Amerika

Furthest Right

The split between responsible and irresponsible


What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. – Neil Postman

You have to be aware of passive aggressive types. They tend to assert that a condition is true, and then if you don’t go along with it, condemn you for reacting against “what everyone else knows” or a social common standard.

Bums capitalize on passive aggression quite a bit. See a young man with a girl? Watch the bum: he’s going to hit up the young man — not the girl — because the young man has a choice: either give the bum money, and look like a Good Guy, or turn him down and introduce the doubt that he may be possibly heartless. So over comes the cash.

Check out passive aggression here — the writer is capitalizing on the known urban versus rural conflict:

When Barack Obama ended the Bush stem-cell policy last week, there were no such overheated theatrics. No oversold prime-time address. No hysteria from politicians, the news media or the public. The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Reed — are now either dead, retired or disgraced. Their less-famous successors pumped out their pro forma e-mail blasts, but to little avail. The Republican National Committee said nothing whatsoever about Obama’s reversal of Bush stem-cell policy.

Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.

In our own hard times, the former moral “majority” has been downsized to more of a minority than ever. Polling shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans agree with ending Bush restrictions on stem-cell research (a Washington Post/ABC News survey in January); that 55 percent endorse either gay civil unions or same-sex marriage (Newsweek, December 2008); and that 75 percent believe openly gay Americans should serve in the military (Post/ABC, July 2008).

NYT

This man is a slick manipulator.

He knows that every person on earth prefers the illusion of personal autonomy, and so they resent any attempts to control them outside of the most basic parts of the social contract: no murder, rape, pedophilia, and so on.

Unfortunately, that sort of logic places us between worlds. We’re obligated to the collective that is civilization, but acting as if we’re free agents outside of a civilization. That means that huge costs for our reckless behavior, and the social resources to save us, get passed on as “socialized costs” that we collectively pay. This means the smart become obligated to the dumb.

Rural people tend to have conservative logic, and that’s a lowercase-c conservative. If your science doesn’t understand it 100%, don’t jack with it. Stick to traditional moral values because those produce healthy generations. Don’t be afraid to kill your enemies, even if they call you names and say you’ll be unpopular. People need guns in the home in case lunatics show up. And the big taboo: not everyone can figure out how to run a farm, and some people are just born bad, like some piglets in a litter are just born weak and angry. Drowning time.

That sort of logic shocks people in cities. They don’t do anything with their hands; their labor consists of moving around symbols in order to make other people do things. Their wealth is paper wealth, which is why they suffer the hardest numerical losses during a recession. But they don’t understand the process by which we get steaks on the table, and they don’t want to know. Because they thrive by moving symbols around, they also thrive by being polite: pacifying others, complimenting them, getting along with them at all costs, and so on. Urban people are a nation of salespeople.

Let’s look at another vision of this same conflict:

Mr. Rogers, whose previous political involvement amounted to little more than writing a check to a favored candidate — has suddenly become a leader in a secessionist movement bent on cleaving California in two.

“Those Hollywood types don’t have any idea what’s going on out here on the farms,” said Mr. Rogers.

Frustrated by what they call uninformed urban voters dictating faulty farm policy, Mr. Rogers and the other members of the movement have proposed splitting off 13 counties on the state’s coast, leaving the remaining 45, mostly inland, counties as the “real” California.

The reason, they say, is that people in those coastal counties, which include San Francisco and Los Angeles, simply do not understand what life is like in areas where the sea breezes do not reach.

“They think fish are more important than people, that pigs are treated mean and chickens should run loose,” said Mr. Rogers, who said he hitched a ride in 1940 to Visalia from Oklahoma to escape the Dust Bowl, with his wife and baby son in tow. “City people just don’t know what it takes to get food on their table.”

NYT

The point that’s important here: there’s two economies at work, and two cultures have grown up around them. In the city, there’s a salesperson economy and culture. In the country, there’s a producer economy and culture. While in the city people can bundle together in groups and use the weight of their opinion, and passive aggression, to force others to act, in the country it requires people to engage with the problem head on and come up with some sort of solution, even if it’s not socially acceptable or polite.

Of course, not every person in the city is fooled, but the human illusion that we all have free will and kinglike pick our ideologies is just that, an illusion — we pick ideologies like we pick clothing, to cover up our weaknesses and adorn ourselves, for the most part.

We can frame this conflict to include both the city folks who agree with the country folks and the suburban folks I have not mentioned. People in the suburbs generally are more successful than other groups, and have made the commitment to sacrificing things like being near downtown and its shopping/”culture” in order to raise kids in a safe place. (That’s the case for nice suburbs. There are many suburbs in sprawling cities like LA that are just repositories for those with no other direction.)

