"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Self-Censorship’

Transcend Conditioned Consciousness: None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2013 at 2:29 pm

https://i2.wp.com/quest4belonging.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/INDIVIDUAL-CONSCIOUSNESS--731x1024.jpgOldspeak: “If you spend much time researching power politics or the distribution of wealth, resources and basic necessities, it seems evident and undeniable, dare I say, “common sense,” that we, in fact, live in a neo-feudal society built on debt and mental slavery…That may sound like over-the-top rhetoric, and it obviously sounds extreme to propagandized and conditioned minds, and yes, it is extreme. However, it is the unfortunate reality of the present situation. The facts are there for the rational and unbiased mind to absorb and comprehend…Most Americans are aware of the fact that we are on a disastrous path. However, many of us feel powerless to change things. These feelings are only a result of our conditioning and induced delusion. We have become so propagandized that many of us do not realize the significant position that we are in. We are not poor people trapped in a third world existence. We are a mass of people who have the power to evolve society and change the course of history… As Huxley put it in Brave New World Revisited, “The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that they are a victim. To them, the walls of their prison are invisible, and they believe they are free. You can’t break free until you see the walls. The whips and chains have evolved into TVs and radios.” –David DeGraw.

Emerson has said that consistency is a virtue of an ass. No thinking human being can be tied down to a view once expressed in the name of consistency. More important than consistency is responsibility. A responsible person must learn to unlearn what he has learned. A responsible person must have the courage to rethink and change his thoughts. Of course there must be good and sufficient reason for unlearning what he has learned and for recasting his thoughts. There can be no finality in rethinking.” –B. R. Ambedkar.

“This is the first step. To Ensure our planet’s and our own survival we must QUESTION EVERYTHING. Critically and objectively as possible rethink about our belief systems & the systems around which organize our society. It is our responsibility as thinking all connected beings to constantly learn, evaluate, unlearn, reevaluate, think and rethink…constantly. We’ve become far too comfortable thinking 19th century thoughts and beliefs that benefit our supra-government. We must transcend our conditioning. We must unlearn. ” –OSJ

By David DeGraw @ Notes From The Underground:

“I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’…
I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well
before I start singin’”
– Bob Dylan

Intro

Seventeen years ago, I read a book called The Evolving Self. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it profoundly affected the direction of my life. Here’s the section of the book that became a splinter in my mind and resonated the most with me:

“In order to gain control of consciousness, we must learn how to moderate the biases built into the machinery of the brain. We allow a whole series of illusions to stand between ourselves and reality…. These distortions are comforting, yet they need to be seen through for the self to be truly liberated… to come ever closer to getting a glimpse of the universal order, and of our part in it.”

Since reading that, I have dedicated my life to coming “ever closer to getting a glimpse of the universal order, and of our part in it.” After years of research and analysis, I’ve come to hard-fought, battle-tested conclusions that I’ve been sharing with people to great effect, and will share with you now. This will not be for the faint of heart. It will hit hard and we don’t have much time, so let’s get right down to it.

At this point, if you spend much time researching power politics or the distribution of wealth, resources and basic necessities, it seems evident and undeniable, dare I say, “common sense,” that we, in fact, live in a neo-feudal society built on debt and mental slavery.

That may sound like over-the-top rhetoric, and it obviously sounds extreme to propagandized and conditioned minds, and yes, it is extreme. However, it is the unfortunate reality of the present situation. The facts are there for the rational and unbiased mind to absorb and comprehend.

If you take a few minutes of your time and read this through, it will easily be proven. We will look at how the system works, and then, hopefully, we will begin the process of evolving society together, as grandiose as that may sound.

Let’s start by giving some context and perspective on present circumstances by breaking down some economic data. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

I: Unprecedented Wealth

For the past 35 years, with technological advancements, there has been an explosion in production and profits, in wealth creation. That unprecedented increase in wealth, as many of you know, has gone to the top economic 1%. Most of it, the lion’s share of it, went to not even the top economic 1%, but to the top one-hundredth of one percent, to the modern day aristocracy.

After analyzing the most recent data, here’s the headline: US millionaire households now have $50 trillion in wealth. They have $39 trillion in legally accounted for wealth, and an estimate of $11 trillion hidden in offshore accounts.

Let that sink in for a moment… 50 TRILLION DOLLAR$.

Most people cannot even comprehend how much $1 trillion is, let alone $50 trillion. One trillion is equal to 1000 billion, or $1,000,000,000,000.00.

Only one-tenth of one percent of the population makes one million dollars a year, and, again, most of that wealth is in the top one-hundredth of one percent.

To show how consolidated the wealth is, even in the upper most portion of the top one percentile, the richest 400 people have as much wealth as 185 million Americans combined; that’s only 400 people with as much wealth as 60% of the entire US population.

Before continuing, let me defuse the reactionary propagandized mind’s instinctive response. This is not about demonizing people just because they have money. There are many people who are using their wealth and resources to improve the human condition. It’s important to understand that the focus here is not on the people who have a mere $10 million or so in wealth. When discussing the modern day aristocracy, the main focus is on the pathological, shortsighted and greed-addicted forces that are doing much more to limit human potential than enhance it.

Broadly speaking, the aristocracy is composed of governments, political parties, policy groups, think tanks, intel factions, private military companies, large global corporations, banks and media empires. Included in that are mega-wealthy billionaires and CEOs who have unprecedented control of wealth and resources. For example, the Business Roundtable, the people who run the 147 inter-connected corporations who control half of the world economy.

However, the ultimate point here is to show people that there is presently more than enough wealth and capabilities to solve societal problems. We can truly evolve society in unprecedented fashion. At this point, there is an overwhelming majority of the population, even a majority of the mega-wealthy, who realize that our present systems are obsolete, unsustainable and unstable. We don’t need to spend our finite time and energy fighting with each other. We already have a critical mass of aware citizens, we just need to inspire and organize them to build the cultural and political will. Once we do that, we will be an unstoppable force.

Let’s get back to that 50 trillion number, because we have had an entire generation of mind-blowing wealth creation that has been systematically withheld from the population.

$50,000,000,000,000.00

Can you comprehend how much money $50 trillion is? Just to give a little context, we can end world hunger and provide clean drinking water to everyone on the planet for an estimated $40 billion. Again, one trillion is one thousand billion, and we are talking about $50 trillion.

Imagine what could be done with that amount of wealth. Imagine the implications, the possibilities. Imagine how we could evolve society, to the benefit of everyone, with modern technology and just a fraction of that staggering amount of wealth.

The average American cannot comprehend how much wealth there is because there is no frame of reference, no comparison of scale or historical precedent. If Americans had an understanding of how much wealth is being kept from them and the possibilities of what we could do with that wealth, we would have a full-blown societal evolution right now.

II: Debt Slavery

It is the denial of wealth that keeps you in check; it keeps you in debt.

Just at the point when technological advancement, production, distribution and wealth increases should have made everyone’s life much easier, just when basic necessities should have become much more affordable and easier to obtain, they became more expensive.

The cost of production dropped dramatically and efficiency of distribution skyrocketed. Housing, food, health and education costs should have plummeted dramatically. However, most basic necessities now come at a much higher price, and people are forced to take on increasing levels of debt to keep up. As most people are aware, student debt, consumer debt, medical debt and household debt have reached all-time record highs.

As an old wise person once said, “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”

We live in a neo-feudal system of debt slavery. The indentured servant is now the indebted consumer.

When you understand the wealth at hand, you begin to grasp the crime against humanity that is afoot. We live in the richest, most technologically advanced society humanity has ever known. Yet, here we are, in the 21st century, with an all-time record number of Americans living in poverty.

Crime Against Humanity

After careful consideration, it must be said that this is not only the greatest theft of wealth in history; it is also the greatest crime against humanity in history.

People can’t afford to pay their medical bills. Millions upon millions of American families have lost their homes, and millions more are on the verge of losing their homes. An all-time record number of children are going hungry. Meanwhile, record-breaking profits and record-breaking bonuses for the bailed out banana republic aristocracy.

How healthy is a society when 400 people have as much wealth as 185 million of their neighbors combined? What kind of a system produces a result like that? As famed social psychologist John Dewey said, “There is no such thing as the liberty or effective power of an individual, group, or class, except in relation to the liberties, the effective powers, of other individuals, groups or classes.”

Now that you are beginning to grasp the wealth at hand, and the possibilities of how that wealth can be used to evolve society, let’s take a look at how we got into this situation and how exactly it is that they got away with hoarding so much wealth.

To paraphrase a man who fought against the aristocracy, ‘The depravity and amount of suffering required for the accumulation of such a staggering magnitude of wealth, in the hands of a few, is kept out of the picture, out of the mass media, and it is not easy to make people see or understand this.’ Especially when you have an all-encompassing mainstream media propaganda system.

III: Mental Slavery – Conditioned Consciousness

“To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 246 BC

The mainstream media is the most effective weapon of mass oppression humanity has ever known.

Since the early 1900’s and World War I, a massive propaganda system has been in place. This is not a conspiracy theory; it is all well documented. Research Edward Bernays, Walter Lippman, Ivy Lee, George Creel and the Committee on Public Information for starters. In fact, you don’t even need a conspiracy theory; you just need a basic understanding of propaganda, social psychology and behaviorism – more on that later.

The bottom line, as Dewey once said, “We live exposed to the greatest flood of mass suggestion humanity has ever experienced.”

Speaking from personal experience, having been born and raised inside this propaganda system, and still obviously living inside it, I have come to realize that even the most independent minded among us vastly underestimates how mentally conditioned we all are. Most people are no more consciously aware of this mental domination than they are aware of gravity. It’s like the air we breathe.

For two obvious examples, let’s start with television consumption and advertising. The average American watches more than five hours of TV a day, every single day of their life. American children view more than 40,000 ads per year, every single year of their life. Think about that. That’s intensive mental domination administered on a daily basis, from the cradle to the grave.

Ultimately, as Phil Merikle summed it up, “It’s what advertisers have known all along: if we just keep the exposure rate up, people will be influenced.” Repetition, it’s all about repetition.

Repetitive messages fill our mental atmosphere. To paraphrase Philip Lesley in Managing the Human Climate, ‘When a message appears all around you, you tend to accept it and take it for granted. You find yourself surrounded by it and your subconscious mind absorbs and becomes immersed in the climate of repetitive ideas.’ They form the origins of your thoughts. It’s where your desires, opinions and perspectives are born.

To spin a McLuhan riff, the mainstream mass media is the software on which our minds run; it’s our operating system. It’s an extension of our nervous system. Repetitive mainstream propaganda creates a belief system, popular reference points, symbols, archetypes, mental patterns, a mindset and groupthink, all based on repetition – and groupthink is a highly contagious infectious disease.

It’s hard to escape groupthink. As with freedom and democracy, you must be ever vigilant to avoid the tyranny of groupthink and cultural conditioning. As Walter Lippmann said, “In the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world, we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture.”

To remix a quote from Dostoevsky, ‘Leave people alone without mass media and they will be lost and confused. They will not know what to support, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise.’

Malcolm X said it best, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

The mainstream media keeps everyone isolated inside a false reality, a pseudo mental environment. People are trapped in a bubble of status quo supporting reality, in a bubble of what’s good for shortsighted, short-term corporate interests.

People’s consciousness and awareness gets conditioned and contracted, they become isolated and detached from wider reality.

People are born and raised inside mass media created illusions. As Eduardo Galeano put it, “The majority must resign itself to the consumption of fantasy. Illusions of wealth are sold to the poor, illusions of freedom to the oppressed, dreams of victory to the defeated and of power to the weak.”

As Harold Lasswell said in 1927, “The new antidote to willfulness is propaganda. If the mass will be free of chains of iron, it must accept its chains of silver. If it will not love, honor, and obey, it must not expect to escape seduction.”

Now, let’s sharpen our focus a bit and look from a more practical perspective.

