Category Archives: Uncategorized

Conflict Or Compromise…Cooperation

Success is incremental.  I often marveled at the television commercials for Publishers Clearing House, where a representative of the company knocked on the front door of some, extremely lucky, person and presented them a giant check that effectively wiped away their financial concerns for the rest of their life.

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Many years ago during some challenging times that my department, Building Services was experiencing,  I decided that more people needed to understand the value that the civil service community brought to Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale.  I had been a member of the Civil Service Council, which is the elected group who, at that time, represented over 2,000 colleagues. Having been a member of the group for 10 years, I had been pleased to never be an officer for the organization.  I had enjoyed a wonderful career where my supervisors recognized my efforts and had been fortunate to attain every promotion available to me.  But, it was clear to me that someone needed to attempt to communicate with  the university’s chancellor regarding his most valuable and loyal staff.  I, actually, did not want the job and felt certain that I would not be elected, by my Council colleagues, for the position.  That realization comforted me as I did not desire a leadership role and had but a few years until my retirement.  To my dismay, I was elected to represent the largest group of employees on the Carbondale campus.  I felt a little sick to my stomach and doubted that I could be effective…but I knew that I had to try.

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I have never enjoyed conflict.  All gains and progress that I have made has been attributable to talking together with the powerful and the powerless.  So, I began to meet, on a monthly basis with Chancellor Wendler.  I found the Chancellor to be a brilliant man and easy to communicate with.  He was a man from a diverse background and had, at one time, worked as a carpenter.  Our discussions were wide ranging and colorful.  Dr. Wendler had a heart for the poor and needy.  During my, years of meeting with the Chancellor…I was admonished by some of my colleagues to demand our rights!  I would not waiver from my bedrock philosophy of, praising a person from the mountaintop and constructively criticizing another…only in private.

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Chancellor Wendler understood the sacrifice of our veterans and listened carefully to the Councils pleas for a recognized holiday to honor our heroes.  Our campus owes him a debt of gratitude for his passion in ensuring the reality of our request.

Another vital issue that Chancellor Wendler spearhead was to give many members of the AceS union, parity raises, where data  illustrated the they were being paid below the norm for their, primarily, clerical positions.

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Chancellor Wendler asked me to chair a committee that he commissioned to review; pay increases for meritorious work performance, and a re-writing of civil service staff’s evaluations.  In partnership with Human Resources, SIUC administration, the Director of the State Universities Civil Services System, and

representation from the Administrative and Professional ranks…we were not only able to perform the tasks that we had been charged with…but many civil service staff have benefited from the out of season pay raises that are based on merit.

In view of the extreme stresses that civil service staff were undergoing when they were diagnosed with critical diseases, such as cancer, the Chancellor enhanced extended sick leave to help ameliorate the suffering of his colleagues.

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The Chancellor and I had many serious and private conversations.  One was where the leadership of University Housing had gathered a University wide committee that was prepared to issue an RFP, a request for proposal, seeking privatization of Food Service services.  This would have affected many civil service staff.  I was told, privately, by a member of the committee that the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor were looking toward privatization of Food Service for Housing.  I was also given the same information by my good friend, Jim S., who asked me if there was anything that I could do.  I was quite sure that  little man like me could do nothing…as it appeared that the decision had already been made.  However, I telephoned my friend, Jake B., who was the chair of the Administrative and Professional Staff Council and he agreed to accompany me to visit the Chancellor, in the evening.  The Chancellor was a bit out of sorts.  He was somewhat perturbed by my explanation for my and Jake’s visit.  He went on to explain to me that he was only doing his job and that, perhaps, he should examine Building Services for privatization.  I responded that I was fearful to be before him, our leader, as I was but a janitor.  I continued by attesting that I had neither the wisdom nor the understanding to convince him to change his mind regarding privatization…but I had to try.  I spoke about SIUC being the economic engine that propels the economy in Southern Illinois.  I touted the dedication of the Housing Food Service Staff and their love to our students.  I spoke of the dismal fact that when you lost a job at the University…you would not find another in Southern Illinois.  I quoted the scripture:  ‘But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.  And, she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the master’s table.’    Mark 7: 26-28    KJV

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The Chancellor turn his head from Jake and I and stared for several minutes…and then asked if we had anything else.  I meekly responded, no.

