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Going through the ups and downs of reacting to what I read on dailykos among others, I wonder if the theme of this famous poem "Die Gedanken sind frei" ("Thoughts are still free") still holds its truth today.

Die Gedanken sind frei:

Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten,
sie fliegen vorbei wie nächtliche Schatten.
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen, kein Jäger erschießen
mit Pulver und Blei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich denke was ich will und was mich beglücket,
doch alles in der Still', und wie es sich schicket.
Mein Wunsch und Begehren kann niemand verwehren,
es bleibet dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Und sperrt man mich ein im finsteren Kerker,
das alles sind rein vergebliche Werke.
Denn meine Gedanken zerreißen die Schranken
und Mauern entzwei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Drum will ich auf immer den Sorgen absagen
und will mich auch nimmer mit Grillen mehr plagen.
Man kann ja im Herzen stets lachen und scherzen
und denken dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!

Ich liebe den Wein, mein Mädchen vor allen,
sie tut mir allein am besten gefallen.
Ich sitz nicht alleine bei einem Glas Weine,
mein Mädchen dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!


Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
They flee by like nocturnal shadows.
No man can know them, no hunter can shoot them
with powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

I think what I want, and what delights me,
still always reticent, and as it is suitable.
My wish and desire, no one can deny me
and so it will always be: Thoughts are free!

And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
all this would be futile work,
because my thoughts tear all gates
and walls apart: Thoughts are free!

So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
and never again will torture myself with whimsies.
In one's heart, one can always laugh and joke
and think at the same time: Thoughts are free!

I love wine, and my girl even more,
Only her I like best of all.
I'm not alone with my glass of wine,
my girl is with me: Thoughts are free!

Your thoughts, my thoughts, are they still free? Can't you guess them? I feel the answer is NO to both.

Social media technology has changed everything. I think my thoughts are not free, but are manipulated, silenced, incited, owned, abused, misused and not hidden to no one. The times that are described in the first verse in this beautiful German language poem are bygone, aren't they?.

I am not clear what consequences this will have, but I doubt they will lead to more freedom, more justice or more democracy or more happiness. Isn't that confusing and disturbing to you?

Oh and then I wonder about the role of "that girl" - still "not alone with my glass of wine"?

Isn't that horrible to wake up and have these thoughts?

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Comment Preferences

  •  The poem is a consolation and self-deception, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, tardis10, Crashing Vor, mimi

    penned by a person who felt constrained by his culture, also very likely a culture of obedience.

    Having (owning) a glass of wine and a girl as property is consolation for having one's properties (speech, mobility, association, creativity) denied. It is the bargain on which the culture of obedience relies as a bribe.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 04:53:05 AM PDT

  •  This poem always makes me think of this old (7+ / 0-)

    Soviet joke:

    A man runs into his neighbor who has recently become a minor party Apparatchik. While he used to be quietly critical of the Party, the neighbor is now constantly expressing the Party line. "Don't you have any opinions of your own anymore?" his buddy asks. "Of course I do, comrade, only now I no longer agree with them".

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 04:57:38 AM PDT

    •  Man, the USSR had the best black humor ever. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noddy, commonmass, mimi

      In a similar vein:

      Fydor's wife was always complaining about the lack of meat. He would sneak out of the apartment early in the morning to avoid hearing it, until one morning, she was up early and stopped him at the door.

      "Oh, no you don't. You're not going off to hide in the factory. Today, you're going to wait in line for meat!"

      So Fydor waits in line all day. Finally, after the sun is down, he gets up to the window, but just as he gets there, the woman says, "Sorry, comrade, but we've run out of meat."

      It's too much. He starts shouting at the unfairness of it all. "I fought in the Glorious War against the Fascists! My production team at the factory always exceeds quota! All I want is a piece of lousy meat in my soup!"

      People nervously back away from him except one fellow who comes up and takes him by the arm. "Calm yourself, comrade. Yes, we have problems, but with the new perestroika you are free to express yourself. Just think, not long ago, if you'd spoken so, someone like me would have simply put a bullet in your head. Go home and enjoy your soup."

      Fydor stomps off, muttering. He stomps all the way home and up the stairs to his apartment where his wife waits at the door.

