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Politics, Health, Belief Page Table of Contents
1) Beyond the Usual "Go Nowhere" Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative Debate
2) Liberal & Conservative Psychology Using Network Analogies: Strengths & Weaknesses
3) Intersection of Politics, Psychology, Philosophy & Medicine
4) The Transition of Classic Conservatism to Neoconservatism, The Fundamentalist Flaw
5) Historical Lessons on the Rise and Fall of Civilizations
6) Neoconservatism: Star Shaped Hub Psychology to Fear-Based Fundamentalism & the Trap of Fascism
7) Neo-conservatives Are Not New and Are Not Conservatives: Return of the Robber Barons
Beyond the Usual Go Nowhere Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative Debate
Our politics, left or right, reflect psychological assumptions of optimism or pessimism about reality. These, and other assumptions we will explore, act as filters to reality and are not subject to change by debate. They are political MindMaps®. Unrecognized, they can lead to incorrect assessments which reduce our effectiveness in life, politics, and in healing in complex ways.
This piece is an attempt to go beyond the usual go nowhere Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative debate. It attempts to show the strengths and weaknesses of both sides using a new tool-- network theory. Both sides have something to offer, and both have room for improvement. Introspection is not a well developed muscle in most people living at the fast pace we do, but we need it to grow beyond the primitive state of political manipulation masquerading as dialogue we suffer with today.
Why would a clinic website get involved in political questions? Most people worry any controversy on a website will alienate potential customers. We hope that won't happen. We give people more credit than that.
We ourselves don't judge people by their party affiliation, but by their capacity for caring and their struggle and deeds for integrity. We ask for the same consideration from you. So first, we don't care about a given individual's politics. Secondly, we know people of integrity with good intension's hail from both sides of the political spectrum. Third, we need bridges to a real conversation across the political divide in our country--because we need to identify the real problems and take effective action.
It is clear that both political gridlock and one-party domination are bad for health policy, bad for your health. If "we the people" is to mean anything, all citizens must address the political mess, soon. The science is clear, the status quo today is harming the health of people, animals, climate, and our entire planet. This is not a leftist conclusion, the science is clear. We must find a new way of addressing the many crisis in our environment, our political system and in the un-debated corporate version of globalism. Otherwise we will not be able to steer our individual actions in a direction that will avoid a societal collapse. If this awful mess occurs, then casualties will be countless for our children their children. Political questions are also medical and civic issues.
Bottom line, we are entering the fray with little obvious upside for our business because we feel an obligation to educate others and because we are humans and citizens before we are business people. We can't wait for politicians to buck the system and lead.
Also, because we think we have a piece of the answer to the endless stream bad politics that have led to lousy health care policy. Before I can get into the details of our insights, the elephant in the middle of the room must be acknowledged--Money Talks.
Unfortunately, today (perhaps always), politics tends to be in the service of the hungry haves, not the hopeful have nots. Our government of laws, in theory, protects minorities and the powerless with equal "blind justice" under the law. Sometimes it is even true. These are the moments that our best self-identity as Americans has come out of. But this equality and liberty are preserved only by eternal vigilance-- because some people don't want to have the same rules apply to them that apply to everybody else. You knew them on the playground and you see them acting just like they were all grown up today.
Yesterday it was Enron's execs. Today the media is feeding on the Paris Hilton celeb non-story. She seems truly amazed that driving while drunk laws and judges orders might apply to her. She is a bubble headed representation of the subset of rich people who are not interested in putting their wealth in the service of the society that made them rich. These people have an agenda, and an army of lawyers and MBA's, to unfairly rig the game in their favor to keep them rich without them working or contributing. Taxes are for the foolish people who can't afford their own personal loophole.
We may enjoy watching the Paris Hilton's get their comeuppance, and wonder if she will ever "get it". The media loves to put people up to bring them down. But we all know full well the majority of the self-serving subset of the rich are far smarter and will never do time. For example, will Haliburton's tens of billions of stealing and war profiteering and poor service to our troops and "cost plus" destruction of unknown numbers of trucks, cars, machinery, putting our troops and their own employees in harms way ever result in prison time? Given that documents show that Haliburton has done more damage than Al Quieda will they be listed as a Terrorist organization? Can we expect a big payback check soon into our national Treasury? Will Cheney do the right thing? Can we expect a simple heartfelt apology? As a person concerned about health, I would not recommend your hold your breath.
America was populated by people looking for material security. Most knew how to work hard if they could keep a part of the profit for themselves. There is nothing wrong with material security or being rich-- if riches flow from integrity. But money and privilege have distorted our democratic system from the beginning and the current flood of money flowing from corporations and the rich into politicians hands for preferred legislative treatment is so ubiquitous, nobody is even shocked anymore.
Certainly nobody is doing any thing effective to stop it. Campaign finance reform must be passed by the same people caught in the payola process. Not surprisingly, reform goes nowhere substantial. I feel sorry for the real born statesmen and stateswomen who really want to govern like the civics book taught us.
Money is not the problem. The Left especially, often feels guilty about having money. Money, or it's equivalent, has always had the potential to do good work and cement ties or to distort social systems for the enrichment of the few. Most really successful entrepreneurs are less interested in money than building something, making something new work, seeing an idea become reality. Money is a means. This is in contrast to the self-serving rich who want power-- and money is the tool. And as power corrupts absolutely, the need for money becomes infinite.
