From the Dissident’s Desk: Unleashing the Power of Common Ground

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  • 03/02/2023

This past week, Human Events sponsored a first-of-its-kind program at the University of Georgia titled Common Ground-Campus.  The event was a clear success, evidenced by the comments made both by audience members and the participants, who indicated that they thought the program needs to show up on every campus across the country.

Common Ground was created by my partner Felisa Blazek (of New Hampshire election integrity fame) and myself.  Our idea was to replace the traditional debate format routinely used on college campuses, one that is centered on argument, with an interactive questioning and answering approach aimed toward reconciliation.   The UGA event carried the title of “Bridging the Racial Divide” and addressed topical issues of concern on campus that were identified by the panel participants themselves, not by the “grown-ups.”

There were concerns heading into the event.  One was that given the disruptions of speaker programs that plague the current university environment (witness the recent evening of “free speech” at Yale that was shouted down by students in attendance), it was decided to not livestream the panel discussion but to instead have a studio team on site to video and post-produce.  

Another concern that was validated on multiple occasions prior to the event, including up to just moments before it was set to commence, was whether or not we would be able to find students courageous enough to actually engage in a program that was not going to permit them to use the words, “You’re wrong” during any point in the program.  We had more than one student organization decline to participate, and even had one confirmed panel member withdraw at the last minute reportedly because they had been counseled by a group of university professors not to trust the organizers.

For those used to reading this column, or who have perhaps heard me speak on the topic of being an American dissident, you may wonder why I would be involved in spending time trying to engage in constructive dialogue with the “other side”?  The answer is that while it’s true I spend a good deal of time sharing ideas about how to fight back against the growing wave of totalitarian collectivism in this country, I also have a good sense of against whom we are actually fighting.

It isn’t university students.  In fact, despite how they might vote, it isn’t even most of the general population against whom we are waging battle.  We are actually fighting against a dedicated legion of focused collectivists who know how to take advantage of our often-savage infighting and use it to expand and increase their control over our daily activities.   While we have an obligation to fight back against their efforts as dissidents, the true secret to defeating collectivism, to short-circuiting all of their plans, may just lie within the framework of Common Ground.

A Tale of Three Paradigms

In order to illustrate the potential power of the Common Ground approach, it is critical to understand the current structure of American political society today.  To that end, I offer the following three ways to view the organizing of our political interactions.  While each appear different, all are compatible and represent nothing more than a way to view the same thing but from differing vantage points.  

The Death Star-the ark of collectivism:  Collectivism is all encompassing and tends to envelope and devour everything it encounters.  In the present day, the collectivist infrastructure is so large and so wrapped around our daily life as Americans that we can picture it as being a sort of science fiction-like giant object, a Death Star, like that from the movie series Star Wars.

It is inside the walls of that ever-growing and strengthening Death Star of U.S. collectivism that everyday life is taking place.  There are two different ways to view that activity, the first comes in the form of examining the power structure in America, and the second is how individual citizens interact and behave politically.

Circles of Influence-Today’s American Power Structure:  As I’ve presented in a previous essay published on Human Events, here is a way to view the current power structure in America today:

At the core, we have government.  It is the government, and only the government, that has the power both to set actual law and to enforce the law through criminal penalty.  That places them at the power center.  In today’s America, it is only their enforcement capability that earns them that spot.  In reality, the second circle, that of institutions, is the one truly steering government, setting its goals and objectives for managing the lives of others.

The circle of institutional partners are those players who are both large enough and wealthy enough to guarantee their influence. They are also players where their leaders (board members, C-suite members, public faces, etc.) are united in the desire to suppress individual liberty and replace it with collectivist control.  These are Cass Sunstein-types who think that the very wealthy and educated are also wise and can do a better job than the average citizen in making “optimal choices” that serve the “greater good.”

Members of this institutional circle, which if drawn to scale would be quite large, include:

  • Big tech companies
  • Other large publicly traded companies, especially commercial banks
  • Primary and secondary education units
  • Colleges and universities
  • Large media organizations
  • Entertainment industry

Still moving outward from the center, the next circle are citizens, acting in their capacity as individuals outside of whatever occupation they might have, who generally support the activities of collectivist leaders. This group can be broken down into two subgroups:

  • Those who actively and knowingly support
  • Those who passively, perhaps unwittingly, support 

The distinction matters.  While it is not possible to know the exact percentage breakdown of the two subgroups, it is important to realize that the dissident focus needs to be on members who are passively, even unwittingly, supporting the oppression.

Finally, in the outer circle, we have those who stand squarely in support of individual liberty and against collectivism.  This circle can also be broken down into two subgroups:

  • Those who are passive in their support (inner ring of last circle)
  • Those who are active in their support (furthest away from core)

This is the power structure that resides inside the collectivist Death Star that we sadly have synonymized with the United States.  As dissidents, we clearly have our work cut out for us.  We are removed from the core of power, and we are wrapped in an ever-strengthening collectivist shell.

The last perspective to share is that of how we interact and organize our activities politically inside the Death Star each day and within the circles of power and influence.

Team Right & Team Left Compete Every Day-Collectivist Leaders Count on It:  Back in 2015, I developed a theory on America’s political structure in a Turning Point USA publication titled “How America Broke its Wings.”  In it, I argue that the standard terminology used in American political discourse to label people as being either “right wing or “left wing” lacks any sort of objective meaning and that they are nothing more than pejorative terms used to insult our adversaries. 

