Americans Fighting for the Good

I’ve been having many discussions about our dysfunctional society. Many people are drawn into such discussions because of the campaign season. But my own focus on this is fairly constant.

The reason for this is that I’ve been painfully aware for decades that I’m a dysfunctional product of this dysfuncional society. This is true for everyone, not that most ever think about it. I guess it’s just more obvious for some of us. My personal dysfunction isn’t well-adjusted to the societal dysfunction, creating a constant state of conflict.

Part 1

Someone asked me what we should do about these societal problems. He complained about what he called whining and conspiracy theories. Instead, he argued we need to strategize and organize.

Maybe this is the wrong way to think about it. We live in a society that is more obsessed with strategizing and organizing than likely any other society before in history. We aren’t lacking in that department. Doubling down on more of the same is less than inspiring, in seeking change in the status quo.

I’m not exactly arguing against anything in particular. It’s not as if, based on principle, I’m against strategizing and organizing. I just don’t see that as the impetus of change. The outward forms of politics seem more to be result than cause.

That seems key. We often confuse result for cause because the latter is easier to see. What we forget is that politics is part of society and, at the most basic level of human reality, we are society. The problems we face aren’t outside of us.

The deeper challenge is that this fundamental truth contradicts the ideological paradigm that rules our perception and thought. We don’t need to create a strategy around which to organize. That is because we are already organized. We make things unnecessarily complicated. Change will happen when we want it enough and no sooner.

Change is a bit of a mystery to us, as we are a mystery to ourselves. It’s easier for us to explain change in retrospect or at least to make up compelling stories about it. But possible future change is another matter, in particular on the large-scale. Change happen when the conditions are right. Even if we can’t force change, we can prepare ourselves to take advantage of the moment when changes begin.

Fortunately or unfortunately, our society is in the middle of major changes at this moment. There is both danger and opportunity. The greatest danger might be simply not realizing what is happening. I see many people acting as if nothing has really changed or else not grasping what is changing. Before strategizing and organizing, what we really need is awareness and understanding.

Otherwise, our attempts at action will be flailings in the dark. We might just hurt ourselves in the process.

Part 2

The above mentioned person further responded. He told me that he is a fighter. Giving some details, he explained that he had been in activism for 6 decades, including starting 3 non-profits for social justice. I applaud that dedication, that willingness to fight against injustice. Still, it doesn’t begin to touch upon the deeper issues we are faced with.

I felt compelled to point out that, in the 6 decades he has been strategizing and organizing, many of the most major problems have been getting worse: mass incarceration, militarized police state, endless wars, millions of innocents dead, military-industrial complex, centralization of power, concentration of wealth, economic inequality, decreasing economic mobility, shrinking middle class, stagnating and dropping wages, loss of good benefits and job security, capitalist corporatism, inverted totalitarianism, cronyism, revolving door between big biz and big gov, regulatory capture, environmental destruction, mass extinction, climate change, etc.

One of the problems is people on all sides are strategizing and organizing. Even those with massive wealth, power, and influence are strategizing and organizing in their causing all of these problems. It’s like raising more money for the Democrats, as Republicans raise more money as well. Maybe the problem is that all that money is corrupting politics, for all sides.

The entire mentality is dysfunctional, always fighting as if society was a battlefield in a war to be won. We have a war on poverty, on crime, on drugs, and on and on. In the end, we are at war with ourselves. This makes for endless conflict. Maybe the problem isn’t a population that lacks a fighting spirit. We Americans love to fight, whether against foreigners or other Americans.

Part 3

Here is the moral calculus of our society.

Most people want to think of themselves as good people. They will often even do good things, contributing to their communities and the larger society. This makes them feel good and, in many cases, people are genuinely helped. Progress and betterment does come from all of these acts of compassion and concern. This should be praised for what it accomplishes.

Yet many of these people are partisans and will consistently vote for establishment politicians who are inseparable from major societal and global problems. It’s never been clear to me that the good these people do in their volunteering, donating, and fundraising outweighs the bad that has been done by the politicians they support.

If someone supports a politician who has contributed to the harm of millions of people (war casualties, sanction victims, families and communities wrecked by destabilized societies, citizens terrorized by propped-up authoritarian regimes, refugees of violence and climate change, neoliberal economic problems, mass incarceration, militarized police, etc), how many other people would they have to help to outweigh the harm they’ve helped cause?

That is a serious question that few think to ask or have the moral courage to answer.

Then I consider the societies like the Nordic countries, specifically as I’m reading a book about them right now (The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen). Those are healthy social democracies and simultaneously they have low rates of volunteering. Nordic parents, for example, send their kids to some of the best schools in the world and would never think of volunteering at the local school. Living in a culture of trust, they simply trust the teachers will do their job well and they don’t worry that the schools will be underfunded.

It’s occurred to me that high rates of volunteering is only necessary in a society with systemic dysfunction like the US. More well-functioning countries would effectively deal with such problems on a systemic level, preventing many problems that Americans allow to fester. We Americans are better at reacting to problems than preventing them or catching them before they get bad.