As America's number of middle and well-paid working class rapidly shrink our poverty class is exploding. More and more families require two working parents to try and make ends meet, yet they cannot pay for decent childcare. Although Left's corrosive answer of greater entitlement without work is problematic and the value of real work is undeniable as a social building block, what happens when there are no worthy decent paying jobs? What happens when the libraries close, as they have done in our community as a back door privatization scheme? Where will the underclass go for education for a living wage when the community colleges are about to break? What happens when the commitment to building social capital and broad infrastructure is lost? How can even ambitious and directed people find a bootstrapping path to a good living, in a legitimate, non-drug related, job? What kind of social disruption can we expect when traditional American fairness, meritocracy and upward mobility are considered to be disposable anachronisms in a ruthless global economy? I dislike the dependency entitlement brings on the poor or the self-serving wealthy. But I can also see that corporate cost-saving over community building in global economics have stripped real jobs from our cities, states and our whole country.It all seems so short-sighted. Without good jobs who will be a customer for the corporation?
I also see that ultra-rich and corporate lobby power has resulted in corporate welfare in the form of tax money give aways and bailouts.
We can sympathize with the Right's demand that people apply conservative financial thriftiness. Yet we can see that part of the Left's critique is correct--America's promise of upward mobility has been stolen by the self-serving rich protecting their turf, mining the ocean floor for every dollar, doing damage to the environment and business ethics in a sucking maw looking to become ever more ultra-rich.
Most people, hoping to become rich someday themselves, do not connect their own low incomes with the old saw-- the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
Yet the saying is true. And this begins to get back to the topic of interest of a health website with an interest in belief systems.
50% of Americans believe themselves to be in the top 10% income bracket--although this is a mathematically impossible. Obviously, only 10% can be in the top 10%. Only distorted beliefs can make the obviously impossible seem rational. This distorted belief filter works in the favor of the haves, and at the expense of the have-nots. 40% of the have-nots thus have allegiance to upper class interests, not their own self-interest.
Why do the ruling class in America command such respect that many people take money out of their own pocket to line the pockets of those who need the money far less than they do?
Good PR. Not accurate, but effective PR.
This PR promotes the belief in the old trickle down theory--that making the rich richer promotes overall wealth. This is true only when there is inadequate capital to establish or expand business. This is not the reality today. Today, shrinking working and middle class wealth threatens the viability of the economy.
The fact is, the self-serving elements in the ruling upper class have got to be so greedy they have killed the goose that has the possibility of laying unlimited golden eggs over time so they grab the last golden egg today.
The short-term focus of Wall Street has made all publicly traded corporations so short-sighted they are not globally competitive in the long run with other business cultures that have a more long-term vision. You can be sure Asia, especially Japan, Korea and China, will plan for the long run. Many of the corporations on the "every quarter show a big profit" rodent wheel timeline have crossed the line and become corrupt or produce negative addictive products that damage us, our culture or environment. They are making money on an unsustainable status quo and, like GM and steel, will ride their cash cow dinosaurs into the ground rather than take smart risks.
Their lawyers buy up and sit on innovative patents that might displace their own less competitive technology. Too many existing monopolies squash innovation in the same way the Swiss watch making industry squashed the Swiss engineers who first explored digital watch technology. Guess who now makes more watches? It is not the Swiss. The the short-sighted ruling class has made a mess out of our economy and been a consistent force against innovation, health, and a good environment. This make us less globally competitive. The ultra-rich simply shift their investments overseas. This self-serving subset of the ultra-rich, no matter how many flags they wrap around themselves, have no loyalty to America if it comes to requiring financial sacrifice from them--from you, no problem.
In other works, the ruling class talks the values of capitalism, but are anti-capitalistic when it is to insuring their financial benefit. They talk democracy but rig the game to make their voice dominate out of all proportion and so are roadblocks to real democracy. If these people are anti-democratic and anti-capitalistic then why do we let them run the country? A better question is how do we get rid of this sub-set of the rich that are a yoke around our necks? These people have flocks of lawyers and lobbyists to push through so-called tax relief which in reality pilfers the Treasury. They use political connections to rig non-competitive bids and engage in war profiteering that leave our soldiers at risk and undermine our stated foreign policy goals. This isn't new. It has happened under both democratic and Republican administrations--though perhaps never on the outrageous scale that it is happening today in Iraq. War profiteering was rife during Lincoln's tenure during the Civil war. Many of today's old-money Brahmins come from old war profiteering money. Even so, it is still treason.
Meanwhile, the self-serving upper class systematically bankrupts the once prosperous middle and working classes. They legally, and through disinformation, sabotage labor unions and laws protecting investors that allowed these lower classes to grow and become the consumer engines of 20th century prosperity. The post-Reagan, so-called conservative administrations, not only show no signs of fiscal constraint as federal spending steeply rises, often for prisons and military --they have changed laws to line the pockets of their real constituency--the reactionary self-serving ultra-rich.
The reactionary self-serving ultra-rich are the opposite of traditional conservative thriftiness, integrity and hard-working values.
U.S. demographics do not resemble the other industrialized countries, rather, we are looking more like Brazil and the other Oligarchies and Dictatorships in the "banana republics" our CIA found so easy and entertaining to overthrow during the Cold War. Ironically, the politics of greed is turning us into a third world country with a first rate empire building military. A coup was not necessary in the U.S. It turns out the Executive and Legislative branches were for sale--and they bought them. And given the level of money to be made by corruption it was a good buy.
The subset of the self-serving rich that are distorting our democracy, and who have overthrown foreign democracies, do not believe in one man-one vote. Rather, they know one rich man's vote is worth millions of everyman votes. They feel entitled, as in a title: Lords of Commerce, Captains of Industry, conferred upon the new economic aristocracy. This subset of the rich are not interested in a level playing field. Feudal access and influence to the Imperial Presidency are the reality while a plurality of democratic lobbying for different points of view, in an impartial system that is looking for the greatest good for the greatest number, is the unrealized American dream.
