Pope Francis ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ Calls For Renewal Of Roman Catholic Church, Attacks ‘Idolatry Of Money’

By Naomi O’Leary,  Reuters Posted on HuffingtonPost.com: 11/26/2013

Excerpt

Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff…In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”. He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday…Denying this was simple populism, he called for action “beyond a simple welfare mentality” and added: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”…Stressing cooperation among religionsHe praised cooperation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the West.

Full text

(Reuters) – Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?”

The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy “also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion”.

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote.

In July, Francis finished an encyclical begun by Pope Benedict but he made clear that it was largely the work of his predecessor, who resigned in February.

Called “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), the exhortation is presented in Francis’ simple and warm preaching style, distinct from the more academic writings of former popes, and stresses the Church’s central mission of preaching “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ”.

In it, he reiterated earlier statements that the Church cannot ordain women or accept abortion. The male-only priesthood, he said, “is not a question open to discussion” but women must have more influence in Church leadership.

POVERTY

A meditation on how to revitalize a Church suffering from encroaching secularization in Western countries, the exhortation echoed the missionary zeal more often heard from the evangelical Protestants who have won over many disaffected Catholics in the pope’s native Latin America.

In it, economic inequality features as one of the issues Francis is most concerned about, and the 76-year-old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the financial system and warns that unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence.

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems,” he wrote.

Denying this was simple populism, he called for action “beyond a simple welfare mentality” and added: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”

Since his election, Francis has set an example for austerity in the Church, living in a Vatican guest house rather than the ornate Apostolic Palace, travelling in a Ford Focus, and last month suspending a bishop who spent millions of euros on his luxurious residence.

He chose to be called “Francis” after the medieval Italian saint of the same name famed for choosing a life of poverty.

Stressing cooperation among religions, Francis quoted the late Pope John Paul II’s idea that the papacy might be reshaped to promote closer ties with other Christian churches and noted lessons Rome could learn from the Orthodox such as “synodality” or decentralized leadership.

He praised cooperation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the West.

(Editing by Tom Heneghan and Alison Williams)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/pope-francis-evangelii-gaudium_n_4342964.html

The NY Times Uncovers Conservative Attacks and Then Prints One; Both Are On The Front Page

By George Lakoff, http://georgelakoff.com, November 24, 2013

Excerpt

…For decades, Republican conservatives have constructed and carried out extensive, well-planned, long-term communication campaigns to change public discourse and the way the public thinks. It has been done very effectively and, for the most part, not secretly…deeper and systematic efforts by conservatives extending back four decades and the nature of the underlying general ideologypart of an attempt to change the idea of what America is about. The Times missed the think tanks, the framing professionals, the training institutes, the booking agencies, the Wednesday morning meetings on both national and state levels, and the role of ALEC in the states — all set out in the Lewis Powell memo more than four decades ago and carried out since then as part of seamless system directed at changing the brains of Americans.

I do mean changing brains. Because all thought is physical, carried out by neural circuitry, every change in how we understand anything is a brain change, and conservatives are effectively using the techniques that marketers have developed for changing brains, and they’ve been using them for decades…

we should begin by discussing some basic cognitive linguistics… all words are cognitively defined relative to conceptual “frames” — structures we all use to think all the time. Frames don’t float in the air; they are neural circuits in our brains. Frames in politics are not neutral; they reflect an underlying value system. That means that language in politics is not neutral. Political words do not just pick out something in the world. They reflect value-based frames. If you successfully frame public discourse, you win the debate.

A common neuroscience estimate is that about 98 percent of thought is unconscious and automatic, carried out by the neural system….Since frames carry value-based inferences with them, successfully framing public discourse means getting the public to adopt your values, and hence winning over the public by unconscious brain change, not by open discussion of the values inherent in the frames and the values that undergird the frames.

I have always suggested to progressives to know their values and state their real values clearly, using frames they really believe. Values trump mere facts presented without the values that make them meaningful. Honest values-based framing is the opposite of spin — the deceptive use of language to avoid embarrassment.

The reason that those of us in the cognitive and brain sciences write so passionately about framing issues is that unconscious thought and framing are not generally understood — especially in progressive circles. Most progressives who went to college studied what is called Enlightenment reason, a theory of reason coming from Descartes around 1650 — and which was historically important in 1650. The Cartesian theory of how reason works has since been largely disproved in the cognitive and brain sciences…

conservatives have successfully reframed economic terms to fit their values, and that the economic terms in public discourse no longer mean what they do in economics classes…By framing language to fit conservative values and by getting their framing of the language to dominate public debate, conservatives change the public’s brains by the following mechanism.

Liberals…will not be aware of their own unconscious values, will take then for granted, and will think that all they have to do is state the facts and the public will be convinced rationally. The facts are crucial, but they need to framed in moral terms to make moral sense and a moral impact…

The word at issue is “redistribution.” The subject matter is the flow of wealth in the society and what it should be. This is a fundamentally moral issue, and the major political framings reflect two different moral views of democracy itself.

The liberal view of democracy…was based on the idea that citizens care about other citizens and work responsibly (with both personal and social responsibility) through their government to provide public resources for all.Conservatives have a very different view of democracy. They believe that democracy gives them the “liberty” to pursue their own interests without the government standing in their way or helping them. Their moral principle is individual responsibility, not social responsibility. If you haven’t developed the discipline to make it on your own, then you should fail…This is the conservative frame for redistribution: it is taking away money that you hard-working Americans have earned and deserve, and “redistributing” it to those who haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it…most liberals…do not comprehend that the word “redistribution” has been redefined in terms of a conservative frame, and to use the word is to help conservatives in their moral crusade to undermine progressive values and the traditional view of liberal democracy…For liberals, democracy is defined by equality, and by the “self-evident” “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” where health is inherent to those values…The Republican brain change mechanism is not only worth a front-page discussion of its own, but deserves itself to brought into public discourse and reported on regularly.

Full text

The NY Times has many virtues and some important flaws. Both were evident on the paper’s front page this week and there is a lot to be learned by what did and did not appear there.

For decades, Republican conservatives have constructed and carried out extensive, well-planned, long-term communication campaigns to change public discourse and the way the public thinks. It has been done very effectively and, for the most part, not secretly. The NY Times finally began reporting on this effort on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in a fine piece by Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

The Times reported on the House Republicans’ memo on how to attack the Affordable Care Act through a “multilayered sequence assault,” gathering stories “through social media letters from constituents, or meeting back home” and a new GOP website. The Times also reported on the “closed door” strategy sessions, going back to last year.

It’s a start, and it’s about time. What the Times missed was the far deeper and systematic efforts by conservatives extending back four decades and the nature of the underlying general ideology covering dozens of issues that have been served by these efforts. The Times also missed the reason why the attack on the ACA is more than just anti-Obama politics, but rather part of an attempt to change the idea of what America is about. The Times missed the think tanks, the framing professionals, the training institutes, the booking agencies, the Wednesday morning meetings on both national and state levels, and the role of ALEC in the states — all set out in the Lewis Powell memo more than four decades ago and carried out since then as part of seamless system directed at changing the brains of Americans.

I do mean changing brains. Because all thought is physical, carried out by neural circuitry, every change in how we understand anything is a brain change, and conservatives are effectively using the techniques that marketers have developed for changing brains, and they’ve been using them for decades, at least since the notorious Lewis Powell Memo in 1971.

Full disclosure: I began writing about conservative framing in my 1996 book Moral Politics, and about the conservative brain changing machine in my 2004 book Don’t Think of an Elephant!, p. 15 (click to see the discussion at: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/dont_think_of_an_elephant:paperback/chapter_1). For the Powell memo, just google “Lewis Powell memo.”

At least, the Times did get an important part of it right on Thursday, and we should be grateful.

Then, on Sunday, November 24, 2013, the Times published on its front page what looked like a news story, but was a conservative column called “White House Memo” by John Harwood, who is CNBC’s Chief Washington Correspondent, and who previously worked as the Wall Street Journal’s political editor and chief political correspondent. It’s one thing to publish a blatant conservative attack on President Obama in a column on the op-ed page or in the Sunday Review, and another to publish it on the front page, as if it were a news story.

The Harwood column is illuminating in its attack mode, which is quite artful and an excellent example of conservative attacks. To appreciate it, we should begin by discussing some basic cognitive linguistics. As the great linguist Charles Fillmore discovered in 1975, all words are cognitively defined relative to conceptual “frames” — structures we all use to think all the time. Frames don’t float in the air; they are neural circuits in our brains. Frames in politics are not neutral; they reflect an underlying value system. That means that language in politics is not neutral. Political words do not just pick out something in the world. They reflect value-based frames. If you successfully frame public discourse, you win the debate.