IV: The Spectrum of Thinkable Thought

The censorship that is most prevalent today is the most dangerous form. Not censorship of explicit words, sex or violence, but censorship of any thoughts outside of shortsighted corporate ideology. Any thoughts that lead to critical thought on the established power structure or veer outside of the spectrum of status quo supporting opinion are left out of the debate, out of mainstream public consciousness.

The mainstream press does not cover the most vital social, economic and political issues. The more important something is, the less they report on it. If mentioned at all, it’s mentioned in passing, with little, if any, in-depth reporting, discussion and debate on it.

It’s censorship by omission and bullshit on repetition.

As Noam Chomsky observed, this is how propaganda and social control posing as freedom and democracy works: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum…. That gives people the sense that there’s freethinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

To paraphrase Alex Carey, they create ‘the spectrum of thinkable thought. They set the terms of debate, to determine the kinds of questions that will dominate public consciousness, people’s thoughts. They set the political agenda in ways that are favorable to shortsighted corporate interests. The debate is never about the curtailment of the manipulative power of entrenched global corporations.’

Imagine wall-to-wall 24/7 news coverage of the trillions of dollars in fraudulent activity that got us into this mess. Imagine in-depth coverage of the corruption of our political process through a system of bribery that makes the mafia look like amateurs.

What about the staggering consolidation of wealth? Imagine if the media kept discussing how a small percentage of the population has 50 trillion dollars, then they started debating how we could use just a fraction of that money to solve problems, create solutions and evolve society.

What if they reported on all the wealth and resources that a small number of corporations control, then debated how that wealth and those resources could be redeployed to get us onto a sustainable and thriving path?

When you understand what is possible, you see how truly corrupt, shortsighted, ignorant and obsolete our system of rule is. You then realize that our mainstream media system is pure propaganda.

When you see the reality that they don’t tell you about, it becomes all too clear. If you were to just look at what they don’t tell you, you would see. Mainstream media is the most effective weapon of mass oppression humanity has ever known. It’s hard to break free, when you are always told you are free.

As Huxley put it in Brave New World Revisited, “The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that they are a victim. To them, the walls of their prison are invisible, and they believe they are free.”

You can’t break free until you see the walls. The whips and chains have evolved into TVs and radios. As William Blum said, “Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorships.” If television was around in the 1770s, we would still be living under British rule.

In the land of propaganda, tyranny is democracy. It’s “enlightened despotism.” When it comes to oppression, it’s all cyclical yet evolutionary. Most people live in a mental cage now, they toil on mentally conditioned plantations.

V: Behaviorism & Assembly Line Intelligentsia

People reading this may try to dismiss it as a conspiracy theory. We must always be conscious of the reactionary propagandized mind and the army of paid off propagandists who uphold this system of mental domination. “Conspiracy theory” is the ultimate label to trigger dismissal without causing people to think about the content and substance of the message.

When it comes to the reactionary propagandized mind, their impulsive, instinctive dismissal further demonstrates how well they have been indoctrinated and conditioned. Once again, you don’t need a conspiracy theory to understand the system of mental conditioning; you just need to have a basic understanding of propaganda, social psychology and behaviorism. Modern indoctrinated intelligentsia have been produced like products off an assembly line. In The Genesis of the Technocratic Elite, Zoran Vidakovic breaks down how the assembly line of indoctrination works:

“Selection, education, and specific indoctrination of technical and administrative cadres are carried out first in metropolitan educational and research factories and their branches in dependent societies, under the wing of the superficially independent foundations which sustain the international projects of ‘technical aid,’ and then within the personnel policy of the transnational corporations that raise people from the local environments to responsible managerial and technical functions in their internationally located branches, or that in other ways subordinate and direct the ‘modernized’ industrial entrepreneurs, agrarian ‘reformers,’ functionaries, and leading intellectuals from the ministries and banks, universities, and public information, cultural, and scientific institutions.

The essential effect of this great factory for the almost assembly line production of dependent and emasculated ‘technocratic elites’ is that the material position, status, and professional success of the members of these groups imperatively depends on their conformity to the ideology of dependence and the interiorization of the intellectual, political, and ideological characteristics of this social type programmed in metropolitan laboratories for the technological, social, and cultural transformation of ‘developing countries.’…

The ideology of total repression unites with the ideology of technological and cultural dependency and assimilation; in this union repression gains strength as the condition of the entire dependent economic growth, technological progress, and ‘modernization of society,’ as a circle of insurmountable dependency on the import of prefabricated knowledge and technical and consumerist models is closed up by the ambitions of the protagonists of authoritarian rule.”

We live in a Skinner box. It’s classic “behavioral modification” (b-mod) within a “token economy.” We have an outdated system of incentives; you incentivize and reward certain behavior, and you punish or withdraw basic necessities for other behavior. It’s behaviorism 101.

Give people a paycheck to have certain opinions, to do certain things. You can see it everywhere, in almost all professions, not just the media. If you think a certain way, if you do certain things, you will be awarded with a paycheck. If you don’t, you lose your paycheck. Or, as Thomas Paine said in Rights of Man, “Those who do not participate in this enacting do not get fed.”

People get paid a lot of money to spew bullshit talking point propaganda on a daily basis. The truth of the matter: if you propagate the message of tyrants, and if you are good at it, you can become rich and famous. That’s what primitive self-obsessed ego-driven careerists do. They are the ultimate pawns of empire. They enrich themselves by riding the coattails of conquerors.

As W.E.H. Lecky once said, ‘The simple fact of applying certain penalties to the profession of particular opinions, and rewards to the profession of opposite opinions, while it will make many hypocrites, it will also make many converts.’

Our Skinner box society, our token economy is run by the modern day aristocracy through a system of enlightened despotism. You either bow down and play by their rules or you lose access to basic necessities. It’s the root of modern monetary enslavement – debt and wage slavery.

The fact of the matter, the truth of the matter: we are not supposed to be freethinking participatory citizens involved in the decision-making processes that guide our lives and determine our fate. We are mentally conditioned to be spectators, mindless reactionary consumers and wage slaves.

VI: Totalitarian Minds Inside the All-Consuming Cult

If you want to get wicked about it, we could quote extensively from the work of Edward Bernays, Gustave LeBon or Walter Lippman on the “bewildered herd,” but that’s too easy. Let’s drop some Jacques Ellul, from his 1965 analysis of the social mind, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes:

“Propaganda is today a greater danger to mankind than any of the other more grandly advertised threats hanging over the human race…. Propaganda ruins not only democratic ideas but also democratic behavior – the foundation of democracy, the very quality without which it cannot exist…. Propaganda destroys its very foundations. It creates a man who is suited to a totalitarian society….

A man who lives in a democratic society and who is subjected to propaganda is being drained of the democratic content itself – of the style of democratic life, understanding of others… he is a ‘totalitarian man with democratic convictions,’ but those convictions do not change his behavior in the least. Such contradiction is in no way felt by the individual for whom democracy has become a myth and a set of democratic imperatives, merely stimuli that activate conditioned reflexives.

The word democracy, having become a simple incitation, no longer has anything to do with democratic behavior. And the citizen can repeat indefinitely ‘the sacred formulas of democracy’ while acting like a storm trooper.”

That is as accurate a depiction of the average modern American as I have ever come across. In the same book, Ellul went on to explain the inherent danger of our two-party system and the general apathy Americans have toward politics:

“The conflicting propaganda of opposing parties is essentially what leads to political abstention. But this is not the abstention of the free spirit which asserts itself; it is the result of resignation, the external symptom of a series of inhibitions. Such a man has not decided to abstain; under diverse pressures, subjected to shocks and distortions, he can no longer (even if he wanted to) perform a political act. What is even more serious is that this inhibition not only is political, but also progressively takes over the whole of his being and leads to a general attitude of surrender….

At the same time, this crystallization closes his mind to all new ideas. The individual now has a set of prejudices and beliefs…. His entire personality now revolves around those elements. Every new idea will therefore be troublesome to his entire being.”

In Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, Guy DeBord summed up the primary function of the mainstream media, “For what is communicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.”

For an even deeper understanding on how propaganda works, let’s return to Ellul:

“Governmental propaganda suggests that public opinion demand this or that decision; it provokes the will of a people, who spontaneously say nothing. But, once evoked, formed, and crystallized on a point, that will becomes the people’s will.

The government really acts on its own, it just gives the impression of obeying public opinion, after having first built that public opinion. The point is to make the masses demand of the government what the government has already decided to do.”

They “amputate the argument” and replace it with “engineered consensus.” As Robert Lynd wrote in Democracy In Reverse, “They operate actually to confirm the citizen’s false sense of security in totaling up ‘what the majority think’… The false sense of the public’s being ‘boss’ that they encourage operates to narcotize public awareness of the seriousness of problems and of the drastic social changes many contemporary situations require.”

In 1935, Malcolm Willey explained, “An individual may be moved to action through repetition, as, for example, in advertising; but his action is made more certain if he is made to realize that thousands, even millions, of others are thinking and feeling as he himself does. Herein lies the importance of the contemporary communication network; it not only carries its symbols to the individual, it also impresses upon him a sense of numbers.”

James Madison also realized this when he wrote Public Opinion, “The larger a country, the less easy for its real opinion to be ascertained, and the less difficult to be counterfeited.” That was written in 1791, when the US population was only about five million people.

In 1901, Gabriel Tarde wrote, “Newspapers have transformed… unified in space and diversified in time the conversations of individuals, even those who do not read papers but who, talking to those who do, are forced to follow the groove of their borrowed thoughts. One pen suffices to set off a million tongues.”

Bertrand Russell also hit at the root in Free Thought and Official Propaganda, when he said, “it is much easier than it used to be to spread misinformation, and, owing to democracy, the spread of misinformation is more important than in former times to the holders of power.”

In Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, Alex Carey summed it all up in this one sentence: “That this simple regime of thought-control should prove to have been so triumphant, with so little public resistance, must be put down to its persistent, repetitive orchestration.”

For all the discussion and focus on political and economic policy, what we really need to do on the individual level, first and foremost, is transcend conditioned consciousness. Once we do that, positive political and economic policy will be the natural byproduct and inevitable result.

VII: Free Your Mind ~*~

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it… Sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path. I’m trying to free your mind… But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”
– The Matrix

In revisiting the reactionary propagandized mind, when you confront a member of the consumer cult and expose their mental conditioning processes, the false reality and illusions that people are trapped in, they will instinctively dismiss or attack you. People will bite your hand when you try to remove the mental leash from their neck.

In The Evolving Self, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains further, “To prevent its annihilation, the ego forces us to be constantly on the watch for anything that might threaten the symbols on which it relies for identity. Our view of the world becomes polarized into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – things that support the image, and those that threaten it.” This is also how the third Mayan veil works. In this case, your media created cultural programming; it distorts reality to make it congruent with conditioned views.

Anything that deviates from the conditioned norm is ridiculed and instantly, instinctively dismissed before critical thinking skills are activated. The repetitious conditioning process leads to an amputation of critical thinking faculties. That which people are not familiar with becomes odd, evil and damaging to their mental construct, to their thought patterns, to their fabricated self-image.

For instance, we tend to look for anything that confirms our pre-existing beliefs while ignoring anything that goes against them. This is how confirmation bias works, to paraphrase Bertrand Russell: ‘If people are offered a fact which goes against their instincts or their cultural programming, they will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, they are offered something which falls in accordance to their cultural programming, in accordance to their conditioning, they will accept it, even on the slightest evidence.’

Having been bred within this all-pervasive propaganda system, I understand the disbelief people feel. When our conditioned belief system is called into question and comes crashing down, it is a hard pill to swallow. No one wants to believe that they have been manipulated or taken advantage of. This will stir up an instinctive dismissal, a powerful emotional response. We are creatures of habit, and it is much easier, over the short-term, to just stay on a path of denial and ignorance. Hear no evil. See no evil.

The task upon us is to consciously counter conditioned consciousness. The most difficult and important prerequisite to freedom is the ability to see past all of your culturally programmed biases. It takes great personal inner-strength and determination to achieve this; you will inevitably have to face many facts that will go against your programmed, conditioned beliefs. If one can endure this, one will eventually come to experience true freedom.