This is about "money talks". And because the self-serving rich subset have money, lots of it, they want to keep the game rigged so only those who can afford the ante can play. They corrupt the system with impunity without ethical concern for how that end will impact the system as a whole. They will use any means, lie, cheat, subterfuge, to achieve those ends. These powerful amoral people (or if we are feeling charitable about their moral bankruptcy, confused and deluded) then go about manipulating people to ruthlessly achieve their ends.
Now we have arrived at the purpose of this section. I am hoping to explore a way to "immunize" the public against the opportunists that prey on our good will. Unfortunately, our filters, our MindMaps®, our illusions, make us easy marks to manipulate for the politically talented PR spin doctors on the rich's payroll. The choice to "opt out" to become cynical, is just giving up the field to the opposition. They would love us all to fall into resignation or cynicism.
Or, a MindTrap the New Age Left is subject to, is to offering forgiveness without the self-serving rich acknowledging their actions or changing their ways. This is the Reconciliation without Truth mistake. Social Justice is not about wasting the energy on revenge, it is about seeking Justice. Although seeking to find common ground is sometimes both good tactics and spiritually sound, at times we need to see that we may have an enemy, an opposition who may have no moral compunction that must be stopped. From a psychological or spiritual perspective we can see the self-serving for the insecure people they may be-- to the damaged souls inside--but we also need to be able to neutralize their exaggerated power. When those selfish ends cost you and your family their health, self-defense demands you neutralize them.
Liberal & Conservative Psychology Using Network Analogies: Strengths & Weaknesses
Liberal left thinking, using our network analogy (see previous Network pages for discussion), is a noncentralized multi-hub psychology. This psychology would take the diverse and complex set of ideas and feelings within us as analogous to many tiny businesses, a fair number of medium sized businesses and a few big businesses, but no monopolies. (A lot like Oregon where 97% of businesses have fewer than 20 employees.) This kind of psychological network, a diverse marketplace of ideas, shades of grays and occasional paradoxes, is optimal for slow well considered Information gathering & evaluation in complex situations. In groups, individual liberals may coalesce into loose movements with many intelligent participants. Liberals, avoiding authority, if without a psychological crucible acting as a clarifying watershed, often lack the ability to be effective leaders or effective followers.
The liberal psychology can produce a sophisticated analysis but when the time for action comes tend toward indecisiveness and may go in multiple directions simultaneously. Moving liberals into concerted action is rather like herding cats. When many-sided evaluation is overly prolonged, even though the time for Action has long arrived, then actions of liberals are tentative and ineffectual.
Conservative right thinking and psychology is an oligarchy of a limited few major hubs. The makes for a very efficient taking action stage. However this is not balanced by an equally effective multi-sided evaluation stage. This makes them ineffectual when confronted with a dynamically changing situation. They like to stick with tried and true--even when it is no longer appropriate to do so.
Thus the actions taken by conservatives may be counter-productive if the authoritarian leadership has judged poorly. Conservative psychology in extremity trends towards Ideological dictatorship and vast oversimplification. Moving conservatives is a bit like starting a cattle stampede. In extremity, it moves on a continuum towards fundamentalist star networks and authoritarian psychology. In politics this may be fascist or dictatorial. When the output action stage top-down hierarchal methodology is applied to the Input Information assessment and analysis stage, then often simplistic illogical decisions are not challenged by minor power players who want to be good followers.
We all are subject to wanting to get the answer we want to hear. But the lack of opportunity for dissent in authoritarian hierarchies makes conservatives particularly susceptible to poor problem analysis when they wield the levers of power. At worst, every problem will seem to have a simple ideological solution. This is good marketing strategy, good half-time pep talk, but inadequate for dealing with complex issues. When willing followers are unwilling or unable to question leaders, when followers lack considered judgment and a willingness to reconsider a plan of action once it has begun, then no one tells the emperor he has no clothes.
Conservatives, having relinquished the evaluation stage to the leaders who cut issues to avoid shades of gray, in favor of clear black and white ideologically polarized rhetoric, the conservative followers, and the entire country if they are in power, are completely dependent upon integrity and wisdom of the leaders. These leaders simplify complexities into predictable but clear black and white ideological summations which is psychologically satisfying--especially to the oligarchal hub psychology. Given that the conservative followers tend to make follow based on a belief of a shared set of values and morals, they don't easily question the integrity of their leaders once they have committed themselves. If the leaders fail to exhibit the qualities of integrity that the followers expect, the followers will justify and excuse the failings. In a true leader, such as Lincoln, time can allow a man (usually a man in this group) to grow into the position and the demands of the times. In the all too common weak leader, time gives them a free ride, despite their floundering. Once conservatives believe in a leader, they assume integrity and get prepared to take action. Thus the unchecked failings at the top are amplified by their followers. In contrast, with good leadership, conservative followers are effective soldiers, easily led and mobilized.
Intersection of Politics, Psychology, Philosophy & Medicine
Below is thumbnail sketch of the big picture of the intersection of political philosophy and health. We take a no-holds-barred assessment of the institutionalized ways we are damaging our health and our country. In this sense it is a liberal argument, pointing out how the system needs to have real safeguards and regulations on the excesses of certain segments of business who make money on your sickness. I do not assume that liberal equates to Democratic and the "little people" and conservative to Republican and the rich. These parties are both so compromised by the corrupting influence of Big Money that they are both in the pockets of one faction of the wealthy or another with ad hoc alliances with well organized single agenda voting blocks.
The following argument holds that an effective public health policy that is really in the interest of all people, would look not only to the vision of either the Left or the Right--but to an innovative middle with the strength of both wings, with the strength of complex evaluation and unstoppable action. A systems analysis can highlight where each is better applied or where something new needs to emerge. Neither the liberal nor the classically conservative have a corner on the good public health policy. But in each case, the basic philosophy they each hold dear, when appropriately applied at the right time at the right level is valid.
