Saving America’s Soul – e-letter October 25, 2014

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Saving America’s Soul   Progressive Values e-letter October 25, 2014

We should begin by setting the conscience free. When all men of all religions…shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power…we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society. John Adams 2nd U.S. President

I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another. Thomas Jefferson 3rd U.S. President

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

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. Reinhold Niebuhr

background information for a national dialogue about America’s values and future: Saving America’s Soul – - overview – articles and excerpts or quick scan

 Democracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and Power by Bill Moyers, Democracy Now, June 8, 2011

The False Equation: Religion Equals Morality by Gwynne Dyer, CommonDreams.org, December 19, 2011 -

Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America By – CJ Werleman, Alternet.org, November 26, 2013

72% of Americans Disapprove of Republican Party…but it’s Set to Take Control of Both Houses of Congress Anyway posted on The Christian Left, Facebook, September 13, 2014 from AllGov.com

False facts and the conservative distortion machine: It’s much more than just Fox News by Paul Rosenberg, Salon.Com, Aug 18, 2014

Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment by John Atcheson, Common Dreams, June 18, 2012 — We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world… Much of what has made the modern world in general, and the United States in particular, a free and prosperous society comes directly from insights that arose during the Enlightenment. Too bad we’re chucking it all out and returning to the Dark Ages…Now, we seek to operate by revealed truths, not reality. Decrees from on high – often issued by an unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists, self-interested corporations, and greedy fat cats – are offered up as reality by rightwing politicians…

The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party by Joan Bokaer, TheocracyWatch.org, 2008

The Long, Sordid History of the American Right and Racism By Robert Parry,   Consortium News May 20, 2013

Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control — And Why We’ll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now By Sara Robinson, AlterNet, February 15, 2012

How Propagandists for the 1% Are Manipulating Christian Teachings to Rob the Middle Class By Michael Meurer, Truthout, posted on Alternet.org, October 17, 2012

Wall or no wall, politics and religion have always been inextricably intertwined, and we won’t win until we recognize and deal with that fact. Why Progressives Can’t Ignore Religion by Mike Lux, AlterNet, February 27, 2012

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soul: a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature; the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.; the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe; the moral and emotional nature of human beings merriam-webster.com

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…. Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

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From the editor, Phyllis Stenerson: This information is so important you need to learn it from a broad range of reliable sources. In the many times I’ve tried to write a succinct overview about our democracy being seriously threatened by the accelerating extremism of the Republican Party, I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude and tend to go on, and on, and on. When I first became aware of the gravity of this movement, particularly the manipulation of religion, I didn’t want to believe my head and heart (soul) screaming “This is so wrong.” Now the evidence is conclusive. Fueling culture wars using revisionist history, religion , women’s rights -  and race  as emotional wedge issues – is despicable. Thank you independent media for investigative, honest journalism. The impact is already disastrous, especially for children – /generational-justice/ , minorities and the planet and will get worse. It is the civic and moral responsibility of citizens – /citizenship/ who believe in America’s founding vision of religious pluralism and shared opportunity to fight back against extremists. Thank you for your attention. * * * * * -

The Constitution is inherently progressive by John Podesta and John Halpin, Politico.com, October 10, 2011 – …As progressives, we believe in using the ingenuity of the private sector and the positive power of government to advance common purposes and increase freedom and opportunity…Coupled with basic beliefs in fair play, openness, cooperation and human dignity, it is this progressive vision that in the past century helped build the strongest economy in history and allowed millions to move out of poverty and into the middle class …the story of America has also been the story of a good nation, conceived in liberty and equality, eventually welcoming every American into the arms of democracy, protecting their freedoms and expanding their economic opportunities…

At the heart of The American Soul (by Jacob Needleman) is a call to rediscover the timeless truths hidden within the founding vision of the American nation. Embedded in the ideals of democracy, individual liberty and freedom of conscience is a view of human nature that echoes essential aspects of the wisdom that has guided every great civilization of the world… – The Inward Work of Democracy, On Being with Krista Tippet, June 28, 2012

Crimes Against the Soul of America by Caroline Myss, Huffington Post, September 5, 2009 There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a nation’s inner core…A conscious effort to “dumb down” the education of this nation qualifies as a crime against the soul of America.

The Sociopathic 1 Percent: The Driving Force at the Heart of the Tea Party By Paul Rosenberg, Salon.com, March 8, 2014 ……sociopaths are defined by their lack of empathy, conscience or any form of intuitive social awareness… It’s a mindset devoid of empathy or conscience, for whom other people simply are not real, a mindset that has gripped us collectively, ever more tightly, over the past 30 to 40 years…

Has Neoliberalism Turned Us All Into Psychopaths? By Paul Verhaeghe – The Guardian -  , posted on Alternet.org, October 2, 2014 …economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatization have taken their toll…

The Progressive Conscience in Action by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Center for American Progress, April 6, 2009 …For progressives, a crucial guiding principle in regard to public policy is to secure the common good while protecting individual liberty to the fullest extent possible. The progressive understanding of the “common good” is based on the conviction that not only is each individual endowed with human dignity, purpose, and worth, but also that human society as a whole should reflect these characteristics. Therefore, human beings together should strive to realize social relations based on these universal values…

Wasn’t Jesus A Liberal? by Gary Vance, The Christian Left, August 4, 2014 Liberalism has been under assault for years now. The battering of this grand political philosophy has altered the contemporary definition of liberal to the point that Conservatives use it as a profane word……Jesus was the ultimate liberal progressive revolutionary of all history…It is time for Christians of conscience to stand up to religious and political hypocrisy.

