Book of the Month

Donal's picture

The Starved Class


SyFy network has been running their Twilight Zone marathon again. I watched TZ (and The Outer Limits) religiously, yet today I caught two episodes I hadn't seen before, and several I hadn't seen since the original broadcasts. TZ writers often challenged the assumptions behind our comfy American lives, and they were often on target. For example I hadn't seen the episode, Number 12 Looks Just Like You, in which a young girl is forced to transform to a beautiful, but stock, body type. Almost fifty years later breast implants are common, seemingly sane people inject themselves with botox, and Isabelle Caro (above), the "no anorexia" model just died at age 28. Starvation inflicts permanent damage.

CMaukonen has noted over and over that we don't seem inclined to make things anymore, Miguelitoh2o has covered the depressing state of the union and Barth just reminded us that nothing is cost-free. Everyone sees that our middle class is being rolled by the rich, and that half of them like it. We used to be the envy of the world, but The Grim Truth on Club Orlov tells us we are dupes.

Americans, I have some bad news for you:

You have the worst quality of life in the developed world — by a wide margin.

If you had any idea of how people really lived in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many parts of Asia, you’d be rioting in the streets calling for a better life. In fact, the average Australian or Singaporean taxi driver has a much better standard of living than the typical American white-collar worker.

I know this because I am an American, and I escaped from the prison you call home.


A friend who has lived overseas tells me he's exaggerating, but not wrong.

The fact is, they work you like dogs in the United States. This should come as no surprise: the United States never got away from the plantation/sweat shop labor model and any real labor movement was brutally suppressed. ...


Sometimes I wonder if we are so unfocused that we take too long to get the work done.

ArtAppraiser just scooped me on this review of Claude S. Fischer's Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character. David M Kennedy of Boston Review tries to pin down what Americans once were:

... David Potter ... claimed in People of Plenty (1954) that an unusual degree of material abundance had shaped distinctively American institutions, behaviors, values, and habits, including advertising, mobility, consumerism, and even notably indulgent child-rearing practices. ...
The central trait of the American character, Fischer says, is voluntarism. Here he creatively fuses Tocqueville’s familiar observation about Americans as inveterate joiners and his equally famous notion of individualism. Voluntarism, for Fischer, embraces both the recognition of each person as a “sovereign individual” at liberty to pursue his or her own destiny, and the belief that “individuals succeed through fellowship — not in egoistic isolation but in sustaining, voluntary communities.” And the central trend over the course of American history is the broadening ambit of voluntarism, the expanding interaction of questing selves and the several communities they seek to join and from which they expect affirmation and sustenance, both emotional and material.


The Tea Party may be an example of voluntarism, but longer term "community organizing" (like Acorn) of the working and middle classes is attacked. Acceptable voluntarism involves promoting religion, self-expression or personal advancement - not political awareness. With our polarization into red and blue camps, and with the splintering of those camps, voluntarism isn't uniting us.

Sharon Astyk, who has been comparatively optimistic in her Peak Oil writings, thinks we're struggling in difficult times and wonders if the virtues we value are sustainable:

In many ways, the story of the twentieth and early twenty-first century has been the overturning of one way of life (very broadly construed) and the emergence of another throughout the world. The consequences of this way of life and its variants is evident - we consume more of everything, so much so that we are using more than the planet can sustain, and rapidly, making the future resources of the planet less available.

Astyk feels we have to try to change that even though we will often fail.

 

It isn't an easy project in a world that assumes a great deal of energy and emissions, that says freedom is consumer choice and that participation is mandatory and that wealth is our goal. So when you are in the garden, when you ride your bicycle or walk, when you explain to your neighbor yet again why you don't want their lawn chemicals on your yard, when hang your laundry, when you deliver a meal to a neighbor who is ill, when you say "no, we don't do that," when you teach your children who you are and why you do the difficult thing, when you try and convince yourself that you aren't too tired, when you get up in the morning and it looks like all you've done is pointless remember this - you are doing something hard and vast and new. Without your work and courage there is no hope at all for all of those with the courage to chain themselves at the gates. Without those who chain themselves at the gates, enough people will not know what you have done. With both together, change begins.

But that requires voluntarism and unity, which seem in short supply. Are we in the grip of overwhelming history or are we doing something wrong? Or both?

Back on the Twilight Zone, I hadn't seen Earl Hamner's The Bewitchin' Pool since the 1960s. Two children have everything but the attention of their affluent, bickering parents, and escape through their backyard pool to a comforting fantasy world. Now when we were kids, my brother and sister and I assumed the kids had drowned and gone to a sort of play heaven. But seeing the episode after reading Democracy Now!'s summary of several interviews of Dr. Gabor Maté has me reevaluating Hamner's message:

When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop the way they ought to. It’s that simple. And unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics rather than on the environment, which, of course, is a simple explanation. It also takes everybody off the hook. ... if people’s behaviors and dysfunctions are regulated, controlled and determined by genes, we don’t have to look at child welfare policies, we don’t have to look at the kind of support that we give to pregnant women, we don’t have to look at the kind of non-support that we give to families, so that, you know, most children in North America now have to be away from their parents from an early age on because of economic considerations. And especially in the States, because of the welfare laws, women are forced to go find low-paying jobs far away from home, often single women, and not see their kids for most of the day. Under those conditions, kids’ brains don’t develop the way they need to.

And so, if it’s all caused by genetics, we don’t have to look at those social policies; we don’t have to look at our politics that disadvantage certain minority groups, so cause them more stress, cause them more pain, in other words, more predisposition for addictions; we don’t have to look at economic inequalities. If it’s all genes, it’s all — we’re all innocent, and society doesn’t have to take a hard look at its own attitudes and policies.

... I have attention deficit disorder myself. And again, most people see it as a genetic problem. I don’t. It actually has to do with those factors of brain development, which in my case occurred as a Jewish infant under Nazi occupation in the ghetto of Budapest. And the day after the ... Nazis marched into Budapest in March of 1944, my mother called the pediatrician and says, “Would you please come and see my son, because he’s crying all the time?” And the pediatrician says, “Of course I’ll come. But I should tell you, all my Jewish babies are crying.”

Now infants don’t know anything about Nazis and genocide or war or Hitler. They’re picking up on the stresses of their parents. And, of course, my mother was an intensely stressed person, her husband being away in forced labor, her parents shortly thereafter being deported and killed in Auschwitz. Under those conditions, I don’t have the kind of conditions that I need for the proper development of my brain circuits. And particularly, how does an infant deal with that much stress? By tuning it out. That’s the only way the brain can deal with it. And when you do that, that becomes programmed into the brain.

And so, if you look at the preponderance of ADD in North America now and the three millions of kids in the States that are on stimulant medication and the half-a-million who are on anti-psychotics, what they’re really exhibiting is the effects of extreme stress, increasing stress in our society, on the parenting environment. Not bad parenting. Extremely stressed parenting, because of social and economic conditions. And that’s why we’re seeing such a preponderance.

So, in my case, that also set up this sense of never being soothed, of never having enough, because I was a starving infant. And that means, all my life, I have this propensity to soothe myself. How do I do that? Well, one way is to work a lot and to gets lots of admiration and lots of respect and people wanting me. If you get the impression early in life that the world doesn’t want you, then you’re going to make yourself wanted and indispensable. And people do that through work. I did it through being a medical doctor. I also have this propensity to soothe myself through shopping, especially when I’m stressed, and I happen to shop for classical compact music. But it goes back to this insatiable need of the infant who is not soothed, and they have to develop, or their brain develop, these self-soothing strategies.

... the conditions in which children develop have been so corrupted and troubled over the last several decades that the template for normal brain development is no longer present for many, many kids. And Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, who’s a professor of psychiatry at Boston — University of Boston, he actually says that the neglect or abuse of children is the number one public health concern in the United States. A recent study coming out of Notre Dame by a psychologist there has shown that the conditions for child development that hunter-gatherer societies provided for their children, which are the optimal conditions for development, are no longer present for our kids. And she says, actually, that the way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well-being in a moral sense.

The child’s brain development depends on the presence of non-stressed, emotionally available parents. In this country, that’s less and less available. Hence, you’ve got burgeoning rates of autism in this country. It’s going up like 20- or 30-fold in the last 30 or 40 years.

... it never used to be that children grew up in a stressed nuclear family. That wasn’t the normal basis for child development. The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live. They don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day. For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives. And they’re spending their lives away from the nurturing adults, which is what they need for healthy brain development.


Maté makes a very different argument than Temple Grandin, who identifies Asperger-like forebears in her gene pool. I have always thought first about genetics, so this is a startling argument to consider.

Are we raising an emotionally-starved ADD/ADHD/Autistic underclass - easily fragmented and all too prone to being out-maneuvered by socially adept overlords? Starvation inflicts real damage, and I wonder what future these people can carve out for themselves.