The next morning, my contact, that was a member of the Privatization committee, told me that the Chancellor had called the Vice Chancellor into his office at 7:00 A:M: and told him to disband the committee and that there would be no more discussion of privatization of Food Service staff.

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About a week later my Executive Director told me to pass the word that the Chancellor wanted civil service staff to understand that there would be no discussion of privatization while he was Chancellor.

Fairness In The Workplace

Be Fair!

The Jazz Man

If there was any concern that was greater than fairness in the workplace…I do not recall it.  Each of us are members of the workforce for a variety of reasons.  A primary passion for working is the need for money.  As I have commented, on numerous occasions, most geographical locations are splendid…if you have enough money to enjoy the benefits of living there.   Southern Illinois is one of the most lovely locations to reside in, with the ancient hills and valleys created by the glaciers stopping nearby, and the luxurious natural surroundings. Consistent with the need for a living wage is a clear plan for not only attaining good job performance but a map for success, or promotion, for ambitious employees.

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There is a valuable creed that I attempted to live by as a supervisor/manager/administrator…for over 30 years, ‘Be friendly, but not familiar…good, but not gullible.’

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If you are…

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Courage Is Compelling

Navigating the sea of life can be likened to a placid and peaceful cruise in the Mediterranean,  that, if you did not look out the port hole you would not realize that you are sailing…to riding the rough seas around the United Kingdom, where the ship rose several feet on each tremendous wave….and then slammed down to its horizontal correctness and resulting seasickness and disorientation!

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As I have reached my senior years I have realized the truth that, things change.  As a child, reading and writing and arithmetic were emphasized to me.  Television was something that you engaged in during your limited free time.  Books were important.  Reading was essential.  There was no reality TV.  Issues in political life or religious thought did not boil down to a sound bite.

My mother read, daily.  She belonged to the book of the month club.  She read a book a month, at least.

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The challenges of life are not solved in 30 minutes or during an hour of a court room procedural drama.  I have noticed that, especially on network television, the scenes change at such a rapid rate in their weekly dramatic programs…that it has a somewhat dizzying affect on me.  I was watching the latest John Wick movie and could not help but notice that the entire movie was comprised of character after character getting killed.  The action was so fast and the scene changes so numerous…the movie had a frenetic video game quality and little to no sense of reality.

Senator Mitt Romney, who was the Republican Candidate for President 8 years ago…was a profile in courage, today.  The Senator gave a moving speech on the floor of the Senate explaining his up-coming vote regarding impeachment: ‘In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts.  Many demand that, in their words, ‘I stand with the team.’  I can assure you that thought has been very much on my mind.  I support a great deal of what the President has done.  I have voted with him 80% of the time.  But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside.  Where I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and censure of my own conscience.’

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Public service is not blind obedience to a political leader, whether Democrat or Republican or Independent.  Critical thinking is vital to success in life.  What I found most refreshing regarding Senator Romney’s comments was his dedication to his oath to God and his willingness to suffer the vehement verbal and written abuse, for his decision, that has already begun.

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I understand what it feels like to make decisions based on principle and against public and, safe and comfortable, opinion.  It is unsettling and frightening and life changing.

Team is important.  Being a member of a group is empowering and a vehicle that enables each of us to accomplish more than we could by ourselves.  However, in our society of multi-million dollar sports stars and our praise of the pig-skin…we must not confuse the blind support of team to the exclusion of our oath to God.

President Kennedy wrote a famous book entitled, Profiles in Courage, that recounted the exploits of courageous individuals.  It was a thin book.

There are times that you win…by loosing!

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A Good Supervisor

Something that we all desire!

The Jazz Man

Having spent 31 of my 32 years and 2 moths and 3 weeks of my career at Southern Illinois University as a supervisor of others…I have a few reflections on what I think comprises a good supervisor.  A valuable learning tool for me in my quest to be a good leader, was having worked for leaders who were not so good.

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I remember beginning a new job, during my teenage years, where I was neither trained, or had the parameters of the job duties or expectations explained to me.  I simply had to judge what needed to be accomplished and, ‘wing it,’ as the the methodology in completing the tasks.  This, hands off, style of supervisor, left me often failing to perform what was expected of me…until I was reprimanded for not performing up to par.