The Koch Brothers’ 3-Step Plan to Conquer the Next Generation  By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News, September 14, 2014 1. Defund Public Schools 2. Make Schools Dependent on Private Entities for Money 3. Ingrain students with Greed-Based Ideology -

The Spirit That Drove Us to Civil War Is Back by Andy Schmookler, Huffington Post, 9/2/2014 …the force that drove us to Civil War more than a century and a half ago, and the force that has taken over the Republican Party in our times…In both cases, we see an elite insisting on their “liberty,” by which they mean the freedom to dominate…

The Worst Ideas of the Decade — The prosperity gospel by Cathleen Falsani, Washington Post, December 2009 …The “prosperity gospel,” an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth….Told that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and favor…

The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government by Chris Hedges -  , TruthDig.com -  , posted on CommonDreams.org, October 7, 2013…This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.”… The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it… are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous.

America’s War for Reality by Robert Parry , January 15, 2013 by Consortium News -  — The real struggle confronting the United States… is testing whether fact-based people have the same determination to fight for their real-world view as those who operate in a fact-free space do in defending their illusions…..Simply put, the Right fights harder for its fantasy land than the rest of America does for the real world …The country is going to need its conscious inhabitants of the real world to stand up with at least the same determination as the deluded denizens of the made-up world. Of course, this fight will be nasty and unpleasant. It will require resources, patience and toughness. But there is no other answer. Reality must be recovered and protected – if the planet and the children are to be saved.

Idealism, Conscience And The Spiritual Left by William Horden, Huffington Post, March 1, 2010 …Rooted deep in the grain of American culture, the Spiritual Left has long acted as the progressive conscience of the nation…The Political Left will need to return to the moral high ground of progressive American thought and give voice to the American conscience of compassion if it is to recapture the imagination and heart of its spiritual counterpart. It has to want to change the world for the better, not just get elected…

Phyllis Stenerson, Paideia LLC  612.331.1929 – phyllis@progressivevalues.org  – http://www.ProgressiveValues.org

Paideia (pu-di’uh) is an ancient Greek philosophy of educating for citizenship to create an ideal society

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 phyllis@progressivevales.org. Thank you.

Saving America’s Soul – articles and excerpts

 America’s Soul

The American Creed, a spiritual and patriotic primer by Forrest Church — “Like all experiments, The Declaration of Independence started with a precept, a “given” – in this case a set of truths so rockribbed and essential that they were deemed to be “self-evident.” Truth cast in language that, in turn, spells out the truth for succeeding generations deserves to be called a creed… The American Creed doesn’t impose parochial faith upon its citizens but protects freedom, including freedom of religion, by invoking a more universal authority. Though employing the language of faith, it transcends religious particulars, uniting all citizens in a single covenant. It treats believer and atheist alike, offering each the same protections, securing freedom of and from religion. Equally important, it protects freedom from itself, tempering excesses of individual license by postulating a higher moral code …No American faithful to the founders’ vision can view social outcomes as independent of moral consequence…conscience is the handmaiden of American freedom. Conscience also touches the heart of what it means to be human…In religion Americans are willing to accept absolutes for themselves…however we have proved unwilling (at least for long) to impose our absolutes on others…It is precisely the vacuum created when we forget the nation’s creed that invites occupation by the new fundamentalists. posted

The Existential Battle for the Soul of the GOP By Norm Ornstein, National Journal, July 23, 2014 – What happens when extremism becomes mainstream?

The American Soul by Jacob Needleman – At the heart of The American Soul is a call to rediscover the timeless truths hidden within the founding vision of the American nation. Embedded in the ideals of democracy, individual liberty and freedom of conscience is a view of human nature that echoes essential aspects of the wisdom that has guided every great civilization of the world. Free of all religious and philosophical dogma, and liberated from all historical and political clichés, this uniquely American vision has the power to speak again to the modern world’s need for meaning and community.

Václav Havel: Democracy as Spiritual Discipline by Peter Montgomery, Religion Dispatches, December 18, 2011 …the moral responsibilities of citizens and politicians in a democratic society… politics should be a high moral calling… A moral and intellectual state cannot be established through a constitution, or through law, or through directives, but only through complex, long-term, and never-ending work involving education and self-education…it might be called spirit. Or feeling. Or conscience… politicians have a moral obligation to call their followers to be true to their best selves rather than pander to or inflame their followers’ worst instincts… Building an intellectual and spiritual state — a state based on ideas — does not mean building an ideological state. Indeed, an ideological state cannot be intellectual or spiritual. A state based on ideas is precisely the opposite: it is meant to extricate human beings from the straitjacket of ideological interpretations, and to rehabilitate them as subjects of individual conscience, of individual thinking backed up by experience, of individual responsibility, and with a love for their neighbors that is anything but abstract…

Crimes Against the Soul of Amer­ica by Car­o­line Myss, Huff­in­g­ton Post, Sep­tem­ber 5, 2009 - There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a nation’s inner core. …Students on a path toward becoming high functioning human beings must be guided in matters of their soul, namely, how to recognize and respond to a moral crisis; how to formulate a personal ethical code and to withstand challenges to that code within a society that thrives on predator instincts; and how to form and maintain an honor code within a society in which any sense of honor is now held together by legal contracts rather than the integrity of a person’s word…we now have a public that cannot discern lies from truth…A conscious effort to “dumb down” the education of this nation qualifies as a crime against the soul of America.…I deeply believe the soul of our nation can’t take much more of their strategy of deliberate division against the people of their own nation. That is a true crime — and perhaps their greatest crime — against the soul of this great nation. posted

