When the Grandmothers Awoke

by Jennifer Browdy, YesMagazine, Mar 02, 2015

Becoming a global family, one that unites ancient indigenous wisdom with other faith and cultural traditions, is essential if humanity is to overcome the crises of climate change.

Given the global challenges humanity faces in the 21st century, we can no longer afford to maintain artificial divisions between peoples and nations. Learning from the indigenous peoples of the world, along with the wisdom-keepers of all cultures and faith traditions, we must begin to understand ourselves as part of a great human family that is itself just one strand in the web of life on our living Earth.

This was the impetus behind the journey of a group of healers, educators, and activists, predominantly women, from a variety of ethnicities including Hopi, Ojibwe, and Maori and from religious traditions as diverse as Sufi, Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist. They traveled together last summer to share their traditions and cultural stories, both among themselves and with the people they visited, in order to create a common understanding of how humans relate to one another, to other living beings, and to the Earth.

The journey was inspired by a meeting in New Zealand between Maori spiritual leader Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere and Sufi healer Devi Tide. Tide recalls Pere saying, “We’ve come to a place where we’re all in it together, we can no longer separate ourselves from each other. It’s a time of unity, a time for the indigenous wisdom-keepers to share our knowledge with the rest of the world.”

Tide tried to persuade Pere to travel and share her wisdom herself, but Pere had other ideas. “She turned around and pointed at me,” Tide recalls, “and she said, ‘It can’t come from one of us,’” referring to the Maori and other indigenous peoples. When Pere said that Tide should be the one to bring the wisdom-keepers of the world together, Tide said, “I felt like I had been hit by a bolt of lightning.”

That lightning bolt sparked the remarkable journey she led through the American Southwest, and then to New York City just in time for the People’s Climate March and the United Nations First World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

The group met with Grandmother Flordemayo of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, an international alliance of indigenous women elders founded in 2004 and dedicated to offering prayer and education as a means to strengthen the human family “for the next seven generations.”

“Now, finally, we are walking a pathway for peace together.”

Seeking to share perspectives and wisdom, the travelers visited the Hopi Reservation under the guidance of Hopi elder Pershlie “Perci” Ami and prayed at sacred sites like the Hopi Prophecy Rock, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. “It was chaos and miracles, every day,” said Moetu Taiha, a Maori healer who helped lead the group. “It was like a kind of rebirth. We had to learn how to be a family.”

Becoming a new kind of family, Taiha said, one that unites ancient indigenous wisdom with other faith and cultural traditions, is essential if humanity is to successfully surmount the crises of the present moment.

The global human family was very much in evidence at the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014, where some 400,000 people from every background imaginable gathered to send a message to world leaders that they must act immediately and decisively to shift human civilization onto a sustainable course.

In New York, the wisdom-keepers offered prayers for the healing of the Earth, first in a small ceremony in Central Park, and later center stage at the start of the huge rally. Their passion was mirrored by the great crowd in front of them.

“That moment in New York was the beginning of a new stage of unity,” Ojibwe elder Mary Lyons said. “Now, finally, we are walking a pathway for peace together,” toward a new understanding of the important role of human beings, particularly women, as stewards of life on Earth.

 http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/together-with-earth/when-the-grandmothers-awoke
Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D., teaches comparative literature and media studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, focusing on women’s narratives of social and ecological justice. She is founding director of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and editor of two anthologies of African, Latin American, and Caribbean women’s writing of resistance.

President Obama’s speech in Selma 3-8-15

Read the full transcript of Obama’s rousing, emotional speech in Selma  – youtube of 3 most important parts – http://www.vox.com/2015/3/7/8168347/obama-s-speech-in-selma-was-an-answer-to-those-who-question-his-love  -

full transcript

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes.

Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning fifty years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked. A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones. The air was thick with doubt, anticipation, and fear. They comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:

No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.

Then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government — all you need for a night behind bars — John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.

President Bush and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Members of Congress, Mayor Evans, Reverend Strong, friends and fellow Americans:

There are places, and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war — Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character — Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.

Selma is such a place.

In one afternoon fifty years ago, so much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher — met on this bridge.

It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America.

And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. King, and so many more, the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America — that idea ultimately triumphed.

As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.

We gather here to celebrate them. We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice.

They did as Scripture instructed: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” And in the days to come, they went back again and again. When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came — black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope. A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing. To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.

In time, their chorus would reach President Johnson. And he would send them protection, echoing their call for the nation and the world to hear:

“We shall overcome.”

What enormous faith these men and women had. Faith in God — but also faith in America.

The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities — but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.

What they did here will reverberate through the ages. Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible; that love and hope can conquer hate.

As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them. Back then, they were called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse — everything but the name their parents gave them. Their faith was questioned. Their lives were threatened. Their patriotism was challenged.

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?

What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people — the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many — coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?

That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience. That’s why it’s not a museum or static monument to behold from a distance. It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents:

“We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

These are not just words. They are a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny. For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all our citizens in this work. That’s what we celebrate here in Selma. That’s what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom.

The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and shake up the status quo.

That’s what makes us unique, and cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down a wall. Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest superpower, and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom.

They saw that idea made real in Selma, Alabama. They saw it made real in America.

Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed. Political, economic, and social barriers came down, and the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African-Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus to the Oval Office.

Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past.

What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say.

What a solemn debt we owe.

Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt?

First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done — the American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.

Selma teaches us, too, that action requires that we shed our cynicism. For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.

Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. I understand the question, for the report’s narrative was woefully familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character — requires admitting as much.

“We are capable of bearing a great burden,” James Baldwin wrote, “once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.”

This is work for all Americans, and not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize, as they did, that change depends on our actions, our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such effort, no matter how hard it may seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.

With such effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some. Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on — the idea that police officers are members of the communities they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland just want the same thing young people here marched for — the protection of the law. Together, we can address unfair sentencing, and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and workers, and neighbors.

With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. Americans don’t accept a free ride for anyone, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity, and if we really mean it, if we’re willing to sacrifice for it, then we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts their sights and gives them skills. We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class.

And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge — and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor.

How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic effort. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.

Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?

Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We’ve endured war, and fashioned peace. We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26 year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

That’s what it means to love America. That’s what it means to believe in America. That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea — pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some; and we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That’s our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free — Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent, and we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, Navajo code-talkers, and Japanese-Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, and the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.

We are storytellers, writers, poets, and artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We are the inventors of gospel and jazz and the blues, bluegrass and country, hip-hop and rock and roll, our very own sounds with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of, who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”

We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.

Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.

Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished. But we are getting closer. Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding, our union is not yet perfect. But we are getting closer. Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge. When it feels the road’s too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”

We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.

May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.

Related: Obama’s speech in Selma was an answer to those who question his love for America.

Situational analysis

This is not a conspiracy theory. It is a situational analysis.

A situational analysis is a study of the status quo of American democracy based upon a broad range of information available to the general public and open to peer review. According to Noam Chomsky, a conspiracy theory is based on selected items of secret information circulated among a small group. An institutional analysis focuses on “the public, long-term behavior of publicly known institutions, as recorded in, for example, scholarly documents or mainstream media reports, rather than secretive coalitions of individuals.” (The term “situational analysis” used in this context is either coined or plagiarized by me. I’m not sure which.)

An analysis of American democracy today cannot focus only on institutions, but needs to include every facet of our culture, every thread in the fabric of our society. Everything is interconnected. Everybody matters.

The focus is on worldview, the way people’s thoughts and values influence their opinions, with an emphasis on religion and the contrast between extremist Republicans and progressive Democrats. This Situational Analysis is solely from my worldview so it’s just a part of the very big, complex picture.

Based upon what I’ve learned from various national media over the past decade-plus, this is what I believe to be, in broad parameters, substantially true. In many cases, links are provided to articles posted at www.ProgressiveValues.org that illuminate details on various components of the big picture. Various components and issues are arranged in a framework in an attempt to make a complex scenario assessable and useful for public dialogue.

When the George W. Bush administration waged a preemptive war with Iraq, I was horrified and incredulous. I needed to know how my country could take such drastic, irrevocable action. I’d been deeply involved in politics and public affairs for many years and thought I was quite knowledgeable. My research made me aware of facets of our political process and government that provoked reactions ranging from eye-opening to mind-blowing and addictively fascinating.

I believe it is critically important that the public becomes much more well-informed about the perilous state of American democracy, particularly the contrast between extremist Republicans and progressive Democrats. One of the ways in which my unique perspective may prove helpful is that I remember well when Republicans and Democrats collaboratively governed in the best interests of the country. The “base” of the Republican Party is made up of older, white Christians from the Heartland. I came from those same roots but have purposefully gone a different direction.

The Republican Party has changed drastically over the past 30 years and is now, I believe, actively and deliberately working against traditional American democracy and the common good. It is our duty as patriotic Americans to speak out, particularly since the mainstream media is not telling a complete story.

A Framework was developed so information and opinion about the myriad factors involved would be accessible for citizen education, dialogue and action. The November 2016 elections will be a critical point in American history and determine what kind of a world our grandchildren we will leave to our grandchildren.

Now is the time. We are the people.

With audacious faith, Phyllis Stenerson – editor/curator of ProgressiveValues.org

“We must move forward in the days ahead with audacious faith. The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

posted March 5, 2015

Articles, excerpts Feb 16 to 25

Too Many People Can’t Break Out of Their Comfort Zones of Routine to Feel Empathy by MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, February 6, 2015

The Tea Party is Getting Worse: Media May Want a New Narrative, but GOP is Still Nuts Don’t let the press fool you. By Elias Isquith / Salon, February 15, 2015 Across the country, the wingnut revolution isn’t calming down. Behold the insanity.

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

The Shocking ‘Christian’ Hate Mail Activists Received for Challenging Religious Indoctrination in the Military, The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been targeted for promoting secular pluralism. By Valerie Tarico / AlterNet February 4, 2015 

The Lies We Believed (And Still Believe) About Iraq by Charles Lewis, billmoyers.com June 27, 2014

The Parent Agenda, the Emerging Democratic Focus by Nate Cohn by FEB. 10, 2015

The Bush Family: Where Style Trumps Substance by BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, February 12, 2015

Class, Change and Revolution By Richard D. Wolff, Truthout | News Analysis, Monday, 16 February 2015, SEPTEMBER 17, 2012

The Challenges of Liberalism By David Palumbo-Liu, Truthout | Op-Ed Sunday, February 15, 2015

 

 

 

 

Articles, excerpts Feb 6 to 15

Obama’s Budget Lays Out an Ambitious Evidence-Based Policy Agenda by Elaine Kamarck, brookings.edu, February 5, 2015

Obama Condemns ‘Distorted’ Faith at National Prayer Breakfast by Adelle M. Banks, God’s Politics Blog, Sojourners, 02-05-2015 President Obama on Feb. 5 called for an emphasis on what is just about the world’s religions as a way to counter the ways faith has been distorted across the globe. “We see faith driving us to do right,” he said to more than 3,500 people attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” He urged believers of all faiths to practice humility, support church-state separation and adhere to the Golden Rule as ways to keep religion in its proper context. “As people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends,” Obama said. “Here at home and around the world we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom: freedom of religion, the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”

America’s Billionaires Are Turning Public Parks Into Playgrounds for the Wealthy By Inga Saffron, New Republic,  February 2, 2015

Climate Change Is Violence By Rebecca Solnit, Trinity University, February 5, 2015  Book Excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness - essay, “Climate Change Is Violence” – Climate change is global-scale violence against places and species, as well as against human beings. Once we call it by name, we can start having a real conversation about our priorities and values….People revolt when their lives are unbearable. Sometimes material reality creates that unbearableness: droughts, plagues, storms, floods. But food and medical care, health and well-being, access to housing and education— these things are also governed by economic means and government policy. That’s what the revolt called Occupy Wall Street was against….In every arena, we need to look at industrial-scale and systemic violence, not just the hands-on violence of the less powerful. When it comes to climate change, this is particularly true. Exxon has decided to bet that we can’t make the corporation keep its reserves in the ground, and the company is reassuring its investors that it will continue to profit off the rapid, violent, and intentional destruction of the Earth. That’s a tired phrase, the destruction of the Earth, but translate it into the face of a starving child and a barren field— and then multiply that a few million times….Climate change is global-scale violence against places and species, as well as against human beings. Once we call it by name, we can start having a real conversation about our priorities and values. Because the revolt against brutality begins with a revolt against the language that hides that brutality.

New Poll Shows Overwhelming Majority of Americans Want Lawmakers to Take Action on Climate by Sarah Lazare commondreams.org, January 30, 2015 ‘The American people seem far more unified than our political leadership on the need to address climate change

Poll by Politico: Minnesota Is Best State In The Nation January 20, 2015 Minnesota was tied with New Hampshire for the top spot, with Minnesota trumping its rival in lower levels of unemployment and obesity, and more home ownership, high school graduates and better life expectancy.