This is seen most clearly in the American South. It is the region of some of the highest rates of donating and volunteering. But it is also the region of the worst of social problems.

Maybe those two are connected. If so, maybe we need to rethink how we deal with problems in American society, how we do good.


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The pursuit of Happiness is enshrined in one of America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence. We are free to pursue it, but we are not guaranteed it. I find it interesting that the Nordic social democracies apparently don’t have any official declarations about pursuing happiness and yet it doesn’t stop them from rating among the happiest societies.

Americans are always warring against and fighting for various things. Similarly, Americans are always seeking and never finding. We are a restless people, never satisfied. Without conflict and struggle, what purpose would we have?

It’s hard for us Americans to imagine anything else.

17 thoughts on “Americans Fighting for the Good

  1. Strategizing and organizing is akin to bad managers who feel the NEED to “manage”. The only time things need to be managed is when someone screws things up out of greed, arrogance and stupidity. It’s like the environment. It do not need to be “managed” (unless people screw it up). IT NEEDS TO BE RESPECTED!!!

    The political, cultural/media and economic elites are constantly making the same exact dumb-ass mistakes over and over and over again. They screw things up and then try to “manage” things to make themselves look good and look like their needed. Well, f—! How about trying to RESPECT people first before trying to “manage” your f*ck-ups!?!?

    Talk about looking for wrong answers by asking the wrong questions by brain-damaged elites who have basic, everyday, social deficiencies and dysfunctions akin to sociopaths and psychopaths. Who in their right-mind can watch the delusional behaviors of people like Trump and Clinton and NOT get the impression that there is something seriously wrong with the way their political-junkie, meth-head brains work and how they perceive normal people beyond their addictions to their delusional crackpipes? For them to get up on stage and make their black-tar heroin speeches is an INSULT to the common-sense decency of EVERY man, woman and child who are given needles and a dime-bags to shoot into their arms by these drug-peddling elites.

    Marx had it wrong. Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It’s the cannibalistic zombie oligarchs, plutocrats and elites feeding off of our dead democracy and infecting everything they come into contact with into.

    • The guy I mentioned in this post is from the same town I live in. I think he is a Presbyterian minister in a local church. So, he is a Christian and apparently takes doing good seriously. He wants to help people and make the world a better place. Yet he is voting for Clinton out of fear of Trump, even though politicians like the Clintons are part of the problem. It’s shooting oneself in the foot and then wondering why one keeps losing the race..

      • Yup. The Presbyterian minister may not have track marks on his arms but is high on something because he is doing exactly what the lizard queen wants him to do. I wonder if he even realizes how easily he’s being manipulated.

        • To him, pointing out any of this is “whining and conspiracy theory”. All he knows how to do is more of the same, what he has spent his life doing. I’m sure he genuinely believes that just a little more strategizing and organizing and we’ll finally lick these problems, just one more non-profit and one more election and then we will have social justice and political reform. Or something like that. It’s hard for me to understand how such people think.

          • You would think the alarming rate at which churches are closing would be a clear indication to him that no amount of planning bake-sales and ice-cream socials are going to fix the problem.

            The whole problem really is like dealing with addicts and the American people are only now thinking, “Hey, maybe we need to have an intervention with family and friends.” Well hell, an intervention isn’t going to do jack sh*t when you have myopic institutions and policies viewing addiction as more of an issue of criminality than an issue of healthcare. We are treating the political, cultural and economic issues as symptoms when the issue is the disease of corruption and the concentration of wealth and power into special interest groups, aka elites.

            The minister is making baby Jesus cry by playing the voting game when fundamental paradigms HAVE to shift. And as his congregation dwindles, his church is put up for sales and he applies for a new job at Walmart, he’ll still be scratching his needle scabs or his instant lottery tickets wondering how to strategize and organize to beat the odds in a rigged game created by and for dope fiends.

            “But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”
            2 Peter 1:9

    • I keep thinking about what is needed. It’s not clear. The point I was making in the post is that the American public has fairly high rates of political and social engagement, despite decreasing voter rates. Americans are constantly involved in churches, organizations, volunteering, campaigns, etc. Large numbers of Americans are always doing things.

      The protest movement against the Iraq War was the largest in world history, at least at the time, but it didn’t stop the war from happening. There has also been decades of movements pushing for political reform and yet no reform has followed. Then recent events show how parties rig the nomination process and, of course, there is the stolen election of 2000.

      More activism and involvement, more strategizing and organizing doesn’t seem to be the answer. Unless we’re talking about something at the scale of revolution or something similar. Many of the Nordic countries earlier last century had oppressive governments, rigid social hierarchies, large inequalities, poverty, and social problems. It wasn’t starting non-profits and voting for mainstream parties that transformed their societies. They had to fight, often violently, for a better society.

      Are Americans prepared to do what it will take, to demand change and accept nothing less?

      • Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s reach critical mass yet. There are still many segments of our society that believe the dope they’re being fed. Take law enforcement for example. How many people working in law enforcement realize they are NOT public servants serving their communities anymore but are functioning as enforcers of a police-state owned and operated by elites?

        Who is the FBI serving when they decided not to investigate the lizard queen Hillary’s personal email server violation? But when someone like Snowden commits a violation, they will label him an enemy of the state and federal law enforcement will spend whatever resources it takes to prosecute the man until the day he dies.

        You have to be on drugs or seriously brain-damaged to be so deaf, dumb and blind as to not hear the laughter of the elites at law enforcement’s sense of justice and Americans’ sense of freedom, which is clearly a joke in our country.

        • It is amazing the faith people have in the system, no matter how many times the system fails or is proven corrupt. People want to believe they live in a just world. And they will rationalize away anything that doesn’t fit their belief. There is also widespread dissociation. I constantly see people who will acknowledge the many problems all around them, but then will say and do things as if those problems weren’t real. They can’t quite connect what they know to their lived experience and personal choices. It is going to take something major to finally wake up enough Americans to force positive change.

          • The rationalization and dissociation exhibited by Americans today is the behavior of slaves. The slaves of Washington and Jefferson knew what their lives were. So why did they not fight for their freedom? How could Washington and Jefferson claim freedom, justice and liberty while owning slaves? It would take another century and another generation before slavery was abolished in our country. And even then, it wasn’t slavery that abolished slavery. It was state-rights elitists vs. federal-rights elitists and citizens with a stronger sense of moral responsibility than can be found today. That and the lives of 620,000 casualties in the Civil War.

            And now Americans find themselves yet again dealing with slavery albeit a more elusive and cunning one in the form of economic insecurity, political corruption and cultural propaganda. It is more akin to the ideological slavery of Nazi Germany than the slavery of colonial America.

            Sadly, the American citizen-slave will not take action. There will be far greater injustices, ethnic ghettos and concentration camps, minor proxy wars with real and imagined enemies meant to cast illusion of democracy before the citizen-slave revolts.

            What likely will happen, as history has proven, is the rot and corruption of the elites will begin to feed upon itself and begin to collapse under its own malfeasance. And the over-confidence in their own lies and deceits will create a continuous, never-ending existence of suspicion, betrayal and infighting. They will become their own worst enemy. Their minor skirmishes will exacerbate and escalate as citizen-slaves are forced to choose sides in other people’s battles. And once the death toll becomes high enough and destruction encompasses the entire globe, the citizen-slave will finally find their chains broken, not by choice but out of necessity, so they can rebuild on the desolation that surrounds them for the next breed of parasitic elites lurking in the shadows.

          • There are certain historical patterns tend to repeat, even as they take slightly different forms each time. It would be nice for people to break free of these historical habits, but I don’t see it happening. We have a population more informed than in any society ever before and yet we still go on blindly as all that knowledge meant nothing.

    • She doesn’t need to pretend. The partisans will vote for her no matter what. It doesn’t matter how bad it gets, how far corruption goes, how often and blatantly she lies. There is no moral line they won’t cross, just as long as there is a narrative of fear to rationalize their actions.

    • That is true.

      There is a sense of entitlement that many Clinton supporters have. that she somehow “deserves” to be the President despite her appalling corruption.

      I will confess that my respect for Second Generation Feminism as a movement has declined considerably thanks to their conduct here. I always dismissed conservative criticisms of elitism in the past, They have managed to turn the conservative criticisms into a reality.

      Somehow they think they are entitled to the votes of the left.

      • Here is something that was on my mind:

        We Americans have grown so used to corruption, lies, and deceit. We take it as normal, as to be expected.

        If Nixon were around today and did what he did, few would be shocked. But more importantly, he would likely not get caught today. The lesson that was learned was in creating a convincing narrative of plausible deniability.

        The political elite have become so much more saavy in keeping their activities hidden or obscured, even with the leaks. And the political elite have learned how to better manipulate the legal system and those within it, how to stall investigations, how to effectively destroy evidence, and how to keep an investigation from leading to an indictment.

        The shit that goes on now no doubt is worse beyond imagination compared to what once shocked Americans. As long as we Americans tolerate this state of cynical realpolitik, nothing will ever change. It is the rot at the heart of our society.

    • My suspicion is that shit like this is going to keep coming out.

      There might be more leaks or else more info from other sources surfacing. But also so much of the info recently made available hasn’t yet been thoroughly researched and analyzed. There likely are some real stinkers in that massive data dump, waiting to be found. Plus, there is a new investigation into the Clinton Foundation and that could reveal all kinds of crazy shit..

      It seems to me that there is going to be a slow sprinkle, with occasional downpour, throughout the rest of Hillary’s campaign. She has spent a long career collecting skeletons in a large closet. That doesn’t even include what other juicy info might come out about her husband, staff members, and the DNC. Her legal team and public perception management advisers are going to be working constant overtime.

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