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Another employment position that I occupied, for nearly a year included being cursed at…on…

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Good News!

Do you enjoy good news?  I do, and I like it in all varieties.  For instance, I read just now that a new movie company is going to come to our University Mall in Carbondale.

‘VIP Cinemas will open its doors inside the University Mall this Spring.   The theatre will take over the same place as the AMC  Theatre which shut down in 2018.    WSIlTV.com

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Perhaps I have not mentioned it, but I am a movie aficionado.  One of my goals, when I retired, was to see as many movies as I desired!  The news is that VIP will be open from 10  A:M: – 10 P:M: and will screen first run movies and that the admission price, before noon, will be $5.49 with a free small popcorn.

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I have released the movies ever since I watched Lady and the Tramp in Chicago when I was 4 years old.  During my grade school years I visited our theatre, the Orpheum in Eldorado, Illinois, each Sunday and watched the same movie…three or four times…for the one time admission cost of 35 cents.  The darkened auditorium was a bit like church for me…until I began attending a church.  I find movies totally relaxing and refreshing and intellect stimulating.

I was around when our mall was first built in the 1970s.  At that time it had four theatre, and that seemed so forward thinking and modern…as I had been used to one theatre at the Orpheum.  A few years later, the four theaters, contained in one area, shut down and it was several years before a marvelous, stadium seating, complex was added to the University Mall during its remodeling.  Now, a new company is taking over the, perfectly fine space, and movie attending options have returned to our town.   Good news comes in many forms.  It is said of the former comedian, Jack Benny, that he relished and took great joy in the simple things of life.  A colleague said of Benny that he met him for lunch and that Jack was ecstatic regrading a piece of white fish that he had enjoyed at the restaurant that they were at.

Have you ever noticed the spontaneous joy of dogs?  If you have been away for an hour of less…your dog will greet you as if you have been gone for a month!  I have a hand clapping routine that, when I perform it, Brody and Parker begin to dance and sing.  They are not looking for a new automobile or a finer home or recognition of their profound accomplishments…they are excited about the simple joy of living!

I read that Vodka is good for your blood flow and cholesterol and weight loss.  A smile crossed my face…and I said as our quiet friends uttered, in the early 1990s when Michael Jordan performed one of his countless athletic feats…in a whisper voice…’yes.’

Each day is a unique gift.  I was rooting for the 49er’s in the Super Bowl, but when I understood that the Kansas City Chiefs had not won for 50 years…I was happy for them.

A good friend of mine asked me to read something that she had prepared for a course that she is taking…and I considered what an honor that it was for her to value my opinion.

Aaron and Jonathon and MJ and I watched the Super Bowl last evening and had fun and laughs and Quatros Pizza and Brownies…and it was family and fun and happiness.

There is a popular saying that admonishes us, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it is all small stuff!’

Let it be said that all of life is composed of small stuff…and it is the narrative of our stories…and it is us.

‘All We Are, Is Our Stories’

I was listening to NPR this afternoon and heard a woman make the statement that, all we are, is our stories.’  What a truly encapsulating sentence regarding the human experience.

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It is 66 degrees in Southern Illinois…on Groundhog Day.  People are cycling and hiking and jogging as it feels like spring has sprung.  The sky is an azure blue and all is right with the world.  We love stories.  If you think about it the most compelling orators…tell us a story.  We christians are compelled to be followers of Christ due to the stories of his life that we read in the Bible.

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From the moment of our birth to the moment of our death…our life story is being written.  I remember my life from my, almost, infancy and can observe my time on Terra Firma and the connections that have happened in it… that connect the dots.  I have always been fascinated by a ‘Horatio Alger’ story.

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‘Horatio Alger Jr., an American writer of young adult novels about impoverished boys, and their rise from humble backgrounds to live lives of middle class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty.  His writings were characterized by the ‘rags-to-riches’ narrative, which had a formative effect on the United States during the Gilded Age.’    Wikipedia

The story where the little gal or the little guy beats the system and achieves success beyond the class that they were born into, or confound the naysayers opinions of them by rising above the mean and hurtful circumstances that accosted them in their young and early years…is inspiring!