A common neuroscience estimate is that about 98 percent of thought is unconscious and automatic, carried out by the neural system. Daniel Kahneman has since brought frame-based unconscious thought into the public arena in what he has called “System 1 thinking.” Since frames carry value-based inferences with them, successfully framing public discourse means getting the public to adopt your values, and hence winning over the public by unconscious brain change, not by open discussion of the values inherent in the frames and the values that undergird the frames.

I have always suggested to progressives to know their values and state their real values clearly, using frames they really believe. Values trump mere facts presented without the values that make them meaningful. Honest values-based framing is the opposite of spin — the deceptive use of language to avoid embarrassment.

The reason that those of us in the cognitive and brain sciences write so passionately about framing issues is that unconscious thought and framing are not generally understood — especially in progressive circles. Most progressives who went to college studied what is called Enlightenment reason, a theory of reason coming from Descartes around 1650 — and which was historically important in 1650. The Cartesian theory of how reason works has since been largely disproved in the cognitive and brain sciences.

The Cartesian theory assumes that all thought is conscious, that it is literal (that is, it fits the world directly and uses no frame-based or metaphorical thought), that reason uses a form of mathematical logic (not frame-based logic or metaphorical logic), and that words are neutral and fit the world directly. Many liberal economists have been trained in this mode of thought and assume that the language used in economic theory is neutral and just fits the world as it is. They are usually not trained in frame semantics, cognitive linguistics, and related fields. The same is often true of liberal journalists as well. Both often miss the fact that conservatives have successfully reframed economic terms to fit their values, and that the economic terms in public discourse no longer mean what they do in economics classes.

Part of what the Cartesian theory of reason misses is the real brain mechanism that allows the conservative communication theory to be effective. By framing language to fit conservative values and by getting their framing of the language to dominate public debate, conservatives change the public’s brains by the following mechanism. When a frame circuit is activated in the brain, its synapses are strengthened. This means that the probability of future activation is raised and probability of the frame becoming permanent in the brain is raised. Whenever a word defined by that frame is used, the frame is activated and strengthened. When conservatives successfully reframe a word in public discourse, that word activates conservative frames and with those frames, the conservative value system on which the frames are based. When progressives naively use conservatively reframed words, they help the conservative cause by strengthening the conservative value system in the brains of the public.

Liberals, in adhering to the old Cartesian theory of reason, will not be aware of their own unconscious values, will take then for granted, and will think that all they have to do is state the facts and the public will be convinced rationally. The facts are crucial, but they need to framed in moral terms to make moral sense and a moral impact.

To those who have a liberal Cartesian theory of reason, the attempt to warn the public and other liberals about the way language really works and to warn liberals not to use conservative framing will be seen as hiding the facts and misleading the public. That is what the Times columnist and CNBC Chief Washington correspondent, John Harwood used in his manipulative NY Times column.

The word at issue is “redistribution.” The subject matter is the flow of wealth in the society and what it should be. This is a fundamentally moral issue, and the major political framings reflect two different moral views of democracy itself.

The liberal view of democracy goes back to the founding of the nation, as historian Lynn Hunt of UCLA has shown in her book Inventing Human Rights. American democracy was based on the idea that citizens care about other citizens and work responsibly (with both personal and social responsibility) through their government to provide public resources for all. From the beginning, that meant roads and bridges, public education, hospitals, a patent office, a national bank, a justice system, controlling the flow of interstate commerce, and so on. Nowadays it includes much more — the development of the internet, satellite communications, the power grid, food safety monitoring, government research, and so on. Without those public resources, citizens cannot live reasonable lives, businesses cannot run, and a market economy would be impossible. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require all this and health care. Unless you can get health care, your life is in jeopardy, as well as your freedom: if you have cancer and no health care, you are not free; if you break you leg and have no access to health care, you are not free, and so on. And if you are injured or sick and cannot maintain health, your life, liberty and happiness are all in jeopardy.

Under this view of democracy, the flow of wealth should guarantee the affordability of health care as a basic moral principle of democracy. If wealth has flowed in violation of this principle, that flow of wealth has been immoral, unpatriotic, and needs reform. So when liberals point out that productivity has risen greatly while salaries have not, they are talking about fairness in the flow of wealth: If you work for a living, you should earn a fair salary, that is, you should earn a living wage, which should be enough to guarantee adequate health care. Pensions are delayed payments of wages for work already done, and taking away pensions is theft. Employment is the purchase of labor by an employer with a negotiated price for the labor. Since corporations have more power in those negotiations than employees, unions are necessary to help make negotiations fair for the price of labor. When it is observed that most of the wealth in the past decade has flowed to the one percent, that means that fairness and the most fundamental of American principles have been violated and salaries and public resources have been inadequate and unfairly low.

The Affordable Care Act, from this perspective, is a move toward reform — toward a moral flow of wealth in line with the founding principles of the nation. I believe that President Obama, and most liberals, understand the intentions of Affordable Care Act in that way.

Conservatives have a very different view of democracy. They believe that democracy gives them the “liberty” to pursue their own interests without the government standing in their way or helping them. Their moral principle is individual responsibility, not social responsibility. If you haven’t developed the discipline to make it on your own, then you should fail — and if you can’t afford health care, so be it. Health care is seen as a “product” and citizens should not be paying for other citizens’ products. Rudy Giuliani, as a good conservative, likened health care to flat- screen TVs. Conservatives say that no one should be paying for anyone else (except their children and family members). Using public resources is seen as making you weak, taking away incentives for you to work for yourself. And they see it as making hard-working moral citizens pay for immoral slackers. This is the conservative frame for redistribution: it is taking away money that you hard-working Americans have earned and deserve, and “redistributing” it to those who haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it. For conservatives, this happens whenever there are public resources paid for by taxpayers. Therefore they believe that all public resources should be banned — and the affordable Care Act is a major special case and just the start.

That’s why John Boehner said, in explaining why the House has scheduled only 113 days to meet out of 365, said “We need to repeal old laws. Not pass new ones.” That is why the House conservatives saw it as moral to shut down the government and to let the sequester happen. They are ways to cut public resources.

Under this view of democracy, money previously made was made properly and using tax money for public resources is “redistribution.” “Using my money to pay for someone else” is inherently unfair in the conservative tradition. Conservatives over the past four decades have framed the word “redistribution” that way. Use of the word activates the conservative framing in general, not just the framing of the Affordable Care Act, but of the nature of democracy itself.

Because most liberals, including liberal economists, still believe in and use the inadequate Cartesian theory of reason, they do not comprehend that the word “redistribution” has been redefined in terms of a conservative frame, and to use the word is to help conservatives in their moral crusade to undermine progressive values and the traditional view of liberal democracy.

At this point we turn to the NY Times story, “Don’t Dare Call The Health Law ‘Redistribution’”on the front page, and inside “The economic policy that dare not speak its name.” John Harwood writes the following:

“These days the word is particularly toxic at the White House, where it has been hidden away to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to the public and less a target for Republicans, who have long accused the Democrats of seeking “socialized medicine.” But the redistribution of wealth has always been a central feature of the law and lies at the heart of the insurance market disruptions driving political attacks this fall.”

Note that he uses the word “redistribution” without quotation marks, as if it were simply a fact and as if the Republican attacks were just true and the White house was trying to hide the truth. He later calls the Affordable Care Act a “semantic sidestep” on this issue.

Harwood goes on to cite the president’s misstatement that if you like your insurance you can keep it. I suspect that the president assumed that no one would like inadequate insurance if they could get much better, and adequate, insurance for the same price, which they might have been able to if the website had not failed. The president knew that no company was forced to cancel inadequate insurance, and incorrectly assumed that they wouldn’t. Yes, the president made those incorrect assumptions. But here is how Harwood comments:

Hiding in plain sight behind that pledge — visible to health policy experts but not the general public — was the redistribution required to extend health coverage to those who had been either locked out or priced out of the market.

Now some of that redistribution has come clearly into view.

The law, for example, banned rate discrimination against women, which insurance companies called “gender rating” to account for their higher health costs. But that raised the relative burden borne by men. The law also limited how much insurers can charge older Americans, who use more health care over all. But that raised the relative burden on younger people.

And the law required insurers to offer coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions, which eased costs for less healthy people but raised prices for others who had been charged lower rates because of their good health.

“The A.C.A. is very much about redistribution, whether or not its advocates acknowledge that this is the case,” wrote Reihan Salam on the website of the conservative National Review.

Here again, the “redistribution” word is used in a conservative frame without quotation marks as if the frame were simply true, and the citation is from a major conservative publication, where the word is used with a conservative frame.

The issue is what democracy is about and what health care in a democracy is about. For liberals, democracy is defined by equality, and by the “self-evident” “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” where health is inherent to those values. Under such a conception of democracy, health should never be denied because one belongs to a demographic group that fate had given more ailments and injuries.