Hating Good Government by Paul Krugman, New York Times, Jan 19, 2015 …Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy… at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board…If evidence mattered, supply-side economics would have faded into obscurity decades ago. Instead, it has only strengthened its grip on the Republican Party…On issues that range from monetary policy to the control of infectious disease, a big chunk of America’s body politic holds views that are completely at odds with, and completely unmovable by, actual experience. And no matter the issue, it’s the same chunk….And why do these issues go together, with the set of people insisting that climate change is a hoax pretty much the same as the set of people insisting that any attempt at providing universal health insurance must lead to disaster and tyranny?…the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest…And why this hatred of government in the public interest? … most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government… the fact is that we’re living in a political era in which facts don’t matter. This doesn’t mean that those of us who care about evidence should stop seeking it out…

Imagine America

America’s democracy is in extreme danger. Over and over I’ve said to myself “I can’t imagine this (outrage du jour) is happening!”  I also couldn’t imagine the Republican Party would deliberately sabotage democracy to take power away from regular people so their elites could run the country. Solid evidence built up over the past ten years confirm that what I could not imagine has indeed become a reality. I hung onto the idea that leaders of the Democrats would rise to the occasion.  And, that the mainstream media would report honestly on the radicalization of the Republican Party.  And, that Democrats would make gains in the Congress. This did not happen.

I CAN IMAGINE ordinary American citizens mounting a massive grass roots movement to stop right wing extremists from destroying America. The current incredible outpouring of citizen action to affirm that everybody matters, that all people have value, confirms this belief.

I CAN IMAGINE millions of Americans making citizen participation in democracy an integral part of their lives, taking power away from oligarchs and religious extremists. We can make America again be government of the people, by the people and for the people!

One of the major components of a winning strategy is a coherent, consistent narrative about what Democrats stand for and our vision of America.

We the people need to talk about:   How do we know right from wrong?  —   True from false?  —   Smart from stupid?

How do we the people, through our democratically elected government, make the wisest possible decisions for now and future generations?

What kind of country and world do we want to create for our children and grandchildren? We are at a trajectory moment in history – actually, a tipping point in civilization – when we must accept our responsibility as citizens and learn the truth about our history, face today’s reality head on, make choices about the future and take action . Our increasingly fragile democracy — and our world — is at stake.

Conservatives and progressives have very different ideas of right and wrong. These worldviews are drastically at odds and affect every facet of democracy. Much of the time citizens hold different understandings of even the basic facts related to the topics we are debating. Citizens must understand how the political system and parties have changed, learn the critical implications of these culture wars, choose sides and fight for our grand children’s future.

The mission of this website is to help develop a powerful narrative for the progressive movement for long term, systemic change.

With audacious faith, Phyllis Stenerson — editor/curator of ProgressiveValues.org

“We must move forward in the days ahead with audacious faith. The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(This was the website’s home page from late 2014 until February 26, 2015.)

David Brooks’ Rant on Emptiness of Secularism is Poppycock

By Daniel C. Maguire, ReligionDispatches.org,  February 4, 2015

Excerpt

New York Times columnist David Brooks is way behind the curve when it comes to post-theistic ethics and religion. In…“Building Better Secularists,” what he actually builds is a caricature of “secularists”…Brooks sees these poor secular creatures (who are inching toward majority status in our culture) as feebly—and thus far futilely–trying to build an inspiring ethic without the “God” prop…Brooks’ reflects a common syllabus of errors regarding ethics and religion without “God…” For starters, he says that the godly can draw from “moral creeds that have evolved over centuries,” but that those poor adrift secularists “have to build their own moral philosophies” starting from scratch. Nonsense!

Even Pope Francis invites atheists to join him on his Judeo-Christian moral mission. That …grand biblical moral vision is just as available to those who deny the “God” and afterlife hypotheses as it is to those who take those myths literally.

In any religion the moral core is one thing; the imaginative dogmatic superstructure is another…the moral core of Judaism and Christianity…is just as available to secularists as it is to the dogmatically orthodox.

Indeed many professing Christians might be dogmatically orthodox moral heretics. They take the dogmatic legends literally and fervidly but are less enthused about the moral demands of the tradition. Thus they would smite you for not taking literally such metaphors as Exodus, Virgin Birth, and Resurrection but will not join Isaiah in saying that the only route to peace is through the absolute elimination of poverty. (Isaiah 32;17)… Religion is a response to the sacred—whether the sacred is understood theistically or not. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism are godless, and yet they have been, and are, culture-shaping powerhouses of moral idealism… Increasingly, Christians, Jews, and others are at one with that sense of reality—as is modern science. There is good sense and abundant spiritual inspiration in that ancient poetry. Noisy debates about gods and goddesses should not distract us from moral wisdom that is so contemporaneously relevant that it might well have been written yesterday.

Full text

New York Times columnist David Brooks is way behind the curve when it comes to post-theistic ethics and religion. In yesterday’s column, “Building Better Secularists,” what he actually builds is a caricature of “secularists” which he then proceeds to scold. Brooks sees these poor secular creatures (who are inching toward majority status in our culture) as feebly—and thus far futilely–trying to build an inspiring ethic without the “God” prop.

Relax, Mr. Brooks, we are doing just fine. I write, incidentally, as a Christian atheist, something I describe more fully in Christianity Without God: Moving Beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative (SUNY Press 2014).

Brooks’ reflects a common syllabus of errors regarding ethics and religion without “God…”

For starters, he says that the godly can draw from “moral creeds that have evolved over centuries,” but that those poor adrift secularists “have to build their own moral philosophies” starting from scratch.

Nonsense!

Even Pope Francis invites atheists to join him on his Judeo-Christian moral mission. That epic moral vision that was birthed in ancient Israel and echoed into Christianity doesn’t require deity or afterlife beliefs, something the pope seems to get. And that grand biblical moral vision is just as available to those who deny the “God” and afterlife hypotheses as it is to those who take those myths literally.

In any religion the moral core is one thing; the imaginative dogmatic superstructure is another. Christianity’s dogmatic superstructure is especially replete with phantasmagoria…things like virgin births, dead people walking, and those resurrected people ascending straight up into the heavens (without ever going into orbit). Fortunately the moral vision of Judaeo-Christianity religion does not depend on such poetic fictions. The “God” and afterlife hypotheses add nothing to the moral core of Judaism and Christianity, and that moral core is just as available to secularists as it is to the dogmatically orthodox.