Of course both traditional liberal and conservatives have their strengths and weaknesses. From the viewpoint of staying healthy, the liberals err by always looking for a grand social fix, i.e. single payer. Liberals tend to ignore the individual's responsibility for making healthy choices. They have a rosy optimistic picture that people will make the right choice if they were not prevented by someone else or by their upbringing. They tend to make the utopian error.
Conversely, the true conservative takes individual responsibility and integrity seriously. It is clear that people must take responsibility for their choices. The "buck stops here" as Truman had on his desk (unlike the neoconservatives who take no responsibility for anything). A true conservative takes a pessimistic view, which sometimes, but not always, justified. They hold that people will only make the right choices if the penalty for wrong choices is a known deterrent. Conservatives are overly skeptical that larger social regulation is ever justified. Ironically, their law and order image only applies to the average individual. The modern conservative views corporate wrongdoing, or wrongdoing of the rich corporate elite as somehow outside the rule of law, as not needing stern moral punishment, after all, father always knows best.
What conservatives discount is that In some cases the individual really is a victim of forces larger than himself/herself. Sometimes the unfortunate are not individually lazy but are caught in a Catch-22 beyond anyone's power to resolve individually. Sometimes big government and forceful regulation really is justified and has an important role in social issues as well as military and law enforcement.
The Milton Friedman laissez faire capitalism was good for simplistic sound bites by conservative politicians but was short on historical savvy. Anyone who looks in an unbiased way can see that free market forces for profit in many cases do not always move in the same direction as improved health or quality of life for society. Rich people with the power to rig the game have been known to do so. This is because our capitalism is organized on the untenable proposition of unlimited resources. If Natural Capitalism's message is taken to heart then Friedman's notions might be closer to feasible. The market can be an important driving factor to improve our lives--but only if given a medley of the right incentives and rules of the game.
But a useful conservative analysis of health policy can also be found. Universal Health care is probably not a great idea. But not for the reasons usually mentioned. Throwing more money at a paradigm of medicine that is ineffective in most non-acute care is a losing proposition for the society, even if it makes a segment of society, Industrial Medicine, money in the short run.
The liberal Universal Health Care initiative proposal was well-meaning. But it may have been nearly as big an expensive boondoggle as the conservatives projected. We propose that Industrial Medicine is not well suited for the medical challenges of the late 20th and 21st centuries, it is economically inefficient at improving health care in all but the areas of acute trauma and sanitation related to public health policy. When a more efficient medicine replaces the current one, the idea of single payer might be revisited.
We will never know what would happen if the Clinton plan was enacted. It was not debated on it's merits. It was never analyzed at it's most fundamental level of basic health and economic outcomes. Instead, the Health Care debate was lost not on the weakness of the liberal case but upon the media dominance that the conservatives hold (though they still use underdog language to complain about the liberal media bias--despite scientific surveys that disprove this notion) and in the conservatives wild sexist dislike of the "pushy" first Lady, Hilary. Although Mr. Clinton did wrong and covered it up, so have innumerable corrupt right wing TV preachers who are the worst kind of moralizing hypocrites. The overblown Clinton manufactured scandal was silly, viscous and expensive (70 million for the investigation compared to only 12 million for the 9-11 disaster). It did, however, effectively sabotage Clinton's successful semi-conservative agenda. This public foolishness derailed any real substantive health policy debate and the Clinton's couldn't figure out how to get back to substance.
The cost of medicine now is a huge disincentive to investing in America. But so is an increasingly sick and obese workforce. And as long as an entrenched Industry makes money at the expense of our health, Industrial Medicine is not likely to raise much of a hue and cry about it.
Conservatives do, to their credit, make a call for individual action to take responsibility for your health. This is correct. We applaud the call for discipline and direction. But many actions that need to take place are not at the level of individual action, but at the level of entire industries, and absent proactive changes from Industries resistant to change, government regulation, pork and subsidies. We agree with conservatives--when possible, incentives are better than regulations.
But when it comes to backing subsidies that make us more unsafe and unhealthy--come on conservatives--get a moral little spine won't you? Taking real responsibility means not only changing one's personal attitude and including regular physical activity but being able to breath clean air while you and your family are being active. It means avoiding the unhealthy US subsidized corn-based food system, avoiding processed foods, avoiding chemically or contaminated or genetically modified foods. It mean supporting local organic produce and grass-fed ranching. This requires a lot of education exposing the same rich corporations that are getting the government pork and destroying the environment and the remaining wisdom of the family farm.
To take individual responsibility means demanding our elected representatives exercise close scrutiny and insure major changes in the megalithic Food Industry. It also requires system level thinking and a certain skepticism about where a profit driven vision of Medicine will lead us.
For 5 generations we have been subjected to the Food, Extractive, Agribusiness, Pharmacy Industries corporate vision for our health implemented directly as government policy. Could it be that what is good for the bottom line of these favored industries is not the same as what is good for our health, for our country, for our environment over the long haul? We need these industries to be as efficient as possible. Natural Capitalism asserts that they will make more money and our health and environment will improve if they take radical steps to innovate and reduce waste.
Instead, we are seeing a culture wide assault on our genetic integrity and strength resulting in a constitutional weakening of each succeeding generation. We are all guinea pigs in an experiment we did not agree to. Price Pottenger's work has shown it will take many generations of excellent attention to correct these disastrous years. We need an integrity in our public and economic realm that has not been seldom seen before to restore our health and the health of succeeding generations. We need a true conservationist respect for our past heritage, a semi-cautious attitude to radical new changes, such as the radical changes that have occurred in the food we eat. This is consistent with classical conservative thinking.