Conservatives are helped when “redistribution”, which they have successfully reframed their way, is used by certain liberal economists, who naïvely believe that the word is neutral because economists use it as a technical term.

Harwood begins framing his piece by discussing the case of Rebecca M. Blank.

Ms. Blank is a noted academic economist, having been one of three members of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. From 2009 to 2013 she served as Deputy Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration, and has since left for the grand opportunity to become chancellor of the University of Wisconsin.

In 2011, she was considered for Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers while serving in the Commerce Department. Harwood reports that she was passed over for the post because of something she had written in 1992:

“A commitment to economic justice necessarily implies a commitment to a redistribution of economic resources, so that the poor and the dispossessed are more fully included in the economic system.”

Harwood quotes William Daley, Obama’s chief of staff at the time, as saying, “Redistribution is a loaded word that conjures up all sorts of unfairness in people’s minds.” The Republicans wield it “as a hammer” against Democrats, he said, adding, “It’s a word that in the political world, you just don’t use.” Daley is right that it is a loaded word, in just the sense noted above, namely, that it has been framed by conservatives to fit their ideology and using it activates their frame and their ideology in people’s brains, thus helping conservatives. In 2011, Obama was up for re-election and Daley judged that having Republicans dig up that quote would help them launch an unfair attack against the president.

Harwood reports the affair as if Obama had something to hide, rather than not wanting a conservatively framed concept to be falsely attributed to him. Harwood is clever. First, he quotes another liberal economist, Jonathan Gruber, who uses the word naively as a neutral technical economic term. Then at the end of the article, he reports an Obama slip at a talk in Elyria, Ohio 18 months earlier. The slip involved Obama’s use of a negative. In Don’t Think of an Elephant!, I pointed out that negating a word, activates the meaning of the word. If I tell you not to think of an elephant, you will think of an elephant. Here is the Obama slip that Harwood cites, “Understand this is not a redistribution argument … This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people.” That was the slip, and Harwood searched back 18 months to Elyria, Ohio to find it. But then the president caught himself and said positively what he meant. “This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody’s got a fair shot.”

Here’s the take-away from these two pieces in the Times this week. First, there was a tiny glimpse of the huge conservative Republican communication system, with no account of its history, it’s extent, or how it works to change people’s brains. I hope the Times will go on to do more and better in the future. Second, the Times printed on its front page a classic example of how the conservative system works, naively presenting it at face value without any serious framing analysis. The Times missed the conservative reframing of the word “redistribution,” missed the difference in the views of morality and democracy that lie behind the framing difference, missed the use of the conservatively reframed word as neutral by liberal economists, missed what it means for a word to be “loaded,” and succumbed like other journalists trained on Cartesian reason in helping conservatism keep its hold on public discourse.

Harwood is a smart political operative. His technique is a classic example of the Republican message machine reported on in Thursday’s Times, and is well worth serious study. The Republican brain change mechanism is not only worth a front-page discussion of its own, but deserves itself to brought into public discourse and reported on regularly.

http://georgelakoff.com/2013/11/24/the-ny-times-uncovers-conservative-attacks-and-then-prints-one-both-are-on-the-front-page/#more-2662

We Live in an Era of Zombie Politics

Bill Moyers Interviews Henry Giroux, Moyers & Company, November 22, 2013

Excerpt

In his book, Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, author and scholar Henry Giroux connects the dots to prove his theory that our current system is informed by a “machinery of social and civil death” that chills “any vestige of a robust democracy.” Giroux explains that such a machine produces “people who are basically so caught up with surviving that they become like the walking dead—they lose their sense of agency, they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.” What’s more, Giroux points out, the system that creates this vacuum has little to do with expanding the meaning and the substance of democracy itself. Under “casino capitalism,” the goal is to get a quick return, taking advantage of a kind of logic in which the only thing that drives us is to put as much money as we can into a slot machine and hope we walk out with our wallets overflowing…

Full transcript of the interview with Giroux below the video:

Moyers: …Talk about “connecting the dots.” Read this, and the headlines of the day will, I think, arrange themselves differently in your head, threading together ideas and experiences to reveal a pattern...

GIROUX: Well, for me democracy is too important to allow it to be undermined in a way in which every vital institution that matters from the political process to the schools to the inequalities that, to the money being put into politics..what we haven’t gotten yet is that it should be accompanied by a crisis of ideas, that the stories that are being told about democracy are really about the swindle of fulfillment…You have a consolidation of power that is so overwhelming, not just in its ability to control resources and drive the economy and redistribute wealth upward, but basically to provide the most fraudulent definition of what a democracy should be. The notion that profit making is the essence of democracy, the notion that economics is divorced from ethics, the notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism, the notion that the welfare state is a pathology, that any form of dependency basically is disreputable and needs to be attackedThe biggest lie of all is that capitalism is democracy. We have no way of understanding democracy outside of the market, just as we have no understanding of how to understand freedom outside of market values. freedom, which is essential to any notion of democracy, now becomes nothing more than a matter of pursuing your own self interests. No society can survive under those conditions.,,I have in mind a society in which the wealth is shared, in which there is a mesh of organizations that are grounded in the social contract, that takes seriously the mutual obligations that people have to each other…A citizen is a political and moral agent who in fact has a shared sense of hope and responsibility to others and not just to him or herself...How could people who allegedly believe in democracy and the American Congress cut $40 billion from a food stamp program, half of which those food stamps go to children?“The ideology of hardness and cruelty runs through American culture like an electric current…”it seems to me that there has to be a point where you have to say, “No, this has to stop.” We can’t allow ourselves to be driven by those lies anymore. We can’t allow those who are rich, who are privileged, who are entitled, who accumulate wealth to simply engage in a flight from social and moral and political responsibility by blaming the people who are victimized by those policies as the source of those problems… If somebody had to say to me, “What exactly is new that we haven’t seen before?” And I think that what we haven’t seen before is an attack on the social contract, Bill, that is so overwhelming, so dangerous in the way in which its being deconstructed and being disassembled that you now have as a classic example, you have a whole generation of young people who are now seen as disposable…

 

Example being that the young people can’t turn anywhere without in some way being told that the only obligation of citizenship is to shop, is to be a consumer... All of those things that speak to educating the imagination, to stretching it, the giving kids the knowledge, a sense of the traditions, the archives to take risks, to learn about the world, they’re disappearing…the zombie metaphor is a way to sort of suggest that democracy is losing its oxygen, you know, it’s losing its vitality, that we have a politics that really is about the organization of the production of violence. It’s losing its soul. It’s losing its spirit. It’s losing its ability to speak to itself in ways that would span the human spirit and the human possibility for justice and equality.

…This casino capitalism as we talk about it, right, one of the things that it does that hasn’t been done before, it doesn’t just believe it can control the economy. It believes that it can govern all of social life. That’s different…


 

BILL MOYERS: Well, George Monbiot, who writes for theGuardian, wrote just the other day, “It’s business that really rules us.” And he says, “So I don’t blame people for giving up on politics … When a state-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and made a mockery of the voting process, when an unreformed political funding system ensures that parties can be bought and sold, when politicians of the main … parties stand and watch as public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of the system that inspires us to participate?”

 

that’s the central question for the American public…that question has to address something fundamental and that is what we have, while we have an economic system that in fact has caused a crisis in democracy. What we haven’t addressed is the underlying consensus that informs that crisis. What you have is basically a transgression against the very basic ideals of democracy. We have lost what it means to be connected to democracy.

And I think that’s coupled with a cultural apparatus, a culture, an educative culture, a mode of politics in which people now have gone through this for so long that it’s become normalized. I mean, it’s hard to imagine life beyond capitalism. You know, it’s easier to imagine the death of the planet than it is to imagine the death of capitalism…. the issue is in a system that is entirely broken. It’s broken…

we have to ask ourselves what kind of formative culture needs to be put in place in which education becomes central to politics, in which politics can be used to help people to be able to see things differently, to get beyond this system that is so closed, so powerfully normalized.

I mean, the right since the 1970s has created a massive cultural apparatus, a slew of anti-public intellectuals. They’ve invaded the universities with think tanks. They have foundations. They have all kinds of money. And you know, it’s interesting, the war they wage is a war on the mind.

The war on what it means to be able to dissent, the war on the possibility of alternative visions. And the left really has— and progressives and liberals, we have nothing like that. I mean, we always seem to believe that all you have to do is tell the truthWe’re forgetting the past. We’re forgetting all those struggles that in fact offered a different story about the United States….

