March 1

A Capital Idea Part 59: Is Our Government an Open or Closed System?

As a trained scientist, I have a pretty good understanding of how science works, how it can only move forward to create more knowledge, never backwards, and how within the scientific method is nested a self-correcting process. That is, when theories or ideas prove to be incorrect, they are discarded and replaced by better ones. This is what I call an open system -- that is, a system which is open to outside influence, and therefore can grow and evolve as a self-impoving system rather than be stuck in a small, decaying mental box, unable to make changes to fix its problems due to its inability to account for new information. The only way to fix what's wrong in the stinking, decaying box is to throw it away and start over.

My understanding of democracy is that it is designed to be an open system, whether we are talking about the democracy that florished in Greek city states, or the democracy which more recently grew out of the period of intellectual enlightenment, which was scientifically driven. Thus, if we truly have a democracy, even a bit of of it, we have an open system, a system with self-correcting mechanisms built into it. Thus, the corrollary question to this post is: Do we truly have a democracy, and if so, how much democracy do we have?

The question of whether we have an open or closed system is an extremely important one, and one of increasing relevance, since the issue of how to change our corrupt political system hinges upon the answer. If the system remains open, it can be fixed by working within the system, but if it is closed, only a revolution overthrowing the government can fix these problems which result from the influence of money on the political system. Make no doubt about it, this is an economic issue and a matter of how we consider "capital," that is, resources. The political system in which we exist, creates the rules and parameters which define capital and regulate its use and distribution.

Evidence of a Closed System

It doesn't take any special powers of observation to discover that certain forces including financial and psychological ones, work to make our political system less amenable to change. Actually, any sentient person who halfway pays attention to what is going on can see what has been happening. Globalized corporatism has created a monster the likes of which the world has never seen before. The economic and political system in which we live seems like something that the rich have created exclusively for themselves, and surely there is much truth in that sentiment. Disparities of wealth are as huge as they have ever been, and continue to increase. Furthermore, people with tremendous amounts of money have become more sophisticated in using it to enhance their wealth, power and prestige. The wealthy have always gamed the rest of society, but now, they have gamed society in ways they never have before. They have learned how to influence public opinion through control of propaganda-spreading media, using means which were not available until the mid-1900s and which were not used in this way until recent years. They have learned to influence politics through lobbying, propaganda, dirty political tricks, and now, with the Citizens United decision here in the United States, through direct spending. They have tapped into socially conservative sentiments to help their cause largely through the use of religious organizations, thus reversing the historic trend of religious professionals supporting progressive causes. Of course, religions themselves tend to be closed systems, although with the mixture of messages seen in religious texts, and the variety of interpretations of religious texts, there is room for either progressive or conservative emphases among religions.

I have encountered many people, including posters, bloggers and professional journalists, who appear to have given up hope that our system remains open. At the same time, ironically, I have noticed that these same people tend to blame individuals within the system, such as the President or Congresspeople, for its problems. Perhaps they do hold hope after all, that if we just elect the "right people" or the left people, the system will be fixed, or at least we will start to fix it. If the system is truly closed, it doesn't matter who is elected or who runs our nation, because the system which the rich have created for themselves is the true problem. I do know some people who hold to that view as well, to be perfectly fair, and although I don't totally agree with that notion, I do agree in part.

An example of a famous journalist of gloom and doom (at least as I see it) who has argued that our system is closed, is Chris Hedges. I reviewed some of his work through the use of the internet over the past few days, as well as what some people had to say about it. Basically, Hedges argues that while liberals have been suckered into consent in order to look after their own personal interests, wealthy conservatives have created a totalitarian society run by big money, and thus are able to pull whichever political strings they wish to. Hedges latest book is called "Death of the Liberal Class," and it blames educators, religious professionals, media, unions, and of course politicians for this situation. I find Hedges to be a very skillful writer and an expert at engaging in hyperbole, consistent with his background as a minister's son and person who abandoned a potential career of following in his father's footsteps after abandoning his faith. There are parts of his argument that I agree with, but other parts that I do not. In general, his assertions that the large majority of religious professionals, media and politicians have forsaken their obligations to the public are true. However his nasty notions that unions and educators have done the same, are utter nonsense and needlessly insulting, I can say as an educator! As a psychologist, I don't believe I have ever personally met another psychologist who is a conservative, or who does not support progressive causes, at least in principle. My advisor at U.C. Riverside, Carolyn Murray, was very active in supporting progressive causes, and so radically progressive that she made me seem like a politically bland, noncommittal young man even though I was fomenting very progressive ideas and sentiments at that time. Another highly politically active progressive professor I worked with was Dr. Geraldine Stahly, who was a champion of women's issues. Not all professors are so politically aware or active, especially since most of them are too busy to pay much attention to politics, but as a whole, they tend to be very progressive. I wrote a post about this very topic a year or so ago, and found this to be the case, although economics and business professors tended to be less progressive than other disciplines, as a whole being rather neutral politically, with a mix of conservatives (who are often tapped as political advisors or commentators) and progressives (who are rarely used as political advisors or commentators). Social scientists tend to be the most progressive, although Dr. Phil is a Texas Republican, a rarity among psychologists. Regarding unions, the protests taking place in Wisconsin and other states speak for themselves. It seems to me that unions, and labor interests in general, have always been supportive of the public good, and now, they are finding issues which resonate with the broader public, as conservative Republicans escalate their assault on unions. Hedges wrote his most recent book prior to the eruption of these union-led protests, although his closed-minded approach, consistent with his religious upbringing would probably prevent him from admitting he was wrong about either the unions or educators being sell-outs.

Moreover, the idea of their even being a "liberal class" is a work of artifice. There can be a rich class, a middle class, and an impoverished class, because wealth or lack thereof is generally passed on to one's offspring, but there is no "liberal class" or "conservative class." To me this notion implies that political views are passed onto one's children, which is clearly not true. I think the great majority of us can look at our own families and see how there are widely varying views on politics. If not, just look at the Reagan family, or progressive talk show hosts such as Stephanie Miller or Thom Hartmann, who were raised by conservatives, or my brothers and myself, progressives who were raised by Eisenhower-type, pacifist, and now disaffected, Republicans, but Republicans nonetheless. There are liberal people (which I prefer to call "progressive"), conservative people, and people who are in-between; there are people with committed political views, and people whose political views are still evolving; there are high information voters who are very politically involved, and low information voters who don't pay much attention to politics; but there is no "liberal class" or "conservative class."

Nonetheless, there is a compelling case to be made that, metaphorically speaking, the edifice of our democratic society, which was built with a copious supply of windows in order to let the light in, has gradually seen more and more of its windows shuttered over the past few decades, by people with the money, motives and political means to shut out the light of day from the public, that we would not see the beauty outside and wish to be a part of it.

Regarding the politics of a closed system, I think the concept of "groupthink" applies rather well. Groupthink is a term for the leadership of organizations, when there is a lack of critical thinking and a denial of evidence which contradicts the prevailing group view. Additionally, when groupthink occurs, there is inevitably a sense of moral righteousness and entitlement among the leaders and consultants who make policy. Actually, this groupthink concept can apply both to government, and corporations -- anyplace where policies are made. Groupthink basically creates a closed system. Thus, the antidote for groupthink, is to open the system to new information, bringing in outside experts, or even ordinary citizens, for instance, and honestly and carefully listening to them, taking their suggestions and information seriously. Also, building in safeguards against groupthink help, such as requirements to have people from a variety of backgrounds or viewpoints be members of the policy making group.

Evidence of an Open System

Despite the evidence that our system is far less democratic or open than it was intended to be, I consider our system still open to a degree. No matter how the forces of plutocracy try to create a permanent state of power for themselves, as long as we maintain a semblance of democracy, as long as we continue to have elections, and open communications through means such as the internet, telephones or even letters, as long as peaceful assembly and protest is asserted as a right, the light of day will always find a way to enter the edifice of our society. It means asserting our rights, educating ourselves politically and civically, and making government our own, but the reality is that change is inevitable, and we collectively are the greatest agents of change. Perhaps many of us have fallen asleep at the wheel, so to speak, while rich conservatives reshaped society for their own purposes, and perhaps much of this happened before many of us were old enough to have much of an effect, or realize what was going on, but the collective "we" remains the primary mover and shaker of societal evolution. Even the plutocrats at Citibank, as revealed in their famous memo from a few years ago, acknowledged that. As one as each person has an equal vote, we have the ultimate power. Money doesn't vote, or protest, or write blog posts; people do.

The system that the founders of our nation set up was an open one, based upon the rationality and scientific approach of the Enlightenment. The only thing which can fundamentally negate that would be an anti-revolution, an overthrow of our government by corrupt, closed-system forces. However, this will never happen as long as we maintain our fundamental identity as a democratic nation. Plutocrats will use subterfuge and sophisticated propaganda techniques to deceive as many of the public as possible, but their deception becomes evident upon any intelligent inspection.


At this point, I think it may require a second blog post to describe my ideas for opening up our political system and encoding openess into law in such a way that the corporatocracy can never get a stranglehold over our, or hopefully any nation in the world's, political system. This may seem a bit trite, but it is up to us to retake our democracy from the forces which would deny it to us.

I am sure we will continue to have differing opinions regarding the state, and even the nature of, our political system. I do know that this world is changing as we speak. Will we need a revolution to "Fire the rich" (as one recent cleverly entitled blog post on the Hartmann site was entitled), or can we, the people, assert ourselves as the bosses, and "lower their salary," "put them in jail" (where some of the rich surely belong), and/or "demote them?" I think it is possible for the public to assert itself as "the boss," though it will take lots of work. What do you think? What are your ideas for opening up our system?


nimblecivet 8 years 32 weeks ago

If you have read any Kuhn ("Structure of Scientific Revolutions") or Habermas, I would like your thoughts.

You use the word "system"; we have a political system, and your argument is that while it remains a democratic system, it is not being used in a democratic manner. You point out the reasons for this. This problem you point out keeps coming up, and Thom keeps getting stuck in a catch 22: the only way to open up the system is for the people to speak up-the people cannot speak up because they are outspent-the only way to solve the problem of being outspent is for people to get money out of politics-the only way for people to get money out of politics is to speak up.

Personally, I am not convinced that our system will survive. I can imagine a scenario where the plutocrats split the country, using the onus of the very debt they created as an excuse. After seceding and inviting all ditto-heads and "libertarians" etc. to join them in creating a paradise with their ill-gotten wealth, they will then leave the rest of us to suffer the collapse of the american economic system and the concommitant fall of the federal government. Fox news will then parrot a "see-I-told-you-so" message that the U.S. failed under the weight of "big government" and union pension plans.

I feel strongly that only an international movement is sufficient to mitigate our current circumstances. Thom suggested the slogan "bring our jobs home". But this is mere jingoism. How can you bring the jobs home unless you bring the factories back? But we should remember that the IMF and World Bank were ostensibly created to help the rest of the world develop; it was the interest of the capitalists in maintaining access to cheap labor which explains why they subverted these institutions to their own ends (Dulles bro.s, MacNamara, etc.). In light of this, why not let the Chinese keep the factories in exchange for debt relief and build more factories here? The banks and others who received the bailouts (universally unpopular) would be forced to liquidate their assets upon seizure of their funds and bankruptcy proceedings. Then we would rebuild america, we would rebuild the factories and our economy.

p.s.: sorry I missed the "worst presidents" rumble

dhavid 8 years 32 weeks ago

NL wrote, "What are your ideas for opening up our system?" I think the system will open itself up, by necessity, when people demand it, but not until. Unfortunately, hunger is a sure trigger, and the constant reminder of the vast disparity between the rich and the poor another. Don't most societies move in circles, or between different poles? Robert Persig showed well the classical/romantic dichotomy in societies, how they flash first one, then the other, throughout their histories in Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Perhaps it is just a matter of time for things to change here.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 32 weeks ago

Hello Nimblecivit. By the way, the ampersand is a sign Zenzoe and I worked out because it's so difficult to locate a particular individual's blog posts on this site. Hers or mine is an ampersand. You and Dhavid can pick that or another one if you wish, or maybe it's just a stupid idea anyway, but we got tired of missing each others' posts after I checked Dhavid's profile and found that I hadn't seen several of his posts.

You submitted some excellent comments here. During my first year of graduate school, we read Kuhn and Sir Karl Popper on the nature of scientific progress. I don't remember what they said very well, but I do remember stuff about paradigm shifts being the truly significant progress when one world view turns out to be deficient and another is better, and learning how science proceeds through disproving theories which lack truth value (my term), so that the better theories are not really proven, but they fit the evidence the best and have the least evidence of falsehood.

I love the way you put the catch 22 situation. Well stated! I hadn't really thought of it quite like that, but it was in the back of my mind. That is a succint but true (like a good theory) way of describing the closing of the political system.

The scenario you describe is imaginative, and far from being realized, but plausible, where the "haves" split off from the "have nots" into a separate nation. However, I doubt that would work in the long run for the "haves,' because 1. They need "have nots" to do their work for them; 2. Not all "haves" are fascists, and even fewer of their children are likely to be; 3. The "have nots" with their big government, and proper ideology to create a better society, would ultimately do better than the 'haves" in terms of the types of outcomes that really matter, even if they don't have the most wealth. However, I agree that there is a real chance that our system may not survive, say, this century.

