Creating people's geographies
by John Sherffius, Boulder Daily Camera
PS I should add that for many around the world, it has not only been since 2001 that America’s beacon has been a cruel joke, with 72 interventions in countries since WWII, from toppling democratically elected governments (eg Chile Allende 1973) to financing terrorist groups (eg Afghanistan’s Mujahadeen) to conducting psy-ops, black ops and training foreigners in repressive techniques (eg School of the America’s run in Georgia, USA, training ground for several South American military groups). It would be too depressing to go on and not also counter it with the positive to provide hope against futility, but I am obliged to mention it.
Got a good theory about where that America has gone:
Collectivist Socialist propagandized the college campuses of the 1960s, with their ideas of economic equality. The Collectivist Socialist believes in economic equality, and redefined liberalism into what was before socialist and Communist ideology. Abandoned was the belief in individualism, individual liberty, equal laws and equal justice for all, regardless of their race, color, or creed. These people who embraced Collectivist socialist ideology do not believe in and did not like the private sector, they do not believe in capitalism and free markets, they would not start their own business, or work for corporations. They would populate the government and government run institutions, such as monopolistic education and welfare agencies. They would work in our schools, colleges and universities, and would take over our communications industry and become our lawyers. All that time, secretly loathing the United States and its capitalist system which was built on blood and sweat, recreating it in an image of unrealizable utopia.
So this is what we have. A powerful government that believes that the collective good of the American people is in its global expansion and international interference (socialism). A powerful government with dependent citizens who have exchanged individual liberty for personal safety and comfort (socialism). A powerful government that legislates on collective rights rather than individual ones — in the mode of foreign courts based on Fabian dogma(socialism). A powerful government that believes that the good of all should always supercede the right of the individual (socialism). The America that they speak of was given away much longer ago than September 11th.
And now, the very people who have enabled and created this government are complaining of the monster they have created?
Who is to blame–Frankenstein, or his creator?
P.S. I definitely look forward to dropping in more on your blog. I come here often, but need to comment more often. Of course I will always provide counterpoint where I can, PG–agreement tastes great, but its that opposing viewpoint that keeps one healthy!
Stop back at the lair. I have posted a sympathy message.
You state: Abandoned was the belief in individualism, individual liberty, equal laws and equal justice for all, regardless of their race, color, or creed.
I was in college in the late ’60s and I don’t recall these things being abandoned, rather they were being reinforced.
I do agree there was a vein of Socialism through it all, but I recall those items you list as being very important and people striving to make them happen.
I belief, rather, that it is in fact a corporatist climate which has invaded our government. It is the very large corporations that are running things through their lobbying and cash flow into the government. The bottom line is profits no matter how they are achieved or who is crushed doing so.
Just my humble opinion.
I guess I was the old fogey watching all you young college kids having fun during those days. Ha!
I guess I may have put that the wrong way. The belief was there, but the conviction wasn’t. The politics was there, but not the practice. Egalitarianism reared its ugly head during that time, and it was the education establishment that fueled it. It is easy to say I want to be free to do what I want to do while empowering a government to take away those freedoms. The freedoms desired during that time were very selective–and many during that time were so confused about where everything was going that they didn’t realize to increase enforcement in one way (social) has an equal impact on other issues in government (political and economic). In other words, an effort to bring about a version of social justice, (by whoever’s definition!), has both political and economic ramifications. That is always the trade-off between individualism and egalitarianism. Leftists of the time wanted economic egalitarianism, but didn’t realize it brought with it political and social restriction (mix and match). Each act of social legislation, social engineering (for the collective good) by the government limits a freedom, and that extends into all walks of life. I was discussing the other day with a friend the similarities between the two issues; the homosexual marriage ban and the redistribution of wealth. Both are identical in moral scope, they just come from a differing ideological/religious mindset. The contemporary left is against the homosexual marriage ban, but in the same breath will push for the redistribution of wealth. Conversely, the other side will be all about banning homosexual marriage, but baulk at the redistribution of wealth.
I ran into the term “liberaltarian” not long ago, and this seems a good description for people who struggle with the reconciliation of freedom vs. egalitarianism. I had mentioned to Ann quite some time back that I always like to err on the side of freedom, but that is not the norm and the rare exception in todays poltical climate. I think contemporary liberals have a good heart and want the same things any American does, but in the same breath they advocate the very things that are counter to those things. Same goes for neo-conservatives.
