Where the progressives are missing the message

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Choco
Choco's picture

I wrote this for another website but thought it was relevant for the TH board and I hope Thom can get some use out of it. I use an analogy at the end and this came to me a few weeks ago while listening to Thom debate someone from Skeptics, or Reason site, i.e., a republican/libertarian. The guest was supporting Citizens United and apparently didn't have any qualms about how much money a corporation could donate to a political campaign. Thom blew apart the guests specious reasoning so the City Park concert analogy is about that discussion. This was posted on www.voterocky.org and was in response to a radio interview with Kucinich, Nader, Anderson and Barbara Hubbard.

 

Messaging

 

 

 

I wholeheartedly agree with the point of Kucinich, Nader and Anderson in that people need to understand that who they are and what they do really matter. Democracy is not a spectator sport and individual people can make a difference. Many such people aligned in common purpose can bring real progressive change and it starts with the messaging.

 

In that regard we need to think about how to refine the message in order to win converts and galvanize people to act on behalf of We the People. In Rocky’s interview he mentions three groups of people: those who do harm to society, those who stand by and watch and those who work to do good by all. The bystanders comprise the majority and I suggest their disengagement stems largely from distraction and confusion. This feeble mindedness can partially be attributed to ignorance and fear and those are exactly the human weaknesses that Joseph Goebbels and Edward Bernays-type Public Relations “experts” target and exploit. The job of insisting that the corporate-owned ultra-conservative Reich wing is more Godly, Patriotic and Free than “socialist” liberals has now fallen largely to FOX and the rest of the mainstream media, which is one of the reasons they emphasize “FREE markets.”

 

Progressives and progressive candidates that are interested in promoting We the People should use the messaging tools that carry some heft-- hypocrisy, ridicule and humiliation--with which to bludgeon the idio-illogical posturing of the greed is good and Godly crowd. The right has claimed that God is on their side. It’s time we pointed out that most all major religions and Eastern philosophies stress a spiritual connection with and respect for the ALL and rejection of materialism as necessary for individual growth. Yet somehow we keep getting billionaire-backed millionaire politicians who profess to be more Holier than Thou yet these career politicians are extremely materialistic and war like and do not balk at exploiting God’s creation for material gain—resources and people alike. It shouldn’t be that difficult to point out this utter hypocrisy so let’s all encourage the progressive talkers and aspiring statesmen to start doing it more. Perhaps those fence sitters will start “leaning forward,” to satirize the new slogan for MSNBC.

 

 Patriotism or rather false patriotism is another area where progressives can message much better. First and foremost, we don’t live in a global community; we live in our own local community with our own water supply and our own friends and relatives and local jobs and environment. What’s good for the board of directors and stockholders of a trans-national corporation isn’t necessarily good for us. In fact, trans-national corporate goals are more and more becoming directly at odds with community quality of life and even viability. Think of the oil companies and their penchant for fracking and the impact to the aquifers. Think of Monsanto’s terminator seeds, their GMOs and their legions of patent infringement lawyers vs. local farmers. Think of your children, wives and husbands leaving their local communities to be repositioned in foreign lands to fight and die for trans-national corporate oil and mineral profits. We should remind the feeble minded fence sitters that a lot of our veterans died fighting “The Spread of Communism” in Korea and Vietnam. Our nation suffered economically and psychologically during the decades-long cold war with Communist USSR. Yet our trans-national, FOX and MSM supporting global free traders see no problem with shipping our local jobs off to Communist China, enhancing their economy while ours falters. They see no problem in the fact that our trade deficit with China is helping them build up their military and that we may eventually clash--a euphemism for WWIII-- over finite natural resources that we are constantly encouraged to consume and throw away by Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels inspired PR and marketing firms. We can remind them of this everyday but especially emphatic on Memorial Day.

 

If we can show the feeble minded fence sitters that FOX equals Fox guarding the Henhouse that is America, and that it might as well stand for Fascist Orwellian Xenophobes, then perhaps we can get them to see past the corporate dogma. To see that we are becoming an oligarchy, which is anything but free.

 

And as for Citizens United, Corporations are People and money is freedom of speech, perhaps an analogy will help demonstrate the fallacy of this. Consider a city park, a world class singer, say John Lennon, Neil Young, Jim Groce sits down in a chair with an acoustic guitar and begins to play melodic music, the lyrics are about love and peace and living in harmony. People gravitate to the singer, their spirits resonating with the harmonious music. But the oil and military industrial complex doesn’t like this message of peace and love. There’s no money in peace. It’s better to make people afraid of other people and make them fear these people and then offer them protection from these evil people. But they’re so fixated on greed that they can’t think creatively so they hire a PR firm and the PR firm comes up with a scheme. They decide to field another band in the park and drown out the message of peace and love. They hire a crappy right wing musically irrelevant band, say Ted Nugent, and provide them with mountains of speakers and amplifiers drawing precious megawatts of power from the city grid. The cacophonous screeching is practically inaudible, the ears bleed with discordance, but the sheer amplitude begins to draw people in. Many linger at the electric induced spectacle infused with obligatory lyrics about God and country, freedom ringing outrage against those who tolerate anything less than American supremacy. The feeble minded are assured they have chosen the best show in the park—why else would they have all the well-known corporate sponsors.  