Good post Donal. And I believe I and others have pointed out these very things and got brick bats for our trouble. But they need to be said all the same.

Karma,Pay back time,The Nation is reaping what it sowed.

Is this how Rome fell? 

God bless America? Why should he? 

(Galatians 5:22-6:8) 22 On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 mildness, self-control. ……26 Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another. ………. Go on carrying the burdens of one another, ……… 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceiving his own mind. ……….7 Do not be misled: ……. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; 8. . . 

America the government, is reaping what it sowed.  I don't feel the love anymore

Wait. Weren't you just dissing Reverend Wright for saying these same things, just a few days ago?

That was then, this is now. Or for New Yorkers...East is East and West is West.

For me....east, west just points on a compass.

I wasn't dissing Wriight.

In response to the commenters, who were suggesting that "NO ONE" thought Obama was the new Moses or Messianic reincarnate.

Wrong,

The black community (Americans); as shown by the video of Rev. Wright rejoicing, that finally; some one other than the white man, could understand and deliver them from the years of oppression under slavery, and all others acts of violence to mankind. perpetrated by the American HYPOCRITICAL WHITEMAN.

According to Wright, Obama understood what Hillary couldn't.

So why should God Bless America, when the actions of a Nation are in direct violation to the spirit.

As in ancient times God has heard the moaning and sighing of the oppressed and downtrodden, there will be an accounting.

LIS, who should be held responsible?   

As in ancient times God has heard the moaning and sighing of the oppressed and downtrodden, there will be an accounting.

When has god heard the moaning and sighing of the oppressed? Have you checked out Africa lately? Australia has an area the size of France and Germany under water from floods; this a few months after raging fires. Auschwitz?

If you honestly think that god "blesses" anyone or anything like a country, you take away both the pride of accomplishment as well as the shame and guilt of culpability.

The US was a powerhouse of success because of many factors, but the work of its citizens was a far bigger factor than any "blessing". Do you wonder why god would have blessed people who oppressed an indigenous population, many of whom were likely "moaning and sighing" from time to time.

Even the uber-wealthy, whose marginal tax rate was 90%, built infrastructure such as railroads, the steel and auto industries. All that has changed and no blessing will turn it around.

“When has god heard the moaning and sighing of the oppressed? Have you checked out Africa lately?” 

So now you want to blame God for all the Earths woes? 

Why don’t you put the blame where it belongs, people as yourself who want to bad mouth godly principles, such as how to live in harmony with one another and the planet . 

Of course you might have to humble yourself and recognize, YOU can’t make the needed changes or can YOU  barely save youself let alone the multitude of those suffering.

The world suffers becuase of people who have no fear or love of God,

Polluters who fear no justice, genocidal maniacs who fear no justice, forcing people from they're homes because there is no one to mete out justice.

People listening to YOU don't need to fear a higher law, because accoding to YOU there is no GOD, to hear the cases of the oppressed, the defrauded.

The mental attitude you display supports lawlessness. Take responsibiltiy Cville, don't blame God   

In your corrupted world, blaming God for mankinds stupidity, relieves you of the responsible role you play? By bad mouthing a powerful restraint, a spirit of love and kindness as opposed  to the abuses you and other Non fearing  fellow citizens play when they ignore GODLY principles, in favor of your own arrogant self guided teachings 

You can’t stop the downward spiral, but instad of recognizing your weakness, evidently it’s easier for you to bad mouth God, You keep promoting “blame God don’t blame YOU” 

I’ve seen enough of people like you, who are destroying the planet and the social fabic, because in your mind you know more than God if he should really exist. 

All powerful Cville please step up, end the suffering.   

People as yourself who constantly condemn god, yet the worlds problems are due to the fact you don’t THINK you need a god.

Sorry; but you offer no  real solutions, other than to blame God.

Please tell us your solution almighty Cville, tell us why we should listen to your counsel.   

Dear Resistance1,

Cville did not blame God. She did not even state her opinon on the existance of God. She simply said that she does not believe that God solves the problems that people created.

You, however, retaliated by blaming non-believers for pollution, genocide, and housing foreclosures. As a non-believer who has never foreclosed on anyone nor committed genocide and who subscribes to the "leave the campsite cleaner than you left it" philosophy, I take some offense at this remark. I would prefer to show respect for your beliefs, but if you refuse to show respect for mine, then I may be forced to taunt you. Consider this a warning.

-G

Another taunter, another ridiculer? 

Genghis, Cville has sought every opportunity to diss my belief in God, from TPM days. 

Reminding me of

  (2 Peter 3:3-4) 3 For YOU know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires 4 and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.. . . 

When Cville writes 

When has god heard the moaning and sighing of the oppressed? Have you checked out Africa lately?  

“Where is this promised presence” (2 Peter 3:3-4)  Cville asks “When has God heard”  

Did Cville mean to suggest, she knows for a certainty god doesn’t hear the cries, or maybe he’s just slow to address the issue?

 Is this being presumptuous? 

From that comment I discerned a centuries old ridicule “Where is God”   

As though the events in Africa prove there is no God, rather than mankinds failure to heed counsel  

(Jeremiah 10:23) 23 I well know, …….. that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step. . .

 With a huff and a puff  “When has God heard the moaning”   because evidently he has not,, or the situation in Africa would be resolved? 

So again Cville and now Genghis  what is your counsel? Solve the Africa problem for the planet, will you 

(Proverbs 1:22-33) 22 “How long will YOU inexperienced ones keep loving inexperience, and [how long] must YOU ridiculers desire for yourselves outright ridicule, and [how long] will YOU stupid ones keep hating knowledge? 23 Turn back at my reproof. Then to YOU I will cause my spirit to bubble forth; I will make my words known to YOU. 24 Because I have called out but YOU keep refusing, I have stretched out my hand but there is no one paying attention, 25 and YOU keep neglecting all my counsel, and my reproof YOU have not accepted, 26 I also, for my part, shall laugh at YOUR own disaster, I shall mock when what YOU dread comes, 27 when what YOU dread comes just like a storm, and YOUR own disaster gets here just like a storm wind, when distress and hard times come upon YOU. 28 At that time they will keep calling me, but I shall not answer; they will keep looking for me, but they will not find me, 29 for the reason that they hated knowledge………30 They did not consent to my counsel; they disrespected all my reproof. 31 So they will eat from the fruitage of their way, and they will be glutted with their own counsels. 32 For the renegading of the inexperienced ones is what will kill them, and the easygoingness of the stupid is what will destroy them. 33 As for the one listening to me, he will reside in security and be undisturbed from dread of calamity.. . . 

Australia has an area the size of France and Germany under water from floods; this a few months after raging fires. Auschwitz?  

Not Auschwiitz, more like your attempt at slandering God, as though he would burn in a raging firestorm those who don’t listen. God didn’t cause the fire, but you're quick to associate him with the devastation, as though it’s god’s fault?   

Besides;  I don’t know enough to comment on what the weather conditions that prompted this disaster.

Is Cville listing this as an example of godly disfavor? God is punishing Australia?  

I haven’t reviewed deforestation programs In Australia, I do believe mankind has affected the weather to his peril.

Is Australia a recipient of mankinds stupidity?

Should God save Australia, only to be ignored again and again?  

Is it Gods fault the Great Barrier reef is being destroyed? Are you asking for God’s help?   Should god turn his ears to those who have ignoored him “What, you talking to me, or taunting me?  

 I do know TRUE Christains are good stewards of the land as God’s law commands

(Revelation 11:18) . . .and to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.. . .  

If you honestly think that god "blesses" anyone or anything like a country, you take away both the pride of accomplishment as well as the shame and guilt of culpability.  

Pride reminds me, arrogance is not to far behind  PHAROAH OF EGPYT WAS FULL OF PRIDE AND ARROGANCE.

(Proverbs 8:14-21). . .“I, wisdom, I have resided with shrewdness and I find even the knowledge of thinking abilities. ……… Self-exaltation and pride and the bad way and the perverse mouth I have hated. 14 I have counsel and practical wisdom. . .I—understanding; I have mightiness. 15 By me kings themselves keep reigning, and high officials themselves keep decreeing righteousness. 16 By me princes themselves keep ruling as princes, and nobles are all judging in righteousness. 17 Those loving me I myself love, and those looking for me are the ones that find me. 18 Riches and glory are with me, hereditary values and righteousness. 19 My fruitage is better than gold, even than refined gold, and my produce than choice silver. 20 In the path of righteousness I walk, in the middle of the roadways of judgment, 21 to cause those loving me to take possession of substance; and their storehouses I keep filled. . . 

Do you wonder why god would have blessed people who oppressed an indigenous population, many of whom were likely "moaning and sighing" from time to time.