I have never been much for nationalism, and neither is Dhavid (based on the worst Presidents thread). I agree that what we ultimately need is an international political movement, not the international corporatism that we are seeing, which is exactly the wrong sort of internationalism, but a spirit of international cooperation to lift the fortunes of all peoples and ensure their human rights. It is tragic that corporations have gone international but a serious international effort to ensure human rights, economic fairness and a decent standard of living worldwide have yet to happen.

By the way, the "worst Presidents rumble" is still going on. Today I was that some guy said I was a nihilistic (no idea where he got that but the opposite is true), pro -Pollyanna (true but the optimism is good) wuss (not sure what that is but if he means coward, very untrue).

Dhavid, I plan to go into the groupthink issue and prescriptions for preventing it in terms of ideas for opening up our system. Along the way, I may incorporate some other ideas, but it's still a rather fuzzy topic for me at this point. Anybody's ideas are of course welcome at this point. I agree that when people demand that the system be open to change, it will, despite the catch 22 situation described by Nimblecivit. It won't be easy in the beginning, but at least we have the internet and other forms of people power communication. I don't think the financial elite would dare take those away from us, although they might try to make it more difficult or add more censorship. Computer savvy people seem to be great at getting around such barriers, in any case.

Did Robert Persig write Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? That is one of those books I have always heard about but never read. Who was it who wrote that book Thom talks about that describes the 80 year cycle with 4 stages? The scary thing is that, according to that cycle, we are due for a major war. However, I would say that we go in more of a spiral. That is, society moves in circles, but always, or generally, upward, kind of like the DNA double helix.

Zenzoe 8 years 32 weeks ago

Thanks for the heads up, NL.

Unfortunately, I don't even have the time or energy tonight to give your thesis a proper read. I skimmed some of it —sorry, just brought the car back from Pep Boys, $500 less wealthy than I was... the problem was way worse than door locks —truly. I trust them.

Anyway, I'm wondering, without having any basis for my wonderment, if you considered the effects of the likes of Wikileaks as the crack that lets the light come in—and open the whole thing up. Just a thought.

See ya later.

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Natural Lefty 8 years 32 weeks ago

Zenzoe, I have to get up early tomorrow and give exams all day, so I am going to go to bed early. I just commented on the Lady Gaga thread and saw you wrote something similar there. You see I used the ampersand, although I don't really know if it is helpful or not. I guess it did work as a "heads up" at least.

The wikileaks thing is exactly the sort of thing I am talking about that lets the sun in and lets people see what's really going on. The unfortunate thing is Julius Assange's apparent sex habits which make it difficult for many people such as myself to really like him, even while believing avidly in his wikileaks project. However, there are many other computer savvy people out there who are operating projects such as Anonymous. One of my great friends I met on this site is among them. He recently asked me for help in writing materials to be widely distributed, but I am not sure of the status of that project at this time.

My wife's big news is that she may indeed actually be selling her land near Blythe for a large bundle of money very soon, with appropriate assurances that we won't be held liable for any damage done by the solar company to the land. Wan An (Good Night).

dhavid 8 years 32 weeks ago

NL wrote, "Did Robert Persig write Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? That is one of those books I have always heard about but never read."

Yes. He also wrote a second book, which I couldn't get into. I read Zen and,,,, many years ago. It was formative in the way I understand things. I remember at the time a friend who was writing his dissertation at Johns Hopkins about the classical and romantic themes as they occurred in the history of Russian literature. (He ended up being a Russian translator, too bad, in retrospect perhaps Chinese would have been a better choice, or hindi.:)) Personally I have always been drawn to the romantic side of the equation: the 60's, Emerson and Thoreau, mysticism, etc.. Classical has it's place. Good book!

Zenzoe 8 years 32 weeks ago

Just a little reminder:

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."

—Leonard Cohen, Anthem

I'm going to print out your post, so I can sit comfortably and warm while I read it. Unfortunately, I haven't finished Hedges book - - or, maybe lucky for you!

nimblecivet 8 years 32 weeks ago

The internet and cell phones are the crux here I think. Most stories about uprisings and protests, wherever they happen, include some bit about the government responding by limiting citizen's access to that technology (while of course they retain the advantage of having access to it). I believe it was on Thom's program that I heard that the website the Wisconsin protesters were using was blocked by the capitol building router. Fortunately that did not seem to be too big of an obstacle, as people still had their cell phones and their own internet access. But you can see where the attack on net neutrality is going, the intended/desired result being reduced access to websites not funded by major corporations. The result being effectively that we end up like China.

Maybe some of the folks that have been working on "pirate radio" have the knowledge to set up independent networks. I can't remember where I was hearing about how a radio-based directional network can easily be set up using equipt. available at your average "technology-shack" store. All of which is way beyond yours truly. I just had to "restore" my computer to its original settings to get Internet Explorer to work; fortunately that did work but I have no idea why, and it looks like my Norton software was removed in the process! Argh!

But the gov. will certainly win in a contest of tech. savvy, and can break just about any code that people might use to plan non-permitted events. Am I being too melodramatic?

Anyway, your responses to my response are valid. #1 I am not so sure about, as the operation of a closed ecological/economic social system seems to be something that "they" are confident they can acheive. Brave New World like. Their lackeys, witting or otherwise, will be incorporated into a stable, heirarchical system. #2 is well taken. #3 is the one that really works: especially if we are able to gain the cooperation of an international movement that provides necessary resources. I'm not sure how the military aspect would play out, as a split of the country would not be a secession such as happened in the Civil War but a contest between opposing sides over control of the country, with a declaration of an emergency government and the like result from that of the establishment of seperate capitals.

NL: I'll probably try the ampersand thing. It seems like there is less traffic here than there used to be.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 32 weeks ago

That's a good quote. Ah, Leonard Cohen once again, the poetic version of Eeyore! That reminds me of Carl Rogers' self-actualization story about the potato plant, but I cited that one before. There was a crack in the cellar that let light in which the potato plant grew to.

Dhavid, I am studying Chinese, informally (eg. the Wan An comment last night). My wife is my main teacher. It's a very difficult and different language, and the form of writing which has no alphabet makes it even more difficult, but it would be easier for a child to learn. It's difficult for me to remember many of the words until after many exposures to them, and it is also difficult for me to distinguish some of the sounds, although I am relatively gifted at that and pronunciation. I am lousy at the memory part of it, though. There are some non-Chinese people who are able to memorize Chinese words, for example, even as adults, but their pronunciation is usually lousy. My pronunciation is good but it takes a lot of practice before I really remember and consistently recognize a Chinese word. Of course, some are easier than others. Apparently, I was Chinese in a previous life, according to Eunice, accounting for my good pronunciation and other Chinese-like properties. Oh, and I was her husband too, or she was a he and I was a she and he was my husband. (I don't really know; I am basically agnostic regarding reincarnation.) I don't know how Hindi is to learn. I suppose it's easier than Chinese. Given that China and India are the world's two most populous nations, it does make sense for more foreigners to learn those languages.

I would like to ask you, Dhavid, to please briefly summarize what Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is about.

On the lighter side of news, I just saw that Jobs is on sick leave, which explains a lot about our economy. However, Jobs did show up today with a new I-Pad. Shouldn't that be Eye-Patch, though?

Zenzoe, I wasn't that hard on Hedges. I agreed with 3 of his 5 categories (although I am not sure I got the categories correct). However, I rejected his entire premise of there being a "liberal class" or a "conservative class" as a dramatic literary ploy to base a book around. And since the job of critiquing conservatives has been done and redone, he chose to turn the so-called "liberal class" into the new bad guys. To me, that makes about as much sense as saying, "The Death of the Superego," since there is really no such thing as a superego. There is such a thing as conscience, however, and it hasn't died. It's still alive and well.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 32 weeks ago

Nimblecivit, you must have been typing at the same time as I was. I had gotten a little off topic, anyway. Your reply is more on topic. I believe that communications technology is the key, too. I have friends who are involved in the underground internet movement, and unlike your melodramatic assessment, I think it will be very difficult for government and/or corporations to ever shut off access to fast, free and fair communication. (I just made up that sound bite.) I think mainland China is actually finding this to be extremely difficult too, with all the tech. savvy, intelligent Chinese people there and around the world. That has something to do with the PRC government's recent compulsion to try to quell potential protests or riots. Isn't it ironic that big business went headlong into high tech. communication technology (unlike eco-friendly technology, for instance), with drooling mouths at the thought of all that easy money they would make, and at the same time, they were sowing the seeds of a populist uprising?

By the way, I am fortunate to be using one of the high speed computers at my school's computer room at this time, but usually, I use a dial-up job at home, and I don't know that much about the inner workings of computers, anyway (never studied that, and didn't find the topic that scintilating). I sometimes type something, accidentally hit a key or two that I didn't mean to, and the whole thing disappears, Does that happen to any of you, too? It happened to me on Facebook a couple of days ago, and I was about to go to sleep, so I just said "forget it" (to avoid any profanity), and shut my computer down. Zenzoe and I communicate on Facebook now, too, so that's how these mysterious references such as the ampersand agreement pop up. You are welcome to use it too. We just got tired of having no idea whose post was which and missing our friends' posts. Of course, there are a lot of other people on this site with interesting posts, but there should be some method of identifying people and their posts more easily, such as Thom's old site had, but I did have more technical glitches with the old site, admittedly.

Dhavid, I don't remember you having an avatar before. I like your picture.

I should be scoring exams at this time, but I need a break from the let's say, excitement of students taking their first exam of the semester.

Zenzoe 8 years 32 weeks ago

Okay. So, here’s an important fact about Hedges from Wikipedia: “In May 2003, Hedges delivered a commencement address at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois, saying:

‘We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security.’

Several hundred members of the audience booed and jeered his talk, although some applauded. Hedges' microphone was cut twice and two young men rushed the stage to try to prevent him from speaking. Hedges had to cut short his address and was escorted off campus by security officials before the ceremony was over. An editorial in The Wall Street Journal denounced Hedges for his anti-war stance on May 24. ... His employer, The New York Times, criticized his statements and issued him a formal reprimand for "public remarks that could undermine public trust in the paper's impartiality."[8] Shortly after the incident, Hedges left The New York Times to become a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, write books and teach.”

This incident exemplifies what happens in our culture to members of the liberal class who choose to speak truth to power truly and inconveniently. The war had just begun, and nobody wanted to hear the truth. But he spoke it anyway. Now, he is outside the mainstream world of book publishing, publishing now through Nation Books —because Random House(?) wanted him to edit for optimism— and he is one of the few journalists you can count on to offer an outside-the-box view of society. He is beholden to nobody—can’t be fired or silenced, and so he does not need to conform his views to fit a rosy picture of reality.

Among the academics, I can think of two, off the top of my head, who have been fired from their teaching jobs and basically blacklisted for voicing unpopular, embarrassing-to-their-employers, or to the nation, truths, —Ward Churchill and Norman Finkelstein. But they are not alone. Such punishments for truth-telling, over the years, have had a chilling effect on academia. This is part of what Hedges is talking about: Universities are supposed to be liberal (small L) institutions, where academic freedom can act as a bulwark against the more authoritarian elements of society; but now, more and more, universities have become institutions with authoritarians running the show (conservative administrations)— “better be ‘moderate’ or you’re out.” Not true?

Rather than Hedges’ religious training and faith —he did not “abandon’ his faith— being an inspiration for “hyperbole;” I would say it was and is his inspiration for his lyrical, well-crafted prose, especially when you consider the King James Version of the Bible and its beautiful texts (content of which I do not buy, but you have to admire the poetry of it.)

Also, NL, I don’t think he is using the word class, as in Upper/Lower. He’s referring to “a number of persons or things regarded as forming a group by reason of common attributes, characteristics, qualities or traits...” as in my dictionary’s first meaning. The common attributes of our “liberal class” include all those values we hold dear: justice, fairness, truth, democracy, equality, peace, freedom, etc., and it is institutions and individuals such as universities, newspapers, art media, publishing, journalism/ists, and so forth, which are supposed to uphold and support such values. So far, I think Hedges is absolutely correct, though I can completely understand why you would be opposed to his opinion, given your own liberal leanings. But I know a few professionals among the liberal class myself, and it seems to me they are quite unwilling to be open-minded w/regard to news media, that is, they don't seek alternative news sources but tend to stick to the likes of CNN, NPR, and the New York Times. In fact, they seem (I'm not talking about you) the perfect examples of Hedges' thesis.

Well, you knew I would come to his defense, right?

And here is the antidote to the death of the liberal class, AND the opening up of government, poet/singer/artist, the very undead Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan:

Btw, Thom is a member of the liberal class. Have you ever heard him speak up in passionate terms for the Palestinians?

