October 12, 2011
How I Communicate With People Less Right Than Me
On this post about the weird "We Are the 53%" tumblr, Donald Johnson commented:
I think it's a mistake to assume the worst about these people. What they're doing is probably what a lot of us do--make ourselves heroes in our own stories. We lefties are the smart ones who see through the propaganda that surrounds us (or anyway I assume that's a temptation to self-glorification that others besides myself feel--I have to remind myself of how clueless I can be sometimes when I read something especially ridiculous in the MSM which is clearly intended to fool someone somewhere in the readership).
Anyway, these folk see themselves not as the victims of society, but as modern day American pioneers, like their fabled forefathers who moved West and conquered a wilderness through hard work, grit and determination. Stoic John Wayne types. No whiners allowed. (And no Indians, and no Chinese except to build railroads and preferably no blacks or Mexicans, but that's beside the point.) They don't see their heroes as the people who struggled for a five day workweek or equal rights for blacks or Native Americans or anything like that. Now those protestors against Wall Street are telling them that maybe they're not heroes--to some extent they're victims. They hate that.
I have no idea what to do about it.
I do have an idea what to do about it, sort of. I strongly believe that every ideology is right in the sense that it is responding reasonably to some aspect of reality. In the case of the 53% people, they accurately perceive that individual effort, personal responsibility, etc. absolutely do affect your life circumstances. They clearly have lived that, and trying to persuade them that they're wrong will be like trying to persuade them that they have nine arms. That's not going to work.
What might work is acknowledging and respecting their lived reality, while gently trying to widen their view to include other aspects of reality that they've missed. For instance, Saddam Hussein grew up poor, was extremely talented and worked really hard, and reached the very top. That doesn't mean that the Iraqi system was a fantastic idea that we should all celebrate.
Likewise, wanting other people to have better lives is completely consistent with everyone's personal self-interest. It just has to be a slightly more enlightened self-interest than the standard American version. I would really like the people who do the maintenance on the plane I'm flying on next week to be well-rested and not worrying about whether their spouse is about to get laid off. I'd like there to be lots of money spent now researching treatments for the diseases of the old, because I plan to be old someday. And so on.
Obviously this is a lot easier said than done. The 53% tumblr people are probably so rigid in their thinking that they're not reachable. And even reaching less rigid people is much easier when it's part of some kind of shared experience (which is why unions and churches can be such a powerful force for democratization). But if there's a way to do it, it involves respecting the fact that people think things for a reason, even if they're missing a lot of the rest of the picture.
BONUS: It turns out that the 53% thing was created by Joshua Trevino, a bl*gger who once wrote under the name "Tacitus"—ie, the Roman historian. This gratifies me very deeply, and I would like to thank him for making the world a funnier place.
Posted at October 12, 2011 03:19 PM
An article worth reading......... No comment needed....
"Welcome, 53 Percenters, to the 99 Percent"
By Terrance Heath
ps Mr Schwarz's previous blog is quoted here....
The reality is that the 99% thing does take account that about 15-25% of people are royalist thugs who take delight in hurting their fellow man. The idea that they have an "ideology" is badly mistaken. They are just small minded nasty selfish sadistic parasites on society, and for my money they are the real problem not the 1% who are mostly literally insane and who would be no trouble to the rest of us if they were treated as the mental patients they are instead of allowed to run the country.
"they accurately perceive that individual effort, personal responsibility, etc. absolutely do affect your life circumstances"
Oh except that doesn't apply to Indians, Chinese, Blacks or Mexicans? And also doesn't apply if the 53% person themself becomes unemployed. Oh suddenly then it isn't whining to ask for help.
In the case of the 53% people, they accurately perceive that individual effort, personal responsibility, etc. absolutely do affect your life circumstances.
This is a dynamic that doesn't seem to be understood very well by most leftists. An ideology that casts poor people (a category which increasingly encompasses the majority of the population) as victims with no power to change their circumstances not only flies in the face of the lived experience of the poor, but is also distastefully condescending to the same poor people whose interest it purports to represent. This paradox presents a real problem for those hoping to mobilize political will along class lines.
The most fruitful approach to resolving this paradox, it seems to me, is to expose more people to the lifestyles and business practices of the wealthy. As a boy, I had contempt for poor people who made bad decisions, and I admired the wealthy under the assumption that their positions must have been due in part to their having made better decisions. It was only after being exposed to actually wealthy people and seeing how they lived, how they thought, and how they made decisions that I came to feel real sympathy for the poor and contempt for the rich. I was appalled by how the poor were made to suffer terribly for the same bad decisions that the wealthy made every day without consequence. Having seen what both poor people and rich people are capable of, I came to regard both poverty and wealth as pathological conditions, and to regard economic inequality as one of the most significant sources of unhappiness in society because of the insecurity and anxiety it creates on both sides of the wealth divide.