      Seeing his mood, she says, "Don't tell me. They've run out of meat again."

      "Worse! They've run out of bullets!"

      Republicans represent both sides: the insanely rich and vice versa.

      by Crashing Vor on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 05:40:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Atheists are a persecuted minority (0+ / 0-)

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.

    by plankbob on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 05:23:49 AM PDT

  •  I know there are politicians (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    who wish they knew the thoughts of their constituents so as to control them. There are even more businessmen who want to know and manipulate the thoughts of others (mostly to buy their products).

    But we do still, so far, have the freedom to think as we will.

    We don't have to allow our thoughts to be

    manipulated, silenced, incited, owned, abused, misused and not hidden to no one.
    and it's much easier than people believe.

    We can learn a lot about circumventing thought manipulation from repressive cultures, and we can use technology to reclaim our thoughts.

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 06:26:38 AM PDT

    •  I know that people still believe in that (0+ / 0-)
      We don't have to allow our thoughts to be manipulated, silenced ... and it's much easier than people believe.
      but that's what I question. It's not that easy. Once your thoughts are posted on the internet, they are speech and as such vulnerable, because they are known.

      I do believe most people lose their control over their thoughts, because they can't control themselves and the urge to communicate is so strong (especially because online conversation is so addictive and the urge to posting and reading them online is very seducive).

      It's the addictive process in wanting to communicate online that reveal your dependence and lack of freedom. You may control what you say (though less and less) but you apparently can't control THAT you put your thoughts online ... and there the loss of freedom starts.

      I don't know, can't try to come to the point that is in my mind right now. Am at work. But thanks for the comments.

  •  On the contrary (0+ / 0-)

    Die Gedanken sind frei has long been a protest song against political repression and censorship.  While it is true that thoughts can be and certainly are "manipulated, silenced, incited, owned, abused, misused...," that does not make the song irrelevant; on the contrary, it is even more relevant these days.

    Ca 1810-1820 reactionary restrictions were introduced in the states of the German Confederation; nationalist fraternities were banned, liberal university professors were removed, and censorship of the press was expanded. Local government reformers were forced out, and by1820 all significant German reform movements had ended.  Sound familiar?

    The song has particular meaning and is still relevant in Wisconsin.  In the aftermath of the failed 1848 German Revolution, the song was proscribed in Germany. Carl Schurz and other '48ers' fled here and brought to Wisconsin their liberal ideas and policies, which have been the pride of Wisconsin for more than a century, but are now being destroyed by the Walker administration.   Walker's radical reactionaries would like the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011 to go away totally, and have misused state institutions and complicit media to manipulate, silence, incite, own, and abuse the thoughts of Wisconsin citizens.  It would like to publish its version of 'truth' without contradiction.

    But our thoughts ARE free, even if Wisconsin's citizens don't have the resources to continue to occupy the Capitol or counter the administration's disinformation campaign.  So a variation of Pete Seeger's translation of Die Gedanken sind frei is sung at the daily Solidarity Sing Along at the Wisconsin Capitol.  The Walker administration has used all the tools in its power to harass and silence these vocal protesters; it would like us to sit down with wine and our friends and just shut up.  But we still sing, because our thoughts, in song, give us power.

    •  oh, I am sad that you misunderstood what I (0+ / 0-)

      were trying to get at. Of course I am aware of what the song stood for and how it developed historically ... and I am really happy that the demonstrators in Wisconsin chose that song as their battle cry in these times. It was very appropriate...and were I am with the demonstrators in Wisconsin I had sung it wholeheartedly.

      I tried to get a grasp of the fact that the thoughts you post on the internet are more vulnerable to hidden manipulation using the weakness of the mind and the need to communicate like a pimp uses his girls. There is an addictive aspect of communicating online and I believe it's used extensively by forces the gullible online reader and  poster is not aware of. In that sense I tried to say that "the thoughts are not as free as you might feel they are", becoming an addict to communication and with that dependent and unfree.

      Anyhow, I may have just a very bad bout of depression when I wrote this. Actually I had, a very negative outlook on the role of online communication and organizing. Most probably just a nightmare of my phantasy.

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