Fuzzy Headed Dreamers

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 In the early 1930s a boat carrying 107 mostly British communists arrived in St Petersburg. These were starry-eyed immigrants determined to unite with the - said to be -  glorious Soviet Union. 

 They were expecting to arrive in some kind of promised land. With one accord, they had believed the false, though glowing reports - the fake news - that a Utopia was about to realized.

 It was, so they thought, the dawning of a new age. Heaven on earth was being created by the - reputed to be - fatherly, Joseph Stalin.   

 Well-equipped for the adventure, the 107 arrived “with mountains of trunks, bicycles, and gramophones.” 

 Theirs was a dreamy frame of mind - which calls to mind Dusty Springfield’s song about wishin and a hopin.

 There is a wishin and a hopin that time and again appears to benumb the mind to produce yet another blurry eyed buffoon.

 As was the case with these 107 fuzzy-headed dreamers who had "no sense of the tragicomedy in which they had landed themselves.”

 For “in a matter of days, they had been swindled out of their money and stripped of their possessions," and had to be looked after by sympathetic Westerners. (Charles More, The Priest who thought Stalin was a Saint, The Telegraph)

 And yet these dreamy birdbrains were not alone. So many others, too, led by the likes of the Irish/British playwright, George Bernard Shaw, were similarly blinded by Soviet propaganda, and the lies of the vast majority of Western reporters. 

 And yet, as many have noted: "The brute facts about the Soviet Union were always available, but many people found many reasons to deceive themselves and others about its true nature." (David Pryce-Jones, A Complete Moral Void, The New Criterion, March 2002)

 Among the fuzzy headed dreamers (back in Britain) was an Anglican priest, Hewlett Johnson, who became the Dean (not the Archbishop) of Canterbury in 1931.    

 For 33 years thereafter this priest, who came to be called, "The Red Dean of Canterbury, devoted himself to arguing that Soviet Communism was some kind of heaven on earth.

 Cheerleading for Stalin, he exclaimed: “While we’re waiting for God, Russia is doing it!” 

 While Stalin was engaged in mass murder, the Dean wrote in The Socialist Sixth of the World, that “nothing strikes the visitor to the Soviet Union more forcibly than the complete absence of fear.” 

 About this persistent blindness, it was said that “no Communist outrage could put Johnson off his stride."

 Indeed, Johnson praised the Soviets for their toleration of religion, and upon meeting Stalin, reported excitedly that the great man favoured freedom of conscience. 

 For his efforts, in 1951, Johnson was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize and then the Order of the Red Banner of Labour.

 But it wasn’t just Stalin before whom the priest swooned. When he met  Chairman Mao, he again felt enraptured, describing the great man as having a countenance that was all "lit up with warmth and radiance.” 

 "Why, Mao had even said goodbye to him, the Red Dean reported, “lingering in the courtyard to point out a lovely flowering tree.” (C. More)

 The Red Dean was a great friend to Stalin and Mao but deplorably, an enemy of Victor Kravechenko, author of the book, I Chose Freedom. (1949) 

 If ever a voice should have been heeded in exposing the Soviet Union for what it was, it was Kravechenko's, who had every credential to make him believable.

 For Kravechenko was not only from the Soviet Union, but from a working class background. He had been educated there as an engineer - had become a party activist - and held a prominent position as an industrial administrator. 

 But in response to his book about freedom from Soviet tyranny there was a huge backlash from the Soviets and their Western supporters.

 Eventually Kravechenko launched a lawsuit against a French publication that had claimed his book was full of lies - a collaborative effort with the United States. 

 The trial lasted for two months, receiving a lot of publicity. Well known writers attended, including Albert Camus, Arthur Koestler, Jean Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, etc. 

 On Kravechenko’s side were refugees like himself and former prisoners of the Soviet concentration camps. 

 Against him were the Soviets and Hewlett Johnson, the Red Dean of Canterbury!

 These together "testified to the wonders of the Soviet system” and discredited and denounced Kravechenko.

 On display was the clash between two mentalities - the truth tellers and the liars.

 Concerning the latter, Arthur Koesthler wrote about "the operations of the deluded mind.

 The deluded mind, he said, engages in "elaborate manoeuverings to defend its own citadel of faith against the hostile incursions of doubt.

 As he himself had once done - fully immersed in "a blinkered, sectarian outlook on the world.” 

 But then upon travelling widely in the Soviet Union (1932-3) he saw the effects of the Great Famine caused by Stalin’s “forced collectivisation of the land: “I saw entire villages deserted, railway stations blocked by crowds of begging families, and the starving infants with stick-like arms, puffed up bellies and cadaverous heads.”

 Koestler then began to struggle against what he calls, an inner censor that had kept him from the truth. 

 It was an inner censor so powerful that it was "more reliable and effective than any official censorship.” 

 He described the inner censor as an "automatic sorting machine” that enabled you to reject truth in favour of lies.

 Everyone he knew was similarly gripped by the inner censor and were all therefore experts at self-deception.

 No external Iron Curtain was needed for these whose own private iron curtains did the job of 'protecting your illusions against the intrusions of reality.’ 

 The only escape (I’m re-expressing Koestler) from the gripping power of the inner censor is finally to allow yourself to struggle with the gap between your beliefs and reality - to the point of being inwardly torn apart by the cognitive dissonance

 That inner struggle is to awaken to a completely different frame of mind, a truly liberated mind that, grants to itself, among other things

  - "the possibility of doubting 

    - the possibility of making a mistake

      - the possibility of searching and experimenting

       - the possibility of saying no to any authority, literary, artistic, philosophic, religious, social, and even political.” (Koestler)  

 Koestler calls such a liberated mind a counter-revolutionary mind.

 That counter-revolutionary mind would, I think, put itself in accord with Professor Daniel N. Robinson’s admonition to retain a skeptical spirit for all of your days!

 As Robinson says: “You must be able to say that no matter how much this means to me, no matter how centred my being is on this pattern of beliefs, no matter how close I am personally and emotionally, and even romantically, to those who hold such convictions, I must reserve the right to question and to doubt

   No position therefore, especially your own, is beyond criticism.

     In fact, you must always be prepared fully to launch a skeptical spotlight upon even your most cherished beliefs, opinions and values. 

      I will retain this skeptical bias as an obligation owed to my own rationality, my own integrity.

        If you “lose that reason and “suspend that criticality, become gullible, and accept anything that custom serves up, you enter the life of a puppet on a string, the life of a slave." (Daniel. N. Robinson, Philosophy - Did the Greeks Invent It? - The Great Ideas of Philosophy p. 33)

 The alternative is to risk falling into that fuzzy minded dreaminess that leaves you vulnerable to the latest lies and deceptions of our own day and time.

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Blinking Light by Rospy