 

Messaging is all important. It doesn’t take money to get on message.

 

 

 

 

Comments

chilidog
Whatever. Have you accepted

Whatever.

Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

anonymous green
Social networking without an

Social networking without an ID is not allowed here Chilidog. I haven't received a red cent from you yet.

If you want an ID, send the money. Otherwise stop pretending to be someone you are not.

Choco
Choco's picture
chilidog

chilidog wrote:

Whatever.

Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

The rush limbaugh site is down the road chilidog, you must have taken a wrong turn. Grownups are talking here.

Natural Lefty
Natural Lefty's picture
Write on, Choco!

Write on, Choco!

chilidog
you talk like a fag, and your

you talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded.

anonymous green
chilidog wrote: you talk like

chilidog wrote:

you talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded.

Your true colors....

true colors....

are beautiful when expressed so eloquently.

Laborisgood
Laborisgood's picture
I appreciate your perspective

I appreciate your perspective Choco.  As Thom does so well, not conceding God to the Right is very important to many people.  Thom skillfully uses the Bible to not only illuminate hypocrisy on the Right, but to illuminate the Left as well.  However, your premise should be boiled down a bit and if it contains God in it's messaging, there are 2 obstacles that can't be overlooked:

1.   There are people so deeply entrenched in their religion while the Right so masterfully stakes claims that have the appearance of adhering to their religion that they will never switch over to the other side.  These people are driven by exclusion and condemnation and will probably never break that cycle.  Those people rightfully belong to the Right.

2.   There are people so deeply entrenched in their anti-religion who will fiercely fight against any such use of religious intonation in political discourse.  Most of these people are already on the Left.  They are often prone to exclusion and condemnation as well as long as it is directed at religious people.

Decent, well-adjusted people should tend towards inclusion and acceptance of others even when they respectfully disagree with them.  That is woefully missing in our society.  Religion done well, can foster inclusion and acceptance.  However, religion is not absolutely necessary for inclusion and acceptance either.

It's a double-edged sword Choco.  Thom gets lots of grief every time he invokes a religious perspective into a progressive argument or tries to paint atheism as similar to religion.  You have my support Choco, but you will not be supported by others.  I guess the question is, how many people wandering in the political desert would be swayed in a better direction by your premise?  Better messaging is critical to progress and poor messaging is likely why we are where we are.

chilidog
Choco wrote: The feeble

Choco wrote:

The feeble minded are assured they have chosen the best show in the park—why else would they have all the well-known corporate sponsors.  

Someone needs to explain the analogy to me. It does not show any consequences to listening to Ted Nugent.

Wouldn't a better analogy involve a company that makes breakfast cereal that's basically "cereal" and healthy and nutritious, but has no marketing budget, and another company with an enormous marketing budget that makes cereal with tasty cocaine, or heroine, etc., and it kills you after a month?

But we already have tobacco, so it's probably irrelevant.

drc2
Chilidog, your fag and retard

Chilidog, your fag and retard comment was unacceptable.  Neither word passes the test for humor or description.  I don't understand why you thought that post would win you any points.  It makes you look like a very large jerk.

The idea that peace and justice music gets drowned out by warmonger noise is what the Nugent analogy is about.  We go to war at the drop of a dime, but we are afraid of peace and what it might cost.  Does the message have to compete in noise and volume, or do we just move away from the sound machine and listen to it and each other?  Others, particularly Choco, can correct this version of the meaning of the analogy if they wish.  Good analogies and metaphors suggest meanings rather than providing a dogmatic truth.

As to the problem of the cultural captivity of religion on the Right and the antipathy toward religion in much of the Left, I confess that it is very personal for me.  As an ordained Presbyterian minister, I chafe at the misrepresentation of the Christian tradition by those who proclaim themselves most "Conservative" or "Biblical."  If anyone hates bad religion more than I do, I will tip my hat.  BUT, I do not include those who only have a personal axe to grind about their experience with churches or religious people.  To hate bad religion and not just all religion, one has to have an appreciation of what is being trashed, not just how toxic it is in practice.

This is where I give Choco thumbs up on the need for the Left to have a "faith" message of vibrant morality as well as good thinking.  We have had enough discussion of atheism not to need to rehearse the idea that atheists do have faith values and are not embracing a world of empty materialism as they are charged by the Religious.  Atheism may not be a "religion," but it is not the fount doctrine for "atheist ethics."  Theism or Not is only about a metaphysical construct, and deciding that there is no God does not rip the soul out of the image of humanity.  What our image of humanity is frames the issue Choco raises.