So what we do is we collapse education into training, and we end up suggesting that not knowing much is somehow a virtue…

Rick Santorum says, the last thing we need in the Republican party are intellectuals. And I think it’s kind of a template for the sort of idiocy that increasingly now dominates our culture…

Intellectuals are people who take pride in ideas. They work with ideas…they believe that ideas matter. They believe that there’s no such thing as common sense, good sense or bad sense, but reflective sense.

 

 

how we learn what we learn and what we do with the knowledge that we have is not just for ourselves. It’s for the way in which we can expand and deepen the very processes of democracy in general, and address those problems and anti-democratic forces that work against it….I’ve always felt that in the face of the worst tyrannies, people resist.

They’re resisting now all over the world. And it seems to me history is open

We have to acknowledge the realities that bear down on us, but it seems to me that if we really want to live in a world and be alive with compassion and justice, then we need educated hope. We need a hope that recognizes the problems and doesn’t romanticize them, and also recognizes the need for vision, for social organizations, for strategies. We need institutions that provide the formative culture that give voice to those visions and those ideas… what would it mean to begin to do at least two things?…develop cultural apparatuses that can offer a new vocabulary for people, where questions of freedom and justice and the problems that we’re facing can be analyzed in ways that reach mass audiences in accessible language. We have to build a formative culture. We have to do that. Secondly, we’ve got to overcome the fractured nature of these movements. I mean the thing that plagues me about progressives in the left and liberals is they are all sort of ensconced in these fragmented movements that seem to suggest those movements constitute the totality of the system of oppression that we are facing. And they don’t… you need a different vocabulary and a different understanding of politics. Look, the right has one thing going for it that nobody wants to talk about. Power is global. And politics is local. They float. They have no allegiance to anyone. They don’t care about the social contract….The one percent…They’re so savage because there’s nothing to give up. They don’t have to compromise. The power is so arrogant, so over the top, so unlike anything we have seen in terms of its anti-democratic practices, policies, modes of governance and ideology…The real changes are going to come in creating movements that are longstanding, that are organized, that basically take questions of governance and policy seriously and begin to spread out and become international. That is going to have to happen…

What we often find is we often find people who take for granted the systems that they live in. They take for granted the savagery— the sort of things that you talked about. And it produces two kinds of rage. It produces an inner rage in which people blame themselves…Then you have another expression of that rage, and that rage blames blacks. It blames immigrants. It blames young people….The question is how do you mobilize the rage in ways in which it’s not self-defeating, and in ways in which it doesn’t basically be used to scapegoat other people. That’s an educational issue. That should be at the center of any politics that matters.

Hope to me is a metaphor that speaks to the power of the imagination. I don’t believe that anyone should be involved in politics in a progressive way if they can’t understand that to act otherwise, you have to imagine otherwise.

What hope is predicated on is the assumption that life can be different than it is now...it really has to involve the hard work of A) recognizing the structures of domination that we have to face; B) organizing collectively and somehow to change those; and C) believing it can be done, that it’s worth the struggle….what we see for the first time in history is a war on the ability to produce meanings that hold power accountable. A war on the possibility of an education that enables people to think critically, a war on cultural apparatuses that entertain by simply engaging in this spectacle of violence and not producing programs that really are controversial, that make people think, that make people alive through the possibilities of, you know, the imagination itself…the formative culture that produces those kinds of intellectual and creative and imaginative abilities has been under assault since the 1980s in a very systemic way…It’s a culture run by people who believe that data is more important than knowledge…the collective imagination….emerges when people find strength in collective organizations, when they find strength in each other. Believing that we can work together to produce commons in which we can share that raises everybody up and not just some people, that contributes to the world…It’s an endless struggle. And that there’s joy in that struggle, because there’s a sense of solidarity that brings us together around the most basic, most elemental and the most important of democratic values.

Full text

In his book, Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism [4], author and scholar Henry Giroux connects the dots to prove his theory that our current system is informed by a “machinery of social and civil death” that chills “any vestige of a robust democracy.”

Giroux explains that such a machine produces “people who are basically so caught up with surviving that they become like the walking dead—they lose their sense of agency, they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.”

What’s more, Giroux points out, the system that creates this vacuum has little to do with expanding the meaning and the substance of democracy itself. Under “casino capitalism,” the goal is to get a quick return, taking advantage of a kind of logic in which the only thing that drives us is to put as much money as we can into a slot machine and hope we walk out with our wallets overflowing.

Full transcript of the interview with Giroux below the video:

BILL MOYERS: A very wise teacher once told us, “If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” Then he gave us some of his favorite examples. You think of language differently, he said, if you think of “words pregnant with celestial fire.” Or “words that weep and tears that speak.” Of course, the heart doesn’t physically separate into pieces when we lose someone we love, but “a broken heart” conveys the depth of loss. And if I say you are the “apple of my eye,” you know how special you are in my sight. In other words, metaphors cleanse the lens of perception and give us a fresh take on reality.

Recently I read a book and saw a film that opened my eyes to see differently the crisis of our times, and the metaphor used by both was, believe it or not, zombies. You heard me right, zombies. More on the film later, but this is the book: Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism. Talk about “connecting the dots.” Read this, and the headlines of the day will, I think, arrange themselves differently in your head, threading together ideas and experiences to reveal a pattern. The skillful weaver is Henry Giroux, a scholar, teacher and social critic with seemingly tireless energy and a broad range of interests. Here are just a few of his books: America’s Education Deficit and the War on YouthTwilight of the SocialYouth in a Suspect SocietyNeoliberalism’s War on Higher Education.

Henry Giroux is the son of working-class parents in Rhode Island who now holds the Global TV Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. Henry Giroux, welcome.

There’s a great urgency in your recent books and in the essays you’ve been posting online, a fierce urgency, almost as if you are writing with the doomsday clock ticking. What accounts for that?

HENRY GIROUX: Well, for me democracy is too important to allow it to be undermined in a way in which every vital institution that matters from the political process to the schools to the inequalities that, to the money being put into politics, I mean, all those things that make a democracy viable are in crisis.

And the problem is the crisis, while we recognize in many ways is associated increasingly with the economic system, what we haven’t gotten yet is that it should be accompanied by a crisis of ideas, that the stories that are being told about democracy are really about the swindle of fulfillment.

The swindle of fulfillment in that what the reigning elite in all of their diversity now tell the American people if not the rest of the world is that democracy is an excess. It doesn’t really matter anymore, that we don’t need social provisions, we don’t need the welfare state, that the survival of the fittest is all that matters, that in fact society should mimic those values in ways that suggest a new narrative.

You have a consolidation of power that is so overwhelming, not just in its ability to control resources and drive the economy and redistribute wealth upward, but basically to provide the most fraudulent definition of what a democracy should be.

The notion that profit making is the essence of democracy, the notion that economics is divorced from ethics, the notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism, the notion that the welfare state is a pathology, that any form of dependency basically is disreputable and needs to be attacked, I mean, this is a vicious set of assumptions.

BILL MOYERS: Are we close to equating democracy with capitalism?

HENRY GIROUX: Oh, I mean, I think that’s the biggest lie of all actually. The biggest lie of all is that capitalism is democracy. We have no way of understanding democracy outside of the market, just as we have no understanding of how to understand freedom outside of market values.

BILL MOYERS: Explain that. What do you mean “outside of market values”?

HENRY GIROUX: I mean you know, when Margaret Thatcher married Ronald Reagan—

BILL MOYERS: Metaphorically?

HENRY GIROUX: Metaphorically. Two things happened. One, there was this assumption that the government was evil except when it regulated its power to benefit the rich. So it wasn’t a matter of smashing the government as Reagan seemed to suggest, it was a matter of rearranging it and reconfiguring it so it served the wealthy, the elites and the corporate, of course, you know, those who run mega corporations. But Thatcher said something else that’s particularly interesting in this discussion.

She said there’s no such thing as society. There are only individuals and families. And so what we begin to see is the emergence of a kind of ethic, a survival of the fittest ethic that legitimates the most incredible forms of cruelty, that seems to suggest that freedom in this discourse of getting rid of society, getting rid of the social— that discourse is really only about self-interest, that possessive individualism is now the only virtue that matters. So freedom, which is essential to any notion of democracy, now becomes nothing more than a matter of pursuing your own self interests. No society can survive under those conditions.

BILL MOYERS: So what is society? When you use it as an antithesis to what Margaret Thatcher said, what do you have in mind? What’s the metaphor for—

HENRY GIROUX: I have in mind a society in which the wealth is shared, in which there is a mesh of organizations that are grounded in the social contract, that takes seriously the mutual obligations that people have to each other. But more than anything else— I’m sorry, but I want to echo something that FDR once said.

When he said that, you know, you not only have to have personal freedoms and political freedoms, the right to vote the right to speak, you have to have social freedom. You have to have the freedom from want, the freedom from poverty, the freedom from— that comes with a lack of health care.