Indeed many professing Christians might be dogmatically orthodox moral heretics. They take the dogmatic legends literally and fervidly but are less enthused about the moral demands of the tradition. Thus they would smite you for not taking literally such metaphors as Exodus, Virgin Birth, and Resurrection but will not join Isaiah in saying that the only route to peace is through the absolute elimination of poverty. (Isaiah 32;17).

Nor are they, as was Jesus, “good news for the poor” or “peacemakers.” (Luke 4:18: Matt. 5:9)

In a splendid irony, secularists who walk the walk on these ideals might be more “Christian” than the “dogmatically” pure.

For Brooks, to be religious you have to believe in “God,” which is way off the mark. Religion is a response to the sacred—whether the sacred is understood theistically or not. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism are godless, and yet they have been, and are, culture-shaping powerhouses of moral idealism. As Professor Chun-Fang Yu says “Unlike most other religions, Chinese religion does not have a creator god…There is no god transcendent and separate from the world and there is no heaven outside of the universe to which human beings would want to go for refuge.” Increasingly, Christians, Jews, and others are at one with that sense of reality—as is modern science.

Literalism is suffocating. It smothers the moral dynamism of “religions,” which at their fiery core are classics in the art of cherishing, and a spiritual resource—for those who imagine a “God,” and for those who do not. The Exodus may not have happened and Moses may never have existed. He might, like Yahweh, be a composite of many personalities woven together with literary freedom.

“There was no mass Exodus from Egypt,” write historians Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman. Forget the fictional frogs and the sea engulfing the bad guys. What happened from 1250 to 1050 B.C.E. was not history but a psycho-political, epochal breakthrough of social imagination.* Outstripping Homer and Virgil in wit and wisdom, these Hebrew poets imagined a move from the one-percent rule of Egypt to the sharing society of Sinai where “there will be no poor among you” (Deut. 15:4) and where the first experiment in a classless society achieved a success that sowed the seeds of modern democratic theory.

There is good sense and abundant spiritual inspiration in that ancient poetry. Noisy debates about gods and goddesses should not distract us from moral wisdom that is so contemporaneously relevant that it might well have been written yesterday.

Daniel C. Maguire

Daniel C. Maguire is a professor of ethics at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, and past president of The Society of Christian Ethics. He is the author or editor of 13 books and some 200 articles and president of The Religious Consultation On Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, an international collegium of 80 scholars from all the world religions. His most recent book is Whose Church? A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism (New Press, 2008)

http://religiondispatches.org/david-brooks-rant-on-emptiness-of-secularism-is-poppycock/

Building Better Secularists

by David Brooks, New York Times,  FEB. 3, 2015

Over the past few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who are atheist, agnostic or without religious affiliation. A fifth of all adults and a third of the youngest adults fit into this category.

As secularism becomes more prominent and self-confident, its spokesmen have more insistently argued that secularism should not be seen as an absence — as a lack of faith — but rather as a positive moral creed….

Zuckerman argues that secular morality is built around individual reason, individual choice and individual responsibility. Instead of relying on some eye in the sky to tell them what to do, secular people reason their way to proper conduct.

Secular people, he argues, value autonomy over groupthink. They deepen their attachment to this world instead of focusing on a next one. They may not be articulate about why they behave as they do, he argues, but they try their best to follow the Golden Rule, to be considerate and empathetic toward others. “

As he describes them, secularists seem like genial, low-key people who have discarded metaphysical prejudices and are now leading peaceful and rewarding lives. But I can’t avoid the conclusion that the secular writers are so eager to make the case for their creed, they are minimizing the struggle required to live by it. Consider the tasks a person would have to perform to live secularism well:

• Secular individuals have to build their own moral philosophies. Religious people inherit creeds that have evolved over centuries. Autonomous secular people are called upon to settle on their own individual sacred convictions.

•Secular individuals have to build their own communities. Religions come equipped with covenantal rituals that bind people together, sacred practices that are beyond individual choice. Secular people have to choose their own communities and come up with their own practices to make them meaningful.

•Secular individuals have to build their own Sabbaths. Religious people are commanded to drop worldly concerns. Secular people have to create their own set times for when to pull back and reflect on spiritual matters.

 

•Secular people have to fashion their own moral motivation. It’s not enough to want to be a decent person. You have to be powerfully motivated to behave well. Religious people are motivated by their love for God and their fervent desire to please Him. Secularists have to come up with their own powerful drive that will compel sacrifice and service.

The point is not that secular people should become religious. You either believe in God or you don’t. Neither is the point that religious people are better than secular people. That defies social science evidence and common observation. The point is that an age of mass secularization is an age in which millions of people have put unprecedented moral burdens upon themselves. People who don’t know how to take up these burdens don’t turn bad, but they drift. They suffer from a loss of meaning and an unconscious boredom with their own lives.

One other burden: Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.

It seems to me that if secularism is going to be a positive creed, it can’t just speak to the rational aspects of our nature. Secularism has to do for nonbelievers what religion does for believers — arouse the higher emotions, exalt the passions in pursuit of moral action…Religions don’t just ask believers to respect others; rather each soul is worthy of the highest dignity because it radiates divine light.

The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second. I suspect that over the next years secularism will change its face and become hotter and more consuming, less content with mere benevolence, and more responsive to the spiritual urge in each of us, the drive for purity, self-transcendence and sanctification.

Full text

Over the past few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who are atheist, agnostic or without religious affiliation. A fifth of all adults and a third of the youngest adults fit into this category.

As secularism becomes more prominent and self-confident, its spokesmen have more insistently argued that secularism should not be seen as an absence — as a lack of faith — but rather as a positive moral creed. Phil Zuckerman, a Pitzer College sociologist, makes this case as fluidly and pleasurably as anybody in his book, “Living the Secular Life.”

Zuckerman argues that secular morality is built around individual reason, individual choice and individual responsibility. Instead of relying on some eye in the sky to tell them what to do, secular people reason their way to proper conduct.

Secular people, he argues, value autonomy over groupthink. They deepen their attachment to this world instead of focusing on a next one. They may not be articulate about why they behave as they do, he argues, but they try their best to follow the Golden Rule, to be considerate and empathetic toward others. “Secular morality hinges upon little else than not harming others and helping those in need,” Zuckerman writes.

As he describes them, secularists seem like genial, low-key people who have discarded metaphysical prejudices and are now leading peaceful and rewarding lives. But I can’t avoid the conclusion that the secular writers are so eager to make the case for their creed, they are minimizing the struggle required to live by it. Consider the tasks a person would have to perform to live secularism well:

• Secular individuals have to build their own moral philosophies. Religious people inherit creeds that have evolved over centuries. Autonomous secular people are called upon to settle on their own individual sacred convictions.

