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Book of the Every-Other Month Club

As the name suggests, we gather every other month to discuss a work of literature with a Jewish reference or theme.

Join us for our next meeting!
People of The Book by Geraldine Brooks
Monday, August 15 | 7:30pm

Our last meeting was Monday, June 20th at 7:30 pm where we discussed Twilight of Democracy, The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum.  Applebaum, a journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author,  has written extensively about communism and the development of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe.  In this book, she examined the attraction of autocratic forms of government, and discussed the ability of autocratic leaders to ignore previous democratic norms to further their efforts to exercise control.  Her background as a conservative Republican who was born in the U.S., educated at Yale, London School of Economics and Oxford and has lived in the U.S. England and Poland, gives her writing a scholarly perspective of politics and governments.

Although a few of us felt  the book difficult to absorb, most of us remarked that we had learned much and found her writing clear and well researched. We saw that politics and government directions are somewhat cyclical with opposing swings of the pendulum. Some want a charismatic leader and others want a liberal centrist.  Applebaum told of the loss of some of her friendships that had been close for a long time turned to angry distancing because of inability to handle disagreements with developed political ideologies.  As a consequence, it is difficult for some people to listen to other’s facts or discuss different political beliefs without rancor.

In our discussion, many were surprised by the coordinated development of  autocratic policies and leaders in many different countries. The extensive and coordinated use of the internet has enabled the sharing of similar slogans and beliefs in a concerted effort to amass followers and gain power very quickly.  The creation of rapid changes in communication seems to affect some people with an “authoritarian predisposition” which makes them hostile to perceived challenges to their sense of unity and consensus.  Applebaum’s assertion is that political systems with radically simple beliefs are inherently appealing.  They rely less on asking questions and seem to be based on convincing people that there is an alternate truth without factual support.

Applebaum wrote about the concept of “nostalgia” as a tool used by some leaders to lessen democratic standards.  If the “good old ways” require all to have similar backgrounds, beliefs and heritage it is not compatible with a truly democratic system. 

We discussed that in autocratic systems, freedom of expression is repressed, there is little accountability and problems are blamed on “the others”.  We collectively considered how to keep our own environment “safe” for discussion of facts and opinions.  We aim to truly listen and hear each other.

Wed, August 10 2022 13 Av 5782