Getting ahead cannot be the only motive that motivates people. You have to imagine what a good life is. But agency, the ability to do that, to have the capacity to basically be able to make decisions and learn how to govern and not just be governed—

BILL MOYERS: As a citizen.

HENRY GIROUX: As a citizen.

BILL MOYERS: A citizen is a moral agent of—

HENRY GIROUX: A citizen is a political and moral agent who in fact has a shared sense of hope and responsibility to others and not just to him or herself. Under this system, democracy is basically like the lotto. You know, go in, you put a coin in, and if you’re lucky, you win something. If you don’t, then you become something else.

BILL MOYERS: So then why when I talk about the urgency in your writing, your forthcoming book opens with this sentence, “America’s descending into madness.” Now, don’t you think many people will read that as hyperbole?

HENRY GIROUX: Sometimes in the exaggerations there are great truths. And it seems to me that what’s unfortunate here is that’s not an exaggeration.

BILL MOYERS: Well, madness can mean several things. It can mean insanity. It can mean lunacy. But it can also mean folly, foolishness, you know, look at that craziness over there. Which do you mean?

HENRY GIROUX: I mean, it’s certainly not just about foolishness. It’s about a kind of lunacy in which people lose themselves in a sense of power and greed and exceptionalism and nationalism in ways that so undercut the meaning of democracy and the meaning of justice that you have to sit back and ask yourself how could the following, for instance, take place?

How could people who allegedly believe in democracy and the American Congress cut $40 billion from a food stamp program, half of which those food stamps go to children? And you ask yourself how could that happen? I mean, how can you say no to a Medicaid program which is far from radical but at the same time offers poor people health benefits that could save their lives?

How do you shut down public schools and say that charter schools and private schools are better because education is really not a right, it’s an entitlement? How do you get a discourse governing the country that seems to suggest that anything public, public health, public transportation, public values, you know, public engagement is a pathology?

BILL MOYERS: Let me answer that from the other side. They would say to you that we cut Medicaid or food stamps because they create dependency. We closed public schools because they aren’t working, they aren’t teaching. People are coming out not ready for life.

HENRY GIROUX: No, no, that’s the answer that they give. I mean, and it’s a mark of their insanity. I mean, that’s precisely an answer that in my mind embodies a kind of psychosis that is so divorced— is in such denial about power and how it works and is in such denial about their attempt at what I call individualize the social, in other words—

BILL MOYERS: Individualize?

HENRY GIROUX: Individualize the social, which means that all problems, if they exist, rest on the shoulders of individuals.

BILL MOYERS: You are responsible.

HENRY GIROUX: You are responsible.

BILL MOYERS: If you’re poor, you’re responsible if you’re ignorant, you’re responsible if—

HENRY GIROUX: Exactly.

BILL MOYERS: —you’re sick?

HENRY GIROUX: That’s right, that the government— the larger social order, the society has no responsibility whatsoever so that— you often hear this, I mean, if there—I mean, if you have an economic crisis caused by the hedge fund crooks, you know and millions of people are put out of work and they’re all lining up for unemployment, what do we hear in the national media? We hear that maybe they don’t know how to fill out unemployment forms, maybe it’s about character. You know, maybe they’re just simply lazy.

BILL MOYERS: This line struck me: “The ideology of hardness and cruelty runs through American culture like an electric current…”

HENRY GIROUX: Yeah, it sure does. I mean, to see poor people, their benefits being cut, to see pensions of Americans who have worked like my father, all their lives, and taken away, to see the rich just accumulating more and more wealth.

I mean, it seems to me that there has to be a point where you have to say, “No, this has to stop.” We can’t allow ourselves to be driven by those lies anymore. We can’t allow those who are rich, who are privileged, who are entitled, who accumulate wealth to simply engage in a flight from social and moral and political responsibility by blaming the people who are victimized by those policies as the source of those problems.

BILL MOYERS: There’s a new reality you write emerging in America in no small part because of the media, one that enshrines a politics of disposability in which growing numbers of people are considered dispensable and a drain on the body politic and the economy, not to mention you say an affront on the sensibilities of the rich and the powerful.

HENRY GIROUX: If somebody had to say to me, “What exactly is new that we haven’t seen before?” And I think that what we haven’t seen before is an attack on the social contract, Bill, that is so overwhelming, so dangerous in the way in which its being deconstructed and being disassembled that you now have as a classic example, you have a whole generation of young people who are now seen as disposable.

They’re in debt, they’re unemployed. My friend, Zygmunt Bauman, calls them the zero generation: zero jobs, zero hope, zero possibilities, zero employment. And it seems to me when a country turns its back on its young people because they figure in investments not long term investments, they can’t be treated as simply commodities that are going to in some way provide an instant payback and extend the bottom line, they represent something more noble than that. They represent an indication of how the future is not going to mimic the present and what obligations people might have, social, political, moral and otherwise to allow that to happen, and we’ve defaulted on that possibility.

BILL MOYERS: You actually call it— there’s the title of the book, “America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth.”

HENRY GIROUX: Oh, this is a war. It’s a war that endlessly commercializes kids, both as commodities and as commodifiable.

BILL MOYERS: Example?

HENRY GIROUX: Example being that the young people can’t turn anywhere without in some way being told that the only obligation of citizenship is to shop, is to be a consumer. You can’t walk on a college campus today and walk into the student union and not see everybody represented there from the local banks to Disneyland to local shops, all selling things.

I mean, it’s like the school has become a mall. It imitates the mall. And if you walk into schools as one example, I mean, you look at the buses, there are advertisements on the buses. You walk into the bathroom, there are advertisements above the stalls. I mean, and the curriculum is written by General Electric.

BILL MOYERS: We’re all branded—

HENRY GIROUX: They’re branded, they’re branded.

BILL MOYERS: —everything is branded?

HENRY GIROUX: Where are the public spaces for young people other learn a discourse that’s not commodified, to be able to think about non-commodifiable values like trust, justice, honesty, integrity, caring for others, compassion. Those things, they’re just simply absent, they’re not part of those public spheres because those spheres have been commodified.

What does it mean to go to school all day and just be taking tests and learning how to teach for the test? Their minds are numb. I mean—the expression I get from them, they call school dead time, these kids. Say it’s dead time. I call it their dis-imagination zones.

BILL MOYERS: Dis-imagination?

HENRY GIROUX: Yeah, yeah, they rob— it’s a form of learning that robs the mind of any possibility of being imaginative. The arts are cut out, right, so the questions are not being raised about what it means to be creative.

All of those things that speak to educating the imagination, to stretching it, the giving kids the knowledge, a sense of the traditions, the archives to take risks, to learn about the world, they’re disappearing.

BILL MOYERS: I heard you respond to someone who asked you at a public session the other evening: “What would you do about what you’ve just described?” And your first response was start debating societies in high schools all across the country.

HENRY GIROUX: That’s right. One of the things that I learned quickly as a result of the Internet is I started getting a ton of letters from students who basically were involved in these debate societies. And they’re saying like things, “We use your work. We love this work.”

And I actually got involved with one that was working with— out of Brown University’s working with a high school in the inner cities, and I got involved with some of the students. But then I began to learn as a result of that involvement that these were the most radical kids in the country.

I mean, these were kids who embodied what a critical public sphere meant. They were going all over the country, different high schools, working class kids no less, debating major issues and getting so excited about in many ways winning these debates but doing it on the side of— something they could believe in.

And I thought to myself, “Wow, here’s a space.” Here’s a space where you’re going to have a whole generation of kids who could be actually engaging in debate and dialogue. Every working class urban school in this country should put its resources as much as possible into a debate team.

BILL MOYERS: My favorite of your many books is this one, “Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism.” Why that metaphor, zombie politics?

HENRY GIROUX: Because it’s a politics that’s informed by the machinery of social and civil death.

BILL MOYERS: Death?

HENRY GIROUX: Death. It’s a death machine. It’s a death machine because in my estimation it does everything it can to kill any vestige of a robust democracy. It turns people into zombies, people who basically are so caught up with surviving that they have no— they become like the walking dead, you know, they lose their sense of agency— I mean they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.

And so this zombie metaphor actually operated at two levels. I mean, at one level it spoke to people who have no visions, who exercise a form of political leadership that extends the politics of what I call war and the machineries of death, whether those machineries are at home or abroad, whether they’re about the death of civil liberties or they’re about making up horrendous lies to actually invade a country like Iraq.

So this— the zombie metaphor is a way to sort of suggest that democracy is losing its oxygen, you know, it’s losing its vitality, that we have a politics that really is about the organization of the production of violence.

It’s losing its soul. It’s losing its spirit. It’s losing its ability to speak to itself in ways that would span the human spirit and the human possibility for justice and equality.