I didn’t know God blessed those who oppressed the indigenous, I thought the greedy stole it. Surely Cville, you have heard “You must not covet” Coveting is a  direct violation of gods law. There will be an accounting in due time.  

Even the uber-wealthy, whose marginal tax rate was 90%, built infrastructure such as railroads, the steel and auto industries. All that has changed and no blessing will turn it around.  

(Psalm 10:2-4) 2 In his haughtiness the wicked one hotly pursues the afflicted one; They get caught by the ideas that they have thought up.  3 For the wicked has praised himself over the selfish longing of his soul, And the one making undue profit has blessed himself; נ ….  4 The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search; All his ideas are: “There is no God.” 

True and lasting blessings come to those who listen to God  

So you wrote a book Genghis?

I suggest you read The Bible, it’s full of pratical wisdom and experiences. The planet would definitely benefit, from applying the counsel

Does your book do that, Genghis?

But would you also agree that if everyone followed the path of someone like Thich Naht Hanh, who believes in no god but in the compassion of life, that the world would be one of loving-kindness?

When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.

We really have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we only think of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love.

Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself- if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself- it is very difficult to take care of another person. In the Buddhist teaching, it's clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.

The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves "inside the skin" of the other.  We "go inside" their body, feelings, and mental formations, and witness for ourselves their suffering.  Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering.  We must become one with the subject of our observation.  When we are in contact with another's suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us. Compassion means, literally, "to suffer with."

Does Thich Naht Hanh, believe in a creator?

If not, the only thing he offers is the principles laid out by the creator.

Just as he expands on the teachings of love,  just as the Christ shared  the knowledge of his father with his students. The Christ stated he had so many things to teach but that his students weren't ready tolearn all things. The student could recieve the benefits of applying what he taught.

Love can be taught, making application brings blessings, Gods Word the Bible tells us that.   

Mr Hanh can tell us there is gravity, but he can he tell you why?

Can he tell you a house has a builder, but he that built and made all things is God, the creaator.

If we are students and we listen to the great teacher, and in our impatience, we run off thinking we have the answers to all things, when in reality we have only scratched the surface of the knowledge, the great teacher wants to impart. We have not learned but a few things. 

Does Mr Hanh draw people to the Great teacher?  

The Christain Churches ran off from the teacher, hoping to cash in from the limited knowledge they recieved. The knowledge they share is limited, they stopped listening to the teacher. They're students suffer for it.   

ok not to get off into a theological tangent but why does there have to be a "creator"?  If the strength of your argument is because a human house had a creator then, well, we don't have much to discuss.  It would seem that your entire system of belief is based on the premise that there is a creator. Once one allows in the notion that maybe, just maybe, there wasn't a creator standing outside it all, then all the other "evidence" crumbles and slips through one's hand like sand.  Which of course goes to the core of faith, which is that can't be proven by reason.  Acceptance is an act of faith, not a result of some line of reasoning, and that boils down to what resonates with one's spirit in context of one's experience.  In which case, then, you must accept the Buddhist acceptance of their faith that there is no deity, no creator, no being outside the unfolding of universe.

One benefit

With a loving creator comes affection,appreciation  

A godless world has shown lack of affection

More affection, more appreciation would solve a lot of societal ills. 

The pathways of rightousness, the creator' intended plan, is a whole lot better plan to solve mankinds problems than the way you and many endorse. Your plan as presently being executed has created a Godless world, a wicked, dying planet, full of hopeless strife and misery.

Mr Hanh can tell us there is gravity, but he can he tell you why?

I guess this begs the question -- what is god's explanation for gravity?  Can you cite it?

Scientists can, however, explain it.  You should try looking it up some time.

I wasn't going to go there, but thanks for point it out.  Last time I looked e=cm2 wasn't in the bible, either.

Jules Verne wrote about so many things that had not been anticipated in modern life:  he discussed a form of FAX machine, for example, and telephones.  He imagined visiting the moon in a some-what realistic way.  But with all of his ability to conger up things that men had not yet dreamed of, he never thought of anything as practical as a ball-point pen or a pencil; he just couldn't get past the idea of the way an ink-well would work, or other day-to-day practicalities.  

Ahh, the limitations of imagination.  Makes you kind of wonder about how things might have been proposed in a book written by someone not anchored by earthly reality, no?   The most extreme punishment:  fire?

Hell is others.  Sartre

You bring up e=mc2

good point

Mankind with a god given, created brain, figured out how to release the bands holding the atom together, generating great force .

The one with the real power, is the one who put the bands there in the first place

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

I am not aware of that FALSE God, or what is required of it's adherants

Pastafarians have an appetite for life and don't waste time noodling about creators.

That's shortsighted

Eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die?

I want to eat and drink and live forver, so I can continue to eat and drink and live happily ever after

Then eat more complex carbohydrates - like spaghetti.

Er...pasta is a simple carb unless it's 100% whole wheat, which of course makes your mouth sting...Tongue out; but still...Might have to change to "WW Flying Spagetti Monster".

Blasphemy!! We do actually favor whole wheat pasta and bread, though my sect doesn't believe in discriminating against paler pastas (on occasion).

ROTFLMAO!  I went with the Preggo nutritionists.

This Harvard School of Public Health article tells us that white pasta, though technically complex, is not low glycemic.

Carbohydrates were once grouped into two main categories. Simple carbohydrates included sugars such as fruit sugar (fructose), corn or grape sugar (dextrose or glucose), and table sugar (sucrose). Complex carbohydrates included everything made of three or more linked sugars. Complex carbohydrates were thought to be the healthiest to eat, while simple carbohydrates weren't so great. It turns out that the picture is more complicated than that.

I sense a disturbance in the sauce.

It's looking at you, kid!

And even the GI is under further scrutiny because of amounts actually ingested...sigh.

Funny

Resistance,  How could I suggest that "there is no god,"  (which happens to be what I believe), and then blame anything on him/her?  How could I think that something I don't believe exists. is punishing the hapless people of Africa?  I don't blame anything on god, nor do I give any credit.  Truthfully, if I did, I would be pretty angry at him/her right about now.  

 I simply ask you for the 3rd time:

Tell me an example or 2 of situations of suffering in which god (and only god) intervened to stop the suffering.  In your outrage about your basic premise being challenged, you are not even acknowledging the question.

You've told me repeatedly you don't believe in god? That is not the issue with you, which now Genghis feels you’re a victim.

The subtle questions you have raised, that have convinced Genghis of your SO innocent request, are belied by your past TPM encounters and from your own words 

"there is no god,"  (which happens to be what I believe),

Let me complete the words, that I believe best describes your motivation, “wherever people such as resistance say otherwise, I will attack, to ridicule, to disparage 

Your comments earlier suggest, the real question to be answered

"If there was a God who cared, why is there suffering" Seeing the world full of suffering, there must be no god? 

If I accepted, your belief; then the blame is solely on mankind. 

Then is mankind doomed, to a hopeless world, full of suffering? Is there nothing to be done? 

Why yes, there is something, Simple, everyone learns the laws; everyone learns to live in harmony. Everyone on the same page. 

Does such a law book exist? Why yes, it’s called the Bible. 

Problem is, some people want to live independently of the law, saying “why should we listen or observe commandments”. Pharaoh was blunt, “who is this god, so that I should listen to him? Some people today are of the same mindset. 

We’re in the mess were in, because of independent, self-serving individuals, who don’t fear the law. Saying in they’re hearts “Who is this god, so that I should listen and observe his commandments”?  

I’ll keep my belief that the world conditions prove beyond a doubt that mankind cannot direct his steps independent of God. Also the works of the creator can be seen in all of creation. On that basis, I rest assured of the hope and that there is a creator who cares, only he can remove the obstructionists.

You would, if you could, wouldn’t you Cville?  

You ask for two illustrations,

  • The Great Flood of Noah’s time 
  •  Hebrew liberation from enslavement in Egypt. 

So will you act independently, and continue to defend you're "there is no god,"  (which happens to be what I believe),

I will not be convinced that a world independent of god offers any hope. The lawlessness will continue to increase under that scenario.

So, nothing more contemporary than that; nothing that can be validated.  And the flood helped those who were suffering how, except to kill off everyone except those in the ark?  OK.  

If the only examples you can provide is two thousand years ago, before any contemporaneous historical record, then I guess we have to agree to disagree.  How about all those who have suffered and died without intervention in the last couple of millennia?  Were they less worthy than the Hebrews?  Or Noah?   For what it's worth, I wish that there was some beneficent, wise being who would make things right.  If anything happens to show that there is, I will be there, and will 

Thanks for the response.  I am over and out on this one.

Aw, fer chrissakes, CVille! Don't discount the Flood, or dismiss it so lightly! It's really a pretty neat parlor trick if you can pull it off! Guaranteed to impress the neighbors!