• Secular individuals have to build their own communities. Religions come equipped with covenantal rituals that bind people together, sacred practices that are beyond individual choice. Secular people have to choose their own communities and come up with their own practices to make them meaningful.

• Secular individuals have to build their own Sabbaths. Religious people are commanded to drop worldly concerns. Secular people have to create their own set times for when to pull back and reflect on spiritual matters.

The tone of the comments couldn’t be clearer. There is a loud, pervasive disdain among the secular for the religious. If it doesn’t rise…

• Secular people have to fashion their own moral motivation. It’s not enough to want to be a decent person. You have to be powerfully motivated to behave well. Religious people are motivated by their love for God and their fervent desire to please Him. Secularists have to come up with their own powerful drive that will compel sacrifice and service.

The point is not that secular people should become religious. You either believe in God or you don’t. Neither is the point that religious people are better than secular people. That defies social science evidence and common observation. The point is that an age of mass secularization is an age in which millions of people have put unprecedented moral burdens upon themselves. People who don’t know how to take up these burdens don’t turn bad, but they drift. They suffer from a loss of meaning and an unconscious boredom with their own lives.

One other burden: Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.

It seems to me that if secularism is going to be a positive creed, it can’t just speak to the rational aspects of our nature. Secularism has to do for nonbelievers what religion does for believers — arouse the higher emotions, exalt the passions in pursuit of moral action. Christianity doesn’t rely just on a mild feeling like empathy; it puts agape at the center of life, a fervent and selfless sacrificial love. Judaism doesn’t just value community; it values a covenantal community infused with sacred bonds and chosenness that make the heart strings vibrate. Religions don’t just ask believers to respect others; rather each soul is worthy of the highest dignity because it radiates divine light.

The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second. I suspect that over the next years secularism will change its face and become hotter and more consuming, less content with mere benevolence, and more responsive to the spiritual urge in each of us, the drive for purity, self-transcendence and sanctification.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/opinion/david-brooks-building-better-secularists.html?_r=0

Articles, excerpts Jan 27 to Feb 5, 2015

A crisis this big changes everything By Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist, January 21, 2015  The world’s collective failure to tackle climate change comes down to one big problem, says Naomi Klein: the clash of climate necessities against corporate power and a triumphant neo-liberal world order. So after decades of government dithering… it’s time for civil society to unite and build a radical justice-based movement for climate action. Naomi Klein’s new book is This Changes Everything,

Obama Condemns ‘Distorted’ Faith at National Prayer Breakfast by Adelle M. Banks, God’s Politics Blog, Sojourners, 02-05-2015 President Obama on Feb. 5 called for an emphasis on what is just about the world’s religions as a way to counter the ways faith has been distorted across the globe. “We see faith driving us to do right,” he said to more than 3,500 people attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” He urged believers of all faiths to practice humility, support church-state separation and adhere to the Golden Rule as ways to keep religion in its proper context. “As people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends,” Obama said. “Here at home and around the world we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom: freedom of religion, the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”

Marcus Borg and the New Face of Christianity by Philip Clayton, Ph.D., Claremont School of Theology, huffingtonpost.com, 01/26/2015 …Marcus Borg died a few days ago…[his]  The Heart of Christianity …clearly expresses the kind of Christianity that most of us want our lives to be associated with… Borg’s humility, which so many of us experienced, was the natural expression of a Christian faith built around Jesus’ radical way of compassion first, with everything else a distant second…Borg was an open, out-of-the-closet liberalBorg described a God worth believing inBorg’s unencumbered Christianity didn’t negate other religions and spiritual paths…a Christianity without exclusion or intolerance…

Fundamentalists take issue with the writings of Marcus Borg By Bill Uhrich, readingeagle.com, February 1, 2015 “Conflict about the Bible is the single most divisive issue among Christians in North America today,” wrote Marcus Borg, who died Jan. 21…Through his writings, Borg offered an alternative viewpoint to fundamentalist views of the Bible, particularly in his 2001 book “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally.”…This perspective flies in the face of the fundamentalists’ belief in verbal plenary inspiration, the idea that every single word and all parts of the Bible are God-given and authoritative…Borg’s participation along with 200 other scholars, including John Dominic Crossan, in the Jesus Seminar of the 1980s and 1990s, which revived historical Jesus studies…Using modern tools available to scholars, the seminar came to the conclusion that 18 percent of the sayings and 16 percent of the deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospels are authentic, according to the Westar Institute, which sponsored the seminar. The rest are essentially reflections of the early church and early Christian understanding…this methodology also raised howls of scorn from fundamentalists…”I describe myself as a nonliteralistic and nonexclusivistic Christian,” Borg wrote, “committed to living my life with God within the Christian tradition, even as I affirm the validity of all the enduring religious traditions.”

Tony Perkins: 2015 ‘Most Dangerous Year’ For American Christians by Peter Montgomery, rightwingwatch.org, 1/27/2015 …Religious Right leaders have adopted a strategy of portraying just about any policy they disagree with as a dire threat to their religious freedom. And they love to portray President Barack Obama as a sinister enemy of religious liberty. Today’s frantic email from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is a model of both the Obama-is-evil paradigm and frothing-at-the-mouth alarmism… flat-out lies…To avoid any accusations that we’ve taken Perkins out of context, here’s today’s fundraising letter in full:…“…President Obama seems willing to do anything to further his radical agenda—even if it means violating the Constitution to take away your religious freedom. This President has clearly placed the religious freedom of millions of Christians like you in his sights. Why? You are among the people who are standing in the gap against his radical plans to transform America into a godless, secular country where government reigns supreme. In these evil days it is more important than ever that you stand your ground for religious freedom!… All of us must redouble our efforts to meet the incredible challenges ahead of us. Your gift today is essential if we are to stop the assaults on religious freedom and reclaim those liberties already lost.

Evangelical Political Operative Reveals Plan to Fundamentally Transform America — and It Involves 1,000 Pastors by Billy Hallowell, theblaze.com, Jan. 27, 2015  …The faith leaders assembled for the Issachar Training Event, which was organized by the American Renewal Project, an organization that is working toward bringing 1,000 preachers into the public square next election cycle…[American Renewal Project founder David Lane] launched the American Renewal Project after he began to think about the societal transformation that could happen if he was able to recruit 1,000 pastors to run in 2016 — a prospect that he said “would change America.”…“Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme. Our values or somebody else’s values,” Lane told Brody. “It’s our goal to bring spiritual men and women into the civil government arena.”…[Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal wrote. “There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.”… “These engaged evangelicals would be voting for their biblically-based conservative values.”