The Transition of Classic Conservatism to Neoconservatism, The Fundamentalist Flaw
Ideology can make communication a rapid short-hand of phrases. This is a political benefit. But is can lead to blind denial if the facts don't conform to the theory. Witness the incredible denial that Herbert Hoover had that the Great Depression even existed. He, and his circle, blamed it on people unwilling to work. To these ideologues it was impossible that Adam Smith's invisible hand of the free market ever needed any help. This was his belief and he stuck to it, facts were not going to get in the way. It is hard to imagine but this conservative belief was so strong in the culture that most of the millions of destitute people looking for scarce jobs also blamed themselves. Few had the sophistication, or the benefit of hindsight that we have, to see that when the whole lake is drained, individual fish have little to say about it and just flop about.
Hoover, was a typical product of a long line of ideological conservatives that stretch back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. For example, in the 1830's several years of the Irish potato famine killed millions of Irish. Treviellian, a British upper class conservative free market zealot of personal high integrity, took control of the British government's relief effort. He was an intelligent religious hardworking and concerned man, yet he would not commit England in a significant way to save Irish lives. It was an article of faith of conservatives of that day, and still today, that the free market must never be derailed in it's response to a demand, even an emergency, since any (non-military) disaster must also be an economic opportunity that the market can correct better than government. Free food or welfare, would prevent merchants from selling their products.
Unfortunately, simplistic theory, or ideology, even if it works in some cases, is not an explanation up to the task of prediction in many real-world cases. The Irish had little infrastructure to distribute food, no entrepreneurs with import experience, and the world-wide food market was tight due to crop failures in other countries, and the population's poor subsistence economy was, by-in-large a barter economy, not a monetary economy. In short, the conservative ideological dislike of a systems analysis and government social programs led to grievous consequences and centuries of hate and exorbitant military costs that make Trevellian's penny pinching look ludicrous in retrospect. When years of failure of his Irish relief policies, described from the beginning by thousands of first hand reports detailing the human disaster, finally drove the realization of the failure of his firm ideology to change reality, Treviellian took a few very modest steps outside the conservative doctrinaire toolkit. He was then quickly relieved of his post by the conservative government willing and able to ignore a problem not on their own doorstep.
Hoover, a staunch Republican conservative, was unwilling to make the kind of systemic national policy changes, which Roosevelt was willing to make, that brought our country through the last major Crisis period. LBJ finally put most of his New Deal vision into place, much to the conservatives dismay, despite the economic benefits that accrued to the strong emergent middle class as a result of New Deal policies. However, in an ironic twist, conservatives may get the last laugh. The large regulatory bureaucracy government developed since WWII has been in bed with the industries they regulate so long they can't recognize their original roles. Some agencies have become so compromised that it no longer is a check and balance on business activities, they actually help promote monopolistic hegemony. Many of the New Deal/Great Society agencies now are a funnel of money to corporations and have cut back services to the public.
Historical Lessons on the Rise and Fall of Civilizations
Both the optimist's carrot and the pessimists stick, both boot-strap and the spanking strap have their place. Both the liberal and conservative views, if synthesized and applied appropriately, have something to offer. There is a middle way that is not mediocre or middle of the road. One originally liberal assumption, now agreed upon by both sides, is to my mind quite wrong. That erroneous belief from the era of the Age of Enlightenment is that we are on a Path of "Progress" and we can't lose our way. That our standard of living is getting better and we are getting healthier and more intelligent.
History teaches quite another lesson. Civilizations can rise and fall and the succeeding reincarnations are not always progressive. The arrogant forward-looking religious belief in progress is our strength and our weakness.
I also believe in Progress, but not as a given, not as something the superior Western civilization will always have. I believe in a Taoist notion that the integrity of how we walk our Path, the Means, are predictive of the Ends. If we have integrity and transparency in our institutions, our science and government, then perhaps we can fumble our way to a progressive vision.
We tend to base our belief in Progress on the Scientific Revolution and Objective Truth. The problem is that science is a human endeavor and subject to the political and avaricious and jealous foibles of all humans. Moreover, science has become big expensive science, fossilized institutions and professional livelihoods are staked on the status quo. This makes science in the service of the elites who can afford it, who define the areas for research funding, not necessarily in the service of Truth and Progress.
Neoconservatism: Star Shaped Hub Psychology to Fear-Based Fundamentalism & the Trap of Fascism
The villains of this piece, the neoconservtive the Radical Right leadership, as opposed to their rank and file, do not, I think, believe in Progress. They believe in the old gods, Mammon, Money and Power. They believe in getting theirs right now, and they don't give a hoot if anyone else gets any, and they will, like convicts on death row, find religion and be born again if it is in their self-interest.
The game is now fixed in their favor, not just strongly tilted towards, Big Money Industrial /Corporate interest. This is true no matter which political party is in power. Big Medicine, Big Pharmacy and Big Insurance, Big Military are always included at the table, not just contributing to writing legislation but doing the lions share of writing the rules for themselves. Anyone who thinks democracy is alive and well is fooling themselves. The same people who take us to war amid a patriotic drumbeat have sold us down the river.
The classic conservative fears big government. What is true is that a large bureaucracy with a mandate to meddle can be intrusive in our personal lives. Ironically, the neoconservatives have increased the size, spending and intrusiveness of government far beyond the the classic conservatives worst liberal nightmares, Roosevelt and LBJ.
The fear of the size of government is being felt among liberals now too. In this New McCarthyist era the New Deal and Great Society regulatory structures have been subverted by executive branch rewriting of regulations. The purpose of these bureaucracy has been hijacked in favor of corporate neofascist interests by the neoconservatives using the excuse of terrorism to undermine the Constitution, the BIll of RIghts (Bush doesn't veto laws, he signs them while stating he has no intention of executing or following the law-- this is, de facto, lawlessness of an imperial presidency), the democratic process and rule of law (much ink has been spilled on the right wing theft of the 2000 and 2004 elections by rigged voting machines and the Supreme's).
