Fantasyland, An American Tradition

“The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, every individual free to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, each of us free to reinvent himself by imagination and will. In America those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts.”
~ Kurt Andersen, Fantasyland

It’s hard to have public debate in the United States for a number of reasons. The most basic reason is that Americans are severely uninformed and disinformed. We also tend to lack a larger context for knowledge. Historical amnesia is rampant and scientific literacy is limited, exacerbated by centuries old strains of anti-intellectualism and dogmatic idealism, hyper-individualism and sectarian groupthink, public distrust and authoritarian demagoguery.

This doesn’t seem as common in countries elsewhere. Part of this is that Americans are less aware and informed about other countries than the citizens of other countries are of the United States. Living anywhere else in the world, it is near impossible to not know in great detail about the United States and other Western powers as the entire world cannot escape these influences that cast a long shadow of colonial imperialism, neoliberal globalization, transnational corporations, mass media, monocultural dominance, soft power, international propaganda campaigns during the Cold War, military interventionism, etc. The rest of the world can’t afford the luxury of ignorance that Americans enjoy.

Earlier last century when the United States was a rising global superpower competing against other rising global superpowers, the US was known for having one of the better education systems in the world. International competition motivated us in investing in education. Now we are famous for how pathetic recent generations of students compare to many other developed countries. But even the brief moment of seeming American greatness following World War II might have had more to do with the wide scale decimation of Europe, a temporary lowering of other developed countries rather than a vast improvement in the United States.

There has also been a failure of big biz mass media to inform the public and the continuing oligopolistic consolidation of corporate media into a few hands has not allowed for a competitive free market to force corporations to offer something better. On top of that, Americans are one of the most propagandized and indoctrinated populations on the planet, with only a few comparable countries such as China and Russia exceeding us in this area.

See how the near unanimity of the American mass media was able, by way of beating the war drum, to change majority public opinion from being against the Iraq War to being in support of it. It just so happens that the parent companies of most of the corporate media, with ties to the main political parties and the military-industrial complex, profits immensely from the endless wars of the war state.

Corporate media is in the business of making money which means selling a product. In late stage capitalism, all of media is entertainment and news media is infotainment. Even the viewers are sold as a product to advertisers. There is no profit in offering a public service to inform the citizenry and create the conditions for informed public debate. As part of consumerist society, we consume as we are consumed by endless fantasies, just-so stories, comforting lies, simplistic narratives, and political spectacle.

This is a dark truth that should concern and scare Americans. But that would require them to be informed first. There is the rub.

Every public debate in the United States begins with mainstream framing. It requires hours of interacting with a typical American even to maybe get them to acknowledge their lack of knowledge, assuming they have the intellectual humility that makes that likely. Americans are so uninformed and misinformed that they don’t realize they are ignorant, so indoctrinated that they don’t realize how much their minds are manipulated and saturated in bullshit (I speak from the expertise of being an American who has been woefully ignorant for most of my life). To simply get to the level of knowledge where debate is even within the realm of possibility is itself almost an impossible task. To say it is frustrating is an extreme understatement.

Consider how most Americans know that tough-on-crime laws, stop-and-frisk, broken window policies, heavy policing, and mass incarceration were the cause of decreased crime. How do they know? Because decades of political rhetoric and media narratives have told them so. Just as various authority figures in government and media told them or implied or remained silent while others pushed the lies that the 9/11 terrorist attack was somehow connected to Iraq which supposedly had weapons of mass destruction, despite that the US intelligence agencies and foreign governments at the time knew these were lies.

Sure, you can look to alternative media for regularly reporting of different info that undermines and disproves these beliefs. But few Americans get much if any of their news from alternative media. There have been at least hundreds of high quality scientific studies, careful analyses, and scholarly books that have come out since the violent crime decline began. This information, however, is almost entirely unknown to the average American citizen and one suspects largely unknown to the average American mainstream news reporter, media personality, talking head, pundit, think tank hack, and politician.

That isn’t to say there isn’t ignorance found in other populations as well. Having been in the online world since the early naughts, I’ve met and talked with many people from other countries and admittedly some of them are less than perfectly informed. Still, the level of ignorance in the United States is unique, at least in the Western world.

That much can’t be doubted. Other serious thinkers might have differing explanations for why the US has diverged so greatly from much of the rest of the world, from its level of education to its rate of violence. But one way or another, it needs to be explained in the hope of finding a remedy. Sadly, even if we could agree on a solution, those in power benefit too greatly from the ongoing state of an easily manipulated citizenry that lacks knowledge and critical thinking skills.

This isn’t merely an attack on low-information voters and right-wing nut jobs. Even in dealing with highly educated Americans among the liberal class, I rarely come across someone who is deeply and widely informed across various major topics of public concern.

American society is highly insular. We Americans are not only disconnected from the rest of the world but disconnected from each other. And so we have little sense of what is going on outside of the narrow constraints of our neighborhoods, communities, workplaces, social networks, and echo chambers. The United States is psychologically and geographically segregated into separate reality tunnel enclaves defined by region and residency, education and class, race and religion, politics and media.

It’s because we so rarely step outside of our respective worlds that we so rarely realize how little we know and how much of what we think we know is not true. Most of us live in neighborhoods, go to churches and stores, attend or send our kids to schools, work and socialize with people who are exactly like ourselves. They share our beliefs and values, our talking points and political persuasion, our biases and prejudices, our social and class position. We are hermetically sealed within our safe walled-in social identities. Nothing can reach us, threaten us, or change us.

That is until something happens like Donald Trump being elected. Then there is a panic about what has become of America in this post-fact age. The sad reality, however, is America has always been this way. It’s just finally getting to a point where it’s harder to ignore and that potential for public awakening offers some hope.

* * *

Fantasyland
by Kurt Anderson
pp. 10-14

Why are we like this?

. . . The short answer is because we’re Americans, because being American means we can believe any damn thing we want, that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. The credible becomes incredible and the incredible credible.

The word mainstream has recently become a pejorative, shorthand for bias, lies, oppression by the elites. Yet that hated Establishment, the institutions and forces that once kept us from overdoing the flagrantly untrue or absurd—media, academia, politics, government, corporate America, professional associations, respectable opinion in the aggregate—has enabled and encouraged every species of fantasy over the last few decades.

A senior physician at one of America’s most prestigious university hospitals promotes miracle cures on his daily TV show. Major cable channels air documentaries treating mermaids, monsters, ghosts, and angels as real. A CNN anchor speculated on the air that the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner was a supernatural event. State legislatures and one of our two big political parties pass resolutions to resist the imaginary impositions of a New World Order and Islamic law. When a political scientist attacks the idea that “there is some ‘public’ that shares a notion of reality, a concept of reason, and a set of criteria by which claims to reason and rationality are judged,” colleagues just nod and grant tenure. A white woman felt black, pretended to be, and under those fantasy auspices became an NAACP official—and then, busted, said, “It’s not a costume…not something that I can put on and take off anymore. I wouldn’t say I’m African American, but I would say I’m black.” Bill Gates’s foundation has funded an institute devoted to creationist pseudoscience. Despite his nonstop lies and obvious fantasies—rather, because of them—Donald Trump was elected president. The old fringes have been folded into the new center. The irrational has become respectable and often unstoppable. As particular fantasies get traction and become contagious, other fantasists are encouraged by a cascade of out-of-control tolerance. It’s a kind of twisted Golden Rule unconsciously followed: If those people believe that , then certainly we can believe this.

Our whole social environment and each of its overlapping parts—cultural, religious, political, intellectual, psychological—have become conducive to spectacular fallacy and make-believe. There are many slippery slopes, leading in various directions to other exciting nonsense. During the last several decades, those naturally slippery slopes have been turned into a colossal and permanent complex of interconnected, crisscrossing bobsled tracks with no easy exit. Voilà: Fantasyland. . . .

When John Adams said in the 1700s that “facts are stubborn things,” the overriding American principle of personal freedom was not yet enshrined in the Declaration or the Constitution, and the United States of America was itself still a dream. Two and a half centuries later the nation Adams cofounded has become a majority-rule de facto refutation of his truism: “our wishes, our inclinations” and “the dictates of our passions” now apparently do “alter the state of facts and evidence,” because extreme cognitive liberty and the pursuit of happiness rule.

This is not unique to America, people treating real life as fantasy and vice versa, and taking preposterous ideas seriously. We’re just uniquely immersed. In the developed world, our predilection is extreme, distinctly different in the breadth and depth of our embrace of fantasies of many different kinds. Sure, the physician whose fraudulent research launched the antivaccine movement was a Brit, and young Japanese otaku invented cosplay, dressing up as fantasy characters. And while there are believers in flamboyant supernaturalism and prophecy and religious pseudoscience in other developed countries, nowhere else in the rich world are such beliefs central to the self-identities of so many people. We are Fantasyland’s global crucible and epicenter.

This is American exceptionalism in the twenty-first century. America has always been a one-of-a-kind place. Our singularity is different now. We’re still rich and free, still more influential and powerful than any nation, practically a synonym for developed country . But at the same time, our drift toward credulity, doing our own thing, and having an altogether uncertain grip on reality has overwhelmed our other exceptional national traits and turned us into a less-developed country as well.

People tend to regard the Trump moment—this post-truth, alternative facts moment—as some inexplicable and crazy new American phenomenon. In fact, what’s happening is just the ultimate extrapolation and expression of attitudes and instincts that have made America exceptional for its entire history—and really, from its prehistory. . . .

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, by hucksters and their suckers—which over the course of four centuries has made us susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem hunting witches to Joseph Smith creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to Henry David Thoreau to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Donald Trump. In other words: mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that steep and simmer for a few centuries; run it through the anything-goes 1960s and the Internet age; the result is the America we inhabit today, where reality and fantasy are weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

I hope we’re only on a long temporary detour, that we’ll manage somehow to get back on track. If we’re on a bender, suffering the effects of guzzling too much fantasy cocktail for too long, if that’s why we’re stumbling, manic and hysterical, mightn’t we somehow sober up and recover? You would think. But first you need to understand how deeply this tendency has been encoded in our national DNA.

Fake News: It’s as American as George Washington’s Cherry Tree
by Hanna Rosin

Fake news. Post-truth. Alternative facts. For Andersen, these are not momentary perversions but habits baked into our DNA, the ultimate expressions of attitudes “that have made America exceptional for its entire history.” The country’s initial devotion to religious and intellectual freedom, Andersen argues, has over the centuries morphed into a fierce entitlement to custom-made reality. So your right to believe in angels and your neighbor’s right to believe in U.F.O.s and Rachel Dolezal’s right to believe she is black lead naturally to our president’s right to insist that his crowds were bigger.

Andersen’s history begins at the beginning, with the first comforting lie we tell ourselves. Each year we teach our children about Pilgrims, those gentle robed creatures who landed at Plymouth Rock. But our real progenitors were the Puritans, who passed the weeks on the trans-Atlantic voyage preaching about the end times and who, when they arrived, vowed to hang any Quaker or Catholic who landed on their shores. They were zealots and also well-educated British gentlemen, which set the tone for what Andersen identifies as a distinctly American endeavor: propping up magical thinking with elaborate scientific proof.

While Newton and Locke were ushering in an Age of Reason in Europe, over in America unreason was taking new seductive forms. A series of mystic visionaries were planting the seeds of extreme entitlement, teaching Americans that they didn’t have to study any book or old English theologian to know what to think, that whatever they felt to be true was true. In Andersen’s telling, you can easily trace the line from the self-appointed 17th-century prophet Anne Hutchinson to Kanye West: She was, he writes, uniquely American “because she was so confident in herself, in her intuitions and idiosyncratic, subjective understanding of reality,” a total stranger to self-doubt.

What happens next in American history, according to Andersen, happens without malevolence, or even intention. Our national character gels into one that’s distinctly comfortable fogging up the boundary between fantasy and reality in nearly every realm. As soon as George Washington dies fake news is born — the story about the cherry tree, or his kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge. Enterprising businessmen quickly figure out ways to make money off the Americans who gleefully embrace untruths.

Advertisements

Poll Answers, Stated Beliefs, Ideological Labels

Possibly, upwards of a third of Americans are a wild card on polling and voting. These people are some combination of politically misinformed, ideologically inconsistent, anti-intellectually reactionary, mentally unstable, disconnected from reality, lacking self-awareness, socially unconcerned, apathetically indifferent, distractedly careless, cynically trollish, frustratedly outraged, generally irritated, etc. They are unable or unwilling to fully participate in the demands of democracy. Or else they don’t believe we have a functioning democracy to participate in.

Any crazy belief or crazy politician that only gets consistent support from a third or less of the public can be set aside, albeit not dismissed, at least in terms of understanding what is the actual motivation and intention. Even most Trump voters admitted that they didn’t like him nor trusted him to do what they wanted him to do. They voted out of protest, or else for shits and giggles; either way, it’s a clear ‘fuck you’ (maybe ‘fuck you, fuck me, fuck us all’, ‘just fuck it’, ‘who gives a fuck’, or something along those lines). Such people don’t form a monolithic demographic of opinion and values. And for damn sure they aren’t representative of any larger pattern in society, any larger trend among the public… beyond how screwed up it has all become.

Across the entire population, there is more than enough ideological confusion and inconsistency to go around. This largely has to do with how labels are used, or rather misused and abused. Liberals label their positions moderate, the very positions that the political and media elite think of as liberal. Either liberals really are more moderate or the elite aren’t as liberal as they think, although I suspect both are true. That leaves conservatives holding positions that these same elites consider liberal, while conservatives don’t see them as liberal, which questions the very concept of conservatism. There are more conflicted conservatives than consistent conservatives, something not found among liberals. To the degree that liberals are conflicted, it is because they mis-label their views right-ward.

Anyway, the average person probably doesn’t give much thought to how they answer polls and vote in elections. Most people have busy lives. Besides, it’s not as if the education system and news media does a great job of informing the public and explaining the issues. And that is on top of the low quality of options typically given. We also can’t forget the constant bullshit, spin, propaganda, psyops, etc. Framing alone sometimes will completely reverse what people state as supporting. When a combative frame is used, most Americans support harsh punishment of criminals. But when a public health frame is used, most Americans support rehabilitation. So, which is the real majority? Well, both are or neither is.

Here is a major point to be understood and emphasized. As data shows, most people who hold liberal positions don’t identify as liberal. And most people who identify as liberal don’t identify many of their own positions as liberal, instead identifying them as moderate. Also interesting is the fact that self-identified conservatives, many being conflicted conservatives holding liberal positions, tend to identify their liberal and moderate positions as conservative. So, every demographic labels their views to the right of where their views actually are on the spectrum, at least for most major issues. This is partly because of the political and media elite who claim to be moderate and centrist while in many ways being to the right of the general public. The narrative of public opinion and the political spectrum is being defined by a disconnected elite that is heavily biased to the right.

Considering this, maybe it’s unsurprising that the crazification factor is so large. This explains all the noise in public polling. And this probably explains why so many Americans don’t even bother voting. Their views aren’t being represented. In fact, the views of most Americans simply make no sense within the dominant paradigm that controls the political system.

* * *

Crazification factor
Rational Wiki

Crazification factor (alternatively known as the “Keyes constant”[1]) is a neologism coined by blogger John Rogers to refer to the portion of the electorate comprising the nuttiest of the wingnuts and the batshit crazy.

In popular usage, it is an application of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, in which you only call attention to data supporting your proposition: you will find endless examples of people online crying “Crazification factor!” when 20-30% of people do something — anything — the speaker doesn’t like, or are even polled as holding an opinion they don’t like.[1][2]

Rogers later stressed that the phrase was a joke, not some serious statistical proposition.[3]

The margin of stupid
by Noah Smith

These errors were things that we lumped into something we called “response style” (psychologists call it response bias). It’s very very hard to observe response style. But I’d say we can make a pretty good guess that Americans – and possibly everyone – do a lot of random responding when it comes to these sorts of surveys.

[M]aybe people just don’t think very hard about how they answer these questions. Maybe some people are confused by the questions. Maybe some are trolling.

Whatever the cause, it seems like you can get 20 to 25 percent of Americans to say any ridiculous thing imaginable. “Do you think eating raccoon poop reduces the risk of brain cancer?” “23 percent of Americans say yes!” “Would you be willing to cut your toes off with a rotary saw if it meant your neighbor had to do the same?” “17 percent of Americans say they would!” Etc.

It makes no sense at all…unless you can get ~20 percent of Americans to say pretty much any ridiculous thing on a survey.

I call this the margin of stupid. Unlike the margin of error, it’s not even a roughly symmetric error — because you can’t have less than 0% of people give a certain answer on a survey, the margin of stupid always biases surveys toward showing some non-negligible amount of support for any crazy or stupid or horrible position.

Whenever you read a survey like this, you must take the margin of stupid into account. Yes, there are Americans who believe crazy, stupid, and horrible things. But dammit, there aren’t that many. Next time you see some poll breathlessly claiming that 21 percent of Americans support executing anyone whose name starts with “G”, or that 18 percent of Millennials believe themselves to be the reincarnation of Kublai Khan, take it with a grain of salt. It’s a lot easier to give a stupid answer on a survey than to actually truly hold a nuts belief.

Sadly, the margin of stupid also probably applies to voting.

The Alan Keyes Constant
by Whet Moser

This led screenwriter John Rodgers and a friend to coin the term Crazification Factor–an unpredictable and shifting yet relatively consistent bottom, like the silt at the bottom of a pond: “Half just have worldviews which lead them to disagree with what you consider rationality even though they arrive at their positions through rational means, and the other half are the core of the Crazification – either genuinely crazy; or so woefully misinformed about how the world works, the bases for their decision making is so flawed they may as well be crazy.”

