Civilization

Obnoxiousness Is the New Charisma By FRANK BRUNI, New York Times, Jan 6, 2016 Smug, mean and in the lead, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are rewriting the rules of likability.  Excerpt – IN a typical presidential campaign, the most successful candidates lay claim to leadership with their high-mindedness. They reach for poetry. They focus on lifting people up, not tearing them down. They beseech voters to be their biggest, best selves. Not the two front-runners in this freaky Republican primary. They’re unreservedly smug. They’re unabashedly mean. If you’re not with them, you’re a loser (Donald Trump’s declaration) or you’re godless (Ted Cruz’s decree, more or less). They market name-calling as truth-telling, pettiness as boldness, vanity as conviction. And their tandem success suggests a dynamic peculiar to the 2016 election, a special rule for this road: Obnoxiousness is the new charisma. Sure, we’ve had contenders like them before. But two on top at the same time? And two with this degree of stridency, this deficit of dignity?…Cruz is unsettling enough in isolation, but it’s the combination of him and Trump that really galls. And it galls not just Democrats but other Republicans. “At some point, we have to deal with the fact that there are at least two candidates who could utterly destroy the Republican bench for a generation if they became the nominee,” Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, told Politico’s Alex Isenstadt recently. The headline on Isenstadt’s story was “Trump and Cruz send shivers down G.O.P. spines.”…From the moment Trump announced his candidacy, he chose a potty mouth over a silver tongue, and a shocking number of Americans thrilled to that, regarding crudeness as the greatest form of candor. From the moment Cruz arrived in the United States Senate, he chose tirades over teamwork, becoming “so unpopular that at one point not a single Republican senator would support his demand for a roll-call vote,” … what repelled Republican senators is somehow beckoning Republican voters…Many analysts explain all of this in terms of a potent anger among Americans. They say Trump and Cruz lend voice to it. But that’s not exactly right. Anger can have a noble dimension — as a response to injustice, as the grist for change — and neither Trump nor Cruz projects much nobility or tries to, for that matter. They’re not so much angry as petulant, impudent….Cruz seems animated less by anger than by scorn. Like Trump he’s proudly divisive. Much of his language, like much of Trump’s, is characterized by a nastiness that’s by turns adolescent and hyperbolic….Trump and… Cruz, who are both products of these texting, tweeting times, fluent in the snark and vitriol that appeal to short attention spans and fit in 140-character outbursts….they [voters] don’t understand, as he and Trump do, that at this crazy, cynical juncture, there’s a band of voters so distrustful of the usual etiquette that they think valor lies in viciousness, integrity in insult. They’re determined to rebel and want the opposite of what they usually get, along with permission to be their smallest, worst selves. Trump and Cruz are only too happy to oblige. full text

Extreme-Right Is Keeping American in Dark Ages: Michael Moore “the policies in this country have been driven by the Christian right. They took over and they turned this country into the dark ages and we’re so far behind now with science, education, health care, everything.” 10/28/14 

What Is the Purpose of Society? FEB. 11, 2015, Mark Bittman 

A Threat to Us All: Millions Buying into Apocalyptic Religion Pose a Direct Threat to Modern Society By Jeffrey Tayler,  Salon, January 4, 2015 Rationalistsare assertively making their case because religion, since the Reagan years, has been abandoning the realm of private conscience (where it has every right to be) and intruding itself into national life, with politicians and public figures flaunting their belief, advocating and (passing) legislation that restricts women’s reproductive rights, attempting to impose preposterous fairy tales (think intelligent design) on defenseless children in science classes, and even, in the case of Texas, recasting the Constitution in school textbooks as a document inspired by the Bible.  Abroad, militants pursuing Islamist agendas have been raining death and destruction on entire populations, with religious extremism the main cause of terrorism the world over.  Given the possibility that terrorists may acquire weapons of mass destruction and nuclear states with faith-based conflicts may let fly their missiles, religion may be said to endanger humanity as a wholeNo one who cares about our future can quietly abide the continuing propagation and influence of apocalyptic fables that large numbers of people take seriously and not raise a loud, persistent, even strident cry of alarm… three-fourths of Americans believe the Bible to be the word of God – numbers that, to the shame of the Republic, find reflection in our resolutely anti-science Congress…

Are We Approaching the End of Human History? by Noam Chomsky, In These Times, September 9, 2014

The Revolt of the Weak by David Brooks, New York Times, SEPT. 1, 2014 …the underlying frameworks by which nations operate are being threatened in fairly devastating ways. That is to say, there are certain unconscious habits and norms of restraint that undergird civilization. These habits and norms are now being challenged….

The Crisis of Civilization is an Unprecedented Opportunity by Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian/UK, posted on CommonDreams.org, September 25, 2013

What is civilization by Will Durant — Civ­i­liza­tion is social order pro­mot­ing cul­tural cre­ation… It begins where chaos and inse­cu­rity end.…A geo­log­i­cal cat­a­clysm or a pro­found cli­matic change…the fail­ure of nat­ural resources, either of fuels or of raw mate­ri­als…a patho­log­i­cal con­cen­tra­tion of wealth, lead­ing to class wars, dis­rup­tive rev­o­lu­tions, and finan­cial exhaus­tion: these are some of the ways in which a civ­i­liza­tion may die….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. 

The Fate of Humanity Is at Stake — Why Are Romney and Obama Too Cowardly to Talk About What Really Matters?  Alter­Net By Noam Chom­sky,  Octo­ber 5, 2012…There are two issues of over­whelm­ing sig­nif­i­cance, because the fate of the species is at stake: envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter, and nuclear war…gov­ern­ments have not responded to the change with any…urgency…This reac­tion demon­strates an extra­or­di­nary will­ing­ness to sac­ri­fice the lives of our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren for short-term gain. Or, per­haps, an equally remark­able will­ing­ness to shut our eyes so as not to see the impend­ing peril… Pas­siv­ity may be t he easy course, but it is hardly the hon­or­able one.

A Talk to Teachers By James Baldwin. http://www.richgibson.com/talktoteachers.htm October 16, 1963. – excerpt
Baldwin addresses the challenges of education to prepare children to grapple with the myths and realities of this country’s history. Let’s begin by saying that we are living through a very dangerous time. Everyone in this room is in one way or another aware of that. We are in a revolutionary situation, no matter how unpopular that word has become in this country. The society in which we live is desperately menaced, not by Khrushchev, but from within. To any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible—and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people—must be prepared to “go for broke.” Or to put it another way, you must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance. There is no point in pretending that this won’t happen….It would seem to me that when a child is born, if I’m the child’s parent, it is my obligation and my high duty to civilize that child. Man is a social animal. He cannot exist without a society. A society, in turn, depends on certain things which everyone within that society takes for granted. Now the crucial paradox which confronts us here is that the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society. … as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it—at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change.

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