In short, I think that the answer to the 53% percent conundrum lies not in encouraging solidarity with the 99 percent, but in encouraging contempt for the 1 percent. A little bit of sunlight cast on the pettiness and self-involvement of the rich would go a long way in turning their 53-percenter lackeys against them. This is, of course, why the corporate media are so careful to respect the privacy of the non-celebrity wealthy and to refrain from reporting on the day-to-day sordidness that permeates their lives.
It was only after being exposed to actually wealthy people and seeing how they lived, how they thought, and how they made decisions that I came to feel real sympathy for the poor and contempt for the rich. I was appalled by how the poor were made to suffer terribly for the same bad decisions that the wealthy made every day without consequence.
Man is that the truth.
WAIT. I'm thinking Roamin' Dad, in which case that would be "no".
15-25% of people are royalist thugs who take delight in hurting their fellow man. The idea that they have an "ideology" is badly mistaken.
Taking delight in hurting your fellow man is an ideology.
Taking delight in hurting your fellow man is an ideology.
No it's not. Didn't they teach yew nothing at that fancy pants college yew went to, boy?
I have a different take on this, I think. I'm kinda working it out because I might try posting it to the 53% tumblr.
I'm one of the 53 percent who pays taxes. I worked full time for 40 years, and always paid taxes. Now I'm retired, and I still pay taxes, because pensions and Social Security are at least partly taxable; but they also come from the money I earned over those 40 years.
I'm also one of the 68 percent who favors raising taxes on households with incomes of more than $250,000 a year -- the 1 percent.
I'm also one of the 79 percent who oppose raising taxes on the "middle classes."
I'm one of the 83 percent who oppose reducing Social Security benefits, and one of the 82 percent who oppose reducing Medicare benefits.
I'm one of the 51 percent who favor reducing military spending.
The people at the 53 Percent Tumblr don't speak for me, and it's a safe bet they don't speak for most of the 53 percent either.
In the case of the 53% people, they accurately perceive that individual effort, personal responsibility, etc. absolutely do affect your life circumstances. They clearly have lived that, and trying to persuade them that they're wrong will be like trying to persuade them that they have nine arms. That's not going to work.
What might work is acknowledging and respecting their lived reality, while gently trying to widen their view to include other aspects of reality that they've missed. And if
there's a way to do it, it involves respecting the fact that people think things for a reason, even if they're missing a lot of the rest of the picture.
I could not agree more with the above.
Also, imho, with understanding, tolerance, persuasion and perseverance one could include them in the 99%
Hm, very smart comment. It makes me think particularly of how elite universities protect the students from prosecution for drug crimes, fights and even rape, preferring instead to use internal processes with "honor boards" and such. It would be fun to start a police blotter for any fancy Stutts type school, or for any upscale suburb, complete with blazing television lights on any poor sob stupid enough to get caught with his pot pipe still full.
Re Bonus: I call him Incitatus. And will do so until people find it funny, dammit.
I do have to say that the content at tacitus.org has really improved of late.
In short, I think that the answer to the 53% percent conundrum lies not in encouraging solidarity with the 99 percent, but in encouraging contempt for the 1 percent.
Good luck with that, in a society where "elite" is regarded as a term referring exclusively to education and some cultural signifiers and not at all to wealth, where a man born with a silver spoon under his nose was held to be an ordinary fella you could have a beer with, and a large section of the population cheerfully sneered at the concept of a "community organiser". You're problem isn't with Trevino's collection of examples why Gramsci was on the money (and their problem is just cognitive dissonance, which everybody has), it's with your entire ideological system: you're not allowed to talk about class. I mean, I though the liberal=leftist nonsense was irritating until I discovered the way your politicians and commentators say "middle class"* when they mean "working class". It's friggin' ridiculous.
* Good to see Duncan gets it, hence his scare quotes.
Thanks, weaver, but remember that most Americans think of themselves as middle class, regardless of their income or level of education.
I don't think "elites" necessarily refers only to level of education, though. From what I see, it functions as a sort of all-purpose pejorative. One right-wing acquaintance of mine, a petit bourgeois shopkeeper, loves to hurl it at people who are basically like him, except for their income and probably their party affiliation. He's a wine-sipping, classical music-loving, poetry-reading Republican who thinks George Will and Jay Nordlinger are serious thinkers, and he jeers at the "rabble" and the "yahoos." He's embarrassed by Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Rick Perry, but his politics are not importantly different from theirs. Coming him from people like him, "elite" is pretty much meaningless.
The Blind see The Money shine and that's just about it.
Ah. Tacitus was the first blogger to ban me. Those were the days.
Anyway, what's with gratuitous accusations of racism? I hate this shit.
I don't think this is completely off topic, but I find it slightly amusing that a South African version of Occupy Wall Street, called Occupy Sandton (which is the richest area of Johannesburg) has been launched.
Amusing not because it's a bad idea to protest against the greedy scumbags who run South Africa, but because South Africa has a fifty-year history of protest against such things, we've had thirty years of growing inequality, an ANC government which has almost wholly failed to challenge this (and the situation has grown much worse since a corporate stooge named Zuma was installed as President), a million and a half jobs lost in the last two years --
and a bunch of white South African males hear about Americans doing something in Wall Street, so suddenly they get together and decide to imitate them.