Hedges reveals a missing in inaction Mainline Protestantism.  Roman Catholicism has been playing the Culture War instead of the Gospel and the Poor.  Jews have had the specter of Israel, and the Religious Right has been acting out in public in a manner that ought to prove that no God with any lightening bolts in the armory is around.  Our rituals honor Mars and Mammon, and our sacrifices of blood and treasure to these Monster Demons always involve deep devotion.

I look at Environmental Design and other Green thinking as a new moral theology where how human beings and our environment can find a harmony and balance in a real world is our common question.  What it takes to make and keep human beings human in this world gets us to our politics, economics, culture and so forth.  The old dogma had us a producer/consumers in an economic world where "reality" was about how we served "the economy."  We have a lot better story than that to tell.

chilidog
there's that fag talk we

there's that fag talk we talked about...

There's a reason those comments are relevant, if not necessarily "funny." I think they're hilarious.

I don't speak "religion," it is alien to the way my brain works.  It's like Richard Chamberlain finding himself shipwrecked in Japan, or Joe Bauers in America in 2505.  I cannot work my brain to communicate with religious people in a way they "can" comprehend.  I am not an atheist.  My family is Catholic  I was raised Catholic, I went to 12 years of Catholic schools.  It. Never. Made, Sense. To. Me.  I've got no quarrel with Jesus of Nazareth, we'd probably all be better off if we abided by the things he taught (or that the people who wrote it down later said he taught - either works for me.) But the people that go to churches every week with American flags on the altars... 

I can't go the place you all are advocating.

anonymous green
chilidog wrote: there's that

chilidog wrote:

there's that fag talk we talked about...

There's a reason those comments are relevant, if not necessarily "funny." I think they're hilarious.

Again, spoken like a true weiner stuck in his own buns. Covered with flavored beans.

chilidog
You obviously don't recognize

You obviously don't recognize the reference.  Some readers will. If I told you the reference you wouldn't understand the relevance and you wouldn't think it was funny.  And I would be depriving you of a real treat that you could discover on your own.  Well, it isn't THAT big a treat...

Time for lunch, I'm going to Carl's Junior - fuck you, I'm eating.

tayl44
tayl44's picture
Choco,nobody have to tell

Choco,nobody have to tell you,"you cannot do the right thing with the wrong message". The 99% has the best message to date, "economic justice". The best movement to evolve that message is the "moveyourmoney". They move there money to credit unions & community banks,that was a good move and a message to the big banks/Wall St. But the credit unions and community banks are still basically control by the economic kings(like the stock market) We need a much higher level for a public bank control by and for the "public"! This is the message we progressives need, "Move Our Money to a Public Bank ,for Economic Justice/Democracy"!!! If we cannot come together on this message,we will go to hell with the 1%.   

anonymous green
chilidog wrote: You obviously

chilidog wrote:

You obviously don't recognize the reference.  Some readers will. If I told you the reference you wouldn't understand the relevance and you wouldn't think it was funny.  And I would be depriving you of a real treat that you could discover on your own.  Well, it isn't THAT big a treat...

Time for lunch, I'm going to Carl's Junior - fuck you, I'm eating.

Have you seen the little piggies

living piggy lives

you can see them out to dinner

with their piggy wives

clutching forks and knives

to eat their bacon

chilidog
Dave's not here. I know you

Dave's not here.

I know you don't have to google that one.

Go pack another bowl and laugh your ass off while watching Slumdog Millionaire.

.ren
.ren's picture
Thanks for another

Thanks for another interesting and well composed post Choco.  I miss people who take the trouble to think through something on this site these days, and then take the trouble to try to express what they've come up with in that process.  I've been thinking about some of those issues in your OP myself, so naturally my responses to some of your points immediately raised a network of complicating questions based on my own experience.  The very complication of thinking this out is at the heart of this messaging issue.  Some people want to get complicated, some don't.  But if one doesn't get complicated then the potential to steer a message one way or another with subconscious symbology rises dramatically.

I'll just give one small example based on what I find to be a core concept in your messaging thesis:

Choco wrote:

In Rocky’s interview he mentions three groups of people: those who do harm to society, those who stand by and watch and those who work to do good by all. The bystanders comprise the majority and I suggest their disengagement stems largely from distraction and confusion.

After I get up from the floor from being hit by the weight of overwhelmingly broad generality of what "harm" and "good" to society might actually mean to Rocky, my first thought is that "bystanders" aren't really bystanders in their minds, they are busy living their lives, which have more to do with working and paying the bills, buying many things, like foragers let loose in a WalMart nirvana paradise, than worrying about what whomever they vote for when they take time out from their busy schedules to vote is doing for the public good. That means for me that making any general assumptions about them is tricky business.

Many are working eight or more hours a day in an authoritarian bureaucracy of some kind, either private or public, performing a skilled role that they've learned maybe on the job or through an expensive education, which they may be paying off like the mortgage on a house they can't yet afford -- an educational process that itself seldom takes time to make much more than casual references to the responsibilities of being an adult democratic citizen.  In fact, their very jobs may be involved in doing what Rocky vaguely refers to as "doing harm to society."  What's happened here for me is that Rocky has framed something in a way that makes it difficult to get to the heart of the issue of why democracy might be a workable concept in some societies and not others. 