Basic definitions

Soul - a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature; the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.; the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe; the moral and emotional nature of human beings merriam-webster.com 

Religion may be defined broadly as the human quest for, experience of, and response to the holy or sacred. This universal human activity expresses itself in at least three ways: in thought (the intellectual expression), in action (the practical expression), and in fellowship (the communal expression). www.onu.edu

Democracy – Democracy: government by the people; the common people of a community, as distinguished from any privileged class…   A Profound and Jarring Disconnect by Dave Lindorff, Common Dreams, 

Worldview…A person’s way of thinking and being is influenced by their worldview – the unique combination of attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that inform how they personally understand and make sense of their place in the worldToward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer, Noetic.org http://noetic.org/noetic/issue-five-december/toward-a-common-spirituality-scaffolding-for-evolv/

Worldview – contrasting…your moral beliefs make all the difference. Fifty years ago…there was so much diversity within each party…that stereotyping was harder, and cross-party alliances were much easier. But since the 1980s, the two parties have become ever more perfectly sorted….Unfortunately, as the parties developed more divergent values and lifestyles, they also developed divergent facts. Republicans and Democrats believe different things—about history, the Constitution, science, and above all economics….Your Personality Makes Your Politics By Jonathan Haidt, January 9, 2014

Articles and excerpts by category – sampling – click on header for more

Empathy – compassion

The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin, Interview by Amanda Gefter, New Scientist.com, February 17, 2010 — The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin, Interview by Amanda Gefter, New Scientist.com, February 17, 2010 -
…before we can save ourselves from climate change we have to break a vicious circle and embrace a new model of society based on scientists’ new understanding of human nature… We have to think deeper, to think as a human family…Empathy is the invisible social glue that allows a complex individuated society to remain integrated…

Religion

The Tea Party As A Religion By Andrew Sullivan, The Dish, Oct 16 2013

A New Religious America — How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation by Diana L. Eck – Understanding America’s religious landscape is the most important challenge facing us today…

The Tragic Story of Christianity: How a Pacifist Religion Was Hijacked by Rabid Warmongering Elites By Gary G. Kohls, Consortium News, posted on Alternet.org, January 30, 2012

Faith in social justice By Paul Massari, HDS Communications, May 2, 2014- interview with Dan McKanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Senior Lecturer in Divinity at Harvard Divinity School (HDS), on a new report from the Brookings Institution:religious voices will remain indispensable to movements on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and middle-class Americans…

Why We Must Reclaim The Bible From Fundamentalists by John Shelby Spong, Retired American Bishop of the Episcopal Church, HuffingtonPost.com, 10/13/2011 The contrast between the way the Bible is understood in the academic world and the way it is viewed in our churches is striking…issues and insights, commonplace among the scholars, are viewed as highly controversial and even as “heresy” in the churches. The result has been that the majority of people who have remained in the church have become more and more rigid and fundamentalist, while those who have left have become more and more dismissive of everything, good or bad, about Christianity… there are other ways to view Christianity. In the world of Christian scholarship, for example, to read the Bible literally is regarded as absurd. To call the words of the Bible “the Word of God” is more than naïve…There are some biblical facts that cannot and should not be ignored, if Christians really value truth… Christianity is, I believe, about expanded life, heightened consciousness and achieving a new humanity. It is not about closed minds, supernatural interventions, a fallen creation, guilt, original sin or divine rescue. I am tired of seeing the Bible being used, as it has been throughout history, to legitimize slavery and segregation, to subdue women, to punish homosexuals, to justify war and to oppose family planning and birth control. That is a travesty which must be challenged and changed…

Wasn’t Jesus A Liberal? by Gary Vance, The Christian Left, August 4, 2014 Liberalism has been under assault for years now. The battering of this grand political philosophy has altered the contemporary definition of liberal to the point that Conservatives use it as a profane word…Liberalism as defined by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary: a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for tolerance and freedom for the individual from arbitrary authority in all spheres of life…Jesus was the ultimate liberal progressive revolutionary of all history…It is time for Christians of conscience to stand up to religious and political hypocrisy. Christians should proudly proclaim progressive values today and should advocate for the Christian Liberalism that is our heritage and our legacy.

Sociopaths and psychopaths in society and politics

The Sociopathic 1 Percent: The Driving Force at the Heart of the Tea Party By Paul Rosenberg, Salon.com, March 8, 2014  …sociopaths are defined by their lack of empathy, conscience or any form of intuitive social awareness… It’s a mindset devoid of empathy or conscience, for whom other people simply are not real, a mindset that has gripped us collectively, ever more tightly, over the past 30 to 40 years…the influence of sociopathic thinking is far broader than we realize, particularly since it’s almost never recognized as such. That’s precisely why we need more awareness of the workings of the sociopathic imagination — the forms it takes, the impacts it has, the conditions in which it flourishes and spreads…. It’s also been argued that sociopaths have a sense of morality, only it’s a different one than the rest of society, perhaps, in which selfishness is a virtue, and altruism a vice, as per Ayn Rand…Now, even if it could be generalized, a 4% presence of psychopaths in business is not a lot, except when compared to 1%. The greater significance lies in why psychopaths are so dramatically over-represented in corporate management, and what that says about the environments they find so hospitable — which ties in directly to the rise of the 1 percent, who have done so much better than everyone else since the 1970s…

Has Neoliberalism Turned Us All Into Psychopaths? By Paul Verhaeghe, The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, October 2, 2014 …economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatization have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative…meritocratic neoliberalism favors certain personality traits and penalizes others… articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible….able to talk up your own capacities…you never take responsibility for your own behavior…flexible and impulsive…this leads to risky behavior, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces….Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak; in psychology it’s known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other…This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults. More important, though, is the serious damage to people’s self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other…Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system. A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goalOur presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves…a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.