It seems to me that global politics has become almost completely symbolic. (Including, I fear, the Occupy Wall Street people -- if they posed a real threat to the plutocracy, they would be blown to pieces with Hellfires.) And that this is deeply unhealthy, because there seems to be a complete detachment between lived experience and political consciousness.
And that, to my mind, is what makes this "53%" business possible.
I can't really picture "churches" as "a powerful force for democratization", no matter how hard I try. They appear to me to be more of a force for racism, homophobia. xenophobia, misogyny, death penalty, war, etc. Have I missed something?
I'm an atheist who is inclined to view all religion as silly and reactionary. But, I am also forced to recognize certain historical realities. The black church in the United States and its major role in the Civil Rights Movement, for one. Liberation Theology in Latin America, for another. There are more.
@rojo, Other historical realities suggest that black churches are a small portion of all churches and black churches doing the right thing in that particular instance (racism) doesn't make Churches, in general.. a powerful force for democratization or excuse the other wrongs they perpetuate, such as homophobia which is certainly very prevalent in Black churches.
As for liberation theology in Latin America I'm not so familiar, to the best of my knowledge theocracy in Latin America (mostly Roman Catholic) has mostly been a force for subjugation of the people than liberation.
A Black Church fighting against racism against blacks is hardly supportive the idea that churches in general are a powerful force for democracy.
Claiming to be an Atheist doesn't make your argument supporting the churches' role in promoting democracy any more persuasive than my criticism of churches makes me an Atheist. Although, I wouldn't disavow the label, thanks.
agree with red- and would also add that the church was an indispensible organizer for the solidarity movement in Poland- the view that churches do not foster democracy to me is as naive as Marx's views on religion- i would invite anyone to simply go to a community church, where ull realize it's just a group of neighbors who meet for fellowship- the fact is that churches are staunch advocates for the poor (99% worldwide), and to not enlist them in the solidarity fight against corporate corruption is a strategic blunder
Solidarity, right alongside the RCC, betrayed the Polish workers. Not the best example. It embraced neo-liberalism, full hog.
"What's with the gratuitous accusations of racism?"
I'm not sure if that complaint was meant to apply to my comment or if it was about others, but in my case it wasn't actually meant that way. Some of the 53 percent are probably racist, but my intended point was that the 53 percent are basing their views in part on an idealized American history where the heroes are the pioneers (who were heroic in many ways) and ignoring both the people trampled underfoot and the other types of heroes (labor organizers, for instance.) But people who embrace that view of our history aren't necessarily racist (though again, some probably are.)
Having a coherent 99% opposed to the aims of the 1% is a project, no joke.
The humbling vastness of the project is demonstrated by the "53%" response. It may indeed be correct to think as our host (sometimes) does, that it shows the 99% project is a futile, doomed dream.
But the views expressed by "the 53%" are so empirically at odds with the political views they so easily support that one suspects and hopes communication, even education, could be possible, even if it must be a long-term project when it seems there may be no long-term.
My own number one example of this is the "fiscal conservatism" view, according to which many regular tax-paying folk profess to believe that the government ought never to take on debt -- that it must always balance its books, "as any sensible household would have to do" -- that we ought to have, say, a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget -- A view maintained, seemingly without discomfiting psychic turmoil, even as these same "53%" write about paying off their college loans, working hard to pay their mortgage debts...
The meaning of such contradiction seems clear: it's not about thinking things through, it's about being part of something, about choosing sides. Who can be surprised that many want to be on the winning side? The fact of our media environment is that there really is no other side.
There is no left. That is our problem. Creating one may well be impossible, but if the only alternative is to take a cool distance, watching the inexorable slide, saying "see I told you so," is that really a choice?
My own take on the 53%r in the vid was that he missed the point of the 99% protest completely. When someone rips you off you fight back against the rip off artists. Is his suggestion that we say " gee, I guess I have to get another job now" and let that rip off go by. How is that being strong, self-reliant, and independent. That dude may not realize it, but he's rolling over and playing dead. He's a lap dog which is totally contrary to his self-image as a rugged individualist.
Look let's face it unless this movement's mantra is "kill the 1%" and mean it, it will go nowhere accept cooptation and reformism. I hope Im wrong but I don't trust hippies.
It was only after being exposed to actually wealthy people and seeing how they lived, how they thought, and how they made decisions that I came to feel real sympathy for the poor and contempt for the rich.
This is why Arrested Development is so good.
Picador has the money comment here.
Jon, I don't think I agree with your take. The significance of their view is not that it is rooted in any kind of reality - in fact, hard work is serving these people incredibly poorly. Belief is not necessarily rational, in that it is drawn from reasonable observations. If that were the case, it is far more reasonable for most of these people to observe that they have been fucked most of their lives by certain policies and types of people, they don't have control over their own lives, etc.