I agree with you, BB, that money is always a factor in politics. This is nothing new however, and has existed in our nation since its founding (Boston Tea Party?:) But keep in mind that capitalism is an amoral construct (Was it Lenin who assigned a moral value to it?) and just because money that fuels business makes its way into politics, it does not mean that doing business is not a good thing (excuse the double-negative). Also, keep in mind that much more enters into politics than just corporate profits or the “industrial-military complex” (remember hearing that term 100 times a day during the 60s! ha!). Media promotes its, ignorance and apathy fuels it, and our very Supreme Court empowers it by its willingness to dismantle the very Constitution that holds it in check.
If Americans are going to do anything about it, they are going to have to awaken to BOTH sides of the issue and quit ignoring the one that doesn’t fit their paradigm. That’s where people like you, BB, who are in the prime of your life, can make an eventual difference. Its too late for old people like me–all we are good for is sitting back and complaining about the next generation and how we were so much better. :)
Media promotes its, ignorance and apathy fuels it, and our very Supreme Court empowers it by its willingness to dismantle the very Constitution that holds it in check
Thanks guys, appreciate the comments. I’ll have more to say on this shortly, I love a good argument. Jack, thanks very much for your always welcome input, I really enjoy your thoughtful and challenging comments in good faith. (And on some things I will defer to your greater wisdom and experience!) Would that all dialogues were this fruitful. When I return to this shortly I may well be revisiting some of the last email sent to you when we followed on from a thread in Doug’s place.
Just in the interim, a quick word of demurral about socialism. There is often a problem of nomenclature here and I agree with BlueBear about terms in that what you may refer to as socialism, I refer to as corporatism. Outside the US, we use socialism often the way you use the word liberal in the US. Again, more on this a little later and this may be an opportunity to take up where we left off in our last valued exchange. As you suggested in that exchange (from which I learnt much), there is a perpetual tension between egalitarianism and individualism that may never (can never) be resolved.
For the sake of putting my 2 Rials :) in this interesting conversation:
It seems to me that there is also another way of looking at all that.
Either in the US, Europe or among the upper-middle class in other countries, the general tendency or focus has been the “undeniable right to happiness”.
Politicians are seen more and more as an entity far away, “they”, “those on power”, “the corrupted”, they do not represent “us” etc…
And there is this mass of hungry, miserable humanity somewhere, further away, we see their pictures from time to time.
The relation between these three entities is getting looser.
Seems we must get really scared to change our ways. If anything good can come out of the present situation, and I think a bright side is not impossibility …
There is this peculiar nostalgia in the U.S. for “the good old days.” I think it must be solely the domain of white people like me. Must be hard to think of “good old days” if Grandma couldn’t drink at the public water cooler.
American whites will say, “Hmm, I never thought of that,” when confronted along these lines – but will tentatively agree.
By contrast, when confronted with America’s out-of-country imperial past, many will stare in disbelief, having never heard of it before, assuming the story to be inaccurate and its teller to be either naïve or addled. Telling the truth here is like belching in public.
I agree with Ann and would just reiterate that the flyer pictured here, while noting all that has happened since 9/11, does not reference decades of similar U.S. policies and actions which preceded the present administration. Circumstances have changed, the stakes have been raised, and there is less method and more madness now than perhaps ever before, in a manner of speaking; but the United States has been guilty of a number of the charges listed here since far before five years ago. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the America “missed” above never really existed at all at any given point, not entirely, not wholly as described. It’s a terrific ideal, but it’s certainly not the direction we’re headed at the moment.
I would have to disagree with any perception of American expansionism as being socialist in nature. Neither American militarism nor its centuries-old legacy of European colonialism are socialist in nature, because these endeavors have never been undertaken for the collective good of any people. They have been undertaken for the solitary good of the crown purse, a crown purse from which the moneyed aristocracy may dip neo-liberally and which may or may not occasionally spill a few pieces to the floor. That is fascism, not socialism, especially since imperialist pursuits are always paid for by the citizens, most of whom, apparently, can be led to believe that mass murder, genocide, and territorial plundering are in their best interests (or are according to God’s will, at least.)