The Real Origins of the Religious Right By RANDALL BALMER, politico.com, May 27, 2014 They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.  

Mike Huckabee’s Christian Sharia Law by Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 1, 2015 …Mike Huckabee is known as a former governor, an author, a onetime Fox News host, and as a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nominationWhen he last ran for president in 2008, he argued that we “should amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.”…What would be the reaction if a Muslim candidate for president…argued that we should amend our Constitution to agree with the Quran? The right wing in this country would explode… many of those same right-wing people who fabricate the claim that Muslims in America want to impose Islamic law have no problem when a Christian politician tells us point blank he wants to impose what is, in essence, Christian Sharia law. The good news: Our First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any religion in our country, be it Christianity or Islam or anything else…in the United States at least, our laws must be based on public policy considerations and the Constitution, not passages of religious text.

Dark Money Is Destroying Our World, Not Just Our Politics By Wenonah Hauter, Common Dreams, January 29, 2015 Unsurprisingly to anyone who follows the policy agenda of this right-wing think tank [Heritage Foundation] that has been funded by some of the most regressive funders in the nation, from the Koch Brothers to Scaife Foundations, they support the economic interests of corporations, and little in the way of real opportunity for the American public…The policies promoted at the conference are bad deals for people and the environment. Let’s work together today to stop their dangerous agenda and begin organizing for the future to get Dark Money out of politics.

Who Needs Lobbyists? See What Big Business Spends To Win American Minds by Erin Quinn and Chris Young, Center for Public Integrity,posted on billmoyers.com, January 28, 2015      When Washington, DC’s biggest trade associations want to wield influence, they often put far more of their money into advertising and public relations, according to a new Center for Public Integrity investigation….It’s been well-publicized how much industry spends on lobbying the government, but little is known about how much money goes toward influencing the public…By industry sector, the biggest clients of PR, marketing and ad services were energy and natural resources associations…The public relations industry is on a growth tear while the number of federally registered lobbyists is actually shrinking. Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people…The strategy, public relations experts say, is not designed to replace lobbying so much as it is to enhance it…PR agencies may further obfuscate their role by creating so-called “front groups” that appear to be grassroots organizations, in an effort to push their clients’ messages. It is often difficult to discern who is behind these manufactured entities, though sometimes information can trickle through…Journalists overwhelmed…The golden age for PR has coincided with the decline of mainstream journalism, especially newspapers, which have suffered from plummeting ad revenue that has necessitated layoffs in newsrooms across the country. Today, not only are PR professionals outnumbering journalists by a ratio of 4.6 to 1, but the salary gap between the two occupations has grown to almost $20,000 per year, according to the Pew Research Center. The widening employment and income disparities have left journalists underpaid, overworked and increasingly unable to undertake independent, in-depth reporting…The gradual shift from a focus on traditional lobbying toward greater use of the “outside game of politics,” or communications like PR, has been going on for at least a decade, close observers say, but is now accelerating with advances in technology, social media and digital strategies…if you have an issue that is visual and has a compelling narrative, we’re better off spending more resources on trying to educate the public” than relying on traditional lobbying…The trade associations that rely most on PR and advertising campaigns are usually those representing industries facing the heaviest regulation and the most public contempt…the campaigns are often tied to specific public policy crises…. when industries really feel threatened that they might actually lose a policy battle…

Gorbachev: US Pulled Russia Into New Cold War That Could Turn ‘Hot’ By Andrea Germanos, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 29, 2015  “The U.S. has already dragged us into a new Cold War, trying to openly implement its idea of triumphalism,” Mikhail Gorbachev is quoted as saying.

Inside the international effort to fund government programs that actually work by Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman,  VOX.com, January 28, 2015   the notion that we should run high-quality experiments to figure out whether policies work hasn’t taken root in government…Internationally, there’s a movement to change this state of affairs. Both the United States and United Kingdom have made substantial progress in recent years in backing up their public programs with actual research evidence. The Canadian government, meanwhile, has lagged behind. The tale of these three countries can prove instructive in how to get evidence into policy — and the obstacles that governments face in their attempts…A quiet, evidence-based revolution…

America doesn’t just have one deficit, and Bernie Sanders wants to address seven of them by Laura Clawson Daily Kos Labor, Jan 26, 2015 Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to talk about the deficits. Yes, plural. The ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee says the next budget should address a series of deficits in investment in the American economy. Income inequality, lack of jobs and especially good jobs, poor infrastructure, bad trade deals, retirement insecurity, and a failure to invest in education—these are deficits that affect the entire American economy, dragging it down and slowing growth. That’s what Sanders wants to address:At a time when this country has an obscene level of income and wealth inequality, we need a budget that ends the outrageous loopholes that exist and asks the wealthiest people and largest corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes.

As Inequality Soars, the Nervous Super Rich Are Already Planning Their Escapes By Alec Hogg / The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, January 26, 2015  Hedge fund managers are preparing getaways by buying airstrips and farms in remote areas.

Downsize Democracy For 40 Years, Here’s What You Get By Murray Dobbin / The Tyee, posted on Alternet.org, January 26, 2015 New signs civilization is veering towards collapse.… The Trilateral Commission (TLC) could be said to be the birthplace of neoliberalism, a political theory that suggests progress depends upon “liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade.” Alarmed by the spread of the liberal state and its economic and social interventions, the The Trilateral Commission (TLC)  was founded to reverse the welfare state and re-establish capital to its “rightful” place at the pinnacle of economic and political power. (It still exists but has been supplanted to some extent by the World Economic Forum.) The TLC book concluded, in the words of its American co-author Samuel Huntington, that the industrial countries suffered from “an excess of democracy.” He wrote “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy… on the part of some individuals and groups.” He bemoaned the fact that “Marginal groups, as in the case of blacks, are now becoming full participants in the political system.” The TLC was just one of a growing number of institutions — forums, think-tanks, academic clusters, major media outlets — focussed on the same theme: that expectations of what government could provide had risen to a level that was now threatening the proper functioning of capitalist democracies…Walker told a group of worried corporate CEOs from British Columbia that “if you want to change society you have to change the ideological fabric of society.” In short, you had to launch a culture war against the activist state. It would be a war against democratic “excess.”…Fast forward 40 years and any new book with the title The Crisis of Democracy is likely to be chronicling the result of four decades of systematic assaults on the liberal/social democratic state. Indeed in contrast to Huntington’s “excess of democracy” complaint, the phrase “democratic deficit” has now been used by scores of writers and commentators…But it is the consequences of this decline and erosion of democracy that should be the most important focus of critics and citizens alike. The exceptionally successful four decades campaign to change the “ideological fabric” of society has put western civilization on a track to irreversible collapse according to a major study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The study focused on population, climate, water, agriculture and energy as the interrelated factors that determine the collapse or survival of civilizations going back 5000 years. According to a Guardian report on the study, these factors can coalesce and lead to civilization’s collapse if they create two critical social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity… and… the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or ‘Commoners’) [poor].”…advanced, sophisticated, complex and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”…the signs are so dramatically obvious… if you monitor the political debate in this country the two most important trends in our society and the world are virtually never mentioned except rhetorically. There are no serious policy prescriptions. Mass denial reigns. Or, as Freud stated, we are “knowing without knowing.” Elites won’t save us. Theoretically, of course, neoliberalism says the state should not intervene in the efficient functioning of the market — resulting in prosperity for everyone. But the theory, according to neoliberalism authority David Harvey, was simply hijacked by the elites to fleece the system — bailing out the financial sector with trillions of taxpayers’ dollars and failing to re-regulate, while gutting labour and environmental regulation. Government actions reveal neoliberalism as “more of a practical attempt to restore elite class power than as a theoretical project driven by the works of [Friedrich von] Hayek or Friedman.”…