But that's not what belief is good for. What we believe to be true is what allows us to exist. I believe I am a good person, and my life trajectory will ultimately result in improving the lot of my fellow humans. This is what keeps me going. It is not necessarily rational - it's far more likely that I am a useless tot and a pestilence whose lifestyle is a drag on society.
The 53% narrative is a very old one - it comes from John Calvin, and the belief that merit and earthly wealth, like heaven, can be attained through (and only through) hard work. And, by implication, the people who have attained great wealth (in God's just world) got their through their hard work - that is, position is earned.
Believing this allows you to continue working, like a dog, in the mud, because you believe that you will, as a result, rise out of it. Moreover, you believe that that is how you SHOULD rise out of it - to rise otherwise implies that merit means nothing.
This is the same reason people take to Christianity with such gusto, despite its obvious flim-flammery. "What? You mean there's a way out of this hellish cafeteria that only serves shit sandwiches? Thank God! No, really, thank God.
Well, I guess I can stand eating here for thirty more years." People don't *like* reality. Reality is depressing. Delusion - belief that is not based in reality - allows life.
As Picador points out, the Calvinist narrative, which offers hope, is much more seductive than the Leftist one, which says: "Unless you overthrow this behemoth, which has all the political, financial and material power in the world, you will never rise." That belief does not allow you to live. It requires movement - so much movement - when in reality, you are so goddamn tired that all you want is to be able to stand still in this sewage-filled trench for just five minutes.
So, the harsh, cold voice of reality is not necessary going to help us. What's a better narrative than that?
The 53% see only one enemy worth fighting: themselves. They live in the best of all possible worlds and the only stink bug in sight is their own shitty self (and possible the whiners on this blog).
Now the big SAT question is this: on a scale of 1 to 100, how big is 53%? Those of you who went to Stutts might hasten to say, 53! But that's because you know nothing. The truth should be between 2.5% and 2.6% (more or less). Sorry, but the only Calvin left in America is a little boy with a tiger.
You're wrong. You're just wrong. This is a widespread, prominent view that is deeply ingrained in the American mentality. It is the fucking "American Dream", for God's sakes. Huge swaths of the country believe this way. Ignoring their beliefs, or pretending that this form of belief is marginal, is a sure way to lose. Even if you DO believe that it's only 2.5% of people, they have such a strong voice, and their narrative is so prominent in American mythology, that you NEED to confront it with a better one if you hope to succeed.
Pre-emptive flame-dousing - that wasn't meant as an attack, just a counterargument. I appreciate you!
What a bunch of liberal balderdash. You will never convince these people of anything. They are unconvinceble. Their entire worldview would collapse and they will fight tooth and nail to preserve their fairy tale. You cannot convince a schizophrenic to cease his delusions. I would assume the same bunch who so desperately want "not talk down" to these authoritarian imbeciles are the same ones who reflexively discount Libertarians and ancaps, and would purge all Ron Paul supporters from Occupy Wallstreet. This is an exercise in unselfreflective conceit, your assumption that working class people don't comment on boards like this or think the %53 are fucking assholes.
"In the case of the 53% people, they accurately perceive that individual effort, personal responsibility, etc. absolutely do affect your life circumstances."
and if those folks (or their children) get a serious illness or a bad accident, they will find that they are shit outta luck.
Interesting how quickly things went from "only 53% of Americans pay Federal income tax" to "only 53% of Americans pay taxes" and from there to "only 53% of Americans are good citizens".
My question, not rhetorical, is why is federal income tax the only tax that matters? Why not state income tax? Why not property tax? Sales tax? Why is your contribution to the state or county in which you actually live counted less then your contribution to the federal government?
And on a related note, how many Wall Street protestors pay federal income tax? Is there a good reason to assume most of them don't?
@saurah: Hey, I appreciate you, too. I agree with you that being Calvinist is the American mythology, Protestant ethics and all that. That's what Americans want to believe. But the reason they want to believe it (as opposed to just believing it) is that they long ago ceased to be Calvinist. It's a self-image that long ago ceased to have any relation to reality (notwithstanding Max Weber's followers). A Calvinist faith is structurally self-flattering, so people easily go for it. (Hey I might be the chosen one and my Maserati might be proof that I am.) Americans now bask in delusions. Redstaters totally hate government but are the most dependent on government handouts; redstaters totally believe in marriage but have the highest divorce rates; redstaters totally believe in rugged individualism but rush to join a collectivist outfit called "the US army." Liberals totally believe they stand for the poor but will be the first to defend the Carried Interest tax code. People have never lived more in myth and delusion than today. And to tell you how delusional they are, they even believe they are Calvinist! That's how bad it is.
Now, back to the 53%. The whole thing is a scam from famed scam artist Josh Trevino. So he found 5 people out of 300 million willing to hold a stupid sign and grin even stupidlier. OK, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and at least while doing that Trevino was not torturing kittens for fun (though there, too, I might be deluding myself).
bobs: AGREED. Its just propaganda, Folks. Just like the OWS saying they're THE 99%. Theyre NOT, the VERY fact they are in street SAYING SOMETHING PROVES they aren't the 99%. Much like the Arab Spring, OWS IS the politics of the Internet applied to the street. WE're JUST learning how, that's all.