BILL MOYERS: Because we don’t think of zombies as having souls?

HENRY GIROUX: They don’t have souls.

BILL MOYERS: Right. You—

HENRY GIROUX: They’re driven by lust.

BILL MOYERS: By lust?

HENRY GIROUX: The lust for money, the lust for power.

BILL MOYERS: Well, that’s, I guess, why you mix your metaphors. Because you talk about casino capitalists, zombie politics, which you say in the book shapes every aspect—

HENRY GIROUX: Every aspect.

BILL MOYERS: —of society.

HENRY GIROUX: Yeah, at the current moment. This is what—

BILL MOYERS: How so?

HENRY GIROUX: Well, first, let’s begin with an assumption. This casino capitalism as we talk about it, right, one of the things that it does that hasn’t been done before, it doesn’t just believe it can control the economy. It believes that it can govern all of social life. That’s different.

That means it has to have its tentacles into every aspect of everyday life. Everything from the way schools are run to the way prisons are outsourced to the way the financial services are run to the way in which people have access to health care, it’s an all-encompassing, it seems to me, political, cultural, educational apparatus.

And it basically has nothing to do with expanding the meaning and the substance of democracy itself. What it has to do is expanding— what it means to get—a quick return, what it means to take advantage of a kind of casino logic in which the only thing that drives you is to go to that slot machine and somehow get more, just pump the machine, put as much money in as you can into it and walk out a rich man. That’s what it’s about.

BILL MOYERS: You say that casino capitalist, zombie politics views competition as a form of social combat, celebrates war as an extension of politics and legitimates a ruthless social Darwinism.

HENRY GIROUX: Oh, I mean, it is truly ruthless. I mean, imagine yourself on a reality TV program called “The Survivor,” you and I, we’re all that’s left. The ideology that drives that program is only one of us is going to win. I don’t have any respect for you. I mean, all I’m trying to do is beat you. I just want to be the one that’s left. I want to win the big prize.

And it seems to me that what’s unfortunate is that reality now mimics reality TV. It is reality TV in terms of the consensus that drives it, that the shared fears are more important than shared responsibilities, that the social contract is the pathology because it basically suggests helping people is a strength rather than a weakness.

It believes that social bonds not driven by market values are basically bonds that we should find despicable. But even worse, in this ethic, the market has colonized pleasure in such a way that violence in many ways seems to be the only way left that people can actually experience pleasure whether it’s in the popular medium, whether it’s in the way in which we militarize local police to become SWAT teams that actually will break up poker games now in full gear or give away surplus material, equipment to a place like Ohio State University, who got an armored tank.

I mean, I guess— I’m wondering what does it mean when you’re on a campus and you see an armored tank, you know, by the university police? I mean, this is— everything is a war zone. You know, Senator Graham—when Lindsey Graham, he said— in talking about the terrorist laws, you know these horrible laws that are being put into place in which Americans can be captured, they can be killed and, you know—the kill list all of this, he basically says, “Everybody’s a potential terrorist.”

I mean, so that what happens here is that this notion of fear and this fear around the notion of security that is simply about protecting yourself, not about social security, not about protecting the commons, not about protecting the environment, turns everybody into a potential enemy. I mean, we cannot mediate our relationships it seems any longer in this culture in ways in which we would suggest and adhere to the notion that justice is a matter of caring for the other, that compassion matters.

BILL MOYERS: So this is why you write that America’s no longer recognizable as a democracy?

HENRY GIROUX: No. Look, as the social state is crippled, as the social state is in some way robbed, hollowed out and robbed of its potential and its capacities, what takes its place? The punishing state takes its place.

You get this notion of incarceration, this, what we call the governing through crime complex where governance now has been ceded to corporations who largely are basically about benefiting the rich, the ultra-rich, the big corporations and allowing the state to exercise its power in enormously destructive and limited ways.

And those ways are about militarizing the culture, criminalizing a wide swathe of social behavior and keeping people in check. What does it mean when you turn on the television in the United States and you see young kids, peaceful protestors, lying down with their hands locked and you got a guy with, you know, spraying them with pepper spray as if there’s something normal about that, as if that’s all it takes, that’s how we solve problems? I mean, I guess the question here is what is it in a culture that would allow the public to believe that with almost any problem that arises, force is the first way to address it.

I mean, one has to recognize that in that kind of logic, something has happened in which the state is no longer in the service of democracy.

BILL MOYERS: Well, George Monbiot, who writes for theGuardian, wrote just the other day, “It’s business that really rules us.” And he says, “So I don’t blame people for giving up on politics … When a state-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and made a mockery of the voting process, when an unreformed political funding system ensures that parties can be bought and sold, when politicians of the main … parties stand and watch as public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of the system that inspires us to participate?”

HENRY GIROUX: I mean, the real question is why aren’t we more outraged?

HENRY GIROUX: Why aren’t we in the streets?

HENRY GIROUX: I mean, that’s the central question for the American public. I mean, and I think that question has to address something fundamental and that is what we have, while we have an economic system that in fact has caused a crisis in democracy. What we haven’t addressed is the underlying consensus that informs that crisis. What you have is basically a transgression against the very basic ideals of democracy. We have lost what it means to be connected to democracy.

And I think that’s coupled with a cultural apparatus, a culture, an educative culture, a mode of politics in which people now have gone through this for so long that it’s become normalized. I mean, it’s hard to imagine life beyond capitalism. You know, it’s easier to imagine the death of the planet than it is to imagine the death of capitalism. I mean— and so it seems to me—

BILL MOYERS: Well, don’t you think people want to be capitalist? Don’t you think people want capitalism? They want money?

HENRY GIROUX: I’m not sure if they want those things. I mean, I think when you read all the surveys about what’s important to people’s lives, Bill, actually the things that they focus on are not about, you know, “I want to be about the Kardashian sisters.” God forbid, right?

I mean, I think that what—they the same way we want—we need a decent education for our kids, we want, you know, real healthcare. I mean, we want the sense of equality in the country. We want to be able to control the political process so that we’re not simply nameless and invisible and disposable.

I mean, they want women to be able to have the right to have some control over their own reproductive rights. I mean, they’re talking about gay rights being a legitimate pursuit of justice.

And I think that what is missing from all of this are the basic, are those alternative public spheres, those cultural formations, what I call a formative culture that can bring people together and give those ideas, embody them in both a sense of hope, of vision and the organizations and strategies that would be necessary at the very least to start a third party, at the very least. I mean, to start a party that is not part of this establishment, to reconstruct a sense of where politics can go.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you write that the liberal center has failed us and for all of its discourse of helping the poor, of addressing inequality, it always ends up on the side of bankers and finance capital, right.

HENRY GIROUX: Are you talking about Obama?

BILL MOYERS: I’m talking about what you say.

HENRY GIROUX: I know, I know. I’m—

BILL MOYERS: But you do, I must be fair and say that you go on in that same chapter of one of these books to say isn’t it time we forget trying to pressure Obama to do the right thing?

HENRY GIROUX: Obama to me is symptomatic to me of the liberal center. But the issue is much greater than him. I mean, the issue is in a system that is entirely broken. It’s broken.

Elections are bought by big money. The political process is not in the hands of the people. It’s in the hands of very few people. And it seems to me we have to ask ourselves what kind of formative culture needs to be put in place in which education becomes central to politics, in which politics can be used to help people to be able to see things differently, to get beyond this system that is so closed, so powerfully normalized.

I mean, the right since the 1970s has created a massive cultural apparatus, a slew of anti-public intellectuals. They’ve invaded the universities with think tanks. They have foundations. They have all kinds of money. And you know, it’s interesting, the war they wage is a war on the mind.

The war on what it means to be able to dissent, the war on the possibility of alternative visions. And the left really has— and progressives and liberals, we have nothing like that. I mean, we always seem to believe that all you have to do is tell the truth.

BILL MOYERS: You shall know the truth, the truth will set you free.

HENRY GIROUX: Yeah, and the truth will set you free. But I’m sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

BILL MOYERS: Which brings me to the book you’re now finishing and will be published next spring. You call it The Violence of Organized Forgetting. What are we forgetting?

HENRY GIROUX: We’re forgetting the past. We’re forgetting all those struggles that in fact offered a different story about the United States.

BILL MOYERS: How is it organized, this forgetting?

HENRY GIROUX: It’s organized because it’s systemic. It’s organized because you have people controlling schools who are deleting those histories and making sure that they don’t appear. In Tucson, Arizona, they banished ethnic studies from the curriculum. This is the dis-imagination machine. That’s the hardcore element.

BILL MOYERS: The suffocation of imagination?

HENRY GIROUX: The suffocation of imagination. And we kill the imagination by suggesting that the only kind of rationality that matters, the only kind of learning that matters is utterly instrumental, pragmatist.

