Elevate Difference

Global Sense: Awakening Your Personal Power for Democracy and World Peace (An Update of “Common Sense”)

Judah Freed has opinions about government that seem inline with progressive thought. The government is corrupt. People in government are too removed from the people – both through the need for security and from a reliance on special interest money over common people’s votes – to be appropriately representative. Representative democracy is flawed from its inception, checks and balances are a pipe dream, and direct democracy is the only hope for liberty.

If this had been all he wrote in Global Sense: Awakening Your Personal Power for Democracy and World Peace, then he might have had a decent book, but he tries to link his thoughts to popular Western political philosophy, primarily Thomas Paine. His one-sentence summaries of the philosophies of these great thinkers are oversimplified, at best, and erroneous, at worst. What’s more, his effort to hold himself as the logical extension of Western political thought merely reveals that his theories to be contradictory, a little shallow and, more importantly, extremely different from those of the men he uses to convince us of his legitimacy.

For example, Freed encourages democracy. Though he uses the word to mean different things, in his critiques of representative democracy (citizens vote for representatives who, in turn, vote for laws) over direct democracy (citizens vote directly for laws). His critiques of representative democracy contain many excerpts of “Common Sense,” which I infer as an argument based on a plea to the authority of Thomas Paine. But Paine does not even use the word “democracy” in “Common Sense,” and based on my own readings of Paine’s writing, I am doubtful he differed that dramatically from the other “founding fathers” in near-universal skepticism of Greek-style democracy and the risks of the tyranny of the majority.

He includes the story of his own self-doubt and awakening to self-actualization in his political theorizing. I don’t doubt his sincerity, and I think his ideas warrant consideration, but cloaking his whole message in the authority of Paine diminishes his impact. Yes, citizens today face challenges to civil liberties from unjust laws, as we did before the Revolution. But Freed’s fury at the abuses of government is the only thing he has in common with Paine. He’d be more believable if he had the confidence to let his ideas stand alone, and if his subtitle actually alluded to “Common Sense” rather than “The Crisis.”

Written by: Janine Peterson Wonnacott, February 10th 2007

First, I wish to express my thanks to Ama Lee for publishing Janine Peterson's review of my book, Global Sense, an update of Thomas Paine's Common Sense. As most authors will affirm, any book review is welcome.Ms. Peterson did not like my book. That's fine. She's welcome to her opinion. An author cannot reasonably expect to be all things to all people. My concern, and the reason for this blog comment, is that she apparently only read or chose to comment upon Part I of the four-part book. Also, what she did write about Part I, her opinion aside, did not accurately report on my work. Let's start with evidence that she only reviewed the first quarter of the book.Ms. Peterson said nothing in her review about the "men's liberation" ideas in Parts II and III of the book. Where Paine challenged monarchy (kings) and hereditary succession in Parts II and III of Common Sense, my update challenges "alpha male rule" and "authority addiction," calling for men to liberate themselves from the old habits of domination and war. These ideas are directly relevant to an audience of feminist readers. Whether Ms. Peterson agrees with my views or not, it's logical and fair to expect her critique for FeministReview.org to acknowledge my book's central discussion of important gender issues. Further, Part IV of Global Sense offers solutions to "old male" violence and oppression (specifically, "mindful self rule" and "personal democracy"). Ms. Peterson did not address any of the ideas in this section. As one example, the "Practical Idealism" chapter has a section that advocates more balanced love relationships between men and women as a path toward raising boys who as men do not need to conquer the world (or women) to feel secure or loved. Ms. Peterson did not address this suggestion, which logically deserves vigorous discussion among feminist readers.As another example, in the Part IV chapter "Hints for Global Democracy," where Paine proposed his plan for American democracy, I proposed creating a global network of "direct republics" (an interim step toward direct democracy), where voters elect legislatures to draft laws that are ratified directly by the voters, thereby enacting laws without any signature from a king or a president (especially our current president, who twists or negates congressional acts with Signing Statements). I would have valued reading Ms. Peterson's take on this fairly detailed proposal. Instead, her commentary seems to apply only to my general support for the principle of genuine democracy in the last chapter of Part I.Please permit me now to comment on what Ms. Peterson wrote about what she read in Part I. My "one sentence summaries" of the thoughts and thinkers of The Enlightenment (in the first chapter) were clearly offered to briefly give a context for why and how a little pamphlet, Common Sense, changed the course of history. There are plenty of excellent books on The Enlightenment listed in my bibliography (in the back of the book, before the study guide) for those readers tempted by my taste to go satisfy their appetite for more. I saw no need to waste trees (paper) on offering a complete presentation when other authors have already done it so well.Next, Ms. Peterson gives me far more credit than I deserve when she asserts that I am claiming my book is "the logical extension of Western political thought." I merely wrote what I believed Thomas Paine would write if he was alive today. If my contribution extends the public conversation even a little, that's a blessing and more than sufficient.Ms peterson then claims my theories are "extremely different from those of the men he uses to convince us of his legitimacy," while I naturally hope people will read my book, I'm not too concerned about my "legitimacy" since I'm chiefly offering ideas to stimulate public discourse, which is happening. (By the way, I quote women, too.)As for my grasp of Paine's thinking, I leave you to judge that for yourself. I will report a comment by one Thomas Paine historian that "Freed is accurate and faithful to Paine at every turn, and I thank him for that; it is rare." I also note my support from the Thomas Paine National Historical Association, whose director appeared with me on a recent C-SPAN Book TV program marking the anniversary of Common Sense.The majority of readers who contact me appear to have enjoyed my update of Common Sense and say they've become more interested in Thomas Paine as a result. This makes me happy. Most Americans have heard of Thomas Paine but too few have ever bothered to read his works. Ms. Peterson says she has read Paine, and she truly deserves high praise for doing so.That said, a few readers, like Ms. Peterson, do not accept my premise of updating Common Sense. Like her, they say I should have let my ideas stand on their own. I plan to write such books, yet an update of Common Sense was the "assignment" I received from Spirit, and I've trusted my inner guidance. Whether I've done justice to Mr. Paine, you are free to decide for yourself, but the book should be judged on its own terms. Is it fair to condemn an apple tree because it is not a rose bush?Finally, one tiny but telling point: Ms. Peterson close her review by saying it would have been better "if his subtitle actually alluded to 'Common Sense' rather than The Crisis. As near as I can tell, she's referring to the book's main publicity blurb, which says Global Sense is "an update of Common Sense by Thomas Paine to renew hope in these times that try our souls." Indeed, this blurb does allude to Paine's famous opening line from The American Crisis, yet it is so strongly associated with Paine that I have no problems with the reference. The book's actual subtitle is "Awakening Your Personal Power for Democracy and World Peace (An update of Common Sense)." Therefore, in this instance at least, would agree with me that Ms. Peterson's criticism is inaccurate?So, I invite Janine Peterson to amend her review to cover Part II, III and IV of Global Sense as well as Part I. I do not expect her to change her low opinion of the book. In fact, she may find more fault than before. I'd simply welcome a review of the complete book, especially the central ideas about male rule that may interest feminists. Such a wholistic book review would make global sense.If you wish to make up your own mind, please visit the book's website (globalsense.info) and download the free ebook edition. If you then decide to purchase the print book, well, I promise not to object. Thanks for thinking. Judah Freed.