How to Tell a Sociopath from a Psychopath By Scott A. Bonn, Psychology Today, Alternet.org, July 31, 2014 — Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include: A disregard for laws and social mores; A disregard for the rights of others;A failure to feel remorse or guilt; A tendency to display violent behavior

Reason

Wisdom: The Forgotten Dimension? by Mary Jaksch,  January 12, 2013…Wisdom means having the moral will to do right by other people, and to have the moral skill to figure out what doing right means. This is not a new idea; it is something that Aristotle taught that in ancient Greece.…A wise person takes the overviewCompassionate action – the outflow of wisdom – happens when we stop being the center of our concern . Then we can open up to a wider view of reality that includes the suffering of others, as well as our own – and  respond with compassion.

Civilization

What is civilization by Will Durant — Civilization is social order promoting cultural creation… It begins where chaos and insecurity end…Man differs from the beast only by education, which may be defined as the technique of transmitting civilization…

The Values Question by David Brooks, New York Times, November 24, 2009 …like all great public issues, the health care debate is fundamentally a debate about values. It’s a debate about what kind of country we want America to be. During the first many decades of this nation’s existence, the United States was a wide-open, dynamic country with a rapidly expanding economy. It was also a country that tolerated a large amount of cruelty and pain — poor people living in misery, workers suffering from exploitation. Over the years, Americans decided they wanted a little more safety and security. This is what happens as nations grow wealthier; they use money to buy civilization… 

Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment by John Atcheson, Common Dreams, June 18, 2012 — We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world… Much of what has made the modern world in general, and the United States in particular, a free and prosperous society comes directly from insights that arose during the Enlightenment. Too bad we’re chucking it all out and returning to the Dark Ages…Now, we seek to operate by revealed truths, not reality.  Decrees from on high – often issued by an unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists, self-interested corporations, and greedy fat catsare offered up as reality by rightwing politicians…Second, the Enlightenment laid the groundwork for our form of government. The Social Contract is the intellectual basis of all modern democratic republics, including ours…We can continue to discard the Enlightenment values which enabled both an untold increase in material wealth and a system of government which turned serfs into citizens.  A system which – for all its flaws – often managed to protect the rights of the many, against the predatory power of the few. Or we can continue our abject surrender to myths, magical thinking, and self-delusion and the Medieval nation-state those forces are resurrecting. Republicans and Tea Partiers may be leading this retreat from reason, but they are unopposed by Democrats or the Press. And in the end, there is a special place in Hell for those who allow evil to prosper by doing nothing. 

Generational justice

The Koch Brothers’ 3-Step Plan to Conquer the Next Generation By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News, September 14, 2014       1. Defund Public Schools 2. Make Schools Dependent on Private Entities for Money 3. Ingrain students with Greed-Based Ideology

Culture

U.S. to Grow Grayer, More Diverse, Minorities Will Be Majority by 2042, Census Bureau, WashingtonPost, August 14, 2008 The nation’s population will look dramatically different by mid-century, becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and a good deal older as it increases from about 302 million to 439 million by 2050, according to projections released today by the U.S. Census Bureau…Minorities, about one-third of the U.S. population, are expected to become a majority by 2042 and be 54 percent of U.S. residents by 2050.

Culture wars

Reweaving the Fabric of our Society by Joan Blades, Living Room Conversations, posted on HuffingtonPost.com, 05/22/2012 …A healthy democracy requires an educated electorate that shares basic truths and values — or at least is willing to sit down and listen to one another with an open mind, with mutual respect and civility

Us vs Them: A Simple Recipe to Prevent Strong Society from Forming By James Rohrer, AlterNet.org, July 27, 2012 …We humans are by nature social creatures, even the most introverted of us, and we tend to trust and follow the thinking of the groups with which we identifyThroughout history, political elites have manipulated social groups to achieve and maintain power.… in the last two generations Republicans have masterfully used wedge politics– pitting us against them — to gain and keep power and to implement policies that a clear majority of the populace dislikes, but apparently cannot find any effective way to change.There are powerful political and economic interests that want to keep us fragmented and at one another’s throats rather than working together to establish a more inclusive democracy. They will do all they can to stir continued discord between groups and to use wedge politics to defeat our aspirations for meaningful change. Can progressives of all persuasions, no matter what our primary interest groups may be, at least agree that we will stop doing their job for them? /us-vs-them-a-simple-recipe-to-prevent-strong-society-from-forming-by-james-rohrer/

Why are “Wedge Issues” Essential to Republican Rule? Buzzflash News Analysis, July 23, 2006 — While they have the public and the media distracted with red hot emotional topics, they go off and make the wealthy wealthier, increase our national debt, dismantle the Constitution, and take away government social services. Wedge issues are a powerful distraction — and allow the right wing to accomplish their goals while the public is preoccupied with some trumped up emotional issue… wedge issues are emotional in appeal. They bypass the cognitive function of the brain and go right to a subconscious emotional response. Name any Republican wedge issue from immigration, to abortion, to gay marriage… “the war on terrorism” … and you run head into an emotional, not a reasoned, hook…. Basically, the Republican “rule by emotional appeal” boils down to a big brother elitism whose message to Americans is simply this: “Don’t think. We’ll do the thinking for you. Just follow.”  http://progressivevalues.org.s150046.gridserver.com/why-are-wedge-issues-essential-to-republican-rule/

Culture wars – race

The Spirit That Drove Us to Civil War Is Back by Andy Schmookler, Huffington Post, 09/02/2014  …the force that drove us to Civil War more than a century and a half ago, and the force that has taken over the Republican Party in our times…In both cases, we see an elite insisting on their “liberty,” by which they mean the freedom to dominate…Today’s Republicans have done everything they could to nullify the presidency of Barack Obama, whom the American people duly elected twice. Like no other opposition party in American history, they have refused to accept the temporary minority status to which American voters have consigned them. Blocking the president from performing the function for which the people hired him has been their top priority.