You want more recent testament of the wonder of god and how he sure works in mysterious ways? I direct your attention to these pious believers and their Mission to preach the Law of God to dead soldiers and their families. Truly wondrous, this god thing. 

Fight no longer, oh ye child of god. Turn your will and your life  - and your intellect, too! - over to the god of the scriptures. What could possibly go wrong? 

Starved class indeed,

An intellectually dishonest comparison.

Do you really think God really approves of this conduct? Or are these people slandering God?

(Matthew 7:21-23) 21 “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. 22 Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ 23 And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew YOU! Get away from me, YOU workers of lawlessness.

I gave you more credit than that sleepin, that you were above stereotyping and were more intellectually honest.  

I'm lookin' through you,

You're not the same!

Corruption of principles of decency is so vogue today, it's any wonder we're in the mess were in. 

While all the hypocrites cry about how we treat our fellow man and that we should do more.

Actions speak louder

Is this due to starvation? Spiritual darkness?

I am more encouraged to keep seeking the right path. 

You lucked out, Resistance1, I had no time to properly taunt you and seem to have lost the urge. But I have read the Old Testament in fact. Your examples for C'Ville are interesting choices. According to the Bible, in the time of Noah, God drowned every man, women, and child except for Noah and his family. Then in the time of Exodus, God murdered every first born Egyptian child. Is this the kind of salvation to Africa's woes that you're hoping for?

PS As you surely know, the famous ten plagues were actually God's second persecution of the Egyptians. The first occurred when Abram (later Abraham) visited Egypt. Fearing that the Egyptians would covet his wife Sarai, Abram lied that she was his sister. The Pharaoh then purchased Abram's "sister" to be his concubine, compensating Abram with livestock. Then God began plaguing the Egyptian people because their king had (unknowingly) attempted adultery with Sarai. Does that seem fair and just to you?

let's not forget Noah's curse on humanity after the flood after his son came upon him in a less than commendable situation.

Did the account titilate you? 

The event was sickening, do you think Noah was wrong?

Or do you excuse the less than commendable situation?  

Genghis, You are speaking half truths.

Noah was a preacher of righousness for forty years. The people scoffed and ridiculed Noah and refused to accept the invitation to enter the safety of the ark.

God only drowned those who didn't heed the warning. There blood is upon them.  

God has never executed judgement, without first sending messengers to warn the people FIRST.

It is the peoples stubborness and refusal to accept the message. Your choice.

I suppose you'll next tell me how God didn't save the unicorns though?  

EGYPT

As for the plagues of Egypt, each one proved the powerlessness of the Egyptian gods. God eventually showed Pharoah, he too could not stand up against God. As his mighty army was swallowed up by the Red Sea. 

Pharoah should have listened and observed, instead he wanted to do battle against God.

They were no match against the God of Moses. 

How about you?

When Pharoah asked "who is this Hebrew God Jehovah, that I should listen to him" He found out the false Egyptian gods were powerless.  I wonder if pharoahs advisors told him to ignore and even ridicule Moses and his god

Eventually, Pharoah had to concede "Who can stand up against the True God and live"  

So you make your stand, and if you choose to ignore him, your blood is upon you.

Like the song lyrics say "What's it going to be boy"  

Even then the message was sent out to Egypt. Sprinkle blood of the lamb upon the door header and perserve your families alive, on the night of Passover.

Those who listened and did, were Passed Over, they did not die.  God First showed a way to escape judgement. 

Does God owe you anything, except an opportunity to live?  

You'll just perish like all flesh, because dust you are and to dust you will return.

Except those written down in the Book of life.

What does it hurt to listen to the true God, who has already shown his power   

I forgot to mention another time the nation of Israel was warned to escape, to flee to the mountainsto escape the Roman encampment and destruction of Jerusalem.

Your so powerful Genghis, why can't you reign in the abuses of this government.

or do you only serve them and their will? From your comments You serve them.

As for me I'll be an attendant to the true God, I'll listen and do according to his will and perserve my place in the book of life.

You'll serve someone, because believe me, you really are not free.     

What about the children and babies, was there blood upon them too?

And you might want to study your Bible. The message about the blood of the lamb only went out to the Israelites. The firstborn Egyptians--good or bad, adult or child, all of them--died for the stubbornness of their king.

OK, I'm off. It's been a pleasure.

Genghis, our genial host. do you seriously propose to banter with a Yahwist? After all, this so-called "god" smirked (per the text-or Cecil DeMille, anyway) "I will harden Pharoah's heart" when ol' Ramses gave signs of caving before the necessary tally of innnocents was rung up. The whole sordid elevation of this canaaite two-bit deity starts with a mock execution (The Sacriice of Isaac, the miracle baby.) Thus, a war criminal per the Geneva Conventions, and don't let's even start about collective punishment.

Just as all the other would be world conquerors executed they're plans.

Today we call it collateral damage.

I have hope of a better world, your's is dying.

 

Just say no to Yahweh.  Jesus, on the other hand, is my Lord and Saviour.  What the fuck is it to you?

Odd, I didn't recognize the fruitage of the spirit in your comment.

As for what is it to me.

 I love truth, I hate fraud and deception.   

There's to much of that in the world already.    

The blood is upon the adults  

 

all of them--died for the stubbornness of their king.

No different today than in your Godless world.  

Does it seem fair to you that the Egyptian pharoah could just take Abrams "sister" for his sexual pleasure?

Had pharoah known they were married, and he really wanted to take the woman, he would have murdered Abram. No doubt about it.

Do you condone pharoahs actions and then find fault wih Abram?

How many others in our time, condone these types of behavior, then wonder why our society is failing.

Do you believe might makes right?  

Well, this is my last comment on this thread: Resistance, based on what you write, you should be a serenely happy person, gently pointing others toward the enlightenment you claim to have.

Instead you focus on all that is wrong in the world and blame it all on non-believers (claiming at the same time that WE blame god --whom we DON'T actually believe exists -- for all that is wrong in the world) ...oh, and if innocent children get "smitten" by the wrath of god...what-ev's. Because their parents don't believe a particular thing. Huh?

You give as an example of god's wondrous mercy, a flood that according to the bible killed every man, woman, child, and animal on earth except for a few that got on board a boat.

Good luck, Resistance. I think you are in a lot of pain. I hope it gets better for you.

You are indeed a CIVIL Dem, C'Ville. Your responses to what can only be seen as an irrational personal attack of you based solely on a difference of belief is a credit to you.

Resistance: so often what you say makes sense to me -- in terms of your identification of issues we are all concerned about, as well as your obvious concern for the common good, etc.. But when you get on a holy roll, you lose perspective, imo, and all your obvious care and concern for your fellow man and woman gets lost in the OTT obsessive invective.

Can you, will you talk politics without talking religion? Because in practical terms, they really are two separate subjects .... or should be, particularly in America where we are supposed to have a clear cut line of demarcation between church and state. 

You read in C'Ville's remarks what you personally fear, not what she actually said. Might you apologize for that?

Do you want a solution or an empty promise?

Can you, will you talk politics without talking religion? Because in practical terms, they really are two separate subjects. 

In practical terms they are not separate. One claims to be the best form of  governance to managing and governing mankinds affairs, the other is. 

What I find so annoying is so many of you spout off invididual ideas about solutions to the problems we face. 

When given the opportunity, to learn of an alternative, to the failed political solutions, there are those who would shut the messenger down. “We strictly forbid you to preach about his kingdom,

Would some if given an opportunity, taunt me, slap me, or spit upon me too? For hoping for a better government a kingdom, that really would bring the solutions we seek? For I have observed and concluded, our government never intends to deliver or can't.

Just as you have written "can you talk politics without religion"  Why? 

Am I not affected by political decisions made by men? Someone between God fearing or wicked. 

How will I measure the character? I expect whoever tells me he can solve the problems, to measure up to a higher standard, than just lying politician or crooked banker. 

How much of our problems are due to men of corrupted values.

IMHO Values mean something.  

Would you deny that the planet and all life is in peril; and despite Government promises the Nations are hopelessly lost. 

Do you want a solution or empty promises?

 

First of all, thanks Genghis for trying to help Resistance see what I was saying.

Resistance, I merely asked you to give examples of what you wrote in your piece -- when has god heard the "moans and sighs of the oppressed?". I then went on to give a few examples of terrible things in the world that have not received any of the intervention that you indicated god would provide. I assure you that I do not think, believe, or push the notion that god caused any of these things. In fact I thought it was pretty obvious that man (Africa), and nature (flooding in Australia) were the causes of the problems.

My question to you was simply, to give an example or 2 of god (and ONLY god) coming in and changing things for the better. I simply don't see it. .

I obviously struck a nerve, even though I felt that my question was worded respectfully. But I would actually appreciate an answer to the question if you don't mind.