Alberto Ceras 8 years 32 weeks ago

The United States of America is not, and was never intended to be, a democracy. Franklin put it most succinctly: When asked what form of government the Constitution was bringing into existence he replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Surprisingly, at least for me, today even Thom Hartmann finally admitted that the USA is not a democracy. Tariq Ali, just a few days ago, summed up the present situation in the USA very well:(

Propertied white men on horseback wrote the most undemocratic Constitution of the USA - and for a mostly rural nation. As well meaning as the founders may have been the conflicting regional and state interests assured that a flawed and compromised document would result. The Senate and the Electoral College are its most egregious undemocratic features but the difficulty (impossibility?) of amending the paper is perhaps the most telling.

Most of us profess to believe in representative government - a representative republic - as the founders did and as the Constitution provides. Some of us have the same fear that most or perhaps all of them (including Madison) had for populist government or direct democracy, with good reason. Anyone who is familiar with the California initiative/referendum/recall abomination would probably share this view. History provides ample warning against direct democracy and its role in the collapse of republics, while the great Montesquieu expressly denounced it. We might quibble with Montesquieu but we ought not to cavalierly ignore history.

Still our representative government does not seem to be working - not in its response to Al Qaeda (and terrorism) and certainly not in its laggard and inadequate response to the Gulf oil spill and of course to the nation's financial rape by Wall Street. These failures of government, especially at the federal level, challenge all of us to consider changes that would make government work for the greater benefit of the people - changes that might also encourage more active citizen participation in the process of government. Only a popular uprising, at this stage, could possibly bring about those changes. The constitution is not sacred. No aging piece of parchment rules or governs people. Theoretically at least, the people could scrap the present one and start over again. It needs to be done if the nation is not to sink even deeper into the mire.

Anyone engaged in political action would do well to have a solid foundation in America's early history, particularly the fascinating saga of the struggle for the Constitution. As Bernard Bailyn reminds us: "We must get the two-hundred-year-old story straight, in some way, in order to make sense of our own world."

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 32 weeks ago

Zenzoe, I logged on and saw "Higher Education not Blameless" and thought that was your response to my post. It turned out to be Robindell's. Well, it didn't have an ampersand in the name, come to think of it.

Wasn't that college Reagan's alma mater? I vaguely remember hearing about that. Hedges must have chosen the wrong college. I think he would have been heartily cheered at any college I have frequented, but what happened to Hedges is a shame. I have to wonder who was in the audience. Was it naive, relatively conservative students, people who wandered into the audience from the community, or what? Your apparent assumption that the audience at a small college consisted of literally hundreds of professors seems dubious at best. I thought that when we were talking about educators, we were talking about professors and k-12 teachers.

You say two professors have been blacklisted, That is unfortunate too, but it is not a lot of professors. I had only heard of Ward Churchill. I don't feel or have noticed my colleagues feel inhibited from telling their truths and their stories, although I am sure that most professors don't want to be "troublemakers" and risk excommunication from their profession.

I specifically recall Hedges saying he was not religious in an interview with Thom. Perhaps he learned some of his style from the Bible, though. Frankly, I never cared for the style or the content of the Bible.

Anyway, I agreed with Hedges on most issues, but not on a couple. I had never looked up the definition of the word "class" before, but the definition you quoted is so general that according to it, there is a black class, white class, asian class, hispanic class, sportsfishing class, football watching class, sewing class, aerobics class, frog and turtle loving class, or whatever type of class you wish to consider. It seems that all of them include common attributes. In any case, I don't think liberality has "died" and that is what we are really talking about here: people who value "justice, fairness, truth, democracy, equality, peace, freedom, etc."

I agree that the windows of truth and light have been partially shuttered, though, and many of the people who purport to hold liberal views have been suckered into going along with conservative plans because they were offered something in return by "the establishment." By the way, how would you consider yourself in terms of Hedges thinking? Are you part of the "dead" liberal class? Is Hedges? It certainly doesn't seem that way to me.

You know, I have seen several Leonard Cohen concerts on T.V. I really like his music a lot, and love his lyrics. I did see him and his group perform First We Take Manhattan -- a really catchy tune.

No, Thom seems too fond of Israel to me -- the Jewish part of Israel. When Eunice and I had lunch with my parents here a few days ago, to my surprise she complained that most Israelis were horribly impoverished and the nation was in lousy condition. I informed her that those poor people were probably the muslim palestinians, although maybe a lot of Jews there are now poor.

Hello Alberto, I like your comments, although I have always been puzzled by the "republic" not being a democracy idea. Why can't a "republic" be a democracy. Isn't that what the U.S. been trying to do all this time, only it's a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. In that sense, I agree. Of course, you are absolutely correct about the people who wrote the Constitution and their privileged position as relatively affluent white males, many of them slave owners, who made numerous ungodly deals in order to come up with something they could agree upon. That is why I think we need to revisit and rework the Constitution, as Thomas Jefferson suggested we should, and I suspect you agree based on your comments. I also agree that our representative government does not seem to be working, not working nearly as well as it could or should, IMHO. We need a more direct form of democracy, I think. Of course, the people in power would not be happy with that, so making the change would require some sort of popular uprising, as you say.

I have a basic understanding of U.S. history, but not nearly as much as some people. I suspect you know more about it than I do. Thom seems to have a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of U.S. history, which is impressive and I have learned much from him. Maybe I can learn something from you, too.

Actually, I live in California, and at this time, I am very glad that I do. We seem to be more advanced and less stupid voters than in the majority of the nation. I agree that our initiative process and recall process have created some problems, but maybe the benefits have outweighed the problems after all. Zenzoe also lives in Cali by the way, not far from where I live.

Alberto Ceras 8 years 32 weeks ago

Democracy, democratic, republic.

Words so misused and abused that they scarcely serve for intelligent conversation, as George Orwell well knew. When anyone uses them I want to know – as exactly, as precisely as possible - what that person understands by them. The words "democracy" or "democratic" do not appear in the Constitution of the USA or in the Declaration of Independence.

Communication is difficult at best and care in the use of words is critically important. What, for example, do these mean: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” or “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?”

I’ve pasted (below) an excerpt from a recent essay by Scott W. Winchell. If you have time click on the URL in order to read his entire essay:

Democracy for Egypt – Words Have Meaning

Published on 02/13/11

By Scott W. Winchell

Democracy; now there is an encouraging word…yes?

A dictator falls, and the people have won in the ‘Arab Republic of Egypt’. That has a certain ring to it, and on the surface it sounds so…’democratic’, so American! But weren’t they already a republic? Unfortunately, the world throws these words around like shiny baubles, an all encompassing single meaning of freedom. At home, the word democracy is a constant incantation from all walks of the political spectrum and its meaning is different for each person who uses it. See my pretty ‘democracy’ word…it’s so cool, and shiny, and bright, and all is now well with the world. Isn’t my new word just dandy?

If you asked virtually anyone on the street here in the USA what kind of government we have, they would instantly say a democracy. However, they would be wrong, dead wrong. Our founding fathers knew that a true democracy was a bad thing, worse than a monarchy, so they created our system; a representative republic. The differences are staggering, and if you have not done your homework, it’s what keeps us from mob rule or dictatorial rule like that of Mubarak in the Arab Republic of Egypt! The tyranny of the majority, knee-jerk emotional rule, change at a whim, and manipulation by the power hungry is no way to run a country, and all this talk of democracy emerging there is folly at best.

I feel ill every time I hear any American, politician, the President, a liberal, or even a conservative utter that word as if it defines our nation. Overseas, its misuse is even worse. It is plain and simple; misuse pretty words to fool the masses. We are NOT a pure or direct democracy, we are a very specific type of democracy, we are a “…to the Republic, for which it stands” type. That is a most important distinction, one that is foreign to many people, even here in the USA.

nimblecivet 8 years 32 weeks ago

NL: I am glad to see someone else has joined the conversation here. I will stop being melodramatic and reserve speculation about the future to a possible future set of posts or publishing of literature.

Anyway, you will all remember that the U.S. constitution requires that all states have a republican form of government, meaning representative democracy. Should this be altered to allow states to experiment with different forms of government? A republican form of government does not preclude socialist progress, or various other forms of democratic/liberal reform. The crux of the matter is the original subject of this post: how do we firm up support for a "good" agenda?

IMHO, all talk of reforming the political system is moot unless we address democracy in the workplace; if you care to do so, please see my post on this subject, and unless you are afraid of having your ideas stolen please leave comments. The neoconservatives only parrot "democratic" rhetoric precisely because they know that the political system will continue to be controlled by the wealthy/powerful as things now stand. How can we alter the legal status of corporations to allow democratic participation from all levels of organization within the structure of a corporation? I don't think unionization, among today's highly mobile workforce, can be the only answer; we must democratize the structure of the massive institutions which affect everybody's daily life. But I would like people to share their thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the subject. Have any of you been a member of a co-op, etc?

I am not familiar with the Chris Hedges corpus, but one of his speeches has left me with an undying respect for his integrity. One does wonder who would feel so threatened by his speaking.

I live in California as well, and I don't think I will ever leave permanently. I used to live back east though, and still retain some affection for the ecozone. I also find some of my personality traits which I have retained from growing up there to be at odds with those of folks out here, unfortunately (for me).

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 32 weeks ago

Hello Alberto, I recall Thom the other day talking to a conservative caller about why he doesn't talk about "capitalism." According to his definition, apparently, the only capitalists are people who make their living by investing money. Since I have been writing about capitalism, I checked the definition of capitalism, socialism, and a few other words after that, and found those dictionary definitions to differ from his. According to my dictionary, capitalism is when the means of production and distribution of goods and services is privately owned. My personal understanding of capitalism, on the other hand, is that it is when people use money to "make more money," which could be accomplished by hiring employees, buying equipment, investing in something, etc. In either case, there are far more capitalists than Thom suggests, according to these other definitions. Perhaps he is uncomfortable with other definitions because that would make him a capitalist, by owning a business. On the other hand, I still would not be a capitalist, except to the extent that my bank accounts earn interest, and that is like $1 per year. LOL Actually, my wife owns some land, which could be counted as an investment and thus capitalism. Of course, that is her idea, not mine, and I have only been paying money on those investments so far, in property taxes and travel expenses, although she is on the verge of selling her largest land parcel for what to me is a whole lot of money, to a solar company for the making of a solar plant, which is a worthy outcome.

The more words are used, the more permutations of meaning there are and the more disagreements over meaning. I understand that the United States has never been a direct democracy, although there have are some instances of more direct democracy in the United States, such as the initiative process. If you are saying the the United States is not a democracy, what is your definition of a democracy, then? Do you think the United States, or any place, needs a more direct form of democracy? I do, but that clearly disagrees with the quote from Scott Winchell that you provided.

Nimblecivit, I will try to check your post on democracy in the workplace. That is an interesting topic, but I don't know when I will be able to get around to it. I wonder as a teacher about democracy in the classroom. Certainly among teachers it would apply, and in some teacher/student interactions.

I think Chris Hedges has integrity, too, but that doesn't make his views always correct. I think he has some good ideas, but has a certain bias, I would say. Still, the fact that such a large proportion of the audience would find his speech threatening is very disturbing. I suspect that those were not the professors, but other people in the audience, as I stated previously.

There are so many Californians among us at the Hartmann site. I am California born and raised, from Riverside orginally, and now I live in Moreno Valley. Zenzoe is also California born and raised, I understand. Where do you live now, if you don't mind my asking?

Randy95023's picture
Randy95023 8 years 32 weeks ago

To help make our system "Open" we would need people to mute their TV for ten minutes and read an excellent Blog Post such as this one. Too many people spend 500 hours a year watching College Basketball and ZERO hours a year reading an actual book...

Peace, Randy

dhavid 8 years 32 weeks ago

The question from Hedges should be, "Is liberalism vanishing in America?" That would include the Universities, media, etc. I am wont to quote anothers idea, so I seek to only have my own. So I put the question to myself, and see what comes out......The liberal mindset, to me, is essentially (using the Thom analogy) seeing the world through the 'we' window rather than the 'I' window. During hard times people tend to circle the wagons, blame someone else for their problems (immigrants? Muslims?) and look to take care of their own. Hardly condusive to liberalism. Also, what is clear to all is that giant monopolistic corporations are in control of most media and most legislation that comes out of Washington. As well, corporate money is more and more influencing the University mindset to only a business model. Liberal Arts - out the window. Things are looking pretty grimm.

I think Hedges is right, and wrong. Right by affirming and elucidating on the above paragraph, but wrong in his understanding of the human nature. The human spirit is indomitable. indestructible, and liberal. Witness the uprisings happening today around the world. It is the essence of liberalism, flowering from different situations of relative oppression. In their heart of hearts, I believe all humans are liberal - love is by definition 'we', and not just 'me'. Goverments and corporations may do all they can to eradicate liberalism, but this is no more possible than the ending of spirit in the human condition.