Class wars

How American Society Unravelled After Greedy Elites Robbed the Country Blind by George Packer, The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, June 20, 2013  – In or around 1978, America’s character changed…the institutions of American democracy, stronger than the excesses of individuals, were usually able to contain and channel them to more useful ends… In Washington, corporations organised themselves into a powerful lobby that spent millions of dollars to defeat the kind of labour and consumer bills they had once accepted as part of the social contract. .…Once the social contract is shredded, once the deal is off, only suckers still play by the rules.

Economic justice

In the U.S., Downward Mobility and Vulnerability Is a Widely Shared Experience By Joseph Stiglitz, The Huffington Post, October 14, 2014 

Biblical Economics/ Prosperity Gospel

For some — not all — American evangelicals, free-market capitalism is a matter of religious principle just as much as opposition to abortion is. Dan McKanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Senior Lecturer in Divinity at Harvard Divinity School (HDS), 

The Worst Ideas of the Decade — The prosperity gospel by Cathleen Falsani, Washington Post, December 2009     …The “prosperity gospel,” an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth.…Told that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and favor, followers strive for trappings of luxury they can little afford in an effort to prove that they are blessed spiritually…

Education – Humanities

Don’t Dismiss the Humanities by Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, AUG. 13, 2014  The humanities aren’t obscure, arcane or irrelevant. They awaken our souls, influence how we think about inequality, and help us adapt to a changing world… 

Communications

Political Values Are Dividing Us Over Basic Facts, Not Just Policy Choices by Justin Reedy and Christopher Wells, The Huffington Post, Sep 30, 2014

How the media has helped normalize GOP crazy By Paul Waldman, Washington Post, October 10, 2014 …the standard that reporters  use, probably unconsciously, to decide which gaffes are worthy of extended discussion and which ones merit only a passing mention, a standard that often lets GOP candidates get away with some appalling stuff…in the last few years, there’s a baseline of crazy from the right that the press has simply come to expect and accept, so the latest conspiracy theorizing or far-out idea from a candidate no longer strikes them as exceptional…But during this cycle, Republican crazy just hasn’t broken through at all. It’s almost as if the national press has just come to accept as normal the degree to which the GOP has moved dramatically to the right. At this point so many prominent Republicans have said insane things that after a while they go by with barely a notice…So ideological extremism and insane conspiracy theories from the right have been normalized…h

False facts and the conservative distortion machine: It’s much more than just Fox News Paul Rosenberg, Salon.Com, Aug 18, 2014

Reweaving the Fabric of our Society by Joan Blades, Living Room Conversations, posted on HuffingtonPost.com, 05/22/2012 …While the traditional media loves fights, the new and emerging social media loves connections. We can leverage the wisdom and creativity of crowds to find win-win solutions to our common problems. We can scale our efforts to tens of thousands of conversations, giving individuals the power to begin to reweave the social fabric of our communities…

Democracy

The Constitution is inherently progressive by John Podesta and John Halpin, Politico.com, October 10, 2011 - …As progressives, we believe in using the ingenuity of the private sector and the positive power of government to advance common purposes and increase freedom and opportunity…Coupled with basic beliefs in fair play, openness, cooperation and human dignity, it is this progressive vision that in the past century helped build the strongest economy in history and allowed millions to move out of poverty and into the middle class …the story of America has also been the story of a good nation, conceived in liberty and equality, eventually welcoming every American into the arms of democracy, protecting their freedoms and expanding their economic opportunities…

Voting and elections

The Big Lie Behind Voter ID Laws By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, October 12, 2014.

72% of Americans Disapprove of Republican Party…but it’s Set to Take Control of Both Houses of Congress Anyway posted on The Christian Left, Facebook, September 13, 2014 from AllGov.com

War on government  

The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, posted on CommonDreams.org, October 7, 2013…This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.”… The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it… are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous.

Dominionists and reconstructionists

The “Libertarian Moment” Wouldn’t Exist Without Religion By Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, August 13, 2014 …right wing religious extremist] principles emerge from the idea that the secular state is the enemy of a proper Christian ordering of markets, social norms, and family and religious life..

America is not a Christian nation

Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America By CJ Werleman, Alternet.org, November 26, 2013

Right wing’s “Unholy alliance”

The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program, June 5, 2014 The “vast right-wing conspiracy” machine is alive and well in America today…By floating around anti-Obama conspiracy theories, and by using Republicans in Washington to do their dirty work, America’s billionaires and economic royalists know that they’re weakening and disempowering the Democratic Party. And while a weak and disempowered Democratic Party is bad news for you and me, it’s great news for the billionaires and economic royalists. It means they can stay in power a lot easier…

The real conservative scandal By E.J. Dionne Their movement has been overtaken by a quite literally mindless opposition to government…This is a long way from the conservatism I used to respect….where’s the outrage about a conservatism that is losing both its intellectual moorings and its moral compass?