I do agree, based on historical precedent, that the large-scale top-down enforcement of social collectivism is particularly vulnerable to a transition into oligarchy. Fortunately, developments in technology are beginning to make ideas like participatory democracy and anarchosyndicalism seem more workable. A government that is really by and for a people is becoming more technically possible, and therefore more bureaucratically unthinkable, than ever before.
One central problem, I believe, is just what Monte has said: even discussing the nuts and bolts of U.S. history and government is, for many in my country, as awkward as belching at table on a yacht. It’s so easy to change the channel, you see.
I don’t usually bring this up, but I am as black as the ace of spades and drank from different fountains, used different bathrooms (when they were available to us), and everything younger folk read about today. I tolerated the indignities of those times. Sure we had our problems and our shortcomings, but the difference is that we were a nation headed in the right direction.
I wrote the following to a young white friend of mine just yesterday:
“Dan, there are a few black men out there who are like me, although the majority are not. Our “rich” African heritage hard wired us to either be victims or predators and that seems to be the two prevalent classes among our people. The reason the white man (and I use that term generically) has excelled where we have failed is largely because of the white man’s God and the ethos he imbues within its culture. When we were brought here as slaves, we did embrace the white man’s God, but selfishly retained our own cultural shortcomings. This can be seen in almost any black church–it has the trappings of Jesus Christ, but retained are many of the superstitions and matrices of a religiously backward culture. Many of us want to commit to God and his teachings only to the degree it suits us, and no further. But God is a wonderful, life-changing and liberating formula that is only effective in its completeness, and until our community can begin looking forward and forget the past and what’s behind, we will always be mired in that and never truly move forward. Which, as I said, puts us into two class–the victims and those who would exploit them. Dan, I have personally discipled young black men who have taken this to heart and have moved into stations in life that would have been unattainable under their normal circumstances. There are men among us who have glimpses of this, Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, Sowell, Williams, etc., but their voices are drowned in the cacophony of the Sharptons and Jacksons, assisted by many white well-meaning liberals. The black man doesn’t need a hand, he needs a foot–up his proverbial ass and nothing more than the encouragement (like anyone else) to stay on his feet once he’s on them. ”
(Due to the effects of aging, Monte, I am deleting a couple of the paragraphs because I tend to get distracted and travel down rabbit trails. Will pick it up back here:)
“Back on what you mentioned–why Sowell isn’t more of a role model, its because the doctrine of victimhood is much more palatable than self-determination. People don’t like to hear that the road to success is through hard work–they would rather sit at home in front of their TV set and order Carlton Sheets (sp) get rich quick schemes, or wait for someone else to support their lifestyle. They would rather blame everyone else for their problems than look inward where it really is. (BTW, I just posted on this today at the Bereans! :) It is easier to justify one’s own problem by thinking it is because of the white man, than realizing that the white man has sacrificially done more for this world than any other race. (Another problem I have with the liberal mindset is its egocentricity–they vacillate from self-loathing to self-loving within seconds! ha! For some reason they think its all about them)”
PG, I guess when I refer to socialism I use the classical definitions and teachings of Marx, Lenin, others. I am quite a bit less nuanced than I used to be. ha! The contemporary American liberal is essentially socialist in economic and social philosophy, but they tend to baulk at its political ramifications (unless it fits the ideological viewpoint–often situational–that they espouse). Most Americans are very ignorant of government (having been educated by a sadly deficient public education system) and are unaware of how it works. For example, talk with the average college grad (and I talk to many–they consider me a novelty:) and they think that human government progresses or regresses on a planar level. They don’t realize that human government is cyclical. For example, I like to ask the question, “If one starts out with democracy and moves to the left where does it lead?” Most will see that when one moves to the left of democracy (individualism) toward a more egalitarian structure that they move closer to socialism, BUT…they fail to see that the continual movement left (more and MORE egalitarianism) leads to fascism. The same goes if one moves to the right of democracy, after going through radicalism (objectivistic libertarianism, etc.) one will eventually end up with fascism. It is a big circle no matter which way you move away from democracy, you end up with the opposite–fascism. Now the contemporary American liberal doesn’t see that moving closer toward classical socialism (Fabianism is the model I pretty much use) they don’t see us moving closer to fascism. THEIR perspective is that only moving toward the RIGHT do we move in that direction. The only difference in the movement, though, is often the amount of time it takes and the amount of blood spilt. The leftward direction (contemporary liberalism) is more gradual with less (although still there is some!) bloodshed.