My friend, Jeff Lestz, is an example of a Horatio Alger story.  I have know Jeff for 48 years.  When I met him he was part of a hippie commune, off of the Royalton blacktop between Elkville and Royalton.  The group contained  many Jewish young people from Chicago.  About 40 of these wonderful hippies came to our little church in Elkville.  This was an earth shattering event for a non-denominational church of less than 100 congregants.

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Jeff had lived as a homeless orphan in Chicago.  His life as a teenager was more than shaky.  He became a Christian, a Jew for Jesus, and turned his life around.  As time went by, another of the Jewish hippies, Michael Toppel, became Jeff’s foster father, and provided a good home and mentoring for Jeff.

Today Jeff is the successful owner of his own business in the United Kingdom.  I was privileged to visit one of his Opportunity Meetings that he held, near York, England, where the audience of 100 people were mesmerized by his story and the outreach that he extended to each of them, to better themselves.

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During Jeff’s beginnings in Southern Illinois there was a lovely christian lady who selflessly assisted him, who passed away yesterday.  Pat P. was a great example of what God can do through a willing servant.

Our stories are us.

Writing Outside In The Winter

It is February 1, 2020, and I am writing in my favorite writing space, our screened in porch.  Where did January go?  I have just returned from my barber…and the shop was full.  Do you suppose everyone is wanting a new hairstyle or a haircut for the, Super Bowl?

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I believe that our porch, which was at one time an open deck, has aided my inspiration to write.  I said, when the porch was first constructed, way back in the fall of 2011, that it caused me to think of Maine…when I sat in its pleasant confines or when I wrote.  Maine is such a lovely state and the allure of the deep green grass and the rocky coast line and the pleasant temperatures, in the spring and summer, are compelling reasons to return again and again.  The comparison to siting on my porch is analogous to our enjoying the porch of the Bed and Breakfast that we stayed in during our first two visits in 2009 and 2010.  The calming influence of the large victorian porch with very comfortable seats, and the complimentary wine to sip on as we enjoyed the pleasant Maine breezes, in July, were something that I was amazed to find replicated at our Southern Illinois home.  Our logding was on Mount Dessert Island, and just a short drive from Bar Harbor and Arcadia National Park.  Mount Dessert Island is the location that Stephen King’s movie, The Storm of the Century, was filmed.

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There is a crispness in the air and a peace contained in the surroundings in my writing nook.  I have become a fan of Apple laptop computers.  My first one I purchased in 2013, and I have used it daily since that time.  I thought that it was on its last legs, and so I bought a MacBook Air in October, 2019.  Now I have two…due to the first taking on a second life!

It is a myth that no one cares about others in need.  Our town, Carbondale, has a custom of collecting money for our homeless shelter, Good Samaritan House, the Saturday and Sunday of the Super Bowl.  One of the first memories that I have of the church that I attend, First Presbyterian, was the young people in our congregation holding large soup kettles to collect donations for the needy.  The project is called, Souper Bowl.  I noticed as I entered Kroger today that there were members of the SIUC football team holding large soup urns, outside the entrances.  When I left my donation I was struck with how friendly that they were and their heartfelt gratitude for my contributing.

Yesterday a woman fell in Aldi’s Grocery Store…there was a horrendous noise and then the terrified screaming of her daughter as she pled for her mother to keep breathing.  Almost all the shoppers in the store rallied to her to help in any way that they could.  Everything stopped.  Suddenly we were not in a grocery store going about the mundane duties of procuring provinder  for the upcoming days….We were in the painful reality that a fellow human being needed our assistance.

So it is February 1st and 2020 is 1/12 completed.  Life beckons us to take part in its wonders and glories.  The newness of each day is a mystery and a riddle and a wonder.  We seek excitement and intrigue and adventure.  All of the possibilities of 2020 await us if we desire growth and positive change.

‘You gotta start talking like you’re blessed and thinking like you’re blessed.  That’s what activates the blessings.’    YESIMADIVA.COM

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I wonder if we could see through the fog of despair and the woods of unfulfilled dreams…and visualize what God had planned for us… if we were simply willing to accept the plan…would we awaken each morning with expectations of the ordinary…or would we open our eyes as if we were on the first day of our favorite vacation?

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Practical Miracles

Miracles still happen.