But we don't talk about democracy that way.  Mostly we assume we here in America are a democratic society, in fact, the paradigmatic democratic society. And, wow, if you can step outside it, is that ever a glaringly fallacious assumption.  Yet I don't dare suggest that in polite company.

So let me turn to a core issue: In our society, those who take the trouble to set aside the daily grind of living in order to become concerned about a range of other issues set out to do something that doesn't promise much reward.

Now that's not a casual remark.  I mean, just that phrase "promise much reward" has deeply integrated implications in a society where no one is expected to be socially and environmentally conscious as part of their role as an adult.

Our entire society has a ontological form of organizational implication that defers to the self.  This means the aggrandizement of self first and foremost, a concept which is integrated with the assumptions in our pop art, pop entertainment, our corporate organized and manufactured media messaging, thus pretty much all that goes into a modern industrial revolutionized culture that assumes being self-centered will somehow work itself out through Adam Smith's invisible hand as being the good for all.  This is the core of our enculturation process. As long as the system is functional, if one does no more than that one can survive, even live a long life.  Even be "happy" as long as one isn't an introvert and inclined to deep thinking.

Efforts to integrate what "good for all" means into all of this run dead into the contrary notions of bottom line capitalism, its needs for short term profit and long term growth, and thus the very system that provides most of the population with the means to drive around in environmentally disastrous vehicles, on the environmentally destructive infrastructure of roads, and into the biologically unfriendly cities where they work.  And then everything else that is integrated with that, including the industrial agriculture which feeds the growing population which is also part of industrial growth.  I wish I could put a graph here showing the correlation of the industrial revolution and human population growth on the planet.  Visuals could be so helpful in reducing the words no one wants to read anymore thanks to the magical symbolic imagery of pop culture and television. Anyway, once you recognize this as a system, you can essentially start at any point in the system and connect all sorts of things to the system that's incontrovertibly place.

To sum this up, this serving of self first is the overall integrating philosophy of the industrial revolution. It benefits the so-called entrepreneurs that "invent" the technology, the overlords of the private tyrannies who become immensely wealthy, and even the minions who serve in their roles in the tyrannical private collectives as well as the government bureaucratic collectives that supposedly serve society. 

Now, without that context I would feel even more hesitant than I do in saying that here's the problem I find with Rocky's generality: Nobody gets paid by the capitalist system to step outside it to think about the system itself and the damage it's doing to both society and the environment. These kinds of thoughts must come from within the system somehow, and thus they are always the thoughts that will be working against the forces of the whole system to work towards its most basic ends. 

There's an ineffible ingredient involved in doing something different, I call it caring, others might call it love.  But whatever term you want to use, it's something from within that's not necessary, and one need not be confused, ignorant, fearful or feeble-minded to not bother with thinking about the system that feeds you like a benevolent parent and the society that results from that system.  If a 700 lb tiger is not breathing down your neck as you flee desperately through the forest, what reason is there to be acutely aware of what's going on in the world at the moment?  You get in your modern car, turn the key, back out onto your paved suburban road, roll up the windows, turn on the air conditioner and join the flow.  Messages come out of your radio as you drive. All's well.

The few, like Dennis Kucinich and Rocky Anderson who may get elected, or like Nader, who uses the legal system and it's legally-determined harm compensation capacity as a way to fund his system-contrarian (and correcting) efforts, may find some way to be paid to be the watchdogs of society and environmental harm. They may for some reason or another, which in no way can be predetermined as good or bad, manage to avoid succumbing to the system's continuous effort to use the power of money and influence to subvert and own the political process.  But they are asking for miracles if they want the majority of people to step aside from the implacable flow of earning a living and participating in society as consumers, who are just doing what they've learned to do through their lives, expecting compensation from this self-serving process itself (that subconsciously teaches them to be served by a system they don't really need to think about, kind of like the way a parent teaches a child to be served by the parental home system) by being self centered and wanting more and more so that they can enhance their own little isolated existence.  It's a system in which there is no "we the people" on a daily basis for the majority.

This is the trade off when a society uses the basis of capitalism as its economic force and attempts to take all the elements of that economic theory and marry it to notions of democracy, which themselves are often quite hazy.

We have no generalized rite of passage that takes us from the self serving, me-me level of an expectational, parentally-cared-for child to a self actuated socially and environmentally-concerned adult.  In such a rite of passage, the child formally dies and the adult is reborn.  Rituals of that sort are generally experiential and will put an individual through a real experience, the sort of experience that tests one and opens the minds to what the new role in life is really going to entail.  Instead of a ritual, we may have something like a birthday party, or a drinking binge, along with some assumptions, like you are an adult because you can vote.