I hope this gives you an idea of the direction I come from, Ann. I know generalizations often bring with them inaccuracies, but maybe this will give you a generic idea of my perspective. Since I have written a veritable bible here, I won’t jump into corporatism yet–but just mention that it is socialism–Marx’s failed to realize they were one in the same–the ownership just differed. :)
Ann, my apologies for such long comments and for the blog clutter–I’ll try to keep it shorter in the future!
Jack, on the contrary thank you and no need to ever apologize for a generous response. I had started upon what I hoped would be a substantial reply to do justice to yours; Curtis’s excellent and most thoughtful comment obviated a good deal of it, and I was also prompted to problematize the whole traditional left-right spectrum and the degree to which it is even tenable in these times.
It is my contention that this spectrum has become disrupted and the old fault lines are not as clearly delineated, if they still apply at all.
Thus, a leftie like me can agree with and applaud a Republican libertarian like Ron Paul and castigate the Democrats, to cite a US example. This inversion of traditional politics may not have been conceivable only a few decades ago. I welcome your thoughts on corporatism. I do take your point that there is more than one path to possible tyranny and fascism, and I think you put it exceptionally well.
The other thing I take away most from your most recent comment preceding this one is your commendable determination, in mentoring young black men, to invoke the tenets of self-determination rather than victimhood. The latter is disempowering and destructive for any group, to be sure.
Nevertheless, I agree with Monte that history is viewed differentially from different standpoints according to privilege, and while this does not rob any race of fond memories of the past by dint of political discrimination, I think it simply acknowledges that as humans we are apt to become nostalgic for a mythical past that forgets the injustices and social cleavages that existed, and that a “golden era” may hardly have been golden for all.
I wonder about your contention that racially speaking, “the white man has sacrificially done more for this world than any other race” and invite your elaboration, if you please.
In a similar manner, I might have benefited from elaboration and or examples to support your contention that
I would have to say that I think this is an unfair generalization as the type of people you generally call liberals I have personally found to be the most other-regarding, socially conscious and caring people. Not that they have a monopoly on virtue based on political proclivities, to be sure, but nor are they are self-obsessed because they are liberal as I think you claim.
(I think self-obsession and selfishness may be a more general malaise, symptomatic of our materialistic, celebrity-crazed, appearances-obsessed culture, would you concur?)
I would also disagree with your characterisation of socialism in the following for the reasons Curtis has already enunciated well:
You write that “Each act of social legislation, social engineering (for the collective good) by the government limits a freedom, and that extends into all walks of life.”
I agree with this concern with the over-regulation of social life and again simply question the implicit assumption that socialism inexorably leads to corporatism and fascism.
We previously have talked about how socialism in the past has been employed arguably as a misnomer to denote strong authoritarian/ regulationist central government (that may be just as corporatist as capitalism), but it can also refer to decentralised power and the principle of subsidiarity which is a praxis that actually devolves power. As previously discussed, it has roots in Catholic theology and is enshrined in the EU Constitution, as well as in the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution.
In sum, my point then is that socialism need not be synonymous with over-regulated centralisation, while simultaneously taking on board your important point that corporatism can permeate both left and right wing systems, leading to fascism (traditionally located on the right hand side of the spectrum). I hope that accurately reflects your view, let me know.
Lastly, in our interesting correspondence you posited that “Common sense is rarely a characteristic of collectives–as we have seen many times in history–from book burnings to witch burnings, and everything in between.”
If I may share this, I mentioned that there are two excellent books that argue both for and against this proposition. The first is James C. Scott’s Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, which argues against large scale, modernist projects as being unwieldy, authoritarian, inefficient, and ultimately causing a great deal of damage, be they in the former Soviet model or the Taylorist, capitalist mold. I admire and recommend his work if you ever have the opportunity to explore it.