In fact, it is the spirit which is the real, eternal, and not this world. The world will end, we will all die, but never the spirit, and the spirit is love and fullness of life, which is giving: the spirit is "we" - but that's just my opinion. :)

An interesting aside: Christianity holds mankind to be tripartite; body, soul, and spirit. Hinduism holds mankind also as having three bodies, physical, astral, and causal. Yogananda said that only when you have died to all three bodies are you truely freed: he called them prisons.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 32 weeks ago

Back to Nimblecivit for a moment. I am not afraid of people stealing my ideas. To an extent, I do want to have my contributions acknowledged, and not made to disappear, which is one reason I keep my writings at my own blog site, but truly, I think our task transcends any one of us. We are here to build "weapons" (actually tools except they may be used as weapons against those who would oppress us) of mass cooperation, mass communication, and mass construction, to speak metaphorically. By the way, I plan to use those terms in my next post, terms which came to me during the inspirational period described below. Unfortunately, I find that things we say can be misinterpreted from a competitive standpoint sometimes, which is not the intention of any of us, I believe.

Going back to Dhavid's comment about workplace environment, I think the competition obsession in America has infected people's minds, especially men's, which has something to do with our career choices (Dhavid's and mine). Even in academia, one downside I saw, even though it was largely a liberal atmosphere, was the backstabbing and excessive competitiveness among hard-driving Type A professors. That made me decide that their chosen career path was not for me. In that sense, I can see how a major proportion of the academic community, while espousing liberal values, may buy into the financial comforts and prestige which seem to be offered by corporatism. Studies show that a large percentage of males, in the U.S. at least, appear to be stuck in the competitive, Industry versus Inferiority stage of Erickson's theory even in adulthood. This stage is supposed to occur only in elementary or middle school.

Dhavid, I think you have identified the question the same way I have, after studying Hedges work. I also pretty much agree with your answer to the question, that Hedges is both right and wrong, in different ways. I would add that I think he underestimates the force of liberalism in academia and in unions, but hard times are not conducive to "we society thinking" as you point out, and we see that playing out now. Blame the "invaders" who don't look like us or act like us, or believe like us -- that is part of the reactionary mindset which tends to happen when people see things are getting worse. It has always been my underlying belief, too, that people are essentially cooperative and progressive in nature, although we have forces that push us in the opposite direction, pushing some people much harder than others, obviously.

I essentially agree with your spiritual observations, to the best of my understanding, anyway. I don't know much about Yogananda, but it seems to me he might be correct. I was thinking about my "fuzzy ideas" for my next post a couple of nights ago when I had woken up from a dream around 6 a.m., and had a rush of inspiration for my next 2 posts. Maybe you had something to do with that. A lot of things have been coming together in my mind. After the inspirational period, I went back to sleep for awhile -- sweet dreams.

Randy, that has to be one of the best compliments I have ever gotten. Thanks, bro!

More coming later.

nimblecivet 8 years 32 weeks ago

N.L.: I had everybody else in mind when I said "if you don't want your ideas stolen." You are publishing prolifically on this website so obviously you have proven that as you stated the importance of spreading ideas and conversation is what's important.

I live in San Francisco. It is definitely a hub of left-wing/people politics. From what I can see the "liberal" paradigm has given way to I guess what could be called a social-justice, community activist paradigm. I think actually that this makes a lot of sense. A lot of leftist/progressive agenda items which have been labeled "liberal" in the mainstream media were labeled as such because a good chunk of support for these agenda items came from liberals. These agenda items are fairly popular, I'm sure I don't have to try to list them for you (securing affordable housing, health care, protecting the environment, eduacation). But despite the skill with which activists utilize both the political and the legal system, most of the time big money wins out.

My problem with the term "liberal" is that it indicates a focus on a general, vague idea of "more liberty for more people", while most activists from what I can tell are developing a philosophical basis which takes liberal political rights for granted (or sometimes even eschewing them, regrettably) while focusing on an issue(s)-oriented or interest-group agenda.

Unfortunately, San Francisco has seen a conflict between unions and just such activists. (Nothing is ever easy is it?) Unions were angry that unskilled laborers were tapped under programs which were designed to give jobs to people who are economically disadvantaged or underemployed. Last I heard some kind of deal was being worked out, but it sounds like the original recipients of these jobs, installing solar panels, were going to be relegated to less skilled labor with a more limited opportunity to gain higher-level skills. For a while there it looked like the two factions were ready to come to blows over the matter!

Not that unions are not generally on the right side of things, but they are no panacea for the left. In Thailand, unions were part of the coalition that actually had sought to impose a means test for the right to vote! Even when they are on the wrong side though they should be respected; unfortunately in Venezuela the leader of the oil-industry workers' union has been sentenced to seven years for organizing illegal protests, meaning he's essentially a political prisoner. I think I read that in the Examiner though, which is actually pretty good for news reporting despite its HORRENDOUS editiorial perspective, so maybe there's more to the story but I doubt it.

Zenzoe 8 years 32 weeks ago

There's so much to respond to here, it's overwhelming. That's what I get for taking a vacation from it all, I suppose. Just know I've read it all, agree and don't, as usual, in case you care. I just cannot address everything.

I want to tread lightly here. But how do I say what I think without appearing to be antagonistic? I suppose I must couch what I say in terms of “the realms of possibility,” as opposed to being dogmatic about it. Well, after all, I could be wrong, as slight a possibility as it may be (that’s a joke on myself, in case you couldn’t tell).

Anyway, it occurs to me to ask, NL, does the way you have framed your question, or, that you would even ask the question, prove Hedges’ case? After all, as a member of the liberal class —and I accept his notion of such, because it exists in the way Hedges describes it— you might have come right out and said, “Hell, we’re living in a freaking plutocracy, and here’s the evidence...” But I didn’t read anything of the sort, or any attempt to come out with a general truth. Instead, I’m reading the sort of “moderation” that I think tends to help us deny what’s really going on, a positivity that erases the urgency of our situation, which is the positivity Hedges speaks of here: “The belief that we can make things happen through positive thoughts, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength, or by understanding that we are truly exceptional, is peddled to us by all aspects of the culture, from Oprah to the Christian Right. It is magical thinking...This magical thinking, this idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable, leads to political passivity. It permits societies to transfer their emotional allegiance to the absurd—whether embodied in professional sports or in celebrity culture—and ignore real problems. It exacerbates despair. It keeps us in a state of mass-self-delusion. Once we are drawn into this form of magical thinking, the purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are not questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be seen as obstructive and negative. ...This magical thinking,...holds out the promise of an impossible, unachievable happiness. It has turned whole nations, such as the United States, into self-consuming machines of death.”

Like I say, it could be unfair. I do know you as a liberal, and one with a passion for all things liberal and good. But this isn’t personal. It’s about the pressures of life within a system that wants to perpetuate itself and how that’s done—by rendering us cooperative with the myths of our culture, because we cannot afford to do otherwise. The thing is, we cannot see the truth about our box, as long as we are in it. I know you will object, because you consider yourself to be an outside-the-box thinker, which you are, but is it within the realm of possibility that on this one topic, you are not being objective? (actually, nobody can be, as I see it)

Sure, we are not an outright fascist state yet. After all, we post all sorts of criticisms of the government, of the President, of the CIA; all sorts of books are on the market exposing and criticizing the powers-that-be, and nobody has been rounded up and rendered to Syria; nobody goes to prison over it....nobody except Bradley Manning, and...and.... See, that’s the thing: You can say what you like, as long as you don’t look powerful enough to influence change. Think Keith Olbermann. I mean, it’s a very sophisticated plutocracy, and to say that there’s reasonable hope for within-the-system-change, because there are aspects of open government still functioning, is to miss the forest for the trees. See, I can say that, because I am not a member of the professional liberal class. I’m nobody, basically.

And now I am going to go post on Gaga, so that my blog post can be higher than yours on the list. (eyes rolling)

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 32 weeks ago

Nimblecivit, I could write another entire thesis on people "stealing" ideas, but they don't occur in a vacuum, in the first place. They occur because of sharing knowledge and ideas, which leads to more thinking and more ideas.

I have always liked San Francisco -talk about a progressive town! San Fran is definitely my type of place, but I have lived in SoCal nearly my entire life.

I think the idea of liberality is another one of those vague terms which Alberto was talking about. I guess literally it means willingness to change things as opposed to conservatives, who want to stick with tradition and the status quo. That is still my best undeerstanding of the terms liberal and conservative, whatever I may happen to hear. Look at the liberals/progressives on this site, and you will see that they want society to change in ways that they feel will make it better and leave a greater legacy for future generations than if we were to keep going down the road we have been on.

That's interesting about the solar panel installers. Maybe we could use them on the potential solar plant property my wife and I may soon own (but only own until final payment is made). The part about the Thai unions is also interesting. Thailand I think fared pretty well when I made a comparison of different cultures on cultural dimensions that I value, but obviously, it has its own problems. One of Zenzoe's daughter-in-laws is Thai, also. My wife is from Taiwan, which a lot of, shall we say, low information people mistake for Thailand.

Zenzoe, as usual you focus like a laser (or is that a razor?) on my weakest point. You have a real talent for doing that. Are people who think with moderation and try to balance all sides, such as I tend to do (unless I am in a revolutionary mood), being realistic, or are we enablers (in the negative sense) of a plutocracy. The sad thing is that, from my perspective, although as we have agreed, all perspectives end up having a bias of one sort or another, I am too far outside of the power structure to really know which is true. I don't know if you heard the caller, yesterday I think, who asked about Hedges, and in response, Thom addressed the issue pretty much at the heart of this essay. He said he eventually asked Hedges, during their most recent interview, what he (Hedges) was proposing, and Hedges answer was essentially, revolution. Thom was careful to say that Hedges wasn't proposing a violent revolution, but a revolution, nonetheless. Sometimes I feel it may need to come to that, on my more revolutionary days, but theoretically, it shouldn't have to, and revolutions are so fraught with danger, that a complete reworking of the system from within would very likely be a better option if possible. Revolutions very easily can turn bloody, and the "plutocracy" doesn't appear any more eager to give up power in a revolution than Moammar Gadhafi would be. But, as you state, maybe by trying to avoid revolution, I am choosing to stay within certain parameters, inside a certain conceptual box, as it were. That is why I should thank you and make certain that we collectively continue thinking outside the box, looking for the best possible solutions to our problems.

dhavid 8 years 32 weeks ago

(Zenzoe, I hope you completely understand that my disagreement with this quote has absolutely nothing to do with you, the quoter. Instead, it is with the author.) Above, zenzoe quotes Chris Hedges, " “The belief that we can make things happen through positive thoughts, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength, or by understanding that we are truly exceptional, is peddled to us by all aspects of the culture, from Oprah to the Christian Right. It is magical thinking... It permits societies to transfer their emotional allegiance to the absurd—whether embodied in professional sports or in celebrity culture—and ignore real problems. It exacerbates despair. It keeps us in a state of mass-self-delusion. Once we are drawn into this form of magical thinking, the purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are not questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be seen as obstructive and negative. ...This magical thinking,...holds out the promise of an impossible, unachievable happiness. It has turned whole nations, such as the United States, into self-consuming machines of death.”

I would like to address this central statement from within the larger quote, "This magical thinking, this idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable, leads to political passivity." Hedges has made three foundational mistakes. Firstly, he denies any relationship between consciousness and external events, circumstances, etc., referring to this as magical thinking; magical, fanciful, childish, untrue. A bold statement which flies in the face of an entire body of Eastern philosophy, which has been well elucidated by Deepak Chopra and others, as well as by my own personal experience. If Hedges is an atheist, so be it, but his categorical denial of the subtle connections in life is simplistic, dull, and untrue. Secondly, to be aware of the innerconnectedness of all things does not nesessarily mean you accept the idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable. In fact, progress may ultimately occur only in death and surrender. Lastly, he has stated that anyone who has a spiritual life, who sees the inner connectedness of all things, will by definition be politically passive. He doesn't know me. In fact, he asserts that people like me don't exist.

All in all, Chris Hedges reveals himself as what might be called a moral materialist activist idealist. To me he lives in Plato's cave, and is one of those who thinks he knows more than the rest. The one who can predict when the footsteps and shadows will come, and how many.

Therefore it seems his entire thesis is based on fallacy, prejudice, and ignorance. This is not to say that I disagree with his basic ideas and ideals: in fact, I mostly do.

I think what we have here could be termed 'authoritis.' That is, when someone is writing a book to sell, and their unconscious assumptions about life leak out unknown in their 'objective' theorizings, and at the end they can neither see their prejudice, nor do they care.

Zenzoe 8 years 32 weeks ago

Dearheart Dhavid (forgive my familiarity, but that's how I think of you), I cannot believe you have read much of Hedges and still managed to write the above comment. In fact, Hedges is not an atheist! Far from it. He has written a book, for example, entitled, When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists, a book I don't plan on reading, because I do not agree with the premise that atheism is a religion. Regardless, here's what Amazon's review had to say about it:

"Hedges is clear from the outset: there is nothing inherently moral about being either a believer or a nonbeliever. He goes a step further by accusing atheists of being as intolerant, chauvinistic, bigoted, anti-intellectual, and self-righteous as their archrivals, religious fundamentalists; in other words, as being secular versions of the religious Right. Like best-selling atheists Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, Hedges is disgusted with the Christian Right, going so far as to call it the most frightening mass movement in American history. Even more disturbing for Hedges, however, is the notion, which many atheists and liberal churchgoers share, that as a species humanity can progress morally. There is nothing in human nature or human history to support the idea, Hedges maintains, nor that the flaws of human nature will ever be overcome. He discusses the dark sides of the Enlightenment, Darwinism, consumer culture, the justifications for America’s wars (including in Vietnam and now Iraq), and obsession with celebrity, among other equally hot topics. His purpose in this small, thought-provoking book is, he says, to help Americans, in particular, accept the limitations of being human and, ultimately, face reality."