Copy link from one blog. Paste in comments at another.
And my work is done
I don't have to ask what OWS is angry about. I'm pissed about the same things. Hell, let's start with GITMO. WE did last time. A banker and a rope won't fix GITMO, but MAY save the economy, politically speaking, but will it create JOBS? Its an election year, I wouldn't believe anything with a % sign beside it.
At least with the Marine guy, I wonder if he's ever taken the time to think that he can do the things he is doing because he's A. male and B. physically strong (a natural gift he was born with, though surely he does plenty of exercise to maintain it).
But has he ever put himself in the place of a single mother? Given these people (read - extreme conservatives) want to ban abortion, that necessarily means that every time a young woman gets pregnant she must be forced to conceive. Well if you've ever been around young kids, you should know how absolutely ridiculously time consuming having kids is. As strong as this guy thinks he is, does he really believe he could get ahead if he was a single mother of 18 with maybe only a high school education? Daycare alone is ridiculously expensive, something that you can't afford working at McDonalds for minimum wage.
These strong-willed types who say "No Whining" need to take a look around and reflect on the way this economy works. The fact is that for many people, it's rigged from the start for them to live remedial lives struggling for daily existence, through no fault of their own. It's a society that is built to put people in debt enslavement. Being part of the American dream means leveraging your net worth 3-4X to buy a house. Tens of millions of Americans couldn't even come up with $1000 in cash for an emergency if they needed to.
It doesn't have to be this way. A select few are profiting handsomely from this arrangement. Ignoring the huge unemployment problem in this country, we also have a large set of the population that is the "working poor" who have jobs working extended hours every week but are still living hand to mouth because these jobs don't pay enough and they have no means or time to better themselves (through more education, for example). These jobs don't pay enough because we continually pass free trade agreements that put these workers wages in competition with cheap labor from overseas, driving down wages in America economy-wide. And combine that with union busting that Republicans are so fond of, and you get the massive inequality that has risen between those with little or no-college education and those with college degrees.
This is a systemic problem that must be fixed. Wall Street is merely a symbol of the greed and redistribution of wealth upward that is plaguing our society. But it's great to see people taking a stand and spending their valuable time protesting and showing how democracy is supposed to work. If you love democracy (as all conservatives say they do), you should love the Wall Street protests.
"I'd like there to be lots of money spent now researching treatments for the diseases of the old, because I plan to be old someday. And so on."
One such so on might be "since everyone is not too happy with government" perhaps we should look at the germ theory of government, because if it can be cured that will make a lot of this irrelevant.
Jon S: "..wanting other people to have better lives is completely consistent with everyone's personal self-interest. It just has to be a slightly more enlightened self-interest than the standard American version. I would really like the people who do the maintenance on the plane I'm flying on next week to be well-rested and not worrying about whether their spouse is about to get laid off. I'd like there to be lots of money spent now researching treatments for the diseases of the old, because I plan to be old someday. And so on.
Obviously this is a lot easier said than done. The 53% tumblr people are probably so rigid in their thinking that they're not reachable. And even reaching less rigid people is much easier when it's part of some kind of shared experience (which is why unions and churches can be such a powerful force for democratization). But if there's a way to do it, it involves respecting the fact that people think things for a reason, even if they're missing a lot of the rest of the picture."
I remember watching country singer Chely Wright doing an interview a few years ago with Charlie Rose about her coming out and the GLBT-related concept of the 'moveable middle,' which I hadn't heard of before. She emphasized that many people are reachable less through arguments than through first person experiences, which sounds a little like the the flip side of the snark of the commenter regarding not realizing what jerks rich people were until he'd met some.
Maybe it's obvious, but part of the impetus of the 53 percent project is an awareness of that, that many people are more reachable through anecdotal accounts than by being bludgeoned by statistics and such. The so-called 53 percenters may exist on a continuum in terms of their capacity for stepping out of their subjectivity and looking at things differently, but then again so does everybody, we're part of the same continuum. And tribal blinders can limit everybody, not just "them."
I'm not entirely happy with what I wrote at 530pm, above, because I don't think it's adequately fleshed out, but I thought it was getting a bit long on the tooth. There are several other points I wanted to add-- many working class people are reachable, but they mistrust the only out they've been told might exist, i.e. the democratic party.
I know many people for example, who consider themselves pro-life, i.e. against abortion, but are troubled by other right-wing pro-life types who want kids to be ignorant about contraception, but feel they have to vote republican because it's that or the democrats, and they don't trust the democrats.
I'll ask my friend "Dee" why there has never been a pro-life political movement that was also pro-economic justice and pro-progressive taxation. (We've had this conversation many times.)
"I don't know. For a while I was hoping the tea party might be like that, but now I think they're just as bad as the rest of the republicans, just in a slightly different way, with a more hot-headed rhetorical style."
