Episode 15

Published on:

12th Jun 2024

Marci Shore: How to Improve the World Amidst Evil?

In a Soviet-era bunker in an undisclosed location in Ukraine, a Ukrainian soldier reads books by the late historian Tony Judt and wonders: Is it possible to make the world better amidst evil? Not long after, Yale historian Marci Shore, a former peacenik, finds herself pleading to the German government to send lethal weapons to Ukraine.

What's happening here? How does one historian's words support a courageous defense of democracy that, in turn, inspires another historian to step outside of her comfort zone and into a debate about war?

In this week's episode of How My View Grew, the second-to-last of season one, Marci Shore joins me to explore these questions. The story she shares is about choosing to take moral responsibility rather than ignoring evil or rationalizing it away, even if this means risking friendship, status, or your own sense of identity. Her story is also about tapping the lessons of history to see future scenarios you otherwise might miss or consider impossible. And it's about postmodernism—both the new capacities it offers and, when stretched to an extreme, the disasters it produces.

The episode draws from Shore's book, The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution, as well as Judt's books, Thinking the Twentieth Century, written with Timothy Snyder, and Past Imperfect.

**Key takeaways**

  • 6:00 Judt's harsh critique of French intellectuals' silence about the show trials and other Soviet terror
  • 17:00 The alternative to silence and rationalization: taking moral responsibility
  • 20:00 There is a difference between good and evil, and between truth and lies
  • 25:00 A Ukrainian soldier reading Judt's books in a bunker
  • 30:00 Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump, and the evasion of responsibility
  • 33:30 Why liberals struggle to grasp nihilism and mass murder
  • 40:00 World War I was, before it occurred, unimaginable
  • 46:00 Historians can't predict the future, but they describe what can happen
  • 50:00 Amiel's reflections


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About the Podcast

How My View Grew
Origin stories of big ideas about humanity's challenges
If you’re weary of political polarization, nothing is more refreshing than nuanced thinking: ideas that reveal the complexity of what’s wrong in the world and how to make it better. But where does such thinking come from? Often, it’s from someone changing their mind—letting go of an old perspective and growing into a new one. Join executive coach Amiel Handelsman as he interviews nuanced thinkers about the origin stories of their big ideas. Each story offers a window into one of humanity’s greatest challenges like climate change, democracy, the culture wars, the wealth gap, Ukraine, and Israel. In weeks between interviews, Amiel offers tips for training your mind to navigate complex topics and difficult conversations.

About your host

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Amiel Handelsman

Amiel Handelsman is an executive coach, writer, and seasoned interviewer. As a coach, he has 25 years of experience helping leaders and teams navigate complexity. His clients have included C-level business executives, college presidents, middle managers, and teams at every level. He specializes in helping people reframe complex situations and build new conversation habits.

Amiel’s books include Reimagining American Identity, Practice Greatness, and How to Be an Anti-race Antiracist. He writes frequently for Medium about democracy, culture, and the Middle East and has been featured in Fast Company. Recently, Governing.com profiled his experience as a climate migrant.

As an interviewer, Amiel got his start at age eleven asking computer experts about software piracy. Fifteen years later, he got his feet wet conducting biographical interviews for a self-designed family oral history. As an adult, Amiel gained practice by interviewing hundreds of executives and hosting a leadership podcast for five years. He is known for deep-dive interviews that make people think.

One podcast guest, best-selling author Peter Block, commented on Amiel’s extensive preparation by saying, “You frighten me.”

Amiel created How My View Grew to bring together two interests: a commitment to exploring humanity’s challenges with nuance and a curiosity about how people change their minds. In each interview, a big thinker shares the origin story of an idea about climate, democracy, politics, the Middle East, and other complex issues. In between interviews, Amiel offers tips for expanding your perspective and navigating difficult conversations.

Amiel lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife and two sons. Go Blue!

“How My View Grew dives deep into humanity’s challenges by looking at big thinkers who have changed their minds.”