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DirkGently

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Orlando
Home country: USA
Current location: Holistically detecting
Member since: Wed Jan 27, 2010, 03:59 PM
Number of posts: 10,341

Journal Archives

Authoritarianism vs. Empathy.

What's weird about Jesus' message (and he never told anyone they were going to hell for not believing in him, by the way; that was the Catholic Church much later) is that it is largely at odds with the attitudes of the Old Testament. Love, forgiveness, and his No. 1 hit, "Do unto others," which is essentially a call for empathy, were not at all in the Yahweh style.

If you look at what American Christian conservatives draw on for religious support of their typically harsh, cruel and intolerant views, they are Old Testament all the way. Creationism, subjugation of women, condemnation of homosexuality; "eye for an eye" vengeance. Yahweh was the embodiment of the views of a harsh, warlike tribe.

Jesus, whether a deity, a man, or a work of fiction, helped the poor, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and asked people who had been wronged to turn the other cheek. When MLK and other civil rights leaders spoke about non-violent resistance, they were drawing on Jesus' command to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you;" not the "Death to the first-born of your oppressors" god of the Old Testament. Racists and slavers argued from the Old Testament. Something about non-whites bearing the "mark of Cain." And Yahweh allowed selling your daughters into slavery of course.

These two paradigms are in direct opposition, and are embraced and interpreted in modern American politics. Christian conservatives worship an angry, vengeful Lord who demands intense cultural conformity. Liberals and more moderate Christians talk about tolerance and being their "brother's keeper."

Moreover, these two views are part of the cognitive dissonance of American Christian conservatives is that they claim to embrace the modernistic, tolerant views of Jesus, but in practice always return to angry Yahweh, who sent plagues to his people's enemies and demanded death for everyone from lazy churchgoers to unchaste women to unruly children.

American Christian conservatives would nail anyone talking about loving their neighbors or feeding the poor and healing the sick (for free!) to the nearest tree immediately.

Yes. People make and change laws every day.

Usually we do that because we see something that needs to change. Laws are things we make and change and unmake all the time.

Yes, we have a Constitution in this country, which outlines principles and rights and to some extent circumscribes what laws we can and cannot make. The Constitution is also a law made by people, and as such is constantly interpreted and re-interpreted. It can also be changed and has been several times.

A problem arises when people think something they hold dear is some kind of mandate from God. America is not a theocracy. We have laws -- including the Constitution -- based on what we all think is right. We have notions of individual rights, but we reconsider them constantly. We have changed and re-arranged those rights many times.

"We" once thought people could own other people. That women couldn't vote. That alcohol should be banned nationwide. All of these things were upheld as "legal" and Constitutional.

Now they aren't.

Food for thought?

That's more an argument for evil, isn't it?

I don't know if this was meant ironically? Sorry, the link is blocked for me, so I can't see where the rest of the essay goes.

You can't rise and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom they provide and then question the way they provide it, okay?


But that's not Orwell. It's a bit from Jack Nicholson's entitled, amoral, fascist tirade from a A Few Good Men, wherein he tried to justify having a recruit tortured to death for incompetence on the theory that no one can question anything done in the name of "guarding the walls."

This is the mistake Republicans and other zero-sum thinkers make routinely. It's why they want torture programs and spying on political enemies and journalists. It's why they make up false arguments for war, no matter what price the rest of us pay for it. It's why Cheney bragged about "going to the dark side."

The "dark side" doesn't actually work, in the long run. Sure, you can pull a few things off in the short run with brutality, ruthlessness, callousness, and cruelty. You can make a few people afraid for a while and get them to shut up or go away.

But then comes the backlash. The sons and daughters grow up thinking of nothing but revenge. No one trusts your word, because you have proven yourself cynical and ruthless. You can't build anything or cooperate with anyone. You can only dominate briefly through brute force before it all turns to shit because evil doesn't actually work.

We don't need the kind of would-be "protectors" who brag about the people they've killed and cultivate the identity of being a scary bad-ass.

When we fight, we do it without malice and without taking joy or pride in inflicting destruction. We do it because we must, only because we must, only as much as we must. People -- even those who have really 'been there' -- who think war or violence is a strutting game of counting coup aren't actually very good at defending anything. They only know how to destroy, because they don't understand what fighting is actually for.

So, yes, we judge, even when roughness and violence are involved. We call it honor or ethics or just plain intelligence. Those in a rush to justify dumping all of those things out of "necessity" don't really understand the world, and don't believe in the values they exhort us to jettison in the first place. They are embracing evil, and they will lose.

If we allow them to represent us, we will lose as well.

We keep ignoring the forest for the trees.


Increasingly, it seems like a part of the diametric division we have in our culture is deciding whether problems -- like "terrorism" -- are due to individual bad people or a situational dynamic. That dictates how we address the problem, and so far we're not doing well.