And that's just a taste of how complicated someone's thoughts can get about the generalities of Rocky's statement.  I haven't even touched on how this makes local community organizing a problem (after all, that's been my own focus lately).  And guess how many people stopped reading or passed by this post because of it's length?  Messaging is a conundrum.  It's going to take a lot of work to build a new cultural context where you can use a few generalities that many will understand in pretty much the same way.  To do that work people need to care or they won't bother.

drc2
Allowing yourself to "care"

Allowing yourself to "care" rather than just observe with pity is part of "self-actualizing" which I see as moving the Me into the We.  You are correct that we lack "rites of passage," and I have commented many times about American culture being arrested at the adolescent stages of development.  We do not frame images of maturity when "success" is about getting rich.  Achieving maximum ego satisfaction or the ability to show off materially rarely leads the "successful person" to become a "citizen" in the sense of honoring other citizens in social solidarity.  Citizen does not allow for a partisan divide where opponents can be done in by any means necessary.  It involves a sense of the sanctity of the society and its moral interdependence.

Robert Bellah and his fellow researchers, HABITS OF THE HEART,  identified the problem of "ontological individualism" long ago, and I agree that this metaphysical construct is a cancer in our American soul.  Individuality is another matter, and that a society nurture and protect individuality and the rights of conscience, etc., is not lost when we appreciate that the "enclosed soul" does not include our existential interdependence.  The idea that the world is composed of the "free market" interaction of independent individuals strips out the caring.  Doing one's "own thing" becomes ego satisfaction instead of vocation.  Community gets lost on the road to success.

I am a bit frustrated by chilidog's reaction to religion.  I thought I agreed that a lot of people have had bad experiences that turn them off.  Fine.  Just don't project that private and personal stuff onto those who do find value in religion if you want to understand who they are and why they do what they do.  I don't have to agree with their mythology to understand how it works for them.  If the point is how to communicate about values and caring to people who have been taught to fear the atheist and secular as lacking "soul," getting over the personal aversion to religion enough to communicate an honest message seems little to ask.  You are not being asked to become religious, just to treat the religious with respect and try to hear how they put things together because you care about them.

When I take on bad religion in public, I attack many of the same mystifications and projections my atheist friends react against.  Like Hedges, I understand from the inside how the tradition has been corrupted and its Message (Gospel) distorted and betrayed.  We see the Mainline missing from our discourse and activity.  We see Catholicism turning away from its Liberation Theology renewal to make misogyny its core dogma.  Knowing its own charter helps make the indictment better than accusing religion in general of being stupid.

On the other hand, I have often been surprised to discover conservative Christians among those at the peace march and very much in the feeding of the hungry.  Less surprised there.  People have inherited religions and many have warm memories of church as a place where caring was the norm even if the myths and metaphysics were presented in fundamentalism.  A lot of Americans outgrow their religion intellectually in late adolescence and early young adulthood.  If they "come back" to church, it tends to be as parents rather than as adult "seekers."  Finding a home for the spiritually mature is not easy.  It usually requires a lot of transcendence as you live in a culture of immaturity.

Another strategy is to talk about spiritual values and caring in terms of politics.  I think it makes sense to talk about the power of love to remind us that it is not a luxury or add-on to our personal self-interest.  Love makes little sense in the ego bubble of Self, and all that "you have to love yourself before you can love others" nonsense just trivializes the existential.  Our need for love breaks the bubble as the frame to see the world in.  Even if it is about "me," what it takes to love and be loved in return" is still the greatest gift of all as Nature Boy says.

When we pay attention to what and who we love, and when we acknowledge how much we depend upon love, the political reality of caring and sharing makes a lot more sense than when we treat "self-interest" in the abstract or in "the market."

Laborisgood
Laborisgood's picture
I'm glad ren's response was

I'm glad ren's response was devoid of religious references.  Myself and others automatically migrated to the religious aspect of the OP (with differing viewpoints).  IMO, the messaging you speak of Choco is one that clearly defines which side of the good vs evil divide one may fall.  Many people use religious terminology to define what does not necessarily require it.  Many people see religion as the problem.  A good message should not be tainted by anybodies religious beliefs one way or the other.

I'm not sure if Choco is advocating more religion in the message or perhaps suggesting more acceptance for a message that may be more religious.  Either way, insistance on religion in or out of the message is exclusionary by definition and therefore doomed to failure.  We are all in this together and have to find a way to make it work.

Ren's point about complexity or simplicity of the message is critical to successfully reaching the target audience.  There should be a simple message of right and wrong that does not pander for or against religion while being respectful of either viewpoint.  That basic message can certainly be built up with further complexity and nuance for those who require it.  Caring for and respecting others as much as we care for and respect our planet is the basic message.  Unfortunately, we currently don’t do either very well.

