The point of no return is that point at which it is no longer possible for people in general to pursue their interests in society by engaging in rational discourse and civil social intercourse. The basic concept of a functional democratic society envisioned by Enlightenment era thinkers is fairly simple. A free press reports the facts. People use this information to debate freely and participate in a democratic system of government by rationally analyzing the facts according to philosophical principles. Elected representatives fulfil their duty to carry out the mandate given to them by voters with a personal interest in the long-term preservation of a stable social order and the freedoms which we venerate.

The philosophical landscape and the nature of public discourse has changed drastically since the publishers of the Federalist papers and others, often forced to publish under a pseudonym (e.g. "Cato"), appealed with reasoned arguments to those concerned not only with freeing themselves from the yoke of colonial rule but with establishing a new form of government institutionalizing human rights instead of class privilege. Today the philosophy of pure self-interest has undermined a respect for the truth. The general discourse is not so much filled with dissenting opinion as it is with a cacophony of rhetorical bluster. The question arises as to who exactly is behind this often quite sophisticated scheme of verbal subterfuge. In whose interest is it to frustrate and mislead those who attempt to engage in the debate, and even to dissuade participation by making it impossible for the average person to wade through the morass of misinformation and skillfully designed media ploys?

The key to understanding the current situation is to properly understand and judge the nature of populist discourse in relation to the death of the left in U.S. politics. Many mainstream columnists embrace the view that populism accounts for the two greatest disasters in modern history: communism and fascism. The Democrats no longer represent anything fundamentally different from the Republicans. The differences between the parties are certainly major, important differences. Democrats believe that corporations can rule most effectively by controlling the federal government and expanding its powers and sphere of influence to include legislating consumer and business activity. Republicans believe that people should be allowed to own guns and that corporations don't need anachronistic political institutions to ensure enough social order to keep the wealthy and powerful safe from the swell of humanity that threatens the water supply for their golf courses.

However, it is well known that the vast majority of people in this country no longer have any faith in the government or the two major parties. While progressive ideas and agenda items are usually popular among the majority of citizens, the mainstream media limits the range of discourse to the memes serving the agenda of the two parties. There are some signs that some left pundits are embracing certain aspects of the progressive agenda which have remained off-limits since the Reagan revolution. For example, the degree of wealth inequality is receiving attention as an indicator of a systemic problem. Raising the minimum wage is being talked about seriously. Of course there are still many who still see mainstream politicians such as Obama and Hillary as reasonable, but overall it seems obvious that the main challenge facing the left is overcoming past disappointments. Kucinech was never considered a serious contender. Dean somehow lost momentum as the voting public returned to the mainstream fold at the last minute. Obama raised hopes that the Democratic party could use grassroots organizing to send an outsider to Washington and do the will of the people. The only way to implement a progressive agenda is to start from scratch in building a massive campaign grounded in a process similar to that of Occupy, that is one which draws in people who have been disaffected from mainstream politics, have always existed outside of mainstream politics, and those who are just becoming interested in politics, as well as those who see protest as part of the american political tradition.

Without addressing the debates over what Occupy accomplished, failed to accomplish, did right, did wrong, etc., one finds that straightaway as soon as one steps into the demon's lair one is embraced by a thicket of hysterical, frenzied, unfamiliar, confusing, and disturbing propaganda. Obscure groups make their pitch to earnest and sincere citizens drawn to the buzz of a social movement promising some undefined but great victory for the masses. Much of what has drawn people to the conflagration is well-known; yet somehow, inevitably, the momentum begins to die. Fortunately, many have found a wealth of information and opportunities for political and community activism and are ready for the next round of struggle.

Unfortunately, many more have become lost in the maze of rhetoric pretending to offer a vision for the future. Our populist movement is being tugged in several directions precisely where it seems that the only points of unity exists. For, we are told, the problems we face today are the historic result of liberal elitism. Only now, after decades of ridicule, are the ideas of spirituality, ecological sustainability, local economies and so forth now all of a sudden being offered by exactly those from exactly those quarters from whence we should expect the very ridicule that drove these ideas out of the mainstream discourse. Don't get me wrong; I am not at all suggesting that the promulgation of these ideas are merely some sort of nefarious excercise in mass-psychological manipulation by insincere operators seeking to undermine any groundswell of progressivism by misdirecting these social movements. No doubt many of those opposed to the Federal Reserve, who believe in the Illuminati, who inveigh against Agenda 21, the U.N. in general, and so forth are sincere in their desire to reach some kind of a libertarian-anarchist consensus. However, when engaging the masses in large-scale movements and within the broader social shere, including social media, progressives and the left need to both show respect for others' opinions when they are sincere but also stand firm in not allowing a wholesale rewriting of history and co-optation of traditionally liberal and progressive ideas and goals to the ends of the right-wing or conservatism.