At heart, all of this "stuff" is just another resource / territory contest, isn't it? The West interferes with the Middle East for strategic reasons -- largely oil but also control of certain ports in that part of the world. The response in that part of the world has been the rise of radical Islam -- take away all the Western interference, and what support does it have?

But once things get nasty, everything gets characterized on the basis of whatever horrendous thing happened last. Sure, we annihilated hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, but then those guys cut that man's head off, so let's go back and do it again. And again ...

What's more, all of this has become a business for the combatants on both sides. McCain / Cheney et al. apparently get paid by the bullet or by the American body bag, so they will beat the drums of war at every opportunity.

But Al Quaeda and Isis are in "business" too. They're the Coke and Pepsi of jihadism at this point. They recruit on the Internet; advertise on social media. Hold prisoners for large cash ransoms. We are being manipulated into a cycle of war because it's making people on all sides MONEY.

We have built this beast, and we're not going to take it down by whack-a-mole-ing every group that arises to take advantage of the cash and the chaos to be had.

We're certainly not going to stop the cycle with drone strikes or another war in the desert or with more rhetoric over whose version of a 2,000 year-old religion is better.


More empty Republican identity politics.


While living a certain way or being in a certain group may grant a useful perspective, Republicans / American conservatives try to substitute identity for ideas all the time.

It's what people do that matters, not who they are or where they come from. Being poor is no guarantee of understanding what needs to be done about poverty, just as being a woman has not helped Ernst understand what's wrong with the "personhood for zygotes" law she supports.

Rather than show sympathy for the poor, or for women, or for people of color, they simply find "one of them" and put them in front of a microphone, so long as they're willing to say that the status quo is fine, fine, fine.

Ernst didn't talk about helping the poor. She didn't talk about solving the issue. She didn't even express sympathy or empathy. She just claimed ownership of it, to lend credence to whatever nonsense she was spouting -- I really couldn't even tell what she was blathering about through her horrendous, staring, blank-eyed tour bus cadence.

This is a person who called Obama a dictator, and claimed that the U.N. has a secret plan to kick Iowans off of their farms. Her claimed qualification for office was some kind of creepy joke about castrating hogs (so she will be able to "cut pork?").

Republicans get creepier and creepier. This one is some kind of shiny sockpuppet with the same glittering sociopathy in her eyes Mitt Romney has.

She may have grown up poor (or not?) but she has a an entitled rich white man's grasp of the world.

"Black on black crime" is a racist red herring.

Most crimes occur within the same racial demographics. 90-something % of murders of black Americans are committed by other black Americans; 80-something % of murders of white Americans are committed by other white Americans.

What racists try to imply is that black Americans have no right to complain about a "few" wrongful killings by police until "they" clean up "their" crime problem.

There are so many racist assumptions and slanders bound up in that thinking that it's hard to untangle them all. One is that all black people everywhere are the same "group," so it is somehow the black people killing other black people who are also being killed by police, who are also the same people protesting.

Somehow, apparently, Tamir Rice should have been in the streets cleaning up crime in his community instead of, you know, being 12 and playing with a toy before being executed by twitchy police.

Hard to apply given none of the publicized killings involve anyone accused of murder, but racists aren't know for razor-sharp critical thinking. The other big one, of course, is just to imply that the imaginary one group of black people in the world are simply hyper-violent, and perhaps deserve to be profiled and treated as especially dangerous.

It's so stupid it would be funny, if it weren't so malicious and sick.

It's fear-driven reaction, not an intellectual process.

A person I otherwise know to be rational, caring, and non-violent opined to me recently, without pretext or provocation, that the killing of an Israeli child by (presumably) Palestinians justified the mass execution of Palestinian citizens. The killing of a Palestinian child by Israelis a short time later did not, of course, justify mass execution of Israelis. She identified with one group, and feared the other.

It's tribal thinking, fear-driven and straight from the amygdala (which interestingly is overdeveloped in conservatives). You see it on the playground as a child. Any rationalization is okay, as long as arrives at destroying the out group. Any attempt to introduce even-handedness or empathy is met with a full intellectual vapor-lock, followed by rage.

Conservatives in America are fond of saying liberal thinking is too emotional, but just the opposite is true. Every tent peg in American conservative thought is based on instinctual fear and an unreasoning drive to destroy perceived threats to the (perceived) group.

Conservatives are the club-wielding unga-bungas standing at the gates. They will defend "the tribe" at any cost, but they spend no time thinking about who actually is in the tribe, or what defending it actually means. They collectively stand on chairs and scream that there are bugs everywhere, and won't someone please stomp on them.

The obsession with the term "ratfucking" is telling.

This is basically a way to sneeringly call more liberal Dems a couple of childish nasty names, masked lightly with concern trolling for the well-being of the party. And a transparent way to try to pre-emptively blame liberals for whatever doesn't go well.

"Oh, it's not that we disagree with liberal criticism or liberal candidates or liberal principles. Nooo. It's just that they can never work (according to us) so you're 'depressing turnout' and really are kind of traitors. Or maybe spies!"