“Crazification” seems not just unkind but simplistic, though I don’t deny a certain baseline: I’d add ironic voting, protest votes–a vote for Alan Keyes is a resonant protest vote–and even people who want to make a spectacle worse. But it still seems to be a useful theory, in the sense that when I see Donald Trump polling really well (26 percent!), or birthers continuing to emit a low hum (27 percent!), I’m no longer shocked: oh, that’s just the Keyes Constant.

Noisy Poll Results and Reptilian Muslim Climatologists from Mars
by Scott Alexander

Public Policy Polling’s recent poll on conspiracy theories mostly showed up on my Facebook feed as “Four percent of Americans believe lizardmen are running the Earth”.

(of note, an additional 7% of Americans are “not sure” whether lizardmen are running the Earth or not.)

Imagine the situation. You’re at home, eating dinner. You get a call from someone who says “Hello, this is Public Policy Polling. Would you mind answering some questions for us?” You say “Sure”. An extremely dignified sounding voice says – and this is the exact wording of the question – “Do you believe that shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our society, or not?” Then it urges you to press 1 if yes, press 2 if no, press 3 if not sure.

So first we get the people who think “Wait, was 1 the one for if I did believe in lizardmen, or if I didn’t? I’ll just press 1 and move on to the next question.”

Then we get the people who are like “I never heard it before, but if this nice pollster thinks it’s true, I might as well go along with them.”

Then we get the people who are all “F#&k you, polling company, I don’t want people calling me when I’m at dinner. You screw with me, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you I believe lizard people are running the planet.”

And then we get the people who put “Martian” as their nationality in psychology experiments. Because some men just want to watch the world burn.

Do these three groups total 4% of the US population? Seems plausible.

I really wish polls like these would include a control question, something utterly implausible even by lizard-people standards, something like “Do you believe Barack Obama is a hippopotamus?” Whatever percent of people answer yes to the hippo question get subtracted out from the other questions.

Poll Answers As Attire

Alas, not all weird poll answers can be explained that easily. On the same poll, 13% of Americans claimed to believe Barack Obama was the Anti-Christ. Subtracting our Lizardman’s Constant of 4%, that leaves 9% of Americans who apparently gave this answer with something approaching sincerity.

(a friend on Facebook pointed out that 5% of Obama voters claimed to believe that Obama was the Anti-Christ, which seems to be another piece of evidence in favor of a Lizardman’s Constant of 4-5%. On the other hand, I do enjoy picturing someone standing in a voting booth, thinking to themselves “Well, on the one hand, Obama is the Anti-Christ. On the other, do I really want four years of Romney?”)

Some pollsters are starting to consider these sorts of things symptomatic of what they term symbolic belief, which seems to be kind of what the Less Wrong sequences call Professing and Cheering or Belief As Attire. Basically, people are being emotivists rather than realists about belief. “Obama is the Anti-Christ” is another way of just saying “Boo Obama!”, rather than expressing some sort of proposition about the world.

And the same is true of “Obama is a Muslim” or “Obama was not born in America”.

Symbolic Belief
by Julian Sanchez

The classic case of a “symbolic belief” is what Orwell dubbed “doublethink”: propositions you profess publicly, maybe even sincerely believe you believe, even while, on another level, there’s some part of you that knows better, so that the false belief doesn’t actually get you into practical trouble. Pseudobeliefs may serve any number of functions; I’m using the phrase “symbolic belief” for the ones that either work as a public expression of some associated attitude, or play some role in defining the holder’s self-conception. In a post from last week, a commenter pointed out that there really are vegetarians and vegans, especially in certain punk scenes, who purport to believe that animals are not only morally equal to, but perhaps even morally superior to human beings. As he also pointed out, though, none of them really act as though they believe anything of the sort. Now, you might say that we already have a word for this: Hypocrisy. But I think it’s worth preserving a separate term here, because we usually use that term for people who specifically promote standards of behavior that they either consciously don’t really hold or do hold but are just incapable of adhering to (from weakness of will or whatever), and conceal this inability out of shame or fear. Symbolic beliefs, as I’m conceiving of them, are “sincere”—in that the person holding them probably isn’t consciously or reflexively aware that they’re false, but also shallow, insofar as a subconscious lack of commitment to the truth of the belief renders it behaviorally inert. For those who aren’t hardcore birthers, I’d hazard that the real meaning of professing either uncertainty or positive disbelief in the claim that he was born in the U.S. is something like: “I consider Obama phony, dishonest, and un-American.” It’s not, I hasten to say, that they really believe, deep-down, that Obama was born in Hawaii. It’s more that—as with H.G. Frankfurt’s definition of “bullshit”—the literal truth or falsity of the proposition is a matter of indifference; it’s not really the point.

Ideological Realignment and the Primacy of Symbolic Ideology
by John Camobreco

Over the last several decades, scholars have noted a strengthening link between ideology and party identification among the public, but the causal direction of this phenomenon remains contested. The ideological realignment thesis holds that ideology now strongly influences party identification, but this position conflicts with literature suggesting that party identification remains the primary causal force behind most important political attitudes. This study examines the causal forces at work between ideology and party identification by focusing on the distinction between symbolic and operational ideology. The methodology involves the use of panel data that span several decades, and structural equation modeling. The findings indicate that between 1982 and 1997, symbolic ideology had a strong influence party identification, but operational ideology had little effect on party identification. The results suggest an important revision to the ideological realignment thesis, as the evidence indicates that symbolic ideology has been the primary force driving realignment.

Why most conservatives are secretly liberals
by John Sides

Looked at this way, almost 30 percent of Americans are “consistent liberals” — people who call themselves liberals and have liberal politics. Only 15 percent are “consistent conservatives” — people who call themselves conservative and have conservative politics. Nearly 30 percent are people who identify as conservative but actually express liberal views. The United States appears to be a center-right nation in name only.

This raises the question: why are so many people identifying as conservative while simultaneously preferring more government? For some conservatives, it is because they associate the label with religion, culture or lifestyle. In essence, when they identify as “conservative,” they are thinking about conservatism in terms of family structure, raising children, or interpreting the Bible. Conservatism is about their personal lives, not their politics.

But other self-identified conservatives, though, are conservative in terms of neither religion and culture nor the size of government. These are the truly “conflicted conservatives,” say Ellis and Stimson, who locate their origins in a different factor: how conservatives and liberals have traditionally talked about politics. Conservatives, they argue, talk about politics in terms of symbols and the general value of “conservatism” — and news coverage, they find, usually frames the label “conservative” in positive terms. Liberals talk about policy in terms of the goals it will serve — a cleaner environment, a stronger safety net, and so on — which are also good things for many people. As a result, some people internalize both messages and end up calling themselves conservative but having liberal views on policy.

Ideology has two faces: the labels people choose and the actual content of their beliefs. For liberals, these are mostly aligned. For conservatives, they are not.

Are Many Conservatives Really Liberals?
by Ron Chusid

Polls have generally showed self-identified conservatives outnumbering liberals, with a recent slight increase in the number of liberals. I have often speculated that this is largely due to the success the right wing noise machine has had in demonizing the word liberal. Americans come out more liberal than would be expected by these poll findings when we look at individual issues.

While the pendulum swings both ways, the trend has been toward more liberal policies over the years. Most people wouldn’t think of returning to the days of child labor. Medicare and Social Security are deeply entrenched, to the point that even when Republicans vote for ending Medicare as we know it they realize they have to hide what they are doing. Recent polls show increases in the number of people who support legalization of same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana. A majority even supports the individual components of Obamacare when asked without identifying the policy as Obamacare. […]

This idea that nearly 30 percent of self-identified conservative are really liberals would explain the increased support for liberal positions despite a majority identifying themselves as conservatives.

Ideological Labels in America
Claassen, Tucker, & Smith

Labeling Issue Positions

[…] The general pattern is not surprising. Symbolic ideology is correlated with the most commonly chosen label for issue positions.

A closer look shows important asymmetries. Across all issues, symbolic conservatives are always more likely to label their positions as conservative than anything else, even when an analyst would label many of those issue positions liberal or moderate. Moreover, symbolic conservatives use the conservative label for their issue positions far more frequently than symbolic liberals use the liberal label for theirs. For symbolic liberals, the moderate label is chosen by a plurality on 10 of the 13 issues. On only one issue, support for gay marriage, does a clear majority of liberals label their position as liberal.

The pattern of labeled issue positions among symbolic liberals is not consistent
with the Ellis-Stimson narrative. In that account, liberals’ unconflicted liberals’
ideological commitments and ideological sophistication allow them to apply the liberal label with ease. In fact, while liberals apply the general label to themselves, they do not embrace the term for many of their issue positions and instead more often choose the moderate label.

As one would expect, a plurality of symbolic moderates used the moderate label to describe their policy preferences—with the exception of social security, where slightly more described their position as “none of these.” For eight of the 13 issues, more moderates described their positions as conservative than liberal. The “none of these” option was chosen by 20-30 percent of moderates across the 13 issues. These results are consistent with research that describes moderates, on average, as less political than liberals or conservatives.

Plainly, the mismatch between symbolic ideology and issue position labels is common and is not limited to conservatives. In fact, the avoidance of the liberal label extends to symbolic liberals, which is consistent with the long-standing argument that the label has negative connotations. It may illustrate that the importance of the framing pathway described by Ellis and Stimson and, in doing so, raises a question of about how much framing accounts for conflicted conservatives for whom Ellis and Stimson emphasize the extra-political sources of ideological identity.

Mismatches between Issue Positions and Their Labels

For some of the most popular causes—such as spending on education—positions (and symbolic ideology) show a weak relationship to issue position labels. In the case of education spending, nearly half of symbolic conservatives considered opposing a cut in education spending to be a conservative position. More than ninety percent of liberals opposed this same cut in education spending, but only about one-third call this view liberal, with most liberals calling it a moderate position.

Mismatches are most common for issues on which there is a consensus view. In fact, across the 13 issues, there is an important correlation between the size of the issue position plurality and the frequency of mismatches between issue positions and issue position labels. For symbolic conservatives, the correlation is -0.81—more popular causes create more mismatches (liberal positions labeled conservative) for conservatives. For symbolic liberals, the size of the plurality and labeling liberal positions as conservative has a correlation of -0.71.

Consistent with findings about mismatches between symbolic ideology and issue positions, we find that mismatches for issue positions and their labels occur more often in the form of labeling liberal positions conservative than in labeling conservative positions liberal. More than 30 percent of labeling responses associated the conservative label with liberal positions, while only about 20 percent associated the liberal label with conservative positions.

* * *

Warmongering Politicians & Progressive Public
Public Opinion On Government & Tea Party
Public Opinion on Tax Cuts for the Rich
Most Oppose Cutting Social Security (data)
Claims of US Becoming Pro-Life
The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1 & Part 2

Sea Change of Public Opinion: Libertarianism, Progressivism & Socialism

Pew had a poll from a couple years ago that I missed. If you look at the broad public opinion, it looks like the same old same old. Most Americans have a more favorable opinion of capitalism than socialism. They also have a more favorable opinion of conservatism than liberalism. But it’s always in the details where it gets interesting. The cracks are beginning to show in the Cold War edifice.

More Americans have a positive opinion of progressivism, significantly more than their opinion of conservatism. As many have noted, progressivism has basically become the label for those who like liberalism but are afraid of the negative connotations of the word itself. There isn’t a vast difference between what liberals support and what progressives support.

Even most Republicans give a positive response toward progressivism. This probably relates as well to why many people who self-identify as conservatives will support many traditionally liberal positions. These positions back in the Progressive Era used to be called progressive. Americans strongly support them. That is the true Silent Majority or rather Silenced Majority.

US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism

So, if most Americans are actually conservative and the Democratic Party is actually liberal, then why does the Democratic Party have higher positive ratings than the Republican Party for more than a decade? Either Americans aren’t so conservative or the Democratic Party isn’t so liberal. I’d argue it’s both.

If Americans are so conservative, then why do they have a decently positive feeling rating toward what they perceive as ‘liberals’? The positive feelings for liberals hasn’t dropped below 50 in several decades. That ain’t too shabby for a supposedly conservative population. […]

The key values of the ideological divide are the basis of the key issues of society and politics. As such, determining the key issues is important in distinguishing liberalism vs conservatism in the American population. Key issues are important because they are the wedge issues that decide elections. What is telling to my mind is that it’s specifically the key issues of American politics that have been strongly moving leftward. I would conclude two things. First, the majority of Americans are definitely not right-leaning in any clear sense and there isn’t any evidence that the center of public opinion is shifting rightward. Second, however one might add up all the various issues, the majority of Americans are progressively liberal or becoming more progressively liberal on many if not most of the key issues.

Non-Identifying Environmentalists And Liberals

According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans identifying as environmentalists is about half of what it was a quarter century ago, when I was a young teenager. Yet the other polls show that Americans are more concerned with environmental issues than ever before.

This is similar to how fewer Americans identify as liberal precisely during this time when polls showing majority of Americans hold liberal positions on diverse issues. Older labels have lost their former meaning. They no longer resonate.

It isn’t as if Americans are becoming anti-environmentalist conservatives. Quite the opposite. It’s just that an increasing number of Americans, when given a choice, would rather identify as progressive, moderate, independent, or even socialist. In fact, the socialist label gets more favorable opinion than the Tea Party label, although libertarianism is gaining favor.

Young Americans are the most liberal of any age demographic, in terms of their politics. They are more liberal than even the supposed liberal class, despite the young not self-identifying as liberal. They are so liberal as to be leaning leftist.

Conservatives are mistaken when they put too much stock in ideological labels and too little stock in substance of views. Their confusion is understandable. Many pollsters have had a hard time keeping up with changing labels, not initially realizing they needed to offer choices beyond the standard binary of liberal or conservative.

Environmentalist Majority

I keep coming back to corporatist politics, centered in Washington and Wall Street, and the corporate media that reports on it. This is what gets called ‘mainstream’. But the reality is that the ideological worldview of concentrated wealth and power is skewed far right compared to the general public, AKA the citizenry… ya know, We the People.

Most Americans are surprisingly far to the left of the plutocratic and kleptocratic establishment. Most Americans support left-wing healthcare reform (single payer or public option), maintaining the Roe vs Wade decision, stronger gun regulations (including among most NRA members), more emphasis on rehabilitation than punishment of criminals, drug legalization or decriminalization, etc. They are definitely to the left of Clinton New Democrats with their corporatist alliance between neoliberalism and neoconservatism. Hillary Clinton, for example, has long had ties to heavily polluting big energy corporations.

Maybe it’s unsurprising to learn that the American public, both left and right, is also to the left on the issue of climate change and global warming. This isn’t the first time I’ve brought up issue of environmentalism and public opinion. Labels don’t mean what they used to, which adds to the confusion. But when you dig down into the actual issues themselves, public opinion becomes irrefutably clear. Even though few look closely at polls and surveys, the awareness of this is slowly trickling out. We might be finally reaching a breaking point in this emerging awareness. The most politicized issues of our time show that the American public supports leftist policies. This includes maybe the most politicized of all issues, climate change and global warming.

Yet as the American public steadily marches to the left, the Republican establishment uses big money to push the ‘mainstream’ toward right-wing extremism and the Democrats pretend that their conservatism represents moderate centrism. The tension can’t be maintained without ripping the country apart. We can only hope that recent events will prove to have been a wake up call, that maybe the majority of Americans are finally realizing they are the majority, not just silent but silenced.

Wirthlin Effect & Symbolic Conservatism

[…] from the book Whose Freedom? by George Lakoff (pp. 252-253): […]

It is not that positions on issues don’t matter. They do. But they tend to be symbolic of values, identity, and character, rather than being of primary import in themselves. For example, if you identify yourself essentially as the mother or father in a strict father family, you may well be threatened by gay marriage, which is inconsistent with a strict father morality . For this reason, someone in the Midwest who has never even met anyone gay could have his or her deepest identity threatened by gay marriage. The issue is symbolic, not literal, and symbolism is powerful in politics.

[…T]he general idea presented by Lakoff wasn’t new to me. I’d come across this in a different context (from a paper, Political Ideology: Its Structure, Functions, and Elective Affinity, by Jost, Federico, and Napier) and have mentioned it many times (e.g., What Does Liberal Bias Mean?):

Since the time of the pioneering work of Free & Cantril (1967), scholars of public opinion have distinguished between symbolic and operational aspects of political ideology (Page & Shapiro 1992, Stimson 2004). According to this terminology, “symbolic” refers to general, abstract ideological labels, images, and categories, including acts of self-identification with the left or right. “Operational” ideology, by contrast, refers to more specific, concrete, issue-based opinions that may also be classified by observers as either left or right. Although this distinction may seem purely academic, evidence suggests that symbolic and operational forms of ideology do not coincide for many citizens of mass democracies. For example, Free & Cantril (1967) observed that many Americans were simultaneously “philosophical conservatives” and “operational liberals,” opposing “big government” in the abstract but supporting the individual programs comprising the New Deal welfare and regulatory state. More recent studies have obtained impressively similar results; Stimson (2004) found that more than two-thirds of American respondents who identify as symbolic conservatives are operational liberals with respect to the issues (see also Page & Shapiro 1992, Zaller 1992). However, rather than demonstrating that ideological belief systems are multidimensional in the sense of being irreducible to a single left-right continuum, these results indicate that, in the United States at least, leftist/liberal ideas are more popular when they are manifested in specific, concrete policy solutions than when they are offered as ideological abstractions. The notion that most people like to think of themselves as conservative despite the fact that they hold a number of liberal opinions on specific issues is broadly consistent with system-justification theory, which suggests that most people are motivated to look favorably upon the status quo in general and to reject major challenges to it (Jost et al. 2004a).