However, even if one is strong enough to have an awareness of their conditioning, it is another level to confront and transcend it. As Nietzsche said, “Even the most courageous among us only rarely has the courage for that which they really know.”

“Are you brave enough to see?
Do you want to change it?”
–Trent Reznor

Noam Chomsky makes the ease in which you can free your mind clear, and stresses the importance of doing so:

“To take apart the system of illusions and deception which functions to prevent understanding of contemporary reality [is] not a task that requires extraordinary skill or understanding. It requires the kind of normal skepticism and willingness to apply one’s analytical skills that almost all people have and that they can exercise….

As long as some specialized class is in position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves, but the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community.

The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must – namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive…. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.”

Most Americans are aware of the fact that we are on a disastrous path. However, many of us feel powerless to change things. These feelings are only a result of our conditioning and induced delusion. We have become so propagandized that many of us do not realize the significant position that we are in. We are not poor people trapped in a third world existence. We are a mass of people who have the power to evolve society and change the course of history.

It is stunning to hear all these people, so many people saying that they can’t do anything about it. Far too many people think that we can’t create change; that is why we don’t.

Why do you think that we can’t change the world? How did you come to that conclusion? Who taught you to believe that?

The overwhelming majority feels powerless to create political change. If they would just realize that they are the overwhelming majority, they would no longer feel this way. As Ellul said, “Only when he realizes his delusion will he experience the beginning of genuine freedom – in the act of realization itself – be it only from the effort to stand back and look squarely at the phenomenon and reduce it to raw fact.”

VIII: Cyberspace Underground Railroad

Time comes and times go…Thanks to the Internet, to the cyberspace underground railroad, people are now freeing their minds from conditioning and entrenched power censors. The Internet is to our generation what pamphlets were to our forefathers’ generation during the first American Revolution. People are going to the Internet to find out all the information that the corporate mainstream media is not letting people know about. As a result, we now have a critical mass of informed and outraged citizens who are also using the Internet to organize. They are now transcending conditioned consciousness and expanding their awareness on a scale unprecedented in human history.

A new empowering collective consciousness, built on self-sufficient and aware individuals, is quickly evolving. As William Adams Brown said, “We are developing a social conscience, and situations which would have been accepted a generation ago as a matter of course are felt as an intolerable scandal.” John Dewey continues, “Liberty in the concrete signifies release from the impact of particular oppressive forces; emancipation from something once taken as a normal part of human life but now experienced as bondage…. Today, it signifies liberation from material insecurity and from the coercions and repressions that prevent multitudes from participation in the vast cultural resources that are at hand.”

The inevitable demise of our current neo-feudal system was summed up by George Orwell when he said, “For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”

If you are still wondering if we can truly create change, consider this simple truth from Strobe Talbott, “All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary.”

Our government was created in the time of the horse and wagon. It took days or weeks to deliver one handwritten message across state lines. Today, we have instantaneous worldwide communication and an unprecedented amount of wealth in the most technologically advanced society. The masses are now connected and aware. It’s time to evolve our obsolete system. You know it, and so does everyone else who pays attention. We will soon have new ways of living that will make our modern age like look the Stone Age.

People are throwing off their mental shackles and realizing their potential. A new renaissance and age of enlightenment has begun. Another world is happening. Humanity is rising.

Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery
NONE BUT OURSELVES CAN FREE OUR MINDS
Transcend Conditioned Consciousness
BREAK ON THROUGH…

Enough writing from the Underground. It’s time to contrive to be born, to transform our world. We are building a decentralized global network of self-sustaining community incubators designed to maximize the transformative energy around us and facilitate the evolution of society. If you want to join us in this effort, enlist here.

Centralization and Sociopathology: Concentrated Power & Wealth Are Intrinsically Sociopathological

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm

https://i2.wp.com/www.tgdaily.com/sites/default/files/stock/article_images/misc/matrixsystemfailure.jpgOldspeak: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” -Jiddu Krishnamurti

“We live in a time of unprecedented inequality,  with extreme wealth & power concentration. Concurrently, our civilization is dominated by sociopathic organizations. The two most powerful, the transnational corporate network, and governments worldwide have combined to form an awesome and near omniscient control grid, a corptalitarian oligarchical collective that is manipulating most humans on this planet. This collective has infected most of humanity with its worldview and belief systems, spawning billions of secondary sociopaths who act as gatekeepers, maintaining & defending the sociopathic systems around which society is organized. We’ve reached a point where these systems, rapidly metastasizing via globalization, are in direct conflict with the only system that matters, the ecosystem. If the ecosystem loses this conflict, we all lose. Localization is the key to saving our ecosystem,  Which side are you on?

By C.D. @ Oftwominds:

Concentrated power and wealth are intrinsically sociopathological by their very nature.

 
I have long spoken of the dangers inherent to centralization of power and the extreme concentrations of wealth centralization inevitably creates.
Longtime contributor C.D. recently highlighted another danger of centralization:sociopaths/psychopaths excel in organizations that centralize power, and their ability to flatter, browbeat and manipulate others greases their climb to the top.
In effect, centralization is tailor-made for sociopaths gaining power. Sociopaths seek power over others, and centralization gives them the perfect avenue to control over millions or even entire nations.
Even worse (from the view of non-sociopaths), their perverse abilities are tailor-made for excelling in office and national politics via ruthless elimination of rivals and enemies and grandiose appeals to national greatness, ideological purity, etc.
As C.D. points out, the ultimate protection against sociopathology is to minimize the power held in any one agency, organization or institution:

After you watch these films on psychopaths, I think you’ll have an even greater understanding of why your premise of centralization is a key problem of our society. The first film points out that psychopaths generally thrive in the corporate/government top-down organization (I have seen it happen in my agency, unfortunately) and that when they come to power, their values (or lack thereof) tend to pervade the organization to varying degrees. In some cases, they end up creating secondary psychopaths which is kind of like a spiritual/moral disease that infects people.

If we are to believe the premise in the film that there are always psychopaths among us in small numbers, it follows then that we must limit the power of any one institution, whether it’s private or public, so that the damage created by psychopaths is limited.

It is very difficult for many people to fathom that there are people in our society that are that evil, for lack of a better term, and it is even harder for many people in society to accept that people in the higher strata of our society can exhibit these dangerous traits.

The same goes for criminal behavior. From my studies, it’s pretty clear that criminality is fairly constant throughout the different levels of our society and yet, it is the lower classes that are subjected to more scrutiny by law enforcement. The disparity between blue collar and white collar crime is pretty evident when one looks at arrests and sentencing. The total lack of effective enforcement against politically connected banks over the last few years is astounding to me and it sets a dangerous precedent. Corruption and psychopathy go hand in hand.

A less dark reason for avoiding over centralization is that we have to be aware of normal human fallibility. Nobody possesses enough information, experience, ability, lack of bias, etc. to always make the right decisions.

Defense Against the Psychopath (video, 37 minutes; the many photos of political, religious and secular leaders will likely offend many/most; if you look past these outrages, there is useful information here)
The Sociopath Next Door (video, 37 minutes)
As C.D. observes, once sociopaths rule an organization or nation, they create a zombie army of secondary sociopaths beneath them as those who resist are undermined, banished, fired or exterminated. If there is any lesson to be drawn from Iraq, it is how a single sociopath can completely undermine and destroy civil society by empowering secondary sociopaths and eliminating or marginalizing anyone who dares to cling to their humanity, conscience and independence.
“Going along to get along” breeds passive acceptance of sociopathology as “the new normal” and mimicry of the values and techniques of sociopathology as the ambitious and fearful (i.e. almost everyone) scramble to emulate the “successful” leadership.
Organizations can be perverted into institutionalizing sociopathology via sociopathological goals and rules of conduct. Make the metric of success in war a body count of dead “enemy combatants” and you’ll soon have dead civilians stacked like cordwood as proof of every units’ outstanding success.
Make lowering unemployment the acme of policy success and soon every agency will be gaming and manipulating data to reach that metric of success. Make higher grades the metric of academic success and soon every kid is getting a gold star and an A or B.
Centralization has another dark side: those ensconced in highly concentrated centers of power (for example, The White House) are in another world, and they find it increasingly easy to become isolated from the larger context and to slip into reliance on sycophants, toadies (i.e. budding secondary sociopaths) and “experts” (i.e. apparatchiks and factotums) who are equally influenced by the intense “high” of concentrated power/wealth.
Increasingly out of touch with those outside the circle of power, those within the circle slide into a belief in the superiority of their knowledge, skills and awareness–the very definition of sociopathology.
Even worse (if that is possible), the incestuous nature of the tight circle of power breeds a uniformity of opinion and ideology that creates a feedback loop that marginalizes dissenters and those with open minds. Dissenters are soon dismissed–“not a team player”– or trotted out for PR purposes, i.e. as evidence the administration maintains ties to the outside world.
Those few dissenters who resist the siren song of power soon face a choice: either quietly quit “to pursue other opportunities” (the easy way out) or quit in a blast of public refutation of the administration’s policies.
Public dissenters are quickly crucified by those in power, and knowing this fate awaits any dissenter places a powerful disincentive on “going public” about the sociopathology of the inner circle of power.
On rare occasions, an insider has the courage and talent to secure documentation that details the sociopathology of a policy, agency or administration (for example, Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers).
Nothing infuriates a sociopath or a sociopathological organization more than the exposure of their sociopathology, and so those in power will stop at nothing to silence, discredit, criminalize or eliminate the heroic whistleblower.
In these ways, centralized power is itself is a sociopathologizing force. We cannot understand the present devolution of our civil society, economy and ethics unless we understand that concentrated power and wealth are intrinsically sociopathological by their very nature.
 
The solution: a culture of decentralization, transparency and open competition, what I call the DATA model (Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable) in my book Why Things Are Falling Apart and What We Can Do About It.

Propaganda, Self-Censorship & Climate Change

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm

https://i0.wp.com/i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01508/Climate-ChangeNEW_1508747a.jpgOldspeak: “The voices of the propaganda, for various reasons, cast doubt about climate science in much the same way that similar voices (and sometimes the same voices) cast doubt about smoking and cancer, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals. The vested interests’ work was authoritative and their money and vision allowed them to distribute their message widely.In their quest for fairness, the media gave equal time to this authoritative message about climate change not being real. Why? Because it was authoritative. It was designed to be that way using carefully chosen words and carefully chosen academic findings. People began to listen because their authority figures repeated the message. Climate change “believers” dropped from the rolls in droves. Awareness plummeted.” –Bruce Melton.

97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activity. 50% of Americans believe it to be true. This is the profound, convincing  and deadly power of propaganda. Lies repeated often enough become truth. Straight out of Joseph Goebbels playbook. It leads people to believe that the economy, dissatisfaction with government and jobs are the most important problems today. It leads people to believe that artificial constructs, like federal debt and the economy will be the most important problems facing our nation in 25 years. We must counter this disinformation with the truth. Educate yourselves with the truth.  Tell the truth, every chance you get, spread awareness, call your elected officials, let them know that climate change is the preeminent problem of our times. There’s no economy, or jobs or debt on a dead planet. “Propaganda Always Wins, If You Allow It.” –Leni Riefenstahl

By Bruce Melton @ Truthout:

Climate change messaging is changing these days. One only needs to look as far as the Sierra Club’s unprecedented encouragement of civil disobedience with the Keystone Pipeline to see this happening. The polls are telling us that some 70 percent or more of Americans believe the Earth is now warming. This falls to a little over 50 percent when the words “because of man” are added to the question, but it is a majority.

Contrast this with about 97 percent of climate scientists believing Earth is warming and caused by man. Why is there such a difference? Part of the reason is because a pox has been put on these four little words: climate change and global warming.

A self-imposed moratorium in the environmental and broadcast communities has been in effect on those four words since the early part of George W. Bush’s administration. Environmental organizations across the nation recognized that negative climate science propaganda was changing public awareness. So those words found themselves being repeated less and less. They were poisoning environmental outreach efforts and their use created distrust.