Her is the traditional political continuum that is being referred to, knowingly or otherwise, when people refer to right wing and left wing:

This vehicle is nothing more than a sloppy intellectual contrivance born of convenience and rationalization.  We needed a way to justify siding with Stalin against Hitler, even thought they were the same guy; ruthless, bloodthirsty psychopaths.  How do we choose Stalin?  We make him the opposite of Hitler.  The folly in the approach is made evident when you try to move along the continuum.  The transitions simply don’t work, a point I brought out in “Wings.”

People themselves don’t even know what they mean or agree with others when they use the “right wing-left wing” terms.  I have proven this over nearly a decade in countless public appearances where I “test” the audience.  By giving them slides one after the other and asking which of two different political figures is “further” right or left, without exception I watch them tie themselves in intellectual knots by the second slide.  What is far right or far left is nothing more than a sort of political Rorschach Test, no correct answers, just the opinion of the viewer.

For those who crave a diagram of some sort to replace the old political continuum, here is one that actually works, and one on which the United States finds itself rapidly climbing the slope toward totalitarianism as I type.

Just because the political continuum we refer to is bollocks doesn’t mean that there isn’t any sort of organization to American political activity.  What we have in America are two teams.  I call them Team Right and Team left for simplicity.  While full development of the idea is beyond the scope here (it can be found in the Wings publication), take this partial list as an illustration of the concept:

Team Left Team Right

Pro-choice Pro life

Gun Control 2nd Amendment

Socialist economics Free market economics

And so on.

What I have discovered over time is that people tend to join the “team” that is home to the “platoon” of their most important issue.  For example, if being pro-choice is the most important issue to you, you tend to end up on Team Left.  If you are strongly pro-life, the converse is likely true.  This means that people join political teams not because of a strong philosophical system of beliefs, but because of one, or perhaps two, rigidly held-to ideological positions.  They aren’t “all in” on everything their team does and believes necessarily, they just support their teammates because that’s what people do.

Unfortunately, it is the nature of teams to compete and to do so relentlessly focused only on winning.  The collectivist leaders inside the American Death Star are counting on this.  They know that if they can keep us competing against each other we can remain hopelessly divided.  They can then take advantage of both our anger and lack of thoughtful focus to tighten their control over us.  

To pull all of this together, we as Americans exist today inside of a large, growing, and strengthening Death Star superstructure of collectivism.  Inside of it, there is a clear power structure that has those of us wanting to fight back on the far outer perimeter trying to scratch and claw our way toward the center.  Further complicating things is an internal political structure that has developed almost organically that leaves us in a semi-permanent state of one team trying to triumph over another.

Difficult?  Definitely.  Hopeless?  Hardly.  While we still can fight, we will.  All the tactics of dissidents that have been written about and discussed elsewhere still apply.  This remains a long game and persistence and perseverance are going to be required for us to defeat collectivism.

But this is a piece that is supposed to explain why Common Ground could be the key to accelerating the journey back to freedom.  With the different views of contemporary American society just developed in mind, here is why every dissident in the country ought to be trying to launch a Common Ground effort in their schools and local communities.  

How Common Ground Can Blow-up the Collectivist Death star:  

When you consider the circles of power and influence presented earlier, you’ll remember that at the innermost core were first government and then large institutions.  What both of those groups have in common is that neither of them physically exists.  You cannot take your index finger and poke it into the shoulder of the FBI to see if it is real.  Likewise, you can’t take a swing at Microsoft and catch it flush in the jaw.  There is no noumenon (gratuitous hat-tip to Kant) that is government or a large institution.  There are only people who occupy roles within those organizations.

This means that if we can reach people in their role as an individual rather than in their role as bureaucrat or corporate climber, we can help change how they view their role in their day job.  The circle of power begins to disintegrate.  The teams start first trading players and end up dissolving their league.  It doesn’t mean that differences of opinion won’t exist, it simply means that they will be expressed in a form less hostile.  

What happened in room 148 of the Miller Learning Center on the University of Georgia campus on April 14 was something that should be very frightening to anyone who wants to exercise control over every aspect of American life.  For 60 minutes, four college students with differing opinions sat and listened to each other.  They asked questions and they learned.  They found Common Ground.  No Team Right or Team Left.  No institutional or government roles.  Just humans engaging with humans and caring about what each other thought and felt.

If this sort of process can catch on, if it can replace the world of argument and debate with one of listening and reconciliation, then the power structures and the political teams upon which totalitarians rely will be torn apart.  If they come apart quickly enough the energy released would be like something never witnessed in human history.  That kind of energy could not be contained.  It would most certainly blow up the collectivist Death Star.

Improving Upon History:

At Christmas in 1914, the French and British soldiers came out of their trenches during a WWI cease fire (requested by the Pope, denied officially, observed spontaneously) to find German soldiers also outside of theirs.  Many wandered into what was called “no man’s land,” the space which separated the two warring sides.  For the next day they sang songs together, played games, exchanged gifts, buried their dead, and shared a war-time celebration of Christmas.  It was a sort of miracle.  It showed what could be.

Unfortunately, after Christmas, the two sides returned to their trenches and kept killing each other for four more years.  To be sure, our fight as dissidents isn’t over.  The collectivist threat is real and growing by the day.  There is work still to be done.

On one Thursday night in Georgia, however, both sides stepped out of the trenches and stepped into no man’s land.  It is going to be hard for them or for anyone in attendance to go back into a trench and take aim at the “enemy” with the same prior level of zeal.

Common Ground felt uncommonly good.  The power unleashed by questions and conversation can be a societal version of a fusion reaction; an extraordinary release of energy.

Enough to blow up a collectivist Death Star.

Image: by is licensed under


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