On the Kennedy review of Claude Fischer's new book  I have to read it of course. But a couple things Kennedy said about it struck me in the midst of concurrent thoughts, and other things being posted here. And I think maybe you are taking the definition of voluntarism a bit wrongly in this context--granted, again, that we have not read the book.

You say

The Tea Party may be an example of voluntarism, but longer term "community organizing" (like Acorn) of the working and middle classes is attacked. Acceptable voluntarism involves promoting religion, self-expression or personal advancement - not political awareness. With our polarization into red and blue camps, and with the splintering of those camps, voluntarism isn't uniting us.

Seems likely to me Fischer isn't claiming it unites us in the way you mean. He is talking about a national characteristic, part of our culture, not solidarity or anything like that.

First, the red and blue camps are not real, we all know that, they are a device created by journalists to explain what happens when forced by our two party system, our congressional districts, the Electoral College the system we have et.al.  we have to decide between two choices. Sure we all get into the game for a few days around the elections, most people here probably root for more blue states. But that fades quickly and it all goes back to individualism and a rainbow spectrum country.  How many tried and true loyal Republicans or loyal Democrats, true party people, do you know anymore? How many bloggers do you see complain the parties don't mean anything very consistent any more? As we progress down the road of time as a nation, there are now conservative moderate and liberal versions in each party and it's Independents that are growing to be the largest party.

Kennedy says

Voluntarism, for Fischer, embraces both the recognition of each person as a “sovereign individual” at liberty to pursue his or her own destiny, and the belief that “individuals succeed through fellowship—not in egoistic isolation but in sustaining, voluntary communities.” And the central trend over the course of American history is the broadening ambit of voluntarism, the expanding interaction of questing selves and the several communities they seek to join and from which they expect affirmation and sustenance, both emotional and material.

That formulation allows Fischer to illuminate many phenomena, from the proliferation of religious sects to the surge in gated communities, from celebration of Barack Obama’s election to the envy animating so much of American life. Made in America sheds abundant light on the American past and helps us to understand how we arrived at our own historical moment, and who we are today. Compared with their ancestors, Fischer concludes:

Modern Americans have more of almost everything: more time on Earth, more wealth, more things, more information, more power, more acquaintances, and so many more choices. . . . Americans began as a ‘people of plenty’ in David Potter’s words, but became even more so. And, over generations, more of those who had been outside the circle of plenty and outside the culture of independence which plenty sustained . . . joined it. In this sense, more Americans became more American.

Arguably the most important of those items is choices. The capacious range of possibilities Americans face demands that they make and often remake many decisions—about what career to pursue, whom to marry, how many children to have, what loyalties to honor, where to live, how to vote, where to worship, and, yes, how to define their identities

I especially found the mention of the Obama campaign quite striking as I was just thnking about it in the context of talking about history of "Obamabots" et. al. turning up in mass on group blogs in 2008.

Think of how Obama took Deaniac internet political tactics of fundraising and getting people involved to a new level! Don't you see how this theory fits so well there? I saw for myself how many ordinary people who donated to Obama's campaign felt empowered by that, how they felt they power with that act, and excited by the potential as well as volunteering for the campaign. Do you think all of them would be so excited if we had a complete system of public financing of campaigns with free television time (which someone like me would prefer)? That doesn't have as much potential to empower/excite anybody more than the standard one person, one vote, you see? But if they feel they can do something else to effect their team winning? Then they get involved.

Likewise what he is describing is this very kind of forum (Dag blog, I mean) or community. Not activism like Acorn, not an actual institution. Here you are not burdened with responsibilities or an institution with bureaucracy and systems. You are free to contribute as much as you want and you are free to leave whenever you want. Same with the Obama campaign--you had the freedom when something struck you at the moment, maybe something McCain or some Republican or Hillary/Bill said, to donate at that time, with the feeling of power that provided.

Once you chose to live in a gated community, you are not stuck there. You can leave. Same with most religious sects. Americans basically invented "cafeteria Catholicism." Reacting with "choice" to a religion where the whole institution they have built doesn't really doesn't tolerate such a thing, where you're either with them and obedient to the hierarchy or against them.

This ties in with the American reputation in the past for innovation, and the common antipathy to large central government in various forms. Without hidebound bureaucratic institutions (or machine politics, or huge labor unions with corrupt bosses and their own machines--a lot of other examples come to mind,) Americans felt or feel more empowered even if they were not in reality. They don't liked to be forced to join anything, they like to chose when to act. White men were spoiled by having a lot of choices in the past. Note American feminism did not say, give up some of those choices, they said, we want them too.

Look at the institutions that have become popular. Social Security for one. It gives everyone an individual account that belongs to them. It doesn't "hand out" help according to need. It was sold as "insurance," almost as if it is to insure that you don't become a burden on society. Certainly it had that effect on the post-war boom--for the first time we could have little nuclear familites where you didn't have mother-in-laws bossing the son and his new wife around anymore, you could get away from the extended family as the aged retired could pay their own rent..

Stikes me very intriguing, it may really be a case of "it's the individualism, stupid" that everyone should always keep in mind. That one stubborn permanent part of American culture is that Americans don't want entrenched systems of government or class, that's one of the few things the majority agrees on not liking, that's the old world with all its history and ancient institutions, Americans wan't the "freedom" at the risk of things turning out unfair?

The innovation thing is related, and it is risky as there are fewer safety nets. (I should add that it's risky to get on a boat to come to America fo get away from the old country when you're illiterate and have $2 in your pocket, and its risky to load your wife and kids in a covered wagon to try for that land grab out in the west.....)

May also explain the lack of outrage about the Citizen's United case, you pay your dollars and you get your say. Ever notice how many bloggers, even how many Americans, like to judge the quality and effectiveness of advertising and think they could do it better? Everyone could do the political campaign better, they don't want to be a follower they want to be a supporter. Doing what a boss at Acorn says doesn't really give the same empowering feeling. Getting together with the neighbors to fight that new sewer plan might if you are all on the same page, but if not you just might rather move to another neighborhood instead. Same with your current favorite internet forum. And then many are the type that like to surf all the channels with the remote control.

It does indeed fit with a lot of what Tocqueville describes, that is partly why I found it so intriguing.

Choices in "voluntarism," which could probably better described as club joining and clique joining, with no commitments to ideology and certainly not long term. The Tea Party is indeed an example, but so was the Obama campaign. So was the Perot movement, fizzling over time. So may be how the Tea Party ends up. May also be the reason for the much noted American fickleness showing up in disillusion with Obama. Who is to say JFK would be considered so saintly had he not been assasinated. etc.....

" Expectation postponed is making the heart sick, but the thing desired is a tree of life when it does come" (Proverbs 13:12)  

The fickleness of the American electorate will eventually reach a boiling point, then who will restrain the mob?

Another lying politician?

Been there done that.

America's rulership and credibilty is at risk; as it should be  

The heart grows weary, when hope and expectation is delayed

I just looked it up, and this is approximately what I thought voluntarism meant:

Voluntarism (action), the use of or reliance on voluntary action to maintain an institution, carry out a policy, or achieve an end.

But there's another meaning I never would have imagined:

Voluntarism (metaphysics), a philosophical term emphasising the primacy of the will.

So I was thinking that Kennedy/Fischer meant people choosing to join and participate in movements and instititutions rather than ending up in them by birth, class or trade. But our voluntarism seems to be channeled into more and more self-indulgent and risk-free routes, which also end up being more easily controlled or ignored by the people in charge. Despite the voluntarism of the Tea Party, and the Obama surge, political power seems to be more of a top down proposition.

Yeah, much is made of the distinctively American adherence to the metaphysical version of Voluntarism - 'we determine our life outcomes, not environment/circumstance' - and its likely underlying role in shaping how Americans conceive of collective action, whether it be of a political nature or not. And there are polls to back this up. I.e. Europeans seem to think luck has much more role to play in who ends up in the street or in the Mansion.

But explaining the peculiar dysfunctions of each country in terms of some natural characteristic, like ArtA and Seaton are prone to, or even the much beloved Tocqueville, seems overrated in my opinion. Basic things like the structure of the tax system, the reliance on highly regulated utility-like operators in many sectors of the economy, the power of labor unions, in all these things the US was little different from Europe up until Reagan dismantled it all and set the country on another trajectory. So I don't think the 'national character' explanation is worth much there. Maybe one could say there is something peculiar about the Boomer generation, not the Intrinsic Historical Nature of America as such, which is responsible for the change in direction that the country has taken. But that also sounds pretty useless to me.

IMHO, the US just got unlucky. The Right that took power after the Oil crisis and '70s inflation years was much more effective and brazen in remaking society, and even people's mental habits, than counterparts in continental Europe. But maybe I'm just putting it down to luck because I've been in Europe too long...