Why did this happen? Likely, it was almost completely because of propaganda from vested interests. The voices of the propaganda, for various reasons, cast doubt about climate science in much the same way that similar voices (and sometimes the same voices) cast doubt about smoking and cancer, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals. The vested interests’ work was authoritative and their money and vision allowed them to distribute their message widely.

In their quest for fairness, the media gave equal time to this authoritative message about climate change not being real. Why? Because it was authoritative. It was designed to be that way using carefully chosen words and carefully chosen academic findings. People began to listen because their authority figures repeated the message. Climate change “believers” dropped from the rolls in droves. Awareness plummeted.

Environmentalists knew that using the poison words was harming their counsel, so they began to advocate for conservation issues to mitigate the effects of climate change that were not directly associated with the poison words. The rallying cry began to focus on the great benefits of energy security from alternative sources, clean air from clean energy and mountaintops unremoved. King coal and the Keystone Pipeline were still targeted, but those four “poison” little words were nowhere to be seen or heard.

The story has changed today, but only a little. In the environmental community, however, the discussion rages as to whether or not to use the poison words. The passive-aggressive ways of the last decade appeared to be working a bit, or was the increase in awareness actually caused by the rapid increase in weather extremes or maybe the change from Bush to Obama – and does it matter any longer?

Academic work has long shown that increased knowledge changes behavior. This fact is as common as how our behavior changes from learning how to read and write in grade school. But the same behavioral academic work also tells us that repetition of misinformation also changes behavior. So how do we increase climate change awareness in spite of all the propaganda?

We could wait for the increasing extremes to do the job. Unprecedented weather events enhanced by or caused by climate change are beginning to make an impact on awareness in local areas and, as long predicted, the extremes are increasing and will likely to continue to increase. Climate change awareness is increasing even though the same old tired voices continue to tell us that no one individual weather event can be blamed on climate change.

These impacts are happening more often and they are happening to you and me. More academic work tells us that when you and I are personally impacted by something, our behavior changes. So we could just wait.

The discoveries in climate science, however, continue to show the situation is getting worse faster than anticipated. And because of nearly 20 years of delay, as the climate scientists have told us all along, future impacts will be even greater than we have previously anticipated.

Climate change is interjecting itself into the public discussion more often lately with the increasing extreme weather events, but there is still a moratorium on the four poison words in the most important place – the environmental advocacy community. It is this community that we rely on to spread the word on why and how pollutants harm our lives. We know we cannot rely on the media because of their “fairness bias.” Most journalists are not scientists; mainstream journalists believe that to be fair they must report both sides of “issues” with words from authoritative figures on both sides.

The predominant passive-aggressive environmentalism messaging in climate science outreach today is holding back awareness. We have enough votes (believers) to kick the climate deniers off the island and get on with things. We simply need to capitalize on those votes.

So how in the world do we get action to finally happen on climate pollution? The answer is simple. We need to take a page from the opposition’s playbook: Propaganda, repeated often enough, and loudly enough, becomes accepted as valid. This same concept works with the truth, oddly enough. The solution to climate pollution starts with a very cheap and simple technique.

Tell the truth and tell it more often than the propagandists are telling their story. Tell the whole truth. Don’t hold back the poison words. This is a very plain and simple strategy that has proved itself time and again (not the telling of the truth – using propaganda). Repeat the message over and over again: repeat, repeat, repeat. If repeated enough, the message becomes a valid living thing.

We have bonus points available to us in this challenge as well. We have the truth. We need to stand on the authority of our scientists and stop dancing around the issue. The passive-aggressive messages of the last decade educates just as well with the “poison words” included – if this message is repeated more often than the propaganda.

This challenge is about defeating negative propaganda. The two things that can do this are more positive propaganda and personal impacts. We can’t wait for enough of us to be “born again” to climate science through personal impacts, so we must create truth messages in quantities greater than those that would have us disbelieve are creating theirs. We must tell the whole story, not just the climate consensus part.

We need to base our decision-making on the latest science, not the consensus. The consensus position is middle ground and relates literally thousands of climate scientists’ opinions and is therefore the least common denominator of agreement. It is a negotiated viewpoint of multiple theories and hypotheses. Because of this, it is watered down.

The reason there is a consensus is validity. When all of the experts agree to something, you can pretty much take that to the bank. There is much less chance of it being wrong. A consensus takes a long time to build. Time has not tested the latest findings. Over time, almost all of climate science becomes validated and a part of the consensus. But time is not on our side.

The discussion rages in the environmental community about how to educate, but this discussion is not echoed in the academic community. It rages in the environmental community because of the negative impacts of the vested-interest propaganda. There is no propaganda in science. Climate science is not a political or economic, or even a social issue, and it is not difficult to understand either.

Properly translated into plain English, we can all understand climate science. A lot of this translation is happening now and has been for literally decades. But the “authoritative” voices have been busy. We simply need to be busier than those “authoritative” voices. We need to speak louder than them and repeat, repeat, repeat. We have enough votes to kick the disbelievers off the island. We need to understand that the need to move forward on treating climate pollution is greater than the need to keep from upsetting the minority.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, and author in Austin, Texas. Information on Melton’s new book, Climate Discovery Chronicles can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films on his web sites and www.climatediscovery.com 

America’s Descent Into Corptalitarianism: The New Extremism & Politics Of Distraction In The Age Of Austerity

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2013 at 5:18 pm

https://i2.wp.com/alexanderltremayne.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/corporate_mafia2.pngOldspeak:What is missing in the current debates dominating Washington politics is the recognition that the real issues at stake are neither the debt ceiling nor the state of the economy, however important, but a powerful and poisonous form of authoritarianism that poses a threat to the very idea of democracy and the institutions, public values, formative cultures and public spheres that nourish it. The United States occupies a critical juncture in its history, one in which the forces of extremism are not just on the rise but are in the midst of revolutionizing modes of governance, ideology and policy. The politics of disconnect is just one of a series of strategies designed to conceal this deeper order of authoritarian politics. In a society that revels in bouts of historical and social amnesia, it is much easier for the language of politics and community to be stolen and deployed like a weapon so as to empty words such as democracy, freedom, justice and the social state of any viable meaning. Arundhati Roy captures the anti-democratic nature of this process in the following insightful comment. She writes:

This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of the czars of the new dispensation. It has allowed them to marginalize their detractors, deprive them of a language to voice their critique and dismiss them as being “anti-progress,” “anti-development,” “anti-reform,” and of course “anti-national” – negativists of the worst sort. To reclaim these stolen words requires explanations that are too tedious for a world with a short attention span, and too expensive in an era when Free Speech has become unaffordable for the poor. This language heist may prove to be the keystone of our undoing.

This undoing of democracy to which Roy refers, and the dystopian society that is being created in its place, can be grasped in the current subordination of public values to commercial values and the collapse of democracy into the logic and values of what might called a predatory casino capitalism where life is cheap and everything is for sale. More specifically, from the ailing rib of democracy there is emerging not simply just an aggressive political assault on democratic modes of governance, but a form of linguistic and cultural authoritarianism that no longer needs to legitimate itself in an idea because it secures its foundational beliefs in a claim to normalcy;7 that is, Americans are now inundated with a pedagogy of cultural authoritarianism whose ideology, values, social practices and social formations cannot be questioned because they represent and legitimate the new neoliberal financial order. This is a mode of predatory casino capitalism that presents itself as a universal social formation without qualification, a social form that inhabits a circle of ideological and political certainty and cultural practice that equates being a citizen with being a consumer – in other words, predatory capitalism is transforming into a universal ethic that has exhausted all political differences, economic alternatives and counter readings of the world in the service of benefitting a financial and corporate elite and a savage form of economic Darwinism.” –Henry A. Giroux

In a corptalitarian, crypto-faccist state, dissent is criminalized and ridiculed. The rule of law becomes arbitrary, fluid. The range of acceptable opinion is seductively narrowed. Extremism, manufactured fear and consent increase significantly. The status quo systems and structures around which the society is organized are rarely questioned, if so only superficially and transiently. Language is militarized, tightly controlled, and comes to mean something other than it was originally intended as lies become truth. Ignorance is viewed as strength, desirable, adorable, comical, normal. Perpetual war is used to bring peace, surgically, cooly, remotely, covertly, via killer robots “special forces” and “signature strikes”. Freedom becomes slavery as the wonders of wireless technology heralded as the tools to enable free and ubiquitous communications and interactions are now used to surveil, track, record, restrict, atomize, disconnect, control, monetize and manipulate communications, interactions and behavior. Mindless and ever-increasing consumption becomes more important than critical thinking. Inequality increases, with the bottom 50% controlling 1% of wealth, while the to 10% control 75% of wealth. Whistleblowers, pot smokers, lawful protestors, journalists, academics, go to jail, while polluters, torturers, white collars thieves, economy collapsers, and war criminals walk free. It doesn’t have to be this way.

By Henry A. Giroux @ Truthout:

The debate in both Washington and the mainstream media over austerity measures, the alleged fiscal cliff and the looming debt crisis not only function to render anti-democratic pressures invisible, but also produce what the late sociologist C. Wright Mills once called “a politics of organized irresponsibility.”1 For Mills, authoritarian politics developed, in part, by making the operations of power invisible while weaving a network of lies and deceptions through what might be called a politics of disconnect. That is, a politics that focuses on isolated issues that serve to erase the broader relations and historical contexts that give them meaning. These isolated issues become flashpoints in a cultural and political discourse that hide not merely the operations of power, but also the resurgence of authoritarian ideologies, modes of governance, policies and social formations that put any viable notion of democracy at risk.2 Decontextualized ideas and issues, coupled with the overflow of information produced by the new electronic media, make it more difficult to create narratives that offer historical understanding, relational connections and developmental sequences. The fragmentation of ideas and the cascade of information reinforce new modes of depoliticization and authoritarianism. 3

At the same time, more important issues are buried in the fog of what might be called isolated and manufactured crises, that when given legitimacy, actually benefit the wealthy and hurt working- and middle-class individuals and families. Gerald Epstein rightly argues that the debate about the fiscal cliff is

a debacle on the part of the Obama administration and for progressives and for workers and for families. It’s a real disaster…. We shouldn’t be having to sit here talking about this; we should be talking about what are going to do about the employment cliff or the climate change cliff. But instead we’re talking about this fiscal cliff, which is a manufactured crisis.4

The fiscal cliff argument is manufactured both in that it is not a real crisis (except for its impact on poor and middle-class families), and it serves as a diversion from pressing issues ranging from mass unemployment and widespread poverty, to the housing crisis and the student debt bomb. Moreover, it undermines understanding how these various problems are interrelated ideologically and structurally as part of an assault by religious and market fundamentalists on all aspects of public life that address the common good.

The expanded reach of politics in this discourse of distraction shrinks, and in doing so separates private troubles from public considerations, while undermining any broader understanding of the confluence of socio-economic-cultural interests and interrelated issues and problems that characterize a particular age. For instance, the debate on gun control says little about the deep-rooted culture of symbolic and structural violence that nourishes America’s infatuation with guns and its attraction to the spectacle of violence. Similarly, the mainstream debate over taxing the rich refuses to address this issue through a broader analysis of a society that is structurally wedded to producing massive inequities in income and wealth along with the considerable suffering and hardships produced by such social disparities.

In this denuded notion of politics, the connection between facts and wider theoretical frameworks and the connection between politics and power disappear just as the relationship between private troubles and larger social realities are covered over. Under such circumstances, politics is cleansed of its extremist elements and informed modes of dissent are not only marginalized but also actively suppressed, as was obvious in the FBI surveillance of Occupy Wall Street protesters and the police’s ruthless suppression of student dissenters on campuses across the country.