‘Republicanity’—The GOP Transformation is Nearly Complete By Gary Laderman, ReligionDispatches.com, July 17, 2011   …The Republican Party is no longer a political party—it’s a full-fledged religious movement. The political ideology fueling this movement is religious to the core… it offers an unequivocal command: followers are children who must be obedient in the face of authority.…It is like the most narrow and conservative religious cultures in its absolutist ethical positions and refusal to tolerate any difference of opinion…

America’s story 

America’s War for Reality by Robert Parry,  January 15, 2013 by Consortium News — The real struggle confronting the United States… is testing whether fact-based people have the same determination to fight for their real-world view as those who operate in a fact-free space do in defending their illusions.….Simply put, the Right fights harder for its fantasy­land than the rest of America does for the real world. …The country is going to need its conscious inhabitants of the real world to stand up with at least the same determination as the deluded denizens of the made-up world. Of course, this fight will be nasty and unpleasant. It will require resources, patience and toughness. But there is no other answer. Reality must be recovered and protected – if the planet and the children are to be saved.

Moral politics

Faith in social justice By Paul Massari, HDS Communications, May 2, 2014- interview with Dan McKanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Senior Lecturer in Divinity at Harvard Divinity School (HDS), on a new report from the Brookings Institution:religious voices will remain indispensable to movements on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and middle-class Americans…There is a lot of potential for religiously unaffiliated progressives — especially millennials — to partner with religious institutions and organizations in working for economic justice…The Civil Rights Movement is still a good model for partnership between religious organizations and religiously unaffiliated individuals. Though the report characterizes the movement as an alliance of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, its religious diversity was actually quite a bit broader than that. Religious humanists, secular humanists, Unitarian Universalists, and Muslims also played very important roles in the movement

Moral politics – progressive

The Progressive Conscience in Action by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Center for American Progress, April 6, 2009  …For progressives, a crucial guiding principle in regard to public policy is to secure the common good while protecting individual liberty to the fullest extent possible. The progressive understanding of the “common good” is based on the conviction that not only is each individual endowed with human dignity, purpose, and worth, but also that human society as a whole should reflect these characteristics. Therefore, human beings together should strive to realize social relations based on these universal values…

A Values– and Vision-Based Political Dream by Benjamin Mordecai Ben-Baruch, Tikkun, Winter 2011, We need leaders and organizers to inspire people and communities to act on their values and hopes. We need help articulating our values and vision of the ideal future. Right-wing successes have been achieved by appealing to peoples’ fears, hatreds and prejudices. But the politics of hope is stronger than politics of fear…We need to go beyond issue-oriented politics and the politics of fear to a public discourse focused on articulating our vision for the ideal future and what that future would look like. We need a vision of a society without the injustices of poverty and social inequality. We need a dream..

Idealism, Conscience And The Spiritual Left by William Horden, Huffington Post, March 1, 2010  …Spiritual Left did not, of course, originate with the 60s.…it dates back at least to 1838, when Emerson and other Transcendentalists began their quest for a path “away from the old ‘religions of authority’ into a new ‘religion of the spirit.’”…sought a first-hand experience of the divine grounded in nature and community rather than institutionalized dogma. Rooted deep in the grain of American culture, the Spiritual Left has long acted as the progressive conscience of the nation, championing as it did from its very beginning unpopular causes like abolition and women’s rights… Amorphous and anti-authoritarian, the Spiritual Left is perhaps best defined as a borderless association of leaders. Free thinkers and independent seekers of spirituality beyond dogma, its members engage in–and disengage from–political activism as a matter of personal conviction, not ordained groupthink…The Political Left will need to return to the moral high ground of progressive American thought and give voice to the American conscience of compassion if it is to recapture the imagination and heart of its spiritual counterpart. It has to want to change the world for the better, not just get elected…

The Stunning Resurgence of Progressive Christianity by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor, The Huffington Post, 06/04/2014  56….There has been a largely unnoticed but radical movement over the last decade during which the spiritual fire has shifted to more progressive Christians and that has the potential to change both the political and spiritual landscape of America…The way forward is for people of good will of all faiths and no faith to work together on matters that promote the common dignity, respect and well-being of all Americans.  

Religion wars

Why Progressives Can’t Ignore Religion by Mike Lux, AlterNet, February 27, 2012  Wall or no wall, politics and religion have always been inextricably intertwined, and we won’t win until we recognize and deal with that fact.

The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, posted on CommonDreams.org, October 7, 2013…This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.”… The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it… are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous.

 

Transformation 

We May Be Witnessing the First Large Global Conflict Where People Are Aligned by Con­sciousness and Not Nation State or Religion By Naomi Wolf, Posted on AlterNet.org, November 1, 2011  … for the first time, people around the world are not identifying and organising themselves along national or religious lines, but rather in terms of a global consciousness and demands for a peaceful life, a sustainable future, economic justice and basic democracy. Their enemy is a global “corporatocracy” that has purchased governments and legislatures, created its own armed enforcers, engaged in systemic economic fraud, and plundered treasuries and ecosystems…

Conscious evolution for thinking people by Andrew Cohen, EnlightenNext magazineMillions of people around the world find themselves searching for a more meaningful, relevant, and profound way to engage with life. Not only do they want to become more conscious as individuals, they want to personally participate in the creation of a better world…The fourteen-billion-year project that is our evolving universe has reached a critical juncture where it needs conscious, creative human beings to help build the next step, together.”,

Sociopaths and psychopaths in society and politics

Careers With the Most Psychopaths By Kali Holloway, AlterNet, June 21, 2015  …Just 1 percent of the overall population qualifies as psychopaths; in prison, that number skyrockets to 25 percent lots of psychopaths aren’t raging lunatics or violent criminals; in fact, most of them get along perfectly well in society. As Scientific American explains:.Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses… here’s a list of the top 10 careers with the most psychopaths working in them…1. CEO, 2. Lawyer, 3. Media (television/radio), 4. Salesperson, 5. Surgeon, 6. Journalist, 7. Police officer, 8. Clergy, 9. Chef, 10. Civil servants… In some fields, being a psychopath is actually a great way to get ahead.

