Monday, October 14, 2019

Goal of the Day

My goal of the day is something I heard the late philosopher Rick Roderick say,

"To have strongly held beliefs but to recognize that my beliefs may be wrong."

I can articulate a fairly coherent explanation for how the United States came to be in it's current state. In essence those with power used that power to consolidate and increase their power.

As a believer in a mixed-economy, sometimes called embedded liberalism, I would propose that consolidation of political power in the hands of a wealthy few is detrimental to the average citizen and a precursor to a totalitarian, possibly fascistic, state. I may very well be wrong either about particulars or in my general thesis.

If you are a subscriber to voodoo economics, trickle down theory or the Laffer curve - consolidating money and power in the hands of a few is a good thing. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher promoted an ideology that led the United States (and parts of Western Europe) to where we find ourselves today.

If you are curious, and have a few hours, these three videos on NeoLiberalism and one on Facism are a good history lesson for what lead us to where we are in 2019. From what I can tell it took the young person who made those videos two years to complete them so he's done us quite favor.

By all means exercise your God-given right to think for yourself. Consult as many sources as you can - make up your own mind on what to believe. I think you will find that the world is incredibly complex and a non-thinking faith in a party or ideology will create more problems than it will solve.

Harold Bloom had a humorous take on being skeptical when he wrote,
"I am your true Marxist critic, following Groucho rather than Karl, and take as my motto Groucho’s grand admonition, ‘Whatever it is, I’m against it.’"

I've been thinking about where our "faith" in dysfunctional government policies and parties originates.  I think it may trace back a couple of thousand years to the origins of Buddhism and Christianity - or what I'd call a general Eastern vs. Western way of thinking.

The Dalai Lhama says Buddhism is a pragmatic religion that utilizes logic and the scientific method. If some precept of Buddhism doesn't work for you or for society there is no reason to follow that precept.

Christianity in it's myriad forms has one central claim - the one and only truth. Even though the various Christian sects hold what are sometimes antithetical beliefs they each have faith that theirs is the one and only truth. If those truths happen to be detrimental to you as an individual or society as a whole - that's the way God intended it. A similar argument could be made for other patriarchal religions.

Our Judeo-Christian country incorporated that religious need to believe, to have faith, even when all evidence points to the contrary - into our politics. As mainstream religions lose adherents we see people who take all the energy that used to go into religious fervor and apply it to the political realm. We end up with "strict constructionists" who tell us the constitution - prevents us from addressing the gun death epidemic or the takeover of government by the ultra-wealthy via dark money. We end up with "conservatives" who tell us the bible makes it a requirement that women give up control of their own bodies and subjugate themselves to men; that we allow the state to kill and that humans with different sexual orientation are sinners (who we may profess to love but who will suffer eternal damnation for their sin).

Predictions are hard especially when it comes to the future. It seems to me that we have a battle between searching for truth, or having blind faith in a party, person or ideology. Searching for truth is hard as are all worthwhile things. Having blind faith in a party, person or ideology is easy but ultimately devastating to the individual. People willing to give up their individuality make up some of the most damaging mass movements in history. Generally there is some sort of precipitating factor that energizes the movement to action.


The great recession of 2008 worked out fine for the banks and financial institutions but around 10 million Americans lost their homes. Combine this with the gentrification of some cities and the crumbling of others and it's not hard to see why there are so many homeless people. Given the stagnation of wages, loss of manufacturing jobs, decline of schools, out of control costs of health care, dying planet and rampart addiction it's not hard to see why there are a significant number of Americans who are afraid, hurt and angry. Only a complete failure of imagination could possibly allow one to not see this.

People who are afraid, hurting and angry are prime targets for a demagogue willing to tell them what they want to hear irrespective of reality. Some would argue that keeping people afraid, hurting and angry is part of the plan by the powerful to retain and grow power. The rhetoric and propaganda pushed by Fox and Friends, Hannity, Limbaugh, Ingraham, Savage etal. makes this clear when viewed from a non-ideological non-true-believer frame of reference.

In order to understand my concern a person needs to understand the  context in which I write this. If you are too busy or not interested in following the radical right shouters on TV or radio then you have no clue what I'm trying to say. Listen to or watch the ones I've mentioned and if your head doesn't explode from the misinformation, disinformation, hatred and "othering" of libs, Dems, Socialists, feminists, coastal elites, women, immigrants, people of color and academics you will begin to realize something quite dangerous is being done to persuade people, to change public opinion, to set up an enemy/friend scenario - all in order to retain and grow power for the powerful. It's hard. but you have to listen or watch for awhile to get the full effect - it's quite disorienting, depressing, and maddening as you start to see what billionaires are paying millionaires to say about your fellow citizens, in order to maintain and grow the wealthy elites power.

One thing I can guarantee you is that if you do listen to the shouters you will never hear them say, "I have strongly held beliefs but I realize my beliefs may be wrong." It's all binary for the shouters - good/bad, enemy/friend, lib/conservative are all groups of perfectly homogeneous people sharing the same all good or all bad set of beliefs. Completely ridiculous but enthralling if you are looking for someone to blame for dissatisfaction with your own life and or failure of our government to serve the people.

Given we have a demagogue in office currently it becomes a guessing game to see what path this particular mass movement will take.

I'm (as always) betting on the good guys (and gals).