In other words we can survive a few planes used by ruthless people with a geo-political agenda, but the America of democracy, tolerance, freedom, civil rights and pluralism we were taught to love as kids may not survive the fundamentalist-neoconservative corporate theocracy. And whether this entire scenario is the truth or a false flag black op's of the most cynical sort, we may never know. Bush-Cheney and the Neocon-Radical Right theocrat's self-righteously want to take us back to the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, and a Christian version of the Taliban while misusing modern surveillance and information gathering technology for a bastard mix of Brave New World and 1984 that Stalin would have loved to get his hands on.
The biggest irony is that the many well-meaning fundamentalist Christian foot soldiers of this coup de 'etat of democracy have been emotionally wound up to fever pitch by their leaders. They are told their enemies in America, heathen secular gay-loving atheists anti-christ peace-not-war-types, want to outlaw their churches, except those performing gay marriages, and to deny their right to worship. There is little real evidence of this but the story serves their purpose admirably. Of course nowadays, saying the Christians are an endangered species in the US is a bit like telling the elephant in the dining room the big bad mouse is not going to let the elephant have a place at the table. Right. This well calculated moral outrage and overreaction of right reactionary leaders, after Maureen O'Hare's legal BB gun over the bow decades ago in removing forced school prayer, has been part of a decades long well organized plan to create a Taliban-like Christian theocracy in the US.
By using the supposed threat to their right to worship the God of their choice, which of course has never been threatened here, they evoke shared empathy with the stories of early Christian persecutions. Through skillful mass psychological manipulation, otherwise known as fear-mongering, they have for decades rallied their troops that far out number the US Army. They insert cadres of brainwashed youth into internships into the corridors of power. Hopefully they are not sexually abused by elected officials. They support their Fundamentalist "think-tanks" to the tune of millions to paint a patina over the theocratic power move. This phenomena has been in the works in a well-financed and tightly organized successful political power movement for many years. Yet they continue to successfully play the "we are underdogs, the tiny David to the Goliath" card.
Give the Christian Right credit, they have managed an organizational miracle even if it is of questionable morality, and is certainly antithetical to American values of freedom and protection of the minorities from tyranny of the majority and separation of church and state. They have created a parallel society and an imaginary history and pseudo-science within the mainstream American universe. THey have their own music, radio and TV networks, they have created a fictional history of America that has literal fundamentalists founding the country when, in fact, this Christian faction only dates back to the 1860's. A little thing like facts should not be allowed to get in the way of the bigger Truth, capital T. They have home school curriculums that over a million kids use that mix good information with ridiculous disproved fantasy.
In areas where Christians have enacted their plan to first assume local political control they effectively stifle corrections of their spurious so-called scholarship, they censor books or librarians or entire library systems, they put so-called Creation "Science" in science curriculums and are misdirecting national science and medical research goals to fit their political agenda. Although science and industry certainly do need ethical guidelines, these folks are not the best source of what the guidelines should be.
Ironically, extreme radical Christians that show little toleration for contrary views were themselves kicked out of a religiously intolerant Europe. They then set up one-right-way theocracies on the American east coast. There autocratic rigid rule was most notable for its lack of Jesus's meek turn the other cheek tenderness. These Christian theocracies were just as violently intolerant to other's religious freedom in this country as the European christian had been to them.
Today some influential Christian right theorists, In their putative efforts to make America safe for Christianity despite the lack of any evidence it is threatened, specifically state that their aim is to achieve dominance in all spheres of public life. After they are the dominant institution they plan to dispense with civil rights including tolerant freedom of religious expression. Ironically it was this Constitutionally protected tolerant attitude that allowed Christians to express their own religion freely in America for hundreds of years.
Our founding Fathers saw this hateful intolerant zealotry as dangerous to a fledgling democracy as entrenched corporate power. They put in mechanisms replicated in every state's Constitution to prevent power grabs by radical religious groups or greedy corporate powerhouses. The Christians have ignored this history in an attempt to hijack the reverence for the flag, and, in a cynical move, have propagandized a revisionist history that has the Founding Fathers painted as literalist fundamentalist Baptists. That it is factually wrong is one thing. That the revisionists they think they need the Founding Fathers on their side as well as The Father, is at least a hopeful sign. The fact that they would so cynically use the Big Lie technique to propagandize I suppose should come as no surprise, but it is disappointing nonetheless. In reality, in recent centuries it has been the American Mormons, Jews, Black Christians, and Muslims that have had a real history of violent repression of their religion, not fundamentalist Christians.
As the culture wars have created separate parallel societies, even more isolated from each other than historical whites from blacks, inner city blacks from Asian, or survivalist Christians from East Coast Jew, the quality of civil discourse in society has degraded as prophets preach to the choirs in their own corners. Listen to right wing shock talk radio or sometimes the odd copy-cat left wing shock talk radio or would-be Enlightened New Agers, or even in scientists arrogantly dismissing Intelligent Design and you will hear every one arrogantly discounting the other sides ways of knowing. New Agers following channeled information about how humans are designed to live on raw foods because plants vibrate higher, or smoking is fine if they are enlightened enough to ignore the weight of a great deal of research. Sure good attitude can make a big difference, but these people are True Believers as much as the Christian Right. If it isn't channeled by the spiritually evolved then information, even information based on years of painstaking research, has the same weight in their credulous minds as a health food clerk's opinion. Fundamentalists do not have the intellectual rigor to actually consider a counter opinion as it is threatening to their insecurity and suggests shades of gray.
