To Lie or Not to Lie

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I am a little embarrassed that I use dream thinking and tradition thinking instead of Snyder’s thinking in terms of inevitability and eternity. There is a reason for this. In my brain pan, ‘inevitably’ and ‘eternity’ have landed so close together that they are difficult to label major differences with. Snyder does so. I recognize those differences and consider them to be of great importance. But it is easier for me to recall examples of these differences with the concepts of “dream” and “tradition” than with “inevitable” and “eternal.”

This may be because extreme beliefs aimed at the future (the dream) and the past (the tradition) get in each other’s way, but do not necessarily exclude each other in more moderate forms. Snyder prefers to emphasize that, in their extreme forms, both beliefs have their own sense of the role of time (and thus, history). He seeks a middle ground in emphasizing the importance of individual responsibility versus responsibility delegated to machines.

It is not impossible that this is a symptom of rather serious tradition thinking. There is something insidious in the contrast between dream and tradition thinking, which I referred to earlier: their dynamics. Successful dream thinking leads in the long run to a lust for power combined with narrow tradition thinking. I believe Snyder’s Road to Unfreedom describes this dynamic in its political dimension.

When I look at myself, I have also followed that trajectory, as an exponent of the dream of truth (which was taken for granted shortly after the Second World War in the Netherlands), working up to an academic elite that by now does not know what to do with successes like that of Trump and other convinced tradition thinkers.

In other words, if I want to reenact political processes properly, I have to include the processes that lead to the lie as a potential successful form of political thinking. Until recently I was not ready for that. Snyder’s theories opened a gate.