Blind Publics in an Authoritarian Age

What is missing in the current debates dominating Washington politics is the recognition that the real issues at stake are neither the debt ceiling nor the state of the economy, however important, but a powerful and poisonous form of authoritarianism that poses a threat to the very idea of democracy and the institutions, public values, formative cultures and public spheres that nourish it.5 The United States occupies a critical juncture in its history, one in which the forces of extremism are not just on the rise but are in the midst of revolutionizing modes of governance, ideology and policy. The politics of disconnect is just one of a series of strategies designed to conceal this deeper order of authoritarian politics. In a society that revels in bouts of historical and social amnesia, it is much easier for the language of politics and community to be stolen and deployed like a weapon so as to empty words such as democracy, freedom, justice and the social state of any viable meaning. Arundhati Roy captures the anti-democratic nature of this process in the following insightful comment. She writes:

This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of the czars of the new dispensation. It has allowed them to marginalize their detractors, deprive them of a language to voice their critique and dismiss them as being “anti-progress,” “anti-development,” “anti-reform,” and of course “anti-national” – negativists of the worst sort. To reclaim these stolen words requires explanations that are too tedious for a world with a short attention span, and too expensive in an era when Free Speech has become unaffordable for the poor. This language heist may prove to be the keystone of our undoing. 6

This undoing of democracy to which Roy refers, and the dystopian society that is being created in its place, can be grasped in the current subordination of public values to commercial values and the collapse of democracy into the logic and values of what might called a predatory casino capitalism where life is cheap and everything is for sale. More specifically, from the ailing rib of democracy there is emerging not simply just an aggressive political assault on democratic modes of governance, but a form of linguistic and cultural authoritarianism that no longer needs to legitimate itself in an idea because it secures its foundational beliefs in a claim to normalcy;7 that is, Americans are now inundated with a pedagogy of cultural authoritarianism whose ideology, values, social practices and social formations cannot be questioned because they represent and legitimate the new neoliberal financial order. This is a mode of predatory casino capitalism that presents itself as a universal social formation without qualification, a social form that inhabits a circle of ideological and political certainty and cultural practice that equates being a citizen with being a consumer – in other words, predatory capitalism is transforming into a universal ethic that has exhausted all political differences, economic alternatives and counter readings of the world in the service of benefitting a financial and corporate elite and a savage form of economic Darwinism.

We get hints of the current mechanisms of diversion and its hidden order of politics in Robert Reich’s claim that the debate over the fiscal cliff should not only be about the broader issue of inequality but also must ask and address crucial political questions regarding the increasing concentration of power and “entrenched wealth at the top, and less for the middle-class and the poor.8 We also see it in Frank Rich’s insistence that the endless debate conducted largely in the mainstream media about Washington being dysfunctional misses the point. Rich argues that beyond media’s silly argument that both parties are to blame for the current deadlock, lies a Republican Party strategy to make the Federal government look as dysfunctional as possible so as to convince the wider American public that the government should be dismantled and its services turned over to for-profit private interests. In fact, a number of recent critics now believe that the extremist nature of the current Republican Party represents one of the most difficult obstacles to any viable form of governance. Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, two prominent conservative commentators, recently have argued that moderates not only have been pushed out of the Republican Party but they are for all intents and purposes “virtually extinct.” They go even further in stating that:

In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges. 9

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has gone further and has characterized the Republican Party and its “corporate-centric super-PACs as treasonous.” He states that Americans “are now in a free fall toward old-fashioned oligarchy; noxious, thieving and tyrannical” and that given the role of the most corporate-friendly Supreme Court since the Gilded Age with its passage of the Citizens United decision, “those who have the money now have the loudest voices in our democracy while poor Americans are mute.”10

More radical critics like Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Sheldon Wolin, Stanley Aronowitz, Judith Butler, Robert Scheer, Jeffrey St. Clair, Matt Taibbi, Angela Davis and David Theo Goldberg, among others, have long recognized the transformation of the United States from a weak democracy to a spirited authoritarian state. All of these theorists have challenged the permanent war economy, the erosion of civil liberties, the power of the corporate state, the moral bankruptcy of the liberal intelligentsia, the corporate control of the media, the criminal wars of repression abroad, the rise of the torture state and the increasing militarization of everyday life.

However extremist the Republican Party has become with its ongoing war on women, immigrants, young people, the welfare state, voting rights and all manner of civil rights, this should not suggest that the Democratic Party occupies a valued liberal position. On the contrary, policy in the United States is now being shaped by a Democratic Party that has become increasingly more conservative in the last 30 years along with a Republican Party that now represents one of the most extremist political parties to ever seize power in Washington. And while the Republican Party has fallen into the hands of radical extremists, both parties “support shifting the costs of the crisis and the government bailouts of banks, large corporations and the stock market, onto the mass of the citizens.”11 Both parties support bailing out the rich and doing the bidding of corporate lobbyists. Moreover, both parties reject the idea of democracy as a collectively inhabited public space and ethos that unconditionally stands for individual, political and economic rights. President Obama and his Wall Street advisors may hold onto some weak notion of the social contract, but they are far from liberal when it comes to embracing the military physics of the corporate warfare state.

As Chris Hedges, Paul Street, Noam Chomsky and Salvatore Babones have repeatedly pointed out, calling the Republican Party extremists should not cloud the increasingly authoritarian positions now embraced by the Obama administration. For instance, President Obama has deported more immigrants than his predecessor George W. Bush; he has advocated for the privatization of public schools, pursued neoliberal modes of educational governance and slashed funds from a number of vital social service programs. He has put into place a health care program that eliminated the public option and joined forces with insurance companies and Big Pharma.

As is well known, the Obama administration also kept Guantanamo open, justified warrantless wiretapping, accelerated drone attacks that killed many innocent civilians, supports indefinite detention and sanctions a form of “extraordinary rendition,” in which potential terrorists are abducted and shipped off to foreign countries to be tortured.12 In fact, the realm of politics has moved so far to the right in the United States that modes of extremism that were once thought unthinkable have now become commonplace. As Glenn Greenwald has argued, the Patriot Act, state-sponsored torture, assassinations, kill lists and surveillance programs, once “widely lamented as a threat to core American liberties” have “become such a fixture in our political culture that we are trained to take them for granted, to view the warped as normal.”13 While both parties have given up the mantel of democratic politics, the Republican Party is more extreme in its range of targets and its savage attempts to destroy those modes of governance and public spheres that provide the conditions for robust and critical forms of civic life, education, agency and democracy.

Republican Party Extremisms and the Destruction of Democracy

The extremism of the current Republican Party has many political, ideological, economic and cultural registers, but one of its most dangerous and punitive is its attacks on the social state, the public good and the very notion of responsible government. If the Democratic Party has undermined vital civil liberties while promoting a warfare state, the Republican Party has created a new understanding of politics as the space in which corporations and finance capital provide the template for all aspects of governance and policy. Governance in this mode of politics is a mixture of corporate power and financial warfare, accompanied by rule through the apparatuses of punishment, including the courts, military and police. If the slavish obedience to the corporate and finance state is visible in the Republican Party’s call for deregulation, privatization, free trade and a no-tax policy for the wealthy and corporations, the rule of the punishing state becomes clear in the call for the criminalization of a range of social behaviors ranging from abortion and homelessness, to debt payments and student protests.

While the use of military force against workers and civil rights has a long history in the US, the rule of finance capital is both new and takes on a new urgency, given the threat it poses to a substantive democracy. Robert McChesney argues that the rule of capital has transformed the United States from a weak democracy to “Dollarocracy – the rule of money rather than the rule of people – a specifically US form of plutocracy [that] is now so dominant, so pervasive, that it is accepted as simply the landscape people inhabit.”14 Michael Hudson goes further in his analysis and characterizes one element of the new extremism as a form of financial warfare waged against not merely the social state but all those groups that historically have fought for expanding political, economic and personal rights. He writes:

Finance has moved to capture the economy at large, industry and mining, public infrastructure (via privatization) and now even the educational system. (At over $1 trillion, US student loan-debt came to exceed credit-card debt in 2012). The weapon in this financial warfare … is to load economies (governments, companies and families) with debt, siphon off their income as debt service and then foreclose when debtors lack the means to pay. Indebting government gives creditors a lever to pry away land, public infrastructure and other property in the public domain. Indebting companies enable[s] creditors to seize employee pension savings. And indebting labor means that it no longer is necessary to hire strikebreakers to attack union organizers and strikers…. In contrast to the promise of democratic reform nurturing a middle class a century ago, we are witnessing a regression to a world of special privilege in which one must inherit wealth in order to avoid debt and job dependency. 15

The second feature of the new extremism is the ongoing commercialization and destruction of democratic public spaces. The latter refers to the ongoing privatization, commercialization and attack on those democratic public spheres that provide the space for critical thinking, informed dialogue, thoughtfulness, the affirmation of non-commodified norms and the unconditional protection of social rights. Institutions of democratic culture such as schools, the art world, unions, the media, and other public spheres where public values and important social issues are both engaged and offer the conditions for producing informed citizens are now viewed with disdain because they embrace modes of critical reasoning and a collective ethos at odds with anti-democratic and market-driven values.

The Republican Party is not simply wedded to a vicious anti-intellectualism; it scorns the very notion of reason and embraces ignorance as the basis for community. This is evident not only in the rejection of science, evidence and reason as the foundation of an informed community, but also in the embrace of fundamentalist positions that pander to ignorance as a basis for shutting down dissent, mobilizing supporters and retooling American education as a business, a training site to initiate the young into a world where the corporate, financial and military elite decide their needs, desires and future.

The third feature of the new extremism focuses on the attack on the social contract and welfare state and the ideas and institutions that make them possible. The new extremists recognize that the space of citizenship is as important as the idea of citizenship and they want to make sure that it is difficult, if not impossible, for the American public to find and inhabit those public spaces where the discourse of the common good, public life and social justice can be taught and learned – spaces where a language for defending vital public spheres can be developed. The Republican Party discourse on deficits and austerity is in reality an attempt to dismantle the welfare state and the social supports it provides. For Republican Party extremists, budget deficits become the key weapon in forcing the government to reduce its spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social provisions at odds with market-driven values, deregulation and the logic of privatization.

One consequence of this attack on the welfare state and the social contract has been the emergence of a market fundamentalism that trivializes democratic values and public concerns. At the same time, this market fundamentalism enshrines a rabid individualism, legitimates an all-embracing quest for profits, and promotes a Social Darwinism in which misfortune is seen as a weakness and the Hobbesian rule of a “war of all against all” replaces any vestige of shared responsibilities or compassion for others. If the conservative revolution launched by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had as its goal the rolling back of social democratic rights, the counter-revolutionaries that now control the Republican Party go much further. That is, they are not interested in rolling back the benefits of the social state, they want to eliminate government-sponsored social provisions, trade union rights, and other social and economic rights. The enemy in this discourse is equality and substantive social rights.

In this form of free-market fundamentalism, the new authoritarianism posits the unregulated and unfettered market as an idol and fetish and promotes the rule of finance capital as part of a larger project leading to the rule of a callous corporate-dominated political economy. It also promotes an anti-public morality in which the only responsibility one has is to oneself, “with no responsibility for the interests or well-being of others.”16 How else to explain the refusal of both political parties to address myriad crises faced by young people as revealed in the following poverty-related statistics: Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are the new face of a national homeless population; more than a million public school students are homeless in the US; 57 percent of all children are in homes considered to be either low-income or impoverished, and that half of all American children will be on food stamps at least once before they turn 18 years old.17

At stake here is what John Clarke calls the subordination of the social and public values through a variety of policies that include: 18 “erasing the social” by withdrawing social protections for labor; “privatizing the social” by turning over publicly owned resources to profit-making interests; “subjugating the social” by subordinating social needs and policies to the imperatives of economic competitiveness and capital accumulation; domesticating the social by placing the burden for collective provision, security and care to the narrow realm of the family; narrowing the social by downsizing it into “meaner, degraded or recitalist forms.”19 Under this new market fundamentalism and political extremism, there is little interest in preventing inequality from running out of control – a savage ideology that feeds nicely into the notion that the social protections of the state have nothing to do with the common good or communal survival, but are largely a matter of charity.20 Central to the subordination of the social is the need to create new modes of agency and subjectivity in which “individuals think of themselves in economic terms – as entrepreneurial, calculating selves whose world is structured through contractual or quasi-contractual relationships.”21 This leads to the next element of the new extremism.