The second that argues for a kind of spontaneous common-folk wisdom is James Surowieki’s The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, which argues against traditional crowd psychology (mobs etc) to posit an interesting notion of crowd intelligence.
Collectiv(ist) wisdom does exist, just as surely as the efficacy of individualism exists as a cornerstone of our culture and social organization. The perennial tension between the two will probably forever be negotiated but as Homeyra points out, this involves a negotiation of the relationship between governors and governed.
Bridging that gap is becoming possible in exciting new ways as Curtis has mentioned. I marvel at your technological adeptness even as you profess your sagely age ;) — I think this bodes well for an unprecedented facilitation and harnessing of technology towards greater possibilities and prospects for e-democracy. This may yet be one of our best future guards against various forms of overt tyranny.
First of all, Ann, fantastic dialogue here at PG! I not only like your blog and its thoughtful presentation, I like your readers as well. Political concepts and theory are ever changing, and I do hold to hopes that the world will one day be a better place. One of the drawbacks of getting “sagely” :) is that one often loses the brightness of idealism (“without hope a people perish” to paraphrase Proverbs 29:18) and historically positive social change is rarely brought about by the elderly. However, by the wonderful invention of the internet, people like me can exchange ideas with people like you and some of your esteemed readership, giving me the full understanding that I am never too old to learn–and…the day I stop would be the day I would like to go on to meet my creator.
Given that, much of my perspective is based on personal observation and experience. Now I don’t say this egotistically, because I am a firm believer that these modes alone are not complete teachers. I look back over history and its reality, and have seen history repeat itself over and over again, but, for the first time in my lifetime, see it going through its cycle on a global scale. But…the problems that have plagued mankind from the beginning, that are endemic to human nature, don’t seem to go away–granted, we see recessions of these traits at times, but they are only temporary. As the quote that I sent you at one time indicates–we seem to experience a spiritual awakening, rise to greatness on moral imperatives, only to experience a decay in such in the generations that follow. How to break this cycle I don’t know–would it not involve changing human nature?
Just a few quickie responses and I’ll need a little more time to absorb your comment (read the links)
I understand that you disagree with my characterization of socialism, but keep in mind that sustenance of ideologically driven political models have always seemed to be expansionist in nature. Maybe not in theory, but always seeming in practice (ie. Communist Russia, China –Hey! Have you ever noticed that their expansionist policies have rarely been referred to as imperialism? Just thought about that! ha!).
Of course, I still have much to learn on these topics and look forward to your ideas, Ann!
Best to you,
P.S. Thanks also to Curtis and other for taking time to discuss!
Regarding liberals who “think its all about them,” a couple of thoughts. I don’t know if I am one or not, but it does seem to me that some corrective is needed to the absence of awareness of how historical actions have affected us.
For instance, early in the 20th century, 40% of Iranian oil revenues went to British Petroleum. British culture and Iranian culture were changed by that – enriched and impoverished, respectively. The child growing up in Britain had economic benefit that was taken by force from the child of Iran. And those effects continue today.
Consider America’s great wealth – the foundations of which lie in three centuries of land swindled from native Americans and labor forced from slaves. And the economic, social, and educational disparities resulting from those acts are with us yet today.
Many of my generation (I’m 54) say, “Hey, I didn’t do it!” But I live in a house that was built partly with money that came from a family farm in Illinois that was begun on a long-shot loan during the Great Depression – and that loan would never have taken place had my ancestors been non-white.
This leaves me with a sense of duty: I have restitutions to repay. I profit each day from the sorrows of others. I have because they did not have. Likewise, the difference between British and Iranian economic abilities are, in part, attributable to that which has been looted from Iran.
Now, as to what the black man needs (hands up or out) I have no idea. I am pretty sure he is able to figure it out. That is not all about me.
But what IS all about me is living my life in such a way that similar exploitation withers, and – and this is what scares me these days – that I find ways to repay my share of the stolen goods that have been delivered to me.
I am a pastor. And as I preach these days, I find on every page of the gospels a Jesus who labors to correct the view that wealth is blessing. He sees, instead, that the rich are rich because the poor are poor, and calls me to take what I have and give much of it away, freeing myself from addiction to it, and, perhaps, being of some help to others as well.
Self-serving as that may be, I guess I have to agree, Jack, that at least part of what I am called to do is for my own benefit.