The Jazz Man

I think that we are infatuated with the idea of miracles?  We certainly need them.  We read of, Alice in Wonderland, and we are captivated by, Jack and the Beanstalk.  Television and movies show us the most fantastic happenings.  The television show, Lost, illustrated members of a plane crash being marooned on an island that could not be be found.  In the last episode of the long running series we discovered that the characters had all died, an undetermined amount of time ago, and that although their story lines had changed…they did not realize the change.

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The scripture tells us of the blind receiving their sight and the dead being brought back to life.  Jesus healed all manner of illness and disability and seemed to do so with little struggle or strain.

‘When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and…

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A Love of Photography

For the past, nearly 10 years, I have been retired and enjoying the ‘Life of Riley.’  I spent over 32 years of enjoyable service to Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, and I have continued to visit my campus on a daily basis.  SIUC never ceases to amaze me and I find something new each day that I visit the majesty of the Jewel of Little Egypt.  I know I must appear unique to those who see me snapping photos across the campus on such a regular basis.  I have noticed my satisfaction when I take a photo that I am pleased with.

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I can recall, so many years ago, being intrigued with the university.  As a youngster in Eldorado, Illinois, the annual visits of the SIUC students who were studying theatre and their performance in my little school…mesmerized me.  As I watched the expertise of the actors, I was transported to another place and possibilities and hopes and dreams…for a boy from Chicago who was raised in Southern Illinois.

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When I began at SIUC in October, 1978, I could not believe my good fortune at having become affiliated with such an institution for good.  One of my first impressions was the amazing diversity that I was able to interact with on a nightly basis.  In those halcyon days there were students from over 70 nations that attend Southern.

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My first university class, ‘An introduction to computers,’ was a revelation to me in that I earned an, A, for the course and the professor encouraged me to continue my education.

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The combination of enjoying success in Building Services, and being a member of a community that had no end to the vistas that it opened for those who chose to partake of them…was inspiring.  SIUC is a university that is a working persons school.  Planted amidst the farm land and coal fields of Southern Illinois, it is a place that welcomes the first generation college student.  Yet, it is an international university.

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The opportunity and hope that SIUC brings to the city of Carbondale and the surrounding Southern Illinois region is tremendous.  Being the largest employer in the area, its economic impact is significant.

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I mentioned to MJ soon after I began working at SIU that there was a different culture at the university.  I had been accustomed to being rather myopic in my views…and I was surrounded by others who thought in a similar vein.  When I became a member of the University Community. my eyes were opened to the much wider and diverse and ‘coat of many colors,’ of humanity that God had created.  I found that many people thought differently than me and spoke differently than me and worshiped differently than me.  I was enlightened to discover that the world was not contained, under a glass globe, but was rather much more interesting and lovely and encompassing…than I had imagined!

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Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale gave me something to strive for and anticipation for not only what tomorrow will bring but what a thousand tomorrows will bring.

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I reminisce about my former colleagues mentoring their student co-workers.  How they brought food for the student members of their housekeeping crews on a nightly basis.  How they took many of them into their homes on holidays…when they had no where to go.  How they listened to their problems…and were surrogate moms and dads to young people who were lonely.  I can still feel the happiness and the feeling of home, at our annual Thanksgiving Dinner @ SIU.  For many years we fed 200 or more, smiling students, from all over our planet.

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I can still see the little, thin, wide eyed boy as he sat in the darkened auditorium while the SIU’s theatre students performed on the stage…and his subsequent life in the land of his dreams.

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‘Beware of Those Who Smile at You But Wish You Evil’

Beware of what lies behind, some, smiles.

The Jazz Man

It is another cold day in Little Egypt.  Snow may be coming tomorrow.  I, longingly, recall the balmy Gulf breezes of Miramar Beach, Florida, two weeks ago.  I remember telling my friend, Peter, who is a internationally respected historian, that Populism is a good thing.  Peter, kindly, responded that it depended what type of Populism I was speaking about.

‘Populism – A political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.’    Google Dictionary

‘Winning over masses has been at the heart of politics since antiquity.  It is referred to as populism if done so by delivering extremely simplified answers to citizens.  The German born political thinker Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) examined this issue in her world famous book Totalitarianism.  She wanted to understand what had turned the democratic Republic of Weimar and the communist USSR into extremist-totalitarian…

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