Dee is college-educated and staunchly pro-life, but also pro-economic justice, etc. In some ways she is a kind of corollary to many democrats who frequently gripe about democrats but also reliably vote for them. She says she's leaning towards Herman Cain but doubts he'll still be in the race when the Texas primary rolls around in March and thinks Romney will be the nominee, and that she will vote for him, joking about how she'll do it like all those Democrats who voted for Kerry but had hoped Howard Dean would be the nominee.
"The rich are different from you and me."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Yes, they have more money."
(Like just about everything else, this exchange as reported above and all sorts of other places apparently isn't quite the historical truth: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/13/books/l-the-rich-are-different-907188.html )
Anyway, I have this to say about the above 53% bullshit, there are perfectly understandable emotions and ideas underlying it. Our society does coddle us and make us helpless and dependent and weak, ironically at the same time it brutalizes and oppresses us. Go figure, but that's the society we've made. So yes, there are grifters and spongers and addicts and even some of what old Grandpa Karl called the lumpenproletariat, and those folks often aren't even as likeable as your average rich bastard. If you ask me, it's better to be a hard-working sucker than part of that misery. Just ask someone who knows a little about addiction and where that takes people.
That being said, it's too bad so many people react so violently against the weakness that culminates in that pathetic, despairing life. Maybe they think it's a black thing, which it isn't, or it scares them to think that could happen to them, which it could, or maybe it's just that good old-fashioned hate ideology, which offers the great consolation and pleasure of moral superiority. Or all of those things, I suppose.
Anyway, Old Grandpa Karl's favorite maxim was lifted from the Roman Terence--nihil humani a mi alienum puto. "Nothing human is alien to me." But to all you self-professed lefties, that goes not just for the easy lefty compassion for the poor, it includes compassion for those who hate too, and for those overcome by red-neck fear, or the perpetrators of spiritual despondency, perversion, greed, arrogance, shmuckism, and, of course, pomposity. We humans are the whole deal, each of us, with the batter thicker in some of us than others.
Of course, that doesn't mean all this has to be accepted as social fate. History ends with us, and the future begins with us. We can change things, collectively, and change begins with facing down fear. It doesn't have to stop, either.
It's obvious to me that Mother Jones could kick the ass of every one of us, and the old lady must have been pretty damn tired long before she started, because watching all seven of one's kids die in an epidemic that the rich folk have escaped by fleeing town usually takes quite a toll on a person. Did she call that enough for one life? Hmmm, let me think . . .
So ya'll stop posting comments and get to work.
NE: "Our society does coddle us and make us helpless and dependent and weak, ironically at the same time it brutalizes and oppresses us. Go figure, but that's the society we've made.
Who's "we," white man?
Well we're fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that we worshipped
Will be gone----"Don't get fooled again"--The Who.
#1 on National Review's 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs list.
I wasn't just talking about the well-off. I think the neglect for children's development that is characteristic of modern life, as much in urban poverty as in suburban affluence, makes people weak, helpless, and dependent. Maybe "coddle" is the wrong word for how this happens among the poor, because that suggests something easy--and as I said, it's anything but that--but I'm struggling at the moment to think of the right word. Let's just say our society doesn't challenge young people in ways that make them stronger, I think maybe even especially among the poor, because confidence comes from work and accomplishment, and we have condemned our urban poor to have way too few opportunities for that. That's not "coddling," because prohibiting people from doing anything should be considered cruel, but I can't think of a word for it.
Lots of white people are poor--some of them my people. I get your point, but plenty of problems cross lines of race and class.
NE: I used that line not in a racial context but to reject the tempting moral equivalency that goes, We're all sinners, poor and rich alike, so let's all look inside our hearts to become better human beings, show mercy for all, and move on.
Hell, no! If there's a time in the last 40 years when the rich have outsinned all others, it is now. So, yes, like you, I have no interest in picking a fight with rednecks and tea-partiers: they're the 99% too, and we should all join forces. But this is not the time to berate the poor about their lazy, soft, slovenly, dependent, coddled ways... This is not the time to see "plenty of blame to go around, so let's all try to do a little better." No, this is the time to get our pitchforks and make the life of an investment banker a living hell.
It's time to treat those people as the blood-sucking parasites that they are. I want to foster a culture where to be in investment banking carries the same social cachet as having herpes and where a hooker is accorded more respect than a hedge fund manager.
That battle, by the way, is eminently winnable. And its moral clarity helps. The one percent must be defeated and the political fabric that comes with it must be dismantled.
I ALREADY afford Hookers more respect than hedge fund managers.
i didn't and wouldn't berate the poor and wasn't talking about moral equivalency. I've always thought that a stupid term, frankly, though it's usually a term used by the wingnuts who lately became tea partiers and George Will deep thinking types.
as for the pitchforks, that ultimately has never worked and certainly won't now, but if you mean rhetorical pitchforks, that's good politics. keep it simple stupid is good in politics, and I agree the banks are the enemy.
all that being said, those things i was talking about that you thought were blaming the poor--those problems people have were caused by social organization--they were made by capitalism. notably finance capitalism in its recent consumer-market decades. What was the moving force behind that? Banks.