[…] The conservative elites, or at least their advisors, fully understood decades ago that most Americans didn’t agree with them on the issues. Nonetheless, most Americans continue to identify as conservative when given a forced choice (i.e., when ‘moderate’ or ‘independent’ aren’t given as an option).

It makes one wonder what exactly “symbolic conservatism” represents or what people think it represents. Reagan often stood in front of patriotic symbols during speeches and photo-ops. Look back at images of Reagan and you’ll find in the background such things as flags and the Statue of Liberty. Ignoring the issue of “true conservatism”, this symbolic conservatism seems to have little in the way of tangible substance, heavy on the signifier while being light on the signified.

[…] To look at the issues is to consider how values are expressed in the real world. What does it mean that many Americans agree with the symbolic values of conservatism while disagreeing with the actual enactment of those values in policies? What are Americans perceiving in the patriotic and pseudo-libertarian jingoism of the GOP or whatever it is? And why is that this perception appears to be so disconnected from reality on the ground, disconnected the reality of Americans’ daily lives and their communities?

[…] Most importantly, take note that the American public isn’t actually polarized, not even between the North and South — as Bob Moser explained in Blue Dixie (Kindle Locations 126-136):

[…] But the widespread notion that the South is one-party territory ignores some powerful evidence to the contrary. For one thing, more Southerners identify as Democrats than Republicans. For another: more Democrats win state and local elections in the South than Republicans. The parity between the parties was neatly symbolized by the total numbers of state legislators in the former Confederate states after the 2004 elections: 891 Republicans, 891 Democrats. The South is many things, not all of them flattering. But it is not politically “solid.”

[…] So, yes, there is something weird going on here with the American public. Is this confusion artificially created? Is the public being manipulated by politicians who know the American public better than the American public knows themselves? Apparently not, as Alex Preen explained on Salon.com:

According to a working paper from two political scientists who interviewed 2,000 state legislative candidates last year, politicians all think Americans are more conservative than they actually are.

The research found that this was as true for Democratic politicians. All politicians across the board were equally clueless about and disconnected from those they claim to represent. This is why it isn’t a partisan issue. It is a bipartisan ignorance.

Polarizing Effect of Perceived Polarization

In reality, most Americans agree more about most issues than they disagree. But it depends on how you frame it.

If you make Americans choose between the labels of liberal and conservative, most people of course will pick one of them and the public will be divided. You can use that to frame questions and so prime people to give polarized answers. But the fact of the matter is that if you give people another option such as independent, most won’t choose either liberal or conservative.

If you only give Americans two viable political party choices, many will consistently choose candidates of the same party from election to election. But most Americans identify as independents and would prefer having other choices. Consider the fact that some of the voters that helped Republican Trump win were supporters of Democratic Sanders. Few people are ideological partisans. That is because few people think in ideological terms.

Consider specific issues.

If you give people a forced choice question about whether they are for or against tough-on-crime policies, polarization in public opinion is the inevitable result. But if you ask people about crime prevention and rehabilitation, most would prefer that. The thing is few polls ever give people the full, accurate info about the available choices. The framing of the questions leads people to answer in a particular way.

That is because those asking the questions are typically more polarized and so they have an self-interest in finding polarized answers (in order to confirm their own biases and worldview), even if their motivations are unconscious. The corporate media also likes to frame everything in polarized terms, even when it isn’t the best framing, because it offers a simplistic narrative (i.e., entertainment news) that sells advertising.

If you give people a forced choice question about whether they support pro-choice or pro-life, you will get a polarized response from the public. But if you ask people if they are for both women’s rights and abortion limits, you’ll find most Americans support both simultaneously. And if you ask people if they want to decrease abortions, you’ll find almost everyone wants to decrease abortions. It’s just people see different ways of decreasing abortions.

Most pro-choicers aren’t for increasing abortions (i.e., killing babies). And most pro-lifers aren’t for taking women’s rights away (i.e., theocratic authoritarianism). It’s just they see different policies as being more effective in achieving what pro-lifers claim to support. The two sides at worst disagree about methods, not goals or necessarily even fundamental values. Isn’t it interesting that so many pro-lifers support a women’s right to choose, depending on how the question is framed?

If you give people a forced choice question about whether or not they support same sex marriage, you get an almost evenly divided polarization of public opinion, with an ever so sleight majority toward support. But if polling is done differently, it is shown that the vast majority is tolerant of or indifferent toward this issue. People simply don’t care who marries whom, unless you intentionally frame it as a liberal agenda to use the government to promote gay marriage and force it onto the public. Framed as an issue of personal right of choice, most Americans are perfectly fine with individuals being allowed to make their own decisions. Even the average conservative doesn’t want to force their political views onto others, no matter what is asserted by the polarized GOP establishment and partisans who are reactionaries, authoritarians and social dominance orientation types.

If you give people a forced choice question about whether they support gun rights or gun regulations, you will get what appears to be polarization. But if you give them a third choice of supporting both stronger gun rights and more effective gun regulations, most will take that third option. That is even true with NRA members who disagree with ideologically polarized NRA leadership. And it is also true of liberals, a demographic shown to have surprisingly high rates of guns in the household.

Liberalism: Label vs Reality (analysis of data)

http://www.people-press.org/files/2011/05/Political-Typology-Detailed-Tables.pdf

In the 2005 Pew poll, the demographic was just called ‘Liberals’. In this 2011 Pew poll, the demographic is called ‘Solid Liberals’. So, I don’t know if it is speaking about the exact same demographic segment of the population. Pew changes the demographic groupings as the data changes. In the new ‘Solid Liberals’ demographic there is only 23% Independents whereas in the previous ‘Liberals’ demographic there was almost 1/2 Independents. Of those Indpendents, they didn’t ask how many self-identified as liberal or something else. Among ‘Solid Liberals’ in general, only 60% self-identified as ‘liberal’ while 31% self-identified as ‘moderate’ and 9% self-identified as ‘conservative’.

What does ‘liberal’ even mean when slightly less than 1/2 of supposed ‘liberals’ don’t self-identify as ‘liberal’? This goes to the heart of the American public’s confusion about ideologies and labels. Given a choice between the two, most Americans self-identify as ‘conservative’. However, when asked about specific issues, most Americans support many liberal positions on key issues. […]

http://www.opednews.com/Diary/More-Americans-Self-Identi-by-Thomas-Farrell-110301-401.html

“But the Gallup survey of self-identification of ideology shows that more Americans self-identify as moderates and liberals than as conservatives. Most Americans do not self-identify as conservatives.”

Given a choice between the three, the data I’ve seen shows most Americans self-identify as moderates. So, what is a moderate? They are essentially those who tend toward centrism or at least away from the extreme wings. Considering that, where is the center in American politics? […]

I was looking further at the Pew data. There is another interesting group: Post-Moderns. They are considered Independents and they are the only group to have the majority self-identify as moderates. One would assume, therefore, that they wouldn’t have any bias toward either party. But one would be wrong in that assumption.

Post-Moderns are 62% Independents, 26% Democrats and 2% Republicans. Of the Independents, 19% has no lean, 58% lean to the Democratic Party and 23% lean to the Republican Party. They favor Democrats over Republicans on almost every question, including reelecting Obama. Also, they listen to Fox News less than the average Democrat and listen to NPR at almost the same rate as the average Democrat. They are second only to Solid Liberals in their reading of The New York Times and their watching the Daily Show. They generally seem closest to Solid Liberals on most issues. They are strongly socially liberal. They have the strongest, although qualified, support of the government. They’d prefer it to be smaller, but they see a role for government in many social issues.

Post-Moderns are the only demographic with a majority of moderates which means they are the clearest indicator we have about where the center is right now in US politics. These moderates are more liberal than not. So, the majority of Post-Moderns identifies as moderate even as the majority also supports many liberal positions and policies.

– – –

Here is the reason why the Democratic Party has never been controlled by liberals and especially not by left-wingers.

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/bob-burnett/37872/one-two-three-what-are-liberals-fighting-for

“The Pew Research poll notes a fundamental difference between “solid Liberals” and the other two groups that lean Democratic — “Hard-pressed Democrats” and “New coalition Democrats”: “both of these last two groups are highly religious and socially conservative.” To the extent that cultural issues — such as abortion and homosexuality — dominate political discourse, these groups can be peeled away from the Democratic bloc to vote Republican. In his classic, What’s the Matter With Kansas? journalist Tom Frank detailed how Republicans redirect economic discontent to explosive cultural issues. In 2012, “moral purity” will be a major Republican theme — particularly if messianic Texas Governor Rick Perry becomes the GOP candidate. The Liberal challenge is to ensure that jobs and economic fairness become the dominant political themes, not “How can we make the US a Christian nation?””

– – –

Here is some data from 2004 which I suspect might be even more true in 2011. The article notes that in 2000 the Independents were evenly split between the two parties but by 2004 they were leaning Democratic and liberal. If this is a trend that fits the other leftward trends, this will continue into the near future as OWS seems to demonstrate.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4021/is_3_26/ai_114558708/

“The bad news for conservatives is that a majority of independents line up on the liberal-to-moderate side of the ideological spectrum. Twenty-one percent of independents in the Zogby poll described themselves as liberal or progressive, while 37 percent called themselves moderates. In contrast, 30 percent of independents describe their politics as conservative, with only 4 percent calling themselves “very conservative” or libertarian.

“Zogby asserts that the polls indicate independents are trending more liberal in this election year as opposed to 2000. For example, fully 70 percent of independents believe the federal government should play a major role in protecting the environment, a traditionally Democratic concern. “The environment is a Democratic ace in the hole this year,” Zogby says.

“Meanwhile, 82 percent of independents want the federal government to play a major role in protecting individual freedom, suggesting a backlash against the Patriot Act and other attempts by the Bush administration to change the traditional balance between national security and individual liberty. Sixty-two percent feel the government should help ensure that all citizens have economic opportunities, while 60 percent want a dominant role by the federal government in providing social programs to help the needy.

“The liberal bias of independents contrasts sharply with the other elections in which their vote has proved critical. In the 1980 election, blue-collar workers deserted Jimmy Carter and the Democrats to vote Ronald Reagan into office. And in the 1990s, Bill Clinton infuriated traditional liberals but won the presidency twice by appealing to the socially moderate, fiscally conservative instincts of suburban soccer moms. Third party candidates – John Anderson in 1980, Ross Perot in 1992 and Ralph Nader in 2000 – attracted disaffected voters who saw no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.” […]

Considering all of this, it blows my mind that 9% of so-called ‘Solid Liberals’ self-identify as ‘conservative’. Pew defines ‘Solid Liberals’ as being liberal across the board, fiscally and socially liberal on most if not all issues. Essentially, ‘Solid Liberals’ are as liberal as you can be without becoming an outright communist.

How on God’s green earth could such a person ever be so confused as to think they are a conservative? What do these 9% of conservative ‘Solid Liberals’ think that ‘conservative’ means? What kind of conservatism can include liberalism to such an extent? What could possibly be subjectively experienced as conservative despite appearing liberal by all objective measures?

Consider the seemingly opposite Pew demographic which is labeled ‘Staunch Conservatives’ (basically, conservative across the board). Are there 9% of ‘Staunch Conservatives’ who self-identify as ‘liberal’? Of course not, although interestingly 3% do.

Compare also how many self-identify as ‘moderate’: 31% of ‘Solid Liberals’ identify as moderate and only 8% of ‘Staunch Conservatives’ identify as moderate. ‘Staunch Conservatives’ are as partisan as they come with %100 that lean Republican (0% that lean Democratic, 0% with no lean). On the other hand, ‘Solid Liberals’ have 1% who lean Republican and 3% with no lean; that might seem like minor percentages but that means 1 in 100 ‘Solid Liberals’ are drawn toward the Republican Party and 3 in 100 are genuinely independent.

As our options dwindle down…

Some want to argue that we have a functioning democracy because we have the outward forms of democracy. We can protest in the street, vote, etc. But then why does it rarely lead to democratic results, specifically at the Federal level? And why is there so little ability for the public to force transparency and accountability?

It’s because those forms are separate from the actual seat of power. The two party system and corporate media is controlled by oligarchs. They use public perception management (AKA propaganda), backroom deals, cronyism, revolving door politics (e.g., politicians becoming lobbyists), regulatory takeover, and a thousand other kinds of anti-democratic tactics. They use these to determine who we are allowed to vote for and what those people can do while in office.

This system is so well entrenched that is protected from the voting public. But it isn’t just the government. Polls show that union leadership advocate for positions and support politicians that union membership often doesn’t support. The same thing is seen with organizations like the NRA, a divide between those who control those organizations and the members.

Of course, the leadership of these organizations have close ties to the two party system that controls the government. So, these organizations can’t be used by the public to exert influence on politicians. They are part of the social control. No amount of petitions or protests can change this. Present strategies of activism and attempts of reform have been failing for longer than I’ve been alive.

If what you are doing has been proven not to accomplish what you claim to want, then what do you do? You either lower your expectations by making excuses or you try something new.

We have two options left to us. The first is a constitutional convention. But the first constitutional convention more than a couple of centuries ago was taken over by powerful (pseudo-)Federalists who, unconstitutionally according to the first constitution (The Articles of Confederation), forced through an anti-democratic document to ensure their rule. Powerful forces would attempt to do the same thing with another constitutional convention. So, if that fails, that leaves only one option left. That is revolution, whether peaceful or not.

As our options dwindle down, our choice of action becomes simplified. The only question remaining is do we have the moral vision and moral courage to take action. It is up to the oligarchs about whether or not they want to push us to the edge, seeing how far we can be pushed before we simply go over. But as we find ourselves teetering on the edge, what do the rest of us do, We the People?

As citizens of the United States, here is something to keep in mind. Fool the American public once, shame on the oligarchs. Fool the American public a thousand times, that is the shame of our entire society. We’ve been played for fools and we’ve acted accordingly. Let’s take this as a lesson learned the hard way. So, what do we do now? The first step might be learning to make important distinctions.

Pseudo-democracy is to democracy as truthiness is to truth. The spectacle of pseudo-democracy gives us the appearance of democracy to absolve the public’s sense of failure and guilt. The public can say that, well, at least I voted, joined the union, protested, signed a petition, volunteered for a campaign, etc. It allows small impotent acts in order to avoid the possibility of actions that would make a difference.

If we want actual functioning democracy, it is our collective responsibility. We have to act outside of the anti-democratic system. That would require creating a new parallel system that acts independently. We need to create our own separate government, not unlike what the American colonists did when they turned revolutionary, and then put so much public support and power behind it that it can’t be denied. We’ve waited long enough for the oligarchs to do the right thing. It’s now in our hands.

All of that is easier said than done. But it is either that or we continue our decline. As always, it’s a choice to be made.

More Metaphors of Madness

I first likened being a US citizen to being run over by a car. I then used a simple comparison to describe the prospective presidencies in terms of the boiling frog scenario. Here are three more metaphors for your cynical amusement.

This one is a more detailed metaphor for the candidates this campaign season:

The body politic is ailing. Hillary Clinton is a symptom of the corruption that has compromised the immune system. Trump is a secondary illness like pneumonia that is potentially life threatening.

The secondary illness wouldn’t be dangerous if the immune system wasn’t already compromised and the patient were willing to seek medical treatment. But for some reason the ailing patient refuses to go to the doctor who is Sanders.

The mainstream media is the hospice worker administering pain drugs that puts the patient to sleep, as death nears. Then the patient’s eyes open and rallies some strength asking for something in a voice too quiet to understand, either asking for the doctor or Jesus.

Is all hope lost? Or can the patient still be saved?

The next metaphor is me being plain silly:

Clinton is a monkey in a banana experiment. The monkey’s hand is stuck in the hole, unable to get the banana out and unwilling to let go of the banana.

Sanders is the scientist observing the monkey and taking notes. The scientist goes on lunch break so as to eat his banana and peanut butter sandwich that he made himself.

Meanwhile, Trump is a banana plantation tycoon. He is inquiring about buying the laboratory where the experiment is happening, as he thinks that further banana research might be good for banana profits. He is also inquiring about maybe even buying an entire banana republic while he is at it.

The voting public sees a news report about the ongoing research. It makes them hungry for a banana.

And the best metaphor saved for last:

This campaign season is “Monte Python and the Holy Grail.” Clinton is King Arthur. The mainstream media is the guy following along making clopping noises with coconut shells. Trump is the Frenchman taunting King Arthur and his entourage. Sanders is the peasant complaining that he never voted for King Arthur. The voting public is the killer bunny.

That should clear everything up for you. I’m glad to be of service.

Seeing What Is, Imagining What Might Be

“The politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of.”
~ Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party

This is how future generations will think about this era. It will be remembered as an age of endless fear-mongering and self-defeating lesser-evilism. It will be described as the time when the Democrats became the party of mainstream conservatism and Republicans became the party of right-wing populism, reactionary lite and reactionary full flavor.

Historians will point to this odd moment of the 2016 election when the main Republican candidate, Donald Trump, had a mixed up campaign platform—sometimes campaigning on positions far to the left of of the establishment Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. For example, there is Trump’s support of universal healthcare. The only other candidate supporting it is the supposed ‘socialist’ Bernie Sanders whose support of such things, the establishment Democrats claim, is why he isn’t ‘electable’—despite most Americans also supporting universal healthcare.