The fourth feature of the new extremism is its use of the media and other cultural apparatuses to promote a neoliberal form of public pedagogy and anti-politics engaged in the production of identities, desires and values that disparage any mode of sociality that embraces the common good, public values and shared responsibilities. The new extremism embraces a radical individualism that celebrates a consumer-oriented citizen “whose actions reflect mostly their material self-interests.”22 This is a form of anti-politics, an “authoritarian Utopia that is nothing less than ‘a program of methodical destruction of collectives,’ from trade unions and mill towns to families and small nations.”23 Under attack in this new form of authoritarianism are the social bonds and modes of communal cohesion that enable individuals, families and social movements to resist the ongoing transformation of citizens into customers, the criminalization of economic life, the corruption of politics and the massive increase in poverty, inequality, a culture of cruelty and the emergence of the punishing state.

The new extremism unleashes all the forces of brutal self-absorption that deepen and expand both the structure of cruelty and its ongoing privatization. Material self-interests have weakened any sense of collective purpose, just as America’s obsession with radical individualism and wealth and the growing existence of gross inequality have become symptomatic of our ethical and collective impoverishment.24 As Bauman points out, “the consuming life is [now] lived as a supreme expression of autonomy,” leaving no room for deploying activity in the service of “commitment, devotion, [and] responsibility.”25 Social life in this discourse has little to do with democracy and the formative culture needed to nourish it. As public values are disdained and the very notion of the public good and civic imagination disappear, people do more than surrender their citizenship, they also are rendered excess, disposable – waste products in a society wedded to throwing away not just consumer products, but increasingly human beings as well. What is new about the extremism that now rules American society is not simply the decline of public values but how they have become irrelevant to the existing contemporary neoliberal order, which weakens the foundation of social solidarity and creates identities, values and desires that turn the principles of democracy against themselves while undermining the very possibility of politics as a democratic project.

The Suffocation of Imagination, Agency and Hope

The war on the social contract, the welfare state, democratic politics, equality and the very idea of justice is an attack not simply on everything from Medicare to Social Security to the Equal Pay Act, it is an assault on “the basic architecture of our collective responsibility to ensure that Americans share in a decent life.”26 It is also an aggressive strike against the formative cultures and modes of individual and collective agency that legitimate a connection between the democratic polis and the possibility of economic, social and political freedom. The new extremism and its authoritarian politics draw attention away from serious social problems and the actual structural and ideological conditions that reproduce them. Underlying the shadow of authoritarianism is a corrosive attempt to “create a loss of conviction, a loss of faith in the culture of open democracy, a sense of skepticism and withdrawal.”27 To the degree that the private sphere becomes the only space in which to imagine any sense of hope, pleasure or possibility, citizenship becomes distorted, removed from issues of equity, social justice and civic responsibility. Tony Judt is right in arguing that we have entered a historical conjuncture in which politics is losing its shape, its power of attraction and its ability to confront the anti-democratic pressures at work in American society today.28

Opposing this contemporary, cruel form of authoritarianism demands a new language for embracing the social, for defining civic engagement, for rethinking the meaning of agency and politics and for talking about social responsibility. Rethinking the social means, in part, embracing the role of the state in providing regulations that limit the power of corporations and the financial service industries. It means reconfiguring the very nature of power in order to subordinate capitalism’s major structuring institutions to the rule of law, democratic values and the precepts of justice and equality. The state is not merely an instrument of governance, it is also a site where organized irresponsibility has to give way to organized responsibility, where ethics cannot be privatized and separated from economic considerations, where the rule of law cannot be used to produce legal illegalities and where politics becomes inseparable from the claims of justice, equality and freedom. This suggests the need for social movements to organize and fight for modes of sovereignty at all levels of government in which people, rather than money and corporations, shape the nature of politics, policies and cultural apparatuses that provide the public values that nourish critical modes of citizenship and democracy itself.

The Roles of Critical Education and Collective Struggle in Taking Back Democracy

At stake here is not merely a call for reform but a revolutionary ideal that enables people to hold power, participate in the process of governing and create genuine publics capable of translating private troubles and issues into public problems. This is a revolution that not only calls for structural change but for a transformation in the ways in which subjectivities are created, desires are produced and agency itself becomes crucial to any viable notion of freedom. There is a pedagogical element to a rethinking of the political that has often been ignored by progressives of various political persuasions and that is the necessity to make pedagogy itself central to the very meaning of politics. In this case, it is not enough to demand that people be provided with the right to participate in the experience of governing, but also educated in every aspect of what it means to live in a democracy. At the very least, this suggests an education that enables a working knowledge of citizen-based skills and the development of those capacities that encourage individuals to be self-reflective, develop a passion for public values and be willing to develop and defend those public spaces that lift ideas into the worldly space of the public realm.29

The philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis surely is right in insisting that we must take seriously the political task of creating those diverse public spheres which are capable of rendering all individuals fit to participate in the governing of society, willing to promote the common good and engage the social within a broader political and theoretical landscape, one not tied to the priority of economic interests and an endlessly commodifying market-driven social order. 30Politics demands an informed citizenry, which can only be produced collectively through the existence of public spheres that give meaning to their struggles and fight for justice, economic rights and human dignity. In that sense, any viable struggle against the new authoritarianism in the United States might start with Castoriadis’ insistence that any viable form of politics begins with creating formative cultures and public spheres in which critical education in the broadest sense becomes essential to the very meaning of justice, social responsibility, and democracy.

For Castoriadis, at the heart of such formative cultures are operative forms of public pedagogy that create citizens “who are critical thinkers capable of putting existing institutions into question so that democracy” can be nourished and sustained.31 As a moral and political practice, pedagogy becomes productive of what knowledge, values, and identities are produced in a particular society. Similarly, it becomes a determining factor in creating a society willing to both question itself and struggle for those ideals that give meaning and substance to the promise of a substantive democracy.

Against the dystopian visions that drive the new extremism, there is a need for teachers, workers, artists, students, young people, academics and others to produce a language of critique, provocation and possibility. This is a discourse of civic engagement that embraces politics, in part, as a pedagogical practice organized around what I have in the past labeled as educated hope. Educated hope sharpens the “ethopolitical” instrument and “operates at the root of where the ethical imagination and the political mingle.”32 Educated hope signals the merging of civic education and democratic action as part of a broader attempt to enable young people and others to critically analyze and transform those values, ideologies and market-driven politics that produce a growing machinery and register of widespread inequality and social death. It suggests creating a new language and order of symbolic relations so as to understand the past as well as the dynamics of the present and the future.

Educators, progressives, and civic-minded citizens need a language that puts justice back into the regressive culture of cost-benefit analyses and rejects the civic vacuum created by the extremist apostles of casino capitalism. We also need a language that is vigilant about where democratic identities are not only produced but also where forms of social agency are denied. Those concerned about the fate of justice and democracy also need to reconfigure the political order in order to create relations of power that are capable of controlling the increasing separation of politics, which are nation-based and local, from the exercise of power, which is now global and unrestrained by the politics of the nation-state. Power is now global while politics is local. What this means is that globalization has cut economic and military power free from its traditional political shackles exercised by the nation state and allows it to roam unhindered throughout the globe. The traditional merging of power and politics has been broken and as Bauman points out, “We may say that power has ‘flown’ from the historically developed institutions that used to exercise democratic control over uses and abuses of power in the modern nation-states. Globalization in its current form means a progressive disempowerment of nation-states and (so far) the absence of any effective substitute.”33

Consequently, resistance to the new extremism in the United States must be addressed as part of a broader global struggle, built on strong political and civic commitments and forms of solidarity that are local and internationalist in nature. Beyond critique, any viable challenge must rethink what Jacques Derrida has called the concepts of “the possible and impossible.”34 Thinking beyond the given involves constructing new narratives regarding the stories we tell about ourselves, about the future and the promise of a democracy to come.

A language of critique and educated hope suggests a new and spirited struggle against a culture of civic illiteracy, one in which the commanding institutions of society are divorced from matters of ethics, social responsibility and social cost. The new extremism in American society, which attempts to make critical thinking irrelevant and render hope a paralyzing cynicism, must be challenged by a politics and pedagogy that have the capacity not only to “influence those in power” but also mobilize those who don’t have power.”35 This is a pedagogy that should “not only shift the way people think about the moment, but potentially energizes them to do something different.”36 A politics that merges critique and hope recognizes that while the idea of the good society may be weakened, it is far from an idea that can be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Yet, while the grip of an authoritarian political culture and the politics of distraction are getting stronger in American society, the current attack on democracy should be taken as a new historical opportunity to generate new collective struggles in the hopes of creating a future that refuses to be defined by the dystopian forces now shaping American society. In the aftermath of the massive suffering of produced by World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, Theodor W. Adorno in the shadow of an older form of authoritarianism refused to give up on hope as an essential condition of agency, politics and justice. He insists that: “Thinking is not the intellectual reproduction of what already exists anyway. As long as it doesn’t break off, thinking has a secure hold on possibility. Its insatiable aspect, its aversion to being quickly and easily satisfied, refuses the foolish wisdom of resignation…. Open thinking points beyond itself.”37 His words are both profound and instructive for the time in which we live because they point to the need to think beyond the given, to think beyond the distorted and market-based inverted hope now on offer from the advocates of casino capitalism.

Thinking beyond itself reinforces the notion that the job and political task of civic education is as the poet Robert Hass has written “to refresh the idea of justice which is going dead in us all the time.”38 Richard Swift builds on this notion adding that as long as there is suffering in the world, individuals and social movements need “to take responsibility for the direction of society.”39

The current talk about deficits, the debt ceiling and the cutting back of social provisions is not without value, but only if it is connected to broader anti-democratic practices and understood as posing a serious threat to a society dominated by religious and economic fundamentalists. The task now facing the American public in this moment of government deceit and civic abandonment is to think beyond the given, to recognize that we cannot act otherwise unless we can think otherwise. At stake here is the need to reconfigure the relationship between hope, community and democracy. If we are to overcome the debilitating pessimism of the current era, it is crucial to combine a reason and a sense of gritty realism with a notion of hope that taps into our deepest experiences, allowing us to take risks and think beyond the parameters of the given. Or as Alain Badiou states: “It is a matter of showing how the space of the possible is larger than the one assigned – that something else is possible, but not that everything is possible.”40 Imagining the unimaginable necessitates asking crucial questions regarding what types of knowledge, agents and moral order are necessary for a democracy to work. What will it take to connect the dots and broaden our horizon of understanding and politics in order to expand the ongoing and always unfinished business of justice, democratization, and freedom?

NOTES:

[1]
C. Wright Mills, “The Powerless People: The Role of the Intellectual in Society” in C. Wright Mills, The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills, (NY: New York, Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 18.

[2]
Ibid. C. Wright Mills, “The Powerless People: The Role of the Intellectual in Society.” p. 18. For some insightful analyses of the new authoritarianism, see Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, (Princeton University Press, 2008); Chris Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (New York: Free Press, 2008)Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, (New York, NY: The Penguin Press, 2004).

[3]
See Zygmunt Bauman, On Education (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012), p. 35.

[4]
Gerald Epstein, “Rich Should be Happy with Cliff Deal,” The Real News (January 3, 2013).

[5]
C. Wright Mills, “Culture and Politics: The Fourth Epoch”, The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills, (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 201.

[6]
Arundhati Roy, “What Have We Done to Democracy?,” Huffington Post, (September 27, 2009).

[7]
I have appropriated this idea from Roberto Esposito, Terms of the Political: Community, Imunity, Biopolitics (Fordham: Fordham University Press, 2013), pp. 100-110.

[8]
Robert Reich, “Inequality is Undermining Our Democracy,” Reader Supported News, (December 11, 2012).

[9]
Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem,” The Washington Post, (April 27, 2012).

[10]
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., “A Hostile Takeover of Our Country,” Reader Supported News, (October 29, 2012).