If we include these groups, we rapidly see the approach of a divide between the responsible and irresponsible. Responsible people have the producer mentality; irresponsible people are used to angling for what they need by getting it from other people, usually by convincing them with a shell game of symbols. Irresponsible people solve problems by clumping together like dough and using their collective weight to force other people to give them things… and if that causes socialized costs down the line, well, they’re not thinking about that.

Here’s an instance of this kind of thinking:

Emboldened by a new leftist constitution, Bolivia President Evo Morales on Saturday handed over ownership of farmland seized by the state from wealthy estate holders to poor indigenous people.

Morales handed out around 94,000 acres of lands recently confiscated from five big ranches in Bolivia’s wealthy eastern lowlands, a stronghold of his conservative political opponents. The ranchers have been accused of employing workers in conditions of semi-slavery.

“Private property will always be respected but we want people who are not interested in equality to change their thinking and focus more on country than currency,” said Morales, flanked by military and police personnel.

Reuters

When I lived among the surly urban poor of Los Angeles, I learned one thing that I have seen confirmed time and again about poverty: its origin is in cluelessness, disorganization and lack of impulse control, not oppression.

A friend of mine in Austin who grew up in a trailer park because his parents were alcoholic pointed this out to me, saying that despite his liberal beliefs, he knew why the poor were poor: “Everyone in that trailer park belonged there.” They were unable to stop drinking or taking drugs, having children or flaking out on work. They were chronically disorganized, so that when they got that job, the car had been taken apart for the fuel pump to be used to clean the kitchen sink that they meant to unclog last week but just hadn’t gotten around to it.

In his eyes, the place was hell. I’ve since heard the same from many friends, whose parents followed the baby boomers to their doom but didn’t realize it was a scam and pull out in time to become bankers. I’ve seen the same in impoverished places on three continents.

Ask yourself: if the poor are poor, why do they always seem to have $5 for cigarettes, $5 for the lottery, $5 for alcohol and $25 to watch the sports event or rock concert du jour? Why do you see people wearing $200 tracksuits and $200 shoes walking around the ghetto?

To be poor, you need to be irresponsible. Spend that $400 now on flashy things instead of on building infrastructure; spend $40 per day on cigs, lottery and booze instead of infrastructure; even more, with what you have, junk it and don’t care for it, and don’t keep it organized, so that whenever opportunity does come you’re unable to take advantage of it.

The single mother of six children said when she saw the pitch for the adorable puppies last summer on the popular classified ad site Kijiji she was excited to welcome the brother and sister dogs named Nelly and Kelly into her home.

St. Amand says she sent upwards of $2,000 for the dogs she is yet to see except for photos sent to her by email.

St. Amand is on welfare, and along with her children ages two to 11, shares her home with her boyfriend and six pets – including two mixed breed dogs.

Money in St. Amand’s household is so scarce she was going to have to pawn two small rings to come up with the gas money to have a relative take her to the airport to get the dogs.

Canada East

(I can’t tell what’s more appalling — that she performed the ultimate act of stupidity in sending her welfare money to get these dogs, the way she lives as a six-child welfare mom with a boyfriend on welfare and four dogs, or that she was willing to admit this to the world via the press. If this family dies in a fire, we can all agree that the gene pool will be clearer.)

The poor in Bolivia live in near-slavery conditions because when given wealth, they squander it. They will squander this gift too. And instead of concentrating power in the hands of people who could get responsible, their president is now declaring dominion of the irresponsible over the responsible. (This is the ultimate state of Crowdism: when the irresponsible, produced by the wealth created by the responsible, band together to take that wealth from the responsible, and thus kill the goose that laid the golden egg and plunge themselves into a third-world military junta dark ages.)

And yet another example:

A former busker, Aubrey Meyer, thought up what is increasingly regarded as the long-term solution to global warming – and, through relentless campaigning, he has managed to get his idea adopted as policy by many governments, especially in developing countries. Dubbed “contraction and convergence”, it starts from the principle that everyone on Earth is entitled to emit the same amount of carbon dioxide. It then determines the level of emissions low enough to avoid dangerous climate change. The total amount put into the atmosphere worldwide each year must then be made to “contract” until it reaches this point. Simultaneously, the totals of individual countries have to “converge”, so that each emits the same amount for every one of its citizens; rich countries would have to reduce their totals very heavily, while some poor countries could actually be able to increase theirs. Most experts agree that it is the fairest framework. Persuading Americans to agree to emit the same amount as Ethiopians is another matter.