Sanders is the most trusted and well liked candidate. Comparing his positions to public polling, it is obvious he represents majority public opinion. He is the only moderate candidate running for the presidency, not even close to being as far left as old school Democrats like Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yet present establishment Democrats and the mainstream media mischaracterize him as a ‘radical’.

We live in strange times. We are watching a campaign season where a large number of supposed ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ in the Democratic party are fighting against strong positions on liberal and progressive policies. The political left doesn’t need an enemy party when they have the Democrats to rig the political process and undermine any hope of a functioning democracy. We have an anti-democratic Democratic party—just think about that. The sad irony of it is mind-numbing.

I have lost faith in the political system, to say the least. Like so many others.

Research shows that the political elite of both parties are disconnected from and unresponsive to the vast majority of Americans. The political elite even ignore the middle class, which makes it all the more sad how the middle class betrays the lower class majority by sucking up to the political elite in being good soldiers in partisan politics. Class war trumps all else, and even for Democrats class war is mired in a legacy of racism (e.g., the decades of dog whistle politics from the Clinton New Democrats).

I want to make clear, though, that I haven’t lost faith in the American public, even as the public has lost faith in America. For one, there isn’t much of a public to speak of, as we are so divided and disconnected from one another. Second, I really don’t see the majority as having many realistic options available to them. The political system is so controlled and the MSM so propagandistic. The only way the citizenry could force change is by taking to the streets and threatening revolution, but that is a major step to take. Most people would like to believe there is still hope for reform within the system, no matter how all attempts at reform have continuously failed.

If we had a functioning democracy that engaged and inspired, that represented and was responsive to voters. If majority public opinion mattered and politicians weren’t corrupt. If there was an effective education system and news media that led to an informed public. If the Democratic party was actually democratic and the Republican party actually republican. If there was a genuine progressive liberal movement and a genuine libertarian conservative movement. If all of this, then we’d be living in a very different country and we’d have very different kinds of elections.

In that case, past elections would have pitted those like Ralph Nader and Ron Paul as the two main party candidates, along with some viable third party candidates having forced wide spectrum of public debate. And, in that case, the present campaign season would have entirely excluded heavily disliked and mistrusted candidates such as Clinton and Trump—instead, the main competition would be between moderates like Sanders and principled challengers like Jill Stein.

That is what a functioning democracy would look like. Such a world wouldn’t have endless obstructionism and corruption. Imagine it. Imagine a world of continuous progress where every generation had a better life than the last, where instead of cynicism and defeatism most people felt engaged and hopeful. Imagine a political system that instead of demoralizing with lesser evilism inspired with the greater good. Imagine such a basic thing as a government that the American people trusted.

Simply put, imagine if we actually had democracy. Not just the rhetoric and appearances of democracy but the real thing. And not just a democratic government but a democratic society and economy, democratic in all ways and at all levels. Just plain democracy.

Imagine… a new era.

Views of the Self

A Rant: The Brief Discussion of the Birth of An Error
by Skepoet2

Collectivism vs. Individualism is the primary and fundamental misreading of human self-formation out of the Enlightenment and picking sides in that dumb-ass binary has been the primary driver of bad politics left and right for the last 250 years.

The Culture Wars of the Late Renaissance: Skeptics, Libertines, and Opera
by Edward Muir
Kindle Locations 80-95

One of the most disturbing sources of late-Renaissance anxiety was the collapse of the traditional hierarchic notion of the human self. Ancient and medieval thought depicted reason as governing the lower faculties of the will, the passions, sions, and the body. Renaissance thought did not so much promote “individualism” as it cut away the intellectual props that presented humanity as the embodiment of a single divine vine idea, thereby forcing a desperate search for identity in many. John Martin has argued that during the Renaissance, individuals formed their sense of selfhood through a difficult negotiation between inner promptings and outer social roles. Individuals during the Renaissance looked both inward for emotional sustenance and outward for social assurance, and the friction between the inner and outer selves could sharpen anxieties 2 The fragmentation of the self seems to have been especially acute in Venice, where the collapse of aristocratic marriage structures led to the formation of what Virginia Cox has called the single self, most clearly manifest in the works of several women writers who argued for the moral and intellectual equality of women with men.’ As a consequence quence of the fragmented understanding of the self, such thinkers as Montaigne became obsessed with what was then the new concept of human psychology, a term in fact coined in this period.4 A crucial problem in the new psychology was to define the relation between the body and the soul, in particular ticular to determine whether the soul died with the body or was immortal. With its tradition of Averroist readings of Aristotle, some members of the philosophy faculty at the University of Padua recurrently questioned the Christian tian doctrine of the immortality of the soul as unsound philosophically. Other hierarchies of the human self came into question. Once reason was dethroned, the passions were given a higher value, so that the heart could be understood as a greater force than the mind in determining human conduct. duct. When the body itself slipped out of its long-despised position, the sexual drives of the lower body were liberated and thinkers were allowed to consider sex, independent of its role in reproduction, a worthy manifestation of nature. The Paduan philosopher Cesare Cremonini’s personal motto, “Intus ut libet, foris ut moris est,” does not quite translate to “If it feels good, do it;” but it comes very close. The collapse of the hierarchies of human psychology even altered the understanding derstanding of the human senses. The sense of sight lost its primacy as the superior faculty, the source of “enlightenment”; the Venetian theorists of opera gave that place in the hierarchy to the sense of hearing, the faculty that most directly channeled sensory impressions to the heart and passions.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
by Neil Postman

That does not say much unless one connects it to the more important idea that form will determine the nature of content. For those readers who may believe that this idea is too “McLuhanesque” for their taste, I offer Karl Marx from The German Ideology. “Is the Iliad possible,” he asks rhetorically, “when the printing press and even printing machines exist? Is it not inevitable that with the emergence of the press, the singing and the telling and the muse cease; that is, the conditions necessary for epic poetry disappear?”

Meta-Theory
by bcooney

When I read Jaynes’s book for the first time last year I was struck by the opportunities his theory affords for marrying materialism to psychology, linguistics, and philosophy. The idea that mentality is dependent on social relations, that power structures in society are related to the structure of mentality and language, and the idea that we can only understand mentality historically and socially are all ideas that appeal to me as a historical materialist.

Consciousness: Breakdown Or Breakthrough?
by ignosympathnoramus

The “Alpha version” of consciousness involved memory having authority over the man, instead of the man having authority over his memory. Bicameral man could remember some powerful admonishment from his father, but he could not recall it at will. He experienced this recollection as an external event; namely a visitation from either his father or a god. It was a sort of third-person-perspective group-think where communication was not intentional or conscious but, just like our “blush response,” unconscious and betraying of our deepest being. You can see this in the older versions of the Iliad, where, for instance, we do not learn about Achilles’ suicidal impulse by his internal feelings, thoughts, or his speaking, but instead, by the empathic understanding of his friend. Do you have to “think” in order to empathize, or does it just come on its own, in a rush of feeling? Well, that used to be consciousness. Think about it, whether you watch your friend blush or you blush yourself, the experience is remarkably similar, and seems to be nearly third-person in orientation. What you are recognizing in your friend’s blush the Greeks would have recognized as possession by a god, but it is important to notice that you have no more control over it than the Greeks did. They all used the same name for the same god (emotion) and this led to a relatively stable way of viewing human volition, that is, until it came into contact with other cultures with other “gods.” When this happens, you either have war, or you have conversion. That is, unless you can develop an operating system better than Alpha. We have done so, but at the cost of making us all homeless or orphaned. How ironic that in the modern world the biggest problem is that there are entirely too many individuals in the world, and yet their biggest problem is somehow having too few people to give each individual the support and family-type-structure that humans need to feel secure and thrive. We simply don’t have a shared themis that would allow each of us to view the other as “another self,” to use Aristotle’s phrase, or if we do, we realize that “another self” means “another broken and lost orphan like me.” It is in the nature of self-consciousness to not trust yourself, to remain skeptical, to resist immediate impulse. You cannot order your Will if you simply trust it and cave to every inclination. However, this paranoia is hardly conducive to social trust or to loving another as if he were “another self,” for that would only amount to him being another system of forces that we have to interpret, organize or buffer ourselves from. How much easier it is to empathize and care about your fellow citizens when they are not individuals, but vehicles for the very same muses, daimons, and gods that animate you! The matter is rather a bit worse that this, though. Each child discovers and secures his “inner self” by the discovery of his ability to lie, which further undermines social trust!

Marx’s theory of human nature
by Wikipedia

Marx’s theory of human nature has an important place in his critique of capitalism, his conception of communism, and his ‘materialist conception of history’. Karl Marx, however, does not refer to “human nature” as such, but to Gattungswesen, which is generally translated as ‘species-being’ or ‘species-essence’. What Marx meant by this is that humans are capable of making or shaping their own nature to some extent. According to a note from the young Marx in the Manuscripts of 1844, the term is derived from Ludwig Feuerbach’s philosophy, in which it refers both to the nature of each human and of humanity as a whole.[1] However, in the sixth Thesis on Feuerbach (1845), Marx criticizes the traditional conception of “human nature” as “species” which incarnates itself in each individual, on behalf of a conception of human nature as formed by the totality of “social relations”. Thus, the whole of human nature is not understood, as in classical idealist philosophy, as permanent and universal: the species-being is always determined in a specific social and historical formation, with some aspects being biological.

The strange case of my personal marxism (archive 2012)
by Skepoet2

It is the production capacity within a community that allows a community to exist, but communities are more than their productive capacities and subjectivities are different from subjects. Therefore, it is best to think of the schema we have given societies in terms of integrated wholes, and societies are produced by their histories both ecological and cultural. The separation of ecological and the cultural are what Ken Wilber would call “right-hand” and “left-hand” distinctions: or, the empirical experience of what is outside of us but limits us–the subject here being collective–is and what is within us that limits us.

THE KOSMOS TRILOGY VOL. II: EXCERPT A
AN INTEGRAL AGE AT THE LEADING EDGE
by Ken Wilber

One of the easiest ways to get a sense of the important ideas that Marx was advancing is to look at more recent research (such as Lenski’s) on the relation of techno-economic modes of production (foraging, horticultural, herding, maritime, agrarian, industrial, informational) to cultural practices such as slavery, bride price, warfare, patrifocality, matrifocality, gender of prevailing deities, and so on. With frightening uniformity, similar techno-economic modes have similar probabilities of those cultural practices (showing just how strongly the particular probability waves are tetra-meshed).

For example, over 90% of societies that have female-only deities are horticultural societies. 97% of herding societies, on the other hand, are strongly patriarchal. 37% of foraging tribes have bride price, but 86% of advanced horticultural do. 58% of known foraging tribes engaged in frequent or intermittent warfare, but an astonishing 100% of simple horticultural did so.

The existence of slavery is perhaps most telling. Around 10% of foraging tribes have slavery, but 83% of advanced horticultural do. The only societal type to completely outlaw slavery was patriarchal industrial societies, 0% of which sanction slavery.

Who’s correct about human nature, the left or the right?
by Ed Rooksby

So what, if anything, is human nature? Marx provides a much richer account. He is often said to have argued that there is no such thing as human nature. This is not true. Though he did think that human behaviour was deeply informed by social environment, this is not to say that human nature does not exist. In fact it is our capacity to adapt and transform in terms of social practices and behaviours that makes us distinctive as a species and in which our specifically human nature is to be located.

For Marx, we are essentially creative and producing beings. It is not just that we produce for our means of survival, it is also that we engage in creative and productive activity over and above what is strictly necessary for survival and find fulfilment in this activity. This activity is inherently social – most of what we produce is produced collectively in some sense or another. In opposition to the individualist basis of liberal thought, then, we are fundamentally social creatures.

Indeed, for Marx, human consciousness and thus our very notion of individual identity is collectively generated. We become consciously aware of ourselves as a discrete entity only through language – and language is inherently inter-subjective; it is a social practice. What we think – including what we think about ourselves – is governed by what we do and what we do is always done socially and collectively. It is for this reason that Marx refers to our “species-being” – what we are can only be understood properly in social terms because what we are is a property and function of the human species as a whole.

Marx, then, has a fairly expansive view of human nature – it is in our nature to be creatively adaptable and for our understanding of what is normal in terms of behaviour to be shaped by the social relations around us. This is not to say that any social system is as preferable as any other. We are best able to flourish in conditions that allow us to express our sociability and creativity.

Marx’s Critique of Religion
by Cris Campbell

Alienated consciousness makes sense only in contrast to un-alienated consciousness. Marx’s conception of the latter, though somewhat vague, derives from his understanding of primitive communism. It is here that Marx’s debt to anthropology is most clear. In foraging or “primitive” societies, people are whole – they are un-alienated because resources are freely available and work directly transforms those resources into useable goods. This directness and immediateness – with no interventions or distortions between the resource, work, and result – makes for creative, fulfilled, and unified people. Society is, as a consequence, tightly bound. There are no class divisions which pit one person or group against another. Because social relations are always reflected back into people’s lives, unified societies make for unified individuals. People are not alienated they have direct, productive, and creative relationships with resources, work, things, and others. This communalism is, for Marx, most conducive to human happiness and well-being.

This unity is shattered when people begin claiming ownership of resources. Private property introduces division into formerly unified societies and classes develop. When this occurs people are no longer free to appropriate and produce as they please. Creativity and fulfillment is crushed when labor is separated from life and becomes an isolated commodity. Humans who labor for something other than their needs, or for someone else, become alienated from resources, work, things, and others. When these divided social relations are reflected back into peoples’ lives, the result is discord and disharmony. People, in other words, feel alienated. As economies develop and become more complex, life becomes progressively more specialized and splintered. The alienation becomes so intense that something is required to sooth it; otherwise, life becomes unbearable.

It is at this point (which anthropologists recognize as the Neolithic transition) that religion arises. But religion is not, Marx asserts, merely a soothing palliative – it also masks the economically and socially stratified conditions that cause alienation:

“Precisely as a consequence of man’s loss of spontaneous self-activity, religion arises as a compensatory mechanism for explaining what alienated man cannot explain and for promising him elsewhere what he cannot achieve here. Thus because man does not create himself through his productive labor, he supposes that he is created by a power beyond. Because man lacks power, he attributes power to something beyond himself. Like all forms of man’s self-alienation, religion displaces reality with illusion. The reason is that man, the alienated being, requires an ideology that will simultaneously conceal his situation from him and confer upon it significance. Religion is man’s oblique and doomed effort at humanization, a search for divine meaning in the face of human meaninglessness.”

Related posts from my blog:

Facing Shared Trauma and Seeking Hope

Society: Precarious or Persistent?

Plowing the Furrows of the Mind

Démos, The People

Making Gods, Making Individuals

On Being Strange

To Put the Rat Back in the Rat Park

Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park

Démos, The People

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
~ Declaration of Independence

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
~ Constitution of the United States

Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America
Edmund S. Morgan
Kindle Locations 62-82

Government requires make-believe. Make believe that the king is divine, make believe that he can do no wrong or make believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Make believe that the people have a voice or make believe that the representatives of the people are the people. Make believe that governors are the servants of the people. Make believe that all men are equal or make believe that they are not.

The political world of make-believe mingles with the real world in strange ways, for the make-believe world may often mold the real one. In order to be viable, in order to serve its purpose, whatever that purpose may be, a fiction must bear some resemblance to fact. If it strays too far from fact, the willing suspension of disbelief collapses. And conversely it may collapse if facts stray too far from the fiction that we want them to resemble. Because fictions are necessary, because we cannot live without them, we often take pains to prevent their collapse by moving the facts to fit the fiction, by making our world conform more closely to what we want it to be. We sometimes call it, quite appropriately, reform or reformation , when the fiction takes command and reshapes reality.

Although fictions enable the few to govern the many, it is not only the many who are constrained by them. In the strange commingling of political make-believe and reality the governing few no less than the governed many may find themselves limited— we may even say reformed— by the fictions on which their authority depends. Not only authority but liberty too may depend on fictions. Indeed liberty may depend, however deviously, on the very fictions that support authority. That, at least, has been the case in the Anglo-American world; and modern liberty, for better or for worse, was born, or perhaps we should say invented, in that world and continues to be nourished there.

Because it is a little uncomfortable to acknowledge that we rely so heavily on fictions, we generally call them by some more exalted name. We may proclaim them as self-evident truths, and that designation is not inappropriate, for it implies our commitment to them and at the same time protects them from challenge. Among the fictions we accept today as self-evident are those that Thomas Jefferson enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal and that they owe obedience to government only if it is their own agent, deriving its authority from their consent. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to demonstrate these propositions by factual evidence. It might be somewhat easier, by the kind of evidence we usually require for the proof of any debatable proposition, to demonstrate that men are not created equal and that they have not delegated authority to any government. But self-evident propositions are not debatable, and to challenge these would rend the fabric of our society.

Civil Rights and the Paradox of Liberal Democracy
Bradley C. S. Watson
pp. 1-3

Any discussion of liberal democracy requires some definition of terms. Defining democracy is a notoriously complex enterprise, made the more so by adding the qualifier liberal. Yet most would agree that we in the Western world live in regimes that share one overriding and defining feature: they are all “liberal democracies.”