Has Neoliberalism Turned Us All Into Psychopaths? By Paul Verhaeghe, The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, October 2, 2014 …economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatization have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative…meritocratic neoliberalism favors certain personality traits and penalizes others… articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible….able to talk up your own capacities…you never take responsibility for your own behavior…flexible and impulsive…this leads to risky behavior, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces….Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak; in psychology it’s known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other…This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults. More important, though, is the serious damage to people’s self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other…Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system. A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goalOur presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves…a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.

The Sociopathic 1 Percent: The Driving Force at the Heart of the Tea Party By Paul Rosenberg, Salon.com, March 8, 2014  …sociopaths are defined by their lack of empathy, conscience or any form of intuitive social awareness… It’s a mindset devoid of empathy or conscience, for whom other people simply are not real, a mindset that has gripped us collectively, ever more tightly, over the past 30 to 40 years…the influence of sociopathic thinking is far broader than we realize, particularly since it’s almost never recognized as such. That’s precisely why we need more awareness of the workings of the sociopathic imagination — the forms it takes, the impacts it has, the conditions in which it flourishes and spreads…. It’s also been argued that sociopaths have a sense of morality, only it’s a different one than the rest of society, perhaps, in which selfishness is a virtue, and altruism a vice, as per Ayn Rand…Now, even if it could be generalized, a 4% presence of psychopaths in business is not a lot, except when compared to 1%. The greater significance lies in why psychopaths are so dramatically over-represented in corporate management, and what that says about the environments they find so hospitable — which ties in directly to the rise of the 1 percent, who have done so much better than everyone else since the 1970s…

It’s Time to Stop Letting Sociopaths in Power Tell Us What Makes Us Happy by DH Garrett, Truthout, October 19, 2014

10 Most Inhumane Laws Courtesy of Southern Republicans By Alex Henderson, AlterNet, September 3, 2014

How to Tell a Sociopath from a Psychopath By Scott A. Bonn, Psychology Today, Alternet.org, July 31, 2014 — Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include: A disregard for laws and social mores; A disregard for the rights of others;A failure to feel remorse or guilt;A tendency to display violent behavior. In addition to their commonalities, sociopaths and psychopaths also have their own unique behavioral characteristics as well. Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage…It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others. Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general or its rules… Psychopaths, on the other hand, are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust…

Pre-election FYI – October 2014

Election 2014

72% of Americans Disapprove of Republican Party…but it’s Set to Take Control of Both Houses of Congress Anyway posted on The Christian Left, Facebook, September 13, 2014 from AllGov.com

Republicans and conservatives

Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America By CJ Werleman, Alternet.org, November 26, 2013

The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, posted on CommonDreams.org, October 7, 2013…This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.”… The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it… are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous.

The “Libertarian Moment” Wouldn’t Exist Without Religion By Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, August 13, 2014 …right wing religious extremist] principles emerge from the idea that the secular state is the enemy of a proper Christian ordering of markets, social norms, and family and religious life…

The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program, June 5, 2014 The “vast right-wing conspiracy” machine is alive and well in America today…By floating around anti-Obama conspiracy theories, and by using Republicans in Washington to do their dirty work, America’s billionaires and economic royalists know that they’re weakening and disempowering the Democratic Party. And while a weak and disempowered Democratic Party is bad news for you and me, it’s great news for the billionaires and economic royalists. It means they can stay in power a lot easier…

Social science

The Sociopathic 1 Percent: The Driving Force at the Heart of the Tea Party By Paul Rosenberg, Salon.com, March 8, 2014  …sociopaths are defined by their lack of empathy, conscience or any form of intuitive social awareness… It’s a mindset devoid of empathy or conscience, for whom other people simply are not real, a mindset that has gripped us collectively, ever more tightly, over the past 30 to 40 years…the influence of sociopathic thinking is far broader than we realize, particularly since it’s almost never recognized as such. That’s precisely why we need more awareness of the workings of the sociopathic imagination — the forms it takes, the impacts it has, the conditions in which it flourishes and spreads…. It’s also been argued that sociopaths have a sense of morality, only it’s a different one than the rest of society, perhaps, in which selfishness is a virtue, and altruism a vice, as per Ayn Rand…Now, even if it could be generalized, a 4% presence of psychopaths in business is not a lot, except when compared to 1%. The greater significance lies in why psychopaths are so dramatically over-represented in corporate management, and what that says about the environments they find so hospitable — which ties in directly to the rise of the 1 percent, who have done so much better than everyone else since the 1970s…

Has Neoliberalism Turned Us All Into Psychopaths? By Paul Verhaeghe, The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, October 2, 2014 …economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatization have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative…meritocratic neoliberalism favors certain personality traits and penalizes others… articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible….able to talk up your own capacities…you never take responsibility for your own behavior…flexible and impulsive…this leads to risky behavior, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces….Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak; in psychology it’s known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other…This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults. More important, though, is the serious damage to people’s self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other…Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system. A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goalOur presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves…a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.