For example, historical fact is that it is not big-government which enabled the corporatocracy to emerge but conservative anti-government politics. This simple fact seems to be readilly lost as anarchist and libertarian memes collide in the public sphere, often dressed up in new-age garb and portrayed in terms of a future economy revolving around green pacifism and self-sufficiency within a small community setting. However, the right seeks only to identify enemies and call forward a resistance without offering or developing any of the ideals it now claims to espouse. Again, not to oversimplify any of this since there has long been a profound and respectable tradition of anarchist, leftist, and socially and culturally revolutionary thinking that has been deeply critical of liberalism even when liberalism contended with socialism as the gaurdian of the people's interests (as in the case of Gladstone and Disraeli). These populist strains are important largely because of the profound social and cultural import they have, especially where they bring into the fold marginalized voices. But if the left fails to use its critical acumen to promote ideal visions in a realistic materialist context tied to actual historic conditions then the mainstream will continue to itself appropriate these themes and deprive them of any revolutionary potential.

I am even willing to concede that the term "right-wing" may have become obsolete. "Conservative" may be better insofar as there may be legitimate populist strains that are inherited from the greater historical milieux. But what I have a difficulty with is when anti-elitism comes in the form of invoking debates about the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, and the Illuminati. This is merely long-discredited baggage derived from obsolete doctrinal disputes over religious dogma and the historical associations stemming from these pre-Enlightenment disputes. When, for example, we find claims that the government can "control the weather" (as though that were even a theoretical possibility) lumped in with claims that the Rothschild's aren't "real" Jews (as though that weren't up to the Jews to decide), one has to finally ask how it has come to be that such a minority type of opinion is so ubiquitous outside the mainstream social sphere. If there is a conspiracy afoot, would it not make sense to assume that it serves the purposes of discrediting progressive ideas while at the same time gathering information about progressive movements infiltrated by these fringe elements, and moreover serving to scare away anybody considering venturing outside the parameters of mainstream discourse and forums? Considering how easy it is to smear somebody as "anti-Semitic" or being a cook for not believing the official story about 9-11, this is not an unreasonable question in my opinion. Given that those who are actually affiliated with the interests who put out this sort of propaganda are in an extreme minority, what else accounts for the large-scale presence of such rhetoric unless it is merely the fervency and diligence of that minority?

However, I have now digressed beyond the point of my stated problem except to point out that disinformation and related tools of mass-confusion and manipulation do threated to stymie any reclaiming of power by democratic forces. The long term result could conceivably be that the average person finds themselves in the same position as a citizen of Iraq, Syria, Mexico, and a number of other places around the world. That is, forced into conflict without knowing the actual situation behind the scenes. Having to make life-and-death decisions in the context of not knowing whether one is being played off against others by cynical and unprincipled forces conspiring to profit off the conflict even as they pretend to lead one side or another. Aware that day by day, shifts in power brought about by changing alliances, the effects of disparate events unfolding in unpredictable consequences, revelations of knowledge, lies exposed, and secrets kept forever hidden shaping your destiny as you cling to your gun trusting either only those closest to you or none at all. You see, as obviously melodramatic and hyperbolic as that scenario is, it is not entirely illogical and the rhetoric of the rights seems designed to bring just that situation about as sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy hatched from their fetid imaginations. And more to the point, insofar as the anti-liberal ideal has taken root we should expect elitist interests to misrepresent themselves in such a way as to bring this scenario about and then use that outcome as a justification for their rule.

Comments

nimblecivet 6 years 3 weeks ago
#1

I mentioned an article about human trafficking in Iraq. Here it is:

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/iraq-human-trafficking...

Iraq a hotbed of human trafficking

The Heartland Alliance, a US organization that deals with human rights issues, has tracked 100 cases of human trafficking in Iraq during the past two years.
Although the Iraqi government enacted a law criminalizing human trafficking in 2012, it's rarely if ever enforced.
Author Amal Sakr Posted January 20, 2014
Translator(s)Pascale Menassa

...

“Human trafficking operations are not carried out randomly, but in a very organized manner by gangs that are involved in these operations at all levels — including begging, prostitution and organ trafficking. Children are being kidnapped and forced to beg, while young girls are being forced into prostitution in private homes. They all live under dire conditions that resemble slavery,” she added.