.ren
.ren's picture
Laborisgood, in response to

Laborisgood, in response to your paragraph indicating your uncertainty about Choco's position on whether or not he's advocating for more religion in progressive's messages, I'd like to fall back to the following in his post and see what it reveals:

 

Choco wrote:

The right has claimed that God is on their side. It’s time we pointed out that most all major religions and Eastern philosophies stress a spiritual connection with and respect for the ALL and rejection of materialism as necessary for individual growth. Yet somehow we keep getting billionaire-backed millionaire politicians who profess to be more Holier than Thou yet these career politicians are extremely materialistic and war like and do not balk at exploiting God’s creation for material gain—resources and people alike. It shouldn’t be that difficult to point out this utter hypocrisy so let’s all encourage the progressive talkers and aspiring statesmen to start doing it more. Perhaps those fence sitters will start “leaning forward,” to satirize the new slogan for MSNBC.

My first inclination is to look at the term "spiritual" and ask if that term necessarily implies religion, or if using it can mean something more philospohical.  I say this because I have used the term and have been derided for using it in the past, and I am not coming from any formal religious position when I have used it.  So, if we are going to be rational, attempt to ground our positons in reason, facts and rationality as so many claim to do, where does spirituality fit into this?  What can it mean to say that individual growth requires a spiritual component that "connects" us to a sense of ALL-ness?  This is a huge puzzle that is almost impossible to unravel through the authority of reason.  And I'm not using the term "authority" lightly there. 

Reason employed without a deep sense of ethics and morality can become an authoritarian dictator.  Reason based on rules of logic is the fundamental ingredient in law.  The making of legal decisions that are supposed to be at the same time just and fair for all relies on a close and careful use of human language used in the form of something more like mathematical logic, which itself has a long and respected philosophical place in Western culture.  Logic is supposed to reveal truth (if you haven't had logic 101).  And yet when the legal "experts" (like our SCOTUS justices) come up with a carefully analyzed legal decision, many people are not happy with those decisions, often not because they disagree with the reasons and their relationship with the Constitution that is somehow supposed to guide those decisions, but because those decisions seem unfair, unjust, like legally deciding to stop a vote count and put GW Bush in office under doubtful circumstances, or deciding according to some interpretation of a clause in the Constitution that corporations have the same rights as persons to spend money to advertise a political position about a candidate.

Thus the attempt to call upon reason as an authority also has this component of moving our mental capacity away from the less rule bound and more free ambiguities of our mental awareness.  That mental awareness can produce problematics like taking positions that can be pointed out as hypocritical.  And that's part of the message in Choco's appeal -- the need to point out hypocrisy. 

However, if one is truly a leftist, recognizing fuzzy ambiguity and acting according to one's internal sense of moral authority in the face of nuance and context rather than authoritarian rules and regulations is one's life.  The ambiguities of real life call upon us to make judgements out of our own self actualized awareness.  Sometimes those judgements aren't subject to pure and logical reason.  Our sense of fairness comes out of context and situational problems that often do not follow logical regularities.  If it weren't for that, what interest would there be in reading the great stories of our literary tradition?  And if someone can't relate to that question, then I submit that our education system is failing us horrendously, because the people of my generation who are also literate understand it.  They can be both religious and non religion-affiliated to understand the problems of context, nuance and ambiguity.  So religion isn't necessary, but something beyond logic in our minds is, thus we come up with the word "spirituality" or something like it as suggestive of that something that transcends our more linear, thinking, reasoning aspect of mind.  Something we can recognize but that somehow defies our language's logical and mathematical expressive capacities.

Someone, I can't recall who but I remember the gist of the words, once said that our greatest freedom lies in our ability to combine all our aspects of a sense of morality with our reasoning minds to make an assessment of what is right or wrong about what we do, about what is just and fair (and one assumes there's a "for ALL" component to that, especially when you find the transcendence of the Golden Rule across the human spectrum of cultures).  Supposedly that is why a jury of peers is put into our legal decision making process.  Choco said: " It shouldn’t be that difficult to point out this utter hypocrisy..."  But is that true?  Maybe it shouldn't be, but it seems that it is, without that deep sense of right and wrong in terms of the whole, the ALL. We have a large contingent of self oriented libertarian/cons on this board busying themselves with "running" around pointing out hypocritical factoids of contradiction based on the philosophy of self in hopes of undermining a general sense of what is right and good for America, the "we the people" aspect of it anyway, and it's true (but not necessarily true) that it can create a majority's " disengagement [that] stems largely from distraction and confusion" (Choco).

So for me, I can see that this all comes back to a kind of position for the individual, and the partaking of a more complex adulthood, where the individual takes positions on what is rationally presented out of a sense of moral authority.  At this point, explaining that gets very murky indeed.  I can rationally say that we hypothesize that humans are social beings.  That in being a successful species we have actualized that social capability.  But that's going to remain a hypothesis because our scientific method does not deal with that kind of proof.  That's a stand on your own two feet and make a decision for yourself based on your own sense of the good for all kind of thing.  The proof is in the self actualizing of the people involved in their communal involvement with each other. 