No one is talking to each other across the lines drawn in the sand. Fundamentalists, whether they are Muslim, Christian Right, scientists, Liberals or New Agers, is by design insular and resists engagement with people or views that are, by a tautological definition of what is true, taboo.
Fundamentalism is an attitude of we are in-the-right, you are in-the-wrong and nothing you can say or do will convince me otherwise. As discussed above, conservatives in general are pretty efficient in taking action. But the actions are debatable and have built-in immunizations from outside questioning. I have actually had conversations with Fundamentalist Christian friends where I was told in so many words: "if you, an outsider who is not a born-again Christian, sound too persuasive, if you argue for making the world a better more peaceful place, you could really be the anti-Christ, so I must take extra precautions and dismiss your heresy with even greater vigor." Thus, to actually propose a reasonable path toward reconciliation and peace counts against you. The anti-Christ is anything reasonable that is not part of the Christian belief system.
Gone is the Jesuits questioning and doubt and intellectual sophistication. This is group think simplicity. And, just as a pack of dogs is relieved not to have to be the alpha dog and make the decisions that might determine if the pack goes hungry or eats well, lots of people really don't want to be the alpha in their own lives. They have a built-in one-way flow of information from their mouths out and not from their ears in, unless you are in the in-group--born again.
From my discussions with many types of Fundamentalist, the pattern I see is that Fundamentalistic thinking comes from a fear-based psychological insecurity that makes certain people very uncomfortable with gray areas. They, like all of us, like to have an "in" to the Source of the Simple Truth. The attraction and the power of the Star shaped network configuration is undeniable. Fundamentalist need a simple black and white clarity, when in reality, we live in a complex many shades of gray and multi-colored world. When one has crossed over into Fundamentalism, then the shades of gray disappear, along with the stress of not knowing the truth or not knowing what to do.
Fundamentalists create black and white by killing off all the other colors. Perhaps not coincidentally Fundamentalists seem to prefer a grim monochromatic palette for clothing whether they are mullahs, monks, or puritans. They find an authority they can follow completely and exclude any dissenting views. New agers often first reject one authority, the birth family authority, and then go to a second authority, in appearance as far as possible from the first, who gives the person special spiritual credit for finding the one-True-way at last.
The ultimate authority can be the Bible, the Koran, the Guru, the Channeled words of Michael, or even the currently accepted Scientific paradigm. However, the putative authority from the Holy book leaves a lot of room for the leaders of these Fundamentalist belief systems to interpret things as they need them to be. How else can someone who calls themselves Christian get to the the rationale that proactive killing of a doctor performing abortions is sanctioned by the Christian God. Who would Jesus bomb? And this night into day reinterpretation of the spirit of the Bible is in a Fundamentalist group, the Christian Right, that claims it can give a literal reading of the BIble.
The fact that it is readily provable that there is no such thing as a "literal" reading of any historical text, much less one that has often been miscopied, and translated from many languages, is not something these people can hear. The necessary conclusion that every word is open to shades and nuances of meaning, that is to say multiple interpretations, literally can not be heard. They just don't get it. Not because they are stupid, they can be very smart people, but because they have accepted assumptions on faith that are demonstrably false that prevent them from making a logical conclusion.
In science Fundamentalism is frowned upon in theory, but because many black and white types have a careers during what Kuhn called times of "normal" science. Only in science, is an, at first grudging, after the fact, appreciation given to those who successfully challenge the status quo during the times of "revolutionary" science.
A war against Fundamentalism makes no more sense than a war against the Blitzkrieg or war against Terrorism. A more fundamental answer for the fear of complexity and ambiguity is needed. Because these folks, many of them good folks, are glued to a fearful belief system, that has many powerful defense systems, and because some of them may not have a multi-hubbed personality developed to fall back on, the loss of their childlike belief system would feel tantamount to death. They might actually risk a psychotic break to enter into a confusing multi-hubbed world. There is no way to help them unless they really want to give up this more comfortable childlike world for a more difficult world in shades of gray. Just as deprogrammed members of cults, they might not thank you for helping them deprogram.
An Important Tangent.
Neo-conservatives Are Not New and Are Not Conservatives: Return of the Robber Barons
I distinguish strongly between classical conservatism and neoconservatives who hide their theft of public money and trust behind yards of flag. I am almost always able to see the good side in people, but I find little positive to say about the so-called neoconservative movement leadership. They are modern the Robber Barons practiced at polished prevaricating. If treason in high places was prosecutable in this new world order, then a lot of necks from the White house and a few corporate boardrooms would be getting longer as we speak. Sense the new torture rules have passed, hanging is probably permissible anyway.
The mass movement they have yoked to their own selfish agenda, the Christian right, also do not believe in science as a way to uncover truth. Nor do they believe in Progress. They are out of step with mainstream American thought in this regards. They believe in a Golden Age of the Past, a lost Garden of Eden and the future is awaiting Judgment Day. Fundamentalist Christian is apocalyptic and incongruent with a secular progressive evolution of society. They see the neoconservative leaders as the vehicle to bring their radically different vision to the country. As single issue voters, they are willing to overlook virtually anything in that single minded pursuit. And boy is there a lot of stuff you have to overlook.
The neo-conservative are now in charge during the current post 9-11 Crisis period. A Crisis period is when a society either makes it or breaks. Looking at our current crop of politicians all I can say is "God save us all". It remains to be seen if the new Democratic majority will change the direction we have taken. It would take visionary leadership.
Lacking the strengths of both liberals and conservatives, the leaders of this reactionary neocon movement have only the weaknesses of both. Mind you, they dress up their rhetoric in the flag and old true conservatism and even give a nod to 'bleeding heart liberals' with 'kinder, gentler's' and 'no child left behind'. Yet their social programs are insubstantial, ineffective and underfunded and "leave em' without lovin' em". They don't work. In the economy and education, big Republican campaign platforms, are sinking. Which is exactly what the neocons want. The end of public monies spent on social programs and huge subsidies for their pet corporate supporters.