Zana also added that human trafficking has recently affected Syrian refugees and foreign workers from different nationalities coming to work in Iraqi Kurdistan. Therefore, there is an imperative need to draft a law against human trafficking in Iraqi Kurdistan.

...

I think what we see here is the emergence of a particular distinction, between dominant and subject categories of people, where the characteristics of the dominant are explicity derived from forcible oppression. In this way, member of the oppressed classes adopt behavior patterns which are not be similar to those of the dominant class but are considered to be essentially the same from a moral standpoint. The dominant class has an interest in maintaining a dynamic of social struggle among those of the lower classes which keeps the lower classes from enjoying material and social conditions which might allow a threat to the class-order to emerge. This social system is perpetuated wherever the material reality among the masses is such that the immediate imperatives of survival are real while any ideas of class cohesion are, if they are even extant, impossibilities due to their foundation upon principles of cohesion which cannot pertain in the face of severe and incessant crisis and conflict.

This raises the question of the difference between society in the U.S. where this form of class oppression is less explicit but certainly present in the form of corruption and human trafficking. It is said that Miami, now rated one of the worst cities to live in, was under Republican control during the time when so much cocaine money was flowing through that it was being funneled into building projects which raised the skyline of downtown Miami will the glass skyscrapers of the sort which have become the norm in metropolitan financial districts across the country and the world. For the time being, the imperative of associating with the dominant powers comes in the form of conformity to the social regime instituted by the economic elite. While the institution of government retains the formal trappings of the rule of law it is becoming increasingly evident that this "law" is devoid of any character beyond the agenda of the aforementioned elite. The growing realization that the state is unresponsive to the desires of the populace is producing increasing acknowledgement that the very problem of democracy is how to re-establish social order in the absence of the current order.

nimblecivet 5 years 46 weeks ago
#2
Quote David Forner:

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/you-have-to-know-hi...

Is an emphasis on rote memorization lessening student interest in history, and making the field seem less relevant to younger generations?

I think it probably is. There are many reasons for that. I think there's a general tendency in education nowadays toward what you might call the pragmatic side of education, which is fine. The students need to have jobs eventually, no question about it. But education is not just a vocational enterprise—teaching people the skills that will enable them to get jobs--although that's obviously part of it. [We]'re also teaching citizens. We try to teach people the skills that come along with studying history. The skills of evaluating evidence, of posing questions and answering them, of writing, of mobilizing information in order to make an argument. I think all of that is important in a democratic society if people are actually going to be active citizens. Teaching to the test does not really encourage emphasis on those aspects of the study of history.

How can high-school history teachers make the unfinished story of America a global conversation, not just a monologue with ourselves?

It's hard enough to teach American history in a one-year course. To teach American history almost as an adjunct to world history is virtually impossible, I would have to say, in the time allotted. That does not mean the attempt shouldn't be made, but I think one doesn't want to swing all the way to the other extreme and say, "Oh well, the nation state doesn't matter anymore, it's obsolete, and therefore that shouldn't be a building block of historical study." The nation state is still here and will be for a good while, I think, despite the economic, cultural, intellectual globalization that has been going on. I guess I have a mixed reaction to that. On the one hand, yes, students need to have a broad-minded perspective and not a parochial or chauvinistic one. On the other hand, it's easier to say “let’s globalize the study of history” than to do it.

William King's picture
William King 5 years 46 weeks ago
#3

Heh! I can imagine the pitfalls of teaching Americann history today!

We used to be the good guys and now we are the bad guys. No i don't mean us as individuals, but the leaders, who have no sense of right and wrong, other than what suits American interests, even if it costs the lives of citizens and leaders of other countries. Not only did we choose the wrong path back when we invaded Iraq, but have continued to treat the rest of the world as our personal doormat.As a fan of science fiction I grew up watching Star Trek on TV (TOS) and marveled at not only the wonderous inventions, like FTL (warp) drive, the replicator and anti-gravity dampers, but how all wars and strife on earth, supposedly came to an end with the Federation of Planets being the ultimate leadership in our sector of the Galaxy. It was somewhat humorous that we always took the high ground, or so it seemed and other aliens we came in contact with were either warlike (Klingons) or territorial (Romulens). I suppose conflict makes for good entertainment, thus the utopian environment on earth was never protrayed during all the seasons. Like the show, I think man is destined to always fight and struggle on this little planet.

To answer your question. We have always been past that point.

Sometimes there seems to be a light of hope, but you can depend on the immortal words of Lord Acton. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

Throuhout history this has always been the case.

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