That's not too simple,but once the rally is over and the pitchforks are put away, there's going to have to be a society, so unless we look past the end of our noses, or at least past our rage, we're going to get change by default. The banks and energy companies and all those folks who read the Powell memo back in the 70s and decided to refocus their social and political efforts--they don't stop what they're doing after the mobs disburse. They keep working with well-funded and organized efforts.
So we better figure out what the hell we want to be different and how it's going to happen. It's going to be tough if huge numbers of people don't have any discipline or focus or confidence that they can do much of anything. That's the one thing malcolm x really got, and why he was both effective and appropriately considered dangerous by his enemies.
I don't think we can effectively oppose or negate political movements without understanding their social and psychological origins and appeal to the people joining them. Sure the banks are bad and the Koch brothers fund the tea party, but all those folks who believe this 53% crap are thinking and feeling something that has to be understood and responded to. I don't think you'll convince any of them that all poor people are good people and just need to be treated fairly, while all rich people are evil. If that's the sort of moral clarity you're talking about, i don't think it's moral or clear or even remotely true.
Yesterday missus charley and I had the pleasure of seeing "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus", from which this is a seemingly relevant quote:
Tony: If Doctor Parnassus can really control people's minds, why isn't he ruling the world,then? Eh? Why bother with this little... side show?
Anton: 'Side show'? He don't... he don't want to rule the world. He wants the world to rule itself!
Slightly off topic. Jonathan, Donald and others may recall jousting with a certain Serious Person called Michael Cohen a while ago. One of those 'I personally didn't think Iraq was such a great idea, but hey some of my best friends did and people get things wrong sometimes' type of Beltway denizen, based at a Dem propaganda shop Democratic Arsenal (!)
Well he has garnered himself as a gig at the Guardian. Following in the rather larger footsteps of Sid Blumenthal and Jonathan Freedland, our hero hits the big time. You do have to wonder about the Guardian at times. Sorry if you have already picked up on this, but I thought I'd bring his latest to your attention. It is a part of the corpDem effort to co-opt OWS:
Here's a few gems:
'‘From this perspective, OWS has arisen not because of the left's activism, but despite it. Focusing on electoral victories and legislative accomplishments, the left has failed to push an effective populist movement, focusing its energy more on social issues than economic ones.’
'‘Washington, due mainly to the unceasing obstructionism of the Republican party, seems completely incapable of arresting America's decline’'
And I loved this:
'‘American unions are jumping on the bandwagon’ '
I wrote a snark on Comment is Free but it lasted less than an hour, removed by moderator. I called Cohen a shill and a 'post-comet dinosaur', that appears to be the problem. Comment is Free but Redacted.
Lots of positive signs lately, but the elevation of such a machine man to global opinion-maker isn't one of them.
@NE: You think in strange ways and often I just can't figure out what the hell you're saying. (Can you?) I write: "I have no interest in picking a fight with rednecks and tea-partiers: they're the 99% too, and we should all join forces" and you reply, in opposition, "all those folks who believe this 53% crap are thinking and feeling something that has to be understood." Well... yes, precisely. Is that "your" thesis that it's better to understand something than not to understand it? Is this truism hour on the NE show? Then you write "I don't think you'll convince any of them that all poor people are good people." Where did I even hint I would try such a thing?
And then you write: "as for the pitchforks, that ultimately has never worked and certainly won't now, but if you mean rhetorical pitchforks, that's good politics."
So, for you, pitchforks never work unless they're rhetorical. Funny that all the social changes that have made the world a better place have involved power, force, and threats: in other words, pitchforks. All nonviolent movements use pitchforks, not just words: nonviolence being simply the use of violence against oneself as a means of power. Since you like to advise us on reading material, I'll return the favor. What you need to understand is power: Machiavelli and Foucault are good places to start.
"nonviolence being simply the use of violence against oneself as a means of power."
To me, that sounds sort of like something Foucault would say, though I could never understand him and candidly didn't try very hard for very long. Still, I'll keep repeating that to myself pver and over until I become either sleepy or stupid.
(but as you know, I spew out plenty of crap too so don't be too hard on yourself. this is just a blurg, fantastic though it is).
It occurs to me that at tacitus.org Trevino used to talk about how he'd been a drunken fuck-up until he joined the army after college and got the discipline that allowed him to straighten his life out. So his world view seems to be an expression of his personal experience to some extent (although as I recall part of the reason for his having been a drunken fuck-up was that he grew up up on an army base in Korea, which from what I know does tend to be a drunken fuck-up breeding ground - that is, army bases in Korea, not Korea in general. Well, yeah, Korea in general, actually).
Every last one of them needs a course in basic business math. I am one of the 99 percent because of low wages. I am one of the 53% because being single with no dependents I paid taxes on those poverty level wages.
The 53% is the part of 99% who pay taxes. Just because a person pays taxes does not put them above the 99%. No, we are just the poor saps that our Federal Government thinks are getting way too many breaks and has too much money to keep!