[11]
Richard D. Wolff, “Fiscal Cliff Follies: Political Theater Distracts From Key Problems With the Fix,” Truthout, (January 3, 2013).

[12]
For the most extensive and exhaustive history on the technology of torture, see Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007). Some of the more instructive books on torture under the George W. Bush administration include: Mark Danner, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror (New York: New York Review of Books, 2004); Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (New York: Doubleday, 2008); and Phillipe Sands, Torture Team (London: Penguin, 2009). On the torture of children, see Michael Haas, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009). See, for instance, Alex Kane, “5 Ways President Obama Has Doubled Down on Bush’s Most Tragic Mistakes,” AlterNet (January 8, 2103). Salvatore Babones, “There Is No American Left,” Truthout, (December 27, 2012). Online:

Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, (Princeton University Press, 2008); Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, (New York, NY: The Penguin Press, 2004).

[13]
Glenn Greenwald, “Extremism Normalized: How Americans Now Acquiesce to Once Unthinkable Ideas,” Salon (July 31, 2012).

[14]
Robert W. McChesney, “This Isn’t What Democracy Looks like,” Monthly Review 64:6 (2012), p. 2.

[15]
Michael Hudson, “The Financial Elite’s war Against the US Economy,” CommonDreams.Org (December 31, 2012).

[16]
George Lakoff and Glenn W. G Smith, “Romney, Ryan and the Devil’s Budget,” Reader Supported News, (August 22, 2012).

[17]
Editor, “75 Economic Numbers From 2012 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe,” The Economic Collapse Blog (December 20, 2012).

[18]
All of these quotes come from John Clarke, “Subordinating the Social?:Neoliberalism and the remaking of welfare capitalism ,” Cultural Studies, Vol. 21, No. 6, (November 2007), pp. 974-987

[19]
John Clarke, “Governing the social?,” Cultural Studies, Vol. 21, No. 6,( November 2007), p. 996.

[20]
Zygmunt Bauman, This is Not a Diary (Cambridge: UK: Polity Press, 2012), p. 86-87.

[21]
Ibid, Clarke, “Subordinating the Social?: Neoliberalism and the remaking of welfare capitalism,” p. 977.

[22]
Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp.2-3.

[23] Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk, “Introduction”, in Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk, eds. Evil Paradises (NY: The New Press, 2007), p.x.

[24]
Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land, (New York, N.Y.: The Penguin Press, 2010).

[25]
Zygmunt Bauman, On Education, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012), p.129.

[26]
Robert O. Self, “The Antisocial Contract,” New York Times (August 25, 2012).

[27]
Tony Judt, “I am not pessimistic in the very long run,” The Independent, (March 24, 2010)

[28] Ibid.

[29]
Edward Said is particularly helpful on this issue. See, for instance, Representations of the Intellectual (New York: Vintage, 1996) and Humanism and Democratic Criticism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

[30]
Cornelius Castoriadis, “The Problem of Democracy Today,” Democracy and Nature Vol. 8 (April 1996), pp. 18-35.

[31]
Cornelius Castoriadis, “Democracy as Procedure and Democracy as Regime,” Constellations 4:1 (1997), p. 10.

[32]
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Changing Reflexes: Interview with Gayatri Chaakravorty Spivak,” Works and Days 55/56: Vol. 28 (2010), p. 2.

[33]
Zygmunt Bauman, Does Ethics Have a Chance in a World of Consumers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), p. 73.

[34
Jacques Derrida, “The Future of the Profession or the Unconditional University,” in Laurence Simmons and Heather Worth, eds. Derrida Downunder (Auckland, New Zealand: Dunmore Press, 2001), p. 7.

[35]
A Conversation between Lani Guinier and Anna Deavere Smith, ” Rethinking Power, Rethinking Theater,” Theater 31:3 (Winter 2002),P. 3.

[36]
Ibid.

[37]
Theodor W. Adorno, Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), pp. 291-292

[38]
Robert Hass cited in Sarah Pollock, ‘Robert Hass,” Mother Jones (March/April, 1992), p. 22

[39]
Richard Swift, The No-Nonsense Guide to Democracy (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2002), p. 138.

[40]
Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil (London: Verso, 1998), p. 116

 

Turning A Blind Eye To Catastrophic Truths In The Age Of Unreality

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Oldspeak:Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures . . . they may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities. George Gerbner  Fear. It is a powerful motivator. It is a powerful captor.  It drives us to greatness & calamity.  It captivates us with ubiquitous illusions of safety, stability & sanity. It plays an essential and ironically unseen part in our refusal to see truths like those imparted by Osho – ‎”Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.” We’ve been socially engineered to not see that which is. To not think, just react. To avoid all that is real. This engineering has one fatal flaw. It has not taken into account the unavoidability of reality and the natural world we are a part of.  It it only a matter of time before we are no longer able to turn blind eyes to catastrophic truths.” “”Ignorance Is Strength”

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artists, writers, poets, activists, journalists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster. Members of this intellectual and artistic class, who are usually not welcome in the stultifying halls of academia where mediocrity is triumphant, serve as prophets. They are dismissed, or labeled by the power elites as subversive, because they do not embrace collective self-worship. They force us to confront unexamined assumptions, ones that, if not challenged, lead to destruction. They expose the ruling elites as hollow and corrupt. They articulate the senselessness of a system built on the ideology of endless growth, ceaseless exploitation and constant expansion. They warn us about the poison of careerism and the futility of the search for happiness in the accumulation of wealth. They make us face ourselves, from the bitter reality of slavery and Jim Crow to the genocidal slaughter of Native Americans to the repression of working-class movements to the atrocities carried out in imperial wars to the assault on the ecosystem. They make us unsure of our virtue. They challenge the easy clichés we use to describe the nation—the land of the free, the greatest country on earth, the beacon of liberty—to expose our darkness, crimes and ignorance. They offer the possibility of a life of meaning and the capacity for transformation.

Human societies see what they want to see. They create national myths of identity out of a composite of historical events and fantasy. They ignore unpleasant facts that intrude on self-glorification. They trust naively in the notion of linear progress and in assured national dominance. This is what nationalism is about—lies. And if a culture loses its ability for thought and expression, if it effectively silences dissident voices, if it retreats into what Sigmund Freud called “screen memories,” those reassuring mixtures of fact and fiction, it dies. It surrenders its internal mechanism for puncturing self-delusion. It makes war on beauty and truth. It abolishes the sacred. It turns education into vocational training. It leaves us blind. And this is what has occurred. We are lost at sea in a great tempest. We do not know where we are. We do not know where we are going. And we do not know what is about to happen to us.

The psychoanalyst John Steiner calls this phenomenon “turning a blind eye.” He notes that often we have access to adequate knowledge but because it is unpleasant and disconcerting we choose unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, to ignore it. He uses the Oedipus story to make his point. He argued that Oedipus, Jocasta, Creon and the “blind” Tiresias grasped the truth, that Oedipus had killed his father and married his mother as prophesized, but they colluded to ignore it. We too, Steiner wrote, turn a blind eye to the dangers that confront us, despite the plethora of evidence that if we do not radically reconfigure our relationships to each other and the natural world, catastrophe is assured. Steiner describes a psychological truth that is deeply frightening.

I saw this collective capacity for self-delusion among the urban elites in Sarajevo and later Pristina during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. These educated elites steadfastly refused to believe that war was possible although acts of violence by competing armed bands had already begun to tear at the social fabric. At night you could hear gunfire. But they were the last to “know.” And we are equally self-deluded. The physical evidence of national decay—the crumbling infrastructures, the abandoned factories and other workplaces, the rows of gutted warehouses, the closure of libraries, schools, fire stations and post offices—that we physically see, is, in fact, unseen. The rapid and terrifying deterioration of the ecosystem, evidenced in soaring temperatures, droughts, floods, crop destruction, freak storms, melting ice caps and rising sea levels, are met blankly with Steiner’s “blind eye.”

Oedipus, at the end of Sophocles’ play, cuts out his eyes and with his daughter Antigone as a guide wanders the countryside. Once king, he becomes a stranger in a strange country. He dies, in Antigone’s words, “in a foreign land, but one he yearned for.”

William Shakespeare in “King Lear” plays on the same theme of sight and sightlessness. Those with eyes in “King Lear” are unable to see. Gloucester, whose eyes are gouged out, finds in his blindness a revealed truth. “I have no way, and therefore want no eyes,” Gloucester says after he is blinded. “I stumbled when I saw.” When Lear banishes his only loyal daughter, Cordelia, whom he accuses of not loving him enough, he shouts: “Out of my sight!” To which Kent replies:

See better, Lear, and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.

The story of Lear, like the story of Oedipus, is about the attainment of this inner vision. It is about morality and intellect that are blinded by empiricism and sight. It is about understanding that the human imagination is, as William Blake saw, our manifestation of Eternity. “Love without imagination is eternal death.”

The Shakespearean scholar Harold Goddard wrote: “The imagination is not a faculty for the creation of illusion; it is the faculty by which alone man apprehends reality. The ‘illusion’ turns out to be truth.” “Let faith oust fact,” Starbuck says in “Moby-Dick.”

“It is only our absurd ‘scientific’ prejudice that reality must be physical and rational that blinds us to the truth,” Goddard warned. There are, as Shakespeare wrote, “things invisible to mortal sight.” But these things are not vocational or factual or empirical. They are not found in national myths of glory and power. They are not attained by force. They do not come through cognition or logical reasoning. They are intangible. They are the realities of beauty, grief, love, the search for meaning, the struggle to face our own mortality and the ability to face truth. And cultures that disregard these forces of imagination commit suicide. They cannot see.

“How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,” Shakespeare wrote, “Whose action is no stronger than a flower?” Human imagination, the capacity to have vision, to build a life of meaning rather than utilitarianism, is as delicate as a flower. And if it is crushed, if a Shakespeare or a Sophocles is no longer deemed useful in the empirical world of business, careerism and corporate power, if universities think a Milton Friedman or a Friedrich Hayek is more important to its students than a Virginia Woolf or an Anton Chekhov, then we become barbarians. We assure our own extinction. Students who are denied the wisdom of the great oracles of human civilization—visionaries who urge us not to worship ourselves, not to kneel before the base human emotion of greed—cannot be educated. They cannot think.

To think, we must, as Epicurus understood, “live in hiding.” We must build walls to keep out the cant and noise of the crowd. We must retreat into a print-based culture where ideas are not deformed into sound bites and thought-terminating clichés. Thinking is, as Hannah Arendt wrote, “a soundless dialogue between me and myself.” But thinking, she wrote, always presupposes the human condition of plurality. It has no utilitarian function. It is not an end or an aim outside of itself. It is different from logical reasoning, which is focused on a finite and identifiable goal. Logical reason, acts of cognition, serve the efficiency of a system, including corporate power, which is usually morally neutral at best, and often evil. The inability to think, Arendt wrote, “is not a failing of the many who lack brain power but an ever-present possibility for everybody—scientists, scholars, and other specialists in mental enterprises not excluded.”

Our corporate culture has effectively severed us from human imagination. Our electronic devices intrude deeper and deeper into spaces that were once reserved for solitude, reflection and privacy. Our airwaves are filled with the tawdry and the absurd. Our systems of education and communication scorn the disciplines that allow us to see. We celebrate prosaic vocational skills and the ridiculous requirements of standardized tests. We have tossed those who think, including many teachers of the humanities, into a wilderness where they cannot find employment, remuneration or a voice. We follow the blind over the cliff. We make war on ourselves.

The vital importance of thought, Arendt wrote, is apparent only “in times of transition when men no longer rely on the stability of the world and their role in it, and when the question concerning the general conditions of human life, which as such are properly coeval with the appearance of man on earth, gain an uncommon poignancy.” We never need our thinkers and artists more than in times of crisis, as Arendt reminds us, for they provide the subversive narratives that allow us to chart a new course, one that can assure our survival.

“What must I do to win salvation?” Dimitri asks Starov in “The Brothers Karamazov,” to which Starov answers: “Above all else, never lie to yourself.”