Progressive spirituality/religion

Wasn’t Jesus A Liberal? by Gary Vance, The Christian Left, August 4, 2014 Liberalism has been under assault for years now. The battering of this grand political philosophy has altered the contemporary definition of liberal to the point that Conservatives use it as a profane word…Liberalism as defined by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary: a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for tolerance and freedom for the individual from arbitrary authority in all spheres of life…Jesus was the ultimate liberal progressive revolutionary of all history…It is time for Christians of conscience to stand up to religious and political hypocrisy. Christians should proudly proclaim progressive values today and should advocate for the Christian Liberalism that is our heritage and our legacy.

The Stunning Resurgence of Progressive Christianity by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor, The Huffington Post, 06/04/2014 There has been a largely unnoticed but radical movement over the last decade during which the spiritual fire has shifted to more progressive Christians and that has the potential to change both the political and spiritual landscape of America…The way forward is for people of good will of all faiths and no faith to work together on matters that promote the common dignity, respect and well-being of all Americans.

Faith in social justice By Paul Massari, HDS Communications, May 2, 2014- interview with Dan McKanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Senior Lecturer in Divinity at Harvard Divinity School (HDS), on a new report from the Brookings Institutionreligious voices will remain indispensable to movements on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and middle-class AmericansThere is a lot of potential for religiously unaffiliated progressives — especially millennials — to partner with religious institutions and organizations in working for economic justice…The Civil Rights Movement is still a good model for partnership between religious organizations and religiously unaffiliated individuals. Though the report characterizes the movement as an alliance of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, its religious diversity was actually quite a bit broader than that. Religious humanists, secular humanists, Unitarian Universalists, and Muslims also played very important roles in the movement…

The Growing Realization That Our Individual Struggles Are All Connected Makes This “Our Moment” By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, AlterNet, December 7, 2013

Citizen education and participation

Americans Know Even Less About Government Than You Could Possibly Imagine By Aaron Wysocki, TYT Network, October 10, 2014

Political Values Are Dividing Us Over Basic Facts, Not Just Policy Choices by Justin Reedy and Christopher Wells, The Huffington Post, Sep 30, 2014

Can a New Populist Movement Fight Off American Oligarchy? By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, May 23, 2014

Politics

False facts and the conservative distortion machine: It’s much more than just Fox News Paul Rosenberg, Salon.Com, Aug 18, 2014

The Big Lie Behind Voter ID Laws By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, October 12, 2014 …laws have been aggressively pushed in many states by Republican lawmakers who say they are preventing voter fraud, promoting electoral “integrity” and increasing voter turnout. None of that is true. There is virtually no in-person voter fraud; the purpose of these laws is to suppress voting…Voter ID laws, as their supporters know, do only one thing very well: They keep otherwise eligible voters away from the polls. In most cases, this means voters who are poor, often minorities, and who don’t have the necessary documents or the money or time to get photo IDs…. The next time voter ID laws reach the justices, they should see them for the antidemocratic sham they are.


 

E-letters – June through October 4, 2014

 

6/12/14            It is the worst of times, it is the best of times

7/4/14              We hold these truths to be self-evident

7/30/14            Looming crises, fleeting opportunity

8/8/14              Democracy and religion

8/19/14            Democracy: Faith and/or Reason

9/4/14              Sept 4 to Nov 4 Inform Persuade Vote

9/11/14            9/11, Iraq and America’s Moral Compass

10/4/14            Countdown for democracy

Has Neoliberalism Turned Us All Into Psychopaths?

By Paul Verhaeghe, The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, October 2, 2014

Excerpt

…economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatization have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative…meritocratic neoliberalism favors certain personality traits and penalizes others… articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible….able to talk up your own capacities…you never take responsibility for your own behavior…flexible and impulsive…this leads to risky behavior, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces….Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak; in psychology it’s known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other…This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults. More important, though, is the serious damage to people’s self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other…Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system. A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goalOur presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves…There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.

Full text

We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatization have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re skeptical, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favors certain personality traits and penalizes others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won’t really be noticed.

It’s important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can—you know a lot of people, you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That’s why you never take responsibility for your own behavior.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behavior, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare [3], the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

This description is, of course, a caricature taken to extremes. Nevertheless, the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organization.

Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak; in psychology it’s known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other.

Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms. This results in what the sociologist Richard Sennett [4] has aptly described as the “infantilisation of the workers.” Adults display childish outbursts of temper and are jealous about trivialities (“She got a new office chair and I didn’t”), tell white lies, resort to deceit, delight in the downfall of others and cherish petty feelings of revenge. This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults.

More important, though, is the serious damage to people’s self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other, as thinkers from Hegel [5] to Lacan  [6]have shown. Sennett comes to a similar conclusion when he sees the main question for employees these days as being “Who needs me?” For a growing group of people, the answer is: no one.

Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman [7] neatly summarized the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticize religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/has-neoliberalism-turned-us-all-psychopaths

Links:
[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/paul-verhaeghe
[3] http://www.hare.org/
[4] http://www.richardsennett.com/site/SENN/Templates/Home.aspx?pageid=1
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Lacan
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zygmunt_Bauman
[8] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on Has Neoliberalism Turned Us All Into Psychopaths?
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/neoliberalism
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/economy-0
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/ethics-0
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/personality-traits
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/capitalism
[14] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B