Stimulating blog though, Donal. And happy new year! 

Thank you. Happy New Year to you as well.

How good to see you here, Obey; hope your vacation was energizing and wonderful for you.

Image seems like a bizarre takeoff on Abbey Road, but watched the BBC tribute showing her walking around the streets among other scenes, so might have been accidental.

Oddly enough, the license plate on Abbey Road read "28IF". Bye-bye, Isabelle.

Watched "Real Women Have Curves" last night. Nicely done. But the more we turn into a video- and internet-inspired society, hard to reconcile diversity for some ironic reason. Yeah, we talk the talk, but seems we just want the others to be more like us (or our vision of "us") in the end.

Thanks for this, Donal (I think). Between you and Miguel, I have to say I feel like the future is grim indeed. I do take away one gratifying message: I stayed home for 17 years with my kids and I am so glad I did.

I would be in another place professionally if I hadn't, but I don't regret it at all. I realize how lucky I am to have been able to do it, and I am proud of the three outstanding citizens that are my children.

Sure, blame Donal and me for the cloud that hangs over you, (and the rest of us).  ;)

Blame?  Oh, Mr Peeg - every now and then we all need a cold shower, and the one that you and Donal gave me was nothing if not informative!  

 

BTW, I didn't get around to responding to your excellent piece.  I appreciate the work you did to put it together, and also your ability to distill it all, as always.  I'd love to see more of you around these parts!

Thanks CVille.  I'm doing more reading here than commenting these days.  Just where I'm at lately.

Me too, actually.  I do enjoy everything you contribute though; I have to admit I am a complete fan of your travelogues.  Thanks for all your thoughtful posts.  J

I almost wish you'd divided this into three separate blogs, it would make responding easier. 

Volunteerism: I don't really consider working for a candidate or Party as qualifying as 'volunteerism'.  Or at least that it's enough.  Directly serving our communities and neighbors and schools means getting your hands dirty, and becoming involved in a more intimate way with human problems and solutions, and often witnessing each other up close and personal.  Karma labor for the public good.  Which is why I didn't care for the quotes flavius put up recently about 'not complaining about taxes' as equitable to charity.  I don't think so.

Mate may be right in so many respects, though probably not about autism, as you've written about before.  I haven't read the transcript yet, so I don't know if he ever talks about bonding, or early attachment, but in many ways that's part of the dearth of family-centeredness he's speaking to.  He mentioned soothing behaviors as necessary, but for some unbonded babies and toddlers, there's speculation that they become so familiar with unmet needs, or even predictably met needs, that they can almost enjoy (wrong word, but what might work?) the condition or feelings, then later seek to provoke similar feelings through acting out.  It's early days on all that theory, and as you say, we're waaaay more comfortable claiming thus and so is 'hard-wired' into us, or a result of genetic anomalies.  Even with the new imaging techniques now available, it seems science is leaping to some pretty big conclusions about causality, not effect from causes.

In the end, the fraught, disconnectd, over-stimulated lives we're leading are leading to too many fear-based individuals and groups (large amygdalas (grin)), and such a lack of intimacy and trust that we 'soothe' with drugs, shopping, wealth-hunting, all the categories he mentions, but I'd add one more: blaming Others for their/our fear and pain.  Not good for any of us, or our politics or any national cohesion.

The anonymous piece at Club Orlov was dark, but good; there are similar lists and acid critiques all over the web now; guess it's cuz it's a New Year? 

I think working for a candidate or a cause is very much voluntarism, though not the only choice, of course. One of my coworkers in Central Pa told me once that it was nearly impossible to find a social service, or coaching job in town because so many retired railroad workers were doing them for free.

LOL!  Given that I can't even manage to spell the term, I'll concede the point, except that I never count into my community work.  It was a very small part of my response.

I agree that working for a candidate or a cause is definitely within the realm of voluntarism and I also think stardust brings up an excellent definition of what is significant volunteerism:

Directly serving our communities and neighbors and schools means getting your hands dirty, and becoming involved in a more intimate way with human problems and solutions, and often witnessing each other up close and personal.  Karma labor for the public good.

Not all volunteer activities are created equal.  And a lot of it depends on how one looks at it.  Having worked in the non-profit sector for most of my adult life, I have dealt with a lot of volunteers.  Some of them are not looking to change their world view, but simply to do something "good."  Of course, in the process of stuffing envelopes and helping out at some special event, they might have an experience that changes the way they understand the "less fortunate."

Now, of course, I'm talking about the folks who are financially better off and who then choose to "give back" by giving their time.  There are a number of volunteers who themselves are in the same economic class as those receiving the benefits of the program service.

But in the end, the power of volunteerism is that it is driven by and faciliates the growth of a sense of community that is broader than one's immediate family or community.  One can easily point to volunteer activities that undermine this, from the political volunteer who operates to sustain the local machine to the one who volunteers for such groups as those that attempt to shut down abortion clinics.

A big difference between the US and Europe is that in the US we expect the volunteer-based nonprofits to deal with the problems of poverty, etc. whereas in Europe they pay high taxes to ensure that government organizations deal with the same thing.  Philanthropy as it experienced in the US is unheard of in much of Europe for that reason.  Consequently, volunteerism is also seen differently (when is the last time you heard of someone volunteering for a government agency).

In the end, what we are looking for is that expanded sense of community.  In our country there are plenty of forces attempting to narrow people's sense of their community, and by extension expand the community of those who are threatening the quality of life of one's identified community.  Sometimes our involvement in politics facilitates the expansion, other times it tends to facilitate a narrowing.  It is up to us, individually, to seek not only those volunteer opportunities that facilitates the expansion, but to work to create those opportunities for others.

(As always, a stimulating commentary.  Thanks Donal)

“They turn cattle into tallow and people into money.”  (Ferdinand Kurnberger, “A Man Tired Of America”)

This comment was made by a German social critic – wait for it – in the mid-Nineteenth century.

I hope this little quote demonstrates that whatever the nature of the phenomenon you are examining here, it has been with us a long, long time.  I commend to you a reading/re-reading of Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”  What you are referencing here as “volunteerism” I think Weber more accurately described as “sectarianism.”  I won’t try to reprise Weber’s entire thesis.  I will just say that I am persuaded that what we call the “American way of life” is a materialist religion.  It inherits its form and structure from its Calvinist origins, especially the tendency to use membership in small, select social groups, in other words, sects, as proof that one is a member of the chosen, the elect, the saved.  As all of this has evolved it has dropped the traditional Christian moral construct and replaced it with strictly materialist, and in fact atheistic, considerations.  This has been a long process and I am reminded of the evolution of the proto-Nazi mentality of Nineteenth century Germany called “Volkisch.”

The GOP is planning to dismantle the baby steps taken on health care reform. They will also be attempting to shut down government by multiple investigations of the Obama White House. As I look at multiple blog posts here, I see only reflections of depression.

It seems that people here have just decided to give up and die politically. There seems to be zero comprehension that progress takes times. Go back and look at the timelines from the end of slavery to passage of the Civil rights bill. Look at the timeline from the right of women to vote to fighting for equal pay in the workforce.

One comes away from the posts at this site depressed. If you see no hope, why sjould anyone care what you thoughts may be? I can do bad all by myself. The Tea Party folks lifted up a GOP that was supposed to be fatally ewounded and got people elected.

From a sports analogy, The GOP was the Boston Patriots. The so-called left has become the Detroit Lions. .

Not unexpected response. I'm just saying that if you have no steps to take to change things and only offer complaints, surprise nothing changes.

If you hate current health care reform, you will really hate what is going to happen next. If you think Wall strret got a pass before, wait until you see what the GOP House tries to do. While the left stays in a "the Sky is Falling" mode, the right pushes on.

What's your next son clip?

The Empire State Building went up during the Great Depression. The Underground railroad operated during Slavery. This is not quite the worse of times that Americans  have faced.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Why don't you write your own post covering the issues that concern you?

Fine, no problem. I thought this place was supposed to be about discussion. Never mind.

If you want to discuss the issues in my post, go ahead. If you want to discuss other issues, post away.

You start by naming the problems, rmrd.  Then working through possible solutions.  If you don't understand what we're facing, and choose to be depressed by it, call foul on those who want to spotlight basic dilemmas, facts and truth, what do you bring to the table? 

" People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster." - James Baldwin

I would submit that the prroblems have been enumerated ad infinitium. What I see as a major problem is that while the problems are being counted, other bear down on us and we are too busy counting to take account of the new danger.

Single payer did not happen. While the health care bill that passed was not ideal, is the best solution to allow the GOP to dismantle the bill?

Keep counting the problems while the wingnuts take center stage.