I will also hypothesize this: to the extent that people can decide as self-actualized individuals that what they do is good for ALL will determine the success of their communal arrangement with nature, and their long term sustainability as a species.  The less individuality involved in that communal agreement the less it can be called "democratic" and the more those agreements will rely on some form of authority.  So when someone is trying to talk me out of my own sense of moral authority to decide what's best for the public interest, not my own, I can recognize that they are invoking some form of authority, and I have the freedom to agree or not to agree. But I am lost when it comes to creating a message that everyone will understand that can express that as I understand it. 

While I wish that what Choco says could be true about creating progressive messaging, I fear it can't be, because self actualized individuals do not operate well under authoritarian dictums, while messaging unfortunately moves a society in the direction of authoritarian simplicity.  That's why I see that capitalism and democracy are contradictions.  Capitalism, which is the fundamental economic religion/philosophy of Americanism, requires authoritarian simplicity in its organizational procedures in order to be efficient and thus in order to result in the capitalists' profits and growth.  And I don't see any way around that need for an authoritarian simplicity in messages if we are to arrive at a happy sense of successful, orderly representative "democracy" on the large scale we are currently dealing with in most nations on this planet. 

Authoritarian simplicity works well for authoritarian followers, who are mainly Republicans it turns out (The Authoritarians - Bob Altemeyer), but not so well for what we consider leftish personality types.  It's much more efficient politically on a large scale. And I hypothesize that's why we are moving to the right in this nation of more than 300 million citizens.

Laborisgood
Laborisgood's picture
Ren: You may be correct about

Ren:

You may be correct about the the American move to the right and difficult task of crafting a progressive message, but Choco's cause is noble and one that strikes a chord with me and I feel is worthy of pursuit, even if it seems to be an unachievable goal.

The simple message is the Me vs We, but our planet and all of it's inhabitants must also be included as part of the We.  As you extrapolate out that simple message to include everyone and everything, it gets harder and harder to keep the message intact.  There will always be those who remain in the Me stage, but the trick is to keep refining and distilling until those Me's are clearly defined and delineated from the We's such that their damage upon the rest of us can be minimized.

The whole religion-spirituality thing is one I easily slip in and out of in daily conversation and find to be an easy means of dealing with the good vs evil concept as it presents itself.  If that terminology helps me make my point, I will use it, but I am fully aware that many people have a strong aversion to such terminology.  There's no reason to allow exclusivity in the spiritual realm to keep 2 good people from holding sacred their common ground.  I don't give a rat's ass if someone is an Atheist, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Rastafarian or whatever if they are willing to hold our common ground sacred in opposition to the Me's and in defense of our planet.

.ren
.ren's picture
I agree that Choco's

I agree that Choco's intentions are noble.  Of course "noble" needs to be translated, but I think we mean it as a sense of good for all these days. That's part of what I'm saying as well.  We can have noble intentions and miss sending a message that includes those intentions. 

The messaging Choco refers to with Eddie Bernays and Joseph Goebbels is like the metaphor some of us have been building for the overall messaging success of the PR industry through the Twentieth Century. But in trying to develop a community of understanding about what that means, I personally don't know how to put that into a sound bite if relatively few citizens are aware of our history.  It's like chilidog's reference to writing like a fag which I just discovered reading him on another thread is related to a movie I never saw about some future where people who write in complete sentences are considered in that way. 

About the history of Twentieth Century Public Relations messaging.... I personally wasn't taught that history in public school, even though most of my public schooling was in the relatively sophisticated Ann Arbor public schools that benefitted from the scholarly influence, both in and out of the classrooms, of the educated elites in Ann Arbor's community from the University of Michigan.  But that was when I went through it many years ago.  I don't know what's happened to its educational sophistication with this latest scourge of the Texan No Child Left Behind (by retarding them all) being applied nationally thanks to the last Administration's benevolent concern for us all.

That PR history encompasses both government (in its first application through Wilson's Creel Committee) and then later the private economic system through the technology of corporate-owned and controlled for-profit media.  The idea that privatized for profit-messaging is less authoritarian in nature than government (which is then characterized as the evil of socialism) derives from that dichotomy.  And it's now a stretch for people programmed to knee jerk at the words "communism" or "socialism" or "government in my business" to recognize how corporations and privatized can have the same dominating effect on their lives and minds.  Most people are like the frogs in the water that's being heated on the stove.  They generally are not aware of the application of PR heat to their mental environment and the gradual change of environment that goes with it.  After all, we are immersed in our language and culture like the frogs are immersed in water. 

The PR environment manipulators who intend to profit from boiling the frogs do not take any efforts to alert the frogs that they are being boiled by this process.  It's up to the frogs to learn about it.  It's up to us frogs to create our environment.  And in that environment we send messages to each other.  When do we know which metaphor refers to what unless we know each other and our multitudinous habits and characteristics of originality?  And how do we get to know 300 and some million people unless everyone is reduced into a simple form?  The form in which messaging works?  That same process is being applied cross culturally throughout the world, anyplace becomes everyplace.