So what we do is we collapse education into training, and we end up suggesting that not knowing much is somehow a virtue. And I’ll and I think what’s so disturbing about this is not only do you see it in the popular culture with the lowest common denominator now drives that culture, but you also see it coming from politicians who actually say things that suggest something about the policies they’d like to implement.

I mean, I know Rick Santorum is not— is kind of a, you know, an obvious figure. But when he stands up in front of a body of Republicans and he says, the last thing we need in the Republican party are intellectuals. And I think it’s kind of a template for the sort of idiocy that increasingly now dominates our culture.

BILL MOYERS: What is an intellectual, by the way? The atmosphere has been so poisoned, as you know, by what you’ve been describing, that many people bridle when they hear the term intellectual pursuit.

HENRY GIROUX: I mean, yeah, I think intellectuals are— there are two ways we can describe intellectuals. In the most general sense, we can say, “Intellectuals are people who take pride in ideas. They work with ideas.” I mean, they believe that ideas matter. They believe that there’s no such thing as common sense, good sense or bad sense, but reflective sense.

That ideas offer the framework for gives us agency, what allows us to read the world critically, what allows us to be literate. What allows us to be civic literacy may be in some ways the high point of what it means to be an intellectual—

BILL MOYERS: Because?

HENRY GIROUX: Because it suggests that how we learn what we learn and what we do with the knowledge that we have is not just for ourselves. It’s for the way in which we can expand and deepen the very processes of democracy in general, and address those problems and anti-democratic forces that work against it. Now some people make a living as a result of being intellectuals. But there are people who are intellectuals who don’t function in that capacity. They’re truck drivers. They’re workers.

I grew up in a working-class neighborhood. The smartest people I have ever met were in that neighborhood. We read books. We went to the library together. We drank on Friday nights. We talked about [Antonio] Gramsci. We drove to Boston—

BILL MOYERS: Gramsci being the Italian philosopher.

HENRY GIROUX: The Italian philosopher. I mean—

BILL MOYERS: The pessimism of the—

HENRY GIROUX: Of the intellect, and optimism of the will.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

HENRY GIROUX: Right? I mean, we—

BILL MOYERS: You see the world as it is, but then you act as if you can change the world.

HENRY GIROUX: Exactly. I mean, we tried to find ways to both enliven the neighborhoods we lived in. But at the same time, we knew that that wasn’t enough. That one— that there was a world beyond our neighborhood, and that world had all kinds of things for us to learn. And we were excited about that. I mean, we drank, danced and talked. That’s what we did.

BILL MOYERS: And I assume there were some other more private activities.

HENRY GIROUX: And there was more private activity.

BILL MOYERS: You know, you are a buoyant man. And yet you describe what you call a shift away from the hope that accompanies the living, to a politics of cynicism and despair.

HENRY GIROUX: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: What leads you to this?

HENRY GIROUX: What leads me to this is something that we mentioned earlier, and that is when you see policies being enacted today that are so cruel and so savage, wiping out a generation of young people, trying to eliminate public schools, eliminating health care, putting endless percentage of black and brown people in jail, destroying the environment and there’s no public outrage.

There aren’t people in the streets. You know, you have to ask yourself, “Has this market mentality, is it so powerful and that it’s become so normalized, so taken for granted that the imagination, the collective imagination has been so stunted that it becomes difficult to challenge it anymore?” And I think that leads me to despair somewhat. But I’ve always felt that in the face of the worst tyrannies, people resist.

They’re resisting now all over the world. And it seems to me history is open. I believe history is open. I don’t believe that we have reached the finality of a system that is so destructive that all we have to do is look at the clock and say, “One minute left.” I don’t believe in those kinds of metaphors.

We have to acknowledge the realities that bear down on us, but it seems to me that if we really want to live in a world and be alive with compassion and justice, then we need educated hope. We need a hope that recognizes the problems and doesn’t romanticize them, and also recognizes the need for vision, for social organizations, for strategies. We need institutions that provide the formative culture that give voice to those visions and those ideas.

BILL MOYERS: You’ve talked elsewhere or written elsewhere about the need for a militant, far-reaching, social movement to challenge the false claims that equate democracy and capitalism. Now, what do you mean “militant and far-reaching social movement”?

HENRY GIROUX: I mean, what we do know, we know this. We know that there are people working in local communities all over the United States around particular kinds of issues, whether it be gay rights, whether it be the environment, whether it be, you know the Occupy movement, helping people with Hurricane Sandy. We have a lot of fragmented movements.

And I think we probably have a lot more than we realize, because the press gives them no visibility, as you know. So, we don’t really have a sense of the degree to which these— how pronounced these really are. I think the real issue here is, you know, what would it mean to begin to do at least two things?

To say the very least, one is to develop cultural apparatuses that can offer a new vocabulary for people, where questions of freedom and justice and the problems that we’re facing can be analyzed in ways that reach mass audiences in accessible language. We have to build a formative culture. We have to do that. Secondly, we’ve got to overcome the fractured nature of these movements. I mean the thing that plagues me about progressives in the left and liberals is they are all sort of ensconced in these fragmented movements that seem to suggest those movements constitute the totality of the system of oppression that we are facing. And they don’t.

Look, we have technologies in place now in which students all over the world are beginning to communicate with each other because they’re realizing that the punishing logic of austerity has a certain kind of semblance that a certain normality that, in common ground, that is affecting students in Greece, students in Spain, students in France.

BILL MOYERS: And in this country?

HENRY GIROUX: And in this country. And it seems to me that while I may be too old to in any way begin to participate in this, I really believe that young people have recognized that they’ve been written out of the discourse of democracy. That they’re in the grip of something so oppressive it will take away their future, their hopes, their possibilities and their sense of the future will be one that is less than what their parents had imagined.

And there’s no going back. I mean, this has to be addressed. And it’ll take time. They’ll build the organizations. They’ll get— they’ll work with the new technologies. And hopefully they’ll have our generation to be able to assist in that, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow. And it’s not going to happen in a year. It’s going to as you have to plant seeds. You have to believe that seeds matter.

But you need a different vocabulary and a different understanding of politics. Look, the right has one thing going for it that nobody wants to talk about. Power is global. And politics is local. They float. They have no allegiance to anyone. They don’t care about the social contract, because if workers in the United States don’t want to compromise, they’ll get them in Mexico. So the notion of political concessions has died for this class. They don’t care about it anymore. There are no political concessions.

BILL MOYERS: The financial class.

HENRY GIROUX: The financial class.

BILL MOYERS: The one percent.

HENRY GIROUX: The one percent. That’s why they’re so savage. They’re so savage because there’s nothing to give up. They don’t have to compromise. The power is so arrogant, so over the top, so unlike anything we have seen in terms of its anti-democratic practices, policies, modes of governance and ideology.

That at some point, you know they feel they don’t have to legitimate this anymore. I mean, it’s because the contradictions are becoming so great, that I think all of a sudden a lot of young people are recognizing this language, this whole language, doesn’t work. The language of liberalism doesn’t work anymore.

No, let’s just reform the system. Let’s work within it. Let’s just run people for office. My argument would be, you have one foot in and you have one foot out. I’m not willing to give up the school board. I’m not willing to give up all forms of electoral politics. But it seems to me at the local level we can do some of that thing, that people can get elected. They can make moderate changes.

But the real changes are not going to come there. The real changes are going to come in creating movements that are longstanding, that are organized, that basically take questions of governance and policy seriously and begin to spread out and become international. That is going to have to happen.

BILL MOYERS: But here’s the contradiction I hear in what you’re saying. That if you write about a turning toward despair and cynicism in politics. Can you get movements out of despair and cynicism? Can you get people who will take on the system when they have been told that the system is so powerful and so overwhelming that they’ve lost their, as you call it, moral and political agency?

HENRY GIROUX: Well, let me put it this way. What we often find is we often find people who take for granted the systems that they live in. They take for granted the savagery— the sort of things that you talked about. And it produces two kinds of rage. It produces an inner rage in which people blame themselves.

It’s so disturbing to me to see working-class, middle-class people blaming themselves when these bankers have actually caused the crisis. That’s the first issue.

Then you have another expression of that rage, and that rage blames blacks. It blames immigrants. It blames young people. It says, “They’re not—” it says about youth, it says, “Youth is not in trouble. They’re the problem.”

And so, all of a sudden that rage gets displaced. The question is not what do we— the question is not just where’s the outrage. The question is how do you mobilize the rage in ways in which it’s not self-defeating, and in ways in which it doesn’t basically be used to scapegoat other people. That’s an educational issue. That should be at the center of any politics that matters.