Also, I find it hard to believe that you have read War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning and still feel so antagonistic to the paragraph in question. With respect, I'm wondering if you might have read more into the paragraph than was there? All I get from it is an observation about the very same thing I have noticed in the culture, a phenomenon that Barbara Ehrenreich writes knowledgeably about in Bright-sided, How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, which is a very real, very prevalent fact of American life today. If you haven't noticed it, what can I say?

Please forgive me too, when I say Deepak Chopra is not an innocent in the "writing a book to sell" category of human behavior. I, personally, cannot stand the man, nor can I tolerate the sort of voodoo-philosophical programming presented on KPFK, a liberal station, where we get to hear silly conversations about the "law of attraction" and other new-age crap. You know me—I am not antagonistic toward genuine spiritual experience; I just think it needs to remain as personal experience and not used to sell books and retreats. Like Jesus said, pray in a closet. Otherwise, you have your reward, right?

I have read enough of Hedges, and listened to him enough, to know he is far from antagonistic to genuine religious experience, genuine spirituality. He is a highly spiritual person, and a Christian, still. He just doesn't buy into the dogmatic, literal side of it. Anyway, I will take him any day over the likes of Deepak Chopra, who is, by the way, an insufferable chauvinist.

dhavid 8 years 32 weeks ago

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In 1971, the height of my psychedelic experience, life was magical. Mental telepathy sure seemed like magic to me. Speak of manifesting, I could literally in silence put a desire into a person, as it were, only to hear them then voice what I had been thinking/feeling. It happened consistently and effortlessly. Not that this is what manifesting conscious intentions in the physical - the new age thing - is all about. To me humans have not only reason and belief but are related to, and are, a vast consciousness that has little to do with thought. This consciousness is intuitive, and cannot be measured by thought, or the things of thought. For me this is my true nature, this silent intuitive awareness, and thought only a tool. All of this personal experience of the magical innerconnectedness of things chronologically preceded the beginnings of the new-age movement.

As for reading anyone I am sorry to say I read no one. Ignorant but not stupid. Concerning Chris Hedges I know only the tidbits I glean from the internet, his articles, etc. BTW NL, I stopped being involved in psychology around 1980. I have always shunned responsibility, and wanted the best part of my mind to be mine, and not someone elses. I probably would be dead if I wasn't married to such a wonderful woman, a physical therapist, who brings the money in. I am mostly worthless, except for low end jobs. I am currently, however, a substitute teacher locally, and deeply enjoy the interactions with each student, especially the older ones.

I don't know which world you guys live on, but it's all magical to me.:)

BTW zenzoe, is Chopra really a male chauvinist, one who believes that men are inherently superior to women? What makes you believe that? Just curious.

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

According to several meanings I saw on the internet, magical thinking is "the inaccurate belief that one's thoughts, words, or actions will cause or prevent a specific outcome that does not demonstrate a realistic relationship between cause and effect." So, Dhavid, according to that definition, I suppose your belief in your ability to “put a desire into a person” (whatever that was, in whatever context), is magical thinking. You just think of “magical thinking” as a good thing. Did you ever test your magical thinking in a scientific way, to determine if you were not betraying your wishes to these other persons via gesture, or whatever other means? Could you exclude simultaneity of thought —i.e., coincidence— as a possible explanation, that is, “great minds think alike,” according to trends, where people are exposed to similar forces in culture and manifest, come up with, similar ideas, simply by virtue of the way the human mind works using logic and awareness of reality?

I would hope you might read more of Hedges, to understand he is not your enemy, with regard to transcendence. For example, Chris Hedges: “Religion, like art, is an attempt to preserve or honor or explain those transcendent forces in human life, those nonrational forces—whether that's love, beauty, grief, mortality, alienation—and science can't do that. You don't reach wisdom until you have a deep understanding of the intuitive, and that means understanding the irrational. Artists have it; great religious thinkers have it. I pick up Ecclesiastes, and there's no question that's one of the greatest pieces of wisdom literature ever written.”

As for Mr. Chopra, I only said he was a “chauvinist,” not a male chauvinist. By that I meant his chauvinistic position with regard to new age philosophy, as in, “biased devotion to any group, attitude, or cause,” my dictionary’s definition. However, now that you mention it, I have seen him several times on a Link TV show on spirituality (forget the name of it), where he is in conversation with women spiritualists. What I notice, regardless of his lip-service for a balance of yin-yang— is his habit of dominating the conversation, of interrupting women in the middle of their sentences and generally trying to upstage them. I also find his choice of eye glasses to be telling (see picture): I mean, diamond-rimmed frames? I have tried to read a couple of his books, and always end up needing to take a shower and wash off the sentimental, floating-on-the-winds-of-delusion BS. Of course, there was the rumor that he hires women to service his sexual appetites, but that can’t be proven. It only makes sense that he would be the kind of jerk who objectifies women and would not examine the ethics of exploiting women for sex. He’ll quote Rumi and get away with it. Anyway, Dhavid, he’s a master marketer, just the sort of magical thinker Hedges is talking about, the kind that offer a feel-good, sentimental world view, while ignoring where we’re obviously headed.

Hedges: “We have fallen prey to the illusion that we can modify and control our environment, that human ingenuity ensures the inevitability of human progress, and that our secular god of science will save us.... All acts of resistance are moral acts. They take place because people of conscience understand the moral, rather than the practical, imperative of rebellion. They should be carried out not because they are effective, but because they are right.....Resistance, however marginal, affirms the sanctity of individual life in a world awash in death. It is the supreme act of faith, the highest form of spirituality.

To read and listen to an intellectual such as Hedges is not to deny the best part of your mind as your own, “and not someone elses.” It is to inform yourself, not that I believe for one minute that you are immune from thinkers other than yourself. Emerson might come to mind?

I swear, I don’t know why Hedges inspires so much ire and denial. Is magical thinking so satisfying and comforting that one cannot live without it, cannot live without looking realistically at our situation? I know, based on your feelings about our various wars, you do not fail to look at reality. So why this?

dhavid 8 years 31 weeks ago

I know my experience is somewhat unique, and I can only say that I am being honest. When I was 19, through the use of LSD, and the influence of the most unique person I have ever known, I gradually over a few months became telepathic. For more than a year this was my experience. As I recall once before here on a blog, my brother jumped into a conversation to say it was so. These experiences, many years ago, are still a fact to me. Also when I was 19, laying on my bed, I heard the release of the Kundalini at the base of my spine and experienced my being go to the top of my skull where I was in a cosmic consciousness of bliss and timelessness. This was before doing much acid, and before I met the wizard. I have had numerous mystical experiences, spiritual experiences/realities all of my life. Life is magical to me. I am afraid you have no idea what I am talking about. Nevertheless I talk.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 31 weeks ago

My, how these threads mutate! I see Zenzoe and Dhavid are having a bit of a dispute here over the what the human mind is capable of doing.

Here are a few points from my perspective:

1. KPFK mentioned by Zenzoe has progressive political talk show hosts. I have rarely heard this hocus pocus she mentions (maybe a time or two). I am sure it is on that station at times, but not that much of it.

2. My impression of Hedges on religion when he was being interviewed was that he is an agnostic, but I could be mistaken.

3. My wife is staring at me asking me to write a letter to the realtor which is making me nervous. (This is supposed to be funny. Well, that's the best I can do at the moment.)

4. I believe there is evidence that our thoughts can have an effect, such as the research on prayer, which shows that praying actually helps people even when they don't know that they are being prayed for.

5. On the other hand, believing that individuals can make things happen through the power of thought is a huge stretch which does enter the realm of magic, although I can't say that it never happens, either. It certainly isn't the usual human experience, although Dhavid may have had that experience.

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

I don’t see this as an argument at all. I see it as a discussion. That we’re each coming from different perspectives does not mean an argument. What do you want—conformity? What I do notice is, however, how moments of agreement are ignored. This can be distressing. I also notice a wish to have harmony, which is fine, as long as that doesn’t include pressure to conform to others’ opinions. I take nobody as my guru, nor as my absolute authority. It is possible, however, to find validation for one’s positions within the writings of others more established as thinkers than oneself. I do believe that’s what’s known as educating oneself.

Barbara Ehrenreich (Bright-sided) writes about Larry King’s reaction, when a guest said, “I’ve been master planning my life and one of the things that I actually dreamed of doing is sitting here facing you, saying what I’m about to say. So I know that it [the law of attraction] works.” Apparently Larry King was offended by the “idea of being an object of ‘attraction’" in someone else’s life, so he said, “If one of you have a vision board with my picture on it, I’ll go to break.” She continues, “This was an odd situation for a famous talk show host—having to insist that he, Larry King, was not just an image on someone else’s vision board but an independent being with a will of his own.”

NL: Every day between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. you can tune into KPFK and hear voodoo positivity in action on KPFK. This Thursday is supposed to feature, “World-renowned psychic, spiritual teacher, and best-selling author Sylvia discuss her latest book, ‘Afterlives of the Rich and Famous.’ She talks about celebrities such as Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Heath Ledger, and John Lennon and what they are doing on the Other Side.” Among the past shows, you can find, “Live the Life You Love No Matter What!;” “Eliminate Blocks To Healing Pain, Illness And Scarcity;” “How To Attract Abundance Into Your Life’ “How to Manifest Your Soulmate” and so forth. Last night on my way home at about 8:30, KPFK had the same stuff on—how you can “manifest healing” in your life with the guest’s product (I didn’t wait long enough to find out what they were selling—tapes, whatever), claiming no matter what happens to you in life, you can eventually expand your “wealth,” whatever your definition of wealth is, and achieve perfect happiness too, regardless of life’s dire events. If only our Vets, homeless and wounded by PTSD, could have tuned in and sent for a package! If only the women being raped in Congo, and then ostracized by their villages for having been raped, could be taught such things as the Law of Attraction. I mean, what have they been thinking that attracted this terrible fate to them?! Well, let's pray for them, see if that helps.

Re RSP, remote supportive prayer, the studies you’re relying on are apparently flawed. Sure, prayer in person —holding hands of a sick person and praying together— could have healing effects, based on the reduction of stress; but prayer from a distance, where the sick person is unaware of prayers by others on his or her behalf, have not been shown to have a significant effect. Of course, if you wish to believe in miracles, fine. I won’t try to stop you. However, I hope you understand it's not in my nature to fall for myths. I got over that when my big sister informed me that there was no Santa Claus.

As for Dhavid's experiences with the supernatural, who am I to doubt him? However, I do know the human mind is capable of extraordinary things, among them would be experiences of a transcendent character. LSD wouldn't work if there were no locks in the doors of perception, no receptors in the brain, for the key of LSD to open. LSD is just a man-made chemical that mimicks the chemicals our own mind can produce under the right circumstances to bring us to that transcendence he experienced. I'm sorry, but I don't think there's anything supernatural about it; I think humans are wired for the spiritual—for survival purposes—that's all. Naturally, I could be wrong.

Chris Hedges is decidedly NOT an atheist NOR an agnostic. Writing in American Fascists, The Christian Right and the War on America, Hedges: “God is inscrutable, mysterious and unknowable. We do not understand what life is about, what it means, why we are here and what will happen to us after our brief sojourn on the planet ends. We are saved, in the end, by faith—faith that life is not meaningless and random, that there is a purpose to human existence, and that in the midst of this morally neutral universe the tiny, seemingly insignificant acts of compassion and blind human kindness, especially to those labeled our enemies and strangers, sustain the divine spark, which is love. ...These small acts of compassion...have a power that lives after us. Human kindness is deeply subversive to totalitarian creeds, which seek to thwart all compassion toward those deemed unworthy of moral consideration, those branded as internal or external enemies... Those who sacrifice for others...who place compassion and tolerance above ideology and creeds ...stand as constant witnesses in our lives to this love, even long after they are gone. In the gospels this is called resurrection.” Also, I have heard him speak of his belief in God during panel discussions on C-Span.

dhavid 8 years 31 weeks ago

min ago

I don’t see this as an

I don’t see this as an argument at all. I see it as a discussion. That we’re each coming from different perspectives does not mean an argument. What do you want—conformity? What I do notice is, however, how moments of agreement are ignored. This can be distressing. I also notice a wish to have harmony, which is fine, as long as that doesn’t include pressure to conform to others’ opinions. I take nobody as my guru, nor as my absolute authority. It is possible, however, to find validation for one’s positions within the writings of others more established as thinkers than oneself. I do believe that’s what’s known as educating oneself. (I agree with everything zenzoe said here, so I'll make it my own, and continue :)) Further, as one becomes established, there is by necessity the rejection of all authority, and the freedom to ponder and rely completely on oneself, facing all of the pertinent questions of life. This attitude, sometimes confused with arrogance, is how I roll. Rather, I think, how we roll.