 

 

How Did Politics Get So Personal?

By Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times,  JAN. 28, 2015

Political hostility in the United States is more and more becoming personal hostility. New findings suggest that the sources of dispute in contemporary life go far beyond ideological differences or mere polarization. They have become elemental, almost tribal, tapping into in-group loyalty and out-group enmity… Fully 36 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats believe the opposition party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,” … partisans on both sides believe different facts, use different economic theories, and hold differing views of history… liberals and conservatives process the same set of facts with different cultural thought styles…liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures… Starting in the 1960s, when race came to the forefront, Poole wrote, other issues involving nothing to do with economics — gun control, gay rights, sexual issues — began to be drawn into the “liberal” vs. “conservative” dimension…the depth of our polarization reflects ingrained personal, cognitive and psychosocial traits — traits that are, in Iyengar’s word, “primal.”…However much they might want to pitch themselves toward the center, politicians will feel the need to tap into the energy, not to mention the primary votes, that ideological purity provides. It is this contradiction between purity and pragmatism that will shape the political landscape for the foreseeable future.

Long excerpt

Political hostility in the United States is more and more becoming personal hostility. New findings suggest that the sources of dispute in contemporary life go far beyond ideological differences or mere polarization. They have become elemental, almost tribal, tapping into in-group loyalty and out-group enmity…. Partisans now discriminate against their adversaries “to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on race.” The authors find that this discrimination pervades decision making of all kinds, from hiring to marriage choices…From 1960 to 2010, the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who said that members of their own party were more intelligent than those in the opposition party grew from 6 percent to 48 percent; the percentage describing members of the opposition party as “selfish” rose from 21 percent to 47 percent…by a 2014 Pew Research Center study that revealed that “the level of antipathy that members of each party feel toward the opposing party has surged over the past two decades.” Fully 36 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats believe the opposition party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,” …a new line of inquiry into the causes and nature of polarization… that partisans on both sides believe different facts, use different economic theories, and hold differing views of history… Do liberals and conservatives process the same set of facts with different cultural thought styles…liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures. These researchers argue that liberals share a propensity for analytic thinking and have a stronger preference for deep thought and a rejection of simple solutions. Liberals are more tolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and they have less of a need for order, structure and closure.

Analytic thinking, in this view, “emphasizes slicing up the world and analyzing objects individually, divorced from context — much like scientific analysis requires thinkers to separate complex phenomena into separate parts….The analytic thinking typical of liberals is “more conscious, more focused on the rules of logic.”

Conversely, these researchers define holistic thinking – which they consider more typical of conservatives — as “seeing scenes as a whole and seeing people as a product of situations.” Talhelm described this style of thought as “more automatic, caught up in emotions, and in some ways less adherent to the rules of logic.”…Collectivism is not generalized sharing with “other people.” Collectivism is a system of tight social ties and responsibilities, but less trust and weaker ties toward strangers — a stronger in-group/out-group distinction. Conservatives care deeply about close others, but they may dislike welfare programs because those programs serve strangers or even people from out-groups.

Liberal individualism focuses on the self and personal fulfillment. As Talhelm put it:

If you see the world as all individuals, then welfare recipients are individuals too, just like you. Indeed analytic thinkers are more likely to agree with statements about universalism — “all people are equal”; “an African life is worth as much as an American life.”… Starting in the 1960s, when race came to the forefront, Poole wrote, other issues involving nothing to do with economics — gun control, gay rights, sexual issues — began to be drawn into the “liberal” vs. “conservative” dimension. Now almost every issue from foreign policy to taxes to lifestyle issues has been drawn into the left vs. right alignment…political scientists at Princeton, Yale and Berkeley, respectively, have stressed the key role of external factors in deepening our political schism, including inequality, the nationalization of politics, immigration and the fast approaching moment when whites will no longer be in the majoritythe depth of our polarization reflects ingrained personal, cognitive and psychosocial traits — traits that are, in Iyengar’s word, “primal.”

This is not an easy problem for politicians to solve. Republican and Democratic leaders are struggling to moderate their parties’ most extreme ideological positioning. But if polarization reflects primal aspects of the human condition, particularly when we are under stress, it isn’t going anywhere. However much they might want to pitch themselves toward the center, politicians will feel the need to tap into the energy, not to mention the primary votes, that ideological purity provides. It is this contradiction between purity and pragmatism that will shape the political landscape for the foreseeable future.

Full text

Political hostility in the United States is more and more becoming personal hostility. New findings suggest that the sources of dispute in contemporary life go far beyond ideological differences or mere polarization. They have become elemental, almost tribal, tapping into in-group loyalty and out-group enmity.

“Hostile feelings for the opposing party are ingrained or automatic in voters’ minds,” Shanto Iyengar, a political scientist at Stanford, and Sean Westwood, a post-doctoral researcher at Princeton, wrote in a July 2014 paper “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines.” Partisans now discriminate against their adversaries “to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on race.” The authors find that this discrimination pervades decision making of all kinds, from hiring to marriage choices.

In a separate 2012 study, “Affect, Not Ideology,” Iyengar and two other colleagues used a polling method known as a “thermometer rating” to measure how Democrats and Republicans feel about each other. The temperature scale goes from 1 to 100. One means the respondent feels cold toward the group; 100 implies that the respondent has warm feelings. Iyengar and his colleagues found in 2008 that Democrat and Republican ratings of the opposition party had dropped to just below 32 degrees. In comparison, Protestants gave Catholics a 66 rating, Democrats gave “big business” a 51, and Republicans rated “people on welfare” at 50.