The ancient understanding and practice of democracy, to the extent that it implied rule of all free persons in a regime, clearly would not qualify as such. No distinction can of course be drawn, in terms that are acceptable to modernity, between free and unfree persons. Modernity in fact marked a fundamental departure from all views that claimed relevant political distinctions could be drawn between individuals. This is one way of understanding the meaning of liberal in the phrase “liberal democracy.” For Locke, the state of nature is notoriously a state of freedom, but also a state of equality

wherein all the Power and Jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another: there being nothing more evident, than that the Creatures of the same species and rank promiscuously born to all the same advantages of Nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without Subordination or Subjection, unless the Lord and Master of them all, should by any manifest Declaration of his Will set one above another, and confer on him by an evident and clear appointment an undoubted Right to Dominion and Sovereignty.

Thus, for Locke, is consent a function of the nature of things. And freedom, in civil society, cannot be understood apart from consent.

The full meaning of the combination of demos and kratein in the modern age was captured by no less an authority than Abraham Lincoln: government of the people, by the people, for the people. For my purposes, this definition will suffice. Implied in it are, to use the terminology of social science, several “tests” of whether the democratic, or republican, threshold is being met. First, inclusiveness–the people as a whole in principle constitute the demos; second, an entitlement–the entitlement of the people to rule; third, an empirical claim–that the people actually exercise their entitlement to rule; and, finally, an end to which rule is directed–the true interests of the people. It is a definition that does not imply a simple majoritarianism. It must be the case, in Lincoln’s words, following Locke, that no man is good enough to govern another, without that other’s consent.

Harry V. Jaffa has long argued that the conception of equality expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence is the political expression of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” It is these natural laws, he argues, that the U.S. Constitution–and the regime of which the Constitution is the organizing document–were designed to implement. [ . . . . ]

But the very phrase “liberal democracy” points to the paradox that is the subject of this book. Democracy implies the consent of the governed, which consent rests, explicitly or implicitly, on the recognition of the effective political equality of the individuals who constitute the demos. Liberalism implies a respect for, nay, an exaltation of, the individual qua individual, which respect or exaltation is in tension with the idea of consent of the whole. This brings to light the inadequacy of a relatively common definition of liberal democracy; it is inadequate because it fails to take into account the true meaning of liberalism: “‘Democracy’ . . . refers to the location of a state’s power, that is, in the hands of the people, whereas ‘liberal’ refers to the limitation of a state’s power. From this viewpoint, a liberal democracy is a political system in which the people make the basic political decisions, but in which there are limitations on what decisions they can make.” But liberalism in its contemporary incarnation frequently results in the individual using the state’s power, whatever the wishes of the majority. Liberalism thus appears to be linked with those passions in the human soul that tend toward the tyrannical, where tyranny is understood as the rule of the one in his or her own interest. Liberalism so viewed threatens to make the first “test” in Lincoln’s definition difficult to meet, and, by extension, all the other tests. But this tension is a commonplace, and it merely adumbrates the paradox of liberal democracy.

Démos
Strong’s Concordance

démos: a district or country, the common people, esp. the people assembled

1218 dḗmos (from 1210 /déō, “to bind, tie”) – people bound (tied) together by similar laws or customs (like citizens in an ancient Greek city forming an assembly, cf. 1577 /ekklēsía).

In the NT, 1218 (dḗmos) refers to people unified in conviction and showing it in public opinion, i.e. their “collective persuasion.”

[1218 (dḗmos) is the root of the English word, “democracy.” Ancient Greek used 1218 (dḗmos) for “the body politic” (J. Thayer).]

Political organization
Foundation of the Hellenic world 

The Mycenaean texts frequently include the word damo, the demos or village defining both the geographic position and the population of the communities. The context reveals that the word did not have an administrative meaning but it signified the collective body of the people of each administrative unit. The words demos and telestai are also used as synonyms which indicates that the major landholders sometimes represented the people. One of the offices which refer to Pylos was the damokoro, a complex adjective deriving from demos and the korete. The damakoro were employees appointed by the wanax.

Athenian Political Art from the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BCE: Images of Political Personifications
Amy C. Smith, edition of January 18 2003
page 8 of 26
The Stoa Consortium

Demos (ὁ δῆμος) was used through the middle of the fifth century to refer to commoners. But in fifth century Athens demos also meant the sovereign body of free citizens. As commoners comprised a good part of the citizenry in the democracy, the two definitions—commoners and citizens—coexisted through the Classical period. It is the sovereign Demos that would have been revered in the cult with the Nymphs, on the Acropolis at Athens: an inscription dating to 462 attests a joint sanctuary of Demos and the Nymphs, who may have been the Horai (Seasons) and/or Charites (Graces) (IG I2, 854). Certainly in the second half of the fifth century, demos sometimes took on negative connotations, and the demos is increasingly represented as gullible and fickle, capable of being deceived by politicians, as exclaimed by the chorus of aristocratic cavalrymen in Aristophanes’ Knights (in 424), for example (Aristoph. Kn. 1111-18). (Aristophanes was probably the first to personify Demos, but similar characters may have been portrayed in the lost comedies of Eupolis and Cratinus.) Tension between the two views of demos—the commoners who are ridiculed, on the one hand, and the sovereign people, who warrant respect—seems to have been reflected in the personification of Demos on stage and in visual arts. In Knights Aristophanes is also sympathetic, and clearly sees the demos as capable of reform, for the crux of the play is Demos’ rejuvenation. The youthful Demos at the end of the play vows to restore old-fashioned ways in the government, a solution for which the democrats frequently yearned.

The Development of Athenian Democracy
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of January 24, 2003
(Section 1 of 7)
The Stoa Consortium

Greek word Demos (δῆμος, pronounced “day-moss”) has several meanings, all of them important for Athenian democracy. Demos is the Greek word for “village” or, as it is often translated, “deme.” The deme was the smallest administrative unit of the Athenian state, like a voting precinct or school district. Young men, who were 18 years old presented themselves to officials of their deme and, having proven that they were not slaves, that their parents were Athenian, and that they were 18 years old, were enrolled in the “Assembly List” (the πίναξ ἐκκλησιαστικός) (see Dem. 44.35; Aristot. Ath. Pol. 42.1).

Another meaning of Demos, to the Athenians, was “People,” as in the People of Athens, the body of citizens collectively. So a young man was enrolled in his “demos” (deme), and thus became a member of the “Demos” (the People). As a member of the Demos, this young man could participate in the Assembly of Citizens that was the central institution of the democracy. The Greek word for “Assembly” is ekklesia (ἐκκλησία), but the Athenians generally referred to it as the “Demos.” Decrees of the Assembly began with the phrase “It seemed best to the Demos,…”, very much like the phrase “We the People…” that introduces the Constitution of the United States. In this context, “Demos” was used to make a distinction between the Assembly of all citizens and the Council of 500 citizens, another institution of the democracy (see below). So some decrees might begin “It seemed best to the Demos…”, others might begin “It seemed best to the Council…”, and still others might begin, “It seemed best to the Demos and the Council….”

So the Athenian Demos was the local village, the population generally, and the assembly of citizens that governed the state. The idea of the Demos was a potent one in Athens of the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.

It had not always been the case. The Iliad—the work of literature that was the shared text for all Greeks—describes a world whose values pre-date those of the Athenian democracy. One passage from it, especially, suggests that the idea of the “demos” changed dramatically in the years leading up to the 5th century. [ . . . . ]

The Homeric hero Odysseus did not favor putting rule into the hands of the Demos. What happened, then, to change the status of the Demos from that of a lowly mob, to be beaten down with a stick, to that of the ruling People of classical Athens?

Democracy : the Rule of Nobody?
John Keane
johnkeane.net

Origins

Any contemporary effort to rethink the meaning of democracy must start by tracing the word democracy back to the Greeks, who are customarily thought to have invented the word and given it meaning. The platitude that democracy means the rule of the sovereign people usually points to its ultimate origin in or around classical Athens during the 6th and 5th centuries BCE. Most contemporary textbooks read by students andteachers concerned with the history of democratic theory and institutions repeat the point that this is where the history of democracy began. Thereis indeed an old and venerable tradition of doing so, yet new researchcalls this Myth of the Greek Origins of Democracy into question. It turns out not only that the arts of self-government sprang up much earlier, for instance in ancient Mesopotamia, where popular assemblies (pu-uh-ru)wielded power, including the election of kings.1 Even the root of the word democracy pre-dated the ancient Greek city states. References (in the Linear B script) to the dāmos are evident during the Mycenean period (c. 1500-1200 BCE), when it is used as a noun to refer to a group of former landowners who lose everything and are dispossessed of political power2. The nuances need not detain us here, except to note a key point : that the dāmos is a sectional or self-interested group that has its eyes on power, but is for the time being shut out from power.

That particular connotation of exclusion is carried over into the word demokratia (δηµοκρατία) that was spoken in the various classical Greek dialects. That the past was to echo into the present should not be surprising when it is considered that those who principally referred to the demos were its fearful opponents. The term became common currency in a phase of transition when (most famously in Athens) politics was dominated by aristocrats locked in competition with themselves and with their opponents. What this self-styled class of aristoi had in common was their mostly hostile regard for a sectional group that was seen to be dangerous because it was property-less and hungry for political power. Such references help to explain why democracy (demokratia : from demos and kratos, rule) had so few intellectual defenders, and why its critics pointed to the demos as a potentially destructive force within the life of the political community.

Few observers have spotted that the negative connotations of the word demokratia – a form of polity defined by the exercise by some of self-interested or sectional power over others – are buried within the very word democracy itself. The verb kratein (κρατείν) is usually translated as‘to rule’ or ‘to govern’, but in fact its original connotations are harsher, tougher, more brutal. To use the verb kratein is to speak the language of military manoeuvring and military conquest : kratein means to be masterof, to conquer, to lord over, to possess (in modern Greek the same verb means to keep, or to hold), to be the stronger, to prevail or get the upper hand over somebody or something. Homer’s Odyssey and Sappho’sSupplements both use kratein in this way. The noun kratos (κράτος), from which the compound demokratia was formed, similarly refers to might, strength, imperial majesty, toughness, triumphant power, and victory over others, especially through the application of force. The now obsolete verb demokrateo (δηµοκρατέω) brims with all of these connotations : it means to grasp power, or to exercise control over others.1

From the standpoint of today, these are indeed strange and unfortunate connotations. They bring us to a first major difficulty in simple-minded uses of the word democracy : that it is the carrier of exactly the opposite meaning of what most democrats today mean when they speak of democracy, in much more complex ways, as non-violent inclusiveness, power-sharing based on compromise and fairness, as equality based upon the legally guaranteed respect for others’ dignity. Interpreted simultaneously with ‘classical’ and ‘modern’ eyes, the word democracy is untrue both to itself and to its users. It is a double-standard word. Like adouble-agent that charms those around it into thinking that it is something that it is not, talk of ‘democracy’ invokes an original meaning that betrays what the word today conveys. For Greek commentators and critics alike, demokratia was a unique form of rule – note the accurate Latin translation of kratein with regulare : to control, to exercise sway over – in which the demos acts as a selfish body in pursuit of its own particular interests. Here the word demokratia has one thing in common with other contemporary words used to describe the rule of sectional interests – words like aristokratia (αριστοκρατία : aristocracy), ploutokratia (πλουτοκρατία: the rule of the rich) and monokratoria (µονοκρατορία monocracy, or the rule of a single person). To speak of demokratia is to point to a particular group whose particular interests are not identical with everyone’s interests. In a demokratia the demos holds kratos,1 which is another way of saying that it is prone to act forcefully, to get its own particular way by using violence, either against itself but especially against others. This is exactly what Plato meant by his remark that democracy is a two-faced form of government, ‘according to whether the masses rule over the owners of property by force or by consent’2. The unknown Old Oligarch had much the same thing in mind when dressing down demokratia as the rule of the lowest and most misguided section of the population, the demos, who sometimes strive to exercise power by making common cause with sections of the aristoi.3 When this happens, the people are ruled in their own name. Demokratia still refers to a form of sectional rule based on force but its emphasis undergoes a subtle shift, towards something like empowerment through the people. Demokratia is a form of polity in which the people are ruled while seeming to rule.

Strategic Abuses of Democracy

It may be objected that a genealogy of the word democracy is an exercise in antiquarianism or, worse, intellectual pedantry. The charge might be persuasive if indeed democracy as a form of government had been confined to the ancients. That was of course not to be, for the revival of the discourse of democracy in the late sixteenth-century Low Countries prepared the way for the emergence of democratic institutions as a modern form of life – as a sui generis mode of organizing power. What is of interest here is that the divisive, exclusionary connotations of the word democracy did not disappear with its ‘modernization’. They were if anything resuscitated and strengthened by a political tendency that has in the meantime become something of a well-established pattern : the tendency of actors to invoke the word democracy, understood as popular sovereignty, as a handy weapon in the struggle for power over others.

A Sign of Decline?

Considering the fall of early civilizations, decentralization and privatization come into focus as important for understanding. They have, in at least some major examples, been closely associated with periods of decline. That doesn’t necessarily imply they are the cause. Instead, it may simply be a sign. Decline just means change. An old order changing will always be perceived of as a decline.

The creation of centralized government is at the heart of the civilization project. Prior to the city-states and empires of ‘civilization’, people governed themselves in many ways without any need of centralization for most everything had been local. It required the centralization (i.e., concentration) of growing populations to create the possibility and necessity of centralized governance. A public had to be formed in opposition to a private in order for a public good to be spoken of. Privacy becomes more valued in crowded cities.

Early hunter-gatherers seemed to have thought a lot less about privacy, if they had any concept of it at all, certainly not in terms of sound-dampening walls and locked doors. In that simpler lifestyle, most everything was held in common. There was no place that was the Commons for all of the world was considered the commons, for the specific people in question. Personal items would have been the exception, rather than the rule. Before the modern condition of extreme scarcity and overpopulation, there would have been less motivation to fight over private property.

It should be no surprise that periods of decentralization and privatization coincided with periods of population dispersal and loss. The decline of civilizations often meant mass death or migration.

We live in different times, of course. But is it really any different now?

When people today advocate decentralization and privatization, what does that mean in the larger sense? When some fantasize about the decline of our present social order, what do they hope will result? What is motivating all this talk?

If it is a sign, what is a sign of? What changes are in the air?

* * * *

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed
Eric H. Cline
pp. 152-4

DECENTRALIZATION AND THE RISE OF THE PRIVATE MERCHANT There is one other point to be considered, which has been suggested relatively recently and may well be a reflection of current thinking about the role of decentralization in today’s world.

In an article published in 1998, Susan Sherratt, now at the University of Sheffield, concluded that the Sea Peoples represent the final step in the replacement of the old centralized politico-economic systems present in the Bronze Age with the new decentralized economic systems of the Iron Age— that is, the change from kingdoms and empires that controlled the international trade to smaller city-states and individual entrepreneurs who were in business for themselves. She suggested that the Sea Peoples can “usefully be seen as a structural phenomenon, a product of the natural evolution and expansion of international trade in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium, which carried within it the seeds of the subversion of the palace-based command economies which had initiated such trade in the first place.” 57

Thus, while she concedes that the international trade routes might have collapsed, and that at least some of the Sea Peoples may have been migratory invaders, she ultimately concludes that it does not really matter where the Sea Peoples came from, or even who they were or what they did. Far more important is the sociopolitical and economic change that they represent, from a predominantly palatial-controlled economy to one in which private merchants and smaller entities had considerably more economic freedom. 58

Although Sherratt’s argument is elegantly stated, other scholars had earlier made similar suggestions. For example, Klaus Kilian, excavator of Tiryns, once wrote: “After the fall of the Mycenaean palaces, when ‘private’ economy had been established in Greece, contacts continued with foreign countries. The well-organized palatial system was succeeded by smaller local reigns, certainly less powerful in their economic expansion.” 59

Michal Artzy, of the University of Haifa, even gave a name to some of the private merchants envisioned by Sherratt, dubbing them “Nomads of the Sea.” She suggested that they had been active as intermediaries who carried out much of the maritime trade during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC. 60

However, more recent studies have taken issue with the type of transitional worldview proposed by Sherratt. Carol Bell, for instance, respectfully disagrees, saying: “It is simplistic … to view the change between the LBA and the Iron Age as the replacement of palace administered exchange with entrepreneurial trade. A wholesale replacement of one paradigm for another is not a good explanation for this change and restructuring.” 61

While there is no question that privatization may have begun as a by-product of palatial trade, it is not at all clear that this privatization then ultimately undermined the very economy from which it had come. 62 At Ugarit, for example, scholars have pointed out that even though the city was clearly burned and abandoned, there is no evidence either in the texts found at the site or in the remains themselves that the destruction and collapse had been caused by decentralized entrepreneurs undermining the state and its control of international trade. 63

In fact, combining textual observations with the fact that Ugarit was clearly destroyed by fire, and that there are weapons in the debris, we may safely reiterate that although there may have been the seeds of decentralization at Ugarit, warfare and fighting almost certainly caused the final destruction, with external invaders as the likely culprits. This is a far different scenario from that envisioned by Sherratt and her like-minded colleagues. Whether these invaders were the Sea Peoples is uncertain, however, although it is intriguing that one of the texts at Ugarit specifically mentions the Shikila/ Shekelesh, known from the Sea Peoples inscriptions of Merneptah and Ramses III.

In any event, even if decentralization and private individual merchants were an issue, it seems unlikely that they caused the collapse of the Late Bronze Age, at least on their own. Instead of accepting the idea that private merchants and their enterprises undermined the Bronze Age economy, perhaps we should consider the alternative suggestion that they simply emerged out of the chaos of the collapse, as was suggested by James Muhly of the University of Pennsylvania twenty years ago. He saw the twelfth century BC not as a world dominated by “sea raiders, pirates, and freebooting mercenaries,” but rather as a world of “enterprising merchants and traders, exploiting new economic opportunities, new markets, and new sources of raw materials.” 64 Out of chaos comes opportunity, at least for a lucky few, as always.