And here is the dilemma we face as a civilization. We march collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to us. We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction. If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible. It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Why Do We Live In A World That’s Petrified Of Women Who Love Sex?

In Uncategorized on March 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Oldspeak:Men are expected to be constantly-horny fuckbeasts, and women are expected to not want sex all that much, but trade it for things they do want, like trinkets, cuddling, and babies. This ugly idea that women are the gatekeepers of sex, doling it out carefully as a reward, the entire conception behind “sexual economy” nonsense and most misogynist conceptions of women: made up by the church 400 years ago…. Women who are afraid to give enthusiastic consent because they don’t want to be seen as one of those women, those rare freaks who really like to fuck, those awful sluts. Unable to ask for what they want or even admit how much they want it, they end up feeding the same kinds of thinking, the same stereotypes, the same ugly behaviors. Lacking the freedom to say yes, they lose the ability to say no, leading to a terrible and all-too-common outcome: a woman who wanted to fool around a bit with a guy, but didn’t want things to go as far as they did, and now she isn’t sure if it was wrong, because if she wanted something, she must have wanted everything, right? There’s no middle ground in the virgin/whore dichotomy.” –Noah Brand Unbridled patriarchy is a hell of a thing. Women are having their genitals removed, their vaginas sewn shut, physically and psychologically abused and made to feel like whores and sluts for expressing their sexuality. Why? Why is our culture dominated by disdain for the wonderful perpetuators of our species?

By Noah Brand @ The Good Men Project:

I recently came across an interesting post about a very interesting study concerning high-libido women. It was striking for me how much it resonated with my own experiences as a high-libido man, and very revealing in how it differed.

The study talks about how the women interviewed all described needing multiple relationships to be sexually satisfied, and I thought “Whoo, I know how that is.” It’s not practical for me to ask any one woman to be everything I want in a lover, so I stopped trying ten years ago. Polyamory has proven to be a much better fit for me emotionally and sexually. The study also talks about high-libido women consciously organizing their lives around sex to some degree, and again I thought “Oh yeah, right there with you.” I prioritize nookie over some things other folks might consider more important, and when I think about the things I consider successes in my own life, getting laid a lot tends to be near the top of the list.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say. My culture tells me I’m supposed to like sex, supposed to make it a high priority, indeed supposed to define my worth as a person by it. I’m a man, after all. The study also talks about very sexual women having to fight slut-shaming, both internal and external, and having to deal with a culture that wants to pretend they don’t exist. These are not problems I have as a very sexual man. One of the perks of male privilege, I guess.

Except that like all privilege, it’s got the fucked-up dark side. Yeah, I get validated by mainstream American culture, because I largely fit the stereotype of the horny dude. What about low-libido guys? They get erased and denied as much as high-libido women do, to say nothing of asexual folks. A guy who would rather finish his homework than fuck is basically flat-out told that he’s not a real man. That’s not cool, and it can’t be good for anyone’s GPA.

Hell, there have been occasions when I’ve told a sexual partner that I wasn’t in the mood. Of course, as a guy who questions gender assumptions and thinks deeply about these issues and so on, I was totally cool with saying that to them.

Nah, just kidding. It was awful. It was wrenching. I literally spent a lot of time trying to think of any alternative or excuse I could offer other than “I’m not in the mood,” and when I did say it, I felt like a failure. It felt like an admission of something shameful. I very keenly felt the idea that I had failed as a man by having one evening where I wasn’t wildly horny. And that’s going into it knowing that this stuff is bullshit.

So that’s the situation with regard to high-libido folks: horny men and horny women have, in my experience, a lot in common in terms of desires and lifestyles. However, we both deal with the same cultural shit that damages and constrains us in different ways. Not trying to say those ways are perfectly symmetrical or equivalent, just that I’m as validated by the current system as anyone is likely to be, and I still get mindfucked by cultural expectations.

Of course, assumptions about male libido, as godawful as they are, pale in comparison to the incredibly creepy cultural ideas about female libido. One of the earliest known postclassical joke books is the 15th-centuryFacetiae of Poggio, in which we find the following anecdote, presented in the painfully stiff English translation:

A woman who was once asked by a man, why, if the pleasure of cohabitation was equal for both sexes, it was generally the men who pursued and importuned the women rather than vice-versa, replied:
“It is a very wise custom that compels the men to take the initiative. For it is certain that we women are always ready for sex; not so you men, however. And we should therefore be soliciting the men in vain, if they happened to be not in the proper condition for it.”

Somewhat later, in the first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, we find this bit, described thus in the DVD package for those who don’t want to watch the video:

Larry is drifting off when Cheryl asks him, “Why am I the one that always has to initiate sex?” Larry explains that he’s always available, and all Cheryl has to do is tap him on the shoulder. Otherwise, he tells her, “I’ll just be mauling you all the time.”

In other words, it is the exact same joke, but the genders have been reversed. (Also, the original version had a perfectly good boner joke, but 21st-century assumptions are forced to omit it. This is not a net gain, from a comedy-writing standpoint.) What the hell happened between the 15th century and the 21st?

Okay, admittedly, several things happened. But the one we’re concerned with is that women’s libidos went from being considered as powerful or more so than men’s to being essentially erased. Pre-Renaissance examples of horny ladies abound, from the Greeks onward: make your own list, but do include Chaucer. He’s such fun. This change in attitudes appears to have been religiously motivated, and based on the idea that women are more spiritual and sacred than men, meaning “less horny.” Again, make your own list of contemporary leftovers of this attitude: there are plenty.

By the 18th century, it was taken as read that a woman who did experience (or at least express) sexual desire was suffering from a disorder. One important 1775 study of the subject linked the problem to “secret pollutions,” i.e. wanking, and (I swear I am not making this up) eating too much chocolate. I guess that’d go a ways toward explaining this advertisement. Women were diagnosed with, treated for, and often operated upon for “nymphomania,” the dread condition that causes a woman to want sex. (Talk to your doctor; you may suffer from it yourself!) And yes, by “operated upon”, I mean clitoridectomy. And yes, that’s fucking appalling.

Now, this is not an attempt to draw an equivalency, but I for one can’t help thinking of drapetomania, a disease discovered in the antebellum South which causes slaves to want to escape. It sounds like a tasteless joke now, but back then, it was the subject of serious research. In both cases, we’ve got authority telling people how they’re supposed to live, and then labeling any desire not to live that way as a mental illness. Again, not saying women’s libidos are the same issue as slavery, but there’s a structural analogy between the two “diseases.”

So yeah, this ugly idea that women are the gatekeepers of sex, doling it out carefully as a reward, the entire conception behind “sexual economy” nonsense and most misogynist conceptions of women: made up by the church 400 years ago. Total construction, and a relatively recent one at that. Commence dismantling all worldviews and Cosmopolitan articles predicated on it, please.

So, those are the two gross, ruinously fucked-up stereotypes we’ve got: men are expected to be constantly-horny fuckbeasts, and women are expected to not want sex all that much, but trade it for things they do want, like trinkets, cuddling, and babies. Both of these are wrong, but they remain insanely prevalent.

Take, for example, the “porn for women” joke done both by 30 Rock and the utterly godawful Porn For Womenseries of books, calendars, and assorted junk. The joke here is that women don’t want men to have sex with them, they want men to do housework, listen to their tedious female jabbering, and explicitly promise not to fuck them. So since women hate sex, porn for women should depict no sex whatsoever! Tee-hee!

In the real goddamn world, porn for women looks nothing like the joke. The two examples linked are all about images of hot men, but as the late, lamented On Our Backs demonstrated, lesbian porn for women is also hot and joyous. The disconnect between the joke and the reality is too wide to be funny.

We live in a world where yaoi manga sells too fast to be kept on the shelves, where slash fiction is one of the largest gift economies on earth, where romance novels comprise fifty percent of all paperback book sales, and we’re told women don’t like porn. Some of you may think romance novels aren’t porn. I suggest you read one. That’s how deeply invested our culture has become in the women-don’t-like-sex lie. We have to throw out basically all of the data to make that theory fit, so we blithely do just that.

This grotesque misrepresentation of women’s experience has, with the usual cruel duality of gender stereotypes, created a terrible problem for men. Because straight or bi men want to have sex with women. That’s… kind of the definition, really. We are told, however, that women don’t want sex. Thus, those of us who desire women must believe that we our desire is unwelcome, barely tolerated, and kind of gross. It’s like being biologically driven to fart in crowded elevators.

This, of course, feeds rape culture. Because after all, if there is no situation where any woman genuinely wantssex, then having sex with women who don’t want it… well, that’s just how it works, isn’t it? So if you have to trick her or get her insensibly drunk or lie to her or ignore all the times she says no… that’s basically how everyone does it, right? And there we start down the road of a lot of rape apologists, the “I’m entitled to sex, and women dole out sex as a rationed commodity, so if I rape a woman that’s basically like a starving man stealing bread” theory. I trust I don’t have to explain to anyone reading this how impossibly fucked up that line of thinking is. Short explanation: REALLY fucked up.

The other rape-apologist meme that arises out of this set of cultural assumptions is “Men always want sex, so they can’t help themselves.” Geez, your honor, she shouldn’t have tempted my urges like that. You shouldn’t dress that way because you know what men are like. If you dangle meat in front of the animal cage, don’t act surprised at what happens. You’ve heard these lines. They’re a perfect example of dual-direction ugliness, as they reduce men to animals and blame rape victims for the crimes committed against them. That’s horrible coming and going.

Male rape victims being mocked or disbelieved, or simply afraid to come forward? Arises from the same shit. Because after all, how could he say he didn’t want sex, when everyone knows all men constantly want sex? It’s on simply every sitcom! These poor guys may even tell themselves they must have wanted it, it couldn’t have been rape, because they’re normal healthy guys, right, so they couldn’t have not wanted sex. People will go a long way to rationalize something if it means finding a way to live with it.

The libido meme feeds the same culture from yet another angle too, with women who are afraid to give enthusiastic consent because they don’t want to be seen as one of those women, those rare freaks who really like to fuck, those awful sluts. Unable to ask for what they want or even admit how much they want it, they end up feeding the same kinds of thinking, the same stereotypes, the same ugly behaviors. Lacking the freedom to say yes, they lose the ability to say no, leading to a terrible and all-too-common outcome: a woman who wanted to fool around a bit with a guy, but didn’t want things to go as far as they did, and now she isn’t sure if it was wrong, because if she wanted something, she must have wanted everything, right? There’s no middle ground in the virgin/whore dichotomy.

High-libido women may not get caustic agents up their ladybusiness any more, as was a popular 19th-century treatment for “nymphomania”, but they still get slut-shamed for being on the wrong side of that same old dichotomy. Being told that only sluts and whores want what they want may lead them to decide “Okay, I’m a slutty whore” and behave according to what they think that means. This can lead to a lot of bad and painful choices, when thinking “I’m a woman who likes plenty of sex” might have led to some better ones.

Then, too, there are the low-libido fellas, the guys for whom fucking just isn’t that high a priority. They’re told that they don’t exist, that they’re not men, that their experience is either mythical or deeply wrong. A lot of these guys will try to have sex just to prove that they’re “normal,” and being driven by a desperate need to fit in, rather than by their own natural urges, may lead them to make bad choices. Maybe they’ll hurt themselves with those choices. Maybe they’ll hurt someone else. Maybe they won’t hurt anyone, just feel lonely and freakish and wrong their whole lives. None of these outcomes are okay.

The way we think about libido in our culture now is deeply broken. It involves denying the experience of damn near every person alive, everyone who doesn’t fit into a binary men-horny/women-not framework, and since human experience falls into a spectrum far more subtle and complex than that, that’s everyone. Feminism has made a good start on helping women embrace their sexuality in a healthy way, as some of our blog friends are living exemplars of, but that’s only a start. We have a lot of work yet to do.

Noah Brand is an author, editor, raconteur, and man-about-town.

© 2012 The Good Men Project All rights reserved.