One of the most striking findings of Iyengar’s 2012 paper is the dramatic increase in the percentages of members of both parties who would be upset if their children married someone in the opposition party (shown in figure 1).

From 1960 to 2010, the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who said that members of their own party were more intelligent than those in the opposition party grew from 6 percent to 48 percent; the percentage describing members of the opposition party as “selfish” rose from 21 percent to 47 percent.

Iyengar and Westwood contend that the conflict between Democrats and Republicans is based more on deeply rooted “in group” versus “out group” sensibilities than on ideology.

Not in Our Family

Percent of Democrats and Republicans who would be unhappy if their children married someone of the opposing party.

In an email exchange, Iyengar speculated on a number of reasons for the increase in polarization: Residential neighborhoods are politically homogeneous as are social media networks. I suspect this is one of the principal reasons for the significantly increased rate of same-party marriages. In 1965, a national survey of married couples showed around sixty-five percent agreement among couples. By 2010, the agreement rate was near 90 percent.

The result, according to Iyengar, is that “since inter-personal contact across the party divide is infrequent, it is easier for people to buy into the caricatures and stereotypes of the out party and its supporters.”

Iyengar’s findings are backed up by a 2014 Pew Research Center study that revealed that “the level of antipathy that members of each party feel toward the opposing party has surged over the past two decades.” Fully 36 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats believe the opposition party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,” Pew found.

More recently, a group of four scholars working with Jonathan Haidt, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and Thomas Talhelm, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of Virginia, have developed a new line of inquiry into the causes and nature of polarization. Their paper, “Liberals Think More Analytically Than Conservatives,” was published online in December. It argues that

partisans on both sides believe different facts, use different economic theories, and hold differing views of history. But might the differences run even deeper? Do liberals and conservatives process the same set of facts with different cultural thought styles?

The answer, according to Talhelm, Haidt and their colleagues: “liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures.”

These researchers argue that liberals share a propensity for analytic thinking and have a stronger preference for deep thought and a rejection of simple solutions. Liberals are more tolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and they have less of a need for order, structure and closure.

Analytic thinking, in this view, “emphasizes slicing up the world and analyzing objects individually, divorced from context — much like scientific analysis requires thinkers to separate complex phenomena into separate parts.” Talhelm elaborated in a phone conversation: The analytic thinking typical of liberals is “more conscious, more focused on the rules of logic.”

Conversely, these researchers define holistic thinking – which they consider more typical of conservatives — as “seeing scenes as a whole and seeing people as a product of situations.” Talhelm described this style of thought as “more automatic, caught up in emotions, and in some ways less adherent to the rules of logic.”

Talhelm wrote me in an email that “analytic thinkers tend to do better in engineering, and they hold more patents for inventions. But holistic/intuitive thinkers tend to do better in more social fields, such as early childhood education and marketing.” One study in the 1960s, he said, “found that analytic thinkers were more likely to have long hair (for men) and short skirts (women).”

In their 2014 paper, Talhelm and his co-authorshypothesize that liberals think more analytically because liberal culture is more individualistic, with looser social bonds, more emphasis on self-expression, and a priority on individual identities over group identities.

Conservatives, in this analysis, are more dedicated to their communities and to the idea of community than liberals. Conservatism, they write, is often associated with rural areas, where people are enmeshed in tight-knit communities and are more likely to know the people they see walking on the street. Conservatism is also associated with interconnected groups, such as churches, fraternities, and the military.

Talhelm and his colleagues suggest a different interpretation for the words “individualism,” which traditionally is associated with conservatism, and “collectivism,” which is often linked to liberalism:

Collectivism is not generalized sharing with “other people.” Collectivism is a system of tight social ties and responsibilities, but less trust and weaker ties toward strangers — a stronger in-group/out-group distinction. Conservatives care deeply about close others, but they may dislike welfare programs because those programs serve strangers or even people from out-groups.

Liberal individualism focuses on the self and personal fulfillment. As Talhelm put it:

If you see the world as all individuals, then welfare recipients are individuals too, just like you. Indeed analytic thinkers are more likely to agree with statements about universalism — “all people are equal”; “an African life is worth as much as an American life.”

Looking at the issue of partisan conflict in historical terms, Keith T. Poole, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, explained via email that polarization was very high before the Civil War, and again in the 1880s and 1890s “at the height of industrial capitalism” when the parties split over “gold vs. silver, taxes, tariffs, labor organization and inflation.” Starting in the 1960s, when race came to the forefront, Poole wrote, other issues involving nothing to do with economics — gun control, gay rights, sexual issues — began to be drawn into the “liberal” vs. “conservative” dimension. Now almost every issue from foreign policy to taxes to lifestyle issues has been drawn into the left vs. right alignment.

The work of Iyengar, Talhelm and Haidt adds a new layer to the study of polarization. In seminal work, scholars like Nolan McCarty, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, political scientists at Princeton, Yale and Berkeley, respectively, have stressed the key role of external factors in deepening our political schism, including inequality, the nationalization of politics, immigration and the fast approaching moment when whites will no longer be in the majority.

David Leege, political scientist emeritus at Notre Dame, provided further insight into the economic forces exacerbating polarization: the pool of under-employed and unemployed semi-skilled labor and their former managers, accountants, etc. have been ripped from the productive (assembly-line) and social institutions (organized labor, health care, ethnic and industrial bars) that ordered their lives and assured a meaningful place in their communities. For the persons who worked hard and more or less lived by the rules, there is no longer the pride of breadwinning and self-sufficiency brought to home or church or neighborhood interactions. These people are setups for polarizing political appeals.

Iyengar, Talhelm and Haidt do not reject the importance of these external factors. But they do argue that the depth of our polarization reflects ingrained personal, cognitive and psychosocial traits — traits that are, in Iyengar’s word, “primal.”

This is not an easy problem for politicians to solve. Republican and Democratic leaders are struggling to moderate their parties’ most extreme ideological positioning. But if polarization reflects primal aspects of the human condition, particularly when we are under stress, it isn’t going anywhere. However much they might want to pitch themselves toward the center, politicians will feel the need to tap into the energy, not to mention the primary votes, that ideological purity provides. It is this contradiction between purity and pragmatism that will shape the political landscape for the foreseeable future.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/opinion/how-did-politics-get-so-personal.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0