When I was 29 I was so confused about things spiritual that I by necessity had a lifechanging experience. Born-again in 1971, well versed in C. S. Lewis and all christian writers, one year of seminary north of Boston, then 4 years in a cult called the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a Masters in Psychology - At a basic level I rejected all that I had been taught, I rejected the authority of everyone and every book, and I started over. Henceforth the only thing I would claim to know was my own experience, and from that I would draw my own conclusions. I have maintained that attitude throughout life, although my experience has been to throne and then de-throne many authorities, including Jesus, the Bible, the Judeo-Christian worldview (also shared by the Muslims,) and the great philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. In light of the above paragraph, you could say they educated me until I was their equal, or had at least learned all I could from them, and moved on.

I don't believe in Christianity, nor manifesting things, nor prayer. I used to. I do feel absolutely sure that the basis of this world is spirit, consciousness, God, the unseen - words really do have their limit. I do believe there is another side to silence, that true spirituality is absolute surrender and the joining in spirit of your essence with that which is, and it is alive. The result is gradual and continual transformation of character, and everdeepening wisdom, seemingly totally by grace. This has been, and is my experience of life. This is as honest as I can be.

nimblecivet 8 years 31 weeks ago

I psychically retrieved your old blog posts by plugging my USB antenna into my belly-button. Joke.

All you have to do is click on the user to go the user's profile and the right side of the screen orders the archive of posts chronologically.

I never believed in mind-reading, but there have actually been multiple instances where people, strangers even, have stated exact phrases which have transpired in my mind. I cannot explain these instances. I must have a "loud" brain (which is a real embarrasment for me). Also, one time I did an experiment with a snake giving the snake messages about which direction to crawl in. I did this succesfully in uninterrupted succession during this experiment. Also, one time I was sure that the view withing my field of vision was one which also appeared in a previous dream. That happened other times too but this one time I was totally sure of it.

Slavoj Zizek tells an interesting story about this kind of thing. The physicist Neils Bohr was entertaining a guest. The guest noted that he had a horseshoe above his door and inquired as to why Mr. Bohr, avowedly non-superstitious would have such an accoutrement. After Bohr replied to the inquiry that he was not superstitious and the guest plied for further explanation as to why Bohr had the thing up there, Bohr replied "because I was told it works whether you believe in it or not." A succinct expression of our modern disposition to believe what we want to believe, when we want to believe it, no?

By the way I just put your post back on the list. You can thank me later.

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

I can't keep up with you guys and your telekinetics. When I want something to move in my direction, I just bat my eyelashes. ;-} Or, sometimes I just give orders, although I admit that is not quite as effective as batting my eyelashes.

Now I'm going over to put my post back at the top of the list. So sue me.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 31 weeks ago

I will take everyone's word for it that no arguing was going on here. As long as we can "discuss" topics whether we agree or not, it's all good.

Dhavid, when referring to your career choices which give you lots of autonomy, I am primarily referring to your teaching. I knew you had been a psychotherapist, but I didn't know it was so long ago. I suppose you were in a position where you were being told how to do things, which isn't the experience of most psychologists. Did that have something to do with your fundamentalist days?

Zenzoe, I never listen to KPFK between 1 and 2 p.m., apparently.

To continue our discussion, your quote from Chris Hedges seems quite agnostic to me. I don't see anything in it about believing in God. He does say God is "unknowable" which could be interpreted as meaning we cannot know whether or not there is a God. If he is a Christian as you say, then he would be one of those people who ascribe to the Christian myth.

It seems to me the fact that we exist is a miracle, so I guess that makes us "myths" according to your definition. There is a difference between people believing in fairy tales such as found in most if not all religions, and people who are open to seeing that we are part of a greater reality in which we are all interconnected and makes the miracle of our existence possible. Try truly explaining consciousness, for instance, without referring to a spiritual underpinning to life.

By the way, the most recent research I saw about distant prayer was that it worked regardless of what the people doing the prayers believed in, or what the people being prayed for believed in, as though people who were praying were tapping into, in however indirect a manner, some integral aspect of existence. Of course, maybe all this research is flawed. I will concede that I haven't studied it enough to determine that. The researchers tend to have a pro-prayer bias, and the critics tend to have an anti-prayer bias. Science is never totally free of bias, but it does make progress.

That reminds me Dhavid, I thought I saw you write something to the effect that you didn't believe progress was part of human nature, which I disgree with, but I can't find the quote from you here. Perhaps I was mistaken. I would just say that what we consider human nature is not all the natural. Culture, science, education, communication -- all influence who we are as a people, and drive the course of history in a primarily progressive direction, though admittedly with some setbacks. If one examines the course of human history, the progressive arc of it seems clear to me, although there are those among us who would want to set us way back, people we are doing intellectual battle with as we speak.

Nimblecivit, I see now that you were using the "blog archives," although my belly button is experiencing a strange, tingly electrical feeling. You do know that being the idiot savant that I am, I made my way through school all the way to getting a Ph.D. at a good university through the extensive use of my telepathic mind reading powers, do you not? Well, not really. I have a hard enough time reading my own mind at times.

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

Natural Lefty said, "To continue our discussion, your quote from Chris Hedges seems quite agnostic to me. I don't see anything in it about believing in God. He does say God is "unknowable" which could be interpreted as meaning we cannot know whether or not there is a God. If he is a Christian as you say, then he would be one of those people who ascribe to the Christian myth."

Please tell me why it is so important important to you that he be an agnostic. First of all, the quote you're referring to ASSUMES the existence of god, but I suppose if you're working hard at not seeing it, you won't. Then, your last sentence there does reveal, um-m-m, a rather, shall I say, limited understanding of Christian thought, that is Christian thought that is not fundamentalist, and, therefore, not stuck in literalism. Do you not remember our discussion of religion, where I brought up Karen Armstrong's notions of mythos and logos, and how it has only been recently that the trend toward fundamentalist literalism has become the norm? I think there I might have described something of her scholarship, where she explains that logos is where science and logic resides, but mythos is where art, literature, and the psyche resides; how religion is in the same category as art: it is there to enhance wisdom and our relation to life. Thus, we have, or religious folks have, myth —like symbol, metaphor and analogy in literature— to help them understand and deal with the more emotional parts of life, parts of life science cannot touch. It's not to be taken literally; at least for a person like Hedges, it would not be. I would guess he views the myths of the Bible as instructive, for insight into all the unfathomable mysteries of our lives. I really do hope you will read more of the man; his writing on myths is quite wonderful. I would quote one, but Harry's Law is about to begin, or has begun, and I don't want to miss it. It's not great, but it's kinda fun.

dhavid 8 years 31 weeks ago

NL I do believe in progress, but it seems to me the earth plane has remained about the same. From wrapping the newby christians in animal skins for the lions to devour in the Roman colliseum, to during the Iran/Iraq war using dead bodies of the enemy, piled high, to make a road through a swampy area for tanks and trucks, to dropping atomic bombs on cities. Progress to me might be "not coming back," and I do hope that whole concept is not wishful thinking.

About Chris Hedges, or Thom Hartmann, or Noam Chompsky, or any other intelligent, articulate person, except the deceased William F. Buckley who I could never understand :) : No difference. That is, were we all to sit in a roundtable discussion, stripped of status and authority, each would hold their own, equally. Except Zenzoe would by force of nature still kick ass. There is no authority.

I used to sell tickets in Santa Fe for the great dancer Maria Benitez and her flamenco troupe 20 years ago. Retired from dancing, she still teaches, and my 20 y.o. daughter is her protege! Check the internet for interesting photos (Institute for Spanish Arts, Santa Fe) Anyhow, after the show we would have a cigarette and beer, and talk. We became, and still are, good friends. I was wont to quote other people back then, even more than today. Actually, when I quote someone now it is usually because they express a shared sentiment or insight. So, I would quote someone, and in the middle of whatever I was saying she would stop me, and say, "I don't care what so-and-so thinks. I want to know what you think." Maria, with her high school degree, has always been more intelligent than me. An amazing woman. But I got her point, and I think it is a good point, and I hope we all share the same sentiment.

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

Having just left a response to Dhavid over at Gaga, revealing my rather pathetic gift of having my ass kicked in games, I had to lol at his comment, "Except Zenzoe would by force of nature still kick ass." Sheesh! I don't think so. But thanks, anyway, for the laugh.

Also, guess what—I am now about to disagree with the assertion, "There is no authority," to say, no, sometimes we have to give credit to others who have earned our respect as "authorities" in their field, or by virtue of their experience and/or knowledge. It doesn't mean we have to bow down and forget to think for ourselves, to become authoritarian followers. It just means that some folks know stuff, and it would be plain ignorant to deny ourselves the benefit of their contributions.

I am deeply grateful, for example, to Chris Hedges for his contribution to my understanding of his take on faith. I respectfully urge everyone who is interested in a his definition of faith and God to go to the following website to read a most wonderful exposition on the subject: It is such a wonderful view that I believe I might be rescued from the atheism I was leaning toward. You see, if your definition of God is an anthropomorphic deity up in the sky who takes out HIS wrath on us, or will rescue us if we pray, then, yes, Hedges is an atheist. However, if you define faith his way, HE DEFINITELY IS NOT AN ATHEIST, NOR AN AGNOSTIC.

dhavid 8 years 31 weeks ago

Zenzoe wrote, "It doesn't mean we have to bow down and forget to think for ourselves, to become authoritarian followers. It just means that some folks know stuff, and it would be plain ignorant to deny ourselves the benefit of their contributions."

I can agree with you in respect to the physical sciences, but that is where the agreement ends. In the issues beyond the physical sciences life is much too serious to trust somebody else. Perhaps you feel comfortable doing so. Not I. Different strokes for different folks. I am not really impressed with Chris Hedges as a theologian. I read the link and it seemed like liberal protestant gobbley-gook to me. although I am sure you could pull many a quote from it. Nothing personal.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 31 weeks ago

Zenzoe, sometimes my wife bats her eyelashes and issues orders at the same time. That usually gets me to move in her direction. Samantha Stephens seemed to have pretty good success by wiggling her nose, but that might take some special talent that most of us lack.

Now, I return to the topic of Chris Hedges' world view, that I really didn't intend to elucidate here, but you seem emotionally involved with.

Actually, it's not really important to me what Chirs Hedges believes or doesn't believe, Zenzoe. However, I had an impression of him that he is a sort of evangelist without a church or religion, based on his background. I was sure he wasn't an atheist, but comments he made during his interview with Thom as well as stuff by him that I have read made me think he is basically agnostic with a strong moral sense, which is fine with me. I am a lot like that, too, although I am not completely agnostic. I am spiritual with a healthy dose of agnosticism, a sense of universal spirituality and a belief that science can ultimately elucidate even the spiritual side of existence. If it exists, it must create evidence. Perhaps my notions about Hedges were mistaken, but he keeps dancing around the issue of faith and religion, and disses atheists and Bhuddists in the link you provided in so doing. Frankly, I think he is conflating Basic Morality with the faith of his youth, and you seem to be tempted by Hedges words to do the same. One time, you dismiss mythology -- which I also do -- and say I believe in a myth because I find there might be scientific evidence that prayer actually works (something Thom clearly believes too), and the next, you are talking about how myths help us, in a nonliteral way, to understand the truth.

I understand quite well about the difference between literal interpretations and the use of metaphor. However, it seems to me that when we use metaphors based on myths ("fairy tales"), one must be very careful. There is nothing more prone to injecting one's personal biases. This is sort of a Rorschach test of ideas. The best outcome possible might be some sort of commitment to a sense of basic morality taught by the myths, which is what Hedges seems to be promoting. That is good, but this only works on a consistent basis in the best possible of worlds. Ultimately, people will interpret stories either literally, or according to their own biases. It is for reasons such as that, which I am not a fan of mythology although myths may have their uses. In any case, why call oneself a Christian, when one is actually espousing essentially the same principles of morality that people around the world in general have agreed upon, including atheists and agnostics? These moral principles come from basic human civility and thousands of years of cultural evolution, not from any particular religion, although most religions try to steal these principles as their own in a very Republican-like way.

And how in the world (to avoid using profanities) is monotheism, by creating individualism, somehow creating collectivism, while Bhuddism, by promoting collectivism, actually creating a narcissistic society, as Hedges seems to believe? Talk about Doublespeak! Hedges needs a course in logic, plus an honest examination of the evidence.

By the way, sometimes my wife bats her eyelashes and issues orders at the same time. That usually gets me to move in her direction. Samantha Stephens seemed to have pretty good success by wiggling her nose, but that might take some special talent that most of us lack.

Dhavid, I am glad to know you do believe in progress too. (That seems a pretty good marker of "progressivism" to me.) In my view, there has been moral progress in the world, but it certainly doesn't come easily.

I believe in a level intellectual playing field, too, not a hierarchical one, all other things being equal, although an objective analysis does show that some people know a lot more about a topic than others. That's where some level of respect is warranted, as long as the individual is being honest, fair and not operating out of self-interest.