Personal Public Problems

Personal Public Problems

Posted on Apr 27th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade

Just this past week, someone I used to work with was arrested for being involved in meth production.  He was always a bit emotionally unstable.  A very nice guy, but hardly had his life together.  He did graduate from college and used to be married with a kid, and so at one time his life must’ve been somewhat together.  But when I knew him, he wasn’t even able to keep up with his childcare payments and he wasn’t all that healthy.  He was addicted to sugar like a hummingbird.  He surely was diabetic and probably untreated.  He’d buzz with energy and then totally crash.  More of an issue was his psychological instability.  What caused what or where it all began?  I certainly don’t know.  The problems of his life were complex and multi-faceted.

A little while before this, there was another incident in town with someone’s life going severely downhill.  A banker was being investigated for stealing from the bank he worked for.  He was released on bail, and on Easter killed his family and them himself.  He was an upstanding member of his community from a very respectable family that was established in the community.  He had gone to church with his family that morning and his family had visited him that day at home.  No one, apparently, suspected a thing.  In particular, the judge who released him didn’t suspect him.

These two guys were from opposite spectrums of society, but society wasn’t able to help either of them. 

The guy I worked with obviously had problems.  It was obvious to everyone(probably including himself) that he’d eventually mess up his life.  He had been on a slow descent for many many years.  But who was able or willing to intervene.  And is he any more likely to find help in prison?  Is he just a lost cause, a casualty of the greater good?  If so, whose good?  Certainly, not his.

The other guy must also have had problems for years, but he hid his problems well because he played the game well.  Smiling face, business suit, family, church, etc.  By societies standards, he was a ‘good’ man.  A problem isn’t a problem as long as you can hide it well.  Personal issues shouldn’t be publicly aired.  Anyways, nobody wants to hear your problems.  Just be responsible, do your job, pay your bills.  Success equals happiness;  happiness equals success.

There is a sweet scene from A Scanner Darkly that comes to mind: 

“You know, Fred,” one of the doctors says, “if you keep your sense of humor like you do, you just might make it after all.”

“Make it”, says Bob Arctor. “Make what? The team? The girl? Make good? Make due? Make out? Make sense? Make money? Make time?  Define your terms.”
Who cares about the personal problems of such people as these two guys I speak of?  Well, we all care when they become public problems.  But weren’t they always everyone’s problems?  Aren’t we always responsible to and for eachother?  Doesn’t everything we do effect everyone around us?  Is there even any such entity as a ‘personal problem’?

Society is like the doctors who test Bob Arctor.  They’re just watching until its too late to help him which so happens to coincide with it being too late for him to be useful for their purposes any more.  We tend not to care about other people’s problems until they become a problem to us.  It saddens me.  Despite all our power and freeedom, despite all of our knowledge and technology, it seems there is little we can do…. or worse that we’re collectively willing to do.

Is each of us forever alone in our suffering?

 

Access_public Access: Public 19 Comments Print Post this!views (238)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 1 hour later

Nicole said

Dear Ben,

On the insistence of my son, I watched A scanner darkly. He should have known better. He knows how sensitive I am so no surprise I was deeply disturbed by the movie. It was so wrong on so many levels, not just the doctors, but his girlfriend who was screwing him in every way, by giving him sex, by withholding it, by giving him the drugs, by secretly being his boss and pretending she didn’t know he was hooked on the drugs, by assigning him to watch himself, and finally by condemning him to a living death on the farm.

Horrible, horrible.

It is very sad to me to read these stories. We both know these happen every day all over the world, people live and die without anyone else caring, seemingly.

Thankfully we are not all so alone in our lives. Existentially, yes, it doesn’t matter if I have 200 or 2000 Gaia friends or 50 or 500 other friends, I will still always be alone in my life.

But always with God. That is the key. We are all always alone with God, and if we only knew it then we wouldn’t have to fall to meth or kill ourselves or do all of this other shit.

And we are always much better friended by human beings than we can know or understand when depression hits and throws our judgment off kilter.

Again, thank God, that you and I, who are healthy, know how surrounded we are by a cloud of friends, like hosts of angels, cheering us on, loving us, supporting us, guiding us and being there for us.

I am concerned bout my imzadi because he is so alone with his pain. I hope he doesn’t do something foolish. But I am entrusting him daily to God. I am praying daily that he can forgive himself and allow himself to live his life joyfully and freely as he has never done till now, though he thought he was so fine before he met me and before he started writing and discovering his amazing gift. I am honouring and respecting his autonomy and his decision to distance from me, though we both lose by it, it is the loss according to his free will choice.

Light and peace to you, my friend.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 2 hours later

Marmalade said

I just experienced the suffering of part of my post disappearing.  Apparently, if I hit the backup button too many times, it deletes whatever I had written.  Good to know.  I swear I have more issues with Gaia doing weird things that never happen on other sites I visit.  Anyways….

I pray that your imazdi is doing well.  Maybe he needs to be alone for the time being, but hopefully he won’t get stuck in self-imposed isolation.  Solitude can be a very powerful path to God.  Solitude can give much needed space in which a suffering heart can heal.  It may be a loss in some regards, but it also can potentially be a clearing away, a cleansing.  I hope the best for the both of you.

BTW I was writing my blog post with my own experiences in mind.  Like you said, I do have a strong sense of the power and importance of my relationships.  I don’t know where I’d be without the support of family and friends.  Nevertheless, I know of long-term suffering… severe depression in my case.  I know what it feels like to be isolated in suffering, to be lost and alone in problems too big to deal with or even understand.  I know what it feels like when it seems no one is able or willing to help… that nothing can be done but wait it out… just hoping the clouds will disperse and the sun will shine again.  I’ve had lots of support, but for the most part dealing with my depression is something I had to figure out on my own.  Psychotherapists and psychiatrists weren’t of much help.

Maybe God supported me in my suffering.  But what I am certain of is that I found God in my suffering.  Some people might think that suffering is an odd place to find God, but I’m sure you understand what I mean.

I’m responding to your comments in reverse, and so let me say something about A Scanner Darkly. 

To understand the deeper meaning of that movie, its valuable to know about Philip K. Dick’s life… as the book it was based on was one of the more autobiographical of his books.  Philip K. Dick had a house like that with friends like that.  The scene where he is walking up to the house and speaking about how a family should live there and also the ‘memory’ he has of the wife and daughters… all of that was his life.  He was married(several times) and he did have two daughters.  He tried to live that perfect life of family, but he left that life and fell into a very dark period of struggle.

But, ya know what, he had some of his deepest spiritual experiences during that dark time.  He wasn’t just a fiction writer.  He studied Christianity and Gnosticism.  The darkness and confusion are inspired by his personal Gnostic vision of life.  The questions of identity are part of this.  Its not just Donna that betrays him.  He betrays himself.  We all do this all of the time.  We’re all double agents posing as narcs.  We all grasp at the ‘memories’ of who we are and who we were.  We look for our true selves, but we’re not sure what we’re looking for or even if it exists.

“Whatever it is that’s watching, it’s not human. Unlike little dark-eyed Donna, it doesn’t ever blink […] What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me? Into us? Clearly or darkly? I hope it sees clearly because I can’t any longer see into myself.”

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 23 hours later

Nicole said

Ok, I will respond from the top, because there is a lot of really important stuff.

One thing I have learnt from painful experience here on Gaia is to be very, very careful of clicking back and having stuff disappear, also that when you type everything in perfectly, about one out of four or five times the gaia monster will give you that horrible error message and your whole comment is gone. so before I click Add comment I try to remember to copy it to the clipboard even if it is only a sentence or two, cause otherwise I so often end up rewriting that same sentence, sometimes two or three times. Grrr. Yeah, the software here is buggier than elsewhere. Don’t know why.

Imzadi. No, in this case the solitude is not helping him. He finally came out of his shell briefly yesterday to write a brief apologetic note to me explaining that he doesnt yet know how to say goodbye to me properly, but when he does, if I still want to hear from him, he will write.

You see what I mean. If? He should know my love for him is eternal. So I responded reassuring him that i have no bitterness or anger against him, that I love him and just want whatever he wants, will comply with his wish. And that he doesn’t have to write anything because I already understand him. I guess I understand him better than he understands himself because if he understood himself, he would have been able to say goodbye properly by now. So he is really confused and hurting, and lacks the perspective of insightful friends who have been down this road and can help show him the way.

I didn’t know you suffered from severe depression and that psychotherapy hasn’t helped. I am so sorry, Ben. Having suffered from moderate depression all last year and mild depression on and off in previous year, I empathise and at the same time know I can’t know how bad it is for you to suffer severely. I am glad you have the support of friends and family and that you are figuring out on your own how to move forward. I admire you even more, knowing this.

I agree, one of the places we find God the most is in our suffering. If we lose God through suffering, we haven’t gone deep enough into it. At the very bottom of the pit, God is waiting for us.

I didn’t know that background about Philip K. Dick. Is he the one who also wrote the story that the Last Mimsy was based on? Anyway, that really helps me to understand it better, thanks. That is really sad.

I hear what you are saying about the self betrayal. I see this all around me, and it’s one of the reasons I work so hard at trying to encourage people and walk alongside them, is because I know who I am and where I am going, and it hurts to see people who are lost and confused. I want to help. It is my mission from God, as a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. God has given me so much grace, truth, light, joy and peace, now I have a responsibility to testify to that, with my life. I still have areas of struggle but I know my purpose. People often ask me advice because they see I’m so clear but one thing I learned from my ex mentor is that only you can know your path. I cannot help people by telling them their path but rather by helping them find their inner compass.

Love, light and joy to you, dearest brother. I can’t believe how close we have become in this short time.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Whatever he needs, I hope your imzadi comes to understand it.  It does seem that he could use some clarity right now.

——–

Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite writers.  A bunch of movies have been made based on his fiction, but the Last Mimsy wasn’t one of them  Bladerunner was the first film done and he viewed some of it before he died.  Another famous film of his work is Total Recall, but Schwartzeneger doesn’t make a very good Philip K. Dick character.

I have something to add to the idea of self betrayal.  Keanu Reeves character is conflicted internally which is very sad.  But confusion in one regard allows a different kind of clarity.  Of all the characters, the main character has the deepest insight and he is the only one who questions his situation, his identity.  The other characters are simply lost in the roles they’re playing. 

Its his split personality that creates his wide perspective.  He glimpses the life of his past, he knows the experience of addiction, he stands outside of himself watching himself through the scanner, and finally its he who enters the drug rehab corporation.  Its he alone who in losing his sense of self entirely in the drug discovers the source of the drug.  Its he who enters the darkest of despairs and who will return with the blue flower.

On the level of it being a story about drug addiction, its simply dark and convoluted with some psychological insight.  But on a deeper level, its a spiritual odyssey that can’t be analyzed rationally.  Philip K. Dick was hinting at a vision of reality that is almost impossible to portray.  The blue flower is a symbol.  He has gone to the mountains, to the source.  Intimations of the Gnostic demiurge can be seen in all of this, but at the same time there is something truly spiritual.  The blue flower was his god, but now he sees it in new light.  The corporation is like conventional religion offering the healing to the sickness that it creates, salvation to the sinful vision that it imposes. 

The addiction is a metaphor.  Philip K. Dick new addiction personally, but his sense of the spiritual was tied up with his struggles.  Addiction is longing misdirected, but longing nonetheless.  Its often those who feel longing the most strongly who are hurt the most intensely.

The main character needed to forget who he was, he needed to become lost and disconnected from the world.  His drug addiction was just a problem from the perspective of society, but it was an essential component of what drove him.  Most people who become lost never find their way again, and they could use someone to guide them out of their personal hells.  Even so, there are those who discover something in the darkness that those in the light would never know about.  This is the hero that, if successful, brings something back to the community on his return.

The world needs both those who hold onto the light and those who enter the darkness.  Those in the light obviously can help those in the dark, but what is less obvious is that those in the dark have something to offer also.  Related to this is the relationship in What Dreams May Come(which is also similar to the relationship in The Fountain).  In What Dreams May Come, the wife’s being lost in her hell is what saves her husband.  She had something to teach him through suffering and despair.  It may have seemed like a weakness, but there was an honesty in her approach.  She refused to pretend that something horrible hadn’t happened.

In A Scanner Darkly, when the drug rehab orderly calls Bob Arctor a loser, Donna responded with this:
“Its easy to win.  Everybody can win.”

In What Dreams May Come, Annie the wife says to Chris the husband,
“Sometimes, when you lose, you win.”

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Yes, clarity. So hopes he, and I and everyone who knows what he is living.

Ah, I see I confused Philip K. Dick with the writer of the Last Mimsy. Thanks for correcting me. Bladerunner was excellent, one of the best sci fi dystopias. I’m glad he viewed some of it before he died.  True, Schwartzeneger doesn’t make a very good Philip K. Dick character. LOL!

Self betrayal – Of all the characters, the main character has the deepest insight and he is the only one who questions his situation, his identity.  The other characters are simply lost in the roles they’re playing. 

Yes – that is what makes it a tragedy. It is always that way from classical Greek plays like Oedipus Rex. The one with the most insight suffers the most, sees the most and is still powerless to stop the tragedy.

 Its he who enters the darkest of despairs and who will return with the blue flower.

This is the one element of the movie that stops it from being a perfect tragedy, and shines a pure ray of hope. I was grateful but still heartbroken.

On the level of it being a story about drug addiction, its simply dark and convoluted with some psychological insight.  But on a deeper level, its a spiritual odyssey that can’t be analyzed rationally.  Philip K. Dick was hinting at a vision of reality that is almost impossible to portray.  The blue flower is a symbol.  He has gone to the mountains, to the source.  Intimations of the Gnostic demiurge can be seen in all of this, but at the same time there is something truly spiritual.  The blue flower was his god, but now he sees it in new light.  The corporation is like conventional religion offering the healing to the sickness that it creates, salvation to the sinful vision that it imposes. 

The blue flower offers hope because it is the concrete proof of the evil being done. It is the tiny object that can break a mountain. But we still have no idea if it will accomplish its purpose. The chances it could do so are extremely small at that point.

The addiction is a metaphor.  Philip K. Dick knew addiction personally, but his sense of the spiritual was tied up with his struggles.  Addiction is longing misdirected, but longing nonetheless.  Its often those who feel longing the most strongly who are hurt the most intensely.

They are the sensitive… my imzadi had an excellent blog related to that topic but alas it vanished when he deleted his profile here. in brief, he explained that we should not be so hard on the gurus who fall from grace. because of their openness and sensitivity to spiritual reality, they are the most vulnerable to addiction.

The main character needed to forget who he was, he needed to become lost and disconnected from the world.  His drug addiction was just a problem from the perspective of society, but it was an essential component of what drove him.  Most people who become lost never find their way again, and they could use someone to guide them out of their personal hells.  Even so, there are those who discover something in the darkness that those in the light would never know about.  This is the hero that, if successful, brings something back to the community on his return.

In mythic terms, going to the underworld and bringing back the key to salvation. Jesus emerging from hell and breaking its bonds, freeing its captives. Promotheus coming down with the fire.

The world needs both those who hold onto the light and those who enter the darkness.  Those in the light obviously can help those in the dark, but what is less obvious is that those in the dark have something to offer also.  Related to this is the relationship in What Dreams May Come(which is also similar to the relationship in The Fountain).  In What Dreams May Come, the wife’s being lost in her hell is what saves her husband.  She had something to teach him through suffering and despair.  It may have seemed like a weakness, but there was an honesty in her approach.  She refused to pretend that something horrible hadn’t happened.

That often happens in families. One suffers from mental illness and tries to truth tell while everyone else is trapped in denial and silence.

In A Scanner Darkly, when the drug rehab orderly calls Bob Arctor a loser, Donna responded with this:
“Its easy to win.  Everybody can win.”

Winning came easily to Donna, so she despised it. So the losers, this despite only causes greater despair because nothing they do seems to bring victory.

“Sometimes, when you lose, you win.”

Sometimes. Sometimes, when you lose, you lose. Sometimes when you win you lose, and so on. All permutations are possible.

Light, peace and joy be yours, my brother.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

“Sometimes, when you lose, you win.”

Sometimes. Sometimes, when you lose, you lose. Sometimes when you win you lose, and so on. All permutations are possible.

So true.  When one enters the darkness, one doesn’t know what one will find there or if one will ever return to the light.  In real life, we don’t know if we’re in a tragedy or a comedy.  Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fictiion  becomes conscious of this dilemma as he gets to meet the author of his story.

Light and hope be yours… and your imzadi’s… and everyone’s.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

Oh Ben, I really thank you, as an unexpected turn has led to a complete dead end (see my blog). i appreciate you so much.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

You’re welcome, my dear Nicole.  The appreciation is mutual.  And, indeed, life is full of unexpected turns.

There is something about A Scanner Darkly that feels deeply hopeful, but its hard to put my finger on.  Its not rational.  Bob Arctor doesn’t have much reason to be hopeful.  His life, his mind will never be the same.

The blue flower is death incarnate, but the ending scene implies something akin to hope.  “I saw… I saw death rising from the earth from the ground itself in one blue field.”  I’m not sure what that exactly means, but immediately after this he picks a single flower and gazing up on it says, “A present for my friends at Thanksgiving.”  Its such an odd scene.  A gift… what exactly is the gift, what does it mean?