BILL MOYERS: One of your intellectual mentors, the philosopher Ernst Bloch, said, “We must believe in the principle of hope.” And you’ve written often about the language of hope. What does that mean, the principle of hope and the language of hope, and why are they important as you see it in creating this new paradigm, metaphor that you talk about?

HENRY GIROUX: Hope to me is a metaphor that speaks to the power of the imagination. I don’t believe that anyone should be involved in politics in a progressive way if they can’t understand that to act otherwise, you have to imagine otherwise.

What hope is predicated on is the assumption that life can be different than it is now. But to be different than it is now, rather than romanticizing hope and turning it into something Disney-like, right, it really has to involve the hard work of A) recognizing the structures of domination that we have to face; B) organizing collectively and somehow to change those; and C) believing it can be done, that it’s worth the struggle.

That if the struggles are not believed in, if people don’t have the faith to engage in these struggles, and that’s the issue. I mean, that working class neighborhood that I talked to you about in the beginning of the program, I mean, it just resonates with such a sense of joy for me, the sense of solidarity, sociality.

And I think all the institutions that are being constructed under this market tyranny, this casino capitals is just the opposite. It’s like that image of all these people at the bus stop, right. And they’re all— they’re together, but they’re alone. They’re alone.

BILL MOYERS: If we have zombied politics, if we have as you say, metaphorically, zombies in the high levels of government, zombies in banks and financial centers and zombies in the military, can’t you have a zombie population? I mean, you say the stories that are being told through the commercial corporate entertainment media are all the more powerful because they seem to defy the public’s desire for rigorous accountability, critical interrogation and openness.

Now if that’s what the public wants, why isn’t the market providing them? Isn’t that what the market’s supposed to do? Provide what people want?

HENRY GIROUX: The market doesn’t want that at all. I mean, the market wants the people, the apostles of this market logic, I mean, they actually the first rule of the market is make sure you have power that’s unaccountable. That’s what they want.

And I think that, I mean, what we see for the first time in history is a war on the ability to produce meanings that hold power accountable. A war on the possibility of an education that enables people to think critically, a war on cultural apparatuses that entertain by simply engaging in this spectacle of violence and not producing programs that really are controversial, that make people think, that make people alive through the possibilities of, you know, the imagination itself.

I mean, my argument is the formative culture that produces those kinds of intellectual and creative and imaginative abilities has been under assault since the 1980s in a very systemic way. So that the formative culture that takes its place is a business culture. It’s a culture run by accountants, not by visionaries. It’s a culture run by the financial services. It’s a culture run by people who believe that data is more important than knowledge.

BILL MOYERS: You paint a very grim picture of the state of democracy, and yet you don’t seem contaminated by cynicism yourself.

HENRY GIROUX: No, I’m not.

BILL MOYERS: How do we understand that?

HENRY GIROUX: Because I refuse to become a part of it.

Become I refuse to become complicitous. I refuse to say—I refuse to be alive and to watch institutions being handed over to right-wing zealots. I refuse to be alive and watch the planet be destroyed.

I mean, when you mentioned— you talk about the collective imagination, you know, I mean that imagination emerges when people find strength in collective organizations, when they find strength in each other.

Believing that we can work together to produce commons in which we can share that raises everybody up and not just some people, that contributes to the world in a way that— and I really don’t mean to be romanticizing here, but a world that is we recognize is never just enough. Justice is never done. It’s an endless struggle. And that there’s joy in that struggle, because there’s a sense of solidarity that brings us together around the most basic, most elemental and the most important of democratic values.

BILL MOYERS: Henry Giroux, thank you, very much for talking to me.

HENRY GIROUX: Thank you, Bill.

See more stories tagged with:

bill moyers [5],

interview [6],

moyers & company [7],

Henry Giroux [8],

capitalism [9],

Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism [10]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/do-we-live-era-zombie-politics

Links:
[1] http://billmoyers.com/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/bill-moyers-0
[3] http://billmoyers.com/segment/henry-giroux-on-zombie-politics/
[4] http://www.amazon.com/Politics-Culture-Capitalism-Popular-Everyday/dp/1433112264
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/bill-moyers
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/interview-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/moyers-company-0
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/henry-giroux-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/capitalism
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/zombie-politics-and-culture-age-casino-capitalism
[11] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

The battle for America’s soul

by Phyllis Stenerson – Ideas we need to talk about  (HTML version)
Progressive Values e-letter  -  October 4, 2013
The fight raging in America’s capital is ostensibly over the nation’s budget but it’s really about everything. Conflict that has been building for at least 40 years seems to have hit a high mark.

Controversy is embedded in the political process of making decisions about government taxing and spending. Dig into this drama and you’ll find threads that connect to countless ways that citizens, elected representatives and government interconnect with one another.

“America is deeply divided” has become a cliché for trying to describe what’s going on in our nation when the scope of the scenario is just too big to fully grasp. Culture war has become a term for describing this intangible concept with far reaching implications. Culture wars can be subdivided into class wars when it’s about money and religion wars when it’s about values. People aren’t talking much yet about intellectual wars but that dialogue needs to emerge. Right now Democrats and Republicans seem to be living in different worlds, using differing language, arriving at different truths.

We’re immersed in a clash of worldviews. In the big picture we talk mostly about two dominant worldviews, conservative and progressive. Conservatives tend to be Republicans; progressives tend to be Democrats. The reality is that most people hold a combination of worldviews but that is too complex for sound bites and punditry.

A worldview is how we see the world and our place in it, our philosophy of life, our moral and intellectual truth. Moral values are strongly influenced by religion and spirituality leading to clashes within our highly diverse religious culture. “All politics is moral” says linguist George Lakoff.

We, as citizens of a democracy, must talk about the ideas at the core of the American experience and government. Links are provided to diverse voices on a range of topics, many of whom are independent journalists and philosophers who publish primarily on the web. I think of it a having a virtual conversation with wise, visionary people and am most grateful to these patriots.

You are encouraged to use this “conversation starter kit” to talk about these ideas, adding, deleting and amending perspectives as the dialogue deepens and spreads.

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
June Jordan
* * * * *
“It is the poorest and most vulnerable who are always hurt the most in a crisis like thisthat is our job in politics — to talk about what happens to themThe biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good.…That vision of “common good” is what we have lost, and there is nothing more important in our public life than to find it again…Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, posted on Huffingtonpost.com, Oct 3, 2013
Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead  by James Fallows Sep 27 2013
Suffocating Echo Chamber By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, New York Times, September 25, 2013
Conservatives With a Cause: ‘We’re Right’ By ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times,  September 30, 2013
G.O.P. Extremists Defy Description by John Cassidy, TheNew Yorker.com, September 30, 2013
Republicans Facing a Test of Unity By ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times,  September 26, 2013
Marlin Stutzman and post-policy nihilism By Steve Benen, maddowblog.msnbc.com, October 3, 2013
Grayson blames shutdown on GOP literally drinking on the job By Josh Eidelson, Salon.Com, October 1. 2013
Permanent Republican minority By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, October 1, 2013
Where the G.O.P.’s Suicide Caucus Lives Posted by Ryan Lizza, NewYorker.com, September 26, 2013
Staunch Group of Republicans Outflanks House Leaders By JONATHAN WEISMAN and ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times, October 1, 2013
When we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, we come to what is proper for all conditions of society… Liberty, truth, probity, honor, are declared to be the four cardinal principles of society. I believe that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution; that there exists a right independent of force. Thomas Jefferson

A compassionate government keeps faith with the trust of the people and cherishes
the future of their children.

Lyndon B. Johnson

If you go deep enough into any faith tradition, you find
the common ground
with all faith traditions.
Martin Marty

Nothing is politically right
which is morally wrong.
Daniel O’Connell

A progressive moral vision
is deeply connected to the
exercise of conscience.
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

Justice is conscience,
not a personal conscience but the
conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Patriotism is in political life
what faith is in religion.
Lord Acton

For the religious the holy is truth,
for the philosophic
the truth is holy.
Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach

We must always take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor,
never the victim. Silence
encourages the tormentor,
never the tormented.
Elie Wiesel

When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned.
Herbert Hoover

Fair Use Notice: These pages contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit for educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C. § 107. The many wise and articulate writers who share their knowledge with the public via the internet are profoundly appreciated. If any writer wishes to have their content amended or removed, please contact the editor at  phyllis@progressivevales.org. Thank you.
Go to www.ProgressiveValues.org for articles, excerpts, quotations and more. To receive this e-letter directly, go to bottom left of home page and sign up.
Phyllis Stenerson, Paideia LLC 612.331.1929
phyllis@progressivevalues.orgwww.ProgressiveValues.org
Paideia (pu-di’uh) is an ancient Greek philosophy of educating for citizenship to create an ideal society