Your family sounds lovely, wife, daughter and all. Good luck to your Flamenco dancing daughter.

By the way, what mysterious force keeps prompting people to spell Noam Chomsky's name, Noam Chompsky? I even saw a friend on Facebook do that too.

dhavid 8 years 31 weeks ago

NL wrote, "I believe in a level intellectual playing field, too, not a hierarchical one, all other things being equal, although an objective analysis does show that some people know a lot more about a topic than others. That's where some level of respect is warranted,"

I absolutely agree with that. I would only add that respect of one who seems to "know a lot about a topic" can easily lead to acceptance and a form of belief, based on the authority of the other. As I wrote above in post #30, "When I was 29 I was so confused about things spiritual that I by necessity had a lifechanging experience. Born-again in 1971, well versed in C. S. Lewis and all christian writers, one year of seminary north of Boston, then 4 years in a cult called the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, a Masters in Psychology - At a basic level I rejected all that I had been taught, I rejected the authority of everyone and every book, and I started over. Henceforth the only thing I would claim to know was my own experience, and from that I would draw my own conclusions"

This may seem like a trivial point, but it is absolutely foundational to me. I have respect for many dead people - Krishnamurti, Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Meister Eckhart, and Ramakrishna are some. I have learned deeply from each of them. I do not confuse this learning, however, with acceptance or belief. It would also be truthful to say that this is a fine line; many times I have unconsciously or subconsciously enthroned respected people, only to later dethrone them, and return to this foundational attitude I have described.

Chompsky, Chomsky. It may be as easy as my lifelong experience: My last name is the same as the German brothers who compiled the various local tales and stories and wrote them down, yet innumerable times I have heard, "Can I help you Mr Grimes?"

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

Thanks, guys, for reading the CH essay and for your honest reactions to it. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, given my trust in your fairness; though, given my foolish heart, I was hoping for a bit more, that is, that you might get the main point of my asking you to read it, that is, that the author is neither an atheist nor an agnostic, according to his own, personal definition of God. Naturally, you were free to disagree with him, according to your own definitions of God and Christianity, and also pick him apart, according to your own worldviews. You are every bit as entitled to do that as I am to decide Deepak Chopra is a charlatan.

To illustrate my next point, if dhavid will grant me his forbearance, I will quote yet another of my favorites, Mister Rodgers, from one of his best songs, Everybody’s Fancy, which I think was meant to be “Every Body’s Fancy”:

"Some are fancy on the outside,
Some are fancy on the inside—
Every body’s fancy, every body’s fine,
Your body’s fancy and so is mine."

I do not think it is my dirty mind that tells me this is about gender, girls and boys, and Mr. Rodgers’ quaint way of validating both. But what if we go beyond Mr. Rodgers' literal meaning and say the word “body” is a metaphor? What if the whole quatrain is a metaphor? If we decide to look at it this way, each one of us might come up with a different meaning for the song. In my case, I want to understand the word body to mean worldview, that is, the perspective, mind-set, comprehensions, from which any one individual, or particular group, makes conclusions or draws meaning from all things relevant to human life. In this sense, each of our worldviews, each of our bodies, is fancy, and each is fine, or as it seems to me.

In the realm of religion, especially, it is pointless to try to judge the validity of someone else’s view. Such will be what it will be, according to individual taste and worldview, and we, as Americans, stand by each individual’s right to believe any wild thing available to human imagination in this regard, as long as that religion does not do harm. We are not talking about science, after all. It is simply a waste of time to argue the logic of religious faith, as it would be to argue the logic of taste in art. I might be able to sit in front of a painting by Mark Rothko for hours on end, absorbing the deep soul of the thing, while my companion might get bored and go across the street to look at comic books. I hope we can agree on this one thing—religion, spirituality, is in the realm of dreams and emotion and aesthetics and poetics and literature and all things, in Hedges’ term, non-rational; and these things are different from science, in that, rather than describing and informing the world of public facts with jargon, they transcend the mundane world of facts with the rich and varied languages of feeling, so that what is ineffable can be known, or at least expressed, because such things do exist within us; they just can’t be quantified.

Hedges main complaint, as I see it, is about denial, about what he refers to when he says the atheist “externalizes evil,” as does the fundamentalist Christian; he sees harm in such, the harm done by those whose arrogance of their religion or dogma or ideology leads them to deny their own capacity for evil and, therefore, to do unspeakable things to others.

His own personal belief is about God being a verb, that it is only in acts of kindness and love, for example, that one can know God. I don’t know if I believe that as well. I do know that when dhavid expresses his anger over the suffering of children our wars are inflicting, his spirituality comes across to me more easily than when he tells us about his moments of transcendent bliss. It’s not that I am right or wrong in this feeling; it’s just how I feel. Dhavid may say it makes no difference; it’s all connected, and from his perspective, he would be correct, of course.

NL: I could be wrong, but I think your criticisms are off the mark because your scientific bias interferes with your seeing the positives in Hedges’ religious views. In short, I think your expectations are unreasonable, given the subject, which is not comprehensible via scientific examination. However, that’s your worldview, so you’re entitled to it. I also do suggest you might be emotionally invested in making him wrong, for what reason, I cannot say.

I remain an admirer of Chris Hedges, as he is a subtle and brilliant social critic, an artist-journalist of the first order. I understand his words are sometimes not easy to take; he holds up a mirror to us that is, it seems to me, sparkling clean and true. We are not accustomed to such, and it is a shock to see.

Hedges likes the Book of Ecclesiastes. In it I read, “Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.” This is true of Hedges, so perhaps it is solace for him.

(It is a nice Book, with some great lines... “To every thing there is a season...” etc. But it also has this: “And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.” I don’t know how you would get around this as being anything but the same ol’ same ol’ misogyny of the Bible! So, don’t worry, I haven’t crossed over to the evil side yet.)

BTW, what is the commotion about Charlie Sheen? I must have been hiding under the covers when that one emerged.

Try saying Chomsky without making a “p” sound in there. I can’t.

nimblecivet 8 years 31 weeks ago

Hedges does not give sufficient credit to rationality as the arbiter belief. If we find Harris' arguments regarding the justifiability of torture to be lacking, we retort with rational arguments. If the basis of making these arguments are a revulsion towards torture, we nonetheless provide a rational basis for validating our response. To provide a rational argument in no way alters the nature of our response or way of comprehending the matter in question. Harris allows for a complete form of sensibility which acknowledges both the irrational and the rational aspects of the human pshyche.
For us to try to argue over whether religion or science is responsible for human progress based on the idea that one is an expression of irrationality while the other is a form of rationality is a dead end. Harris argues correctly that religion is a failed science. Science however does not itself provide a philosophy; we must employ reason to develop a philosophy that is consistent with science and rationality.
An argument could be made that the Patriot Act, Guantanamo (which is not being closed down after all), etc. are failures of secularism and liberalism to provide for a morally valid worldview or perspective which can be trusted to enable society to act morally. Such a failure however would not provide an argument in favor of religion in my opinion.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 31 weeks ago

Greetings everyone. I am checking in briefly since that is all the time I have, to say that I am glad to see the civil, intelligent discussion continue. By the way, a young lady student surprised me this morning with her insight connecting the dots and making inferences beyond what CC students usually do.

I have a lot going on. You will notice that I haven't been able to write another post in over a week, although I have 3 topics lined up. That's frustrating. Tomorrow, my wife Eunice and I have an appointment set up with a lawyer and attorney to make a contract to present to the solar energy company. Hopefully they can negotiate a deal to sell the land by March 28, which is a deadline for federal stimulus monies. And yes, that is an Obama administration thing. I had no idea that would happen when I voted for him, but I knew Obama would be far more likely to support solar energy development than McCain would have been, even though McCain is from Arizona which is only a few miles from this site. Anyway, I am excited about the likelihood of making this deal and proudly pointing to "our" solar energy plant.

Zenzoe, somehow I am having trouble connecting to Facebook the past couple of days. My wife continues to slowly heal from her separated rib. She stopped taking NSAID drugs and now is taking an herbal supplement recommended by a friend on Facebook, but she might have had a bad reaction to that too. We are not sure what it was that made her throat hurt yesterday at dinner, but it was scary.

Dhavid, Zenzoe told me your last name already. We both have interesting last names which are also words, huh? Zenzoe's told me her full name too. I think a whole bunch of people know mine, but not my real first name, which now knows, and which is another interesting word.

It's time to eat, then back to school.

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

Dhavid, I probably owe you an apology for revealing your real name to NL. I could certainly understand how my doing so could offend you; so, if it did, I’m sorry. Honestly, we didn’t really talk about you behind you back; it was just that I was trying to find you on Facebook and mentioned it, but there are so many with your name...anyway, I hope you aren’t awfully mad at me over it. Perhaps it didn’t bother you; I might only be reacting based on how I would feel in your place.

Nimblecivet, I’m having trouble understanding your points, which is probably a reflection of my own limitations, but there it is. For the record, I should probably establish that I am not anti-atheist—both my sons are atheists, for one thing. However, I will tell you that their atheism is based on the same mistaken notion of religion that Hedges points to as the atheist’s mistake, that is, religion is “...a belief in magic and the childish notion of an anthropomorphic God that is characteristic of the tribe, of the closed society.” When I recently explained to my older son the notion of religion as an aspect of the “mythos” aspect of human experience, which Karen Armstrong writes about, as opposed to the “logos” aspect, and that it should be understood in the same light as one understands art and literature, it was quite a revelation to him. This had never occurred to him.

Overall, you appear to offer only rationality and irrationality as possibilities for human thought and experience. This is exactly the other mistake Hedges mentions. In fact, it is impossible to understand any of this, unless one concedes another possibility, that is, that of the non-rational area of human experience, which is not the same as the irrational areas of human experience. Non-rational is an inadequate word, but my understanding would be that this word would apply to areas of human experience that transcend understanding by rational means, and yet are not irrational; for example, the feeling of love, the passion for civil liberty, the emotion felt upon seeing a beautiful painting.

Hedges’ thinking with regard to Sam Harris’ defense of torture, which has waterboarding as perfectly rational, is sublimely rational; in fact, for any human to say in any context whatsoever that torture is a rational response is pure insanity. I would say the same thing with regard to Hedges’ other examples of the irrationality of those who externalize evil, those who deny their own human capacity for evil—he is, in fact, rational, and that is why I appreciate what he has to say.

I haven’t said, I don’t think, that reason does not come into play, when we consider ideas that are outside the realm of science. That would be silly. And Hedges hasn’t said that either. But then, perhaps I have misunderstood you.

If anything, Hedges is a friend of anyone wishing for an open society, or government. It is the irrationality he speaks about —"All human institutions with a lust for power give their utopian visions divine sanction, whether this comes through the worship of God, destiny, historical inevitability, the master race, a worker’s paradise, fraternite-liberte-egalite or the second coming of Jesus Christ"— that make for a closed government and society. He is decidedly against such things and is preaching against them; however, you, my friends, are clearly not his choir.

dhavid 8 years 31 weeks ago

Zenzoe, it was no bother at all, to me. I know you and NL to be good people. I do so much enjoy the free interchange of ideas we all have, and the mutual respect. Such things are rare and valuable, and should be cared for. :)

nimblecivet 8 years 31 weeks ago

What I'm suggesting is that ultimately Harris' perspective is correct because it reflects a contemporary understanding of the balance between rational, irrational, non-rational, and all other categories and sub-categories. Religion is an anachronism in the archaic sense of the term because it is "magical" thinking pretty much by definition. When people lack an understanding of the forces of nature which are verifiable by experiment, they make things up which seem to make sense to them. Usually this consists of establishing a relationship with various types of supernatural creatures, such as the spirit of an object such as a tool or the deity of a particular phenomenon such as rain, or the "one true God". Thus, religion is a failed science. However, the other aspect of religion, as regular devotional practice, forms the basis of Hedges view of religion: critical honesty in self-examination and the development of a consistent worldview.

But we must not loose sight of the fact that it is rationality that gives us the opportunity to judge "magical thinking" for what it is, in whatever form it appears whether that is the belief that human sacrifice will appease the gods or wearing the right color lipstick will attract the right man.

In other words, Hedges' issue with Harris is with the conclusions Harris draws but not with the manner in which Harris comes to his conclusions- unless his argument that Harris does not give sufficient weight to the ultimate basis upon which Hedges draws the conclusion that torture is immoral: irrational/non-rational subjective knowledge.

My argument may not be clear to you because I have started reading Harris' latest book in which he argues that science can be useful in areas which it has heretofore been excluded (value judgements), so I am referencing his arguments which you may not be familiar with. In the case of music for example, while ultimately the creative process is not primarily rational while the process of scientific inquiry is primarily but not completely rational, science plays a part in creating a system of understanding (Western modes, classical Indian ragas, etc.).

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

Good, Dhavid. I’m relieved. And same to you.