Baldwin directly confronted William F Bucley on US Civil Rights at a debate at Cambridge in February 1965. I see no real efforts to counter the Tea Party on the Left. That is why I seethe posts at this website as depressing. Problems are enumerated. We even form a circular firing squad in a debate on God, between folks who probably agree on many pure political issues.

We count problems. We fight among ourselves. The GOP and Tea Party march on.

I'd imagine that once Congress gets back into session, issues will take more precedence.  I've been wondering about other sites you might find more activist, or directed.  I just don't know.  Have you tried Kos?  I used to read there, but the brown and orange make me kinda queasy, and the conversations don't gel for me.  It's also awfully large, and easy for comments to get lost.

The subject of agreement comes up a lot here; I don't think it's altogether true, which is what sparks much of the clash.  Some of were Dems when Dems were very different, and find neo-Liberal Dem policy anathema to us, the nation at large, and even the Party, which in my mind is a secondary consideration...even tertiary, really. 

For my part, I struggle against Dems who vote with the Republicans, and Obama when he supports what they support, and engages in needless bipartisanship; it makes me think that's the sort of policy he can support.  It will be interesting to see how the next year goes.  Good luck to you.  Well, all of us, really.

I never really spent a great deal of time at DailyKos. I did not that the attacks on those who were not considered "Liberal enough" could be quite vicious. That's just politics, I suppose.

In looking at the country today, I see a very fickle population. People will say that they want health care reform in polls, but when bills come up for a vote, that same public can be persauded that health care reform is bad because it will create "Death Panels". The public will then be relatively docile when the Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, creates her own real-life transplant death panel based on out-dated survival statitics along with her GOP legislature.

I see a Southern section of the country that went Republican after LBJ signed  the Civil Rights law. I see Southerners holding Secession celebrations that will pretend that the expansion of Slavery into other states was not at the core of the grievances that they had with the Union.

I see Rand Paul getting elected despite his very curious views on the Civil Rights Act. I see Sarah Palin remainiing popular despite seconding Dr Laura's belief that Blacks should not be upset about being called a derogatory name because Snopp Dogg or Jay-Z used it in a song..(Obviously I can find Palin objectionable for a host of other reasons).

I saw Blue Dog Dems given the boot to elect dyed in the wool Republicans. I also saw Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson booted for Republicans. I see nothing strong to indicate an-ultra Liberal populace despite what polls might show.

I see a Left that is willing to allow the election of more wingnuts by remaining at home. The voting public does not vote in large numbers of Progressives at the polls that really count. I see no Progressive leader out there to be the true standard bearer.

Given the fickle public and the even more wingnut GOP, I'll reserve my fire for the GOP. Show me your Progressive leader and I'll consider changing my stance.

I've pointed this out before, but when the issue of Gay marriage was put to a vote, the "tolerant of Gay equality" voting public, voted against the legislation in most (not all) cases.

Please understand that I don't care about you changing your stance; that's down to you.  But I will try to point out that what many of us are taking great pains to express here and at other sites is that many of the major issues of the day aren't about Dem v. Republican, they are People's Party v. Money Party, a theme pointed out over a decade ago by Mother Jones Magazine. (Would that more had paid attention then.)

As the Democratic Party has ratcheted further and further right, the lines have become blurred as to what principles the Dems stand for.  At this site, we are heavily split on the causes, 'political realities', and how that effects electoral politics in the future.   Those who love polls rarely look at the internals of the polls (if they are legitimate enough to have more targeted questions), or considerint the actual questions asked, i.e., push polls, which calls I get often enough that polling pisses me off in general.  Often we find people agree with sane policies that some consider Progressive, but don't identify as such.

Leaving the disgusting issue of money in politics determining Congresscritters' votes and financing of elections, it's clear to me that one of the missing ingredients of more 'Progressive politics' is often called 'the radical left (but what some of us call 'worker and Main Street friendly) social movements, especially in the interest of Justice Economics.  The other biggie is Constitutional freedoms, which Bush took from us, and Obama has never given back.

I can see the next two years going one of two ways: Dems unite against Tea Party/Repub overreach and support alleged 'compromises' on social safety net 'reforms', pretend nothing can be done to de-toxify big banks or mortgage fraud and still-falling housing prices...and a second dip happens, and unemployment gets far worse, etc.

Or: some who aren't nominally Leftists give up worrying about the terminology, and demand, for instance, reigning in of health care costs, even a public option for insurance, a jobs program that aids workers, not highways, no cuts or even increases to social saftey nets through cost-cutting by ending the wars, etc.  These shouldn't have been deemed Leftist notions, but the neo-Liberals gave away the terms long ago under Clinton.

The absolute neccessity of the US beginning to manufacture goods we now import, passing EFCA (at a bare minimum), refunding education, etc. don't have to be Lefty ideas, but People's justice ideas, and the time may soon be ripe for people to grasp that.

Sites like this, IMO, need people like us who remind others of that.  ;o)

Oh Irony they name is stardust! Let me get this straight, you wrote to rmrd1000:

Please understand that I don't care about you changing your stance; that's down to you.

But he should definitely care about how you've come to your opinion. You are just here to set people straight, and these sites need more people like you, setting everyone straight. 

You might be able to interpret my words to mean that I respect his stance, but would like to add my two bits' worth of thinking.  How kind of you to to interrupt our decent discussion with your odd interpretation, tmccathy0.  You might also want to re-read my comment about 'this site needing people like me' ending with a smile, as in: mocking myself a little.  Sorry that I made your knee jerk so easily, LOL! 

Bravo, tm! Well played! I'd dare say you jumped into the middle of a pretty well-reasoned and respectful discussion here and managed to set everyone straight - and just in the nick of time, too!

So let's see if I've got this straight now by revisiting your comment:

You (,stardust, say you) are just here to set people straight, and these sites need more people like you me setting everyone straight.

The difference being that the expression of your assumed role on this site as the "setting things straight authority" is not attended with any of the self-deprecation that was so obviously expressed by stardust in the original remark you choose to derisively mock and dismiss. And this insistence upon YOUR authority in these matters is your LONE contribution to the ongoing discussion.

Ah, irony! Ain't it grand?

Meanwhile, rmrd0000 and stardust? Carry on. Nothing to see here. In my authority as the one who is assigned the duty of keeping things straight around here, I grant you my permission to continue your reasoned and respectful attempt to arrive at an understanding without extraneous interference. ;O) 

She's not being ironic.  She really believes that sneering condescension is an appropriate posture to take towards any differing opinion.  So, as Jeezus helpfully notes in the Sir Galahad role here, you are way out of line, tm. 

No one on the left confronts the Tea Party?

You need to get out more.

Compared to what the Tea Party has done on the wingnut side of the aisle, it does not seem to be effective.

Tea Partiers mostly lost in the last election (as did Blue Dogs).

As you go through life make this your goal, watch the donut, not the hole.

(Harry Reid won by acting like a liberal - organizing, getting the backing of unions and Hispanics.)

Dems still control the Senate despite any impressions to the contrary.

Every parent should read the discussion with Dr. Maté, Donal, thanks for the link.

"Americans have the highest standard of living on Earth" is probably the most effective propaganda of modern times.  Followed closely by one from my hero Woody Allen who despairs at the end of Annie Hall that "sometimes the key is not to expect too much out of life."

We don't question our circumstances to the extent that we should.  I get why.  As has often been pointed out to me around here, our circumstances, while not the best are still better than most.  I've been to Nigeria.  I'm not willing to make light of that.  It's not even the worst place on Earth by a long shot and some of it is positively Hellish.

I think Americans have been forced to be scared to lose what they have.  This is partly the result of our being an immigrant culture, where people left some very bad things in order to live here.  My grandparents were certainly better off in New York than in Mussolini's Italy and those are the stories they told us.  Heck, things were so bad for a time in the home country that their generation had to go back and fight there.

But there is no doubt to me that the resources exist to make American lives better and more comfortable than they are currently and there's no reason that so many people have to give up their autonomy and the best years of their lives to the employer classes.

Just saw this beside one of NYT pieces Artie'd linked to.  Nick Kristoff on a book about two authors tracking inequality and diesase and addiction, and melancholy of the soul.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/opinion/02kristof.html?src=me&ref=general

When Kristoff says that "Likewise, the gap between rich and poor fell during the Clinton administration, according to data cited in “The Spirit Level,” even though that was a period of economic vigor," I think he's wrong.  There's no way that in a stock driven booming economy which low capital gains tax rates and stock billionaires emerging monthly that income inequality didn't increase.

It did seem, though, that everyone was doing pretty well.