I think you've illustrated the problem I tried to explain by simply pointing out the metaphorical complexities of using a term like "religion" in a way that won't be misunderstood and reacted to by people who are hooked on sound-bite blurbing for communication purposes.  But, again, that's no reason for us to give up trying.  Then, too, we can create problems, like framing the message as "me vs we".  DRC is constantly working at metaphors about thinking in terms of both.  I could go into the problem of binary rationality but that will put the 99 percent to sleep and the 1 percent don't care because they already use it to their advantage.

drc2
Easy and false, the

Easy and false, the temptation to clone up and get it 'simple' so Authority can be imposed is always the short-curcuit option to Democracy.  The latter is messy, often very ambiguous or conflictual, and deserves to be compared to cat herding.

In classic metaphor, Head and Heart must work together for a moral intelligence that is both principled and relevant.  I offer the Parables of the NT as examples of moral situations that require an answer from both.  They are not fables with set lessons to be learned, despite the fact that redactors often put tags on them to that end.  Human conundrums force legalists to evolve and indict the callous for missing the Heart.  

ren's concern for Authoritarian organization and religion is obviously well grounded.  Dogma replaces the active reflection and the head/heart dialogue with set truths.  Certainty is offered where it ought not be.  Confidence does not require that logical posivist crutch.  Spirituality has to move to energized moral thinking as conscience wrestling with reality.  The community that supports this "faith" is transcendent of any particular expression in religion or politics, but it is also grounded in them.  

For those concerned about religion, after affirming your concern, may I suggest reading James Cone's THE CROSS AND THE LYNCHING TREE.  You don't have to be a convert to get what he is saying about the Black Church and preaching that deals with human reality.  The Black Church is far from perfect, as are all churches.  But, it played a role in redemption and liberation that no other institution could have.  The hymns and spiritual "truths" that formed these communities in worship were not "pie in the sky" nor were they anything like an opiate other than helping with the pain.  They did not divert anyone from striving for freedom.

I don't know where the wellsprings of renewal will be found, but I think we start with meeting human needs and getting that "for all" into our own self-image.  It would be interesting to see a renewal in our Mainline churches as well, and I am not closing down that possibility.  But, we do not need to make it "religion" to recover the vision and the moral heart and mind beyond the linear and literal epistemology of the Age of Reason. 

Post Age of Reason does not mean reactively irrational at all.  Being aware of what the Age of Reason factored out of our calculations of conscience matters.  Free Will spirituality is always short on grace and a focus on personal "salvation" does ignore community.  If we bring a sense of "both/and" complexity to the literalism of Reason, we restore what the linear model suppresses.

If two things are true at the same time and cannot be conflated, "reason" must deal with a both/and without finding a "middle ground."  As in "speak the truth in love."  Do both at once.  Do not compromise either.  It means opening the idea of truth to a trans-literal dynamic of paradox.  Truth is bigger than truths.  It comes in a math beyond arithmatic.  It is expressed in the geometry of the triangle (Trinity), but that is only the first polyhedron beyond the linear.  One and many is the phrase that we know for this.

Intellectuals in the Age of Reason knew this dynamic.  It is expressed politically in the checks and balances of power.  But, American culture and 'thought' was wrapped up in the freedom of the individual.  Breaking out from dogma and aristocracy made "freedom" the watchword for moral progress; and we still see the expansion of our franchise and participation in society and power as "progress."  The institutions and culture of human bonds of feudal obligation were rejected as they should have been.  But, the sense of interdependence and mutuality beneath that royalist oppression was not brought along with the freedom.  

Instead, we get "personal responsibility" as a way to deny our own social responsibility for others.  People make "bad choices," so what can we do?  Aren't we all responsible for making the right choices and living them out responsibly?  Salvation is now about you and not a mystery.  Take care of yourself.  It ain't my responsibilty.  This is not what Jesus was teaching or doing.  But we don't need the Bible to know that something is wrong with this approach to morality.

Elsewhere, Anti did a great account of how the internalized personal interests of the individual become connected to Natural Law and commodification.   We lose our human connection to others and become lost in Self and Ego, or depression.  However we need to talk about this, it has to come back to giving and receiving love as the essence of our humanity.  How we get from the protection of our loved ones to loving one another in a politics of respect and justice is at the heart of our post-modernism.

Robindell
Robindell's picture
The Year of Jubilee in

The Year of Jubilee in Leviticus is an interesting concept.  Men, who have worked as a servant to pay off their debt, must be freed and allowed  to return to their own land and to their families.  This is a reoccuring cycle which is supposed to take place every 49 years.

drc2
You will love David Graeber's

You will love David Graeber's DEBT; a 5000 Year History.  Jubilee is just the tip of this iceberg.

tayl44
tayl44's picture
Ren,you and DRC and few

Ren,you and DRC and few others can put a issue into a "atom smashing" machine and come out with the "God particles".(half joke) I ask a simple question,can the label democracy/freedom/justice/morality  transcend "me vs we"? I would add,as long as we see "we vs me",we will have problems becoming one with nature/God.(life main goal)