Prior to that scene, Donna says this to Bob as she drives him to the rehab center:
“And someday, a long time from now, you’ll see the way you saw before.  There’ll be a recognition and some spark in a disguised form will reveal itself to you and guide you.”

Its Donna that betrays him, but what she says here comes true.  Even though he may not have had good reasons to put his faith in her, she has good reason to put her faith in him.  And, yet, its still not clear who is the bad guy as the betrayal is so deep and complex.  Donna wants to do the right thing, but she guiltily questions what she did to Bob in trying to achieve some greater good.

In response, the guy with her at the end says this to her(and you can here PKD speaking through his character here):
“I mean, I believe God’s m.o. is to transmute evil into good and if he’s active here, he’s doing that now although our eyes can’t perceive it.  The whole process is hidden beneath the surface of our reality… will only be revealed later.”

This quote says something about my sense of this movie.  On the surface, its very dark and despairing.  Below the surface, there is something more.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

unexpected turns – what wasn’t unexpected was that he would end it completed. what was unexpected was that he would do it like that – and then turn around and get angry at me for taking it personally. under the category, people are so complex, dear binyamin dovid (forgive my whimsy 🙂 )

i am intrigued that while i find A Scanner Darkly deeply depressing and discouraging you find something deeply hopeful.  “I saw… I saw death rising from the earth from the ground itself in one blue field.”  Isn’t he just talking about the significance of a field of blue flowers?

“A present for my friends at Thanksgiving.”  The tiny remnant of his mind recognises that getting this flower “out there” would have the potential to expose the massive deception and hopefully bring the ongoing enslavement to an end.

“And someday, a long time from now, you’ll see the way you saw before.  There’ll be a recognition and some spark in a disguised form will reveal itself to you and guide you.”

True, this is a harbinger of the revelation and gift of fire to come – a battered Prometheus bringing hope to humanity. So Donna is not relentless evil.

Do the ends justify the means? Had Donna truly wanted to do the right thing, could she not have striven to find a better way than deceiving, torturing and destroying Bob?

“I mean, I believe God’s m.o. is to transmute evil into good and if he’s active here, he’s doing that now although our eyes can’t perceive it.  The whole process is hidden beneath the surface of our reality… will only be revealed later.”

To this I would respond with Paul’s words in the book of Romans “So then what shall we say? Shall we do evil so good may come? Mei genoito!”  (frequent pauline expression, meaning literally, may it certainly never come into being!)

Yes, God constantly brings evil from good. But I set my face against every intrusion of Machiavellian thinking, in any subtle form.

I have only up to know found one friend to discuss things here to the depth that we do, and that one was just discussing with me on one blog. You have incredible intellectual stamina and flexibility. We are a good mutual admiration society. You and my other new friend Sun Warrior (Brock) renew my faith in the ability of men and women to be really good friends without it needing to go anywhere else.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

4 days later

Marmalade said

“(forgive my whimsy 🙂 )”

Whimsy can never be forgiven.  You will have to live the rest of your life with the guilt of knowing the whimsy you have commited against my good name… Knee-coal  🙂

“”I saw… I saw death rising from the earth from the ground itself in one blue field.”  Isn’t he just talking about the significance of a field of blue flowers?”

My simple answer would be no.  He isn’t just talking about the significance of a field of blue flowers.  He is speaking something unspeakable… a vision, he is talking about the significance of a vision of a field of blue flowers.  The glimmer he has isn’t simply of his lost sense of who he had been previously.  The glimmer is also of something more profound… below the surface…   The flower being the source of the drug is the surface meaning.  What draws him to the flower isn’t this, but rather the awe-inspiring beauty of the vision.  Yes, its death but more importantly its death rising.

“Do the ends justify the means?”

No, they don’t.  But that is just one aspect.  Philip K. Dick can often imply multiple shades of meaning in his character dialogue.  Near the end of the story, the characters aren’t really speaking for themselves any more, but acting as mouthpieces… for PKD and maybe for the divine breaking through from below the surface.

Donna betrays Bob, but she is also a victim.  She is a pawn of those above her.  She is acting on limited info and she is an addict just like Bob.  In some ways, Bob seems to handle his addiction better than she.

Part of the hope I feel comes from the perspective that PKD expresses.  PKD understands human weakness and suffering.  I can feel how much he loves and has compassion for his characters even the ones that seem to be falling into Machiavelian rationalization.  PKD wants to believe that nobody is ever lost, not entirely.

“You and my other new friend Sun Warrior (Brock) renew my faith in the ability of men and women to be really good friends without it needing to go anywhere else.”

I tend to communicate well with women.  I can talk for hours with my mom, but not so with my dad.  I can talk for hours with my sister-in-law, but not so with my brother.  Whenever the family gets together, I’m always hanging out with the women folk.  And, online, I tend to connect best with women… or at least those claiming to be women.  🙂 My closest friends tend to be men, but my male friends aren’t the average.  I don’t watch football or fix cars with my friends.  Its not unusual for my friends and I talk about feelings and relationships and spirituality. 

Some of this might be explained by my being a Feeling type and something like 70% of Feeling types are women.  Then again, even on an online forum filled with male Feeling types, I still end up talking the most with the women.  You somewhat remind me of some INFJs I’ve known but with a little more Extraversion. 

Nicole : wakingdreamer

5 days later

Nicole said

i’m sorry i’m sorry LOL! actually i am totally unrepentant… anyway! you certainly got me back good! won’t do that again lol (shuddering at desecration of beautiful nicole name)

Hmm i guess i did not convey adequately what i meant… the true meaning of the field is the vision, the deep reality of which you speak, death rising… my answer sounded superficial, sorry.

Ok, you have such a deep knowledge of  Philip K. Dick. Multiple shades of meaning in his character dialogue…   mouthpieces… for PKD and maybe for the divine breaking through from below the surface…

Donna seems so powerful i forgot she is a pawn of those above her, acting on limited info,  and an addict…  you know, that last wasn’t clear, i thought she was just pretending to be an addict. was she really? and in what sense did Bob handle his addiction better than she? I am really intrigued now.

I agree PKD understands human weakness and suffering, and you’re right, he seems to love and have  compassion for his characters even the ones that seem to be falling into Machiavelian rationalization.  And you understand him so well, that PKD probably does want to believe that nobody is ever lost, not entirely, though those housemates of Bob’s are really really sad, especially that really marginal guy…

It’s cool that you can talk for hours with your mom, sister, and women in general and those claiming to be women.  :LOL!

It makes sense, too that your closest friends tend to be men who can often talk about feelings and relationships and spirituality.  That is awesome.

Perhaps it’s partly because of being a Feeling type, but then interesting that on an online forum filled with male Feeling types, you still end up talking the most with the women… i think it could be that you are drawn to our energy because you are a man.

cause I am drawn to male energy and tend to keep trying to forge very close friendships with men, in spite of how disastrous or very problematic it has been in a few cases – I try to learn from  my mistakes and at least in one case was able to negotiate a true, stable, deep friendship from a convoluted situation, so I feel it is well worth the times it didn’t work out, even as spectacular as this week’s crisis.

I also have quite a few really close women friends, and of course it is much easier to develop those bonds by long phone calls or by going out to lunch together regularly, etc. Men are harder to get close to – if married, need to be kept at healthy distance, if single, usually still very difficult for very different reasons depending on the person.

Interesting that I somewhat remind you of some INFJs but with a little more Extraversion. i have always in the past tested as ISTJ, typical for a teacher and church board type lol. I know that I am more and more E as time goes by so by now may have tipped wholly into ESTJ, as i was on the border lasr time i checked. it isn’t likely that i would now test as ENFP right? that was my ex husband’s type.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

5 days later

Marmalade said

“Ok, you have such a deep knowledge of  Philip K. Dick.”

I’m fascinated by him.  He was a very prolific writer, and there is much info available about his life including letters and an extensive journal.  I’ve read several biographies about him.  I like him partly because he had a lot of knowledge about non-fiction subjects for a fiction writer.  He spent the last 10 yrs of his life obsessed with contemplating and philosophizing about his mystical experiences.  He also mixed his personal life into his fiction… how very postmodern of him.  🙂

“i thought she was just pretending to be an addict. was she really?”

As far as I know.  Its possible she is just pretending, but the way she was behaving in certain scenes was convincing to me.  What made you think she was pretending?

“and in what sense did Bob handle his addiction better than she?”

Good question.  I didn’t have any grand idea in mind.  I guess what I meant was that Donna at times seemed more desperate than him.  Bob, on the other hand, always held onto a strong core sense of self despite the divisions of his personality.

“I agree PKD understands human weakness and suffering, and you’re right, he seems to love and have  compassion for his characters even the ones that seem to be falling into Machiavelian rationalization.”

This is particularly true for Donna.  Bob Arctor is essentially PKD and Donna is inspired by a girl he was very fond of.  The book this movie is based on is his most personally biographical.  All of the characters are based on people he knew.

“i think it could be that you are drawn to our energy because you are a man.”

I don’t doubt there could be an element of that.  It wouldn’t be surprising.  But that isn’t it entirely. 

Like I mentioned, when all of the family gets together, I’m the only guy who is hanging out with the women.  When my brothers are around, they’ll be hanging out with my dad and I’ll be hanging around with my mom.  This is partly because I’m the youngest and thus a momma’s boy.  However, its the same with my sister-in-law.  I always end up being the one to hang out with here as my brother(her husband) hangs out with whomever else is also around.  My mom and my sister-in-law both like talking about relationships and that type of thing, and I’m the only guy in the family who will also talk about these things.  My brothers and my dad aren’t macho men, but they are more traditionally masculine than I am.

“Men are harder to get close to – if married, need to be kept at healthy distance, if single, usually still very difficult for very different reasons depending on the person.”

Yep.  Most of the women I know more personally tend to be family.  But I am fairly close to an one ex-girlfriend who is married and with a kid.  Her husband and I are very different, but we get along.  I’ve stayed friends with her mainly because she has stayed in contact with me, and it helps that there she lives far away.  Mostly, we just talk every couple of months.

“i have always in the past tested as ISTJ, typical for a teacher and church board type lol.”

My mom is ISTJ and she was a teacher.  But she is somewhat different.  She’d be less likely to talk about what we’ve been talking about here.  She would have no interest in PKD whatsoever.  She is into Hallmark movies.

I guess I could see you as an ISTJ, but its hrd to get the sense of a person’s full personality simply by seeing their words on a screen.  If you’re an ISTJ, you seem to have you Intuition function fairly well developed.

One of the reasons you remind me of INFJs I’ve known is that they’re very socially aware and respectful.  You’re always making nice comments and that can be how Extraverted Feeling manifests.  ISTJs can be more blunt than INFJs, and you’re not blunt.  You’re very much a mediator and I don’t think of ISTJs as mediators… not in a direct way.  ISTJs do value relationships a lot, but they tend to limit their affections to a few people they’re close to.

In some ways, an ISTJ can be more genuinely friendly than an INFJ.  INFJs value people, but don’t like to feel imposed upon.  INFJs dislike social expectations, and ISTJs will positively respond to expectations.  An ISTJ wants expectations of them to be clear.

Well, you can be any type you want to be.  Personality is possibly my favorite subject.  If you want a reall long discussion, just get me started about typology.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

6 days later

Nicole said

“I’m fascinated by him… I like him partly because he had a lot of knowledge about non-fiction subjects for a fiction writer.  He spent the last 10 yrs of his life obsessed with contemplating and philosophizing about his mystical experiences.  He also mixed his personal life into his fiction… how very postmodern of him.  :)”

Yes, and knowing you as I am beginning to do, I can see how all of the above are so very enticing to you.

“Its possible she is just pretending, but the way she was behaving in certain scenes was convincing to me.  What made you think she was pretending?”

Her role as revealed at the end and her relatively (apparent) mental stability do not seem to me to support her being an addict. She would have to be very convincing, so Bob wouldn’t suspect, so her behaviour in those scenes doesn’t provide me with support for her being truly addicted. What do you think? You know the book/movie better.

“I guess what I meant was that Donna at times seemed more desperate than him.”

As you can see above, I am not sure this is all real, or necessarily indicative of her not having a sense of herself. She certainly was conflicted and probably experienced some heavy guilt because of her betrayals.

“Bob Arctor is essentially PKD and Donna is inspired by a girl he was very fond of.  The book this movie is based on is his most personally biographical.  All of the characters are based on people he knew.”

This explains a lot in terms of how compassionate he is toward Donna. I can empathise. If you truly love someone, you can forgive a lot of betrayal and behaviours that others are much less tolerant of. I’ve really seen this with the way that I am much more gentle in my mind and heart toward “x” than nearly all my friends, who are horrified at his apparent betrayal of me because of writing that story.

“I don’t doubt there could be an element of that… When my brothers are around, they’ll be hanging out with my dad and I’ll be hanging around with my mom.  This is partly because I’m the youngest and thus a momma’s boy.  However, its the same with my sister-in-law.  I always end up being the one to hang out with here as my brother(her husband) hangs out with whomever else is also around.  My mom and my sister-in-law both like talking about relationships and that type of thing, and I’m the only guy in the family who will also talk about these things.  My brothers and my dad aren’t macho men, but they are more traditionally masculine than I am.”

I think you’ve put your finger on the essential dividing line for most of us. Talking about relationships and that type of thing 🙂 rather than how ’bout that football game, or that Hillary, or did you hear how my boss screwed with me in that project I had?

I know few men who are interested in talking at length about relationships and stuff, intrinsically, so my M.O., (though I don’t do it consciously, I just realise this upon reflection) is to cultivate the friendship of men I find intellectually interesting by drawing them out on topics they love that also interest me – their work, ideas and books we both find fascinating, etc – and gradually lure them into my world by sharing with them my thoughts and ideas about relationships and community. It has to stay mutual, and as long as it does, we both grow from the interactions and find them enjoyable and life-giving.

At the same time, I always have many women friends with whom I can just comfortably talk about all these wonderful topics we love so much like love and power struggles in relationships and so on.

So, whenever I find a guy who is just right there with it all, like you, it has the effect of being comfortable right away, and at the same time I can enjoy the intellectual and energic stimulation of the male approach to life. Very, very cool!

“Most of the women I know more personally tend to be family.  But I am fairly close to an one ex-girlfriend who is married and with a kid…  Mostly, we just talk every couple of months.”

Like me and the guy I dated just before getting to know the one who was to be my husband and now ex. This ex-boyfriend and I are still friends, still talk on the phone and email and occasionally get together after knowing each other for 25 years.

“My mom is ISTJ and she was a teacher.  But she is somewhat different…. She is into Hallmark movies… If you’re an ISTJ, you seem to have you Intuition function fairly well developed. One of the reasons you remind me of INFJs I’ve known is that they’re very socially aware and respectful.  You’re always making nice comments and that can be how Extraverted Feeling manifests.  ISTJs can be more blunt than INFJs, and you’re not blunt.  You’re very much a mediator and I don’t think of ISTJs as mediators… not in a direct way.  ISTJs do value relationships a lot, but they tend to limit their affections to a few people they’re close to. In some ways, an ISTJ can be more genuinely friendly than an INFJ.  INFJs value people, but don’t like to feel imposed upon.  INFJs dislike social expectations, and ISTJs will positively respond to expectations.  An ISTJ wants expectations of them to be clear. Well, you can be any type you want to be.  Personality is possibly my favorite subject.  If you want a reall long discussion, just get me started about typology.”

Ok, what you say is very interesting. I now see that I used to be exactly and only an ISTJ, when I first did the testing as a young married woman in my twenties, and was a fundamentalist Christian. I was very much as you describe, except for the Hallmark movies lol. I always had that intellectual curiosity but it was strictly in abeyance and duty came first always. I had a tiny group of very very close friends.

I have changed a tremendous lot over the past twenty years. Now I have learned to temper my natural tendency to be a loner with an ability and facility for bonding strongly and closely with a large number of people, and know how to keep friendships alive by staying in touch with my friends and showing I care in concrete ways. I don’t mind being “imposed” on most of the time, and if I do, I work on that, seeing it as a shadow issue to be resolved rather than a problem of the person who is “imposing”. I have learned to temper my tendency to be extremely blunt (because of my quick, incisive mind and tendency to cut mentally through the bullshit and smoke and mirrors people put out) with an ability to be genuinely compassionate and respectful of others, understanding that there but for the grace of God go I, and using conflict situations that arise from my knee jerk bluntness at times further to hone my mediation skills and deepen my ability to love unconditionally.

What changed me so radically? First, my very unhappy marriage made me look at the world and others with more compassion. My mission as a Christian to love unconditionally everyone was constantly being sabotaged by some natural tendencies I had as an ISTJ so I constantly challenged myself to learn and grow, and being a mother of three, running a learning centre now of nearly 250 and thus having to do with so many different types of people and families, running a church board and so having constantly to apologise, mediate and problem solve with people, my in-love experiences and friendships, and the association work I have been doing for 10 years – all these have had a profound effect on who and what I am, how I think, how I approach life and so on.

So I don’t know what type I am anymore. Maybe I have become a lot more NF than SJ.

Thanks, this is not only fascinating but it’s also helping me a lot to clear up confusions I didn’t even know I had 🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Child

7 days later

Marmalade said

Nicole,
“Her role as revealed at the end and her relatively (apparent) mental stability do not seem to me to support her being an addict. She would have to be very convincing, so Bob wouldn’t suspect, so her behaviour in those scenes doesn’t provide me with support for her being truly addicted.”

Your perspective is an interesting way to look at it.  It is a possibility.  Donna is deceiving Bob, but its uncertain how far that deception goes.  She is entirely deceiving him though.  She does seem to genuinely care about him on some level.  Its aspects of the story such as this that make it interesting.  Reality isn’t clear to the characters and neither is it to us the viewers.