Wake up 53%!
you don't need to leave the homeland to find all the drunken fuck-up breeding grounds you'll ever need
Razzel Dazzel---its a carnival game based on SIMPLE math (ex. 2+2=5). (99%-47%=1%) makes just as much sense as Razzel Dazzel. Its PROPAGANDA Folks, meant to keep YOU occupied, talking instead of THINKING, get YOUR MONEY and vote, and YOU're not looking at 16 trillion to AIG&BANKS. Much like Razzel Dazzel, works like a champ!!!
I'm struggling to figure out how to raise the wages and standard of living of the 99% in the face of massive globalization. Targeting the 1% to pay more taxes can surely help reduce cuts in social services today, but can't change the wage dynamic of low or medium skilled US workers vs. peers in China (or India or Brazil). If we "eat the rich" now will it merely postpone the inevitable drop in the quality of life in the US due to the rise in quality for others around the globe?
He's faking the pictures. Do a search for "We are the 53%" fake. One of the guys is a Nigerian blogger in Spain. Eric is taking the pictures down as fast as people prove they're fake, but there are screenshots saved.
In particular, the marine is faked. I'd love the real guy to get a hold of Eric.
There are also posts about this on Daily Kos.
an alias of mine in some high class drunken fuck up breeding grounds
Just wanted to add that the US is a special case. In other countries that do not aspire to Empire status, most of the taxes go to supporting universal health care and social safety nets. The fact that these are universal programs, eliminates the class basis for this 53% sentiment to arise.
Now of course, European countries are buckling under the impact of immigration, and far-right parties are gaining support, but in the post war era, the "everyone in, nobody out" ethos was preeminent. In many ways, America, the most ostensibly religious country in the industrialized world, is perhaps the most anti-Christian in its approach to its deeply divided society. The Calvinism, individualism, and puritanism, has served that 1% well, as have the delusions of American exceptionalism.
Interestingly, the US white population has always been the world's outlier (pro-rabid capitalism, pro-war. The African American population has always conformed to the norms found in the rest of the advanced countries.
Actually, the more you think about it, the 53% meme is a genius misdirection because these people don't see anything wrong about their tax dollars going to bail out banks, but chafe if their money actually went to human concerns.
This is where the resentment for the fantasy freeloaders comes in. The same applies for military spending. The same people couldn't care less how much money is spent killing people overseas so long as that same money doesn't go to their perceived class enemies (those below the on the ladder) at home.
So there is a lot of self-deception here, based on perception and very ugly self-righteousness rather than real dollars and cents figures.
Re: the "fake" charge, I'm highly dubious that they're faked. That is, it's obvious the Nigerian one is faked, but it's not clear who faked it, Erickson or the Kos diary author. My money is on the latter: his story doesn't pass the smell test. He describes creating a rudimentary reconstruction of the original image, and then "running it through Google images". However, if you've ever used any kind of image comparison search, you know they're not that effective. Moreover, Google Images doesn't appear to have such a feature. Furthermore, the author doesn't provide the indicated reconstruction, or really any corroborating details of his discovery method, which it's reasonable to think that a person taking pride in their cleverness would do. I can't post on the Kos diary, but my guess is the reason he has the original image and link is because he made and uploaded the fake, and thus knew where it came from.
I sincerely doubt the Kos diarist could substantiate his reconstruction method in any way, even by posting the reconstruction image. This means Erickson is guilty of, at most, being duped into putting up a fake image, but one can hardly blame him for being a sap.
ceti et al
"This is where the resentment for fantasy freeloaders comes in . . ."
"so there is a lot of self-deception here. . ."
First of all, let me just say that i think the term 'fantasy freeloader' is fantastic!
As for where that resentment comes from, does anyone read the Frankfurt School any more? Of course all this has nothing to do with real dollars and sense, or sensible policy, or rational thinking. We seriously should look to understanding the rise of Naziism a little more than we do. People's emotions are manipulated--that's what this about. And historical myths are created and used. Myths are vital, whereas facts are pretty useless.
and the only thing more common than deception is self-deception.
does anyone read the Frankfurt School any more?
Erich Fromm still has some books in print.
You are even older than I am! I meant "utes" in the words of My Cousin Vinnie. (Fromm is good--I could almost understand him. Horkheimer and Adorno and, ugh, Habermas--too dang smart!)
Still, since brilliant people agonized about very similar issues almost a century ago, i wondered if anybody ever thought to try not to reinvent the wheel.
N E - I tried to read Habermas once - in grad school a professor trying to expand our intellectual horizons beyond tradecraft assigned one of his books. I had the same reaction to him as to Lacan - incomprehension. As I had a high opinion of my ability to comprehend in those days, I suspected both these authors of being frauds, scantily-clad emperors of the intelligentsia.
In science and technology, there is evident progress; in psychosocioanthropological applied philosophy, not so evident. Each epoch will bring forward its own grapplers with life's persistent questions. May the Creative Forces of the Universe have mercy on our souls, if any.