Welcome

Politics In Plain Language is a project by Ben Himmelfarb.

I believe in the intellectual and political power of all people. I believe that ideas and stories without an audience are relatively worthless. It is my hope that people who read this project are informed and inspired by it. I hope people feel invited to gain knowledge they might think is “off-limits,” “not for them,” “too complicated,” or “irrelevant.”

As a public librarian and public historian, I believe it is important to communicate big ideas and important stories in a simple way. Writing can convey complicated ideas without being complicated. Writing that is inaccessible–especially writing about politics, economics, society or history–loses importance and gives up the possibility of affecting people’s understanding and ways of living.

This is not just a project of translating complicated, “important” ideas into a simplified, more easily understood form. As much as possible, I want to avoid jargon. This is not because I believe most people are incapable of understanding complex ideas. It is precisely because I believe most people are capable of complex intellectual activity that I am committed to this project.

The topics, subjects and sources will be diverse, but they are based on my interests and pursuits. I read history books, novels and biographies. My friends and acquaintances are often people who do some kind of political or social justice work. I always think about how what I’m learning applies to this-or-that situation in my life. In big ways and in small ways. 

For instance, it’s inspiring to learn about John Brown’s radical dedication to ending slavery, but it is also important to learn about the effects his choices had on his family, the people around him, and his goals. I read stories about colonial situations in Africa not because I directly relate to the experiences, but because I believe those stories have an amazing amount of value for understanding how power and change work in the world, especially a world that is connected by technology and aggressive economic initiatives like those of corporations and governments.

The statements I make about things here are a reflection of my thinking and experience. What makes them valuable is sharing them with other people and letting myself grow, think, and change over time. Don’t be surprised if one post seems to contradict another! I will try to be very honest about my values and biases. 

I am not interested in simply adding to the amount of content out there. The highest ideals of this project are:

  • supporting more people learning about why things are the way they are, 
  • causing more people to question who has power and why they have it, 
  • inspiring people to work together with other people in coalitions and organizations that they believe in

Please share this work with other people. Please send me suggestions for books or people you think I would appreciate.

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