The scene where Donna tells Bob not to touch her could make more sense considering your view.  She gives an unconvincing answer about it being the drugs, but Bob does believe her.  She is afraid of being close and also intentionally keeping him at a distance because of her betrayal.  Her saying that she doesn’t want to be touched because of the drugs seems false and so it could mean that her drug addiction itself is nothing but an act.  We never see her do drugs.

I mentioned PKD being Bob.  This relates to the idea of self-betrayal and the authorities.  Bob narcs on himself, and PKD did something similar.  He was a paranoid guy and he wrote numerous letters to the FBI requesting the file that he was sure they were keeping on him.  When he finally got his file, the only thing in it were his own letters to the FBI.  🙂  In his letters, he had essentially narced on himself and his friends by giving the FBI information.

PKD had a special place in his heart for marginal characters.  Donna is one example, but the other is Barris.  The conspiracy about Bob and Donna that Barris perceives/invents turns out to be true.  They are conspiring together unknown to Bob himself as he is listening with his Fred persona.  In fact, they’re conspiring together as they listen to him.  The conspiracy isn’t against the government but rather it is the government.  Barris is the one person who came closest to giving Bob insight into what was really going on.

“all these have had a profound effect on who and what I am, how I think, how I approach life and so on.”

It is interesting how much experience can influence us… even override natural tendencies.

“So I don’t know what type I am anymore. Maybe I have become a lot more NF than SJ.”

Most typologists don’t believe that people change their types.  Instead, people develop their other function-attitudes.  According to Beebe’s model, the tertiary(Introverted Feeling for an ISTJ) is the next to develop after the dominant and auxiliary.  There is a child-like quality to the tertiary.  The inferior(Extraverted Intuition for an ISTJ) is what one aspires toward and one can become proficient in it later in life, but it can only be used limitedly because it takes effort.

Helping you clear up confusions?  Don’t worry.  There is never a lack of confusions in life.  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

8 days later

Nicole said

yeah, i was thinking about that scene. as a woman, i really didn’t buy it that it was about the drugs, it was about a profound unwillingness to be intimate with him that i didn’t understand until later. the levels of internal conflictedness around the betrayal etc would definitely lead to a breakdown in the ability to be physically intimate.

and right, i really noticed that we never saw her do the drugs. everyone else was shown consuming them – except her. i found that telling.

your point about reality is a good one. from the beginning i found myself very confused about the reality of what was going on and even now after all our discussions i am only slowly and hesitantly piecing it together. as we are discussing with Dom, we ourselves only have a shaky grip on reality which tends to be challenged constantly by the media, as well as (though i didn’t mention it there) our experiences and perceptions.

and speaking of experiences, yes, i am aware of the fact that it is not supposed to be possible to change one’s type. ok, i have developed my other function-attitudes then 🙂 but to a really significant extent… it is one of the things about me that people find very difficult, i think, that i really change a lot, quickly. i think people can interpret it as a basic instability of my character or something, rather than a positive.

but i believe that it is profoundly unsettling to them because they find it too challenging to the way that they feel unable to change things about themselves they really dislike, so instead project all kinds of stuff on me and safely distance. much easier that way, eh?

oh, hey, i embrace confusions, every day i dig up a whole new nest of worms of them lol.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

8 days later

Marmalade said

Nicole – I was thinking that we were getting a bit off-topic, but looking back at my blog post it seems to fit in.  The ability to change is an interesting topic.  It relates to personality tendencies, to social support and encouragement, to psychological issues(such as addiction for instance), to philosophical questions of freewill and fate, and to spiritual challenges of acceptance and faith.

“and speaking of experiences, yes, i am aware of the fact that it is not supposed to be possible to change one’s type. ok, i have developed my other function-attitudes then 🙂 but to a really significant extent…”
 
BTW I do think that typological change is theoretically possible, but probably unlikely.  For change to occur so thoroughly, I would suspect that some kind of trauma would need to occur(whether neurological or psychological).  Although maybe a major spiritual transformation(such as might be induced by a kundalini experience) could alter personality.  It would be interesting to know someone before and after they had a major personality change.

“it is one of the things about me that people find very difficult, i think, that i really change a lot, quickly. i think people can interpret it as a basic instability of my character or something, rather than a positive.”

“Interesting, very very interesting,” says Ben while thoughtfully tapping his fingers together.  hee hee

I don’t think of ISTJs as having changing natures.  Rather, I think of them as being stable as a rock, identifying with their roles and limiting themselves to a few roles that they can entirely invest themselves in.  I’d think that having a changing nature would be most prevalent amongst EXNPs(types with dominant Extraverted Intuition). 

However, Ne is the aspirational of the ISTJ and so maybe that explains why you’ve aspired towards the ability to change.  It feels positive to you because its what you aspire to, maybe even what you idealize. 

Still, your use of Ne seems to be in the manner of an ISTJ.  I get the sense that you feel that your ability to change is motivated by a sense of responsibility, and responsibility is very much an ISTJ theme.  Ne is serving your dominant functions.  A dominant Ne type would value the ability to change for its own sake and probably would dislike a sense of responsibility being placed upon them.  It would feel constraining.  A dominant Ne type would value freedom over responsibility… and, depending on how well developed they were, maybe even freedom in defiance of the seeming expectations of responsibility.  To them, as Extraverted Perceiving types, the value of freedom isn’t in what it results.

You might find this interesting… the use of Ne by ISTJs from the book Understanding Yourself and Others by Berens and Nardi:
“Early in life, they may be prone to stick with literal interpretations, rather than inferences and looser interpretations and tend not to see any possibility of situations changing from the way they are.  Over time, they wil give more credibiity to those ‘strange knowings’ they had previously tuned out and will be more open to moments of synchronicity or convergence.  They become more patient with brainstorming and learn to trust what emerges rather than having it all figured out in advance.  Later in life, they may become more spontaneous as they follow possibilities to see where they might lead and explore multiple meanings.  They can become too engaged in this process, making impulsive decisions based on inferences alone.”
———

“but i believe that it is profoundly unsettling to them because they find it too challenging to the way that they feel unable to change things about themselves they really dislike, so instead project all kinds of stuff on me and safely distance. much easier that way, eh?”

Well, yeah, projections are as common as house flies… and just as irksome.  Life is challenging indeed… especially when you factor in other people.  My cats project onto me, but their projections of me being lord and master happen to be entirely true.  🙂

To be serious for a moment, what you’re getting at is pivotal.  Its not just about willingness or unwillingness to change, the ability or inability to change.  Its also about expectations… people expecting others to change or not to change.  Sometimes people even try to change others or resist what they feel others are expecting of them. 

Projections confuse the whole situation for the reason that projections are unconscious, and some projections can be supported by collective attitudes.  We all have projections.  You feel that others are projecting onto you their desire for unchanging stability which you perceive as implying a fear of change.  On the other hand, those same people may feel that you are projecting onto them your desire for change. 

We are only free to choose to change or not to the extent we see clearly, and that is the rub.  Expectation is one aspect of projections and perception is another aspect.  This relates to the idea of ‘reality tunnels’.  Personality type is an example of this.  Type is not simpy a way of being and acting but its also a way of perceiving reality.  The vaue of learning about type is that we learn that others don’t see the same way, and that some differences are just differences.  Nonetheless, no matter how much we learn about personality(our own and that of others), our view will always make the most sense to us.  We’ll never fully understand another type.  Even within the same type, the divergences can be immense.

So, let me relate all of this back to the blog.  There is the most fundamental question: why do people like this feel unable or unwilling to change?  I don’t know the answer to that question.  People are largely mysteries even to themselves.  The second question puts the first question into context: why is society so limited in helping, supporting, and inspiring such people to change?  I’m sure they felt the expectations from society to change, but how do we go beyond expectations(that often are mired in projections)? 

I don’t think its a matter of people preferring their problems over change.  It seems to me that they probably wanted to change and probably had sought various avenues of change, but for some reason failed or otherwise came up short… or they did manage to change for a time but fell back into old habits.  Why?  Did they not try hard enough?  Did they lack the vision to see the genuine possibility of change?

Just pondering….

Nicole : wakingdreamer

9 days later

Nicole said

Hi Ben,

“I was thinking that we were getting a bit off-topic, but looking back at my blog post it seems to fit in.  The ability to change is an interesting topic.  It relates to personality tendencies, to social support and encouragement, to psychological issues(such as addiction for instance), to philosophical questions of freewill and fate, and to spiritual challenges of acceptance and faith.”

Yes, it is more and more engrossing to me – in my work with the children at my learning centre, in my work with colleagues and the company through the International Association, with my children, at church, with my friends, and in the way I think about myself – it is becoming the central focus of my life, in a way. Change and moving toward potential.

“BTW I do think that typological change is theoretically possible, but probably unlikely.  For change to occur so thoroughly, I would suspect that some kind of trauma would need to occur(whether neurological or psychological).  Although maybe a major spiritual transformation(such as might be induced by a kundalini experience) could alter personality.  It would be interesting to know someone before and after they had a major personality change.”

Wouldn’t it?

“Interesting, very very interesting,” says Ben while thoughtfully tapping his fingers together.  hee hee”

LOLOL! Ok, I will settle back here on the therapeutic couch. Go ahead!

“I don’t think of ISTJs as having changing natures.  Rather, I think of them as being stable as a rock, identifying with their roles and limiting themselves to a few roles that they can entirely invest themselves in.  I’d think that having a changing nature would be most prevalent amongst EXNPs(types with dominant Extraverted Intuition).”

Yes, that is true to what I know about M-B typology. Thanks for the reminder.

“However, Ne is the aspirational of the ISTJ and so maybe that explains why you’ve aspired towards the ability to change.  It feels positive to you because its what you aspire to, maybe even what you idealize.”

Very much so. Thank you. This is helpful.

“Still, your use of Ne seems to be in the manner of an ISTJ.  I get the sense that you feel that your ability to change is motivated by a sense of responsibility, and responsibility is very much an ISTJ theme.  Ne is serving your dominant functions.  A dominant Ne type would value the ability to change for its own sake and probably would dislike a sense of responsibility being placed upon them.  It would feel constraining.  A dominant Ne type would value freedom over responsibility… and, depending on how well developed they were, maybe even freedom in defiance of the seeming expectations of responsibility.  To them, as Extraverted Perceiving types, the value of freedom isn’t in what it results.”

You’re exactly on the mark. In every respect, my desire to see change and growth toward potential is in terms of my sense of responsibility – to my students and their families and the community at large; to the worldwide Kumon family; to the Church; to my family and friends and myself; and ultimately and always to God.

“You might find this interesting… the use of Ne by ISTJs from the book Understanding Yourself and Others by Berens and Nardi:
“Early in life, they may be prone to stick with literal interpretations, rather than inferences and looser interpretations and tend not to see any possibility of situations changing from the way they are.  Over time, they wil give more credibiity to those ‘strange knowings’ they had previously tuned out and will be more open to moments of synchronicity or convergence.  They become more patient with brainstorming and learn to trust what emerges rather than having it all figured out in advance.  Later in life, they may become more spontaneous as they follow possibilities to see where they might lead and explore multiple meanings.  They can become too engaged in this process, making impulsive decisions based on inferences alone.”

I think this is an excellent description of my life, though I hope that the last sentence is not quite true (though some may argue it is most true of me now as I always speak of following my heart! lol). I would like to think my decisions are not wholly impulsive or wholly based on inferences, as I still use reason and other dynamics as guides as well as inferences.

“Well, yeah, projections are as common as house flies… and just as irksome.  Life is challenging indeed… especially when you factor in other people.  My cats project onto me, but their projections of me being lord and master happen to be entirely true.  :)”

Ha! I don’t believe you really have cats then, those sound like dogs! Our cats know they are the household god and goddess and accept all homage as their rightful due LOL!

“To be serious for a moment, what you’re getting at is pivotal.  Its not just about willingness or unwillingness to change, the ability or inability to change.  Its also about expectations… people expecting others to change or not to change.  Sometimes people even try to change others or resist what they feel others are expecting of them.”

I think people try to change others often, in fact, the closer we are to someone, the more tempted we are to try to change him or her. I try to resist that temptation whenever it arises and instead seek to support my friend or lover in what she or he understands to be emerging.

“Projections confuse the whole situation for the reason that projections are unconscious, and some projections can be supported by collective attitudes.  We all have projections.  You feel that others are projecting onto you their desire for unchanging stability which you perceive as implying a fear of change.  On the other hand, those same people may feel that you are projecting onto them your desire for change.”

Probably!

“We are only free to choose to change or not to the extent we see clearly, and that is the rub.”

Indeed. I am disturbed by how many of my acquaintances have difficulty seeing clearly. It must be so difficult to live like that.

“Expectation is one aspect of projections and perception is another aspect.  This relates to the idea of ‘reality tunnels’.  Personality type is an example of this.  Type is not simpy a way of being and acting but its also a way of perceiving reality.  The vaue of learning about type is that we learn that others don’t see the same way, and that some differences are just differences.  Nonetheless, no matter how much we learn about personality(our own and that of others), our view will always make the most sense to us.  We’ll never fully understand another type.  Even within the same type, the divergences can be immense.”

Yes, yes, yes. This is very, very interesting. I learn so much from you every day, Ben.

“So, let me relate all of this back to the blog.  There is the most fundamental question: why do people like this feel unable or unwilling to change?  I don’t know the answer to that question.  People are largely mysteries even to themselves.  The second question puts the first question into context: why is society so limited in helping, supporting, and inspiring such people to change?  I’m sure they felt the expectations from society to change, but how do we go beyond expectations(that often are mired in projections)?”

Well you put your finger on part of it – people do not see clearly so can’t see what or how to change. But another big part is personal power. Many people I know feel powerless to change their lives, believing that power is in the hands of ______ (spouses, parents, children, friends, neighbours, government, you name it, anyone or anything but themselves).

Without clarity and power, people feel “stuck”, something for the rest of their lives.

“I don’t think its a matter of people preferring their problems over change.  It seems to me that they probably wanted to change and probably had sought various avenues of change, but for some reason failed or otherwise came up short… or they did manage to change for a time but fell back into old habits.  Why?  Did they not try hard enough?  Did they lack the vision to see the genuine possibility of change?”

Trying and failing can be profoundly discouraging, leading to more disempowerment and more fogginess of vision.

“Just pondering….”

You are one of the deepest thinkers I know. I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but very admiringly: you are young and so mature and clear in your thinking. You amaze me.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

9 days later

Marmalade said

Hiya Nicole,

I said:
“Well, yeah, projections are as common as house flies… and just as irksome.  Life is challenging indeed… especially when you factor in other people.  My cats project onto me, but their projections of me being lord and master happen to be entirely true.  :)”

You said:
“Ha! I don’t believe you really have cats then, those sound like dogs! Our cats know they are the household god and goddess and accept all homage as their rightful due LOL!”

Well, I sometimes forget whether I own cats or whether I am a cat.  Life is so very confusing.  Let us assume for the moment that I am actually human… it would explain my ability to type these words.  Possibly, I the human am projecting onto my cats my desire that they project onto me being their lord and master.  However, its quite possible(despite the seeming evidence to the contrary) that I really am a cat… I do like to nap.  So, if I’m a cat, maybe I simply like to play with my human’s mind letting him think he is lord and master… meanwhile, forcing him to type these words for me.

I think I’m having an identity crisis.  Its like, Dude, I am the Scanner Darkly.

“Whatever it is that’s watching, it’s not human. Unlike little dark-eyed Nicole, it doesn’t ever blink […] What does a kitty see? Into the food bowl? Down into the heart of smal furry creatures? Does it see into me? Into us? Sleepily or lazily? I hope it sees sleepily because I need another nap.”

Nicole : wakingdreamer

10 days later

Nicole said

“Well, I sometimes forget whether I own cats or whether I am a cat.  Life is so very confusing.  Let us assume for the moment that I am actually human… it would explain my ability to type these words.  Possibly, I the human am projecting onto my cats my desire that they project onto me being their lord and master.  However, its quite possible(despite the seeming evidence to the contrary) that I really am a cat… I do like to nap.  So, if I’m a cat, maybe I simply like to play with my human’s mind letting him think he is lord and master… meanwhile, forcing him to type these words for me.”

ROTFLOL! Ok, I surrender! I surrender! subsiding weakly on the couch, helplessly giggling.

“I think I’m having an identity crisis.  Its like, Dude, I am the Scanner Darkly.”

Uh-oh! Red alert! Red alert!

“Whatever it is that’s watching, it’s not human. Unlike little dark-eyed Nicole, it doesn’t ever blink […] What does a kitty see? Into the food bowl? Down into the heart of smal furry creatures? Does it see into me? Into us? Sleepily or lazily? I hope it sees sleepily because I need another nap.”

Well, let me tell you about one of my kitties right now. He is resting regally on top of the couch, dreaming lazily as he gazes out the window, then turns to survey his domain, the living room, and one of his human slaves doing something funny with her fingers on that metalic surfaces with all the interesting buttons that is so much fun to walk on, although she tends to squeal and speak sharply the “no” word he hates so much when he does that…

in the background, sounds from the radio of a man blah blah blahing about something or another… there will be music from Mozart, ah there it is…

also in the background, sounds of another human slave showering. she is the short one who chases him and carries him around like a baby… he is content she is in the shower, leaving him in peace for the moment…

then closes his eyes, contemplating the mystery of being… is he a cat dreaming or a human dreaming he is a cat? the eternal question…