So, Nimblecivet, while you have been immersing yourself in Harris’ book, I have been re-reading a little book by Aldous Huxley entitled, Literature and Science. Perhaps you’ve read it. In that book, he does not suggest that literature is a “failed science;” such would be absurd, since literature has never been used as a way to quantify phenomena or discover laws of physics, or whatever. Having read the book though, as well as his Perennial Philosophy, and the Doors of Perception, I would guess he would never agree that religion is a failed science either. He would not, because religion —apparently for those who indulge for abstract, intellectual, practical and/or aesthetic reasons— is, and was not, useful merely as a way to explain the natural world. That notion, of religion as a failed science, seems... well... like an awfully narrow-minded view of religion, if you don’t mind my saying so. But that’s the way Harris thinks, apparently.

Not that I am entirely comfortable with defending religion —I am not especially religious, or spiritual— but it seems there is nobody else here willing to do the job, so here I am. I mention books, because without them I would not be a literate person, which I believe I am. I think it is good for a person to be literate, so I won’t apologize for that.

From what you say (though I don’t grok your third paragraph; sorry), it’s clear you have not yourself yet grokked Hedges’ religious views. It is definitely not solely a matter of “devotional practice.” And I do not see anything magical in his thinking there. He is saying God is unknowable by human understanding (that’s entirely rational!), so he posits instead the manner in which, shall I say, God can be lived, which is not devotion to god through prayer, necessarily, but through the practice of compassion, love, kindness, care for the poor, actions on behalf of peace, and so forth. This is not unlike Buddhism, where deities are never mentioned, as far as I know. (and Buddhism is a religion) I don’t know why you would want to agree with Harris that this is “magical thinking” or anachronistic religious practice. Perhaps science can address the same concerns for humanity and the planet; but such will manifest differently in the human heart and spirit. This is not to say an atheist, a secular citizen, concerned for others and for the planet, does not experience deeply; it just means it’s a different kind of experience.

I’m trying to keep an open mind here, as a non-religious person. I know Hedges for his other books mostly. War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is a magnificent book, and that’s all I need to know. After that, one feels one can trust his other thoughts, though I would never hesitate to disagree with him if he is wrong about something. (That’s a bit of a joke on myself, in case you couldn’t tell.)

It’s clear not all religious people engage in magical thinking, nor do they want to kill over religion, nor do they want to invade countries, nor do they practice torture on their practitioners. So, why do the atheists keep conflating these with those that do want to do bad things? Isn’t that a form of bigotry and intolerance too?

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 31 weeks ago

Zenzoe, Dhavid practically gave his last name on this thread, so I figured it would be okay to mention that I already knew it. For instance, I could say "the fishery at the lake is extremely depleted now. Things are looking pretty Dhavid there. Poachers have been resorting to the use of dynamite to catch fish now. In fact, there is a guy over there right now using dynamite. I better call the fish and game Natural Lefty." I think everybody can pretty much fill in the blanks with our last names. Oh yeah, there was a Dhavid event in King Harbor not far from here yesterday. People woke up to find the harbor carpeted with millions of dead sardines and anchovies. And of course, there are always the brothers Dhavid and their famous fairy tales.

I don't have a vendetta against Hedges or anything like that. I would say he is an honest, ethical person of good intentions. He is intelligent and I agree with much of what he says. But then there is that part I cannot seem to agree with. I don't think it's a refusal to face unpleasant truths; it's just a different world view. In fact, for me, Hedges approach is not conducive to helping people see the truth. It's more like inciting people to riot. It's sort of an oil and water thing for me. As you know, I am definitely a "water" person (a bit of a personal joke there). Hedges is sort of like Grapeseed Oil or something like that to me. It's good stuff for putting a little on one's salad, but not something one would want to glug down a Big Gulp cup full of, the way I guzzle down H2O based liquid. After all, our bodies are mostly liquid. The really toxic oil people would be like really, really CRUDE oil -- the Bush/Cheney team being a prime example. Thus, I guess I find Hedges a wee bit irritating.

Speaking of mythos and logos, I think I can phrase the issue in those terms. I could be wrong, but the way I see it, Nimblecivit and I are primarily Logos, Zenzoe, Dhavid and Chris Hedges are primarily mythos. I am a spiritual Logos, by the way. Zenzoe says she is a not particularly spiritual Mythos person, while Dhavid is. Nimblecivit is most likely a relatively non-spiritual Logos person, based on what I have just read, but that could be mistaken. (Please correct me if I am wrong, Nimblecivit.) Thus, spirituality level does not really correlate with the Mythos versus Logos quotient. However, the form of spirituality a person has does. Spiritual Mythos people tend toward the mystical side of things, or even relatively unspiritual ones when they are venturing into spiritual territory. Spiritual Logos people tend to believe that science can elucidate the spiritual nature of the universe, since everything that exists creates evidence, sort of a crumb trail, if you will. Despite the compelling logic and evidence for that, Mythos people seem to keep insisting that things spiritual are "unknowable" except by some sort of personal, subjective experience. To a Logos person such as myself, that seems a pretty weak argument, and even disingenuous if a person claims to have discovered some great truth through a personal revelation which is only available to that one person. It seems to me that here we venture into motivated reinvention of the "truth" in order to suit one's own needs. At least with science, there is an attempt to remain objective, and use the tools of science to build true communication, cooperation and understanding among people. Thus, yes, Zenzoe, you are correct that my personal scientific bias does have something to do with this entire issue, if you can call it a bias. I just consider it being objective, honest and truthseeking, however. Also, I think Mythos oriented and Logos oriented people are equally creative on the whole, but they tend to have different ways of being creative. Perhaps Mythos people tend to do things such as creating iimaginative, metaphorical stories, for example, while Logos oriented people tend to use their imaginations to engage in other activities such as futuristic speculation. (I have already seen some of Nimblecivit's futuristic speculations and i have plenty of my own.)

I will mention another friend of mine from Facebook who doesn't post here now, because, while we disagree about free will -- I believe that free will is real and crucial to our development and he thinks it's an illusion -- I would say that both of us are spiritual Logos people. He just sent me an essay he wrote about the progression of the universe and in particular, of the evolution of life over time, for "safekeeping." He hopes to publish it in Orion magazine, and I thought it was excellent. I read it in one sitting, transfixed by the progression of thought. Interestingly, Fred and I have fairly similar writing styles, although he may be a bit better with the progression of ideas and with documenting his ideas and evidence, while I exhibit somewhat more humor and creativity. Still, a person could read his essay and possibly think it had been written by me. Anyway, this is more where I am coming from in terms of spirituality. Hopefully I can share Fred's essay with everyone here, but for now, Fred is hoping to publish it first.

The concept of religion as failed science which Nimblecivit mentions is Harris' view of religion is a very interesting one to me. I agree that religion isn't entirely about naive people attempting to explain a universe and existence that they don't really understand. After all, religions are a huge part of the lives of a large percentage of people and fulfill many roles in their lives. However, the origins of most religions do seem to lie in a naive attempt to answer the big questions, without really having much of a clue where to begin. On the other hand, I think it is possible to have a religion, or religions, which are not based in creation myths and such things which result from "the blind leading the blind." I think it is possible for science to be incorporated into religions, much as the Dalai Lama suggested that Bhuddists should revise their religion if science were to prove some part of it wrong.

nimblecivet 8 years 31 weeks ago

What NL said. I think I lost track of who is accusing who of magical thinking and whether its good or bad or not. I do find Zenzoe's discussion of literature to be compelling. Literature, as in novels etc., tend to emerge within cultures once they have reached a certain point of development. Example: the diary of Lady Nijo, an autobiography, holds its own as a literary endeavor in the sense which Zenzoe refers to literature. The Greeks seem to have developed a sense of history (Thucydides, Herodotus) which developed from the type of literature created by Homer (also Virgil, a Roman). So the distinction between literature (fiction), history, philosophy, and spiritualitydevelops over time as people make distinctions between various types of knowledge. I myself am not really a spiritual person, along the lines of what Zenzoe was suggesting. Having come to the point where I am able to make the distinction between existential awareness and spirituality, I hope to discover more of the latter.

I would argue that the kind of introspection which Hedges talks about is insufficient to serve alone as a basis for an ethical philosophy. A scientific perspective cannot merely be psychological or spiritual; it requires a knowledge of paradigms applicable to large scale analysis of political systems, economics, etc.

May I suggest, as this thread seems to have gone off topic, that portions of it be copied and pasted to the discussion board section under religion and spirituality?

Zenzoe, I hope you have a good relationship with your kids. It sounds like they are both boys. Looking back at what I put my mother through...

dhavid 8 years 31 weeks ago

Nimblecivit wrote, "Having come to the point where I am able to make the distinction between existential awareness and spirituality, I hope to discover more of the latter."

If you add the verb choiceless to existential awareness you come up with one of J. Krishnamurti"s main talking points (choiceless awareness.) So how would you consider spirituality different from that?

Zenzoe 8 years 31 weeks ago

Nimblecivit and I are primarily Logos, Zenzoe, Dhavid and Chris Hedges are primarily mythos. I am a spiritual Logos, by the way. Zenzoe says she is a not particularly spiritual Mythos person, while Dhavid is. Nimblecivit is most likely a relatively non-spiritual Logos person, based on what I have just read, but that could be mistaken. (Please correct me if I am wrong, Nimblecivit.) Thus, spirituality level does not really correlate with the Mythos versus Logos quotient. However, the form of spirituality a person has does. Spiritual Mythos people tend toward the mystical side of things, or even relatively unspiritual ones when they are venturing into spiritual territory. “

Well, perhaps Nimblecivet won’t correct you, except gently, but I will: The twisting of the notions of logos and mythos to compare and categorize human persons, by way of a weak analogy based on ignorance of those notions, is a logical fallacy. It is to ignore the fact that Chris Hedges —and Dhavid and I too— utilize our whole minds when we write and speak, and that includes the logical. The power of Chris Hedges’ verbal intelligence, for example, is enough in itself to invalidate such a categorization, because verbal intelligence requires the use of logic; without logic, one cannot write even a coherent sentence, let alone eight books, one of which is entitled, Empire of Illusion. Logic is manifested in many ways, not just within the realm of science.

“Scientists” are not the only people who can think logically. Scientists are as vulnerable to bias, and manipulation, and vested interest, and sexism, and racism, and the rest of all the irrationalities available to ordinary humans. Just look at the history of science. It was science that put a little pink pill on the market to alleviate hot flashes and brought the wonders of breast cancer to hundreds of thousands of women. I wouldn’t want to wax prideful about the scientific mind, if I wanted to be fair.

It was Einstein who said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” Is Einstein “mythos” too? I think not. Human beings cannot be casually categorized as though they were fruits and vegetables. To try to do so is to use language in service of ego, but that’s just my opinion. Correct me if I am wrong.

So now I want ask to what degree the antagonism directed at Chris Hedges, here within our discussion, is dictated by culture’s cult of positivity, the popular ideology of positive thinking? In NL’s original blog post, he begins his objection to Hedges with this: “An example of a famous journalist of gloom and doom (at least as I see it) who has argued that our system is closed, is Chris Hedges.” Did Hedges commit the sin of negativity in his failure to offer up the chirpy positivity we’ve come to demand of everyone in this culture, from our children, to friends, to teachers, to talk show hosts, to Presidents, to news anchors, and now to journalists? Is he the messenger we wish to kill? Or is he the whistleblower we want to fire, or put in a cell to rot away in nakedness and shame?

Perhaps I am wrong to suggest the cult of positivity has played a part here. But I think it’s worth pointing out that the positive-thinking ideology asserts its dictates in just this manner—anyone who dares to tell the truth and state it well will be crucified.

Hedges: “The failure by the liberal class to articulate an alternative in a time of financial and environmental collaps clears the way for military values of hypermasculinity, blind obedience, and violence. A confused culture disdains the empathy and compassion espoused by traditional liberalism. This cruelty runs like an electric current through reality television and trash-talk programs, where contestants endure pain and humiliation while they betray and manipulate those around them in a world of competition. These are values championed by an increasingly militarized society and the manipulation and dishonesty on Wall Street. friendship, trust, solidarity, honesty, and compassion are banished for the unadulterated world of competition.”

Please tell me how he is wrong, given our environmental reality: “Our environment is being dramatically transformed in ways that soon will make it difficult for the human species to survive.” He’s talking science, guys, throughout his book, Death of the Liberal Class. Don’t tell me “he fails to offer hope,” because he does offer hope; just tell me where he is wrong. But I would suggest you read the book, first.

Yesterday on Democracy Now! Naomi Klein said, “My Fear is that Climate Change is the Biggest Crisis of All,” but she said it with a smile. She smiles throughout her interview , in which she is brilliant (I swear, she is truly great). I’ve noticed this often, though—whenever liberals talk about whatever hideous thing the righties have done, or whatever terrible thing is going on, they say it with a smile. I believe this is to soften the ire of the postivity fascists, who don’t want to hear the negatives.

NC: Yes, my sons and I get on just great. My husband and I decided early on not to impose any sort of religion on them, so that's what we got—atheists. Ah well. They have music, so I suppose there's god enough in that for any human soul. (Outside their science-oriented jobs, they are both musicians, aside from other hobbies. My youngest son makes home brewed beer too. Very tasty.)

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