger and division (stoked by power-hungry politicians) as we are experiencing today via social media that “owning the libs” rather than a rational consideration of proposed legislation becomes the guiding force in policy formulation, as in, ” if they’re for it, we’re against it; and if they’re against it, we’re for it”- whatever the issue.

    The foregoing ruminations are of course subject to the rule that one must not blame the message on the messenger, so my observations here are intended to target those who employ the means of misuse of the messenger by those interested in the acquisition of power at the expense of the common good. (See legislation in re classroom prohibition of teaching about gays, pro-abortion views, the positives of any other ism than capitalism etc.).

    I think such prohibitions were in fact given life by social media and those who cynically use such means to take us back to the cave and amount to child endangerment in that these are lessons such children are going to learn about on the street rather than in the classroom.

  26. Golly, I am of the opinion that the liberal democracy that our Constitution promises us in exchange for our allegiance to that form of governance; coupled with our mixed economy of socialism and capitalism as practiced now by every other country in the current world is the best system for governance and the economy here.

    Is your opinion different?

  27. Golly & Eye, what a load of crap! Hide behind your nincompoopery, with ignorant avatar names! A perfect example of not having common sense I would say. I do hear your manure spreader, obviously you savor the flavor! Why does one individual try to pretend to be several? Mental illness? Probably!

  28. I remembered a quote that “common sense is usually neither”, but I couldn’t find it. I did find many versions of the “common sense is not common” — but enough of that thread.

    I throw out the idea that Ukraine had only been independent for a quarter of a century when the 2014 uprising took place. It was in the same generation (or within two generations) that had seen life under the USSR. I think this may have freed them to be more involved. More amazing to me are protests in Russia, where repression exists, but more so, you never know who is going to turn you in (kind of like today’s Texas).

    Here, too many people are busy earning a living. The “why vote, both parties are the same” is an old meme that I heard well before “meme” was first coined by Dawkins.

    Two more thoughts –
    I don’t remember being taught that the Constitution instituted “Capitalism”. I did provide some mechanisms that go well with capitalism, but it didn’t say “Capitalism will be the economic system of these United States.”

    We have mutated some of these things.

    Patents provided protection for inventions that were proved to be new ideas and to work. Then we decided that “the number of patents issued” was a measure of success, so the more the merrier, and let’s patent the human genome (fortunately, the courts did recognize that human insulin cannot be patented). I think we have perverted patents, copyrights, and the like.

    Also, corporations were legal fictions that existed at the sufferance of the state and not people. Now they are higher than people (what person is granted immunity from liability by law) and the state seemingly exists at the sufferance of the corporation.

    My second thought is for the “nothing helps” crowd. A small number of people protested the Vietnam War. The number grew and finally the “mainstream media” got involved. Many young military men wanted it to continue because the fastest way to move up the ranks is during a war. The Military Industrial Complex was doing well, so they were happy, but the public had been convinced that enough was enough.

    And of course my repeated story of taking on the UAW’s political arm, losing an election, but winning our point when the UAW backed a candidate we liked (i.e. non-racist, non-misogynist) in the following election.

  29. Well J. Sorg,if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out.

    Your religiosity is just posturing. Typical Xtian behavior.

  30. “The Dawn of Everything says, in essence, “This isn’t the way the world has to be. There are literally thousands of other ways.” It’s high time we give some a try.”

    It’s fantasy…

    “The Dawn of Everything” is a biased disingenuous account of human history (www.persuasion.community/p/a-flawed-history-of-humanity ) that spreads fake hope (the authors of “The Dawn” claim human history has not “progressed” in stages, or linearly, and must not end in inequality and hierarchy as with our current system… so there’s hope for us now that it could get different/better again). As a result of this fake hope porn it has been widely praised. It conveniently serves the profoundly sick industrialized world of fakes and criminals. The book’s dishonest fake grandiose title shows already that this work is a FOR-PROFIT, instead a FOR-TRUTH, endeavor geared at the (ignorant gullible) masses.

    Fact is human history has “progressed” by and large in linear stages, especially since the dawn of agriculture (www.focaalblog.com/2021/12/22/chris-knight-wrong-about-almost-everything ). The book’s alleged major “fundamental” insight is “the ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently” (the first part of that statement is hardly a great insight because a perceptive child can recognize that) YET fails to answer why we do NOT make it differently than it is now if we, supposedly can make it “EASILY” different, why we’ve been “stuck” in this destructive system for a very long time. THAT is really where “the ultimate, hidden truth” is buried and the answer is… it is because of the enduring hegemony of “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room” (www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html ) which the fake hope-giving authors of “The Dawn” entirely ignore naturally (no one can write a legitimate human history without understanding the nature of humans)

    A good example that one of the authors, Graeber, has no real idea what world we’ve been living in and about the nature of humans is his last brief article on Covid where his ignorance shines bright already at the title of his article, “After the Pandemic, We Can’t Go Back to Sleep.” Apparently he doesn’t know that most people WANT to be asleep, and that they’ve been wanting that for thousands of years (and that’s not the only ignorant notion in the title). Yet he (and his partner) is the sort of person who thinks he can teach you something authentically truthful about human history and whom you should be trusting along those terms. Ridiculous!

    “The Dawn” is just another fantasy, or ideology, cloaked in a hue of cherry-picked “science,” served lucratively to the gullible ignorant underclasses who crave myths and fairy tales.

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