Felling forests, especially in the tropics, is the second biggest cause of carbon dioxide emissions after burning fossil fuels, accounting for a fifth of the world’s total. But people and governments have no incentive to leave them standing when they can make money by selling the timber, or farming the cleared land. Now international negotiators are beginning to work out how the world as a whole could compensate them for setting aside the chainsaw. In practice, of course, the money would end up coming from rich countries.

The Independent

The passive aggression assumption here: technology does not require wastefulness. We can limit the waste and pollution generated by technology, but on a practical level, there will be CO2 emissions no matter what we do.

Curiously, while the first world can measure its CO2 emissions, the third world cannot, so we do not have figures for slash and burn agriculture, torching garbage, running primitive equipment without catalytic converters, etc. — even though the third world outnumbers the first world nine to one, and so if they produce one ninth the emissions, they’re on par for the problem.

The right distrusts global warming because all of the solutions end up being like this: penalize the first world, and thus give a giant free gift of money, power and technology to the third world, even though their greater numbers means they’ll be a climate wrecking ball unlike anything before. Never mind that the most atrocious uses of power in the first world involve the activities preferred by the working classes and lower middle classes, like fast food restaurants, big engines, cheap consumer products, disposable goods, and so on. The wealthy don’t screw around with those things. They appeal to those for whom “good deal” is like a light to a moth; they can’t think past the next two weeks, so always buy the cheaper gadget and then throw it out, even if the gadget that cost twice as much would have lasted ten times as long.

This is why the smartest people among us are turning to whole or organic ideologies that include knowledge of the inherent hierarchies among humanity. They’re allying some goofy ideas together in order to do it so that we get the concept of whole. Whole means every factor at once, not one factor — who has money and who doesn’t — at a time. That’s why, for example, many environmentalists are embracing alternative medicine:

Environmentalism is, or should be, a movement led by scientific findings. I see the role of environmentalists as being to explore and explain the implications of what the science – whether on climate change, habitat loss, biodiversity, fisheries, pollution or resource depletion — is saying, and how this should translate into public policy. We should try at all times to be rigorous. And we should kill our darlings – our enthusiasm for solar panels, for example, or our rigid opposition to nuclear power — if the facts demand it.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be motivated by the science. My environmentalism arises from both a deep love of the natural world and a strong sense of the injustices done to vulnerable people: it’s an emotional impulse, in other words.

The Guardian

He’s not listening to Prince Charles. The Prince of Wales is pointing out that modernism, or the assumption of linear rationalism, is the root of our problem.

If we’re going to get environmental, he thinks, in order for us to succeed we must fix our thinking first. So — alternative medicine — why? It embraces a simple concept: holism. Where modern medicine tries to find a symptom and hammer it, alternative medicine tries to put the whole system in balance.

And that’s Prince Charles’s message: put the system in balance, in harmony, as a whole. Do not just hammer a problem and ignore the consequences. Do not be blind to context, or to reasons for things like poverty versus wealth. Take in all factors at once and come up with a balance solution. Yes, it’s intellectually harder — but it’s a longer-term fix to the ongoing human problem of modernism as described by Huxley: overwhelmed with too much information, we pick an ethic of convenience that leads to a celebration of the trivial, including ourselves as individuals with no cause for said celebration.

Here is why:

“He sold his boat for me.” These are my six words. He sold his boat and it was a lifetime ago, ancient history now. And it was a little boat. But it was a big act of love that I didn’t recognize for a long, long time.

For the boat was just a boat in my eyes. But in my husband’s? He could tell you the horsepower and the color of the seats and how many people it held and how much he paid for it and how much he got for it – because it was his youth, his plumage, a speedboat that he hitched to the back of his shiny GTO. It turned heads. It made girls notice him. He was 19 and he liked that.

He was 24 and I was 23 and we had an 8-month-old whose bedroom had been our family room. I said, “We need more space.” And he said, “I’ll sell my boat.”

And that was that. He never moaned about giving up something he loved, and I never said, “Don’t” or “Are you sure?”

Everyone who is married or living together or just going together started off sweet-talking. What do you need? How can I help? I can do that. No problem! Flowers for no reason. Poems. Chicken soup when you’re sick. Ice cream just because. Phone calls that are more than traffic reports.

It’s all sunshine and roses. Until it isn’t.

That’s when it’s important to remember the beginning.

“He sold his boat for me.” This was my beginning.

The Boston Herald

That’s holism in action: realizing what is more important than immediate needs, transcending the individual and reaching for a greater future state, even if it is not recognized right away. Not demanding the money of others. Not farming out your selfishness as a socialized cost to the rest of society. Not calling folks ignorant for wanting to keep traditional values. Not living by selling people short-term illusions and pleasing symbols; instead, embracing reality good and bad alike, and as a painter with a canvas and paint, making a beautiful future of it.

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