Neoconservatives have turned a national surplus into huge deficits. Some feel this is purposeful and designed to cripple any future generations even considering large expensive social programs. Combined with the education policy that other critics feel is designed to decimate public schooling in America, and you have a revolutionary rollback in the standard of services the government is responsible for. They are forging the way to make the US a third world nation of a few very rich, a few middle class and professionals, and a seething mass of miserable poor.
This future will not support the consumer economy we have now and beggars and homeless in the street by the hundreds of thousands who will not care who is in charge because it won't make a bit of difference to their niggardly lives. Actually maybe it isn't the future at all, a lot of places are already like that.
On military and tax-relief neoconservatives they are far from conservative. They spend far more, while getting far less, than any true fiscal conservative would think appropriate. Meanwhile the overcharging, underperforming defense contractor owners are making lots of money. The tiny honest oversight efforts in Iraq that began targeting the profiteering were quickly told to shut down operations.
Meanwhile, the middle class is shrinking. We are fast sinking down to the oligarchic demographics of Brazil. We are quickly moving far away from any of the rest of the "developed" countries, except in military might. In neocons frantic raiding of the treasury and give-away of money and sovereignty that began with Reagan, included Clinton, and lives on with Bush II, we are becoming an internally fragile economy. We have are large chronically unemployed class, a working class in near poverty, a shrinking middle class, a few in the ruling oligarchy who are very very rich. Despite the "greatest nation on earth rhetoric these treasonous greedy bastards are turning us into an economic paper tiger. The neoconservative leadership has sold us all out. In a successful bid for short term money and power they are turning us into a declining 3rd world power, an economic paper tiger consuming much and making little. The course they are setting will have us looking like Bangladesh in a few generations.
Sometimes republics faced with great social decay, poverty, social unrest, and greed and poor leadership by the upper classes, turn republics into aggressive empires. Witness Rome, China, France, and England. Although we have less economic relevance every year our military is still powerful. Our 21st century military expansion and willingness to deploy our military at the whim of the President is the hallmark of Empire. This will do more to create fear of our country and increase the number of terrorist applicants than any number of martyred heroic muslim fanatics. Thus a built-in raison d'etra for the need of the military. And the viscous cycle, the bane of the middle east, will be perpetuated here. The invasion of the Talaban's Afghanistan might be justified as state supporting a terrorist organization. But not Iraq. The lies told to justify a unilateral invasion, the lies about solid intelligence making Iraq an immanent threat, are coming out. Ironically, the inappropriate use of the military in Iraq may limit reenlistment and make Pax Americana a short-lived military empire. Unless they bring back the draft. Oh yes, it is going to be interesting. Just how different is the Right Christian reactionary ideologue in power from the Talaban? As in the Chinese curse goes, "May you live in interesting times".
Why do these greedy pampered rich boys club types appeal to hard-working middle and working class people? These hard-working people are conservative by nature and correctly sense a national lack of moral compass and direction. They hope the rich boys, using the Christian right code words, are what they say they are. Caring and Christian. What the typical Joe can't see is that the neoconservative leadership wouldn't know a moral compass from insider trading.
The neocon politicians have cut a deal with the fundamentalist leaders, They woo these groups with "faith based initiatives", an end to abortion, and an epic reclaiming of Jerusalem for the Christian crusades of the 21st century. For some, these promises have a coded racist appeal. But this is now frowned upon as the Christian Right forges alliances with the Black Right against the gays and liberals.
But beneath the window dressing and pious posturing the rich guys are just the Robber Barons of the 21st century. The Bush dynasty has only been interested in giving the ultra rich yet more money. Their only financial policy is always, no matter the circumstance, the holy words of "tax relief". Candidate Bush II said we've got a surplus so give the tax money back (to his friends mind you). President Bush II, overseeing the creation of the largest deficit ever says, give the tax money back (to his friends mind you). They give the industrialist more money by reducing environmental and safety regulations and changing overall policies, such as our national energy policy, to support the bankrupt approaches that have been shown polluting and inefficient and ultimately unsustainable. In the long-term the neoconservative policies will be devastating to our economy and environment. By then the greedy neoconservative rich will be hiding in opulent enclaves amidst the land of poverty or have moved to other countries that have yet to be despoiled.
Neoconservative leaders still go through the motions of trying to win a plurality of votes, so they need a mass movement to line up behind them. Single issue voters are the easiest to appease. No, the members of the Christian Right rank in file won't be getting tax relief, but their leaders, the televangelist's, will be. And church based programs will get a shot at public monies, without standards of equality in hiring or firing applying.
The rank in file of the Christian Right are promised that abortion will be repealed and that Israel will be kept from the Muslims in the newest installment of the Crusades. It looks as if the Iraqi war was on the docket from the time Bush II transition team was preparing to take over the administration. The indefensible false linkage of Al Quieda with a secular Saddam and a unilateral decision for war when we were in no way threatened has given away the reservoir of sympathy 9-11 created around the world. Bush is supposedly fighting a terrorist cell organization with conventional armies, airplanes and missiles. Obviously, the wrong tool for the right antiterrorist job. But perhaps, the right tool for an unspoken job, the American hegemony of the middle East and fulfillment of the biblical prophesy of linking the fate of Christians to the fate of Israel via Jerusalem. Fundamentalist fighting Fundamentalist. The rank and file, many of them fine people, are told these are the important things as Judgment Day arrives. And, sadly, they believe their morally compromised and very rich (and getting richer with every tax relief program) leaders.