And, by the way, it is rather new to me, and rather un-nerving! Best wishes, Monte
I understand where you come from. Although I don’t look at what I do for others as a debt or obligation so much as a work of love and grace. We do for our fellow man because we are to love them as Christ loves us. Jesus was very respectful of others, though, and refused to legislate his morality upon others. He gave them a choice as to whether they wanted to assimulate his behavior, and never once endorsed a bureaucratic body to force his imperatives on others. As a Christian, I don’t believe that I should contribute toward a governing body to force someone to do what I should be doing myself (redistributing wealth for example).
On the matter of wealth–I agree with you in many ways. I feel sorry for the majority of Americans. Even our poor live lifestyles far above some of the world’s rich. It could be that one problem we face is mentioned in 1Timothy 6:9 “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” This leads me to wonder if I should feel more sorry for the rich than I do for the poor?
Pastor Monte, if we as Christians had carried out the responsibilities as outlined in His word, a lot of the problems in this world wouldn’t be here. I serve a life-changing God, whose precepts, if followed, create the utopian society that so many desire. Of course mankind seems to have turned his back on those notions and has instead relied upon reformation or rehabilitation of human nature– a nature that finds it hard to resist putting itself at the center of the universe. Change the spirit of man, you change the nature.
Kindest regards, and God bless you in your ministry!
Now that the “Christians” have agreed on something, let me .,.. a … uuh…. hmmmm…. supposedly …. “Muslim”. quote a Jew:
“We seem to be going through a period of nostalgia, and everyone seems to think yesterday was better than today. I don’t think it was, and I would advise you not to wait ten years before admitting today was great. If you’re hung up on nostalgia, pretend today is yesterday and just go out and have one hell of a time.”
Were you quoting Paul? (Philippians 3:13?) ha!
I was quoting Art Buchwald. Maybe he was quoting “somebody” else :)
But you demonstrate an interesting point – we (Jews, Christians, Muslims, and many others) have an awful lot in common when we rise to what we really, humbly, deep within ourselves believe to be true. Buchwald’s dying days were filled with wisdom.
Indeed. I had gathered few of his sayings lately.
I am sure the following is valid in other cultures too, in Iran we have a very strong humanistic culture … the poets!
What is most quoted in the west, are few lines of Saadi quoting Ferdowsi. PPGG had also post it. Seems it is written in the lobby of this useless UN. :)
The human race is a single being
Created from one jewel
If one member is struck
All must feel the blow
Only someone who cares for the pain of others
Can truly be called human
What a delight it is to come back (after only a short absence, mind, though it feels like an eternity online!) and read such wise, gracious and generous responses.
Jack, thank you for wisely invoking ”without hope a people perish” (paraphrase of Proverbs 29:18). It’s something I feel I need to remind myself every day. Its not easy when you teach international relations and read geopolitics sometimes but a sense of humor sure helps :)
The wisdom of the elders, your wisdom, is always much needed. I think of people like Howard Zinn, whom Monte has featured, and many others, like yourself, who show that wisdom and mentoring always occupy an important place.
(Thanks too for reminding us that its Pastor Monte. PM has been graciously letting me refer to him on a first name basis ;) I guess this reflects my affection, from personal familial experience, towards priests and pastors. My uncle is a parish priest in Beirut, and it was weird to start hearing others refer to him as “Father Joseph”. He helped raise me and is one of my most favorite people in this world. I’ll have to do a feature post on him soon. I thus read (and learnt from) Monte and Jack’s dialogue with much interest and welcome more anytime.
Homie, thanks for the Art Buchwald quote. I found this over at your site from the link you provided and thought we’d both guffaw at it seeing as we’re car refuseniks ;)
The human race is a single being
Created from one jewel
If one member is struck
All must feel the blow
Only someone who cares for the pain of others
Can truly be called human.
Wow, beautiful! I’ve been thinking a lot lately of “it tolls for thee. . .”, a similar sentiment. Think how different our world would be if those millions who struggle to survive had the means to reflect and invent.
Meanwhile, Monte is just fine, and is what most call me, even in my church. I downplay my pastor role somewhat in public, because I don’t want it to color what people say around me – it can inhibit frankness, I guess. But no offense either way.