It did.  But it's more complicated than that.  Remember the original Gen-X, before those 20 and 30 somethings hit it big? And some workers were, of course, displaced by the Internet.  On average, though, everybody made income gains.  But that's not the same as reducing inequality.  People at the top still got hyper gains back then, it was just easier to take while others were getting smaller raises (that were completely out of line with the productivity gains at the time.  Another example:  the explosion in executive compentsation happened during the Clinton years.  He tried to deal with it by capping the amount of income that could be written off a company's tax bill.  But what happened was the cap became the standard in cash compensation (since every company has to tell its shareholders that they hired the best CEO, they call paid top dollar) and the inregulated stock based compensation soared.

While I definitely agree about the moral and practical superiority of the Clinton years we shouldn't forget that so many of our current problems got their start there.  First it was everybody got raises but your boss got a better raise.  Then it was "only your boss gets a raise."  But one really led to the other or at least the current environment evolved out of the prior era.

Maybe we over-celebrated the creation of the 90s tycoons. Because while Kristoff is arguing that all of this inequality is psychologically unhealthy, the very people who are suffering for it would likely tell you that they like living in a country where somebody could conceivably attain vast wealth through a combination of luck and skill.

I just read the Kristof piece and think it is really insightful. Thanks for the link, Stardust. And thank you, Donal, for the similar, corroborative links you posted.

There is no question (at least imo) that there is a strong correlation between economic security and good health, as there is a strong correlation between poverty (with no hope of improvement in sight) and vulnerability to both physical and mental disease.

One of the glitches in human nature is that it is apparently really difficult to perceive and understand the experience of others less fortunate (much less empathize with their experience or do something selfless about it) unless one has had similar experience oneself.

Thus, people who have either always been economically secure, or who have enjoyed a steady increase in means -- rather than either a sharp decline, or a rollercoaster pattern of rise and fall in means and therefore security -- apparently can't imagine that such a biased view results in careless legislation. And that careless legislation together with the removal of regulation might ultimately negatively affect them, too.

There is a complacency in people who fit this profile that may not be at all intentional, but which is dangerous,nonetheless -- not only to the common good but also to the future security of their own children and grandchildren.

Samuel Johnson said: "Luck is the convergence of preparation and opportunity."

If preparation = education, and opportunity = ready availability of employment that is truly self-sustaining (without income being unnecessarily gutted by exorbitant costs in healthcare, education, etc.) then every ratchet Right imperils every American of existing and future generations.

Many people who are personally secure, now, think "there is plenty of time to fix things," that "Rome wasn't built in a day".... etc..  Perhaps for them, those beliefs ring true. But others cannot be so sanguine. They do not have time to risk because they are at risk, now. 

Glad you brought the focus back to the topic of economic inequality, not Kristoff's thoughts, which, I admit, I blew right past, as I'm not much of a fan.  ;o)

We ARE imperiled, that's for sure, and the signs don't look good for the near or medium future, unless some stars I've not read about align somehow.  'Careless legislation' is an apt term in some cases.  I listened to Hardball from Friday while I ate my morning toast, and I was simply astounded at the amount of disconnect Tweety and his guests had about what's really going on in this country, and their eyes and mouths were totally focused on DC notions and parlor games.  It made me literally ill to hear the Conventional Drivel from their smarmy mouths.  One was, of course, how Wall Street is healthy, so it's all good.  And they ain't even right on THAT ONE, as the banks are still so toxic, and business is going on as before 'the most sweeping fin-regs since the Great Depression yada yada..."

Nicely said, wws.

The environment hosting that complacency is manufactured. To secure a place within, you have to participate in its reproduction. When that environment weakens, the superfluity of its premise is no longer sustainable. When people lose their complacency, they experience a sense of exile from what they helped recreate and ripped off for the sacrifices they made in its name. This leads to bickering and recrimination that speeds up the dismantling of the shared device. The offerings that were thought to be pleasing to the goddess of good fortune turn into bribes payed to the goddess of misfortune to stay out of sight.

Moat:

I wish I could have said what you said so well.

 To believe that one can bribe the god/goddess of misfortune by keeping a low profile, remaining silent and, worse, adjuring others to remain silent -- or, worse of all, to chime in in defense of the indefensible -- is to participate in the perpetuation of that which will not "bless us all," but rather will ruin us all, "every one."

Profound and succinct, wws. Especially the part about "or, worse of all, to chime in in defense of the indefensible"

In these critically dangerous times, we would all do well to remember these words and abide the truth that is written in them. Thanks for your contribution. As always, it's spot-on! 

Sleepin': Your reasoned argument yesterday -- in that instance, in response to AMan -- was one of the most articulate manifestos for right (as in LEFT) I have ever read, anywhere. Bravo. You are one of the very few people about whom I can say: "What he said. With enthusiasm." 

Good post. Very thought-provoking.

Dr. Gabor Maté’s interview summary was interesting.  Actually, there is another sociological study handy that also supports his views.  One does not have to look farther than the Native American history cycles of genocide/assimilation.  If one is not familiar with the forced residential schools, much information is available through search engines.

Children were taken from their parents.  The parents no longer had children to raise.  The children had no parental guidance.  This important bond was broken.  At a certain age, the children were returned to the reservations, rootless, no familial points of identity.   So, it is easy to draw similarities between Dr. Maté’s observations of brain development in infants and children stressed by the stress of those surrounding them.  This forcible taking of NA children happened right up to and including the 1950’s.  I was born in 1954.  You think my own mother wasn’t scared shitless about this?  She was petrified.  That is all I wish to say about that.

It is no secret that there are some heavy-duty problems of alcohol and drug abuse on the rez’.  Physical abuse is common.  25% of NA women on reservations will be sexually abused.  (90% of the abusers are white men.) Those are just the reported abuses.  Most go unreported.  Even though the stealing of children was stopped, the effects of this broken bond still has repercussions.  Unbroken cycles of poverty, abuse, and chemical dependence have churned through an entire culture and show no sign of stopping.  Six-year-old little NA girls are committing suicide.  Six years old.  The modern American culture is at the same risk, as far as I can tell.

When I read the doctor’s interviews, I see this play out in my mind, the similarities….the stress and anguish of parents watching worlds crumble and families destroyed and how impossible it is to put it back together.

It is forever broken.

ADD, addictions, stress diseases…this all adds up and I agree very much with what Dr. Maté says.  We are the sum of what we experience and it doesn’t stop when we die.  It perpetuates and escalates.  I proofread this and I think I have said too much or not enough and it’s possible I’m a little incoherent.  Blame it on the flu.

Anyway, it would be great if the rest of America could learn from this, learn from Dr. Maté, but I don’t hold out much hope.

Thanks for the comment, Flower. I've been hashing this around in my head with all the Dickensian images from Xmas, but hadn't considered NA experiences.

No, you did just fine here, Flowerchild, we feel your pain and your mum's.  There are parallels to the reason island blacks are often healthier in all ways than continental US blacks: island slave families were imported (God; what a notion!) whole; not sold separately to new 'masters' in parts unknown.  Thus, they experienced a lesser form of torture since they had at least their families to sustain them, their histories, and their generational identities to cling to for some small measure of sanity.

"...and it doesn't stop when we die.'  You make me think of the uncensored speaking of many NA and blacks who say the same thing in answer to the 'get over it; it's history' attitudes of so many whites who really do want to throw this country's Original Sins into the dustbin of history. 

Many of those interviewed for the recent and great PBS series on NA history recounted the tales of the descendants' massacres, and the pain and distrust seemed quite alive and fresh for them.  So heartbreaking, as the wrongs can't be righted, and the inequities continue still.  The Lakota still won't settle the suit, or acpet the 'payment' for having the Black Hills stolen from them.  I really love that.

A good New Year to you, Flower.

I love reading people attempting to argue points intellectually here. It's kind of like having The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy being interviewed by Bill Moyers.

"Ouch !"

"Ugh !"

"Oooh.!"

"Hey !"

"Ouch !"

...

To summarize,

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger." F. Nietzsche

Gonna hit us now with "Adversity builds character" now, Larry?    Cool

(Hint: they never did tell us what we were supposed to do with all that character; maybe we just became one?)

Yes.

I long ago concluded that it is all about the second collection.  In fact everything is about the second collection.  It is the one even the Existentialists like because it is a choice.  The first collection is a product of imposed cultural norms.  If you don't put something in the basket everyone will notice and judge you and hold you "shunned."  But the second collection has all the angst of being.  It is the abyss into which you must choose to throw a piece of yourself  without dispair.  It is character that gives one the strength just to face this moment of truth - over and over again - without descending into madness.  The challenge, to paraphrase Camus from Sisyphus, "At the second collection one must imagine oneself happy."

I'm happy i'm happy i'm happy i'm happy i'm happy...    as Sisyphus...   ;o)

When you say, "attempting to argue points intellectually", do you mean there is a group who are capable of actually intellectualizing in contrast to the present company?  Or are you suggesting that the activity itself is a zoological oddity that makes you laugh?

yes....

                        

Latest Comments