An updated version I saw today even lumps in anyone talking about possible Republican election misconduct as part of the "ratfucking." Because, if there's election fraud, people will get too depressed and not vote then, too. Or something.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=5750820

Yeah. Makes no sense at all. Obama was supposed to be a naive liberal dream pony that was going to lose us the election too, remember? Nevermind he didn't turn out to that fluffy liberal unicorn -- that was still the argument against him during the primary.

And it's a particularly rightwing kind of attack, calling liberal Dems traitors and spies, instead of, say, making an argument about policy or the relative merits of a candidate. Get nasty. Get personal. Impugn motives and ethics. Quite Rovian, really.

And ironically, if a rightwinger DID want to screw with Dems, racing around trashing liberals as hopelessly depressing and "non-pramatic," and especially with this new twist thrown out today that even watching for Republican dirty tricks is also somehow anti-Dem (what the hell?) would be a far more likely rightwing tactic than, say, liking Elizabeth Warren.

Ratfucking! Ratfucking! Ratfucking! It's a Nixonian term and a Nixonian tactic.

More importantly, though, seeing it everywhere is Nixonian paranoia.

No one worries more about enemy spies and traitors and dirty tactics than people who spend lots of time thinking of using those very things themselves.

Step 1: Call liberals "rat fuckers." Step 3: profit?



Hooboy. Yes, there's a pattern all right.

The pattern is a flurry of threads on DU equating liberal voices, liberal candidates, and -- this is a new one -- any reporting of possible election fraud (???) with "killing morale" and inevitable loss.

And liberal use of the Nixonian term "rat fucking," which of course is a rightwing idea having to do with sabotage, illegal spying, and not in any way related to insufficiently conservative Democrats.

Pretty telling that Nixon and his tactics are so top-of-mind for some people, eh? Kind of like the thief that has 12 locks on his door, maybe?

This was of course the argument Hillary acolytes raised against the Obama candidacy.

"We can't elect that fluffy liberal because pragmatism, you are all full ponies and unicorns, and oh, by the way, your opinion is RATFUCKKKINNGGGG!"

How'd that logic work out, by the way?

This new addition that anyone watching for election fraud on the part of Republicans is also a traitor / spy / rat is very interesting, though, coming from supposed Democrats.

It's already specious to claim that liberal views or liberal candidates are morale killers plotted by enemies of the Democratic Party to ensure election losses, but throwing in hate for people watching for Republican election fraud, too?

That's a very curious addition to the whole rubric.

If someone DID want to conduct some "rat fucking," by demoralizing the Democratic Party, wouldn't trying to float that idea that anyone watching for Republican dirty tricks is a traitor be a more likely tactic than say, getting Obama nominated?


It's not just race. It's fear of all "others." And the religion of guns.

As for the seeming worsening of not just racism, bias, and unequal treatment, but tribalistic fear, brutality and killing in general, things have taken a turn for the worse.

What's gotten worse is that the middle and working class -- white, black, and otherwise -- is being squeezed out of existence. Everyone is more afraid that they don't have enough, and might lose what they have. Poor and middle class white people are again tempted (and encouraged) to worry more about poor people of color than about the wealthy and powerful who are actually threatening their well being.

The police are a mechanism haves rely on to enforce the status quo, less the have nots get wound up and start thinking about taking things for themselves. I think there is a growing paranoia amongst the more powerful and privileged that the lack of balance is a direct threat to their well-being. Law enforcement receives this thinking, and becomes ever more wary of the "others" getting out of hand. That feeds on itself. Poor communities receive heavy-handed treatment and abuse, and become wary and defensive themselves. Every interaction is more fraught.

Those with the guns and the authority become more determined to assert absolute authority, lest civic unrest build momentum. They become increasingly brutal out of fear they will be overrun. We are America, and our culture runs immediately to black vs. white, because that is history. But racist behavior by law enforcement is a canary in a larger coal mine. Anyone without power is subject to increasing abuse and increasing levels of violence justified by authority. No-knock warrants. Flash-bangs thrown at babies to stop imaginary pot dealers. Grandmothers tased. Homeless beaten to death. Tanks and tear gas vs. signs and marches.

Hyper-violent law enforcement is becoming the norm for everyone not sufficiently plugged in to call a lawyer ahead of time.

And then we have our new religion about guns. Specifically, the growing ideology that self defense via lethal violence is not only an option, not only a "right," but some kind of sacred civic duty.

We no longer talk about lethal force being a last resort. It's now the first resort. We are being pushed to acknowledge a right to carry weapons absolutely everywhere, so that some can be prepared to kill whenever they feel "fear." New laws insist that killing someone else is not only possibly justified, but in some cases PRESUMPTIVELY justified. Underlying all of this is the implicit suggestion that we must make sure the "right" people are armed, less the "others" run amok.

We need a paradigm shift where we move our suspicions away from those who look one way or the other and those with slightly more or slightly less economic or social status, and focus on the top, from which the real pain the real threat is emanating.

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